Forged in fire!

This weekend the girlfirend and I headed off on our travels again, crossing Offa’s Dyke and coming to rest in Hereford. It’s pretty much the only place within an hour-and-a-half driving radius that we haven’t been.

Apart from the middle of the Bristol frickin Channel, obviously.

Luckily for us, a mate and ex-colleague of mine has just taken ownership of his own pub, so we had a handy little base from which to explore. It was a quaint little joint, but it had the advantage of being the regular haunt of a bunch of patrons who would pretty much be ghosts themselves soon. Its always nice to be the youngest person in a pub by at least twenty years. If you can get up from your seat without groaning and creaking, and have a dozen gnarled and envious eyes scowl at you for it, you know you’re onto a winner.

So it was a decent place to watch the rugby – luckily Wales is close enough to Hereford to not get glassed for signing Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau – and have a few beers. Like this one:

The reason for going to Hereford was several-fold, for not only did I get to drop into my mate’s new pub, which looks like this –

The Golden Fleece, Hereford

but we also were going to use it as a base for visiting some places that are just a little too far for a day trip from Cardiff. This was an exploratory tour with a view to being a new strategy, as we venture further and further North. We’ll be going Beyond the Wall at this bloody rate.

So we started off in Hereford, which has a big bull right in the middle of the town square


And yes, after a few too many beers by I did jump on it. Only for a nice policeman to tell me to get the hell off. Only not very nicely. But we also saw the big cathedral…and I was bizarrely well behaved (it must have been before the jagerbombs and tequila):

Hereford Cathedral by night
Forgive me father, but this photo is over-exposed

So our second stop on this trial was to the city of Coventry. Yes, we were sent to Coventry. Now, there are few theories as to the origin of this saying, the main one being that if a merchant was banned from trading in London (way back in the day) they were mired in the nearest market town, which at the time was Coventry. But I have another theory.

Its because Coventry is a depressing shithole and getting sent there was functionally equivalent to being punched in the face with an iron glove.

Sorry, Coventry, but I didn’t feel ya. It was like going back to the 70’s or 80’s. Everything looked tired and neglected, which probably explained the ton of construction going on around the place. Yes, I know it was a dreary February day, but even so. Even the homeless looked happy to not be in some of those buildings.

These days, if you saw Lady Godiva you’d probably be wanking over the horse.

To be fair, there was one building that it was worth seeing, and that was the old cathedral. Its a shell, bombed out during the war, but it has character and a story to tell. The bell tower, with its 200-odd steps, is not for the out-of-shape or faint-hearted (of which I’m certainly the former!) but does afford some nice panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.

The old cathedral with bell tower, Coventry
Old Cathedral, Coventry

It was also worth taking a walk inside the new cathedral right next door. Entry is free (though there are lots of donation boxes dotted about, and you exit through the gift shop as standard) and there are some cool stained glass windows inside. Worth checking out.

Stained glass window, Coventry Cathedral
The divine shining on us??

To be quite honest, I’m surprised I didn’t burst into flames just stepping through the door of this sanctified place. But then I saw that they’d already trapped one demon for the time being. This statue was one of the highlights for me of the trip here. I don’t know about you, but if my demon statues don’t have big, flaccid penises they wont deter me from sin at all!

Fifty shades of bronze?

The girlfriend and I have a few staples we always have to check off on our trips. After we’ve completed all the standard tourist traps, we always hunt out the pubs claiming to be the oldest in any place and make the decision for ourselves. This is more for me; besides being a beer enthusiast -slash -alcoholic – slash -happy drunk, I also have a history of working in old pubs. My first and longest gig was in the oldest pub in Cardiff, and I’ve always found it fascinating that for hundreds of years people have done exactly the job I did, just with the odd details changing in these ancient places. It always made me feel better that I was the latest in a long line of slaves lol.

In Coventry’s case, the oldest pub was this one, The Old Windmill

The Old Windmill, Coventry

As you can see, its a quirky Tudor building with slanting walls, low ceilings and snug little rooms. And a traditional folk band. And the beer was good. What more can a boy ask for??

So now we come to the main reason we ventured up this way in the first place. My other half is the sort of girl constantly on the look out for new and weird things to do. And this trip was all about that. And what were we doing?

Blacksmithing. Yep, blacksmithing.

Now, I know my recent unemployment situation has been pretty dire, but to try and go back in time and get a job from the 1800’s was a bit of a desperate stretch even for me! But it was an experience day, discounted through Groupon so what the hell?

And you know what, it was pretty fun.

Hot, noisy, hard work…but fun. It was a three-hour experience, and I chose to make what, in the end, turned out to be the easiest thing on the menu, probably. A bottle opener. Don’t judge…I’m not the arts and crafts type. I play to my strengths and I did okay I reckon. There was a lot of hammering, I got burnt by flying embers a few times, but in the end my project was pretty close to my template. My partner made a candlestick holder, but the instructors did half the work for her so I think she cheated. This is what we ended up with

Forged in fire!

And here’s some shots of us at work

Disco Inferno
The missus hard at work…for a change!
I downed tools…I was done
Arrgghhh!!…My marshmallows!!!!!
The missus, some hieroglyphs…and some stout advice!

So that was us, that was our weekend, and the guys at Oldfield Farm Forge Academy helped us have a great time. There are certainly worse ways to spend a weekend.

Diolch, and I’ll catch up with you guys next time! Time for bed…I just wonder which tube to take…

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