Let’s coddiwomple over to the river or market.
“Pack your bags. Take something warm, something for the rain, and your camera. And some boots.” These instructions were all I had for the weekend ahead. I knew there was a train ride involved, I knew we were headed out of the city, but I didn’t know when we were to leave, or what the destination was. A perfect coddiwomple.
Despite my wheedling, he gave nothing up.
I packed. Like a good Girl Guide. Something for every possible scenario, without overpacking. A sweater or two (I hate being cold). A jacket. Jeans. Socks. Hiking boots and leather shoes. Mittens and hat. Long-sleeve and short-sleeved shirts. Slacks.
At the Tube station the next day, we boarded the train headed to one of the hub stations. “We’re catching a train out of Euston,” he told me. “But I’m not telling you where until we’re on it.”
The year I turned 30, I told my new husband, “It’s a big one. Plan a surprise for my birthday.” Not one given to giving, nor receiving, surprises, he reluctantly agreed.
It was a year of beginnings – new marriage, new home in a new country, new job. Turning 30 felt like another new beginning. I had high expectations of all these beginnings. It was a bit too much, really.
My birthday is in March. Early March. As the train pulled out of Euston, I settled in. I’d brought a book to read, and my journal.
“Where are we going?” I finally asked as the train reached the outskirts of the city, headed north.
The plan unfolded, one crease at a time. First, the train to Manchester, where we were to meet up with two of his cousins who are more like brothers. Me and three Irishmen for a weekend.
From Manchester, we headed to a B+B near Mt. Snowdon in Wales. The weather is typical Welsh winter weather: overcast, cold, the kind of damp that chills you to the bone. The rain lashed the car’s windshield as we drove up into the hills on narrow roads, searching for the laneway that would take us to our lodgings. On a sunny day, I’m sure the large cottage would have been positively lovely nestled in among rolling hills, overlooking paddocks and stony outcroppings at the foot of Mt. Snowdon. On a cold, wet day, I looked forward to curling up in front of the fireplace, a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit and some nice strong whiskey. And that’s just how the evening went.
“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” I asked the boys after our first board game, happy enough to roll with whatever was on the agenda.
“Not telling you until tomorrow,” my husband replied.
The weather was little improved the next morning, although the pelting rain had reduced to a drizzle. The mist hung so low, the peak of the mountain was shrouded.
“Dress for being outside,” I was told. “We’re going horseback riding today.”
Warm, waterproof clothes, hiking boots. Check.
Breakfast finished, and we gathered our things and got into the car. I took the back seat so the navigator – in the days before GPS and Google Maps, we used a real map – could lead us to our destination.
There are few things I like more than horseback riding. As a child, I immersed myself in everything horsey. I begged for a pony so much I finally got one when I was nine. I love horses.
There are few things worse than horseback riding in cold, wet, drizzly and overcast weather. My hands froze on the reins, and I remember that our ride was about an hour, but we couldn’t really see a whole lot because of the weather. My horse chafed at its bit, anxious to get the blood flowing.
The thing about a coddiwomple is that you have to give up control. If you’re the sort of person who likes to plan, to know exactly where you’re going and how you’ll get there, and what you’re going to do when you arrive, then a coddiwomple isn’t for you.
Usually I’m that kind of person, although I also usually leave some experiences to chance. Having given the instruction for a surprise, I could hardly take over the planning of the surprise event. I’ve never had a trip like that again. I allowed myself to be swept along in a wave of discovery for a new place in my new country, by people I love. And it wasn’t until last week I discovered there is actually a name for it.