Monday 20 April 2015

Backward, eastward

And I'm back. On a train as usual.  Travelling backwards,  as usual. Actually,  I was thinking about that. I think actually I am more likely to travel forwards on my way out and backwards on my way back. Of course, now that I've noticed that I can never actually tested it,  as I will have contaminated the science. Oh well. I will probably live. Anyway,  I've spent the last two days cycling around southwest England,  which is definitely my favourite part of the country. Green and hilly and friendly. I've decided I should give Bristol another look as a potential post London place to live. I actually think David would like the south west as well,  as it is absolutely full of places to hike,  amazing beaches and places selling overpriced bits of doodah, sort of England's answer to redwood burls. It certainly beats the crap out of the southeast,  much of which seems to be full of London's detritus. So,  yesterday I took a mid morning train to Castle Cary,  which sounds grand but isn't. I was supposed to have been on an earlier train,  but my amazingly attuned nighttime noise detector was set off by R and Co getting ready to go out on a Saturday night. Much whining ensued and I had to get a later train ticket and shorten my ride. The upshot of that was that I had to improvise some of the route and ended up on some loser roads. Also,  I discovered an important factoid on the train,  which is that you should never tie even a loose knot on the holding straps when the velcro doesn't work as that very loose knot becomes a very tight knot and you can't get it loose and you get stressed and your hands shake and the train driver comes and yells at you for making the train late(er) and you split your thumb nail and you want to tell him because it hurts but that sounds a lot like I broke my nail and he has to cut the strap with his Swiss army knife which seems to have been done a number of times before and the whole thing is just really icky. So,  starting on little sleep and with a train fiasco and a sore nail, yesterday admittedly passed a bit in a blur. I did,  however, have the fun of getting to buy acrylic nail varnish at a superdrug in Yeovil, a small, rather ugly town that seems to have a small,  rather ugly genepool.  Anyway,  eventually I got near the south coast. The British coast is funny. It sort of sneaks up on you. Rolling fields and farms,  fields and farms,  random towns,  some craptastic and some quite cute and oh my God it's like someone just bit off the end of the country! There are several subtle signs though of increasing coastaliness if you know where to look,  however. An increase in VW camper vans or trailers towed by improbably small cars. Random campsites in farmers' fields (why?),  large cliffs with larger wet bits beyond...  So,  eventually I went sailing down a screamingly steep hill into the very cute town of Sidmouth. An interesting thing about Sidmouth, beyond the feeling of fading glory,  is that it seems to be a UKIP haven. On my whole ride I saw no posters for Labour,  but it was only when I got near Sidmouth that UKIP started to appear. There did seem to be two foreign people working at my hotel and one guy who wasn't bleached white and old,  like the rest of the town. I could see there was a palpable sense of foreign danger. There was also a guy working at the hotel with a handlebar mustache who was thick as a brick and possibly a poof. I am glad UKIP will be there to bring things under control. Anyway,  my room,  in one of those cool old leany overy don't the floors creak a lot kind of British hotels,  overlooked the water. It was kind of nice hearing the waves (and the occasional car) and I actually slept pretty well on my little single mattress with the annoying springs. Today.  Well,  today was about seeing if I could completely exhaust myself on hills. I was supposed to cycle from Sidmouth to Plymouth via Exeter and Dartmoor. However,  I kind of forgot that Devon tiny roads are often roads in only the most general sense that they usually have a start and an end. Sometimes,  however,  they turn to dirt (rock) for no apparent reason,  causing you to have to completely improvise your route and quite often (usually) they are going up or down 25% grades just because they are there and let's put some potholes in just for fun. Oh,  and the other things about moors is that they exist outside of normal physics in that they don't actually have a top. They just have various states of increasing despair as you realise that 1200 or so British feet in elevation translates into about 9000 Swiss feet because they have normal mountains and proper roads. Still though,  Dartmoor is gorgeous and I must go back. I didn't make it to Plymouth though. I turned around after having the world's slowest panini in Moretonhampstead and headed back to Exeter (which you would think would be all downhill based on the fact that the other way was all uphill,  but as there seems to have been some earth movement it wasnt). Exeter apparently used to have some magnificent architecture,  but the Germans and the local Council redecorated and so most of it is now rather square and utilitarian. The city drink seems to be fortified lager. It's charming. From Exeter I made the fatal mistake of allowing the Garmin to pick the route to Tiverton. The nice thing about Exeter to Tiverton is that one can go up the river valley, admiring the lush,  rolling and very tall hills on both sides. Garmin felt it very important to maximise the view and made sure I experienced all of the very tall and very steep hills. So,  by the time I got to Tiverton,  after only 65 miles,  I was pretty sure I wanted to die. Tiverton is a small station and the single person working there also has to direct trains. As I was travelling with a bike,  which usually requires a bike reservation on this line,  I had to wait at the tickets counter,  getting increasingly nervous as the arrival time drew near. Finally the guy came back, about 4 minutes before the train was to arrive. The woman in front of me thought this would be an opportune time to buy a group of super saver ticket for next week on a complicated route. I finally suggested to her that maybe she could wait until those trying to make this train had made our purchases as the guy behind the counter wasn't going to. So,  she finally stomps off,  everyone else just makes the train and now I'm still travelling backwards,  a lot closer to London than before. Not a bad two days,  really.

No comments: