The first week back from Nepal was a reluctant easing back into the miserable British winter weather. Not much could be done outside (not that we wanted to), other than collect logs from the store behind the garden shed and start a fire mid afternoon when the sun dipped below the bungalow next door and before the chill really kicked in, making even thermal underwear negligible.
Sue dived straight back into her U3A clubs, adding yet two more by signing up to Meditation and Pilates. Some days I seem to see very little of her, though on the 9th we had a meal at the Stags Head in Maidwell and each Wednesday we have continued to attend the Silver Screen offerings at the Odeon Kettering. On the days when the film has been too ‘gooey’ or ‘chick-flitty’ for my taste, she has gone with Charlotte or Doreen.
On the 10th we entertained Ellis, Lucas and Mia overnight. My Christmas present to the adult Rothwells and Braunstones was to send them away to a hotel in Milton Keynes and a Murder Mystery evening. Lee had been enrolled by the cast to take the part of a Friar in the Medieval charade. By the look of the photos on Facebook, they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were too inebriated to work out the true identity of the murderer.
I introduced the boys to the card game of 3’s and 4’s and Sue and I had to play it all that evening as they were so enthusiastic. The only break I got was when I took Mia out for an extended evening ‘poop and scoop’. The following day I had a Club luncheon and wasn’t at home when the medieval revellers returned to pick up their charges.
Sue had been keen to replace the carpet on the upstairs landing and corridor for over a year now and had decided on laminate flooring. On the 22nd we went to see the excellent film ‘Passengers’ in Kettering. Afterwards, we visited Wickes and took the opportunity to purchase some oak laminate flooring that was on offer that week. During the evening I ripped up the carpet and underlay on the corridor in readiness for the following mornings carpentry.
After breakfast I watched a YouTube video on how to lay the new flooring and after collecting together all the necessary tools, I set about ensuring that the floor was level. Then it all went wrong.
First task was to hammer all the protruding nails flat and nail down any boards standing proud. Luckily, it was near lunchtime when I completed the job and I noticed a river of water running down the wall in the downstairs corridor as a went to the utility room to wash my hands. That wasn’t mentioned in the video! Rushing to the garage I grabbed my jemmy (used only for legal purposes) and raced up stairs. Locating where the sound of gushing water was coming from, I ripped up the ‘very flat’ floorboards and exposed the central heating pipe with a lovely new nail through it. With Sue’s help (this is where her Meditation and Relaxation classes really displayed their benefit) I turned a small screw into the hole, thus reducing the flow to a regular drip. Cutting a hole into a plastic litre milk bottle I positioned it underneath and relaxed. I shut off the main’s tap and drained the system by opening all the house taps (we have a lot of them!)
Fortunately, we have a maintenance, service and repair contract with EON for such an emergency covering absolutely everything to the kerbside. I rang the emergency number and 3 hours later a plumber arrived. As Sue attended her Tai Chi lesson he set about repairing the pipe and after a couple of hours everything was back to the state it was first thing this morning. Relief.
After tea, I decided to fire up the central heating system to check the system and bleed any of the radiators. All went well, with only one upstairs radiator requiring any attention. When I went to the utility room to switch the system off I spotted water running down the other wall in the corridor. S***t!!!!!
Luckily, the jemmy was till upstairs, so again some more planks were frantically prised up. This time, it wasn’t my fault. The offending hole had been created when the original floor had been put down and the leak was inaccessible underneath the pipe. The pipe had been lying on top of a nail which had been leaking minutely over the years when the heating was on and dried up quickly when it was shut down and contracted. I had noticed a very small brown patch by the door frame years ago, but assumed it was a past coffee stain.
By pushing down on the pipe I again reduced the flow to a regular drip and placed the trusty milk bottle underneath. I guess that fixing the piping from the morning activity the movement had worked the hole a little larger and off the nail.
The EON emergency line was again rung with a promise of despatching another plumber. As it was now very late, I told them to delay the plumber until first thing in the morning as I was bushed and couldn’t take any more excitement until I had some sleep. I gauged that it would take 3 hours for the bottle to fill before it needed to be emptied. I duly woke at the appropriate times.
Sue was on a U3A walk that morning, so missed the arrival of the plumber and the fixing of the leak. By the time she arrived back in the afternoon I had laid down the fibre-board in readiness for the laminate planks and brought up the heavy boarding from the garage. Over the next two days I cut and laid the boards, finishing the edging off with cork and scotia. I then moved onto the landing. This time I carefully removed all proud nails and added none of my own! Thankfully the laying of this section went without a hitch.
