Train strain.

The return to Somerset was pretty uncomfortable on an overcrowded train (is there any other kind in the UK these days?). No space for luggage, no space for passengers (or their long suffering dogs), and no buffet (unless you were prepared to trample over the people forced to sit on the floor); the heating however, was working. “Aha,” I hear my regular reader exclaim “result, given the current plunging temperatures outside”. “Not so,” say I “when the heating continues to blast out despite optimum temperature having been reached about ten degrees ago”. I texted an SOS to K to bring large amounts of water with her to the station for my arrival, severe dehydration was kicking in after three and a half hours in cattle class.

At some point in the journey several of us debated why, given the constant overcrowding of trains, extra coaches are not added to services and came to the conclusion that it is because the cost of additional rolling stock might adversely affect the annual profits and bonuses the train moguls’ so desperately need. Magnanimous plebeians that we are, we accept their need for additional millions each year (those tropical hideaways, nuclear/biological bunkers and global warming stockpiles don’t come cheap, you know) … and we sent our sincere thanks to the aforementioned moguls for a journey unusually delayed by mere minutes not hours.

 

The journey did sort of dull the shine from what otherwise had been an extremely pleasant few days with BB aboard the Blue Buzzard. We visited the Denby factory near Derby, shopped in Sutton Coldfield and tasted a few wines and gin at a local (to Fazely) vineyard/distillery. Unfortunately we visited the Denby factory the day after I’d bought a couple of bottles of the rather lovely vineyard product, and there I bought some of Denby’s rather lovely dinnerware products for R0X1 (well I have to make it up to her that I considered selling her). So I was unable to fit everything in my suitcase and be able to lift it.

I’m sure, dear regular reader, that you will be shocked to find out that it was the vineyard product that was left behind … not sure what came over me, I might have to find a vineyard round here …

🙂 🙂 🙂

 

Candles and Carriages

Hopefully like his intialssake, BB enjoyed his one hundred and eleventh  seventy-fifth birthday party – well he certainly had enough celebrations; an early one with friends, a lunch actually on THE day and then the BBQ a few days later. Hopefully he won’t do a post-party vanishing act like Mr Baggins.

 

 

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Back in Hurst we had a family day out to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton Road station, a former Metropolitan line overground underground station, now a museum. There is still one main line track operating a couple of freight trains a day but according to the Smart One this is about to change. The old line is being restored/upgraded and in places totally rebuilt to re-establish the old east – west line which, it is hoped, will ease congestion at London terminals by saving passengers having to travel south and then north to get east or west! (Shame Dr Beeching cannot be posthumously fined for unnecessary rail closures and costs charged for reintroduction.)

 

 

The Smart One, who by the way now wears the same size shoes as I do (he has been warned that my high heels are not for borrowing), had a great time explaining all the east-west business and other railway trivia …

 

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as the daughter and grandmother of steam railway fanatics, some of it must’ve rubbed off; I had a great time too …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Percys and Frogs

It’s been a hectic few days. The Percys were observed shooting through, old friends were visited, Mandy, Paul and Dan, lovely to see you again after so long, and new campals were made in Barry, Anne and Sue. (Don’t believe anything any health professional tells you about recommended weekly units of alcohol, we keep the number low so that there’s plenty left on the shelves for us to purchase.) We were well into the wine when we discovered the reason we were all getting on so brilliantly had nothing to do with alcohol; Barry – GP; Anne (Barry’s wife) – Nurse; Sue – Nurse; Maggie – Nurse. Finally, on Monday evening LWD and I pitched up at BBs.

Sadly BB lost Sam, springer 13 yrs, a couple of weeks ago to kidney failure and I was a bit concerned how Sally, springer 12yrs, would react to being on her own with LWD. Sally has never been Daisy’s biggest fan, Sam and Daize always hit it off but Daize is usually a bit too excitable for Sal, however they’ve been brilliant together this past couple of days. LWD, which may be bit of a misnomer for her now, she’s developing more and more apricot patches as she matures (I use that term advisedly), first came across Frogs in France in May (who said “where else”?). She was somewhat startled but fascinated by them jumping. Here at the marina she’s not sure what to do with the plethora of Frogs jumping across the path during her evening walk but at least she doesn’t seem at all interested in eating their legs!

I asked BB if he could sort out my 12v electricity. The 12v feed is up near the ceiling and requires me to use a stool to reach the socket, the inverter has to sit on top of a cupboard which also requires me to stand on a stool to plug in an extension lead which then drapes untidily (and for any elves reading this, unsafely) from back to front of the van. I envisaged BB running cable from the 12v feed up, across the ceiling and forward to the desired spot with a socket at the end. Would he do that? Oh no … he, retired electrical whizz that he is … has wired directly from the leisure battery discretely under the floor to the inverter, now neatly tucked away out of sight, and at the mere flick of a fused switch, 12v comes into play when I’m off grid. I neither plug nor unplug anything and I don’t have to use a stool, and for that I will forgive him for dragging me all the way up to a chandlery near Nantwich, which had none of what he needed but just happened to be only a mile away from Snugburys ice cream shop (my regular reader may remember BB’s devotion to Snugburys ice cream from a previous post), only to find every electrical thingie he needed in a chandlery he’d “forgotten all about” not 10 miles away – I’m not a suspicious person but …

… mine was vanilla, sloe gin and damson (1 scoop) his was amaretto (2 scoops) and four tubs for the freezer!!) Yum.

