John Walker's Electronic House

The Cotswolds – Friday to Saturday

by on Nov.20, 2006, under The Rest

There are certain things to be expected when spending a weekend away with my friends Nick and Victoria. There will be arguments. Nick will explain someone’s job to them. And most of all, grammar will be corrected. It’s always a good time.

Informed that Nictoria had found a guest house in the Cotswolds with a 2-for-1 offer on rooms, the luxury to which they have become accustomed suddenly seemed affordable to me. It was then discovered that I’m already in the Cotswolds. As indeed is most of the bottom half of England it would appear. More specifically, we were to be staying in the impossibly quaint sounding Bourton-on-the-Water. Quickly pouring over Google maps, we saw that this could only be an ideal place to stay, with neighbouring villages named Upper Slaughter and so forth. Smack bang in the middle of Middle England, like some sort of middle class Hobbits we set forth to find their magical rings.

Arriving on the coldest Friday evening in the Earth’s recorded history, Nictoria picked me up from a Hornby train station, and guided by the light of their GPS we made our way to the weeny village. The guest house was lovely. A hotel crossed with a B&B, and posh beyond reason. Heading for dinner, we were sat in the small lounge by a warm log fire, where we were given menus and offered grown-up sounding drinks. Nictoria calmly browsed the menu, while I quietly attempted to prevent my eyes popping out on stalks at the prices. A main meal, just the one course: £18. Cough, splutter. Of course, the portions were tiny. It tasted delicious, really very splendid. But goodness me, it had better had.

The evening was spent relaxing in the guest house, a glass of rum in one hand, my DS in the other. Victoria had also brought her own, leaving Nick feeling isolated by his ludicrous stance on all modern videogames. Which was just.

The shocking truth.

Saturday 4th featured two main goals: visit the model village, and find a fireworks display for the evening. There was also a plan to go for a walk to visit the Slaughters, for no reason other than that they’ve a funny name. Thankfully breakfast was included in the price of the rooms, because my Switch card was frozen at that point thanks to the evil Romanian vampire thieves. Of course, a cooked breakfast can only be eaten with a healthy portion of ketchup, but in accordance with the Ketchup & Poshness Rules, getting some required declaring oneself a wretched pleb.

A ketchup aside. I’ve noticed that the amount of ketchup available is inversely proportional to the poshness of the restaurant. Go to, say, Burger King, and you can grab infinite fistfuls of those ridiculous half-teaspoon sachets, letting your disgusting slop reach 12 degrees below room temperature by the time you’ve squeezed a decent portion out. Then say a pub for a meal. A regular pub will have a squeezy bottle available for each table. A slightly posh pub will provide a brown china dish from 1974 with two half-teaspoon sachets of ketchup, one of brown sauce, one mustard, two mayonaisse, and twenty-three of horseradish sauce. This can be countered by asking for “a couple more sachets of ketchup”, whereupon in an impotent act of aggressiveness, the bar-person will back up to your table in a fork-lift truck dumping a mountain of them beside you. Once you’re in a restaurant proper, but still low-end, ketchup will brought to the table shortly after the meals arrive, on a tray containing dishes of various sauces. Here you can determine the ranked position of the eatery by whether the dish is given to you for the duration of your meal, or if you’re given a six second window to spoon as much of it onto your plate as you can while the waiter stares at you in disgust for taking more than one drop. And then there’s the places where asking for ketchup can only be preceeded by a grovelling apology, wherein you demonstrate that you’re a ghastly Eliza Doolittle, brought into the respectable establishment as some sort of socialogical experiment. Here the ketchup will be brought to your table by a furious individual who will titrate 0.01ml onto the side of your plate, while muttering oaths under their breath.

The morning was to be for walking, Victoria equipped with a guidebook and the only sense of direction between the three of us. Which doesn’t quite explain how we walked up and down the same stretch of pavement three times before finding our starting position. Along the way we were honoured to discover the “most beautiful secret” the Cotswolds had to offer. An empty field behind a wall.

wonder at the beauty

Reaching Upper Slaughter, we popped into a beautiful, small church, I think mostly so Nictoria could mock me for a bit. While Nick was loudly complaining that the lectern Bible was open to the Old Testament (Daniel), a lady overheard us and came over to speak. She was, she explained, the wife of the warden, and we chatted for a bit. We had heard about one particular fireworks display somewhere nearby, and asked her if she knew how to get there. We were immediately told that we were to do no such thing, but instead to attend the Upper Slaughter display, which was, as all the rest seemed to claim, the biggest in the area. It was, however, the only one to which we’d received a personal invitation, so that was to be our festivity.

In the afternoon Victoria was determined that we must visit the village’s model village, and so after holding my breath for about twenty minutes in a wretched-smelling perfumery, we set off to discover our next super-quaint destination.

Model villages are excellent. Built from the same stone as the village itself, scale is damned in the recreation. It did allow Nick to demonstrate his ferocious side.


The best bit of the model village was certainly the village model village’s model village. I’m pleased to report that there was within the village model village’s model village’s model village. But very sadly, there was no village model village’s model village’s model village’s model village, which was inexplicable, as there was clearly room for one.

The evening’s fireworks display was humblingly impressive. Humbling as Nick and I were making bets over how long the professed “half hour display” would last. The over-under was at 10 minutes, and the display came in at 21. It proved once more that public displays, whether on the scale of a city display, or a small local display such as this one, are infinitely better than the idiotic private back-garden money wastes that this ridiculous country still endorses.





And then it was time for bed.

4 Comments for this entry

  • Paul S.

    Gosh. In one of those photos, you and your friend are standing about 100 yards from my old secondary school. It’s enormously weird to be reading the blog of a fine journalist such as yourself, only to see something so familiar.

    I’m sure there’s something deep and meaningful here somewhere…

  • MHW


    I must admit, I find the phrase ‘middle class Hobbits’ a little odd. You only have one working class Hobbit of any note in the entire trilogy (and sequel).

    That aside, I hope my night won’t be plagued by visions of a horde of gigantic Nick Mailers rampaging through the countryside and terrorising the grammatical infidelities of rustic England’s yeomanry.

  • John

    Mark, you’re my very own little wiggly red line.

    Also, I don’t know anything about Hobbits. They were the short whiny ones, I seem to recall.

  • Tedi Worrier

    If you know this about Hobbits then clearly it follows as night follows day – or vice versa – that you do not in fact not know anything about Hobbits … thus throwing a credence-crisis over anything else claimed to be known (or not known) or have known or will or will not be known.

    I rest……….. ahhhhhhh …. the dark………………

1 Trackback or Pingback for this entry

  • bothererblog » Decaffeinated Adventures

    […] This post has been a long time coming. In many ways it’s part 2 of the Cotswolds story from November last year. It’s to do with my trip to Weston-”Super”-Mare a couple of months back, despite no specifics. And it’s to do with my trip to Lulworth Cove a couple of weekends ago. It’s about decaf coffee. […]