Out and about


On Saturday afternoon I had friends over and they wanted to go for a walk. Fortunately, Exmouth is blessed with quite a lot of beach, and if you start at Orcombe Point you can finish at The Grove on the Esplanade and feel you’ve earned a swift half or six. These are some of the things you’ll see if you take that route.

This is Orcombe Point. Pick the wrong time and you'll find all of this sand underwater, so work out the tides first

This is Orcombe Point. Pick the wrong time and you'll find all of this sand underwater, so work out the tides first

Once you're round Orcombe Point, the scale of the task becomes apparent.

Once you're round Orcombe Point, the scale of the task becomes apparent.

There are always a few sandcastles along the beach. A message requires this one not to be touched.

There are always a few sandcastles along the beach. A message requires this one not to be touched.

Exmouth's new lifeboat station, which you could just see in the distance in the last picture

Exmouth's new lifeboat station, which you could just see in the distance two pictures ago.

Sand dunes along the beach

Sand dunes along the beach.

The RNLI station from the dunes. In the distance is Orcombe Point

The RNLI station from the dunes. In the distance is Orcombe Point.

This line of beach huts is about half-way along the route. The volleyball nets are only a couple of years old

This line of beach huts is about half-way along the route. The volleyball nets are only a couple of years old.

The landing stage is usually out on sunny days, but it's winched up the beach at night. It's absolutely ancient and must be on its last legs.

The landing stage is usually out on sunny days, but it's winched up the beach at night. It's absolutely ancient and must be on its last legs.

Eat your heart out, Washington: we have an Octagon, and it sells ice cream.

Eat your heart out, Washington: we have an Octagon, and it sells ice cream.

The clock tower was put up for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. Reaching it means that the walk is nearly over.

The clock tower was put up for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. Reaching it means that the walk is nearly over.

The Grand Hotel. The pub is at the end of this line of buildings.

The inaptly named Grand Hotel. The pub is at the end of this line of buildings.

Looking out to sea from here you can see Dawlish Warren. The visible portion is the nice part of Dawlish Warren: go by sea and don't waste time on the tourist area.

Looking out to sea from here you can see Dawlish Warren. The visible portion is the nice part of Dawlish Warren: go by sea and don't waste time on the tourist area.

The end of the line: The Grove, where you can now spend the rest of the day recuperating.

The end of the line: The Grove, where you can now spend the rest of the day recuperating.

…I attend Chappel every year.

Thus speaks Tony’s Chappel Beer Festival shirt, and it’s a pun so terrible as to be worth sharing with the world. More of that later.

The Angel of the Dorks appeared unto me, saying: “Go thou unto the web that is world-wide, and proclaim unto the surfers, and to the spods, yea unto all thy fellow nerds, that a new thing has been brought forth in Cyberspace. For behold: I have spoken with she who sits at the head of Femen, and I have wrought of our words an article; and it is a thing of great majesty.” And I looked, and I beheld me the Interview, and saw that it was good. Therefore I say unto thee: go thou forth unto the place that is called Global Comment, and there wilt thou see much of benefit; but look thou especially for the interview with Anna Gutsol, and stand amazed.

As I was saying, the Chappel Beer Festival is the stuff of legend in Essex, and annually draws huge crowds of ale lovers from all over the country. I’ve been going since the mid nineties, when I was invited to go by a good friend of mine who was at university with me, and I’ve only missed one or two of the fourteen intervening festivals. I was there for the tenth and the twentieth, and barring accidents I ought to be there for the thirtieth in seven years’ time. This year was a light one, since I was only there for the final weekend, but I think I managed to cram enough into those two days to make the long drive worthwhile.

