Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister

“Be an opener of doors”

“Be an opener of doors” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, a man I’ve always thought of as someone really smart, who cast about looking for something to latch onto and, sadly, never really found it.  That said, at some point of my dimly remembered youth, I read those words and

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Port Isaac

they stuck with me.   In my youth, I boldly rushed in, whipped the door open without consideration of consequence and took some nasty falls.   I still open doors when presented with the opportunity, but I “count the cost….” first – most of the time..<g>  Here’s a collection of doors, with their real and imagined stories behind, seen in the last few days.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury (several following)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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And for those who prefer their entrances a little more pretentious, nay, grandiose…

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To close this one out, and even though I don’t espouse all that he has to say, it may be interesting to consider the words of Mark Rice, a Scottish rocker with Metallic Dreams.  Mark speaks of a, or the, definitive moment in his youth……

“I was ten when I heard the music that ended the first phase of my life and cast me hurtling into a new horizon. Drenched to the skin, I stood on Dunoon’s pier peering seawards through diagonal rain, looking for the ferry that would take me home. There, on the everwet west coast of Scotland, I heard it: like sonic scalpels, the sounds of electric guitars sliced through the dreich weather. My body hairs pricked up.  To my young ears, the sound of these amplified guitars was angelic (although, with hindsight, I don’t suppose angels play Gibson guitars at ear-bleeding volume). A voice that suggested vocal chords of polished silver soared alongside razor-sharp overdriven riffs. I knew that I was hearing the future.”

And, of Isaac Asimov:  “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

May you find the essential door, or someone who appears at your own, to change your future for the better –

MB

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister

The Art of the Stay

I’ve written many times about our preferences about where and “how” we generally lodge when we are centrally located to the sites we want to visit.   Though we don’t mind staying in hotels for short stays, once we exceed four or five nights, we much prefer staying in a rented home.  And we have had some excellent side benefits from doing so.  Since we not infrequently travel with friends or family, a home stay, or in the cases of our last two visits to the U.K., a renovated barn stay, gives us the space and sense of sharing that very few hotels ever could.   And further, we’ve made some good friends with some of our “landlords”, Simon and Claire in Pewsey, Wiltshire and now Tonya and Chris in Horsington, Somerset.    Si and Claire aren’t currently taking short term renters, but Chris and Tonya of Lois Barns, still accept qualified short leases.   And their rental space is first class and genuinely, a “home away”.    For more information, including contact details, go to this website:   http://www.loisbarns.co.uk/booking.html

I knew when we first booked for this trip, last December, and after pouring over the photos on the web, that I would like to paint one or more views of the property.   So here’s the piece of the back of the renovated barn.

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The reality………

and…….

The impression

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8X10″ acrylic on canvas board

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

Doc Martin and I…er, We

So let me start out with some gratuitously cute photos I took this morning of the sheep in the pasture immediately behind the barn we’re staying in.  These weren’t taken with a zoom – I put a patio chair out in the pasture to sit in while I worked on a painting of the barn from the rear and the sheep came up and encircled me…………….very peaceful!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, particularly if you are an American and you haven’t watched the Brit TV series, “Doc Martin”, you’ve missed out on a pleasure.   We drove the two hours from our lodging right outside Wincanton, Somerset, through Devon to Cornwall to visit Port Isaac.  The village, perched directly between two headlands jutting into the sea, stands in as Port Wenn on the Doc Martin series.   Carrolle began watching  the production first and I watched all seven series with her just to be companionable.   Then to prove how great a companion I am, I watched the entire seven seasons a second time…then eventually, a third time.  The series features great acting, spectacular scenery and some insight to a part of the U.K. that remains pretty fiercely independent.   Most of the directional and informational signs were printed in both English and Gaelic..   except for these, which were pretty much executed by different age groups in the Graphic style..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Apparently, all the tourists who brought their dogs, and there were a bunch of them, have been something less than discriminating about the collection of their dog’s “poo”.

