One of the lovely things about making aliyah, or immigrating to any country for that matter, is that the place you once called home (which in my case was Manchester, England), can be seen through the eyes of a visitor when you go back there.
Instead of driving past all of the beautiful little country villages in the North of England on the way to somewhere or something, as I had done countless times when I lived there, as a visitor, with no school pickups or work commitments to worry about, I could stop, take it all in and even make a day of it.
This very thing happened to me last week when my daughter and I were in Manchester for a brief birthday trip (hers, not mine). We decided to treat ourselves to a day out in the countryside and so visited a friend there who, as it turns out, is a keen walker.
He and his dog, Freddie, took us to the most beautiful spot not far from their home, called Wincle, in the High Peak District, Derbyshire. With nothing to rush home for; no dinner to make or washing to do, we were free to explore this beautiful place at leisure. In less than an hour’s drive from the city center, we found ourselves surrounded by rolling hills, gentle streams and waterfalls.
It was magical; signs of spring were all around and happily, the weather was dry, bright and sunny – perfect for walking.
At the start of our walk, we were greeted by tiny lambs, playing together under the watchful eye of their mother. They bleated at us as we walked past, eager to grab our attention.
After crossing over the first of many cattle grids, we ventured deeper into the countryside and soon came across a large herd of cows, some of whom weren’t particularly friendly. Freddie, who has a penchant for chasing anything that moo-ves, was quickly put back on her leash as we made our way across the field – the menacing beasts all the while looking on intently, clearly unimpressed.
Thankfully our friend didn’t have to use the walking stick that he had brought along in case of an emergency involving one or more such animals, should they choose to step out of line (apparently stick shaking is very effective).
Eventually, we emerged, unscathed, on the other side of the field, whereupon a beautiful stream and waterfall opened up in front of us; the stuff of picture postcards and chocolate box covers.
“How could I have lived in Manchester for so long and not known about this wondrous place,” I kept asking myself?
WE THEN happened upon a boarded-up old farmhouse which was being renovated by a local man whose intention it was to live there, with only his long-haired lurcher, Ash, for company.
The two of them seemed perfectly content to be living “off the grid,” far from the madding crowd.
The only interaction they’d had with another human being in recent times was occasioned by the need to employ someone to fill in the potholes on the path leading to the farmhouse. This was done with the aid of an ancient tractor, which, miraculously, was still rumbling on in all its dilapidated glory.
By this point, my daughter and I were feeling a bit worse for wear. Although we’re both keen gym-goers, we had no idea how challenging a long walk in the countryside could be!
Climbing over styles, teetering over cattle grids and scaling steep hills had all but taken its toll, despite our friend’s entreaties to “keep going!”
Happily, however, we weren’t alone. Freddie, too, was exhausted by the exertion (she’d spent much of the afternoon chasing wild pheasants) and sat down on the grass, refusing to budge. We joined her there, resting our weary bones while drinking in the very best of England’s green and pleasant land.
After a well-earned, short break, we afforded ourselves and each other a hearty pat on the back as we finally made it back to the starting/finishing line, where we were met by the same lambs who had seen us off earlier.
I could have sworn they’d grown a couple of inches in the time it had taken us to complete the walk, although my friend remarked that it was unlikely as we’d only been gone for a couple of hours, not a couple of days, which is how it felt!
That said, last week’s wonderful adventure is one which I’ll never forget. I’ve made a promise to myself that whenever I’m back in Manchester, I’ll be sure to while away a day or two in one of those special places which, ironically, I never had time for, or even knew existed, when I lived there.
In the words of Tom Waits in “San Diego Serenade,” “I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long.”
The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Netanya, where she spends most of her time writing and enjoying her new life in Israel.