For once Friday lived up to its POETS acronym: for the first time in ages I managed to clear my schedule and get on the road by four. It’s a six-hour drive including stops for sandwiches and Red Bull, and the less said about it the better. I managed to get about half way before I had to put the roof back up, and I was in the field at the back of the East Anglian Railway Museum by ten in the evening, absolutely dog tired, but ready for some beer and chat. I caught Mad Phil before he left, and was there for his story about the time he met Jimmy Page while they were queuing for a cup of tea in London. Gary – the man who first introduced me to Chappel – was there too, wearing a hat he found in his Land Rover when he bought it; and his greeting was as warm as ever. Actually I ran into him first, while waiting to be served at the Shunter’s Arms. Tony and Nikki were there too, bearing a four-pint carry out that they’d co-purchased with Phil, and we all had a merry time of it until about half-past eleven, when the party broke up.

Gary and the Land Rover crowd had set up a laager (the only kind you’ll find at Chappel) and spread a tarpaulin over it. They also had beer, guitars and some funny stories, which kept us occupied until gone two in the morning. We were even told off for being too noisy, which brought back happy memories of festivals past, when we were noisy youngsters instead of people old enough to know better. Thus passed the first evening.

TheLaager

Circle the wagons, lads; and watch out for chavs

There’s no other way to say this: Saturday morning started far, far too early. After a fine breakfast down at the festival, we settled down to bask in the sunshine until we were all sober enough to drive (I’d forgotten to get out any cash for the second year in a row, and the nearest machine is five miles away). While we were sobering up, my camping buddies got out their guitars and managed to find some songs we all knew. It transpires that there aren’t very many of those, and most of the morning was spent listening to Gary riffing on various chord progressions. It was like old times.

The family men disappeared at about noon, when I drove off in search of some cash. Suitably cashed up, I returned to the festival to find out who was around for the Saturday afternoon session. Tony was working on his Masters dissertation, but he took the afternoon off and he, Nikki and I started drinking. We continued to do that until ten, and this photograph was taken somewhere in the midst of that binge.

Cattle class is slow, but you get there in the end.

Cattle class is slow, but you get there in the end.

After much conversation with people too numerous to be enumerated, we called it a night at about ten, and I crawled into my sleeping bag to prepare for the mighty odyssey back to Devon.

Which is where you find me. I got back here at just after five, extremely tired and about ready for a kebab. I am, in fact, off to purchase just such a comestible as soon as I’ve finished writing about it. Another year of Chappel is over, and the next big event is Oxonmoot in two weeks’ time. September is such a busy month.

I’ve not been posting much recently, mainly because I was planning and then executing a trip over to Kiev. They were having something of a heat-wave there, which made a nice change from the occasional rain we’ve been having here in Devon, and I got to see some more of my friend and be there for her birthday, which was nice.

Kiev is an interesting place. Like most European cities it’s felt the touch of uncaring twentieth-century architecture, but in the main it’s quite beautiful: wooded hills overlooking the vast expanse of the Dniepr, many churches and cathedrals that vary from European gothic to minarets and rotundas reminiscent of the Middle-east, the legacy of a Greek conversion. One thing I particularly noticed about the ecclesiastical architecture was a preference for gilded roofs, which you never see in England. The streets are ill-maintained, but on the buses people pass money forward to the driver and change back to the passenger with utter unconcern, which is completely alien to the public transport system here. Everywhere there are the little trailers that dispense Kvas, painted in the Ukrainian national colours of blue and yellow. Another thing that you notice a lot is how much English there is around. Most signs are in Cyrillic text, and there are enough that by the time I left I could read them after a fashion, but on the walls are numerous messages in my language. Graffiti in England is in English, but in Kiev people express their hatred of Emo in the language and alphabet responsible for it and expect to be understood. Agreement with that was inevitable, but my favourite piece simply told me to smile.

Nice though it can be out there, though, the thing that came home to me most is just how much I belong here in Exmouth. It was raining when I arrived, from a leaden sky that threatened more, but that was like a much-loved quirk in a dear friend. It was so good to be back among familiar things and people, without the constant pressure of new sensations and ways. I think it’s important to live in a place that feels that way, that fits like an old pair of slippers and makes you smile when you arrive, and there are only two places in the world that do that for me: Canterbury, where I was an undergraduate, and Exmouth, where I have my home and family. I like to see other countries and experience how other people do things, but in the end they just tell me what’s right or wrong with my own home. I think I appreciate them and it far more for loving this tatty little seaside town, with its battered crazy-golf course, cheesy amusement arcade and two miles of sometimes overcrowded beach. I might prefer Kiev’s swallows to our seagulls (quite a lot, as it happens), and their market to our Sunday jumble sale, but I wouldn’t exchange them for the world.

