Not Everything is Easy

After a run of hot, record-breaking days the inevitable rainy day has arrived and the family blog is being updated. Much has happened since the last keyboard-tapping entry with the saddest news being that Jamie and Ashton have decided that living together has had its day. They managed just over 6 months of living together in a new house in Desborough, but I guess that neither of them was able or willing to change from an independent, single life to that of an adaptable and tolerant couple. They gave it a good try but the differences appear to be too great. Thankfully, there appears to be an amicable agreement to go their own separate ways and hopefully the process will go smoothly. Jamie has a friend that will take over Ashton’s mortgage on the property, though not until October, so as the title suggests, we shall have to see.

Another disappointing bit of news concerns my knee (again!) The ligaments in both knee and foot had started to show a marked improvement, I had managed to walk to Foxton with Harry and Peter (for lunch) with the aim of walking back,  but having reached my destination I sensibly got Charlotte to pick me up as knee and foot were feeling sore, I am now wary of pushing things too far. Bones and ligaments continued to improve to the point where Sue and I thought I could manage a couple of days walking in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside, so we booked a couple of hotels and planned a few walks and venues to visit. On Saturday the 13th (that number should have been a warning) along with Peter and Paul I spent a pleasant afternoon and evening at the Langton’s Beer Festival. Gratefully, Paul’s wife Louise took us home. After being dropped off outside the house, as I stepped off the pavement to cross the road my knee exploded in pain. Certainly, the medial collateral ligament had given way but this time it felt even worse. After a visit to the doctor; x-rays on my foot, ankle and knee, a further telephone consultation, I now have physiotherapy sessions and an Orthopaedic specialist consultation in the arrangement.

Better news.

Early in July, Jamie and Tommy spent a weekend in North Wales and visited Nan’s bench and castle. The weather was as good as on our visit a couple of weeks prior. Whilst there they also visited the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct over which (rash as ever) Jamie decided to jump.

Jamie’s project on building a garage/carport has been completed. I along with some of his friends helped out at various stages but most of the work he did himself. Quite an impressive bit of building and carpentry work.

With the differing school holidays between Ellis and Lucas, coupled with Charlotte needing to work on her gardening business Sue and I have been looking after the boys and Harry the greyhound at various times over the last few weeks. Sue has principally amused the boys with cinema visits and days out while I have stayed at home and amused Harry with walks and treats. Occasionally, we have doubled up with visits from Sarah, Lee and Mia.

Charlotte, Jamie and Sarah went on their rescheduled ghost night at Newstead Abbey the home of Lord Byron in Nottinghamshire. It was a very long (scary) evening and early morning wandering around an ancient pile with other like-minded individuals. I think they remained sceptical but there was a few interesting episodes that they found intriguing. They are keen to do it again!

Suraj and Charlotte have been busy with their chickens. Keen to protect them from foxes, they have dismantled the play house that I had made years ago for the boys and who no longer use it, by creating an Alcatraz structure at the other end of the chicken garden from the recycled wood. The platform I had built the playhouse on was left in place and Suraj decked it in readiness for Charlotte to sit and relax while keeping a close eye out for marauding foxes. Mr Fox was reported to have made a visit this week to check out the new security features, which has prompted Suraj to contemplate ordering a paintball gun. I wonder which colour he thinks will deter Vulpes Vulpes, red perhaps?

Lee has also been busy constructing, he is converting the outhouse into a gymnasium. He has at one stage enlisted the help of one of his cousins who he had organised some work experience from school. His DIY skills seem to have come on exponentially and from the photographs, I have seen the work seems to be first-class. I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of his labours when it is finished, though I will pass on using its facilities as my body is falling apart on its own without putting it under further undue stress! Sarah has equally been exercising new skills and has rejuvenated the pond and borders in the garden.

Despite my knee imploding, a couple of days afterwards we went ahead with our planned visit to Derbyshire. Walking was naturally out of the question even with a walking stick, but we were determined to visit the local attractions as planned but by car. As I couldn’t drive, we went in Sue’s Suzuki. Usually, we drive to the hotel early and then park up and tramp around a circular walk, returning in time to check in during the afternoon, but we left home later on this occasion as there was to be no walk. We did call into the Risley Hall Hotel on our way to Dale Abbey just to locate where it was and have a short break.

Dale Abbey (Deepdale) is a small village that once was the home to a very large and must have been a very impressive 12th-century Augustinian monastery before Henry destroyed it in 1536. Not much remains now though you can see many of the surrounding cottages contain recycled stonework.

