Sunday, 28 May 2017

To the Tatsfield Churchyard...

Saturday's weather was fantastic. I had planned a drive to and from Sussex so I didn't ride out because I needed to conserve my energy. Andy rode alone to Godstone and the surrounding area.

Sunday and the weather was still fantastic: bright, blue skies early in the morning, a glowing sun for most of the day and then, by late afternoon, there was a strong downpour. "Good for the garden," my dad might have said. When the rain ceased there was a wonderful smell of rain in the air. I love the summer.

But let's get back to this morning's ride. I met Andy at the green and we initially planned a ride to Westerham, but as we made our way along the 269 Andy changed his mind. "Let's go to the churchyard instead," he said, so we did.

Along Clarks Lane a squirrel went crazy. Andy said he (or she) fell from a tree, which is odd when you consider, as Andy later explained, that a squirrel's key behaviours are 1. Climbing trees and 2. hiding nuts for a winter's day. Well, on point 1. this animal wasn't doing well. He scampered across the road as I might have done if I had a wasp up my arse, and then careered out of the undergrowth and into the road again, this time hitting my back wheel as he hopped his way back to the other side of the road.

With tea and BelVita biscuits at the ready we stretched out on the park bench to enjoy the good weather. Since we last met, however, there had been a terrorist bomb tragedy in Manchester and naturally it became the main subject of conversation. I mentioned how my local railway station sported two armed coppers on Thursday evening and while it was reassuring for the public to be given the impression that the UK security services were 'doing their bit' to calm the nerves, news that MI5 had the killer on its radar prior to the atrocity, but did nothing, and the fact that those who knew the killer had expressed their doubts about him – they were concerned he might engage in an act of terrorism – then suddenly that word 'flabbergasted' surfaces. With so many dead and many more seriously injured and still in hospitals in the Manchester area as I write this, then to know that the security forces had more than their suspicions about the killer, well, what can I say?

A report by the BBC claims that the security services were warned three times of the killer's extremist views, but failed to take further action because he was 'under review'.

Manchester has fallen victim to terrorist attacks in the past and has pulled through; this time round it appears to be coping well in the aftermath of the tragedy. It's a fantastic city full of great people and amazing musicians and I hope it remains that way – I'm sure it will.

As I passed those two armed officers on the railway station last Thursday night I couldn't help but wonder how they would deal with a similar terrorist attack if it took place away from the station in the centre of town, in the mall, for example. The truth is that they wouldn't be able to deal with it at all and not through any shortcomings of their own, just that nobody can be in two places at once and when you're dealing with an enemy that cares little for its own lives, let alone those of its victims, then you quickly realise that the whole situation rests entirely on intelligence and not so much an outward 'show of force', although I guess it helps.

It all sadly leads to what some call 'the standard response' of the establishment to terrorist atrocities of this nature: condemnation by leading politicians; a shrine to the fallen, thumbnail portraits of the victims in the newspapers; shots of ordinary-looking houses where suspects are being rounded up; and, of course, news that the suspect (or suspects) were known to the security services.

We discussed the forthcoming general election. During the week Andrew Neil, a leading political broadcast journalist and former newspaper editor, had interviewed the leader of the Conservative Party, Theresa May, and the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn performed better than May, who dodged virtually every question Neil fired at her in what was later described as a 'car crash' interview. Corbyn had a few wobbly moments when Neil challenged him on his views about the IRA, but he stood his ground a little more than May. This afternoon Neil interviewed Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist party. Up until this afternoon, I can't say I've really warmed to her, but after May's awful performance, it was refreshing to note that Sturgeon wasn't taking any prisoners. Furthermore, she never once avoided a question and put across her case perfectly. I must say that she went up in my estimation.

In the UK it's what is known as a 'bank holiday weekend', which means we get Monday off in addition to our weekend. So far the weather has, as I said, been absolutely brilliant. All week the sun has been out, but nothing lasts forever and it's certainly true where the British weather is concerned. This afternoon we had the aforementioned big downpour, and more has been promised for tomorrow. Uncertainty about the weather prompted Andy and I to hum and hah a little bit about whether we'd be riding tomorrow. All I know for certain (well, relatively certainly) is that thunder storms are on the agenda 'up north' but I think it will be heading our way too around noon. If this proves right then we should get out for a Bank Holiday Monday ride, but right now it's anybody's guess.




