Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Family Reunion: Part 2

Wowee, it has been a long time between posts. But don't blame me, blame Mr Speedtouch, who must have cottoned onto the fact that the huge jump in his internet usage was a little infeasible. But then I went back to Australia for a few weeks and he must have figured that it was safe to come out again. Ha! Sorry Mr Speedtouch, but thank you for coming back and once again failing to secure your network.

Anyway, I have some important blogging business to finish. After leaving the merry land of Worcester, Mum and Dad and I ventured into new and unexplored lands... Wales. It's funny but I don't think a lot of Aussies make the distinction between the different nations in Britain, but it is much more obvious over here. 3 useful things to know about the Welsh are: 1) their language reads like gibberish unless you understand their alphabet, 2) they love their rugby with a passion and 3) they are all amazing singers. Apparently the Welsh crowds at a rugby match singing Land of My Fathers is quite a sight to see.

The little town we went to was just over the border, called Hay-on-Wye. It was one of my favourite towns as it was entirely dedicated to books. For a village of about two thousand people, there were a good 30 bookstores and a great many of them themed. There was the murder mystery bookshop, the music bookshop, the poetry bookshop, the travel bookshop and so on. All were second hand and I think would probably struggle to survive if the town did not have a quite famous accompanying book festival. We just missed the festival unfortunately but I was amazed at some of the big names who were appearing (Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Cherie Booth/Blair). This is a view of the outdoor bookshop near the derelict castle in the town centre:

I can think of a number of friends who would have been in Heaven in Hay (Audrey, Mtk).

Next it was back into England and Herefordshire, which is home to the beautiful Golden Valley, where the move Shadowlands was made. In the Golden Valley we stayed on a lovely little farm next to a medieval Abbey that had been converted into a parish church. We went for walks and drives rounds the country and ate God knows how many pub meals, but it was all lovely. This was a B & B, in the middle of nowhere:

The farmer and his wife who we stayed with were lovely, though I found it a little difficult to keep a straight face when he was complaining about the oft-spoken 'notorious' summer of 2006 when the place was 'practically a desert'. I found that a little hard to believe compared to the drought in Aus, but I did believe him when he was complaining about Tesco and the other big supermarket chains forcing all the small farms out of the market. Feckers.

The Golden Valley was absolutely beautiful. Everything was ridiculously green and lovely, and the buildings old and quaint, and all capped off by the Black Mountains in the background.

Here are my Mum and Dad out the front of the same church in a shot I like to call 'One foot in the Grave'. Hehe:

There was also a nice number of ruins, and ancient castles and battlegrounds from the many years of fighting between the English and the Welsh, as well as nice little novelties like the hill in the centre of the village where they used to conduct the hangings. Charming!

Lastly it was off to a town in the Cotswolds, Chipping Campden. The Cotswolds are one of the loveliest areas in England, in large part I think due to the presence in the area of a certain kind of limestone that all the little houses are built from. It is the kind of area where houses still have thatched roofs. Some of them were so small and so ancient, I felt like I was in Hobbiton. This isn't the best example but does get across how old the villages were:

After that, it was back to London, and a brief stay at our flat before my parents sensibly ditched it for the Novotel! Thanks for the trip Mum and Dad and here some some more happy snaps to remember it by. I like to put embarrassing photos of other family members as well as myself on this blog!!


Anonymous said...

Hi Penny,
There will always be wonderful memories of our holiday in the Golden Valley.I am so glad that we had the opportunity to be there together.Chris & I often talk about it, especially the time in Abbeydore where we stayed on the farm. We were lucky to stay with such an hospitable couple. Remember how they stood and waved good-bye as we left.This was a lovely blog Pen. Love mumx

Anonymous said...

Hi Pen,
Really glad you enjoyed your trip to the forgotten corners of England and Wales. That was more like the real England with old farms and narrow lanes that I remember. And the great thing about those areas is that so few tourists go there - I bet Hay-on-Wye gets few visitors outside the book festival.
Abbeydore, where we stayed on the farm, was particularly interesting for me because I used to go down there from Hereford as a young reporter to cover the local magistrates court and things like ploughing matches and point-to-point races (our picnic races).
Most of the court cases were for poaching with the odd traffic offence thrown in.
The Cotswolds are special, aren't they? Stow is among dozens of small towns with buildings like that and lots of old pubs - pity we didn't have time for a drink in The Fleece at Bretforton though (just down the hill from Stow) because it's one of the oldest pubs in England - 13th century or something like that. Not that I haven't had a few drinks in there before.
Anyhow, it was lovely to show you round my native heath, and I hope you'll have nice memories of it all.
Love Dad xxx

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