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Monday, 30 October 2017

Last stages....

After a pleasant stroll towards Old Sarum at twilight, we were surprised by a clear and hoar-frosty dawn. Inspired (on my part) by Cat's aim of viewing 30 sunrises from atop a high place before she reaches the age of 30, we set off through the frosty grass to climb the ancient mound of Old Sarum again, this time with photos in mind.

It was beautiful. The mound itself is intriguing - a Norman castle sat atop after the Conquest, taking over an old Saxon stronghold which itself was built on an Iron Age fort, constructed around 400 BC before being taken over by the Romans. English Heritage says: "Old Sarum is one of the most enthralling and historically important sites in southern England. Uniquely, it combines a royal castle and cathedral within an Iron Age fortification, and for 150 years was a major centre of both secular and ecclesiastical government. Neither castle nor cathedral was occupied for long: in 1226 the cathedral was moved to Salisbury, although the castle remained an administrative centre into the 14th century. Old Sarum lived on, however, as a notorious ‘rotten borough’ which continued to elect members of Parliament until 1832."

William the Conquerer had it as his base, holding a great oathing ceremony where he demanded fealty from all the powerful men of the realm. Later, it became a centre for the Plantagenets; Eleanor of Aquitaine was imprisoned there for a time (for inciting her sons to rebel against their father...); and a great cathedral was built there in 1075 before it was moved to Salisbury in the1220s.

Apart from the history, Old Sarum provided a wealth of wonderful photo opportunities...beautiful views of Salisbury plain...

It felt, though, as if we were definitely winding down towards home. We drove off to Poole, stopping for lunch at a quaint thatched pub in Wimborne, before finally catching the ferry.

We had been delayed for a day as the Liberation, the new fast ferry which usually plied the Channel route, had suffered damage so all crossings were cancelled. Instead, the boat which used to serve the route but now goes to St Malo instead, was pressed back into service (much to the disgust of those friends who had their French holiday cut short). We were two hours early, but were still the very last to be loaded on. There were so many cars, which took an unconscionably long time to load, that we were hugely relieved to get onboard. We took up the very last space, just fitting in before the ramps were lifted up. Pickle was not amused by neither the long wait to board, nor being Left Alone In The Motor Home.

It's a dog's life, that's for sure.

So... good to be back in Guernsey.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Friends, fun...

It was a gift to have an extra day with Phil and Judy. We laughed and chatted, watched reruns of The Good Life, laughing hysterically, and were thoroughly spoilt with marvellous meals.

Pickle was COMPLETELY spoilt, commanding Judy's undivided attention. The expressions on both their faces were quite wonderful...
It was such a wonderful stay, and we were very sad to leave...but we were on our way to see dear Ann, a close friend for the last 36 years, since first met en route to Kenya.... We've kept in touch, phoned, met up, with others, for weekends and holidays, staying up through the night to talk, and talk... Ann has spoken truth into my life for so many years: her friendship is a wonderful gift. She is completely beautiful, so loving and kind and incredibly full of faith: all in the face of a particularly cruel cancer which is slowly and inexorably draining her life away...

Fittingly, the day was grey and rainy, continuing so all afternoon and evening. (It matched Pickle's mood: she was confined to the motorhome for most of the visit, apart from one wet walk. Ann's family are now proud owners of a young labrador mixture with strong hints of Rottweiler. As Pickle doesn't associate happily with other dogs, so we kept them completely separate.) Yet Ann's joyous spirit and wry sense of humour shine as brightly as ever, despite her debilitation.  Her devoted husband Richard is the most wonderful man: calm, with a delightful sense of humour; daughter Stephanie kind and caring. How can a visit be so swirled together with sadness and joy and grief and laughter...?