Friday, 26 May 2017

The continuing appeal of Mike Carter's One Man and His Bike

I doubt I'll ever be famous or accomplished enough to be a guest on Desert Island Discs, but if I found myself on the programme I wouldn't be happy about being given the complete works of William Shakespeare to accompany me on the mythical isle. But I do know what my luxury would be: One Man and His Bike by Mike Carter.

You might be thinking: Why is he still going on about that book? Good question. And the answer is simple: I love it!

I'm afraid I'd have stern words with Kirsty Young about the complete works of William Shakespeare. Who wants to spend their time on a desert island being reminded about exams? Not me. "Nay, but this dotage of our general..." my arse!

Over the past few days – now that summer has clearly arrived and we're all basking in 25 degree heat – it's that time of year when, on reaching home, I take a small walk (of no more than three minutes) to the local off licence where I purchase (for £1.49, it used to be 99p) a large can of Stella Artois. The thing that really annoys me about Stella – or 'wife beater' as it is more popularly known – is that, of late, the brewer has reduced the abv (alcohol by volume) from, I recall, 5.2% to 4.8%. As a result, Stella doesn't have that kick any more and after drinking a can I start to feel as if another one would be worth making a return journey to the shop. But no, leave it alone, one's enough, a little man sitting on my right shoulder advises me; and he's right.

So, part one of my summer fantasy – a large, chilled can of lager sitting in the garden – has been achieved. Now for part two.

Part two is simply reaching for a copy of Mike Carter's One Man and His Bike, picking a section of it at random and then sitting down and reliving Carter's amazing adventure around the coastline of the United Kingdom on a bicycle. It is quite simply my one and only fantasy, riding off around the coastline of the country without a care in the world and enjoying everything that comes my way.

Alright, it's not my only fantasy, but picking up One Man and His Bike and reading random sections of it now and then has become a little bit of a habit. Why? Because I find reading it, transports me back to being on the ride the first time round, when I first read the book. It's not only relaxing but therapeutic too. Put simply, it lifts my spirits (what more can anybody ask from a book?) and one day I might simply decide to re-read it. Right now I don't have a book to read, having just finished Hotels of North America by Rick Moody, and I'm debating whether to read one of four cycling adventure books that have hit the shelves of Waterstones.

The key contenders (the only contenders) are The Man Who Cycled the Americas by Mark Beaumont – a book which has been on my list since I read his The Man Who Cycled the World – but also two other books, one being The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold by Tim Moore and the other Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew P Sykes. There's also a fourth, Kapp to Cape by Reza Pakravan and Charlie Carroll.

I've dipped into all of them over the past seven days with a view to buying one, but I'm doubting whether any of them can put Carter's masterpiece into the shade, although I'm sure they will be 'good reads', which is all I'm after.

I have two other books in mind, which are more nature-related, one being Roger Deakin's Waterlog, which charts Deakin's adventures on a wild swimming odyssey around the UK and another book, the title of which I have forgotten, written about somebody who walks around the UK following little known footpaths. I wish I could remember the title and the author, but I can't, but it has a similar vibe to the Deakin book.

For now, then, I'll continue to enjoy dipping into Carter's One Man and His Bike. This evening I read most of Chapter Four where he rides to Mersea Island, has trouble trying to reach the Brightlingsea ferry and eventually meets up with a man called Tony Haggis having cycled through the dilapidated Jaywick, through Clacton and on towards Frinton on Sea. Earlier in the week I'd read a large chunk of a later chapter when he was in Scotland and being attacked by a swarm of midges. It's all good and in many ways has become a kind of 'bible', something to pick up when spirits need lifting or if I simply want to escape reality for a short while and find myself on a bike in the middle of nowhere looking for a campsite or a bed & breakfast late on a hot summer's afternoon.

