Majella again

Six weeks almost done, six weeks to go. We’ve shared our adventures with some good friends along the way and are really looking forward to catching up with family at the end of this month. We have been able to chat on FaceTime with mum and dad and Judith a few times, and also with our children. Being able to keep in touch with home is such a treat!

Our accommodation at every stage has been wonderful. Even our past two nights in the Kombi, while not matching previous places in comfort or convenience, have rated very highly on the adventure scale. They have also served to lower the bar of my expectations. Anything from now on that does not require me to trudge through the rain to get to the toilet, and/or which has hot water for more than two hours each morning, is going to seem like luxury.

The scenery has never failed to satisfy on any level. From the sights and splendour of Paris, the rolling French countryside and coastline, the magnificent Lakes District in England, the majesty and buzz of Edinburgh, to the Highlands of Scotland, we have been constantly delighted by what we have seen. Today’s drive up the north-eastern coast of Scotland has taken us through countryside with spectacular heather-covered hills falling away to imposing cliffs into the broiling North Sea. I’m glad Peter is capturing some of the sights so beautifully in his photos. There are so many I will want to look back on.

The time we spent in France gave us a good opportunity to learn some of the history and culture, particularly of the Brittany and Normandy regions. So much, if not all, is related to the politics of power and the power of politics. We learned about the original use of the pigeon house that provided us with such luxury in Normandy. The size of the pigeon house was related to the size of the land holding of the particular aristocrat. The one we were in was particularly large and would have contained more than 4000 birds. Each day the birds would feed on the grain belonging to the local peasants who were forbidden to kill them. So the rich lords were able to pay nothing to raise the birds for their own food supply while stealing food from the poor. This particular injustice was stopped as a result of the French Revolution. Other stories of young women being married off to secure various political alliances were not at all unfamiliar to me, but I found the story of Joan of Arc particularly distressing. We learned much of her story in Rouen where she was executed by burning at the stake. Although she was accused of heresy, her main crime seemed to be that she wore men’s clothing. Great note was made of the fact that she was posthumously given a second trial and that she was finally given justice. However, this young woman would never have been even thought of again if it were not that she had been responsible for inspiring and leading battles that enabled the king to rise to power. He realised that his power would not be regarded as legitimate if it relied on a young woman who had been condemned as a heretic. Her retrial had nothing to do with pursuing justice, and all to do with securing power. If only things were different now.