Random musings from the front line (well, more like the support trench, or perhaps the castle 10 miles away, supping Chateau Lafite with the General Staff) in the battle for curiosity, inertia, grammar and a Dachshund called Colin.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

An Interesting Week

The hero of Trent Bridge - with an obviously violated gusset in his cricket whites. What would WG Grace say, Freddie?!Well, it's been an interesting week. In fact, I don't think that I've experienced such a wide range of emotions in such a brief period, at any time in my life, ever. When I started blogging, only a few months ago, I thought I'd stick to the big picture stuff, telling both my readers the sort of lucid (albeit familiar 6th form debating society style) opinions on random subjects that would have otherwise passed them by - unless they sat near me in the pub on a Monday between the rounds of the bizarre weekly "Meat Raffle-cum-Quiz" thing that is amazingly popular (standing room only yesterday!). In other words, I'd leave off from discussing my personal life, my day-to-day happenings, almost entirely on the grounds that others do it more regularily, and much more entertainingly, than I could ever manage. But that's before I went on a holiday/road trip, during the course of which England played the most nail-bitingly tense game of cricket ever, a friend of mine let slip a particularly-sensitive secret, and I visited some stunning areas of the country that I never knew existed.

Secrets. Secrets for sale. Anyone for secrets...So, from the Ashes I had nervousness, tension, anticipation and addiction - all the while trying to remember that I was on holiday and supposed to be "seeing the sites" and being sociable. From my friend's indiscretion, I experienced the dubious "gifts" of incredulity, anger, and a slight fear about being the source of gossip for evermore. And all of this, played out in areas of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Monmouthshire, Powys, Somerset and Wiltshire (again) whose beauty quite literally took my breath away. A wander around the student-less colleges in Oxford in the evening sunshine, a pint in (IMHO) the best pub in England (Falkland Arms, Great Tew since you ask) a walk up to the highest point of the Malvern Beacon that started dry and ended torrentially wet, a boozy night in the ancient Saracen's Head pub at the base of the stunning Symonds Yat on the River Wye, and 10 minutes on a waterbed in a gorgeous B&B (top room in a converted windmill) before the landlady kicked me out onto the streets because she'd double-booked and there was a couple "who were regular" coming and they therefore who took priority. I assume by "regular", she meant a repeat-visitor, rather than they had quotidian bowel movements.

The mythical view from the other side. Only the bravest of the brave ever see this sight! But for me, the weirdest emotion was going back to my old school, in Bristol, for the first time since I left at 18. The buildings were exactly as I remembered them - I even found my name scratched in the stone in the smokers' corner at the back of one building (my only graffito - I'm so proud), the streets were weirdly unfamiliar because they were empty (I've never been there in school holidays before) and with no teachers/staff around it was like a walk into a ghost town recreation of my childhood. But then I went to Clifton Suspension Bridge - world's number 3 suicide spot and scene of my most embarrassing schoolboy The Scariest Place in The World When You're 12
moment ever. My school's playing fields were (are) the other side of Clifton Gorge from the city of Bristol (where the school is), and children from my school (and a few others) were allowed to walk across for free to get there on sports afternoons, rather than pay the 20p everyone else had to. Most of the time, this was unnecessary as there were buses that ferried you directly to/from school the longer way round via a much stronger bridge further downstream the river. However, if you were late for the bus, or were banned from the bus as punishment, you HAD to walk to the playing fields. The first time I did this, when I was 12, I got about a third of the way over the bridge, chatting away with my pals, when I glanced over the side. All of a sudden, it felt like my stomach had exploded with fear, my head started swimming and (worst of all) the bridge started twisting over - threatening to topple us over the side. I dropped to the pavement, in floods of tears and vomit, knowing the end was nigh for me, barely noticing the amazed gasps of my friends, who didn't seem to notice the bridge's imminent collapse.

The awful realisation that this was something that affected me alone rapidly dawned, and to guffaws of pre-pubescent glee, I rolled into the road (ie vehicle) carriageway and crawled to the other side of the bridge, terrified, and accompanied by the horns of irate drivers stuck behind a slowly moving schoolboy. From that moment, I never set foot on that bridge again, convinced that it was my Kryptonite, my Picture of Dorian Gray, my Albatross. That is ... never until last Saturday, when I (having taken several deep breaths) walked to the other side, unaided, neither crying, vomiting, nor crawling on the way. Admittedly it took some encouragement, but I did it. And took the photo to prove it! So ... that's one particular demon buried, and one that gave me a very rare emotion indeed. Complete relief that I'm not a wuss. On Clifton Suspension Bridge, anyway!

For my next trick - I'm going to try and watch the last Ashes test without having a heart attack. But I don't hold out much hope.

5 Rants & Replies:

Blogger Mark Gamon said...

The best pub in England is the Blisland Inn, Blisland, Cornwall. That's TECHNICALLY England as opposed to actually being considered a part of England by the residents, of course. I mention this only because it's the sort of place you can wander into on a quiet weekday lunchtime and entirely forget that Test Match cricket even exists and wander out blissfully happy at around midnight without feeling any pain whatsoever.

2:23 pm, August 31, 2005

Blogger Merkin said...

I disagree, Mr G! We should have a live webcast votey thingy. Falklands Arms every time. Although the Grenadier in Knightsbridge is a VERY close second!

11:21 am, September 01, 2005

Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Your holiday sounded wonderful and at one point you weren't a million miles from Lupin Towers.
I'm guessing that you might have gone to the school where 'If' was filmed. Hope you didn't shoot up the Headmaster.

5:39 pm, September 01, 2005

Blogger Merkin said...

I think "If" was filmed at Cheltenham College, which I didn't attend. However, I did visit there once, as the Vice-Captain of my school's 5th XV rugby team. We lost 86-0. It wasn't humiliating - just very boring, as we couldn't play the sport at all but were press-ganged into playing it against the local rivals for "form's" sake.

I'll say one thing about "If" though. I never quite looked at our Matron the same way again after those nude wandering-around-the-dormitories scenes in the film. Rather disturbing for a confused 15 year old boy, I seem to remember. Oh, hang on, it all falls into place now....

6:24 pm, September 01, 2005

Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I've heard both schools mentioned as a location so I wonder if both were used.
The best story about 'If' is that critics read all kinds into the clever use of both colour and black and white film. But Lindsay Anderson said they only shot some scenes in black and white because they didn't have enough money to use colour for the whole film.

3:53 pm, September 03, 2005


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