Smoggy Days

On the 7th March Sue and I watched the film ‘Captain Phillips’ at Harborough Cinema Club. Excellent story based on a true event and the ‘good guys’ really did win this time!

Later that week Jamie returned bronzed and still intact from snow-boarding in Andorra.   Though we had looked after his pet gerbil well while he was away, its little heart couldn’t stand the excitement of his masters return and the following night passed away to rodent heaven,  being re-united with his mate who last year died in our possession on the previous occasion Jamie went snow-boarding! The day  I buried him under the apple tree (next to his mate) was the first cut of the lawn in 2014.

Photo: R.I.P little man 󾍅

As we have had an extremely mild and wet winter, the leaves and blossom made an early start to the growing season, so I decided to get my vegetable allotment going. The following day of the funeral I decided to take advantage of my spade being out, and planted some rows of potatoes. Over the next week, several more rows went in as well as some broad beans. At present all my onions are in and have made an appearance, there are several rows of carrots, turnips, peas, fennel, spinach and radish all sewn and I am expecting great things from them. Fingers crossed, we shall have no frosts.

On March 15th I had a BBQ. The weather was very warm and the occasion was England v Italy. I had my rugby friends around and after burgers and sausages washed down with  coleslaw and potato salad,  after further rinsing with several types of beer we enjoyed a satisfactory crushing defeat of the eye-ties.

The following week saw Sue and I pack our bags and travel to Wolverhampton. We called in to see Sue’s college friend, Jean in Aldridge. Her husband was my best friend when we were studying, but he isn’t retiring until later this year so was in school. We stayed around an hour and then continued  our journey onto the hotel. I parked in the very convenient  British Rail car-park opposite. After checking in and a quick exploration of the hotel we decided on a little walk down the High Street.  Next door to the hotel was the Grand Theatre, they had on a performance of the opera Paul Bunyan. We didn’t think that opera was ‘our thing’ but we made a quick decision and bought two ‘concessionary’ tickets. Continuing our walk in to the centre, we  first looked around the Cathedral (we couldn’t go in), spent a lot of time in a quirky furniture shop before visiting the ‘Wolves’ shop for Sue to reminisce on her younger days with her sister Philippa. We returned to the hotel in time for an early evening meal.


After a pleasant dinner washed down with a bottle of Rose and in the company of two bus loads of holiday makers from Devon and Cornwall (why they would want to spend a week in Wolverhampton when you live in such a pretty part of the country was beyond Sue or I), we walked next door to experience our first opera. Paul Bunyan was being performed by the English Touring Opera Company. It is the least performed opera of all, I think I know why. Paul Bunyan is a mythical Canadian lumberjack. He is so mythical, that his part was taken on stage by a ladder wearing a hat, with the ‘Stars and Stripes’ draped over it. The theatre was around half full and we had front row seats (sneaking out was not going to be an option). However, it was a pleasant and interesting experience though the tunes weren’t memorable and the dancing quite eclectic, the intermission cider and ice-cream went down well.


On returning to the room I noticed a rather strong musty smell. On investigation I found that the radiator was leaking and the carpet underneath had turned into a paddy-field. I reported it to reception, but they could only offer two single rooms for the night as replacement, due to the millions of Cornish having descended on the West Midlands. As Sue frets when I am not nearby I opted for a clothes peg and we stayed where we were. Despite the window being open and the radiator off, we had a very peaceful night.

The following morning we shared breakfast with a room full of West Country wrinklies before checking out and a short driving to Baggeridge Country Park. I had plotted a nice circular walk into my GPS that took us to Himley and back. What a lovely day we had, blue skies, warm breeze and two stops for hot chocolate and ice-creams (yes, I guess they do cancel each other out).  There was plenty to see on our route and we kept stopping to admire the views and marvel at some of flora and fauna we came across. A definite must visit again if we are in the area.

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The following day I took Nan into Leicester for her annual eye check-up at the Royal Hospital. All was well, though we had the devil of a problem trying to park,  in the end I had to ‘create’ a parking space for myself in the Leicester Tigers car-park. Next year we may go by train.

On the Saturday night Sue and I went to Harbororough Theatre and watched a a performance of ‘Penelopiad’. The play looked at the siege of Troy from Odysseus’s wife Penelope’s point of view. It was performed by 11 women and was excellent. The singing and dancing was much superior to the professional performance we witnessed last week.

The following Tuesday Sue drove to Rothwell to look after Lucas and Ellis while Charlotte and Suraj attended a parents meeting and I accompanied Nan to her Diabetes review. The nurse gave Nan a stern warning to cut down on her sugar intake as they have now increased her tablets and I ‘confiscated’ all the sweeties and cakes from her flat when we returned.

The day afterwards, Sue and I travelled to Great Yarmouth for three days by the sea. It was a chilly journey down, but dry. We checked into a lovely hotel on the front right next to the pier, it had been described as shabby-chic,  I didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be bright and cheerful. The hosts were very pleasant. After a walk down the promenade to see the sights, we continued into the town centre, visited the market, stood fascinated by some fishermen cottages before having a hot chocolate in a very small cafe that was once Anna Shelley’s home (Black Beauty). Later we drove over to Yarmouth Stadium for an evening of greyhound racing. Brilliant fun. Despite being full and not having booked, they found us a place in the stadium restaurant and we had a very nice meal. Sue managed to win three times, but I fell into the trap of going for one big win by playing the long odds and failed. When we returned to the car, there was a frost and for the first time since the winter of 2013 and I had to scrape the windscreen.

