Another Birthday

The Palmer Clan went to the seaside (less those members of the family keeping the economy going (Jamie & Suraj)). Sarah and Charlotte had organised to hire a caravan from one of Lee’s relatives that was situated just outside Skegness. On the 5th August (9am), Charlotte, Sarah and the boys in one car and Sue, Nan and I in another, set off towards the Lincolnshire coast with a not to good weather forecast for the coming week. After differences in SatNavs and several changes of direction, three and a half hours later we arrived.

The site was huge, but Sarah found it easily. Having just passed her foundation degree with a first and distinction, the location of a mere caravan was a piece of cake requiring no finger printing or interrogation of locals. We soon deposited our chattels in our selected rooms and in no time at all were sat on the spacious veranda sipping coffee/tea, eating pizza, enjoying the sun and planning what to do next.
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Skeggy: that afternoon saw us drive into Skegness and settle ourselves on the beach to make sand castles and wet our toes. There was a bit of a breeze so we chose a spot behind the breakwater and it turned out to be a little goldmine for shells, crabs (bits of) and starfish.The stink in my car the following morning proved that the starfish I had left in the boot had been dead for quite a few days and the warm evening had added to their ripeness. That evening we had chicken salad and cider, played cards and went to bed early.Despite the walls being paper-thin most of us had a good nights rest (well I did) and were reluctant to get up the following morning (well I was).
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Sutton-on-Sea: Break fast was a pleasant surprise. The females in the family had been planning our trip in quite intricate detail and I (as a designated driver) had not been privy to the finer details of our excursion, so it was with great delight I discovered that a full English breakfast had been brought, cooked, and served and my critical part in the plan was to dispatch it. I did with gusto. It feels great when you are working as an integral cog within the team!After a 40 minute drive to Sutton-on-Sea, we again found ourselves on a beach. More sand castles were built, Sarah was buried, ice-creams devoured, shells collected and lunch thought about. It was decided that the party should split. The elderly and those with more sophisticated palates dined in the nearby Golf Club on Sea Bass, French fries, and fresh spring peas, washed down with a fine vintage Somerset cider. The younger element in the troop visited a nearby fish and chip shop for battered Coley, greasy chips and sausages served on last weeks copy of the Sun (Page 3). The afternoon was spent in Sutton-on-Sea itself. The boys first played in the municipal Lido, before scoffing another ice-cream and then moving on to the beach. Where was this awful weather that was predicted? We headed back to the site late in the afternoon as Charlotte, Sarah and Lucas had booked to have a Zorbing session. That is where you climb into a large plastic ball and run around on water. Sue, Ellis and I watched as Charlotte and Sarah rotated the ball so swiftly that poor Lucas was like a sock in a tumble drier and had to get out. That evening we had spaghetti Bolognese, more cider and again an early night.
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Gibraltar: After another exceptional Full English Breakfast (surpassed by only those that included black pudding) we set off for Gibraltar Point. Again we had blue skies and an off-shore warm breeze. We walked through some lovely dunes to the beach, found a spot next to stream and made camp. The sea was quite a way out and only Charlotte, Sarah and I ventured that far. The rest of the party hunted for yet more shells, crabs and starfish (I had emptied half a bottle of deodorant into my car and it was just about tolerable). The boys loved paddling in the stream and caught quite a lot of little fish which Sue popped into a jar, luckily they were persuaded to let them go, other wise Charlotte’s car which was already smelling like a fishmongers slab was about to get fishier. After a couple of hours we drove on to the nearby Visitors centre. Sue and I took the boys into to see the displays inside, while the less sturdy of the group stayed in the cars and dozed.
