Flying over France left me hopeful. There was a fair amount of visibility and it seemed as if the weather would co-operate. Flying over the English Channel did little to break my mild streak of hope of seeing a bit of English coastline from the air. The grey, churning waters were clearly visible. My hope grew as time progressed and Davey’s Follies started appearing below, spin, spin, spinning in the wind. Quietly, gently I hummed “the Man of la Mancha” to myself as my small aeroplane flew over rows and rows of Davey’s Follies. Soon, I thought, I will see the English coast. The colour of the water started to change, more waves became apparent. My hope was rising in a sharp crescendo – the English coast in autumn! Suddenly, my Luxembourg Airlines Bombardier flew into a thick cover of clouds – grey, grey, white and then grey. A few minutes later, the pilot announced that we had started our final descent into London City Airport as the clouds broke and suburban South-Eastern England appeared beneath. “Oh, g-d, good old England” I thought.
The rest of my flight progressed nicely. We arrived in London half an hour late. Passport control was quick and painless – although it took a few minutes for my suitcase to arrive. After a 15-minute chinwag with two members of the Royal British Legion, I purchased my perquisite poppy and set out to see if Boadicea made it from Hove. Not seeing anyone, I purchased a single fare ticket and went to Waterloo Station. Having a few hours to spare, I walked to Westminster and explored the Houses of Parliament from the outside. Security was high and I heard a news-reader announce that the Jaguar that just drove through the gates was bringing Davey of Davey’s Follies’ fame to another session of wrecking the United Kingdom. I could not help myself humming “the Man of la Mancha” again, albeit slightly louder this time in response to the din of traffic.
The train journey to Dorchester was remarkably pleasant. While I fear that it might crush a few delicate egos here, the British rail network is not nearly as dreadful as people fear. In fact, I was chuffed at how clean and punctual it was in comparison to Germany’s execrable “service”. Although I arrived in Dorchester slightly late, it was understandable. There seems to have been a put of a power problem just outside Southampton. Oh, and the jolly Spanish eejit in charge of the drinks trolley rant out of hot water and could not furnish me with my required cuppa. Being in a somewhat positive mood, I was inclined to forgive him – just. In any event, I did not elect to play Moors versus Christians circa 748 in the role of Othello.
I have a dreadful sense of direction. Dreadful. In fact, I suspect that Ed Miliband’s economic competence might well be significantly acuter than my sense of direction. In short, I managed to get lost in Dorchester for nearly two hours. After many failed attempts to locate the correct street of Dorchester’s four, I finally asked a respectable pair of ladies if they could perhaps tell me how to reach the correct street. Both were kind enough to walk with me to the correct street and give me detailed instructions on how to reach my B&B. Thanking them, I started to walk down the street I had crossed at least 7 times without realising it. Ten minutes later, I arrived at the Bay Tree Bed and Breakfast. The owners were most helpful with the husband insisting on carrying my suitcase to the third storey. We had a friendly chat for a bit and made sport of my uncanny ability to get lost in a Dorset market town. Breakfast was arranged for 7:30 the next morning and I spent the next few hours having dinner at a pleasant pub, the Trumpet Major, and enjoying the freedom that England permits. That is, I watched music videos that are blocked in Germany.
The following morning breakfast was prepared as promised. Two toast – brown bread: one with marmite, one with strawberry jam. A pot of yoghurt, Weetabix, two rashers bacon, mushrooms and a poached egg. After scarfing the lot down, I walked to the high street for a haircut. Five months had passed before more previous cut, a valedictory performance by my favourite barber in California. After nearly breaking a comb trying to straighten a tangle, my dire need for a sheering had becoming unmistakably apparent. After being shorn, I went to train station to meet with Araminta.
