So far this month we have had quite pleasant weather, warm sunny days (mostly) and cool (sometimes chilly) nights. As the days are getting significantly longer and the soil is beginning to warm up, I and my fellow allotment holders have started to get a little excited and begun to visit our little plots and started the necessary preparations for a future bounteous harvest. Determined to resist the temptations of previous years and not be the first to be fully planted up, this time I have taken things easy and watched the activity of my fellow agrarians and only put trowel to soil when they have. As the title suggests my spuds are in: Desiree, Arran Pilot and Maris Peer, six rows in all. Not as many as last year, but hey, I expect great things from them! The onions (sets) are also in neat pretty rows: Sturon, Turbo, Silver Moon and Red Baron, and already peeping through. One full row of parsnips and two of next winters leeks for transplanting are all sown, and I mustn’t forget a short line of peas that deemed to pop up this week.
Yesterday, I dug up some leeks for distribution among friends and fellow allotment holders. Leeks and onions were a great success last year and despite giving as many as possible away throughout the winter, I still have a garage roof full of eye watering alliums and around a hundred of the less pungent, leafier genus.+
I have made a start in the greenhouse. The grow-bags have been bought and stacked ready to take the usual tomatoes and cucumbers, which have already been transplanted into their individual pots. This year I am trying a variety of cucumbers that grow only to the size of a large grape and have a distinct lemony flavour, hmmm.
On a brighter note, the Sweet Williams I grew from seed two years ago, are doing well in their containers and it is with great anticipation and excitement that I look forward to sniffing their bouquet and reminiscing on sunny Sundays when I sold them from a wheelbarrow in Laughton-en-le-Morthen a few decades ago. Their colourful and tightly bunched flower heads with wonderful scent, will always remain my favourite flower.
Sue’s wrist is still causing concern. She is having weekly physiotherapy and twice this month we have made the trek to the Leicester General to see the specialist. Improvement has been slow and she still can’t cycle, drive (but that always has been debatable), open cans or cut bread. I still accompany her to the supermarket, though I am no longer allowed to steer the trolley.
On the 4th April Sue and I joined Jim and Bridget at Joules and were entertained by an excellent folk/blues band with a superb Sandy Denny like singer.
The following day being Easter Sunday, the whole (now extended) tribe came for lunch. Sarah’s puppy, Mia was introduced to all and not surprisingly was the cause of great excitement with Ellis and Lucas.Both species enjoyed chasing each other around the furniture for most of the afternoon, exhaustion appeared first in the watching adults before it did in the incumbents.
On the 8th of April Sue and I drove down to Folkestone for a few days break. We had been planning to nip over to France for the day, but it became apparent during the previous week that we needed our passports to get on the ferry. Now, aren’t we part of the EU? Is it not supposed to be open borders? Is it just the rest of the world that can freely enter this country without a passport, while its legitimate residents are again victimised? I feel a protest vote coming on soon. At the time, our passports were with the Vietnamese Embassy in London, being expensively stamped with an entry visa for our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in May.
The drive down was quick and uneventful, even though I chose to go through the Blackwall Tunnel in London to avoid Toll charges. We stopped in Hythe to have a picnic and walk along the beach before continuing to Folkestone and the Grand Burstin Hotel, set next to the Harbour. Co-incidentally, today I received an email from David who was on his way back to Bulgaria and they were at present staying at the same hotel. I guess they must have been given the same room as ourselves as he mentioned the room carpet gave off a rather musty smell. I tracked the smell down a to a section by the window that had previously been soaked and was still damp. Our solution was to squirt the offending bit with deodorant and cover it with a plastic sheet from one of the spare pillows. As we had a pleasant seaview I didn’t want to change rooms.
During the afternoon we explored the old town and found its cobbled streets around the church quite quaint. We had a drink in the Golden Lion. Charles Dickens had once frequented the establishment, while he was writing David Copperfield. They had a small room kept as it was when he visited, which you could hire and be served authentic Dickens dishes.
We had our evening meal in the hotel before venturing back into town and watched ‘Chappie’ at the Silver Screen Cinema. We called into an Ale House on the way back to the hotel and sampled a few local beverages, before retiring to a slightly pungent room.
After breakfast I powered up the GPS and we set off purposefully down to the beach. Our aim was to walk from Folkestone to Dover over the white cliffs. It was a beautiful sunny morning, with ideal conditions for walking. We ambled along the base of the cliffs, following for the most part a deserted concrete walkway. After a couple of miles we passed a couple of other walkers, who a little further on opted to branch off onto a path that proceeded up the cliffs. We carried on until we came to the path we had chosen to ascend the chalky heights. The first part of the path had fallen away so Sue sat down while I explored further up the track to see if it was stable. The route led over a hump which then skirted the roof of the railway track at the point where it plunged into the cliff face. I watched briefly as an engine and carriages sped by, before scrambling up a very steep incline that appeared to bend around out of view. Reaching the top of the slope I stopped and thought, it was obvious that as I had used both hands in my scramble up the face, Sue was not going to be able to do likewise. Not with her gammy wrist. Returning, Sue was not disappointed when I said she wouldn’t be able to climb the cliff and that we would have to walk back to where the other walkers had left us for their upward route.