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Breakfast the following morning was as described by TripAdvisor – wonderful! I shall leave it at that, if you want to know, go and book in. I had plotted another route into my GPS and set off following it from the Hotel. Passing through the town centre again we found the river and then followed its course until we can to the Roman Fort at Burgh Castle. It was a chilly breezy day and we passed only one other walker along our route. The views over the river and marsh were outstanding. Sue loves to spot the various bird life and today she had a treat, as she did with her all time favourite of Information Board reading. As we reached  Burgh Castle it started to rain, it curtailed our investigation of this ancient monument but we did spend time in the quaint little church in the village . Donning our wet gear, we set off on the return journey to Yarmouth. The GPS indicated at the end of our journey that we had done just over 11 miles, 5 miles of them in the wet.

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After changing at the hotel we walked (yes walked!) the full length of the promenade to Harry Ramsdens Fish and Chip Shop. We were one of only three couples there on a now cold and blustery, late afternoon. As expected the traditional fayre hit the right spot and buoyed up with a pint of local ale we were up to tackling what ever the east coast could throw at us. After another trek back to the hotel we took a much shorter route to the cinema just across the road and watched the Piers Brosnan film, A Long Way Down. I wouldn’t recommend it, but the seats were comfortable. We left the cinema in a howling gale and lashing rain, just making it back across the road into the safety of a bar before being washed away.

After another superb breakfast we drove over to Bure Park to begin another walk I had plotted into my GPS. The weather had picked up and it was bright and sunny once again. The route took us along the picturesque River Bure and then headed inland before eventually returning to the park. At 7 miles it wasn’t as draining as the previous days splash and dash. I had plotted some Geocaches into my GPS and eager to find some treasure we stopped at various locations and set about searching. We struck lucky on our second effort next to a WW2 gun emplacement situated next to the river. After a couple more fruitless scrabblings in the undergrowth we gave as time was marching on and we weren’t. We started to search again towards the end of the walk and a very pleased Sue found two in a row. Afterwards we drove back to Harborough.

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The following day was a surprisingly hot Saturday so another rugby BBQ was arranged with the Tigers v Saints on the big screen in the lounge. Again burgers and sausages were washed down with appropriate brews and the magic repeated with a win for the good guys.

Mothering Sunday saw Sue, Nan and I at the Wheel and Compass, Weston by Welland for lunch. The Rothwells came over during the afternoon and Jamie appeared later in the evening.

Photo: Mothers Day lunch

When March tipped into April, Sue an I drove over to Rutland Water for a couple of days stay at the Normanton Hotel situated on the south lake-shore. A beautiful hotel with plenty of character. The views over the lake are usually tremendous, but the last few days have seen the whole country blighted by foreign  pollution blown up from Africa, everything was murky and cold as the sun was blotted out. Never-the-less our first day was spent on a 9 mile walk from the lake into the countryside and back, passing through Empingham. Chilly and dismal most of the way, the sun did struggle through on the last few miles to reveal the splendid scenery that we had mostly missed. The meal in the hotel that evening was superb. The evening was spent in the bar with the other residents, Sue reading her book on a local Farndon character (he had taught me to fly) while I sat and watched Chelsea v Bayern on Sky.

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I had mounted out bikes on the back of the car for this trip, so after breakfast I unhooked them and with the scenery still shrouded in polluted mist we set off on a circumnavigation of the lake. First stop was at Edith Weston Bird Sanctuary. Sue has been watching on the internet through their live TV camera trained on an Osprey nest for the last few weeks, and she was keen to see it for real. After a lengthy talk with the resident guide and a full reading of all the notice boards and a look through the binoculars we set off again. The next stop was at the RSPB Centre near Egleton. I had an ice-cream and watched the birds on the water through the windows while Sue read the notice boards and visited the shop. The next leg of our journey took us along the north shore and I could see that Sue was getting tired, so the pace dropped and a few benches got sat on. However, we soon made it to the Dam and after a couple of photos we returned to the Hotel. After mounting the bikes back on the car we returned to Harborough.

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Friday saw the usual Curry Night, attended by all except Sarah who was still at Uni. Afterwards Sue and Charlotte broke tradition by going to Harborough Theatre to see ‘Philomena’.

On Saturday I attended the now annual ‘Past Players’ luncheon at the Club with Paul and Jim. As usual it was nice to see the displays of photos from games and  tours as well as faces I haven’t seen in quite a few seasons. Afterwards we watched the 1st team beat BBOB’s followed by the Colts beating Pocklington in the National Colts Plate semi-final. Unfortunately Tiger lost narrowly to Clermont on the TV (you can’t have everything).

Rugby Rugby2

Family News: Jamie returned safely from Andorra and has now fully started his new role as Manager. He is now fully office bound and involved in the planning of the new warehousing they are having built in Sutton Basset. He has organised a weekend away with his mates to Mablethorpe for his birthday.


Sarah has completed her final assignments including her research and I believe has started revising for her final exams. She and Lee surprised us with a fleeting visit one day, after going to see the Harry Potter Exhibition. Oh, and she won on the Grand National!

Charlotte like me has been busy in the garden and allotment. She has started a new venture with a friend called Roots and Boots Gardening Services It is a lovely idea, click on the link to see.

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