I’m very tough. Nothing frightens me. Well, not much. Just the odd thing. Such as G saying ‘let’s go to Salisbury,’ on our way to somewhere or other.
We like Salisbury, have been there several times. The difference now is ever since that former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned by Novichok and only recently somebody else died there from the same thing it’s a bit of a scary place to visit. G was very calm. He promised he would taste everything we ate first.
We found a hotel in Salisbury where the man on Reception was very bossy and pretended to be very busy, but one of the cleaners said the hotel was nearly empty and bookings had gone ‘through the floor’ since the nerve agent was discovered.
We walked into the centre, which has an enormous open square right in the middle and two buskers were playing Simon and Garfunkel songs. They were terrible. Really awful. I gave them 20 pence hoping they would decide that was enough for the day, but no such luck.
We walked around the shops for a bit, with me shouting ‘don’t touch it’ every time we passed a door knob and went to the cathedral to seek sanctuary. I liked the street names of the smaller streets such as Oatmeal Row, Fish Row and Silver Street, all named after whatever trades used to be carried on there.
As for the cathedral, it’s impressive. I read this bit in a leaflet inside so it must be true: The cathedral spire is 404 feet high, so it is the tallest surviving pre 1400 spire in the world. A bit selective on dates, but still very high. There’s also the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta in existence on display, but visitors can’t really get near it and it’s in a dark area and photos are ‘forbidden’ so it didn’t impress me very much.
What did impress G was the oldest ‘modern’ working clock which dates from 1386 and does not have a ‘face’ as in those days clocks only rang out the hours on a bell and didn’t have a face as there were no hands. I didn’t think much of a clock that didn’t even say the time, but every time I said so G answered, ‘1386, Marigold.’
Edward Heath, former PM, is buried in the cathedral and used to live here. In Salisbury, not in the cathedral. G said the cathedral used to be at Old Sarum and was rebuilt here so we agreed we’d go there later, maybe tomorrow if we survived the night.
Back at the half empty hotel we decided, well, I decided, not to eat anything that might be a nerve agent so we had bananas, peeled while wearing two pairs of gloves, and some stale bread I found in the car boot next to the spare wheel.
Obviously, that isn’t entirely accurate as we don’t have a spare wheel just a can of glorified air freshener or whatever it is the car makers provide in place of a spare wheel these days.
Next day we went to look at Old Sarum which always fascinates me as you can walk around an Iron Age hill fort where people lived thousands of years ago. The site survived many invaders, even the Romans, until it was finally flattened and burned by Vikings led by a king who has the best name, ever, Sweyn Forkbeard in 1003.
Trying not to give dates, but G will check this and tut tut if I don’t try and do the history part properly, so in 1226 the cathedral was moved from here to Salisbury. A man in a brown shirt, who may or not have worked there, told us the site for the new cathedral and the new city around it was chosen by shooting an arrow from Old Sarum.
We could see the cathedral spire from here and G said, ‘I don’t think so, it’s about two miles from here.’
‘Ah,’ the man said in a know-all voice so I decided he definitely worked here, ‘the arrow struck a white deer, which continued to run and run and eventually died on the spot where the cathedral now rests.’ G sniffed, but didn’t say anything. Like most legends of long ago it got more and more unlikely with every added detail.
The brown shirt man wasn’t finished though, rambling on and on like the worst history teacher I ever had, but I can’t remember any of what he said. G said, ‘that last bit was interesting,’ when we were going back to the car park and so it might have been if I could have been bothered to listen.
We found what might have been a fossil on the way back to the car so I took a photo of it in case it was an unknown species of dinosaur.
We went past Stonehenge, which was full of tourists and we’ve been before so we just just had a quick look from a distance. Anyway, it’s £14 to go in these days which is a lot. Unless you’re American which almost everybody else seemed to be. They were all wearing garish golfing clothes and saying ‘gee this is so OLD’ to one another.
Later on, we were heading for Bournemouth for no particular reason when I said ‘can we stop at Ringwood to see if that fruit and veg shop is still there?’
G understands my occasional silliness and said ‘okay.’
Ringwood is a sort of gentle, rather old fashioned place and, best of all the fruit shop was still there. We bought an orchard’s worth of fruit, had a wander round and sat in or on the tree sculptures at the far end of the car park.
