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Give Way sign, © Free Foto

June 21 – The Longest Day of the Year
Manchester to York

Off we go and I get my first glimpse of "Give Way" (Yield) and "Way Out" (Exit) signs. A child of the Sixties, I can't help but comment, "Way out, man." I also have my first experience with roundabouts. I think they are ingenious, if not a little death-defying there around the airport with buses and taxis zipping past at the speed of light. And then, down the road, this way and that, just as shown on the map Lorna had sent in an email days before my departure, is the Heald Green Beefeater's Pub.

We study the menu posted by the door. Then we notice that the pub doesn't open until noon and it's only just now 11:30. Then we notice that the prices are ... well ... pricey. I'd heard all about how inexpensively we could eat in the pubs and am surprised and a little worried that I may not have budgeted enough for my trip. Then we realize that we are actually at the restaurant and that the pub is next door. It's open but doesn't start serving until noon, so we make ourselves comfortable outside on the steps.

Dana and I, nicotine addicts both, smoke like fiends and we all attempt conversation, which is virtually impossible given the proximity of the airport. Before long, a car pulls up, and though I've never met Lorna before, I know without a doubt that this tall stately woman with the welcoming smile is her. A quick hug and a laugh and introductions all around and then into the pub we go, where we study the day's specials on the board and make our decisions.

I have no idea what I am ordering. I had decided before I left that if given the opportunity to order something I'd never heard of, I'd take it and take a chance. I order a "Prawn Cob" and am served something that looks like a pita bread, but it isn't cut in half. The bread is brown, warm and soft, yet very grainy. When I cut it in half, it is filled with shrimp salad that is very fresh and cool. I figure they must have injected it into the 'cob' somehow. I don't know how they did it, and I don't really care. It's the first real food I've had in what seems like forever, and it's delicious.

Accompanied by a very civilized Pepsi with lemon and ice, it is a simple meal, but starved as I am I feel almost decadent in my enjoyment of it. I zone out for a few moments, struck dumb with the realization that I'm actually sitting in a pub in England. It seems more than a little surreal. Laughter and lively conversation bring me back around.

We make the most of our time, nattering away like old chums (I'm certain that no one observing us would believe that we have all met for the first time just this morning) but Lorna has to leave for work, and York is awaiting us, so off we go with Robin driving, Dana navigating, and me – still not entirely convinced that I'm not dreaming – sitting in the back. We are off on our grand adventure.

The countryside from Manchester to York via Leeds speeds by; the roadside is bordered with Queen Anne's Lace, foxglove and rhododendron. Wastelands of moor with patches of golden gorse still in bloom give way to rolling verdant hills dotted with cows, sheep and vivid orange poppies. A gentle rain falls intermittently, but I think I may have been disappointed if it hadn't. This is the weather I expect to find in England and Scotland.

We manage to get turned around a few times, but Robin rights us readily enough and we arrive in York without any major mishaps. Once inside the city limits, we locate our bed and breakfast within moments.

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