30 July 2000
Thomas the Rhymer lay on the slopes of the Eildon Hills, in what would become the Scottish Borders, when the Queen of Elfland came to him and took him to Faerie. There he served her for seven years at bed and table, and was returned to the world looking no older than he’d left it.
I was thinking about this story a week ago, when Martin and I drove back from our anniversary weekend away. We’d stayed at the B&B that we always stay in in Crossmichael, across the road from our favourite restaurant. This place – the superb Plumed Horse – has been our restaurant of choice for special occasions since we discovered in in November of last year. Martin’s done a write-up of the whole experience on dooyoo.co.uk, so I won’t repeat him.
Now, the Eildon Hills are not exactly on the route from Crossmichael in Dumfriesshire (have a squint at the map). But we had plenty of time, the weather was good, and we wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall. The Wall was Rome’s answer to the Great Wall of China. It doesn’t look like much now, but it was once manned by legions of soldiers to keep the savage Scots out of the Roman territory of England.
We were both enchanted by the landscape around the Wall. The stretch of land from Carlisle to the outskirts of Newcastle is one of the loveliest sections of Britain that I’ve run across. The rolling hills are criss-crossed by stone walls, dividing off green, fertile fields. Maybe some of it was the weather, and the deep contentment of a romantic weekend, but some of it was the quiet beauty of the landscape itself. I think we’ll be going back.
Then we drove back up North, past the Eildon Hills, and I got to thinking about Thomas the Rhymer. The idea that he was swept off of his feet and taken to another world, all because of his beauty and talent…we’d all love to have that happen to us. Have the last seven years been an enchantment? As an adolescent, I wanted my love story to be like that.
Mature reflection, though, teaches me that the story of Thomas the Rhymer isn’t the best ambition. The seven years ended, after all. After seven years, Thomas was back in the real world, the magic of his time in Faery just a memory. Looking at Martin sitting there in the living room, looking forward to the future with him…I’ll take reality.
¡Viva España! (and assorted other places)
Plans are clarifying on the trip to Spain. As it stands:
||Edinburgh – Madrid with a stopover at Luton|
||Leave Madrid on the sleeper train|
||Arrive in Paris; travel on to Maastricht, the Netherlands|
||Maastricht with the Sutherlands|
||Flight back to Edinburgh|
The irony of it is that I will probably be flying to Norway via Copenhagen on Tuesday 22 August…yet more travelling!