Monday, November 22, 2010

Exercises in Horseplay.

The ancient-English-history nerd in me is dead-set on going to see the Uffington White Horse this weekend. It's my last full weekend in England, and I'm attempting to knock out both WH and Jane Austen's house in terms of sight-seeing. If you aren't familiar with traveling around the UK, there are parts of England that are wonderfully accessible (Jane's abode), and then there are parts of England that are almost impassably difficult to get to. And one of those places is indeed the Uffington White Horse.

For those of you that, unlike me, don't spend the majority of your time researching ancient locations of pre-Celtic yore, the White Horse is essentially a giant effigy of a horse (they think, or now they think it might be a dog, but that is not going to be discussed) carved many thousands of years ago into the side of a hill. Scholars have little to no clue about the origins or purpose of the site, other than the fact that it is extremely cool. Said extreme coolness is the reason I want to go, but if you desire more information, you may sally forth here: Uffington Horsey.

So, yes, I'm salivating just thinking about going (especially since the Horse was given a nod in the recent Ridley Scott flick, Robin Hood. Which I saw in theatres. Twice). As an added bonus, I think I successfully convinced my fabulous (read: extremely hunky, extremely brilliant, extremely talented, extremely longsuffering-for-putting-up-with-my-constant-mentally-ill-behavior) sweetheart Gerard to come with me, and I may or may not have taken into account his excellent sense of direction and ability to prevent me from hyperventilating in panicky situations when I'm not wearing stretchy fabric when I asked if he would join.

Hands off, ladies.

Did I mention he has hazel eyes?

Really, back off.

But I digress. So today I was researching how I might get to said Horse (this may or may not have been around the same time I was ignoring the 2,000-word essay I have due tomorrow morning). It's in Oxfordshire, which is like our county, I guess, so I figure, what the heck? It can't be that far away, and it certainly can't be that hard to get to.

Fellow English majors, raise your hands if you can spot the hubris of all tragic heroes.

My first clue about this intended excursion should have been the vast variation in available information online, or actually the lack of reliable information on transportation from Oxford to Uffington in general. Furthermore, I'm already starting out with a number of handicaps for this journey, one most notably being the fact that I neither own a car nor know how to drive a stick shift even if I could rent one. My only option, therefore, is coach services. Buses are actually surprisingly reliable here, and abundant (quite unlike the States; sorry, NJTransit), so I wasn't terribly worried about finding a way to get to the equine masterpiece. But as the minutes (hours?) and internet usage wore on, I became more and more frustrated. I skimmed everything from bus routes to message board posts (No, WhiteHorseWalker25, "Uffington is getting on ten miles from the center of Swindon, as the crow flies" is NOT a helpful set of directions), but to little avail.

BUT, after many extended forays into the Google wilderness, and not much help from the National Trust AT ALL (Prince Charles, are you listening?), I finally found myself a route.

Are you ready?

Getting to legendary and venerated White Horse* is going to take two hours, three buses, and a one-mile hike through the remote British countryside, which may or may not include signage to the intended destination. This raises a number of hazards, such as the potential for being hit by speeding motorists around winding mossy bends, missing a bus and being stuck out on the moors, wandering into a flock of sheep and inhospitable shepherds, or getting desperately lost and falling off a hill into an impassable crevasse and/or bog, without hope of discovery for about 500 years.

At least my mortal coil will be preserved.

So, I know as all of you are reading this, the alarm bells are going off. Don't do it, you say. You didn't even bring sneakers to England (which I didn't), and ballet flats are unsuitable for such treks across the heath. Why don't you just remain satisfied with knowing you were in the same county?

I should also mention it's going to be 2⁰C on Saturday, with a forecast of rain. But I feel like that's the kind of weather my doctor would recommend for my extended earache, so devil may care with that one. I'll bring a hat or something.

Because, see, when I finally figured out what it was going to take to get me to the Horse, there were no such alarm bells. My only thought was, "Yeah! Let's do this!" Is that bad? Yes. Have I spent too much time reading Beowulf and Arthurian Legend? Yes. Are my health, sanity, and hunky hunk going to suffer for it? Most certainly yes.

Is that going to stop me? Absolutely not.

Saturday, it is! Pray I live to write another update!

Fondest farewells,


*So legendary and venerated and important that no one bothered to pave a road there.

1 comment:

  1. I hate to break it to you, but that weather sounds like a good way to get a cold, which is also a good way to get or worsen an inner ear infection (via clogging of the Eustachian tubes).

    Anyway, have fun!