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Wednesday, 22 December
Bath (II)

While we enjoyed lazing our way around Bath, there wasn't a ton of remarkable things that happened, really. Mostly we woke up, the wife ate some breakfast while I smoked, the we'd shower leisurely, and head out to the city center, usually stopping by a pub at around noon or so for a pint and to chat about what the rest of that day would consist of, which was frequently nothing.

Coinciding nicely with our visit, Bath had a groovy little Christmas market set up, where we would enjoy spiced wine and watching all the dogs in the crowd be very excited about this kinetic new neighborhood just bustling with fresh new asses and crotches to be pondered and sniffed. One day, a "town crier" wandered through the market, bellowing some nonsense about "GREAT SAVINGS!" at a nearby Marks & Spencer (department store); we decided we'd have a look.

Which was a horrible mistake. The place was a mad crush of bodies, mostly women, all racing around the place and generally behaving like a band of marauding huns. Children were dragged around like unwanted freight, their wails of protest unheard; merchandise was seized frenziedly; the staff wore the hunted expressions of doomed quarry. We noticed a couple harried employees manning a wine-tasting little promo table, and we wandered over because, hey, free wine.

The table was surrounded by in inordinate number of older ladies; on the table itself were many dozens of plastic cups filled with Cabernet. We helped ourselves, but we were the only ones. This is because the ladies didn't want any damn Cabernet: "D'you have some Chardonnay?" one crooned. "Yes!" another piped, "I'd prefer Chardonnay!" The entire crone chorus was almsot immediately as one voice, and it demanded Chardonnay. "Please! Some Chardonnay, please!" (Another thing is, old English ladies really do sound exactly like one of the Monty Python boys in drag. Exactly.)

One of the staffers clutched a lone bottle of white. "THIS IS THE ONLY BOTTLE OF CHARDONNAY WE HAVE LEFT!" she yelled. "IT'S SOLD! THERE IS NO MORE CHARDONNAY!"

Only a brief second passed before one of the ladies simply repeated, "I'd really prefer some Chardonnay." Others picked up the familiar refrain. "D'you have some Chardonnay elsewhere in the store?" "Yes, a little Chardonnay?" Some didn't appear to have listened at all. "Will you open that bottle of Chardonnay?" "Oh, that would be lovely. Open the Chardonnay!" Moments later they were all again fluting hellishly at the staffers, a tireless flock of wino loons.

"We have to get the fuck out of here," I said, and the wife agreed.

I naturally stopped at some local beer & wine merchants, checking out the native suds fare, and was pleased that I did, for it was there that I saw a brand of beer called The Fursty Ferret, whose delightful label showed alcoholic ferrets crawling around a cask of brew in a craze of apparent need. Plus, it was called The Fursty Ferret, which is delightful by itself. The wife opted for some cider called Scrumpy Jack, which I'm sure she regretted later if only because I became so enamored of the phrase Scrumpy Jack, that I got obsessed with it for a while, and adopted it as kind of an alter ego, and was given to unpredictable hollers such as "I'M SCRUMPY JACK!" or conspiratorial whispers: "I'm ducking this bill. Grab your purse." "What?" "Are you mad? I give coin to no man. I'm Scrumpy Jack!" I'm sure this didn't get old at all.

Another product I found utterly charming I saw in a supermarket over there called Sainsbury's, a truly awful place to exist for any amount of time. The color scheme is dependent on a curiously 1970s-ish hue of ghastly orange, giving everyone and everything inside of it a sinister, desquamated cast. But then a bag of chips--scratch that, crisps--caught my eye. They were called Wotsits! (Their exclamation point.) I whooped happily and pointed them out to the wife. "WOTSITS!" I screamed. "Mmm-hm," she grunted, probably anticipating what the next few days would be like. I didn't disappoint. Funny looking dog passing by? "WOTSITS?!" When asked what we should have for dinner? "WOTSITS!" As I've said before, I am very lucky to be married.

Just in case we missed Seattle at all, Bath kindly also provided homeless people for us. Many of them were selling a paper called The Big Issue, which I assume is analagous to Seattles Real Change paper, which is sold by the homeless who then get to keep most of their profit. These fellows were the cheeriest damn bastards on the whole street. "Hallo, how are ye, good afternoon sir, fancy a copy of The Big Issue, only a pound, right then, copy of the paper sir?" The first couple times I saw these guys, I (sigh) assumed it was some crummy scam and passed on by, and the guys saw even before I got past that I was a big No Sale, and with only the slightest tinge of regret would call out, "Right, well, sorry, have a nice afternoon."

There's something heartbreaking about the fact that in Bath, anyway, the homeless people are more polite than most of my friends.

Then the weekend rolled around and the population of Bath suddenly trebled, because apparently EVERYONE GOES TO BATH ON THE WEEKENDS for Christ knows what. There were millions more of the demented old ladies, and they were still screaming for Chardonnay, or sometimes even more bizarre drinks, such as brandy and Diet Coke, or lager beers spiked with lime juice. Freaked out by the roil, the wife and I retreated; we spent one night in the room eating sausage, cheese, crackers and wine purchased at the accursed Sainsbury's (and drinking Fursty Ferret); another afternoon, we went to go see The Incredibles. Hey, we had six days, you know?

And all too soon they were over. It was back to London for a couple days before our flight left. And being the exquisite planners that we are, we didn't have a hotel booked yet. What could go wrong?

Roam | Skot | 22 Dec, 2004 |

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Comments

I really enjoyed reading that. Hope you have a lovely Christmas and enjoy the rest of your trip.

Comment number: 005350   Posted by: Jenny on December 24, 2004 11:19 AM from IP: 24.80.13.191

I really enjoyed reading that. Hope you have a lovely Christmas and enjoy the rest of your trip.

Comment number: 005351   Posted by: Jenny on December 24, 2004 11:20 AM from IP: 24.80.13.191

marks and spencer's always reminds me of a belle and sebastian lyric: "Now I spend my day turning tables round in Marks & Spencer's. / They don't seem to mind." more accurately, they probably wouldn't even notice.

Comment number: 005352   Posted by: alison on December 24, 2004 12:41 PM from IP: 64.219.195.91

my dad likes wotsits. sorry, wotsits!

Comment number: 005353   Posted by: bushra on December 27, 2004 02:07 PM from IP: 172.190.199.44

my dad likes wotsits. sorry, wotsits!

Comment number: 005354   Posted by: bushra on December 27, 2004 02:07 PM from IP: 172.190.199.44

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