arcanamundi: (Default)
( Apr. 30th, 2009 07:49 pm)
Despite Sandra's jeremiads, I decided to go to Melton Mowbray. Since I hadn't seen any news or telly in a few days, I found these headlines REALLY alarming. It wasn't until I bought a copy of the HT and the Guardian and read them that I discovered that the headlines were not that closely related to the situation on the ground. I didn't freak out when I saw them - I've been in England for nearly two weeks now and I've watched the news here and read newspapers. They're exponentially more prone to overemoting than ours. It's a little strange. Still, I called home to get some reassurance and info from my mom (who is bringing N95 respirators), who said that things weren't as bad as the headlines were making out.

Still, I have to tell you that I have a real horror about the idea of getting a serious illness like this while I'm in Europe. I hope health authorities can keep a lid on it. I hope that the WHO alert doesn't go any higher, because then we're looking at travel restrictions and I don't want to get stuck here. A lot.

I got in to Melton Mowbray late in the afternoon, checked into my room above the Noel Arms pub (it was perfectly serviceable, though nothing to take pictures of for posterity) and went for a walk. I took a few pictures of the town, and bought a slice of cheese and a slice of ham for a late lunch.

I took a nap in the room and then went out for dinner (the only thing open on Monday were Indian restaurants, and I had a delicious chicken and yogurt dish in one of them). On my way back in to the pub I stopped for a chat with the bar maid Carole (the bar's back door was open to the staircase that led to the rooms upstairs), and she told me to come around to the front for a drink. I have no idea what she was thinking, but I walked around the corner and through to the pub and found myself looking at a small group of grizzled, mostly elderly habitues - almost all of them with gin blossoms in their cheeks and bruised and swollen noses. Oh boy. They stared at me. I stared at them. I looked around and said "You know, you lads would probably get more ladies in here if you'd play some Celine Dion and put out a fruit bowl."

Most of them were unimpressed, but two of them laughed really hard, so I went over and stood with them and they bought me a Hobgoblin, which is a kind of delicious bitter. They asked me why I was in Melton Mowbray - EVERYONE asked me why I was in Melton Mowbray - and I said I was there to taste some cheese and to see the Tuesday markets. They all looked at me like I was crazy. That was the nearly universal reaction. You would think that the people of the Rural Capital of Food would have a little more bien sur about tourism!

The next morning I got up early and had my first full English breakfast (fried egg, sausage, bacon, beans, mushrooms, tomato, toast with jam and marmalade and a big pot of delicious coffee) and, fortified, went off to market.

If I hadn't been bursting at the seams with beans and eggs, I would have totally tried a rooster burger!

I wanted to go down and cuddle lambs, but the sheepies were off-limits to the general public, the better to give space to the farmers:

So I went next door to the livestock auction, where they were selling cattle. That was where I spent most of my time, as the people watching was excellent.

I took many pictures of these two, who had a kind of good cop/bad cop meets elder farmers type vibe that I liked.

I was very fond of these two jolly fellows, who were either brothers or best friends. I think they noticed that they were favorite subjects because at one point the one in the blue jacket told the auctioneer that if he'd known there would be a camera, he would have worn a tie!

Though it took nearly an hour to figure it out because the signs of bidding are so very nearly invisble, eventually I sorted that they were getting into fairly regular bidding wars with these two:

And sometimes there was smack talk. All in good fun.

The auctioneer had a gnarled hazel stick that had been given to him by a farmer which he used to point duing the bidding, and the clubbed end was his gavel, which he'd bang on a board when the bidding was over:

This is pretty standard sheep farmer attire - the cattle farmers were a little less professorial - I found the sartorial difference interesting:

I saw a man selling rafts of eggs, and stopped to take a picture. You can see him bending over to pick up goose eggs as I took the picture of the chicken eggs:

When he raised up, he struck the following pose:

I had to ask him to do it again because I hadn't been fast enough on the draw, and he obligingly did - to the consternation of the fellow who stepped into the frame at the moment I took the picture.

I think he'd had a few pints. Or twenty.

I stopped and enjoyed some delicious cake at the booth of a lovely farm couple on my way out: They agreed to have a picture taken, and afterward I gave them my flickr card. I hope they find it and figure out how to download and print it - it's a lovely picture.

They look just like any Kansas farm couple might, especially the husband - the wife's hair is a little fashion-forward for Kansas, as is her lovely embroidered boiled wool coat - but the wide smile is familiar. I like how the farmers and the ag people felt like home folk to me - I think that a not small part of my desire to go to Melton Mowbray was to be someplace that was very close to being home in Kansas, just for a breath of familiarity and comfort. The market could have been Pottorf Hall, where we have auctions and markets. It all smelled like the fairgrounds at CiCo park - livestock manure and baked goods and straw bales and whiffs of cigarette and pipe smoke. I was happy. It was nice to be around people who had that rural Midwestern down-to-earth vibe. The kinds of people who probably couldn't act pretentious on a bet, and wouldn't be able to keep from laughing the entire time if they even tried. Good people. And drunkety chicken farmers.

I bought some cheese from a local dairy and tucked it in my bag to have for a late lunch when I got to Worcester and headed back to collect my suitcase and head to the train station.

When I got to the hotel in Worcester a few hours later, I pulled it out and ate some of it with a cold, crisp Braeburn apple. It was delicious.

My mother gets here TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We meet in Oxford!


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