Tonight I had a small glass of red wine instead of the can of Stella and I finished off with fresh strawberries and a choc ice (you don't get much better ). I'm still sitting outside in the garden, but a breeze has come up, the surrounding trees are developing slowly into silhouettes and the birds are having their final sing song before bed.

The skies are clear of cloud, but the blue is starting to fade and I'm starting to feel a little cold, especially when the cool breeze hits home. I need to send an abort text to Andy as I can't ride Saturday, but I'm free for Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday (it looks as if this week-long spell of hot, sunny weather has a few more days to run and I definitely need to be on the bike).

Uneasy Rider by Mike Carterclick here.

One Man and His Bike by Mike Carterclick here.

In Irvine, Californiaclick here.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Great weather and two rides – to Westerham and the Tatsfield Churchyard

Outside of Westerham on the ride home, Saturday 20 May 2017
When I opened my eyes I got a shock. It was light outside. I simply can't get used to the fact that summer has simply arrived unannounced. It seems like only yesterday that it was dark in the mornings and that slippers were needed as soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs. The sunlight was filtering through the curtains and I started to consider black-out drapes, like those found in Alaskan hotels during the summer months, making it possible to sleep in a place where there's only four hours of night time. I remember once sitting in the bar of the Anchorage Hilton at 2330hrs and it could have been 1100hrs instead.

It was Saturday morning, I remembered, and immediately recalled how last week at this exact time I was still three hours away from Heathrow Terminal Five in a jumbo jet, seat 32C, on a BA flight from Dallas Forth Worth.
Outside of Westerham on the way home, Saturday...
I hadn't been cycling for two weeks and was in desperate need of the exercise, so I jumped out of bed, changed into my riding gear (jodhpurs, red hunting jacket and knee-high, polished boots) and headed downstairs to make breakfast (two Weetabix, grapes, blueberries, banana and raspberries topped with some natural yoghurt. I also made myself a cup of tea – no sugar).

All week has been strained due to slowly fading jet lag, but I'm fine now and a decent ride on the bike is just what the doctor ordered.

I unpadlocked the bike and headed out along the usual route, meeting Andy at the green where we decided to ride to Westerham (a 22-mile round trip) where, we discovered, preparations were underway for a summer fair. A smallish group of people, including the local Rotary Club, were setting up display stands as Andy and I sipped tea and munched biscuits, our bikes resting against the park bench on which we were sitting.

Fortunately a horse arrived meaning no shots of gravestones. Pic: Andy Smith
We sat there until just before 0900hrs watching other people work and then mounted our bikes for the arduous journey up the hill. When we were back at the green we vowed to meet on Sunday, although we hadn't discussed the destination other than to say we might go to Westerham again (just like in the good old days) or even the trusty old Tatsfield churchyard, always a good sunny day destination.

On Saturday afternoon there was a bit of rain here and there, but nothing too depressing, and now, on Sunday morning at 0654hrs it is another bright day, just like yesterday. In fact it would be fair to say that this weekend has been the best in terms of the weather so far this year. I'm sure things will get even better as the summer progresses, but right now it's the best to date. In fact, today is the best day of all.

We met on the green at the usual time and decided to head for the Tatsfield Churchyard – the fast way. For some reason we couldn't face Beddlestead Lane. Andy was complaining of tiredness and there's little worse than the slow way to anywhere when you're feeling a little under the weather. We haven't been to the churchyard since 10 September last year (click here for more).

Last week Andy rode to the lakes...
When we arrived we talked about politics and the forthcoming election, we chatted about photography and social media and then set about taking photographs of a white horse grazing in an adjacent field before heading home again.

