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"It Will Rain Tomorrow." England Weathers The MaiTai Four.

"It Will Rain Tomorrow." England Weathers The MaiTai Four.

Old Nov 21st, 2013, 07:08 AM
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Can't wait to read the next installment!
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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 07:29 AM
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the said font
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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 08:05 AM
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<B>NEXT: Chapter Eight – Breakfast Is Served, Rock On, A Trip To See King Arthur, All’s Wells That Ends Wells, Cat’s Meow, The Out-Of-Towners, We’re Just Wild About Harry, Lawful Assembly and Dinner At Hall & Oates</B>

We had left a note with Steve (our Cathedral View b&b host) the previous evening that we would be down for breakfast at 8 a.m. Being a group that is never late for a meal, we were greeted by Steve’s wife, Wenda, at the appointed hour. Steve was cooking away in the kitchen.

Steve and Wenda were the consummate b&b hosts, nice and informative. The Cathedral View rooms were ok, but feeling a little tired. Steve and Wenda said they were going to renovate it this winter, which will make this even a better base in Salisbury.

As far as location and hosts, I think Cathedral View is tough to beat. Wenda makes the cookies, Steve mans the breakfast duties and, in a unique alliance, Steve makes homemade jams with blackberries that are picked by Wenda’s ex.

They asked whether we were going to see the Magna Carta before we left town, but we said, “You’ve seen one; you’ve seen them all.” Steve replied that this was the best Magna Carta, but we had a date with some rocks.

After a breakfast of eggs and pancakes, we bid Steve and Wenda adieu and it was off to see The Stones (the ones without Mick Jagger). Located not far from Salisbury is a tourist sight that evokes many varied responses when asked whether it is a worthwhile place to visit.

Before I left, I talked to more than one person who thought Stonehenge was awful and a complete waste of time to visit. Others loved it and called it “mystical.” Being both loved and hated, I guess Stonehenge is the Oliver Cromwell of attractions.

We arrived about 10 a.m., barely beating the tourist bus parade that arrives during that hour. I had purchased tickets online (£8). It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and after we got our UWH card stamped, we were on our way (ok, they don’t really have UNESCO World Heritage Cards, but they should).

The headsets tell the story of Stonehenge in a rather overly dramatic fashion, but whether it was Druids or visitors from outer space, most of us thought the big stones were a worthwhile visit. Tracy was a little harder to impress, which is why I didn’t propose to her for a few years after meeting her.

Back in the car, Kim easily glided us with no near mishaps and in about one hour we arrived in Glastonbury. On the way into town we passed the Glastonbury Tor, supposedly the place where King Arthur was taken (presumably not on a round table) after being killed. Not in the mood for a long hike (and more importantly, because we missed the road to the Tor and didn’t want to turn around), we decided to visit the other major attraction in town.

The Glastonbury Abbey (£6) was a serene scene, and we all enjoyed our visit here. We came upon the “grave” of King Arthur (so much for Camelot) that would be scoffed at by a bar patron we would meet later in Bath. As the trip note-taker, Tracy, noted, “These were really lovely ruins.” We walked around the abbey grounds enjoying the serenity while taking photos for about 45 minutes.

Besides Sir Arthur, there were other fairy-like and mystical stories about the abbey that was eventually destroyed thanks to Henry VIII, who also stole their silver, gold and anything else they could get their paws on. The last abbot at the abbey was hanged, drawn and quartered at the Glastonbury Tor.

We decided to bypass lunch in the town of Glastonbury because it looked to us that these eateries catered mainly to the tourist trade. And the restaurants we passed had menus that did not pique our interest.

Fortunately, the town of Wells was located (and I’m sure it still is) very near to Glastonbury. It took us awhile to find a parking place, but we found a grocery store a short walk from our next destination that had a parking lot where we could leave the rental mobile for a couple of hours. Walking through the cute town of Wells, we found a terrific spot for lunch located very near to that next stop…the Wells Cathedral.

The Crown At Wells is both a restaurant and a hotel, and we were told that William Penn once preached there. That was all fine, but we just needed to eat. It looked like we could have stood at the bar for lunch, but as Churchill once said, “Never stand up when you can sit down.” We found an open table and sat down. Lunch was really good, and they had the best French fries (chips) that we had tasted yet in England.

Nearby was the beautiful Wells Cathedral (free, but a £3 charge for photography). This cathedral is very well maintained, and we were happy to pay the few quids to photograph it.

