October crashes out with a bang

On the 4th of Oct. I had my third and hopefully final eye injection of Lucentis, it truly is a remarkable drug, improvement in vision is noticed within hours and any discomfort disappears after a day. Hopefully, that will be it for a couple of years at least. Sue drove me to the hospital in Leicester which unfortunately coincided with a huge fire in the city centre that required the presence of 75 fire engines. Traffic was snarled around the hospital, so I wisely opted to walk to my appointment, leaving Sue queueing at the carpark. With so many patients not turning up because of the chaos on the roads I was through with my appointment in double quick time, just as Sue managed to park the car.

This year’s crop of grapes has been picked and is now nicely fermenting away in the utility room. Though not a huge harvest, the heat from this summer has ensured the grapes have high sugar content.

At last, I finished making the video of our Madagascar holiday and uploaded it to YouTube. Sifting through the hundreds of photos and videos I took has been quite a chore putting them in some sort of order and then creating the video. I am never satisfied with the finished article, but life is too short to be fixated on perfection.

Thursday night has become Pool Night in the garden shed, but our little group of friends try once a month to reconvene in a local pub or restaurant for a meal and on the 6th of Oct. seven of us met at the Rio Bravo for a Mexican meal. Having

enjoyed a selection of spicy dishes and expensive drinks, we moved on to the Sugar Loaf just a few steps away to be pleasantly astounded to discover that all of the beers on tap were just £1.99 a pint. Cheaper than we could buy the bottled versions in the supermarket! How do they do it?

The following morning, I drove with Sean to the Wharf in Welford for a pleasant but breezy 6.5-mile walk, taking in the remains of Sulby Abbey and Sulby Reservoir. On the entire route, we met just one other walker, and he didn’t seem keen to engage in conversation, but not so the lone fisherman we came across on the bank of the reservoir. His enthusiastic and lengthy description of the special bait he was using to catch ‘big’ carp could have put Methuselah to sleep, it was with relief we managed to interject and carry on to our destination, the Wharf Inn for lunch. We had been looking forward to their special Suet Pie and were disappointed to discover they had run out of this rare dish. Opting for the BBQ Rib Combo, we were further disappointed as this was also unavailable. Again, consulting the menu, we chose the lamb chops (3) to be informed by the kitchen that this too was now struck off! In hungry desperation, we plumbed for the lamb brisket and thankfully were successfully presented twenty minutes later with two plates of meaty heaven.

The ‘Foody’ theme continued into the following day as Sue travelled to Tenbury Wells with Sarah and Alice to see an old family friend, Sheila and take her out for lunch. This left me to my own devices and true to form, for my lunch I made myself a steak and kidney pie, chips and mushy peas (a selection created in Yorkshire heaven). The afternoon was spent in the garden room with some chums watching Leicester Tigers again put in a dismal performance and lost at home to Sale. I had planned to have my evening meal sampling a few delicacies from the Autumn Food and Drink Festival being held in the town square with Sean, but when we met up at 7 pm it had just finished for the night, hungry and disappointed we chose Casa Nostra for our repast. Though strictly Italian, it proved to be a good substitute for the anticipated but unavailable feast of delights locked away in shuttered stalls around the corner.

Over the same weekend, Jamie, Ruth, Joey and the dogs went glamping in North Wales. On a beautiful sunny day, they managed to make it to the top of Mount Snowden and explored some of the many abandoned slate quarries to be found on its treacherous slopes. The glamping sites had mountain bikes for clients’ use and Rocky and Nala got more vigorous walks than they are usually used to.

On the 16th (Oct.) Sarah, Lee and Alice called in briefly to drop Mia off to stay with us before carrying on with their way to the Isle of Wight for five days. Unfortunately, they were not feeling very well. Alice had been sick during the night and had a streaming nose, Lee was also feeling unwell and had slept on the journey to Willow Bank. Sarah too was suffering but felt well enough to drive to Southampton, where they will stay overnight in a hotel before catching the ferry. Earlier that morning they had taken a Covid test and it had been negative and so had decided to travel. They certainly looked as if they need a break.

