I remember way back in 1981 (37yrs ago!!) that to avoid Charles’s and Diana’s much publicised wedding (I knew then, that no good would come of it), a like-minded friend and I travelled to Towyn in Wales to avoid being subjected to the wall to wall drivel of rabid royalists, spouting endlessly on the TV and radio about what an asset to the country the Royal Family is. I disagreed and objected to my hard-earned tax money paying for a wedding that this particularly wealthy family could afford to pay for themselves out of their loose change (and still offset it against tax as a family business). Roger and I camped for the weekend at a beachside site. The weekend weather was glorious (some similarity there), on the Saturday we had planned a strenuous walk over the mountains to take lunch at a remote hotel that I knew received no TV or radio signals, perfect (I thought) for a wedding free day. It was a scorcher of a walk filled with a growing anticipation of abundant, long cooling quaffs of ale to slake a now unquenchable thirst. The joy at spying our destination watering hole, a seemingly a tiny cluster of buildings as seen from our loft position on top of a very unpronounceable mountain was one of those moments in life that arrive very seldom. And this one was to be equally short-lived! After around 40mins of downhill stumbling we were dismayed to be greeted by a hurriedly scribbled cardboard sign stapled to the front door of the hostelry, “CLOSED, GONE TO CHARLE’S AND DAIS’S WEDDING.”
To compound our woes, after trekking to a nearby miniature steam train line to catch a ride back to Towyn we had to sit alone in ignominy inside a carriage decorated with Royal Wedding paraphernalia and pulled by a puffing billy called the Royal Wedding Express and fronted with huge photos of Charles and Diana!!!!
On arrival, the town was shut, save for one lone bar. The pub was empty, the TV was on and the landlord was glad of the company as almost everyone in the town had decamped to London to watch the wedding. We played darts as the latter part of the ceremonies played out on the screen above the dartboard. It was tempting, but neither of us fancied the expense incurred by a dart through the screen, so we smiled sweetly to the landlord and feigned interest lest he stopped vending life-giving liquids.
Perhaps, escaping to Wales when the Prince of Wales was getting married wasn’t such a good idea. In hindsight, Scotland would have been the wise man’s option.
However, I have since successfully managed to avoid all other royal weddings by one means or another. That is, up until now.
Harry and Meghan, what have I been missing? We British can do pomp and ceremony like no other. No, I have not changed my mind on royalty, but somehow (possibly a miracle) I enjoyed your wedding and felt unbelievable proud to be British, because WE displayed what makes our country special. Unique enough among this planets’ population to want to preserve the spirit and culture that creates such occasions, where we can remind ourselves who we are and how we got here. A creeping homogenised Europe now seems quite distasteful.
I guess the only minor blot I would care to mention was the selection of The Most Reverend Michael Curry, head of the Episcopalian Church in the United States to say a few words. Reverend, you misjudged the situation and your audience. Agreed, you don’t often get the opportunity to address 2 billion souls, it was a once in a lifetime occasion, but often ‘less is better’ and it certainly would have been. It wasn’t YOUR day, it was the elegant couple’s sitting patiently at the side of you, one of which was one of your countrywomen. Was that not enough?
At the end of September Lee and Sarah set about getting their boat Annie ready for the water. I joined them on three weekend stints to cleaning her up and get things ship-shape. We thought we had a problem with the wheels on the trailer, but after purchasing two replacements from a scrapyard, struggling to figure out how to get them off then to put the new ones on, to be confounded when we realised that there was nothing wrong with the originals. Incorrectly, thinking that one of them was flat, we read the words on the tyre and discovered that they were solid tyres and had just settled on the rims. Ooooops!
On the 12th of May everything was ready for the refurbished girl to take to the water. Sarah and Lee were relying on me to roll back the years and remember how to sail and instruct them how to do it themselves. Hmmm…….. I thought, we shall see. I hung onto the thought that we can all swim, and life-jackets are mandatory on this lake. The tractor pushed Annie into the water and much to everyone’s relief she didn’t settle gently onto the bottom. We waited awhile but no water ingress or strange gurgling noises. Unsure that I had successfully lowered the keel I checked with another boat owner, but we still weren’t sure. We next tested the electric propeller (vital if the keel hadn’t lowered) and it worked fine, so there was nothing to stop Annie from unfolding her wings and flying.
There wasn’t much wind and on occasions there wasn’t any, but it was a good day to learn how to manage the sails and ropes, there wasn’t going to be any surprises. And that proved the case. We spent three hours on the water ambling backwards and forwards at varying low speeds, practising tacking and avoiding the boom and ropes.
Mia played a vital part in looking out for obstacles and would bark fiercely at every buoy we went near, or indeed anything else she didn’t like the look of. By the end she looked a seasoned old sea-dog!
