Matchless beauty

Up at 9 to hear about the aftermath of the awful flooding in the Lakes District and people finally being allowed to return to their soaking houses. The BBC talked to a family who have been flooded three times in the last four years. Bet their insurance premiums are really high!

The plan today is to visit Gloucester. The weather is supposed to be nice in the afternoon but so far it’s been steely grey skies with occasional rain. I am of the opinion that Pope’s Hill has its own micro-climate which bears no relation to the Met Bureau predictions AT ALL! However, the same, it seems, is true of Gloucester.

We eventually set out and trundled into the centre of Gloucester. We found the Mall car-park, left Sidney and headed out towards the cathedral. As we approached the tower that is sat at the crossroads of East, West, North and South Gate Streets, the wind grew stronger and the rain started spitting at us like little daggers of wet. It was as if the closer we drew to the cathedral, the harder the rain fell until we were scant yards away and it fairly flung itself down. We then fooled the rain gods by going inside.

I was quite impressed with Gloucester cathedral though Mirinda thought it creepy. We split up and wandered our separate ways around.

Cloisters in Gloucester Cathedral

There’s so much to love about this cathedral. It’s around a thousand years old and old Bill the Bastard set a relative up there as the head monk. His name was Serlo. Why is it all these Normans, apart from Bill, have such odd names? Anyway, Serlo is depicted in a Victorian window made by Charles Kempe in 1892. His face looks kinder than I bet it really was.

A little further down the line, the gay Edward II was buried there and his rather elaborate monument is quite a remarkable piece of church sculpture. Though it should be said, it lacks a lot of the colour it originally had as well as the jewels in his crown. It was all organised by his son, Edward III. Interestingly, Kempe made a stained glass version of Edward III with the then Abbot Wygmore, near the tomb of Edward II. It’s a lovely window, however, Wygmore looks exactly like Serlo! Now, it may be that abbots all wind up looking the same but I think, maybe, Kempe only had a few models and monks were always the same guy.

Another famous chappie associated with the place was King Henry III. His coronation took place in the cathedral in 1216 and he is the only English monarch to be crowned outside Westminster. I suppose I should mention that the cloisters, which are particularly beautiful and a fine example of fan vaulting and the earliest surviving, having been designed in the 1360s, featured a lot in the first two Harry Potter films. Don’t ask me where as I have no interest in Harry Potter but I assume they were the halls of Hogwarts or whatever the school is called.

There is a lot of beauty at the cathedral and one rather odd thing. An effigy of Robert, Duke of Normandy. He’s lying all heroic in his knightly garb, looking like he’d happily save the day on horse with a lance. Ok, he has quite a big hooked nose and a pretty pathetic moustache but all round, he seems like a pretty heroic kinda guy. Then you see his legs and feet. Rather than being straight out, possibly resting on a small ferret-like dog, they are twisted into a very odd position. I can find no explanation for this. The guidebook mentions only his nose. I have to assume they do not know. He was the eldest son of Bill the Bastard but had a bit of argy bargy with his brother who ended up being King Henry I. Robert ended his life banged up in Cardiff Castle, dying in 1134. For some reason, Henry felt his brother deserved a decent burial so he was buried at the cathedral and this effigy made for him. Maybe the legs were so he couldn’t climb down and wrestle the crown back from Henry. I shall investigate further and report back.

Effigy of Robert of Normandy, Gloucester Cathedral

There’s a lot to talk about but I shall finish my mini-tour by saying I particularly liked the reredos screen designed by George Gilbert Scott and dedicated in 1873.

We left the cathedral and, you wouldn’t believe it, the rain had stopped. It was grey and miserable but it was dry! We wandered around the cathedral green, admiring the buildings of many ages that are distributed with abandon around the church. All very lovely. We made our way to St Lucy’s Garden, which must be put down as a tad disappointing. We once more approached the main crossroads in Gloucester and…it started raining again! As before, it was the wind, whipping up everything and then the rain. Of course, we were used to it by now so we just wandered around a bit more.

