Away Days and a Reminisce

Shortly after the last blog our Mediterranean summer came to an end. On the 27th Charlotte, Lucas and Ellis arrived to enjoy Harborough by the Sea and cool off afterwards in the pool, before enjoying a family BBQ.

On the 28th July, Mia arrived for a few days while Sarah and Lee went to the annual fireworks competition which they go to each year at Stanford Hall.  It proved to be the last hot day of the summer, the following day the first rain for two months arrived in Market Harborough. We didn’t get much, unlike several other parts of the country which suffered from flash flooding, however we had enough to kick-start the very parched and brown lawn into growth (yippee, not!)

On the 31st Ellis had his 8th birthday. Prior to this, on the 25th, Sue and I took him to Macdonald’s for his favourite happy meal as a treat. On the actual day, Sue, Charlotte, Lucas and the birthday boy went to Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock. As Charlotte was unable to accompany the boys on the rides, Sue rose to the occasion and rolled back the years and with lots of determination, a few squeals and a thorough soaking, she survived and even says she enjoyed the whole experience! Possible parachute lessons as a 65th birthday present?

As well as Sue and I attending the Silver Screen at the Odeon cinema, Sue has also started to take Lucas and Ellis while the schools are closed to the Kids Cinema on a Thursday. She always returns with favourable reports on the films that she sees, obviously implying that I am missing out on a good experience, but I am not falling for that one!

On the 10th Aug. I had my second eye injection at the Royal in Leicester. I was in and out of the hospital within half and hour and this time there was no pain, or black holes in my vision and encouragingly the following day I noticed a distinct improvement in my vision.

It has become a tradition that I visit the castle in Caergwrle where my mother’s ashes have been scattered and where her commemorative bench is sited on her birthday (16th June), this year we were away in Canada on the date and afterwards we had been too busy with hospitals and supporting Charlotte with the boys to journey to Wales. On the 13th, Sue, Charlotte, the boys and I drove to the castle. We stayed overnight at the nearby Trevor Arms.  This year we had our picnic by the bench instead of up on the castle as Charlotte is unable to climb any steep slopes. We visited and Doreen and Aunty Josie to catch-up on family news before having a short walk around Maes Paes Park and settling into our accommodation for the night. On our return journey we first stopped at Alyn Park in Wrexham and then we visited the National Ironworks Centre near Oswestry. It is an absolute gem and worthy of a much longer visit than we had time for. A bonus for the boys was a free tub of ice cream. The sculptures are superb and beautifully laid out over a vast acreage, such a shame that we hadn’t the time to thoroughly investigate all the attractions. We shall return.

Sue has continued to ramble around the Leicestershire countryside with her U3A group, but unfortunately on a walk from Gumley on the 16th she took a nasty tumble (the laces caught in her boot hooks). She looked very shook-up when she returned home and spent a couple of hours on the bed to recover, but she was still stiff and sore for a couple of days afterwards. Coincidentally, while Sue was tumbling, I was taking Parky (the pigeon) to Charlotte’s for her to look after, the following day Sue and I were off to visit Devon with Ellis and Lucas. Unluckily for me, as I was carrying Parky down the steps in the back garden, Charlotte stepped on my trailing boot lace and I took an involuntary crash dive with the pigeon in my hand. Luckily we both survived unharmed, but how is that for a coincidence?

On the 17th and 18th we had Sarah, Lee and Mia to stay. To celebrate their wedding anniversary Lee and Sarah had a lovely day in London finishing with catching a performance of the Lion King.

On the 19th Sue and I picked up Lucas and Ellis from Rothwell before travelling down via a short stop for a picnic and a walk along the pier in Clevedon to Buckfastleigh in Devon where Pip and Paul live.

As expected, the boys loved the garden, it is steeply sloped with a myriad of secretive paths that meander in, through and around various plant and garden features (it took until the last day to discover the small 4th pond!) Over the last few years they have opened their garden to the public, but this year, due to some extensive globe-trotting they hadn’t time to ‘get it up to standard’, though I couldn’t find a weed anywhere.

