Day 2: Derbyshire
One of the most interesting things about traveling is finding a place to practice horn. Each new destination holds a quest for the perfect spot, or at least a spot that won’t encroach on the ears of too many other innocent people trying to enjoy their holiday. However, my days in Derbyshire found me practicing in a place that actually invaded over a hundred ears, and at an unseemly hour of the morning (at least for someone on holiday). My practices were in fields of sheep.
The whole area of Derbyshire is tangled in connecting footpaths, which are narrow dirt or mowed paths through the grass fields and pastures of the nearby farms and countryside. Even if a person owns the land, if there’s a public footpath there, the footpath itself is public property, and anyone has a right to use it as long as they don’t leave it. So, each morning before my my travel companions would wake up, I would get up early to get ready and then take my horn out on one of these nearby footpaths until I was far enough from any houses to prevent waking the inhabitants sleeping. This usually meant I was in the middle of a field of sheep. I must say that a field of fifty or more sheep is a surprisingly unnerving audience. While I firmly believe that there were a few sheep that liked me there, most just showed their distaste by ignoring my presence completely, and a few were down right verbal about their disdain for having to listen to my exercises. Still, I was persistent and refused to let the critics of the flock deter me from my mission. It became a game of sorts as I’d play around, trying to gauge from the reactions of the sheep what kind of music they like. Because I’m a geek and proud of it, my first attempt at a peace offering was playing for them the theme of J.S. Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze.” I have news for you: Bach doesn’t know a thing about sheep. Literally every single sheep immediately lost interest and moved to a further corner of the pasture any time I played any form of Bach. However, they do seem to like Mozart. One of Mozart’s horn concertos was all I needed to pull out, and immediately I’d feel the eyes of many of the sheep fasten in the direction of the music, with the bravest ones taking steps closer to where I was standing. Repeated over three days, this observation continued to yield the same results. So, a word to the wise, if you’re ever giving a concert to a flock of sheep, stick with the Classical period; they don’t like Baroque music. While all this experimentation may not have been conducive to the most efficient practice techniques, I had a great deal of fun making an almost concert out of these early morning sessions as I would announce to them the piece and tell them a little of the composer–always ending each practice with a bow and a “Thank you, I’ll be here ’till Wednesday.”
Each day, the practice was followed by a full English breakfast, provided as the breakfast part of the bed-and-breakfast. For those unfamiliar with it, a full English breakfast consists of a fried egg, bacon (and sometimes a sausage), baked beans, mushrooms, toast, and a grilled tomato. To an American, it sounds like a really weird combination of things to eat for breakfast, but it does a good job at filling the consumer for the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon as well. I’m not sure who thought of the tomato, or why they thought of it, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what I think of it; however, the rest of it was quite good. I especially liked the mushrooms.
After breakfast we left the inn for the nearest town, Ashbourne. On the way, we were disturbed to see a large pheasant eating some roadkill up ahead of us; when the car got closer, we realized that the roadkill was another pheasant. The entire car grew silent, including the inn keeper, who was driving and was normally very chatty. That four-second encounter with the pheasant completely changed our lives, I think. For the rest of the day, the conversation inevitably came back to the pheasant again and again, and even now, I feel strange thinking about it.
Once we arrived at Ashbourne, we took the High Peak trail to the tiny village of Tissington. It was a few hours of walking and all uphill, but the path was wide and well worn and lined on either side with bare trees which threw their skeleton shadows onto the ground, creating a whimsical mosaic of light and dark flecks of light ahead of us. Beautiful. We saw more views of sheep and pastures, and even stopped at one point to hike up one of the hills to look out over the entire lush area surrounding us. The sun was out–we had lucked out again with the weather, and arrived to Tissington in a good mood.
Tissington is home to an old fine house, Tissington Hall. Unfortunately for us, it doesn’t open for visitors until after Easter, so we were unable to go inside. However, the village itself was small, quaint, and cute. The people were again very friendly, and there was more of that friendliness and hospitality that is reminiscent of the town of Mayberry in the old Andy Griffith Show. One couple was out working in their garden as we passed by, and they called us over and talked to us for about ten minutes, giving us maps of the village and recommending shops to visit. The house they live in was built in 1840 and is a traditional stone cottage, and the garden they keep provides them all the produce they need to live off of. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they milked their own cow and spun their own thread. After walking around the entire village, including a stop at a small candy shop which reminds me of the Reimer’s in Three Rivers, we decided to catch the bus back to Ashbourne, as the walk back would have gotten us back after dark. The bus ride was scenic, and I noticed with amusement that the driver drove as though he was in a Corvette–not a bus.
This quick and agile driving got us back to Ashbourne much more quickly that we anticipated, and we used the extra time to stop at a park there to look around and enjoy the last hour of sun before returning to the inn. The park had a large duck pond, where we had the fortune and honor of attracting the attention of a flock of ducks who proceeded to follow us as we walked around a good part of the pond. I attribute this to one of two things: the bright red pants one of the other girls was wearing, or the possibility that they are used to being fed by people who visit. While it’s most likely the second option, I tend to think the first one is funnier.
The end to our day was quiet–dinner and then some journal writing. It was Quiz Night at the pub downstairs, so we listened with interest to all the questions, most of which I had no idea the answer to, including the answer to “What is America’s most celebrated cookie?” Apparently, the answer to that last one is the Oreo. So now, you know.
Go eat an Oreo!