Sunday, 9 May 2010

Day Four

1, 3, 300 (Filers), 300 (Quantock)

The Spirit of Summer


I set off with a seam busting packed lunch from my aunt and hit the road on Devon's reliable Number 1, The Barnstaple Bomber. It was a nice ride. A grandmother with her grandchild in a pushchair got talking to a young mother with her child in another. A man in a wheelchair got on and the pushchairs reorganised themselves so everyone could fit. There were passengers young and old and everyone chatted, sun-toasted. Community spirit at its finest. I felt strong alongside my new bus dependent brothers.


Barnstaple to Ilfracombe. Another pretty ride, the coastline dimpled with little bays and coves. Ilfracombe itself has a harbour, beach, attractive architecture, narrow streets and steep, hardly any chain stores (!) and lots of fun, of which more hence. Public holiday buses run as Sundays, so I had a two hour wait in Ilfracombe. I thought I would locate the departing bus stop before treating myself to a cream tea or coronation chicken sandwich from one of the town's many tea houses. While checking and rechecking the timetable, I heard the beating of drums. From the top of the High Street was a procession, led by the Town Crier in full dress. Following was a Jack in the Green (someone dressed in a lattice frame bound with leaves, flowers and ribbons), chidren waving branches, drummers, accordians and a thrust of folk merrymaking with leaves in their hair and pagan worship on their minds.

The procession proceeded down to the beach front. There they had maypole dancing, morris dancing, border morris (the chaps with green garb and black faces above), Red Petticoats and various other dancers with bells on their shoes. A couple of hundred had turned out for it, and more got swept along with it. Many people, locals included, seemed as surprised as I was to see it occurring. But everyone was happy: blue sky, the sun's heat on our baldnesses (well, some of us), lapping tide and rippling laughter. Bliss.

During the children's country dancing routine, the Town Crier announced that we were all to get ready as we'd all be joining in afterwards. I was stood next to a group of Brummies who joked that they were too old for country dancing. 'I have an excuse not to dance,' I said pointing at my backpack. 'Hey, you're that bloke doing the bus thing, aren't you?' one of them said. Fame. Recognition. And all it took was a bus ride.

It turns out they were on a bus with me earlier that day. They donated me money when I'd gone round with my tin. ''Ang on a sec,' one said, and started waving. 'Roy! Roy, coom over 'ere.' They were friends with the Town Crier, Roy. Roy's smart. They told him my mission and he obviously like it because he announced it, Town Crier style, in front of the entire congregation. I took a bow, received some applause. It was a glorious moment for the cause. After a whip round the trusty tin was nearly full. Very generous the people of North Devon are.

To conclude the revelries, everyone goes down to the beach to strip the Jack. This entails a few of the main procession frantically tearing the leaves and flowers from the lattice frame. When it is bare, the TC rings his bell as loud as ever and bellows, 'THE SPIRIT OF SUMMER IS RELEASED INTO ILFRACOMBE!' It was actually quite a moving moment. Especially as I felt I'd had a small role in the proceedings.

Today was the highpoint of the trip so far. And it was only half past. Half past the day.

three hundred (Filers)

Driver: Beefcake, thick sleepers in both ears, sun leathered skin, collars unbuttoned, tattoos so old the ink has bled. He was a nice bloke. Another Brummie. There's lots of them in the South West. Weird. He told me he'd 'never seen the point' in leaving the country. Having moved from Birmingham to Exmoor, as he had, I can totally understand.

The drive from Ilfracombe to Lynmouth was even more picturesque than the one before. The Lyn flows at the bottom of a very steep valley with hair pin bends so tight the bus had to do three point turns, the driver grappling with the wheel like it was a shark. Despite being a stop off for coach loads of coffin dodgers, Lynmouth was beautiful. I walked along the river and took some pretentious macro photos and some quite cool photos. I will post some up separately and you can compare.

three hundred (Quantock)

Open topped bus. I got smacked on the head a few times by low branches. Brilliant. Amazing views.

I arrived in Minehead around 6. I wanted to find the Minehead 'Obby 'Oss, which was apparently around somewhere. But I was exhausted after the day's Ilfracombic excitement, so I went straight back to my gracious hosts' house and ate the finest home cooked food I think I have ever eaten (apart from anything my mum cooks, of course).

Beetroot soup.

Main Course
Sliced lamb neck fillet with veg and a fine jus.

A pyramid of profiteroles with chocolate sauce.


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