The following day after breakfast it was decided that the beach needed a visit, so under an ‘iffy’ sky we set off to Bigbury-on-Sea. Our journey along narrow and narrower country lanes was not a good one, after first being significantly delayed by a juggernaut trying to make its way along a road that could only make progress if the stream of oncoming car drivers exercised considerable patience and backed up, squeezing into by-ways and gateways to enable the inconsiderate ‘professional’ driver to meet his deadline. I guess being in the ‘holiday mood’ contributed to the bonhomie and prevented the harsh words and bloodshed of road rage. Relief at passing the obstruction was short-lived as within a mile we met another clown attempting to navigate his articulated dominance over we fewer wheeled mortals. Again, it took great co-operation by the sensible to permit the insensible to make progress. As we eventually passed, I crossed my fingers that some where behind me, hopefully not too far away was another multi-wheeled donkey, but making his way in the opposite direction.

The closer we got to our destination, the gloomier the conditions became, eventually resulting in fog/sea mist over the last few miles. However, after parking up above the beach, the murkiness receded offshore to intermittently shroud the headland and far off beaches, but thankfully not ours (the hazy sun shines on the righteous). We spent the next 3 hours doing beach things and having a picnic. The beach is popular and has quite a few water sport outlets to satisfy the cravings of those holiday makers wishing to play among the Atlantic waves. Not for me anymore, far too chilly! It was noticeable that most of the adults and children taking to the sea wore full wetsuits. Hmmm, how times change, as a child I remember splashing about in the sea all day with just swimming trunks on and yes I do remember getting cold but I ignored that because I was having fun and I would only be there for such a short time. How times change.

We returned to Buckfastleigh without delay and via a different route. A pox on all lorry drivers!

The following day Paul took a break from painting the external walls of the house and accompanied us to Cox Tor on Dartmoor. It was a complete contrast to the previous day, the sun had put his hat on and had certainly come out to play. It was hot! The Dartmoor landscape is famously bleakly beautiful and no more than on such a wonderful day. Arriving at the car park at the foot of the Tor we were initially disappointed not to find the anticipated, friendly Dartmoor ponies, but after a bit of exercise (and sweat) we summited the feature to find them there, munching nonchalantly on the already well cropped vegetation. Sooooooo friendly, not bothered by the growing numbers of people eager to stroke, scratch and even cuddle them.

We had  picnic lunch alongside a pretty bridge within the moor. Afterwards, we amused ourselves by constructing a dam across the torrent that Isambard himself would have been proud of. Great fun and a team effort!

Moving on we found another picturesque bridge with yet more inviting water gurgling and splashing into deeper pools. Sitting on fold-up chairs squeezed alongside the steeply sloping bank (the flatter spots had been taken by those who had been there all day) we watched the boys take to the water, Ellis bravely down to his underwear. After a little while, Pip and Paul left us to visit the dentist in Ashburton. Paul had broken a tooth and had an appointment to have it removed (he wasn’t looking forward to it).

We returned to Buckfastleigh via a brief stop off at yet another but deconstructed bridge over playful water.

Our final day in Buckfastleigh was quite a busy one. During the morning we visited the Butterfly and Otter Sanctuary, jus a few hundred metres away. A fascinating place, lots emerging and flying butterflies to see and feeding time with the otters was a delight. The staff member who guided us around the feeding otters was superb, very knowledgeable and quite amusing.

After lunch back at the house we walked the boys down to the Abbey, it is celebrating its millennium year but is always a stunning place to visit. The rebuilt Abbey gives us an insight into what those that were destroyed by Henry VIII must have looked like. We returned briefly to the house before setting off to do a spot of geocaching up on the hill in the grounds of a derelict church. We managed to find one geocache but failed dismally on one other.