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Frustrating Kites: After the Visitors Centre we drove to Chapel St. Leonards. Like Sutton-on-Sea it is a lovely quiet resort, relatively unspoilt by commercialism, except for one disreputable outlet that sold dud kites from HongKong. This time, before making castles etc. we had a picnic. Not sure when the sandwiches were made (probably by the sandwich fairy while we were asleep), but the choice was salmon or ham, washed down with crisps and a choccy bar (very acceptable and not a bit sandy). We stayed on the beach all afternoon. I and Lucas struggling with two sticks, a plastic bag and a roll of flimsy floss called a kite. After an hour of sitting calmly and patiently in the middle of the beach attempting to figure out why the THING wouldn’t fly a rather largish lady appeared. She politely looked at the kite, pointed out that there should be 4 pieces of string and 4 holes through which they should go. Noting I only had 2 pieces of string and two holes she informed me that it was a cheap chinese kite and was unlikely to fly well. She then returned to her spot on the dune and watched. Lucas had long since retired to make sand castles. I calmly and measuredly set about splitting the twine into 4 pieces and made 2 more holes and carefully with great patience (and without glasses) attaching the twine to the sticks. Reeling off enough twine to allow the kite to fly loftily I tugged on my end to see the contraption lift splendidly into the cloudless azure sky and for a significant 13 seconds was beautifully framed against a backdrop of pretty little painted beach huts and marram tufted sand dunes before crashing to the ground. Despondent, but calmly and patiently, I wound up the string, collected the kite and joined the family. They were strangely quiet. I assumed that unlike my self they were feeling lethargic from the rigours of sunbathing.Late in the afternoon we ate fish and chips on the green in the middle of the town before returning to the caravan.
Footnote: That evening I emailed Trading Standards, informing them of the nefarious and possibly illegal kite dealing going on in Chapel St. Leonards.
That evening I played footy with Lucas on the grassy patch outside the caravan before having pizza and an early night.
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Up the Creek: After yet another heart breakfast we set off for Anderby Creek. It is a brilliant little spot, well worth a visit for the views of the offshore windmills. After a walk to a small pier and successful hunt for crabs, we built more castles.
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Before returning to the caravan we had a drink in the little pub that was next to the beach. Though I think none of us wanted to, it was time to go home. But, first we had to tidy up the caravan and pack our things in the car. After locking up we set of on the uneventful 3 hour journey back to Leicestershire. On the way back we decided to have our evening meal at the Ghurka (Nepalese restaurant) in Desborough. Suraj joined us after work. A fitting way to end a jolly jaunt.
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The following Saturday Sue and I drove to Telford. We had booked a night at the Madeley Court Hotel to do a spot of rambling and had invited Jim and Brigitte along. We were concerned that they wanted to bring their dog Harbie along, but we needn’t have worried as he was no trouble at all and impeccably behaved. We met them in the car park at the hotel around 10.30am, they had been there already for over an hour and had spent the time walking the dog. I had planned a circular trip from the Iron Bridge for that morning so we set off to the start point (a pub).
It was another sunny day with a nice refreshing breeze that ensured the walking would be pleasant. The route took us along the river and then up into the hills and through some forests. There was some spectacular views on the way, of course the best being the one from Compass Point down onto the bridge itself. Brigitte found it a bit of a struggle and Sue kept her company at the rear while Jim, Harbie and I forged our way at the front, chopping off the heads of nettles to ease the way. We took a leisurely 3 hours to complete the circumnavigation and finished it off with several drinks and a meal in the Malthouse Pub in Bridgenorth.
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On return to the hotel we checked in and found our rooms. Harbie had a dog friendly one that luckily had a double bed for his owners. Jim and Brigitte had a kip while Sue and I had an explore of the hotel and then a walk around the extensive grounds. A staff member took great pleasure in giving us a conducted tour of one of the outer buildings that was being prepared for a wedding reception later that afternoon. It is a grade 2 listed building and has been renovated superbly. The rooms and passageways were kept as original except for the modern comforts which had been discreetly hidden from view.

