With the start of May, the family have increased their desire to ‘get sorted’, busy in both house and gardens. In Rothwell, Newbold Verdon and Waltham on the Wolds, walls have been papered and painted, gardens m0wed (or hoovered) and planted up, and lots of carpentry and construction work have been completed. Here at Willow Bank, activities have been restricted to keeping the house and garden tidy with most activities being confined to the greenhouse in preparation for the summer months.
On the 1st, the whole tribe met in Waltham on the Wolds to see Jamie and Ruth’s new home and enjoy Sunday lunch at the village pub, the Royal Horseshoes. Since the start of the pandemic, I can’t remember when so many of us were able to meet up. The only family members missing were Joey (weekend with his dad) and Harry and Mia (not a dog-friendly pub).
The following day turned out to be eventful at Willow Bank. It was a warm and dry Bank Holiday Monday, perfect for sealing some flashing that had leaked during the winter storms, located on a small flat section of the roof between the two parts of the house. I heard banging in the alleyway as I was on the roof, busy with a can of expanding foam. Recently some of the fence panels along the footpath had been vandalised and it was happening again. I could hear two youths punching holes through the panels, but not see them because of the trees. Unfortunately, I was not in a position to do anything other than shout a warning, at which I saw them emerge, sprinting along the path towards the new housing estate. After descending the ladder I checked the damage to the fencing and then contacted the police and reported the incident. I and Sue then reported this act of vandalism on several local social media sites, asking for help in identifying the culprits (I described their clothing) and offering a £50 reward for their names. I later put up two posters along the alleyway to the same effect. There was a cascade of shares. Within half an hour I had the name of one possible miscreant. The following day, four school children arrived, giving the names of two more who had been bragging about it at school. Disappointingly the police had not followed up on the report, so I emailed them with the details. and hoped for some response.
On the 4th we had the first rain for over a month and Charlotte took the opportunity to ask her dad if he would like to do a spot of decorating. Lucas wanted his bedroom wall to be wallpapered and thankfully he had chosen a simple brickwork pattern. I arrived just after 9 am, and with Charlotte’s and Harry’s (supervisory) help the job was completed just after midday. However, it wasn’t an end to my fatherly duties as straight afterwards we drove into Rothwell to fell a tree with my chainsaw for one of Charlotte’s gardening clients. Of course, I kept the wood for the wood burner. I deviated on my way home to see Roger, last month, I purchased a new phone system online for him and wanted to check on whether it was working. He had only just returned from staying with his sister in Bristol and he hadn’t installed the phone. I spent 10 minutes connecting it up for him and then returned home.
Sue had spent the day playing in a U3A Croquet tournament, it was a jubilant return to Willow Bank as she and her partner (Nicky) swept all opposition away and won, though as it was ‘just for fun, she was bitterly disappointed there was no prize awarded for their efforts.
At the crack of dawn on Sunday (8th), the Newbold Verdons arrived with Mia. Sue had already left to browse a local car boot and I was still snug under the duvet. It took several blows on the front door and a phone call to awaken me. They were off bright and early to catch a flight from Luton to Portugal for a fortnight’s R&R and were keen to beat the well-televised queues at security that had been on the news all week. As soon as I took charge of Mia, they were gone, leaving me to walk one excited and bouncy dog! Their flight took left on time and thankfully they were on it without any problems encountered. Later that morning, when Sue had returned, I attended an appointment at Specsavers to have my vision checked and order a new set of glasses. They were very thorough in the examination and I was rather impressed with their professionalism.
The following evening Suraj picked me up in his car and along with Lucas and Ellis drove to Waltham on the Wolds. We met up with Jamie and spent a splendid evening in the pub that we had lunch at the previous week. Occasionally the males of the family meet up to sample the fayre at a pub’s ‘pie-night’, and it was the Royal Horseshoes’ turn that evening. The meal was good and though the pie was tasty, disappointingly it wasn’t a proper pie with both a pastry crust and base. A pastry lid with filling does not constitute a legitimate pie!
Sarah and her family continued to enjoy themselves in Portugal. They had hired a car and had booked themselves into a variety of Airbnb along the southern coast, absorbing themselves into Portuguese culture as much as they could with a toddler in tow. Back in the UK, we were having similar weather but without the fierce heat from the sun.
Disappointingly, after two weeks and despite several phone calls and several emails providing photographs, descriptions, names and a witness to the vandalism of the garden fence panels, the police officer allocated the case failed to make contact or do any follow-up. Sadly, the warnings from friends and neighbours that the police wouldn’t ‘do anything, proved to be right. Regrettably, I have lost all confidence in our local constabulary.
Building work, or, more accurately, demolition began in earnest at the Rothwell’s new house. A kitchen wall was knocked down to create a large kitchen diner and to make more sense of the downstairs layout. However, the other ‘house residents’ didn’t take too kindly to being disturbed, and an agitated spider relocated to a pair of Charlotte’s jeans and bit her causing quite a lot of pain and much concern which resulted in a lot of searching by the family in identifying the creature. It was painful for several days afterwards. However, the wall was successfully demolished and the necessary plastering was completed in record time. While the workmen were busy inside, despite the nasty bite from the False Widow Spider, Charlotte managed to plant up the front border which I had rotavated for her the previous week.
With the warmer weather arriving, the U3A groups have been very busy, on one of her many outings with the Nature Group Sue managed to persuade a friendly robin to feed on her hand. He is well known in the area for being quite tame (many entries on Facebook) but that day he chose Sue to accept a few crumbs.
On the 14th, Jamie took Sue to Stapleford Park Hotel for afternoon tea. With Mia to look after and the fact that a Lamborghini has only two seats, I remained at Willow Bank to enjoy an afternoon of rugby on the TV. After which from the photos on Messenger looked like quite a sumptuous meal, they called Ruth to join them and played, table tennis, croquet and chess in the hotel gardens.
