The Conservative Cotswolds
Posted on October 14, 2014
My latest weekend break out and about the great British countryside took us on a trip to the rolling hills of the Cotswolds taking in a visit to the chocolate box towns of Woodstock, Chipping Norton, Moreton in the Marsh and Bourton on the Water.
The first thing I noticed about the Cotswolds is that every village has an obsession with Union Jack flags and I can’t help but feel that there is a scent of polite racism hanging in the air that is noticeably colder than it is in Hampshire, probably due to the much higher altitude in this region.
I am not big on flags, I feel like they give towns a slightly sinister and jingoistic undercurrent. It almost like they are demonstrating a community desperate to boast their ambition to cling on to a golden era when all summers were glorious and you could leave your back door open without the fear of a Bulgarian immigrant stealing your children.
Union Jack flags are the order of the day in the Cotswolds
The hotel we stayed at (The Royal White Hart) was very roomy and handily placed on the main drag through Moreton on the Marsh, a small but pretty town with tea rooms and clothes shops featuring heather mixture two piece outfits and mustard coloured trousers that are exclusively worn by people who have a habitual snort at the end of every sentence and podgy faces that resemble a toffee apple.
After our walk we took a short car drive that took us to Bourton on the Water…well I say short, as it should have been, but it was along a road that was apparently hosting the World Tractor Driving Championships, meaning it took a good half an hour to complete the seven seven mile journey.
Once we got there, a pretty sign on the edge of the village boastfully informed us that Bourton on the Water is the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’. This somewhat grandiose title had me wondering whether it was conjured up by a local council with a wicked sense of humour laced with lashings of untamed sarcasm. It reminded me a bit of Fawlty Towers when Basil was describing Torquay to an elderly fusspot…“What do you expect to see in Bourton on the Water madam…Swathes of gondolas sweeping majestically along the River Windrush?”
However, in my lifetime, the only councillor I have met with a sense of humour was my own mother, who, under the guise of a Social Democrat, sensationally beat the morbidly obese Tory, David Swan, into second place at the local elections before she ultimately failed in her quest to change her home town name to Tadley on the Brook.
I can’t be certain, but I have to assume the councillors of Bourton on the Water actually do imagine they are the Venice of the Cotswolds even if the water is about three inches deep and there is not a Gondola in sight. However, if I was to refer to Cockney rhyming slang, there seemed to be a plethora of Punts on show so I feel obliged to offer credit where credit is due.
In fairness, despite being situated firmly up its own anal passage, Bourton on the Water is very pretty, with little shops featuring all the clothes you would need if you were to enter a fancy dress competition as David Cameron along with enough tourist tat to allow Asians the pleasure of keeping the local economy buoyant. Whether it is on the steps of Tower Bridge or in a souvenir shop in Bourton on the Water, there is nothing quite like the sight of a bemused Japanese tourist wondering how on earth they have just paid ten quid for a six inch replica phone box.
Bourton on the Water – The Venice of the Cotswolds
As we strolled downstream past the boutiques and tea shops, I became ever so impressed when we stumbled upon a sweet shop proudly boasting that it sold Coconut Snowballs, Fudge and Turkish delight. This was the first time my life that I have witnessed my top three vomit inducing sweets appearing in one store. A fine achievement I think but we didn’t go in because there was a sign on the door saying ‘No Darkies’. There wasn’t of course, but judging by the cursory look from the man outside, there might as well have been.
Rather predictably, we ended up in a pub (The Kingsbridge) where, after asking for a glass of Merlot, we were informed that rather than paying £5.00 for a glass, we could have the bottle for £12.00 and take away what we didn’t finish in the pub. We took the offer but didn’t end up taking the bottle with us because we polished it off. We are one crazy pair when we get going!!
So, it was back to the hotel and a pleasant meal in the colonial style restaurant before we tried out some local pubs, starting at the Redesdale Arms just across the road. As we ordered our drinks we were introduced to Andy, an American born Scotsman who is an area director for a French company that sells Christmas lights to town councils and market places.
They say you learn something new every day and on this particular day we learnt that there are potentially twenty thousand councils in England, all with the capability to buy Christmas lights from Andy or one of his competitors. Being that it is now the middle of October, Andy, an immensely likeable guy (I would buy Christmas lights off him) is now heading into his chaotic period and wont see his family and St Andrews for ten days. The Christmas lights industry is quite compelling and you can read more about our meeting with Andy in my soon to be released new book called How to Enjoy Yourself.
Soon after meeting Andy we were befriended by Roy, a trainer for fire fighters, or firemen as they used to be known. Roy, a very friendly guy who was overcoming the trauma of shattering the screen on his iPhone, took us up the hill to The Inn on the Marsh, a quirky little place featuring the type of clientèle who had openly volunteered themselves for centuries of serfdom and barbaric interbreeding. After a quick drink, Andy dropped us back to the hotel where we popped open a bottle of red and embarked on a lively conversation with our night porter who offered us up more conspiracy theories than the fictional Viz character, Grassy Knollington.
Rather sadly, Monday morning offered low cloud a chill wind and steady rainfall, so we decide to head back to Hampshire reflecting on our short break with moderate hangovers accompanied by tired bodies and eyes.
I don’t really know what to say about the Cotswolds because although it is undoubtedly quaint, there is something self-assured about it that I don’t like. It feels like one of those places where at any minute you are going to spot Hugh Grant stood in the pouring rain telling Emma ‘nauseating’ Thompson that it is she he wants to marry and not Penelope, the devious bitch who has been having an affair with Horatio, a dastardly book publisher from Primrose Hill.
However, if your likes include shooting badgers, mustard and burgundy clothing, cream teas, fudge, tweed, miniature phone boxes, pictures of the Queen, Union Jack flags and towns that claim to be just like Venice, get yourself to the Cotswolds, you will love it.