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ENGLAND NOV 5 - 16 2014

Old Nov 17th, 2014, 03:20 AM
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ENGLAND NOV 5 - 16 2014

We visited England November 5 – 16, visiting cousins and touring around. We started out in Oxford then continued to Bath, Worcester, Hereford, Martley, Birmingham, and ended up in London. Before starting the city details, I’ll say a few words about traveling in England in November. A great advantage is the relative absence of crowds. I shudder to think about what Westminster Abbey must be like in July.

But first, a quiz: A free pizza to any Yank who can correctly identify the following (no fair peeking at Wikipedia):

Royal Peculiar
baths (not the thing you bathe in and not the city)
white or brown
apple cider faggot
nodding ogee
cor blimey (translate into proper English)
please release the shoot bolts

Okay, I cheated—the second and the last items are Scottish. Still, see if you can get them.

By sheer happenstance, the dates we chose for the trip included Guy Fawkes Day and the Remembrance weekend and Remembrance Day (which I believe is always November 11). This is the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, which is greatly commemorated in the U.K So we had both the fun of the fireworks in different places (they shoot off fireworks for several days everywhere, randomly, beginning November 5) as well as the deeply moving ceremonies for Remembrance Day.

Right, on to the weather in November…based on the advice of Fodorites in the weeks preceding our trip, we packed for all types of weather and were prepared to pile on layers when needed and then peel them off. This worked well. And we were able to squeeze everything into one carry-on suitcase each plus a briefcase. The weather, as predicted, included a bit of everything: temps between mid 50s in the day to low 30s at night, grey, damp, misty, rainy, windy, not windy, cloudy, and brightly sunny. Sometimes all of that in a single day. We found it very pleasant to travel around in this kind of weather. Wandering around the streets, going into a cathedral and then into a pub for lunch all took on a kind of Dickensian mood and made us appreciate a meat pie and a pint of bitter in the evening after a hard day’s work.

We took the Oxford Bus from Heathrow directly to Gloucester Green station in the heart of the town, arriving around 11:00 a.m. For all other travel we took trains. Having enjoyed the simplicity of the Italian train system (yes), adapting to half a dozen train companies in Britain was a change. And why don’t they let you print out your tickets on your home computer so you can have them all in your pocket when you arrive? Oh well, other than that, trains were fast, clean, and punctual. In London we simply walked everywhere, except for one tube trip. We usually walked about four or five miles a day, but more on that later.

….next up: Day One - Oxford
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 03:31 AM
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"This is the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, which is greatly commemorated in the U.K"

It isn't.

Remembrance Day is an annual event, marking the official end of WW1 (11 am, Paris time, which was the same as London time in those days, on 11/11/1918)

The centenary of the outbreak was three months ago.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 03:45 AM
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Right, thanks.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 04:48 AM
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Same as Veteran's Day in the US - although our focus in more WWII and later - since we had so many fewer participants in WWI.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 04:48 AM
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"They shoot off fireworks for several days everywhere, randomly, beginning November 5"

That is not strictly true. Although there are a few places which sell fireworks all year round, they generally go on sale from early October. At any time after that, fireworks may be seen and heard. The official bonfire night, as it is called, is on November 5th, but events are commonly held a few days either side of that. Fireworks will then be seen and heard spasmodically for a week or two after that.

The next day when fireworks are commonly seen and heard is New Year's Eve, when many places have both formal and back garden events, often around midnight.

Fireworks can be bought by anyone and are not solely let off at organised events. We live near a large open space, and hear them almost every night at this time of year.

I recognise most of the words in the quiz, but am stumped by "apple cider faggot", nodding ogee, ney and sackbot (do you mean sackbut?)
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 04:50 AM
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Looks good, fireworks happen around the 5th with the 5th being the day the motorways disappear in a smoking ruin of fireworks, it seems to last over some 5 days now.

On for the ride
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 04:51 AM
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The other big firework days are Saturday weddings in high density Muslim areas, but they tend to be day time fireworks
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 05:03 AM
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Does it have to be the complete list for offering answers?

ha-ha .. an outbuilding on an estate, part of garden areas? I know I've heard it on PBS dramas once or twice

drookit .. I think was word of the day from Eilean Donan Castle (Fridays on Facebook) recently .. soaking rain, I think

farrier .. puts on horse shoes

Those are my guesses without looking .. any right?

Love trip reports and fun to have a quiz. I don't remember anyone doing that before.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 05:48 AM
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chartley: Typo, yes, should be sackbut.

Answers coming Wednesday!
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 06:01 AM
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"apple cider faggots"

... is a deeply depressing neologism, and my first assumption was that you'd invented it.

"Cider faggots" ("apple" before cider was, till very recently indeed, redundant) are a fairly common dish of meat/liver balls baked in a cider-based sauce.

