Travel Journal April 28, 1999
Southern Wales.


Worms Head is an interesting and beautiful promontory in Southern Wales.

This is a very interesting beach. What's interesting about it? Well, take a look at the large version of the picture. You can see that on the right hand side of the picture the sand appears to come to a point. Just within the point, you'll see a tiny white dot. Without knowing better, you'd probably think that the dot was a bit of litter that someone left on the sand.

That dot is a truck.

Hmmm, it really looks more like a snail than a worm, don't you think?

The "snail" part is connected to the mainland by a rough causeway which is only traversable for about 5 hours at low tide.

Some pictures taken from the causeway:

Textures of course. The last one is a whole bunch of shells.

More sheep. Like Scotland, Wales is full of them.

Arthur's Stone, a local paleolithic passage grave. Local legend says that this is the stone from which Excaliber was drawn. One local fellow told me that there is in fact a sword-shaped opening on the top, and that a wax casting was made of it and it did in fact turn out to be the approximate shape of a sword blade.

A few paces nearby is a burial mound.

Caerleon is also associated with Arthur, it's one of several sites that claim to be the location of the legendary Camelot (the other main one is Cadbury, down in Cornwall.) However, from an archeological standpoint, what Caerleon has is an abundance of Roman ruins.

Here's an old Roman amphitheater. It also happens to be a perfect spot to just lie back and watch the clouds roll by.

And here's where the old Roman barracks used to stand.

I also visited the Roman museum. I noticed that unlike most museums, the costumes and mannikins were of particularly high quality. When I inquired about this, I was told that the costumes were made by a historical recreation society called the Ermine Street Guard.

At this point, it was time to start looking for a place to spend the night. Richard Foss had suggested that I stay for a night at Thornbury castle, which is just a few miles north of Bristol.

The price for a night's stay was a whopping £170, but I decided to go for it anyway; I hadn't stayed at any place that was really "ritzsy" yet, and I wanted to see what it was like. (I realized later that such luxury is wasted on me - the one thing I really care about, which is good plumbing, was no better here than anywhere else.)

As I was wandering through the castle grounds taking pictures, I noticed behind a wall there was a small carpenter's shop, with a man making furniture. I watched for a while, and then introduced myself to the carpenter, who's name was Steven. We got to talking (you know from reading my journal that I'm always interested in what's hidden behind the facade), and it turns out that Steven was responsible for virtually all of the woodwork within the castle. He took me on a tour of the place, showing me all of the beautiful things he had made. This was, for me, the best possible way to tour the castle - not with some hoity-toity upper crust tour guide, but with a fellow who actually worked on the place and who knew how it was put together.

Here's Steven's shop.

A ceiling panel that was done by him.

It's hard to see because of the poor light, but the woodwork is just marvelous.

Later that evening I had dinner. Normally men are required to wear ties (they'll lend you a jacket and tie if you don't have one) but in my case I didn't even have the right kind of shirt for wearing a tie, so I got a dispensation. A nice gentleman and his wife invited me to have dinner with them (I can't remember names unfortunately, but they were friends of the Baron. The Baron, unfortunately, was out of the country at the time), and we had a great conversation. I forgot to take a picture of the gentleman, but here's a picture of his wife.

I've discovered a very interesting thing about the milk here.

It sometimes happens that people become lactose intolerant as they get older. I appear to be one such person. For the last 8 years or so, milk and cheese have been giving me quite a bit of problems (painful indigestion, plus it acts as a purgative). I generally keep a supply of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) on my person. However, even with that I still have occasional twinges of symptoms, usually through underdosing, bad timing, or insufficient mixing of the lactase with the food (I've found that unlike other kinds of pills, these are more effective if you chew them first.)

If I eat a cup of yoghurt, however, my lactose intolerance dissapears for about three days. Apparently, this is how long the acidophilus bacteria can live in my stomach.

However, shortly after I arrived in England, I had some yoghurt. Several weeks later I noticed that the occasional problems I had through underdosing (which I usually get about once per week) had not occured. I decided to try an experiment, which was to stop taking lactase entirely. I have done so for two weeks now, and despite eating a wide variety of dairy products I have had absolutely no problems.

Now, I know that there are some differences between the food products over here and those in the U.S. It just so happens that there was a BBC radio program on milk production today. According to the program, U.S. dairy farmers use hormonal additives which artificially increase lactation, while in British farmers these additives are on the "not approved" list. Now, according to the program, one side effect of the hormone is a 50% increase in the chance intestinal tumors. One of the ways that farmers control these tumors is by increasing the amount of antibiotics used on the cows.

Now, I know from experience and from talking with doctors that antibiotics can wipe out your stomach bacteria. So one possibility is that American dairy products have some residual levels of antibiotics, which kill off my stomach bacteria in a time period of three days. However, this is only a tenuous theory, based on extremely shaky evidence and lots of ignorance. I'd be interested if anyone out there had any criticism of this, or alternative theories to explain the symptoms that I have experienced.