Day 3: Game for a Day in Shrewsbury?

Far from over.

Friendly Poo image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Famous last words that have returned to haunt me. I, Jay Cool, am sitting here on the luxury loo in my ensuite at The Red Lion’s Lodge, faced with a stark (runny) reminder of yesterday’s indulgences at Ellesmere’s Asian Spice restaurant. Coriander, cumin and turmeric, smells that only yesterday drew me in to the finest eatery in Shropshire, today – are wafting under and out of a finely crafted door – threatening to turf Hubby and Sprogs out in record-fast time.

Okay, I get that you are thinking it’s not so respectful to be sharing my most momentous and private-morning moments with the rest of the planet, via Google’s Blogger. But, my friendlies – consider this! I, Jay Cool, Blogger Extraordinaire, am simply acting out the stories that are written into my DNA, the stories that run through my veins, my heart and – my bowels.

And something special is needed to splutter-start the action, Because today, I visit Shrewsbury – the capital city of the world! And today, I pay my respects to Sir Robert Clive (my 7th cousin, 6 times removed) (1). And I, Jay Cool, am ready.

In view of Clive’s decorative-hat habits, and out of
respect for his de-hatted victims, I have obliterated
the top of Clive’s head!

Yes, cousin Clive and I have a very special connection where faeces is concerned. And, whilst I’m still sitting here, whiling away the time on this very comfortable convenience, I’ll fill you in …

Cousin Clive was the naughtiest of Sprogs. At the age of seven, bored with the usual pastime of climbing trees (sorry, Hubby – he wasn’t a tree obsessive! (2)), Clive went for the more ambitious venture of climbing the church tower of St Mary’s in Market Drayton.

It was surprising that Clive made it far enough to perch himself on top of a gargoyle – as he was carrying a chamber pot – but make it, he did. I suspect that there had already been a significant quantity of spillage on the way up (at least, if that is where Sprog 3 and myself inherited our clumsy-itis traits from) but, even so, there was enough left for the purpose of a few surprise landings. When the gentlefolk of Market Drayton had their best Sunday hats knocked crooked by a few thuds and thwacks – they knew it was a sign from above – plops from heaven!

If only I had been there …

I can see it now …. toffee-coloured deposits of re-processed potatoes and pigeon pie, parading and preening themselves on the brims of some quality headwear, all ready for the weekly fashion show at Saint Mary’s.

Hat & Bible from Pixabay.com

Oh yes, the day is fresh. Fresh, and far from over.

And with fresh deposits completed, it’s time to move up, off and on.

I round the Sprogs up and everyone piles into (some more reluctantly than others) our coughing Dacia Sandero. According to my not-so-helpful Sat Nav, we need to head North-West, then take the A528 all the way to our destination. This  is supposedly the quickest route. Clearly, the Sat Nav, in spite of all the funds poured into Artificial Intelligence research, has absolutely no awareness of the fact that it is an integral part of a Sandero! My trusty Sandero stalls twice before it has even departed from The Red Lion’s car park – and continues with it’s stop-start dance routine all the way to Shrewsbury.

The plan (my plan) had been to visit Lord Hill’s Column en route. Turns out this is a bit of a detour, a detour not worth the risk of a total breakdown, so the Sandero is pointed on towards the town centre. Sprog 3 will not, after all, ever forgive his wayward parents if today we fall short once again of locating a Game shop. In the scale of things, it’s no matter – not sure, anyway, I’d have been able to locate the exact stones laid on the column by my 4th Great Grandfather, stonemason Joseph Cool of Myddle (3).

The day pans out rather well. I park up next to a theatre (which for some unfathomable reason does not have a large poster up to announce my visit!), where Hubby, the Sprogs and I, meet up with my mother and Uncle Dan Cool, and proceed towards a pedestrian bridge – all ready for our grand entrance into the heart of Shropshire! I imagine being my 2nd cousin, 18 times removed Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, marching up to the town gates with his Welsh army, and demanding entry (4), only to have his pride damaged at an intial refusal by the town baliff, Thomas Mytton (none other than my 15th Great Uncle). But the illusion is somewhat dampened when we pass into Shrewsbury via a scenic 60’s shopping centre called the Darwin Centre (5). No-one bars our way. This pleases me. It seems the Cool family are high up the social hierarchy – we can travel wherever we please!

We are subsumed. Sucked into the bowels of Darwin, aka Poundland, it is some time before we manage to extricate ourselves from the bargain-priced-double-sided sticky tape that Sprog 3 has bought by the bucket load. Normal people wait until they get home before testing out such purchases, but Sprog 3 is not normal. The tape catches hold of Sprog 2’s shorts, and wraps itself around his legs and arms, whilst Sprog 3 takes pleasure in doing some strange kind of a circle dance around him.

