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Saturday 15 May 2010

The wonderful smell of frying bacon woke me at around 8.30. Such an excellent alarm clock. We went down for a cooked breakfast then out on the town we ventured.

After vaguely wandering around, we wound up at the Abbey which Mirinda swore she'd never been in. I remembered it but, having reread my journal, realised I'd not seen the stained glass of the crowning of Edgar in 973. Well, the scaffolding has been removed and the window looks marvellous.

bath abbey vaultWe also popped down to the Vaults. I'm pretty sure these were not open last time. They tell the history of the Abbey with displays and 'lecterns' in between the vaulted ceiling. As we wandered around, the familiar voice of Prunella Scales regaled us (along with her husband Timothy West) with quotes from people who had lived in Bath at some time.

An odd thing that has never occurred to me before, which in itself is odd. In 1539, Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, sacked churches, sold off church land and, generally did everything he could to reduce the power of the church. He was pretty successful. And then, in 1574, his mother, Elizabeth I, was trying to raise money to fix the churches her father had tried to destroy! Although, it's safe to say that she doesn't seem to have put any money into the collection plate.

Overheard as I waited for Mirinda outside the Vaults: "Everything is free in church," from a teenager to his father who was just as confused by it as me.

After Mirinda had managed to read every single word in the Vaults, we popped out to the main piazza for a coffee. There were quite a few people doing the same but we managed to get a table. I went inside to order our coffees. I was astounded at the complexity of the ordering process and felt very sorry for the Japanese tourists in front of me who were trying to work out how to purchase a sandwich and a cup of tea.

"Food you must order downstairs," Said the helpful Schumanian behind the counter.
"Can I have tea, please?" Responded the bewildered tourist
"Tea I can make for you but food? Downstairs. They will bring it out to your table."
"Table?"
"Where are you sitting? The table has number. Tell the number to downstairs and they bring your food to you."
"Tea and sandwich, please."

juggling fire outside the pumproom, bathI left them to it. The other Schumanian served me with two lattes and I returned to Mirinda in the middle of the crowded tables and we sat watching the buskers.

There seems to be a quite strict roster for busking. As we sat, a girl laying what appeared to be a big copper cake mixing bowl finished her gig and was replaced by a girl with an amazing voice, singing operatic arias. Her performance skills, however, were sadly lacking. She stood in jeans and jumper, swaying weirdly, singing angelically. Had she been wearing an evening gown, her hair bouffanted a bit and a pair of bright pink killer heels, she would have been magnificent. Sometimes, buskers just need a little bit of direction to make some serious money. As it was, Mirinda gave her a few quid because she looked like a staring student.

Having refreshed our brains with the coffees, we took off on an expedition of fruitlessness, searching for the Evans store. We wandered up, we wandered down, we traipsed through bog and mire, we avoided deadly man eating crocodiles salivating beneath shop awnings. It was a serious waste of time. We ended up, empty handed, back at Pulteney Bridge.

At one end of Pulteney Bridge is a bakery with lots of yummy looking cakes and pastries. We had decided to buy pour lunch here and eat it on the banks of the river. At first we were going to eat it by the banks of the river until we discovered you had to pay for the privilege of sitting by the river. Sadly, we didn't get to eat cake either. There was a queue. Damned if I'll queue for cake! There was a sign on the window of the cake shop that said they were looking for three new staff members. I thought this may have explained the queue but maybe it's just a popular cake shop.

We wound up at a cafeteria atop the Podium Shopping Mall where we had reasonably nice sandwiches without having to queue. It was then off to the river to take a boat ride up to Bathampton.

This was not as easy as it at first appeared. Before boarding the boat, we had to find a toilet. This ended up being in The Boater pub where, feeling guilty, I had to buy a beer. This struck me as ironic. When I explained the irony to Mirinda she wasn't as struck as I was. Though it was 6X so I didn't mind the irony very much.

The boat ride was nice and tranquil once we managed to ignore the American chap who was chatting on his phone for the whole trip. I thought he was talking to his simple wife but, after he discussed her day with her, it was clear it was his daughter.

"I'm in Bath. Do you know why it's called Bath? A bath is a big hot tub. The Romans built it. Do you know who the Romans were?" And so it went. I managed to fade him out. He also helped by moving away from everyone else.

hen night in boats on the river avon, bathIn the back of the boat was a group of women, clearly on a hen's weekend. Each of them had a sash, proclaiming they were part of someone's wedding. Actually we saw a few of these groups, like wandering, giggling groups of feral girls out for a good time, war paint expertly applied. The oddest group was the one in the three boats on the river. They appeared to be lashed together (the boats not the women) as they raised their glasses to toast some poor friend who was leaving the company of women for the marriage bed. They raised their glasses to us as we cruised by.

And we saw a kingfisher! For real, in the wild. This is a rare treat. It sat, happily waiting for everyone to notice, on a handrail. The driver of the boat pointed it out, yelling dementedly, "A KINGFISHER! LOOK, A KINGFISHER!" Everyone obediently looked and we watched it take off and fly to the other side of the river, showing off its plumage to us all. It was easily a highlight of this trip to Bath.

At Bathampton, the boat turns around at the weir and returns, having dumped those passengers who wish to return later in the day. This was most of them including the wedding girls and the American. It meant I could sit in the prow of the boat and enjoy the slow journey back to Bath. It did mean I missed most of the commentary. I managed to pick up bits and pieces.

Apparently Governor Arthur Philip was either from or ended up in, Bath either before or after his tour duty in Australia. I'll have to check with Mirinda as she listened to the whole thing from inside the boat.

Back at the hotel we made plans to see a movie. It was decided we'd see The Ghost Writer and so set off early for dinner. We ended up at Yo! Sushi. Mirinda has never experienced the fun of Yo! Sushi. The little conveyor belts, the lovely titbits of Japanese food. She loved it. We had a great dinner and then left for the Little Cinema.

It's a cute little independent cinema. Originally I'd tried to get tickets to the Theatre Royal to see Tom Conti in Wife After Death but it was sold out so the pictures it was. A terrific film. I enjoyed it a lot. Polanski has a great skill for maintaining suspense throughout a film. The ending was a big surprise. Ewan McGregor was terrific. Pierce Brosnan was Pierce Brosnan. Cantrell from Sex in the City was pretty good. Recommended if you like thrillers.

It was then a pleasant walk back to the hotel.