Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Great Britannic Adventure, Day Eighteen

Monday, 3 April, 1989
Holford to Minehead to Selworthy to Holford
Day Eighteen

The skies were clouded up again this morning-- yesterday was a special reprieve.

The important thing today was to do the laundry. Mrs. Ayshford directed me to the nearest launderette, seven or eight miles up the road in Williton.

Facility turned out to be on a side street with no parking. No parking anywhere around there. I dumped the car with the hazard lights flashing in a double-yellow-line zone near a driveway outlet across from a store, so I could run in and ask if they knew where I could park the silly thing. Before I got two steps away an old lady of the hard, trousered variety came up and told me I just couldn't leave the car there, that was a no-parking zone.

I told her I knew that but I just needed to know where I could put it.

Well, she didn't care about that, I couldn't leave it there. (It wasn't her driveway, incidentally.)

I'm not sure why but all at once I totally lost it. All the frustration came welling up and I exploded in tears and told her I didn't give a damn and I'd move it in a minute, thank you please, go away and leave me alone.

The clerk in the store suggested a place on the street a couple blocks away and I drove over there. In the end this was all in vain, since the detergent dispenser in the launderette wouldn't accept the coins. This, after I'd walked up to the bank for change (shop wouldn't give me change; no change machine in the laundry).

So I said to hell with this place and drove on to Minehead.

Asked at a Shell station where the launderette was. Ended up driving past both of the ones they recommended and having to ask directions again at an ironmonger's. They were very nice and told me which one was the cheapest, to boot. Left the car where it was and took my backpack full of dirty clothes back down the street with me.

Well. This laundry was definitely cheaper, at 80p a wash, than Williton's. But it had no soap, either. Nothing for it but to shoulder my pack, dirty socks playing peekaboo below the flap, and go down the high street and find a shop to sell me some. Located a discount store and bought the smallest size Persil they had. They didn't give me a sack to put it in, which is typical around here.

So I just brazenly carried it back exposed. It's not like anyone knows me here, after all.

And the machines worked all right, so the clothes were washed and thank God for that.

As long as I was this far west, I decided to continue over to Selworthy, which is a National Trust town. Some people might think it was terminally quaint, but I rather liked it. If Real Life means plastic signs and McDonald's wrappers in the streets, I'm for necrophilia.

I left the car at the carpark up the hill below the church and walked back down, and in and among the houses on Selworthy Green. White walls (cob?), good recent thatch jobs, spring flowers everywhere. Very peaceful. Down along the road there were some bits that looked to be very ancient, like an old stone barn that had been incorporated into a dwelling, but these structures were behind walls and very private.

I especially liked the wooden signs at the crossings of the footpaths, telling how far it was-- by foot-- to the next village. I followed one such path a little way. After a short time I came abreast of a house on whose broad front lawn a small flock of sheep, including several new lambs, were grazing. If these sheep had been told anything about being timid, they weren't heeding it. The ewes especially came up to the fence and bleated and bleated, telling me explicitly that there was going to be no fooling around with their lambs if they could help it. Yes, ma'am!

At the top of the little paved road, where it turns to go past the church and the carpark, was a gate leading to a dirt track and a hiking trail. This led up to Selworthy Beacon. It wasn't far, only a mile or so, so I unhesitatingly passed the gate and headed uphill.

The path goes through a wood and along a little stream for most of its way. But then you come out onto moorland, all clothed with an unfamiliar yellow flowering shrub that looked none too pleasant to wade into.

The path, or more so, the road, continues up to the north until you get to the windy cairn-marked top, the Beacon. On clear days, they say, you can see all the way into Wales. Today with its foggy overcast one could only view Bridgwater Bay, with the great oceangoing ships blending their gray with that of the water.

I couldn't help but think how good it would be to have someone with me now to admire the view, obscured as it was. But would anyone else ever be so impulsively passionate about indiscriminate hill-climbing? I almost wished I could have someone magically transported to the top for me, so I wouldn't feel guilty about making them do the walk, in case they didn't like the view. I tried to picture Nigel* there with me, but it wouldn't fit. Nigel*-and-Emily* would have been a painful redundancy. But Nigel* without Emily* in such a circumstance would be abnormal and anomalous.

There's a National Trust shop down in the village. I bought some Somerset postcards and a jar of elderberry wine jelly. There was also a place that served cream teas but it, alas, was closed Mondays.

I continued in my quest to partake in this most civilised of ceremonies when I returned to Holford. But there, too, the shop across from the cottage only kept their tea shop counter open till 5:00, and it was just past that now.

Braving the rather brisk wind in my tweed blazer, I walked up the road into the depths of the village, as far as the lychgate of the church. Very pretty and worth more exploration when the wind and I can meet on more equal terms.

Took the evening off, spending most of it in the downstairs parlour (marginally warmer than the room). Watched the 6:00 o'clock news but most wrote postcards and journal and read Walter Scott.

I asked Mrs. Ayshford about the heat. She said, well, she supposed they're country people and just don't mind the cold. So, she said, having a heater in the guest room just never occurred to them. It seemed unlikely to do so now and I decided, at £8 a night, what do you expect? I can perfectly well survive by wearing my longies under my flannel nightgown and keeping as much of me as possible under the two duvets . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*looks around furtively* *whispers* ai luv impromtoo visits to hil tops... yu cud take me wif...

Back to speaking properly now, I HATE being cold. Good thing you had your long underwear.