It’s a poor excuse to say I’ve been busy, but I suppose I have been busy squeezing in trips to Naples, Santorini and Nice to finish off my 2015 year of travel. Naples was great, Santorini and Nice were outstanding.
So – I’m just throwing this little blog out there in an attempt to get back on track again.
My campervan road trip finished with me and Phoebe in one piece having done 4004 miles ( it might have been 4003 but I’m a bit OCD and probably popped up to Lark Lane to add the extra mile).
I need to do a post about some of the people I came across on the French trip – Thomas, Andy, the ‘Probins’, the hitch hikers and there’s the little matter of two boss weddings, but I’ll leave that for now and just zip to the last 48 hours of the trip.
Who would have known that Dartmore jail has a sort of ‘Visitor Centre’? They call it a ‘museum’ but trust me it’s just as much a Visitors’ Centre as a ‘museum’. As is my wont, I was taking the scenic route, this time from St Ives (thank you Iain and Emma – more of you later) to Liverpool. I headed over Dartmoor on the B Road. Who could possibly resist a B road over Dartmoor?
To anyone who remember the Krays, the Great Train Robbery, the travesty/tragedy of the ’64 FA Cup Final, indeed the 60’s in general, ‘Dartmoor’ is synonymous with the ‘glamour’ period of British crime. A time when you knew where you were with yer criminal. Hard men, working class ‘bad uns’ specialising in cockney accents and facial twitches. Not like today’s, sinister, anonymous, cyber-savvy, oiling the the wheels of international terrorism lot who, quite frankly, lack the moral fibre of yer villain of the 50s and 60s. Mind you, the £14m Hatton Garden burglary – or ‘heist’ as the popular press insist – does represent something of a return to the ‘good old days of crime’.
Can I just say at this point I’m probably talking sociological bollocks. Can I also add that if it were the 1970s and I was Frankie Howerd, I could with some justification protest ‘But, some people like my bollocks’ but that would be an outrageous double-entendre that even Frankie Howerd wouldn’t attempt unless times were really hard…… Sorry.
Where was I? Oh yes – Dartmoor ‘museum’. Hmm. I’m not sure. The history was interesting. The garden benches produced by the prisoners were excellent – indeed I may try and remember to buy one. But it felt a a bit wrong to be across the road from people who, for whatever reason, are incarcerated and probably not too happy with how their life had panned out while we visited ‘their’ museum? Also, I just felt there was a bit too much of the Mr McKay (‘Porridge’ – 1970s BBC..well worth Googling) about the man who checked me in and gave me a sideways look when he noted I was from Liverpool. You had to say where you were from for the visitor stats. I do not go around saying ‘Arr eh, calm down, calm down’ and I do not possess a Liverpool accent.
Despite my qualms about the ethics of the place – it was genuinely interesting and the prisoners’ woodwork is superb. The garden gnomes produced by the inmates were not superb and I did wonder if they were just having a bit of a laugh and taking the michael.
Anyway – the major point of this post is really to say how beautiful and perfect was my final resting place that night. The last night of my 7 week road trip.
I headed for the Forest of Dean, as you do when you’re taking the scenic route from Cornwall to Liverpool, and after a very interesting two hours I spent gatecrashing the Asha Centre – http://www.ashacentre.org
a beautiful place of gardens, meditation areas and generally gorgeous gardens I needed somewhere to sleep that night; my final night of the 7 week trip.
There is a God; karma exists.
I was in Ross on Wye. It was 9pm. In the gathering gloom I rang a small campsite. Yes – the nice lady said I could camp there in the field behind her bungalow where there was only a few visiting, travelling people camping.
50 yards from the house was a pub – The Crown Inn, Lea. In the pub was a newly opened Indian restaurant/kitchen an off- shoot of an award winning Indian restaurant from Cardiff. I’m sorry, but it was bliss, heaven. My trip ended with a superb Indian meal and lager and chat with the lovely restauranteurs and the locals. It felt so good to be home. So ‘English’ to be having an Indian meal, in an English pub on the edge of Wales.
It felt perfect. The circle was squared. The following day up the A49 through Herefordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire, back to Liverpool in the gentle rain of an English summer; I was home. It felt good.