Posts Tagged Evesham
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!
Regretfully, we left Sarasota on Saturday June 13th and flew overnight back to the UK. On the same day, Claire was at a wedding in Kent, and she stayed overnight in a nearby hotel. Charlie and Oscar stayed with their Uncle Andrew and his family. We landed at Gatwick early on Sunday morning. After a while, Claire came to collect us and took us to Faversham, where Ellie provided lunch for all nine of us. We later drove home to High Wycombe. It was good to see the family again!
A moving saga
While we were in Sarasota, we were talking to our solicitor almost every day, and hoping to hear that we had exchanged contracts relating to Claire’s move to Gloucestershire. By the time we returned to England, this still had not happened, but everyone had agreed on June 30 as a completion date, and we were on the verge (so we thought!) of exchanging contracts. On Thursday 18th we were told that exchange would take place the next day, so we were anxiously awaiting confirmation, but it did not happen. Another attempt was made on Monday 22nd, but that failed too.
Finally – late on Tuesday – we got the message that the people at the top of the chain were refusing to exchange until an issue with the house they are buying was resolved – and that could take weeks. So the best we can hope for now is to complete in late July, and (taking our vendors’ holiday into account) it might not be until late August. Everyone who has ever bought and sold property in England will no doubt share our frustration. The worst thing is the uncertainty. It makes it difficult to arrange anything, and causes particular problems with regard to Charlie’s school. But there’s nothing we can do except wait.
Getting some exercise
During our first two weeks back, we expected to be helping Claire with packing. But as that has not happened, we’ve taken the opportunity to go for some walks. One afternoon we started from our flat, walked up through Keep Hill Woods and along the road to the village of Flackwell Heath. After a drink in a pub there, we returned by a different route, partly following an old railway track.
Two days later, the weather forecast was good and we decided to do a longer walk. But we had an appointment in Slough at 6pm (to inspect improvements at the flat we own) so needed to end up there. In the morning we took the bus to Uxbridge. After a look round the charity shops and our morning coffee, we set off along the Grand Union Canal towpath. The weather was indeed good, and we enjoyed sitting in the sun at a couple of pubs along the way. We detoured down to Little Britain Lake, where we are our picnic lunch, and walked along the Slough Arm to the town, where we were in perfect time for our appointment. It all worked well, and was something of a nostalgia trip, as we walked those paths many times when we lived in Langley, but had not done so for many years.
We did another long walk yesterday. This time we took the bus to Chesham, where it was market day and the sun was shining. We wandered round the town (charity shops and coffee as usual!) and then did a nine-mile circular walk. We’d done it once before, but that was way back in 2002. The paths were mainly flat and easy to follow, although we did manage to get lost at one point in the afternoon. We enjoyed the pleasant (typically English) scenery, and saw lots of wild flowers along the way, including a whole field of poppies. In the village of Little Missenden, we stopped for a drink, and admired the medieval frescoes in the Saxon church.
A weekend in Evesham
We were invited by our friends Brenda and Phil to an early joint birthday celebration on June 20th. So we hired a car for the weekend and drove to Evesham on Saturday morning. Brenda and Phil had planned a treasure hunt for 20 guests in the afternoon. In five cars, we drove round a specified route, trying to find answers to about 50 questions we had been given. We were pleased to share a car with our old friend Ian Handscomb and his partner Martin, as we had not seen them for some years.
On our journey we stopped to visit some churches and a beautiful walled garden. We were baffled by a complicated sundial, unlike anything we’d seen before! The treasure hunt was good fun, and the questions quite easy, so everyone got top marks, or very nearly. Afterwards we had a delicious dinner back at the house – Brenda and Phil had obviously worked very hard, and they are great cooks!
We stayed overnight in Evesham, and had planned to do a walk in the Cotswolds the following morning. We discovered, however, that it was the National Morris Weekend in Evesham, and ended up staying in the town to watch. Over 30 sides took part, coming from all over the country. On Sunday morning they gathered at the park by the river, and processed – with some dancing on the way – up to the market square, where they took it in turns to perform. We have watched morris dancing many times, but we have never seen such a variety of costumes and dance styles. One group did not dance at all – they performed a mummers’ play about the Spanish Armada. There was also a Welsh folk dance group, and some groups performing English clog step dances, as well as the more traditional morris dancing with swords, sticks, handkerchiefs etc. All great fun to watch – but we did wonder what people from other countries would have made of it!
