There are times when it's just not convenient to follow one of Admonishing Lady's summonses to the Great Scavenger Hunt. Sometimes work intervenes - those who share this site are no more immune from mundane things like the need to earn a living and clean the house than any other group of humans. She doesn't mind this: just as She did for her first adherents, she's more likely to help someone in a sales presentation if they've done the research and preparation first. Eventually, though, She starts to give nudges, and most of us have learned that resistance is, eventually, futile.
This is an attempt to explain what the scavenger hunt is like from the inside. A series of apparently coincidental images signalled something brewing. I met a sympathetic but sceptical friend (seek out such people if you prefer to retain your sanity) to discuss them over a couple of glasses of very bad wine. He was impressed, but described my reasoning as "jumping at shadows". I relaxed. This was a mistake. Another friend took me out to show me something one lunchtime. "Can you no' hear Her shouting? The trouble is that I don't know what She wants."
For me, the trouble was that I knew exactly what She wanted. I just didn't really want to do it. Some part of me knew, but... well, it's natural to postpone difficult things if there are easy tasks instead. Then an email arrived. Now She was dictating poetry to friends. "Is this one of yours?" asked the email, but given the combination of saccharine sweetness, obscurantism and incompleteness in the poetry, I suspect the question was rhetorical. She'd started with someone who wouldn't nag me too much. I knew what would She'd do next and getting on with it seemed easier.
I've already mentioned that She prefers people to do research first, rather than waste a lot of time. At least backing up the interpretation of the saccharine can be interspersed with placation of bank managers and emptying of lofts. As with a previous episode, the research this time started with finding a stonemason. Not just any old stonemason, though. Hellfire, at least this time I had a name, even if the date range could be four hundred years. Several visits to physical libraries later, I had two possible image sets fitting some of the instructions I and others had received. (Since the start of 2002, the information would have been available online, but apparently the leg work was a necessary part of the circuit training.)
Planning the trip probably took even longer than the original research. Each possible site fitted three of five signs from the "poetry". One is conveniently situated near a main line railway station easily reachable from home: the other isn't. I guess it was a foregone conclusion really.
Not only is the target area just about as cut off as it's possible to get in any part of the British Isles south of, say, York, it compounds the problem with one of the least joined-up local public transport systems I've ever seen. There are two scenarios - either She doesn't understand public transport, or She does but Her sense of humour is even more warped than is apparent at first sight. I know which my money's on. I needed several telephone calls and a visit to the local library just to figure out how close I could get. The answer was "not very". I could use three trains to get within twenty-five miles, but that was it.
I've had a chequered career with public transport and Admonishing Lady's exercises. It probably started when I flagged a cab from a station forecourt to go way out into the wild green yonder, only to discover that the driver didn't know the place, spoke little English and was out of radio contact with the dispatcher. At least on this occasion the driver had heard of the place and with my PalmPilot to show him where it was, we were off. As the country lanes flashed past I was acutely aware that Admonishing Lady was unlikely to intervene on my behalf in any dispute with the Inland Revenue over the definition of "expenses for work". The financial good news was that I could use two buses to get back to the first of the three trains home. I should have remembered - "be careful what you wish for...".
In the meantime, however, I was carrying wine. Candles, roses and wine have become the diagnostic imagery of this scavenger hunt. This time I was to find a place to libate part of it on behalf of people who had shared in the preparation. I always assume that the right place would leap out and say "NOW" in big neon letters. If that aspect of the plan doesn't work - nowhere to light the candle, leave the rose or libate the wine - I tend to assume that I've made some kind of (dreadful, expensive) mistake. It happens.
But not today. When I got there it was obviously Right. I had the place almost to myself and it was the first brilliant sunshine after several days of rain. Beautiful photography weather, so tranquil that even taking photographs almost seemed an intrusion. I spent a short while identifying that I'd been dropped in the wrong place, but only just. Once I found them, the images contained the confirmer I'd been looking for: on site, all five images were obvious and the fifth, in an unexpected form, was the right place for the wine. I photographed everything I could without intruding, and called it quits. As I left, I found the candles. From where I was standing now, I wondered how I could have missed them when I arrived. I anointed one with a little more of the wine and lit it. It seemed right also to bring something back as a token because, like wine, a candle is a token that can be shared with others.
There was something of a feeling of completeness as the bus drew out, although I knew I'd have to go back some day. Had I found what I was looking for? On a small scale, yes, of course, and on a larger scale, one more piece. A lot more work was needed, as is always the case.
The ride home, whilst less harrowing than at least one of my trips, was best described as an experience. It did cost less, but "be very careful what you wish for." I always emphasise the worth of writing up. Well, I was to get plenty of time to do that. The buses provided a guided tour of the area, until it became dark. There was plenty of time to fully discharge the NiMHs in a Palmpilot. Not only could I put the notes together and file away the correspondences for the poetry, but there was also time to write this description for the ffetcher site. On the train, the candles (metaphorically at least) burnt a hole in my pocket: I speculated endlessly. I would eventually email the originator of the poem that provided the final spur. "What am I supposed to do with them?"
The response was one line. "Don't ask, you may get some suggestions." It was probably meant to be flippant, but of course that line can be read in two different ways. But that was another story, which I my tell one day.