Before we actually got to Port Isaac, we stopped at the Cornish Arms in Pendoggett, Cornwall, for lunch.  We suspected, and rightly so, that the prices for the fare would be meaningfully less expensive than eight miles down the road at Port Isaac.  Besides the really good food – and I cannot highly enough recommend the Fish and Chips enough – big, meaty pieces of Cod, battered in snowflake light beer mix.   Besides the food, the real treasure was “the Maid” of the bar, Gemma.   Gemma was not only really personable, but entertaining as well.  She’s appeared as an extra on Doc Martin and has lived, so far, her entire life in Cornwall – where the appropriate greetings are, “Alright, me lover”, and “‘Ello there, me ‘andsome”.    If you are going to visit, practice, practice, practice.   There are videos on YouTube – according to Gemma, the one of the biggest thorns to the side of locals are the really bad, fake, Cornwall accents!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   The Cornish Arms – Pendoggett, Cornwall

Besides the obligatory photos once we arrived in Port Isaac, Cb at Doc Martin’s Surgery, etc.   There are a lot of very interesting doorways, alleys and narrow streets – all of which I’m especially attracted to photographing..

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The above and below are “streets” in Port Isaac 

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And now for obligatory Doc Martin type shots……..

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Port Isaac from the headland above the house that is the location of Doc Martin’s House.  Louisa’s “school” is visible directly across the harbor..large white building that looks like a church building.
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Carrolle entering “Doc Martin’s Surgery”

And later in the day, we drove over to Tintagel, which is the mythic place of conception of King Arthur, or more accurately of soon to be Baby Arthur, but actually was a rocky outcropping sticking high and deep into the sea that has been inhabited since about 600 A.D.   In about the year 1230, the Earl of Cornwall, wanted to get a little swagger on and connected the building of castle at Tintagel with Arthur’s legend and the place has been popular, especially with authors of Arthur legend, conceivers of conspiracy theories and promoters of legend-plagiarized art ever since.   In any case, it is very cool and if you’re one of those folks who is trying to get in 10,000 steps a day, this is the place to do – wear your comfortable and rugged hiking shoes – its just a little bit of up and down!

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view from top of Tintagel
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Above and Below – Ruins of the 1230 castle

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In short, there is a whole world of exploration to do in England’s Southwest coast.

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A Tale of two trains…..

Dateline: Saturday, 12 May –  We had taken the train from Templecombe, Somerset to London for a surprise experience primarily for  Carrolle, of riding the London Eye.  As a quick note, the Eye (extremely prominently promoted by Coca-Cola), is a 443ft tall, very slow moving ferris wheel, in which the captives, er, riders, are contained, 12 at a time, in a large spaceship shaped gondola.   The Eye takes just about 1/2 hr to make a complete rotation and only actually stops if someone that is wheelchair bound is getting on.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP5110160.JPG          The Eye has it!                                                            The Bird’s Eye View

Like so many things in life, the anticipation was as good as, or even better than the actuality.  You can see most of London, so much so, that even if you’re familiar with the locations, it gets confusing.  All in all, it was enjoyable, especially since the rain held off until after we boarded.

Then the fun started.

We disembarked, took the Tube from Waterloo Train station to one of the stations near to the British Museum.  My amazement, when we arrived to find every other tourist, looking for an attraction out of the rain, cannot be overstated.  The line was approximately 2 hrs long, so we nixed that idea and headed for a bus station to get back to Waterloo.   We bought bus tickets, found that no fewer than six routes went to Waterloo .  We chose Route 188.  Because, why?  Because the 188 bus was on the way to the stop when we got there.  We boarded.  I asked the driver, a broadly smiling young man from a Balkan country,  “Does this route go to Waterloo?”   Mirov answers immediately, “Yes, yes, Waterloo, yes!”  Another very broad smile.  We wind our way around St. James Square (a nice park actually), and on the second circumnavigation, the bus pulls up to a stop and shuts off.  The driver announces that all passengers must exit and wait for next bus.  I asked the driver, just conversationally, “Is the bus broken down?”  “No, just break time – next bus in 14 minutes, you board and go to Waterloo – Route 188!”  Ok, so not a big deal.  Mirov then hand rolls a cigarette and walks around the outside of the bus, occasionally darting in to answer a radio call from his supervisor.  Exactly 14 minutes later, he enters the bus, starts it and pulls up to us, from 30 feet away, opens the door and announces, “Route 188 to Waterloo and points east!”   We arrive Waterloo, a little soggy, about 8 minutes and two stops later.   Our spirits having been dampened, just a little, but now it was beginning to be a little funny and warm food and drink were inside.