Before we left, we stopped in the gift shop to see if they had a Wells shot glass for a friend of mine with the same name. When I couldn’t find one, Tracy asked, “Why would a cathedral have shot glasses?” I thought everyone drank.

Before walking out of the store we ran into Lou resting comfortably in his basket. Lou is the Cathedral Cat, and we could tell this tabby boy is well pampered (as all cats should be). Lou even has a book and note cards for sale in the gift shop. Obviously, he is one cool cat!

In another hour we reached Bath, and as we traveled through town toward our next b&b, for the first time, our GPS lady seemed a little out of sorts. We circled Bath like an airliner waiting to land, but eventually we found our lodging, Hill House. It was here where Kim had his only blip on his driving radar.

The directions from Hill House (perfect directions, as it turned out) told us to park outside the b&b, where we could unload the luggage. Kim, however, decided the smallish space was not safe (cars coming from an odd direction can do that to a person), so we took off and circled the town again (it was kind of like The Out-Of-Towners in a car instead of a plane).

Eventually our pilot (aka Kim) had us near Hill House again, but he would not park there. Kim parked a block away, and I ran down to Hill House. Our host, Harry, scurried up to our car, told Kim to come back and park in the original spot next to the b&b. We unloaded quickly, and Harry jumped in the car with Kim to get him a parking space.

Inside Hill House, Harry escorted us to the large, lovely dining room where we were offered cake and tea or coffee. Harry gave us the lay of the land (maps, walks, tours, etc.) and told us that this bed and breakfast was formerly a wine merchant’s home. Hill House really was beautiful and deserves its high ratings on line. Harry was great, told us about the next morning’s breakfast (Hill House, in our opinion, had the best breakfasts of the trip) and took us upstairs to our room. We took the attic room that was spacious with a large, modern bathroom and a great view.

There happened to be a rugby match in town (foreshadowing alert) this weekend, so Harry told us the restaurants were all pretty full (he called one that he recommended and was informed they were full, but he gave us a suggestion to just show up and they might be able to squeeze us in). He also said to stop by the Assembly Pub on the way for a beer.

Hill House is not named that for no reason. It is located on a pretty steep hill that leads down to the center of Bath. It’s convenient to everything, and you can walk off whatever you have for dinner on the way back as you come back up the hill. The hill was nature’s own ThighMaster.

At The Assembly, I enjoyed the local Bath ale called Bellringer. We were talking about King Arthur and Glastonbury Abbey when a guy next to us laughed and said not to believe everything you read. Oh well.

Now, it was time for dinner so we headed toward the restaurant Harry had suggested, Hall & Woodhouse. Mary, who I swear had only downed one beer, asked, “Do you know where Hall & Oates is located?” We did not, however Hall & Woodhouse, on the other hand, was just down the street.

The place was packed as expected, but after I chatted up the bouncer (you never know when you might need help) who we learned was coming to Los Angeles to box and asked for tips on where to stay, he said we might be able to get in for dinner. He talked to the greeter who told us to hang on for about 15 minutes and he would see what he could do.

Tracy and I had our first martini of the trip as we waited. Once we saw the bill (£15 each), we decided it would also be our last. The upstairs dining room at Hall & Oates (oops, Woodhouse) was beautiful and the rooftop was nice, too, but we could only be afforded a ground floor table, which we gratefully took.

For dinner, everything from the fish & chips (Kim) to Pork Loin (Mary) and Steak & Ale Pie (Tracy and me) were great. Our United Nations of servers at British restaurants continued with our waitress who hailed from Ontario, Canada.

It didn’t matter that we might have eaten too much, because the steep walk up that half-mile hill shed any extra caloric intake. Since our legs were already numb, we walked on a little further to get a nice view of Bath, and then headed back to Hill House for a very pleasant sleep before what would become a crazy day in Bath, England.

The next day would start out innocently enough, but turned rather odd as the hours progressed. It would include Kim & Mary becoming an integral part of a huge, local sporting event, and a comedy of errors that evoked the memory of poor Uncle Billy from It’s A Wonderful Life. Oh yeah, those heart attack symptoms were a little scary, too.

