Sarah has a birthday

It looks like winter has returned. Outside it is cold, windy, raining heavily and there has been snow ‘up north’. After last weeks ‘promise of summer’, the vegetables and fruit in the allotment put on a growth spurt and now (no doubt) like me are bitterly disappointed that the weather forecast is for similar over the coming week. This morning I even donned my heavy winter cycling gear before setting of into an increasing wind (I hate that the most) and a drizzle that at times preferred to chuck-it-down. Returning home a couple of hours later I was glad that I had promised to take Nan out for lunch. We visited the White Swan in Holcot and had trout, caught in nearby Pitsford Reservoir and watched the trees outside in the churchyard bending over in a ferocious wind with a blackened sky releasing cascades of icy rain. On our return journey we stopped in the car park alongside the reservoir and felt sorry for the wildfowl that were struggling to swim in what must have been for them mountainous waves.

However, two weeks earlier…………

Sue and I went to see ‘Sightseers’ at the Harborough cinema Club. As I was waiting for her to get ready, I spotted that the UEFA cup final (Chelsea v Benfica) was on the TV. Tempted, but not swayed, I crossed fingers that the film was going to be a better evenings entertainment. It was (despite a late winning goal for Chelsea), just! Weird and macabre is the best description I can give. In preparation, even IMDB fail to provide more than a two line synopsis.

Nan has a new BTVision box. She was told that she needed to upgrade to BTInfinity to continue receiving SKYSPORTS 1 & 2. After the upgrade took place, the sports channels failed to work. After making several phone calls (at great length), they promised to send a new Vision box, despite me telling them that I thought the problem was at their end. The box arrived. I connected it up and it was the same. Doggedly determined to get Nan back to viewing her sport, I then spent 3 hours (yes, 3 tortuous hours) speaking to Mumbai, using the same patient skills honed over 35 years of leading ‘nice but dim’ individuals towards the light of understanding. Nan gave up after one hour and told me to cancel the contract (SHE only had to sit there, listen and make coffee). After working my way through more departments, and tiers of seniority than I can remember, repeating the same set-up procedures and tests that I had already done prior to ringing them, I came across an operative that agreed with me. Transferring me to a call-center in Tyneside, they checked the system at their end and within 2 minutes we were watching sport. That was end of the good weather, it rained on my way home. Thank you India.

The house in Thurcroft hadn’t been visited by me since before Christmas and I guessed that the garden would need attending to. I took Peter (New Zealander) with me to help out. Despite a horrendous weather forecast, the pair of us soon had the lawn mowed (twice), the vegetable patch hoed, bushes trimmed and weeds sprayed, before the heavens opened up. For some reason Peter wanted to see wild garlic, so I took him for a walk through the woods near Roche Abbey. He was delighted when he saw the whole forest carpeted in the this rather smelly weed. He wanted to dig some up, but as the rain was heavy and Sarah rang begging to be fed, we didn’t.

We met Sarah outside her place and went to the pub for a substantial enough meal that would keep her going for a month or so. It was nice to catch up with news on her course and friends. We dropped her off soon after eating as she had an essay to finish off. Peter and I drove back to Thurcroft and then walked in the pouring rain down the lane to the Traveller’s Rest and played pool for the rest of the evening. The following morning I visited the estate agents, then stopped for Peter to dig up his wild garlic on the way back to Harborough. He has ideas on growing and cooking it (I have read that the leaves are good to eat).
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I managed to get tickets for Leicester Tigers v Harlequins. I went with Jim and Paul. Despite a bit of a struggle at first, the Tigers eventually came out comfortable winners and booked their place in the final at Wembley. I have a ticket!

Sue and I went to see a play at the Harborough Theatre called ‘Salt of the Earth’. Thoroughly enjoyable. Having lived in the same location and through the same era portrayed in the play, it was quite extraordinary how it brought back memories that seemed so fresh. The acting was first class. Not surprising that the play-write John Godber, came from West Yorkshire.

Philippa and Paul were opening their garden to the public and had invited Sue and myself to help out on the day. We drove down to Devon on a Thursday, stopping off first at Clevedon.
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Before moving on to Burnham-on-Sea. The beach has a reputation for quicksand, Sue managed to find one.
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After cleaning Sue up, we continued on to Buckfastleigh, arriving in time to have a look around the garden before Philippa returned from school in Saltash.

