Tag Archives: england

We’re on a boat

The English Channel, 16-17/11/12: I didn’t quite know what to expect for this trip but the website said there would be casinos and discoteques. Not far wrong – for a 7 hour overnight trip there was a ludicrous amount of entertainment and lounge space.

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On-board hoops. 8' ring for the flabbier cruise-liner set.

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Chillaxing on deck

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Catching some rays

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Having a lovely time 1

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Having a lovely time 2

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New friend

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Mousse

It might have been nice to stay up all night, soaking up the opulence, but we must’ve spent ourselves in Harwich, plus our old chum jet-lag was still hanging around like an unwanted party guest so we pretty quickly retired to our cabin.

Apart from comfy beds, my other favourite feature in the cabin was the Doggy TV channel, which played a live feed from the on-board kennels, like Big Brother for woof-woofs. Unfortunately, there were few if any of our canine friends on board that night so it was only marginally more interesting than regular Big Brother.

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Boat external

Harwich. We’re in Harwich.

England, 16/11/12: The best thing about Harwich was leaving Harwich. Stop saying Harwich.

We said our farewells to our Warwick hosts Val & David and set forth on British Rail to the coast where, that evening, an overnight ferry would romance us across the Channel.

Farewell Val & David

We stopped in London for just long enough to make me think we could get from Liverpool St Station to the London Bridge and back without missing our connection. Almost true – with our suitcases rumbling behind us we got to within a few hundred metres before retreating back to the station. Close enough.

Eventually we arrived in Harwich. Harwich is where boats to the Netherlands go from. Since we were starting the day in Warwick with three train trips in between, I booked our tickets to get us there in embarrassingly good time – four hours prior to departure. The terminal is suggestively called “Harwich International” – surely a bustling and cosmopolitan port and therefore an easy place to kill a few hours, right?

We were instead greeted at 4:30pm by darkness, a think fog, some vacant carparks and shipping containers and two bored attendants in an otherwise abandoned terminal building. One attendant suggested we could kill some time at a local supermarket, 20 minutes down a dark road, just past a derelict service station on the left, so off we went. We tried to make the best of things.

Success! A long walk down a dark road led to the glamour of a discount German supermarket. Guitar and keyboard stands were going cheap here. Tempting.

In fact there were two supermarkets and a home & garden store on offer. We camped in a cafe section in one of them (dinner closed at 7 though) and whiled away the hours until, inevitably, we headed back on the same long, cold, dark road. This time, however, there was the very real prospect of a ferry ride at the end.

The ferry at the end. Could that be some obtuse metaphor for something? No, just a ferry I think.

Coventry’s latest cathedral

Warwick (England), 15/11/12: Today we were touristing to Coventry.

Over the years, Coventry’s gone through its fair share of holy buildings. Early on they had a nunnery, but that got sacked by the post-Viking Danish King Canute. Next, Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his nude, equestrian wife Godiva planted a monastary, later converted to a priory and cathedral. This lasted a few hundred years before King Henry VIII got into his famous disagreement with the Pope over his desire to re-marry and had it taken apart brick by brick.

Some decades later they gave the cathedral idea another go on the same site, this time with the new Church of England branding. They got about 500 good years out of it before World War II broke out and, as a result of being next door to Coventry’s weapon factories, it became an unfortunate victim to German fire bombing. Its ruins remain and provided direction and form to the current cathedral, designed in the 60’s by Basil Spence.

Some of the ruins of the cathedral destroyed during WWII. The bell tower miraculously survived and has managed to avoid demolition on at least one occasion since.

We took in a tour of the new cathedral. I was underwhelmed at first but to hear it all explained added a great deal to the experience. It initially appeared to me a bit of a hodge-podge of ideas and designs. I still think it is, but it all hangs together in a funny sort of way. In retrospect, I guess most grand old cathedrals and chapels I’ve seen are just as stylistically discombobulated but you just don’t always notice from so far away on the time axis.

A striking arts by Jacob Epstein that greets visitors approaching the cathedral. The head of the devil here is apparently based on Epstein’s own head when he gets mad and his eyes bug out a bit.

