The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

Tag Archives: uk

The Last Was First on the List

Yesterday was our full day in Holmfirth, but I was just too tired to write it up. We had a full day perusing the town and taking the tour. The town doesn’t seem that big, but it’s built on the side of a hill. Slopes embiggen a place a lot and my legs (or lack thereof) apparently effect my vocabulary and typing ability.

Sid’s Cafe where Ivy held court. We had tea there and found out later that the interiors were done in studio

The day was given over to the express purpose of taking the little bus tour of filming locations for the Britcom Last of the Summer Wine. It was a noble purpose, but we were no match for old ladies with walkers (used for blocking defense) and 30-something mothers with tweens in tow. Add to that a bus with 11 seats and you begin to watch for weapons.

The bus tour doesn’t start running until 11-ish and takes about 45-50 minutes. We were unable to get on any of the first three so we hatched an apparently evil plan (according to an aforementioned 30-something mother with a tween in tow) to check if the LotSW museum was open (it wasn’t) and get back to the bus stop a half hour before it got back and stand where we figured it would re-board.

The Last of the Summer Wine tour bus

Our evil plan worked and we took a very pleasant tour of some beautiful countryside given guidance by an older gentleman by the name of Peter. How he got that quaint, but rattley, bus up some of those hills (and down them! whew…) and around  several tight turns is beyond me! Aside from his nerves-of-steel driving, Peter was very knowledgable and quite entertaining which made for a great 45 minutes.

For any fan of Last of the Summer Wine the bus tour is a must. I’d probably consider one of the later buses, however, to minimize the potential of walker-induced bruising and tween-towing 30-something tantrums. As Americans, I think we were one of the very few, if not only, non-Brit fans of the show there and that probably didn’t help either.

The trash bin next to Nora Batty’s flat. The Wrinkled Stocking is actually a tea room next door to the flat named for Nora’s famous wrinkled hosiery. We didn’t lift the lid so as to not dispel the illusion

Anyways, fun tour. Afterwards, a little clothes shopping, an ice cream, and a good wander filled the rest of our day nicely.

Of Trains, and Cats, and Cafes

Today was the transition from Birmingham to Holmfirth via Huddersfield. Yes, I chose this itinerary in particular.

A graphic on a storefront in Brum. Seems appropriate…

The first bit of fun for the day was the train connection in Manchester Piccadilly station. Apparently the Transpennine trains were having issues of some nature and many of them were delayed – including ours. When it did arrive it was already stuffed and so was the platform where we waited so it became quite the pack job getting people on board. As the ride was 40 minutes and we were carrying 2 large bags and a backpack, besides being of an age where standing for that long would’ve caused us to either collapse in a puddle (if that was possible in that tight crowd) or completely lock in place, we opted to wait for the next train.

This is likely the only photo of me that will ever grace this blog. I’m on the right, Felix is on the left. (in case you were unsure)

The next train was surprisingly empty after the last scrum and we made it to Huddersfield in proper time. So why the stop in Huddersfield? To meet a cat, of course. Specifically Felix the Huddersfield Station Cat (or her understudy Bolt). 4600 miles from home and I was beside myself with excitement to meet a floofy ratter.

And I did! We walked the length of the platform and there she was, taking a well-deserved break from her many duties. I was able to pet her, give her a bit of a rub under the chin, and tell her how wonderful it was to actually meet her in person. (I didn’t want to disturb her napping too much)

Our next leg will take us back through Huddersfield Station so I’ll get another opportunity to give another pet or three.

Compo, Foggy, and Clegg aka Bill Owen, Brian Wilde, and Peter Sallis, respectively)

Holmfirth is only a few miles south of Huddersfield and is where the Britcom Last of the Summer Wine was filmed. We’re in a cute little inn over a quiet pub right next to the River Holme. It even has a private deck off of our room. What we found out when we went out to have a relaxing sit was that it has a view of the iconic Cafe from the show! I had no idea of this when I booked the place so many months back!

As I’ve mentioned before, Mrs Crow and I like to wander and have made some great discoveries doing so. This evening was no exception. Crossing a very narrow bridge we look off to the side to find us by Nora Batty’s stoop (and Compo’s basement flat beneath it)! Approaching, careful to be sure we weren’t tresspassing on anyone’s private areas, we found there to be a bit of museum next door, a cafe and tea shop called, appropriately, The Wrinkled Stocking. It also turns out that you can stay in Nora’s flat! Self-catered, certainly, but i wish I’d known that.

