U.K. (Re)Entry

We five, Bart, Carol, Carrolle, Sister Sarah (no mules- just sheep & thankee ma’am), and I landed at Heathrow yesterday, which felt like deja vu’, all over again.  Carrolle and my last visit was a year ago last week with friends, Sir George X and Lady Susan and we are staying in the same lodging as last year, Lois Barn Farms Courtyard.

Our trip got off to a roaring start last year by shredding a tire about four minutes after we left the rental counter.  We improved this year by having no car mishaps for a good 40 minutes after pick up when we pulled into a service area just off the M-4.   The English planners do not allow for as much space in each slot in a car park as the typical lots back home, and I was driving a thoroughly unfamiliar model SUV which sticks out a good bit below the curvature of the hood – which allowed me to ever so gracefully cause an intimate meeting between the next car over and our machine…..much to surprise of the couple seated in their parked car.  They live in Gloucestershire, had just themselves deplaned from a holiday in Orlando and have today to travel to Glasgow for a dog show.  Happy welcome home!

AA scratch

Fortunately, the damage was slight and the British couple were so very gracious and we exchanged details without any obvious animus.

Given all that, we’re very glad to be back and I slept the sleep of the innocent last night and looking forward to new discoveries this trip.

My thoughts, though, are constantly on my Dad, and my family that are caring for him at home, as they do so very well every day and week.  I can’t escape guilt feelings being here and they all at home taking care of him, but I love and appreciate them for being the good people and family that they are!


Sunday morning musing on Capitalism

coffee stirrersBehold the ubiquitous COFFEE STIRRER

Capitalists, among their many reasons and schemes for making a profit – struck gold with the coffee stirrer.  A search through recorded history shows many implements being used to stir things, including the sacred morning coffee.  The idea of a dedicated item being so universally accepted as THE instrument as a coffee stirrer, so incredibly cheap to make, the simplest to design with an incredibly huge profit margin, must warm the ice-cold cockles of any capitalist’s heart.

Like with most things man-made, there has been an evolution.   Perhaps it all started with sticks – mayhaps the ancients discovered using cinnamon sticks to flavor their morning joe and stirring in a dollop of goat’s cream to boot.  If they did, you can be certain that someone immediately started collecting the bark, rolling it and selling the sticks!

Come we now to our day and age.   Those alive during the time when the very icon of American industriousness and  mercantile spirit, McDonalds, switched from handing out a plastic spoon (120 Billion used in the U.S. of A alone each year and over 200,000, 000, 00 in India each year), to the renowned and infamous “McDonald’s coffee stirrer spoon”, or inevitably, “McSpoon”.

mcd spoons “McSpoons”

These have entered the annuls of history, and not quite a few noses as the then cocaine transporter of choice.  This despite the Corporate protest that McSpoon was never used for such a nefarious purpose….but they did stop producing  them, trying first to flatten the spoon part and then abandoning the concept altogether for the flatten’d straw served out today.

No matter the Corporate stance, the legend, and the actual product persist and thrive in popularity – and profit for fortunate few who stockpiled McSpoon, even though presumably, they were at least somewhat re-usable.

Witness, one of the pantheons of commerce, Ebay, from one of the several auctions going on today, including one currently at $142.00 for a pure silver and gold reproduction:

mcd ebay

In our house, we use two implements for stirring, I use an actual metal, or even plastic spoon and my bride carries on the simpler is better tradition by using a drinking straw- which I dutifully gather up and discard every day.  So we are doing our part to carry on the tradition of capitalism, or at least profit for someone else!



An art blog with occasional art

This is not an ego piece – I’ve been asked why my blog captions “Art and Travel”, but there’s so little art on this blog – so as an effort to correct that, here’s five or six pieces I’ve recently completed and one that is in-progress.


“Reflection of Fanny”        An old work trawler converted, and not all that well, to a pleasure craft, moored in a creek just off the ICW near Southport, NC.     This piece is 16X20″, and was created with Acrylic paint and ink on wooden stretched canvas.  Currently available to own from a gallery in Monroe, NC


“Shoreline”      20X16, acylic on wooden stretched canvas – available for purchase.   A piece from a photo taken on the bank of Tampa Bay, near the Town and Country area.