We also went into a Meeting House, very old with wooden pews and a gallery all around it. I got talking to a very odd couple who said they came here twice a week for coffee and a chat. The woman was a chronic giggler and the man had loose false teeth so I found them very entertaining.
As we’re chatting G came back from where he had been lurking in an attempt to not start laughing at the poor man’s loose teeth and the man said to him, ‘don’t let them rope you in as a helper; they’re all a bit mental.’
His wife shouted out ‘Mental, mental, chicken oriental’ at the top of her voice and they both collapsed with laughing.
‘I think they’re a comedy double act at weekends,’ G whispered. I was getting ready to avoid the false teeth which looked as if they were ready to shoot out at any moment.
I asked them if they lived in Ringwood or were just visiting and should have guessed what was coming next when the man said, ‘go on then’ to his wife.
She said, ‘’we live just outside, but we sold our house and now we’re renting.’
They looked at each other and both shouted out, ‘Rental, rental, chicken oriental’ before howling with laughter.
‘Time to go, Zebedee,’ G said to me and we left them to it.
The teeth were still in place.
We looked in an estate agents window, as we do often, and saw immediately this is a pricey town. Not far from the sea, not far from the New Forest, so that explains it. Oh, and it has a Waitrose so that’s the clincher.
We drove on a bit further and ended up in Wareham which I can’t remember visiting before although G insisted we had. After we parked the car a woman driving out said, ‘there’s nearly two hours left on that’ and gave us her parking ticket. Very nice of her.
We went into a pub and I remembered we had been here before. Everywhere we went I remembered now and tried hard not to keep saying ‘ I remember this bit’ every two minutes but not always successfully.
The local beer was wonderful. I didn’t actually drink any of it, but I loved the names on the pumps. The brewery is called Dorset Piddle. Jimmy Riddle is a brown ale, then there’s Silent Slasher and Amber Piddle. The barmaid said they brought out a beer called Santa’s Potty at Christmas and the same company make wine called ‘oui, oui.’
Brilliant. Yes, childish, but brilliant.
We looked round a museum and G got very interested as it was almost all related to Lawrence of Arabia and he has just finished reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom for about the twentieth time.
When Lawrence retired he went to live in Clouds Hill just outside Wareham and was killed in a motorbike accident in1935 on his way home. The man who ran the museum, (curator?) told us a ‘mysterious black car' had been seen in the area and this gave rise to dozens of conspiracy theories. ‘More theories than arose from Princess Diana’s death,’ he said.
Winston Churchill attended the funeral and described him as ‘one of the greatest beings alive in this time,’ which sounded a bit odd to me as he wasn’t actually alive at the time!
The curator man told us where to find a stone effigy of Lawrence in the local church and we went to look at it on the way back to the car. He also told us there was a memorial by the road side at Clouds Hill marking the scene of the accident, but we realised we had come in that way and missed it. We didn’t go back. Trying to avoid accident black spots. Even if the last one happened in 1935.
When we reached the car I noticed there was still seven minutes left on our ‘free’ ticket. I didn’t think anyone just arriving would be very grateful if I offered it to them so didn’t bother.
We went to a vintage car rally on the weekend. Lots of old cars, which I like, and strange people, who I like even more. We were talking to an old man with an MG older than himself who said he only used it in cooler weather as the seats smelt of urine in hot weather. I don’t know whether he meant his own urine or a previous owner, but I stopped stroking the leather upholstery very quickly.
Next to him were a biker couple with a bull terrier who were lovely and we chatted to them for ages. The dog loved riding in the sidecar and they have been all over the country with her.
I found a 1930s caravan, made for a travelling family, and spent a while trying to persuade the owner to sell it to me. ‘Where would we put it?’ G asked. I don’t bother with such unimportant details, it was fab. Anyway, he wouldn’t sell it to me.
Three women were screeching on a stage, we couldn’t make out the tune or the words as the speakers were so crackly. They were middle aged, very keen, unsuitably dressed and couldn’t dance in step or sing a note. Some people were clapping. Must have been the local deaf association on an outing.
There were some really odd people around and they all seemed to have some connection to steam engines. One man said he had spent thousands of pounds restoring a sort of little train over many years and it was now finished.
‘So, what do you do with it now?’ I asked.
He gave me a funny look and said, ‘ I look at it. Sometimes I start it up and listen to it.’ I don’t think I am suited to restoring little steam engines. I went and got an ice cream instead.