Sunday, September 20, 2020


We’ve just returned from holiday (or, as you in the US might say, We just got back from vacation) and, as usual, it already feels like we never left. There is laundry to be done, dishes to wash, and it seems that no one did the hoovering while we were gone.

And right now, what sticks foremost in my mind, is not the relaxing time we had, but the driving.

In traveling to and from the cottage—as well as nearly every excursion we went on during the week—we routinely ran into ROAD CLOSED signs. As you can imagine, due to the roads in that locality being unfamiliar to us, this caused quite a bit of consternation. And our Sat-Nav was of little use. No one had informed it of the road closures so all it did was lead us to closed roads and then try to circle us around so we could see the ROAD CLOSED sign again.

We saw a lot of these on holiday.

Travel aside, the weather was stunning and at least we were able to go on holiday.

When things began to open up, we decided to try to go…somewhere. Abroad was out of the question as it was too much of a crap-shoot: you might book a holiday only to find your location added to a “No Go” list at the last minute or, even worse, get there and then find your destination on the “No Go” list. Therefore, we stayed in-country, opting to go to Somerset, instead, which was very nice, indeed.

The cottage was located in the countryside, with the back garden bordering a broad field, offering views of curious alpacas and the gentle, unending hum of a nearby highway. Inside, the furnishings were POSH, almost too POSH.

Evening companions.

The dishes were heavy and thick and gaily decorated in an afternoon-at-gran’s sort of way. The place mats were likewise flowery and eager to alert me to the fact that Digitalis Purpurea translates to Foxglove and Syringa vulgaris is the Garden Lilac. The cutlery was so substantial I wouldn’t have wanted to accidentally drop a soup spoon on my toe, not unless I was wearing steel-toed boots.

The bathroom, as in many of these places, appeared to have been an afterthought. It was, however, nicely appointed, with a heated towel rail, plush bathmat, and posh toilet paper. It is a good thing, though, that toilets come in a standard size, or I am sure they would have bought one from the same Munchkin factory that produced the absurdly tiny sink. The shower was of adequate size, which was handy because you had to dry yourself while standing in it as there wasn’t enough room if you stepped out.

Still, these were small considerations; we only rented the place for a week, it’s not like we signed a seven-year lease.

On the first day, we did a twelve-mile hike to Shepton Mallet. The weather was grand and so amenable to walking that neither of us felt it was too long. As a bonus, we were able to start and end at the cottage, as the circular hike coincidentally ran right by where we were staying. We went, for a good deal of time, along an old Roman road known as the Fosse Way, which is everything an old Roman road should be—straight and wide and well-used, and great for walking. In the peace of the countryside, it was easy to forget about face masks and social distancing. It was nice.

The Fosse Way

And it was good that the hike included a loop through Shepton Mallet, as it saved us a special trip to see what it was like, which is a bit down-at-heel. It appears to be the poor cousin of Wells, and looks a little ropey and sorry for itself. Still, it was an approachable town with some nice places to sit and eat lunch. We didn’t feel the need to go back, however.

On another grand day, with blue skies and low wind, we set off to Glastonbury and the Tor.

The Glastonbury Tor is famous, and prominent. You can see it from almost any place in central Somerset, except Glastonbury.

We parked our car, followed the signs to the Tor and were pleased to discover that the prehistoric people who built the Tor kindly put in steps and concrete paths, knowing their descendants would be unable to climb to the top without such assistance.

Due to the Tor and its mythical history, and the ancient well, and Arthur’s Tomb, there are a lot of shops in town selling necessities like healing crystals, dream catchers and vegan sandals to people dressed in flowing garments and shimmering harem pants. It made me think that it must be a difficult place to live if you want to be a chartered accountant, or have a sudden urge for a bacon cheeseburger.

Magic Wands and crystal dragon skulls--all your shopping needs.

On another day, we visited Weston-Super-Mare. It was a nice town, approachable, tidy and filled with amusements; all the things you want in a seaside town, except people. Granted, we visited on a weekday in mid-September, but it was sunny and warm and in any other time (READ: The Before Time) the place would have been heaving. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, I’m less comfortable in crowds than I used to be, and hundreds of people pressing in from all sides would have made for a less enjoyable day. Still, the near solitude couldn’t help but get me thinking about all the money they must have lost this season.


By noon, the place began to fill up with a reasonable number of people, though it still didn’t compare to anything you might have expected in a more normal time. Most things were open, however, and the people did their best to flock to them. We went to a nice bistro, which was bustling, where we enjoyed a satisfying, socially-distanced lunch. I’m sure they were glad for our (and everyone else’s) business.

That, of course, was last week, when things were looking a bit more rosy. Now, we’re just glad we got away when we could.

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