<B>NEXT: Chapter Nine – Eggscellent Breakfast, Showers In Bath, We’re Walking Here, Circus But No Tent, Ponte Vecchio: British Style, Hat Trick, Lunch In A Department Store, Kim & Mary Have A Ball, Father Of The Bride, She Doesn’t Look So Bad, Tom Pulls An Uncle Billy, Fool On The Hill, Kim & Mary’s Martini Dinner and I Don’t Think It’s Really A Heart Attack</B>
maitaitom is online now  
Old Nov 21st, 2013, 08:24 AM
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What a cliff-hanger!!!
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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 11:48 AM
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You can't leave us hanging (not drawn and quartered) for long, I hope.
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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 12:44 PM
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Loving this
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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 01:44 PM
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CW, LOL, well said...
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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 03:49 PM
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"our UWH card stamped, we were on our way (ok, they don’t really have UNESCO World Heritage Cards, but they should)" - what a great idea. I think you should talk them into instituting them.
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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 07:08 PM
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Oh, I love these! Thanks, Tom!
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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 10:01 PM
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Ditto to the UWH card (or UWH "passport"). Great idea.

I liked meeting the cathedral cats in England. While visiting Canterbury, I bought a few copies of the book about them. Cute photos, interesting stories. I gave them (the books, not the cats) as presents to my cat-loving friends and relatives.

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Old Nov 21st, 2013, 10:34 PM
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SO happy I scanned the TR's tonight. I had no idea your trip to the Isles had commenced.

As usual, you've scared the hell out of my cats (Ok, it was me guffawing over some typical Maitai humor), but I suppose they'll forgive me after the next meal.

Can't wait to read the rest!
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Old Nov 22nd, 2013, 02:30 AM
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Eagerly awaiting the next chapter.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2013, 04:58 AM
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Come on, Tom! More please soon.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2013, 01:50 PM
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<B>NEXT: Chapter Nine – Eggscellent Breakfast, Showers In Bath, We’re Walking Here, Circus But No Tent, Ponte Vecchio: British Style, Hat Trick, Lunch In A Department Store, Kim & Mary Have A Ball, Father Of The Bride, She Doesn’t Look So Bad, Tom Pulls An Uncle Billy, Fool On The Hill, Kim & Mary’s Martini Dinner and I Don’t Think It’s Really A Heart Attack</B>

After a glorious night’s sleep, the MaiTai Four filed down to the dining room for a breakfast from heaven. Along with our tea and coffee we were given the choice of Eggs Florentine, Eggs Benedict or a typical English breakfast (hard for me to wrap my mind around baked beans for breakfast). There was also a table filled with granola, fruits and juices. I had the Eggs Benedict and they were stupendous. Satiated, we were ready for the day.

Walking down the hill, we felt something that we really hadn’t felt on this trip. Kim said, “See I told you it would rain tomorrow.” Sure enough, we had our first significant rain shower. It barely lasted until we reached our first destination (the Roman Baths) at about 9:25, which have been here since around 75 A.D. Cost to enter is £12.75, which includes the very informative audio guide.

The museum is well presented, and we spent about an hour wandering through all the excavations. We could have spent a little longer there, but right outside the Roman Baths was a free walking tour of the town, which was going to begin promptly at 10:30 a.m.

Our tour guide, Chris (a former nurse), took us on a 2 hour and 15 minute jaunt around town, and we saw all the major points of interest. We stopped by historical buildings, walked by Queen Square and headed over to The Royal Crescent, where showers once again reared their ugly spigot (for about five minutes).

The Royal Crescent is great for those of us who have cameras with the “panorama” feature. Built in the late 1700s, the Royal crescent comprises something like 30 houses, which, as the name implies, forms a crescent shape. Cool photo op!

Then we headed to the Circus, the one without clowns (fortunately). Circus Place contains a bunch of Georgian buildings all built in a circle that is only interrupted by a few streets in between. Thomas Gainsborough (of Pinky and Blue Boy Fame for we Southern Californians who have visited the Huntington Library and Gardens) lived in one of these houses back in the 1700s.

Our last stop on the tour was the Pulteney Bridge, an 18th century span that has a bunch of shops and restaurants on it. Our guide told us it is one of only three bridges in the world to have shops across its span on both sides. The other two are The Rialto in Venice and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. “We have the Bridge Hat Trick,” I exclaimed.

Kim and Mary were much more interested in the span because this was the bridge used in the movie version of Les Misérables where some guy called Javert committed suicide (probably because he had to listen to that soundtrack too often). Thankfully Kim and Mary are not Jane Austen fans (so no Jane museum for us), or I might have had to join old Javert floating face down at the bottom of the bridge.

The tour was great, and we learned much about the origins of Bath and its layout. It’s a good way for someone to get an initiation to the town.

