Monday, May 29, 2023
You know, I groused in yesterday's post about our meal, but I don't want to leave you all with the impression that we're not enjoying ourselves or that things overall haven't been going well. This has been a fun trip and it's been great to get away. I also want to make clear that I am perfectly aware that my lack of a decent martini is a minuscule problem in the grand scheme of things, so minuscule as to not even be worthy of the word "problem," and that I recognize how remarkably lucky I am to be getting a new bathroom and to be able to take off for an impromptu long weekend. Not everyone can do these things. I get that.
My mom used to joke about our family being "grumbly." It's basically how we make light of things -- it's our sense of humor, and it goes back generations. My great-grandmother was super-grumbly, so much so that she was a little scary to me as a kid, but it isn't ever meant very seriously. I hope in my writing here it's apparent that when I'm grumbling -- about the Russians, about Mrs. Kravitz, about my job -- I'm mostly just trying to be wry or funny. There is an edge of real annoyance sometimes, don't get me wrong, but I try to turn it into humor.
And yes, I am grumbling from a very privileged perspective. I don't want to seem so clueless that I don't realize that.
So, with that long explanation/apology for my tone out of the way, let's talk about yesterday. First of all, an amazing thing happened -- I GOT MY MASSAGE! I went to the spa and told the guy at reception that I'd like to go on a waiting list if anyone cancelled, and darned if he didn't call me about an hour later with an immediate opening. Yay!
Dave and I had already planned to go into the town of Winchester at noon, and the massage was at 11 a.m., so when my 50 minutes on the table was up I had to high-tail it to the front of the hotel and jump in the taxi with Dave and Olga. But it was worth it, and at least I was relaxed!
Our first stop: Winchester Cathedral. I've known the pop song for years, so how could I not seize the moment to see the real thing?! (Incidentally, the week I was born, "Winchester Cathedral" was climbing the pop charts and holding the No. 24 spot -- way behind the Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville," which was the top hit of the week.)
Olga couldn't go into the cathedral, so Dave and I did it in shifts, with one of us dog-sitting in the park outside while the other looked around.
Look who's buried there -- Jane Austen! This was a complete surprise to me. Funny that her gravestone, while making reference to the "extraordinary endowments of her mind," never mentions that, oh yeah, she wrote novels.
There were plenty of interesting and beautiful memorials, such as this one to Francis Thomas MacDougall, a cathedral official who served as bishop in Malaysia, and to his wife Harriette, who "first taught Christ to the women of Borneo."
This opening in an interior wall is known as the "Holy Hole." Apparently pilgrims would crawl through it to be closer to the bones of Saint Swithun, some of which were kept there.
But the best part of the Cathedral, I thought, was the medieval flooring. "These mainly 13th century tiles are the largest and oldest area of tiling to survive in England," said a sign nearby that also requested we "walk on them with care."
Here's me doing just that:
The variety of patterns is pretty amazing.
After we'd both seen the cathedral, we went for lunch to a nearby pub, where we sat in the sun and split a plate of fish & chips while listening to a very good guitarist on a nearby plaza play "Here Comes the Sun" and other mostly '60s and '70s hits. (But not "Winchester Cathedral"!)
Then we couldn't find a taxi so we took an Uber back to our hotel, and it was a bit of an ordeal because we had the dog and some Ubers didn't want to take us. Even the guy who showed up gave us the impression he might not have if he'd read the dog note on our booking.
We took it easy in the afternoon -- Olga was exhausted -- and last night we let her sleep while we went back to Winchester to Rick Stein's seafood restaurant. I had Dover sole -- a whole fish, which was pretty large -- and although I probably could have had a real martini there I opted for a safer gin & tonic instead.
Back to London today!
(Top photo: Street art in Winchester.)