Later in the afternoon, Charlotte and Lucas arrived with Harry. He will also stay with us during the Rothwells holiday in the Dominican Republic. The family are flying from Manchester the following evening. Their late choice of holiday destination has been very fortunately for a couple of their neighbours who are already holidaying on the island. The husband of Charlotte’s friend who lives on the same estate is a type 1 diabetic and wears a machine that regulates his blood sugar levels, regrettably, he tripped and fell into the hotel pool, destructing the machine. He is at present in a medical facility being monitored. There is no replacement on the island and the manufacturers, and the NHS are prevented from sending the machine out of the UK. The parents of the couple have managed to acquire a replacement and Charlotte and Suraj had agreed to take it with them. In a worrying twist of fate, the family chose to travel to the airport early and decided to have breakfast in a hotel and unfortunately, Ellis threw up in the reception area, calling in to question whether he would be fit and well to travel. Thankfully he was.

Alice in the Isle of Wight

Suraj on a Dominican beach.

Their flight was delayed by an hour, but thankfully the machine stashed in their hold luggage made it safely through British and Dominican security and was successfully handed over to a very relieved wife who meet them at the airport when they landed. If the machine had been impounded, then her husband would have had to be medevacked home. Amazingly, Charlotte and Suraj only booked their holiday just a few days before flying and were considering quite a few different countries to holiday in, the gentleman (Ryan) is a very lucky man that his wife somehow knew where and when Charlotte was holidaying, and his parents managed to source a machine and get it to them before they flew from Manchester.

After staying the night in a hotel in Southampton, Sarah and her family felt a lot better the following day and caught an early ferry to the Isle of Wight.

Despite being over 4000 miles apart, both families enjoyed good weather, though the temperature between the two locations being vastly different.

On the 21st Sarah and her family returned to Harborough to pick up Mia and then drive home. It was also the day that I left Willow Bank to spend a night away with three rugby chums and the day didn’t start well!!

Plans to depart at 10 am and pick up two of my companions, then drive to Derbyshire where we would meet the fourth member of our party at the Makeney Hall hotel, began to go astray at 6.30 am when Sarah rang asking if Mia still had her GPS locator tag on her collar. On checking, she hadn’t! Having just woken up, I quickly dressed while Sarah sent me a photo of where the tag was.  Coffee quickly gulped, and I set off for Welland Park, thankful that it hadn’t fallen off the collar further away during one of our many walks. Taking the dogs with me I roughly located the spot and began to search, but with autumn now upon us, spotting a small silver disc seemed impossible among the drifts of leaves. A couple of sympathetic dog walkers also joined in the search after questioning my unusual dog-walking routine. Together we failed to find the disc, I carried on looking after they left and eventually gave up. That is when I found it. Searching in all the likely spots where dogs usually spend time sniffing and peeing had been the wrong strategy, it was lying in the middle of the tarmac path for all to see and no one had.

Relieved, I decided to give the dogs a short walk around the park before I left for the hills of Derbyshire. Twenty minutes later I stopped the hounds in readiness to clip the leads onto their collars for the roadway home, to depressingly discover that I had dropped Mia’s lead somewhere along our trail. I could have cried (but didn’t).  At a slow sprint, I retraced my steps and eventually came across the miscreant length of rope. Now running late (I hadn’t packed), we quickly galloped back to Willow Bank.

While changing into my travelling clothes, I discovered that the reading glasses I had taken to the park earlier to see the GPS location on my phone were no longer in my pocket. I screamed! They must have fallen out of my pocket when running to recover the lead. Rather than take the dogs or risk running, I got my bike from the shed and shot off to the park, AGAIN. Weaving along the same route for the third time that morning, again drawing comments from suspicious passers-by who on explanation promised to hand them into the Park Cafe if found. Covering my earlier path twice more without success, I gave up and returned home to pack. Surely it couldn’t get any worse. Sue promised to check the cafe later in the day.