After around an hour Sarah and Lee had got the basics and I saw that it was becoming second nature to identify the wind direction and understand that you are constantly evaluating your course and that any distractions from the job of sailing will cause problems. I felt confident enough to retire below deck and offer advice from the shelter and warmth of the cabin.
As it was decided to return to shore, the rain arrived. Luckily we had Annie moored and the tractor sent for by the time heavy rain decided to make an appearance. A very satisfactory days sailing. Lee had proved to be competent on the rudder and in controlling the mainsail, while Sarah had got to grips with the jib. I am looking forward to our next lesson, confident that the crew won’t be drowning their captain. Sarah and Lee are presently in Croatia on R&R, Sue and I have the pleasure of Mia for a week.
I seem to have less and less contact with the Rugby Club as the years go by, but on the 8th May I went with Paul and Sean the Welford Road (Tigers ground) to watch the county final matches. The interest was in the Colts final with Harborough taking on Lutterworth. It was a disappointing outcome not helped by some indifferent refereeing, notable that unusually the ref was female. We stayed for the main final but left at half time as the result was not in any doubt by then.
On the same day Sue and Sarah travelled up to Salford to see Uncle Stanley. Mia was dropped off for me to look after, I took her on a walk to Foxton with Peter for lunch.
On the 10th I spent a couple of hours sealing the bath in Jamie’s apartment with silicon as the stuff already there had gone mouldy. He has put his place on the market, he and Ashton are looking to buy a house together in nearby Desborough.
Sue and I regularly visit the cinema, sometimes in Kettering and sometimes at the theatre in Harborough. Mostly the films we watch are excellent, and if they are not, well it was an experience. On the 16th we travelled to Kettering to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. After sitting in our seats for half an hour, for some unexplained reason the film failed to be shown. We were offered a refund or we could watch an alternative: Deadpool 2. We tried the alternative, but left within 5 minutes and took a refund. How that could be offered as an alternative I have no idea.
Plan B was to visit Charlotte, but on arrival we discovered she already had a guest who had just arrived. Thoughtfully we devised Plan C and drove to Braybrooke to see Roger only to be notified by the next door neighbour (mowing the lawn) that he had just gone out for a walk, somewhere, not sure. We enacted Plan D and went home.
The brilliance of a mobile phone is that besides giving you access to the rest of the world from practically anywhere, most of them double up as a pretty decent camera. I often take advantage of the facility when I am on my walks, if I come across an interesting sight I will usually drop it into the Family group in messenger. There are many photos of Mia in various situations. On Thursday nights I meet up with friends to play pool, one of our number often has photographs published in the local paper, the Harborough Mail. They are usually of the canal onto which his house backs. This week I sent in a photo of Mia taken during a recent walk and it was selected as ‘photo of the week’, appearing on page two. Pleasingly, my friend failed to have one published in the same paper, so it was with a certain amount of amusement that I attended our next session, only to be disappointed as he was on holiday in Spain!
Spring has at last made an appearance; in fact last week we had a day where it was hotter than in sunny Cyprus. The plants in the green house have started to grow in earnest, at the allotment the potatoes and onions have broken through and are shooting away. Then other day I transplanted 90+ sweetcorn into their final positions and they seem to be glad of the freedom to move and spread their little leaves. This year I have also planted some flowers which have already been potted up, in readiness to be given away to family and friends.
The pool is warming up now that the solar blanket is on, though I wouldn’t recommend going into any water when the temperature shows 18 degrees, it will take quite a few more hot days to raise the temperature to a more manageable 25 degrees. Until then I will be sucking any debris off the bottom from the side of the pool with the hose rather than the much quicker method of running around in the water to create a vortex which collects it in a nice neat pile in the very centre.
Charlotte is still suffering with her slipped discs, progress seems agonisingly slow. She is trying to get back to a normal life but without the strong medication she has to take, even the simplest of tasks would be impossible. Lucas has just finished his SAT’s and I believe he feels quite confident. Ellis went away to Cub Camp and had a thoroughly great time.
We have been feeding a cock pheasant and his two hens for the last few months. Yesterday, I was planting a grass at the side of the house and I was suddenly surrounded by a dozen or so tiny little cheeping chicks, curious as to what I was doing. Mother pheasant stood some metres away calling to them, all but one responded. I had to shoo the remaining brave little chick away so that he wouldn’t be left behind as she escorted her brood down the river bank.
I have an Active 10 GPS which I use to navigate my way on the various walks I undertake. It is a superb little bit of kit and as such it is being used by Tara Parks. Tara is writing a blog while travelling to Nepal. She decided to cycle there and the makers of the Active range of GPS’s gifted her one and publicised her plans on their website. That is how I heard about her adventure. Something I would loved to have done at her age, but alas not now, but I do so enjoy reading about her encounters: Pedal to Nepal