Strangely, despite my bracketing of the country in my band days, I’d never been to Bath. It had always been just an announcement on a train – Reading, Chippenham, Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, etc – on my way home from work. So when Winkie suggested we might take a day of our visit to go there, I was up for it.
My first impression was of a rather upmarket shopping mall, canopied by high quality fake wisteria. But then we made it to the Abbey, which is a huge perpendicular gothic structure that’s been rebuilt or refurbished countless times since it started off as some kind of church in about 757AD and became a precursor of its present form in 1616, after the Dissolution had trashed its previous versions.
The floor is, as always in cathedrals (all right, I know this isn’t literally a cathedral, but it’s near enough), full of dead people. You can’t step a pace without treading on someone’s memorial stone, and so presumably walking over their grave. Amazingly, the floor is being lifted, stone by stone, so that the sub-floor can be reinstated before it caves in and we all fall into the graves. Then the memorial stones are being put back, so that they can be walked on and further eroded by future generations of Japanese day trippers. Winkie’s friend Robin, later that day, wondered whether they were also in-filling it with more dead bodies.
After lunch, we went on an open top bus tour of the city, narrated by a charming man who knew his material but struggled with the commentary technology. I was sitting next to him, and chose not to use the earphones; partly because my ears are the wrong shape for those nasty little plugins, and partly because there’s a delay, so I’d get his real voice in one ear and then a disconcerting echo in the other.
I sat on the wrong side of the train going back to Warminster. I love looking out of train windows, at the trees and the fields and the sheep and the junkyards and the mysterious buildings – but I was facing west and the sun blinded most of it out.
My phone tells me I walked 2.7 miles that day. I’m impressed with myself.