Touring with Peter and Maureen

Trip Start Apr 11, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sawadee krab

Whilst in Stafford they started the summer walking tours – so in between down pours of torrential monsoon rain we skipped through the township of Stafford as guests of the historical (that's historical not hysterical) society. Our uncle Peter was invited to join the tour to keep abreast and up to date of any information about the fair town of Stafford. Of course Jess and I being the proverbial hangers on hitched a free ride to. Uncle Pete donned the hat and his crime fighting garb and swinging his bell like some comic book crusader we hit the streets. It was Uncle Pete’s official duty to open the said walking season tours with a proclamation – so obviously he included his colonial nephew and his son in the proclamation much to our embarrassment.          

During the tour we were with the hysterical society (changed my mind this title is more apt) and we saw and entered the oldest house in Stafford. Everyone kept saying it was from this era or that era and how remarkable it was, to me it wasn’t even built straight, but that’s the style of the era!! What that the builders were crap???  Anyway the house is four hundred years old, give or take an era or two and it is slanted.

There are many quaint cobblestone streets scattered throughout the town of Stafford. But the highlight for Jesse and I was to visit the public paddling pool. Yep paddling!! Now I am convinced these pommies are a bunch of paddlers. The paddling pool looks like a swimming pool, but it lacks the depth and you only need to roll up your trousers and take off your shoes and socks to go for a free paddle. Jesse refused to be seen paddling in public. 

It was overall a very enjoyable time wandering the streets of Stafford with Uncle Pete and his band of merry historical men and women. The river running through Stafford had broken its banks the night before although the flooding was minor it was only the start to what would come the next week.

During the first week in England we did a couple of trips to places but mainly we recovered from the previous three months. We were also holding back on things and were waiting until Charlotte arrived the next week. I did though rediscover my joy of wandering along the canals and watching the barges going up and down the canal. One particular barge would have been perfect for the 'Secret Men’s Business’ trips we have back in the Bay. Mounted at the rear of the barge was a keg and the driver or are they called steering person, could sit and pull himself a beer without having to move – oohhhh life is grand for some. 

Charlotte was arriving very early on a Sunday morning, Stafford is about 2 and half hours away from Heathrow, but early on Sunday morning Heathrow can be achieved in 2 hours. A major obstacle to getting anywhere fast in England is the multitude of speed cameras. I think that England has more speed cameras than George Bush has excuses; the place is full of speed cameras, that is probably why George Bush does not want to Invade England – the speeding fines would bankrupt the USA. Added to this is that England is still in the twentieth century and insists on using miles, all adds up to making it very difficult to stay under the speed limit, especially for us twenty first century colonials who have progressed to kilometres.

Charlotte’s plane of course came in early and by the time we raced into the airport we just made her grand entrance or should I say exit by about 10 minutes. Hugs kisses and tears all round then into the car we piled and it was off to McDonalds for breakfast – WHAT WERE WE THINKING!!! Please do not get me started on the cost and quality of the food we had ………. just think about triple the price and halve the quality and size and you have a guestimate (one of the words I have invented – if Shakespeare can do it so can I). It was awful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

harlotte had left Australia some 30 hours previously and had a stopover somewhere in the Middle East; she was stuffed, knackered as it were. Did we take her straight home to bed?? Nooooooo, off we went on a tour of the country side. First we took a drive through Watford and on to where we will eventually be working in England, Rickmansworth. What a school, you will love the photos when we eventually get there – the school is the Royal Masonic School for Girls. In true Masonic fashion the school is dripping in grandeur and opulence. Seriously though this place is magnificent and makes Harry Potters Hogwarts look like a kindergarten in Redfern.

We then found ourselves journeying along the M1 towards the midlands and happened to ask about Rugby and the old shop my Granny used to run there. Cries of can we go see arose and Uncle Peter being the obliging type turned straight off the Motorway and headed for Rugby. It has been over 20 years since my Granny, bless her soul, used to run this shop and unfortunately the memories far outweighed its current appearance, particularly as there is a huge For Sale sign out the front.

Bit of history for you now, late in the 1800’s a young man was playing football at a school in Rugby, he was a bit of a sore loser and in one particular game had a childish dummy spit and picked up the ball and ran with it. Thus the game of Rugby union was born. To commemorate that historic event Rugby players to this day show their respect to that day in the late 1800’s by having childish dummy spits throughout the modern game. This young dummy spitters (another word I have created) name was William Web Ellis. As young Willy was running with the ball he pretended to throw the ball and never did, this gave birth to the phrase used today in the sport of Rugby – ‘throwing a dummy’. Who said Taunton Travels were not educational???

After numerous photos at the birthplace of the sport of Rugby Union, to which Charlotte kept on saying ‘the Rugby boys at school will be soooooooooo jealous’. We went for a walk around town and walked past a Thai restaurant, Jess could not resist the temptation and in he went in, he walked straight up to the Thai looking lady and said ‘puud Thai dai mai, nkrab’. The woman’s mouth dropped open and she responded in Thai to which Jesse replied in fluent Thai. She then excitedly started speaking very quickly in Thai, Jess had to slow her down and repeat herself but the conversation continued. The boy was grinning from ear to ear, and the Thai woman was all over him – the grin said ‘still got it!’  Then the Thai woman tried to flog us a very expensive lunch. ‘Mai oww!’ Was the cry by dad and out we went.