We ended up staying through the evening, sleeping in the motorhome on the drive overnight. At least, some of us did: Pickle had several panic attacks. Every time there was a loud noise - and there were many, mainly fireworks, as November 5th looms - she jumped up, started hyperventilating and scrabbling around, trying to find some safe hole to crawl into.  Poor thing. She really needs earplugs...
Early in the morning, after yet another round of thanks and goodbyes, we drove south. The day was bright and clear. A stop for a walk, a meal at a pub, one or two detours where we failed to read the satnav properly, and a final drive across Salisbury Plain towards the setting sun, and we arrived at the Camping and Caravanning site next to Old Sarum, on the edge of Salisbury.
Autumn walk before lunch, near Worcester

Mistletoe tree

Salisbury plain

We misread the SatNav in Marlborough, but were rewarded with a fine view of the town centre...
I sit, contemplating road signs. We have seen signs warning us of tractors tipping over; of cars slipping on the 'slip road'; deer, of course; frogs crossing the road; and, finally, as we drive past the large army camps on Salisbury Plain: tanks crossing our path.  Wish I'd managed to catch snaps of each of those strange signs in the red warning triangles....

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Onwards to Lincoln, Lincolnshire and more Patterdale encounters

Early morning brought star-lit skies, calling owls and then the crowing of a rooster. We left the motorhome for its annual service, chilling on sofas with cup of coffee before venturing out on the bikes into Lincoln.

Lunch down by the river Wray, before cycling a little way along the Fossdyke and then back up into the centre. Lincoln is a beautiful city, and we never tire of walking up Steep Hill with its quirky buildings and shops, emerging, breathless, before the magnificent cathedral.

The motorhome service  finished a little later than we would have wished, but after a quick visit to Tesco for essentials we were on our way to stay with Phil and Judy in North Lincolnshire near Doncaster.

What joy. Not only are they are such dear friends, but Pickle was ecstatic. As soon as she heard Judy’s voice, she barrelled off to greet her for the biggest love–fest Pickle had experienced since...the last time she was with Judy. A Mutual Admiration Society at its best. The completely smug expression on Pickle’s face was a sight to behold...

 Westwoodside lies on the edge of Haxey  – an alternative to the Saxon Axholme (from Axelholme) which means “village by a pond on an island in a river”. The land falls away on either side to ‘warped land’ – marsh or wet pasture, flooded in winter, which surrounds the island and was drained over three centuries ago by Cornelius Vermuylen, who was responsible for draining the fens in southern Lincolnshire. Big skies, vast landscapes, unexpected corners of copse and brushwood. It never fails to fascinate: seeing the sign on approach feels like coming home.
We cycled out together, passing crab apples and rose hips, rowan trees and maize-stalked fields, long-since harvested. We wound our way through Wroot, where John Wesley was once curate, revisiting Epworth, home of the Wesley family.

On a previous visit, two and a half years ago, we explored the church and had a guided tour of the rectory, where Susanna Wesley brought up her children, teaching and tutoring them in Greek and Latin, in addition to all the usual subjects. Clever lady. I had been most interested in seeing the kitchen, after reading that, when she wanted to pray, she would signal the children that she should not be disturbed by putting her apron over her face and head. However, we heard little of the tour guide’s explanations: as we descended the garret stairs to the scullery, Andy rang ‘from Vanuatu’, asking our approval to ‘court’ out daughter, Cat. This has gone into family folklore and the rest, as they say, is indeed family history.

So we have found memories of Epworth. We made our way to a tiny cafe – ‘Tea For Two’  - and sat outside in the courtyard, next to a lovely florist’s.

Pickle was a SENSATION. The lady serving our coffee immediately recognised her as a Patterdale!  So fantastic to be in the North of England where Patterdales Are Recognised.  (in the south, in Guernsey, in the rest of Europe... Pickle is just a mongrel, a mixed breed, a  mutt, a shenzi (Kiswahili for mongrel), a Small Black Dog of Indeterminate Breeding.)

Patterdale ownership was a different story here. Our Patterdale HATES CANINES. With A Vengeance. The North Lincolnshire Patterdale was, generally, sweet-natured, loving people... though the Lakeland Terrier/Patterdale cross sounded VERY similar to Pickle. Still, Pickle knows her manners, charming her way to a free biscuit, garnering a lot of fuss and admiration.

