It seems that a segment was missing from the Race to get to see Margaret Atwood. As Bernie said, "Easy to find the Church? It was like a part of the Amazing Race."
The last post of Linda and Bernie and Margaret in Bath seemed long enough but Bernie was right. We didn't just stroll to the Church. We powerwalked from Toppings to a more central (to us) location. We were at the point of asking anyone who looked as though they might have ever thought of saying a prayer if they knew where St. Mary's Church was. It had been a long day and Bernie needed a bathroom. She headed down to a restaurant we'd had something to eat at and I stayed in the street looking for likely, possible Christians. A man dressed in what I can only describe as Town Crier garb caught my eye. I turned out he was part of Historical Bath Organization and on his way home. It was his job to help visitors. My heart lifted as he offered to walk with me to point out the street. (By this time, I had no confidence in my ability to follow directions at all.) Bernie was still M.I.A. It was the only time we'd been separated on the trip since we both had a horror of never meeting up again and trying to find our own ways back to Gatwick. Losing my travelling partner would definitely put a damper on the rest of the holiday. I babbled something to the poor man about finding my friend and headed in the opposite direction to the way he wanted to go. Then Bernie showed up. Yahoo. We followed the Town Crier to the right street. "It's only a five or ten minute walk down this street and turn over the bridge."
We thanked him and continued to powerwalk. As it turned out we did have plenty of time BUT every time we'd asked for directions before, our destination was only a five - ten minute walk away. I had to worry it was another case of bullshit BUT this was the one time we got where we were headed in the promised time. We were third people in line and all ended well.
This is truly the end of the memoir of our trip- unless I go into the list of prohibited words and phrases....:D
Sometimes things occur by serendipity. Sometimes not. When a link on my Twitter feed announced Margaret Atwood would be reading in Bath, I couldn't believe it. I was going to the UK with a friend at the time and we could arrange our schedule (which was pretty flexible) so that we were in Bath for the reading. Of course, I did consult with Bernie and she was agreeable. Yahoo! I booked our tickets to the reading on-line from the Topping Book Store in Bath. So exciting. It would be (for me) the high point of the trip.
Bath would be our end of holiday destination and of course, Margaret would be the final event. We arrived in Bath and got settled in our hotel. The next morning, Bernie insisted on finding Ely Cathedral, the venue for the Margaret Atwood event. I couldn't understand her concern. We could find the cathedral the day of- but I humoured her. We spent most of the day in search of Ely Cathedral and no one seemed to know where it was. I should have twigged. A cathedral is a big deal. Not just every church can be a cathedral.
They have to have be headed by a Bishop. Still, I didn't worry and we saw a lot of Bath, its churches and had a nice stroll along the River Avon. Finally we checked the Bath Cathedral and a very learned pleasant man pointed out the Ely Cathedral was in Cambridge. Noooooooo! Cambridge is no hop and skip from Bath. I thought that I was doomed to miss Margaret.
When we checked our on-line receipt, we found that Margaret Atwood was reading in St. Mary's Church that evening. Here is where Bernie becames the true hero of the piece. She refused to give up and said, "We can change our tickets for tonight's reading in Bath. We just have to find the Topping Book Store." Brave words. Up and down the ancient streets we went. Finally, when we were about to give up, Bernie asked a woman who just looked like "she might have read a book sometime" where the bookstore was. We were just a couple of blocks away but it was almost six o'clock! What if the shop closed at six? Then we saw it. A car with its doors open was parked and employees seemed to be packing it. Perhaps books for the reading? We were across the street from Topping's and we could see the open door.
"Run, Linda," Bernie screamed. I sprinted (well, I tried). A car missed me narrowly and did give me the horn but I made it! The bookstore didn't actually close until 8:00. A young clerk very graciously and efficiently exchanged our tickets. We were in! Our last obstacle was to find St. Mary's Church. That wasn't so very difficult and we were among the first to queue up.
