Sunday, July 18, 2010

ASHTON KEYNS and AROUND, ENGLAND

Wednesday afternoon was the time to ' exchange prisoners' , which took place in a Guild Hall in Gloucester- we moved our suitcases from Jan's Honda to Gerard's Audi. The following point in our agenda ( by Gerard) was to take us for a meal in a 400 year old pub. It becomes normal in our English itinerary to attach importance to the numbers and age. Not of our students and friends though... Here we are, in front of absolutely beautiful hidden treasure: 5 MILE PUB in the countryside between Gloucester and Ashton Keynes.


The ancient piece of arquitecture was so law that Victor had to bend to get in.


You do not get a card to read the menu- you have to read it from the board in an entrance hall and return to our table. The waiter will collect the orders later on. Before the meal is on the table we indulge in all the traditional English beers ( Victor), I have a cider and a couple of guinesses for a change.



This is a dish of my choice: lamb chump steaks in rosemary. The owner of the pub, who greets us personally, assures me that the lamb is Welsh ( it is considered to be quality lamb) and briefs us on beers. Besides, he is a real character and no wonder that his sense of humor and friendliness attract visitors and keep permanent clients in the pub. Getting to know that we are dancers, he jumps up on a table and performs a mad tap dance to honour us.... Not very English, I would say. Then, he is not shy or reserved to try tango with me!

Apart from Gerard and Carole we have Roger and Val dining with us. The last couple are owners of the mansion house where we are to perform on Friday. Well travelled, artistic and eccentric themselves, they like to surround themselves with artists and therefore give their private ballroom for special events. Like Argentinean Tango Soiree.

We have brilliant contact together and after a meal we got spontanously invited by Roger to have coffe/brandy at their house and view the ballroom floor.

The house is like a small castle of over 300 years. It is like a live-in museum full of fashion prints, vintage clothes, hatboxes and dressmakers' dummies; Valerie, kind and outgoing, lectures on fashion history as a hobby ( it is the first time I heard about somebody being ' a speaker' ) .

The Chinese bedroom has curios brought back from travels. A conservatory looks onto a huge lawn with gravel walkways and the illuminated Wendy house. Val shows me her dress collection in the attics and then my change room for the Friday night spectacle. I am amazed! That is a reall honeymoon place! This is how we were going to see the house on Friday... even though envelopped in darkness it made our visit into a misterious journey into the past. Roger and Val's manners suit the place. Both of them , obviously, speak Queen's English- to my delight and Victor's comprehension... I do not even know what time we finally went to our new residence, a lovely cosy house of Carol & Gerard, for a piece of night's sleep. It was definitely not a decent time for the English. But we were in Ahton Keynes and although it is such an English traditional Village, it is also laid back and artistic. The village of well off special people with artistic tendencies.
Next day Gerard announced an early morning wake up call and breakfast at 930 am. We drove to the pretty town of Cironcester for a walk and an appointment with an Art Center director at 11 am. It seems that we are going to conquer new territories for tango!
Crossing our fingers, it will be great to perform in this town, a little theatre is just perfect for that!


Cironcester is sooo Englishly pretty. Especially in a sunny wheather, but, mind you, on our request, we had a tipical English weather since the day we arrived, so that day also was marked by changes every 5 minutes.


Of course I could take my camera out for a picture only when the rain ceased....


Cironcester and other neighbouring towns and villages got rich, as Gerard says ' on a Welsh wool bought cheap and transformed into textiles, using water mill power and the newly invented machinery' . Enlish, and not Welsh got rich.
We went back to our Ashton Keynes for a walk. The first AMAZING NEWS IS that the baby river Thames was running through it! Yes, the same Thames gloriously making its way to London, but in Ahston Kaynes it is just an ' infant Thames' as Gerard calls it. Pretty roman bridges and lovely promanade along, well kept stone houses make Ashton Keynes the MOST PRETTY AND AUTHENTIC ENGLISH VILLAGE WE HAVE EVER VISITED!
We could not stop taking photographs... even in a drizzle. That' s a bit of the weather, as Gerard says with his Welsh accent.


I have hard time defining Ahton Keynes as a village. For the lack of a better word we will call it a village, even though when Gerard and Carole invited us to stay with them in their ' farm house in a village' I was far from imagining Ashton Keyes!






