Picnic Days

July has been glorious. Shorts and T-shirts everyday with the pool earning its keep (at last). I vowed after writing the last entry that I wouldn’t leave updating the family blog for longer than a couple of weeks, remembering who did what and where is quite a strain on the diminishing grey cells. However, without regular fortnightly down-pours to chase me back inside the house to sit in front of a keyboard and tap out an increasingly less fluent/coherent stream of idiosyncratic ramblings purporting to be an accurate recollection of family activities, I have again let myself down  and broken my word. Yes, it is raining and none too soon for this blog and my memory.

July kicked off on the very first day with Nan, Charlotte and Ellis accompanying Sue and I to East Carlton Park for a picnic and ice-creams. Ellis loved the swings and sandpit and we enjoyed watching. During the afternoon, Charlotte and I went for a wander around the outside of the large imposing deserted house in the Park. Strictly, you are not supposed to (so the sign said), but we have both  read too many Burglar Bill books to be put off by a closed gate. It was fascinating to peer through the windows and see how grand it must have once been, they had an indoor pool which looked a little sad now, however our investigations had to come to an end when Charlotte had to leave to pick up Lucas from school.

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A few days later Sue and I had a pleasant walk from Gumley to Laughton and back. It was a lovely sunny day and we passed by Martin Johnson’s house (he wasn’t in). Afterwards we had a meal at The Bell. We returned a couple of days later with Nan for lunch as we were impressed with the menu under new management.

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The following day was a treat for Nan. I ferried her to and from Farndon Fields School for the end of year concert and tea. By all accounts she had a lovely time and came away with large bunch of flowers (previously a table decoration). That morning I was passing by the school on my early morning bike ride, I don’t normally go that way but I was curious to see if anything had changed.  Nigel the caretaker was strimming the car-park verges and spotted me so I stopped for a chat. I was then given a guided tour around the outside of the building. Spotting Mr Blewitt teaching in his classroom on our circumnavigation,  I took the opportunity to have a little fun by chatting to his class and ensuring that the quality of education being delivered was of a sufficient standard. Afterwards, I noticed that the swiveable wall mounted bike racks that I had purchased years ago were stacked at the side of the kitchens.  After ascertaining from Nigel that they were going in the skip I rescued two. They now prop our bikes up in the back garden (very useful).

The next evening saw Sue and I travel to Les Olives in Northampton to celebrate Jim Hankers’ birthday (don’t know which one). Brigitte had asked us to attend as a surprise for Jim. The Tapas was good and so was the Flamenco music and dancing, but they had ordered rather a large amount of wine. As I was driving, it fell to Sue an Jim to help quaff the lot, and quite predictably this had its effects the following morning. Sue found the following day quite difficult! However, stoically Sue had partially recovered by that evening and instead of the usual Curry (Friday Night) it was decided to have a BBQ. The first of a succession of sunny Friday BBQ’s until last night, when the rain made a return and so did the curry! Charlotte came over early with the boys and I played in the pool with them before drying off and lighting the charcoal while the rest of the family turned up.

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I had spent most of that week either at the allotments, in the garden or on my bike. Sue and I made a start on picking the fruit; plums, currants (black, red and white), gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries. It has been a good year for fruit, though the blackbirds have successfully snaffled the blueberries and cherries. I have begun to dig up the potatoes and store them into sacks. Carrots, fennel, beetroot, beans and onions are all demanding to be pulled up and so far we have been keeping up with them. The only disappointment this year are the pears, the late frost got them.

On the 12th we went to see the highly acclaimed  ‘A Late Quartet’ at the Harborough Theatre. The theatre was packed and I must confess Sue enjoyed the film more than me. The following afternoon I took the boys, Charlotte, Sarah and Nan to see Scooby Doo at DeMontfort Hall. Quite entertaining and as expected the boys loved it the most.

