Not by any means could I be described as a royalist. It is my view that the monarchy is an outdated dinosaur that should have been consigned to the refuse bin of history centuries ago. Yet, our Lilibet has conducted herself throughout her reign with dignity and poise. The nickname came from her inability to pronounce the name Elizabeth correctly as a toddler and it is to her credit and humility that in later years she adopted this informal title when signing personal letters to her loved ones, having famously left the note “In Loving Memory, Lilibet” on the Queen Mother’s coffin. It is because of acts such as this, her sense of humour and a steadfast determination not to lower her personal standards that she will be remembered with fondness and dare I say it, missed.
On the same day, Charlotte tested positive for coronavirus. As many do, she most probably picked it up on the flight back from Tenerife. Sitting in a seat alongside the queue for the toilets must carry an increased risk of transmission and be avoided in future.
On Friday night (9th), we had visitors from France. Ruth’s parents, Jim and Leslie had driven to the UK from Normandy to visit family and friends and were keen to meet Jamie’s parents. As both Ruth and Jamie were working it was around 7.30 pm when they arrived at Willow Bank with Jamie, Ruth and Joey. Sue and I had planned a family BBQ so that they could meet the rest of the tribe, but thunderstorms, foul weather and Charlotte catching Covid meant a change of plan to an inside buffet and just Sue and I as hosts. As expected, we mixed well with plenty of similar interests and views and the evening seemed to shoot by, part way through the visit, our badger family made an appearance by the lounge window and proved to be quite entertaining. it was close to midnight before our guests left for the long drive back to Waltham on the Wolds.
What turned out to be a very busy day for the Palmers, at noon on the following day Jamie arrived, leaving his car on the driveway he was picked up by his friend ‘Brownie’ and they drove down to Luton to catch a plane to Gran Canaria, the third-largest and second-most-populous island of the Canary Islands, for a ‘boys’ holiday. A week in an all-inclusive hotel should help to refresh body and soul in readiness for what I suspect may be a difficult winter.
On the same day, Ruth, Joey and her parents travelled to Telford to spend a day with the Meerkats. Sue and I did this earlier in the year; it was a wonderful experience.
The Newbold Verdons drove to London to experience the day when King Charles III acceded to the throne. They managed to be in all the significant spots at the right time to spot Charles; Clarence House, St. James Palace and Buckingham Palace. They reported that the atmosphere was amazing, the pageantry, fireworks and cannon salutes hopefully will be a memory for little Alice for the rest of her life.
With football league matches being suspended, sensibly, all games of rugby (and other sports) went ahead, thus giving its supporters the chance to come together and show their appreciation of our past monarch, Lilibet. At Willow bank, I and a few rugby chums, watched Exter play and beat Tigers in the last move of the game on the ‘big screen’ in the garden room, we raised a toast in recognition of a life well lived.
On Sunday night (11th), Sue and I met Paul and Louise at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering to watch a Fleetwood Mac tribute band, Dreams of Fleetwood Mac. An excellent evening with many familiar and some unfamiliar songs. The lead singer had a very expressive voice, backed up by some very talented musicians. The only setback was the intermission ice cream which tasted off. When Sue complained, the vendors had to confess that they had come from a batch that had melted and been refrozen. To their credit (or shame?) they brought fresh ones to our seats in the auditorium.
During the following week, despite being as careful as he could be, Suraj came down with Covid. Like Charlotte, it is his first encounter with the virus and he is quite ill and confined to the bedroom. Charlotte is still unwell, testing positive with a chesty cough and feels exhausted at any small task. Transporting Lucas and Ellis to school was a problem, tackled on the first day of Suraj’s illness by Charlotte driving with everyone wearing masks and the windows open. The school then arranged for the boys to be picked up by the school bus for the period that their parents are incapacitated by the virus.
On Monday morning at the furthest point on my bike ride, the derailleur on the rear wheel destructed itself in the wheel spokes. I had no choice but to push the bike back home. Over the years, this has happened several times, the solution has been to take it to the bike shop and (at great expense) have a new one fitted, this time I was determined to ‘mend’ it myself. After a couple of hours with plier, vice and screwdriver I appeared to have solved the problem and the gears again smoothly changed whilst the bike was suspended. Tentatively, I took the bike for a test along one of my more arduous routes and after several miles, the derailleur continued to work perfectly until the moment I decided to back-pedal! The crunch as the chain, gears and gear shift locked made my heart sink, followed by the frustration of physically prising apart the mechanism to free the wheel so that I could push the bike again. It was time for a new bicycle. I spent that afternoon visiting establishments in Harborough which sold bikes and surfed the net of those in Corby, Kettering and further afield. I made a list of suitable replacements and decided to sleep on the matter.
