Touring with Peter and Maureen
Trip Start Apr 11, 2006
90Trip End Ongoing
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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Anyway, remember facts and the truth are unimportant, what matters is the story.
Cop Jai my friends.