Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Out of town interlude

Feeling in need of a bit of unpolluted air for a change, I pointed my wheels East(ish) and took off for a couple of days in Cambridgeshire and the Fens:
First stop was the Cambridge Strawberry Fair. I hadn't been since the early 1990's when 'new age travellers' were still the folk-demons. I remembered it as a very mellow affair where dreadlocked crusties happily mingling alongside  the WI and scout groups. When I saw that the police had cancelled it last year it stirred me to visit it again. The old (and not so old) 'alternative' types were still there - along with a large showing from the very pissed-up white underclass of Middle England. As a  Londoner that's a phenomenon that we just don't see here - and certainly not the open and casual display of EDL regalia in a non-political context. As I was riding I couldn't drink more than a couple of pints, but I still had quite  a pleasant afternoon people-watching - albeit slightly unsettling and nostalgic for the old days.

I spent the night in a Travelodge: Like so many of these soul-less joints this was located next to an equally desolate Little Chef in the middle of nowhere on an A road that was once a major route but has been superseded by another motorway or by-pass. Now stranded in time and space it  has the distinct feel of the Bates Motel. However I survived the night and headed off to the depths of the Fens to visit my friends who have built a new small-holding life up there (with a bit of bike work on the side).

I then headed off to West Stow Saxon Village - but taking a couple of wrong turns  managed to take in Ely which is definitely not on the way. It bills itself as the 'oldest English village' which in a narrow sense is true in that it is possibly the oldest dated Saxon settlement - but the timber houses in the 'village' are all reconstructions. Really aside from a small museum which could do a much better job of describing who the Anglo-Saxons were and how they lived, the main purpose of the village is experimental archaeology. Being something of an amateur geek in this respect I was impressed to see how this had transformed the idea of what a Saxon house had looked like from the ski-chalet like illustrations in the text books that I grew up on to something that looked much more like a modern construction. An amateur living-history group were giving  a surprisingly good demonstration of burial rites raising more sophisticated questions than I had expected - were grave goods really deposits of valued personal possessions or could they be goods of individuals that had no heirs to bequeath them to - or were they gifts deposited by the deceased's friends and relations ? Well it kept me happy for a couple of hours anyway.

I then took a very long and rambling route to join up with the M11 for the final stretch home to London. In the course of my pottering ( and getting lost ) I had managed to take in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Despite getting so soaked in the rain at one point that I managed to ruin my phone -  I felt rejuvenated. (I'm a simple soul really).

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