Ok. I am about a month behind schedule here, so there is a bit of catching up to do.
We arrived at Heathrow ahead of schedule at about 5:45am. After the stress of the custom officials questions, waiting for our baggage to arrive and fresh in the knowledge that $100 buys about £30 we were ready to experience the wonder of London’s public transport.
It was hard enough for me to drag Kathryn’s suitcase from the house to the car, but after much effort, a change of tube and many steps and escalators later, we stepped out of the black cab at Mark and Nicole’s front gate.
We stayed with Mark and Nicole for a few days during which time we did a TV commercial for The Sun newspaper. Our day consisted of sitting in a bus for 8 hours (being fed copious ammounts of very good, very free food) wondering when someone would shout “action!”, then a couple of hours of actual TV work. It turned out to be a lot of fun. I saw the commercial on TV the other night and I think I caught a glimpse of my left hand, but it happened so fast I can’t be sure.
A week(end) in the country
We spent the next week (or was it two?) at Lodge Farm, Downton. It is a beautiful old farmhouse just outside a lovely little village, just down the road from a city with the most beautiful cathedral in England. Sigh…
We were joined at Lodge Farm by: Kathryn’s Uncle John and Aunt Fay, Kathryn’s cousin Jonathon and his little daughter with the big accent Catherine.
A country wedding
Mark and Nicole got married the following Saturday at a tiny little church nearby. Afterwards the guests returned to Lodge Farm where Kathryn and I played our violins while they nibbled and drank before the reception in the granary. It was a most enjoyable occasion and to top it off there were fireworks at the end of the night. Not sparklers, mind you, the real thing. Rockets that looked like the Death Star exploding above our heads (well before the Special Editions anyway).
Stonehenge and Old Sarum
Old Sarum is quite impressive and I urge you all to go there but I feel it would be a lot better from about 600ft up. Others must have thought so too as we were constantly getting buzzed by low flying aircraft. The thing about Old Sarum is that there isn’t much there. Just a hill with some very old foundations. Now, I like that stuff as much (probably more) than the next guy but it cost something like £6 to get in.
We were intending to catch just a normal red bus up to Stonehenge. After waiting at the bus stop for a while past its due time we thought we had missed it. It was then that the guide bus that leaves every couple of hours from Salisbury arrived. Some fast talking from the bus driver convinced us we had missed the bus and we would be better off with him. While we were standing in the bus discussing fares the bus we had been waiting for arrived, noticed there were no passengers waiting for it and proceeded merrily on to Stonehenge without us. So we had no choice.
We paid our fares and went upstairs where the guide and the other tourist was. Yes, that’s right, there were three of us on this tour. This made it much more personal and I felt compelled to nod acknowledgement of every second historical point the guide made. It was interesting though. Especially when we were standing in front of the huge stones and she proceeded to demonstrate the “lines of energy” running beneath the monument with a pair of metal rods. Ooooookay.
There are plans to remove the ‘A’ road running past the circle just about knocking over the stones in its path. This is an excellent idea which could be improved further by demolishing the terrible souvineer shack filled with a huge assortment of tourist tack.
We experienced many more delights of Wiltshire during our stay at Lodge Farm: Wilton House, WInchester Cathedral, Romsey Abbey, Yvonne’s cooking but a place I must tell you about was quite a distance from Salisbury.
Give me the Sally Lunn
One day we went to Bath. It rained. This hardly dampened our enthusiasm for this city though. Bath is famous for its Roman baths but, for me, this was my least favourite part. The central pool was very impressive, its opaque greenness giving off steam as a light rain fell. I desperately wanted to take a dip. But the rest of the site was hot, filled with tourists (can’t stand the devils) and not that exciting really.
What I was really taken with was the Abbey. It has some beautiful carvings on the west front of angels climbing a ladder to heaven. Go inside and there is a man sitting there who very politely asks for any donation you might like to give, if you can afford it. This immediately made me want to give him some money. So I did. The interior is beautiful. It is not ostentatious or showy and there is a lot of glass to let in the light. It is my second favourite church after Salisbury Cathedral.
We had morning tea / lunch at a place called Sally Lunn’s. Apparently Sally invented these buns in the very same house a few hundred years ago, and they have been served ever since. It is the only place you can get them and they are worth the trip. Go there now.