Sue and I then had drinks on the veranda overlooking the lake and were joined by the now awake trio. The evening meal was taken in the Banqueting Hall and as expected the 3 courses were delightful, just as you see on Master Chef and I guess just as tasty. After more drinks in the bar we retired for the night agreeing to meet up for breakfast at 9am.
At 8am Brigitte rapped on the door and asked if we fancied an early breakfast as they had been up and about for ages and had already taken Harbie for several walks. Luckily she didn’t wait for the reply. We showered and emerged at 8.30am to meet them outside the Dining room. Breakfast was as good as dinner the night before and I sampled (in quantity) all that was available.
After checking out we drove over to the Wrekin to savour what a friend had promised were outstanding views. Brigitte wasn’t up to it and remained in the car and listened to her music. The path up to the top is quite steep but well trodden and there was plenty of company on the way up. We dallied halfway at a little cafe for ice-creams, Harbie had water. It took an hour to reach what was a very windy top. The views were indeed worth the effort, Sue announced that she had heard that you can see 9 counties from there. It was such a clear day that we agreed that you probably could, but we couldn’t remember the Welsh counties to concur. The walk down was amusing as we passed people struggling up who obviously had no idea how steep and far the very top was as they sweatily pushed their buggies, carried little tots or excessive kilns of flab up the increasing slope. I guess that many called it a day at the little cafe and turned around or call for the air ambulance.
On return to the cars we drove to a nearby pub, had lunch and then continued our journey home.

The following Thursday I played golf against Andy Spencer. He had followed up on his earlier promise to play when we attended his House Warming Day. He is playing in a charity match later in the month and wanted the practise. We played again the following week, he brought along a friend Paul who I had met before on a trip to Twickenham. Afterwards we had lunch in Cottingham.

