an idiot in london


Sunday, 23rd April.
On the road with Ian

In the five-and-a-half weeks I've been in England, I haven't been outside of London. I've been to Shepherd's Bush once, and there's no bush there. Thousands of Australians haven't worked that out yet.

The plan was this: get in Mark and Bonnie's mini, and drive! So we did. They arrived late (I only mention it because I am ALWAYS running late, and on this one occasion I was on time and was hanging around waiting for them to arrive) but we were on the outskirts of London by 9am.

I'd never been in a mini before, and let me tell you it's not just a clever name. I had the honour of travelling in the back seat with my knees around my gills.

We arrived at Stonehenge at about ten o'clock. The view as we crested the hill was quite surreal: a group of big stones, people shuffling around the big stones, and a carpark on the other side of the road. We putt-putt-putted up to the carpark, where we were greeted by an old-ish parking attendant with white hair.

"There are speed traps all along here. You were lucky." he said.
"Speed traps where?" asked Mark.
"Along this stretch of road. You were lucky."
"Lucky because they're not set up yet?"
"No, they're all along here. You're lucky you didn't get caught."
"We weren't going very fast."
"The speed limit's forty along here. I saw you. You were lucky."
"We wouldn't have got caught because we were going slowly." Mark stated with some frustration. Is this guy going to lecture us or is he going to advise us where to park?
"I saw how fast you were going. I see cars along here every day, I know how to judge their speed."
"We weren't breaking the speed limit!" Mark protested.
"I know how fast you were going. You ought to watch yourself."
"Whatever." Mark drove off into the carpark.

Mark decided that this strange bloke's name is Trevor, although I argued that he was more a Clive or a Terry, perhaps even a Neville. So Trevor he became.

Stonehenge itself was swarming with busloads of tourists. Tourists being led round by people with unfurled umbrellas in the air. There was a roped-off walkway around the monument, which went no closer than 15 metres from the stones. It's always strange (in a good way) to be finally seeing things and places that previously you had only read about in books.

We did a circuit of the stones, and went back to the car via the JAM PACKED souvenir shop. As we left the carpark Mark wound down his window and shook his fist yelling something about Trevor.

It was only after we had bumbled our way to the centre of Salisbury that we discovered that we had a streetmap of the city. Handy. From the carpark we headed towards the centre of town. We stopped at a small park with a stream running through it, and watched ducklings swimming across the quickly flowing waters. I must confess to a spot of barracking. After all the ducklings had made it accross (the last one was definitely lifted by the crowd, a gutsy effort) we found a pub that looked like it would offer some hearty (and cheap!) food.

One roast of the day (chicken) later, we went looking for Salisbury Cathedral. And an impressive construction it is too. To be frank, it's massive. I shuffled around inside the cathedral with my mouth wide open, in awe of my surrounds. And when I discovered that there was an original copy of the Magna Carta (one of four surviving) there at the Cathedral, I was like a little kid! I raced over to Bonnie and Mark and told them, and they acted all nonchalant like. I was excited. Out the side door, hang a left, through the double doors on your left and you're face to face with the Magna Carta. Woo-hoo!

Another first for me today: I saw some genuine Tudor houses. Not such a novelty for my companions, who found it amusing that I would stop outside of every single Tudor house and goggle at it.

We bade farewell to Salisbury and its Cathedral and drove off to Bath.

I nearly nodded off to sleep on the road to Bath, and I think we were all historied out by the time we got there. We parked at the Bath Cricket Club, and as we were wlking out of the carpark we had to make way for a car coming in. The passenger had bleach-blond hair, shoulder length, kept in place by sunglasses on his head, and was wearing a Billabong t-shirt. Bonnie and I laughed. "Check out the Australian!" I said. Bloody Australians are everywhere.

We didn't make it into the Roman Baths - 6.90 was a bit steep for us. So instead we hung around the gift shop and looked at books featuring the Roman Baths. We wandered around the centre of town, had a look at the cathedral, and eventually found our way to a little cafe that would not be out of place in St Kilda or Fitzroy. I was called "weak" by Bonnie for ordering a chocolate milkshake. Well, my milkshake rocked and her latte was ordinary, so who's laughing now eh?

I took the train back to London, and Bonnie and Mark camped the night in Bath, before heading on to Wales. Some of the seats on the train faced forwards, and some backwards. I sat in a seat facing the rear of the carriage, don't know why (any analysis, please send to someone who cares) and watched the coutryside go by as the train sped from town to town. I had a thought: why don't they have seats on aeroplanes facing backwards?