This is a journey into the unknown. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve visited Leeds and Yorkshire before, but fleeting visits, best china and behaviour visits: this is for life.
Everything starts well as we take the long road home, but after stopping at what the English call ‘Services’ (think: Wimpy road stops, but 5 different choices of food, including sushi, and fresh food plus a book store) we experience broken cam-belt. This is where I get my first experience of how the UK handles a crisis: we’re stuck on the side of a busy freeway on a rapidly darkening Sunday evening: rain has started to fall and the cold is indescribable for a Cape Town girl.
It’s another world
We manage to pull over into a police lay-bye and a few calls to roadside rescue means that someone is coming to help. Not long and a highway police vehicle pulls up to ask us what’s happening – we tell them and they hitch us up and tow us to a safer place. This is important: you have no idea how many fast-moving 24-wheelers whoosh by per minute, and visibility in the rain and poor light is minimal!
The road rescue arrives and it is something to see: a fully-equipped mobile mechanic! A quick look tells him that this isn’t a roadside job, so he summons a lift-truck. We’re installed in a warm passenger cab, our car is lifted onto the back and we’re driven all the way home. It’s the weirdest and most welcome taxi ride I’ve ever had. By the time we get home, everyone is asleep, but walking into a centrally-heated house on an ice-cold night is a revelation.
But what is it like?
The next morning I wake up to sun! While an aberration for this time of year, it’s like a benediction for me. My first excursion is a long walk with my sister-in-law and niece through the streets and past the fields of their neighbourhood so I can sign up with the local doctor. The area is semi-rural, but with all the comforts of the city. Six villages all linked by the local bus-route, surrounded by farmland, but only 20 minutes from a big city – it’s hard to describe. So far I’ve been into Leeds and Castleford twice and the most amazing thing for me is how many small businesses thrive here: independent butchers, bustling markets and green-grocers, amongst others. All the brand stores are here, but they haven’t supplanted private small business – long may they all thrive.
People have also been kind and helpful. A tall postmistress in Leeds who looks like she could freeze an unruly customer with just a look turns out to be like a long-lost favourite aunt when I go to collect my visa card. Outside on Leeds’ main drag a protest against Trump is in full swing with students carrying Palestinian flags – it proceeds in an orderly fashion, two police riot horses sedately bringing up the rear. I think I’m going to be OK 🙂
Next: Nuts and bolts of daily life and, yes, let’s talk about the weather