After checking out the ruined monastery we walked to a nearby wood. Situated in the wood is Hermit Cave, hewn out of the sandstone cliff by a 12th-century Derby baker who wished to live a life as a recluse. It is well preserved, measuring six yards by three with a doorway, two windows, a peephole and a niche for a light. A story goes that, one day when Ralph Fitz-Geremund had come from Normandy to hunt in his English woods, he found the hermit, and, touched with pity for his poverty, gave him not only the site of the hermitage but a tithe of this mill at nearby Borrowash. Then the hermit built himself a more pretentious oratory and a cottage to end his days. Though the trek to the cave was painful, it was well worth the effort and we must return to explore more extensively.

We had our picnic lunch, cheekily in the sun, and sat on seats in the garden of a small popular café in the village. From there we returned to the hotel and checked in. After a short rest, we went for a slow walk around this original 11th Century Saxon country house set among 10 acres of its own private sculpted gardens and grounds. The Willoughby family acquired the manor of Risley in 1350 and were the main builders of Risley Hall, which dates from the 16th century. We ate that night in the hotel and after breakfast the following morning we moved on to our next accommodation, Eastwood Hall Hotel.  Again, we checked its location before travelling onto our next port of call, Codnor Castle.

Our journey wasn’t straightforward. Following the Satnav it indicated that we drive down a single-track road off the main highway, there was a sign indicating that it was a private road not accessible to vehicles. When Sue asked a woman coming along the road in a soft-top Mercedes if she could get to the castle along the road, she said no.  Resetting the Satnav we drove to Ironville and then followed the Satnav to the castle from there. Again, we came across another sign with the same wordage. Checking the map it showed that there were only two access roads and both had these signs. Ignoring the warning we carried on passing cottages, farms, people on horseback and then a Horse Riding school and eventually came to the Castle grounds, with a golf course further on. The woman had lied, the castle was just a quarter of a mile away from our first stoppage. She had conned us into doing an extra 5 miles! I suppose she owned or worked in the nearby Horse riding School and didn’t want people visiting the castle in cars. A typical horsey attitude!

The castle is situated on a ridge overlooking the Erewash Valley in Derbyshire, it has a very rich history and dates back to the late 12th or early 13th century and was the home and power base to one of medieval England’s most powerful families for 300 years; the De Grey family, otherwise known as the Barons Grey of Codnor. Little remains now, helpfully there are data bar codes at various points that bring up website information. Probably the most interesting bar codes I have ever read! Next to the castle is an abandoned farmhouse that has featured on ‘The Most Haunted’ TV programme. Perhaps the rest of the family would be interested in visiting here?

After exploring as well as my knee would allow we then drove to Eastwood and the DH Lawrence Museum, the childhood home of the author and located in the ex-mining town of Eastwood and was such a huge influence on his life and books.  A must-visit place for anyone who loves his books and what a life he led, he certainly packed in a lot of living and writing into his 44 years. There is a DH Lawrence town trail marked out in blue on the pavement to follow which we would have liked to have followed, but this time it was not to be.

We checked into the Eastwood Hall Hotel and while I rested my now sore knee in the room, Sue explored the hotel and grounds and then found a quiet place to read the newspapers. We ate dinner in the hotel and the following morning after breakfast headed back to Harborough. Nonetheless, it was a lovely break and despite a lack of rambling, we found plenty of entertainment.

The warm weather has meant that the fruit and vegetable plots are producing in abundance, so we are both busy picking and freezing. After last year’s disappointing potato harvest this year is promising to be a bumper one. In between warm spells we have been having welcome rain to fill out the crops, the farmers can’t be complaining this year, surely?

On the 20th of July, we went with Jeremy and Lynne Brown to a house party at Frank’s in Brixworth. Sue drove. Jeremy and I used to coach rugby with Frank and we both went to his stag night in Manchester when he got married, but we don’t see each other very often nowadays. It was nice to catch up on news, but as most of the other guests were locals and we didn’t have the chance to mix much as we were limited to the inside of the house due to some evening rain. It was a shame as we have been having quite a lot of family BBQs as the evenings have been so warm and clear, it was bad luck for them to pick the one rainy night for ages.

On the 24th we celebrated our 43rd year of marriage with a meal at a new Nepalese restaurant in town, the KTMdine. A lovely meal and the chef came out to have a chat with us and were pleased to learn we had been to his home country. He was surprised that I had spotted that the KTM part of the restaurant name was the airport code for Kathmandu. A novel idea I thought. and saves on letters.

With record temperatures in the UK, for once the pool has been getting a lot of use by family and friends. On the hottest day when the temperature went up to 37+ degrees, Charlotte and friends and children spent the afternoon in the pool to be replaced by Jamie and friends and children in the evening.

It seems we have quite a speedster in the family, during the end-of-year sports day at school Lucas won all his races and as he had broken the school 100m sprint record he was brought out in the final assembly of the year to be rewarded. A possible Olympic sprinter?

