Leaving has an excitement all its own: a heightened energy awakens me to an attention to detail that I might have otherwise left unnoticed. Looking around the caravan, again in a morning of rain and wind, feeling the damp chill seep in and around, I eye the poisonous foxgloves pointing their stalks of purple cones high to the sky, next to the jostaberries (a mix between a gooseberry and a blackberry) whose ripening I was waiting for to provide that extra glucose when I was feeling weak. The ducks forage through the grass and the magpie alight on a branch. I know, sitting in silence, that this caravan will be here long after I am, becoming ever more moldy, weakened by the rain, the cracks larger, the tires flatter; consumed by the leaves and the trees and the roots that attempt to hold down anything and trap it to time and space. Soon, I’ll leave, and I’ll never share physical space with again. It’s a fascinating experience, leaving someplace.
By the graces of one of M’s neighbors , I was whisked into Carmarthen for ten pounds, which would relieved me of both the burden of Alec’s offer and the 35 pound taxi fare. As the peace and freedom disentangled themselves from the impetuous rain, the cold, the unseasoned food, I was able to discern that overall, with emotions and comforts aside, this experience made me a tad sharper, a bit leaner, and a lot more resilient to rain. Pretty much type 2 kind of fun, as F, outlined for me adequately. So with all the great anticipation of leaving, I trudged up the track with my belongings on my back and waited by the red phone box in Penboyr.
The train was on time, and once settled and the drink cart came through, treated myself to a coffee with milk. It turns out that it was either a Starbucks or the Great Welsh Train line uses Starbucks coffee cups to sell their own. In either case, it was delicious. I transferred at Cardiff onto a bus, which deposited me and several others to the Newport Train station, where I caught the 2:25 to Bath Spa.
Arriving an hour later, I looked around to get my bearings. I noticed the colors of the ancient city: mellow sandstone blocks, some of a rougher and some of a smoother hue holding up the buildings, townhomes, and shops that lined the wide, Victorian streets and small alleys webbing through Bath. Manvers Lane, which took me in a bee line up to the Bath Abbey, around it, and then up High Street, past the Waitrose grocery store and around to 21 Broad Street, where L. had secured our rental apartment. I had not heard back from her about the code or key to enter, and faced with 5 possible apartment buzzers, rang the first one from the bottom up.
Lucky me, I thought. It sounded kind of like her.
“It’s me!” I shouted into the speaker, which prompted a buzz that released the door.
Looking like one would without sleeping for 30 hours, she greeted me with a panicked look.
“There’s no WiFi or TV access! I couldn’t contact you. I can’t even contact my mom and tell her I’m here.”
“There’s got to be WiFi. Where’s the manual?” I looked around for a brochure, binder, or back-of-door flyer for info that most accommodations have, and finding none, requested her to open the links to check-in procedures they sent her.
“That’s just it. I can’t access my mail to open the links.”
“How did you know the door codes?” I asked.
“I wrote those down. Luckily!” she added, silently giving herself mega points on that one.
“Well,” I continued rationally, “don’t you have data?” She looked at me with the ensuing confusion of a double martini or sleep deprivation.
“Data? What do you mean?”
“You know, like if there’s no WiFi you can still look up stuff with data.” I was no better at explaining this than she was at comprehending. “Can you access Google maps?”
“Um, no not really.”
“How’d you get here?”
“I asked this lady in the train station and she showed me on a map.”
“Oh wow. That’s cool. Well, did you send me those emails with the links? I can open them.” So I looked back through last weeks’ emails and found a link, which led me to another link, and finally, we found the WiFi codes. She was back in business. The TV was another matter, but I convinced her to let it slide.
That being settled, we got on with travel updates, and shortly thereafter I went down the street to the grocery store and picked up some breakfast foods and supplies for the next four days. She was adamant that I take the key, and lock the door when I left. Returning with my now customary oatmeal, dark rye bread, Emmantaler cheese, apples, butter and jam and some ready made soup selections, I inserted the skeleton key and attempted to unlock the door, to no avail. The key would not be persuaded to complete a revolution, slide the bolt over, and garner entry. Enough repetitions of clockwise and anti clockwise maneuvers got L. out of bed and another panicked verbal and heated exchange continued on either side of the door. L. was essentially locked in and without key or keyhole on the interior side of the door, could do little except rotate a loose knob round and round, which did nothing to advance the rotation of the key on my side of the door. I told her to look for a screwdriver as maybe the screws around the knob were loose, and as a continued to pull, push, shift and turn, she returned with kitchen tools, but then reported that the screws were all tight. At this point I texted the landlord, and explained that I was locked out; but because Leah made the reservations and communicated through Airbnb, it took a while before I got a response, they have it never heard of me or my number before. Meanwhile, though, with enough prodding and poking and thrusting, the lock unjammed, made a complete rotation, and admitted access.
We realized we could never leave the flat again without assurance that we would be able to get back in, and so with correct info passed to the landlord, a receptionist called. Needing pictures, exact details and troubleshooting, I insisted the lock needed to be oiled at the very least or we would never be able to see Bath; they complied and would send a locksmith right away. Between conversation, tea, sandwiches and soup in the well-equipped kitchen with hardware but remiss on cooking staples, we noted it was rather chilly. Leah stated, “Oh, and by the way, I can’t get any hot water.” Coming from cold Wales and the one pail, luke-warm shower experience, this was worse news than a jammed door or non access to WiFi. We searched for manuals, eventually found by rereading the check-in info, found the manual for the boiler and with Leah’s understandably jet lagged, limited reasoning powers still nevertheless functioning, she “believed she got it going,” and indeed, within twenty minutes we were warming up, the hot water flowed, and the locksmith arrived.
Continuing with our tea and plans for four days, we talked through the removal of one lock, whose oiling would still not allow it to turn with complete ease and assurance, over the clanging and banging of changing locks with the speed of tire change on a NASCAR race track. I must say we were both impressed by such quick Sunday service and by one so friendly to boot. I left a good review for the man on their local website for such things, Leah went to bed, I took a shower, did some laundry, and eased myself into the second room sofa pull out bed. Warm, clean and comfortable, I listened to the new sounds of our temporary street, the shouts from the patrons leaving the bars, the honks from cars telling them to get off the street, a wailing siren in the distance. A far cry from the magpies and song birds and bleating sheep, the varied sounds of travel are always a delight.