During breakfast the next day, Sue suggested I try the Argos warehouse in Corby and together that afternoon we did. I was pleased to discover that they had several long racks of cycles AND they had four of one of the models I had earmarked elsewhere. Here it was just £139 instead of the £495 full retail price I was prepared to pay!!! Not surprisingly, I bought one. Checking out the other bikes we also found an electric version reduced from £599 to £299, so Sue also came away with a new bike. We both felt very pleased with ourselves.
Despite the Covid infection rate in the town being well over 5000 Sue and I continue to avoid it, even though Sue is very busy attending her many U3A groups and my (usually) lone activities in the garden, fruit and vegetable plots ensure that transmission from others is highly unlikely, unless maybe, it transpires that the virus can be carried by snails, butterflies, dahlias or beetroot!
On Thursday (15th) I managed an 11.7 mile with Sean to The Bull’s Head in Arthingworth. It was a coolish sort of day making for an easy and pleasant walk, inclines were few and the blackberries and hedge row apples were still abundant. Our lunch of fish and chips washed down with a local beer was very acceptable. Sean wished to visit the 12th-century Saint Andrew’s church located across the road, so with full stomachs that is where we went next. Over the years I have been there many times and it has always been open to visitors but today it was firmly shut, on closer inspection, we discovered a notice: If you are thinking of climbing onto the roof, don’t bother, the lead has already been stolen. We were further amused when investigating the cemetery at the back of the church we came across this gravestone:
The next day Sue and I travelled up to Newbold Verdon to walk with Sarah, Alice and Mia around the picturesque Thornton Reservoir located in the nearby National Forest. Again, it was a coolish day for a ramble, there was chill to the wind that kept us on the move, even little Alice who for most of the route ignored the pushchair brought by her mum. The schools are now back so we only came across a few runners and dog walkers on our circuit, however, the ducks and geese were still there in their hundreds, randomly raising a flurry of splashes, honking and quacking on the water at some unseen disturbance. Passing by a small hillock we came across a large flock of Canada Geese resting in the grass, disturbed from their sleep, spectators of their more energetic and wetter brothers and sisters below. Returning to the car, Alice was soon fast asleep on the short drive to the Bricklayers Arms in the nearby village of Thornton and remained so as we had lunch. She didn’t wake up until she was back home and we were having coffees in the garden with Lee.
Before making our way back to Harborough we called into the shoe warehouse in the village where I purchased a pair of sandals in readiness for an as-yet unplanned foreign holiday.
Whilst in Gran Canaria, back home in the UK Jamie received a speeding ticket from the Authorities in France. He must have infringed the speed limit during his jaunt with Ruth and Joey to Monte Carlo and the French Grand Prix a few weeks ago. He is very lucky that it doesn’t carry UK driving points.
Not only is there Covid in the Rothwell’s house, but they have also had further bad luck this week when their electrical wiring fused and shut off the power to the downstairs circuits, causing them to lose quite a bit of food in the refrigerator. Thankfully, the cost of the electrician and the damage caused in the repair is covered by their house insurance.
Jamie and his friend flew back to the UK early on Sunday (18th) morning, taking his car from our driveway at 4 am without waking either Sue or me then drove home to Waltham on the Wolds. Just 24 hours later he drove to London to lay a bunch of flowers at Buckingham Palace on behalf of the Palmer family in remembrance of the life of Queen Elizabeth II whose funeral it was that day. Cannily, he had booked lunch at the Langham Hotel in central London which gave him a parking spot for his car. Despite the news reporting that the roads in the capital were very busy, he found them to be very quiet and had no problem getting to his destination.
While the funeral was taking place at Westminster Abbey (with many world leaders present), leaving the car he made his way to Buckingham Palace, unfortunately, he couldn’t lay the flowers himself but one of the policemen on guard kindly took them and did it for him. Moving on to Marble Arch he then watched the ceremony in the Abbey on a huge TV screen along with several hundred others. Later on, he returned to the Langham for lunch before driving back to Leicestershire. Job done!
Throughout the day, like much of the country, the rest of the family watched the funeral on the TV, keeping in contact with Jamie through Messenger. The country gave ‘Lilibet’ the send-off she so thoroughly deserved, British pomp, pageantry and above all, respect. She reigned for 70 years and Paddington just about summed it up right: “ and thankyou Ma’ am ……….. for everything.”