Monday, 1 August 2016

Postcard from England, part I (subtitled:because I'm worth it)

I don't usually travel much during the summer months. Something to do with the garden being too lovely to leave, something to do with being intoxicated by the very thought of three whole weeks with absolutely zero schedule to adhere to, and something to do with every man Jack and his extended family also being on vacation and crowding hotels, flights, and any sights I may want to see.

But not so this year. Related mostly to the previous post's "hearts broken:1 and hearts mended: .25"; the latter hovering more around .05 at the time, I felt very much in a shampoo commercial because I'm worth it frame of mind and decided to cash in some miles for a ticket to London.

A similar train of thought had me on a hellbent I'll show him  myself the whole world I can do whatever I put my mind to mission and with that particular thought in mind I abandoned my trustworthy (ahem) ally British Rail and rented a car.

It isn't so much the whole driving on the left thing. I've done that before - albeit ten years ago, and in New Zealand. But I've spent more than my fair share of hours in the passenger seat in Britain and I know that many of their roads (at least, the ones I like to explore) date back eons. Well before anyone had thought of cars, much less two cars passing. What they had thought of was hedgerows. Tall, beautiful hedgerows, hugging the side of the roads snugly.  In other words; English country lanes are NARROW. I went out and rented the least narrow car I could get my grubby little hands on. But of course.

And now that I'm safely home, I can say with total confidence and more than a smidgeon of pride (possibly a dash of arrogance as well): aced it.

It was an absolute beauty to drive, and boy-oh-boy you should have seen me confidently gliding through rush-hour traffic, roundabouts, roundabouts with traffic lights in the middle, and double-roundabouts (because that's how the British roll - you can't really have enough of a good thing).

Of course, sticking mostly to aforementioned country lanes, I didn't have to worry too much about keeping to the right (left!) side of the road, there only being space for one car.

(So when I came up to this farm vehicle which had blown a tyre and dropped hay bales all over the road, I graciously told the farmer I had all the time in the world and did not at all mind waiting while they crawled back to the farm at snail's pace.  Well, it was either waiting or reversing a quarter of a mile down a winding lane, so not a difficult choice ;-)

First real stop was the teeny tiny village of Slad. Mostly because I liked the name and also because it was the home of the writer Laurie Lee whose book "Cider with Rosie" I read many many years ago and don't really remember anything much from, except the inexplicable longing for England it awoke in me.

I had lunch at The Woolpack (don't you just love the names of British pubs!), caught a glimpse of a lady sharing her lunch with a kitten, and chatted to a man who used to live on a house boat but now owned a tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere and kept chickens (instant friend!) and did odd jobs for a living. And then I drove on, with the sat nav off.


This area, the Cotswolds, is awash with rolling hills - decoratingly dotted with flocks of sheep -, cottages built in Cotswold stone which has a certain yellow-ish hue to it so that even on a rainy day they seem to radiate a quiet sort of glowing coziness, and village after village with enchanting names. Broughton Poggs. Great Rollright. Shipton under Wychwood. Lower Slaughter. (And Upper Slaughter of course)

My travels took me fairly close to the Welsh border and I was thus able to enjoy the melodious tunes of BBC Cymru. Very delightful; of course I didn't understand a word of it but it was thoroughly fascinating all the same (I have fond memories of Wales. One time I climbed Mt Snowdon wearing sandals. Not 100% sure why I'd embark on something so foolish, but someone told me it would be an easy stroll and that I might be able to catch a glimpse of Ireland from the summit. Of course, it was so foggy at the top that I couldn't even see the path, nevermind Ireland, but I made it. Then I caught a tiny, rattling train back down again, went to the station where a drunken Welshman I'd met earlier was loitering (with intent). He snogged me and made a number of interesting suggestions not suitable for mentioning here -or in fact anywhere-, whereupon I caught the first train out and ended up in a very rainy Birmingham. As I said, I like Wales)

It's been said that if you have a garden and a library, you'll want for nothing more. I would submit that a passport should be added to that list. But then I reckon you'll be just about covered.

1 comment:

N said...

I love this! And, you are right, you are worth it!! Someday, when I win the lottery, I'm going to hire you as my travel arranger/guide/compaion and we will travel the world with the sat nav off...rumbling around to all the lovely, hidden corners of the globe.