Hero and Heroinne in the Southsea.

The weather has remained cold, with a confusing combination of sun and bitter breeze. Once tempted to venture outside you soon return to the guaranteed warmth of a wood-burner. The papers inform us that it has been the coldest March on record (glad we were away for most of it!)

On a the Tuesday Sarah joined Charlotte and the boys at Nan’s for lunch and afterwards they came to see the grandparents. Sarah and Charlotte had planned a Geo-caching route at the back of the house along the Northamptonshire border and I joined them. Sue looked after the boys.

The ground was still very wet with many puddles and heaps of snow (Charlotte got stuck in one!) We visited 7 sites and found five of them (two being archived/missing). In one field we had great fun releasing the water from two puddles by breaking down the sides of the bank and allowing the water to flow away, silly but somehow satisfying. We were gone nearly three hours and on our return I lost the race down the drive, then inadvertently squished Sarah’s finger in the back door and then woken Ellis up from his afternoon sleep. Charlotte and the boys stopped for tea.
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On Wednesday, Sue and Sarah took Lucas and Ellis to the cinema to see ‘The Croods’ and then had lunch at Charlotte’s. I had my haircut and then purchased all my seeds for this season’s planting (when the soil warms up). Afterwards I visited the allotments, did a bit of tidying up, dug up the last of the parsnips and picked some leeks before chopping up the last of the wood stored at the back of the shed for the fire. When that is gone I will be into my reserves squirreled away behind the conifer hedge! I took some leeks to Nan’s but I saw she was playing Bingo in the Community Room and didn’t want to disturb her, so drove home. Jamie came for tea and brought with him quite a lot of meat from the freezer. He is planning a holiday at the end of April.

Thursday saw the girls and I on a Geo-cache walk that Sarah and Charlotte had planned around Stoke Albany, Sue looked after Lucas and Ellis. The route itself was just 3.5 miles and though it was sunny there was a bitter wind that froze any exposed parts. Besides successfully finding 19 caches (3 were rather unusual squirrels), we had a snowball fight (which Charlotte lost, freezingly!) and an interesting look around Wilbarston Church. We stopped for drinks and to warm up at the Roedeer on the way back. On our return, Sue had taken the boys into the town and Lucas had discovered the joy of riding his bike (which had been left in our shed over the winter) and spent much of that afternoon whizzing around the garden while Ellis looked on longingly through the window.

On Friday Sue and I had a lazy morning before driving down to Southend-on-Sea for a few days.We stayed at the Radisson Park Inn, a very impressive and imposing hotel set up above the entrance to the longest pier in the world. Sarah went to stay with Charlotte. After parking the car in the Muliti-story car-park opposite, we checked in and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking west along the beach and sea-front. The breeze ensured that hat and gloves were worn. Despite being an Easter week-end the resort wasn’t over busy. We made an abortive attempt to find a couple of Geo-caches, but due to the large numbers of muggles around we were unsuccessful. We returned in time for our evening meal in the hotel restaurant which overlooked the Pleasure Park, estuary and pier. As we ate, we watched the sun slowly go down and followed the boats making their way along the narrow channel to the sea. Our view turned quite magical as the lights of the Funfair glowed and flashed against the moving orbs of light from passing vessels, and then to cap it all, the stars came out. Not quite rivaling the evening view from Victoria Peak (Hong Kong), but not far off.
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To burn off a few calories we took a very chilly walk along the High Street into the town. We took our time and managed to get as far as the large square by the Odeon Cinema. It was quite late by the time we returned to hotel, so it was coffee and bed (it is an age related thing).

