Appreciative Sheep

A whole month has gone by since we returned from our warm global wanderings and my once large stock of firewood has taken a serious dent. Cold, wet and windy days have swept away our healthy light tans and returned us to the usual pale anaemic looking Brits that we are.

Sarah and Lee broke the news that a wedding is being planned for August 2017. The church (and priest) on Rutland Water itself have been booked and a reception venue  is being looked into. There is plenty of choice in the area.

Sarah, Sue and Charlotte have already been several times to look at wedding dresses and the subject appears to already monopolise the conversations between them. I have seen several nice dresses in the Oxfam shop at very reasonable prices, though I guess it wouldn’t be wise to point this out.

Breaking News: Sue and Sarah travelled to  Syston and bought a wedding dress. A birdie informs me that it is very beautiful and that I can’t see it until the special day (isn’t that supposed to be the groom?)

After the wedding they are planning to take a month off from work and do a spot of global hopping. I am not sure how that will work but it is a great idea. No doubt as the weeks pass by there will be more news to report as plans become finalised.

Sarah and Lee are off to Paris for a few days in May for her birthday.

The Rothwells are off on holiday. Charlotte and Suraj have booked a couple of weeks in Cambodia with the boys. Very exciting, though annoyingly, Northampton Education Authority have changed their policy on school absences from 10 to 5 days for the coming academic year and this would trigger a fine of £250. No doubt they are missing a ‘target or two’. Charlotte is appealing against this on the grounds that the holiday has already been booked and it would be unfair to penalise them.

What has happened to our education system? Common sense and understanding seem to play no part in the education of children anymore, and god forbid that we allow them to enjoy their learning. Political dogma and convenient sound-bites rule in the UK. Bah!!!!

In early April the Rothwells did manage to get away to North Wales. They paid a visit to Nan’s castle before continuing on to a caravan site just outside Rhyl. The weather was mostly kind to them and they managed to get out and about quite a bit, though Suraj had a mishap on the journey up, that limited his involvement. Rather unwisely he attempted to run through a mirror maze at a Science Park in Wrexham with obvious results. A lump on the head, a mashed knee and lots of laughs from Charlotte and the boys.

Jamie and Harley have been on holiday. On the 10th April I drove them to East Midlands Airport where they caught a flight to Rhodes and spent a lovely sunny week at an all-inclusive hotel just outside of the town. I rather wearily picked them up a week later at 1am.


It was Jamie’s birthday on the 19th April and he spent the day having fun at Thorpe Park with some of his friends. Jamie now has two cars; an economical Corsa to run around in and travel to work, and an uneconomical Evo which he uses at the weekend for fun.

In his spare time he now plays the stock market and seems to be having some success, though I guess we only hear about the ‘ups’ and not the ‘downs’.  He is waiting for an operation on the knee that he injured playing soccer, but with the current problems with the NHS he has had several appointments rescheduled and finds it quite frustrating, if not painful at times. However, he keeps himself fit by religiously visiting the gym everyday. It is unlikely that even with an operation he will be able to play ball games again.

He and Harley seem to compensate by going out for meals very regularly.

We have hosted Mia a few times since returning and I look forward to our walks. We seem to have dropped into a pattern; walking in the morning, finding a pub for lunch and then walking in the afternoon, not returning home until late in the afternoon. After a doggy bath to wash the mud away and smell nice, we have a small pleasant nap on the bed until her taxi back to Braunston turns up. The Black-horse in Foxton is our favourite venue as the landlady loves Mia and always has treats for her while I partake in more substantial fayre.

Not a day seems to pass by without Sue attending one U3A activity or another, I fear she will exhaust herself especially as we have got into the habit of watching films at the Wednesday morning ‘Odeon Silver Screen’ in Kettering each week. How she fits in the shopping, cleaning and cooking I don’t know.

I have been busy in the allotments. The cold weather the country has been subjected to this spring has meant that our recent trips abroad have not put me behind in planting with my fellow gardeners. I have put 8 rows of potatoes in (not bothered with earlies), 4 rows of broad beans, 7 rows of onions and a row of parsnips. The onions and beans have started to show, despite being covered several times with snow over recent weeks.

I have started my tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse, but am keen for this awfully cold weather to go so that I can get my carrots and beetroot in the ground. I am taking out my frustration by double digging the allotment. The council have started to charge to take away our green bin (£40 per annum) but that is no use to me as it is fortnightly and the  garden produces at least 2 bins of waste and often more! And …… what am I paying nearly £3000 in council tax for? I would shoot all politicians and bankers if I could get away with it.

I now dig a trench in my vegetable allotment and all my grass cuttings get buried in there. I will slowly work my way down the entire length during the summer, improving the soil and planting in that which now has a layer of composting grass. The theory is that it will hold moisture and heat up as it rots down, thus encouraging growth. We shall see.

