Next day, refreshed and re-showered I headed off to the dining room for breakfast, and a very nice breakfast it was too, with a good variety of fresh fruit and cereals plus a real range of hot cooked food from ‘full English’ to kippers. The food at The Cotford was a treat, especially after the hospital menu. In my short hospital stay I tried various things and discovered that they could not toast bread, the coffee made in the morning was excellent, then kept warm throughout the day gradually becoming more and more stewed until, as at the day wore on, it was untenable. Their best efforts were stewed meats or dishes involving mince, and though I had high hopes of the battered fish and chips with mushy peas on Friday in the event I think ‘assaulted and battered’ might have been a more accurate description – but that is much the same of canteen food anywhere.
But now I could relax and be pampered. So after enjoying hearty Cotford breakfast, and having had a look at the papers (a rather limited selection of The Daily Mail or weekly Malvern Gazette) I strolled in the pretty gardens on the slopes of The Malvern Hills and sat on various benches in the sun.
As it was such a lovely sunny day decided I might try a short walk along the flat road leading towards the town. When I had booked I imagined the hotel to be further out from the centre, but in the event it was a reasonably short walk – even for me in my post-operative state. The physiotherapist at the hospital said walking was positively encouraged, even up hills and steps, and Great Malvern is short of neither of those. So feeling still pretty well I walked on, then decided I might as well try going on up the hill towards the upper level of the town. I have to say I surprised myself and was soon there, though feeling a break and a sit down might be in order and as it was by now mid-morning decided to re-visit The Blue Bird Tearooms
I had last visited these tea rooms with my mother and brothers, probably after being fitted for school shoes at Elt’s Shoe Shop – brown Startrite sandals for summer with white ankle socks, or black leather lace-ups for winter, worn with great woollen knee-socks and flashes. Elt’s shoe shop is on the ground floor and has been in business in Worcestershire for 140 years, and the Bluebird Tearooms occupy the first floor and have possibly been there a similar length of time. They were certainly not a new addition to the town even in the 1950’s.
I have to say they had changed a little in all that time. There was now carpet on the floor, cheerful flowery wallpaper on the walls and chintz cotton tablecloths on the little individual tables, but in essence it was much the same and I chose what I had probably had last time I called – a pot of tea and a toasted tea-cake, both costing well under £2 each and the tea in a nice pot and china cups with a large teacake and plenty of butter. All very good, especially the sit down.
And of course I couldn’t resist a look inside Elt’s Shoe Shop on the way out and came away with a pair of brown leather shoes.
But it was not a week since my operation – should I head back to the hotel? Well I was still feeling fairly perky so decided to head back via the Abbey and maybe have a mooch round inside. I had been there before but not for quite a while and it was interesting to take a good look round. Wonderful stained glass windows, and medieval floor tiles (now safely re-sited on the walls, plus an interesting selection of medieval and later misericords.
Prayers in the early medieval church took place every four hours throughout the day and night and were long and chanted standing with uplifted hands. As time went on, misericords (literally “act of mercy”) were constructed, so that when each seat was turned up the underside had a small shelf allowing the user to rest their bottom on it. Often these had strange and sometimes humous carvings, presumably not exposed to general view as when the seats were down they were not visible, and when the seats were up someone was leaning against them. Nowadays of course we are less coy – though some of the carvings are surprising even to today’s eyes.
Misericords with seats up and later, rather innocuous, carvings
As I walked on down through the churchyard I noticed a sign for the winter gardens and thought this might be a good place to take another break, though having got inside the views and sunshine though the windows beckoned me and I took my break on some outside benches – it was a truly warm day out of the breeze.
Then on, over the bridge for another rest and gaze out up at the hill behind the pond, and watch fond grandparents bringing children for the time honoured ritual of feeding the ducks.
A meander through the parkland, and then slowly back to the hotel, still feeling surprisingly well.