That evening, around 8pm Pip and Paul took us back up the hill to a lane alongside the graveyard of the church we visited that afternoon. After climbing nearly 200 steps by way of a narrow dimly lit path, we saw the first of our quarry, Horseshoe bats flit randomly overhead. After a short while we started to see more and more emerge out of the gloom. A  great place to see bats; a lonely hill-top, next to a graveyard outside a derelict church (spooky eh?) After awhile we noticed we were not alone, another couple were watching the bats over a five bar gate into a field. A strange Devonian pastime? We joined them in the gathering dusk, until they quietly left, I noticed that they seemed not to cast a shadow, I wonder???

We left to return to Leicestershire after an early breakfast the following morning. We thanked Pip and Paul for looking after us so well and wished them well on their next adventure to South Africa at the end of September. Our return journey went without incident and just 3.5 hours later we were back to cooking ourselves and washing up etc. etc.

On the 25th Aug. Sue and Sarah travelled up to Salford to see Uncle Stan. I sorted out my car insurance, reducing the quote by £45 and then discovered that Jamie’s rabbit who I was looking after (while he conducted a seminar at the Langham Hotel in London over the weekend) had diarrhoea and had soiled itself badly. What fun, washing faeces off a rabbit! It was a first for me and even though the creature sensibly co-operated by remaining still throughout the process it will be the last.

Do you think this rabbit is pampered?

Jamie has had an offer on his apartment and it looks as if he and Ashton may be in their own house by Christmas. I wonder if the rabbit will get a choice of bedrooms?

Our house is alarmed, there are sensors at various locations around the rooms and this includes cameras inside and out. If triggered, the system will not only phone me, but send a text and an email containing a photograph. The camera that is triggered will also video what set it off and store it away safely. This is quite useful as I can also look remotely at what is happening and if (as occasionally happens) it is a false alarm, I can reset the system on my phone or tablet. While we were in Wales, the alarm went off at 13 minutes past midnight and a rather spooky video was recorded. I can’t explain it and on returning home a few days later there was absolutely nothing out of place. Have a look:

A Reminiscence

This is a story I related a couple of weeks ago to a friend while I was on a walk with Mia. It happened a long time ago, way back in the mists of time when I was a young teacher. He found it fascinating, I hope you do too.

I was teaching at a school in Belgrave, Leicester when the Headteacher received a call from County Hall asking if he would release me for a week to support an activity trip between two county schools. He agreed to and then informed me. It appeared that a school in Market Bosworth had linked up with a school that served RAF Cottesmore on the other side of the county to organise a week-long trip on motor cruisers on the Norfolk Broads.  Unfortunately, the organiser had promptly died of a heart attack (when you read on you won’t be surprised at that). County Hall was keen for the trip to go ahead and had trawled their records to see who had a sailing qualification and picked lucky me. I agreed to join the trip as long as Sue could come too. So, the head at Sue’s school got a phone call and he too agreed. You didn’t say no to County Hall in those days.

Prior to the trip I visited both schools and met the staff and children. One of the teachers who was at Cottesmore had previously worked at the school in Market Bosworth (that’s important to know). Accompanying adults were to be the Deputy Head and cook from Market Bosworth, the landlady from a pub in the town and the teacher from Cottesmore I had previously mentioned (a motley crew). There was to be 30 children on three motor cruisers and three sailing dinghies to be towed behind the cruisers. The itinerary had all been planned out for us, there was little to do other than be one of the staff (so I thought). The deputy and Landlady would  crew a boat of Bosworth children, the teacher and cook would crew one made up of a mixture of the two schools and Sue and I would crew one made up of children from Cottesmore.

The children were to travel to the Broads by train with the staff, but I and the teacher from Cottesmore were to drive down in a van containing everybody’s luggage and that is what happened. A good start.

As the cruisers were the largest on the river system the boat company gave each ‘captain’ of the boat an hours practical lesson on how to operate and steer the craft. As I was ‘experienced’ I was excused this so I sat on the dock and watched the others perform. They struggled, an hour was not enough, but that is all they got. It was obvious that they couldn’t cope with towing a sailing dinghy behind them so it was decided that I should tow all three. Appropriately, my cruiser had only been delivered that week and had not been governed down to 6mph and therefore was capable of towing three. Lucky me.

