Houses, Foogoos and Hecklers
I was fortunate to be invited
to stay in Falmouth by Rob Follett, the designer of the best LETS
web site (Falmouth LETS) on the planet. Soon I realized I was following
in some famous footsteps when Rob showed me a photo of another visitor
back in 1996, John Turmel (without his world-famous hard-hat).
Falmouth LETS is in Corwall,
home of the Cornish Pastie (a daily treat for me). And the first thing
that caught my attention was the Cob House being built in the Green
Centre by a number of nature-loving enthusiasts, including many LETS
A cob house is
a mud brick home built on a foundation of rocks. It’s made from
balls of mud and straw packed tightly on top of each other. This is
then sculpted to leave beautifully designed features on the exterior
and interior, and it’s strength lies in the shape of the walls.
They are all curved, with no straight walls or corners evident anywhere.
This cob house included a few small, but interestingly shaped and
coloured, windows. But the roof, which was still being built when
I was there, was rather amazing. It was a live roof. That is, it had
a solid wooden structure, but on top of that was a layer of waterproof
plastic, a couple of layers of water-retaining carpet, and finally
a couple of inches of soil. This would allow moisture caught in the
layers of carpet to feed the plants growing in the roof’s soil.
Not like a garden, but more like a lawn of grass and moss.
was once a prehistoric man's humble abode.
Another hut I visited was
prehistoric. Foogoos are like little underground huts built from rocks,
and several of these can still be found in Cornwall. The one I saw
was in Constantine, 8 miles (13 kms) from Falmouth. But we had to
scale a fence and do some trespassing to get there. A small heard
of cows was between us and the foogoo, but luckily we couldn’t
see any bulls.
“Raise your arm to
appear larger than them,” I was told, when I showed some concern
about being attacked by the cows. So as soon as a cow showed me some
interest, my hand immediately shot towards the sky. I wasn’t
taking any chances.
The foogoo was nothing
like I expected. I imagined it to be just a pile of rocks, but it
was more like a small man-made cave with rock walls and roof. The
roof was covered with grass (was this the first cob house?) and there
were openings at both ends. Was this done as an escape route for prehistoric
men being chased into their foogoos by sabre-toothed tigers? Or was
it a simple form of air-conditioning? Maybe we’ll never know.
And then there was …
I guess it was bound to
happen to me some day. After traveling to so many countries and giving
so many presentations, Falmouth was the site of my first encounter
with a heckler.
I don’t want to go
into too much detail, but my heckler was drunk, and an idiot (a bad
But it was a growing
experience for me as a public speaker, especially when I realized
that his heckling was due more out of being insecure than anything
else. I’ll be better prepared for my next encounter.
Andrew and Sonja, were my hosts in Bradford-On-Avon.
The Black Cat
No-one was at the station
when I arrived at Bradford-On-Avon. So I rang them, but the line was
engaged when I rang at 8.00pm. I tried again at 8.10 and 8.20. Then
at 8.30pm I left a message that I was catching a taxi. But I’d
have to wait another 15 minutes for the next cab. Luckily my host,
Sonja, arrived just before the taxi arrived, and a couple of minutes
later I was at their home, being greeted with a warm smile and big
hug from her partner, Andrew.
believe what’s just happened,” Andrew said. “While
you were trying to get through to us, Sonja’s daughter was talking
to her boyfriend. And when she hung up we got your messages. So I
pressed dial-last-caller thinking it would ring you at the public
phone booth, but it rang the boyfriend instead. His name, and this
is the bit which is unbelievable, is James Haris. So when I asked
if he was James Taris, he said “Yes”. Then I told him
we were coming to pick him up from the station and he didn’t
know what I was talking about. So I figured something wasn’t
right and I asked him again if he was James Taris. That’s when
he realized the difference and I knew I was talking to the wrong guy.
Isn’t that amazing?”
It surely was, and half
an hour later I got to meet with young, 17 year old James Haris.
My stay with Andrew and
Sonja allowed me to catch up on hundreds of backlogged emails. But
I did have a couple of memorable encounters with Jazz, their black
My sleeping quarters were
in the lounge room. The couch in the lounge room, actually. But this
is also where the cats liked to sleep as well. On my first night,
at about 3am in the morning, I was woken by some knocking noises.
