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 and Windy Breaks to have me smirking next to a stone-faced Passepartout.

We reach Bath.

I’ve 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’m easily taken by the beauty of Bath. I’d guessed the centre would be beautiful, perhaps a few streets round the Roman baths, the Crescent and the Circus. But 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 drinking in 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 had 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 comedic Jacob’s Ladder carvings – waiting to get in.

Instead, we choose the option of herDSC_0182-w1000-h1000 getting up on my shoulders and we attempt 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 has painted its door yellow rather than all the others’ uniform white appeals to her Greek sense of bloody-mindedness.

(Unlike the Brits, the Greeks of course love to follow no rule they’re ever told to follow. They say in fact 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 see 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 Passepartout patiently waiting behind the wheel, eyebrow arched. No parking wardens to be seen anywhere.

*

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.

Well, 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 too, 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.

We climb up in the gloaming, and a covering 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 buildings start to burn on the wheeling, dark green chessboard fields. Even in the fallen darkness 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?

Did Jesus really walk on this mound as Blake’s poem asks? Well I have no time to dwell on all that as as I peer from our high point down on our own chariot of fire.

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 just watch him ticket us and then let go with with a low, groaning, inward howl.

We make our way down in silence, 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 really get the feeling there’s ‘something’ here.

Passepartout has no time for it at all, 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.

A terrifically drunk man with a face like one of those slobbering dogs that you never want to pet, but who wipe their faces all over your trousers anyway, grabs her and hugs her close to his large sagging body inside his large sagging green t-shirt with psychedelic spirals, and tries to talk about ley lines.

When we find a seat, a Spanish tourist perches her socked feet next to us on the grill by the fire to dry out.

But 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, all the Merlin magic of western Britain, as I drift off to sleep in the Ikea bed of the rather cold upstairs spare bedroom.