Big drive – big birthday

This weekend I drove approximately 350 miles (I think that is about 600 Km) to a milestone birthday party of an old friend of mine. I did wonder about the sanity of doing this in one day, only to return on the next. Still, I woke up early, threw some stuff into the boot (trunk) of the car and pottered off around 7.45 a.m. The party was to start at 3.30 p.m. since families were involved and there were to be several children present. I felt rather proud of myself, since I arrived at approximately 3.20 p.m. and I thought that was good timing, given the distance I had to travel.

Of course, once I left the motorway, and dived into lushness of the Somerset countryside, I did get lost. At one point I stopped and asked directions from a man who appeared to be mending his chicken run. The sun was shining and we had a great little chat. There was no traffic noise; the air was still and the sky was blue. Eventually, he pointed me in the right direction, and off I went.

The party was held in a garden that ran adjacent to a splendid medieval church, probably dating from the 13th century. Here is a photograph that I took late in the afternoon.

Medieval church

The villages in this area originally came to prominence in the days of the Somerset wool trade (Shepton is, for example, the Saxon name for a sheep settlement). In modern times, the villages lie at the heart of the cider country. Regrettably, I sampled no cider nor any other alcoholic beveridge, since I had a long drive home the next day and I could not face doing that on an apple-pressed hangover.

I had a wonderful time and very much enjoyed talking to my friends Mike and Christine. I met their friends and family and also met up with another old friend, Tim, who I had not seen since 1976. They very kindly gave me a bed for the night. It had been quite a day, and I slept like the proverbial log. I awoke to the dawn chorus and slipped out of the house at around 06.30. Once again, I got lost exiting from rural Somerset. At one point I could swear I saw the Eiffel Tower although there was no basis in reality for this bizarre hallucination. It did prompt the exclamation ‘Merde’ as I accelerated down yet another wrong turning.

The return journey differed from the outward journey in several respects. When I set out from home I was filled with a sense of adventure. Coming back (once I had extricated myself from the web of Somerset lanes and byways) was more predictable and no significant event awaited me at the end. Subjectively, I felt more confident  because I knew I could do it (indeed I had done so the previous day, in reverse). I was also less  concerned about time and on the return leg I pulled into a service station car park and had a substantial nap.

Generally speaking, I dislike travel and I am not keen on being away from home. I am, however, trying to work on this attitude and the birthday party trip counts as a significan step forward in this regard. I did take a sketch book with me but it remained firmly closed in my shoulder bag for the whole duration of the trip. I therefore made zero progress in terms of conquering my fear of drawing in public . I accept that this has some of the hallmarks of a phobia. I am not sure if I ever will overcome my anxieties in this regard. However, during one of my motorway fuel stops I noticed that they were selling a portable stool, together with a shoulder strap for carrying; I bought one! Will I ever sit on it by an idyllic river scene, sketch book on my knee, pencil at the ready? I doubt it, but I can dream. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

One Response to “Big drive – big birthday”

  1. Rama Lionheart Says:

    What a lovely adventure. Happy memories for me of Somerset when I was younger.

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