The day after returning from Australia the family met in the evening for a meal. I had bought Sue a copper bracelet in Byron Bay with inset magnets to help her wrist and that evening I gave Charlotte and Sarah bracelets made of shells.
Sunday was spent in the garden and allotments; weeding, planting, watering, mowing and hoovering the debris off the bottom of the pool. It was a long day but needed to be done. The following day the family was journeying to North Wales to carry our Nan’s wish for her ashes to be scattered over her childhood playground, Caergwrle Castle. The previous day I had checked with Aunties Doreen and Josie that everything was in place for the memorial bench to be installed on Nan’s birthday (16th June) and was pleased to discover that the Council had strimmed and cleared all the paths up to the castle and made everything tidy.
The following morning we had a delayed start as Sarah was stuck in traffic on the motorway travelling down to Harborough. In the end we set off just an hour after the Rothwells and met them after an uneventful journey at the Alyn Waters Countryside Park around midday. It was a lovely warm as we sat on the picnic benches and had our packed lunches. The boys were quite excited so we decided on a walk along the river to burn off a few calories and de-energise. The trouble with Palmers being in close proximity to water is that like good water diviners they usually end up finding each other, and all but the more sensible mature ones did so!
Returning to dry-land we visited the park cafe for ice-creams and to visit the toilets, principally to use the hot-air driers. Suitably dried out we next drove a few miles down the road to Caergwrle. We inspected the site below the castle and next to the War Memorial where the bench was to be installed the following morning. It was nice to see a Council worker tidying up on the path up to the castle. Satisfied that everything seemed to be in place for the following day we all set off up the very steep incline to the ruins of the castle. As promised the site was as neat and tidy as promised and looked lovely below a bright blue, cloudless sky. Other than Sue, it was the first time that the family had been to the castle and they could see why it was so special to Nan and myself. I have many happy memories of playing among the stones and trees as a child on the frequent summer holidays visiting the grandparents, and I can’t imagine a better playground for ‘tomboy’ Nan.
As with water, rocks and walls are for climbing, so that’s what the more youthful and flexible of limb did. After a full exploration of the ruins and a reading of the information boards on the castle’s history we returned to the cars and drove the short journey to Aunt Doreen’s. Unfortunately she was out so we diverted up the mountain to see Aunty Josie who was at home and had cousin David for company. While we had coffee and chatted, David took the boys for a walk with the family dog, returning about an hour later with David’s partner who wanted to see us and say hello.
I had booked us all into the Premier Inn in Wrexham and that is where we went next. Check-in was fully automated at a console and caused problems. Firstly because I needed my glasses and secondly because I had to input all the details three times as I had booked three rooms. Why did I have to bring the email confirmation printout? On installing our selves into the rooms it transpired that the Rothwell’s family room turned out to be an ordinary double room. The Manager, bleating and showing on his computer system that the room booked was for two people didn’t square with my confirmation printout boldly showing two adults and two children in a four bedded family room, or the printout from his console that I had a receipt for a four bedded room and at a considerable increase in price over the other two receipts for the double rooms. Check-mate I think to good-old-fashioned hotel reception procedures, I pointed out that if they had a human (organisms with legs, arms and a brain) at check-in, they would have noticed there was going to be a problem about to happen and could/would have prevented it, thus avoiding customer dissatisfaction. The hotel was fully booked, so the solution was to give us a Family Room allocated to a some unfortunate family that had yet to check-in. Hmmmmm, not our problem anymore.
Lee arrived after driving up from Leicestershire after work.
After a suitable respite to chill-out we all met again down in the bar before driving over to see Aunty Doreen. I only stopped briefly to check that everything was ok with her for the following day as we had booked in to an Oriental restaurant in Caergwrle that Sue and I had been to previously, which served excellent Thai food. There was only one other couple dining when we arrived so I think they were grateful for our custom and it didn’t take long for the meal to arrive. Though it was late when we returned to the hotel we stopped a while in the bar and chatted before pressing the pillows.
We met again at breakfast. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, you could already feel the heat from the morning sun as soon as you stepped outside. Before we left for the installation of the bench Sue and I took a short walk into town and bought one of Nan’s favourite flowers, a small Honeysuckle to plant at the castle.
