England ……. not a ghost of a chance!

To be honest, I have spent most of this year looking forward to the World Cup. Not in the faint hope that ‘our boys’ would do well and win the thing, but because apart from Manaus, last spring Sue and I  had been to the venue cities, and I thought it might be fun to play a game of spot the sights (with Sue of course) when the cameras panned away from the on-field action to provide the audience with some colourful Brazilian atmosphere. As the competition got closer I confess to increased feelings of  optimism. Everything seemed to be falling into place for England to be crowned world champions. The BBC pointed out that we had the most expensive squad of players in the tournament, our manager was the 3rd highest paid and everyone knows that when it comes to footy, money buys results (just consider Man City). I  had to agree that the squad contained the best of what the Premiership had to offer  (give or take a boot or two) and the coverage was free-to air on the Beeb and ITV which firmly placed it in my price bracket. When my daughters bought me copious quantities of English bottled beer for the preceding Father’s Day celebrations I looked upon it as fortuitous provisions for the long-haul to the final. News of a depleted Italian team and an injured Suarez further fuelled my hope for another star on the national kit.

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Oh silly me! This was England I was placing my hopes on and not unsurprisingly such misplaced optimism came back and bit me! I am typing this  in the dining room, looking through the window at the much-needed rain cascading down outside, with nearly a full case of bottled beers to my right and no desire to reach for the opener. It is no use conjecturing whether we would have done any better  if Uruguay had played Italy first and Suarez had gnawed Balotelli’s arm off, because then we would have had to face the minnows of the group Cost Rica, and as we discovered they were just better than us, more skilful, better organised, seemed fitter and had a greater desire to win (and they didn’t have to!!!!!). Please Lord, don’t let us qualify for the Europeans as I can’t face looking at a bottle of Cocker-Hoop (4.2%) for the next two years and not feel the faintest desire to sip its nectar like contents.

As even darker clouds  creep slowly over Harborough and the malevolent blackbird attempts to raid my (meshed) strawberry bed on the patio outside I shall continue with the family news.

Up until this morning we have been having some fine weather. Though my morning bike rides have been relatively mud free, the nettles are now chest high and the thinner tree branches laden down with leaves, sweep closer to the ground, as I am now wearing my summer cycle-gear  it makes for nettled arms and a scratched head. The other day I came off a slope, flipped by a trailing bough into a bed of vicious looking nettles. As I skidded I lay my bike down and rolled away in a much practised routine. I lay surrounded by the stinging devils  waiting for the tell-tale tingling to start and it didn’t. Gingerly I  got up, righted my bike and carried on. With luck like that I should have been with the boys in Brazil!

On the 16th I drove over to Exton and met John. He transferred into my car and we continued to Fothernghay Castle where I unloaded the Sevylor canoe  and we set off on the Nene back towards Exton. Blue skies and a hot morning made for gentle canoeing, as John was not as practised as I, the early part of the journey was a little meandering until we became synchronous. Surprisingly we didn’t meet any one else on the river other that a few moored boats with the occupants enjoying a late breakfast. We explored down a few side channels, hauled the canoe out of the water to by-pass a couple of weirs and a lock, avoided quite a lot of swans and waved to occasional dog walkers on the bank. We arrived at out destination in good time so we continued on further down the river to exit via a road bridge, carrying a deflated canoe back to John’s car in a pub car-park. A quick dash back to retrieve my car and a return to the pub saw us enjoying a pint and lunch before returning home.

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The following evening Sue and I went to Harborough Theatre to see ‘Monuments Men’. Fairly enjoyable film, though I think it suffered from a rather ‘gungho’ slant for the American market. Yet again the Yanks did us a favour by helping out, ironically the only two people to die in the operation were English and French.