Nora Batty in front of her door. (Kathy Staff)

Tomorrrow we’ll be taking the directed tour of LotSW spots around Holmfirth. Hopefully they will swing through Upperthong Where Bill Owen (Compo) and Peter Sallis (Clegg. he was also the voice of Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame) are buried side-by-side. They had formed a life-long friendship over the decades the show ran.

Other than all that, Holmfirth is quit a beautiful town full of buildings spanning back to at least the 17th century, and built of well-recognized brown brick. Across the way from us is (I believe) Meltham Clock tower added in 1835 to a chapel built in 1651.

It is built on the side of a rather steep hill, so if you’re intent on walking the town fuel up and be prepared.

Golf Balls, Silver Balls, and Cricket Balls

I usually have a bit of a time titling these posts, but today was very different. I nearly titled this post “Balls Out” but somehow I just couldn’t do it… Another option was “Triple Stoked”. You’ll see what I mean as the post winds along.

This was another one of those incredible days where things just fall together wonderfully. Our original intent had been to find a laundry yesterday to wash everything in preparation for our trip out of Brum (Birmingham) tomorrow. Young Master Crow had a lot of work to get done as he’d spent Friday with us, so he took Saturday to get it done. We had a nice little, highly rated spot picked out, but, as the trip out to Stoke-on-Trent took longer than we’d expected, we delayed it until today.

Front door of Ghetto Golf in Digbeth

Before I began to plan this trip I’d begun following a local Brum newspaper online and had noted the opening of a quirky little spot called Ghetto Golf. It’s a mini-golf course created in a warehouse in Digbeth and has a funky, graffiti style. During the trip planning I dropped it in my saved places on  whim.

Well, This morning Mrs Crow suggested Young Master Crow and I go ahead on to it and perhaps also to a pinball parlor close by. (I was quite the pinball wizard back in the day and spent a lot of time in front of a lot of tables and didn’t have to spend many quarters doing so, in fact some nights I made money at it) She was perfectly fine doing the laundry and reading her book as she did. Did I mention that the missus is quite the woman? She’s put up with me for nearly three decades so she really has to be, but it’s good to note it every once in a while.

Anyways, we dropped Mrs Crow at that great little laundry nearby and found our way to Digbeth and an early tee time.

Remember Abe from Abe’s Oddworld side-scroller?

The place was amazing and the street art covering the walls (and about everything else as well) was incredible! The 18 holes were highly imaginative and a few of them were quite adult in nature (dildoes were an impediment on one), one hole went through an old city bus, another wound you around shelves of horror videos until you rounded the corner to be confronted by a mural of Hellraiser’s Pinhead and a tableau lit up with Regan from The Exorcist at her demonic best. Finally the three last holes were all done in black light day-glo color.

And those last three holes, hole 16 in particular, is where Young Master Crow beat me. The lead wavered back and forth between us by no more than a single stroke throughout until then, but on this Pachinko-like hole my ball dropped into the plus-three slot and his into the negative-one, and that was the game.

Walking out of there to make our way to the pinball parlor we found the neighborhood full of street art. Around another corner, another mural. It was glorious.

Apparently I didn’t raise my kid quite completely as, at the pinball tables, he went through his 5 pounds in no time, whereas I won a few extra games and gave him the opportunity to finish off his entire pot of tea.

Our timing couldn’t have been better as we got back to the laundromat only a few minutes after Mrs Crow finished up the laundry. Picking up YMC’s laptop at his apartment and dropping off our newly-clean laundry at the hotel, we set off to hunt down the elusive ‘lunch’.

At this point I must ask, in the strongest possible way – Nando’s please please, come to Seattle! That peri peri sauce is a wonderful thing. On the plus side, I can get the sauce online, so at least I won’t perish from withdrawls.

Sated, we all went in search of someplace to watch the Cricket World Cup finals. England was hosting the World Cup and it had also made it to the finals against New Zealand. We’d been following it all day and, in a fortunate twist, New Zealand was up to bat first so we made it to a pub at the interval and right before England was due up to bat.
I’ve watched Cricket for years, when I could find it, so I have a minor understanding of the game but not a great one. Test matches are just way too long, so the 20/20s and 50/50s ar about the right size for me. The World Cup is 50/50s.

A Pot of tea and a couple hours later it didn’t look good for the home team. England just wasn’t producing the runs it needed per over and they kept slipping. 49 overs with only one to go and only math seemed to hold the hope of the possible.