The following morning we had an excellent breakfast in the restaurant and again watched the boats passing by, though this time we were distracted by the early morning joggers and cyclists down below. It was they who probably changed our minds from catching the train along the pier, to walking it (1.3 miles each way!). It was the first thing we did that morning. It was a bracing stroll. Again the sky was blue, but the breeze had a nasty nip top it. We had brought the binoculars with us and they were used to watch the life-boat crew who were practicing various drills just off the end of the pier. Throwing oneself overboard and then being dragged back into the boat didn’t seem a lot of fun to me. There was an exhibition of ‘Only Fool’s and Horses’ memorabilia in the hall on the pier, but after a brief look at the ‘Reliant Robin’ we spurned the exhibits for a warming hot chocolate in the cafe. The return walk back over the waves was made in double time as it was into a very fresh breeze that froze to an icicle my right ear!

It was a lot warmer back on shore. We headed east. Passing a beach-side Casino, I heard Sue exclaim surprise. Three people had just exited from aside door, two women and a very tall guy wearing sunglasses, one of the women was laughing at Sue’s reaction. A little further away, Sue explained. The man was a controversial X-factor contestant called Rylan. Controversial because he was gay and couldn’t sing, though he was popular and made it to the final. He was now appearing on stage at a Casino in Southend, fame indeed.

The afternoon proved rather exciting. We had decided to Geo-cache our way up along the west beach. Again we were thwarted by the increasing number of muggles (Holiday makers) and had n’t found any until my gps indicated a cache in a bush situated between a temporary police hut and a first aid station. Waiting for passers-bye to thin out I quickly dived into the bush to look for the treasure. The clue had indicated it was inside something, so spotting a tightly wrapped bundle of plastic I gleefully grabbed it and emerged to check out the contents. NOT a Geo-cache! Inside were hypodermic syringes, little metal spoons, sachets of citric acid and small bundles of what I assume was heroin. PANIC. We quickly got on to the beach and with our backs to the waves we watched to see if anybody was observing us. We couldn’t see any one. Deciding to hand the cache into the authorities we nonchalantly made our way to the police hut, it was shut! Venturing into the first aid station to pass the booty on to a ‘trusted’ citizen, with great prejudice and a wagon load of stereo-typical thoughts I decided against it. The ‘first-aider’ was black and had many tattoos. It is wrong I know.

We warily continued our way up the beach for about a mile and a half and enjoying the now quite warm afternoon. We stopped and used the binoculars near a very nice beach restaurant, Sue to peruse the passing ships and I to identify any possible drug traffickers. On the back we spotted an empty police car. The officer was interrogating a man and two women who were suspiciously holding carrier bags and exiting a house. We waited while he talked to them and as he was leading them to his car I stopped him, explained what I was holding and passed the package onto him. He thanked us and then continued with his companions to the car. Job done. Inspector Morse, Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie would have been proud of us.

After a couple more abortive attempts to find hidden drug/Geo-caches further along the shore, we gave up and returned to the hotel for coffee. We rang Sarah and Charlotte to see how their planned Geo-caching day had gone. They had found 30 caches and walked several centimetres off their height.

That evening we had fish and chips in an Italian restaurant (it was one of those days), before watching an excellent horror movie called ‘Dark Skies’ at the Odeon Cinema. Good plot, unusual twist and one or two jumpy moments. Surprisingly, Southend on Sea was not a busy place, late at night on an Easter weekend, must be a combination of freezing temperatures and a recession. We returned to the hotel for hot drinks and bed.

After another excellent breakfast with magnificent views, we checked out of the hotel. We had decided to travel further along the coast to Shoeburyness. We had seen it from the end of the pier and thought that it looked quite nice. It was. The morning was warm (no wind), we found a place to park the car and had a bit of a walk to the beach. It felt quite like summer. The surrounding area is all MOD land and you could see lots of evidence of military activity from WW2. There is a lot of building work going on, with some very, very nice housing and apartments going up for the Hedge-fund managers in the City. We must have walked at least a couple of miles along the shore (collecting shells) to reach a very old and long pier that now only supported the weight a huge flock of disinterested gulls. After a brief stop for ice-creams we returned to the car and journeyed without incident back to Harborough.
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A lovely break , with just a hint of adventure.

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