The two couples split up for lunch. We wandered into a restaurant that was also a department store. Café Lucca (1 Bartlett Stret) is located inside The Loft, a store that sells everything from clothing to housewares to shoes (I assumed Café Lucca’s special would be filet of sole).

The restaurant was quite good. Tracy enjoyed her Butternut Squash Soup with a couple of Bacon & Fontina Crostinis. My Roast Beef, Shaved Parmesan with Horseradish Panini (£8.95) was just what the doctor ordered (that and a cold beer…more foreshadowing). Our waitress here happened to be born in France and raised in San Diego. Obviously servers in Britain are not allowed to be British.

Kim and Mary had lunch right down the street at a restaurant they found to be quite enjoyable, too. It had the unique name of Same-Same But Different (also on Bartlett Street), and they said the food was quite good.

We hooked back up with Kim and Mary to wander down to the Pulteney Bridge. We wanted to go to the Holburne Museum. Kim still had a bad case of museum fatigue, so we split up and said we’d meet back at the hotel for some vino before heading out to dinner.

Up until this point in time, the day had gone pretty smoothly…we had seen lots of interesting sights, dined at a couple of good restaurants and everything was normal. The rest of the day and night was anything but.

Tracy and I walked toward the Holburne Museum, but first made a slight right to catch a glimpse (from a distance) of the big rugby match that was taking place. Little did we know that Kim and Mary were, at the same time, becoming part of the game’s action…almost.

According to Mary: “While walking past the rugby field during the match, we were wandering on the river side, along the bank, listening to the roar of the crowd when the game ball came bouncing out the entrance walkway towards Kim and I. It rolled to a stop next to us, and a young man that was working at a boat bar next to us ran over, scooped it up and passed it to one of the security guards at the gate. That guard ran it back into the field to the roar of the crowd. Had either Kim or I had stooped forward we would have had the game ball as a souvenir!”

I wonder what I would have done. It sure would have been a fun souvenir for my Sports Room. Mary and Kim, of course, did the right thing. By the way, maybe next time the teams could spring for an extra ball or two for the big game.

Meanwhile Tracy and I continued our walk to the Holburne Museum, an 18th century building which houses paintings, silverware and ceramics. Outside the building was a double-decker bus that had “Wedding Special” on the back of it.

A well-dressed man standing next to the bus came up and introduced himself as the father of the bride and asked where we were from, and we told him California.

While the bride and groom were having their photos taken in front of the museum, the extremely friendly father of the bride escorted us over to more wedding guests and said, “Look, we even have people from California who came to the wedding.” I think pops might have had a couple of pops by now. We exchanged some pleasantries and bade farewell.

Inside the museum were some nice paintings, but there was one portrait on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London that we were particularly interested in seeing. It was the first official painting of Duchess Kate…the one that had so many people’s knickers in a knot recently.

Paul Emsley’s portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge was maligned by many, but not by us. There was also a short film on how the project took place.

Exiting the museum, we almost reached the sidewalk when the “Wedding Special” Party Bus, circled back from its previous direction and headed back toward us. As it made its turn onto the next street, Tracy and I waved to the bride and groom, and they (along with many other people on the bus) gave us a nice wave back. Someday I am going to look at our many European adventures to see just how many weddings we have stumbled across.

As we walked across the bridge on the way to Hill House, I decided to get something from the rugby store for my buddy Dan (whose camera has been at the bottom of a Venice canal since my 2005 report) to put in his Sports Room. I bought a little £8 horn, paid by credit card and off we went.

Before heading up the hill, we made a quick stop at Bath Abbey. We were told that Bath Abbey was built in the Perpendicular Style (kind of like me in college after a night of drinking). The abbey has more than 50 stained glass windows and it also has a number of tombs and monuments throughout the interior. A girl at the entrance tried to talk us into a Tower Tour, but we barely had the energy to make one more walk up that hill to our B&B (damn, lots of foreshadowing alerts lately).

After trudging up the hill, I remembered I was supposed to pick up some cheese and bread for our little get together in the room before dinner. Harry was about to take his dog for a walk, so he walked with me to the little store where I would pick up provisions.

When I got to the counter to pay, I realized I was missing an integral part of the paying process…my MasterCard. I went though my wallet a few times, and then went through the process of where I might have left it. It was at that damn rugby store on the bridge where I had bought the horn.

I told Tracy when I got back, we alerted Harry’s B&B partner, Douglas, who attempted to call the store. There was no answer, and the store was scheduled to close at 5:30, which was less than 20 minutes from now. To make matters worse, the store would not be open the following day, and we were going to leave early for Tetbury anyway. Now I knew exactly how Uncle Billy felt after he lost that $8,000.

