Sometimes things don’t work out the way you think they will. You start out following a certain script, but somewhere along the line, the set changes, and you find yourself on a slightly different stage.
Today, the script involved a plan to cycle to Alcester, have lunch in a pub, and then come back. It’s only about 16 miles each way, but given that the weather hasn’t been conducive to cycling of late, I’m taking it easy getting back into it. Act One was rather uneventful. After putting on a new rear tyre, and a pannier rack (getting ready for doing the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway in two weeks time), and ignoring a brief flurry of snow, I set off. The way there is pretty easy going – it’s mostly downhill, and although it started snowing about five miles outside Alcester, it never amounted to much.
Act Two, Scene One starts in a wonderful little restaurant just off the town square called Nino’s Lavinotec, which is a quirky mixture between a coffee shop, a wine boutique, and a deli, set in an old Tudor-style building. I was squeezed onto a small table between two ancient oak pillars which are pretending to hold the building up. On my left, the coffee machine was close enough for me to have a chat to Carol, the waitress. On my right, the deli counter had a range of delicious meats which were being carefully sliced, with a few titbits coming my way very now and then. Parma ham. Fennel-flavoured salami. Chorizo. Certainly made the wait for my rare beef & mustard panini a lot more terminable. Not to mention the opportunity to drool over the range of French cheeses, and a surprisingly wide variety of Lancashire Bombs.
But then, suddenly, the curtain falls on Scene One, and opens again for Scene Two in a previously unscripted ad-lib performance by a heard of Town Criers. Well, it wasn’t in my original script, but it turns out that they’ve been coming to Alcester for an annual Town Crier competition for about 40 years. So I popped out and took a photo. (I’ve just realised now that the
old man in the foreground looks uncannily like my father, all the way down to the dress sense and a bit of posture. Uncanny, that.)
A few minutes later, a rather dignified man came in, let Carol know he’d be stopping by for a bite in about 20 minutes, but just had something to do first. He was carrying a folder which had, in bold, clear letters emblazoned on the front, the words “VOLUME & CLARITY”. And off he went to judge the competition. It seems that they’re also judged on Dress, Diction and Inflection. I can certainly vouch for the quality of their Dress, but I’m afraid that their Inflection was somewhat overpowered by their Bells when they went past me.
That was the end of Act Two, whereupon the Narrator fills the audience in with a bit of a monologue about how wonderfully unpredictable England is. Forrest Gump’s mother would love it. I’d randomly picked a town to visit, on a largely unremarkable day (ok, it’s Easter Saturday, but still), and I manage to find something completely unexpected. Solomon might have bemoaned the fact that there’s nothing new under the sun, but thanks to there not being much sun in England, there’s still plenty of new things going on. New to me, anyway.
With the intermezzo out the way, Act Three picks up pretty much where it was going to all along, with me getting back on the bike, and heading mostly uphill, mostly into the wind, and quite frequently pelted with snow. If it wasn’t for that vintage 3-year matured Lancashire Bomb in my saddlebag, I might just have felt a little under the weather.