“Southern Storm”….20×16 Acrylic paint and ink on wooden stretched canvas.    Painted from a photo taken during a spring storm near Ft. Caswell, Oak Island, NC.   There are so few rocks in the area and these were likely dumped at their location during some construction project.    Piece is available to own.


“Sailboat Reflections”    18X24, acrylic paint and ink on wooden stretched canvas.    Painted from a photo taken of an unremarkable sailboat tied in South Harbor Marina, Oak Island, NC.   This is a study for a larger piece underway and is available to own.


“Water’s Edge 2”    16X20, acrylic on wooden stretched canvas….this is not a great photo of the piece, but it’s what I have..and as we all know, WHAT YOU HAVE IS WHAT YOU GOT.    Painted from a photo take three feet away from the first “Water’s Edge” and the two pieces are meant to be complimentary without forming a diptych.    It’s also available for purchase.

And finally……a piece being painted from a work of Raymond Gizzi, an excellent French impressionistic painter, and still underway –   a bit of departure for me, basing on another’s work, but Gizzi’s portrayal of a farmhouse in Provence puts me in mind of views in Ybor City, Florida.    I’ve recently taken a number of reference photos for future pieces there, primarily due to, just as in Key West, the chickens run free and prominently (no chickens in this piece, however.     This piece measures approximately 30″ X 18″ and is painted with acrylic paint and ink on some kind of construction board I had laying around in the pottery wheel studio.  Also, I don’t like the bicycle in Gizzi’s piece, so that’s not going to happen….maybe some chickens would be the thing………..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlaying with gross shadows underway here, to be way toned down.   I’ll make some effort to correct the perspective of the windows and wash out the shadow areas, but this is an impressionistic piece of an impressionistic piece….(just amusing myself here!)

…and voila! (which is French for – …..”and then I found out”, painting something to capture the spirit of another artist’s work is taxing – one doesn’t want unkind comparisons, even if it is my fault..<s>.



Provence Farmhouse by Raymond Gizzi




The Road less traveled….again…still

Frost said it, “…and I took the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference..”.    So it was that while driving to Little Rock to pick up some new, old, tandem kayaks, I ended up searching for gas.   The new, old, Suburban, has a new, new, engine and the gas gauge shows a comforting level of gas for a long time – until it doesn’t.  When the gauge falls below 1/4 tank, it literally falls, like off a cliff.

I had been driving West to I-40 with Memphis about 45 minutes behind me when I glanced down and saw the fuel gauge on the bottom of “Empty” – not close, not on “Reserve” but the BIG E.   I checked Google for gas stations near me and the closest was 30 miles behind me, the truck stops on the Pacific side of West Memphis, AR.   Not really having a choice, I got off at the next exit, drove south 3 miles to Route AR-70 where Maps showed some small towns – and this was the road I found…

Not just an isolated mile or two, but miles of this tree-line avenue – swamps and flooded rice fields (?) on both sides and no stores of any kind until I passed through Biscoe and got to DeValls Bluff.     I had passed some scattered homes along the way and was fairly amazed at the, ah, collective passions of the residents, both literally and figuratively.   One house had at least 20 or more defunct toilets sitting in neat rows next the side of the home.   It also had two cars “up on blocks” and two Jon boats.   Two houses down (about a mile from the first, more cars on blocks than I could count were seen both inside and outside the sheet metal fence – and two Jon boats – one up on blocks.   I can confidently say that I didn’t see a single home without a flat-bottomed, square prowed Jon boat- a few with outboards and most with “go-devils” – big motors sitting on boats that look to small for them, and with 6′ long drive shafts projecting out the back to the propeller – handy if you’re running through the cypress in 5″ of water.

Fortunately DeValls Bluff, Pop. 619, had a Breaktime Store – a sort of downsized, decidedly countrifed QT or WaWa.  Three gas pumps, with Hi-Test at $2.49/gallon!!! and Y’all pay inside.  In fact, other than the brightly lit Beer joint downtown, Breaktime was the only store open that didn’t specialize in fishing gear, beer, and duck hunting supplies – with duck season obviously in full swing.


Downtown DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, …the whole of it!


“The Grasshopper” Beer and Social Center.