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The following Tuesday Nan, Sue, Charlotte and Ellis went for lunch to the Cherry Tree. Usually on a Tuesday Nan treats  Charlotte and Ellis to a meal (often at Farndon Fields farm shop).  We ate in the beer garden which allowed Ellis to play on the adventure equipment there. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

The 16th saw me meet John Lee in Langham for a walk. Again the day was hot, but as we made an early start we weren’t affected too much by the heat and were safely ensconced in the Wheatsheaf when the afternoon furnace kicked in. What a treat it was to eat at this little pub. Fabulous food beautifully presented. We have decided to plan another trek near there and visit again.

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That Saturday Sue and I met Jim and Brigitte at Joules for a BBQ and a Simon and Garfunkel evening. Luckily we had pre-booked our tickets and also had managed to add Jim and Brigitte, otherwise we would have been disappointed. The place was packed when we arrived, and many got turned away as they were ticket less. Just shows how popular their music still is, especially on a warm summers evening with a BBQ in the offing. Brilliant night.

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On Sunday Charlotte brought Lucas over to Harborough, (Ellis had to stay at home with Suraj as he had been awkward about getting dressed that morning). We had planned to visit the Model Aero Club that Sue had spotted near Gumley on a previous walk. We had found out (from Google) that they were having a Warbirds Day and thought it would be interesting. It was. We stayed for nearly 3 hours watching the many aircraft zoom about the sky. Some of the operators were very skilled and made their ‘not so small’ planes perform many tricks. Towards the end, the jets came out and they were terrifically fast.

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The following Wednesday Sue and I got on our bikes and headed down the Brampton Valley Way for a picnic. We got as far as the Arthingworth road and stopped to eat. It was a scorching hot day. We broke  the return journey at Waterloo Lakes for a much deserved ice-cream and glass of cider, I will leave it up to you to decide who had what. Afterwards, Sue and I detoured via the new Harborough library and Museum. I had previously visited them the week before and was impressed. Quite a lot of money had been spent on their refurbishment, and I can for once say, they have done a good job.

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It was our wedding anniversary on the 24th and to celebrate we had booked an evening away at the Orchard DeVere Hotel in Nottingham. On the journey there we stopped at the Attenborough Nature Reserve which is alongside the River Trent for a look around and a walk. After checking out the Information and Study Centre we set off on a lovely 4 mile walk through the reserve, passing by a multitude of wildlife that seemed unconcerned at our presence. Beautiful landscaped scenery deserving another visit by us.

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We checked into the hotel for 2pm and after a short explore of the facilities set off on a walk to Wollaton Hall. The grounds of the Hall are vast with herds of tame deer roaming about.

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We wandered around the House itself looking at the exhibits the previous owners had collected from many parts of the Far-East and read the many information boards describing its his history.

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That evening after a delightful 3 course ala-carte meal in the hotel restaurant we had an evening stroll around the Nottingham University Boating Lake (quite romantic with the many lights reflecting off the still water).  The following morning after breakfast we discussed what we should do for the rest of the day. Surprisingly Sue opted for a 6 mile walk around East Midlands Airport following the Art and Nature Trail. We parked in the Nags Head in Castle Donington, near to the Aero Park and put our boots on and set off. It was another hot day, luckily we discovered that at least part of the trail was under trees. As expected the trail was relatively flat and though you were never away from the sound of aircraft we rarely saw them until the latter stages of our route. Dotted along the trail was a series of artworks that had been donated by various Midland artistic organisations, some were better than others. On return to the car the drinks quaffed back at the Nags head were most welcome.

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As it was a Friday and we were tired, on our return to Harborough, pizzas got shoved into the oven to satisfy the family gathering.

