After our plane touched down in the UK, we lived a lifetime or two over the past week. We surmounted some pretty challenging problems!
First of all, just before we left Cyprus we were notified that our upcoming sit in France was canceled. It’s the kind of misfortune you pray will never happen, but sometimes does.
Traveling invariably throws us into “liminal space”—I’ve written about this before. “Liminality” is defined as: “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition.” Whenever we transition from one sit to the next, we enter this space.
And guess what? So do the homeowners! In preparation for their trip(s), they likewise slip into liminal space and dance with the unexpected. They don’t simply climb in the car or board the plane—no, they get their ducks lined up first. And sometimes the ducks don’t line up!
This homeowner underwent a precautionary medical check-up before their trip to Spain, and doctors discovered a tumor on one of his lungs—not something you ever want to hear. When he contacted us about the matter you could detect the panic in him. He was still waiting to hear whether or not it was malignant. Ultimately, he chose to cancel our sit altogether because a medical intervention was required one way or the other.*
A cancellation sets off a chain reaction. Robin scrambled around to find a replacement sit for us. He identified a couple of candidates in the north of France that would substitute, and then our original homeowner contacted him again. It turned out he was close friends with another couple living about twenty minutes away who were going to Spain in nearly the same timeframe. Would we be interested in sitting for them? Yes, we would!
We jumped on a Zoom call together, and everything went great. We all agreed it was a good match. So everything proceeded nearly as before, with few alterations to the plan (a miracle!).
When our flight landed in Bristol, we holed up in a hotel for two days awaiting our COVID test results (as mandated). (To add insult to injury, they ceased this requirement two days after our return.)
Robin took our car in for a tune-up after sitting in storage for three months, and it turned out the back door wouldn’t open, and it must be functioning to pass British MOT (British MOT is very strict). Robin wasn't happy with that car anyway, so he took it to a nearby dealer and did a trade-in on a 2006 VW Touran he liked. That night we went out for Mexican food at our favorite place in Bristol (gosh, we miss Mexican food), and during our trip the engine was running rough plus some other mechanical things were unfriendly. For instance, the steering wheel squeaked incessantly.
The next morning Robin returned that car, found a different dealer, and got a different car. (You wouldn’t believe all the logistics of rental cars and returns and transferring insurance and you-name-it, plus emptying the temporary storage space.) So now we're driving a 2008 Chrysler Voyager.
Between the car drama and the change in sits, I feel as though I lived a couple of lifetimes right there.
From Bristol we headed south and caught up with our favorite pets and our dear friends, who were both recovering from Covid (gahhh!).** We collected the computer equipment we had stored with them and continued south to our quaint hotel, the Queens Arms. We used this as our jumping-off point to St. Michael's Mount, which we visited as our Valentine's Day celebration.
St. Michael’s Mount is what they call a “tidal island,” meaning the causeway to reach the island is underwater when the tide is in. (Where I’m standing in the photo is covered by water when the tide is in—it’s just not there!) Consequently, tide tables play an important part in the lives of people living on the island.
During the 6th century, according to legend, the island was once home to an 18-foot giant by the name of Cormoran. With a voracious appetite for cattle and children, he lived inside a cave surrounded by ill-gotten treasures seized whilst terrorizing local towns and villages. One day a young farmer’s son named Jack killed the giant by trapping him in a pit and bashing his head with an axe. Henceforth, elders in the village called him “Jack the Giant Killer.” (You may recognize this early variation of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”)
The Mount may have been the site of a monastery from the 8th to the early 11th centuries when it was known as “Sanctus Michael beside the sea,” and the earliest buildings include a castle dating from the 12th century.
John Milton set the finale of a poem atop the Mount in the 1600s, portraying the archangel Michael seated in a great stone chair on its peak, seeing far over the sea and thus protecting England.
St. Michael's Mount is the Cornish counterpart of Le Mont-Saint-Michel in France and shares the same tidal island characteristics and the same conical shape, though it is larger at 57 acres than Mont St. Michel, which covers only 17 acres.
Unfortunately, we had little time on the island because the tide was coming in, and so we didn’t get to explore as thoroughly as we would have liked, but we left with a promise to return someday.