Ultimately the theme of our conversation was futility, which left us both feeling a little futile on the return journey. I was thinking about the sad inevitability of Theresa May being in Number 10 for the next five years and on top of that I was considering the world of social media and its futility, not to mention the futility of gardening, which I would be engaging in later in the day. The futility of gardening, however, is a little nonsensical, a bit like saying that shaving is futile. Yes, the grass grows back and so does the beard, but at least while you're keeping grass and stubble at bay there's a general tidiness about the situation. Unkempt grass and an unkempt beard don't exactly add up to anything positive and rather reflect neglect and apathy. A bit like my hair over the last week or two. After about eight weeks it gets a little straggly and I start to look like the Toecutter from the early Mad Max movies, but for some reason it takes me an age to get around to visiting the barber. I made it yesterday, however, and now I feel clean cut again and ready for what the world might throw at me.

Sunday's weather was bags better than Saturday's. For a start there was no rain, but there was also plenty of warm sunshine and it's still shining now at almost 7pm.

Our ride home retraced the outward route. We followed Clarks Lane towards Botley Hill and then turned right and rode straight down the 269 heading north towards Warlingham where we parted company. When I reached home I chilled for a bit, then had a shower and then went into the garden to mow the lawn. The original plan was to do both front and back, but a rogue sycamore tree had to be dealt with and after I'd cut it into pieces and placed it in the brown cart so kindly provided by the local council, my enthusiasm had waned.

A few words about the Specialized Rockhopper. It's now roughly six months old and while I'm tempting fate by saying I've yet to have a puncture, it's the truth. The bike's been performing well, but recently there's been a strange noise in top gear, not dissimilar to the noise made by a handful of small plastic bearings being shaken gently in a tin can. It's not affecting the performance of the bike so I'm not too bothered about it.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Conversations...

Nick Knowles
Bob: “So, you’ve bought a new car…”
Peter: “Well, not new as such, it’s about five years old.”
Bob: “What did you get?”
Pete: “Nissan Note.”
Bob: “Ah! Yes, he was so good in 48 hours.”
Pete: “You what?”
Bob:48 Hours. Nick Nolte.”

Pete: “No, Nissan Note.”
Bob: “Oh, sorry mate.”
Pete: “Not a problem."
Bob: “You been watching the golf?”
Pete: “No, but I do like a bit of DIY SOS on the Beeb.”
Bob: “With Nick Nolte?”
Pete: “No, Nick Knowles.”
Nick Nolte
Bob: “Oh, sorry. Shame you’re not keen on the golf."
Pete: “Only a little bit.”
Bob: “Jack Nicklaus, he’s good.”
Pete: “Ah yes, especially in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Bob: “Eh?”
Pete: “The movie about the nut house, Ken Kesey novel.”
Bob: “Yeah, I know, but it wasn’t Jack Nicklaus it was Jack Nicholson.”
Pete: “Really? I was always told that he somehow managed to balance both roles: acting and playing golf.”
Bob: “Not sure about that. Are you still listening to the Beatles?”
Pete: “Now and then.”
Bob: “Never liked them myself, not keen on that Jack Lemmon bloke.”
Pete: “John Lennon."

Jack Nicholson
Bob: “It must be hard trying to balance two careers: being a Hollywood actor and part of the songwriting duo that was the Beatles.”
Pete: “It was John Lennon, not Jack Lemmon. Jack Lemmon was in that movie with Marilyn Monroe.”
Bob: “Wasn’t she Boy George’s mate?”
Pete: “No, that was Marilyn... and he was a bloke.”
Bob: “Well, what about that John McCartney bloke, he had it tough. Being kidnapped by those terrorists in the Middle East and having to spend a load of time in a cage with that Tom Waits, can't have been pleasant.”
Pete: "Wasn't that why the Beatles split up?"
Bob: “Not entirely sure, probably."
Pete: "It was John McCarthy, actually, not McCartney.”
Bob: "But he was in the Beatles wasn't he?"
Pete: "Who?"
Jack Nicklaus...
Bob: "John McCarthy."
Pete: "No, he was the one in the cage with Tom Waits. It was Paul McCartney who was in the Beatles"
Bob: "With John Lemmon."
Pete: "Lennon."
Bob: "Yes, John Lennon. He wrote that Mull of Kintyre and all that?”
Pete: “No, that was Paul McCartney and Wings."
Bob: "I didn't order wings, can't stand the fuckers!"
Pete: "Fancy a pint?"
Bob: "Of milk?"
Pete: "Nah, fuck off!"
Bob: "Who's eaten your potatoes?"
Pete: "You 'ave, yer nosher!!!"
Bob: "Takes one to know one, son."
Pete: "Here's Johnny!!!!"
Bob: "Fuck off!"
Pete: "He says it all the time..."
Bob: "Oh does he?"
Pete: "Here's Johnny!!!"
Bob: "Give it a rest, nob cheese!."
Pete: "Here's Johnny!!! On the 18th at Augusta!"
Bob: "Don't believe a word of it! Piss off!"