On a more depressing note, there are no English rugby sides left in any of the ends of season European competitions. It is a sad fact that the French and Irish club teams play a better all-round game and make their own luck with adventurous and exhilarating play. However, on the subject of Europe, Ukraine won The Eurovision Song Contest in Turin 2022. Maybe not the best song heard on the night, but the citizens of Europe and Australia have overwhelmingly left Russia (banned from entering) in no doubt as to their feelings on the deplorable invasion of Ukraine. It is unlikely that Russian State TV/Media will mention any of this and its citizens will continue to be ignorant of what is happening in their name in the ‘real’ world. Satisfyingly, the rest of Europe seems to have forgotten Brexit and Sam Ryder’s ‘Spaceman’ UK entry was voted top in the studio but came second in the public vote.
For the first time in quite a while, on the 17th I met up with John Lee in Somerby for a ramble. We met in the carpark of the Stilton Cheese at 9.15 am on a day that the weathermen promised so far would be the hottest day of 2022. Mia accompanied us along a route that would take in the earthwork remains of Burrough Hill Iron Age Fort. This is one of the nicest walks in Leicestershire with plenty of undulations and pleasant views at every turn. I had brought plenty of water for Mia for which she was grateful on quite a few occasions, slurping the liquid coolant with increasing vigour. Despite such a pleasant day, we passed no one on the route, espying in the distance just one lone individual standing on the trig point atop the Iron Age promontory. Arriving back at the Stilton Cheese we enjoyed a filling lunch and a few refreshments before departing on our separate ways home.
The following Thursday (19th) evening, I travelled to Kibworth with a small group of friends for a steak meal and cheese board at the Coach and Horses. Afterwards, we were intent on seeing a local amateur performance by Kibworth Theatre Company of ‘Allo, Allo’, in the old grammar school assembly hall and duly joined the queue after filling our stomachs with excellent fayre, washed down with some very acceptable refreshment. We were seated, French cafe style, at round tables in front of the stage. Though not being a fan of this popular TV sitcom I enjoy a good farce, particularly when it is accompanied by several glasses of red wine. The performance was certainly not of a professional standard but the script was amusing and the enthusiasm by both audience and actors ensured that a good time was had by all. With laughter glands fully exercised, before repairing to Harborough and to finish off the night, we stopped for a few more refreshments at the Railway Arms.
Sarah and her family caught a late night and delayed flight from Portugal, arriving home early Saturday morning leaving Mia to remain at Willow Bank for another night. Keen to see their new kitchen, it was the following morning (Sunday) that Charlotte and Harry (greyhound) accompanied Sue and I to Newbold Verdon to return Mia. Understandably, as we arrived, in post-holiday mode the washing machine was in full operation, the garden clothesline already creaking under heavy several loads.
Thankfully it was an excellent ‘drying’ day. With the kitchen fully inspected and approved, leaving the sun to do its work on a fortnight’s holiday wear we walked the short distance to The Windmill Inn for a substantial Sunday lunch. Returning to Sarah’s we stayed long enough for coffee before leaving them to continue their washing chores.
On the 23rd I had a phone call from Leicestershire Constabulary, the officer in charge of investigating the vandalism to my fence eventually read my emails and apologised for the delay in attending to it. He will check names against their records and possibly make a home visit to see what they have to say. Having already repaired the fencing I have no wish to prosecute, a warning from a police officer will suffice. He promised to make contact when he had completed his investigation. That evening, Jamie and Ruth attended the Prestigious Awards Ceremony in Birmingham to receive an accolade on behalf of his company Fx Learning, of course, he chose to drive there in his Lamborghini! Our son not only plays hard but he also works hard and thoroughly deserves this recognition for his efforts.
As the month began to run out (29th), Sarah, Alice and Mia visited. It had been arranged to take Alice to a nearby farm park for the day, I remained at home and took Mia for a long walk and after a light lunch, she watched me water the vegetable plots. We all returned to Willow Bank late in the afternoon and had dinner. Lee and his father had travelled to Wembley for the Nottingham Forest v Huddersfield promotion game, we listened to a commentary on the radio and were pleased when Forest won 1:0.
Since Covid-19 ravaged the planet, preparing to go on a foreign holiday has become fraught with difficulties and anxiety. It seems gone are the days when you trotted down to the travel agent and they did everything for you; now you are required to daily check the latest travel and Covid guidance, interpret what it says and jump through the hoops (at an expense) that are set. On the 3oth May, we approached the last hurdle and had an RT/PCR test at our local pharmacy. It did not go well. Having collected the required forms from the establishment on the previous Monday and completed them, on presentation we discovered we had been given the wrong ones. Thankfully, all the appropriate details had been included and the staff member filled in the new forms for us. In a small ante-room, Sue and I administered the test ourselves (under observation) and the swabs were duly placed in their sealed tubes. There was some confusion as to the registration numbers and a senior staff member was called. Finally, the tests were popped into sealed bags (hopefully with the correct number work) and we paid for the process (£158). The test is required by the Madagascan authorities before embarkation, yet on arrival in Antananaviro we will be subjected to another test at a cost of $17 and if negative, allowed to continue on our way, otherwise, it’s off to quarantine we go. Previously we had been told that we would be getting the results of the first test in 3-4 hours, now we were told that it will between 4 & 6 pm the following day. As we will be travelling to the airport just a few hours after that, it adds to the worry: Will they arrive in sufficient time? Will they be negative? Were the forms filled in correctly? In any event, the results were negative and arrived by email at 3.30 pm. Phew! After all that we are certainly in need of a holiday. If the taxi to the airport turns up and we make it through check-in and security, we may be having one.