Araminta was kind enough to take me to Wimborne. The Minster is remarkable – one of those under-rated sites our much beloved Sceptred Isle is full of. The Minster also houses Wimborne’s chain library, one of the three remaining in the world. The librarian was an erudite, jovial hostess who kept both of us entertained. She was kind enough to show us books printed in the time of the Commonwealth, books printed in multiple languages with a perfection that contemporary publishers could only dream of. For lunch we went to a small but excellent restaurant which used the freshest ingredients. The waitress was superb, the food was superb and the coffee – flat white – was superior to any I have recently had in Germany. The staff were also terribly accommodating and forgiving of my pulling the emergency alarm handle in the convenience thinking that it was part of an archaic toilet. We also went to the Priest House Museum – a small, but interesting place re-creating life in Dorset at various times over the last few centuries. Araminta is an excellent companion and the day went by far too fast.
After a pleasantly uneventful evening in Dorchester I prepared to go to Bath, but not before purchasing a few boxes of tea and two puddings to bring back to the benighted Germany. I remain convinced that with some effort we will be able to civilise the Hun. After an unremarkable train ride, I arrived at Brunel’s Bath Spa Station with over an hour to spare before my allocated check-in time at my B&B. Not wishing to grow overly ambitious, I went to a friendly Thai restaurant near North Parade. The food was decent and the ambiance excellent. The staff were friendly, cheerful and engaging. After checking-in, I spent the rest of the afternoon walking the streets of central Bath. Janus’ promise that the city was a fine tribute to the Empire was not unfulfilled. Bath is a beautiful, atmospheric city. While perhaps not quite Dorchester, at least in my opinion, Bath grabs a hold of the visitor and never truly lets go.
One day, I took a guided walk. The Mayor’s Honorary Guides take visitors and Bathonians alike on a free, 2-hour walk through the city. It was an experience worth having and the guide ensured that we saw the finest Georgian architecture – and some of the few remnants of the mediaeval city. After the walk, and a visit to the Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum I gave in to temptation and committed the terribly touristy act of going to Sally Lunn’s. The tea was unremarkable and the bun was, while pleasant enough, not terribly inspired fare. Still, the atmosphere and experience of taking tea in Bath’s oldest building was somewhat worth it. I also bought more tea. Including 5 packages of Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Company’s delightful Whisky Tea.
London was as it always was – London. Arriving in London is arriving at the centre of the world. Whatever pretences New York has, it is nothing but an overgrown provincial town affecting to be London’s superior without ever matching it for history, aura, atmosphere or ambiance. My hotel, a simple, basic, yet clean place was fortunately in Belgravia. It’s a beautiful neighbourhood – one to stay in if ever the opportunity arises. After checking-in, I went on a pilgrimage to Golders Green. Among my favourite writers, Austin Coates, the only son of Eric Coates and his wife Phyllis, was interred at the crematorium with his parents. Or, to be more accurate, his ashes were spread in the garden. But such things are irrelevant. After getting lost yet again, I arrived and in short order found the Coates’ family memorial plaque. It was overwhelming for me. I nearly shed a tear, but that would have made me a bit wet so I refrained and simply stood there for nearly half an hour.
The following morning I met Sheona and Collin at the Tower of London. Both have already given many details, so I will simply say that both are the most gracious of companions. Collin is a true gentleman, Sheona is a true lady. After some seven years, at least I think it was seven years, of acquaintance it was a great pleasure to be able to meet them at last.
After parting ways, I slowly worked my way through London. My day pass not valid at peak hour, I walked the streets in occasional rain. Accidentally, I found myself walking through Brick Lane. Was I in London, or was I in Dhaka with terribly cold weather? One wasn’t sure, so one simply walked forward looking for the nearest tube station. And a grocer. One cannot return to poor, benighted Germany without a few pounds of cheddar.
I returned to Germany the following day. My flight was once again delayed. My aunt met me at Luxembourg Findel and drove me to my small flat in Konz. I found out during the drive that Germany, in my absence, had been effectively shut down by a train strike for four days. It was bloody well that I was in England at that time – one can be provoked to justifiable homicide by such impertinence.
