Early on the morning of the 9th Feb. (3 am), CNBC interviewed Jamie, the American pay television business news channel owned by NBCUniversal News Group and primarily carries business day coverage of U.S. and international financial markets. It is another indication of the growing reputation of his Fx Learning company.
The 14th of Feb. was a very busy day at Willow Bank. The builders arrived spot-on at 8 am to begin work on erecting the garden room, they were keen to get started and avoid the rain forecast for the afternoon and the storm due to arrive on Wednesday. And, as expected, the rain arrived around lunchtime making working outside quite unpleasant.
During the afternoon, I had an eye clinic appointment so left the builders to their misery and travelled to Leicester General Hospital for a 1.30 pm appointment. Disappointingly, I was expecting to have an injection but after a scan of the eye I was informed there wasn’t one planned and I could return home and wait for a letter. We returned to Willow Bank and three sodden builders working in a very muddy garden.
That evening we again drove to Leicester, though this time for a much more pleasurable experience. Part Of Sue’s Christmas present from me was a night of entertainment in the company of Dick and Angel Strawbridge. Over the years we have been avid followers of the story of couple Dick Strawbridge and Angel Adoree along with their family as they bought and renovated the 19th-century Château de la Motte-Husson in Martigné-Sur-Mayenne in a TV series called Escape to the Chateau. As a testament to their popularity, De Monfort Hall has a capacity of 1400 spectators, and apart from the odd empty seat, it was full. The first part of the evening covered both Dick and Angel’s lives and the unlikely series of circumstances that brought them together. It was soon evident how talented these two individuals are. After a short break, the remainder of the evening centred on the chateau itself as they video walked us through every nook and cranny of this very French building. The jokes and off-the-cuff asides made for an amusing and informative evening’s diversion.
Weatherwise, the following day was much worse for our builders, as they arrived the rain began and didn’t let up until after they left later that afternoon. Despite looking like drowned rats they were always cheerful when we braved the elements and supplied them with occasional hot drinks. During the morning, my little Fiesta came out in sympathy with Sue’s Mini when I took it to have two new front tyres, last week the Mini had to have two new rear tyres after I discovered it had an unrepairable slow puncture.
The third day of construction started well for our beleaguered builders, dry, and sunny, but with a forecast of Storm Dudley arriving with winds over 90 mph later in the day, I wasn’t surprised when opening the mail to discover that Sue (Verstappen) had been speed trapped doing 41 mph in a 30 mph zone on her way to a U3A ramble. After some form filling, she now awaits her sentencing. A little later in the day, I learned that my Fiesta had failed its MOT and will have to undergo a little engineering to pass. On a brighter note, the predicted hurricane-force winds failed to make an appearance, thankfully only matching Sue’s unlawful speed of the other day.
On the fourth day of construction the builders arrived at 7.30 pm and promptly started work, they were determined to finish the job and after my inspection at 3.30 pm, they left along with the electrician and his mate. Only time will tell but they seem to have done a fine job and we are pleased with what we designed. For once, it had been a dry day and though the site still resembled a scene from the Somme, they were able to crack on with their jobs, only breaking for the cups of tea and coffee that we supplied. During the morning my Fiesta returned home with a new front suspension wishbone and an MOT pass! We are hopefully good for another year.
Ironically, the following day storm Eunice ravaged the UK with gusts of 122 mph, yet here in Harborough, we experienced what is best described as a windy day. Thankfully, the garden room remained rock solid and felt quite snug and warm inside, though the surrounding battle trenches looked as if they had undergone a heavy bombardment overnight. During the evening, as the winds abated Sue and I went our different ways, Sue to meet up with Charlotte, Jamie, Sarah and Ruth for tea in Rothwell before attending the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering to see Sally Morgan (Psychic Sally) a Psychic and forerunner in the Psychic world who is on tour. Being a little more sceptical, I attended Jeremy Brown’s 60th birthday party at the Waterfront Champagne Bar & Restaurant in HarboroughWaterfront Champagne Bar & Restaurant in Harborough and spent a pleasant evening chatting to old rugby chums who are still very much with us.
On yet another cold, rainy miserable Saturday (19th) Ruth dropped Rocky and Nala off to stay the night. As a late Valentine present, Jamie was taking Ruth to a hotel in Hampshire, whilst there they managed to grab a bit of culture and visited Odiham Castle. At Willow Bank, several friends joined me to watch Tigers beat Bath and enjoy a half-time meal of pie, chips and beans, washed down with several bottles of wine.
