Bath Time

26th September

I must have been tired last night, as I didn’t save this in drafts and have had to copy and paste it back into my blog. I know I was tired because I couldn’t keep my eyes open and the blog wasn’t behaving itself. So I’m posting this now at 6.34 in the morning.

And I don’t know why the photos are all over the show.

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Pen after lugging my bag up 30 steps

I’m typing this in bed, looking out a window in the eaves.

This morning Seth was looking rather dejected as suitcases were being produced and he knew what that meant. He needn’t have worried. He’s going to have a dog sitter come and stay.

Pen’s neighbour Jan had kindly offered to take us to the railway station in Shrewsbury (pronounced ShrOwsbury according to some). The only railway station I know of that has a castle overlooking it. It was a lovely cloudless morning and Jan was a very good driver – with a little navigating from Pen in the back seat.

On the way we went past Stokesay Castle – check out last time for more information and pictures. I hadn’t even realised that there was a railway running by so close.

Our first trip was from Shrewsbury to Newport where we negotiated up the lift and over the platform to platform… I can’t remember if it was four or five.

Just had to plug my computer into the mains. Fortunately I can do that now.

Shrewsbury to Newport was “every (wo)man for him/herself” seating. Newport to Bath we had allocated seats, and we nearly missed ours when we followed someone into the carriage who was clearly eyeing them up. England trains show that a seat is reserved by having little tickets slotted into the back of the seats.

This trip went via Bristol, which is where the Fanderson Convention was held five years ago. You can see photos of that glorious Brunel station in my blog of that time.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed Bristol Temple Meads Station, also had a hand in the track leading up to Bath’s station, which he designed. But as we were dragging our suitcases we didn’t have time to check that out. We were on the hunt for our lodgings, the Argos (for my power adaptor), and a Post Office. Not necessarily in that order.

Bath is good in that it clearly regards itself as a tourist town and therefore has plenty of maps so that you can keep track of where you’re going. What’s not so good is the slight incline we had to climb as we hunted down Bay Tree House.

We got to an area called Kingsmead Square and heard the jangling of bells. There was an exhibition of Morris Dancing going on. The dance finished just as we got there and Pen asked one of the performers what was happening. I think he said there’s a festival of Morris Dancing on. About the only word I understood was “Rugby”.
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But he did say that they were going to have another dance so we sat in Kingsmead Square in Bath, ate our buns, and watched Morris Dancers under the gaze of a building made in 1735.

Only in England.

There was also a market stall selling fresh fruit and vegetables (including kiwis – grr), so we bought some raspberries.

Onwards and upwards!

We were looking at a map to find out which way we needed to go to, to get to our accommodation, when someone asked me if I could direct him to…

“Sorry. I’m from the other side of the world!”

We had two other requests for directions during the day. We must have looked like we knew were we were going.

We reached the Bay Tree House and rang the bell. I haven’t seen the Bay Tree yet. Come to that, I haven’t seen any staff members. We’d been sent an email with a code so we could let ourselves in, but we tried the systems to alert someone before we dug that out.
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First: ring the doorbell.

No response.

Second: press the intercom. Pen did this and the intercom didn’t go to the answer phone as it promised to do, but was answered by someone. The door was opened remotely and we lugged my case inside.

No one there.

But there was a table with various advertising material, a visitors’ book, and an envelope with Sereena Burton on it there. Inside the envelope was a letter of introduction and a key to our room.

I stayed with our bags and Pen went to suss it out. She came back downstairs. “The good news is that I’ve found our room.”

“The bad news is that it’s the top floor?”

I wasn’t disappointed. Even after dragging my suitcase up 30 steps. This is the room they used in the advertising and it’s an attic style with a sloping ceiling and skylight windows above each bed, so you could lie there and look out at the sky. The reality is that the lights from the carpark over the road obscure any view of the stars, but it’s still a nice room and the one I’d hoped to get.

The photos still aren’t working. That first photo of Pen should be before his paragraph and this one should have a caption: We’re sharing the bathroom with room five next door.

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If I remember correctly, the water landed in the hills some 10,000 years ago. And I don’t know why this picture’s here. I inserted it several paragraphs later.

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The Bath Abbey from inside the Roman Baths

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The central heating system. The pillars supported the floor, allowing hot air and steam to circulate heating the rooms.

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Bath Abbey

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Angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder

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Having a shower

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St Paul

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St Peter. He’s shorter than St Paul because one of Cromwell’s men knocked his head off. They remade his head out of his beard.

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We got ourselves sorted and then went off on an Argos and Post Office hunt.

The Argos was only a couple of blocks away, so I went in, found the “Fast Track” area, put the code that they’d given me into the kiosk and then inserted my travel card.

“PIN unable to be accessed.”

Gordon Bennett.

So I had to go up to the counter, give them the code, and then the helpful assistant went and got my power adaptor for me. I had to sign the credit card slip for it and she even got an old style Zip-Zap machine so she could process the payment. She didn’t use it in the end. (Notes on Zip-Zap machines. When Campbell Tube Products first got one it was called an “Imprest machine”. By the time the second incarnation came along the bank had figured out that Zip-Zap machine was what everyone called it.)

But I paid for and got my power adaptor. Yay!

Now to find the Post Office.

Pen’s work is collecting statistics. I still can’t get over that they actually pay people to travel around the country to peoples’ homes and ask them questions. New Zealand, as far as I’m aware, they either ring up or do it on line. I had one survey earlier in the year that kept on asking questions like: “Would you like to live in a town with an historic shopping precinct and a modern mall?” And: “Would you live in a town within one hour major cities?” I was thinking “I do!”

And I did. The survey was to see if people would consider living in Thames.

Anyway. Pen had some information that she had to post to her bosses and she wanted to make sure that it was handed to someone at a Post Office and not just stick it in a box.

We found one. It had a museum attached dedicated to the English postal service as Bath was where the first Penny Black postage paid envelope was posted.

We had a look through the Guildhall Market. One of the stalls was a sweetshop called “Bath Humbug”, which I thought was clever.

I like Bath. They’ve made a real effort to remain true to their historic past. We found a Waitrose Supermarket that that appeared to be a new building, but done in a style that echoed those historic buildings around it. Why didn’t the Treasury do something similar instead of dumping a shipping container next to the grand Carnegie Library? Because they had an architect with no imagination and no skills, that’s why.
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Don’t you love the Internet? It’s 7.30am, I’m sitting in bed in Bath waiting for the people in the room next to ours to finish using the joint bathroom so I can go and get washed, and D.C. and I are having a typed Skype conversation! J

Our first touristy thing was a visit to the Roman baths. After all, it’s what made Bath “Bath”.

The entrance is a Victorian reception hall decorated as the Victorians thought the Romans would have had it. Fail, but it’s very grand.
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The Roman baths date from roughly 2000 years ago and are in quite good nick considering the intervening years. Some things, like the temple pediment are in amazingly good condition.

The baths are well below street level, which shows you how much activity has occurred over the centuries as well as flooding and silting up – much of which has helped preserve what’s there.
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It must be Sunday morning. I can hear the church (Abbey?) bells.
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Grr. Photos aren’t behaving themselves and staying where they should be. The above should have a caption saying that the guy in the toga was great because he was remaining in character. “1879, Citizen? But it is 85 AD. How can you speak of 1879?”

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Celtic jewellery

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Gorgon’s head from the temple’s pediment. They say he’s ferocious with his head of snakes, but I think his has quite a nice face.

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Owl on the temple’s pediment

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Angel climbing Jacob’s Ladder outside the Abbey

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Where Stew took a dip. Don’t know why this photo’s here and not later on.

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Almond tart

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Chicken and garlic sauce on a trencher bread style Sally Lunn. They used to use trencher bread in place of plates.

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Starter. Sally Lunn garlic bread

At one point it asked (for children) “can you smell that funny smell?” My answer was: “No.” I was expecting a strong sulphurous odour like Rotorua, but I couldn’t smell anything particularly pungent. However I did notice the taste when, right at the end, they have a drinking fountain so you can taste the waters. It’s not exactly Lemon and Paeroa. The cups were cone shaped paper ones and were surprisingly hard to hang on to.
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We were practically kicked out as we left at closing time. (After a detour through the gift shop. I bought a new collapsible water bottle. I hope it doesn’t leak like the ones at home.)

We had planned on having dinner at a Gourmet Burger Bar that resides within the Brunel railway vaults on Brunel Square, but decided that as we were going on a walk at 8.00pm it would be prudent to have our meal at the pub where the walk started – the Huntsman Inn.

But tonight’s a flamin’ Rugby World Cup match night, isn’t it. The Huntsman was full of rugby fans watching the big screen, wasn’t it.

So we hunted out another eating establishment.

I’ll say here and now there was no fear of not finding anything. Bath’s probably as bad as Thames when you consider the population.

So where did we eat? At Sally Lunn’s. “The oldest house in Bath and home of the famous Sally Lunn bun.” Which isn’t necessarily covered in icing sugar and coconut and shoplifted from P ‘n S. (Family joke there. A distant relative used to visit us and bring a Sally Lunn. We read in the paper later that she got done for shoplifting.)
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The walk was “Bizarre Bath”. A walk that not so much explains the history of bath as makes you laugh about it… Or about things totally unrelated.
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For instance our guide, Noel Britten, pointed out a plaque to John Palmer, which has been mounted in a piece of wall that had either formerly been a door or was pretending to be a door to make the building symmetrical. Noel claimed that John had produced such doors. And windows, as we came to other similar artefacts. And a cat flap when we got to a smaller shape.
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As I said, the walk was due to start at The Huntsman pub, but we went around the corner to

Noel had a good memory. He asked if anyone from overseas was present. Canada was offered to be made to feel at home by offering them a toy Harp seal pup and a club. I was next and he offered to speak slowly so I’d understand – and from then on I was called “New Zealand”. Australia was “welcome home”. But if he asked anyone their name, he remembered it.

We then started walking. We came to the Seventh Day Adventist building, which is next to the 20m wide Bath Abbey and alongside looks to be the size of two garden sheds. (Pen and I had commented on it earlier.) Noel said that if he was going to choose between the Seventh Day Adventists and the Church of England Abbey – well, he knew which seemed more likely to get him into heaven.

We came to one of the Abbey’s concave decorations, that could conceivably have held a statue, and that was one of John Palmer’s doors that had been vandalised when someone tried to push it in. The fence that ran along the side of Abbey and was only about two feet high wasn’t burglar-proof until they locked the equally low gate.

Noel had a soft toy rabbit called Stewart – known as Stew… Pen and I seemed to be the only ones to get the joke. Harry Houdini had taught him his escapologists’ tricks. So Stew was trussed up in chains, put in a “mailbag”, I handed Noel a purple rope with a carabiner on the end which was clipped to the bag, and then thrown into the River Avon. Ten seconds later another stuffed toy rabbit floated to the surface. We’re still trying to work out how he did it.

Noel did a trick whereby a woman lent him her wedding ring, which he tied to a balloon which flew away higher than the Abbey. Then “Stew” comes trundling in on a remote car, Noel took the ball of wool he was holding, unravelled it, the woman looked into the purse that was revealed and there was her ring. We still haven’t worked out how he did it.

The walk ended with the stocks with a gallows addition. We all had to show our authorised Bizarre Bath wrist bands. I think I was nearly selected for having mine too loose, but Australia went up to be put into the stocks. We were all supposed to boo and hiss, so I yelled out “Underarm!” Then the three carrots around “Australia’s” head were chopped in half using the guillotine, but her neck was fine.

It was a great, extremely funny evening and well worth the £8.
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