And so, a tremendous week ended. That job in Bristol? I did not get it, so I am presently pursuing a lucrative opportunity in China. With many thanks to Araminta, Collin and Sheona. I hope that we have the chance to meet again.
18 thoughts on “A tremendous week.”
A real tour de force, C! Sorry the job didn’t work out though. Bath is your place.
Shame about the job Christopher.
Bath is one of my favourite cities. I used to run an estate agents office right on the end of North Parade but last time I saw the premises, they had turned into a cafe.
Hugely enjoyable Christopher. Perhaps one day we might meet at one of the St Pancras Station pianos (there for the public to play). My son, aged 7, are working on some songs and duets. Alas, Janus was unable to make a hoped for rendezvous at the back end of October. I expect in time I will post a link to a YouTube clip showing the Papaguineas in performance mode!
I was at Wimborne for a weekend country show a few years back – I think it was a folk festival, and the place flooded with Morris Dancers from all over England. Some great Irish bands too!
Always interesting to read your travelogues.
Sorry about the job, bit of a novelty now looking at something the other end of the world.
Hope something of interest to you turns up soon.
Good to hear you enjoyed your trip and I enjoyed reading your lively and amusing travelogue. A pity about the Bristol job but at least you have another opportunity in the pipeline.
I very much enjoyed our day in Wimborne, lunch was really excellent and I’m delighted you enjoyed it. Lovely to meet with you again and do let me know when you next plan to visit.
James: would that be Cafe Retro? I stopped there a few times.
PG: I will let you know when I am in the UK again. Depending on how things work with the China offer, I may be back one or twice before May.
CO: the Chinese have a wonderful thing called “guanxi”. It is a bit like the old boys’ network, but on steroids. One of my mates noting my travails saw that there was an opening that I could potentially fill in his home town in affluent northern Zhejiang Province, at least for a year. He has been working diligently making all the correct telephone calls and having his parents — both party members and officials — do the same. It is not the most glorious position, teaching English to the children of les nouveaux riches de Chine, but it pays well.
I really cannot abide by the Huns demanding more and more money from me for having the temerity to breathe in their little patch of central Europe.
Lovely account of your visit
… and I have never met Ara, even though we are in the same county 🙂
I know, Nym. 😦
Although I am now in Dorset which is a bit further away, but if you are ever in the West country do let me know.
Yes, I had temporarily forgotten your move 🙂
Maybe you’ll understand now why we didn’t take you on the new upper level glass-floor walkway on London’s Tower Bridge, Christopher.
It was simply for fear that the bulge in your coat pocket might have been a quart-sized bottle of Araminta’s Dorset home-brewed special for winter comfort.
Being prudent folk, we had to consider the possibility that the supposed bottle might have slipped out and cracked the ‘strong’ plate glass underfoot supporting your weight and ours over the Thames and the traffic below. Ours (combined weight that is) was a minor consideration, needless to say.
We realize now how silly we were, not to have inferred that it was just Lidl’s economy-sized slab of English Cheddar you had covertly stowed-away on board for future sustenance and enjoyment, sufficient you had no doubt estimated to last you in foreign parts at least till end 2014.
Sorry to have misjudged you.
Colin: I will forgive you as the slab you saw was actually a Welsh cheddar with ale and mustard. I did hope that no one would notice the bold lettering, but had under-estimated your keen eyesight. Still, it was a prudent decision on your part. The cheese was covered in hard wax and weighed at least three stone. It would have sent all three of us into the Thames for an impromptu swim race.
You guys! Fess up – you know more about the incident than you’re saying. 😝
Fine, I will admit it! Janus, we found your secret stash of fine Scottish single malt and smuggled it home with us.
So it was you! Darnit! 😰
I assure you that it was much appreciated. You, and Backside, have excellent taste!
Mrs J says all my taste is in my mouth, ‘er bein’ an architect ‘n all! 🙂
At least you have taste somewhere! Some don’t even have taste in their mouths!