And then Ben Stokes made a play I’m not sure anyone thought possible. For much of the game I had been kind of down on Stokes. His partner for most of the game, Jos Buttler, was very efficient, scoring nearly as many runs as bowls faced, but was caught out. Stokes just wasn’t playing with that much efficiency and it felt like he was losing the game for England. To make matters worse, they were deep in the lineup with mostly bowlers (think pitchers in baseball) being all that was left. England needed 15 in the last over, just six pitches, to win – no chance.

Then, on what was the third or fourth ball from the finish Stokes hit for what would be a solid single, but needing 15, they stretched to try and make a double. Sliding face-down to the line, the ball, thrown from well outfield, glanced off his bat and rolled to the boundry for four more points for a total of six!

With that bit of renewal, England managed to tie the game in the last few bowls and they went to a Super Over where they just kept rolling and won the game! Incredi-freakin-bul.

So there you have it; golf balls, silver balls, and cricket balls – but that was not the only trinary to occur. Remember Friday? Stokes Croft for the street art. Yesterday was Stoke-on-Trent. And today was Ben Stokes. I’m sensing a pattern here…

As mentioned, tomorrow we’re on our way north to Huddersfield then Holmfirth, and we missed out on wandering the Birmingham Library. Hopefully we’ll get in there when we pass back through Brum next weekend.

Observations from…today: Showtime at the Apollo is not the show from Harlem we were expecting.

Scaffold companies are making a killing here in the UK.

Moorcroft Is Not A Sherlock Holmes Villain

On our first full day in Birmingham we spent very little time in Birmingham. Our hotel is right next to the New Street station and the Bullring so there is an incredible number of stores we could of drained our pockets at, and it is part of the second largest con-urban in the UK, second only to London, but we had other plans.

Standing about 3 feet tall, this incredible piece is several thousand pounds – and well worth the price, I think.

Instead, I had my eye on a smaller city about an hour and a half to the north-west called Stoke-on-Trent. One of the city’s nicknames is “The Potteries” and it is considered a world capital of ceramics as some of the world’s most respected companies create their wares there. Among them are Wedgwood and Royal Daulton, Portmeiron, Royal Stafford, Gladstone, and the place I wanted to go – Moorcroft.

Some years ago Mrs Crow and I came across this little show that’s not seen in the US called Bargain Hunt. We were hooked immediately. It’s huge here in the UK and it pits two pairs of players against each other to gather three items at antique shops and boot sales and make the most cash selling them at auction. Well, every once in a while someone would pick up a very small vase or bowl to find that it was outside their 300 quid budget.

Hard to see, but these vases are done in the rare ‘Flambe’ firing technique originally done in the middle of the last century. Very striking and incredibly beautiful!

It was always a striking piece, quite unlike the porcelain and pottery my mother collects. The colors were unusual and vibrant, and there was an edged beading between the colors creating an almost a cloisonne effect. I collect glass and never really looked at potteries, but this stuff was special.

So off Mrs Crow and I flew, training it out to Stoke-on-Trent to the Moorcroft manufactory. Walking through the shop for me was a near sacred experience. The colors were intense yet restrained, the designs were of every kind – from simple to detailed scenes. Did I mention the colors?

One of the shop ladies was kind enough to show us a short film on the creation and manufacturing process guided by Eric Knowles who we know from Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow. It was truly an entrancing experience for me. We ended up buying two rather small items and spent a few hundred pounds for them, but just having two Moorcroft pieces is indescribable.

Hidden Dreams Frog Model designed by Emma Bossons in 2005

From there we began a walk up towards the Royal Doulton outlet, but as we hadn’t had more than coffee and a doughnut for breakfast, we neeeded fuel and chanced across a small fish and chips diner a half block off our route and took the opportunity for a quick sit-down.

I love diners. I see them as little windows into the local culture and this one was no exception. The sign noted that it was ‘award winning’ although didn’t mention what award that was. Inside was a take-away counter and several booths and tables that were half filled with local folks and families. Very working class, just like us. It looked as if we were noticed right away as ‘not from around here’, but everyone was nice, or at least tolerant of our presence. Mrs Crow was kind of pedestrian in choosing the cod and chips, but me, being the rebel that I am, went for the haddock.