Before we set off, it was discovered that I was the only one able to read the charts, so I became the lead boat. Later in the day when I moored up for lunch, it was mildly amusing to find out that the other two couldn’t moor theirs. After half an hour watching fruitless attempts I eventually jumped on board as the boat passed by and moored it for them. That is what happened at every stopping place for the whole week; around 15 minutes before we had to stop, I opened up the engine and broke the speed limit, moored my boat, ran back down the river bank, jumped on board the first boat and moored it before doing the same for the remaining craft.

On the first evening I was concerned about the sleeping arrangements on board the boats, particularly the one crewed by the cook and teacher, so I quietly had a word with the gentleman to discover that while he was at Bosworth school he had an affair with the school cook (her daughter was in his class). As this was frowned upon, County Hall moved him out of the school to Cottesmore (they did that sort of thing in those days). Hence the link and a continuation of the affair. Who am I to judge I thought? Later on in the week, as I was sitting alone on the deck after our evening meal (admirably cooked by Sue), the teacher came over and asked if he could sleep on our boat, it transpires that he had an argument with the cook and she had kicked him out. Unsympathetically I told him no and sent him on his way. This incident was to rebound on us all at the end of the trip!

One afternoon, as we were moored up at a chandlers taking on fuel and water, I was sitting on the quay watching our last cruiser being filled while a sailing cruiser was tacking vigorously back and forth across the river making its way up-stream. In horror I watched the craft fail to tack in time and it rammed its prow straight into the side of our boat and stuck there. After many apologies by the skipper of the boat and a swapping of hire details we eventually managed to part the two craft. The next couple of hours was spent while waiting for the engineer in the chandlers to fix the hole with fibre glass, he left me some spare, “Just in case,” he said. I was to need it a few days later.

As previously mentioned, I am towing three sailing dinghies behind. The rivers on the Broads can at times meander very sharply across the flat landscape and navigating a large 12 berth cruiser around these can in itself be quite a problem, but with three dinghies behind I am literally twice the length again. When the children ran into the cockpit to tell me that the last dinghy was sinking, I discovered when I moored up that there were submerged posts just off the bank on the last bend I had rounded and one had ripped a hole in the hull. Thank you Mr Chandler, an hour later I had repaired the hole and we were back on our way.

The children selected on my boat were a hand-picked bunch of RAF reprobates. They had been everywhere, seen everything and had little self-control, though on reflection they were the least of my problems, except for one incident. We were on the river leading to Great Yarmouth Marina, it was a gloriously warm Bank Holiday weekend and there were lots of craft on the river. Our little flotilla proved to be a bit of a log jam for some other river users as crocodile fashion we made our way along the watercourse. As with a car, I had a rear view mirror, I noted that a small speed boat with four teenagers was attempting to overtake us all. I watched as they eventually managed to squeeze their way past the other two cruisers only to then crazily weave from side to side behind my mini-fleet. I could see lots of waving of arms but thought it just the exuberance of youth as there was no way he could get by. As we entered Yarmouth Marina they took their opportunity and on full throttle, engine screaming shot alongside, gesticulated, then cut straight under my bow. I slammed the engine into full throttle reverse and stopped the boat dead in the water in just a few metres. The little speedboat disappeared rapidly among the many other boats, then in horror I saw the bow of the cruiser behind, being steered by the Landlady, ride high in the water as she slammed the throttle, full on forward as she bore down on me! I had over the last few days been giving the staff lessons and how to control their boats, hoping not to have to moor them each time we stopped. She had obviously remembered that to stop the boat fast she had to put on full revs, but forgot that she had to use reverse as well. I watched as in slow motion, she realised what was about to happen (sink three dinghies and slice the back-end off my cruiser) and she turned the helm violently away, slewed to the right and hit the marina quay, on full revs driving the front of the cruiser up and onto the quay itself, scattering a packed audience of tourists. I remember there being quite a lot of applause at this. The Harbour Master had witnessed what had taken place and was soon there sorting things out. The front of the cruiser was smashed but luckily above the water line and it was soon pushed back into the water. Despite me reassuring the landlady that the boat was covered by insurance and that it would be repaired at no cost to us, she was so embarrassed that she insisted that she pay for the repair and it was done that afternoon as we spent the afternoon on the beach.

