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Published on May 31st, 2012 | by TLV News

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A Broad Abroad Pt. 2: The Sheep Pasture (by Sarah Reddick)

Sarah Reddick traveled to the UK in March of this year. The trip was orchestrated by Beth Spencer, a professor in the English Department at Ole Miss, and it was part of a Study Abroad course called “Fantasy Fiction in the UK.”

Part 2: The Sheep Pasture

Sunday night we wandered around Alnwick before stopping into Ye Olde Cross to play some darts, read the paper, and have a few glasses of Famous Grouse scotch. I asked for ice in the first two singles I ordered and received a blank look. I finally asked if they had any ice at all and the barkeep brought a metal bowl up to the front filled with cubes.
The students visiting Alnwick from St. Cloud University in Minnesota had invited us to a bonfire, so after we settled up we made our way down the cobblestone street, past the castle, over the river bridge and towards the sheep pasture. We were told that in Northern England there are more sheep than people, and there are flocks that roam in the fields surrounding the castle.

When we got there we opened the gate and tramped through giant piles of cold, moist dirt that we found out later were mole hills. We were arm in arm, shouting and laughing, following the thin, weak beam of a flashlight app on someone’s cellphone. When we finally found the St. Cloud group the bonfire was roaring. I sat on a log and we all introduced ourselves. My friend Will took out his harmonica and played “Piano Man,” which impressed everyone. Bottles and cans were passed around and everyone warmed themselves, grateful for the orange and red light that encircled us.

I looked up and was stunned into silence for a minute. The lack of light pollution made it possible to see every star in the sky. It looked to me like an endless swirl of black oil paint studded throughout with diamonds. We called out the names of constellations.

“Orion’s Belt!”

“The Pleiades!”

“The Big Dripper!” (This last one was me. I stole it from a film called Regarding Henry starring Harrison Ford. Great flick.)

Situated on the top of a hill in the distance to my right was Alnwick Castle, which is lit from the ground up by floodlights at night. I took a sip from a bottle that was handed to me and the heat traveled from my mouth to my core and then into my limbs and I felt a sudden, powerful sense of peace. I guess you could say I felt connected, felt the pull that I feel sometimes when I let myself relax long enough to feel it, the pull towards the center of things where pieces of me slide into place and it all makes sense. It’s been a long time, and all it took was a sheep pasture and a sky full of stars to remind me.

Monday we had to be up before the sun to catch a bus to Edinburgh in Scotland. I was really glad I’d stayed up to wash the thick, sweet scent of bonfire off of my skin and out of my hair, but I was feeling pretty exhausted. The drive was beautiful. I would close my eyes for just a minute, and then will them back open, not wanting to miss anything. We came down a hill and rounded a giant outcropping of rock and there was the North Sea, glittering where beams of sunlight broke through the gray blanket of clouds.

Edinburgh was absolutely inspiring. The city changed and shifted dramatically depending on where I was standing. I loved listening to the tour guide tell us about mythical evil creatures that the Scots used to fear. The Half Man, literally half a man, this ghoul was some kind of supernatural stalker. The Red Cap men, also known as powries or dunters, were little old men that wore red caps that were stained with the blood of their victims. It was said that they inhabited the ruins of castles along the border between England and Scotland. They had long claws that they used to eviscerate wandering travelers after running up at them in what I can only imagine as a horrifying few seconds.

We had lunch at the Elephant House, the tea and coffee shop where J.K. Rowling spent a lot of time writing the Harry Potter books. From the back of the shop I could see George Heriot’s School, a private school, and Edinburgh Castle, which is situated on an extinct volcano. What better inspiration could there be for a story about kid wizards that go to school in a castle?

The shop’s bathrooms are covered in graffiti. One note read, “If it weren’t for Harry Potter I wouldn’t have made it through the darkest time of my life. Harry was my Patronus in a sea of Dementors. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for saving my life with your magic.”

 


This article was published in The Local Voice #157 (May 31-June 14, 2012)…
Click here to download the PDF of issue #157.

Record Of The Issue: Cat Stevens "Saturnight" by Sarah Beth Reddick (from TLV #157)
A Broad Abroad: Local Girl Visits The U.K. (Pt. 1 - by Sarah Reddick - from TLV #156)


About the Author

The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.



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