Thursday, April 4, 2013

An Easter Bucket

First off was a trip to Tesco’s Supermarket to stock up on a variety of cheeses and crackers to go with the Branston Pickles, pickled onions and ciabatta bread – all the makings of a Ploughman’s Lunch; provided beer or wine is included!

Next was a walk in and around Merrist Wood College, an agricultural college in which animal husbandry, golf-course management and various sylvan (trees) management skills are taught.

It wasn’t lunch time yet, but why did lamb curry come to mind at this sight?

Unfortunately, it was too early in the season to see (in bloom) the acres of bluebells that are scattered throughout the woods. In one clearing in the woods, we saw where the students had been learning chain-saw handling classes. No severed limbs were found, but there were many remnants of milking-stools that had been carved with a chain-saw from the 9-inch diameter birch logs. 

Exiting the woods, near The White Lyon and Dragon (a pub, once a favorite with the college students) we looked in at Perry Hill antique shop briefly. In the 1950s, the establishment was a small confectionery where Queen Elizabeth II used to ‘hang out’ when she visited her cousin, Rev. Elphinstone. He was the Vicar at the church across the road, St Mary the Virgin, Worplesdon. The church’s first record is in the Doomsday Book of 1086.  I had an interesting chat with the church’s Rector, Rev. Hugh Grear. He is the son of Canadian and New Zealand parents; his father being a rugby referee and he once lived in Mumbles near my home town, Swansea. Two very unusual headstones in the graveyard in front of the church each had a two feet deep V-shaped notch in them.

I suggested that maybe the notch was to indicate ‘Rock of Ages, cleft for me’. Rev. Grear was delighted at the suggestion and I released him to use the idea to subsequent visitors who may inquire the meaning. He had no clue prior to my visit.

Down the hill behind the church is a large country home called Marylands. From there, we walked back to Merrist Wood College, passing some of the wildlife that resides there. Some are so placid, they can even be safely petted:

I had walked 3 miles on today’s trip before passing the two coach-houses at the entrance to the road leading into Merrist Wood College; they mark the end of the Windsor Estate. So, there is quite a royal connection in the area – but to my knowledge, no cakes were ever burned here!


I awoke with a bit of a sore throat – not sure if the Mexicana hot cheese burned it last night or if I picked up a bug in one of the ‘sardine-rides’ in Croydon/London last Monday.

Off today for a bit more of what Britain does so well – history!

First stop – Salisbury (as in the steak of that name). It was built as a Roman town (Sarum) on the River Avon in Wiltshire, a County well known for its pork sausages. We hadn’t soon entered Wiltshire before the aroma of the pigs was noticeable!

Salisbury Cathedral is very ornate, but unfortunately (and contrary to what its brochure says!) no photography is permitted inside. So you’ll have to rely on the internet to see what the inside it looks like. The Cathedral’s foundation stones were laid in 1220 AD. It has Britain’s tallest spire – 404 feet tall – and houses the world’s oldest working clock – dating from 1386 – that has no face and only strikes the hours. I hope the remembered to push it one hour this morning (Easter Sunday) when the UK does its ‘clock-change thing’ that we did in the US 3 weeks ago.

Near the large cloisters on the south-side of the Cathedral is the Chapter House in which there is perhaps the best preserved of the four originals of the Magna Carta. Signed by King John in 1215 AD, it forms the basis for many foreign constitutions – including those of the USA, Japan and the former USSR!   I’m sure you’ll JFGI to learn more! I was not permitted to photograph it, but did see it. I must admit that my grammar school Latin has not served me well. Translations may be found online. The cloisters are quite impressive, as are the two large Cedars of Lebanon trees in the courtyard.

The town has many other fine old buildings and is definitely worth a visit – even if you don’t buy any sausages there!

Traveling eastward, into Hampshire, we next visited another historical place – famous for the song by the New Vaudeville Band way back in the 60s – Winchester Cathedral. In 828 AD, Winchester became the capital of England. It lies in the English County of Hampshire – about 12 miles north of Southampton, at which I conducted post-graduate research in the mid-1960s. Building started on the Norman Cathedral in 1079. In the early 1900’s, the Cathedral was in danger of sinking into the ground (much as the Leaning Tower of Pisa does) but its foundations were underpinned, single-handed, by William Walker, a deep-sea diver!  