On the 25th Sue and travelled again to Kettering, but this time rock rather than wood was on our minds. We enjoyed a concert by a group called Purple Zeppelin who covered tracks by their more famous name-sakes. The first half set was acoustic which was less enjoyable than the more customary electric second half. They are certainly worth seeing again and considerably more preferable than laminate flooring.
Before we saw February out Sarah came over for the day with Mia and I took them out with Charlotte for lunch at the Black Horse in Foxton. Sue was on a U3A walk to Add to dictionary Lakes with a lunch and joined us later in the afternoon at home.
On the 2nd of March, Sue and I travelled to the Fox Inn in Great Barrington, Cotswolds. We arrived in the rain around lunchtime. As we stepped out of the car we were welcomed by a large and soggy Old English Sheepdog who we were later to discover was called Chester. We checked into a lovely room, with a brilliant view over the River Windrush and the water meadow beyond. We had our picnic lunch in the room while the rain slowly petered out and the sun made an appearance.
We had planned a walk for that afternoon and despite the preceding downpour we set off all kitted up south along the Windrush. After half a mile or so we were caught up by Chester who was accompanying a couple some 100m behind us. After a pat on the head and a hello he raced back to his friends. We proceeded by way of a footbridge over the river and along a very muddy path towards a mill. Glancing back across the river I saw Chester’s friends wave goodbye to him as they shut the door to their picturesque cottage on the opposite hillside.
A few moments later Chester bounded into our presence. We briefly discussed what to do with him as he sat patiently eyeing us up. We agreed that when he got bored or out of his comfort zone he would leave us and return home. How we were wrong.
Arriving at the mill, we discovered a route change that did not match the plot on my GPS. Chester, seeing me confused, nudged my leg and gestured with his head on the way to go, before walking in that direction, stopping after 20m to turn and give me a look that said, “Well come on!” When I ignored him and studied my technology again, he repeated the same actions, but this time the look said, “What did I just say? Stupid!” We followed, he was right.
He was to do this on several more occasions over the next 7.5 miles. In the end I got to trusting him and pocketing my GPS, just followed. How he knew which of the many paths and deviations were plotted for that afternoon walk, I have no idea, but he is one smart dog. On a couple of occasions, worryingly, our path took us down country lanes, but on hearing a vehicle, Chester would trot back, lean up against my leg on the hedge side and wait for the vehicle to pass, then trot on. Very clever. When our adventure brought us back to the village of Great Barrington, he persuaded us to take a route along the back of the cottages rather than down the road as we were planning. Obviously, a favourite of his and also a short-cut back to the Fox.
On entering the bar, the barmaid wasn’t surprised at all that he had escorted us on our ramble. He does this all the time and everyone in the locality knows Chester and often ring in to let them know where he is. He even has his own Facebook page!
Later, we had our evening meal in the bar with a patient Chester laying next to our table.
We joined him the following morning for breakfast, but this time in the restaurant where he was already laying contented on a comfortable sofa like a roman senator. We did discover that he was rather picky about his food, we couldn’t persuade him to eat toast or even a fried egg, but he didn’t turn his nose up at bacon.
We checked out later that morning, scratched a sad farewell to our new friend and set off towards Burford in the rain.
On the way we had a short stop at the well photgraphed hamlet of Bibury.
We walked the entire length of Burford main street, first down one side and then crossing over at the bottom of the hill by the river, up the opposite. Today, there appeared few visitors in this very popular town, most seemed to be locals hurrying about some mundane business. We looked in windows, marvelled at the beauty and cost of most of the properties in the estate agents and rummaged through several antique shops. Sheltering in one, we were persuaded by the inclemency outside to negotiate for and eventually purchase an umbrella stand. It seemed appropriate.
We moved on towards Cirencester and thankfully the rain was chased away to more deserving folk on the continent. Parking in the centre we spent three hours wandering, not sure where to go, but after fortifying myself with a scrumptious pasty from a stall in the market square we decided to find the Roman Amphitheatre. After half an hour of walking and Sue’s perseverance, we found it. It was very wet and slippy underfoot negotiating the slope into the centre of the arena. Once there we could sense the history of the place and though the treacherously muddy path could only put us in fear of slipping over, there have been much greater fears at this spot in the far distant past.