Remains of Greyfriars Abbey, Gloucester

As we wandered around Greyfriar’s (a ruin, with a library built on one end) a chap with two fearsome dogs said “Nice weather for it” or some such witty quip. I should explain that I was wearing shorts. Although partly choice, it should be stated that I was wearing shorts because the butt had ripped out of my jeans and, while I could always put a fleece around my waist, they were uncomfortable to sit in. All I could come back with was “Beats wet jeans,” which he sagely agreed with. I should add that it wasn’t particularly cold, just wet and windy!

They always say, you can’t beat a meal at Wetherspoons for value. I’m not sure who ‘they’ are but I have to agree. Where else in this country can you get two free range fried eggs, three slices of Wiltshire ham and a big handful of oven cooked chips for the miserly sum of £2.99? Glorious! And good beer as well. Mirinda had Nachos and a cider. We then went and collected Sidney for the trip back to Rose Cottage, feeling quite worn out by our four hour tourist day.

Back in the cottage, all snugly boo and away from the elements, imagine our surprise when the power suddenly went out. I scampered around until I found the torch which I had thoughtfully included in our chattels and proceeded to look for matches. You see, this cottage comes equipped with many, many candles, an open fire with stacks of lovely wood standing beside it which we were told is for burning and not just decoration, a gas stove and cooker but, surprisingly, no matches. I know, I searched everywhere. There were none. There is NOW.

So, we sat around and joked about the dark until, bang, the power suddenly returned. For joy. We settled down to watch Hancock, a surprise birthday present from Mirinda. We were enjoying it a lot, in fact, we’d watched almost an hour when, bang, the power went again.

We sat for a while and then Mirinda decided to try playing her guitar in the pitch. Not bad, actually. She surprised us both with her first song but things became a bit tricky when she had to change chords. It was like she’d only being playing a fortnight.

As the dark time lengthened I suggested going to bed until we checked our watches and realised it was actually only 7pm. We discussed the ridiculousness of not having any matches for a bit more. Mirinda asked if the oven clicker worked off electricity. It didn’t take many attempts to realised it did. Then Mirinda came up with the idea of using the lighter in the car to light the candles. I said it would be tricky keeping a piece of paper alight from the car to the cottage, given the weather conditions but she said we would take the candle to the car. There was even a candle in a glass tube, especially for outside conditions.

I was thinking over this crazy plan when a sudden thought struck me. “Why don’t we just drive down to the garage and buy some matches?” I asked. We laughed like fools, grabbed the keys and drove down Pope’s Hill, remarking that all the houses dotted around the hill appeared to have candles burning in the windows.

The garage was the only place ablaze with light, so we went in, bought some emergency chocolate rations, spare batteries and two boxes of matches. The girl at the garage said her power went off then came back almost immediately but she’d had problems finding the reset for her pumps. A helpful young lad had managed to locate it and she was upset she hadn’t been given the night off.

So we jumped back in Sidney and began the short trip back to Rose Cottage, realising, as we did, that all the power had returned to the houses dotted around Pope’s Hill and, most obviously, the Greyhound Inn that sits at the bottom.

In Rose Cottage, the television was happily playing to the furniture as the lights blazed for no reason. We settled down and tested our luck by finishing Hancock from where we’d left off. The power remained on. Though we were prepared to light the fire and light the candles with the two boxes of matches now sitting on the mantlepiece.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny so we may try and get to the wildlife reserve where we can see winter swans. This is not a guarantee.

The photo below is of a restaurant near Gloucester cathedral. It is called The Comfy Pew. I include it because I thought the name was cute and, maybe we should have eaten there…though it was probably about to close. Anyway, the other reason I took the photo is because I’ve yet to experience a comfy pew and figure the name is not just because it’s cute but also as an ironic tribute to the discomfort experienced when sitting for long periods of time in a church. I could be wrong.

The Comfy pew, Gloucester

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