Home > General > There Will Always Be an England.

There Will Always Be an England.

Departing Luxembourg improved my mood immediately. After the abject disaster of the past 9 months, getting on with it was a relief. Strangely, the skies over London agreed with me. My flight actually landed at the scheduled time and I crossed the UK border smoothly. I also didn’t manage to get lost once travelling to Bayswater. My hotel in London was adequate, if Spartan. I stayed at the Latvian Guesthouse on Queensborough Terrace. The room was tiny but clean and the service was competent, if inconsistently polite. The younger Latvian staff were courteous and helpful almost to a fault. The manager, in her fifties, betrayed a Soviet upbringing in her demeanour. Their breakfast was also adequate. A kindly older Latvian woman prepared full English breakfasts at no additional cost.

Not desiring overly strenuous exercise, I limited by first day’s excursions to the V&A, Royal Albert Hall, the Prince Albert Memorial and Hyde Park. That really was quite enough for the day and I returned in good time to sit an exam in Indian history. The V&A was well worth the visit. I spent a good four hours wondering its halls admiring their Asian collections and being surprisingly pleased with their British. In place, they allow visitors to try own re-created historical clothing to get a sense of what it was like to live with those fashions. The Inverness Cape was pleasantly comfortable. The corset and crinoline were not nearly as much, although I did strangely manage to work out how to put on a corset AND crinoline. Frankly, the Inverness Cape suited me better. Later, I had to explain to an oik how to put on a Mantua gown. He didn’t seem to understand that one steps into it before pulling it up. Yes, I read the instructions, no, I am not a part-time drag queen; or even a full-time drag queen, for that matter.

Walking the streets of Kensington was a pleasant experience. The red-brick buildings are stately and never look dated. One supposes that that sort of money can buy anything. Hyde Park was also well worth the visit. The Prince Albert Memorial was surprisingly large and almost too ornate, but it was built by Victorians and serves its purpose very well.

The following day I left early to visit the Tower of London. Following Janus’s advice, I took a Beefeater’s tour. The guide, Dickie Dover, had a brilliant wit and an impeccable sense of the place’s history. Sadly, he did not follow through on his warning that one could be executed for using mobile phones in the Chapel Royal, a beautiful building with a tragic history. It was also unfortunate that he did not make good on his warning as the old execution site is directly in front of the chapel. After a quick walk past the Crown Jewels, I went to White Tower. I enjoyed the Norman toilet the most. The exhibit on numismatics was interesting, although the building was a bit too crowded for my comfort. I was also somewhat displeased by the fact that there was seemingly more Hunnish or Froggish being spoken than English. Due to the need to be at Westminster before 1:00 PM, I had to forego the Mediaeval Apartments. My twisted mind led me to visiting the torture chambers first. The queue took 15 minutes and I was disappointed. They only had a few very basic torture implements. Then again, the English have never quite mastered that save for Reality TV and the majority of the UK’s recent Eurovision entries.

I made it to Westminster in good time to start a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. Generally I avoid guided tours, but paying a few extra quid allows one to visit rooms otherwise not open to the general public – such as the Queen’s Robing Room. Parliament was the highlight of my visit to London. There is an overwhelming sense of the weight of history there. Walking in the steps of Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II and Kings Edward VII, George V and George VI (I choose to disregard the Hitler fan-boy, Edward VIII) is powerful. To stand where Disraeli, Gladstone and Churchill once stood is moving. There is a certain beautiful eccentricity to it all. It may be somewhat obscure and tradition-bound, but that gives it character. Parliamentary antics are still more interesting than the blandness of the German Parliament. Leaving through Westminster Hall was similarly a moving experience. Winston Churchill laid in state here, William Wallace was condemned to death where I stood.

Noting the time, I decided to pawn the souls of my cousins’ unborn children to pay the entrance fee for Westminster Abbey. Even at £20, it was still worth it for the experience. The chapels are pretty and I was not offended to visit the resting sites of great English kings. The quirky irony of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots being buried relatively near each other was also worth at least that much. During my visit, the choir practised singing and the organist plied his trade. The combination of the music and the right light pouring through the stained-glass windows was unforgettable. Upon leaving I made sure to visit the Coronation Throne. Sadly, one must go to Scotland to see the Stone of Scone, otherwise known as the Stone of Destiny. At first I thought that the Stone of Scone referred to a poorly-executed baked good. I may have to drag poor John Mackie there with me in June.

The next morning I left London for Christchurch. Or, technically Highcliffe-on-Sea. It was surprisingly difficult to find rooms to book in Dorset this weekend. Supposedly there is a major bicycling event. I made a point to journey to Christchurch proper. The priory is a masterpiece. While it lacks the grandeur of Westminster Abbey, it also lacks the £20 entrance fee and is in its own way just as nice, if more sedate. The ruins of the Norman house were also interesting. There is surprisingly little still standing from that time and this is one of the few remaining examples of civil architecture. The chimney is one of the 3 still standing in England. The castle is similarly interesting and the view from it is pretty.

