Yesterday I spent my first full day in the English countryside Northwest of London in the direction of Birmingham, lodging in a 17th century inn of the small town of nursery-rhyme fame, Banbury.
The evening before, I had strolled the narrow streets, looking at statues, Gothic churches and peering into pubs. I could feel the hard solid Puritan historical character of the area floating within the moist frigid evening air. Later on within the warmth of a drinking establishment, an enterprising bartender retold tales of the interregnum of Oliver Cromwell and the subsequent restoration in the reign of Enlightenment of Charles II.
I wanted so much to see backwards. Scenes of modern, wealthy industrialized England had invaded everywhere, even here in the villages; that boring sameness which has destroyed regionalism in so much of the West. Not that I was surprised. Like a treasure hunt, I have grown accustomed to seeking out remnants of the past and romanticizing them as if they had intrinsically more worth than life today.
The second and fourth photos show scenes of the "crown jewel" of my pursuit. Tapirgal and I went to Dudley. Perched on a peak surrounded by a small zoo is one of the oldest remaining castles, dating from the 11th century. I climbed its walls, peered through its windows and growled the roar of dragons.