Steven my boy,
We coasted into a medieval pub in the middle of nowhere in wildest Devon to encounter the place in uproarious bedlam. A dozen country madams had been imbibing in the pre wedding wine and were in great form roaring with laughter and bursting out of their lacy cotton frocks. Bunting adorned the pub, Union Jack was aflutter everywhere and a full size cut out of HM the Queen welcomed visitors into the front door. Cucumber sandwiches and a heady fruit punch were available to all and sundry and the din was absolutely riotous……THE ROYAL WEDDING WAS UNDERWAY ON THE GIANT TV ON THE BAR WALL….and we were joining in the mood of things by sinking a bevy of Bushmills Irish whiskies neat!
Now…. this is a major event in the UK.
Everybody loves Prince Harry, he is the terrible tearaway of the Royal family, he has been caught ******* sheila’s in all sorts of weird circumstance. Now the dear boy is to be married to a beauty from the USA….besotted he is with her, fair dripping with love and adoration…..and the whole country loves little Megan Markle for making him so.
The British are famous for their pageantry and pomp….everything is timed to the second and must be absolutely….just so. Well….Nobody told the most Reverend Michael Curry this…. and he launched into the most wonderful full spirited Halleluiah sermon about the joyous “Wonder of Love”. He went on and on for a full 14 minutes, and as he proceeded on, the British stiff upper lips became more and more rigidly uncomfortable with this radical departure from protocol. Her Majesty the Queen stood aghast and locked her beady blue eyes in a riveting, steely glare, directed furiously at the good Reverend….to no avail, on he went with his magic sermon to a beautiful rousing ******….and an absolute stony silence in the cavernous interior of that vaulting, magnificent cathedral. Prince Harry and his lovely bride, (whose wedding the day was all about), were delighted with Curry’s performance….as was Prince William, heir to the Throne, who wore a fascinating **** eating grin all over his face for the entire performance.
Says a lot, my friend, about the refreshing values of tomorrows Royalty.
We rolled out of that country pub three parts cut to the wind, dunno how we made it to our next destination, but we had one hellava good time at that Royal Wedding!
The weft and the weave of our appreciation fluctuated wildly with each day of travel through this magnificent and ancient land, Great Britain.
There was soft brilliant summer air which hovered over the undulating green patchwork of the Cotswolds whilst we dined on delicious roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, from an elevated position in a medieval country inn..... So magnificent as to make you want to weep with the beauty of it all….and the quaint thatched farmhouse with the second story multi paned windows, which I understood, had been there, in that spot, since the twelfth century. Our accommodation, sleeping beneath oaken beams within thick stone walls, once a pen for swine, now a domiciled overnight bed and pillow of luxury with white cotton sheets for weary Kiwi travellers.
The sadness of the Cornish west coast, which bore testimony to tragedy for the hard working tin miners of the 1800s. A sharp decrease in the international tin price in 1911 destituted whole populations who walked away from their life’s work and fled to the New World in search of the promise of a future. Forlorn brick ruins adorned stark rocky outcrops right along the coastline and inland for miles. Lonely brick chimneys silhouetted against sharp vertical cliffs and the ever crashing crescendo of the pounding waves of the cold Atlantic ocean.
No parking in Padstow….absolutely NIL! You parked your car miles away in the designated carpark at an overnight cost….and with your bags in tow, you walked to your digs. Now known as Padstein, this beautiful place is now populated with eight Rick Stein restaurants and shops dotted here and there.
We had a huge feed of piping hot fish and chips together with handles of cold ale down at his harbour side fish and chip restaurant near the wharfs…place was packed with people, you had to queue at the door for a table, no reservations accepted….Just great!
Clovelly was different, almost precipitous. This ancient fishing village plummeted down impossibly steep cliffs….a very rough, winding cobbled stone walkway, which must have taken years to build by hand, the only way down to the huge rock breakwater which harboured the fishing boats Against the Atlantic storms. And in a quaint little cottagey place, perched on the edge of a cliff, we had yet another beautiful Devonshire tea in delicate, white China cups...with tasty hot scones, piles of strawberry jam and a huge *** of thick clotted cream…Yum! Too ****** steep to struggle back up the hill so we spent ten quid and rode all the way up the switch back beneath the olive canvass canopy of an old Land Rover…..money well spent!
Creaking floorboards and near vertical, winding staircases and massive rock walls seemed to be common characteristics of all the lovely old lodging houses we were accommodated in. Sarah, our lovely daughter in law, arranged an excellent itinerary for us to travel around the SW coast staying in the most picturesque of places which seeped with antiquity and character. We zooped around the narrow lanes, between the hedgerows in our sharp little VW golf hire car And, with Sarah at the helm, we never got lost or missed a beat…..Fantastic effort, thank you so much Sarah and Solomon on behalf of your grateful In laws, Janet and Marshal, who loved every single moment of it all!
Memories of a lifetime.
Wanted to tell the world about your excitement, Janet, on visiting Stoke on Trent.
This town is famous the world over for it’s pottery. The pottery industry has flourished here since the middle ages and this is evidenced by the antiquity of the kilns and huge brick chimneys littered around the ancient factories. Stoke on Trent is an industrial town and it’s narrow, winding streets and congested run down buildings bear testimony to past good times and bad.
We visited “Burleigh”.
