Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Wales, Guy Fawkes, and the Great Cider Challenge

is a nice place, especially near the Wye Valley. I went on a day trip to Chepstow, which is just past the Wales border, so now I can technically say that I’ve been to another country. Woo hoo! Anyway, went to Chepstow
castle, the oldest stone castle in the UK apparently. It is quite impressive and you could spend hours admiring the ruins and the views from the top of the castle to the river and the town below. The town was nice in itself but not particularly interesting except for this big castle wall cutting across the middle of the town, obviously to protect it when the town was much smaller and contained within it in the past. Anyway, I then went to see the famous Tintern Abbey, known for it's picturesque qualities. It is quite breathtaking seeing this secluded ruin in the middle of the Wye valley, which in autumn displays a magnificent array of auburn colours in the trees surrounding it. I was quite impressed and wished I could sit and paint a picture of the place....

is a night given to celebrate the hanging of some dude called Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up Parliament. Some people reckon there would be more celebration if he succeeded. The actual story revolving around the
dissolution of the Catholic Church etc and the plot to assassinate the King and leaders of Parliament to stop the assault on Catholicism does raise some interesting questions: Was what he was doing an act of terrorism, or was he a hero for the sake of Catholicism? Based on that, how does that tie in with today's problems with terrorism? Anyway, what's also interesting is that Guy Fawkes didn't actually do it, he was part of a group that did, but he got the rap for it.

Anyway, the country goes berserk around this time and buy all the fireworks they can to let off on the night (and 5 nights before, and 5 nights after which can be annoying because it sounds like a war zone outside some nights
when people all over the town are launching them in their back yards. It is pretty spectacular though). I went down to my "local" (Crown and Horseshoe Pub) to see the big display and BBQ they had going. It was dangerous when two of the big fireworks went astray, one hitting near the BBQ (who would know what would happen if it actually hit it), the other in front of the audience, narrowly missing the kids standing there. It was a good night, met a lot of people that night, including a group of French girls

South West England has a local drink, which is cider. Not the cider you get from bottles or strongbox etc, but REAL cider. This is made in farmhouses where farmers get crab apples and crush them down, and then let the juice ferment. That’s it. The thing with cider is that it's quite potent and gets you drunk feet up, so you find you can't walk before it gets to your head. Now Nick and Paul (two guys from the group I drink with) were more than
happy to take me to a pub where they served the cider (not many pubs do serve it), to see if I can handle it, because they're proud of the reputation of their local cider's strength. I was to disappoint them, because I was able to down 2 pints of the stuff and then walk to the other surrounding pubs.

I can only thank Contiki for increasing my alcohol tolerance.

Went out to Bristol to see some of the famed nightlife. However because I was with older folk I only got to see some old folks pubs. (no clubs, maybe next week though with some other people).
Went to the old Duke jazz pub? one of the famous jazz pubs in the world, which was pretty cool. Also went to some other pubs that weren’t too bad but not worth mentioning too much about.

Thanks to Daniel Zylberberg, I was on Melbourne radio on 3AK talking about my experiences in England. Had he called me a few minutes later I would have been taking that call in the bath! Anyway I’ll have to get a copy of my unprepared dialogue from him and someday you can all listen to it.

I've been invited to the BBC Christmas party in Bristol (Tina, one of the people I drink with has invited a bunch of us to come). So maybe I can make some contacts, get on TV...wishful thinking

Next week should be interesting seeing I’m the only Aussie who will be in an English local pub watching the rugby grand final.

Go Wallabies!