Off to Heptonstall in Search of a Grave

Whew. Today was the first time in ages that I was able to get away for a few hours. I keep hoping to be able to get away to Leeds for a day, but that’s looking less and less likely. At least, I could look for something close by to do today and the answer was obvious, visit the ancient village of Heptonstall, which towers over Hebden Bridge. As the crow flies, I am about 0.5KM from the centre of Heptonstall, but I have to go all the way down into the valley, cross the river, and climb up to Heptonstall, so it is quite a trek!

Take a second here to check out the Heptonstall Parish website. You’ll know why when you get there. ūüėČ

Heptonstall is a quaint place to visit for its churches and ancient buildings, but it is probably best known for being the final resting place of author Sylvia Plath. I don’t pretend to be a huge connoisseur of her (it’s been so long since I read¬†The Bell Jar that I barely remember it), but she asked a question that I asked myself many times before setting off on my life by design:

Why can’t I try on different lives, like dresses, to see which one fits me and is most becoming?

Why not indeed? I sure didn’t find a valid answer.

Standing on my porch, sort of looking towards Heptonstall:

I headed down to the village, but where I normally turn left, I turned right to cross this bridge.

When I came home, there were archers practicing on this field.

Looking back towards Hebden before starting the climb up.

I somehow missed the staircase on the trip home and end up going down this super muddy path with only barbed wire to hold on to. That was fun.

At the top of the staircase, I followed a pretty path for a bit.

Climbing up above Hebden.

I eventually found myself on a very rough road with tons of caution signs to truck drivers.

My boots were a bit muddy.

I then had to walk along this road without a footpath.

Hebden’s layout is becoming clearer.

Just in case anyone has any doubt as to where I am, the slow sign being the wrong way should narrow it down.

Blue sky, just for a bit. I’d been switchbacking to this point and was at my final turn. I now have to follow that fence you see at the lower left. It’s now a straight climb to Heptonstall.

I loved how there were these super narrow breaks in the wall for people to squeeze through to reach sheds and footpaths.

I made it!

I made a note of the tearoom as I thought that I might have earned a cream tea!

There is a walk you can do in Heptonstall to see all the sights, but I really didn’t have that much time. So I headed straight for the churches and graveyards.

These are the ruins of the original village church.

And there’s new church.

Quoting from a plaque:

“The original church, dedicated to the martyred archbishop St Thomas √† Becket, remained in use until the mid 19th century. Following storm damage in 1847, the decision was taken to raise money to build a replacement. The new church was completed in 1854 at a cost of ¬£6,666. Instead of being demolished, the earlier building was left to become a ruin.”

It was very slippy and I had to be super cautious as I poked around.

Sylvia Plath is buried in the “overflow” cemetery across the street.

I had some limited instructions on my phone for how to find the grave, but of course, the stupid thing decided to die on me the second I arrived (despite having 85% battery life). I can’t wait to replace it!

So I walked among the gravestones looking for it. This stone caught my eye. Neville Longbottom is my favourite character in Harry Potter and I thought his unusual name was made up by JK Rowling. Nope!

I wandered the small graveyard a lot longer than I had planned to be there, looking for anything that had tributes by it. I eventually was able to discern a bit of a pattern to the dates on the markers and narrowed down in what rows Plath’s gravestone could be. On my final pass, I found it!

The gravestone has been damaged by vandals who removed “Hughes” from it, as some of her fans feel her estranged husband was¬†to blame for her suicide.

Heading out, I passed this home with a lovely tower. Anyone who watches “Grand Designs” knows that a common way to update these old stone buildings in the UK and add on to them is by using glass and steel.

There were workers on site doing repairs to the church tower.

I did go for tea! ūüôā They didn’t have a cream tea per se, but I was able to order a pot of tea (Yorkshire blend), a raisin scone without butter, a pot of clotted cream, and a pot of jam √† la carte for a total of ¬£5. I was cold and tired and this was the prefect treat to get me home!

Of course, the walk down to Hebden was a lot quicker than the walk up to Heptonstall! I could see my front door from here!

I eventually found my way back to to the bridge after that harrowing downhill journey. It was only while going back over my photos that I realised where I missed a turn to get back to the staircase.

CIBC Is a Great Bank for International Travellers

When I read about picking a bank for international travel, all I ever see is discussions about their rates and fees. If I was to¬†judge CIBC, with whom I’ve been banking for more than 20 years, by only that standard, they would fail.¬†But in terms of things that really matter, CIBC has been a winner across the board. I’ve now that three events while overseas that could have been stressful or embarrassing that CIBC took care of without my having to do much.

