DAY 7: BATH/STONEHENGE/GLASTONBURY

Up and out and heading past towns with ridiculous names like Bishops Nympton and Clapworthy, and enough Upmarys and Bussock Bottoms or Windy Breaks to have me smirking next to a stone-faced Passepartout.

We reach Bath. I have never been here before but the Greek tells me she has. A group of friends came and, she insists, had a spa. I find this very difficult to believe, but she maintains that she was here in Bath, lapping herself in the restorative waters, pampering just as the Romans did.

I am quickly taken by the beauty of Bath. I guessed the centre would be beautiful, perhaps a few streets round the Roman baths, the Crescent and the Circus. But in fact the Bath stone buildings start pretty much the moment you enter the town and me and my swivel-eye spend the whole journey into the centre enjoying the Georgian architecture.

We park the car on a meter and walk to the Baths. Passepartout looks crestfallen as we get to there and it transpires she hasn’t been to the Baths at all and the group of Greeks actually just had a modern spa in a hotel outside the town.

She won’t be getting in this time either, as the queue is formidable and tourists pack the square outside the Baths and the towering Abbey – with its humorous Jacob’s Ladder carvings – waiting to get in.

Instead, we choose the option of herDSC_0182-w1000-h1000 getting up on my shoulders and attempting to peer over the wall.

And so it is, in front of the perplexed Italians and Japanese, we giraffe around outside for a bit with Passepartout high on my shoulders, me tottering back and forth, as she grasps a glimpse of a bit of water and few faux Roman statues.

We walk around the town. Have an overpriced Bath bun. Try to block out the tourists. I’m more taken by the Nash architecture of the Royal Crescent than my travelling companion, but feel the one house that’s painted its door yellow rather than all the others’ uniform white appeals to her Greek sense of bloody-mindedness (Greeks love to follow no rule they’re ever told to follow. They say the only way to get a Greek to drive at 70mph on the motorways is to tell them “on no account must you ever drive at 70mph on this motorway”).

I look at the time and with horror note we only have 5 minutes before the parking meter runs out. With melodramatic tales of the poisonous behaviour of British traffic wardens that I have heard (but have no idea if true or not) I tell Passepartout that I’ll race back to the car. It’s no good her coming, she’s too slow and she’ll only get us lost.

Out of breath having taken wrong turns all over the town, I arrive at the car half an hour later to find her patiently waiting behind the wheel, eyebrow arched. No parking wardens to be seen.

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Veering off the vague idea of a vague orbit of the UK for a bit, we head east rather than west from Bath as I feel we really should see Stonehenge on this trip. You can’t leave the country without seeing the obvious.

We arrive at the stone circles as the sun begins to set. We drive up to the gate and are told by the hi-vis jacketed guard that we’ll have to pay £32 to get in.

£32.

There is a pause. We stare at each other. A longer pause. He finally breaks. “You can just walk round there” he says, pointing to the left of the roped off area. “You can see exactly what you can see in here and it’s free”. So we do and take our pictures and wonder, as I suppose all do, just what these stones are about. I don’t even attempt an explanation to Passepartout this time.

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We head back to the car. We have an appointment to keep with a friend in Bristol but I feel, as we’re in semi mystic-mode, we should try and get to Glastonbury before night completely falls and head onto to Bristol afterwards.

We arrive at the Glastonbury Tor as the light of the day is spluttering to an end. Climb up in the gloaming, with an accompanying surrounding of light rain. At the top, the only ones here, we stare out at the counties of Wiltshire and Somerset and Dorset as they slowly put their lights on, and the wheeling, dark green chessboard fields fade into greater darkness. Even in the fallen crepuscule stacking up over us, it is a fine sight.

Day 7 - 5-w1000-h1000And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountain green?

Well who knows? But as I peer from our high point I can just about see a cycling policeman far below us stop his bicycle and take down the number of our hastily and I now realise, quite illegally parked car. Stranded impotently 500 feet up in the air, there is nothing to do but watch him and let go with with a low, inward howl, and then make our way down and head into Glastonbury town.

Passepartout doesn’t feel the otherworldlyness of the town much, but I do. It’s not just all the ludicrous witchcraft shops (‘The Goddess and The Green Man’, ‘The Wonky Broomstick’) or the wafts of patchouli oil as we walk down the High Street, I genuinely get the feeling there’s ‘something’ here.

Passepartout has no time for it and her mood doesn’t improve in the ancient George and Pilgrim pub either as the local aging hippies top up their spirituality on pints of walloping cider and a Spanish tourist perches her socked feet next to us by the fire to dry out.

I still maintain my beatific disposition even back in the car as we get lost in the narrow country roads and consult antediluvian road sign with pointing hands telling us the arcadian way to Bristol.

We arrive late, my friend having laid a Great British cold spread of pork pies and scotch eggs for us – as always, gingerly eaten by the Greek – and I later dwell on and dream of England’s hermetic Avalon, the Merlin magic of western Britain, as I drift off to sleep in the Ikea bed of the rather cold upstairs spare bedroom.