The following morning I breakfasted at the Angel, watched an unfortunate England lose to the All Blacks and during the afternoon cycled over to Marston Trussell village hall with Jim and Peter to sample a few brews at the village beer festival. Having sampled their best we returned to Harborough to sampled a few more at the Lord Nelson’s beer festival. After an excursion to Joules and a chat to Ian Jim and I returned home and Peter to the Lord Nelson. Later that evening I watched the England v Italy game:

Scoring summary
Total shots
 ENG: 18 ITA: 12
 Shots on target
 ENG: 8  ITA: 5
 Fouls
 ENG: 8  ITA: 12
  Possession (%)

 ENG: 48% ITA: 52%

 Corners
 ENG: 9  ITA: 2
 Saves
 ENG: 3  ITA: 7
Offsides
ENG: 0  ITA: 7
How did we lose this?
The following day was Father’s Day. Charlotte had arranged for Suraj and I to go to the golf club and blast a few balls down the golf range and afterwards the family met at Zizzi’s for lunch. I couldn’t help note the irony of eating in an Italian restaurant, considering the result of last night’s match.
On Monday it was Nan’s birthday (86yrs), and we took her to the Bell in Gumley. It was a lovely meal and the atmosphere had much improved from the rather daunting one that the previous owners seemed to generate with their rather pretentious attitude to children, dogs, walking boots and men without ties. Afterwards we spent a pleasant afternoon in our back-garden sampling some rather splendid red wine from my very own vine-yard.
The following day Sue and I drove over to Derby for a couple of days. We stopped at Elvaston Castle (just outside Derby) on the way and had a nice walk around the grounds. We met a local taking his dog for a walk and he kindly explained the history of the place to Sue. The grounds and gardens were beautifully well laid out and maintained. A lovely place for a picnic lunch, which is exactly what we did.
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We had booked into the Aston Court Hotel and after checking in went for an explore around the city. We had heard that the centre was quite uninspiring, and in some ways I think we can agree. It does have some very nice parts and they appear to be doing quite a lot of re-modelling, though I think that the Council don’t seem to have an overall picture of what they want to achieve, unlike the other towns we have visited this year. They also seem infatuated with the local soccer team and there is continuous references to them where ever you walk. Even the quite innovative museum/art gallery  had a whole room to the Rams. In the High Street we discovered a rather unusual clock that chimed ‘God Save the Queen’ in its entirety, on the hour. During the afternoon  I optimistically bought a raincoat and Sue nearly bought a top.  That evening we saw ‘Catch 22’ at the Derby Theatre which was just a short walk away from the hotel. Thoroughly enjoyable performance, though Sue did appear to drop off to sleep (or was resting her eyes) during part of the play.
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After a good nights sleep and a very hearty breakfast we drove to Ingleby to follow a route I had plotted onto my GPS. After parking the car in the pub and micro-brewery, we set off along the River Trent. Some of the route was a bit tricky as it closely followed the river’s edge next to some cliffs which led us to Anchor Cave. A lovely and fascinating spot which has an interesting story to it; ANCHOR CAVES
After exploring inside the cave we continued on through some undulating and picturesque countryside.  Our route took us through Repton School at the end of morning break. We watched the children and staff line up for their various lessons, our journey took us through a group of open-mouthed pupils who seemed silently fascinated with the two foreigners. At over £10 000 per term, I don’t think they have had much experience at mixing with the hoypoloi! The next point of interest was a wood with around 60 Viking graves dotted within it. Much of the ground was covered in dense bracken and after a bit of searching we did manage to discover one of them among the trees, satisfied with that we carried on. Returning to the John Thompson Inn and Brewery we had lunch and drinks before returning to the hotel.
