Chasing the Frothy Bubbles

Dai's Farewell Tour of the UK, measured out in Cappuccinos

Bare Bones for Now; Flesh to Follow

There followed four days in a rural setting, with no phone signal and no interweb access. Heaven, you might think. Time to paint, sit with jug of wine beneath a bough, write worms of wisdom for inclusion herein or simply read a jolly tome like À rebours.

Oh no.  The Oldest’n’dearest chum has just retired and moved from her base in Bromsgrove School to the previous holiday cottage in the wilds, filling it with acres of clutter and tons of young, stupid and randy water spaniel called Cormac. The fields outside are full of sheep and rape (the crop, not an unseemly ovine activity in the same field). So when space can be found to sit, there is the constant threat of having to fight off a rather powerful animal with a strong sexual attraction to the legs of Yrs Trly.

Thank heaven for days out in the car (not the son’s one, which is also full of clutter). And time back home in bonny Scotland, to fill you in, gentle readers, on some of the stuff what happened in that bloggy hiatus. Let us treat said blog as a simple diary for now; more philosophical musings might appear at a later date. If you are loopy enough to want to be sure of catching them, do press the ‘follow’ button, and they will appear in your email inbox if and when. Would you really want to risk missing them? Oh well; please yourselves.

ludlow

To Ludlow on the Sunday, to celebrate the day. Excellent lunch in La Becasse, duck terrine, lamb, and chocolate torte, with a fine, fruity Rioja, (in honour of the madrileño maître d’).becassescr

Your eminent correspondent gets the seat of honour in the restaurant bar and makes a half-cocked attempt to appear bleedin’ sophisticated…

(and is considering dumping wordpress as a blog home, ‘cos it can’t handle simple formatting like starting a newline after an image! I could do this 5x faster in raw html on my own site, grumble, grumble).

—o—o—o—

On Monday, the chums took their guest to Hampton Court. The original (or at least older) Hampton Court in Herefordshire. A wonderful mishmash of old and faux vieux. A maze, a river, an exquisite garden …

bunnybear… and a stone bunny,

—o—o—o—

Another day, another castle. This time, Croft, a National Trust property famous for its family (and topical) associations with dead royal babies (and princesses), one of its gracious owners having been an unfortunate royal man-midwife.

croftcastle

Lovely gardens again, an interesting chapel and, within, a picture which stopped your overheating traveller dead in his tracks and stole his heart.  ‘Twas a portrait of Nancy Beatrice Borwick, Lady Croft, by Paul César Helleu, in drypoint.

Not wishing to incur the wrath of the copyright gods by copying it to here, we refer you to this link, and show you some flowers and treelets in the garden, which it isn’t worth risking formatting to one side, only to spend hours fiddling and swearing lots, in an attempt to put text down the side neatly (grumble, grumble).

croftflowers

crofttrees

—o—o—o—

There is a place in Craven Arms, called The Land of Lost Content.

No, this isn’t a poem, though if it were, it would end,  At least, my good friends said there was, But they’d closed it when I went.

head

So, in a sudden change of plan, they decided to see their guest onto his train to Manchester from Ludlow, after a lite lunch at Dalí, a Sidoli’s ice cream from the Chocolate Gourmet and a wander round the shops and antique emporia.

lucy24-7scrLucy from Perth did the honours in the Dalí Tea Rooms in Ludlow’s Quality Square. One is always disappointed in places named after surrealists, not to be served coffee in a melting watch by a nun in a flaming wimple, with one breast not only exposed but also fitted with a small drawer, Oh well.

shelleydaiAnd what better way to break the journey home than by meeting the kid sister’s old Bangor roomie Shelley (of the singing Bailey Sisters)? At Manchester’s Pickledwilly Station.

—o—o—o—

fatima25-7scrThe sojourn is rounded off next morning by coming back to the Clock and a coffee from the lovely Fatima.

More will follow — probably — in time.  Watch this space — but don’t hold your breath.

As they say round these parts, Bye just now.