Topped up, we made it up to the Royal Doulton shop. There were stacks of pattterned dinnerware for some incredible prices! You could probably put together a full 8-piece dinner set for less than 200 pounds! There was also an area where, I presume, school kids could paint their own pottery and get it fired. I ended up with just a mug, but it had an octopus on it, which my mother collects (yeah, she collects a lot of things) and it is surprisingly difficult to find octopus themed items. In Royal Doulton ware it was a real coup in my thinking.

Keep It Real by Banksy

Walking out of the shop we prepared to call a car to take us back to the train station, but there was a little gallery nearby I wanted to peer in it’s window so we wandered over that-a-way. I’ve mentioned that Mrs Crow and I have come across some wonderfully unexpected things when we just wander and this was one such time. Getting around the side of the building we found a small bit of street art on the wall next to the gallery – Banksy’s Keep it Real. From what I gather, the design has had several incarnations on various media, but Stoke does count him as one of it’s own, so it’s quite possible it’s genuine. Nonetheless, it did make for a wonderous capper to our visit to this city of clay-makers.

Observations from day…uh…today…and maybe yesterday too: I use the term ‘city block’ frequently but it has no meaning here.

We have yet to see a washcloth-sized towel.

Stoked in Stokes Croft

Today we’re doing the train up to Birmingham, and with Young Master Crow coming in to meet up with us last night, we delayed our big tour of the street art until today since he and I are both huge fans of the genre.

The Mild Mild West by Banksy

After a bit of breakfast at one of the ubiquitous Costas near the hotel we set off in search of Banksy. Mrs Crow and I had found a few of them yesterday in the M-Shed and near Spike Island so we dragged the young man down there to start our pilgrimage.Since Young Master Crow’s phone’s direction cone works far better than mine (it actually points the correct way) he led the way out and onwards to the next and subsequent pieces.

Now until Bristol, we hadn’t really had to contend with hills. That changd with a vengeance today. One of the pieces, The Rose Trap, is under plexi on a wall which is great. It is up a very steep hill, which is not so great. The fortunate bit is that just a little tad further up the hill is a life-saver of a tiny park where we sat under a tree to regain our breath and legs.

By that time we’d been wandering around Stokes Croft for a bit already and, unlike the rest of the city, street art was everywhere. I’m not exaggerating, either! Turn a corner, there’s a wall of it. Get a bit down a street and turn about for another persepective and find one you almost missed. Look up a building and there’s something you could’ve walked right by. It was a dream!

I’d studied my street art app last night and was able to recognize some of the art or artists and was like a cat with three mice in a bucket (pronounced boo-kay, but that’s another story for a few days from now).

Cheo, Chinagirl, Nick Walker, Cheba, Tom Miller, Sweet Toof, Banksy, and more. I should list them all, really, there were just so many! Mrs Crow is the photographer of us, but I still took over 60 pictures along the journey! There was so much that in some cases I just took a picture down the alley way to at least show the expanse of quality artwork along our way.

Untitled by Chinagirl Tile

When I’d planned our trip to the UK and decided on the stop in Bristol just for Banksy (and Bristol Blue Glass) I wasn’t sure what we’d find – if we’d just have looong walks between Banksy’s bits, or what, but this around six mile walk made this stop so worthwhile I just can’t express it properly.
Between the Mrs and I we have a sh*t-ton of pictures and I will very likely add many of them at the tail end of this post even after it’s published, so if you love street art as much as I do, check back over the next several days. We’re hitting the Welsh coast late next week and I should have the time to get caught up with the posts themselves and finish adding and captioning pics on this one.

Rambles and Rattle Cans

As mentioned yesterday, I’m running a day behind in my posts. I won’t however berate you about it today, although spewing Shakespearean insults does hold a certain appeal.

Just prior to our transition from Salisbury to Bristol we took a ramble around the insides of the Salisbury Cathedral. Mrs Crow believes the Cathedral deserves a post all on it’s own and I tend to agree. That noted, I may delay that post a bit or things may get even more out of order! Yeah, tough, deal with it.

Climate Change Mural by Jody. On the wall outside We the Curious in Millenium Square

Anyways, yesterday we trained up from Salisbury to Bristol. The express reason for our short stay in Bristol is the street art. I’ve always had a fascination and love for graffiti art and Bristol is probably the premier city in the UK for it. Banksy is from here after all.

There is a huge difference between ‘tagging’ that is generally for asserting ownership on a turf, spreading one’s name/’nym, or simple defacement. Street art is artistic expression on unusual and public canvases, sometimes iteracting with the canvas medium itself. (using a pole or grating as part of the art, for example) Some is just beautiful art, but much of the best graffiti art pokes fun at icons and society and/or comments on the absurdities of people or politics.