Well, just like Jimmy Stewart I started running through Bedford Falls (I mean Bath) with Tracy on my heels. There were no Mr. Potters yelling at me from the windows as I tried to make it to the shop before it closed, but it was very near closing time. We arrived back at the store at exactly 5:30.

As it turned out, I could have walked backward to the store because when we got there the line of people stretched all the way to Wells. Bath had won the game (thanks to Kim and Mary not stealing the game ball) and everyone was lined up to buy Bath rugby gear.

When I tried to get inside, the guard momentarily stopped me, but when I told him my sad tale, he let me go to the front of the line. The cashier got a big smile on her face when she saw me and said, “Thank God, we had no idea how to get in touch with you,” and handed me my card. As I walked outside, a bunch of concerned fans asked, “Did you get your card back?” Worn out, I just nodded.

Tracy and I (slowly) walked back up the hill, showered and went to Kim and Mary’s room for wine, cheese and bread. Harry had made reservations at a restaurant called Martini for that evening. We had seen it the night before, and it looked cute. The places where we had wanted to go (like Restaurant Eleven) had no reservations available.

As we sat in Kim and Mary’s room, I suddenly felt a pretty sharp pain in my chest area. It would keep coming and going (but mostly coming). My arm wasn’t numb or anything, and my heart rate and pulse seemed fine so I didn’t really think I was having a heart attack, although I thought back on my run down the hill to the shop and was a bit concerned that I might have overdone it.

Then, without provocation, Dr. Mary reached over and pinched my earlobe as hard as she could. “What the heck (I might be changing the word I used there) are you doing,” I screamed?

She said that if I was suffering a heart attack, pinching my ear wouldn’t have hurt. I said that her pinch would have hurt even if I was dead.

Mary and Tracy both concluded from this barbaric ear experiment that I had a bad case of gas (guess it doesn’t matter with me in Europe, gas seems to be a problem whether in me or in cars). Whatever it was, it was an incredibly painful feeling at the bottom of my chest, so I was still a tad worried I was having a heart attack.

I could see the tombstone already:
“Here lies Tom…Sorry, we really thought it was gas!”

The women were blaming this gas attack on my beer consumption since I had arrived in England. Although I hadn’t drank that much beer, I hardly ever drink it at home, so they thought perhaps my body hadn’t adapted to my newfound fondness of dark ale.

In any event, we decided to play it safe and stay home while Kim and Mary went to dinner (no need for everyone to starve). Kim’s description of Martini was “good food, bad service and a dodgy atmosphere.” The boy is becoming a Brit at heart, I tell ya.

I, on the other hand, felt awful when I was lying down and sitting, but pretty good when standing. Tracy gave me some back rubs and stomach medicine, we contemplated calling 911 (or whatever number you call in Bath) and I drank a bunch of Bath water.

Ninety minutes later, as suddenly as it started, the pain subsided and stopped. We turned out the lights and were asleep in seconds. It turned out just to be another fun story to tell my doctors when I got home. I like to keep them entertained with my health woes.

Bath would be in our rearview tomorrow, as we would drive into the southern Cotswolds. Along the way we’d visit some charming towns, take a tour at one of the true highlights of our journey and end up at the best bed and breakfast place we have stayed at in our entire life. All that AND dinner with a Fodorite…who could ask for anything more?

<B>NEXT: Chapter Ten – I Got My Thrill With Blueberries Hill, Are You Sure That’s The Name, A Brush With Combe, Sunday Roast, Butterflies Are Free, Admitted To Berkeley, B&B Perfection, Someone Get This Dog A Drink and Dinner With A Fodorite Bearing Homemade Gin</B>
maitaitom is online now  
Old Nov 22nd, 2013, 03:27 PM
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Old Nov 22nd, 2013, 04:50 PM
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Very enjoyable read. So glad it wasn't a heart attack!
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Old Nov 22nd, 2013, 05:46 PM
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Oh my goodness, Maitai, I have felt those pains; they totally feel (I imagine) like the big one. I now carry gas tabs with me. So glad you got over them. Ugh. 90 minutes of hell.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 05:49 AM
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Just in case you ever have to run back for your credit card in England again Tom, the number there is 999.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 06:16 AM
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You actually had a cold beer in England?

Glad you are OK!
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 07:49 AM
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You need to watch that cold beer. Drink it at room temperature like the rest of us.
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