Friday, 12 May 2017

In Dallas...Fort Worth

The flight from Knoxville to Dallas was pleasant, although I felt at one stage prior to take-off that the plane might disintegrate before it reached the runway. The American Airlines plane, probably a Boeing or an Airbus, I never looked, shuddered on every turn and squeaked and clanked its way to the strip but eventually took off without incident and I later enjoyed a cup of tea and a small bag of mini pretzels mid-flight. Around one hour and 40 minutes later we started our smooth descent into Dallas Fort Worth, through the cloud and on to the tarmac. I took the Skylink to terminal D and now I'm close to gate D15 from where I'll depart this great country en route to London Heathrow Terminal Five.

We had some rain last night in Nashville, but guess what? It was warm rain. Never experienced that before. I was in the Tailgate Brewery enjoying the old Peanut Butter Milk Stout and as I left and headed back to my hotel down came the rain. The warm rain. It was hot in Nashville. The temperature reached the early eighties, but finally the weather broke and it rained quite heavily through the night.

Inside Pizza Vino at Dallas Forth Worth airport, 
In the morning the roads were damp but there was a freshness in the air as I walked down to Barista Parlor for breakfast. But you know all about that – see previous post if you don't. Here at Dallas Fort Worth airport I've just had a late lunch of a pizza and a Cabernet, all very nice, but slightly off kilter. The place, Pizza Vino, was billing itself as an upmarket pizza restaurant – I had to take an elevator ride to reach it – so my expectations were high, but unfortunately they were dashed on the rocks of crap. For a start there were tables that needed a wipe-down, there were napkins left on the floor, there were laminated menus and to make matters worse, for some reason they didn't price their drinks. This annoyed me. I ordered a cabernet, assuming the price would be reasonable, but when I came to order another one (the pizza – proscuitto and ham – took an age to arrive and I was bored) I thought I'd ask how much. I was told $14. That's a lot of money for a glass of wine, even if it did arrive in a little glass carafe.

Oddly, my bill was only around $30. So I gave the obligatory tip, chewed the fat with the waiter, a really nice guy, who told me that to drive from Dallas to where his folks live takes 12 hours – and they live in Texas! Last night somebody told me that Texas was the second biggest state in the USA, next to Alaska. Imagine that, though, to get home by car takes 12 hours and you don't even cross a state line.

I'm not too far from the gate and I've found a power point, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this, but I felt it was important to write something from Dallas. I've got about 30 minutes before it's time to board and then I've got a nine-hour flight to look forward to; I can't say I'm happy about that, but what else can I do?

The television is screening something about Trump and the firing of FBI director Comey, but hold on, somebody's called my name over the airport intercom, that's the second time. I'd better go and see what they want. Nothing else to report anyway, I'm just sitting here. Outside it's blue skies and cloud and people are milling around as they do at airports. I'd better go, see you back in the UK.

I post a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be found by clicking here.

In Nashville...Day Seven (at Barista Parlor)

With a cab virtually waiting downstairs to take me to Nashville airport, I've just got time to say a few rushed words about a couple of great places here in the city that anybody reading this must visit should they find themselves at a loose end. I'll clear up typos later. The two establishments are the Tailgate Brewery on Demonbreun Street and Barista Parlor, just off Division Street in Magazine Street (kind of appropriate for me being as I'm a magazine journalist).

