England ’86 – Part 2

Here is part two of my day by day summary of the UK holiday my family took in 1986 (back to part one). I’ve already covered our trips to various manor houses, ancient sites and relatives, and when I left off we were hunkered down next to James Blunt’s windmill in Cley Next the Sea waiting for the radiation cloud from Chernobyl to arrive. What wacky adventures will we have next?

Wednesday April 30 -In the morning went out on a boat to see seals, but had to look at a bunch of boring birds first (undoubtedly at the insistence of fanatical twitcher Uncle Fran). Did eventually see a gratifying number of seals. In the afternoon went to look for fossils in the cliffs. Spend a few hours trying to dig out an extremely long bone that in retrospect was probably a tree root.

Thursday May 1st – Left Cley to head back to Frieth, but not before taking photos of James Blunt’s lambs at James Blunt’s windmill. Stopped off at ruins of Binham Priory, Castle Acre Priory and Castle Acre Castle, the later of which was extremely uninteresting. Had lunch at a motorway-side Happy Eater.

Friday May 2nd – Went to Windsor. Toured the Madame Tussauds “Victoria and Empire” exhibition at the railway station which was mostly waxworks of Queen Victoria getting on and off trains. Then went to the castle where we discovered that the Keep was closed, as were the Royal Apartments. We were however able to look at Queen Mary’s dollhouse and the dungeons (later to become notorious for hosting an entirely fictional species of venomous spider). Finally – for some reason – we went shopping for door knockers.

Saturday May 3rd – Headed out to Uffington as the Chernobyl radiation cloud passed over the country. Mum wisely elected to stay in bed. Saw the White Horse from close up which is arguably the worst way to see it, then visited Wayland’s Smithy which my brother found extremely creepy (either radiation getting to him or traumatic memories of The Moon Stallion).

Sunday May 4th – Church in the morning. A noticeably short service (possibly the Priest wanted to get away quickly to buy iodine tablets). Back to Uncle Fran’s to pack up and head for London. On the way I felt sick (undoubtedly radiation poisoning) and we stopped at a roadside parking area surrounded by “all sorts of junk”. Arrived at Grandmadge’s in Palmers Green in time for lunch.

Monday May 5th – Planned to walk around London but was wet in Palmers Green. Went into London anyway to see if weather was better. It wasn’t. Walked around London anyway. Mobbed by pigeons at Trafalgar Square. Walked to Piccadilly Circus via Admiralty Arch then went home.

Tuesday May 6th – Headed to Madame Tussauds. Many jokes made about Bob Hawke belonging in the Chamber of Horrors (parents dyed-in-the-wool Liberal voters). Brother and I most impressed with ‘Slush Puppies’ in restaurant. Mum – obviously ill from all the radiation – fell asleep during the planetarium show.

Wednesday May 7th – Hit up the Tower of London. Many photos taken of Beefeater who looked just like family friend back in Australia. Viewed crown jewels, spent rest of day chanting “move along please” in monotone like the guards. Visited Tower Bridge and were inside exhibition when a ship went through. Were unable to get out of exhibition to see ship go through as power was diverted from the lifts to the bascules. Contented ourselves looking out window at vertical road surface.

Thursday May 8th – Went to the Natural History Museum. Exhausted parents by insisting on looking at every exhibit including a “spcele sustmy” with computer games in it (unsure what’s worse, my spelling or handwriting). Had lunch, went to see the spiders. Spotted Uncle Tony in Children’s Gallery after which parents had to apologise to a random man with a vague resemblance to Uncle Tony. Moved to the Science Museum. Had to drag Dad away from the warplane exhibit. Went on the earthquake simulator at the Geology museum and watched a simulated volcanic eruption before heading home.

Friday May 9th – Went to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Was shocked that we were allowed into the Crypt and then just as shocked that the Crypt was not a maze of crumbling tunnels full of skeletons and cobwebs. Was very impressed with Christopher Wren’s model of the Cathedral and quite disappointed that the real one was so toned down in comparison. Climbed up to the Whispering Gallery then refused to go any higher. Andrew and Mum continued all the way to the top while Dad had to stay behind and make sure I didn’t plunge over the railings in a fit of vertigo. Left the Cathedral to get lunch but everywhere was closed. Continued to the Museum of London which turned out to have a restaurant. Ate soup and toured the museum. Went home and had dinner at Uncle Tony’s favourite Italian restaurant where they served sorbet in hollowed out citrus fruit (unarguably the best way to serve sorbet).

Saturday May 10th – Did nothing of interest except have fish and chips for dinner while Dad and Uncle Tony watched the FA Cup final (Liverpool v. Everton at Wembley. Liverpool won 3-1).

Sunday May 11th – Went to church then had ‘a boring day’. In the evening ‘a visitor’ arrived and we ‘showed her lots of things’ which is so cryptic it would fit into in a Dan Brown novel.

Monday May 12th – Picked up Grandmadge from her sister’s place where she had been ‘having a rest’ – presumably from two hyperactive step-grandchildren. Drove back to Warsash in the rain.

Tuesday May 13th – Went into Southampton and visited the museum in the Bargate. Lunch at the cafe in the Owen Owen department store. Walked along the wall to the Maritime Museum in the old Wool House. Hit up the Archeology museum and discovered one of the towers in the city wall has the same name as Dad. Convinced the museum to part with one of their only two maps of the walls and went to gawk at said tower. Gawked at ruins of Castle and went home.

Wednesday May 14th – Went into Fareham for haircuts at random barbers. Spent entire cut gazing in astonishment at “Willy Grooming Kit” openly displayed on counter. Particularly confused by inclusion of comb, having not yet reached puberty. Barber parted my hair and sprayed some kind of lacquer on it – went out of my way to mess it up as soon as we left. Mum dropped off camera bag for repair at a shop. Went squirrel spotting at Aunty Mary’s work but they were all scared off by the lingering scent of hair lacquer.

