Sunday, 13 April 2008

Internet? What internet?...

We’re back!!!

It’s been so long that I don’t really know how to start. Finding internet access in Cornwall is as hard as finding good chips. Of the few internet caf├ęs we’ve found, the cost has usually been outlandish. Much as I love you all, I don’t want to spend two quid for ten minutes of internet time when I could put the money towards our in-depth study of local brewing customs.

Anyway there’s so much happened in the last month. I guess I’ll just see how it goes…I’ll begin where we left off, with a quick re-cap of Bath.

I really liked Bath. It might just be that I was feeling culture-starved after three years in the Cumbrian desert (I mean that in terms of art, cinema and retail diversity, not absence of rainfall, which, as I have already conveyed, Cumbria has in lakefuls), but it seemed to have everything I needed. The city looks and feels good. Sure, the centre has come from “rent-a-high-street” with all the usual retailers, but there are still enough individual shops to keep things interesting. The place is geared for tourists (we’re used to that) but it is clean and smart. The elegant Georgian architecture is a big bonus to the city, but the big tourist puller is the Roman remains. The city got its name from the hot springs there (the only hot springs in Britain), which were used from Celtic times. The Romans came along and civilized things but after they left, the baths fell into decline. Presumably 1st century Britons preferred a cold shower. Things rolled along nicely until Beau Nash arrived in the 18th century. This was the period when all the pretty buildings went up. Nash, a retired army officer/lawyer-cum gambling dandy, was a man who really knew how to party. And I mean that in the true sense; he got the job of Master of Ceremonies in 1704, and took the opportunity to set rules for when to arrive at a party, when to leave, what to wear, what to eat, who danced with whom etc, etc. He also stuck his nose into the architectural layout of the city, its road improvements, public behaviour and gambling systems (he took a cut from the banks). He caused some controversy by banning smoking, swords and white aprons. Quite right too, pesky aprons.

We succumbed to one touristy treat - lunch at Sally Lunns. She was the inventor of the "Bath Bun", a slightly sweet, brioche like confection which comes served with anything from salad to steak on top of it. There's a little museum in the basement which shows how they would have been made in her day (dark and pokey), and the building is claimed to be the oldest in the city having been there since 1482.

One establishment which has probably been there since the Romans, possibly even since the dawn of time, is the most excellent “Old Green Tree” pub. A tiny, wood paneled back-street bar oozing so much character you have to wade through it as you walk in. It boasts a fine selection of real ales including one of its own. We tried them all and they were all outstanding. If it hasn’t been a CAMRA pub-of-the-year, every year since the Big Bang then there is no justice. Check it out.

After Bath, we spent a week or so in Dorset. We were having trouble with the bunnies. A few months before we set off, we got a “new” rescue-rabbit (Bella) as a friend for our long-standing house rabbit Buster. She had loads of character, but was a bit of a bully and wouldn’t stop taking it out on Buster. We took them to spend a few days with Mairwen Guard, a “Bunny Whisperer.” She devotes her spare time (while still bringing up a family) to looking after, and re-housing unwanted and rescued rabbits. She also runs a sort of rabbit “dating agency” Within minutes, she had the two bunnies worked out.

“You see that?” she’d say, looking down at the rabbits. “That means “I’m not comfortable being this close to you, but the new surroundings are a bit strange so I’ll put up with you for now.””
“See what?” I’d say, looking at two rabbits who were, in turn, sitting motionless, staring at each other.
“That little flick of the left ear,” she said.

We left the bunnies with her for a few days. Mairwen has eight or nine runs in her back yard and she kept Bella and Buster together in a large one while they sorted out their “stuff.” One particularly cold night, she even spent time with them during the small hours, putting heated pads in the run with them. A couple of years ago, she was awarded an MBE for services to animal welfare, and she deserved it.

Once they had got the hang of each other, we then had to keep them together on “Neutral Ground” for a while. Ray and Sheila, Tracey's parents very kindly vonunteered their conservatory. At least that’s where the bunnies went (we pitched on a CL five miles away), and they got on like a house of fire. They still squabble occasionally, but are very happy together.

While we were in Dorset, we did a little sight-seeing.

No trip to West Dorset is complete without taking in, as it were, the Cerne Abbas Giant. The 180 feet high chalk carving is possibly a post-Roman representation of Hercules, or a dig at Oliver Cromwell. There is no mention of it in any historical document until 1694, and since there has never (as far as I know) been a comparative study of Hercules and Cromwell from the waist down, it’s anybody's guess. Add to this the rectangular earthwork above it and the mystery thickens. It was either built as an Iron Age fortification, or in the 18th century as a place for maypole dancing.

We had a great day out at a vintage car show with Tracey’s dad. There were loads of most excellent cars, many of which would look great, but be useless on the front of an Airstream trailer.

Talking of cars, ours went into the menders again. They had it in for two nights while they sorted out the problem with the seats and mirrors, and gave us a Freelander for the duration. Nice car, gruff and sporty and a completely different feel to the Discovery. But rubbish for towing a 684.

We had a visit from Richard Faulks, a photographer for the Co-op bank’s "Change" magazine. They were planning an article on caravanning, and wanted to include us as both full-timers and Airstream owners. He took a couple of hundred pics and we did an interview over the phone with the editor. All very exciting as the magazine goes out to 800,000 account holders! Sadly, a few weeks later, we got a call from the editor saying that since the Co-op insurance arm wouldn’t insure Airstreams, they couldn’t run the piece. Bummer.

So, with the rabbits settled and happy, the trailer and car sorted and running well, and us ready for adventure, we headed West.

Coming soon...Cornwall...