expectation vs reality

Before coming to the UK I had this romantic vision of hitchhiking through the bucolic British countryside. But now I’m not having a very good time. The thing is these country lanes are often pretty narrow, with hedges on both sides and little room for pedestrians and even less room for cars to stop. My first driver tells me she actually saw me too late, but turned around further up the road to come and pick me up.

Still it’s pretty efficient and by the end of the day I end up where I was planning on being: after a lunchtime visit to Ludlow I’m now in the town of Shrewsbury. Like the places I’ve visited in the last two days there’s plenty of Tudor architecture, but the most interesting place is a prison that was until recently still in use and is now open to the public. I was randomly advised to come here by people giving me a ride but it’s a fascinating place. It looks like it was just abandoned yesterday: the monitors are still hanging on the walls in reception, and the kitchen looks ready for a meal to be cooked in it.

In the evening I make my way to the nearby town of Wrexham where I’m being hosted by a vegan activist. There’s some festival happening tomorrow and she asks me to lend a hand which I’m more than happy to do, especially since there’s not much else to do in town. As I walk through town it comes across as a pretty bleak place, and someone tells me later it was one of the areas of the country with the highest pro-Brexit vote. The town’s atmosphere and scenery seem very different from the pretty villages and towns I’ve been passing through in the last three day – almost a reminder that the country isn’t just a tourist destination.

The festival is a pretty pleasant affair: a few local organisations are cooking food and informing passers-by of their activities. Initially I’m assigned to watch over a bouncy castle, and I’m pretty pleased that after only a week in the UK I am already in charge of my own castle. But somebody else quickly takes that power unto themselves and I assume the less glorious function of helping people build their stands and lugging stuff about.