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Friday, August 19, 2016

A Visit to the In-Laws

Carol's parents live in Bournemouth. We see them infrequently. It's a good three-hour drive there and then back and usually, it's on the same day. We have been to Bournemouth and stayed in a hotel, but that was a few years ago. We last saw them in Southampton during the Easter holidays. We had planned to visit them when we had our holiday down near Petworth which was then abandoned when the weather became really bad. (see earlier post.) So, this time, we organised things so we met up with them in Salisbury, which is about a two-hour car journey from Milton Keynes. They would come up by bus from Bournemouth and arrive in Salisbury at 11.30. We left home at around 8.45 and decided we'd stop on the journey down and choose to visit Avebury, as we were interested in seeing the stone circle. I set the SatNav and we set off, getting to Avebury a little after 10.15. We had coffee and cake in the National Trust café on the site. We weren't expecting the place to be so extensive. We visited the Rollrights stone circle in the Cotswolds a few years ago (see earlier post.) and had seen an item about Avebury on television a week or two ago and then realised that they were close to Salisbury and would make a good place to stop on our journey down. The landscape around that area of Wiltshire is really amazing. We have visited Stonehenge a few years ago and when we went down to Chloe and Steve's wedding in Devon three years ago we stopped at Woodhenge, which is a few miles up the road from Stonehenge and was a good place to break that journey. We weren't at Avebury very long as we needed to be at Salisbury by 11.30.  As our visit to Avebury was brief and also the fact that my Canon camera died whilst I was attempting to take photographs, basically because I hadn't charged the battery fully, we quite intend revisiting at a later date to explore the area fully. We had intended texting Carol's mum to let them know we were on our way, but when I attempted to text, using my mobile, I couldn't find a signal. On several more occasions I attempted to text, as we drove on, having left Avebury, there was no mobile signal. I'm surprised by this situation, considering how mobile technology has advanced, but perhaps it's because it's a relatively sparse area of the country, population-wise. Then we got held up by traffic and especially farm traffic, spending some considerable time stuck behind a tractor and trailer drawing a load of straw which got caught under trees and brought down leaves and twigs and bits of branch as it brushed below overhanging trees.

We arrived at the Salisbury Park-and-Ride carpark. We got there just as a bus was leaving but the next one wasn't much later so we boarded it. I don't have to pay as I have a card which means I get free journeys. I was never sure whether this could be used outside Milton Keynes, but I soon discovered that it can which saves quite a lot in travel costs. We were to meet Carol's parents outside Debenhams, but we got off too early and then had to find where Debenhams was. It seemed that every time we asked someone we met they had no idea, but it was in the Market Square. We saw both Carol's mum and dad, but on the other side of the road and crossed over. We then made for a Wetherspoons pub, the King's Head, to have coffee.

I wanted to visit the cathedral. For one thing, it's so full of history. There is a copy of Magna Carta in there. And possibly the oldest clock in either this country or the world. Or something. And what's wrong with just being awed by the sheer magnificence of such a building? How can you not be, when you think how old it is and how incredible to imagine how they built something that size without the aid of modern technology such as cranes. Also, getting great slabs of stone up to the top of the tower without our modern lifting machinery, safety standards etc.

If you want further information about Magna Carta, here's a link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta. There are apparently four surviving copies of this document in this country, one being Salisbury Cathedral, the other Lincoln and another in the British Library.

We sat on a bench in a park near the cathedral. Carol had made up a really nice mixture of rolls and fruit which we ate. The water meadows could be seen across the river and then I realised that the painter, John Constable, had executed several paintings of this very view, but seen from the opposite side. I have found the painting on the Tate gallery website.

Salisbury Cathedral, John Constable, 1820

We wandered the town, looking in stores and then made our way back, as if by some magnetic force, to the Wetherspoons we'd been to earlier and had tea. Unfortunately, it wasn't very nice. I make tea at home, but I can control the various elements such as boiling the water, the brand of teabag used, sugar etc etc but what we had here, or at least, what I drank, was unpleasant. 

Time was ticking on. Carol's mum and dad had come from Bournemouth on a bus and the next one was due to leave to return there shortly. We ambled back towards the bus stop outside Debenham's. We went into Marks and Spencers on the way as Carol wanted to see if they had a knitted top she had seen in their Milton Keynes store. There was a sale on, and, after hunting through the racks of clothes on sale, actually found the same item and bought it. 

The bus was standing at the bus stop on the Market Square near Debenhams, so Carol's parents boarded and the bus left. Soon our bus came in, and we returned to the park-and-ride car park to begin our journey home, directed by the SatNav. It had certainly been a strange day, long and tiring. We arrived back in Milton Keynes at around 6.30.

I am currently reading a book by Bill Bryson. It's called "The Road To Little Dribbling: More Notes from A Small Island." The subtitle refers to his earlier book, which was published 20 years ago. I read it then and enjoyed it enormously. He wanders around Great Britain and mentions many places and makes comments about them. An American who has an obvious affection for the quirks and idiosyncracies of this country. By sheer coincidence I have read his piece in chapter 11 where he mentions Avebury and discusses how it is managed by the National Trust.

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