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talk with them friendly and wish them farewell…

The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair,
There’s men from the barn and the forge and the mill and the fold,
The lads for the girls and the lads for the liquor are there,
And there with the rest are the lads that will never be old.

(A E Housperson)

tree

Setting off on the road less troubled, to celebrate the offsprung’s birthday in style at La Becasse, Ludlow, it may well be that further bloggeration will be difficult. Staying with oldest and dearest friend for a few days in the tiny hamlet of Marlow, a stone’s throw from Leintwardine, there may yet be no access to internet, not even a mobile phone signal.

So, if your correspondent goes a bit quiet for a few days, think not that he lies moldering in a ditch in Wales (or just over the border), just enjoy the silence.

As will he.

Laters.

The Country for Easy Livers

Where shall one halt to deliver
This luggage I’d lief set down?

(Housman: A Shropshire Lad)

Ok, so I lied.

The whole day was spent walking in the hills, no painting worth mentioning got done, and the blethering (and drinking) with the golden wedding party went on so late at dinner, those promised pearly paragraphs remain unwrit.

It was bad enough when every holiday had to be interrupted to write endless postcards home, but literary blogging? Forget it. Notes have been jotted, straw that can (but may never) be spun into brightest gold at a later and more homebound date, is piled high in readiness.

Cappuccinos have been drunk though. For instance, on Friday in The Shrewsbury Coffeehouse, served by the exquisite Simon.

simon19-7prtThis was occasioned by a journey-breaking rendezvous with author Sandie Dent, who turned out to be lively and exquisite company, causing heels to drag in catching the onward train. But  eventually one had to be caught and a taxi (from the local undertakers) took man and liefly-let-down luggage up the hill, for a sandwich and a relatively early night.

—0—o—o—

Somehow your doughty correspondist rose at the proverbial crack, to go for a stroll in Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s Rectory Wood. He also took a watercolour block, paints and brushes.

morningstroll

But no water. Ho hum.

Then after brekky he struggled up the high hills above Ash’s Hollow and balanced a camera on a bush…

1manandhisdog

The Long Mynd Hotel, seen here nestling in the trees above the Ludlow Road (Caer Caradoc rears in the distance), was chosen because it is already a third of the way up the climb. The path chosen for this epic morning walk, on the other hand, went down to the bloody road before cutting back up the hill!lmhotel1

An ingrained reluctance to follow prescribed routes, footpaths, maps or common sense, led to some precarious scrambling, dangerous straddling of barbed-wire fences and very tiring sheep-track balancing acts.

But ravens, wrens, tree creepers and two deceitful magpies (‘Joy’, my arse! I’m not available in ‘joy’) made great companions before a way was found back to the Cunnery Road and the safety of the woodland path back to the Hotel and a very welcome pint.

—0—o—o—

martha20-7scrMartha, at Jemima’s Kitchen down in Church Streton, where I wish I’d stayed ‘cos the rooms are amazing. If this were not a ‘farewell tour’, one would be moved to say ‘next time!’

rhubarb

The principles of modern-day philosophy.
Were postulated by Descartes.
Discarding everything he wasn’t certain of,
He said ‘I think, therefore I am a rhubarb tart

(J Cleese)

—0—o—o—

Had I known that a shuttle bus runs from the centre of Church Stretton to the top of the Mynd, how different things might have been. Research, man, research. Then again, things weren’t so bad as they went, so who cares?

horizon“Just carry on along here until you reach the horizon: then stop and wait for the rest of us.”

Geoff Coombe, Physics Teacher, West Bridgford Grammar, Long Mynd, 1968

heather“Forty-five Years On”

This is the heather where we lay
(Whatever became of Susan Smith?)
Blue visions of that long-lost day
Retreat from memory into myth.

Those paths, so tough in Oh-Thirteen,
Seemed so much easier back then;
At least I now can say I’ve been
And needn’t bloody come again!