What DeValls may lack in shopping diversity, it more than made up for it in …Jon boats.   There were more Jon boats to be seen than tow vehicles – Jon boats behind small urban people movers, of course behind pick-up trucks and SUVs of every description – and quite a few sitting around  on unattached trailers and  “up on blocks”.  (How much repair can a jon boat need – unless driven by the less skilled with a fire breathing Go Devil on stern).


Jon Boat duck hunters lined up waiting for their turn at the boat ramp.


DeValls Bluff is also home to the Prairie County Museum and theP1260005.JPG

The Minnow Farm.

What the photo doesn’t show is that this is a BIG operations – dozens of ponds seen along the road, big metal buildings with minnow breeding (?) and rearing containers and several minnow hauling tanker trucks parked in neat rows under canopies.

Having filled ALL the way up on $2.49/gallon, 93 Octane fire breathing fuel, I set off West again and was soon back on I-40 and 40 minutes later in Little Rock.  I picked up my new, old, kayaks the next morning and turned East, back towards home.   I’m a jon boat kind of guy myself, I have two of them at the moment, though none up on blocks and I’m going to come back to DeValls Bluff and for a couple of days, increase the population to 620- explore the Prairie Co. Museum and see if I can get a tour of the Minnow farm.

You never know what you’re going to learn on the road less traveled.




Raven’s Nest Remembrance

Raven’s Nest Dawn

The Bride and I traveled to Virginia to Smith Mountain Lake to visit Sister Sarah, (sorry no mules at all much less 2 for her).  Smith Mountain Lake, predictably, sits at the foot of Smith Mountain which is a survivor of the eon’s long erosion that has rounded and borne off much of the topography around it.   Seen from the bird’s eye view, SML looks like a leaf of False Aralia or maybe some variety of Cannabis.


I wish  I could tell you that the area was named for some interesting reason, like it was the hereditary home of the Blacksmith’s Clan or some other tradesman’s guild, founded in the hollows and valleys of the mountain, but no.      Supposedly the two Smith brothers were wandering around the area in 1740  or so, noticed some really tall areas of rock and earth and came back out to the settlement to announce the find.

Daniel   “Hey y’all, we’uns back!”

Gideon   “You canin’t believe it, we stumbled on a mound-tain!”

Daniel   “Yeah, and it’s real tall and stuff”

Gideon    “We’uns named it,uh,  Smith Mountain!”

The local electrification folks proposed damming up the Roanoke River in the ‘20s, got in done in 1963 and by 1966 the lake was at full pool   The Roanoke River, source for SML was called by the Algonquin inhabitants, “The River of Death”    The beauty of the area might have been greatly enhanced by the mystery had the peak been named, “The Mountain of Death”.    But probably the tourism development folks would have had a much tougher job if the area had become known as “The Mountain of Death Lake”.  Or maybe not…….., adventure tourism being what it is today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                               The view from the Raven’s Nest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                               One of the locals drops by for a bite to eat.

Other than the pure enjoyment of Sarah’s company, our other excuse for visiting is the annual SML Wine Tasting Festival. So, after an excellent breakfast prepared by “Cookie”, Sarah’s nickname by our family, we left the Raven’s Nest, (my name for Sarah’s top level perch, since the dawn area was filled with Ravens and Crows), and off we went to the fete du vin.

I’ve been to wine tastings prior to, we all have pretty much, either at a vineyard or perhaps in a convention center or similar venue – but I’ll have to say, this was my first in a campground.  When Sister Sarah invited us to come up for the event, she mentioned it was being held this year, its 30th anniversary, in a “lakeside campground”.  Sounded good to me, my uniformed mental picture was of all the vintners set up in shaded lanes with perhaps an open meadow where the entertainment stage would be set up……..I was acutely wrong.    The campground was obviously for those of the bovine persuasion.   I suppose the turf, if it hadn’t been trampled by a couple of thousand people, might have made for a good pastoral scene, but as it was, it was just sub-mirey (?).





