Friday evening is always a good sign of how the weekend is going… and by Friday evening we were pretty much all in the old pub next door. You can picture the scene… a low-beamed ceiling that has sheltered its patrons for centuries, a blazing fire against the spring chill and a crowd of people talking, laughing, getting to know each other and catching up. There is something quintessentially British about these moments… almost all conversations seem to involve the weather at some point… even if they then go on to the lightest of drolleries or the deepest philosophical discussions.
To be fair, good weather makes all the difference and the day had been a perfect example of an English spring. The little village of Great Hucklow looked beautiful decked in flowers and blossom and the sunlight was reflected in the beaming smiles with which we had greeted each other. By the time we headed for the pub, the sun had gone down and everyone had relaxed.
The first ritual drama had introduced the story, setting the scene for our journey through a period of Egyptian history. A young man had been taken to the Temple at Philae to be trained by the priesthood… years had passed in that training and, at its culmination, the rite had been interrupted by the arrival of Ramases and his entourage… The scene was set for the story to unfold next day.
It is quite strange… one moment you are buzzing around like the proverbial flies ensuring that all is in readiness… the next, imagination and the skillfully crafted ritual drama have carried you beyond these sceptered isles to another time, another place and anothe mindset… and you are travelling the River of the Sun in a reality far removed from daffodils and forget-me-nots. Then the ritual ends. There is a brief interlude… a time between times… when everyone doffs their robes and returns to a more familiar reality… and, in the evening, heads for the Queen Anne, filling the small inn with smiles and conversation… and making serious holes in the stock of Stowfords.
The weather was still a subject of some concern, though. Next morning we planned on rising long before dawn to greet the spring sunrise on the hillside. These early morning rites have become something of a tradition. They are optional…yet we have been blessed by having the majority of our company gather to walk the hundred yards through the silent village each year; usually with at least three of us in somewhat unusual garb. It can be cold before dawn in April and the dew can lie heavy on the grass. As we wandered back to the Nightingale Centre, we wondered what the morning would bring.