It’s time to make a hasty exit, but this is not straightforward. Seems the only way to get the full benefit of Shrewsbury, is to ascend a steep-shopping street.

Higher and higher we must climb.
And higher and higher must Mother Cool be pushed.

But the view at the top is worth it! Subway!

(An appropriate moment at which to reveal my true mental age by inserting an excerpt from my all-time favourite nursery rhyme ‘And when they were up, they were up!)

Sprog 3 lends a helping hand in propelling her Grandmother towards the target, and my mother’s bionic hip does seem to be holding up, but ….

Without warning, Mother Cool and Uncle Dan are stolen from us …. A magnetic pull created by a heavily-laden-with-sugar-monstrosities cake stand, showing its powers off in an alternative tea-shop window display, is responsible.

Courtesy of Pixabay.com, i.e. probably
not taken in Shrewsbury!

Sprog 2, having protested all the way up the hill about the unreasonableness of buying food to eat on the go, when one can’t wash one’s grubby hands, drags Hubby off towards McDonalds.

I, Jay Cool, am left standing at the top of a hill, perusing my land of plenty. Now, where to go hunting?

Sprog 3 tugs at my hand.

No choice involved.

Subway.

She orders her usual, a rabbit-food Sub, with cucumber and olives. And, after weighing up the numerous vegetarian options: vegetable pate, vegetable pate, or vegetable pate, with an alternative of the rabbit-food Sub, I go for the vegetable pate.

Simple.

Simple, but far from satisfactory.

So, I insist on the additional features of jalapenos and hot chilli sauce. Us veggies take our nosh out onto the streets of Shrewsbury, and with filthy hands, go in for the kill. I consider creating a You Tube film in which my pate miraculously comes to life and squeals out in objection to my approaching gnashers; but it only takes  a couple of seconds to reach the conclusion that it’s not going to go viral like the one about the pre-cooked fish jumping off a plate in a Chinese restaurant. There’s fake news and there’s really fake news, even if Donald Trump doesn’t make the distinction.

Suitably refreshed, we once again join forces with our regiment, ready for the descent downhill to the castle. I had rather anticipated a red-carpet entrance, but they don’t even seems to be expecting us. My castle in the clouds is closed.

So, I take stock and soak up the view over one of my many dominions:

View from Shrewsbury Castle

Shrewsbury railway station doesn’t look especially conducive to a visit. But ..

… the prison is open.

Are the prison guards expecting us? I’m tempted to put the question to the test, but there’s a hefty price-tag to qualify for a family stint in the cells, so I give it a miss. Maybe next time, when unaccompanied, when they’ll be no-one to notice, if I don’t manage to bribe my way out …

Instead, I keep in step with the others, and continue the descent to …

… the River Severn.

The River Severn, Shrewsbury

(‘And when they were down, they were down!’ Sorry, but it was never my intention to graduate from Mrs Merbury’s nursery school in Wem (6))

I’d rather not descend any further, but the dark and murky waters of the Severn are lapping over the towpath, and threatening to draw us all in. And it appears that the Council ran out of funds before completing the safety barrier.

My maternal instinct kicks in (rare) and I sweep the Sprogs and the Mother and the Uncle back onto dry land. Being male, and susceptible to all the weaknesses of that sex, Hubby makes an executive decision.

He continues along the towpath. Has he forgotten that he can barely swim? Has old age and it’s associated confusion caught up with him? Does he think that he is I? I, Jay Cool, descendant of all famous Salopians, including Matthew Webb (7), the first man to swim the English Channel? But, no Hubby is not confused. Why would he want to be I? (I am so sorry to let you down, Matthew but I, Jay Cool, cannot swim at all!) Hubby is far from confused. But he is old. And he is ..

… stubborn.

The Severn laps at Hubby’s feet. From our renewed great heights, the web-footed Cool descendants flap our wings down at Hubby. Essex-born and bred Hubby takes one last look at the bird bath and takes flight.

Back together again! Essex and Shropshire and it’s hybrids, my Sprogs, unite!

United, we make the return journey, up the hill and into a quaint little alley that transports us into the world of Harry Potter. Surely this is Diagon Alley? And isn’t there a bookshop in Diagon Alley? Shrewsbury is now talking to me in serious terms. Shrewsbury and Jay Cool have merged. We are at one with each other. Sure enough, the alley conjures up a shop selling Harry Potter memorabilia, and even the Sprogs get worked up into a frenzy of excitement. I see the price tags and mutter a quick spell. The prince tags stay put. We make a quick exit. Entry to the Magic Circle is not for the likes of I.

