I am enjoying a break at the moment, hiding out in a lovely Grade 11 listed cottage in one of the many charming villages scattered round beautiful Somerset. The weather, if not brilliant, is at least pleasant, with only the odd scattering of rain chucked down by the powers that be as a sop to the farmers and gardeners who are revolting. (If childish humour is your thing, make your own joke here). In any case, here I am in the lovely rolling countryside of this cider-making county, loafing around and listening to the burr of the local birds, whilst dutifully mapping out the where-to-visit-today itinerary. On Sunday, it was off to Bristol to see Brunel’s HMS Great Britain and, let me tell you, judging by the size of the tiny bunks, anorexia is clearly not a modern-day phenomenon. In fact, so narrow were they, it would be difficult to lie two dry straws of spaghetti side by side. So much for the myth of the jolly fat sailor! For any naval history buffs, though, it’s worth the entrance fee.
The following day saw us spending a pleasant few hours in Bradford on Avon, a pretty Saxon town in Wiltshire. In true tourist fashion we ambled beside the Kennet and Avon canal admiring the picture-perfect narrow boats moored on each side, then popped along to have a look at the enormous 14th century Tithe Barn at Barton Grange Farm. As tourism is the mainstay of the area, there were a number of craft and souvenir shops close by and, like Pavlov’s dogs, I was soon salivating and champing at the bit, (which was a bit scary for onlookers!), desperate to go charging off into those Aladdin’s caves of . . .tat! Well, what else would you call six tin cans (I swear one still had a baked bean at the bottom) fashioned into a clunk-ugly cat? In disbelief, I turned my attention to a small mirror, the frame of which had been ‘distressed’ so badly, the poor thing was clearly distraught. ‘Shabby chic,’ the shop assistant told me with a ‘what would you know, ignorant peasant’ glare, as I took it over to point out the damage. Okay, so I may not be a member of MENSA (I can’t even spell it), but I figure there is something wrong when something that has been wilfully trashed (sorry, distressed) costs three times the price of said object in its ‘un-distressed’ state. I can’t help but feel the same about clothes that are worn out before ever you’ve worn them, threadbare hemlines (organic apparently), frayed, ripped and faded jeans that look as though some builder has left not only his bum in them, but half the building site too. And, okay, so I may be a woman d’un age certain, but I’m no fuddy duddy and certainly not averse to being conned. I have, indeed, been royally conned on several occasions (er . . . a dancing Mickey Mouse with no visible means of support). Not on this occasion, though. Replacing both tin-can cat and grief-stricken mirror and carefully eschewing the stuffed, ripped, patched-with-old-socks gingham rabbit (with cross-stitched eyes, only thirty quid!) I backed out like a vegetarian at a cannibal convention.
Today, we are off to Avebury to see the megalithic stones (more Hubby’s thing than mine – one megalithic stone is much the same as another). If there’s a souvenir shop lurking (with intent to con) in the vicinity, I promise I will just walk on by. Shabby chic? My foot! Shabby cheek!
First, though, I need to pack away the pink raffia heart-shaped cushion with the cutesy sayings stamped all over it I bought the day before. It will look just stunning in the living room, next to the tartan coal scuttle and the bulrush poker.