We have come full circle. The time has come to make the final journey across England from Porlock, on the Somerset coast, to London, where this all began some 70,000 miles, eighty destinations, sixty-five countries, and six continents ago.
On our way we’ve crossed deserts and oceans, dodged whirlpools and watched geysers, discovered a dozen new elements, twice improved children’s nutrition, brewed up homemade liquor, dyed our hair (then ruined the furniture), viewed the unreachable, dodged the inevitable, and found out why Batman should have a Geordie accent -all without leaving home.
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Our guide on this journey has been the dictionary, not the atlas, and it’s hoped that this epic circumnavigation has illustrated how its stories and destinations are more varied, more bizarre and more surprising than you might ever have presumed.
But now, it’s time to put your feet up. Don’t be like the saddler of Bawtry – pour yourself a drink. OK, one last story.
Bawtry is a small market town in South Yorkshire. Supposedly, a saddler (i.e. saddle-maker) from the town once fell foul of the law, and found himself sentenced to be hanged at the nearby gallows in the city of York. At the time, a tradition was in place that allowed anyone who had been condemned to die at the York gallows the chance of one final drink at a tavern on the outskirts of the city. The saddler, however, turned down the offer and so was taken straight from his jail cell to the gallows and hanged. Had he accepted the offer, however, a horseman who was en route with a last-minute reprieve from the local justice of the peace would have arrived in time to save his life. As it was, by turning down the drink, the saddler was somewhat unceremoniously killed.
Whether true or not, this macabre tale is at the root of the eighteenth-century expression don’t be like the saddler of Bawtry – a casual nudge not to turn down the offer of a drink.