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North of England
English West Country
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Time of departure: 9.15 am
Time of arrival: 6.30 pm
Place departed: Leominster, Herefordshire
Place arrived: Much Birch, Herefordshire
Cum miles: 700.7
Percent complete: 72.1
Pilgrim Hotel, Much Birch ****
Cost for bed and breakfast: £35 ($70)
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|Top: The city fathers in their wisdom . . . Below: Satellite dishes at homes which once had no radios
Do you remember TV test cards? Yes, those geometrically symmetrical patterns broadcast at odd viewing hours by which to check your television's reception and settings?
My impression is that these test images were somewhat replaced by standard pictures, such as a young girl with a chalkboard, and that in turn is giving way to the capability to analyze a television's performance right from the regular picture.
So we can forget all about test cards, right?
Well, not if the Test Card Appreciation Society has its way. This society meets annually, here in Leominster at the Talbot Hotel and the Black Swan. Hundreds attend.
The weekend meeting features seminars and group discussions, and even guest appearances by the now-grown girl with the chalkboard. Some of the group discussions continue into the early hours. One test card afficionado is even embroidering a test card image for her living room wall.
What Americans may not realize is that the British sense of humor has a finely-developed tongue-in-cheek streak. I've never been involved with these test cards, and I'm prepared to believe that there's a serious, history-of-science element to these meetings. But my guess is that some part of these get-togethers is mock-serious, i.e., tongue-in-cheek.
A British friend and I in the U.S. used to order ice cream on our hamburgers when we went out to group lunches. We kept a straight face, and were dismayed to find that our born-in-America colleagues thought we were serious. Only other Brits understood.
The weather was warm today, but April showers (or hail) arrived four times at least. Dark stormclouds skidded over, interspersed with white clouds and blue patches. I think I was lucky not to get wetter than I did. I wanted to walk far enough today to reduce tomorrow's mileage to "a moderate effort". Tomorrow, I'm meeting John Saunders in Monmouth. (John was my teacher and sports coach over fifty years ago.)
Arranging for today's extra mileage was as hard as doing the miles themselves. I searched high-and-low for the Tourist Information Centre in Hereford, getting misdirected twice, and finding it only after walking 15 miles from Leominster. There, they were able to book me into an attractive-sounding B&B right where I asked - at King's Thorn five miles further south. I didn't know the walk involved Callow Hill, my second significant climb of the day. So, after 20 miles or so, I arrived pretty exhausted at the B&B - to be told they'd double-booked. Some dirty rotten rat was already in my room, having committed the unforgiveable sin of booking first and arriving first. I hope he slips in the shower, runs out of toilet paper, chips his tooth on a prune pit, and finds his car with a flat tire in the morning.
The owner-landlady and I sorted things out over a cup of tea and pound cake, and chatted a bit about source codes and web sites. I told Alison Davies, for that was her name, that I was going to miss her advertised legendary breakfast with Hereford rarebit, and poached duck egg on a bed of spinach, all sourced locally. Alison was able to book me into the Pilgrim Hotel down the road at the same rate, and I was prepared to walk the extra mile or two because it was more or less in the right direction, even though I'm not going to get Hereford rarebit, and poached duck egg on a bed of spinach, all sourced locally, at the Pilgrim.
Getting to the Pilgrim Hotel was also an uphill drag. But no hill today compared with this morning's drag up Dinmore Hill. It was a steep climb that had caused the railroad to be given a three-quarter mile tunnel through the hill instead of over it. Unfortunately, Hobson does not walk in railroad tunnels, but gets to climb hills instead; thus it is written. I found the hill hard, but I also achieved it without a rest through the marvels of the "hiker's trance". Having locked my mind on to a problem at the bottom of Dinmore Hill, and not solved the problem by the time I reached Queensmore Country Park at the top, I wasn't as much challenged by the hill itself. This is one of the virtues of not solving problems. I've been good at not solving problems most of my life.
Confusion in Herefordshire. Is the fine £1000 or £2500? Can you use the bin?
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