Today I travelled to Bristol’s city centre to buy myself a fine pair of waterproof trousers. These, you will be surprised to know, are to keep the water out rather than my incontinence in and form an essential part of my Inca Trail Trekker’s kit. I suppose they would keep the incontinence in too if I bought some accompanying bicycle clips. I also bought a mighty fine, and even more mighty expensive, waterproof coat for trekking purposes but I mentioned the trousers first because I’m a bit immature and thought it would be clever to get ‘fine pair’ and ‘Bristol’s’ into the same sentence. Ronnie Barker would have been so proud of me.
In addition to these items I also bought tablets to prepare my innards for a deluge of South American bacteria, some other tablets to take in the event of the first lot of tablets not working, a huge hat which is so huge that it fits snugly on my dome and a second hand Best of A-ha CD, all of which are also essential parts of my Inca Trail Trekker’s kit. It was just a shame that A-ha never recorded a version of The Sun Always Shines on TV on Peruvian panpipes. And finally I bought some ordinary holiday clothes which are slightly too tight for me so there’s a bit of an incentive to crack on and lose a bit more weight.
I’m not normally a fan of English cities, in fact I usually hate them, but Bristol is a bit different to most I have visited. It’s a very cosmopolitan place and it seems to have more than its fair share of eccentrics. People stared at me because I didn’t have purple hair or huge piercings in my ear lobes or a whippet or green Dr Marten’s boots. I love staring back though at these fascinating people who are like a little ethnic minority in their own right, even though they include members of many different ethnicities.
Back in Chippenham in the evening I went with second born and his Ma to the Pheasant to tuck into the delights of an all-you-can-eat carvery (only two hours after I had decided that I needed to intensify my weight loss programme) and looked around to discover that everybody in there was white and ‘normal’ in appearance. The food was very nice, the newly refurbished surroundings were strikingly pleasant and the company I was with was entertaining, amusing and endearing but on the whole the place was a bit short of character and atmosphere. The only evidence of world culture, or any culture from outside of Chippenham, was the cutlery stamped with the words ‘Made in China.’ What the place needed was its name changing from the Pheasant to the Fez, a couple of snake charmers by the bar and a member of staff who could pull a pint of Guinness properly.
So today was a very good day despite it being Easter Saturday and Easter weather (cold and slightly wet) and me not owning a whippet.
But I must just mention my visit earlier in the week to Joan, one of my favourite customers in Bath. As I trimmed unpleasant lumps from this otherwise pleasant north country lady, I told her of my impending visit to the Andes and, rather surprisingly, the conversation steered towards travelling for quite some time. She told me that she and her husband had loved to travel but they gave it up as a bad job when one way streets were introduced in Darlington. Absolutely priceless! Alan Bennett couldn’t have put it better himself.