(From “A Shropshire Owd Git” by J D Lowesman)

worldsend

Another Linda in Another Town

warcast
The splendour falls on castle walls
                And snowy summits old in story:
         The long light shakes across the lakes,
                And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
(Tennyson)

Ah, the old wee place in Warwick! Such a bugger it was to heat and keep clean.  Just a few pics&pomes for now …

Johanna at Thomas Oken’s Tea Rooms asked for a limerick…

naffisa18-7scr

There once was a grumpy old geezer
Who was served by the lovely Naffisa
With her pic on his site
She found fame overnight
Now guys fall to their knees just to please her.

Haiku on Avon
cox4

The coxed four goes by
Leaving, bobbing in its wake,
My drifting old  heart.

Linda, the lovely and much-missed neighbour from Victoria Street, arriving to meet the author for a drink.

LindaT

 

The author didn’t live here from 1979 to 1985 …

row1Which actual property he didn’t live in is lost in the mists of memory.

 

And that will have to do for today. It’s a bit too late, it’s far too hot, he’s ludicrously too full, and there will be plenty of time stuck on a hill, at night, alone, to catch up with everything from tranes to tapas in matchless prose over the next two days.

Long Mynd, here we come.

Let the trane take the strane

——And how would the traveller make his way? What predilections hath he stated?
——My Lord, he hath chosen a seat which faceth in the direction of travel.  And is most desirous of being beside a window, that he might see and revel in the glories of nature in our land, as they fly by.
——A wise and noble perspective. Anything more?
——Indeed. He wisheth to be placed before a table, that he may read, write, and, perchance, enjoy refreshment, without his knees being forced beneath his chin; neither would he suffer the privations of a tiny table from which his possessions might fall, and which may need clearance and folding away should a fellow passenger need to  use the woefully inadequate, excessively large but technologically advanced sanitary facilities.
——But this latter need be no impediment to his enjoyment, if he be seated by the window.
——Indeed sire. And furthermore, he doth prefer to be within the ‘quiet coach’, that he may not be disturbed by loud communications of his fellow travellers, on mobile telephonic devices and the like. Shall I grant him these requested boons, and inform him of the insignia by which he might recognise his throne?
——Aye, put him in F15.
——But sire, that seat is on the aisle, facing backwards and is what modern parlance doth term an ‘airline’  seat, suitable only for the short of leg and dull of spirit.
——Verily, thou speakest true. I believe the exclamation of ‘mwahahaha!’ is now appropriate.
——At least he hath the quiet coach as compensation.
——Thinkst thou so? Wait until he encountereth his fellow travellers.  Again I say unto you, mwahahaha!

    Penny from Australia kick-starts the tour with a cappuccino in the Clock in Dalry. 10.30am 16th July, 2013.

Penny from Australia kick-starts the tour with a cappuccino in the Clock in Dalry. 10.30am 16th July, 2013.

This is more of a filler blog to say still alive, in Dudley, been to a Balti House, Dudley Zoo, Lichfield Cathedral, eaten (much-missed) Staffordshire Oatcakes and been served coffee by the lovely Sonia.

Sonia of the Lounge in Lichfield

Sonia of the Lounge in Lichfield, 17th July

But it’s far from the perfect guestly behaviour to sit in the People’s Mushroom’s kitchen composing blogs, however brilliant, all evening, when there are bottles of wine to be drunk, carry-outs to be eaten and havering to be done. Especially when a long lonely night at the Lord Leycester Hotel is in the offing tomorrow, plus two more on the Mynd that is Long.

So watch this space, hit the follow button, and pics and stories will magically appear in your inbox in the coming days!

Back Story

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows.
What are those blue-remembered hills
What spires, what farms are those?

That’s the Long Mynd, you stupid twit
You’ve been there many a time
And once again you’ll walk on it
(If your heart survives the climb)

[A E Housman –ish]

It is likely that some of the account in the ensuing posts, particularly for this First Leg of the Sporadic Deconstructed Farewell Tour of the UK, will either leave readers baffled or necessitate some sort of explanation. Now, even as an inveterate waffler and bletherskite, your world-weary traveller here is loath to launch off into lengthy and action-stifling asides.  So here are a few brief snippets of relevant history. Read and memorise.

