12 October 2009--My unease with the B&B in Banbury mushroomed when I retired last night. As I lay in bed,
if I listened carefully, I could hear the tenants in the room above me breathing. Anything louder than that was loud
indeed--walking, talking, any and all of the various noises people make in the course of normal business, some several of
which they no doubt imagine to be private. It's the same in the morning. I skip breakfast and inform the landlady that
I will be moving on. I'd planned three nights here, but I can't say I'm enamored of Banbury, anyway, the Batties
notwithstanding. I hasten to add that it's not an entirely unattractive place...it just doesn't seem to speak to me.
So off I go to see the Cotswolds. First stop is the Rollright Stones. Haven't seen a good stone circle in ages.
Then I return to Moreton-in-Marsh for a look around. I have a ticket for a concert in Oxford tomorrow, and had planned to take the train in from Banbury. I could do the same from here, on a different line, so I stop in at the visitor information office to see about a room. I'm sent to look at one, right by the train station, at that. It's nice enough, but I don't feel sure about it, so I go to have an early lunch, having missed breakfast, and to see the town. It's a lovely place, and it would be nice to stay for a couple of nights...but there's the better part of the day left, and I have other places to see. Onward.
Down in the southern end of the Cotswolds, I stop for a look at Stroud. The town sits at the convergence of five river valleys, where the wool industry created great prosperity in the old days--the Golden Valleys. They're in the title, got to squeeze them in somehow. Actually, my main reason for coming here is to get a postcard to send to a friend whose mother's maiden name was Stroud. On such seemingly inconsequential hooks are entire trips hung; after all, it's not the destination that matters so much, but the journey, if you'll pardon the cliché. Pick a spot on the map, and go--who knows what you'll see on the way.
As it happens, I have a hard time finding a postcard, and as I'm searching, I'm approached by a gentleman who asks if I'd like to be an extra in a film--it'll only take a few minutes. Shortly I find myself amidst a handful of other folks, cheering for the demise of a Trident missile, or some such. I really should have gotten my motivation straight before the camera rolled. But who knows, this could be my big break. Too bad they never asked my name.
[And here it is on YouTube. Mr TH appears briefly at about 1:12.]
Postcard in hand, I hop back in the car. Stroud seems okay, but it's not where I want to stay. It's about 4:00 when I roll into Cirencester, and at first look, I know this is the place. It's another handsome town, its limestone paler than that of the golden towns I saw farther north. The tourist office finds me a suitable room, and there is a good pub, the Talbot Inn, right next door. The beer is good, and so is the food. Best of all, there are three old gents having their nightly pint at the table next to me. The youngest, at 64, is a gravedigger; the middle one was a trucker; and the senior man, pushing 80, tells me that he was a pioneer in the field of contraceptive vending. I'd think he's yanking my chain, but he's quite passionate in describing the stringent measures he implemented to combat pilfering. It's all very educational. I've long known that if you can find a talkative old gent in a pub, you'll find out everything you need to know about a place. If there are two, you will learn how to solve the world's problems. Three old gents, I am sure, will reveal the secrets of the universe. Too bad I won't remember them tomorrow.