Yesterday, I subjected poor Araminta to one of my interminable visits yet again. Fortunately for her, for me, for Dorset, sans corset and crinoline. We visited Corfe Castle. Beautiful in its ruined state, one suspects that its magic comes from its poor state of repair. Sadly, this cannot be said for German railways. The views from the castle are unmistakably English – rolling green hills and sheep. Yes, sheep everywhere – including on steep hills. After visiting the castle and taking an afternoon coffee in Wareham, I returned to Christchurch. Today I decided to visit Dorchester. It is, as I’ve said before, my favourite English town and a place I’d be quite happy living in. After walking the river and high street, I took an afternoon Dorset cream tea. Everything was fresh and well-prepared from local ingredients. The clotted cream was wonderful. After walking about a bit more and making my perquisite stop at Waitrose’s to buy tea, I had a late lunch at a delightfully dreadful café. Near the high street, the Gorge Café embodies everything that is wrong with dining. The interior is naff to the nth degree. It looks remarkably like a poor 1970s English imitation of a poorly-conceived American Diner circa 1960. The service was mediocre at best and the food so brilliantly uninspiring that I am tempted to return at every visit to relive the sheer horror of it all. My earlier tea was everything that lunch wasn’t – well-prepared by competent staff in a cosy, tasteful heritage building.
As for my quarters in Christchurch, they are adequate. My room is small, but comfortable. The owners are pleasant enough, if jaded. I am a 15-minutes’-walk from the English Channel and will go there now to watch part of my final sunset in England before going to the Chinese take-away. Tomorrow I will leave the civilisation of the West Country and travel to the exotic world of Wales.

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Categories: General
  1. April 12, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Fascinating, C! I like the Gorge Cafe! 😊

  2. April 13, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Poor Araminta says thank you for a very pleasant day, Christopher and the wine is much appreciated!

    The weather was pretty good too, which is always a bonus!

    Corfe Castle:

  3. April 13, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Lovely time of year for see-sighting! 😊

  4. April 13, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Of all the English counties, Dorset has got to be one of the most photogenic

  5. April 13, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Rather beautiful certainly, especially the view from the keep at the top of Corfe Castle.

  6. April 13, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you for posting the picture, Minty. I am glad you enjoyed the wine. It can easily be procured!

    Leck: Dorset is beautiful, and, generally, down-to-earth.

  7. April 14, 2015 at 6:48 am

    If you were driving to Wales, you might also like the Wye Valley.

  8. April 14, 2015 at 8:49 am

    One of the nicest drives in the country Janus. Luckily it used to be on one of my “trade routes” and I did it on a fairly regular basis

  9. sheona
    April 14, 2015 at 9:28 am

    “Oh to be in England now that April’s there” as Browning said. The countryside certainly looks beautiful just now and all the spring flowers are out in the gardens. We had our first pub lunch of the season outdoors last week surrounded by birdsong – much better than muzak. Then over the stile and a walk up the hill for a lovely view. And I was also reminded of A E Housman’s “A Shropshire Lad”

    LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
    Is hung with bloom along the bough,
    And stands about the woodland ride
    Wearing white for Eastertide.

  10. April 14, 2015 at 10:02 am

    C, Sheona is spot on. Shropshire has some lovely small towns too.

  11. April 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Christopher, Janus, JHL: Wye Valley in Spring is not with out hazard. Watch out for the floods, the Spring tides have closed the A466 several times already this year, right at Tintern Abbey. In the far distant past I made the trip many times, often by rail which had even better views than the road.

  12. April 14, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Thank you, all. Due to time limitations and waning energy as well as a stack of papers to go through I will not be able to make it to the Wye Valley or Shropshire this time. Tomorrow I must fly to Ireland and start my week-holiday there.

  13. April 14, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    C, you need to see Killarney and the Ring of Kerry (not a ref to the Sec of State). 😃

  14. April 14, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Janus: ugh. I am booked-up past my arrival in California! Tomorrow I will go to Galway. Thursday, Ennis. Friday, Clifden. Saturday, work and perhaps walk around Galway a bit more. Sunday, Inishmore. Monday, travel to Dublin and explore some of its Georgian architecture. Tuesday, visit Belfast. Wednesday, be subjected to 2 months of Americans.

  15. April 14, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Aye weel, Christopher.

    If it’s Inis Mor that’s in it, I’m hoping that you’ll be giving us a blog on what it’s like to actually be on Craggy Island, breathing the same air that was breatht by Fathers Jack, Dougal and Ted.

    As Mrs Doyle herself would say, ‘Aw goan now, ye will, ye will, ye will.

  16. April 15, 2015 at 6:31 am

    JM, I had to google the eponymous F Ted et al. Must have been busyy working ‘n all in ’95 – ’98.

  17. April 15, 2015 at 7:12 am

    John: I will gladly honour your request!

  18. April 15, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Good morning Janus

    As Victor Meldrew says to Father Ted at the end of ‘The Mainland’ which is one of the best episodes – ‘I don’t believe it.’

    I hope you get the chance to watch the series some day. It was one of the funniest comedy shows that I have ever watched.

  19. April 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    JM, tv series usually appear here decades after their premieres, so there is still hope!

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