Thursday, April 17, 2008

UK ROAD TRIP APRIL 2008


LONG AND WINDING ROAD

Thursday

At mid-day I picked up the rental car. Somehow I managed to get talked into upgrading and taking out extra insurance so the damn rental ended up costing a whole lot more than I bargained for, but oh well it's only money. Intending to stop at the Gretna Services, I accidentally blew right past the off ramp - head in the clouds. Whoops.

So I pulled into the next services half an hour down the road. Time for a quick pitstop and a hot chocolate...which I ended up accidentally dropping in the back seat all over the floor - when aiming for the cup holder (whoops, again).

Landed in Manchester just after 5pm - having just long enough to slap on some make up (and I do mean slap), a few straighteners through the hair and off I went. Walked up to Deansgate and meet new chums at The Atlas Bar. We have a good girly laugh until we're all so famished we have to head out for food. Stop for a quick few shots taken outside where the Hacienda used to be...All that's left is a sign saying "Hacienda (Apartments)". (Incidentally - that's the Hilton in the background of the picture). I enjoyed seeing the sights of Manchester and having an amazing meal in Chinatown too. I was floored by the kindness of semi-strangers. Well, we're no longer strangers, I guess. After a great Chinese dinner we have a quick tour of the city and it's back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep. I loved the hospitality in Manchester. I'd definitely considering going back one day, and seeing more of that fair city. It sure seemed like a nice one.

FRIDAY

The next morning - after not sleeping great - I decided to walk to the Salford Lad's Club - made famous thanks largely due to the Smiths (Stop Me if You Think That You've Heard This One Before)...so there I am at 9am trying to take self-portraits in front of the building when a man walks up and asks if I want my picture taken - which of course I did. Then he said, "would you like to see the Smiths room?" - which of course I did...and so it turns out it was the infamous Lesley Holmes who is one of the men who runs the place. It just so happened that he was looking out the window from the office and noticed my sad attempts at photographs.

I ask him about being on the SECRET MILLIONAIRE and he tells me about being on the ONE SHOW the week before (last).

He gave me a tour of the legendary building so seeped in history. I spent some time in the Smiths' room - looking at the photographs from fans all over the world. There's also a little area in the room where you can write something on a post it and leave the message which eventually gets added to the wall.

The Smiths sing one of my "top five" songs of all time ("How Soon is Now?") but for some reason quoting a lyric from that track didn't seem fitting so I merely wrote "Good times for a change" and dated it. Short and sweet.

I left the building promising to send down my picture (that Lesley took) to add to the wall...along with a donation for the club. I quite wanted the t-shirt pictured here.

Besides I've often thought of calling my autobiography BIG MOUTH STRIKES AGAIN so it seems apt.

Lesley pointed me in the direction of Old Trafford and I marched over in the pissing rain - all so I could get a souvenir for Brent. (Shheeesh, the things I do for my friends). And I struggled to get a bus and instead had to fork out money for a taxi due to it nearing 'check out' time.

I definitely want to go back to Manchester. I feel I only scratched the surface.

So having nowhere to be (and no one to see) on Friday - I, for some crazy reason, decided to head to CHEDDAR. I found myself checked into a B&B called Wassells. Run by a young couple, 2 kids and their noisy dogs. It was a lovely little place and affordable to. I checked in, relaxed for a bit before heading up to the village to find some dinner.

Friday night means it has to be Fish and Chips (or something like that). I end up eating alone at Tuckers. Not to worry, the locals were friendly and chatted much to me.

After dinner though getting rather dark, I tried to venture up the Gorge but a few miles up, I gave up and headed back down the mountainside (mostly because I had visions of it ending up a horror-film type-statistic by breaking down and being murdered or something).

SATURDAY


The next morning I pottered about Cheddar, popped to the village to pick up some postcards and then headed out toward Wells and through Glastonbury (just to say I've been to Glastonbury).

Seemingly hours later (and four seasons of weather), I arrived in deepest, darkest Devon to Julia's pub. Well not her pub, but the pub she works in. The village is called Spreyton. It was about 500 feet long I think. Pretty much just a bunch of cute cottages.