As it is larger and more comfortable than my little Fiesta, I chose to use Sue’s Mini to drive to the hotel. After packing the boot with necessary away night paraphernalia, I pressed the starter button to be greeted by a graphic warning indication on the car computer that one of the brake lights had failed!!!! Tough luck I told the car, I’ve packed you now, so you’re going, and I set off. I was in no mood to be messed about with and the machine didn’t push it and misbehave further.

Jim Crawford had already been holidaying with his family for a week in a nearby cottage and was waiting for us in the carpark of the hotel when we arrived. He joined my two passengers, Jim Hankers, Sean Perry and myself in the foyer as we swapped our footwear for walking boots then made our way a short distance up the hill to the 17th century Holly Bush Inn, reputedly where highwayman Dick Turpin is reported to have frequented on his travels. Here we enjoyed a light lunch and refreshments before setting off up the hill to follow a 5.5-mile ramble that would take us over the moor to Belper then down into the town and across the pretty River Derwent before scaling the wooded hillside on the opposite side of the Derwent Valley on the return.

Despite a miserable weather forecast, we were fortunate that the rain held off until we had reached Belper, but our tramp wasn’t without incident. Whilst on top of the moor Jim Hankers slipped on the muddy path, landed on his side and rolled down the slope. He was lucky to avoid any serious damage, but it did shake him up and left him with a very sore shoulder. It was quite concerning as the following week he will be having major knee replacement surgery, so it was no surprise he left our little group in Belper to return to the hotel along the road.

As the rain arrived, the three of us crossed the Derwent by way of a narrow access bridge which led to a rather ‘pongy’ sewerage works. Following the watercourse upstream we passed Belper Rugby Club on the opposite bank before climbing steeply up the hillside splashing along a mud and stone path that was rapidly becoming a stream. We were soaked. At the very top, we entered a woodland that stretched the full length of the ridge, giving us a little respite from the downpour. The murky views over the Derwent Valley would have been spectacular on any other day and held our attention but today it was the sweet chestnuts that carpeted the floor which had a greater attraction.

On reaching the end of the ridgeway we descended back to the river by way of a golf course. The rain had stopped, allowing us to loosen our clothing to release the enclosed stifling heat of exertion. Passing over the river by way of a bridge next to an old wool mill, now being developed for apartments, we engaged in conversation with a confused couple who emerged from a small Baptist church attached to the King William pub and mistook us for a group that had booked a party in the hall with tea, jelly and cakes. They rejected our offer to consume the party fayre and we moved on to the hotel.

I was sharing a room with Jim Hankers and found him fast asleep in bed, but he woke and insisted on joining the rest of us in the bar.  There we tried several of the ales on offer before spending a pleasant hour chatting with the other guests doing likewise before moving on to a very pleasant three-course meal in the hotel restaurant.

With stomachs full to bursting we again made the climb up to the Holly Bush Inn to sample more of their liquid fayre. It is a pub perfect for meeting people and spending an evening in friendly banter. We got on so well with the locals that we were treated to several drinks and of course, had to reciprocate.  It was rather late when we left for the comfort of our pillows, and we slept very soundly.

Jim and I were first into breakfast at 8 am, the other two joined us about half an hour later. We had checked out of the hotel by half past ten and were driving over the moors under a gloriously sunny sky to the once-mining village of Eastwood. Here we visited the DH Lawrence Museum, an authentically recreated miner’s cottage and the birthplace of world-renowned Nottinghamshire author D.H. Lawrence. Sue and I had visited it before, and I thought the guys would enjoy it also. After watching a video on his early life, we roamed the rooms at our leisure reminiscing on the decorations, fitments and equipment that we remembered from our childhoods. We finished our visit to Eastwood with coffee in the little cafe across the road.