Then it was back on the M1 and we continued north towards Stafford. Due to our very hectic schedule the likelihood that we would be able to see The Lord of Manor became very remote, mainly because they had not invited us to their place, so we decided to gatecrash. A quick phone call to our Uncle Colin (yes he really exists) and we said we would be there in an hour. We then arrived 25 minutes later thus tricking them by not giving them enough time to run and hide from us colonials. Colin’s wife Peggy is my dads sister, Colin can be described in one word a ‘wanna be snob’, okay that’s three but it sums him up perfectly. He aint a ‘snob’ but he tries dam hard to be one. Yes, I know aint, aint a real word but it helps to sum up Colin so well. You see we are colonial relatives who want to sponge off his inherited wealth. Okay pass the saucer of milk, I know I know, but the guy just drives me nutssssssssss!!!! It was nice chatting to my aunty Peggy and tolerable with Uncle Colin.

Finally got Charlotte back to Stafford and the poor lass said she would just have a quiet kip for an hour or so at 5pmish, fatal mistake, she awoke at 7amish the next morning. It is so nice having young Charlotte with us again. 

The next trip we made was to Stratford-upon-Avon. Stratford is full of old English history and is famous for being the birthplace of one ‘William Shakespeare’. Once again we encountered ancient buildings with cobblestone streets and monsoon rain. Stratford is continually packed with tourists and as such is not a cheap place to visit. Now I have tried to avoid getting on to the topic of how bl@##@dy expensive it is in this little country but at times it spoils the visit, especially with a family of four.

It is time for another history lesson; Willy Shakespeare is credited with introducing one thousand seven hundred new words into the English language. At the time of writing Taunton’s Travels has been credited with introducing 4.76 new words into the English language.

Stratford also has an extensive canal system with locks and numerous barges floating around. I just find it so fascinating watching these boats and the canal system they travel upon. I will cover these canals and how the locks work another time as we encountered numerous locks throughout England.

After leaving Stratford, we stopped off at a pub for lunch, unfortunately or perhaps fortunately the chef had knocked off for the day because there were no bookings after 2pm, I say fortunately because it would have been $A25 minimum a meal each then drinks on top. It was though evident that some of the English still have convict blood in them and not all of it was exported to Australia some 200 hundred years ago. I made mention I liked a glass that had ‘Carlsberg’ printed on it. This glass then mysteriously appeared in Diane’s bag once we had left the pub; the children were shocked that their mother would steal the glass. I had to remind them that their mother comes from questionable stock dating back to the first fleet, this information was greeted with nods of agreement that it was understandable she could stoop so low. However I strongly suspect a certain Englishman from Stafford may know more than he is letting on.  

From there we went into Worcestershire and Shropshire, the quest was to find more information about my father’s family and where they used to live. My father was born in Liverpool just before the War started, the Second World War that is, Liverpool was bombed and they moved the children out to the countryside for protection. Remember the start of the movie ‘Narnia’? Well that happened to my dad and his four brothers and sisters. They went from Liverpool to a place called Berrington Hall. Berrington Hall was a large manor which acted like a dormitory for hundreds of relocated kids during the war. I have never been to this place before and it was very nostalgic to visit this place that 60 odd years before had a profound impact on my heritage.

 After Berrington Hall and the end of the war, the kids moved to a house with their mother in Ashton. Unfortunately this house was not accessible now and we had to satisfy ourselves with simply being in the general area of the house. When my grandfather returned after the war, the family moved a few miles up the road to Kimbolton. It was at Kimbolton, if the legend is correct, that my dad blew the church door off of its hinges one Sunday morning. The facts do not matter, but the story is that my dad was in trouble for something or other and took an explosive device which is used to scare crows from the fields and put the device next to the church door. During the Sunday morning sermon he detonated the device sending the church door cart wheeling down the aisle. Luckily for everyone at the time Osama Bin Laden was not looking for young recruits or I could have ended up very different. He was Jesse’s age at the time. Why did he do it? Who cares it’s a great story and one he cannot live down.

  The tale also goes that on another occasion when my dad was 12 years old, he ran away from home and lived in the woods. The length of his stay varies depending on who you speak to, but somewhere around a month in the wild on his own seems to be about right. This information tickled Charlotte and Jesse’s funny bone and both were eager to confront him with this information and perhaps do a bit of blackmailing (remember their convict heritage). 

We had to head back to Stafford and leave this trip to our heritage behind; kind of brought a tear to the eye, but at least a memory and perhaps a tall tale or two will live on with Charlotte and Jesse.

From there we headed to Bridgnorth for no other reason than it was on the way home. Bridgnorth was great, really old and very pretty. It had one of those steep railways that took you up the side of the hill. It was also cheap for the 2 minute trip, costing only a couple of dollars each. The view from the top was great and it was well worth the stop in Bridgnorth. A week after our visit Bridgnorth and Worcestershire were flooded. It was a bit freaky watching the news and seeing places we were in the previous week now completely underwater. No wonder Mother Nature is female; she is so unpredictable and unforgiving. 

Anyway, remember facts and the truth are unimportant, what matters is the story.

Cop Jai my friends.

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