First of all, there was the time in Mazatl√°n that an ATM debited my account, but did not give me my money. While it was stressful to be out that money for the time that I was, but CIBC went to bat for me on this issue and got my money back and they credited me for some overdraft fees and the ATM withdrawal fees. I was so stressed during the initial call to report this and the person I spoke to made it seem like such a not big deal for them that it made me confident that there was actually hope of seeing my money again.

Then, there was the time in Bulgaria where I found out my credit card had been compromised. CIBC promptly rejected the charges that weren’t mine and I did not have to fight to not be held accountable for them. They then sent me a new card to Bulgaria. I’ve read accounts recently of this happening to folks with other banks that wouldn’t send them their new cards while they were abroad!

What happened today was more embarrassing than anything else. I got a call from a guy at Tesco letting me know my payment was declined despite being preauthorised last night. It was 5AM on the East Coast, so CIBC’s call centre was closed. I did a quick search for the emergency 24-hour number to report a card stolen and called that. I explained the situation and apologised if it was inappropriate to use the number to have a security card hold lifted. The man¬†I spoke to put me at ease and said it was absolutely fine and they get calls like that from Europe and Asia all the time. He then quickly lifted the hold. When I called the Tesco man back a few minutes later, the payment went through. He was standing there with all my shopping ready to go, including cold goods. Had I not been able to reach CIBC, they would have had to start all over. I doubt I would have had a penalty for that, but, really, not good form!

I can also add to this list that I got an email from Caroline back home letting me know that she’d received a new debit card for me. My current one expires at the end of March, so I suggested that it be dropped off at the CIBC in Assiniboia to be sent through interoffice courier to the one in Chambly for my stepmother to pick up. I expected to be told that would not be possible for confidentiality reasons, but it wasn’t a problem. So my new debit card will be waiting for me when I arrive in Quebec and no one had to make a special trip or pay for postage to get it to me.

My only complaint about using CIBC overseas is that they charge me $5 for withdrawals, which is why I now have a Scotiabank account from which to withdraw money in countries that are part of the Global ATM Alliance.

CIBC has proven to me time and time again that they have my back. I feel like a valued customer and that I get something for my monthly account fees (which, by the way, have dropped significantly!). My life has oftentimes felt chaotic since it took a peripatetic turn and CIBC has really helped me to greatly simplify one part of my life. It will be interesting to see how our relationship goes when I’m in¬†Mexico full-time and having to rely more on Scotiabank. But with the¬†few times I’ve had to call Scotiabank for trivial matters and it being a huge production, I really doubt that they’ll ever get more business from me than the basic chequing account I use for international withdrawals.

It’s a Small World

I don’t answer the landline when I’m housesitting, but when the phone rang last night, this morning, and about 30 minutes before Spanish class today, I made the¬†correct deduction that I should pick up. It was the Spanish teacher uninviting me to attend her conversation class because my skills are too advanced. Instead, she suggested I come by around 3:30 and meet a Mexican friend of hers who lives here in Hebden. She could speak to me in English, me to her in Spanish, and we could talk about my impending move to Mexico. How awesome is that?!

Well…

The gal, who is from Chiapas, near Yucat√°n, cautiously felt me out, asking me quite pointed questions about why I’m moving to¬†Mexico and what my views are on certain topics. It was incredible to see her warm up to me as I answered what I guess was¬†correctly for her. Before I knew it, we were both laughing and crying as we talked about what we missed about¬†Mexico, like the food (al pastor tacos and Abuelita hot chocolate!) and the brights colours. We bonded over how bland we find Europe, the US, and Canada compared to the explosion of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that is¬†Mexico. She was so excited for me to be moving at this time of major social transition in¬†Mexico and she found my observations very astute for the limited amount of time I’ve been there and that I’ve really only been to one small part of the country.

We finally had to leave as our host had another class. I asked if they knew if Co-Op would still be open and my new friend’s expression brightened at that. She lives near the store, so she was happy that we could walk together and keep chatting as we headed there. Her English is very basic and after a bit more of her haltingly trying to make her points and me confirming that I could understand her we switched to just Spanish. We got some strange looks as we made our way through this sleepy English village giggling away in Spanish. It was the best time I’ve had with someone in a very long time, even more special than my last night in Spain.

I’ve only got two more weeks here (already!), but we promised to see each other again. I think that this is one person I might end up keeping in touch with. We shall see…

I got what I needed at Co-Op and then decided that since a) I didn’t spend the ¬£5 I was going to spend on a lesson, b) I am incredibly well under my food budget for January (thank you, Tesco!), and c) I had to get back to work when I got home, I was going to get fish and chips to keep my hands warm on my long walk home! Oh, didn’t I mention that it was about -1C/30F out? BRRRRRRR.