It was whilst paying for the museum entrance tickets that Sean discovered that he was still in possession of his hotel room key. Instead of heading directly south back to Harborough, we diverted to the hotel and dropped the key off first. We were home by 1.30 pm.

Sarah and

Sleepy Harry

On the 24th Sue and I met Joan and Phil in Oakham. It was their first visit to the UK since before the start of Covid-19. The pandemic had been traumatic for them both as Phil was diagnosed with bowel cancer soon after its start, but thankfully due to the efficiency of the Italian health service, he pulled through and has since been declared clear. We picked them up outside their rented accommodation in the centre of the town and drove to the Old Buttercross, an estate pub on the outskirts for lunch. Both Sue and I were quite surprised at how well Phil looked, he had been very ill and we expected the worst but we both agreed he was looking fitter than before his illness. After a pleasant meal, we relocated to their rather plush apartment for coffee and a chat before we had to leave to attend to Harry who we had left at home.

The following Friday, we attended a showing of the film JoJo Rabbit, a  comedy-drama film adapted from Christine Leunens’s 2008 book Caging Skies, at Harborough Cinema Club. It portrays, Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, a ten-year-old Hitler Youth member who finds out that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. It is excellent entertainment, deliciously dark in its humour and quite thought-provoking. In the not-too-distant future, I hope to see a similar film being made with an equally comical Vladimir Putin substituted after his demise and failure at subjugating the free world.

Alice looking cute.

Charlotte and Suraj collected Harry from our care the following afternoon. They had flown back from the Dominican Republic earlier that morning but needed a short nap at home and a spot of food shopping before picking up their pet.  Lucas and Ellis were still asleep at home, exhausted from the long-haul flight. They had stayed awhile and chatted about some of the activities they had got up to, it certainly seemed to have done them a lot of good, they looked much more relaxed than when they left two weeks ago.

The following morning I woke to discover I had received an email from Trainline informing me that due to an ongoing rail strike, the train I had booked on the 12th Nov. to Twickenham to watch England take on Japan had been cancelled. Several exasperating phone calls to Trainline and Midland Mainline and a visit to Harborough train station ended with me cancelling the train tickets and rebooking with the journey starting from Northampton. After four hours of trying to find a solution to a problem of not our making, explaining endlessly to Indian call centres who refused to deviate from the script and help, patience and nerves came close to breaking. It was suggestions from my five compatriots who will be accompanying me which led to the solution. We are now left with the problem of getting to and from Northampton train station, assuming of course that train doesn’t get cancelled.

As I was having breakfast at 7.30 am on the 2nd of November,  I received a phone call that no parent wants to have. It was from Jamie, he was in a lot of pain and told me had just been involved in a car crash. I quickly ascertained where he was, got dressed and drove through early morning rush hour traffic towards Church Langton. As I reached the Langton Road I pulled over to let an ambulance with siren and lights flashing pass. It was reassurance that I was heading in the right direction, but dread at what I might find. Within a quarter of a mile, I could see a group of emergency vehicles and pulled up in front of a police car parked across the crossroad, diverting traffic left and right. Informing the officer that my son was involved, he allowed me to park alongside and I trotted the 100m to the scene of the accident. Jamie was already lying in the ambulance and the paramedics were busy in a discussion. To my surprise, Jamie’s Meat Link boss stopped me and thrust my son’s wallet into my hand.  Not recognising him, I said thank you and pushed him aside to get into the ambulance. He seemed unharmed but when I touched his hand to assure him I had arrived he screamed out in pain.

There were four vehicles involved, but the greatest damage was to Jamie’s Audi and a pick-up truck. It had been a head-on impact and the front of each vehicle had been destroyed. How anyone had survived was a miracle and down to the safety features of modern cars. Jamie said he remembers two huge bangs, checking whether he could feel his legs, then crawling out of his car, standing up, walking a little way then collapsing with pain. Jamie was the only one injured enough to warrant the attention of the paramedics. After checking which hospital the ambulance was going to, I waited for it to leave and then followed, stopping briefly to fill an empty fuel tank.