So why - assuming you didn't mis-transcribe "apple and cider faggots" - has the redundancy suddenly appeared? It MIGHT be because American tourists misunderstand what cider is - though it's hugely unlikely in the parts of England you were travelling in that anyone would much care.

More likely is a recent boom in fruit-based booze, which has led to horrid marketing terms like "pear cider" (for which there's a perfectly good word, perry, still widely used in Worcestershire and Herefordshire). Not a transatlantic import, but a loan use from Swedish, which doesn't have words like perry, but does have booze entrepreneurs inventing these fruit-based ways of getting sozzled, and inventing terms to compensate for Swedes' limited vocabulary.

My guess is you found a pub somewhere in Cider Country that - traditionally enough in the Three Counties - serves cider faggots, but now has to describe the fruit in real cider. Something that, up to a year or so, would have had the original Bulmers, Westons and other cider magnates rolling in their cider barrel coffins.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 06:12 AM
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I think "cor blimey" should be "gor blimey".

Lonnie Donegan's old man was a dustman, who lived in a council flat, and wore both a dustman's hat and gor blimey trousers.

I never knew what gor blimey trousers were, but someone must know.

Lonnie died in 2002, and now Acker Bilk has gone. Sad times.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 07:36 AM
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England in November continued…

Before getting to Oxford, here’s a summary of hotels and costs for a double room (all taxes and fees included; all come with gargantuan breakfast choices, from croissants to full English breakfast of eggs-toast-sausage-back bacon-mushrooms-grilled tomatoes and tea/coffee); exchange rate was US$1.60 = £1

• Oxford, The Buttery: $579 for 3 nights
• Bath, Haringtons Hotel: $453 for 2 nights
• Worcester, Premier Inn: $275 for 2 nights
• Birmingham – Coles Hill, Springfield House: $142 for 1 night
• London, Premier Inn Council Hall: $794 for 3 nights
• TOTAL LODGING: $2243 for double rooms; per person = $1122 = $102 per night per person

Our United flight from Burlington, Vermont to Newark to Heathrow was a little late but we moved quickly through Heathrow customs and caught the bus for Oxford.

Oxford is now facing tourist tsunamis triggered by the popularity of Tolkien, Inspector Morse, and of course Pottermania. We dodged most of that. November is a relatively quiet time to visit, in the middle of the fall term (Michaelmas I think?). Students are going about their business. Several colleges open part of their grounds at specified hours, usually in the afternoon. The most popular colleges for the tourist (Christ College, Magdalen, All Souls, New College, Exeter) have excellent web sites with information and maps for visitors and also listings of the evensong music selections for the month.

We arrived at the central Oxford bus station, Goucester Green, about 11:00 a.m., walked a couple of blocks on George Street to Broad Street and checked in at the Buttery, located across from Balliol College. We dropped our bags, our room would be ready at 2:00 p.m. We went across the street for lunch at the White Horse Pub, a few doors east of Balliol. Wonderful pub, small cozy rooms, friendly staff. (I will not keep repeating “friendly” in this report, but simply emphasize right now the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone we encountered throughout our trip: guards, police, people on the street, everyone.)

Lunch: game pie of venison, duck, partridge, mashed potatoes, and a pitcher of gravy; pints of bitter; apple pudding with warm custard sauce. Good chat with Welsh couple sitting beside us.

Onward. We took the Bodleian tour, beginning in the Divinity School. This is a spectacular space, height of English Perpendicular style. Complex vaulting work with carved bosses representing insignia of donors, saints, royal symbols. Until 1800, all Oxford students were ordained. For centuries students would be tested in twos, debating some theological point in Latin, on either side of the room, with the teacher-judge sitting in a chair suspended from the ceiling (?? Yes, that’s what the guide said).

Beyond the Divinity School is the Convocation House ( = faculty senate room). We almost got to see it, but it turned out that some kind of faculty meeting was about to begin inside. This room is built like a small version of the House of Commons and in fact the House of Commons did meet here for a while during the turmoil of the mid-1600s.

Back to the Divinity School space. A beautiful door leads out to the Sheldonian Theatre where graduation ceremonies take place. Christopher Wren designed the door, with the letters “CWA” prominently displayed on top. This could mean “Christopher Wren Astronomer” (which he was) or “Christopher Wren Architect” (which he became, with no extensive formal training).

I had left my cel phone/camera in my briefcase back at the hotel. On leaving the Divinity School I asked the desk if I could return the next morning briefly to take some photos and they kindly agreed.

We then visited the Radcliffe Camera reading room. This is rarely open to visitors so we had great good luck in having a look. Our guide made us take an oath not to speak and not to take pictures and we humbly obeyed. A beautiful domed space full of busy, thinking students burrowing away in their books and notes. And on to Duke Humfrey’s Library, housing some of the most valuable books of the university. Part of the library has always been for reference only. When King Charles I was visiting Oxford he requested a book. Request refused: this part of the library is for reference only, no loans, sorry.