On the 26th Sue, Charlotte and I went on a council walk to Little Brington in Northamptonshire. It was a shortish walk through pleasant countryside surrounding Althorpe Hall. Halfway around we stopped at St. Mary the Virgin and St. John’s church in Great Brington to see the ancestral tombs of the Spencer family and have tea and biscuits. It is rumoured that Diana is buried in the church alongside her father rather than on an island in the  lake in the grounds of the house as publicised. Accompanying us on our walk was Debbie Goodband, a colleague from my days of hard labour. We had the obligatory lunch in the pub afterwards. That evening Sue and I watched the ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ at the Harborough Theatre. Very funny and I can recommend it.

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On the 29th I relented to one of Charlotte’s wishes. She had been wanting me to put a roof on her chicken pen for quite a while and I must confess that I didn’t really count it as a high priority activity, so it always got put on the ‘to do’ pile. Her plea that hens don’t like their feet in mud didn’t seem much of an incentive to get the hammer and nails out, just a very good reason for someone to invent chicken wellies! When the plea changed to hens don’t like being sunburnt I could see the difficulty and expense of applying sun-cream, so I rang Peter Cooper and together we set about building a roof on the Chicken Pen. It was a relatively easy task and was completed quite quickly, though we did have to drop the height of the hen-house around 30cm by shortening the supporting legs. Whilst doing this I skilfully attempted to shorten one of my own legs and saw my shin produce quite a lot of red stuff. Thankfully the hens didn’t have any Piranha tendencies and just looked on bemused. Luckily on the way home we passed a public house where I could wash my bloodied leg and then recover in the lounge.

The day after, I cycled down the Brampton Valley Way again, this time with Peter and we got all the way to Chapel Brampton. Next to the lake in the grounds of Brampton Halt we ate our sandwiches before sheltering from the sun inside the pub for a while. The journey back went relatively easily until I got a puncture.  I at first blew the tyre back up and attempted to continue, but when it deflated again I changed the inner tube for a spare one I was carrying. A little later on we came across a couple of girls fishing in the small stream which followed the track, they were fishing for Crayfish and had already caught over 20 large ones. They were using bacon as bait! I must try this in the Welland.

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While I was wending my way to Chapel Brampton, Sue had taken the boys to Kelmarsh Hall for a Story Telling Day and had what was described as a fantastic time. The day after was Ellis’s 4th birthday. The Rothwells came over to pick up their presents and later went to Mini-Mischiefs for a party with their friends. They returned later for drinks and to continue the celebrations.

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Yesterday we had Ellis and Lucas for the day. In the morning I made a rocket with Lucas and we had a great time getting wet and launching it. During the afternoon we took the boys to the park and attempted to fly the kites they had brought with them. We could get them into the air quite easily but the wind was intermittent and they wouldn’t stay up for any length of time, however the boys got the hang of flying kites. Later that afternoon, as it was Friday, when we returned home I made a couple of curries (there was rain in the air). Suraj, Charlotte and Nan duly arrived around 5pm, Jamie had gone to Dungeness for the weekend with friends and Sarah was staying up in Nottingham.

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This morning Sue and I booked a cruise to the Arctic Circle to celebrate her coming 60th birthday.

NEWS:

Jamie has been busy with the construction and kitting out of the new freezer warehouse and doesn’t appear to be over awed at running such a new and smart establishment . He has a new pet gerbil to keep him company at home, though at the moment he has Tansley living with him for a month while he sorts out the accommodation he is moving into.

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Charlotte has changed her car, she now has a Range Rover Vogue. Quite plush and very roomy.

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Recently Suraj had a hectic time at work when the servers caught fire over a hot week-end, but he seems to have got it all sorted and they are back on-line.

Sarah and Lee seem focussed on buying a house together and are hunting through the housing stock around Shepshed and Loughborough. Today they took Ellis and Lucas to the Aero Park at East Midlands Airport and went to a firework display at Stanford Hall. Tomorrow they are off to Skegness.

Nan is fully recovered from her fall in Wales and got a good bill of health at a recent annual review at the Medical Centre. She seems to be increasingly more involved at the activities at Huntingdon Gardens and can now be found regularly sitting in the downstairs lounge or outside on the benches with the other inmates.

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