But coffee in a Diagon Alley tea-shop is just about affordable, Mother’s feet are knackered, my toes are screaming out with sympathy pains, and the Sprogs are just screaming – at each other! Mother parks her weary rear-end onto a dainty little garden chair, I perch on a brick wall, and the Sprogs put forward their arguments for why they are entitled to marshmallow-topped milkshakes, and Hubby … Hubby?

Henry IV, a Creative Commons Wikipedia image

Hubby has vanished. This is a most unfortunate side-effect of my Harry Potter spell gone wrong. I dig into my own purse for the coffee and milk-shake funds, and send Sprog 3 in with the order. Sprog 2 runs after Sprog 3 in a bid to change his order from a strawberry to a mint milkshake. It’s a noisy scene. I smile sort-of-sweetly at the do-not-disturb-our-peace-and-quiet childfree couple seated at the next table. They move on. It’s no surprise that my nineteenth-Great-Grandfather, King Henry IV, found it such a doddle to defeat the father-in-law of my first-cousin-eighteen-times removed, Sir Henry Percy (alias Henry Hotspur), at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Shrewsbury’s defences are a walkover. A few screams from the Cool Sprogs and Shrewsbury spews out it’s contents within seconds.

Job done.

With the town now devoid of normal life, I feel that I need to give something back to Shrewsbury.

Hence, in not-such-silent tribute to the town Lorded over by cousin Rob, we (I) spend much of our time browsing through the wares on offer. Books are purchased for bargain-bucket prices at Works, from shouldn’t-really-stretch-the-budget-that-far WHSmiths, and from one-only-lives-once-so-why-not-splash-out Waterstones. Okay, so perhaps I could have had as much fun purchasing the same books from the same chain stores in Bury St Edmunds, Colchester or Ipswich, all of which would have saved me a holiday booking at the Red Lion in Myddle. But, there’s definitely something extra-special about shopping in the inanimate company of Rob who, rather sadly for one so high up on his pedestal, can no longer chuck handfuls of c**p at us lesser mortals.

The pleasure is somewhat cut short, however, when Sprog 2 reappears at my side, tugging at my sleeve:

“I’ve been to Game. Can we go home now?”

Closely followed by Sprog 3 and Hubby, who are kind enough to remind me about the aforesaid cracked ceilings caused by the weight of my books at home. But none of it bears any weight with me, as there’s one more must-do stop to make before I give in to the weight of family responsibility. Candle Lane Books is the home of rare and second-hand books, and definitely worthy of a visitation from Robert Clive’s cousin, Jay Cool.

Aching shoulders and weary knees. The whole me, weighted down with books about Shropshire. Time to give in to reality.

Middle-age.

But, middle is the new beginning, and there’s still plenty of time to write that book. I can see it now…
‘From the Myddle, to Everywhere and Back Again’ by Jay Cool.

An epic, authored by the cousin of Sir Robert Clive, sitting in prime place in the local history section of Waterstones. The whole vision being completed with the addition of Jay Cool herself, in her favourite splashed-paint effect trousers and best pink wig, signing copies for …

… zero customers!

But – there’s still time. Jay Cool is not finished with, yet …

The Game has only just started.

Copyright owned by Jay Cool, May 2018

(1) To find out more about Robert Clive, please refer to ‘Bloody British History: Shrewsbury’ by Dorothy Nicolle, or look out for my forthcoming blog post on backtomyddle.blogspot.com.

(2) Tree obsessives may read all about tree-filled estates at http://backtomyddle.blogspot.com/2017/08/1600-1652-jane-lyttleton-1600-1652.html or they can join Hubby on the Ellesmere tree trail at
http://backagainmyddle.blogspot.com/2018/05/day-2-close-encounters-prehistoric.html

(3) Read all about stonemason Joe Cool at http://backtomyddle.blogspot.com/2017/11/joe-cool-1760-1833-myddle-shropshire.html

(4) Dorothy Nicolle’s book (see above) is also a very informative read for the story of Henry VII’s visit to Shrewsbury.


(5) Not entirely sure that Charles Darwin would approve of his name being attributed to the monstrosity that welcomes us with open mouth but, unless he is a so-far unidentified ancestor with his memories immortalised in my genes, I don’t suppose he’ll ever know about it now!

(6) Please refer to http://backtomyddle.blogspot.com/2017/07/ribbons.html to read about my days in Mrs Merbury’s nursery school in em.

(7) Find out about Jay Cool’s trip to see Captain Matthew Webb of Dawley, by following this blog and being the first to read her forthcoming post: ‘Dawley’s Consumption by Telford’s Tesco’.

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