Inside Barista Parlor – my kind of America, especially with Beck on the turntable
As I say, there's not much time so I'll launch straight in and say first that I'm so glad I went out last night and even glader that I found the Tailgate Brewery outlet on Demonbreun. Tailgate produces the great Peanut Butter Milk Stout, which I first tried in the Hard Rock Café downtown. I couldn't believe my luck when I discovered that the Tailgate Brewery was just a stone's throw from where I was staying. So I had a couple of glasses of my favourite brew, accompanied by a 12in lasagne pizza (yes, it was a mistake as a 10in would have been more than enough).

Tailgate is a fantastic brewery and the place on Demonbreun was a kind of brew pub offering a wide selection of the company's brews. It was great and the beers can be sampled before buying.

The perfect breakfast...
While I was in there somebody recommended Barista Parlor, they even gave me directions, claiming it was behind City Fire down in the Gulch. I figured I had time to avoid the hotel breakfast and go there instead and I'm so glad I did. Had I known this place existed I'd have been there every morning rather than take the hotel breakfast, which was pretty standard.

Barista Parlor is cool. There's no other word to describe it. First they have a record player and on the turntable is Beck. Brilliant. Second they have two Royal Enfield motorcycles on display and third there's a cool vibe about this space. First, the word 'space' is really relevant, it's airy and there are long wooden tables, sparsely populated at this time in the morning, which makes it even better. There are pastries, there are chocolate bars, there are tee-shirts (sadly $30 otherwise I'd have bought one) and it's just wonderful.

A Royal Enfield 500 cc motorcycle inside Barista Parlor
For me Barista Parlor represents the type of America I like, it's akin to the vibe that emanates from the Ace Hotel in Portland and why oh why did I think that sitting in the Starbucks reading my book, Hotels of North America by Rick Moody, with an English breakfast tea and an almond croissant was in any way a good thing when no more than 50 yards away was Barista Parlor.

I ordered breakfast (scrambled egg, sausage, black coffee, a scone with jam) and it cost me $14. Sadly, I committed a cardinal sin: so carried away with the greatness of this excellent place I clear forgot to tip the guy behind the counter, but hopefully there will be another occasion in the not too distant future and I'm planning on a very positive review on Trip Advisor too.

Tailgate Brewery on Demonbreun Street, Nashville – a vast selection of beer


Later...
Right now it's 1023hrs and I'm at Nashville Airport and through security. My American Airlines flight to Dallas has been delayed so I'm in the Starbucks writing this, but not with tea or coffee or anything, I'm just here using the facilities, so to speak. It's going to be a long day and I can't wait to get home (Saturday morning at 0905hrs if all goes well).

Nashville has been good, especially after I found The Gulch and the various establishments there, like Barista Parlor and, of course, the Tailgate Brewery on Demonbreun. The hotel was pleasant too and the people I met were all good. Hopefully there will be an excuse to return to the Music City soon.

I post a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be found by clicking here.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

In Nashville... Day Six

I spent most of the morning of my last day in Nashville touring around Bridgestone's bus and truck tyre factory at LaVergne; it was roughly a 35-minute coach ride along the Interstate.

There was something very pleasant about the tyre factory, and it has a lot to do with the smell of rubber that filled the air wherever we went in the plant. It was wonderful and, in a way, calming. The plant was fairly quiet too because some of the lines were undergoing PM, that's plant maintenance, so the whole experience was almost surreal in a way, especially the safety video we had to watch prior to putting on protective shoes and eyeware, not forgetting (as I almost did) earplugs, although we didn't need the plugs that often.
Bridgestone LaVergne, Nashville TN.

Apart from the sense of calm brought about by the pleasant smell of the rubber, another interesting aspect of the plant was the robotics and these strange little rounded shapes that moved around the factory under their own steam, guided by laser scanners. They had a certain robotic cuteness about them that I think everybody on the tour appreciated. At one point there was a screen on which one could see where in the plant the robots were headed. 