We ran out of time to go to Stratford – next time, as they say. For good measure, the public contributions to the arts at the park-and-ride bus shelter (which I present here as Exhibit A) were mildly inspirational but short of divine.

Exhibit A

Touch the old things

Warwick (England), 14/11/12: The other thing that never ceases to amaze be besides the rich fertility of England is the old things and how accessible they are. Following our sit-down breakfast, we, along with our hosts, set out to explore some of Warwick’s more famous examples of the genre.

The emblem of Warwick, the Bear and Ragged Staff. Legend has it that this symbol is in part based on the story of a 14th century Earl who beat a bear (or giant?) to death with a tree branch, back when bears (or giants?) roamed the country.

First stop was the Cathedral, just another workaday magnificent European, centuries old structure with dozens of dead Earls and clergyman from the middle ages buries beneath the foundations.

A big part of what I like about such relics is that they are still in active use and, while treasured, treated with a kind of callous affection. Another more specific thing I liked was this lectern:

I would love to do a gig from behind this thing.

As we were inspecting the chapel (which contained tombs of the early Earls of Warwick) a friendly guide told us a bit about the various tombs and some of the town’s history. She wasn’t overly precious about it though and, while obviously loving it all, would casually dismiss certain relics as a bit rubbish or incorrectly sculpted and at one point was giving the golden crown of the very late Ambrose Dudley a jolly good tug to make her point. Sweet.

She also mentioned that the current Earl of Warwick in fact lives (or recently lived) in Perth. True story, look it up.

Our guide had warned us that The famous Warwick Castle had been badly Disney-fied since it was purchased by Madame Toussauds and that it wasn’t worth the steep entry price. We were determined however and had 2-for-1 vouchers to justify our decision. Turns out she was right to a point – it had been camped up a fair but we weren’t too proud to get involved.

The castle and grounds are never-the-less magnificent though and the history fascinating at times. We were able to storm the parapets, which called for some epic posing.

Also gave me a reason to experiment with the panorama feature on my bat-phone.

CASTLE SOLO

Fun engineering fact: they were generating – and battery-storing! – electricity for the castle using a paddle/dynomo in the river next door as early as the 1890’s. The Earl of the time’s wife, Daisy, had an electric ferry she used to take around the waters.

Took the long and winding route through town and back to Val & David’s, then back out into the cold for a nice pub meal at a little place next to one of the canals in Warwick that form part of the English canal system.

Pass the brown sauce

The thought of a canal barge holiday excites me a bit and I don’t care who knows. Maybe for the 20 year long service leave…

Hello Warwick

Warwick (UK), 13/11/12: Arriving at Heathrow airport on Tuesday morning, we were greeted by Nicole’s rellies, Val and David, who were to play host to us at their place in Warwick for the next few days.

Warwick’s about a 90 minute drive up the M4 from London. England’s cool, overcast weather suited me well. I never cease to be amazed by this country’s ability to grow things, though at this time of year there’s a good mix of greens and autumnal yellows, reds, oranges and browns. Very pretty.

Val and David kindly acted as cooks, chauffeurs and tour guides during our stay. Five star service. On our first afternoon we made a trip to the neighbouring town of Leamington, ostensibly for the shops but we also took in some of the local sites – the historic spring and public bath building being a stand out. The spring water was once said to have curative properties. It tastes very salty, as if having marinated generations of Englishmen in times gone by.

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Leamington-Spa church thing. The only pic I got of the day, so there.

At 9:15, after a lovely home-cooked meal (mustard-marinated chicken with home-grown beans and a berry pie), I was falling asleep in my floral-print covered armchair and drooling on my chest, so we bid our hosts auf wiedersehen and headed upstairs to bed, where I slept fitfully until 4:30am. Stupid jet-lag.

Beard update 1

Let’s take a quick break from the holiday diary to see how the beard’s growing.

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Figure 1: 5.5 days growth

Here we can see that the sideys are still distinct but their days are numbered. The 3 day peach fuzz has progressed into a 5 day dirty hobo. Status is unkempt, pre-stylish. Functionally it is providing no protection from the elements yet. Week 2 will be telling.

Looks a bit like we’re in England

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The blog’s a couple of days behind but a couple more jet-laggy nights and we should be back on target.