—o—o—o—

Spring 1968:  A group of Nottingham Grammar School students are kidnapped by an evil physics teacher, by means of giving them forms for their unwitting parents to sign, and driven to the wilds of Shropshire, where they are made to walk miles along a ridge of hills, sustained only by beer-swilling visits to public houses along the way.  After a few hours of this, the teacher cracks and offers their parents large sums of money to take them back.  Most do so, however reluctantly.

—o—o—o—

October 21, 1972:  In a barber’s shop by the walls of the fair city of York, a young man is informed by mine host, the goodly coiffeur, that racing has been cancelled at Haydock Park.
And how was the haircut? — There was no haircut. — So what had he gone in there for? — Ah, nothing …

—o—o—o—

July 21, 1973:  Two young and betrothed university strudels walk down Fletchergate in the fair(ish) city of Nottingham. They espy a new establishment called Frodo’s Bistro.  Fascinated by the menu, they are tempted to sample the wares, but, alas, being starving strudels, they decide that such a place (reasonably though it is priced) can only be visited on special occasions.  Sadly, they turn their footsteps down the hill to the buses to their respective family homes.

——Wait a moment! says the fairer of the two. Dost thou realise that it is exactly nine calendar months since we did first make what Master Shakespeare calls the beast with two backs?*
——We’ll call him Ralph!† replies her companion.
And with that, they spin swiftly on their heels and enter the eating-house, to celebrate, obliquely, the reliability of the products of the London Rubber Company.  He has a ‘steak Mexicaine’ (with chopped peppers and sweetcorn).  He retains no memory of what she had, but the meal became an annual event, observed even with successive friends and lovers.

*This may not be the exact terminology used.
†After the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and pronounced ‘Rafe’.

—o—o—o—

Spring 1983: A young(ish) couple, on a touring holiday from their home in Warwick, stay in a guest house in the picturesque vale called the Carding Mill Valley, nestling on the Eastern edge of the Long Mynd hills, above the quaint town of Church Stretton.  They walk upon those blue-remembered hills, and return for a special dinner of braised meat, cooked by the landlady, a Mrs Noblett, who is delighted to have guests who call upon her cookery training, rather than her directions to the local chippy.

Over supper, she asks if they have been here before.
——Oh yes, replies the man; I come here every fifteen years.
——That’s a nice tradition, she says, oblivious to the (hopefully) obvious youth of the couple.

But, having said that, he feels obliged to make good his claim.

—o—o—o—

July 21, 1994:  A man in early middle age, with his new and adorable young partner, go to celebrate the 21st birthday of Ralph Lowe, believed to be off studying somewhere like Lancaster. He has been a trouble-free offspring and fully deserving of a slap-up meal at That London’s only triple-starred diner, La Tante Claire.

By ‘eck, it were pricey.

By ‘eaven, it were bloody good, though!

—o—o—o—

Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s: A young IT professional from Manchester takes a job  in a major bank in the City of That London.  In deference to her Northern origin, her colleagues promptly christen her ‘Our Linda’.
At some later date, it is decided the office should be less proprietorial.  Her soubriquet becomes ‘The People’s Linda’.
As a result of some conversation or successful project (details lost in the drunken mists of time), it is decided to upgrade her to ‘The People’s Champion’.
Then someone decides it’s very funny (bear with me) to make a silly pun, and call her ‘The People’s Champignon’.
This obviously and finally results in her being forever known in our hearts as ‘Linda, the People’s Mushroom’.

IT can be terribly boring at times.

—o—o—o—

Spring 1998: A man in early middle age, with his new and adorable younger partner, stays in a guest house in the picturesque vale called the Carding Mill Valley, nestling on the Eastern edge of the Long Mynd hills, above the quaint town of Church Stretton. The landlady is new too, and has little interest in cooking (but provides a fine breakfast).

English: Looking up Caer Caradoc from towards ...

Looking up Caer Caradoc from near Church Stretton  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They walk along the Long Mynd and climb Caer Caradoc too, where bold Caractacus did make his final stand against the might of Rome.