We board our return train, Waterloo to Templecombe, promptly and found a table seat where the four of us could face each other eat some cheese and crackers we picked up at Waterloo in a very nice little boutique grocery store right in the station.  train seating 2   Good seating for a two hour tour

Even though the itinerary included four more stops than on the outbound trip, the schedule showed us arriving back at Templecombe Station only four minutes longer than the trip time inbound into London – so not bad.  We met some nice folks, had some laughs about our American accents (I told them we were all Cockneys but we were practicing our American accents).  Every single person we met told us we were spot on!   Things were good as we rolled in Templecombe.  I led our foursome to the back of the car, pressed the button that allowed us out into the vestibule between cars, stepped through and pressed the button that actually opened the outside doors and…nothing!  Pressed again, no open doors.  I looked around for the attendant, saw him the next car back and was about to call him when the train started moving.   We were about to experience being “over-carried”.   We rode to the next stop and purely by chance, there was another train headed back to London coming into the station in 90 seconds.  We gathered up our stuff, ran up the stairs to the cross-over bridge, back down and as promised the eastbound train pulled in.  Back to Templecombe at last.

Today was another sort of train experience in every way.   An afternoon Cream Tea on the East Somerset Railway, departing from Cranmore, Shepton Mallet, Somerset station.  The engine is steam driven, the speed is slow – it takes 45 minutes to travel the 2.5 miles down and the same back and the experience was a step back  to a more genteel age.P5120164.JPGOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                        A perfect afternoon on a great day!

I highly recommend that if you find yourself in the area, wend your way to Cranmore and book your own Tea!   The experience is made even more memorable by some of the more esoteric sights to take in –

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sign inside the men’s urinal closet

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The British have an overseer for every occasion and activity….sign seen outside the WC.

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The (Rock)Bourne Identity

A very enjoyable day today spent at the Rockbourne Trout Fishery.   English fishing, by my reckoning, is a very expensive proposition – what with annual fishing rod taxes (is there any item in the U.K. that is not specifically taxed??), licensing, paying, in most places just the cost of being able to wet a line there.  Well I am here to tell you that Peter and Simeon, the owner and fisheries manager respectively, have not only put together a class operation – with the very real possibility of catching some high quality fish, but at a streamlined cost for such a great time.  The nuts and bolts, briefly is that if you are not a season pass holder, you can fish on a daily basis and your costs are fixed – you can purchase a daily pass for a given number of fish, in our case, the four of us each had a 2 fish ticket.  We did need to purchase from the British Gov’t a one-day license (GBP 6) and the total fishing cost was £38 each, or about $45 USD.  Still pretty stiff, you say?  Check out Exhibit #1 below: Buddy and the fish.jpg

This is my very good friend George Edward “Buddy”.  As an aside, Buddy is an “X”, in other words, the 10th in his family line with exact same name (excepting for the “Buddy”).  Buddy caught this super Blue Trout on fly, 5.5lbs!  Be like Buddy, if you’re going to catch fish, catch big fish!

Buddy was not the only one to score, both his wife Sue and I managed to land fish too – Sue’s Rainbow weight was 4 lbs and my very enjoyable Rainbow catch came in at a respectable 3 lbs, all taken by wet flies.

P5100150.JPG                                                         Sue catches fish, she just doesn’t hold them!

 

P5100153 (1).JPG                                                     My last minute Rainbow

And lest anyone start in with the “well that’s just like shooting fish in a barrel” manUray,  We fished hard for three hours, changing retrieves, flies, presentations, the works and fishing in each of the six lakes available to us.  But here’s the beauty part;  if you don’t fill your tickets, or even if you don’t catch any – you’re not going to go home empty handed.  Rockbourne smokes fish onsite and they give you sealed packets of smoked trout to take with you.  These packets retail at £6.50 each.  Also, if you’re not into fresh fish, you can trade your catch (this is not a catch and release fishery – it’s catch and filet!), for smoked fish.  Want the fresh fish?  They will handle the dressing out for you at a cost of £1 for each fish.  Simeon didn’t charge me and thank you very much!

To sum up, if you’re in the life position where you’re weighing costs -vs- benefits (I know all about that), Rockbourne Fisheries is an excellent value all the way around –  I now know, and value the RockBourne Identity!

For more information, go here:     http://www.rockbournetroutfishery.co.uk/ or contact Peter and Simeon on their Facebook page, Rockbourne Trout Fishery

Disclaimer-  Rockbourne management and owners do not know me and in no way offered any compensation or inducement.  The opinions and experience contained herein is solely mine based on our experience today.  That said, anytime I’m in the U.K. I will be returning again!

