An account of our travels in southwestern England. Written by Eric and edited by Jean, including the addition of photos. Larger versions of some of the photos in this chapter are available on our Bravenet photo storage site. Last updated 2 October 2001. Previous episode in this series was Wales.
Thursday 3 May 2001
Up late for a very relaxed day in Bristol while Doug Bell was at work. The overcast weather helped this decision.
Eric went food shopping for breakfast things, and bought a paper to read over breakfast. We both got through the weekend papers he had bought earlier for comparison with Australian papers. He was impressed by the Financial Times, less so by the Independent, but this is a sample of one, and we simply ignored newspapers, radio and TV the entire time we were travelling.
We eventually even got much needed laundry done, and Eric forgot to have lunch. We took an hour walk in the afternoon, just along the main street. Butcher shops abounded. Eric was somewhat surprised, as he'd been thinking that the supermarket meat displays may have displaced them except in small villages. There were a number of stores that appeared to us to sell general clutter. The one called Bilko's Emporium seemed to have a particularly appropriate range of products.
Maplin. For thirty years or more Eric has seen Maplin (an electronics component store) advertisements in U.K. electronics magazines. There was one on the street, so he couldn't resist going in to check it out. This relatively small one wasn't unlike a Dick smith store back in Australia. He was slightly disappointed by the size of the store, however the catalog was four or five times the size of the Dick Smith catalog.
Dinner was frozen pizza selected by Doug, one of them thick crust, own brand from a local supermarket. We speculated as to why the equivalent items we had encountered in the USA were so much less satisfactory. Jean thinks it is because when we get them normally they are overcooked, and lack a sufficient variety of toppings. Given how good these ones were, we think we might experiment with one or two other brands at home or while travelling. Of course, we're not supposed to be eating pizza, so finding a good one may not be the best idea.
We took the bus into town, and were interested to see the £1.30 fare. The Bristol SF meeting is held at the Brewery Tap pub. Two of the sometime attendees write Dr Who books, so Dr Who is often a topic of conversation. This seemed a very typical pub meeting, with fewer than a dozen attendees, and much conversation on mutual acquaintances not present. Several of the attendees claimed they weren't in fandom, as they had given up fanzines, or hadn't been to a convention for years.
Friday 4 May 2001
We had a beautiful day, so Jean said we should hurry and get away from Bristol for a nice short drive. South through Somerset down the M5, into Devon, onto the A30 at Exeter, after some of my usual problems with roundabout signs. Past Dartmoor national park, Launceston and the Bodmin Moor into Cornwall.
Penzance had a pirate ship in harbour, as well as a fort on an island. Naturally I had failed to pack appropriate music (and the cassette player in the hire car didn't work anyway).
Land's End was windswept but had beautiful cliffs and sea scenery. We walked for a while, where we could. The cliff path to the south was closed but that to the north was open.
Back via narrow lanes through St Just and St Ives, to see a little more of the coast. At one spot we could see along the coast back to Lands End, several miles away.
Drove past the turnoff to Eden Experimental Station, where Christina had been a few days previously. We didn't realise at the time that the Eden Project had opened to the public in March; probably just as well, or we would have wanted to try to visit. (Christina may have mentioned it was open, but we failed to process this information.)
The major roads were crowded going in the opposite direction, not helped by traffic was stopped by an accident, but our side ran smoothly. It's the start of a three-day weekend, so we expected that traffic going out of major population centres would be heavy.
We didn't get back to Bristol until nearly 8, as we hadn't really realised just how far away Lands End was. Christina was off playing ghoodminton or maybe badminton, and returned shortly after us. We had a delicious chicken casserole for dinner. More talk about work. Up till late, as usual.
Saturday 5 May 2001
We travelled via minor roads (attractive and interesting this time) rather than along the motorways this time, as we didn't have far to travel.
Our first destination was Avebury village in Wiltshire, to look at the giant 347 metre stone circle dating from 2600-2400 BC that encloses the entire village. The Keiller Museum and National Trust shop are outside the massive 1.3 km long ditch (up to 9 metres deep) and bank (up to 6.7 metres) structure of the circles, which were dug with antler picks and rakes.
Many of the 98 natural uncut stones inside the circle have fallen, or were removed as building material later. Those remaining are of impressive size for something moved by manual labour. For example, the Swindon stone weighs around 64 tonnes. The massive circle and ditch contain two smaller stone circles of 27 and 29 stones. It is estimated that 1.5 million man hours went into the construction.
The village was built from around the 11th century, and the naming of the stones after devils shows some sort of curious mixture of pagan and Christian beliefs long after the actual construction and abandonment of the circle. Most of the stones of the previously well preserved circle were destroyed and incorporated into village homes around 1700.