Sue has a new mobile. Like mine a few months ago, her Nokia Lumia Windows 10 has now been replaced by a Sony Xperia, not because the phone has become slow or doesn’t work properly, but because the apps that she uses: Messenger and Facebook, no longer work on it. Google is slowly strangling the app market which means that without an Android phone many useful apps are now not available. What a shame that Microsoft is no longer willing to support Windows 10 mobile as in my opinion it is vastly superior in many ways to what Android is offering. She now has to learn how to operate the new phone and that can be quite a frustrating activity. I have already been there!

A Reminisce

It’s the second day of continuous rain, in fact, it’s forecast for most of next week if the weather maps are to be believed! However, I am off on Thursday escaping for another x-ray (pun) with Jamie and the forecast for Chornobyl and Kyiv is dry and warm.

This memory concerns a poorly knee, but this time, not mine! When I was much younger and training to be a teacher I also took a mountain leadership course in the North Wales mountains. One element of the training was to be dropped off on one side of the mountain range, hike for a couple of days to a designated location on the other side, and wild camping overnight. Not difficult if you are fit, have the right gear and provisions and can read a map well. This one was different because I had never met my partner before provisioning at Plas y Brenin (National Mountain Centre). He was from Birmingham and had a very heavy Brummie accent that I found difficult to comprehend at first (I can’t remember his name), but he preferred to be called Baz. We didn’t know the starting point or our exit location until we were dropped off from the mini-bus.

After a lengthy discussion on first deciding exactly where we were on the map and coming to the realisation that his map reading skills left a lot to be desired, we eventually set off on our task. The route was to be time-limited so we couldn’t hang around, we had to be at the exit point by a particular time. I found him to be good company, he had a similar dry sense of humour as my own and apart from a few interpretation issues we got on ok. He was fit, though I gauged he hadn’t been to Snowdonia often and wasn’t familiar with this particular part.

As we had eaten a very full breakfast at the centre we decided to push on through lunchtime and get some miles under our belt to ensure we would be ahead of time. Late in the afternoon we were well into the mountains and traversing a scree slope when he slipped and damaged his knee quite badly. I taped the knee and put it to him that we should head for the nearest road so that he could get a lift back to the centre, but he was set against that idea. He desperately wanted to complete this element of the course as he had missed out on a previous occasion. I reluctantly agreed to carry both rucksacks and kit to take the strain off his knee, at least until we reached our camping spot, with the hope that after a night’s sleep his knee may be much improved.

Having wasted time in sorting the knee and then discussing our plan of action we pressed on again. His rucksack seemed inordinately heavy, particularly as I was carrying the tent on mine and he was only packing the cooking utensils and gas burner. We both had packed our own choice of provisions. We were making reasonable progress over the next couple of hours and I was beginning to be optimistic about his knee being able to take the strain of his rucksack tomorrow morning.

A couple of hours later, on top of a ridge and feeling exhausted we stopped to eat. I ferreted out of my pack a couple of snack bars and the first of the sandwiches I had previously made that morning, sat down to eat and watched him dig into his rucksack and pull out a can of pineapple chunks and a can opener. I sat quietly and watched him scoff the contents and then pulled out another can of pineapple chunks. When a third can appeared I asked him how many of those he had. It appears that I had lugged 10 cans of them up this b*****y mountain and when I asked him what else he had packed, he said cheese. Smiling, he delved back into the sack and pulled out half a round of cheddar cheese, he liked pineapples and cheese he quipped. He had packed nothing else! I didn’t see the funny side as I am sure I should have. I emptied his rucksack of the tins and cheese, informed him that we were both going to eat them now and that afterwards, I was going to take him down to the nearest road and wave good riddance to him. Despite his pleas, I wasn’t in the mood to talk as we did indeed finish the pineapple chunks and nearly managed half the cheese, I love cheese but there is a limit to how much you can eat!

Leaving the remainder of the cheddar to the crows and carrying his now much-depleted rucksack down to the nearest road just over a mile away, downhill. I left him in silence at the side of the road as I made my way back up the slope. Annoyingly, after around 10 minutes I spotted him being picked up by a concerned motorist, I would much have preferred him to have waited several hours if not days.

For some strange reason when I camped (on my own) at the side of Glaslyn, a small lake, I didn’t feel at all hungry and decided to snuggle comfortably into my sleeping bag and fell soundly asleep, dreaming of the report I was going to write at the end of this little expedition, later to be handed into the centre. Revenge will be mine.

I made the deadline with an hour or two to spare and with a slab of the cheese I hadn’t left to the birds. I never came across my partner from Birmingham again, though I did hear from the centre that he had failed the course. Not surprised.

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