I found out later the reason why the speedboat had  weaved erratically behind, then cut me up on entry to the marina. My little cherubs from Cottesmore had emptied the onboard refrigerator of eggs and tomatoes etc. and had great fun lobbing them from the back of our craft at the teenagers. Great fun, but breakfast lacked a few essential elements for the rest of the week!

We did have a very worrying incident.  One night, we were anchored in the middle of a Broad, instead of our usual mooring alongside the river bank. That afternoon I had been out with the children in the sailing dinghies, teaching them how to sail, it had been a fun time, though I found it quite tiring after I had worked my way through all thirty and was looking forward to sleep that night. It was not to be!  We had eaten our evening meal, played a few games in the main cabin and were getting ready for bed when one of the girls had severe difficulty in breathing. She was not a known asthma sufferer, but this was certainly an asthma attack. I sat with her outside on the back of the boat talking and calming her down as we had no inhaler aboard. Mobile phones had not yet been invented and we were half an hour sailing from the nearest shore and then probably a little more before I could find a landline. It must have been a full hour before her breathing returned to normal, she was one scared little girl and  I was one scared adult trying not to show it. Eventually she fell asleep, but I am afraid I didn’t, worrying about what might have been and still could happen. The following morning, I acquired a spare inhaler from one of the children on one of the other cruisers and slept a lot easier the following night.

Eventually, the week drew to a close and we returned our craft back to their owner (a little worse for wear). All that was left was to catch a train back to Leicester, but that would have been too easy! It had been planned that I would travel back by train and the cook would accompany the teacher in the van with the luggage. While waiting on the platform with the children, I became aware that there was a huge argument going on between the illicit lovers. As the train was pulling into the station I saw her grab something from her partner and throw it across the train tracks, then ran off. As the children were boarding, he rushed up to me and explained that she had run away (I knew that!), but that she had thrown the van keys over the track, which were now on the other side of the train. Brilliant! I told Sue to get the children back to Leicester, I had to stay and find the keys . This was not going to look good to parents I thought, glad I wasn’t at either school.

First we looked outside to see if she was anywhere to be seen, no luck. It was then that I was told that the argument was over an old boyfriend that lived nearby, he had turned up at one of our stopping points and she had gone off with him for the night. He thought she had probably gone to his place, but he did not know where. I was glad that my life was nice and simple. Next, we crossed the train tracks and with the station master (who couldn’t help smiling when he heard the story), looked for the keys. We couldn’t find them and the van was locked. We walked to the local police station to find it closed. We used the phone outside and was assured that a constable will arrive presently. He did and took us back to the train station (he couldn’t help smiling when he heard the story). Magically he opened the van and started the engine. The constable professed that he thought he knew who the man was that the cook had gone off with and asked what we would like to do with the situation.  Though my fellow professional wanted to leave things as they were I was not of the same mind. I pointed out that though she looked as if she had thrown the keys, we could not find them, so she may not have and may still in her possession and as this was a hire van, that could constitute a theft. I asked him to apprehend her and find out what she did with the keys. We then drove back to Leicester and did indeed meet the train with the luggage and as far as I know, the parents were none the wiser (unless the little ones told?)

The constable did visit the occasional lover and found him rather disgruntled, he had just returned from work to find his car gone and was glad that the police had turned up, he was keen to report it stolen. The cook was stopped by a patrol car on route back to Bosworth. I am afraid I know nothing else on this affair other than I was told quite few years later that the cook and the teacher were now married.

You couldn’t make this up, could you?



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