So if you’re thinking of going to Kiev, I say do it. It’s a great place, and I’d like to go back one day. For now, though, I’m happy to be back at home and to be planning a drive with the owners’ club tomorrow that will let me see more of it.

The Crimson Welshman left here a couple of hours ago, having borrowed my sofa for a couple of days. As luck would have it, he managed to get here on the weekend of the annual Crash-Box Classic Car Club rally at Powderham Castle, so we’ve been up to quite a lot in between the downpours.

I met the Crimson Express on Friday evening, and we headed back to the flat to have some beer and work out where we were going to spend the evening. After a laughable absence of deliberation we decided on the Grove, which is a nice pub on the sea front that’s great if you watch your sunglasses like a hawk. After a restful couple of beers in there we made our way to the Ganges for curry and more beer before ambling back to mon repos for gin and tonics and some more beer. I really regretted that curry on Saturday morning, but as usual it was nice at the time. The Ganges is a great restaurant, where you can always get a table and they play some truly bizarre music. Usually it’s sitar versions of famous popular songs. Watch their Madras sauce, though: it’s a bit on the spicy side.

When I came back from a turn in the garden to find my Cambrian comrade had fallen asleep, I called it a night. It certainly was a long and broken night, requiring early-morning window opening and allowing for very little actual sleep. Eventually I gave up the unequal struggle against consciousness at about nine, which I reckoned to be a vaguely respectable time for a chap to start making tea.

Once we’d tidied ourselves up enough to pass for human we hopped into Sceadufell and headed over to the car show. This is only the other side of the river from Exmouth, but the nearest bridge is at Exeter and it’s a long detour.  We got there around one, expecting the heavens to open at any moment, and immediately I began to take pictures. These are the highlights of my day.

A Ford Mustang that turned out to have bullet hole transfers stuck to it.

A Ford Mustang that turned out to have bullet hole transfers stuck to it.

Another of Ford's classics, this time from Ford UK: an Escort RS2000

Another of Ford's classics, this time from Ford UK: an Escort RS2000

A CG 1200 Spider, one of only twenty made. Subtle colour.

A CG 1200 Spider, one of only twenty made. Subtle colour.

More French engineering. This 1906 Renault upstaged all of its newer relatives on their stand.

More French engineering. This 1906 Renault upstaged all of its newer relatives on their stand.

People rave about the Veyron, but this is what I call a Bugatti.

People rave about the Veyron, but this is what I call a Bugatti.

The show was so popular that James Bond had turned up. Well, a silver-grey Aston Martin DB5 did anyway.

The show was so popular that James Bond had turned up. Well, a silver-grey Aston Martin DB5 had anyway.

Some really nice Bentleys that are worth the same as a small suburban housing development.

Some really nice Bentleys that are worth the same as a small suburban housing development.

The beauty of this Alvis is only partially marred by the Crimson intrusion.

The beauty of this Alvis is only partially marred by the Crimson intrusion.

It's the 101st anniversary of the Ford Model T this year. Happy birthday, Lizzie

It's the 101st anniversary of the Ford Model T this year. Happy birthday, Lizzie

This Sherpley Speed Six lost an argument with a French bridge. The owner is working on repairing it.

This Sherpley Speed Six lost an argument with a French bridge. The owner is working on repairing it.

A native American dream bike. One of many nice motorcycles that we saw.

A native American dream bike. One of many nice motorcycles that we saw.

It wasn’t just about cars, of course. I ran into my compadres from the MX-5 Owners’ Club, which this year celebrates its fifteenth anniversary and the twentieth anniversary of the MX-5 itself. I got to be in the picture, despite not having got Sceadufell down on the list to go on our stand. There were also a number of stores selling various car parts, tools and assorted bric-à-brac, one of the more obscure items being a very distressed four-inch shell casing. I needed an umbrella stand, so I bought it.