Banksy has the great talent of using known art or icons and juxtaposing, including, or altering a bit of it to make a satirical point. It looks easy, but it’s assuredly not.

Well Hung Lover by Banksy on Frogmore Street

Well, that primarily, but Bristol is a hub of art and artists here in the UK. We’ll be checking out a museum or two, but we’ll be looking more for local artist’s shops, glass and pottery, and of course, about anything sprayed on walls.

We’re rather fortunate in a sense to be installed in a hotel right next to a huge mirrored ball which we found to be a planetarium attached to We The Curious, which is likely more geared to kids, but hey, I’ve got a huge lot of curiousity in reserve so it will be a good place to burn some off so I don’t go wandering into someone’s flat or something.

Untitled by 3Dom on Frogmore Street

During our first evening’s ramble we stumbled upon Banksy’s Well Hung Lover completely by accident. As I’ve said, Mrs Crow and I tend to happen upon wonderful things quite unexpectedly. Looking at it, I couldn’t help but wonder how he did it. The piece is perhaps 15 or 20 feet up a wall, even with a road overpass about the same distance away. It’s unfortunate it has been defaced slightly with someone splattering a few blobs of blue paint on it.

The Florist by Jody on Park Street

Right nearby is a beautifully colorful and large untitled piece by 3Dom. An aside, both of these pieces are on Frogmore Street, a place we’d intended to visit simply on the strength of Mrs Crow being rather partial to frogs. (if you saw our home you’d say that she was inordinately partial to them, but that’s another story entirely.)

We also came across The Florist by Jody. It’s really rather large and takes up most of the side of a building above th roof of a low adjacent storefront.

Returning to our hotel we walked into Millenium Square from a different direction and found two pieces on the wall of We The Curious, one titled Climate Change Mural by Anna Higgie and an untitled painting of a bee by ATM.

Now, rather than tell you I’m deeply knowledgeable about street art and artists, I only found out the titles and artists via a cool little app called (drum roll please) Street Art. It covers Bristol and only a few other cities, but it’s free and perfect for my needs here.

On our single full day in Bristol, we’ll look for some street art, but widen our vision to include local art and glass!

Ook! or Presenting Our Papers at the Consulate

(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.

The blue oval plaque to the left of th door says “Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites 1987, ‘Often there is no more than a little plaque to reveal that, against all gynaecological probability, someone very famous was born halfway up a wall'”

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.

Setting Stakes in Salisbury

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.

The yard behind St Thomas’s

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.

The countryside along our trip up to Stonehenge

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.

The old stones themselves

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.

Last Thoughts On London

I’m rather torn on leaving London. It’s a diverse and vibrant city packed with arts and music and food. It’s an international city in every sense of the word. On the other hand, it’s also jammed full of people. Given my discomfort when things get too peopley, I’m kind of glad to be traveling out of the density. Granted, we are going to hit a few places that aren’t much less closely packed.

The ironworks are incredible! For every plain fence fronting a garden, there are two beautifully wrought gates

The week-long visit was wonderful, in my opinion. The people were quite nice, and we saw so many things that I’d only dreamed of seeing and did things I’d never thought I’d be able to do! Visiting the ravens at the Tower of London, visiting one, if not the, pre-eminent museum in the world, walking through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, seeing (from afar) Buckingham Palace. We did so much! I am rather disappointed that we didn’t make it to Highgate Cemetary, though.

If that weren’t enough, we’d planned in a few off-the-beaten-path stops such as the Novelty Automation Museum, the excursion to find Hodge the Cat’s statue, the time spent watching a glassblower at work, and the visit (by river boat!) to Batteresea to see the power station from the Pink Floyd album cover Animals. Those were icing on a very large cake.

Sculptures in a small square next to Battersea Power Station

And then there were the serendipitous things we tumbled across; the Banksy-inspired street art by Tanksey in Southwark, Chinatown’s gates and lion, and the memorial to Prince Albert across from Royal Albert Hall. (I was not prepared for that one. I stood in awe for a few moments when I first saw it)
Were I to note any negatives about our time there (besides the heat the first few days) it would be the hotel. The gentleman at check-in was blase and dismissive, the young lady later that day and next morning was borderline surly, and noone bothered to mention that the keycard slot turned on the light/power for the room. (to be fair, though, that sort of system sounds to be pretty usual here in the UK) The bathroom tap was trickling or a fire hose,  it took me until yesterday to figure out how to access channels above eight on the tv, and it was only this morning after my last shower before we left that I got an inkling on how the shower controls might work, although I can’t test my theory now, of course. I will, however, give kudos to the housekeeping staff. We didn’t see them until we were going down to check out this morning, but they cleaned and remade our room daily to perfection.