 

P5100149.JPG                                                 A view across Spring Lake

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The stay’s the thing

We were in Bath, England, (that’s Baahth if you’re pronouncing it in the British manner), today, right down on the River Avon.  Being on the very waters that Shakespeare bathed, had his close washed in and used as a privy, put me in mind of some of his best remembered phrases, which I have shamelessly changed for my own use above!

I’ve stayed in some megalithic hotel properties and slept in places high in the Andes that some folks wouldn’t board their dog in.  I really don’t care for glass and chrome, unless I have to stay in such a place.  Typically, when we travel, we’ll rent a house outside of town and have a much better stay all the way around than in hotel or motel.

This trip to the U.K., we’re staying in a pig barn.    How modest of us – but not really-joke!

I cannot highly enough recommend, to those seeking shelter in the Southwest of England, booking lodging with Tanya Peatroy at Lois Barns, just outside Wincanton.   Our lodging really was a pig barn, but has been very nicely converted to very comfortable and relaxing lodgings for hire.P5100156.JPG

Lois Barn rental

The barn sleeps six in three king bedrooms, with a full bath and another with a roomy stand alone shower stall.  Attention has been paid to every detail and lodging sports the original beams in the two upstairs bedrooms and in the living room, which is fitted with a  nice little fire place.

Not only is the barn very comfortable, free from traffic noise, but has great neighbors!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just now there are 30 ewes, each with twins in the pasture right behind the house, and instead of being awakened by the blat of motorcycles, we wake gently to lambs playing. (No, there is no silence, they are all very much vocal).

Good lodging is the foundation of a great trip and we have it here.

If you’d like to explore a stay at Lois Barns in the Somerset are of England, get in touch with Tanya Petroy at the below information:

Tanya
01963 371329
07711 423456
tanya@loisbarns.co.uk
http://www.loisbarns.co.uk

Next up:  From Bed, Bath, and Beyond

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Good old British Manors

One of the most common reasons people visit the U.K. is to take in the sense of history, of longevity, and of human endeavor that is connected with grand structures.  At times, these edifices are grand and at other times grandiose.  Which may depend on how you feel about those who have, and do, live or work in such buildings.   One of our personal favorites is Highclere Castle, mistakenly thought by many Americans as               “Downton Abbey”.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                 Carrolle, Sue and GeorgeEdwina (Buddy) tread the path the Crawleys trod

Just as imposing and even more majestic in their own right, are the massive trees, Cedars of Lebanon,  primarily planted over 300  years ago.  Not in the age range of sequoias perhaps, but just as amazing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA               One of the 50-60 remaining Cedars of Lebanon thriving at Highclere

Highclere was yesterday. Today, after a full night’s sleep – not just suggested, but bodily mandated after the previous night’s flight from BOS to LHR, a less ambitious, but just as rewarding was our quick drive to Shaftesbury.  The town is first best known for the view from the top of Gold Hill –OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The views from the hilltop are genuinely spectacularOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And finally, just before winding back to our rented barn near Wincanton, we had to also walk the way of those who had gone before…………OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA               *(I was the barefoot one, but had to run down to snap the shutter….)

 

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Good old British Manners

Every journey has a few bumpy spots…we hit ours about 4 minutes after we picked up our rental car…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In my very best southern, American,  accent, “Well, whut happened was….”.   We picked up our shiny new Citroen Picasso C4, which for a smaller “economy” car is very roomy and deceptively wide.  So wide in fact,  that 1/2 mile from the Budget Car Rental facilty at LHR,  I, (perhaps), struck one of the very many little islands out in the roadway for no apparent reason.     This minor, glancing swipe against the curb, shredded the tire.

So, being the experienced travelin’ man that I am, having gotten the car damage insurance, called Budget up and VEE OH LAH, 1/2 hr. later, Cockney Chris showed up.

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Chris was a pro, pure and simple.  He had this amazing van, with all the cool pneumatic tools, including a machine to dismount the ruined tire and mount the brandy-new one on the wheel right in the back of the van.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Twenty minutes after Chris arrived, the new tire was mounted, balanced and we were on our way.  Moral:  Be like Chris, show up, be a pro, do the job and help folks out.   Kudos!

