Monday, 12 July 2010

Postcards from Winchester

Postcard from Winchester

I've been to Winchester only one time: back in 1995, while I was staying in Reading for a 1 month study holiday.
I remember it was frigging hot and I stayed over time inside the Cathedral to enjoy the cold air and to chat with the guide: they were all retired people and I was impressed by the amount of small and big facts they knew about the Cathedral and how eager they were to talk with visitors.
Saturday was frigging hot and I stayed over time inside the Cathedral to enjoy the cold air: something don't change, do they? And guess what else didn't change: the guides. Well, some of them were already quite old when I visited Winchester 15 years ago, so they might have been different guides, but th enice and welcoming approach to visitors remained the same.
There were some guided tours starting by the time I got in, but I wanted to be able to explore at my own pace: it takes me quite a long time to visit churches and monuments because I like taking pictures or because I try to decipher the Latin engravings and mottos, so I normally end up running after the guide. Still it was not a problem to get extra information about the Cathedral: I just needed to stop, look around and voilà,as if by magic, one of the guide would appear at my side and chat with me telling me odds of the different windows, stones, benches, statues...

After having lunch and a much needed siesta I had to decide how to spend the afternoon. The temptation of going to a museum for the sole purpose of enjoying the air-conditioning was there, but not strong enough. My 4th summer in a row in U.K., weather is brilliant, feels like a proper summer and I should stay inside?!?!?! Never!

I had picked a leaflet at the tourism office about a "Keats Walk" across a footpath. Keats used to take this route to walk up to the Hospital of St. Cross and wrote the ode "To Autumn" about it.
The afternoon was sunny but with some nice breeze that didn't make me realize how strong the sun was , so the decision was quickly made and I started walking along the footpath.


There are a lot of nice view one can admire walking on this footpath. It brings you straight out of the center of the town and into the country side. It's very pretty and quaint, just as Winchester is, sometimes it doesn't even feel real, but like a scene from a XIX century novel.

I didn't have to walk very far, however, to be brought back to reality:

private fishing

Private fishing? Despite my communist family upbringing I do understand what a private property is and why you shouldn't enter where you're not allowed to.
I can guess that before getting to the spot, there must have been a "Private. No entry" sign somewhere. So if you're on the other side of the stream and the previous forbidden sign hasn't stopped you, what's going to prevent you from fishing?
To me it's not just a sign that reminds me that yes, I'm in Britain, but it's also a funny way to look at the false idea of property over nature humans have. It remains me a lie from 10,000 Maniacs' "A campfire song":

A lie to say, "O my river where many fish do swim,
half of the catch is mine when you haul your nets in".
Never will he believe that his greed is a blinding ray.

And furthermore what would happen if somebody is caught fishing there? Will the fishing trespasser have to return the fishes? And to whom or what? The owner of the private fishing, the council, mother nature?
I took a picture and walked on, not thinking too much about it afterward, as there's enough of things to ponder in our lives without getting into debates over fishing and rights.
As a reminder to not waste life concentrating (too much) on silly and stupid things, I met a something quite different from the previous photo.


Attached with some tape to the bench, a drawing: judging by the shaky calligraphy, the child who did it was no more than 5 or 6 years old. It was just a brief sobering moment of grief that somehow fit well with the warm sun, the shadows of the tree and the crickets creaking in the fields. 

After sitting for a while on the bench, walking to St. Cross and sitting there for a little longer to enjoy the shadows and a tea, I walked back into town, where the Saturday afternoon shopping was in full action: the high street has all the usual chains, but one just needs to step into the nearby alleys to have family-run and individual shops. The time to take another walk around town, buy some postcards and I headed back to the station.

It was only after, when I was home, that I realize that I was (and still am) lobster red, except a white stripe on the cleavage where the camera bag strap was resting: I look quite silly, well sillier than usual!

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