Rod McLaughlin

Avebury stone circle (01 jun 12)

Bigger and older than Stonehenge, but less famous


I'm navigating using the 'Sustrans' bike maps. I'm camping at the Golden Swan pub in Wilcot, near Pewsey, Wiltshire, which is on a bike route. I just drank scrumpy (unfiltered cider) for the first time in decades. It has the same kick it always did.

Summer has returned to England - it's raining. The clothes that got soaked three days ago are still soaked. I washed my towels but can't dry them at the campsite as its misty all the time, so I can't have a shower 'til they are dry. A common problem in small English towns like Pewsey is the lack of laundromats.

People who can't afford their own washer/dryers have to drive a long way to wash their clothes. I rode to Marlborough from Wilcot on a national bike route, which included going through Marlborough College, where posh girls waved at me, to find there is no laundrette in that town either. The dry cleaners dried my towels and other items for £1.05 per item, taking three hours.


There are two days off for the Queen's Jubilee - Monday and Tuesday. It will allegedly temporarily cease raining on Monday *, during which time I will ride to Salisbury via Stonehenge and find a Bed and Breakfast. Online they mostly start at £50 - like most things in the UK, the pound price is the same as, or more than, the same amount of dollars in the US. But I booked into the City Lodge in Salisbury for a £40 en suite single room.

To do this, I had to use a payphone. They are few and far between. Some of them don't work. Others are covered in vomit and have a flashing notice in their LED saying 'no cash calls'. The ones which do work and accept cash reject half the coins you put in, at random. If you put the same coin in several times, it eventually accepts it. The minimum call is 60p. You have to put money in before dialing. This increases the chance of not getting your money back if it doesn't work. British Telecom. All the benefits of a state monopoly combined with the advantages of a ruthless enterprise.

Getting on the internet is so complicated in the UK; when cafes do have wi-fi, the employees often don't know how to get on it. For example, they have the 10-digit password, but not the name of the connection, eg. BTBusinessHub-018. The problem with the UK (and probably other European countries) is this 'worst of both worlds' economy. They have monopolies, which are inefficient and have poor customer service, like in the old Soviet Union, and they try to trick you out of your money, like corporations in the USA.

The railways are another example. The government privatised British Rail. It is still inefficient, prone to breakdowns, the toilets don't work, and the staff are rude - but it's also more expensive than any other form of transport. It's cheaper to fly to Aberdeen than to get the train! If I need public transport, I use buses. 

* According to the BBC. But they would say it's going to shine for the Jubilee, wouldn't they?


Portland London