—o—o—o—

Summer 2013:  A solitary and curmudgeonly owd git makes plans to revisit old haunts, even older acquaintances and a few places he’d always wanted to see but never got round to.

To start with, he fixes on celebrating his imaginary son’s fortieth birthday (age not having dimmed his innate folly) with his oldest and dearest friend, once strudel room-mate of his ex-wife-to-be, the lad’s absentee mother.  Said friend, having just retired from teaching at A E Housman’s alma mater, lives near the fair market town and gastronomic hotspot of Ludlow.  It seems sensible (or stupid, given his state of penury and unemployability) to treat her to a meal at the Michelin-starred Becasse.

English: The town of Church Stretton, in Shrop...

The town of Church Stretton, in Shropshire, England. The Long Mynd Hotel can be seen to the left.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While in the area, it seems only right to make what will probably be the last sesquidecadal visit to the Long Mynd. And given his woeful level of fitness, to stay a couple of nights in the Long Mynd Hotel, so all cardio-bursting climbs can start half-way up.

And maybe to spend a night back in Warwick, where he lived for a decade, and visit Lichfield Cathedral and the birthplace of Samuel Johnson.

Meanwhile, his trusty pc calendar informs him that it is the birthday of a long-lost colleague from his days in That London.  Despite a three-year hiatus, he tries her old email address and sure enough not only is the People’s Mushroom still around, not only does she remember the non-existent Ralph not having his 21st birthday (and thus feel very old at the news he is soon not to be forty), but she has settled just to the West of Brummagem, in the heart of the Black Country.  And has a spare bedroom.

Hence, first stop, and next blog, Dudley …

The Adventure Begins — Thrillsville!

To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

(William Butler Yeats: The Stolen Child)

In 2009 it dawned upon your crumbling correspondent that life had been reduced to a weary round of Auld Reekie’s coffee shops — was indeed, as T S Eliot put it, being ‘measured out with coffee spoons’.

Though wary of Sam Beckett’s claim that he wrote ‘to leave a stain upon the silence’, and sure, in fact, that somebody would be along with a damp J-cloth as soon as he departed, said correspondent brought out his now legendary wee book, Life, Measured Out. With a heart bordering dangerously on optimism, two thousand copies were printed. In a world filled with realism, about thirty were sold, hence the orgy of apparent generosity in which copies have been handed out to complete strangers all over this land, in order to get those bloody boxes out of the bedroom.

Online folks can even circumvent that harassment by looking at them online.

—————

Having buried his father in January (don’t worry, he was dead), and being the proud possessor of a free bus pass for the People’s Republic of Salmondia, and an owd git’s railcard for the whole of the UK, this miserable curmudgeon decided it was time to revisit old haunts, even older acquaintances and a few places he’d always wanted to see but never got round to.

Six months later and a couple of day trips to Glasgow and one to sunny Stirling, was the whole tally. New resolve will never trump old lethargy. Call me Oblomov.

Robert the Bruce statue

So there is now a document on the mighty desktop in the Abode of  Stones, listing a rough itinerary for what is being termed, with Sinatra-esque grandiloquence, Dai’s Deconstructed Farewell Tour of the UK.

Deconstructed, cos doing the thing in one swell foop is a more than daunting prospect; Farewell, either because it’s simply unlikely the whole lot will ever be done as a project again, or because it will possibly be ended by dying in a ditch in Wales in the rain.  But probably not.

Yes, of course ‘in Wales’ and ‘in the rain’ appearing in the same sentence is a classic example of tautology.  But, having seen a room full of dribbling old folks dragging out their ends with glassy stares in a Midlands nursing home, it just seemed a preferable idea, unseen and unmourned, except for the odd overcompassionate mountain sheep.  Then again, as the founder and CEO of Indignitas (‘go out disgracefully‘), it would be a dereliction of duty not to be catapulted from Arthur’s Seat into the Royal Mile, when the devoutly wished-for consummation comes.

As will be explained in a following blogette, there are particular reasons for beginning in July and in the West Midlands.  Starting in Dudley, though, was a late and rather surprising development …