Footwear Fashion

Allow me to present an essential difference between boots as worn in the western U.S.A., and boots as worn in western Britishland:

Now let me explain why the ugly green ones on the right are not an affectation in These Yerrrr Parrrrts (as they call it here).

For most of my trip thus far there has not been a drop of rain fallen on my head. At least, not while I’ve been awake. So all my excursions have been dry, so to speak, and I’ve even been able to wear my Minnetonka moccasins (Kim’s go-to footwear) on a couple of shopping trips.

Then last night it rained — buckets, apparently — but I barely noticed it because I was sunk in semi-drunken slumber after Mr. FM and I had semi-indulged, so to speak. Today dawned bright and clear, but hidden underneath the oh-so green grass was… mud.

Good grief. It wasn’t just yer everyday sandy Texas mud; oh no, this was vile, clingy, chalky mud, the kind that needs not washing off but chiseling off if allowed to dry on the shoes. Anyway, after but a few steps in this stuff, my boots had completely disappeared into snowshoe-looking things of brownish gunk — it took the shoe boy almost an hour to clean it off (and if you look closely, you can still see a trace or two on the soles of my cowboy boots; I dare not tell Mrs. FM of this shortcoming or else the hapless youth will be flogged again).

Clearly, one needs a different kind of boot out here, so Mr. FM took me “wellie-shopping” at an emporium known as “Countrywide” which caters to the farm- and country-folk. And this was how I knew I was in Hardy Country.

You know how in Shepler’s Western Wear stores there’s an entire section dedicated to cowboy boots of all shapes and styles? That’s Countrywide’s policy towards Wellington boots (as rubber rain boots are known in Britishland). Yikes. And just like cowboy boots, wellies range in price from $100 a pair to $500 — and Mr. FM pointed out that “bespoke” wellies can demand still more than that.

I decided to go for fit over price: my sturdy calves (“more like full-grown bulls”, as my old dad once said) have given me trouble with tall boots all my life — but wonderfully, the wellies which fit me best were a “budget” brand which cost me only about $120, and are the ones featured in the pic above.

As for the bilious color of the things: Mr. FM assures me that hunter’s green is by far the most popular shade out in the field, as evidenced by this picture of his hunting party*, taken last year. Note the overwhelming choice of footwear:

So that’s okay, then.


*The bloke on the left (shirtsleeves rolled up, tieless and not wearing wellies) is apparently Lord Freddie Someone-Or-Other, whose family was given permission to be thus casually attired by the King, back in 1800 or something.

Prison Work

While driving through the Cotswolds last week, Mr. FM and I stopped off for lunch at a place intriguingly named, “The Old Prison”.

The cop shop was on the other side:

While eating my ham ‘n three-cheese panini sandwich in the little restaurant, my eye happened to catch sight of this commemorative sign:

Try as I may, I cannot think of a reason why this excellent form of prison work should not be introduced into our modern U.S. prisons. Think about it: it keeps the inmates busy, keeps them fit, keeps them out of mischief and, for those interested in such trivia, it’s a completely green source of energy.

And speaking of energy, here’s a quick pic of Mr. FM’s little conveyance which had carried us up into Gloucestershire:

Not very green, of course; but then again, I’m not one of those who are interested in such trivia.

Interesting Option

Harking back to my post about winning the Euromillions lottery Over Here, I saw this little piece of real estate, which would give one a serious option when it came to housing:

A historic Scottish castle that boasts lake views and comes complete with two islands is on the market for £3.75million. Glenborrodale Castle has 16 bedrooms as well as a walled garden, a gate house and an impressive 133 acres of land. The baronial home, on the idyllic Ardnamurchan peninsula in Lochaber, Scottish Highlands, was built during the early 20th century and looks fit to feature in a Hollywood fairy tale blockbuster or period drama.

I should point out that these pics were taken in the summer. I suspect that come the Scottish winter (the very definition behind the expression “witch’s tit cold”), it might look a little different.

Still, looks like there’s lots of room for a decent rifle range and a clay pigeon range withal. Not that I would ever consider spoiling the place’s heritage with such an undertaking, of course.

 

Holes In The Ground

Last October, The Englishman and Mr. Free Market had planned a joint visit to the U.S., but only Mr. Free Market made it over The Pond. The Englishman’s excuse for not making it was that he was going to be looking in a hole in the ground. (Mr. FM’s acid comment: “Nothing wrong with looking at holes in the ground, as long as there are dead Socialists at the bottom.”)

Well, this is the hole that The Englishman was talking about:

…and he took me there earlier today, after a liquid lunch [he added unnecessarily]. Here are my pics, taken at ground level:

The trapezoidal outline is the “inner wall” that was probably the outer wall of the barrow — basically, a wooden structure covered with earth and turf, wherein, the newspaper article runs, the dead were buried.

Here are a couple pics of some of the people excavating the site:

Actually, as The Englishman pointed out to me, the “burial ground” thing could be a load of nonsense, for the simple reason that as of today, no human remains have yet been found. The structure could equally have been a communal living area or shelter — but as the digging progresses, there may well be prehistoric bodies discovered further down.

It makes sense that it’s a burial site, by the way; in Neolithic times, dwellings were generally placed closer to rivers or lakes, and this barrow is at least a quarter-mile up from the nearest stream. Also, the dirt mound which surrounded the barrow had the trench on the inside, and not the outside (which would have made it a defensive fortification around the barrow).

