Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category
By: Kate McLeod
Twenty minutes away from our house is the ancient city of Bath. While Mom and Dad went to run some errands, I was able to take a micro-tour of this magnificent place. Some of the highlights:
1. Great examples of the beautiful pale yellow Bathstone, quarried nearby and the basic compositional element of almost all buildings in a substantial radius. Even the newest buildings in the city use it, making the place look like a lovingly dedicated monument to its own history.
2. The wide, open spaces! I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Before I arrived, I was warned COUNTLESS times of how much smaller everything would seem to me, a Texan. Then I first saw little towns and villages and I totally bought it – I have no idea how people park cars here, even the European barely-there ‘cars.’ Then there’sBath, where things are BIG. Large lanes, huge buildings, open parks and decent-sized stores. I absolutely loved it. For any Texans considering a move to theUK,Bathwould be the perfect transitional home.
3. The Pump Room, otherwise known as actual Roman baths (or ‘thermae,’ in Latin). This set of baths, there are several in the city (which I totally didn’t know before I got here, I thought there was just one big one), has been surrounded by a more modern museum and really nice restaurant. So nice, in fact, that we took one look inside and were instantly humbled – nicely dressed people, a gorgeous piano being played in the background and richly dressed wait-staff.
Then we realised that the piano was playing Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man,’ and we couldn’t help but grin. Sure, we were all wearing jeans and I had my camera and notebook, but what the hell! We got seated and nervously glanced at the menu. To our utter shock, the prices were actually very reasonable.
Our waitress made me giggle. I’m getting used to people looking oddly at me when they hear my accent, but this young woman, who was possibly an extra in EastEnders, couldn’t seem to understand what ANY of us were saying. It happened like this:
Duncan (Dad): We want three desserts.
Eileen (Mom): (clarifying Dad’s perfectly understandable English) No, three of the Pump Room Glories. The ice cream.
Waitress: You…want free ice cream?
Tweet (my fiancée): (clarifying for Mom’s perfectly understandable English) No. Mom and Dad each want a Pump Room Glory, and Kate and I will split one. That’s three.
Waitress: I don’t unnastand…how d’ya get dose fings fo free?
Me (Kate): *gigglesnort* (I simply couldn’t help myself at this point. And I was the only actual foreigner at the table.)
Mom: (holding up three fingers) I want THIS MANY of the Pump Room Glories. Oh, and a coffee.
Waitress: (giggling nervously) Oh, I’m sorray! I fought you wanted dem fo free and I couldn’t figuh it tout.
Me: (whispering to Tweet, making sure the waitress could hear) But if we could get them for free, that’d be okay too…
The waitress froze in what appeared to be terror at this point. The look I got from Tweet was pricelessly brutal. I embarrassed myself by guffawing loudly as the waitress uncertainly made her way to the kitchen. In the end, we got our orders and they were spectacular. I highly recommend the Pump Room Glories, should you ever stop by. I would also recommend ordering two or four of them, just in case you’re in a hurry to get your dessert.
While we waited, we kept eying the ancient stone fountain from which poured fresh water. The sign in front of the fountain offered genuine Bath Spa water, a mere 50 pence a glass. A cute liveried waiter served it up directly from the fountain. Why not? We thought.
My first concern was the fact that the glass became uncomfortably hot one second after it was handed to me. It then began to steam and I had to practically run back to the table with it in order to avoid embarrassing howls and possibly second degree burns.
My second concern was the fact that Dad was really eager to try it. He’s one of those playful guys who thinks it’s hilarious to see peoples’ faces after they’ve eaten something REALLY foul. He took the first sip and, true to form, he gave absolutely no indication of what it tasted like. I started to sweat as he handed the glass to me next.
I took a small sip. It wasn’t…lethal. It just tasted like granite and iron. Really HOT granite and iron water. Which, I suppose, is exactly what it should have tasted like. I have to confess here that I was secretly terrified that it would taste of sweaty, empty-bladdered Romans. All in all, it’s not hugely pleasant but not awful. Compared to some of the things I drank inMexico, it was nectar.
We passed the glass around, giggling and making faces. We then covertly watched many other patrons as they sampled the water for the first time. The horrible faces they pulled as they tentatively sipped the water sent waves of comfort through me – yes, I may be an American on tour, but my water-tasting bravery was equal to this challenge.
P.S. Later on that same evening, we went to a gorgeous Indian restaurant for a true British Indian experience.
“Try the vindaloo,” Dad encouraged innocently. “It’s SO nice.”