On the 16th Aug. Sue, Nan and I drove over to Wales. I had booked a couple of days at the Wild Boar in Beeston as a birthday present for Sue and she had chosen that weekend. Also, Nan had been invited to stay at her sister’s in Brymbo that weekend, so on the way to Beeston we dropped Nan off at Aunty Josie’s. The journey was not without incident, one being a nasty crash on the M6 that created a jam that we nearly got caught in. Fortunately we arrived at the tail end of the jam close to a junction, so we let the SatNav reroute us and were only delayed half an hour.
On arrival at the hotel carpark we put on our hiking boots and set off on a circular route I had plotted into my gps to Beeston Castle. The Hotel was quite close to the castle and we were treated to delightful views on the half hour walk. Being a National Trust property we paid to enter and climbed through the Bailey and up to the Motte. Much of the castle walls are intact, and the very top affords spectacular views, over not least the nearby (more modern) Peckforton Castle (now a hotel). On the way back to the entrance we stopped off at peered into some caves that early man had occupied. Well worth a visit in themselves. Sue had an ice-cream in the little shop before we carried on with our walk. After a quarter of a mile Sue dropped her sunglasses which prompted me to search for mine. They were missing. Luckily on returning to the shop, they were there. Phew!!! I had though that I had dropped them when I had taken some photographs of the view at the very top of the Keep and was not looking forward to a possibly fruitless climb up. The rest of the journey which took us along the Shropshire Union Canal proved uneventful.
On return to the hotel we checked in, had a quick explore and returned to the room to have coffee. The view from our room was over vegetable fields and promised us a quiet nights sleep. As the hotel restaurant had such a good reputation it was fully booked over the weekends so we opted for a fish and chip supper from a nearby chippy in the next village. For the rest of the evening Sue and I sat in the hotel bar and chatted until time to retire.
The next morning at 9am we had breakfast in the dining room and could see why the restaurant was so popular with the locals. We both ate heartily before pulling on our walking boots and setting off on our next adventure. The weather man said it would rain. My Tablet PC said it would rain. The man taking his dog for a walk while we switched on my gps in the car-park said it would rain.
We headed through murky skies towards our next destination, Peckforton Castle. After an hours rain-free walking we arrived at the Gatehouse. After a quick explore of the Dovecote, dubbed on the board outside as a Folly, we set off through the grounds into the surrounding woods and seemed to climb up and up to, as Buzz Lightyear would say, “To infinity and beyond.” As an excuse to rest, we discovered some blueberry bushes and scoffed them. The route took us through the woods around the castle and then back towards our hotel between it and Beeston Castle. As we were pulling off boots in the car-park it began to rain. Up yours weatherman, up yours Tablet PC and up yours unknown man with a dog!
After coffee back in the room, we decided to visit a couple of local attractions. First on the list was the Ice-Cream Farm. It took 20 minutes to drive there and appeared very popular. The place was brimming over with families enjoying the adventure playground, farm animals and indoor play area. We both chose blackcurrant and liquorice ice cream served at a counter exactly like that you would find at MacDonald’s! We both agreed that the taste was fabulous.
From there we moved on to the Candle Workshops. It was only another 10 minutes drive away and proved to be a little piece of heaven for Sue. The myriad of little outlets wafting different fragrances and colours in all directions proved to be of endless fascination for the many ladies and small children present who seemed to me to be entranced by the whole spectacle. I like the other gentlemen present saw bits of wax of different sizes and colours that gave off a variety of sickly odours. To top it all off there so many knickknacks and superfluous trinkets on show, that to pass the time I bought one.
After a visit of what seemed several decades to me and to Sue a few fleeting seconds, we returned to the car and drove exactly 40 metres to a very nice pub. On its balcony we enjoyed splendid views over the Cheshire plain while Sue sipped Ginger Beer and I a similar local brew. We watched until a rain cloud came rushing towards us from the direction of Scouse Land forcing us to finish all too quickly (my view) our drinks and get back in the car.
On return to the hotel we changed into smart attire and then drove 10 minutes down the road to the Red Fox Indian Restaurant. It is the only Indian establishment for many miles and in my opinion produces dishes of average quality, which is the gist of my entry in TripAdvisor. Non-the-less it filled a hole and there were no repercussions later on that evening. Back at the hotel we had drinks in the bar until time for bed.
After breakfast and check-out the following morning we drove to Mold to see Noel and Gay. They had just returned from church as we arrived, after coffee and a chat, Noel and I left Sue and Gay talking while he took me up the mountain to show me the source of their tap water (a small cattle trough catching the run-off from a stream). From there we walked down the lane to the church to see the inside and from there to the small village school (because I would be interested in that, and surprisingly I was). It was around 1am when we returned to the cottage and had to leave to pick Nan up.
Using the SatNav on my phone to guide me over the mountains we traced a quite peculiar route to Brymbo, I must remember never to use my phone to guide me in mountainous regions in winter!. We stayed for half an hour before taking Nan to see her other sister Doreen in Caergwrle (well it is in Wales!) We had to divert there because Doreen’s house had been recently decorated and Josie wanted Nan to see it and let her know what she thought about it. We arrived as Doreen and nephew Stephen were having Sunday lunch (oooops). Politely they put it away and chatted for 15 minutes then gave us a tour of the decorating. With Nan satisfied we said goodbye and headed home. No doubt they had their plates in the microwave and continued the meal before we had left the village.
The journey back was uneventful and after dropping Nan off at Huntingdon Gardens to pick up the phone and report to Josie on the decorating, Sue and I went home.

Sarah had a surprise trip to Scotland organised by Lee. She went up to Nottingham a few days before they left and wasn’t informed of where they were going until they were on their way. How romantic. They visited the Edinburgh Fringe and the Zoo and came back with lots of cheese.




We don’t see a great deal of Jamie now-a-days, just fleeting glimpses in the evening as he either drops off his washing or picks it up or attends the occasional Curry Night. He is busy with work and has built himself a life outside the family and is now quite independent (apart from the washing). We keep abreast of some of the issues in his life through Facebook and the occasional remarks when he is with us. Pleasingly he always has somewhere to go and some one to meet and at present he is planning a trip to Gran Canaria. No doubt he will need a lift to the airport! His relationship with Harley has always been a turbulent affair and at present he informs me that it is no more and that it is time to move on. I do hope we get to meet any new incumbents.




Birthday: On the 23rd was Sue’s birthday. The family came together to celebrate it with Curry Night. I made 3 curries: Chicken Swahili, Chicken Korma and a vegetable curry finished off with a very girlie iced victoria sponge cake depicting a princess in a tower. Though she said she hasn’t had a birthdays cake for such a long time, she hadn’t forgotten how to blow out a very large number of candles.

Watch the video: BLOWING CANDLES

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