We arrived in Caergwrle at the same time as Aunty Josie and the bench had already been put in situ by Cousin Jeff’s sons. It was all taped off and looking splendid. Missing Doreen, I nipped down the road and found her walking, so gave her a lift.
Though naturally emotional, there was a happy atmosphere to our unveiling of the bench, contributed greatly by the weather and such a beautiful day.
I thought it particularly poignant when we photographed the three sisters together, once more. And then again with her favourite grand daughters.
Doreen and Josie stayed behind and sat on Nan’s bench while the Harborough contingent and David climbed the hill once more, this time with Nan. In the centre of the ruins we divided her ashes equally into small containers between us (including Lucas and Ellis) , less a portion for the Honeysuckle and each in turn scattered the remains, We then chose a spot next to one of the castle walls and Charlotte and Sarah planted the Honeysuckle along with the rest of the ashes. I think she would love that.
Finally, Charlotte climbed the highest wall and hid a little Welsh Red Dragon that she had found in a car park a few days previously and just knew who had left it there for her to find.
Returning to the bench we all drove over to the Holly Bush Inn, appropriately the last place I took Nan for lunch on her last visit to Wales, and had lunch. Afterwards Suraj took Doreen home while I did the same for Josie. Meeting back at the Holly Bush we then drove to Chirk to walk over the aqueduct. On route we managed to lose the Rothwells for a while, but eventually when we all met up we set off along the canal that led us to our goal.
On the return to the cars we diverted through the tunnel, Ellis and Lucas thought that part was quite scary.
The drive back to Harborough was during the start of the Birmingham rush hour, so we suffered the inevitable motorway crawl for large sections increasing our journey time by just an hour.
That Thursday I had agreed to wait on tables at a ladies charity function at Marston Trussell Hall and along with Sean and Jim dutifully spent a hot afternoon serving champagne and rather posh food to smartly dressed women. One of the guests was Branwyn, the school secretary at Farndon Fields when I first took up post there. After the meal we caught up on family news and as usual gossiped about past colleagues.
I returned to Marston Trussell the following Saturday afternoon, though this time with Peter where we enjoyed ourselves at the Marston Trussell Beer Festival sampling a few of the brews. It was miserable and cold and it seemed a most appropriate activity for such a day. Afterwards we decamped to the Angel to watch a lack-lustre England Unders 21’s lose to New Zealand in the World Cup Final made bearable by the fact that just a couple of hours earlier England had stuffed the Kiwi’s at cricket.
The following Tuesday I took Sue to the Royal Hospital in Leicester for her final appointment with the specialist. She has been discharged but if she has any problem in the future with her wrist she can make an appointment. We spent the afternoon with Sarah and Mia at Bradgate Park. We walked along the main path by the side of the river and came across dozens of Fallow deer idling in the sun, as we neared the ruins of Lady Jane Grey’s House we came across several archaeological dig sites being conducted by Leicester University. This was right up Sue’s street, she obviously enjoyed talking to the ‘diggers’ who were very chatty and eager to explain all they were doing, in detail. We even witnessed the find of a coin as it was dug up.
After climbing to the top of Old John we returned to the picnic benches near the Park cafe and had the packed lunch that we had brought with us.
Dropping Sarah and Mia off at home we returned to Harborough.
The following day I had another walk, this time with John Lee. I had plotted an 8 mile walk from the Blue Dog in Sewstern. Another lovely day and apart from a couple of fields of mature Oil Seed Rape which had overgrown the path and made the going difficult it was a pleasant stroll through the Leicestershire countryside. Lunch at 1pm of Haddock Goujons , chips and peas was very good and well worth a return trip. As usual we caught up on family news, discussed allotment weeds, cogitated on the coming world cup and put the world to rights.
I spent the next few days in the allotments and garden. Everything appears to be growing well, particular the vines which have set fruit already. The strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries have started so Sue is often seen scooting off on her bike to return half an hour later with a container full of fruit.
Last night Sue and I went to Joules for a BBQ and to watch a Simon and Garfunkel tribute band. We were accompanied by seven other friends so there was plenty to talk about, and as usual the entertainment was good but as Sue complained bitterly that the plates were smaller than on previous occasions and there was no dessert! Jamie and Harley are cooking Sunday lunch for us this afternoon so hopefully she won’t be making the same criticism as I am getting a little peckish.