Friday, 12 November 2010


A million pardons for being so delinquent in my missives. An extended period of fairly intense activity prevented me from adding to the tale of our slight adventures. Brief bouts of further activity mixed with longer stretches of ennui (recovery?) conspired to keep me from my self-appointed duty. This post and at least the next one or two after will be relatively sparse in commentary but long on photos. I suppose I'm running out of things to say.

We spent the weekend of October 30/31 with Alan and Maggie Brooker in Ubley, a small country village in Chew Valley about 10 miles south of Bristol in Somerset. My niece and Alan's daughter, Jenny, drove us out there Friday night in about two and half hours on the motorway. It's due west from London close to the Bristol Channel, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. Alan was married to my sister, Klara, until her death in 1986. They had three children. He married Maggie, a widow with three children of her own, a few years later. They've been together at Brown Trout Cottage ever since.
Alan and Maggie posing with Erika and Benedict in front of their home, Brown Trout Cottage. Many houses in England, especially in the country, don't have numbers; they have names. 'Cottage' in the case of this house is a misnomer. Perhaps a better name would be Rambling Manor. Originally two small cottages sharing a common wall and built sometime in the 19th century, an earlier owner knocked down the common wall, creating the dining room, and over the years various owners expanded the house enough to accomodate the six children of Alan and Maggie's united family. All the children are long grown and out on their own, of course. But the 'Cottage' remains a charming and idiosyncratic home. A delightful place to hang out, especially with such fun hosts. Thanks, Alan and Maggie!
Saturday morning, after a scrumptious breakfast, we joined Alan on his errands, mostly to pick up some items needed for the big family luncheon planned for Sunday afternoon. After about a 5 minute drive, our first stop was at the New Manor Farm Shop. Manor Farm raises pigs, sheep, and cattle organically. They butcher the animals themselves and sell the meat in their shop. They have many other items in the shop, including fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen foods, and an interesting variety of stuff in jars.

Alan picking up the pork loin he ordered for the luncheon on
Sunday at the New Manor Farm Shop. They raise and butcher
almost all the meat they sell.
Sheep in a field of Manor Farms

Alan took us to another shop in another hamlet, Chew Stokes, I believe. Though lightly populated, there doesn't seem to be any lack of things to do. There are all kinds of organizations and clubs where people can meet to share common interests and gossip about their neighbors and complain about the politicians.

Erika was attracted by these colorful Wellington boots. Alan picked up the
latest free issue of the Chew Valley Gazette here.
There was at story in the Gazette that reminded me that I forgot to include something in the blog that Erika and I did last week. The story was about a local young man who played one of the characters in a play we attended last Tuesday. Yes, one of the local boys made it big on the London stage! Jacob Casselden played the deaf son in a dysfunctional family in a play called Tribes at the Royal Court Theatre. Except for the ending, which we thought rather contrived, the play and the performances were very good. We thought Jacob did an outstanding job playing someone who is partially deaf. What the story in the Gazette told us Jacob has been completely deaf all his life. That makes his performance all the more extraordinary.
The last stop was pick up some milk from the local dairy.

Alan, did you pay up the 40p you owed for the milk?
We had a plan of action for Saturday. We started off by going up the hill and passing through Cheddar and the countryside around it. In case your wondering, this is the home of cheddar cheese. The area has been known for its superior cheeses since 1170. (That's not a misprint.) Not much cheese is made locally anymore, however.

Our first stop for the day was Wells, only about 20 minutes away along hedge-lined roads and lanes and regarded as the smallest city in England. The title of 'city' used to be reserved for towns with a cathedral and a bishop, though as I understand the criteria for an English town to be given a city patent has expanded. Wells received its city status because of its magnificent cathedral.

An American connection.

Where Penn preached.

It's sunny now, but we're going to get a drenching later.

Clock on the outside of the cathedral. The knights above the clock face knock on the bells.

Vicar's Close, said to be the longest continously occupied street in Europe.

The cloisture leading into the cathedral.

The nave.

Clock inside the cathedral. The seated man in the photo above the clock strikes the hour while four characters scurry around the platform above the clock.

Entrance to the garden.

The Bishop's palace.

The swan on the right is pulling on a string that rings the bell, resulting in a hand extending through the window to drop some food on the water. Worked every time!

Escaping a sudden storm and waiting for lunch.

Wells Cathedral after the storm.

Glastonbury Tor, home to Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Fairies and the island rising above the mists of Arthurian Avalon.

Alan and Maggie trudging up to the Tor behind Benedict.

It was very windy on top.

View from the Tor.
Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, where King Arthur is supposed to be buried.

The town of Glastonbury is filled with New Age-type shops.

St. John Church, CofE. Celtic cross.

The following day we took a walk around Ubley. This is the
Methodist chapel.

St. Bartholomew, the village church whose origins can be traced to the 13th century.

The ropes in front of the stained glass window are for ringing the church bells.

Church graveyard.

These two fixer-uppers were auctioned off together for about
400,000 pounds

After our lovely walk about the village and its environs, we waited for the arrival of my nephews and niece for lunch. Maggie prepared a lovely and delicious lunch.
The family gathered around the finely set table. Looking over Alan's shoulder we see Kate on the left sitting next to her husband and my nephew, Chris. Kate is scheduled to add a new member to the family in February. Next to Chris is his nephew (my grand nephew!) Toby. Toby's father  and Chris' brother, Mark, is feeding his unseen son, Oscar, hidden behind his mother Anna. And then my niece, and Marks twin, Jenny.

There's Oscar! Between his dad and mum and auntie.

Alan, Maggie, Kate, and Chris.

Oscar and his mum.

Chris, Toby, Benedict, and Jenny investigating the latest in
mobile phone technology.

There is always something new to learn, isn't there.

What a wonderful day this was! What a delicious luncheon and most of all what a joy to visit with this affectionate group. The weekend ended all too quickly, and too soon Jenny whisked us back to London so we could get a good nights sleep to prepare for the next extended period of activity. On Monday night Erika's mother, three nephews, and a niece arrived at Heathrow from Stuttgart. They will stay with us in our humble cottage for several days. But that's a story for next time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Franz,
    Great to see a new entry in the blog. I was getting worried after a few weeks of silence!
    Great pictures on this blog entry (no doubt all by Erika).
    Looking forward to seeing you all again in Ealing in a few weeks time.
    Chris xxx