The collected thoughts of modern and ancient hermits, eccentrics, solitaires, wanderers, mystics, and others who inhabit the monastery within.

Visit my other blog, View From Pardes, the introspective humdrum life of an eccentric hexagenarian.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Andy & Mel, Danger in Penrith Cumbria

I am very pleased to be able to share another chapter in the lives of Andy and Mel, The Tadem Hermits who roam Scotland and England in their BLACKBUS.

I notice some remarkable similarities to the adventure John Steinbeck and his friend, Ed Ricketts, took on their scientific marine specimen collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) in 1940.

Steinbeck and Ricketts hired a Monterey Bay fishing boat, The Western Flyer, to take them on this journey. On the night before they left the dock, Steinbeck noted the wistful expression in the eyes of their farewell visitors who longed to leave everything behind and take a journey away from their daily grind and responsibilities.

It is a universal longing. All of us, at one time or another, have wanted the freedom to wander without a fixed itinerary, without a fixed destination, where the journey itself, and not the goals imposed by society, provides the healing waters for our restless spirit.

We dream of what such an adventure would entail. It would include vistas that Andy and Mel have viewed.

photo by Andy

photo by Andy

photo by Andy

It would include companions we would dream of taking with us.

"Custard" photo by Andy

photo by Andy

"Dylan," photo by Andy

We would close our eyes and picture the homey atmosphere we would forge within our rambling home.

photo by Andy

We would know for certain that without our lives being so frantic, we too would notice the small things around us that celebrate the beauty of our earth.

photo by Andy

photo by Andy

photo by Andy

photo by Andy

"One of my wee nest box's magic!"

... or the large magnificent things to notice that takes your breath away...

photo by Andy

Like Andy, we would have time to savor a moment of humor with his "traveling owl" he poses in numerous bucolic spots, and turtles scaling the mountain of a mushroom.

photo by Andy

photo by Andy

Like Andy, we would rescue a stunned bird from the side of the road, offer it a quiet space to rest and recover, and then feel an exhilaration in our heart that when revived, it took to wing and flew away.

photo by Andy

"Found this wee man. He is recovering in the caravan; just shock, I think."

And just like Andy, we would cup another tiny bird in the palm of our hand, another victim of the road who did not survive. And it would be enough to bring tears to our eyes as we buried it beside the road under a tree.

photo by Andy

"Found this wee one by the bus; but sadly he didn't make it, so I buried him under a tree."

The open road is not always easy or kind. Andy and Mel are well aware of that. Cancer, continuing automotive mechanical problems, and the distrust and sometimes threatening nature of people they meet must be taken in stride.

Despite the difficulties, there are triumphs. Mel defeated cancer, and continues to be the Angel of Andy's heart.

photo by Andy

It is also fortunate for the rambling couple that Andy can fix anything, even a temperamental bus engine that has survived well beyond its expected years.

photo by Andy

I doubt I would be as philosophical about Andy noting that complete strangers open the door of their BLACKBUS without knocking and will barge into their private family moments.

Doorbell photo by Andy

"This ls my home. I know it is only a bus, but DO NOT just walk in ..... RING THE BELL! Sorry for being a grumpy hermit, my friends."

However, Andy was less philosophical about an event that took place one night in Penrith Cumbria where danger was their companion throughout the night. Earlier in the day, he did woodworking for items to sell as they traveled the country.

photo property of Andy

photo property of Andy


Andy and Mel, Danger in Penrith Cumbria

by Andy, The Daft Hermit

It had been a really good day. I sold a bird table (known as a birdfeeder to some people), two nest boxes, and a windmill I had made the day before. One of the best things about making woodcraft items is the people you got to meet through it.

Mel had just shouted, "Dinner" and I had just packed all the tools away for the night and I was looking out into the evening. It was so lovely. The night was warm and the mountains in the distance were an incredible colour. The lake district really is a stunning place.

I shut the boot (trunk, for you Americans) and walked up the side of the bus. My mouth was watering. thinking about my dinner. We had been shopping earlier in the day and I knew we had some nice treats.

Just as I was about to open the door of the BLACKBUS, this large Range Rover came tearing down the road and stopped only a few feet from me. The driver's door swung open and a huge bloke dressed in country tweeds complete with hat stormed out of the Range Rover and headed straight towards me.

He stopped only inches from me and instantly launched into a full-on abusive attack, basically that we were to "f**k off, take our bus and all the crap laying around (my woodcaft), and between his friend the Chief Constable and a few other people, we better be gone in the morning, or ELSE!"

All I could think, at that moment was, "Shit, my diner will be getting cold."

He continued to rant and rave. The veins in his neck looked like they were about to burst. I tried to talk to him, but he ignored me and just ranted and ranted.

Eventually I had enough and told him to, "Sod off and get whoever he wanted."

He turned on his heels and headed back to his car. After slamming the door, he opened the window and carried on his verbal abuse. By this time, Mel was standing next to me and asking what was going on. Upon hearing him shouting, she returned her own shouting in her broad YORKSHIRE voice to "Kindly leave!" or words to that effect.

I watched as he slammed the car into gear. It lurched forward three times. Ater he still hadn't managed to turn the car around, I couldn't help myself and asked if he needed some help to turn the car. That really set him of and with the air turning blue with more of his ranting, he drove away. We could still hear him shouting a mile down the road.

During dinner, we talked about what we should do and after a wee while we decided to see what happened the next day. We couldn't leave yet since I had a couple calling over the following afternoon to pick up some nest boxes and a large chair I had made for them.

After a restless night, in which every noise we heard, we imagined a load of cars turning up to SORT US OUT, nothing happened, and the morning was glorious.

The sun was so warm even though it was only 7:00 AM. After a while, we relaxed a bit and the day turned into a nice day.

I met a lovely woman who called down to see us and we talked about everything. She really liked the coach and asked politely if she could look inside. She stayed for nearly an hour and didn't leave without putting in an order for two bird tables and a small box. She said that a bloke called "Tony" would call over for them on Friday. She paid me for the woodcraft immediately, even though I said I would rather she wait till I had made them. Not long after she left, the couple turned up and paid me for their their stuff.

All in all, it was a superb day and we forgot all about the crazy Range Rover man.

Friday came and Tony arrived. I found out he was a game keeper and during a coffee, he told me who that wee women was who had put the order for the woodcraft. It was none other than Lady Lowther. She had taken it upon herself to come and visit us after her estate manager had stormed back shouting about our presence on her land. She had told him to leave us alone.

Six months later, we headed out onto the open road and noticed that Lady Lowther had put the two bird tables I made by the main entrance to her estate.

Ever since that time, Mel and I often have a wee chuckle imagining that sod having to drive through the main gates every day past our two bird tables!


Sometimes Andy presents himself as being daft.

photo property of Andy

But I take a more spiritual view of Andy, the Andy who notices things, the small beautiful things that the rest of us miss in our travels, and that he too, like our creator, notices with a poignant heart, "when the sparrow falls." The blue highways and gravel roads of Scotland and England will always be traveled by Andy and Mel, in person, or forever in spirit.

photo collage by Andy


All rights to text and photos are retained by Andy & Mel. Continue with excerpts of their travels here on Cloister Voices and visit their website, "The BlackBus."

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