Welcome Careful Drivers

Sunday 15 March 1998 Back Next

We said our good-byes to our very odd hosts at the B. The missus chats with us as we settle the bill. She mentioned that there were two things she and her husband have never done: owned a PC, and "had a McDonald's." And she hoped to keep it that way. She was dismayed that Skip was in software sales, much as the mister was when we arrived Friday night. When I mentioned that I write software, they reacted as if the whole world was going mad. What gives? Do we smell?

Did I mention the "Escape Roads" near Lynton and Lynmouth? The roads are very steep (we went up one with an advertised 4:1 grade. 16:1 was also spotted a couple of times.) It looks like cars have gone out of control in the past while coming downhill, so there are these escape roads which you can veer off into if your brakes fail or you're just out of control. They're short, and very steep in the opposite grade of the main road, the goal being to stop your car. When I first saw an "Escape Road" sign, I really didn't understand they had anything to do with the grade, and just thought they were a great idea on spec. Every town should have an escape road you can use when the heat comes down.

We walk to the "Valley of Rocks" outside of Lynton. That's really its name; I'm didn't make it up. A lot of places in Lynton are named after the valley as it turns out: Hotel of the Valley of Rocks. Stable of the Valley of Rocks. Skip tells me we were looking into Woody Bay there, if that helps any geographers in the audience.

Then a longer walk through Watersmeet NT (National Trust. Park, right?) Up and down a lot of rather steep hills. Take some hopefully lovely photos that I'm just giving up on writing down. Mostly they're odd pictures of:

The walk goes on for a long time. We pass spots where sheep have nested in the rocks, as evidenced by great mats of fur. They descend from the high hills during the day to hunt for rodents and berries, oft ascending into the trees at the first sign of danger. While notoriously short-sighted, they have a keen sense of smell, and so we pass upwind so as not to alarm them.

A conversation on the side of a very tall hill, stones and scraggly trees all 'round:

Skip-- Doesn't this make you want to climb the Swiss Alps and flee the Germans? (Singing) "Climb every mountain..."

Me -- It makes me feel as if I should be wearing a great kilt and have a thinly disguised Australian accent. What a dreadful film.

Skip -- The reaction here was: The Scots loves it. The English hated it.

The moss on the trees is green, but dry to the touch.

3:30 PM -- We have left Devon and are now in Glastonbury, Sommerset. It's tea time at the Glastonbury Tea Rooms where we have cream tea for a very reasonable 3. Two scones, clotted cream, jam, and a cup of tea. Clotting cream more like it. It has the consistency of shortening but is of course cream, not vegetable oil. It tastes like cream, and is cool and lovely like cream. Nevertheless, by the time we're done I'm not too keen on moving, or eating anything ever again.

Right across the road is the entrance to the Abbey where for 2.50 I bought this ticket:

<Glastonbury Abbey Ticket>

And they let me in. Not much to say about the Abbey, other than that it's a shambles. It was dissolved some time ago, and not much of it is left standing. I guess one of the claims to fame of the site is that the bodies of Arthur and Guinevere were first buried here (allegedly) before being moved somewhere else. I gather there's a lot of other Arthur legend stuff going on around here. There's supposed to be a sword-dispensing lake somewhere nearby. But I don't know any hard details. Of the town itself, I can say that it had an unusually high goom factor about it. There were many crystal shops, occult bookstores, ad a number of very pale-skinned people in block. Also a couple scraggly looking hipsters with long, thinly braided hair, long coats, and multicolored woven pillbox hats. At first, I thought I had just come across a young bohemian, but it was a mode I'd see again and again.

On the ex-abbey grounds, I take an awful lot of pictures. I've transported 4 rolls of film of the way around the world, so I should use them, right? Finish the color, start on a roll of black and white. I'm using the new red filter to bring out whatever scant cloud details I can.

We left Glastonbury while it was still light to beat the motorway traffic. Skip takes an overland shortcut across Salisbury plain. "You mean this part of the map marked 'Danger Zone?'" I ask. "Yup," she says. The Danger Zone is largely military land taken up with wide open fields. And tank crossings. here are some other road crossing signs spotted this weekend:

One small village we drove through very prominently posted no less than 8 photo radar signs. They look like this:

<Drawing of a photo radar road sign> Which is lovely, but I'm not sure that anyone makes cameras like this any more. That's England for you.

Most villages asked drivers to go "slowly" or "carefully." As in "Such-and-such welcomes careful drivers." This sort of thing only encourages speed and recklessness, so if anyone in a position of power is reading this, cut it out. It doesn't work.

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