I pose with my new purchase in front of a suitable vehicle.

I pose with my new purchase in front of a suitable vehicle. I had to wait about a minute for the picture to happen, so my expression slipped a bit.

At about half-past three on Saturday afternoon, the threatened rain arrived. We left the show just as it started, and by the time we got back to HQ it had settled in for the night. We decided to catch the early showing of the new Sacha Baron Cohen film, then eat some pizza, start drinking and choose a pub.

How exactly can I describe Brüno? ‘Unbelievably obscene’ is certainly one description; ‘breathtakingly offensive’ is another, and equally apt. I think that the description that best suits my experience of it, however, is ‘the funniest thing I’ve seen all year’. From the eponymous hero’s Velcro suit disaster, to Cohen being chased by enraged orthodox Jews, to the cage fight that turns into a gay love scene, it just never stops providing scenes that make you laugh like an idiot while disbelieving the sheer tastelessness of it all. Par exemple: at one point Brüno declares his intention to become “the greatest Austrian superstar since Adolf Hitler”. The list of groups that might be offended by this film is so long that I think everyone belongs to at least one of them. The star will get himself lynched one of these days, but I hope it doesn’t happen for a long time yet.

We carried through our plan to the letter, and even got a chance to play some pool. The band in the Phoenix were great, and when finally, back at the flat, we drank our last gin and tonics of the evening, we did so with the knowledge of a day replete with achievement.

This morning I suffered. I’m still suffering, despite having a walk along the beach in the sunshine; despite having found a copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell at the car-boot sale.  I did, however, manage to clean up my new umbrella stand by soaking it in the bath for a couple of hours. I left most of the patina in place, but I gave it enough Brasso to clean off the outer layer of dirt and give it a slight metallic sheen. It looks good in the corner next to the bookshelf.

My clean shell casing in all its majesty, complete with umbrella.

My clean shell casing in all its majesty, complete with umbrella.

Now that I’ve reported all of the significant events of this weekend, I think it’s high time that I got to bed. Too many great songs have come from the random play function over the last couple of days for me to list them all, but following a Gregorian chant with the Deftones was a stroke of genius on the part of my computer. With that I shall bid you good night.

Good night (told you).

I got my car back on Thursday night complete with its fancy new GPS stereo unit, which looks brilliant.

New stereo

My new car stereo looks the part, but doesn't work.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as good as it looks. The CD player neither loads nor ejects discs, which on a weekend completely monopolised by Michael Jackson has been quite a trial. More serious, however, is the problem with the satellite navigation equipment. I drove over to London on Friday night, hoping to use the touch-screen GPS unit to avoid using a map. This, it transpired, was not a terribly wise decision.

I don’t know exactly who designed the user interface for this system, but they made one fundamental context error: they assumed that when I switch on my GPS I only want to use it for ten seconds. After ten seconds, they appear to have surmised, I’ll suddenly develop an urgent desire to hear the tennis scores from Wimbledon and need the source switched back to radio. The GPS unit seems to work very well, but since it keeps vanishing in the middle of giving directions I’ll never be able to use it. I’m only pleased that the blasted thing was a present: if I’d spent my own money I’d be even more livid than I already am after having spent an hour driving around Raynes Park, switching back to the satnav every time I approached a junction. Software engineers take note: beta testing is not optional.

Anyway, I managed to find my destination eventually and settled down for a weekend of jollity with C. and his long-standing tenant R. On Friday night the television continued to regale me with stories about a deceased pop star, but since we had half a bottle of rum and some orange juice that wasn’t as terrible as it would have seemed that morning. On Saturday,  we sallied forth in search of art and found it at the Hayward and the Tate Modern respectively. In the Hayward’s exhibition, Walking in My Mind, I was able to renew my long-standing argument with contemporary abstract art, which I think is astoundingly pretentious and too easy to create. The best exhibits were the huge installations that looked like sets for a children’s television series, like the one pictured below.

Who needs drugs when walk-in hallucinations are available in London?

Who needs drugs when walk-in hallucinations are available in London?

The less said about the paintings with slogans the better. I know when someone’s trying to prove that they’re cleverer than I am, and it still annoys me when they clearly aren’t. Fortunately, nobody was particularly interested in sticking around once we’d seen the enormous smoke-ring machine, so I got to leave the gallery and have a couple of drinks instead.

After wandering around Tate Modern for a while, pondering how a boring home movie of people passing a balloon around becomes art if the people are naked, we headed off to Tottenham Court Road for some drinks. It was R.’s party really, but C and I tagged along, and met up there with the Crimson Welshman, who was looking for something to do, and R’s friends from Reading University. We drank rather a lot, and I ended up getting into a heated argument about the purpose of a translation. I hold that poetry doesn’t survive translation intact, but that the translator’s job is to get as close to the original as possible, not offer a new artistic interpretation. Someone didn’t like my further statement that it’s not possible fully to appreciate poetry in translation, and that the translation is not a substitute for the original work. I think she may have taken a degree involving critical theory, because the counter-argument was that we can never be entirely sure that we have fully understood the meaning of any poem, and that even reading it in the original is an interpretation of a kind. I say that at least when we read in the original language the work hasn’t already been filtered by the mind of the translator. Then I drank a bit more and lost the coherence of my argument. I was clearly right anyway, and the steak was rather nice.

On Saturday, C. and I drove over to see a couple of old university friends, who were having a small barbecue. They have children now, so events were just about at my level. We ate a lot of cremated meat products and followed them with a pile of cream that contained at least two strawberries. Realising that I hadn’t taken many pictures, I tried to get a self-portrait done. Being a good friend, C. decided to ruin it.

My narcissism is punished with physical satire

My narcissism is punished by physical satire

We motored back to Raynes Park, where I got into my car and drove straight back the way we’d just come. In retrospect it would have been sensible to drive over separately, but at least I avoided further dependence on my completley unreliable navigation equipment. I got home at nearly ten, dog tired and glad not to have children. I’m looking forward very much to the quiet weekend at home that’s coming up.

It’s been a busy weekend, so I have a lot of ground to cover in this post. Please excuse me if the pace seems a little break-neck.

The first piece of news is that another of my poems has been published by the ever-generous GlobalComment. It doesn’t do one any harm to be friends with the editor, but it’s still very kind of them to print this stuff. Rotten tomatoes can as usual be thrown at me here or there, whichever floats your boat.

The main business of the weekend was, however, saying a raucous farewell to a friend’s ex-wife. This meant girding my loins for another interminable train journey up to London, where I was once more to be the guest of the Crimson Welshman. Like General Urquhart at Arnhem, we were beset by communications failure; but this was eventually overcome, allowing me to arrive a mere half an hour late. We were held up at Westbury for twenty minutes because some moron was trying to ride without a ticket, and got rowdy and abusive with the staff. I think I would have forgiven them for simply kicking the problem off the train while it was moving so that I could be on time; but instead they decided to be boring and wait for the police. Where’s that Agincourt spirit when you need it?

Such irritations aside, Friday night went off without a hitch. We ate pasta, drank a very nice white Bordeaux and watched The Black Dahlia. The line “haute cuisine breeds degenerates” could have been the quote of the week, but it isn’t. More about that later. I retired far later than was good for me, replete with wine and humour.

The fridge of wit at Hotel Crimson

On Saturday morning I defied the usual weekend tube closures and made it to Liverpool Street station by 11.30. Our rendezvous point for the day’s activities was the Hamilton Hall, a grandiose gin palace that was almost empty.

The Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street

The Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street. Sorry about the poor quality: the lighting was all wrong for my camera phone.

We rapidly established a general tone when I mentioned something I received in my e-mail last week.

A disgruntled biker makes a reluctant sale.

A disgruntled biker makes a reluctant sale.

I commented: “There are more women who like motorbikes than there are good bikes; he got rid of the wrong one.” Nicci replied with a simply immortal line: “There are some women who know the difference between a wedding ring and a choke-chain.” That’s the quote of the week right there. Nicci’s a one-woman liberation movement: she will happily take a car to pieces in a bikini top, takes no nonsense from anyone and likes cider, but still knows how to make a set of curtains. It’s good to know that my friend is in safe hands.