Thank you so much BB

and

Happy Birthday

😂 😂 😂

Ominous signs

Leaving the car park in R0X1 I encountered a couple of problems. Having removed the weeks rubbish, the dustbin lorry had created a worse mess by removing a large branch from a tree and driving off leaving said branch blocking the width of the drive. I managed to manoeuvre the branch alongside the kerb and girl power ruled with Christine, next door neighbour, holding it back out of the way whilst I drove through the gap. I turned into the lane and drove a couple of hundred more yards only to discover White Van Man had parked directly opposite an already parked car, leaving insufficient space for R0X to pass between them. Whilst I waited for WVM to unobstruct the road I pondered whether these might be inauspicious signs given the morning’s destination. R0X1 was on her way for service, habitation check and her first MOT. I’d already had to SORN her because I didn’t realise that despite me paying by direct debit, the DVLA did not automatically renew the car tax as the MOT was overdue and had indeed already issued a fixed penalty fine. (But yet I could delay the MOT without penalty until I got back from France … how does that make sense?) Did all these ominous signs mean she was about to fail at the first hurdle?

Thankfully there were no real problems at the garage, except for the size of the bill which admittedly did include new brake pads, and ROX1 is once again legal and taxed.

fullsizeoutput_33a6Proud holder of her first MOT certificate

So we can leave on Monday for a week’s family holiday in Nth Devon and then I’m on up to BB to celebrate the golden jubilee of his silver jubilee with him.

[Key for non-UK citizens;

DVLA – Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency

MOT –   Ministry of Transport test

SORN – Statutory Off Road Notice

WVM –  White Van Man]

🙂 🙂 🙂

 

You say Ow and I say Oh

BB’s latest wind up attempt is to insist Millau is pronounced Meel-ow and correct me every time I call it Meel-oh. Am I bovvered? I’m here and it’s so deliciously sunny and very warm even the French are wearing sandals!

The night before we left the last campsite, on a very dark last thing walk, Daisy had her first encounter with a toad, least I think it was a toad, it was far too fat for a frog. Every time she tried to sniff it, it jumped. It couldn’t jump very high or far, but every time it jumped, she jumped. It was all I could do to hang on to the lead I was laughing so much, she had her head cocked to one side trying to work it out.

Wonderful two day drive down the beautiful Lot valley stopping at an Aire for one night, where on our late evening walk Daisy was intrigued by a glowworm but didn’t bother to sniff it. I called in at a couple of those “plus beaux villages de France”, jigsaws of which inspired this part of the trip…

Conques

Estaing

Then I cut across to Rodez as there’s apparently a very beautiful cathedral there. Arriving at the outskirts I decided to forego the delights, I wasn’t expecting such a large place so just kept going and headed towards one of my favourite towns …

We’re settled once more on 2Rivieres campsite in Millau (3rd visit) beside the Tarn for a couple of nights so I can do some laundry (well that’s my excuse) and then we shall mosey on up the gorge.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Another Midlands Meander

Just had a great long weekend at Kings Bromley Wharf where BB is in fine fettle.

We took a car trip up to Bakewell, prettyish but very touristy. The drive up was much more enjoyable through some very beautiful hills and dales. We bought some traditional Bakewell tarts and were rather disappointed – they had been glazed with honey which totally overpowered the almond and raspberry flavours. However there is still hope and another chance to restore our faith in local bakeries; after we’d bought these defective Bakewells we noticed the original Bakewell Pudding Factory. We’ll have to go back and check out their contribution to culinary excellence. We drove back via Matlock Bath but couldn’t find a car parking space so that’s on the revisit list too – it looks far more interesting than Bakewell!

The Peak District

The next day we took a boat trip to Rugely – now unless you’re BB and want a long trip to the supermarket, Rugely should never feature on your revisit list. But then the trip wasn’t about Rugely, it was about having a trip out on the cut in fine spring weather. It was the LWD’s first time on the boat when Blue Buzzard’s underway and she was a very nervous pup, shaking like crazy – or as she was sitting on the roof with my arms around her, it could’ve been just a ruse for extra cuddles!

Spring as viewed from the cut

We bade BB bye-bye for three months this morning, as the Mended One is now able to drive and I’m allowed out to play a month early … Dover-Calais ferry is booked for May 1st!

🙂 🙂 🙂

National Memorial Arboretum

Another Midlands meander found me at Kings Bromley marina for the second time. BB was on good form if a little distracted by a lump he’d found on Sam, the older of his two elderly springers. Luckily the vet reassured him today that the lump is merely fat – and we all breathe again. Live long and prosper Sam!

On Saturday BB took me to the National Memorial Arboretum where those from the all the armed forces who since 1945, did not live long enough in the service of the nation to prosper, are remembered. It is not a place of burial. The main memorial and wall where all the names of those who have died on duty since the end of WW2 are carved, including our cousin who died in Aden in 1968, is central to the complex. I was absolutely staggered to find out that there are over 16,000 names inscribed.

Amongst the many trees planted in memory of individuals are many more memorials, to ships lost, regiments both RAF and Army, medics and nurses, and divisions and organisations too numerous to mention.

For me, apart from the central, there were two memorials I found most meaningful.

The R.E.M.E. memorial, flanked on one side by a bronze plaque of the original badge, which my father as one of the first members of the regiment wore and on the other by a plaque of the current badge worn by two of my brothers and our previously mentioned cousin, George.

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The one which moved me nearly to tears was the memorial to those Shot at Dawn. 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers who deserted the trenches in WW1, most of them probably suffering from post traumatic stress, were court martialled, found guilty, tied to posts and shot at dawn …

All were finally posthumously pardoned in 2006.

It is a beautiful place, well worth visiting.

🙂 🙂 🙂