The heat wave predicted on our return to the UK arrived on the 18th of July. Fortunately, this gave Sue and I sufficient time to get ourselves and the house sorted for its onslaught. The vegetable and fruit plots had been pruned and weeded, the lawns mowed and hedges trimmed. Clothes worn in Madagascar and Greenland had been washed, aired and put away on their respective hangers and into drawers. I had even ordered a pool table for the garden room and stocked up the refreshment fridge with cider (my preference during the summer months).
On the 17th Jamie arrived with the rabbits (Maddie and Wilma), they will be lodging with us for a while, he also collected a suitcase in preparation for his trip to see the F1 Grand Prix with Ruth and Joey. The country had been given Amber and Red Alerts for extreme heat during the past week on the TV and radio and the following afternoon, Ruth arrived with Joey and the dogs (Rocky and Nala), the animals will also be our company for the next few days. Jamie arrived from work a little later on and they left to catch their 9 pm flight to Marseille from East Midlands Airport. Late in the afternoon, in Harborough the temperature rose to 37°C, complimenting the 43°C in France.
The real heat arrived the following day. During the afternoon the thermometer recorded an oppressive 46°C at the front of the house! The pool table was delivered by two men at a coolish 7 am, they quickly carried it to the garden room before hurrying to drop off the rest of their loads before it got too hot. Yesterday, Luton airport was shut for a while as the runway melted.
On both ‘furnace’ days we kept the dogs inside the house during the heat, only allowing them out briefly into the garden for the necessary functions. In their run, located in the permanent shade at the top of the garden, the rabbits got regular dowsings from the watering can. They certainly didn’t care much for the experience on the first day, but by the following day’s coney cooking temperature they accepted the regular soaking with better grace.
By Wednesday the heat had broken and late in the afternoon we had four surprise visitors; Sarah, Lee, Alice and Mia. When they rang to say they were on the way we guessed correctly that they were going to break some exciting news. Sarah will be having a baby in January. That morning, she had been for a scan and it confirmed that she was thirteen weeks pregnant, they brought a photo of the scan for us to see and in celebration, we had a Chinese take-away with them. The family tribe will have grown to thirteen early in the New Year.
Earlier in the day, I messaged a group of friends on Whatsapp asking for help lifting the pool table into position in the garden room. They arrived just as Sarah and her family were leaving for home. Expecting four able bodies, seven turned up, making the task that much easier, but also making a more significant dent in my cider supplies.
Jamie, Ruth and Joey are having a great time in Monte Carlo, their hotel room overlooks part of the road circuit and they have been busy seeing the sights both on the land, sea and the air.
Now that the record-breaking temperatures have gone, Sue is back in the swing of things with her walking groups, even managing a picnic lunch on one foray into the wilds of Leicestershire. The dogs have been keeping me company whilst on my watering duties in the fruit and vegetable pl0ts. Apart from a disappointing potato crop, it looks like the fruit and veg are going to be exceptional.
Charlotte called in for a toasted sandwich and a natter on the 21st, Sue had just returned from a U3A ramble and I had been cutting up wood in readiness for the winter. Naturally, the main topic of conversation was all about Sarah’s baby. That evening, seven chums arrived to play pool in the garden room. It was over three years ago that we last met up in the Catholic Club to play pool on a Thursday, but the closure of the club and then the pandemic curtailed this activity. Apart from having to supply the beer or fork out 50p for each game, it felt just like old times (though a lot cheaper!)
In another long-awaited resurrection, on Saturday (3rd) most of the family met up at Willow Bank for a BBQ, the only missing members were Jamie, Ruth and Joey who were on holiday in St. Tropez, Rocky and Nala adequately deputised for them. Despite having little practise at such things over the last three years, Sue surpassed herself in the preparation of the food, while I managed not to burn anything on the charcoal (the salmon was exceptional!) The new pool table and petanque balls got a good workout, as did the dogs during a mad 10 minutes of chasing around the garden, watched, unimpressed by the two rabbits.
They returned to the UK late on Sunday night, picking up the dogs and rabbits on their way home.
On the morning of the 25th, Sue took Lucas and Ellis to the north of the county to play crazy golf. They returned in time for lunch at Willow Bank and to play pool. Also that morning we were due to have our boiler serviced and a satellite system installed in the garden room, but events didn’t go well.
The satellite dish and cabling were duly fitted, but the engineer who came to service the boiler condemned the system due to its dangerous state. The gas pressures were insufficient and the flue wasn’t sealed, he mentioned he had called out Cadent (our gas supplier) on an emergency visit. After he had shut off the system and posted ‘Do Not Use’ notices on the equipment, I got him to speak to the company who had installed the boiler and then he left. The engineer from Cadent appeared soon afterwards, tested the system and could find nothing wrong, even with the hot water and central heating jets on with all four burners alight on the cooker, the gas pressure was fine. On checking the flue he also couldn’t find anything wrong. He took down the notices and switched it all back on and advised me to get the engineer back and service the boiler. After several phone calls, texts and emails, it will now be serviced on the 19th Aug. I hope!! Despite Cadent’s OK decision, the following morning the boiler installers visited to check the system, they like me were bemused as to what had gone on. Let’s hope this is the end of the tale.