The beer at the Hamilton Hall was generally agreed to be rubbish, so we quickly moved on to another palatial temple to Bacchus: the Crosse Keys in Gracechurch Street. We spent a lot of time there, and I established my strategy for the day ahead by not drinking the same beer twice. This may have been slightly unwise, but they had so many pumps and so many pretty logos. I’m not made of stone.

We moved on to the Founders Arms near Tate Modern. There, in front of a view of St. Paul’s across the river, I temporarily left off the bitter and switched to Staropramen. I contacted the Crimson Welshman, who had been watching the British Lions lose to South Africa. He would meet us in the Ship and Shovell, London’s only two-part pub.

Stopping only to cast the engagement ring to Father Thames, we strolled beerily over to the Ship and Shovell. There I found my long-lost twin.

Sir Cloudesley Shovell and your humble correspondent. My expression is tailored to match his, and is not indicative of my mood.

Sir Cloudesley Shovell and your humble correspondent. My expression is tailored to match his, and is not indicative of my mood

We adjourned to the upstairs lounge, where we annexed half of the room and proceeded to continue drinking more than was good for us. I switched from the continental lager back to Badger, mainly because I like badgers. I gave myself a taste of home by trying some Exmoor Gold as well. The company were on top form, with topics ranging from all things rugby to a rendition of Monty Python’s Philosophers Song. I temporarily forgot the lyrics due to chemical synaptic decay, but recovered my composure in time to still the chorus of jeers.

After this, things get a little hazy. I know there were more pubs. I distinctly remember drinking an Austrian beer called Edelweiss, which prompted more singing. A brief discussion of the genius of Mel Brooks led inevitably to Springtime for Hitler, and I broke into the drinking song from The Student Prince, which follows Ovid in declaring wine and love to be allies.

Perhaps something a little more up to the moment will suggest the atmosphere of determined inebriation. So many beers in London, only one mouth.

We finished up in a pub somewhere, by which time I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on. We ordered some pies and built the condiments into a big tower. People always seem to do this when they’re drunk, which might explain the Tower of Pisa. Another classic theory from the mind that brought you “Graduate study programmes are extended metaphors for The Lord of the Rings“. After that we went our separate ways, tired but happy as the euphemism goes. Naturally back at Hotel Crimson we decided that the best way to start on the road to recovery was to pour some German wine down on top of that beer and watch Lethal Weapon. Brilliant plan. I passed out at midnight, and spent today feeling like death. It was worth it, though.

The last item on the agenda is the recent departure of Sceadufell to the garage to have a new stereo fitted, which leads me neatly to the subject of music. I can’t remember most of what we heard on Saturday, so I’m going to list things that were playing on my computer while I was writing this. Shuffle play is the way of salvation.

The Velvet Underground: Cool it Down (early version)
Rammstein: Engel
Simon and Garfunkel: Peggy-O
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
White Zombie: More Human than Human
Guns N’ Roses: Don’t Damn Me
Extreme: Cupid’s Dead
Robert Johnson: Kind-Hearted Woman Blues

I’m particularly pleased about Don’t Damn Me coming up, because I’ve adopted it as a kind of personal anthem and it’s so appropriate to the idea of blogging. Share and enjoy.

It’s been well over a week since I updated this, because I’ve been on a much-needed holiday with my friends in Essex. With the last exam on the 29th I was free to take a week off from all things dental and internet, and return to what I do best: drinking beer and slobbing around. This is how I spent the time I’ve been away.

The trip started as soon as the last Cardiff exam was over. I drove straight from there to Colchester with the roof down and a marvellous sense of relief, which somehow survived an exhausting six-hour drive in heavy traffic. As one might expect, not much happened that evening: we had a couple of beers and caught up with events in one another’s lives. My friends had been over to the Colchester beer festival, which had been going since Wednesday, and some good beers were still left. Saturday’s plans were not difficult to make.

