Pool Digging

With November rapidly running out, the family seem intent on ramping up the activities in readiness for the coming festive season.

Sarah had arranged to meet up with Chloe and Abby over the weekend of the 20th for a bit of girly carousing, but it didn’t end well. Chloe is the physio/first aider for Harborough RUFC and the 1st team was playing in Dronfield, so it seemed like a good opportunity for the three of them to watch some rugby and have fun. However, during the evening Sarah slipped on some spilt drink in a bar and ended up in the early hours of the following morning at Chesterfield Hospital with a dislocated knee. It was up to Lee to take her home as she obviously wasn’t able to drive. For the next few weeks, she will be working from home.

On the 22nd Sue drove me to the Health Centre in nearby Wigston for a long-awaited injection in my left eye. Usually, I would attend the hospital in Leicester but with such a backlog of appointments, the NHS (after many phone calls) fitted me into the more convenient Wigston practice. The procedure went well and within a few days there had been a huge improvement in my vision and as a bonus, I was surprised to receive my next appointment for January just a few days later.

On the following Wednesday evening, I met up with ten chums at the Bull’s Head in Clipston for Pie night. It has been a tradition (pandemic excepted) that we have a Christmas meal together. We live in a much different world than just a couple of years ago, so we decided to hedge our bets and celebrate early, with a pie rather than turkey and trimmings. The evening turned out to be as great as the pies themselves, though unsurprisingly not all of us managed to finish the rather substantial fayre piled onto our plates, none of us risked dessert. I do wonder if we shall (have to) repeat this rather eclectic celebration next year.

On Saturday (28th), Jamie and Ruth travelled in the snow to a Christmas market in Sheffield, while for the first time in two years I had luncheon at Harborough RUFC. It turned out to be a most unpleasant day to play rugby with driving sleet and bitterly cold conditions greatly affecting the play. Sensibly I chose to enjoy the company and warmth of friends inside the clubhouse rather than risk frostbite on the touchline watching what reportedly was an error-strewn game. Harborough ran out the victors with an uninspiring 4 penalties to a single try.

Charlotte and her family braved the snowy conditions on Sunday by travelling to Dudley Zoo. Despite the cold, they seemed to have enjoyed their day out, though I don’t think all of the more exotic animals on show thought likewise. On the same day Sarah, Lee and Alice met up with Abby and her family and went to Sundown Adventureland near Retford. Instead of exchanging Christmas presents this year, they decided to see Santa and left the decision on presents to him. 

I have continued to work each morning on dismantling the pool. Breaking up the supporting concrete walls involved the hire of a Bosch Breaker which I thought would take a couple of days to complete the task, however in the end it took four full days. Thankfully the weather was kind, and I was able to work until it got dark. With the base of the pool satisfactorily covered in a thick layer of small concrete nuggets, I was pleased to return the robust bit of kit, hoping never to have to use one again!

Over that weekend I spent some time collecting the photos taken of our trip to Holmfirth from the guys and turned them into a video. In the past, I used to burn this onto a DVD and give each participant a copy as a lasting memory, but now I load it onto YouTube and send them the link. Here is the link: Last of the Summer Wine.

Sadly, December opened with a funeral for Susan and more pool filling for me. The lady who cleaned Doreen’s apartment had died from bowel cancer and as Doreen didn’t drive, Sue took her to the church in Desborough for the service. As Sue didn’t know the woman well, during the proceedings she had coffee with Charlotte in nearby Rothwell until Doreen rang to be picked up. Meanwhile, I had a visit from Jeremy to discuss possible options on the pool, I was surprised when he brought a present of a small, framed picture of the front of Nora Batty’s cottage as a thank you for arranging our recent bean-feast to Holmfirth. He is so kind.

Traditionally, Market Harborough has a late-night shopping event at the beginning of December, but last year Covid-19 caused its cancellation, however this year it went ahead. Usually, the family come together and we walk through the park into town to enjoy the free mulled wine, and mince pies and see the entertainment laid on. This year Jamie, Ruth and Joey attended a festival of light at Belvoir Castle, leaving Charlotte’s and Sarah’s families to accompany Sue and I. As expected, the town was rammed with locals eager to return to some semblance of normality making it difficult to walk as a group. When I stopped briefly to chat with our next-door neighbours, also enjoying a bit of freedom, it took twenty minutes of panic searching to find the family again. Sue and I had booked to see a film at Harborough Theatre (The Father) for 7.45pm, so when the time came, we parted to enjoy a plot centred around an ageing gentleman slowly slipping into dementia while the gang and much of the town continued their frivolities. 