The chippy was doing a brisk business, but the line moved quickly. I was able to get a half portion of chips for 50p less than a full portion and that was absolutely perfect for me. It was sooooo good and I conveniently finished as I approached the public garbage can by my house so I didn’t have to worry about stinky trash at home.

What an incredible day it’s been. I’m going to be working late, of course, but it was worth it. Who would have thought that I’d make a Mexican friend here of all places?

A Promise Kept

It was minus one when I woke up. BRR. The house here is surprisingly well insulated and I don’t have to heat at night at all (and by that, I mean I’m sleeping in short and a tee-shirt!). So when I wake up to the room being chilly, I know the temps really dropped overnight.

It was super foggy when I drew the curtains in the sitting room:

I had a manageable workload today and had sort of thought to go into the village for coffee, but let me remind you that it was cold.

But the day warmed up a bit and by 3:30 or so I was getting antsy. I reminded myself that I had promised to ignore the weather and just get out while I was in England. So I bundled up and headed out into a slight drizzle.

I like how colourful this street is, a rare treat.

This bumper sticker made me laugh.

I wasn’t too stylish, but I was comfortable.

I took a different route that took me on the other side of the old bridge. I can’t believe how old it really is!

Near the supermarket, I passed a store with interesting jewellery made of old coins. It was heartwarming to see supporters of Standing Rock out here!

I thought coffee was going to be challenging, but one of the bags of the store brand dark roast had a leak and I could smell it. OMG. It was so wonderful! I then spent quite some time selecting three beers (1.5L) for £5 and something to add to my leftover pasta for dinner (hint: the Brits know how to do sausage).

I was amused that the temperature was almost balmy when I got out of the store! And I thought temps changed quickly in Canada.

The walk home was slow as my knee has really been bothering me for a few days. That’s the only thing I don’t like here, the very long steep climb home and the stairs I have to go down at the end, on top of the surfaces being so slick. But I love walking in the village as it is so pretty and quaint. I’m starting to know my way around despite the haphazard layout. Today, I noticed a Middle Eastern grocery store (!!!!!), so I am going to check it out when it is open to see if I can get some hummus ingredients as what I’ve gotten from Tesco hasn’t been great. Get this, the owner of the house has the exact same food processor I have back home! It’d be nice to put it to use. ūüôā

So that was all the excitement from my little corner of England. Riveting stuff, I know, but, hey, I’m getting used to crossing the street her and looking the¬†correct way first so that’s something newsworthy! ūüôā

Balancing Act

Another very full working day has come to a close. This past week has been exceptional. I have nine active clients at present.¬†I have regular steady work with two of them, a few check in several times during the month, and the rest tend to appear right around the time I archive them as inactive. I’ve never had to balance orders from more than four or five clients in a week, and those were exceptional weeks.

This past week, I have had large orders from all nine! And as if I didn’t have enough on my plate,¬†one of those clients took a look at my skill set and shipped me off to another part of their department to have me do a test¬†to see if I’d be any good at doing QA (quality assurance) for their web designers, something¬†I’ve been wanting to get into for some time. So between the typing, I’ve been doing my homework ahead of the test, which I hope to complete satisfactorily tomorrow…

Let me tell you, after a solid month of almost nothing, it’s good to be this busy! But moreover, I love that I continue to move forward as¬†my business continues to grow and new opportunities present themselves. I’m at the point where I’m starting to think about hiring a virtual assistant. Unfortunately, most of my contracts don’t lend themselves to being farmed out, ie. in my letting someone else do the grunt work while I manage the project, but that’s something I’m serious considering getting into, especially if I continue to get movie projects where I’m working directly for the client. If my¬†Mexico plans work out and I settle down for a bit, it’ll definitely be time to start focusing on work more instead of only taking opportunities that work with my travel schedule.

It’s funny that I haven’t taken the housesitting into account as a job when it really is, but, really, so¬†much of the work part of it is stuff that I would have to do if I was living in my own home. I certainly don’t consider making a cat breakfast or having to contort myself to write a blog post because the cat is hogging my lap and I have to put my computer at an odd angle a chore. My next sit will definitely be more work. Yes, I’ve lined up another one to replace the one that got cancelled and the dates are actually better as they will take me to just a few days before departure for Canada. With this one, I will try my hands at… puppy sitting. It’s going to be a huge responsibility, but I’m excited about it!

Well, I supposed it’s time to turn off the fire, coax the cat off my lap, and turn in so that I can start all over again tomorrow. It’s going to be another busy week, but one of the projects is ending on Friday and unless something exceptionally exceptional happens, I should have the weekend free. Who knows, I might get away to Leeds for a day. It’s really a balancing act, this peripatetic lifestyle, sometimes all play, sometimes all work, but I’m never bored!