Thursday May 15th – Were meant to go to Arundel but brother was sick so did nothing except walk into the village to post letters. Dropped one on the way, found it on the way back so went back to post it. Looked around ‘Lots of Things’ – apparently a store in the village (did we use some kind of remote viewing to show it to the mysterious visitor on May 11th?)

Friday May 16th – Brother had recovered so to Arundel we went. Visited the world famous and quite morbid Potter’s Museum of Curiosities – I was particularly taken with the diprosopic lamb. Sated chronic sorbet addiction at lunch. Drove to mechanical music museum which for some reason Mum enjoyed much more than Potter’s. Bought a tape of steam organ music that was played incessantly for the rest of our stay in the country (I still know Offenbach’s Galop Infernal by heart). Drove to World War II airfield museum where brother and I got to test out a mechanical Spitfire simulator being constructed out of assorted junk by a couple of actual Spitfire pilots – in retrospect probably the coolest experience of the entire trip.

Saturday May 17th – Quiet day. Mum, brother and Aunty Mary went to do the flowers at Saint Margaret Mary’s but I – tired of providing unpaid labour – plead off as sick.

Sunday May 18th – My brother’s birthday. Party with all the relatives (after church, of course). Gifts included various Transformers and a postcard album, and the cake was a hedgehog with flake for spines and smarties for eyes.

Monday May 19th – Headed to Beaulieu. Took in the car museum including the “Wheels” ride-through exhibition on the history of cars. Most impressed with the future of cars which is (apparently) insect-legged pods on the moon. Played with the remote control cars and rode the monorail, which seemed an odd inclusion at a site devoted to the celebration of private transport. Visited the Abbey where a sign stated that the presence of ghostly monks could be detected by a smell of roses, placed right next to a giant bowl of potpourri. Listened to a steam calliope in the carpark and were handed passes to a free tour of a nearby stately home the next day.

Tuesday May 20th – Went to the free tour at Elmer’s Court which turned out to be a pitch for timeshares. Mum and Dad happily went through the entire presentation and tour of the facilities before telling the salesman that we were tourists from Australia and hence had no interest. Absolutely savage.

Wednesday May 21st – Drove up to London. Stopped for lunch at the Fleet Services on the M3 which – due to the bridge over the motorway – I thought was the most amazing place I’d ever seen.

Thursday May 22nd – Returned to the Natural History Museum to look at bats, then headed to the Houses of Parliament. Tried to see Westminster Hall but it was closed. Went to visit Westminster Abbey. It was closed. Decided to visit the Abbey Cloisters. They were closed. Cabinet War Rooms were open. Mum annoyed by brother and I bothering her while she listened to Churchill speeches. Stumbled over the Jewel Tower museum. Walked to Horse Guards then to Buckingham Palace.

Friday May 23rd – Got tube to Victoria Station then walked to Coach Station which was “dirty”. Had lunch there anyway. Boarded bus to Liverpool. Air conditioning and all but one TV broken. One working TV played Police Academy which I thought was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. Picked up in Liverpool by Aunty Jo (the Nun) who drove us – like a maniac – to the school for the blind of which she was principal.

Saturday May 24th – Packed a picnic lunch and headed for Wales. Forgot that it was a Bank Holiday weekend and hence every other person in Liverpool was also headed for Wales. Finally crept across the border after hours in traffic and pulled into the first layby we found. Ate our sandwiches in the drizzle and drove back to Liverpool. Spent several hours playing Robin of Sherwood in the bouncy play.

Sunday May 25th – After the inevitable church we drove to a manor house to see a flower show. Discovered it didn’t start until next week. Went to a different manor house that didn’t have a flower show but did have a miniature railway and a “disco bounce” (whatever that may be…). Did penance for disco bouncing by visiting an elderly Nun.

Monday May 26th – Bank Holiday. Went to Southport, bought some new bathers and had a game of croquet with the parents of a friend back in Australia.

Tuesday May 27th – Blackpool. So windy that my brother (a skinny child medically prescribed cooking chocolate to try and bulk him up) was almost blown away down the street. Lifts in Blackpool Tower weren’t working and (to my disgust) Mum and Dad refused to consider the stairs. Won 80p in a penny drop machine but could not resist the allure of greater riches and immediately lost it. Visited a “friend” who lived in some flats. Dropped in to the Formby red squirrel sanctuary on the way back where the opportunity to photograph a squirrel posing on a tree stump was ruined by a bunch of idiots who drove in with their radio blaring at full volume. SQUIRRELS DO NOT APPRECIATE FALCO!!

Wednesday May 28th – Drove cross country to York. Queued for an hour at the Jorvik Viking Centre, but were most impressed by the viking having a difficult time in the outhouse. Took in York Minster which was still being rebuilt after God smote it with a lightning bolt two years earlier. Examined the bosses designed by Blue Peter viewers. Went through the Castle Museum and climbed the mound to Clifford’s Tower. Bought a loaf of bread shaped like a hedgehog then drove back to Liverpool.

Thursday May 29th – Went into Liverpool where we visited both the “Cristen” and “ANGLEGEN” cathedrals (Anglicans, of course, famously not counting as “Cristens”). Had lunch in the cloisters then visited the Immigration Museum in the docks. Saw a barge.

Friday May 30th – Packed for Scotland and tried again for the flower show. This time it was actually there. Had a picnic by the nearby lake. Goodbye dinner with the Nuns.

End of Part Two! Check back soon to discover what pleasures and perils await in the bonny, freshly-irradiated glens of Scotland!


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