After the boys left, we had four days before setting off on our travels again. We had an ERA meeting and did some related work. Then we were off – not abroad this time, but to visit family and friends in England. An invitation to a silver wedding party meant that we needed to hire a car, and then we started thinking about other people we could visit in roughly the same area. It ended up almost as a challenge – how many friends and relatives could we see in a week?
Friday 4 August
Ian collected the rental car and we headed west. We stopped in Moreton in Marsh for lunch and to look at the charity shops. Then on to Evesham, to visit our friends Brenda and Phil. The weather was good, and it was Phil’s birthday on Saturday, so we began with birthday cake in the garden. Later Phil showed us his elaborate railway set, and Brenda her set of bell plates – something we’d never even heard of before. Some of her friends came for a rehearsal, but we missed this as Phil took us out for a walk – along the river Avon and back via the pub!
From Evesham we drove down to Bussage (near Stroud) to visit Maggi and Phil. We’d planned to stay at Claire’s on Sunday, but Maggi and Phil were going to be away, so we did a detour to see them, and their new house, on Saturday. Claire and the boys arrived at the same time as us (their house is only five minutes’ walk away) and Maggi did a lovely lunch for seven.
In the afternoon we drove down to Purton (near West Swindon, where we lived thirty years ago) and checked into an apartment for the night. It was very comfortable – more like a small bungalow! After changing into our glad rags, we walked down to the church for Liz and Dave’s silver wedding celebration. This began with drink and nibbles in the churchyard: two gazebos had been set up, but fortunately there was no rain. About 7 we went into the church itself, which looked beautiful – a long table (for about 60 guests) already set with candles and food. There was music while we ate, and later a band played in a side chapel, with dancing in an adjacent space. It was a wonderful evening.
Back to Bussage for an overnight stay with Claire. In the afternoon we went to Coate Water, near Swindon, and walked round the lake. This was enjoyed by everyone, including the boys and Claire’s dog Peggy. For us it was a nostalgia trip, because we went there several times when we lived in Swindon, 30 years ago! It hadn’t changed at all. Ice creams and a bouncy castle completed the outing. Then it was back to Claire’s; by then Ant had arrived and he helped Claire cook a great roast dinner. Later that evening, we played cards, and introduced Ant to Oh, hell!, the Schagen family’s traditional game.
From Bussage we drove to Loughborough, along the Fosse Way (also nostalgic, as we used that route several times between Loughborough and Swindon). We stopped in Stow on the Wold, looked round the main square and had lunch in a traditional bakery/café. A few miles further on, we passed through Moreton in Marsh, thus completing the first loop of our travels, which we’d decided would form a (very rough figure) of eight. When we reached Loughborough, we were welcomed with tea and home-made ginger biscuits. We hadn’t seen Jacqui and Roger for over a year, so it was good to have an opportunity to chat and catch up on the latest news.
The weather forecast said rain all day – and it proved to be accurate. We needed to go somewhere indoors, and decided on a trip to Leicester. The big excitement in the city a few years ago was the rediscovery of Richard III’s bones and their subsequent re-interment in the cathedral. Jacqui is now a cathedral guide, so we had the full tour unofficially. In addition to Richard’s tomb, we found an eight-foot tall medieval knight and a Richard III puppet show, as well as some nice modern stained glass.
Opposite the cathedral is the King Richard III Visitor Centre, with information about his life (including the controversy about whether he was a good guy on an arch-villain) and the story of the finding of the bones. We also visited the Guildhall which is nearby, had coffee in a Buddhist café and managed to look in a few charity shops as well!
We said farewell to our friends, drove into the centre of Loughborough, and looked round the shops there (more nostalgia!). Then we drove south – through pouring rain – back to Wycombe. We arrived home in the afternoon, and had time to do some shopping before driving to Twickenham, where we had dinner and a very pleasant evening with Robin and Margaret.
We headed off in a different direction, to visit Andrew and his family in Faversham. Ellie was at work, but we were able to give Isobel her (belated) birthday presents and admire Hope’s new hairstyle; she has had her incredibly long hair cut off and given to a charity which provides wigs for children who have lost their hair as a result of chemotherapy. It is a dramatic change, but looks great, as well as contributing to a good cause.
In the afternoon Andrew drove us and the girls to Rochester, where we visited the castle, the cathedral and several shops, including one which is reputed to be the biggest second-hand bookshop in England. Back in Faversham, Ellie had arrived home. Andrew cooked dinner for us all, and we had a cake made by Isobel for dessert.
Our grand tour was over. Ian returned the hire car and Sandie had a dental appointment. Back down to earth! But we would like to say a big thank you to all our friends and family members who gave us hospitality and so many nice meals during the past week. We will have to start cooking for ourselves again now!