Even though I’d shut the lounge room door, Jazz had entered
through the serving window connecting the lounge room to the kitchen,
and was trying to sleep on a wooden chair in my room. Unfortunately,
one of the chair legs was on a thick rug, and each time Jazz tried
to make himself comfortable, it caused the chair to rock, making a
loud noise on the hard lounge room floor. So rather than taking the
chair leg off the rug (I was half asleep at the time and couldn’t
think straight) I got up and carried Jazz out of the room, closing
the door behind him.
But then the next night
I had another Jazz experience. At about 3am (this must’ve been
his bedtime) I heard a constant and unusual animal noise which I thought
(in my sleepy daze) was coming from outside. Eventually I had to get
up to see if it was in my room. It wasn’t. But it wasn’t
far off. When I looked behind the roller-blind covering the serving
window, I was confronted by Jazz who had a dead mouse in his mouth.
But when I started to lower the blind, I saw Jazz looking for an opening
to jump through. At that point I thought I’d push him away.
But I didn’t like the idea of touching the dead mouse, so I
opted to poke Jazz back with the stick at the base of the roller-blind.
Unfortunately, the end result of a weak stick, a determined cat caused
the stick to break, and Jazz weaseled his way into the lounge room
anyway. I had visions of Jazz enjoying his snack all over me, so I
tried to push him out of the room. He was determined to stay though,
and as I pushed him along, he kept growling at me and stopping after
only moving a few inches. I did persevere, however, and eventually
Jazz was out in the cold again … and back through the serving
window! Needless to say, I persuaded him to leave the room once again,
and this time he stayed out.
When I woke later that
morning, I had a look around for Jazz and friend. And I found the
remnants of ‘friend’ on the welcome mat in front of the
main door entrance. Andrew was pleased to see that Jazz was doing
his job and, without a word, removed all evidence before the family
There was only
one thing left to do. So I confessed to Andrew and Sonja that I was
responsible for breaking the roller-blind stick (for which they quickly
forgave me). After all, I didn’t want any of the kids blamed
Bath is the
second-most popular tourist city in the UK because of these Roman
Queen Crapped Here
“Did you know,”
Tom said, “that a toilet is constructed everywhere the queen
goes and then destroyed once she’s left?”
“Why?” I asked.
“So people can’t
open it to the public and say “The Queen crapped here””.
I was in Bath, the second
most popular tourist city in the UK (after London), only about 10
miles (16 kms) south of Bristol. Bath is famous, not for the abovementioned
toilets, but for being the site of the ancient Roman Baths, built
in 55 BC. These Baths have 250,000 gallons of naturally hot waters
(37-45 degs. celcius) flowing through them every day and were very
popular because it was believed they had medicinal qualities about
Unfortunately, in 1978,
a swimmer died from Meningitis contacted from bathing in one of the
pools, and the baths have been closed to bathers ever since. In fact,
the tour guides make a point of warning tourists not to touch the
green and steamy water with their hands. I guess one related death
is enough to have to cope with.
Today’s Roman Baths
were rebuilt in the 1880’s over the original foundations, which
were all that were left of the original baths which were destroyed
when the roof caved in many centuries ago. One of the ancient practices
the Romans had was throwing coins into the pools like a wishing well.
But they also had a devious nature about them and wrote curses onto
lead strips which they threw into the pools as well.
But the thing that really
impressed me was the concrete. The Romans invented concrete way back
then, a skill which died along with the Roman Empire about 1,500 years
ago. They even found a way to make it set underwater which they used
to their advantage as they traveled the world conquering everything
they came across.
Actually, Bath is one of
only 3 World Heritage Cities in the world. The architecture is amazingly
well preserved, and the history is equally impressive. It’s
also one of only 2 cities in the world that has a bridge with shops
built along it. The streets are built about 20 feet (6m) above the
Roman level, so the houses can have a street entrance at the first
floor level, with the ground floor and basement taking up space under
Bath has been popular with
many famous people over the years, one of which was Agatha Christie.
In fact, she even used Bath as the location for a couple of her mystery
And my hosts in Bath, James
and Gil Elliott, also had close links historically. James was related
to Sir Isaac Newton. Isaac Newton didn’t have any children,
but his sister did.
And James is one
of her descendants. And their son, Tom (38) was very interesting too.
He’s a talented artist who exhibits his work regularly. And
we had a lengthy discussion about the Louvre and some famous artists.
But he also shared a couple of other interesting things with me. The
first one was the opening paragraph of this story about the queen.
And the second was a new drink he introduced to me … the root
beer shandy. One part beer and one part root beer. Mmmmm!
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
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