After returning from Bussage we had two weeks before setting off for Turkey. We made the most of the time, visiting family and several friends.
On Tuesday 19th April we spent the day in Slough, taking flowers to the cemetery where Sandie’s parents are buried, and having lunch with Sarah and Tami, former colleagues from NFER. The next day Robin and Margaret came to dinner. The following week Sandie had lunch with Anne and Annette, and we did a pub walk with Caroline. Lesley and Dougal came for a meeting of our ERA consortium.
There were just two days – coincidentally, both Thursdays – when we had no other commitments, and went for long walks in the country. The first one was from Stokenchurch; the weather was grey and cool when we set off, but later the sun came out and it was quite warm. We saw lots of bluebells, spring lambs and several pheasants. We had coffee at a very nice pub in Ibstone, and later drinks sitting outside a pub in the picturesque village of Turville, which has been used in many films and TV shows.
The second walk started in Old Amersham. Luckily it was sunny that day, although there was quite a stiff breeze much of the time. Once again we saw lots of spring flowers: woods carpeted with bluebells, as well as daffodils, narcissi, may blossom, fields of rape… and (in people’s gardens) tulips, cherry blossom and magnolia trees. Definitely springtime in England! We heard birds singing all the time, and at one point a deer ran across our path.
We had Charlie and Oscar to stay with us for the weekend 22nd – 24th April, while Claire was on one of her work trips to Dubai. On the Saturday we took them up to London for the day. We spent some time at the Tower of London; we had a tour led by a Beefeater, and especially enjoyed a performance of various historical events given by a group of actors at different locations around the Tower grounds. We then went on to the Monument, where we climbed the 311 steps – the boys going much faster than us. We looked at other places associated with the Great Fire (which Charlie is studying at school) and ended up at the Museum of London.
The following Friday we picked up another rental car and headed north to visit Paul and Alexa in Bury, Lancs. That morning Paul had put a message on Facebook, asking if our car had snow tires! There was a picture of the houses opposite his, covered in snow. On our way north we stopped at Redditch, where our friends Jenny and David live. We had a delicious lunch in their sunny conservatory, and caught up on news from the past three years, since we’d seen them last.
After leaving Redditch we got stuck in several traffic jams, and did not arrive in Bury until 8pm. It was our first visit to Paul and Alexa’s home. The snow had vanished but it was still very cold. We were welcomed with prosecco and later given a very tasty meal – we did well that day for being waited on! Next morning we walked to the local park and then drove to the town of Ramsbottom. We climbed to the tower at the top of Holcombe Hill – there was still a patch of snow on the grass. We visited a coffee shop and later a smart pub outside the town. In the evening Paul and Alexa took us to their favourite restaurant (Indian, vegetarian) for a lovely dinner. Afterwards we played Oh, hell! (card game) – a Schagen family tradition.
We had to leave early next day, as they had another commitment, so we returned home by a different route, in order to visit friends in Loughborough. We crossed the Peak District, but the scenery was rather spoiled by the heavy clouds and occasional rain. It was cold too – we saw lots of heavily-clad walkers, and Sandie kept thinking that she should not need fur-lined boots in May. We had a pub lunch with Jacqui and Roger, and later drove home, thus completing a massive circle – OK, an irregular oval – since leaving on Friday morning.
As Monday 2nd May was a Bank Holiday, we were able to visit Andrew and his family in Faversham. We strolled around the town and down by the Creek, and had another pub lunch. As we had to wait some time for the food to arrive, Andrew produced a pack of cards and we all played Oh, hell! again. We were pleased to see that Hope (11) and Isobel (8) are already getting good at it. When approached by a man from the next table, we thought he was going to complain about our shouts and laughter, but he just wanted to know which game was causing so much fun.
It’s less than three weeks since we returned from Florida, and we’ve been lucky to see so many people. We’d like to thank them all for their hospitality!