A walk in the village- an extensive area with lovely old residence houses with its vast gardens, fields with horses, tennis courts, riverbank paths ( you can actually walk to London along the river, it will take about a week according to our hosts) and parks was interrupted by moving to another point in our day's agenda: Ross on Wye tango workshops! Gerard, showing his perfect organizing skills,brought us to this over 1 hour drive away place on time. Ross tango organisation hired a village hall for this special event. TO our astonishment and delight, this enormous, well equipped hall with fantastic dance floor was ..... in the middle of the forest ( of Dean) with glassed walls overlooking the forest around! What an inspiration! Deer can appear any time...
At first we were little aprehensive about how our students would find this place, but it turned out that Forest people are genuinely into tango and crowds appeared for the workshops and milonga.We had our familiar faces from last year and also from other places- Gloucester, Bristol, Chelterham, Hereford...Lovely Neil and Caroline who organise the event,Laurie and Jan came, Graham, Pete, Gerry who is a lindy hop dances and Morris who comes to any of our classes, Clare and Tess from Malvern and John and his partner from Herford and this lovely girl from belly dancing who has had her first tango class with us in Gloucester and now is here for the second... Lovely crowd!


When the classes and milonga finished, driving back home, we got a surprise: a family of 6 or 7 deer made us stop the car! Three of the bigger deer har antlers and they took their time before they disappeared in the forest. We could observe those majestic elegant creatures for a good while, taking their apparition as a good sign. Forest of Dean is treating us SO GOOD!
Next day we had no deadlines for breakfast time. Gerard and Carol were patient and joined us with their English tea when we finally sat down for breakfast at 11 am, in a very English conservatory. We LOVE ENGLISH CONSERVATORIES and kept developing more and more taste for them, especially for breakfast time.


Besides, we had a feast of live music on the piano every day. I was especially touched when we heard " Vuelvo al sur" Gerard was practising for Friday: video

The whole day, Friday, was marked by the preparations to our evening spectacle. Gerard and Carol put a great deal of organisation work- extra tables from the village hall had to be brought in, wine and wine glasses had to be taken from Cironcester, musical equippement had to be transferered, as Gerard and other musicians were to play the music in intervals and after our spectacle. We were given the priviledge to admire the house and the gardens with the best of the summer skies and sun. The guests started to arrive at 7 pm. Tango dress code, obviously ( to the titillation of many)



I deposited my dresses to change in the beautiful bedroom upstairs. The view from the window was just delightful. I was in a film ( Secret Garden? Pride and pregedice? Remains of the day?)


We do not talk about tango here, but 1, 5 hour spectacle was a total success, to such an extend that the public ( sending Gerard to us as a messanger) unanimously wanted to have their first tango class. As the wine was great, dancing floor excellent and the spirited uplifted- off we went...


Dancing and chatting and fun were had untill the indecent time of about 2 am, with a closing ceremony of brandy served by Roger, the host. Nobody seemed to want to leave the party. The FIRST TANGO PARTY IN THE VILLAGE. And hopefully not the last...


Victor posing with Gerard, who was adviced on his outfit by us- black trousers, red shirt and a red vest with the golden music notes on it. Carol was wering her golden catsuits on our request as well ( in stead of a ' good girl' s dress' )

Victor posing with Asla, our lovely tango student who followed us to Gloucester worskhops.


Me in front of the victorian make up setting in the changing room.


No, no, there was no possibility to catch up with the sleep, since Gerard's agenda for us was packed! And irresistible. Saturday was specifically intense. The first mission was to visit the farm ( A REAL ORGANIC FARM) with sheep and cows, beloning to the squash friend of Gerard's, Paul.

Saturday was THE ONLY ENTIRELY SUNNY DAY SINCE WE ARRIVED TO ENGLAND. To our surprise it has not even rained once, not even a drizzle... WE were delighted to spend most of this day outdoors. First we met Paul and Sarah in their enourmous house- converted barn, outside of Strout ( then I leart the expression to be dressed like from Strout, as I was wearing my Ibiza cloths). We cannot glorify the English landscape more- the valley of Slad is an idyllic paradise. Paul, after an obligatory cup of coffe, invited us to view his fields and his animals. It was exciting to drive sheep from one field to the other and the third one, as he does rotating cows and sheep to finish grazing on a juicy meddows.
I became a proud protaginist of this sheep driving. A shepardess is my another vocation!


Sorry for those multiply fotos with the sheep. I cannot help it, there are soooooooo sheepily cute!



We had 2 dogs with us. I really liked Puzzle. Very English indeed!


This is one of my favourite pics- with Puzzle and the sheep.

It was an amazing experience to be in the middle of the hord of sheep, when they run.... like water, to the narrow gates.



The juicy green pasture, while and black sheep, hills with stone houses perfectly blended was delight to our eyes.



