It is Friday the 18th of July. Allyson Green (Pogi’s Groom who is recovering from an emergency appendicitis surgery 3 weeks ago) and I arrived on Wednesday at London Heathrow. We had the necessary adventures in traveling: flying… enough said about that, finding the correct train, running to catch the said correct train, asking the passengers multiple times if this was in fact the correct train. It is amazing how disconcerting it is to not be able to understand the Train Conductor’s accent on the loudspeaker as to determine where in the blazes we are going. Somewhere, there is a Visa commercial waiting to be filmed: two baguette sandwiches - 10 pounds, 2 tickets to Kemble – 30 pounds; watching the Americans get off the train, find out their at the wrong station and quickly throw their four bags back on the train as it leaves – PRICELESS!
There is a famous quote (at least in the NW) about the worst winter I ever spent was the summer in Seattle, apparently the guy never went to England. Whilst better than hot weather, it is a bit challenging to think how we are preparing for hot, humid Hong Kong while being in the 62 degree drizzle of England. I do have to say though that the Brits are probably the only other people to understand that the word “drizzle” does in fact describe a weather event and not a food topping procedure.
On the plane trip over, I had the opportunity to watch the movie “The Other Boleyn Girl”. This pretty much gets you in the mood to spend time in England: Kings, Queens, court intrigue, beheadings and the ever present stone buildings that are either too cold or too warm. Amy is staying at Aston Farm, the home of Captain Mark Phillips, the US Team Coach. The farm is several hundreds of years old, with apparently some of the structures dating to the 1200s. It is an active farm with nearly a thousand acres in and around here being farmed to provide income. The farm lies next to an old decommissioned RAF air field. So whether you are in the mood for Band of Brothers and the white Cliffs of Dover or the Magna Carta, this is the place for your history fix. She is staying in a lovely little flat converted from a really old cow shed. It was renovated by Desi Dillingham, the former head of British Dressage and the current head of the British Horse Society. Desi has graciously allowed us the use of her flat while she is in London. The ability to stay close to the horses and training and not have the expense of having to eat out everyday because we are staying in a B&B is most helpful to the ongoing stability of Amy’s sanity, and consequently, mine.
Pogi has been here enough times that when you arrive at the Farm and drop the ramp to the horse lorry (sort of a truck and trailer wrapped into one unit) he just starts wandering over to the horse barn. Pogi is the old hand in the barn. He is joined by his ADHD brother, Leyland; Karen O’Connor’s horse, Mandiba; Gina Miles’ giant of a horse, McKinlagh; and several of Clark Montgomery’s nice horses. As most know, Amy and Gina have been named to the US Team, with Karen named as an alternate. The rest of the gang arrived really early this morning into London and will be shipping directly to Barbury Castle where the US Team will be quarantined starting on Tuesday the 22nd prior to their trip to Hong Kong on the 30th of July.
Amy has been telling me how hard she and Karen have been working out since they have been here. To prove their point, the morning after I arrived, they asked if wanted to go for a walk with them. Along the way of this trek, whilst pondering the likes of the Bataan Death March and just how a country so flat can have such steep hills, I kept expecting Robin Hood and his Merry Band of Thieves to jump out of the forest. No, we are not near Sherwood Forest, but the sensation is eerie nonetheless. And I do not know if I was expecting the Kevin Costner version or the Men in tights version of Robin Hood…
While I may not be a fan of the eating habits of the British, especially their lack of ice and general desire to eat dinner at 9 o’clock at night, I have to admit I miss their cheese and bread. It is usually a daily trip to the local Tesco, a quasi-grocery store slash Target, braving the roads. And if you envision a proper roadway you are sadly mistaken. I am referring to a system of interconnecting goat trails. If you mix that, with the fact that your body dearly believes that it is inherently wrong to be sitting on the right side of the car and steering, with the overriding realization that the oncoming truck clearly believes that the law of gross tonnage is in his favor, you truly ponder the amazing fact that the British Empire once reigned supreme at all.
We have our constant gripe about the guy who thought that you can have an effective washer and dryer, all in one! Nonetheless, it is a grand adventure, and as people remind me how lucky I have been to travel all around the world, I note that they are correct, “I have in fact seen the finest barns in all sorts of countries…”
Our best wishes to you all. Please keep those letters (and checks) coming, your support means everything! But seriously, I will attempt to provide updates so all can feel attached to this process that you have helped to create.