Once in the Church, we had excellent seats and waited in eager anticipation (at least I did). Bernie was likely just happy to be nearly done with the whole thing. The church filled and Margaret gave her ubiquitous, witty and entertaining reading. When she asked for questions, I stood and said, "I am from Alberta, Canada and I bring greetings from gariovich." Margaret was delighted and asked, "How do you know him?"
I was excited to reply that he was my son.
The previous summer Margaret and my son had become as she calls them T-pals. He had enticed her by sending her bits of a portrait of her his wife had painted. The portrait was used in an on-line fundraiser to support the launch of Fanado. (That's painting you see in the picture.)
When Margaret signed the book I had bought for my son, she drew him a little flying pig and wrote a personal note. Such a gracious lady. And Bernie said, "I was his grade three teacher." The perfect ending to what could have been a disaster. Thanks again, Bernie. You were right and Wiki was horribly wrong.
In the middle of an Alberta deep freeze with giant sundogs surrounding a struggling sun, the memory of Bath is delightful. It was the last stop for Bernie and me. Bath was important to the early Britons because of its hot springs. Surrounded by hills and on the River Avon, people visited the waters and dedicated them to Gods. It was the Romans in the 60s AD that started to develop the Baths, continuing for the next 300 years or so. You can see one of them to the left. The Baths were open to all citizens and people came and visited and took the waters.
Bernie and I took the waters at Bath. Although Bath is now a World Heritage Site (1987), when you have "taken the waters" at Banff, Radium or other Albertan or BC sites, Bath is decidedly unimpressive. There are three pools (as there were in antiquity) and Bernie and I were in two of them. The warm pool was on the roof of the building and open to the air. It was not large and the view was marred by a nearby construction crane. The hot pool was downstairs and a bit dull (in lighting). We were also accosted (that's how it seemed) by a couple that we were at pains to avoid when we saw them at Bath Cathedral and the nearby gift shop.
The tour of the ruins of the Roman Baths was impressive. As with many of the self-guided tours (you get a speaker that let's you listen to explanations of history, culture and architecture), it becomes overwhelming (even for Wiki) ;and so we eventually just wandered along with the crowd and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Here is Bernie on our last day in Bath. The Gardens were lovely BUT we couldn't believe we had to PAY to enter. I don't know which of us has the Scottish blood but we were appalled and actually called back by the gatekeeper because he thought we were trying to slip by without paying. There was a wedding and the wedding party wandered past. Children and dogs played and families had picnics. We chilled. The whole holiday had involved a lot of walking and it was catching up with us. There was an interesting gal about our age (really, that old) with bright gasoline orange hair, matching orange floral skirt and accessories in keeping with the theme. Kudos for individuality and balls, not so much for fashion sense.
In the evening we went to the theatre in Bath. A farce was playing out the last few days of its run so we got good seats on the balcony. It is an old, elegant theatre but the fare was not. It was a typical British bedroom-doors, slamming, impeccable timing ridiculous tale based on misunderstandings and secret infidelities.
An explosion woke us our last night in Bath. Bernie claims that I jumped up, looked out the window and shouted. "It's f___kin' Beirut out there." I have no memory of this but I do remember several explosions accompanied by an impressive display of sparks and flame. I got my camera immediately and Bernie wouldn't let me take photos...at first. If you look closely, you can see that the explosions were the fiery end to a car parked across the street from our hotel. A man with a handheld fire extinguisher marching purposefully across the parking lot provided a moment of levity. The police and fire service weren't long in arriving. We watched for a while until, it seemed, the excitement had passed.
I messaged the picture to my kids and my son responded, "Holy F___! Where are you? Ealing-Broadway?" I had to assure him it was Bath and that we were fine. The next day we asked some locals if they knew what had happened and they thought that the car had been stolen and then set afire. There were no ideas why it should have been destroyed.
The train to Gatwick was uneventful and our hotel the Garden Marriott was within walking distance.. Our flight home was good and the holiday was wonderful. There is one more adventure- Linda and Bernie with Margaret in Bath but that deserves its own post.
I've been married a long time and often write about everyday events.