A short while later we were traversing the railway track via a narrow bridge and climbing the cliff through dense bushes that fortunately had been well cut back to create a little meandering tunnel all the way to the spectacular views at the top. The path and unfolding vista was fabulous. We met again the walkers from earlier in the morning and again soon left them far behind. As we neared Dover we marvelled at the rotating fans far below that aerated the channel tunnel on the seaward side and the never-ending stream of lorries that noisily pounded the dual carriageway on their way to the ferries on the landward side.
Reaching the outskirts of Dover we passed by the Immigration Detention Centre, before making our way towards the railway station. Diverting slightly into the town we discovered an excellent Beer House with a very hospitable landlord. We stayed a while for refreshments and salad and sandwiches from a shop across the road which the landlord had pointed us to.
Afterwards we had a stroll down the road and found the Roman Painted House. From the outside it didn’t look very appealing, much like the car park it had been found under, yet when we ventured inside, what a surprise! So interesting and well worth a visit. Even the mosaics and wall painting were intact in some of the rooms.
Afterwards we ventured further into the town before purchasing our ticket back to Folkestone at the station. A short ride later saw us back at the start and resting in our room.
After our evening meal in the hotel, Sue played Bingo in the bar without success. We stayed to watch the evenings entertainment of singers and dancers, with an eighties theme. Late on we took a turn around the harbour before wearily climbing the stairs to visit the Land of Nod.
We checked out after breakfast and then made a short visit into the town for Sue to buy a few gifts and then a detour via the harbour for me to buy some fresh seafood for that evenings tea, back home.
The return journey did not go well. I opted for the toll Dartford Crossing, assuming that on a Friday it would be quicker. Surely there must be some advantage to paying for a service? Well, five and a half hours later we arrived home after queuing to cross the Thames (why do they have a barrier and traffic lights when they have registration plate identification cameras that bill you?) and queuing again to join the M11 (why do they shut down a whole lane when a lorry is broken down on the hard shoulder?). Strong coffee was much appreciated after touchdown!
On the 14th, I took Sue to the General Hospital in Leicester and afterwards we took the opportunity to visit Mia and Sarah. We hads fish and chips for lunch and then Sarah and I put up some wallpaper in the kitchen while Sue entertained Mia. The following day Sue had physiotherapy at Harborough Hospital and I travelled back to Leicester. This time I shortened the curtain rails that I had neglected to, two weeks earlier, and when Sarah went off to work I wired power into the cupboard under the stairs and then put in a false floor so that it was level with that in the corridor. Next I painted the walls of the cupboard and lastly put the freezer into the ample space and switched on. Mia had slept soundly in her cage during the entire process and I woke her up when I carefully lifted her into my car for the journey down to Harborough. Despite playing Pink Floyd’s ‘The Endless River’, she howled most of the way.
Back home, I taught Mia how to play footy in the back garden and then to jump through the spray of the watering can as I attempted to water my pot plants. Lee arrived soon after 5pm to pick her up.
Thursday saw Sue and I at the cinema to watch the true story of ‘Foxcatcher’, a decidedly strange film that I can say was just about worth it for the surprising ending.
The following evening everyone came for Curry night, though we had pulled pork and beef with salad as it was quite a warm day. As usual, Mia was a big hit with the boys. Sue and I left the rest of the family to the evening as we had tickets to see what was left of the Dubliners in the Octagonal Hall. We arrived late but just in time as the band struck up their first number. Very enjoyable toe-tapping music. The concert finished at 10.30pm and despite an invite to join Sean and the band in the Catholic Club afterwards we went home as Sue was rather tired. I learnt a few days later that the ‘entertainment’ didn’t finish until 4am. My liver appreciated the early night.
Jamie and Harley travelled up to Hull to catch a Mini-cruise to Amsterdam on the Saturday. That evening he rang to inform us that the P&O boat was quite excellent. Sunday was Jamie’s 26th birthday. How time flies. They arrived back in Harborough on Monday, after having had a very nice time (his exact words), though he did slip on some water and wrenched his knee again, rather painfully. As this is Jamie’s paragraph, it is probably a good place to mention that son and dad are going on a road trip. After discussing where to go for the last six1 months, we eventually settled on Australia. So at the beginning of June we fly out to Sydney via Kuala Lumpur and pick up a motor home to explore a little bit of the great continent.
Today, Charlotte, Sue and I went to Joules for lunch. It has been a lovely warm day and we finished the afternoon, talking in the back garden drinking coffee.
Preparations for scattering Nan’s ashes are coming along nicely. All the authorities have given positive responses. The bench and plaque have been ordered and my cousin Jeff’s sons Richard
and Gavin (builders) have agreed to install it next to the War Memorial, below the castle, in Caergwrle. Charlotte hit upon the idea that we should install the bench and scatter the the ashes on Na’s birthday, the 16th of June. And hopefully we shall.