From there we headed back north to Portsmouth. But not without some car trouble: the engine died if we accelerated too fast to get on the freeway. One of our headlights went out. Worst of all, some corroded wires cause the car to intermittently fail to start. We discovered that lil problem in the parking lot of the Tesco store where we stopped for some supplies, and couldn’t leave.
The Help Desk inside the Tesco advised us to invest in an AA policy and open a ticket on the spot, which we did. We had to wait for the guy to arrive, and he tried several different things before identifying the corrosion problem—which he couldn’t fix, so we’re stuck with a car that starts intermittently. (It has a 3-month warranty, but that doesn’t do us much good when we’re hundreds of miles away.)
The intermittent starting has been fun to cope with. It means my heart is in my mouth every time we stop the car, wondering whether it will start again. We have even been reduced to refilling the gas tank while the car is running, which I don’t like doing.
Given our car problems, we arrived in Portsmouth around 2AM. We had to rise at 5AM for the next leg of our journey, so it was a nap rather than a sleep.
From Portsmouth we caught the ferry and enjoyed a leisurely six-hour trip across the channel to Caen, France.
The ferry resembles a mini cruise ship with classy restaurants, lounge bars with live entertainment, and even a two-screen cinema! This is the longest cross-channel trip we’ve made, with our shortest being 45 minutes on the train. We had our own private cabin with four (4!) single beds and an en-suite bathroom, and slept most of the journey.
Upon arriving in Caen, our car started easily so we could depart the ferry, and we headed directly for Mont-Saint-Michel, which is the French "twin" of St. Michael's Mount. The next morning we visited and toured that island, and so this fulfilled the second half of our Valentine's Day celebration! It has long been Robin’s dream to tour both—and to visit them both in short order like this was magickal for him (and I enjoyed it too).
Mont-Saint-Michel was recognized by UNESCO due to its unique importance as a medieval Christian site, and is visited by more than 3 million people each year. An ancient abbey and church complex anchor the island’s peak, with a village surrounding them below.
Some believe the archangel St. Michael won his victory against the dragon on this very mount as described in the Book of Revelation (12:7-9):
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not… the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
According to another legend, St. Michael appeared to a sleeping bishop in 708 and ordered him to erect the church on the rocky islet. After being disbelieved for two nights, the archangel reputedly burned a hole on the bishop’s skull with his fingerprint on the third night, and finally the bishop obeyed. (The skull, with said scar upon it, is displayed at a basilica nearby.)
The church was thus built in the 8th century and Charlemagne dubbed the island Mont-Saint-Michel when he chose St. Michael to be protector of his empire during the 9th century. Its outline was woven into the famous Bayeux Tapestry.
This site is also of interest for those who are interested in Arthurian mythology, as Thomas Malory claims this is where King Arthur battled a virgin-devouring giant.
The island was fortified over the next several centuries to such an extent that it withstood repeated assaults from British forces during the Hundred Years War in the 15th century. After the French Revolution, the monks inhabiting the abbey were ousted and it was converted into a prison for political dissidents. In the late 19th century, the prison was closed and the abbey renovated back to its former glory.
I daresay the number “two” is coming up here: two house-sits, two cars, two islands, two sitters/sightseers (that’s us!). For Jung, “two” was the beginning of consciousness, and I daresay we experienced more consciousness during this phase of our adventures than we liked.
On Friday I participated in a live event titled “A Pause & Cause for Peace,” which presented the reaction I and several other thought leaders had in response to what’s going on in the Ukraine, and its implications for our world.
Due to cyber attacks in Europe I opted to record my segment rather than participate live. Unfortunately, it ran a bit long, so we cut about 2/3rds of it for the broadcast. If you would like to view the 18-minute, uncut version, it’s available here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uwd2tTbAwn8
I hope you enjoy it! I’d love to hear your thoughts. And of course I’d love to take you through the exercise if that interests you. Simply book an appointment on my website.
warmly, -Dr. Vicky Jo
*We have since learned his tumor is benign, and they are taking a trip to the UK for a short time instead. We plan to meet up after they return.
**They’re both fine now, we’re relieved to say.