Thursday, March 30, 2017

Black Wednesday

I was in the UK on the previous day that earned this term, the day in 1992 that the pound dropped out of the European exchange rate mechanism. I was there again on this Wednesday, the one when Mrs May pressed the self-destruct button. The news reports seemed kind of subdued, though, except for a kind of false jollity in the right-wing press, as if they were trying to convince themselves that this was something to celebrate. I hope there will still be a Britain to come back to, whenever I do.

Speaking of which, I squeezed in an extra day to my journey and met up with Tolkien Society folk at the same time, same day of the week, and in the same pub that we met in on my last visit. Exactly the same people showed up, too, which is an effective way of finding out who your friends are.

My brother and I made a success out of our drive out to Wales, for which we had most of a day free. On our previous visit, we had been driven by necessity to eat the vile fast food at the motorway rest areas, having been unable to locate anywhere else at major exits as they'd be in the US. This time I checked Google Maps beforehand, and discovered that casual dining restaurants as we know them in the US do exist in Britain, it's just that they're in remote suburban shopping centers a couple miles off the motorway, where you'd never find them unless you already had directions. We ate at a place called Toby's Carvery, whose carvery didn't look very appealing, but we made decent enough small meals out of appetizers and soup.

While lunching at the one in Reading, realizing we'd have enough time and good weather for a small detour, I pulled out the map and we looked. "Stonehenge," said my brother. "In all my trips to England, I've never been there." So we went; and I have to say that, for a monument that's been there for 5000 years, it's certainly changed a lot in the 20 since I was last there. They've closed the highway that ran right past it, demolished the old visitor center nearby, and built a newer, larger, and tackier one three miles away (to restore the pristine quality of the original site), and run shuttle buses up the closed road so you can get there. Some people denigrate Stonehenge as a tourist attraction, but it remains one of the weirdest, and coolest, sites I've ever visited.

And, oh yes, our makeshift attempts at formal clothing proved quite satisfactory for the funeral.

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