The patron saint of the cathedral is St. Swithin; you should go online to read about legends relating to weather forecasts emanating on St Swithin’s Day (July 15th). He must have been a sort of British ‘Punxatawney Phil’. Jane Austen, one of Britain’s most favorite novelists is buried at the Cathedral. Apparently, the Cathedral houses the remains of King Canute; he’s the one who took up stance, sword in hand, on the East coast of England forbidding the sea to advance. Bit of a nut-case, you might say!

Photography is permitted inside Winchester Cathedral, but at an admittance fee of about $10, I gave it a pass. Besides, we had little time left. In fact, I was just 10 seconds too late in my effort to enter the tower of the nearby castle. I was able, however, to get inside one part of the castle that contains King Arthur’s Round Table. You cannot sit at it – not because no chairs were to be found, but because it is now mounted on the wall, about 15 feet above the ground.

Before leaving town, I went to see yet another statue to England’s most famous ‘cake-cock-up artist’ – King Alfred the Great. There is speculation that he may be buried in the Cathedral – far from the kitchen and any open flames, I hope!  Given that Richard III’s remains were recently found beneath a parking lot in Leicester, maybe they should look in a parking lot for Alfred too. Regardless of where he is buried, here he is overlooking Winchester’s town hall.

Easter Sunday:

I did the ‘clock-change’ thing last night and was up before (the new) 7:30 am anyway. After cooking a few sausages and bacon, I retreated to my bedroom to put the thoughts of the weekend together. One thought that has come to mind several times on this Bucket-List trip is this: I wish I had a penny for every daffodil I have seen over here, and a dollar for every traffic round-about I have seen. They range from 10 to 150 feet in diameter; some of the larger ones even have traffic lights installed at them – almost an admission to the failure of the ‘peculiarity’. I must have been around a thousand or more in these past 5 weeks. They’d never function in the US – far too few people there use turn signals or obey ‘right-of-way’ protocol. On the other hand, we do not (as they do in the UK) park on the side of the road that faces the on-coming traffic! By the way, the UK’s Motorway speed-limit is 80 mph – but take note: if you are going 85 mph, get in the slow lane – especially if you are from Ohio!

Much of the rest of the day was spent sniffling and coughing – darned head cold! Hope it passes before the long flight to Chicago on Wednesday. The sun came and went from behind the clouds, there was a bit of a cold breeze at times and on this first day with the later sunset (now about 7:30 pm) it was difficult to agree that March ‘Comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’ – there had been some sort of hybrid creature here all month! While it had been a colder month than usual, it had also been unusually dry too. I had been very fortunate to have been unhindered by rain on my travels. Everybody here is ‘cheesed-off’ with the cold weather; it has been mostly about 2C, whereas it should be more like 15C.  

In the afternoon, I watched the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race on TV. It is an annual event, going back more than 150 years, over a four-mile course on the River Thames in London; ‘my team’ (Oxford) won. I took an early night, not having slept too well the previous night. Easter weekend drew to a close.

Easter Monday

Nothing exciting happened today. Well, there wouldn’t be, would there?  It is yet another ’Bank Holiday’ over here – they had one on Friday, too. I didn’t even get caught up in any April Fools Day foolery; did you?

I ate the last two sausages in the packet, did a dummy-run on packing my bags for Wednesday, watched football (Man U v Chelsea) on TV, dozed off for a few minutes about 5 pm and yawned about 200 times. It’ll be Chinese take-away for dinner tonight and my last full day in ‘Blighty’ tomorrow. Maybe I’ll get this posted on the blog tomorrow - if I can get to the Golf Club for the WIFI. If not, it will have to wait until Thursday, back at home!

To be continued . . .

1 comment:

  1. Read this a bit too quickly and was trying to visualise daffodils as described by you "They range from 10 to 150 feet in diameter; some of the larger ones even have traffic lights installed at them."
    Now that's a sight that would be worth beholding!!!