A doggy exchange. The atrocious weather continued into Sunday when Sarah and family arrived late in the afternoon for dinner and to drop Mia, who was staying with us for the week, as they are having their kitchen remodelled. Ruth arrived around the same time to pick up Rocky and Nala. Later that evening Jamie and Ruth went to see Britain’s Got Talent 2019 finalist, West End star and multi-award-winning magician Ben Hart at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering.
Our garden room has certainly had a difficult birth, it was begun during storm Dudley, the structure was completed as Storm Eunice hit, then as the air-conditioning was installed on the following Monday, storm Franklin made an appearance. Three storms in a week!! With the room built an airconditioning unit was installed a few days later and I set about tidying up and landscaping. The power cable was buried in very muddy and unpleasant conditions, and a soakaway was dug to discharge the rainwater from the roof. On the one dry day, I temporarily laid slabs around the base of the building and started work on remodelling the wall separating the garden room from the patio before heavy overnight rain put a halt to the works.
At the same time, building work began with Sarah and Lee in Newbold Verdon. Walls have been ripped out and no doubt little Alice will be wondering what on earth is happening.
Frustratingly, there has been yet another delay with Charlotte’s and family house-move due to an issue further up the chain, though it looks likely that Jamie will by moving to Willow Bank on the 4th of March and staying until his house-move goes ahead.
After weeks of lies and false accusations, on 24 February, Russia launched a comprehensive invasion of Ukraine, marking a major escalation of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War and firmly placing Vladimir Putin alongside the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Idi Amin in the hall of brutal despots in history. In contrast, that evening I met up with nine chums for steaks and beers at the Cherry Tree in Little Bowden and engaged in polite and amiable conversation with friends who get along very well together despite a few differences. And, at the same time, Sue met up with a large group of U3A members for a meal at the Shoulder of Mutton in Great Bowden and also spent a pleasant evening among fellow citizens of planet Earth. Sadly, the thugs and bullies of
this world seems to be in the ascendency, but history tells us that it very rarely ends well for them, let’s hope that this will be the case with Vladimir.
Over the following weekend, Jamie, with the help of Ruth, Joey and Tommy packed up his house in Rothwell, storing his chattels temporarily in our garage in readiness for moving out on the 4th March. He will be staying at Willow Bank until the completion of his new home with Ruth in Walton on the Wolds.
Despite the poor weather conditions I have continued to spend my days taking Mia for walks and working on and around the garden room, making it ready for use as soon as the warm weather arrives. On the last day of the month, Sue and I attended the Travel Clinic at the surgery for Typhoid booster injections and to order Malaria tablets in readiness for our trip to Madagascar.
On the first day of March, we acquired another dog. The Rothwells were spending a couple of days in London seeing the sights and satisfying Ellis’s thirst for everything Harry Potter. During the morning I had planned on planting a walnut tree, but as I was finishing that, a load of previously ordered turf arrived and I subsequently spent the rest of the day covering what was previously part of the garden room battlefield. Charlotte arrived with Harry late in the afternoon, quickly followed by Jamie who offloaded more ‘stuff’ in the garage.
After a reasonably quiet night, the following day was a foul, wet affair spent taking reluctant dogs for walks, cleaning and drying paws and huddled around the log burner. The rain refused to let up over the next few days and any work outside came to a halt, fields quickly became a scene from the Okavango Delta and paw cleaning became a tedious and repetitive chore. On the 3rd of March, we briefly lost one dog and just as quickly gained another. Building work in Newbold Verdon was at a stage where an inquisitive doggy nose could be tolerated and Sarah arrived with Alice to collect Mia. Sarah had a court case in Northampton that was pretty straightforward so she brought Alice for the grandparents to enjoy for a couple of hours. Within an hour of Sarah, Alice and Mia leaving, Jamie and Nala arrived. The following day he is exchanging contracts with the purchaser of his property in Desborough, as all his furniture and clothes are now stored in our garage, he will be staying until he exchanges contracts in Waltham on the Wolds.
The 4th March was my birthday and it continued to rain. Charlotte arrived in the morning to collect Harry after I had first given them a two-hour muddy trudge through the fields followed by a power shower to dislodge Leicestershire’s stickiest mud and we were down to one little sludge hugging wire-haired daschund. That evening Sue and I celebrated my old age with a visit to the town’s Nepalese restaurant.