I have to say that generally speaking, this kind of stuff holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever. I like history (i.e. written accounts of events and people) and not prehistory (which has no such accounts). The problem is that I love listening to experts talk about their area of expertise — it can be a glassblower, a gunmaker, a liquor distiller or someone who’s spent forty years studying Shakespeare’s sonnets — and along with The Englishman, who is very knowledgeable about all this prehistory stuff, I also met Jim Leary and Amanda Clarke (see the article) who are heading up both this dig and a nearby one (which we visited too). It’s impossible not to be excited when people like these talk about finds they’ve made which could completely change our understanding of this hitherto-unknown time.

Of course, all this was made still more enthralling for me when we passed this building on the way home — a Saxon church built around the time of Alfred The Great:

It’s long since been converted into a house, and I just hope that the owners appreciate its heritage.

And on the right is The Englishman’s Land Rover Defender (full pic below):

Of course, we’re not allowed to own such exquisite vehicles because of OSHA (no “side-protection”, or some such nanny-state bollocks), but don’t get me started on that tangent.

As with so many days I’ve spent here, it was perfect — and I’m going to do it again, somewhere else.

Oh, and of course, I’ve been remiss in not showing the place from which we started off the day’s activities, The King’s Arms in the village of All Cannings:

This is an historic site for me, because it’s where I was first introduced to Wadworth’s 6X Ale.

Again With That Cricket Thing

So yesterday afternoon I went once more to watch Mr. FM’s Son&Heir play for the local village cricket team, which, as before, was played in an atmosphere of utter class, fine play and good sportsmanship. The weather this time was far better, though:

…and after Our Lads thrashed the visitors (aided by a splendid knock of 50 not out from FM Son&Heir), we retired to the local pub, with the usual fare:

…and unfortunately, the usual consequences. (I’d write more about the day, but I have hobgoblins playing rugby in my head.)

Tomorrow (weather permitting), I’ll be at Lord’s to watch England take on South Africa in the First Test, to take that particular item off my Bucket List. Report to follow.

No Frigging Rules, Except For

As much as I love my job Over Here, reporting from behind enemy lines, there are certain things which drive me nuts. Chief among them is pronunciation, because while there are some rules, there are almost as many exceptions. Should any of my Loyal Readers find themselves in Britishland, here are a few tips which may prevent you from sounding like a mawkish ‘Murkin. Most are place names.

The town of Cirencester is pronounced “Siren-sister”, but the town of Bicester is not Bye-sister, but “Bister”, like mister. Similarly, Worcester is pronounced “Wusster” (like wussy), which makes the almost unpronounceable Worcestershire (the county) quite simple: “Wusster-shirr” (and not Wor-sester-shyre, as most Americans mispronounce it).

Now pay careful attention. A “shire” (pronounced “shyre”) is a name for county*, but when it comes at the end of a word, e.g. Lincolnshire, it’s pronounced “Linconn-shirr”. The shire is named after the county seat, e.g. the aforementioned Worcester (“Wusster”) becomes Worcestershire (“Wuss-ter-shirr”) and Leicester (“Less-ter”) becomes Leicestershire (“Less-ter-shirr”). Unless it’s the town of Chester, where the county is named Cheshire (“Chesh-shirr”) and not Chester-shirr. Also Lancaster becomes Lancashire (“Lanca-shirr”), not Lancaster-shirr, and Wilton begat Wiltshire (“Wilt-shirr”). Wilton is not the county seat; Salisbury is. Got all that?

*Actually, “shire” is the term for a noble estate, e.g. the Duke of Bedford’s estate was called Bedfordshire, which later became a county; ditto Buckingham(-shire) and so on, except in southern England, where the Old Saxon term held sway, and the estate of the Earl of Essex became “Essex” and not Essex-shire, which would have been confusing, not to say unpronounceable. Ditto Sussex, Middlesex and Wessex. Also, the “-sexes” were once kingdoms and not estates. And in the northeast of England are places named East Anglia (after the Angles settled there) and Northumbria (ditto), which isn’t a county but an area (once a kingdom), now encompassing as it does Yorkshire and the Scottish county Lothian — which I’m not going to explain further because I’m starting to bore myself.

And all rules of pronunciation go out the window when it comes to Northumbrian accents like Geordie (in Newcastle-On-Tyne) anyway, because the Geordies are incomprehensible even to the Scots, which just goes to show you.

Now here’s where it gets really confusing.

Villages used to be called “hamlets” (still are, in some places), so a village might be called Chesham (pronounced “Chezz’m” and not Chesh-ham), unless it’s the town of Horsham, which is pronounced “Whore-sh’m” (not whore-sham). In fact, Chesham might be an anomaly, because most villages where the name ends with an “s” create an “sh” dipthong — e.g. the lady in Great Expectations who’s called, Miss “Haver-sham” and not Havers-ham. Also, the “-sham” is pronounced “-sh’m” (or “-shim”), but let me not confuse you here.

The letter “l” inside a word is almost always silent. Palm and calm are pronounced “pahm,” and “cahm”, so the village of Calne is pronounced “Cahn” and not Cal-nee or Cal-nuh — similarly, the village of Rowde is pronounced “Rowd” (like crowd) and not RoadieRowdee or Rowd-uh.

Oh, and to end this thing: people are often confused by Welsh place names such as:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch

…but you needn’t worry. It’s just that the Welsh, like the Germans, run several words (and even phrases) together into a single word. The name of the above town, which is on the Isle of Anglesey, simply means “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio of the red cave”. It used to be called by a much shorter name, Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll (“The Mary church by the pool near the white hazels”), but that wasn’t confusing enough to the English and Scots, and the Welsh do love to take the mickey, so in 1850 the town was given its full name.

The rest of Britain got their revenge with the invention of computers, where the (English) programmers were not going to create a 50-character field just to accommodate the Welsh, so the place is now known as “Llanfair” (or “Llanfair PG”, to differentiate it from all the other places called “Llanfair” in Wales).