Thursday, September 27, 2007

Back For Tea

From Cornwall I hitched eastwards to Somerset where I have an old friend (Sarah used to be my boss at the lab I worked at part-time whilst I was at uni) who lives in the country close to Bristol. The hitching experience was quite odd in that when I tried to ask people for lifts at petrol stations (generally a good place to catch rides as it allows you to directly get in contact with people and show them that you are a normal person, it's less dangerous as you don't have to worry about traffic, and it affords shelter when it rains) many wouldn't even stop when I started talking to them, always with an "excuse me" or "I beg your pardon" and would just walk on by trying their hardest to ignore me. Twice I was even thrown off the forecourt for 'harassment' despite being as polite and humble as I could possibly be (you're never going to get a ride by being rude to people). And yet on the other hand my average wait was very short compared to other countries. It seems that while many people just really don't want anything to do with anybody else there are a good number of people who will go out of their way to help.

My last ride that day was particularly funny as I had reached to within 7km of Sarah's house but it was getting dark and I didn't want to walk along the dangerous country lanes where there is no room for pedestrians. Then it started to rain and I began feeling rather miserable (particularly as my shoes have holes in the soles and let in water) when suddenly a young man pulled up in a BMW (a rarity in itself because, as a general rule, the nicer the car the less likely a person is to stop and pick up a hitcher) and offered me a ride. I could tell straight away that he was foreign and I guessed Turkish. "No," he said, "I am from a small country called Georgia, have you heard of it?" "Had I heard of it?" I said, "I absolutely love it," I gushed, and proceeded to regale David (for that was his name) of my love of khachapuri, khinkali and Kakheti wine. I also impressed him by reciting my two phrases of Georgian that managed to hang on in the jumbled attic of my mind. Which just goes to show that learning a bit of local lingo can come in handy in the most unexpected circumstances.

Whilst staying with Sarah I took the opportunity to explore the surrounding area: the town of Bath, the classic spa town (actually the only one in Britain, which is rather poorly supplied with hot springs) with its harmonious, Palladian architecture that accommodated the rich and famous of Georgian Britain. Other attractions in the surrounds are Wells and Cheddar with its eponymous gorge, which, though the largest in the British Isles, is rather wee on the world stage. I have also discovered that being a tourist in Britain certainly doesn't come cheap with many museums and attractions costing about double what I was paying for similar places in Germany or France. Plus the public transport seems to have taken the worst from both countries with a paucity of service rivalling the French and prices on par with the Germans. I was not impressed I can assure you.

But that's enough of my grumbling. Somerset was to be my last stop on this trip and yesterday I said goodbye to Sarah and plodded down to the main road for the final hitch into London. I planned to surprise her by arriving unannounced but was myself surprised when it turned out that she had gone into town to catch a show with some friends and wasn't coming back until late that evening. Luckily we have friendly neighbours who let me in until she returned. A bit of a muddle perhaps, but one thing I've learned on the trip is that muddles can sometimes be quite fun. Anyway, today is my first day back and I'm using it to relax a bit before heading down to the job centre so that I can sign myself up for the dole as my bank account is looking rather anaemic and I need a new pair of shoes after these past 3 years (the photo below shows my long-suffering shoes and sandals that I've had with me right the way through the trip and which are on their last legs).

1 comment:

Inihtar said...

OMG! Your poor feet!!

I've never hitchhiked or picked up a hitchhiker, and I wonder if I ever will (if I am alone). I know that the percentage of attacks on hitchhikers or those picking them up is very small, so I know I'm just paranoid. And I've felt really really awful the handful of times I've driven by someone (or someone who's driving the vehicle I'm in has) who needs a ride. But I'm very nervous about it. I guess that doesn't make life easier for people like you. Any thoughts?