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During the late afternoon we set off for Derby Gaol. It was across the other side of the city and as we had booked a Ghost Walk for that evening we were unsure of where we were to meet our guide and had decided to be their early. We called in to a couple of churches on the way to have a look around and as expected it did take us quite a while to find the not very obvious meeting place. Our reference point was the Golden Eagle pub and as we were there early we had a drink and played dominoes and Jenga until it was time. A group of bankers (HSBC) joined us for the walk. The tour started outside the rear entrance to the Gaol and after paying the balance of our booking to the jailer we experienced the debtors cells and condemned cell before moving on outside to  wander the streets being told of various ghostly happenings. Our guide did have a couple of stooges in tow who regularly and cleverly attempted to frighten us at various points. They were quite successful with a few of our hi-flying, hedge-fund manager companions (one of which was a front row forward!). We had drinks in the most haunted pub  (previously a hotel and before that a Priory) in Derby, we visited the cellars and experienced more contrived spooky goings on before moving on to another of Derby’s gaols and further ghostly stories. We completed our walk back at our rendezvous and had a nice meal of jacket potato, cheese and beans in the cells with our fellow ghost hunters. It was excellent entertainment and thoroughly enjoyable. We slept well that night.
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We had an early breakfast the following morning and set off back to Harborough without delay as I had promised to help out at Marston Trussell Hall at 11am at a charity function. On route we were delayed by a lorry fire on the opposite carriageway. It was well and truly gutted with two fire engines in attendance. Luckily for us the motorway on our side wasn’t shut, but the jam on the other was horrendous and we squeezed passed before they shut both sections of the road for the rest of the day. Arriving home I changed into my DJ (as requested) and drove over to the Hall. The rest of the day I spent with Jim, Sean and the owner Peter Howard waiting on the tables for a ladies charitable event. Though it threatened rain, it held off and the afternoon was quite warm, which in a DJ was quite uncomfortable. We served drinks, 4 courses of food and then cleared everything away. I got back home around 5pm, just in time to watch the next England debacle.
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Saturday 20th June saw me breakfasting again to a New Zealand Victory over England at the Angel. During the afternoon I worked out and plotted several walking routes onto my GPS. That evening Sue, Sarah and I attended the Comedy Club at Harborough Theatre. We were surprised to see Jim and Kate already their. Jim had heard me say over breakfast what we were doing that evening and had decided to give it a try. As usual the headline comedian was excellent with the supporting acts being ‘work in progress’.  A good laugh.
On Sunday John drove over from Bourne and picked me up for a couple of day walking around Bosworth Hall. Sue and I have stayed their several times this year and enjoyed walking in the Warwickshire countryside. We checked in and had lunch at the hotel. During the afternoon we had a pleasant 6.5mile walk before returning and having a swim in the hotel pool. We had the carvery evening meal in the hotel restaurant with complimentary bottle of red wine, before walking into the town and discovering one of the local hostelries. We returned in time to watch footy on the box.
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After breakfast we cantered around a 9.2 mile route plotted on my GPS before returning to the hotel pool to refresh. During the afternoon we trotted another 8.4 miles before indulging in another splash. Inquiring at the hostelry we frequented the previous evening we discovered that they had finished serving meals 10 minutes previously. The barman suggested that we try the one and only Indian restaurant in the town, which we did and found it to be ‘spot on’.
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We checked out of the hotel after breakfast on Tuesday and under cloudless skies we enjoyed 8.8 mile meander through the battlefields of Bosworth. We got back to Harborough at 4.30pm, just in time to be depressed, dismayed, disgruntled and despaired by the last England performance against Costa Rica. John drove back to Bourne.
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On Wednesday Sue went to watch Ellis’s school sports day, I mowed lawns, hoovered pool, weeded allotments and planted strawberry seeds. On Thursday Sue and I went to watch Lucas’s school sports day. I am not a fan of non-competitive sports days, suffice to say that I wish to make no comment on the lack of organisation we witnessed.
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NEWS IN BRIEF: Nan appears to be fully recovered from her tumble in Wales. Jamie is suffering from an infected wisdom tooth, I loved his comment on Facebook, “I think my dentist is a comedian!!! Charged me £18 to tell me my tooth is infected and probably painful!!! “. Sarah appears to be enjoying her job and is looking for a house/apartment in the Shepshed area. Yesterday, Charlotte provided ME with cabbage and broad beans from her allotment because MINE aren’t ready yet! How times change.
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