We also stopped nearby to look at Silbury Hill (2700 BC), the largest man made mound (39.5 metres) in Europe, the size of some of the smaller pyramids in Egypt. It was an impressive site, but the purpose for which that much labour was undertaken remains unknown. The hill contains 250,000 cubic metres of chalk and soil moved by hand, and another 100,000 cubic metres of natural terracing. It is estimated that 18 million man hours would have been required to build the hill.
We tried to find the chalk White Horse on a hillside, but it was closed. We could see a bit of it from the road, just enough to be frustrating.
In the town, Derrick and Pamela Boal greeted us, and we talked about disabled charity, lots of other stuff, and stayed up till midnight.
Sunday 6 May 2001
Up late. Our special treat this day was a visit to the Boals' boat on the Thames near Oxford. We had been hearing about this for ages in letters, so naturally we wanted to see it, if possible. River conditions still made it impossible to take a cruise, but we had known this.
The interior had more space than we expected, as with most boats. They stay out on the river for up to six weeks. Unfortunately getting a photo of the interior of the boat was nearly impossible; there's no space.
Lunch was at the Perch pub, where as usual we overate.
Back at the house, Jean showed Pamela how to do some computer stuff. Pamela soon got the idea and set out to learn to do it herself. Mostly changing sizes of stuff on screen. I certainly hope this encouragement was of some help, as we know how difficult it can sometimes be to come to grips with what a computer can do.
Fish and chips and peas for dinner. Jean is defeated by food for the day, after the large lunch.
More talk about disabled charity that evening, and interesting visits to different places by Pamela. She got addressed as Her Ladyship in the House of Lords, by an attendant taking her places the public are not permitted into. More computer fixes achieved, mostly through Pamela's own efforts with some help by Jean.
Monday 7 May 2001
Up latish, and more conversation with Pamela and Derrick.
We headed for Reading and the Plokta cabal editorial gathering at Steve Davies and Giulia De Cesare's home. I don't want to talk about the navigation. Luckily Jean managed to read yet another unreadable street sign, just in the nick of time. Parking was easy, for once.
Sue Mason was all ready to leave when we arrived around 3 p.m., however Alison Scott, Stephen Cain, and Mike Scott were in full creative flow, and just about to do the proofreading of the latest issue of Plokta. We should have taken more photos, in a futile attempt to outdo the number of photos in this Plokta.
The chaos level at a Plokta editorial meeting was considerably increased by a hungry and probably bored Marianne, but was similar in kind to what we expected. It didn't surprise us to find that the proofreading and the printing master did indeed get done before evening.
Eric had an interesting talk with Stephen about mapping technologies and the possibility of the cycling groups doing their own cycling path maps as a computer based system.
Giulia rapidly turned the chaos remaining from the meeting into an organised and calm home, complete with pleasant conversation, substantial afternoon snacks and a fine Italian dinner. It was an inspiring performance, and one I'd be totally incapable of accomplishing myself. Takes note. See about home delivered catering when fans visit me.
Tuesday 8 May 2001
Up early to do laundry, a decent walk for once, and some minor food shopping. Then into updating my trip notes while Jean used Steve's computer to work on her digital photos from the trip.
I'm not going to mention the superfluous technology in this Plokta household, since these days almost anyone can have home networks and NT servers. The gadget that really impressed me was the folding laundry crate in colourful plastic!
We had a very relaxed day, and got one trip report segment and many photographs closer to having more material for the GUFF website.
When they returned from work, Steve introduced me to his favourite Bluebird Bitter, a bottle conditioned ale he gets from the Waitrose market, brewed to a recipe from Coniston Brewing Company. This had a fine bitter taste with lots of hops, and made a great sipping beer. I'm not sure it would work where we live where you tend to toss a beer down somewhat quicker, but it made a very nice pre-dinner or after-work drink. http://www.conistonbrewery.com
Giulia made a pork and garlic and broccoli Italian dish with lots of olive oil. Yum.
Wednesday 9 May 2001
We managed to walk into Reading faster than the bus travelled due to road disruption and repair.
Jean searched many bookshops for a book for a US friend. The book eluded all attempts to locate a copy, although Friars bookshop on Friar Street helpfully offered to get a copy in.
The Oracle shopping centre looked very like a USA shopping center, and had more bookstores plus a Gadget store that was very American. Lots of space, but no seats, or at least they were well hidden. By the time we had walked back we were pretty tired of walking.
Shopping before dinner at Waitrose with Steve and Giulia. Impressed once again by upmarket products and reasonable (for UK) prices.
Next part, our visit to the Kincaid-Speller household in Folkestone.