But what the hey, the Smith Mountain Lake Wine Tasting festival was a hit with the visitors anyway.   After paying the “Tasters” entry fee, one gets the coveted purple festival wrist band and also receives a cute little, emphasis on little, wine glass, nicely embossed with “SML Wine Tasting Festival’.  The glass, which might hold as much as three ounces, full to the brim, was carried from tent to tent to sample the wares   For the math savvy, a little computation might be in order.  On average at each Vineyard’s tent there would be 4-8 wines to taste, with each “taste” measuring perhaps an ounce.  Additionally, at some tents you could get a 6 oz. glass,  a 750 ml bottle or a 96 oz. pitcher, particularly of the very excellent Slushie mixes from three of four of the Vineyards.    Take the above, multiply by, say, 30 Vineyards and the sum total of ounces of wine potentially imbibed is impressive, or disgusting, depending on how many booths one actually visited, even if only visiting one time.   The highly sought, hard to come by, “Tasters” purple band, enabled one to visit, and taste, as many times as one desired/was physically capable of doing so.   Being staunch believers in AGTIM, (all good things in moderation), we sampled a few, bought some wine and slushie mixes to go and departed fairly early in the order of things.  Overall impression of the event:  worth going to, watch out for the heat index and subsequent dehydration brought on by alcohol!   Insider’s tip:  Check out the vintages from the venerable “Peaks of Otter” Vineyard.   The wines taste good, come in pretty cool bottles and have un-boring names like, “Raz Ma Taz Raspberry”.


Back at the Raven’s Nest, our kayaks awaited.

Smith Mountain Lake, at about 32 sq. miles of navigable water, is home to every imaginable type of watercraft on the weekends.  Sister Sarah has her own kayak and the Bride and I brought two more from Charlotte, lashed to the top of the Black Beast.



Air temp was cooling, humidity was very good and a soft breeze was coming across the water from the SE.  In short, a great way to finish off a fun day with a little exercise.  Arriving back at our take out point, we were all saying what an excellent day and afternoon it had been on the water.


The Bride- CB                               Sister Sarah and Carrolle


The Lake thought otherwise.   The Bride, having negotiated several pretty substantial swells in a 10’ craft, fell pray to 2” of water trying to get out of the ‘yak successfully –



It was a weird accident, totally unforeseeable.   Perhaps the lake should have really been named The Mountain of Death Lake after all.


Tomorrow:  Natural Bridge Caverns – a descent into darkness.



Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized


I’ve traveled …. a lot.  Close to home – Canada and Mexico close to home.  Every state except Hawaii and North Dakota  Most of the banana republics of Central America and the Latin States of South America.   17 island nations of the Caribe, islands of French Polynesia, Great Britain and some places that I can’t even remember the names of, just vignettes of incidents that blend in my mind to make me thankful for the colors I’ve seen and experienced.

Among my very favorite places is California – swimmin’ pools and movies stars, right?  And it’s somewhat true – you can’t have that many folks in the entertainment industry in the same place without bumping into some – yesterday I rode the Air Train from rental car return into the air terminals at SFO with Eric Bana.  I recognized him and we chatted casually – he was on his way back to NY and I was returning to NC.  Thank goodness I didn’t try to address him by name since the only thing that popped into my mind was Liev  Schrieber.  For once I didn’t stick my foot in it, but my sense is that he would have thought it funny.

My California isn’t so much of the south, though I have family in and around San Diego and have spent some time around Laguna Beach,  but of the northern half, with family there too.  One most excellent summer, my father was free from work, (a supportive union was out on strike and he didn’t have to report for work until the ironworkers ended  their walkout}.  I’ve taken to calling it “The Summer of Creedence”.      We rode horses in the foothills of the Sierras, played endless games of pool in the garage, snuck drinks of Jug Wine (think Boone’s Farm in fake ceramic jugs) and endlessly listened to CCR’s Green River album, “…Walkin’ along the river road at night, Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight….”, The Carpenters, and tried to grow up.  That California is pretty far removed from the LA/Valley scene, even in the names of the towns –  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   Cool (really), Dew Drop, Secret Town, Yankee Jims and the everlasting Grass Valley.   During that summer, Grass Valley was the habitation and habitus of “them hippies”, according to my Dad and Uncle Buck – also affectionately known as “Uncle Blob”.    Grass Valley has retained its flavor with newer influences evolving the scene.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Freeway billboard along the 101

My Coolifornia has a few palms scattered here and there, but it’s a place of dry hills, sprinkled with Cedars and other relatives of the Sequoia, Live Oaks and the various Elms – American, Chinese, Siberian and the more uniquely named, Zelkova.