The following day, while Paul and Phillipa were at work, Sue and I caught the steam train (South Devon) from the station across the road to Totness. For once the weather was kind and the sun made an occasional appearance. Sue got the tickets; one senior citizen and one adult (I said nothing!) The route takes you along the very picturesque River Dart. There is one stop along the 40 minute journey before arriving in Totness.
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Totness is equally as picturesque as the journey to it, and like the age of the rolling stock we travelled on, seems stuck in a time warp. I guess that during the late 60’s and early 70’s the hippies of that era decided that Devon and Cornwall would be a great place to settle and I think they did (on mass). We had a hint when I was much bemused watching a youthful (at least) 60+yr old dance and clap her hands along the platform as our train left Buckfastleigh. She was dressed in long flowing orange clothes, that reminded me of Woodstock, flower power and the Who. The station is a pleasant 30 minute walk along the river the town centre. We visited the market, wandered along the old town wall before having lunch and returning by train.

The following day was a full one, preparing the garden for Sunday’s Open Day. Philippa made cakes and things to sell while Paul gave Sue and I jobs to do outside. As it was a lovely day I think we had the best of the deal. A highlight was hunting for unusual snails to make a display for any children that came. It proved quite difficult to find many and we had to wander far to find any. Whilst searching we did scare a deer in the quarry behind the house, and were concerned that we might have drowned it in the pond there as we heard a huge splash. Sue and Phillipa went hunting for snails later that night with torches and found hundreds (sneaky little beggars).
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Philippa and Paul through hard work and dedication have created a lovely garden. The pictures above say it all. Well worth the £3.50 entrance (to the NGS) that over 80 people paid to see. On the day quite a few of friends turned up to help sell plants, make tea and coffee and take entrance fees and of course Philippa and Paul were in demand when it came to questions on the names of plants, where to site them and how you grew them.
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Though we had a bit of light drizzle during the first hour, the rest of the day brightened up and the time flew by. People came from far and wide and were not just restricted to inquisitive neighbours. I think they also enjoyed the wide selection of cakes that were available, and all seemed to leave with a variety of plants in carrier bags. It seemed a bit of an anti-climax when after a quick tidy up of the garden, everyone left and it was just us four again. That night we had fish and chips and chilled out in front of the TV.

The following day Sue and I left to drive to Bristol. Paul had a day off and with a boot full of plants we left him standing at the door waving good-bye. Perhaps back in July for the next open-garden?

On the way we stopped at the what I sceptically read as being the highest waterfall in the England. Having climbed to the top of it, I think it is. You will find it at Canonteign Falls in Dartmoor.
The views from the top were as expected, spectacular and well worth the trek up the Victorian path to see it. It also has the added benefit of passing through a recently discovered fern glade containing lots of examples of very large tree-ferns. We had coffee sat on a bench by a lake near the Educational Centre before travelling on.
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We stopped again at The Royal Inn in Portishead for a lunch and a drink. Afterwards we had a walk along the rather rocky shore before driving on to Battery Point. There we visited the lighthouse and then had warming hot chocolates in the Lido Cafe, enjoying the views out to sea.
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From there we travelled on to Thornbury to See Chris (college friend). He looked just the same as he always did (I suppose that’s what vegetarianism does for you, eating all those pickled veggies). After a long chat and catching up to date with news, Chris drove us to Oldbury-on- Severn. After a walk to the estuary to see the sun set we had a very nice meal in the local pub.
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It was quite late when we got back to Thornbury, so we said our goodbyes and Sue and I drove the 4 miles to our hotel, a Travelodge, right next to the Severn Bridge.

The following morning we drove back to Harborough and lawn mowing.

On Wednesday Sarah arrived back from Uni’ (Lucky as her birthday was on Thursday). She had a car full of stuff even though she had been to the house in Thurcroft earlier and dropped off a lot of stuff there as well.

Birthday; Sarah is 20 today!!!!!! As her face book says “Got to act mature now.” The day started early (before I got out of bed) with Charlotte appearing and saying she had a flat tyre and could I change it. When I did get up, Charlotte and Sarah had gone to Fawsley Hall as part of a birthday treat.
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As Sarah complains that I don’t mention her in the family blog here are a few of her Facebook photos to re-address the issue:
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That evening I made chicken chow-mein and chicken chop-suey for the family. It was Jamie’s soccer night so he arrived late to give Sarah her birthday present, before finishing off what was left of our meal.
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The Rothwells are soon to be more. Charlotte has decided to be broody and has an incubator full of eggs that hopefully will soon hatch in to little chicks. A week ago Charlotte was given an allotment that is conveniently across the main road from her estate. It is in reasonable condition and has 2 rows of potatoes already planted on it. I popped over one evening to do a spot of digging. Many of the allotments there have hens, so Charlotte has decided to join the club and do likewise. The boys are excited at the prospect, but I suspect that Suraj is less so. There is a hen-house and chicken-run to buy/find/build next.
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Jamie has been busy working as usual. Here are some photos of his recent holiday:
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