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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (and other lands)

What an adventure! Part 2: Cirencester

UNITED KINGDOM | Thursday, 22 August 2013 | Views [393]

After a pretty uneventful flight to London (I fell asleep straight away and woke up an hour before landing - good ol' flatbed seats!), I got off to the plane to discover the worst immigration queues I have ever seen. Even the girl checking our Fast Track tickets said that it was the worst she'd seen since the Olympics, so there you go! Apparently along with our flight, there were several other flights delayed so they all ended up arriving at the same time. It meant that it took an hour and a half to get through immigration, even in the express line. Fortunately, being a Ritchie, I'd allowed plenty of time between my flight arriving and my bus to Cirencester departing, but even so, the delay had me panicking a bit! Finally I got through, found my bags, picked up a UK sim card, and found my way to the central bus station, all with plenty of time to jump on my National Express bus, direct to Cirencester.

 

For those who don't know, Cirencester is a country town of about 20,000 people (19,000 in the holidays and 20,000 at term time - the uni makes a difference) in the heart of the Cotswolds, about 130km due west of London. During the Roman occupation of Britain, it was the largest Roman town outside of London, and it has the ruins, amphitheatre and museum to prove it! Since then, it was a bustling medieval market town (lots of very old buildings), and later on was a prosperous farming centre (we have a very impressive Wool Church, as well a nice range of architecture from across the ages!). Cirencester is now populated with a mix of traditional west country types, complete with 'arrrr ciderrrr' accents, through middle class middle English groups, and up to the local members of the aristocracy (I overheard a lady who sounded exactly like the queen, except possibly more posh). There are a lot of labradors (hooray!) being walked, as well as a lot of older Jaguars being driven. Also lots and lots of horse-related shops and services - a laundry specifically for horse rugs, a couple of saddlers, and Cirencester Park, which is open for walkers and riders and no-one else (not even bicycles). Cirencester is also host to the Royal Agricultural University (nee College), and the 'aggies', as the students are referred to, are known and, in some cases, feared, for their antics and adventures. I suppose I'll just have to wait and see what it holds for me!

 

My landlord met me at the bus stop and drove me to my new place, which was very kind of him. I had a good look around the house and surrounding area, and went for a stroll to the local mini-Tesco to collect some things for my lunch. The area is part of an older farm/estate that was developed into housing over a fairly long period of time. There are sections that clearly date back to the 1950s/60s, but I think my section is more likely to have been built in the 1980s. Every time I come to England it amazes me how green and lush everything is - the green borders of the roads are overgrown and covered in bright green foliage, the paddocks are green, people's lawns are green. The only things that aren't green, at least at this time of year, are the fields full of wheat, oats and barley, which, due to the hot summer, are becoming beautiful and gold.

 

The house is quite sweet in that it is tiny and part of a terrace, with a little backyard and a glass conservatory off the kitchen (which is amazingly warm). It was very dirty, but then it hadn't been lived in all summer, and the girl who did the vacate-clean clearly had not learned how to clean things properly. It was OK because I had plenty of time, but it reminded me of what student housing can be like! I noticed on the Monday morning (the day after I flew in) that my right calf was very sore and that I'd picked up some kind of cough, probably on the plane. I didn't think too much more of it, until that afternoon when I decided to research my leg cramp on the internet, at which point I discovered that, in conjunction with the cough, I might have DVT. I called the nurse-on-call line, she suggested that I call a local doctor, and then he suggested that I go straight to hospital, so off I went! The staff at the local Cirencester hospital (only a 10 minute walk from the house, fortunately) were absolutely lovely and were also very concerned, so they hooked me up to all sorts of machines and took blood samples and made me cups of tea and fed me freshly picked blackberries. Fortunately I'm still on the NHS system from the last time I lived in the UK, so they had all my previous records and things, and were more than happy to treat me. They had to send the blood sample to a different hospital for testing, so eventually they sent me home with instructions to wait for a phone call from them to announce whether I had DVT and would have to come back in to the hospital, or if I was OK. This meant that I ended up staying awake until nearly midnight - helping me recover from jetlag - when they called and said that while I was officially DVT-free, the results were still quite high and that I should have an ultrasound in my leg the next day just to make sureand that they would call me in the morning to confirm a time for an appointment.

Cheltenham Hospital

The next morning, sure enough, I got a call saying that I had to be in Cheltenham - about 25km away - in about an hour. Realising that there was not enough time to take a bus, I jumped into a taxi, which cost an absolute fortune, and got there just in time. They quickly checked me over and without much fuss or fanfare announced that I was 100% OK and good to go home. So I have now seen the insides of two local hospitals, and have had a good re-introduction to the NHS system. I caught the bus back to Cirencester (actually 10% of the price of a taxi), and enjoyed the stunning views of the rolling Cotswold hills. Honestly, if you ever get a chance to spend some time in the Cotswolds, do. It's worth it. 

 

Anyway, after the health-scare adventure, I finished settling in, bought some essential kitchen items (saucepan, ladle, teapot, sharp knives etc), did some cooking (tom yum soup to try to get rid of my cough/cold), picked some blackberries, and went for an explore around town. The amphitheatre is now a park where people can walk their dogs and enjoy a picnic, but it is clearly an ancient Roman amphitheatre - very steep sides and a perfect circle. The town itself is beautiful, surrounding a market place and with lots of windy little laneways with interesting shops. The local big supermarket is a Waitrose, and the university is about a 15 minute walk from my house, and is surrounded my fantastic countryside.

 

I'll have a fair bit more to say when I head back to Cirencester in a few weeks' time, but the few days that I spent in town were lovely, and I'm quite excited to see how everything goes once term starts!

 

On Thursday I left Ciren for the mean time, jumped on a bus back to Heathrow, and then on a slightly decrepit BA flight over to Rome. More about Rome to come!

Tags: blackberries, cheltenham, cirencester, cotswolds, dvt, horses, house, nhs, uk

 

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