The road I traveled to get there was in fact the tiniest single-track road I'd ever seen in my life. It was more than worrying when I reached a river and had to drive through it. (Good thing I got that extra coverage on the rental car huh?)

When Julia finished work I followed her the four miles (across more tiny roads) to her converted chapel. It literally looked like a green tin shack from the outside (though, admittedly a cute shack) and inside the chapel was expansive an homey. I fell in love. It was blissfully relaxing. A few hours later Julia heads out to her other job and I watch SPELLBOUND on the laptop.

Upon her return we head to a nearby village to pick up fish and chips and have an early night. Julia kindly offers me her big comfy bed and opts to sleep on a blow-up mattress with her shaven poodle,...

SUNDAY

Sunday afternoon we head for lunch at the White Hart in a nearby village called Bridestowe, and when we return to the chapel, I conduct my first interview of this road trip.

It's the longest interview to date, and deservedly so as Julia's story is a cracker. Can you imagine being married for like twelve years and finding out you married a bigamist? Well it happened to her...

MONDAY

Monday morning I film a few more bits and hit the road - destination Dorset. Sometime around 2pm - I arrive to meet the lovely art student, Helen in Poole. Dropping off my bags - we head out around the Quay and I fall in love with this place too. It made me want to pack my bags and move to the coast.

It sure helped that the weather was the best day of the year so far and we could sit and have tea and scones on the waterfront! I might not have been quite as enamored had it been pissing with rain, hail, and so forth. But as luck would have it my time in Poole was exceptional. Helen offered to curl my hair before we headed to Bournemouth to meet Karen. It took much longer than we'd bargained for and we ended up being fashionably late - and I had lopsided hair!

Treated the girls to dinner, (as it was the least I could do for their time), and then we filmed Karen on the Bournemouth Pier.

It was a pretty night but the darkness was soon upon us and we went our separate ways.

TUESDAY

The next morning, I dash out early to meet a networking friend of mine for the first time - face to face. How strange it was to have been at Poole at the same time - as Paul, is from Marlowe.

Helen was a little lucky - as she is the only one (so far) who's been able to watch an interview before she was forced to sit in the hotseat - so she got a chance to see what to expect. We decided to go to a nearby beach --- Sandbanks Beach.

Due to the waves and a whirring sound of the mic - I (pretty much) shot the interview like three times. Bound to be some useful footage in there somewhere. Well here's hoping!

As I was heading north of London that afternoon, I aimed to be near the M25 before peak time - which meant a 1pm set-off time from Dorset.

Quite frankly I could have just stayed in Poole. I loved it.

The ride to Hannah's was a fairly smooth one. I channel hopped through various stations along the way and made it to my destination before 4pm. I let myself into the house, made a tea and some toast and had a shower. Han's home is my home-away-from-home. It felt wonderful to have the big house to myself for a few serene hours. Han's house is never serene when they're are people actually in it so I have to take it while I get it. I often tease her that a visit to her (lovely) loud home actually makes me appreciate my zen-like abode. Nothing like a bit perspective eh?

WEDNESDAY

Wednesday it was great to not have to get in the car and drive anywhere but I did have an early meeting with my new lawyer - just off Oxford Street in St. Christopher's Place. What a great little area I'd never discovered before. I had time to kill after that meeting and before my next so I wandered around London a bit.

I hopped on a random bus not really caring where it was heading. I got off at Victoria and hopped the tube to Mornington Crescent. Ninety minutes early - I had a solo lunch at the Crescent next to the tube station and paid an arm-and-a-leg for internet access. I love going to Mornington because every time I do it makes me think of MADNESS.

THURSDAY: TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME

After a chilled out night - I got an early start on my journey home. It's a four-hundred mile journey - which was made even longer due to the fact that I thought I'd be clever with a motorway change and ended up having to double back on myself - so the entire journey home ended up being 425.2 miles. Whoops. Well I always wanted to see the Yorkshire Dales.

Welp, that wraps up the week. Did you miss me?

Anyhow, I shot three hundred (or more) photographs which I'll slowly sort through. It was one of the best trips of my life. It literally was a wonderful week which make me reflect on just how blessed my life truly is. How blessed we all are really.

"Every day above ground is a good day" says Tom McRae. Am truly feeling Zenlike. Tired but zen-like.

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