Not to be forgotten

With the arrival of September, the end of the summer is firmly on its way, yet, either by previous judicious planning or convenient luck, the Rothwells have contrived to celebrate the waning of the season with a run of celebrations. The 2nd is Charlotte’s birthday (Sue’s decision), the 3rd is their wedding anniversary (convenient) and the 4th is Suraj’s birthday (timely). Being able to lump these three occasions together makes sense, especially for the rest of the family; cards, presents etc. can also be conveniently combined (how thoughtful of them!)

I have tried (much to the annoyance of the rest of the family) to ignore my own birthday for quite a few decades now, so it was with some amusement that this year Charlotte confided that she would rather not have an annual reminder on how old she is. It comes to us all eventually, my epiphany came at the ripe age of 30! It seems quite in keeping that it is this time of year that many of the villages in Leicestershire choose to hold a Scarecrow Festival, usually the family visits one held in Lubenham, but this year Sarah and Lee attended one held in Desford.

Late on the 9th Jamie was driving through Harborough and witnessed a fire taking hold of the Roebuck. It is a popular pub on the east side of Harborough and one where Jamie often eats as the meals are good, reasonably priced and just a few hundred metres from his old apartment in the town.

On the 12th Sue visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. it is the UK’s centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen recognises service and sacrifice and fosters pride in our country. It was visited by Philippa a few years ago and has been recommended by several friends. Sue booked us a couple of places on a charitable bus trip from Harborough. As you would guess, our fellow passengers were getting on in years and quite a few (like myself at present) had mobility problems, so boarding and disembarking the bus took a while.

The Arboretum is on a massive site, it would take a young and fit person a full day to do it justice, so our aged group was never going to see anything but the highlights. Thankfully, we were set free to do as we please. I hate snaking around in a large group, having to stay together for the sake of organisation, not being able to spend time on what interests me and skipping what does not. We first chose to take the land train to ensure that we saw the principal exhibits and luckily we boarded a very sparsely occupied train just as it was about to leave. At a very relaxing and pedestrian pace, we motored along the narrow tarmac roads linking the larger memorials. We could see from our little carriage that there were many smaller sites set into the large grassy areas or partly hidden in the surrounding woods. Thankfully the taped commentary was good, drawing our attention to what was around us, and ensuring that we did not miss anything.






After our fifty-minute train ride, we made our way to the indoor museum and perused our way around the exhibits. Satisfied that we had done it justice we had our packed lunch and sat at tables outside the cafeteria in the lovely warm sunshine.

Now on foot, we set off first to pass through the central memorial set high up on a mound with its central obelisk visible from most parts of the site. We stopped a while to read some of the names engraved on the arc-shaped walls, though they were grouped into years the names themselves were not done alphabetically. Anyone looking for a particular name had a task on their hands.

Our wandering took us through several stands of wood among which were yet more memorial sites, some elaborate, some not so. It appears that every conceivable organisation within the UK has a plot somewhere here. I failed to see the relevance of some, but I guess this place is meant for all, therefore I haven’t the justification to criticise without further understanding.

We made our way to the banks of the River Tame, following a trail up the river that took us to where a railway line crossed by way of a bridge, we continued on to reach a small park resplendent with pond surrounded by numerous pond dipping decks for school parties.

The afternoon was marching on, so with the gold-topped obelisk of earlier as a guide, we slowly meandered back to the centre via several benches to rest weary feet and to take in the views. We left at 3.30pm without any delay for missing passengers (I bet that is a first!) which was fortunate as the return journey was half an hour longer due to traffic. It was a good day, Sue has ticked it off her list and I found things to interest me.

The following Sunday Jamie invited me over to help him rebuild the path outside his front door. It took us most of the day to complete it with hardcore and sand being laid down under the new paving slabs he had bought.

Jamie’s Peugeot wasn’t able to be fixed without spending too much money on it so he bought himself a Vauxhall run-a-round, which can be seen in the above photo.

Medicals: (In no particular order) Mia is having drops for an ear infection and cream for an infected cut on her tummy. Harry has a poorly nose from a nasty bite, courtesy of another dog. Jamie is unable to speak properly due to a massive ulcer on the side of his tongue.