Time to check into the hotel room, quick nap, then more walking. In the early evening we made our way to Christ Church Cathedral for 6:00 p.m. evensong (this is Greenwich Time, according to Oxford Time it began at 6:05 p.m.) The Christ Church choir sings evensong daily and it is quite an experience to hear this beautiful service in the cathedral.

Next, to Freud, a great cocktail bar on Walton Street. As we were walking up Walton Street we saw bursts of fireworks (it is now the evening of Guy Fawkes Day, November 5—“Remember remember the fifth of November”). We joined a crowd in front of the Oxford University Press building and watched the fireworks for a good 20 minutes. They seemed to be coming from the Somerville College Quad. Then we moved on to Freud.

Freud is located in the now-deconsecrated St. Paul’s Church, next to the huge new Blavatnik Government Center which the university is constructing. The café was created by David Freud, great-grandson of Sigmund Freud, important financier and currently David Cameron’s Welfare Minister. Who knew? We started off with cosmos, then I branched out to take a Freud Moonshine, composed of a kind of clear whiskey substance, elderberry, and limes. Brilliant.

Adequately fueled, we went onward and upward to Quod for dinner. We were pushing ourselves beyond the exhaustion point, still not quite over jet lag. Quod was excellent: smoked fish for starters, pasta with prosciutto and grilled fish for mains. We wobbled back to the Buttery and crash into sleep. All in all, a good first day’s work.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 07:40 AM
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flanner re: "apple cider faggots": nope, I did not invent it. It was listed that way on the menu in the Hereford pub. We had an extensive discussion about it with our 80-year-old-world-traveler-English-Cousin Sheila, since the word has a somewhat different meaning in the States.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 07:47 AM
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I like your style and love London. I will try "Royal Peculiar."

It refers, I believe, to a church/religious establishment not beholding to the Church of England, but under the Crown.

Example, St. Mary's Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster (aka Parliament), a gorgeous chapel available to PMs, also where Margaret Thatcher lay in state.

I look forward to reading the rest of your story...
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 08:09 AM
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"please release the shoot bolts"
Never heard of that one.


"nodding ogee"
An arch in a church/cathedral with a saint carved into it.

"samphire" An edible vegetable that usually grows by the sea, also known as sea asparagus.

"white or brown"
A choice of white of brown bread.

"cor blimey"
I'd always believed it was a corruption of "God blind me".

How did I do?
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 08:38 AM
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Hooameye: wow, impressive. Full answers coming on Wednesday.....
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 08:48 AM
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Sorry to be picky, but:

Oxford's tourist tsunami has little to do with Tolkien or Morse, a bit to do with H Potter but mostly comes from being handy to get out of London from for a day, having nice countryside nearby and (unlike Cambridge) having a motorway right into more or less central London so coaches can get to and from easily. Believe me: the midsummer crowds mostly can't read English - and to judge from their umbilical attachment to their idiot tablets, probably don't read any language.

Your guide has been pulling your leg. Undergraduates at Oxford have never required ordination. In the university's earliest days, most students were minor clerics (the word "ordination" these days refers to the major clerical orders), and till the 14th century all members of the university had clerical privileges in law, whether in orders or not. This gave oversexed young men all kinds of legal immunities, which pissed the citizens off hugely and contributed to the city's running "town vs gown" problem.

Your guide was probably confusing this with the requirement that Fellows (more or less what would be called "faculty" in modern America) were, till 1871, required to be ordained - from the 1560's into an Established church (ie Anglican, or its equivalent outside England).

David Freud is a junior minister (in the Lords, which makes him even juniorer) for work and pensions. He most definitely is NOT concerned with welfare (though he was a junior shadow minister for social security before getting into government): his job is to keep people off it.

While he's actually tried to do good since he got out of financial services, not everyone would agree he was an "important financier." He was certainly important to the Freud family finances. But one commentator claimed that as a financier he "will be remembered in the City as one of the key players in several of the most embarrassing and badly managed deals in investment banking history"

Evensong starts at 1805 GMT, or 1800ChChMT. Oxford being west of London, God's time there is five minutes later than at Greenwich
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 09:15 AM
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A ha-ha is of course a wall or fence concealed in a ditch so as to allow the landowner to pretend to his guests that his lands extend as far as the eye can see. Or at least to make sure that the picturesque livestock in the view stay away from the house.

Fireworks: Diwali also occurs around the same time of year, or a little earlier, so that's another occasion for them.

>>I never knew what gor blimey trousers were, but someone must know.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 09:39 AM
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Shoot bolts are used to secure doors and windows, can't imagine how that would fit "please release the shoot bolts".

