Today’s entry is pure travel journal. Please be aware if you learn anything from this post that it is completely accidental and I take no responsibility for any growth of personal character caused by it.
There are worse things in life than having breakfast in a nice hotel with Bruce Springsteen mildly serenading my bacon and eggs.
After a main of Roxanne (The Police) and a side of Candyman (the original version but let’s all agree it’s been immortalised by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), I packed up my things and said a hearty goodbye to the wonderful managers at The Fleece. I was going to stomp around town for a while before the 222 to Swindon arrived – an express this time, not my all-stops local that I had taken on during the trip towards Cirencester – but alas the weather tapped me on the shoulder to deny me a decent tour. Indeed, it tapped me and the townsfolk many times in the head and shoulders to the point where my Crowded House tshirt didn’t quite shield me from the elements. One quick costume change and I at least managed to take some shots of the local parish church.
The coach arrived in time (I’ve loved how transport companies have apologised for trains/buses being one minute or two minutes late – no worries mate, in Sydney they basically bash you over the head with the obvious and you still may not get on at all!) and despite the ticket man not realising a girl and I were also needing to get on – I thought the travel bags were a giveaway – I was soon nestled into a comfy chair and on the way to Swindon.
Fast forward about 45 minutes and I was waiting at Reading Station, wondering why so many people seemed very dressed up. Perhaps it was a Friday afternoon tradition? No need for coat and tails for that. Maybe another part of the Jubilee celebrations? That would explain the fascinators latched for dear inanimate life to the heads of giggling and heel-crunching women as they jogged down the platform yelling “No wait!” just as tens of previous people had done in the final two minutes before departure. (The next train would have been a whole 10 minutes wait!). Finally it clicked that just like Melbourne and Sydney put on a show for the big horse races, the sport of Kings was happening at Royal Ascot. The phillies were indeed out in force and I doubt my combo of jeans, sneakers and shirt would have fitted in the bars of the racetrack.
So it came to pass that I took myself on the train towards Redhill to get in the evening before the Education Festival began at Wellington College, Crowthorne.
No wonder the call it the Duke’s Ride, the road on which both Wellington College and The Dial House – my hotel for the weekend – are located. Do not attempt to walk from the station loaded with bags and thinking you won’t arrive at the hotel looking calm and fresh. It’s not a difficult walk, as most walks in southern England aren’t, just clearly the reason why at some point in the past an aristocrat chose to ride rather than walk.
As I was hungry once my stuff was dutifully plonked in my nice little room at the rear of the Dial House, and so I went to look for food. I found some waiting on the other side of a menu at The Prince, what I believe is Crowthorne’s main – and only – pub. It would be here that I calmed myself for the next two days and left with a spring in my step walking back to the Dial House past both multi-room country homes and many foreign luxury cars speeding past despite the best efforts of the movement-sensor “slow down” sign. I wondered as I walked whether if, before electricity, a man would be employed to slow down cars at that point, before that, carts, before that, the Duke on his ride.
I am quite content to live in the knowledge that I’ll never know, but it’s nice to think that even a Duke could be slowed down today by the power of a little blinking sign. How very democratic.