Darling Janet has collected Burleigh pottery for as long as I have known her, that is almost 40 years. She loves Burleigh and uses it as a showcase for the décor of our home.
When Janet first walked into the ancient wooden portals of the Burleigh show room she floated around on a cloud of wonder, she made darting little runs to each new discovery, making ooh’s and aah’s, eyes shining brightly….. I trailed quietly some distance behind, being very aware that I must not in any way imperil this particular precious bubble.
We amassed a beautiful collection of plates, dishes, bowls and jugs for purchase and retired to the pottery’s canal side bistro,( to come back to earth), and enjoy a ploughman’s lunch and a *** of hot English breakfast tea.
We returned to Stoke on Trent later in the trip for another bash at Burleigh and some other beautiful pottery makers wares…..Our suit cases were well filled with fragile treasures for the trip home to NZ…..and darling Janet had realised one of her dearest life’s ambitions fulfilled.
One of the great things about Britain was the British people, we found them willing to go out of their way to be helpful to a fault…… and, with the exception of BMW people, we found them all to be great drivers. The little hedgerow, single lane, winding roads that connect all rural areas, would be a perpetual source of carnage were it not for the fact that British drivers are largely courteous and reserved in their driving.
We hired a spacious ,powerful Nissan in Dover and acquired a friend, an invaluable friend actually, her name was “Tripsy” at least that’s what we called her. Tripsy guided us around all the byways and highways of Britain, we couldn’t have done without her. I had a few heated discussions with her, I admit….much to Janet’s great hilarity…but Tripsy won out every time and I quickly learned to keep my big mouth shut.
By pure accident we ended up in Cumbria, up north of the Roman city of York….at a little place in the dales called “Middleton on Teesdale”….an absolutely beautiful place snuggled deep in the valleys beneath the huge, heather clad uplands. Here we scored the last available bed in town at a gem of a hotel called the “Brunswick”. Being a Bank Holiday weekend everything, everywhere was booked out. The Brunswick surpassed ordinary comfort…it was superlative, so much so that, in an itinerary pushed for time….we stayed TWO nights and took the opportunity to scout around the surrounding, beautiful countryside. In fact we skirted right out to the western coastline and as far north as the Scottish border. Middleton on Teesdale provided us with that late holiday siesta break that we so desperately needed at that time…an exhausting business on a couple of old Kiwis, this holiday stuff!
One of the great priorities on getting back to London was to shop at “Liberty”. Great joy was had selecting some ornate upholstering material from the huge range of superb cloth available in Liberty’s speciality range.
The whole organisation of Liberty’s huge store and the magnificent quality of goods offered was quite daunting. Janet & I spent quite some time in that magnificent place…..and Janet has a plan to select a stylish period chair when we get back to NZ and create a masterpiece by covering it with the ***** bought from Liberty.
In York, beautiful ancient, York. A garrison town for the Romans, walled and once defended against the marauding Picts and Scots…is now preserved as a delightful and functional, modern city whilst retaining the grandeur, majesty and presence of its magnificent past.
Whilst exploring in York, Janet and I found ourselves mixing with the multitude in the narrow medieval streets paved with ancient rock cobbles and lined with beautifully preserved Tudor structures resplendent in whitewash panel and weathered, black timber brace. With dusk falling, we were drawn to wild violins and the sound of stamping feet….an emanation from within the doors of an old, burgundy coloured pub…. “The Three Legged Mare”.
Fortified, with a glass of Bushmills in hand, we joined the multitude of stomping, singing people. Rousing to the percussion of the Irish drum, the wild violin and the deep resonance of the cello, guitars and accordion…..The beautiful sound of tenor voices harmonising to the magic of a lilting Irish lament.
We stayed there for an hour or two, enchanted by the spontaneity of it all, the sheer native talent of the expatriates celebrating their heritage and their culture in what was really, a beautiful evening of colour, music and Ireland.
Onward, across the moors, we revelled in the great outcrops of metamorphic rock, the expanses of flat heather covering the tops which would, in the chill of Autumn, become a spectacular swath of vivid mauve floral carpet. On these lonely tracts of narrow road, winding through the washes and the escarpments, the motorbike boys wheeled by us in screaming pursuit of each other, beautiful machines heeling over at impossible angles on the corners, seemingly suicidal yet careening on at breakneck pace, laughing the danger off with the utter abandon of the creed of the road warrior. Descending in to the rolling hills of the cultivated land, the latticework of, old as Methuselah, massive dry built stone fences patterning the contours in a checker board of ancient pastoral order. The glorious soft greens of early summer deciduous forest, the yellow fields of mustard flower moving in the breeze and above, the bluest of skies with contrails of ever present high flung jets winging to distant places.
Britain has a flavour. Antiquity is evidenced everywhere, there is a sense of old, restrained pride. A richness of spirit and a depth of character right throughout the populace. Britain has confidence in itself, its future, its continuity. The people are pleasant, resilient and thoroughly likeable. They laugh a lot and are very easy to admire.
With its culture, its wonderful history, its great Monarchy and its haunting, ever present beauty, everywhere you care to look….The Britain of today is, indeed, a class act.
We both loved it here Steven…and we will return.
Hamilton, New Zealand
21 June 2018
Dedicated with love to my two comrades in arms and poets supreme.....Victoria and Martin.
You were just as I imagined you would be.