Providentially, as I arrived at Kettering Hospital, Ruth arrived and parked her car alongside mine. We found our way to A&E and discovered Jamie lying in a small room reserved for ambulance arrivals. He complained of pain in his wrist, lower back and leg. We waited with him until the doctor came and checked him over, she sent him for an x-ray. We waited in the room until he returned and a little while later the doctor returned and told us that the wrist didn’t look broken, but there was a fracture of one of the vertebrae in the lower spine. He would require a scan to see how bad it was. Not long after, he accompanied him as he was transferred to a trauma ward and given painkillers. There he was moved onto a special mattress to ease the pressure on his spine and we waited.

Late in the afternoon, Ruth left to collect Joey from school and I went too, returning at 6 pm after having tea at home. Meanwhile, Jamie had been moved to Barnwell Ward to await his scan.  Due to Covid restrictions, and hospital regulations permitting just one visit by one person each day, I was lucky to be admitted into the ward as a lady who came in with me was sent away. He hadn’t had a scan and had to wait until the following morning for it to happen. I brought him some headphones for his iPhone that I had collected from Charlotte on my way into the hospital. He was still in a lot of pain, and the painkillers were making him very drowsy, by 7.30 pm he couldn’t stay awake and asked me to go and let him sleep.

The scan was done the following morning and we had to wait until it had been seen by the specialists at Leicester Royal Hospital. The diagnosis was not good. His wrist was broken and he would require surgery on his spine. Much later in the day, there was a change of plan and it was decided that due to his age, they would scan him again the following morning to see if the tissue and ligaments in the lumbar area were sufficiently intact to hold the spine in place. If they were, they would provide a special back brace. Sue visited him that evening and though very drowsy he seemed more positive.

After the next scan, it was decided not to operate and later in the day he was given a back brace to wear whilst in bed. His mood continued to improve. Ruth visited, taking him a bag of items that he had requested from home.

Saturday (5th Nov) was a huge day of rugby and appropriately it being Guy Fawkes night there was plenty of fireworks both on the pitch and around the various bonfires throughout the country. With Jamie still in the hospital, Sue and I remained at home, just in case we were needed. The day for me began at 3 am when I woke to watch the Women’s England Rugby Union Team narrowly beat a strong Canadian side down under in New Zealand. At 6.30 am I was still awake to watch a very entertaining game where New Zealand was fortunate to beat France in the same world cup competition. During the afternoon I continued to sit resolutely on the sofa and watch several games of the Rugby League World Cup currently taking place in the UK. Satisfyingly, both the England men’s and women’s teams easily beat their opposition.

In between sofa surfing and rugby matches, first Sarah and Alice arrived, quickly followed by Charlotte and Ellis. They were meeting up to do some shopping together in Harborough followed by lunch at a pub in Great Bowden.  They stayed for an hour or so to chat and enjoy the warmth of our wood burner on a day that was damp and chilly. After lunch, little Alice stayed with Charlotte in Rothwell while Sarah went to see Jamie during the afternoon strictly controlled visiting session.

I visted on Sunday evening, and as requested I took my old electric shaver. I haven’t used it for at least twenty years and Jamie wasn’t impressed with its performance and promptly ordered a new one on-line. I also gave him a copy of the Sunday Times which hopefully there will be sufficient volume of interesting reading matter in it various supplements to keep hm occupied for a few days. Though still in quite a lot of back and leg pain he was optimistically hoping to be discharged home on Monday, but the doctors and physio discounted that as an option. They are concerned that the pain is being caused by a pinched nerve and an operation may still be a way forward. However, he was very pleased that on Monday morning he managed to walk the length of the corridor and back. I think recovery will take its own time.




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