Running down with sheep to the gate. It was an amazing experience! Thank to Paul who let us do it on that very day!


Victor and dogs just go together so well!









The boys had a good chat on arquitecture. Then Paul invited us to visit a barn which he converted into a small factory of pasteys ( which look like huge empanadas to us).



We said good bye to Paul and Sarah, and Puzzle, Gerard and Carol purched a big box of beef steaks and off we went back to Ashton. Another point of the programme was an open air concert in the local pub and Martin, one of the musician guests of the tango spectacle at Mansion House, was playing with his group.

We could not have a better day to sit on the lown in the back yard of a Jockey and Horse pub and listen to the music played by the different local group. As said before- most of Ashton Keynes inhabitants are either musicians, painters, dancers or artists of some other kind.




After having played with his band, Paul and his wife Jackey, joined us for a pint. I had lovely organic cider. I imagine you do not have many even summer days like that. ENTIRELY SUNNY. A PERFECT WARM ENGLISH SUMMER DAY, not a sweat hot day like they have right now in other countries in Europe. This is to be in a right place at a right time...

Here is a sample of Martin's band performance as well as the idyllic background of the pub's inner yard:
video

As ( our) life is a chain of interconnected events and enounters, we met some other people from our public, with stilll fresh tango memories in their bodies, and we could not refuse the invitation of Glen and Mike to visit their house ( 400 years old again!) for tea. This meant a little change of plans, which we did not mind att all/ in stead of beer tasting in the neighbouring village pub, we got to know another fabulous old country residence house....


Both Victor and me were amazed how many special people you can fit in a village. Glen and Mike are definitely the ones. Victor the arquitect examined the arquitecture, both old and the new. Conservatory was matching the rest.






We learnt another thing: if you are invited by Enlish for tea it means tea or coffe, cakes, beer and wine. An aperitive.




Hard to choose the cake. SO I tasted three of them. Victor was in a dilema.

With our stomachs satisfied, we were invited for the ' guided tour' of the house. Finally we were led to a leasure room with a big snooker table. And a piano. Gerard spontaneously took care of the background music. Jazzily adecuate.



Mike tought Victor how to play snoocker. First time in his life, Victor nearly beats the master!


By the way, playing on a 250 year old Victorian table!



Meanwhile the boys were playing snooker and Gerard the piano, the girls went to the secret ladies' s room for a chat.



We are always running of out time! In the perfect agenda of Gerard we have not free time! Now, we had to run back for the dinner with Martin and Jackey! Lamb chops were to have had. And plenty of wine. As a starter- music and cultural exchange:
video
Next day is our last day in Ashton Keyes. Already planned. After breakfast we were invited to the Mansion house to be shown Roger' s car collection with his favourite Lagonda. Unfortunately we had to cancel the ride, as the tipical English weather was with us again. We found out that in spite of the uncertainty of the weather, the British LOVE to have their open sport cars. Just in case the sun comes out....



That was Victor's piece of cake, I mean, bit of crumpet. Looking at the engine, starting it and talk cars with Roger. I was glad just to look at the beauty of the car regreting not having a ride.



...but "the boys" wanted to listen to the sweet murmur of the engine:
video
Back home, 5 minutes to pack our suitcases, wave good bye and see you again to our Ashton Keynes house and off to the next point in Gerard's agenda: a source of the river Thames!
Only some 7 miles from Ashton Keynes, the baby Thames is born, so we did not think twice about going there to see it!



We found it! That is, we found the place and a stone confirming our discovery, but.. not a drop of water! It must have been a dry hot summer here before we came. We imagined the water underground.



WE had our good bye pints ( of guiness) in the Thames Head Inn, beautiful traditional pub, hugged Carol good bye and were driven to Gloucester by Gerard.There again, on the very parking by the Guild Hall, the exchange of the prisoners took place: our suitcases to Jan's car and SEE YOU IN BUENOS AIRES hug to Gerard and off we went DIRECTION WALES!

1 comment:

Carlos said...

Paroles en lunfardo made in Casellas.

Tangarín milongón de Florida,
con la sangre gotán y lunfera,
que llevás en los timbos la vida
de yugante manera;

la polaca de curva cadera,
se embandera de nami encendida,
corazón de bailar con quien quiera,
aunque nadie lo pida.

De Carapa pegaste tres gritos,
bailarín de canyengues garitos,
de fetén mujerío;

afamado gorrión oriyero,
por amor a Gardel, milonguero,
mascarón de tu propio navío.

Abrazos reos.