So, my infamous parents, Greer & Phil, came to visit a few weeks ago and treated me and B to a sumptuous and utterly delightful weekend away in the English countryside. As befits a sophisticated lady such as myself, we stayed in a mini-Downton-esque manor house located outside of Bath.
We arrived in Somerset on Friday evening and, after some hugs and tears, hit up a local country pub of my choosing. I’d managed to steer Mom and Dad away from their dubious looking first choice–Ring O’ Bells–so the pressure was on for my selection to be acceptable. Already 1 (or 2) G&Ts into the game, Mom was ready to work her ‘party personality’ and mingle with some locals. Sure enough, less than 5 seconds through the door she was rubbing elbows with some truly authentic toothless Dickensian characters perched at the bar.
‘Come on, Mom, our table is ready!!!!!!’
In no time, we were eating a lovely dinner… and my mom and I were making best friends with Innkeeper Dan and his drunken uncle.
‘This is what you have to look forward to,’ my dad said to B.
B laughed nervously.
‘Whatever… we are FUN!!!!!!!’ I interjected, having had enough wine to unleash my inner socially competent self and my southern accent.
Needless to say, the Redan Inn was a roaring success.
The next day, we took Sinéad on a little walk around the grounds before setting off for Wells.
Being England, the day was… damp, and I cringed at the maintenance of Sinéad’s woolly exterior as she scampered from one moss-strangled rock to the next.
‘Her CATS hoodie is beginning to look like yours,’ B remarked, as something disgusting from this arrowslit rubbed off on her ear.
But Sinéad didn’t seem to mind.
‘Look at meeeeeee! I’m freeeeeeee! I’m the king of the world!!!!!!’ she cried.
Maybe I shouldn’t have left her in that suitcase for so long. I hope no one calls the RSPCA, I thought.
After searching way too long for an elusive cat my mom claimed lived in the garden (Sinéad’s enthusiastically shrill cries of ‘HERE KITTY KITTY KITTY!’ probably weren’t helping matters), we abandoned the (possibly) living for the dead and made a visit to the pet cemetery.
Sinéad insisted I take her picture in front of this gravestone.
After our graveside photo shoot (that garnered a few bewildered glances from passersby) we were all off to well, well, Wells!
So Wells is this little town in Somerset that has a HUGE cathedral making it not a town at all, in fact, but a city. Diocesan cathedrals granting towns ‘city’ status in England and Wales is a tradition that dates back the 1540s during the reign of Henry VIII. And even way before Henry VIII’s time, sleepy little Wells was a big deal!
Jocelin of Wells (Bishop extraordinaire and adviser to both King John and King Henry III) ordered the construction of the cathedral in the 13th century. It is stunning.
After gawking at the beautifully painted ceilings (kinda like Morris on a way larger scale!) and impressive scissor arches, we had to check out the astronomical clock originally dating back to the 14th century. The clock represents a pre-Copernican geocentric view of the universe, but tells regular ol’ time as well.
Perhaps the most peculiar feature of this clock is the presence of a bloke named Jack Blandifers who hits one bell with a hammer and another with his heels every quarter of an hour. I don’t know why or where that name came from??????
After admiring Jack Blandifers ring in the quarter of the hour in his inimitable fashion, we decided to tag along with a tour guide (who was about 150 years old) for a little ways. We picked up some assorted facts and were introduced to a particularly interesting cathedral-y fixture of which I knew not before: the misericord!
Misericords–also known as ‘mercy seats’–are little wooden shelves carved into the back of folding seats in the choir stalls/seats around the altar. These little medieval shelves–these ‘acts of mercy’–meant that folks could secretly lean rather than stand during long bouts of prayer. Most misericords are intricately carved with little scenes–some of which are rather subversive and saucy, apparently.
But our tour guide was super proud to inform us that the misericords in Wells Cathedral are all tasteful and Godly.
Naturally, Sinéad was eager to perch atop a (tasteful) misericord for a photo op. But just as she was preparing to spring forth and pose, she received a withering glare from the tour guide and cowered back into my bag.
As we exited the cathedral and skirted the impressive Bishop’s Palace, I began to fantasise about my future life in Wells. B and I would get a little house in town where B could write his novel, and I could work in the music school (pictured below–I mean, how cool is that?!) or as an old lady tour guide or a full-time blogger about the Prince of Aldovia. We’d make some cool artsy friends we could meet in the adorable pubs where the pints are probably a third the price of the pints in London. Everything would be marvelous!
The following evening, we headed into the middle of nowhere to a village named Mells (not to be confused with Wells) (and close to Frome–pronounced ‘froom’ that B and Innkeeper Dan tried to convince my mother was pronounced ‘fro-may’) to the second pub of my choosing, the Talbot Inn.
My dad drove further and further into the heart of darkness until… we suddenly hit a traffic jam! What in the world?! Why were the cars stopped on this no-doubt-usually-deserted country road??? As we slowly pulled down the road, what to my wondering eyes did appear but sleigh and eight (two) tiny (ENORMOUS) reindeer!
Yes, that’s right, we somehow got stuck behind Santa (mechanically waving at no one) and his damn sleigh moving at a glacial pace down the one-way road. We’d become part of a parade!
Anyway, we finally made it to the Talbot Inn what felt like hours later. And it was perfectly charming! Phewf! B ate a risky looking ‘game terrine’ while everyone else enjoyed their more normal looking meals.
After dinner, a drunk man took our picture with his finger over the lens as we forced his poor dog Molly to pose with us.
Aaaaaand then B was up all night with food poisoning.
I knew the terrine would get bad press. –B. Gaehl
Has anyone else had any Christmassy adventures/trips to the countryside/misericord sightings/bouts of food poisoning lately? Lemme know in the comments!