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Mr. Customs (TSA) man….

With very little in the way of apologies to Arlo Guthrie….

Coming in from London, from over the pole
Flyin’ in a big airliner
Chickens flyin’ everywhere around the plane
Could we ever feel much finer?

Comin’ into Los Angeles
Bringin’ in a couple of keys
Don’t touch my bags if you please, mister customs man

Arlo and company might have been concerned in ’69 about what could be found in their bags coming back into the U.S. of A., but today it’s just a little different.   It’s what’s in your bags getting on a plane and unless you’re flying in a private, non-charter aircraft, taking off from a cornfield airstrip (suspicious all in itself,) you’re going to deal with our incarnation of Mr. Customs Man, airport security, here in the U.S.,  the TSA.

Right out front, I’m biased, but rationally so I think.  I spent 13 years with Homeland Security, just a little less than half of that as a TSA screener, performing the pat-downs, X-ray screening,  helping passengers get ready to go through the line by giving advisements on what to remove from their bags and persons to expedite their trip through security.  I never had, in all that time, a single complaint, to my face, much less to the agency.  My experience in that regard was very unusual, and not shared by most of the really good folks I worked with.  While the vast majority of TSA officers really do strive to show respect and professionalism in the commission of their duties, like with any other “people” endeavor, there are a few unsavory folks who think their badge and uniform entitle them to treat others as cattle to be herded.   I only mention them at all because you and I may face one going through security.   Much, much more common is the situation where we, the passengers, are upset, late and just inexperienced enough travelers to be nervous about security screening.  Consequently, every stressful thing that happens is “their”, TSA’s, fault.   And even more rarely, the so-called professionals that want to create and foment an issue…….tsa 1

So, after all that – I want to share a few thoughts on traveling through security.  The what to put in your bag, or not, has been covered by a few thousand other folks, so I won’t belabor much of that here.

  1.  None of us have the “right” to air travel.   In just the same vein, we do not have the God Given Right to operate a motor vehicle.  Every state in this Country refers to driving  as a privilege – to be extended or withdrawn, dictated almost completely by our actions as drivers.
  2. TSA doesn’t make up any rules about what is allowed or not.  Congress does.  TSA may advise based on latest tech or emerging threat info, but what happens in security screening is based on law, so don’t take it out on the officer who is providing screening at the airport.   He/She and we are required to comply, so why make an issue.
  3. Listen to what’s being said by the officers at the front of the security line – Read the signage, and heaven forbid, go to the TSA.gov website to get the straight skinny on how to prepare for screening.   Uncle Bill, “who flies all the time, at least twice a year”, is not the supreme source on procedures.   Even the newest TSA officer is and if they’re really not sure, you can ask to speak to a Supervisor or TSM, Transportation Security Manager.   If someone tells you, as they do every time, to take  everything out of your pockets, that means everything – currency, tissues, coins – nothing is too small to not count.  Get it out, put it in the plastic X-ray bins and get on through – no stress, no sweat.  Ladies, “pockets” also refers to the other handy little spots you tuck money, cell phones and body parts into.
  4.  Try, even if it really goes against your grain because you’re being “violated”,  thanking the screening officers for their work.   Just like every other encounter you’re going to have today, this week, this life, a little appreciatation goes a very long way to easing things along.  Refer here back to point #2.  Got a problem with a procedure?  Talk to your elected representative, who, if they respond at all, will tell you that procedures are a work in progress.
  5. And finally, be aware that the universe really, actually, doesn’t revolve around you – this point applies to every one of us.  Once we accept that, life goes along a little easier for all concerned.

 

 

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A quick note on why “The Return of Carson”

I’ve gotten a slew of email, if one email can be a slew, on what the title of this E-rant is The Return of Carson.   Some may recall that during our last trip to the U.K., during which I was sucked into being a fan of Downton (not Downtown) Abbey, I blogged about the trip, as we jaunted around Wiltshire and the Cotswolds – that blog, “Just Ring Carson”, obviously, referred to the venerable butler in the Masterpiece show, Charles Carson.   The blog enjoyed a modicum of readership and so, a continued reference seemed in order, especially since we will be again visiting Highclere Castle.

Steady on, Carson!  The actual fact is, I bear a striking resemblance to the inestimable Jim Carter, who plays Carson in the series – so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice….

“You, sir, are so very downstairs!”