We returned to the car and drove the short distance to the Stratton House Hotel just outside the city limits. We checked in, reserved a time for our evening meal and then chilled out in the room for awhile.
Dinner was a treat. Well done chef, really fine dining. For once Sue sat in the bar/lounge chatting to a couple from Portsmouth while I watched the Tigers v Exeter match on my tablet in the room. Depressingly, the Tigers were humiliated. I should have joined Sue in the bar.
After a sumptuous breakfast (the food here is very, very good) we kitted up for our planned walk. It was sunny, but there was a breeze that brought a chill when walking exposed to it. Our target was Alfred’s Hall in the middle of Cirencester Park. With no Chester this time to cajole us,we followed the 7.5mile plotted GPS route. It took us first through fields then forest to emerge into a series of perfectly manicured (and obviously affluent) Polo Fields, or do you call them pitches? Passing these via several long gallops, we entered the forest again and like a secret came across the ruins of King Alfred’s Hall. It is too dangerous to enter the site and is securely fenced off. The corrugated sheets forming a protective roof over the remains rattled eerily in the wind and didn’t encourage us to get close as we could see several already dislodged ones lying around the site.
Carrying on we made our along a loggers track to the edge of the forest and came across two more beautifully kept but deserted Polo Fields. We arrived back to the hotel as the rain began to fall, following the course of a small stream that meandered its way between a ribbon of picturesque Cotswold cottages.
It was only a shower, so we decided to continue with our walking programme and drove into town and followed the published ‘Town Trail’, printed off the internet. It was enjoyable though it lacked the necessary information on the locations visited and sites passed and we had to search for blue plaques on the side of buildings . We also thought that the return didn’t have to retrace part of the route, that’s just lazy!
Afterwards, we added to the route by meandering those streets that we had not already trodden. As today was my birthday, we chose to dine at an Indian restaurant in the town. For a Saturday night we were the first patrons of the evening, but by the time we had finished dessert, there was not a table free. On return to the hotel we sat in the lounge and chatted to the couple from Portsmouth until very late.
Sue was keen to visit a few places on the way home so after breakfast our first stop was at Northleach, we attempted to visit its very imposing church, but as it was a Sunday, there was a service. We moved on to Bourton-on-the-Water. The place was full of Chinese/Japanese tourists enjoying the sun, buildings, ducks, bridges and anything else that could be photographed. We stopped and chatted awhile to some locals who were keen to tell us all about their life there. Interesting, but we hadn’t asked them. They are very friendly in the Cotswolds.
Next stop was Stowe-on-the-Wold. Halfway through the town it began to rain so we popped into the Porch House, the oldest inn in England and had refreshments until the shower had stopped. Returning to the car we made our way to Moreton-in-the-Marsh. Here we did a quick up and down the main street, visited the church and as it was getting quite chilly and we were running out of daylight, we set sail for Market Harborough.
On the 7th March Sarah and Mia came down for the day. During the evening Sue, Sarah and Charlotte went to see Psychic Sally at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering. I looked after Mia.
The following afternoon we drove over to Braunstone and after a walk in the park with Mia we treated Sarah and Lee to an excellent Persian meal at the Do restaurant on the Welford Road. I have not eaten Iranian food before but it is very tasty, quite similar to Greek or Turkish cuisine.
On the 10th Sue and I went to Harborough Theatre and watched The Beatles, Eight Days a Week. Sympathetically filmed and some wonderful memories. On the 11th I attended a VP’s luncheon at the Rugby Club and afterwards watched England destroy the Scots 61:21. That will be a wonderful memory also.
Jamie has just returned from Amsterdam with his girlfriend Ashton. He seems to be quite successful at Binary Trading and has his own website.
Sarah and Lee have sorted out their honeymoon and will be visiting South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. Lots of things are being bought and made for the wedding day. Sarah is having a few days in Barcelona during April. Sarah and Lee have had a helicopter experience day.
Charlotte’s gardening business is keeping her very busy. Tadpoles have arrived to keep the boys amused. Suraj has changed his car and his job at the NHS has become slightly more interesting.
Coming up: Pwllheli – rock weekend (16-19 March)
Cyprus – property viewing (20-27 March)
Cotswolds – the return (23-25 April)
New Zealand – road trip (2-18 May)
Peru – Machu Picchu (28May-8June)