Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is. - Oscar Wilde
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Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things
(I’m running a day behind on this post. I had a bunch of email to write last night and tried to catch up on the train this morning, but I write slow and the hour and a quarter between Salisbury and Bristol just wasn’t enough time to put it together. I’d apologize, but then this is my d*mn blog and I’m on my d*mn holiday, and I don’t always have time to post things for you ::takes out my Shakespeare Insult Generator book:: Incontinent Motley-Minded Costermongers.)
Today was our only full day in Salisbury and we spent part of it about 45 minutes away in Wincanton. Should the title not give it away, we went to the Discworld Emporium and Ankh-Morpork Consulate.
As a long-time Discworld fan and closet Morporkian this side-trip was a given from the moment we began to plan our trip. It’s a bit of a smaller shop, really, but packed to the gills with everything a discworlder might wish for. (although I’m not sure they do proper respect to my Goddess, Anoia, the Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers. you can tell when she’s around by the slight whiff of cigarette smoke)
I had a wonderful chat with the counterman who told me stories of Sir Terry as we swapped quotes and bits of the pointed insights Sir Terry salted his books with. We walked out of the shop with a good haul, though I could have easily doubled it or more.
Sir Terry Pratchett was a very observant student of humans and the human condition. He could put into hilarious words those little quirks of human nature and behavior that we don’t even see or realize ourselves. One of my more favorite quotes is “Good ain’t nice” (Granny Weatherwax). Now sit and think on that one. Once you work it out, you can see how astute that quote is. My favorite book of his is Small Gods where he explores religion and belief. I can’t reccommend his books enough.
Anyways, after we left the emporium, we ended up down the block in a tiny square adjacent to Wincanton Fruit & Vegetable relaxing and trying to figure out how we were going to get back to the train station in Gillingham. We hadn’t thought that far when we left…
The lady of the shop stopped out to chat with us and when she heard that we were trying to get back to Gillingham she asked a young woman to call around the taxi services for us and brought me a cup of tea. Had the young lady not been able to rustle us up a taxi, a shop gentleman would’ve been happy to give us the 15 minute ride over himself. They were incredibly kind and between our Discworld Emporium visit, a sit in the quiet square, and the shop woman’s gracious kindness we had an experience that will stay with us a lifetime. I can’t thank these Wincanton folks enough for this wonderful afternoon.
Arriving back in Salisbury we rested a tad in our room before venturing back out for a quick dinner in the attached Pub and a wander around the town.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Salisbury is well set up for tourism, and like Stonehenge it exudes age. Certainly not the ancientness of Stonehenge, but the age of western history old. Our hotel itself has been the site of an inn since the 15th century and known as The King’s Head since ca 1520. It was rebuilt in the 1880s and had a different name for about 100 years until it returned to it’s former name.
And quite the hotel it is! Think Fawlty Towers with an extra star. Hallways with a step or two up now and again as you wind through the hallways. It is beautiful! The en-suite bathroom was kind of a shock as it is very modern and would fit in any new, trendy, hotel. The ground floor pub serves some great food and I developed a taste for Gammon, which is a lot like American ham but significantly better. The only caveat, and I do mean only, is that the wifi is positively awful. First-world problem, I know, but many of the pictures I’m posting here are taken by Mrs Crow, as she’s got the best eye of the pair of us, and wifi allows us to share our photos.
As I’ve mentioned, Mrs Crow and I don’t do tours as such, but I do mark things we’d like to see on a map and we wander around in between. It’s served us quite well in our travels and we’ve stumbled across some remarkable things we never expected. In our evening stroll we decided to wander down a small lane and under a lovely stone arch. As we got past and turned the corner I experienced much the same feeling as I did turning about to see Prince Albert’s Memorial in Hyde Park London.
We’d inadvertantly ‘found’ the Salisbury Cathedral. (Salisbury is small enough and the cathedral tower is high enough, it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but I can be clueless…) Of course it was closed for the evening but we strolled about it taking pictures and simply marveling at the immense structure and it’s gothic beauty. Now, I’m not a big gothic-style fan and run more to the chinese, deco, and Frank Lloyd Wright styles, but this structure is simply breathtaking.
As the sun began to set, we wended our way back towards the hotel to sit by the River Avon before bed.
Observations from day eight: A lot of buildings are named Grosvenor.
Most every city or town has a High Street (like the American ‘Main Street’) where shops are located.
We arrived here in Salisbury in early afternoon and the first thing we noted as we walked from the train station down to our hotel was that it looked like every smaller English town we’d seen on tv. Attached row houses, and fewer people too. Especially fewer people. We could breathe again.
There are a lot of older folks here and it appears that the town is asking especially for retirees to move here. The town is also very attuned to tourism with a High Street and spurs leading off in every direction lined with shops and pubs.
I can’t say that is a bad thing, Salisbury is a beautiful city full of quite old buildings with a canal running through it with swans, ducks (a mother with three chicks too), fish, and…well…rats. Not the huge Norways, they are pretty small and sleek, but we’ve already seen two or three in the few hours we’ve been here – one of them swimming in the canal. This place isn’t dirty, by any means, but with all the restaurants and such, any city would have ’em.
That said, the canal is chock full of water plants which well support the birds, fish (both as food and places to hide from the birds or larger fish), and even for the rats.
A note about Salisbury and it’s architecture; we’re staying about a half block away from a 13th century cathedral and are just across the canal from a 14th century clock – this place is Old.
An interesting aside about that – during WW2 many English cities had the holy bejeezus bombed out of them by the Luftwaffe but Salisbury was left untouched (ergo the old structures still standing). When asked about it after the war, the pilots said that they were using Salisbury Cathedral as a landmark for their attacks elsewhere.
Anyways, as we breezed into town in the early afternoon we had plenty of time to make the trip up to Stonehenge. Tour buses leave regularly from the train station and new canal street and the ride to Stonehenge only takes about a half hour. Hell, we waited longer in the queue to get to the shutttle bus to the stones themselves than the bus ride there took.
But wow was it worth it! Yes, they are a bunch of prehistoric (circa 2500 bce) rocks in a vague circle with a bunch of pits and mounds around them and many of them have had to be propped back up and reinforced with concrete. So what, eh?
Well just stand near them for a bit. It didn’t take long for the feeling of time to seep into Mrs Crow and I. Thick, long, heavy, full time. Lifetimes of people that had counted their years by the rising of the summer soltice sun aligning with the heel stone. Even with the tourists and school groups swirling around us, that sense of age seeped under our skins.
Tomorrow we’re off to visit another world entirely.
Observations from day seven: Toilets have two buttons, a light flush and a heavy one.
There arre no exits, but there are ways out.