Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Crossing County lines with a bucket

Thursday, March 21st

OK – I may not be King Alfred (burner of cakes, remember?), but I sure can set a smoke alarm off!  This morning, after initially making an unsuccessful search for an egg cup, I decided to fry the damned thing instead of boiling it. As that required getting out the frying pan, I thought, ‘Why not fry up a piece of bacon too?’  My brother had a gas cooker; I am not familiar with these, so while I’m hunting for the spatula, the damned smoke alarm goes off. Whilst throwing open windows and doors, waving a tea-towel to disperse the barely noticeable smoke, hoping I hadn’t woken my brother, I see that my bacon is now looking like Alfred’s cakes – burned!

First ‘planned’ order of the day - the breakfast fiasco was NOT planned – was to try the WiFi system at Merrist Wood Golf Club (where my brother was Senior’s Captain last year – a big feather in his cap, I understand) and sought the computer guru. ‘John-the-guru’ helped me through the ‘too elaborate’ sign-up process (to access a ‘Cloud’ WiFi) and I sipped on my hot tea as I uploaded the belated narratives and embedded photos that finally hit the blog-site yesterday. 

Next order of the day was to visit a place in neighboring Hampshire (another English County) where I could get immersed in a bit of history, culture and more countryside rambling. We sped off down the A31 towards Southampton but turned off near a town called Alton, passing the Jane Austen’s house. Having neither Sense nor Sensibilty, and without ‘Pride or Prejudice’, we cruised on by to the nearby village of Selborne and its abundant thatched cottages.     

After a pot of Breakfast (even tough it was now almost 1:00 pm) Tea and a scone, we toured the Gilbert White House. A foreboding (and forbidding sign) denied me taking photographs inside the building. I thought of sneaking one or three, but the prevalent CCTV cameras deterred me from my errant ways.

Gilbert White stood no taller than the life-like, children-scaring, 4 feet 10 inch model of him in the first room of the 9-room tour. White was an 18th century cleric, keen naturalist and author (the guidebook says) ‘of his world-famous book, ‘The Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne’, published in 1789 and never since out of print’. Have you bought your copy, yet? He was quite a prolific writer – and all done with a quill and ink – no computers in his day!

Also housed in the building (Room 7) are exhibits of Frank Oates, 19th century explorer of Africa and the Americas. A beautiful (take my word – no photos allowed, remember) glass case filled with dozens of exotic and colorful birds sits side by side with Wildebeest and Antelope heads, African weapons and maps of his explorations in Eastern Africa.

The final two rooms are devoted to Oates’ younger cousin and Boer war veteran, Captain Lawrence Oates. It was he who accompanied Captain Scott on their unsuccessful quest, in January 1912, to be first to reach the South Pole. Norwegian, Amundsen’s party had beaten them there - in December 1911. Film footage, skis, sleds, photographs and maps recount the historic expedition. Scott’s party all perished on their return journey, just 11 miles from safety. Frost-bitten, starved and weakened, Captain Lawrence Oates vanished a few days before the remainder succumbed, saying ‘I am just going outside and may be sometime’.  

We left the building and undertook our own far less arduous expedition up into Selborne Common, a wooded hillside overlooking the village. The circular route was a little more than mile long along muddy and slick chalky paths through woods maintained by the National Trust.  The most notable part of the walk was the ‘zig-zag’ path that had a rustic resemblance (without automobiles) to the famous Lombard Street of San Francisco that I had walked down 18 months ago. This time, the walk was up – so not nearly as easy. I think there must have been about 10 ‘zigs’ and as many ‘zags’ in this Selborne replica!

The rain held off until we approached Aldershot, where a welcome ‘all-you-can-eat’ (for the not-so-cheap $19.50-each tab) buffet of Indian, Chinese and Thai dishes was washed down with a pint of Stella Artois.

To be continued . . . 

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