Wednesday, May 06, 2009
To Winchester for a book club weekend to discuss Anthony Trollope's Barchester Chronicles. It was like dropping back twenty years.The streets were filled with public schoolboys from the town's 26K a year college, crusty red faced locals with those padded green jackets you see on the League of Gentlemen thronged the bar of the Wykeham Arms, and the inn's four poster bed creaked and groaned like a sinking schooner (or was that me after a couple of pints?). The diet was discarded in favour of steak, red wine and various other misdemeanours but these were offset to some degree by some walks along the river Itchen, and another quite long hike near Elton.
I like Winchester. It's genuinely pretty in a non-chintzy way, and then there's the Cathedral which costs six pounds to get in but has a number of fascinating gravestones outside (see above). There was a food fair in a gigantic marquee in the grounds where various tv chefs signed books for the adoring foodie throng. Ms T was not of their number. ("I'm not paying £2.50 for the opportunity to buy things")
Up the road is the Hospital of St Cross which is the almshouse community which Trollope based 'Hirams Hospital' on in The Warden. It still houses various gentlefolk, one of whom kindly showed us around the grounds and the superb Norman Church. He'd arrived there in the 1980's when the oldest resident at that time was over a hundred. One afternoon this gentleman had been wheeled out in his chair to regale the rest of them with his experiences as a tailor in the English Army in India...in 1902.