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post office

Cotswolds Cycling

Post Mistress Envy

Nothing has come of the talk of an Indian Summer, but it was dry on Saturday so husband and I set off on a favorite bike route. Like many of our “healthy” activities, this involves several stops for refreshments, the first of which is a pot of coffee at the post office in the village of G.P. The post office closures that caused outrage up and down Britain when announced in the spring have finally caught up with postmistress Chris. Her service has been scaled back to twice a week and she is trying to compensate with an increased emphasis on the shop. She’s even become an agent of a rural dry cleaner.

While we were drinking our coffee an older local lady came in and introduced her also mature friend to Chris. This friend had become something of a local hero for putting up a fight that saved her own village post office. Tall and stick-straight, she had an unruly yet regal shock of white hair. She was dressed in sensible country attire of the corduroy and v-neck jumper variety that’s not particularly age or gender specific. She was also quite hard of hearing and greeted congratulations from Chris with a harsh “what?” as if it was Chris at fault for not speaking up. I could imagine why local officials backed down from her. I too wanted to congratulate her, having been enamoured with the concept of the post mistress ever since I watched the BBC production of Lark Rise to Candleford over the winter. It follows 19th century life in two rural villages in nearby Oxfordshire with a feisty postmistress, Dorcas, as protagonist. It’s a British version of Little House on the Prairie and I can’t wait for the second series.

After G.P., it’s a short but hilly ride to the next village over, which happens to have a good pub. There I rediscovered the culinary delight that is a pickled egg nestled in a bed of ready salted crisps as we surfed the weekend papers. This combination of vinegar and salt / soft and crisp achieves the same balance of flavour as the breakfast food that previously inspired me to poetic ends in this blog: fried bread and marmalade (which I proudly compared, in verse, to fruit compote and foie gras terrine).

One more steep hill and across a ridge before we ate our packed lunch of coronation chicken sandwiches in the tourist village of Lower Slaughter. There I also hit Christmas gift gold. Yes, I know it’s only September but one has to take advantage of these things when one comes across them. So as not to completely give the surprise away I will just say it involves naked British farmers and a charitable cause.

The last leg is the hardest. First it’s down through Bourton-on-the-Water, which has excellent public toilets but other than that is notable only for more teeming hordes of tourists. Then it’s up for a long time. There’s a nice bench on the ridge to catch your breath before the hills start to roll again. The Cotswolds Ice Cream Company (see Saturday’s blog) is conveniently placed at the end of the route for motivation.