02 April 2005

The Three Towers

Just had a very pleasant few days off, taking advantage of B.'s recent release from the onerous work stuff that's been snowing her under for weeks, and my Easter break.

Wednesday was spend largely in arsing around, reading the papers and so on, with a late-afternoon trip to Dolebury Warren and The Crown Inn. The Crown (there's a better review on this page) is a well-hidden treasure, a stone cottage with a very discreet pub sign hidden in a narrow lane up a hill in the small village of Churchill, which turns out to contain a large selection of very fine real ales including rotating guest beers. My particular favourite is the PG Steam, a pale ale whose name apparently has nothing whatsoever to do with PG Tips but in which my taste buds persist in detecting a robust tea-y flavour. Mmm.

Thursday B. and I had decided to fulfil our long-standing ambition of watching the Extended Editions of all three Lord of the Rings films back-to-back. We started at 10 in the morning, but the extreme length of the films -- the extended Return of the King being not far short of four hours -- and the arrival of some engineers who very kindly fixed our broken shower then went away again, we ended up finishing at 11pm. Time was, as a student, I could happily begin watching The Prisoner with Arrival at 8 in the evening and carry on right through the night, finishing wild-eyed and marginally more psychotic with Fall Out, fourteen hours later at 10am, having nodded off only slightly if at all during Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling, for charity.

Sadly, those days are gone. Perhaps the fat-reduced and therefore low-energy-value snacks with which B. insisted we accompany our viewing pleasure were partly to blame, but I have to say I found the full LotR experience surprisingly tiring and, at times, not entirely un-dull. I did enjoy watching the various plot and characters strands develop from film to film, though, and this time I managed to remember who people like Eomer and Haldir were from one film to the next (and, by the end, could almost tell the difference between Pippin and Merry). I noticed for the first time that Gandalf brings three eagles to collect Frodo and Sam from the eruption of Mount Doom, although only two are needed. He seems rather touchingly to be expecting that they might need to rescue Gollum as well.

Considered separately The Fellowship of the Ring remains the best of the three films, and The Two Towers easily the worst, with its poorly-realised Ents and all that faffing about at Helm's Deep. Considered as one eleven-hour epic, the story is too bloody long and with some significant flaws, but still just about hangs together.

Miranda Otto is still very pretty as Eowyn, and should have got to marry Aragorn instead of that smug elf.

Friday was the nicest day of the three, and saw us wandering about Bristol following a fortifying breakfast at one of the generic caf├ęs on the Gloucester Road. Numerous visits to second-hand bookshops kept us very happy, and turned up among other things -- for only £2.50 -- a copy of Kim Newman's Anno Dracula, which I've been looking for for bloody ages. (God knows why it isn't in print any more, as it seems for many readers to have been the defining book of Newman's career, and he's certainly still producing sequels every so often. It is, as you can see from the Amazon page, worth substantially more, and I feel a touch guilty about taking it so cheaply off Oxfam's hands.)

Further wandering brought us to Clifton and Bar Chocolat, where we were plied with some of the best hot chocolate in the northern hemisphere, and some of the most overwhelmingly rich cakes too. Then we climbed the Cabot Tower and looked out across the deeply impressive view of Bristol. I'm not sure whether the Tower is actually the city's highest point, but certainly we seemed on a level with the tops of the Suspension Bridge towers. I resolved a) to go back up there, very soon, with a camera, and b) to buy a camera.

After that, we sat and read books in the park until sunset, while happy squirrels frolicked in the undergrowth. And thence back home.

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