I woke up Monday morning to discover what appeared to be a Muppet clad in Medieval clothes perched on the edge of my bunk. I’m incoherent for the first… six or seven hours after I wake up in the morning, so the visual was perplexing.
The Muppet coughed to get my attention. That’s how he woke me in the first place. I sat up and squinted. “Uh… Morning, Dinger.”
“Good morning,” he chirped, in a heavy Yorkshire accent. “Sorry to bother you, but you were just laying there, not moving, and I was starting to get worried.”
I rubbed my eyes. “I was probably sleeping.”
He thought about that. “Yes. That makes sense. Can I get you some tea?”
“Uh, sure. That’d be nice.” A few minutes later he came back, woke me up again, and I sat in my hostel bed sipping tea and reflecting on how infinitely better Monday mornings are when they are several hours away from my job.
I met Dinger the previous afternoon while checking into the York Youth Hostel. Apparently the “youth” bit is flexible, because Dinger is in his eighties and a great-grandfather. But I’m glad he showed up, because he is far cooler than most of the people I’ve met in a month. I’m developing a theory that, with the exception of myself, virtually everyone quits being awesome between the ages of eleven and sixty-nine.
We swapped stories back and forth, although mine were admittingly lame in comparison. Dinger is a retired serviceman. That’s probably what compelled him to become a historical reenactor; a desire for the camaraderie of fellow men in arms. His stories involved fire fights at the Suez Canal and protecting British children in Cyprus, whereas mine generally began with “Back when I was in the Boy Scouts,” and ended with “So in conclusion I probably should have drank more water.”
After breakfast Dinger took a few pictures with me. We alternated poses of pretending to stab each other in the throat with a pilfered butter knife. If I lived in York, I would definitely come visit him.
Two nights earlier I met the Newtons, a lovely couple in the north of the city. I was walking to my bed and breakfast when they exited a pub and yelled, “Hey! Nice helmet!” I responded positively, and ended up having late-night tea and scotch with them. And good tea. And good scotch.
I’m a tea connoisseur. I have been since China. I like mint green tea and English Breakfast with a spot of milk. I own a tea set and know how to prepare the stuff without using a microwave or little bag. The Newtons, who turned out to be some of the most generous people in England, gave me white tea, the first I’ve had. (In America you can get this weird “raspberry white tea” stuff in most coffee shops, but I find it suspicious.) White tea is more raw than green tea, healthier, and spoils faster, thus making it harder to acquire.
The particular type they gave me, Silver Needle, is certainly the most expensive tea I’ve ever imbibed. Only a small portion is harvested every year. The bush it comes from was once reserved solely for the Emperor of China, cut with golden scissors by virgin maidens of Fujian.
Mr. Newton also had a huge assortment of scotch whiskey. I tried Isle of Jura, and, best of all, a bottle from a distillery which no longer even exists. Maybe because their single malt is 60% alcohol, a tad bit stronger than most conventional drams.
Finally, when I mentioned my interest in history, they excitedly rifled through their belongings, presenting me with any artifact or trinket older than my country. A History of York from 1737, which I had to peruse using white gloves. A tea cup salvaged from the depths of the ocean. A family Bible printed just before the American Revolution.
I told them about the Heaton family Bible, located at Dan and Karen’s house in Alva. Much more recent than the edition they let me look at. Our Bible was made during the Temperance Movement. You can tell because there is a page in the middle of the tome noting the evils of alcohol, and inviting members of the family to sign on the dotted line beneath, pledging to never again taste the devil’s brew.
There’s only half a name present, from an ancestor who thought better of that nonsense halfway through his signature: