Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Winchester, 19.6.90: Sunlit Cathedrals and Hawaiian Shirts

We got settled late last night and were so tired, I got to write nothing in the journal. Now the 2nd night we’re in England. Writing this at a b and b in Winchester as sun sets, 8:50 P.M.

We arrived in England yesterday by jet foil at 12:15 English time. I was so tired I slept on the foil—especially after a lunch on the foil of salmon in a cloyingly sweet pink sauce, a meat salad in an equally sweet sauce, a good potato salad in a mustard vinaigrette, and frangipani and chocolate.

Things very tense with Steve and K. and A. in afternoon. K. almost hysterical as we passed through customs, a quality British inspectors apparently do not appreciate. We managed to get through, got the rental car, and drove on to Canterbury. Was beginning to get gray and drizzly in Canterbury, and with the tensions and growing headache, all is a fog.

We did a quick and perfunctory tour of the cathedral, which was full of (other) tourists, especially Germans. Then went to St. Margaret’s church, now converted into a rather hideous sound and statue and olfactory show of the Canterbury Tales. Since the guidebook said it, we went!

The real show were two English middle-aged couples, one from Sheffield, others from some place I didn’t understand. The men were both pot-bellied, one in a hat saying, “It used to be wine, women, and song; now it’s beer, the old lady, and telly.” The other had a loud Hawaiian shirt. One woman had long curly brown hair pulled into a top-of-head ponytail, a loud blouse, shorts, and sandals—very large and simpering. Shades of H.E. Bates.

From Canterbury through a beautiful Kentish village, Chilham. Had whitewashed buildings, one of them a Clements Cottage. A little bookstore in the village was lovely—went in to buy a map.

Then to Rye, by then full rain. We got in around 6 P.M. and found a b and b on the outskirts, chi-chi name Little S. Very middle-class gnomes in garden and ugly bright flowers. Owner, a Mrs. P., false-jolly with little shrewd eyes screwed up in merriment but actually piercing and evaluating.

Went out to eat in Rye and found the experience depressing. The fish and chips place we wanted to go to closed at 7, and A., misunderstanding, caused a scene.

So we went to a restaurant next door with local, high-priced food. I had lamb chops with tomatoes, mushrooms, and peas. K. trout and fennel, Steve and A. grilled lemon sole. With this came six vegetables. Not bad, but rude waiter named Jeremy. In fact, many tradesfolk we’ve encountered here seem mercenary and rude, with false bonhomie.

Today, got up at 7:30 and took hour’s walk down a lane. Sunny—took photos of Rye from a distance. Think I heard a cuckoo. Thought of home as we walked up some lanes—sheep and rabbits and green verges.

After frugal breakfast, drove to Winchelsea and went in pretty 14th-century church. Took pictures. Then through Hastings and up to a little village with 16th- and 17th-century pubs, Sedelscombe. Then over to Brighton—hideous, what we saw—and a little village called Alfriston, which was lovely. Another 14th-century church and a 13th-century clergy house, which we toured. Then had a pub lunch of stilton and bread and celery, chutney, cucumber, tomato, and ale.

After that, through Arundel, Lewes, and Petworth, where we didn’t stop, then on to Winchester. Somewhere along the way, something clicked—I felt a sense of belonging or something. Shortly after this, we passed from Sussex into Hampshire.

Got into Winchester after driving through beautiful South Downs Hills, many with ripe wheat. Winchester beautiful when we arrived at 5 P.M.—full sun. Got our b and b and walked to cathedral as it closed at 6:30. Then to St. Swithuns church and afterward to Wyckham Arms pub for country paté and cider. After that to St. Giles Hill, where we saw sun setting over the city. Then along Itchen River to b and b.

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