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Reflections on a walk far away from here

A path is a trail unless it's a bridleway,

Mine starts at St Bees leading to Ron Hood's Bay.

First day in and I'm lost in the woods,

Four days out and I'm lost in these words.

A gill is a river you can actually step over,

A chalk is a cliff like the ones over Dover.

A tarn is a lake and a lake is a 'water,'

Fog rolls in cold, becoming mist when it's hotter.

A stile is a step that helps you over a fence,

A step is a stride through gorse sharp and dense.

A crag is rock, rugged and steep,

A beck is a stream that's not very deep.

A cairn is a pile of stone made by man,

The Nine Standard Riggs required a whole Scottish clan.

A fogbow is a rainbow of a certain tint,

I have no idea about a 'limestone clint.'

There are siskins and puffins and owls in a barn,

Ducks on a pond are actually tits on a tarn.

I can't see the sign posts through the mists on the moor,

All the waymarks are missing on my 'Coast To Coast' tour.

A marsh on a moor is a swamp in a bog,

A moor is a mountain, rugged and bold.

A duckboard ford is a dam of good luck,

A fold is a pen where the sheep run amok.

Maybe I'll spot the path from the perch on the pike,

Or scale this low wall which over here is a dyke.

From the kissing gate to the stem at the crossgill,

I am lost and alone, like Jack without Jill.

All the markers on the moors cause me to squint,

As to the 'sike near the foss,' Lord give me a hint.

I love 'em, I do but I need to know,

Why the hell can't the English speak English?

You gotta' love the Brits. As working vocabularies go, the British have approximately three to four peculiar, exact and obscure words for every one of ours.

And place names? On one single bus ride from Robin Hood's Bay to the Scarborough train station where I caught the Edinburgh Express to Newcastle, I stopped at Flying Thorpe Old School, Flask Inn, Cloughton Cober Hill, Scaling Dam, Birk Brow Top and Ormes By Criads Crossroads.

On my climb across Grisedale Pass between Helvellyn and Bleaberry Crag there is a stretch of trail named Striding Edge. Combining motion with location, you don't have to go there to get the visual.

I stayed overnight at places like the Yew Crag Guesthouse, Wainstones Hotel, Scar Side Farm, Old Water Views, The Jolly Farmers and Keld Lodge.

At Keld, a hamlet of a dozen gorgeous stone houses and cottages complete with an automated, unoccupied museum of the town, the public toilets are called Public Convenience. (Unlike say Canada where public toilets- in the far corner, locked up or mostly non-existent- are a matter of public inconvenience.)

It was a Friday, my last day of the walk when I found myself passing through the town of Grosmont in the North York Moors.

It was the beginning of "War Weekend." An annual event in many towns and cities across Britain, the folks come out in droves to celebrate beating the crap out of the Germans.

The crumpled fuselage of a Messerschmitt was as the English say, a bit of a giveaway. Old men, helmeted and wearing thick wool uniforms, women in forties costumes, reconstructed air raid shelters playing Glenn Miller's "It don't mean a thing, if you ain't got that swing" - as the steam engine pulled into the station, the scene was electric and nostalgic all at once. The train's name was the "Sir Nigel Gresley." Wot?

One war poster read: "Stay calm and carry on." Another picturing a vivacious blonde in a pub warned about espionage: "Keep it mum. She's not so dumb."

As I passed through Grosmont I fell in step with a young Austrian girl who was also walking coast to coast.

"Please," I said, "do not speak one word of German. In case you haven't noticed these people really carry a grudge."

At $10 a mug and $30 a T-shirt for Coast To Coasters completing the walk, Robin Hood's Bay is a 'clip-joint.' A beautiful cliff-side village with spectacular views and fascinating cobbled stone alleys kinda' clip joint.

Through this strip of England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea I met nothing but cheery, helpful, happy people.

Neither rain nor hail, dampness nor darkness seemed to bruise their spirits.

I heard children laughing as they ran to the house in hail, I saw other older folks wielding umbrellas like they were badges of honor.

It's true what they say of the Brits: "The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have."

I flew from England to Portugal and after a week of recovery I was returning in the rental car when I noticed a lot of Faro Airport was missing.

Police and firemen swarmed the place, I thought it was a bombing. Many of the cars in the rental lots had their windows and windshields blown out.

A tornado took out the airport at five that morning.

Now a beautiful day, the Brits who been waiting for hours were outside with their shirts off kicking a soccer ball around.

The taxi they'd sent into town pulled up and from the trunk came their survival supplies- a "boot" full of cans of cold Sagres beer.

I remembered why Churchill ordered the pubs stay open during the war- never let them see you sweat.