By now you will be thinking why title this blog ‘Appreciative Sheep’? Well, despite the miserable weather (cold,wet and windy) I have been out each morning on my bike. These conditions add to the enjoyment of my rides as they have a cooling effect to my cycling exertions. This time of year I would normally be in shorts and cycle top, but I am still donning my thick winter cycling gear against the elements. However, it is lambing season, a wonderful time to be out in the fields. I am often prone to stop my bike and just stare and appreciate the views, always grateful for the circumstances that have allowed me to enjoy such sights.The other week I was scooting through a field of sheep and newly born lambs, the former eyeing me with concern and the latter gambolling, full of  the joys of life, when I broke out into song, ‘Oh what a wonderful morning’. Instantly I was joined in my crooning by all the surrounding ewes baaing in unison. As the confused ‘young uns’ bounced back to mother our crescendo of ‘Everything’s going my way!’ scattered a flock of crows half a mile away. Rodgers and Hammerstein were not going to get any royalties on our rustic version of this Oklahoma ditty.

All the sheep are standing like statues,
All the sheep are standing like statues,
They don’t turn their heads as they see me ride by.
But a little brown lambkin is winking her eye.

On one snowy evening last week, Sue and I went to see ‘Genesis Connected’ in concert. As the name suggests they played Genesis  and Phil Collins numbers. Not only did the singer look like Phil but the sound seemed pretty faithful to the originals. Very enjoyable, well worth seeing again.

We had a lovely meal at the Queens Head in Saddington. It was a late birthday present from Jamie. After our very substantial 3 courses we rolled out feeling rather satisfied and bloated.

Last week, Sue also had a late ‘Pampering’ Mother’s Day present from Jamie  at Bannatyne’s in Leicester. Charlotte and Sarah accompanied her. I think they had a good time, but at the very least they came back clean.

On the 24th April I and 5 of my fellow ex-rugby playing chums jetted off to Iceland. We left Luton Airport at 7am with snow falling. Three hours later we landed on a murky and dismal morning in Reykjavik, wondering what on earth were we doing touring to such a miserable place. How wrong we were, by the time we arrived at our hotel the sun had come out and we had blue skies and warm days for the rest of our stay. statistics say that Iceland only has eleven clear days a year, we had four of them.

The hotel was in Hafnarfjordur, a twenty-minute bus ride from the centre of Reykjavik, which is where we spent the rest of the day after checking in.  I had previously  arranged with a sports bar to show the Leicester Tigers v Racing Metro rugby match on one of the screens and to our delight on the screen next to it they also showed the Leicester City v Swansea match. Sporting heaven. It would have been nice if the Tigers had joined the City with a win but it was not to be. However, we did have an introduction to the expense of Iceland with beer ranging in price from £7 to £10!  Iceland is a VERY expensive place to visit.

On Reykjavik’s main tourist street we had a rather novel lunch of meat soup served inside a loaf of bread . Very tasty. That evening we dined at a rather poor Chinese restaurant. The fayre was filling, but lacked authenticity, an icelandic interpretation of a Chinese.

We had a buffet breakfast each morning at the hotel, so could stock up with calories for the coming day.

The following day we were picked up from the hotel and embarked on a City Tour with a reed-headed female viking who had a rather eccentric but amusing sense of humour. Under clear blue skies you can see that Iceland is a stark but beautiful country. Certainly a very hard life for the early settlers. The hauntingly bleak landscape is compensated by the architecture of the buildings, both new and old.

We found a bar near the hotel and played pool that evening.

The following day we travelled to the Blue Lagoon, a must visit place by all tourists. We had great fun there bantering with the locals and flopping and floating in the beautiful warm water. Some of us tried the white volcanic mud face packs that was supposed to make you look ten years younger. You can judge for yourself.

We returned to Hafnarfjordur late in the afternoon and after a 20 minute walk found our way to the Eimverk Distillery. I had found them on Trip Advisor and had negotiated a tour of their factory. They are a small company, having been around for just two years, but have already broken in to the American market. Their Floki Whisky gained a double gold at an international competition. We spent the rest of the afternoon, touring the site and tasting the various gins, whiskies and aquavit. We left in a very happy mood.

That evening we ate in the Viking Restaurant on the harbour in Hafnarfjordur. A lovely meal packed with icelandic surprises. My favourite was Guillemot with blueberry sauce. The waitresses were dressed as Viking serving wenches and we were entertained by a singing Viking wielding a huge axe.

Hafnarfjörður Fjörukráin Pub
Being so far north, the sky didn’t get dark during the night.WP_20160426_23_12_53_Pro[1] Midnight.
It was another beautiful morning when we boarded the coach to the airport. The return journey was uneventful until around an hour after arriving home when the heavens opened up, lightning flashed across the sky and an inch of snow fell. Welcome back.
Last night Sue and I ventured out to the Comedy Club in Harborough. We were entertained by four very different comedians, some more experienced than others yet all highly amusing. This morning Sue woke very early and went car-booting, returning with a bag full of booty.
Jamie came to lunch. He had been to a christening this morning with Harley and looked very smart. He had plans to go fishing this afternoon. Sarah messaged to say that she was in Skegness and I guess Charlotte was off looking for cars as she has it mind to change the one she has.

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