Cor Blimey and Gor Blimey are both used but mean the same way - ie an exclamation of surprise

Sackbot is nothing to do with the UK as it's a character in LittleBigPlanet

Sackbut however is an early trombone
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 11:11 AM
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OXFORD, continued, Thursday November 6
We hopped the bus to Blenheim on a cool overcast morning, an easy half-hour ride. The bus drops you off at the main gate and you have a nice 15-minute walk toward the eastern side of the palace complex, finally arriving at Vanbrugh’s massive east gate. The palace is named after the site of the Duke of Marlborough’s victory over Louis XIV’s army. The palace is the birthplace of Winston Churchill, grandson of the 7th Duke. To my eye it is much more impressive than Versailles. We had an excellent guide who covered the history of the Dukes of Marlborough. The 11th Duke had passed away a few days before our arrival. We spent most of the day touring the palace, having a bite in the palace café, and then re-touring. There was an exhibit of Ai Weiwei’s works throughout the palace. Some of them were magnificent, such as the giant chandelier in the entrance hall. Others were bizarre (large wooden handcuffs placed on the bed where Winston Churchill was born) or simply insulting (two dozen large colored photographs of a hand giving the finger to sites around the world). There were very few people visiting and only one tour bus. Praise be.

Back to Oxford, more wandering as night came on. Dinner at Pierre Victoire, a solid brasserie style place: pate and mussels to start, then steak-frites and lamb shank.

Friday November 7
One more full day in Oxford before leaving for Bath Saturday morning. We decided to focus on Christ Church college instead of hopping around two or three others in bits and pieces.

I was on an Auden search, looking for the cottage where he lived the last few years of his life, minus the summers when he would return to his home in Austria. The helpful person in the visitors ticket office in the Meadow building showed me the location of the cottage on the map, down a lane closed to visitors. “Go down this lane, pass the ‘closed to visitors’ sign,” said she, “and act innocent if anyone stops you, then ask the guard in the bowler hat if he will unlock the gates to the cottage courtyard.” Done. The gentlemanly guard unlocked the wooden garage-type doors and I entered the courtyard, now used to park college supply trucks. There was Auden’s little stone cottage just beyond. It was originally built as a brewery for the college.

We walked back to the Meadow building. Auden lived in this building his first year in a room overlooking the Christ Church Meadow. We walked down the dirt road, big plane trees on either side, down to the Isis (Thames). This was one of the fords where oxen crossed ( = ox & ford ). Then slowly back to the Meadow building, looking at the English longhorn cattle grazing in the Meadow. This was where Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) walked with Alice Liddell, daughter of Henry Liddell, Dean of the college.

We entered the college complex, following the visitors map route. We met up with the Christ Church Cathedral tour guide for a long, comprehensive tour of the cathedral. It was more of a long conversation. My partner’s grandparents and great-grandparents were from the Worcester-Birmingham area and some of my ancestors came from the small town of Fillongley. The guide’s family came from that area as well. The Cathedral has an unusual status: it serves not only as the college chapel but as the cathedral of the diocese. It is a Royal Peculiar: the Dean of the chapel is appointed by and is directly answerable to the Queen and not to the Bishop. In fact, the Bishop must ask the permission of the Dean each time he wishes to enter the cathedral.

The chancel leading to the main altar has a richly designed ceiling, with geometric rib designs creating octagons. “Lanterns” or pendants hang from the ceiling, like stalactites. The master mason who designed this ceiling, William Orchard, also designed the ceiling of the Divinity School. It’s hard to imagine how such complex designs could be created and then carried out through cutting each stone manually with such great precision. The ceiling is 500 years old.

In the chapel to the left of the main altar is the shrine to Saint Frideswide. Historians believe that her name was pronounced “freedeh sweedeh” because it occurs in a rhyming verse of Chaucer. The shrine was smashed during the Reformation (most of the cathedrals we visited have lost their medieval stained glass and many of their statues were mutilated during the Reformation). The shrine was reconstructed, using pieces of the original, in the 19th century. Here and elsewhere in the cathedral are beautiful windows produced by the 19th century Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones.

Important historic ties to America are here. Bishop George Berkeley (after whom the University of California was named) is buried in the cathedral. William Penn was a student here. But the most moving monument in the cathedral, for me, was the altar of the Bell Chapel. George Bell was a graduate of the college and became Bishop of Chichester. He was a close friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bell, although a strong opponent of Nazism, criticized the saturation bombing of civilian targets in Germany. This allegedly triggered Churchill’s opposition to his becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. The chapel altar is a simple black, blocky thing. At first sight it appears to be black granite. But the altar was hewn from a single piece of 300-year-old oak, donated to the chapel by the Queen from her forest at Windsor.

Dinner at Carluccio’s, a comfortable no-nonsense Italian restaurant. Starters: bruschetta, mains: pasta with pancetta and peas and lasagna.

Time for sleep to get ready for the train trip to Bath….
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