On the 4th of Dec. (Saturday), Sue and I drove to Tenbury Wells to meet up with her sister Philippa and husband Paul at family friend Sheila’s, to swap Christmas presents. It was a bitterly cold day with a constant threat of rain making it quite unpleasant to be out of doors for long. Sheila had recently been quite poorly with Diverticulitis, so Sue and her sister had brought lunch for us all, rather than visit one of the local pubs as had been the case in the past. We stayed until 4.30pm before leaving Sheila, her cat and a neighbour (who had dropped in to say hello), snug in the warmth while we walked the short distance to the High Street to watch the arrival of Santa Clause in his horse-driven sleigh with what seemed to be the entire populati0n of the town. Sue and Philippa were keen to rekindle fond memories of their childhood when they scrambled to catch oranges thrown by the jovial man in red. They were deeply disappointed to discover that the fruit had been replaced with chocolate sweets handed out by accompanying cartoon characters. How times change! Thoroughly chilled, we returned briefly to see Sheila before driving to our accommodation for the night at the Fountain Inn, a 17th Century Black and White Inn on the outskirts of Tenbury Wells in nearby Oldwood. 

That evening we had a fine meal in the Inn’s rather packed restaurant. It seems that Christmas festivities have started early in this part of Worcestershire as both bar and restaurant were doing a roaring trade all evening. Eventually making our way to our rooms and a sound sleep we met Philippa and Paul again the following morning for breakfast. They were off to Manchester to stay with their son Simon for a few days and we were moving on to the Wroxall Abbey Hotel near Coventry for another night. Stomachs satisfied, we said our goodbyes in a cold, drizzly carpark.

We broke our journey at a garden centre to take a look at their large collection of garden rooms to give us some ideas on what may replace the swimming pool.  It was just after midday when we eventually arrived at the hotel via a very long and splendid driveway.  The hotel is on the grounds of the Wroxall Abbey Estate which dates back to 1146 and the creation of an Abbey for Benedictine nuns. In 1544, following the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII, the estate was awarded to Robert Burgoyne who built an Elizabethan style Mansion House, and this remained in the family until 1713 when the Burgoyne family sold the estate to the renowned Sir Christopher Wren. Wren used Wroxall Abbey as his own personal retreat with members of his family often staying at the house.  Though his body is interred in Westminster Abbey his heart is buried within the Estate Church, we read that the church granted cathedral status. Eventually, the Estate was sold to James Dugdale in 1861 who built the present mansion house.  It was later purchased in 1963 when it became The Wroxall Abbey School for girls until 1995 when it was again sold and became a hotel in 2000.

We were too early to check in, but as usual, we had planned a walk so after changing into hiking gear in the car park (Sue trying out her new walking wellies!) we set off on a short 2.7-mile ramble within the estate grounds. The route itself was unspectacular but it felt good to stretch the legs, it was the first time I have rambled with Sue for quite a while, she has been fully occupied with U3A activities and I with gardening duties. The ground underfoot was very wet making for pools of water having to be gingerly negotiated at most of the stiles on route. At the end of our trail passed by the abbey church (St. Leonards), seeing it was open we took the opportunity to enter and saw the flagstone set into the aisle floor, underneath which was the heart of the famous architect. Arriving back at the hotel we were keen to sample the bottle of Prosecco we knew would be waiting for us in our room, as a thirst quencher it didn’t disappoint. This could become a tradition.

We took our evening meal in the hotel restaurant and possibly due to the effects of the earlier vino I rashly ordered the cheese board for dessert. Of the anticipated four kinds of cheese, I was not expecting such large slabs, amply accompanied by apple slices, chutneys and a huge variety of crackers. In comparison, Sue’s three scoops of ice cream seemed very parsimonious, but I was glad for her help with the apple and crackers. Stuffed, we finished the evening sat in the lounge bar and chatted with the waitresses about the history of this beautifully restored building. It was later when we retired to our room that Sue discovered that she had left her pyjamas at the Fountain. After a phone call to Sheila, arrangements were made to recover them, to be picked up on our next visit to Tenbury.

After a sound and very pleasant sleep, we had a buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant. It seemed quite novel (and risky) to serve ourselves again after having to eat socially distanced and waiter serviced for nearly two years.  It was raining heavily when we checked out of the hotel and it didn’t cease throughout the whole journey home, discouraging any impromptu sight-seeing stops.

The girls in the family couldn’t wait to start their Christmas decorations started, Sue and I can wait a little longer!

 

 

 

 

Winter walks seems to have been popular, even with the young ones. Joey accompanied Jamie in his search for a new car, I think he is planning on a Lamborghini for the new year.

 

 

 

With Covid-19 infections on the rise again in Harborough and the spread of the new variant Omicron I hope that the festivities aren’t impacted too severely this Christmas. The family will be celebrating Christmas Eve and Day here at Willow Bank, though our usual visit to Greyhound Racing and a Pantomime will not be taking place. However, as the photos demonstrate; family members have enjoyed the annual Light Show at Belvoir Castle and the switch-on of lights in Market Bosworth.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s