With its new tyre, the car was flying south, but, after the marathon drive of the day before, we had decided that a brief stop every couple of hours, to stretch legs and refresh minds, would be a good idea. I had already driven over two thousand miles over the past few days and we still had a fair way to go, with yet another long drive to come the next day. Which is why, just after we crossed from Scotland into England, I pulled off the motorway, looking for a café.
Instead, we found a pub by a church in the pretty village of Crosby on Eden. We sat outside in the sunshine, supplied with a mug of instant coffee that nonetheless tasted like nectar to me… and a pint of Guinness. The fact that the pub was called The Stag, after the encounter of the night before, was not lost on us either.
We watched a group of people coming towards the pub in dribs and drabs, almost all of them pausing to look over the wall of the churchyard down the street. We could tell we were back in England by the fact that the graveyard was part of the village, not apart from it… but, in some indefinable way, you could simply feel the difference. Perhaps it is the changing geology… the fault-line across the Borders… or maybe it is the difference in the stories of the two lands, so intimately linked, yet so far apart, but you can feel the change.
As we sat talking, a woman came over and sat at our table. She proceeded to talk, telling us all about the walk she was doing with a tour group, in great and unnecessary detail. While she was obviously and justifiably proud of the distance she had walked, it was not clear to us whether she was enjoying herself… and I am not sure she was any clearer on that herself. They were walking Hadrian’s Wall over the course of a week… just long sections of it, with hotels in between… but seeing the ‘best bits’ along the way.
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