One of the reasons I like the smell of rubber has plenty to do with my love of bike shops where the overriding scent is that of the tyres and it always reminds of being a kid and my dad buying me a new bike. I hasten to add that I'm not some kind of gimpy pervert. I mean, I like the smell of a freshly creosoted fence too, or the waft of hops from a pub doorway, both of which I find comforting for some reason. Perhaps they all harbour distant childhood memories.

The tour lasted until noon, roughly, and after that I was a free man, which is just as well as I've got to be out of here first thing in the morning in order to catch my flight from Nashville to Dallas and then Dallas to London; it's not going to be pleasant, I can tell you. In fact, I'm going to check out the BA website to see if I can get a better seat the aisle, preferably something similar to my outward trip when I was getting the best of both worlds, namely a window seat but also plenty of legroom thanks to being on the Exit row. But coming out was a jumbo, I'm not sure what the plane is on the return leg of the journey. We'll see what transpires.

Steps from Demonbreun lead to The Gulch
I went back to the Gulch for lunch at City Fire where I opted for salmon with spinach, a couple of beers and once again I was tempted into dessert, not by the waiting staff but by my own need to chill and relax. I had an Americano too and chewed the fat with one of the staff who hailed from Birmingham, Alabama, and was an artist by trade. She seemed to earn good money at City Fire and liked living in Nashville, Tennessee, rather than her home state, although she originally came from Vermont, which is up north close to the border with Canada.

My dessert was a kind of apple strudel, but I'd prefer to describe it as an apple mess. I'm still amazed how the Americans take something healthy – in this case apples – and then make it unhealthy. They even manage to take something unhealthy (ice cream) and make it even unhealthier by covering it in caramel sauce. I still finished it, but that might have been because I didn't have a big breakfast (who am I kidding?). And besides, last night in 'The Pub', also part of The Gulch, I only had salmon with rice and brocolli, not exactly high fat, although again I had that awful dessert with another huge blob of ice cream. Yesterday was excusable as I hadn't had any lunch, but there was no excuse today other than I wanted somewhere to chill that was off the street so I could read more of my book, Hotels of North America by Rick Moody.

On Demonbreun heading downtown...
After what amounted to a late lunch I wandered about in the heat, stopping for another Americano in a coffee shop across the street. I ordered a banana too in an effort to convince myself that I was in control and I was health-conscious, although it was highly tempting to have chosen a huge cinnamon whirl, but I managed to resist. 

There are good shops here for women, but they're pretty pricey so I left them alone, even if one was offering 30% off advertised prices. Eventually I moseyed on back to the hotel and sat by the pool for a short while reading Hotels of North America by Rick Moody. And now here I am again, on the lap top, in the room, contemplating all sorts of things, like when am I going to pack, will I even bother with dinner bearing in mind my late lunch and should I really bother about going on-line to check out a better seat for the Dallas to London leg of my journey? I'll probably do the latter and then I might even take a last swim in the pool if the warm weather here has warmed it up a bit since my dip on Sunday.

I took another look at the Thompson hotel, this time checking out the rooftop bar. It's not that hot. I know I said it was cool in a previous post, but I might revise my opinion of it; it's certainly got nothing on the Ace Hotel, Portland, Oregon. I'd like to say the rooftop bar offered great views of Nashville, but it doesn't, and if I'm honest I began to see the join, so to speak. I left disillusioned and continued to mosey around, eventually returning to the Best Western Plus.

Postscript: Should I stay or should I go?
It's 2007hrs and I'm still in my hotel room wondering what to do. I'll admit to feeling mildly depressed, probably at the thought of the mammoth flight I must undertake tomorrow night and the journey that begins early in the morning with a taxi to Nashville Airport and a flight to Dallas from where my transatlantic 'adventure' begins. I'm sitting here now wondering whether or not to go out and have a drink and something to eat. Something says don't bother, something else says go out and yet another voice says stay in, watch CNN and hit the sack. They're all rather tempting options in their own way and to be honest I don't think I could stay in all night, here in my hotel room with nothing but the television to keep me company. There's always Del Frisco's Grille, but can I really be bothered to hike all the way there, across the interstate and, well, I'll go down to the front desk and see how I feel.

I write a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be read by clicking here.