“Inspircation” Day 3: Minor misadventures in the Cotswolds


Our “inspircation” continues! So far, it has been really successful. In some cases too well—last night, I woke up in the wee hours and spent a half hour or so jotting down scenes in my writing journal. So, not a great sleep, but I roughed out some interesting concepts for the book I’m developing.

Yesterday, we made the trek from Stone Henge to the small town of Ilmington, where my wife Marcie had booked us a B&B. As usual, the driving was tasked to me, but after being failed by our sat nav, our GPS directions, and every other electronic tool we’ve tried, we finally pulled over at a petrol station and bought an A-Z.

Armed with this took, we had much better success! Though, at one point, my mom did completely lose her place on the map and, unable to find where we were, just shouted out, “There are too many roads in this country!”

Then, today, I pulled out of the car park of our B&B, only to have my copilot (Marcie) immediately announced, “I have no idea where we are.” (I swear, our back tires were still crunching on the gravel drive of the B&B).

But that’s getting ahead of myself. We actually began our day by taking one of the suggested walking routes through the town and into the surrounding sheep fields. Full disclosure: We also got lost on the walk, but not too terribly. Here’s Marcie and I, trying to look like we’re enjoying a pastoral experience. (Apparently, my attempt to do so makes me look like a prat.)


My mom was thrilled to see all the sheep. On the flight over, she kept telling me that she was dreaming of green fields of sheep. I promised her she would get them—and get them she has, in spades.

ilmington_goats&sheep ilmington_sheep ilmington_barbwirefence momwithsheep

I finally asked Mom why we never had sheep on our family farm, at which point she revealed to me that we did indeed have a sheep when I was just a toddler (I guess I was too young to remember). According to the story, my dad tried to sheer the wooly fellow one day, only to accidentally nip him. He was so grieved by the incident that he passed the sheep onto my grandparents. Who ate him. (By the way, in case you didn’t know, most farm stories end with “then we ate him.”)

As for me, I particularly enjoyed all the old doorways in the village. Yes, I am a great collector of doors, and I found many today. Here are just a few of my favourites . . .



ilmington_doorwithplantstairs ilmington_gardendoor ilmington_gardendoor_gate ilmington_gardendoor_hingedetail ilmington_gardendoor_hinge ilmington_gardendoor_top

After the walk, we decided to go explore Warwick Castle. The only other castle my mom had ever been to was Highclere (two days ago), so we thought this would be a fun outing. After getting lost (see the “gravel drive incident”, above), we got lost some more, back tracked to our B&B, started over, then most expediently arrived at Warwick.


I’ve been to a lot of castles, and this one wasn’t for me. It was more a playground for families, so a lot less about history. Still, there are many fun things there, especially if you are a wee one. You can try your hand at archery, watch jousting, and see the giant (and I mean GIANT) trebuchet fire a flaming payload (we, unfortunately—or fortunately?—missed that show).


We did enjoy walking the ramparts and seeing a view of the city. It was quite the hike up and down the spiral staircases, especially for my mom, who had never taken such a dizzying climb before. But, as I say, the views were worth it.


Eventually, after navigating our way through the swarms of weaponized children (it seemed every one under the age of ten had bought a wooden sword from the gift shop) and made our way to the haunted dungeons exhibit. I thought this would end up being one long fright-fest, but this was actually the highlight of our Warwick experience. It had some history mixed with humour, featuring great performances by the actors who picked on various members of the audience throughout the tour.

My mom was the first to be hauled out of the audience and made to be “operated” on by a cook-turned-surgeon. Marcie was then cast into a dungeon cell for torturing purposes, while later on in the tour I was put on trial for “widdling” in the town’s water supply. Actually, Marcie was then picked on again, this to read out the judgment of another audience member who was about to be beheaded. (Don’t worry, he was spared—as the executioner’s axe came down, the lights went out, we were all sprayed with “blood”, our benches tipped backwards, and then the lights returned to reveal that the axe had missed and only cut off one ear. It was a surprising moment—a bit of what the kids these days call 4D.)

The interaction is what really made the experience worthwhile and gave us all a chuckle.


Finally, we ended the day in the local pub, which has a large alcove in the fireplace for a table.


So, all in all, a fun day, though I didn’t exactly accomplish much in terms of gathering inspiration. Tomorrow, however, is a big day; we’re headed to Stratford-on-Avon to do all things Shakespeare! I can’t wait . . . I teach a lot of middle-grade books about Shakespeare, so this is going to be collecting a lot of “connections” for my students.

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