We stayed at Old Repeater Station while in Hadrian's Wall country. The proprietor was a Londoner who retired to Northumberland to run a bed and breakfast. His name was Les and he looked just like Mike Myers, only a little more grey. His dry British humor threw me off at first before I got used to it. He also had that plummy aristocratic British accent that tickles us Americans to death (well, at least just me). In the evenings, when we all congregated in the common area, Les liked to pull out his whiskey bottle and offer it around: "Fancy a wee drop?" He was a great host.
Haydon Bridge was the closest train stop to Old Repeater Station. This was the most ordinary town we set foot in while on our trip. It was actually rather a relief to see a working class British town--it proved that England was a real country with more faces than the typical tourist attractions of Oxford or Lacock.
We got fish and chips made to order at the Haydon Bridge Fish & Chip Shop, which we ate on top of the bridge, attended by a group of squabbling gulls. The number and ferocity of those birds made me feel as though I was in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.
Old Repeater Station was the only place on our entire trip that we could not reach under our own steam or using public transportation. So we called a taxi and waited at a local pub. Every head at the bar swiveled to stare as we entered, wearing our huge duffel bags. The lady bartender called me "dear" and served up hard cider in an ice-filled glass. We sat in the corner, entering the companionable silence of the other gentlemen there watching the World Cup. A family came in through a door at the back, with a little girl in a frilly dress. They paused to chat at the bar before walking out. A gentleman at the bar struck up a conversation with us. It was a neat little place, as comfortable as a well broken-in shoe.
Now comes the terrifying part. The taxi driver gave us a roller coaster of a ride to the bed and breakfast. The narrow winding road was hemmed in by chest high grass that grew right up to the edge of the road (there were no shoulders) and reduced visibility to what was immediately in front of the car. Combine this with the driver's apparent suicidal streak as he went 40 - 50 mph, blindly whipping around corners and over crests with nary a caution that perhaps there might be a car coming in the opposite direction. I wanted to lay down on the seat and hum "la la" to myself, but settled for closing my eyes and praying that death would be quick.
Instead we pulled up in front of Old Repeater Station with Les walking out the door to greet us. I managed to get out without going weak-kneed. Seeing Hadrian's Wall just across the road may have helped. Thus ends another day.