Today was the first full day that John, Val, Rick, Sandra, Clint, Drew and I were together.
We did laundry.
And bought groceries.
Rick and John both took turns getting comfortable driving the van (that was left for us with the house).
And then, at 5 - Rick thought we should start getting ready for supper:
He made a tomato based pasta sauce, Val made a cream-based pasta sauce. Sandra made a salad. I set the table and it was more awesome than words can describe. After dinner, John loaded the dishwasher and washed all the pots by hand.
No one complained. Or said, "I did it last time, it's his turn." Or "Do it yourself." Or "Why do I have to do everything?" Five adults all happily, preparing a meal and cleaning up afterwards. THIS is vacationing at it's best. This is what 'community' looks like. This is what being apart of a functional family must feel like.
At 8 pm we went for a walk, down the hill. And just like I predicted last week when I did the walk by myself, it was fun having Sandra and Val walking with me, BECAUSE THERE WAS SOMEONE TO TALK TO. What I didn't expect was that John and Rick would want to join us. (Even more surprising was that Clint came too.)
And they were totally OK to stop in the graveyard to read headstones and take pictures.
While we were reading about people's deaths (and noticing that there were a disproportionate number of spinsters buried with their parents) we listened to the bells in the church ring every 10 minutes or so. It was lovely. And kinda perfect.
When we walked past the open door under the belfry, we noticed a few people inside. They invited us in, showed us the church, filled our ears with local folklore, gave us a lesson in bellringing, and TOOK US UP INTO THE BELFRY to show us how it all worked.
(The largest bell weighs over 600 kilos. And when it clangs 2 feet away from your ear - you hear it. You feel it with your whole body. It was incredible.)
It was their usual Tuesday night practice session (and truth be told, they kinda coulda used the practice.) They admitted they weren't very good...
(The fellow in the black t-shirt said he took up bell ringing when he was 78)
This church has six bells. The one in the next village over has 8 bells. And when the 'youngsters' on their team get back from their vacations, they'll practice at the other church.
These were the nicest people; so eager to share their love of bellringing, the church, their community, their knowledge.
The four original bells were made in 1626 - 1640.
The clock was made in 1741.
The fellow in the red shirt looks after it these days.
When they ring the bells for a wedding, they usually play as the bride enters and walks down the aisle.
Then 5 of the ringers go across the street to the pub (poob) and hava pint, while someone stays back to monitor the length of the ceremony. As it's nearing the end, she pokes her head out the door, to call the other ringers back to ring the bells as the couple walk down the aisle as Mr and Mrs.
As we leave, thanking them for their time and the tour, they suggest we walk across the street to the poob and hava pint.
So we did.
Clint bought John a guiness:
which we drank while we visited with the couple at the table beside us.
The guy looked at Clint and said, "Hey. Aren't you the one who forgot his passport here last week? I was the one who found it. I gave it to Michelle behind the til. You were sitting over there, at that table right?"
(And a few days later, it was Michelle who saw Clint walking with the guys home from the laundromat and told him she had it at the pub.)
You gotta love small towns.
Anyway, afterwards, we walked home together, then sat around the kitchen table planning out the details of our next week. Rick and John zipped out to the Tesco Express to get snacks and placed them in front of me when they got back...
... and together we all talked about the Costswolds, Oxford, Cornwall while eating chocolate.
It was a beautiful thing.
Three things I'm thankful for:
1. Spontaneous, unexpected, awesome evenings.
2. Friends who eat chocolate with each other.
3. Strangers who share their passions with strangers.