Our journey back home led us through Haxey, past the church and up past the field where the Haxey Hood takes place every year. This is a raucous festival, steeped in tradition and possibly the oldest such in the country, dating from the fourteenth century. The Haxey Hood – a leather tube – is pushed down the hill by an enormous scrum of other villagers and sundry other bods. Teams compete to sway the Hood to one of the four local pubs in the parish in a competition involving a huge amount of pushing and shoving. The game ends when the landlord can touch the Hood... which then remains at the pub until the next Haxey Hood, which happens on the 6th January every year. One way of keeping warm in the cold winter days... Sounds a bit like Cheese Rolling combined with Rugby football, after the imbibing of rather a lot of local ale....

Hmmm.  Fascinating. I think. Drunken revelry has never particularly been my thing...

A warm grey day turned into a cold night and brilliantly clear dawn. (Not that we saw the dawn... Pickle had suffered from a panic attack in the early hours, on hearing a couple of shots from a 0.22 rifle in a nearby field... She woke me up, standing on the front seats, hyperventilating and trying desperately to claw her way up on to the bed and safety. However, even when I succumbed and hoicked her up, she then tried to scrabble the duvet  away, only calming down when I remembered that she appreciated being zipped up into her travel kennel.

She has been rather tired today, especially after a beautiful sunshiney walk through the countryside. Big sky country indeed.

The afternoon was spent on the motorway up to North Yorkshire and back again, in the successful quest for an LPG gas cylinder, useful for further exploration on the Continent where gas connections can vary and be difficult.

Pickle and I love driving up and down a crowded, congested motorway.  Anyway, we got the errand done and it was a beautiful day with views of the North York moors....and then we were back, once again, for a truly wonderful time of being with Phil and Judy.  Dear friends who are family.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Seafaring shenanigans, fun with friends and other October half term adventures.

Pickle had only just got herself out of the habit of scurrying into the motor home as soon as the door opened, when it was time to go off again. As we did last year, we took the vehicle over to England for its annual service in Lincoln, combining the trip with visits to friends.

Packing up is always a bit of a challenge.  Despite check lists in duplicate and triplicate, there is still a large element of ‘What Did We Do Last Time?’ and ‘I Forgot The.....(fill in the blank)’  The Checklist is written in paragraphs at the moment, and I’m not feeling it.  When I get home, it will undergo forced conversion to A Table, so it is easier to skim read down and check off what we have already put in the motorhome.  Indeed, I think I’ll create several columns: Kept Onboard or Remove From... and put in the name of the room/cupboard. 

Numbers of towels would be useful, too. I usually put in too many of one kind and not enough of another. Not that it really matters... as long as everything fits in, we really are snails carrying our homes on our backs.

So packing was relaxed this time. We’re only going over for a week, mainly to get the motorhome serviced but also to see Phil and Judy (Adele’s parents) and collect Jonny’s surfboards for safekeeping. Not that they wouldn’t keep them safe... but at least he can use them in Guernsey, whereas surfing opportunities near North Lincolnshire are, at best, very limited. If not just about impossible. We also wanted to fit in visits to Catherine in Shropshire and Ann in Bolton... close, close friends from volunteering in Kenya days.

So not as much as last year, when we managed to fit in visits to 9 different groups of friends and family in 5 days...

The bonus this time was journeying over to Portsmouth with our dear friends from Tanzania, Byron and Lisa. We have been friends as couples for 32 years...They had graciously come over to visit us in Guernsey for a long weekend. en route to the annual 24-7 prayer gathering which was, this year, taking place in Birmingham. Having lived in Arusha for 10 years, developing an off-road vehicle to help small farmers get their produce to market, among other wonderful small enterprises, they are a continued blessing to many. And now that Jonny and Adele are teaching in a school nearby, there are many opportunities to visit ‘Uncle Byron and Aunt Lisa’. That we are grateful for this friendship is a massive understatement.

So, after days of talking and laughing, we all survived a choppy crossing in the aftermath of Storm Brian. Negotiating our way out of Portsmouth was hampered by Horse the SatNav’s repeated refusal to recognise that we HAD arrived in Portsmouth. We almost went round in circles....