On the 17th I had arranged with Peter to do some more laying of slabs for Jamie next to his garage, but Charlotte was working in Harborough on that day and asked if I could have Harry instead. Sue was on a U3A history group trip to the National Gas Museum in Leicester so I changed plans and opted to test my knee and foot out with a walk to Foxton Locks with Harry and Peter. The day started well, sunny and not too warm. Harry behaved well off the lead and this encouraged me to let him have his freedom most of the day. We picked up Peter in Lubenham on the way, his knee was giving him trouble but he was keen to accompany us. We took a direct route through stubbled, freshly harvested fields, passing Gartree Prison on our trek to the canal which winds through Foxton Village. The locks were fairly busy with boats and day trippers but we had no problem finding a seat in Bridge 61, our regular venue for lunch. As usual, we had sausages, mashed potato and mushy peas, held inside a large Yorkshire pudding and covered with onion gravy (heavenly food). Washed down with a pint of Old Rosie. Harry was not as fortunate as Mia has been in the past and the staff didn’t feed him with spare sausages!

We got talking with a couple of fellow diners and it soon became known that we were looking forward to the coming Rugby World Cup. The gentleman had played rugby for Leicestershire Fire Service in his younger days and when I mentioned that when I was playing for Stoneygate RUFC I would have played against him. He asked if I knew his brother Wayne Pick, who also had played for Stonegate. What a surprise, I knew him well, giving him a lift in the car to away matches as we both lived in Harborough! He and his family emigrated to Ballarat in Australia many years ago and for the first few times when they visited the UK we would meet up. It was sad to hear that a year ago he had been involved in a road accident on his motorbike and he had lost a leg, afterwards he had been in a dark place for quite a while but encouragingly he seemed to be coming out of it now. I couldn’t help thinking that the pain in my knee and foot wasn’t quite as limiting as I had been recently thinking!

I had to return Harry back to Harborough at 3pm, a year ago our walk to the Locks would have taken 1 hour, today it took us 2 hours and it was obvious as we both limped our way up the hill towards the village that unless Charlotte offered to give us a ride we would not make it. Peter’s knee was particularly painful and my foot had decided to come out in sympathy. Fortunately, The Blackhorse pub provided further refreshments, and comfy seats as a necessary respite while I informed Charlotte and we waited for her to pick us up. I am not sure whether she just wanted her dog back or if there was some sympathy for a couple of lame crocks.

Who has been drinking my beer?

A slightly tipsy Harry had contrived to lose his collar somewhere on our walk to Foxton, fortunately, an observant and kind dog walker had hung it on a hedge and contacted Charlotte on the attached phone number tag. Early the following morning I cycled back along our route of the previous day and luckily found it with the aid of a map sent to my phone by Charlotte and provided by the finder. How clever technology is and how honest people still are.

Afterwards, at 8.36am exactly, I had my Flu and pneumonia jabs at the surgery, Sue had hers later that morning. How astute our NHS is and how kind society still is. However, as is often the case with preventative measures, sometimes they can be nearly as bad, for a couple of days afterwards we both felt particularly rough having to take to our bed during one afternoon of aches and chills.

On the day of needles, I picked up a very rickety Peter at 9.00am on route to Jamie’s place in Desborough, to lay slabs. I was reluctant to take him as he was in obvious pain from the walk of the previous day, but he was insistent, so I relented. Sue spent a day at the cinema; she saw ‘Aladdin’ in the morning and after a packed lunch eaten outside in her little Suzuki, she watched ‘Rocketman’ in the afternoon. She was surprised to discover that she was not alone in binge-watching two films in a day as he observed quite a few doing exactly the same.

Peter took mainly a supervisory role with a bit of sweeping, hopefully causing no more damage to his already shot limbs. We broke just after midday for a fine and very large two-course lunch at The George in the centre of Desborough. Later returning to the slabs, we continued to work until 4.30pm. Jamie made a brief appearance at 3pm to change from his work clothes, he had an appointment at the Life Stream Floatation and Wellness Centre in Leicester. I believe the facility invites you to relax by floating inside a large egg-shaped container, full of warm water whilst in total darkness. He has been working very hard recently and coupled with the stress of breaking up with Ashton I think it has taken its toll, hopefully, a bit of floating will do him good.

Though we completed the slabbing, there is still some work left to do, building a small wall and step, which will have to be left for a future date as Sue and I are taking a short break in the Malvern hills.

The garden and allotments have continued to produce in quantity. The vines are hung with grapes that are rapidly ripening, the sweetcorn is ready and we are attempting to freeze and devour as many as we can. I have a plan to sell the surplus as I did a large number of pumpkins last year. Carrots too are being frozen and beetroot is being pickled in jars in readiness for the winter. After missing last year, I shall again be making pickled onions after our Malvern trip.

Today, the eagerly awaited start to the Rugby World Cup began with the hosts Japan beating Russia with a less than convincing performance, fingers are crossed that England will do well for once. I do believe that it will be the first time since they won the competition in 2003 that I have been in this country and not abroad while it is on. That must be a good omen, please????

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