On the morning of the 27th of July, Sue and I picked up Lucas, Ellis and Harry from Rothwell and took them for a walk around Ravensthorpe Reservoir. It was a lovely day and there was lots of wildlife to see on the water. It was lunchtime when we completed its circumnavigation and we opted to have lunch in the Chequers pub in the village. While we waited for the food to be prepared we played several games of Uno using the pub’s set of ridiculously large cards. Harry chose to sleep in the sun. Stomachs filled, and we returned the boys home just in time to welcome Sarah back at Willow Bank. She had called in on her way home from working in Northampton to pick up the Air Hockey game which we no longer had room for in the garden room.
On the 30th Aug. Harry came to stay. Charlotte and her family were travelling up to York the following morning for an overnight stay as part of Ellis’s birthday treat. During the weekend they visited several museums, walked the city walls, had a swim in the hotel pool and in the evening went on a guided ghost walk.
Over the same weekend, Jamie and Ruth spent the day in Skegness with an old school friend’s family (Michael Hobbs). As the weather was so lovely, Sarah and her family spent the weekend in the garden, picking the produce that they had sown in the spring. Cheeky Alice certainly seems to enjoy gardening and maybe have green fingers.
On SUNDAY 31st AUGUST 2022, I like much of the rest of the country sat in front of the TV at 5 pm to watch the Women’s European Final. During the tournament, England had conceded fewer goals and scored more than any other participating team, expectations were high. But, we were playing Germany, which is never easy on the nerves. In front of a record-breaking crowd at Wembley, the game went to extra time with the better team winning 2:1, and for once that was England. As a child I watched the men lift the soccer World Cup in 1966, it has taken since then for a senior England team to win a tournament and it felt great!!!!
Before Harry returned home, on Monday I took him for a long walk and lunch in Foxton along with a recently retired ex-rugby pal Sean. After a 7-hour trek and visits to several pubs along the way, late in the afternoon, Charlotte collected a very tired dog.
A busy day: On Wednesday morning Sue entertained one of her rambling friends (another Sue) for tea and cakes in the garden room. While they enjoyed a good natter I busied myself in the cool of the study and managed to complete adding photographs to the holiday blogs. I am now free to start creating videos of Madagascar and Greenland in readiness to annoy the grandchildren one winter evening. During the afternoon I caught the bus into Leicester for an eye appointment and how things have changed at the hospital. The waiting room was jammed to capacity (trying to cut the pandemic backlog), luckily, as I checked in a seat became vacant, it was over an hour before a nurse gave me an eye test. Nearly another hour passed before I had the usual scan of the retina. Expecting to be released home, I was surprised I was then going to see the consultant. Half an hour
later and after a chat with a very amiable doctor, I am to have another series of injections to stabilise the vision in my left eye. I arrived home with a bag full of (very ripe) fruit purchased from Leicester market to find that Sue was on an evening U3A ramble to the Langtons.
Sue and I had bought Ellis a glider lesson for his 12th birthday and on the afternoon of the 4th of August, we took him and Charlotte to Bosworth Gliding Centre for his first flight. It was an excellent day for gliding with plenty of thermals around ensuring that he would have plenty of flight time, in fact, he managed 50 minutes in the air of which he had control for half the flight. He also managed to reach a height of 4000 ft and travel as far as Harborough. Not bad for his first lesson.
A couple of days later I picked up Sean and drove to Langham to meet John Lee for a ramble followed by lunch. It was another gorgeous day, a slight cooling breeze made it perfect for walking. Sue was also out for lunch and a wander around the gardens at Coton Manor Gardens with Doreen. We began our circular route via Whissendine with my GPS unit misbehaving, it stubbornly refused to load in its OS map. Luckily, I had a printout as backup and we did it the old-fashioned way until on reaching the outskirts of the Whissendine it decided to ‘play ball’ and worked!
The impressive St. Andrew’s church in the village was open and we took the opportunity to snoop around. Several women were busy inside, preparing the building for what looked like was going to be a very grand wedding that afternoon. Moving on to the other side of the village we visited one of England’s few remaining fully operational nineteenth-century windmills, Whissendine Windmill has towered over the village of Whissendine for more than 200 years and was built in 1809 by the Earls of Harborough of Stapleford Park to replace an earlier windmill. Again we were in luck, the miller was busy at work grinding wheat. He beckoned us inside and encouraged us to climb through the five upper levels packed with operating machinery to take in the view. The Health and Safety fraternity would have had a field day in this building, moving cogs, belts and millstones had no guards and the series of ladders were very rickety, but we are of a hardier generation and a bit of danger makes for an exciting experience. The chance to see how a windmill really works by being just a few centimetres from its working innards was brilliant and gave a unique insight into history.
Appropriately, our return to Langham saw us pass through several wheat fields in the process of being harvested by huge complicated monsters of machines. Without too much effort I could still imagine the scythes, shire horses and wagons of the past bringing in the crop for Mr Miller to make flour. As if to keep with the theme of the day to complete the experience we had an excellent meal in the Wheatsheaf Inn before Sean and I returned to Harborough and John to Bourne.