I-80 Rest Area scenery

Take time to visit my California – take I-80 north from San Francisco, get off this highway that wanders from two to six lanes, which does NOT improve traffic flow, at Auburn and enjoy the Old Town – think old Key West still with a gold rush flavor.  Head west and south out of town on Hwy. 49.   The road twists and turns, like the Blue Ridge, down canyons to the American River, with plenty of turnouts to enjoy the views – and take note of the various weeds, something far too many overlook when traveling – the Star Nettle and many others .

California Star Nettle
Along the Salmon Falls Rd near Pilot Hills, CA


Drop down across the American and climb the switch backs on the other riverbank.  Pass through Cool and wind your way through the opening land to Folsom.    And, holy cats, don’t fail to watch for reminders of California’s more recent past…..



The Prison is still a major presence there with sprawling lands, bordered by the Johnny Cash Art trail and Folsom Lake.

American River Gorge

Finally, for the painterly, this is a chance to visit Northern Italy without the bother of international travel – landscape, scenery and the lemony blue light.   I’ll be going back, all things staying equal, to Coolifornia, to visit, paint and again feel the wonder of my youth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

Back in the U.S, back in the U.S., back in the USSR – (U Sleep Slightly on Return), and a Taste of Maine

Sorry, this is not about Moscow girls, Leningrad girls or JoJo, who hasn’t been on my mind.

First, indulge me in a comment on Airline Economy Class upgrades- some are nothing more than the vehicle to charge you more for a seat that has some, real or suggested, advantage –  “oh look, I’m four whole rows closer to the deplaning exit..” (but  you’re still in row 30 instead of 34).   But the airlines DO have some wicked cool names for your freedom to pay more for essentially the same, well, everything –  American Airlines can allow you to upgrade from Basic Economy to Premium Economy, United has Standard Economy to Premium Economy, Delta from Economy to Comfort, and so on.


However, one basic upgrade level I can recommend is Virgin Atlantic’s “Economy Delight”..( skyrockets in flight, economy delight…).   Yes, this whimsically named upgrade has some real benefits.  First, since if you are flying, say Boston-Heathrow – 5-1/2hrs and 7hrs on the return, the extra 3.5″ of leg room is great, especially compared to the 2″ additional on some other carriers.  Next, you board with Premium instead of the cattle call and have guaranteed overhead storage.  Seats are roomy with  excellent curved headrests and worth the $ spent.   As they say onboard – “Economy Delight – look for the Champagne coloured seats..”

vs seats

We flew LHR-BOS on Sunday, had our baggage collected & were in the rental car by 6 p.m and headed for Maine.  After traveling 4000 miles into the headwind, and inevitable delays on the taxiways of Beantown, the 90 minute drive up Rt. 1A and I-95 to our friend’s house in Maine was kein problem!  We would spend only that night, the next day and the following morning in Maine before driving back to Boston and flying back to North Carolina.

Maine is a world apart by almost any measure.  The year-round population of just over 1.3 million is almost exactly that of Charlotte and Raleigh, NC without their suburbs.   More than 75% of the state is wooded and 13% of homes are totally heated with wood.  In fact, Mainers are leading the way with decreasing dependence on oil for heating purposes, with almost 7% switching to wood between 2009 and 2014 alone.  Yet, far from Utopian, Maine has about the same per capita population of folks who are finding comfort, and hellish lives from Meth and Heroin.

For all that, after moving away 19 years ago, I would still like to live in Maine….from April through October.  I’m not lazy – I would just rather not spend every minute of free time shoveling snow, ice, slush and other various forms of increasingly solid water states for about 5 months out of the year.

I would rather again live right near the ocean, especially during the non-tourist times to walk on the beach in the morning, pick up hen clams after a storm and catch the “they’ah gonna be heah any day now”, stripers.            OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                         A crowded spring beach in Maine

And if you’re a water sport, you never know who you’re gonna catch a wave with…


I’m back in NC now, back to some recreational and non-stop grass mowing, whacking away with paint on canvas and maybe throwing some mud on the pottery wheel.   But part of me is always traveling……..


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..


The above and below are “streets” in Port Isaac 



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

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.
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!

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


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



Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

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


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


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