Friday, August 01, 2008

England Trip - August 1st, 1983

We left Winchester with Gordon back on board. We drove 24 miles to Salisbury for lunch. I think they had a copy of the Magna Carta in Salisbury but I don't remember viewing it. The car park in Salisbury was adjacent to the oldest section of town they allowed foot traffic only on the main shopping road. The parking lot was situated behind stores and we approached a business from the rear. This particular building was designed with windows up high that formed a ring of glass around the top of the first floor. We were in the back and there was no door or sign that indicated the type of business inside. I looked up at the window and saw a naughty calendar posted on a wall. A topless model welcomed me to downtown Salisbury. I remarked on it to my companions and someone inside must have heard me. The calendar was gone when we returned to the coach. All this European nudity made me hungry. Somebody talked up a ploughman's lunch, a hunk of cheese and an apple, but we found a restaurant that served something hearty instead.

The group stopped for a walking tour of Old Sarum, an ancient site of ruins that preceded the Roman occupation of England. This was a warm up for the real prize, a stop at Stonehenge. Stonehenge, as you know, is a sprawling complex of henges, and the National Trust has done a fine job of controlling development in the surrounding countryside. This is why it looks great on those documentary programs where an aerial camera swoops by. The visitor center and gift shop are both underground. We couldn't walk among the ruins. Soccer hooligans vandalized the stones with spray paint and officials decided to keep the big rocks off limits to tourists. We got kind of close for these pictures. I think Judy Oden took the picture with me in it.

The weird thing about Stonehenge - after 15 minutes, you are ready to go. Off we went to one of my favorite cities on the tour - Bath! A town of 70,000 residents according to one of our travel mates who announced the population of all the towns we visited as we pulled in on the bus. We arrived in mid afternoon. Marc and I stowed our gear and did a quick pub recon mission. This was during the English pub siesta; all the bars were closed, but we spied one with a pool table through the front window, not a snooker table mind you, but a real American style pool table and decided to return that evening after the tour of the Roman baths and our usual group meal.

The Roman baths were quite impressive and I was tempted to change into my suit and jump in the main pool. I bet everyone wants to swim in the Roman pools so its probably a good thing that nobody does. We saw the great bath, the hot bath, and the cold bath. The Romans were mad about bathing.

We returned to our hotel where Judy Oden got a letter from back home. Not many of us heard from our friends and family while on tour. Marc attempted a phone call from a pay phone in London and got through to his girl in Kansas. Judy was very organized and briefed her family on the travel itinerary. They wrote to her in advance and the letters were waiting for her at several stops. I wrote a couple of letters early in the trip but figured anything after the half-way point might arrive after I returned to the states.

Our hotel was on a hill by a river and it overlooked a couple of streets. I heard mechanics in a nearby auto shop working as I listened from my room. They cursed and cajoled each other. The song Summer Nights from the Grease soundtrack came on their radio and they sang it to one another in a working class falsetto.

Marc and I returned to the pool table pub that evening. British pub pool rules varied from standard American bar rules, or perhaps they were pulling my leg. For example, if you scratched on a shot, the other player got two shots. Marc wore a Kansas City Kings T-Shirt. We drank a couple pints and had fun even though the rules were wonky. A young man about my age asked if we were from Kansas after he saw Marc's shirt. It turned out that he was attending KU that fall as an exchange student. We talked to him for awhile and exchanged what little information we could. He was slated to live in Hashinger Hall. I was dialed in for Oliver Hall. Marc and Tom rented a place together down Naismith drive between 19th and 23rd street. I've forgotten this UK native's name now but I thought this chance meeting was an amazing coincidence. We made contact later that fall in Lawrence. I spoke with him by phone. It turned out that we didn't need each other; Freshman year is an explosion of new relationships and he made plenty of new friends immediately. I think Marc told me they had him over to their house once. A wonderful day, it started with topless calendars, then a bounty of Roman ruins, and ended with a chance meeting of a Brit national headed for Kansas.

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