Then, breakfast and a few coffees later, we navigated our way to Newlands Corner, near Guildford. Lisa and her family had often driven their own campervan up there for picnics, so she was keen to relive childhood memories. Alas, the day was misty, mizzly and foggy: but it didn’t deter us from taking a short walk down the hill and a wander round the visitor’s centre, watching fearless coal tits flitting around the bird feeders.

Finally, off to Shalford, where we met Trevor and Karly. Pickle was THRILLED. She had never met them before, but knew that any friend of Jonny’s (and ours) would be a friend of hers for life.  A bonus was that, while waiting at the railway station, a fast train went through, eliciting canine astonishment and a few defiant barks.

It was sad to say goodbye to Byron and Lisa, sad to have to leave as soon as Trevor and Karly arrived but, to paraphrase Robert Frost:
“Our friends are leaving: we must weep,   
But we have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before we sleep,   
And miles to go before we sleep.”

It was indeed miles and miles. Traffic in England never ceases to take us by surprise in its density and ferocity, and our journey north to Shrewsbury was no exception. Traffic jams on the M25 and M40 stretched our three hour journey to four and a half hours. Pickle slept resignedly, head on paws, the occasional daydream, through it all...

Stunning sunset coming into Shrewsbury
...only to meet Ozzie the Miniature Schnauzer at the other end. They stayed at each other down a long hallway while the ‘stand off’ music from High Noon played in the background, before their supporters – aka the adult humans – dragged them away. Pickle enjoyed a quiet evening alone in the motorhome while Catherine, Christian, Richard and I caught up on some of the life-changing events from the past couple of years and our present challenges.
Ebenezer Scrooge's 'grave' - put in for the film made in 1984 #seemslikealongtimeago  #notreally

The emblem of St Chad's  - the blue represents the River Severn's extreme meander around Shrewsbury

Percy Thrower, master gardener and TV presenter, precursor to all other media gardeners #celebrity

St Chad's, one of only three 'round' churches in the country, consecrated in 1792 or thereabouts...

Unusual pulpit. The columns were iron. #ThomasTelford'sinfluence

Stained glass: imitation Rubens

St Chad's from The Quarry - the park.
Lime trees by the river - the avenue is hundreds of years old

The Dingle, in the Quarry - the park

Aphrodite in the gardens

A resident night heron!

A stroll around parts of Shrewsbury with Catherine the next morning, then we were off again: this time to Lincoln, to have the motorhome serviced the day after. We have stayed at CamperUK Leisure Park before: a well-organised motorhome/caravan park in rural Lincolnshire, with a pond inhabited by Shrieking Eels. Well, they are probably just huge, very tame bass rather than the monstrous water creature from The Princess Bride by William Goldman, but they swim up to the shore in the hope of food as soon as anyone approaches the water’s edge, jostling and fighting to get into position.

Pickle was not impressed, but then, she IS a Patterdale terrier.  The site manager – an extremely friendly Lancashireman – took one look at her and pronounced her heritage, although he referred to her as possibly a Patterdale cross.  “Only dog I ever failed to train,” he said, almost proudly. “Wilful. Headstrong. Eyes up other dogs and goes for them as they go past. All mouthy, too: grabs them round the mouth but never really catches on, does it without hurting them. Untrainable.” Then he added, thoughtfully: "Embarrassing, too, when you walk past other dogs. Just have to ignore it and pretend the aggression isn't happening."

We know EXACTLY how it feels, yet it was oddly reassuring. He described Pickle’s behaviour PERFECTLY. It has never ceased to amaze us that, despite ferocious growling and grabbing Howie the Boston’s loose jowls with narrow, sharp, pointed teeth, Pickle has never inflicted any harm on her Best Friend and Playmate.

This was, also, the first time anyone had ever recognized Pickle’s heritage, although those familiar with Patterdales had agreed, somewhat thoughtfully, that, yes, she probably was a Patterdale...

So there we are. Mystery of Pickle’s ancestry solved with a visit to Lincolnshire. Who would have thought it?