A Yeoman Warder giving the Raven talk next to the raven enclosures. Not the Ravenmaster, but that’s ok.

Between the people, food, and sights, it was an incredible experienc. I hope we can find some way of coming back someday.

So off to Salisbury and the old stones.

Observations from day six: ‘Mews’ are converted carriage houses.

You can say ‘fuck’ on tv.

The Last Wander of London

Today was our last full day in London before we head out on the train tomorrow to Salisbury, so we tried to wrap up a few things and just wander as we did it.

Wall art in a schoolyard near the laundrette

The first order of business was laundry. We’d packed fairly light with only one large bag, a carry-on, and a day-pack. Compared to our DC trip a few years ago, it felt like we’d only brought a few strips of cloth and a deck of cards. We’d sent the large case (and part of our laundry) up to Birmingham with Young Master Crow yesterday, so we only had one large load to do. Rather than opt for the closest laundrette, we traveled up to the Holborn district next to Queen Square Gardens to a little laundrette with good reviews. And we found those good reviews to be well merited. Between helping us with the machines, and directing us to a local coffee shop while our clothes took a spin, the gentlemen running the place were fantastic.

Dropping off our refreshed clothing at the hotel, we bussed to the Tower of London for the second time to hopefully catch up with the Ravenmaster and see if he would inscribe our book. Unfortunately, once again he was off duty. No matter, though, we visited the ravens and said hello to George again.

Confined to cage as him and his partner were hasselling and moving in on other raven’s territories the previous day.

George is the newest raven to the treachery. A collective of ravens is also called an unkindness, or conspiracy. I would say they’re not as hard core as a murder of crows, but besides being about twice as large, they are grumpier and more bad-ass than any crow I know, and I’ve known several. Anyways, George is the first raven hatched at the Tower in the last 30 years and was born on April 23rd, St George’s Day ergo the name.

Now, Mrs Crow and I are smokers and the wife was running out of cigarettes so we searched up tobacco shops. On a Sunday it is surprisingly difficult to find one open, but we did find one within a few miles. Grabbing the tube at Tower Hill we set off for Bond Street. Of course, when Mrs Crow asked which stop we needed to get off at I replied “Street, Bond Street”. You have to grab your juvenile entertainments when you can…

When we did arrive, despite my phone’s best efforts, I was rather horrified to find us back at the very posh Selfridges and in the press of masses of humanity so we rethought our choice of tobacconist (to save ourselves several quid and my sanity, which is in dire peril most days anyways) and made our way towards Picadilly Circus station.

Remember what I mentioned about my phone’s directional abilities? Yeah, we walked a half block the wrong direction. In fact is was a bit more than a half block and we happened across a small shop selling cigarettes. With Mrs Crow sated for a bit we set off in the complete opposite direction my phone directed us to find Piccadilly. Of course, it was the correct way.

A lion clinging to a wall in Chinatown

The serendipity came around in the form of a large gateway we spied down a side street. It was a classic Chinese entrance gate leading into Chinatown.. We all know I’m a fan of the art and such, so it was a facinating stroll through seeing how Chinese style mixed with English architecture. Eventually we made it to Piccadilly station, no thanks to my phone, and wended our way back to Lambeth and our hotel.

We’d found a wonderful little pub right next to the hotel last night (Pub Love @ The Steam Engine) that serves the most incredible burgers so we ate there again this evening. I love spicy foods and they have a burger called The Sombrero covered in hot sauces and jalapenos that is to die for. As I age, however, the spicy heat that I love is not loving me. That noted, I would still eat The Sombrero nightly even if I did die for it.

Well, tomorrow is the train and Salisbury. Time to pack it up and in for the evening.

Observations from day five: We have not seen any under-arm crutches like in the states. The forearm-style are what’s used here.

Sidewalks often have little metal disk-shapes evenly spaced along. It took me until yesterday to realize they were sawed off and ground down metal fence posts.

We have not seen one youngster with saggy pants. Very few logo’d shirts either.

English cigarette packs have some rather graphic pictures of cancer patients. Be aware.

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