We spent all of Saturday afternoon over at the festival, meeting up with other friends while we were there. Eschewing the usual custom of drinking half pints so as to sample more beer, I started on pints of the strong stuff and was rapidly not in a fit state to record much. I did, however, manage to get one picture before succumbing to my dissipation, and that describes the afternoon better than I ever could.

As you can see, the Colchester beer festival takes place in a deconsecrated church, and we drank sitting on someone's grave. This is probably a metaphor for something.

As you can see, the Colchester beer festival takes place in a deconsecrated church, and we drank sitting on someone's grave. This is probably a metaphor for something.

Sunday was spent doing nothing over in Silver End. I seem to remember quite a lot of Red Dwarf being watched, mainly the third series, and whatever anyone might tell you this is the best way to spend a holiday. The following day I finally got round to watching Eric Idle’s Rutles film All You Need is Cash, and Tony and I put a couple of old bicycles into working order. I was also introduced to the Meat Loaf song In the Land of the Pig the Butcher is King, which rapidly found its way onto my Facebook profile. Various jokes about my surname have led to a potential rumour that I am a serial killer, or at least a purveyor of meat produce. I make no attempt to dispel interesting stories about me.

We continued to do odd jobs on Tuesday. Tony had a supervisory meeting over at the University of Essex, so I spent half the morning there, impulse-buying in the university branch of Waterstones. After a brief look at the River Colne, we bought some concrete and went back to Silver End to put up a washing line, which killed a couple of hours. The rest of the hours had to be killed with At Last the 1948 Show and more beer. We agreed that the lovelyAimi MacDonald is indeed rather nice, and I decided that one could do worse than contribute to her ‘make the lovely Aimi MacDonald a rich lady fund’. She was ahead of her time: these days practically everyone with a blog is running the exact same charity.

Wednesday became the Day of Geekdom, and was spent watching the best Klingon episodes of Star Trek TNG and planning for an AD&D game. A whole day of releasing the nerd within is by turns delightfully self-indulgent and extremely relaxing. I made a cameo as an ancient Elven mage, but am released from charges of unoriginality by having been handed my completed character sheet five minutes before we started playing. I buried someone up to their knees in rock, then everyone else killed him at the same time: very messy and quite enjoyable. I have decided that I’m probably chaotic evil. You have been warned.

Thursday was earmarked for actually doing things, so we headed over to Sutton Hoo where Nicci met us, having got the afternoon off work. As luck would have it, they were having a second-hand book sale, and since nobody would believe such a coincidence, I collected some photographic evidence.

The Awful Truth

Proof that there really was a book sale. Other evidence included a lightening of my wallet and a car full of books. I may read them.

We found a rare clinker-built chair that fitted two people, so Tony and I declared ourselves to be sea-kings. History is unlikely to remember us as it does Leif Eiriksson, however, since we had no ship and our subjects were woodlice.

Athelings enthroned

The mighty chieftains sit in council, and demand to know where the tea is.

We rounded off this successful foray into English history with a tradition dear to a Devonshire man’s heart: a cider festival. This was a strange affair, held at the East Anglian Railway Museum, so we got to see some old trains as well. It looked something like this.

Thanks to my discovery of a timer on my phone, our whole cider festival group got into the picture.

Thanks to my discovery of a timer on my phone, our whole cider festival group got into the picture.

Friday was a day of nothing much. I got my things together and Tony and I headed over to Chappel again to spend the afternoon at the festival. In the spirit of the occasion we drank beer, while challenging one another to identify song lyrics. We don’t appear to have many songs in common. In the end we adjourned to watch a documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, on which disturbing note my week away drew to its close.

I left early on Saturday, laden with a gift of unwanted DVDs and managed to get home without incident, arriving in a surprise monsoon. It rained heavily all night, but today there is no evidence of it at all, which is most peculiar. Even Devon seems to be subject to British weather.

Back to work tomorrow, but at least I was sensible enough to arrange one day to get the flat back in order before that. I shan’t be spending a week tripping over my suitcase like I did last time I went away, and there are worse ways than that to end a summer holiday.

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