||[Saturday 14th December 2013 at 9:08 pm]
Today's semi-spontaneous (I originally looked at doing this last weekend, and spent last night playing with trains and shaving about half an hour off the route the planner gave) day trip was to Battle Abbey!
Brits will immediately know the significance of it, but for non-Brits, the quick summary is that this is the site of the battle at which in 1066 the Normans defeated the Saxons and William the Conqueror became King of England. It's an incredibly significant moment in the history of England, and pretty much every part of modern English governance descends from the changes William wrought. It's also worth noting that this was also the last time Britain was successfully invaded by anyone.
And unlike Stonehenge which is full of "well, we think it might have been used for this...", at Battle we do know most of what happened. There's actual documentation from the period, with everything from the depiction of the conquest in the Bayeux Tapestry (which is a thing you can actually just go and see, as I did on a school trip many years ago) to what is basically medieval paperwork from the Abbey. I have to admit, I did find Stonehenge a little anti-climatic when I went there a while back - while it is an incredibly significant monument, there's so much that is unknown about it and the audio tour waffled on about how it could have been used for this or that. That was a bit like the Shakespeare museum, which has such wonderful exhibits as a replica of the sort of sword that someone of Shakespeare's standing might possibly have owned. The Abbey on the other hand is much more interesting, and you can actually go inside the ruins and clamber on the walls unlike at Stonehenge where they don't let you near the stones anymore.
I did manage to take several photos before the sky became completely overcast with grey clouds, but for a change I used my dad's old Nikon F-301 rather than the Olympus C-3030 I usually take. Which means film, which means you'll have to wait until I get them developed and scanned before I can post them up. It also means manual focus (and if there's one feature the F-301 is missing it's depth-of-field preview to go with that), though fortunately not manual exposure. Still, in some ways I find film more fun than digital - while with digital you get to immediately see each photo you take and so work out how to improve it, with film you have to actually get it right without being able to know that you've got it right (unless you're crazy awesome like pleaseremove, who on a trip many years ago took one photo from the coach, went "balls, there's a post in the middle of it", and took a second. When he got the film developed the first had a post slap bang in the middle of the photo, the second was completely clear). If that makes sense.
Film also means you can't just cheat and auto-bracket everything in the hope that something will have the exposure you want (as I did with the sunset photos and several of the sky photos), partially because the F-301 doesn't have a bracket mode but mainly because it's not a digital camera with space for umpteen bajillion photos. Not that that stops me taking lots of photos, especially when Boots are foolish enough to both a) sell bags of film, and b) give me a 20% discount on processing the stuff...
Anyway, what else? Well after touring the battlefield (now terraced fields, but originally it would have been a plain hill that the invading Normans had to charge up to reach the Saxon defenders) and exploring the remains of the Abbey (you've got Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries to thank for it being ruins), I then spent what was left of the afternoon in a geocaching stroll around the outskirts of the town before finding the perfect thing to have on a cold, grey winter's afternoon - a cream tea in front of a wood fire!