Our time recently has been mainly spent organising our new flat, helping to look after small boys, and meeting friends. We’ve also had a short trip up to Scotland!
The new flat
Not surprisingly, putting our new flat in order has been a major task. The job is by no means finished, but we’ve made good progress. We’ve managed to find places for all the things that were in store, plus most of the things that were in Claire’s shed (Ian’s art materials and our camping gear will stay there for the time being). There is yet more stuff to come from Claire’s attic and Andrew’s cellar, but for the moment even the spare bedroom looks reasonably tidy.
On the whole, we are very pleased with the flat, as the design and the location suit us well. We have had only one real problem. We noticed that the fridge was not as cold as it should be: the beer and white wine were not properly chilled (horrors!) and a couple of bottles of milk went off. We called in an engineer who said it would be very expensive to fix the fridge, and better to get a new one. The problem is that we have a combined fridge/freezer, and it is built in. Sandie spent literally hours on the phone trying to locate a company that could supply and install the correct replacement. She was getting desperate when she finally succeeded in finding some-one who could do the job – she nearly crawled down the phone and kissed him! Now we have a brand-new fridge which keeps the beer and wine (and milk) nice and cold.
We have had a number of babysitting duties in the past few weeks. Claire has been away flying every weekend. Charlie and Oscar normally stay with her friends Terri and Andy, and in return Claire looks after their two boys (Oliver and Jake) during the week. One weekend Terri and Andy were at a wedding, so we stayed in Claire’s house with our grandsons. At other times we babysat in the evening so Claire could go out, or looked after Oscar while Claire took Charlie to the cinema or a birthday party.
On a couple of occasions we took Charlie and Oliver out, while Claire looked after the younger boys. Once we took them to Bourne End on the bus, and strolled along the Thames looking at the boats. Another time we took them for a boat trip along the very small river that runs through the park in High Wycombe. A few times we looked after all four boys in the house, or took them to the playground.
At the end of term at Charlie’s nursery, they had a farewell performance for the children (including Charlie) who will be going up to ‘big school’ in September. Charlie was one of the Three Bears and made a suitably loud growling noise. His friend Oliver was the Grand Old Duke of York.
In between flat sorting and babysitting, we have had some welcome opportunities to meet up with friends. One day we went to Slough Cemetery, and put flowers on the grave of Sandie’s parents; while in Slough we had lunch with Sarah, a friend who was a colleague in NFER days. Another day we had a visit from Kate and Blu, New Zealand friends who are nearing the end of six months’ travel, focusing on Central America and Europe. We took them to Marlow, where we enjoyed a pub lunch and a short stroll along the river.
More recently, Dougal (another NFER colleague) joined us for a walk starting from West Wycombe. Unfortunately, the directions we followed came from a very old book, and things change over time, which may be why it was not always easy to find the right path! We returned to our flat for lunch, and in the afternoon we were joined by Lesley (yet another ex-NFER friend). The four of us discussed the possibility of forming a loose consortium for future consultancy work.
Up north again
On July 18 we set off on yet another ‘UK tour’, a short one this time. First stop was Evesham, where our friends Brenda and Phil now live. They moved into their house about a year ago, but it was our first chance to visit. The wonderful summer weather which we have enjoyed enabled us to have dinner sitting in their garden, and then go for a short stroll around the town.
We stayed overnight in Evesham, and next day drove a further 300+ miles north to visit Ian’s Aunt Margie (now aged 93) in Glasgow. She has limited mobility, but her mind is still very sharp. We took her (in a wheelchair) to visit the Botanical Gardens which are close to her nursing home, and (the next day) to have lunch in the Pond Hotel where we stay. While in Glasgow we also managed a couple of walks on our own, including one from Balloch, at the southern end of Loch Lomond.
Next stop was Newcastle. Ian spent a day doing consultancy work at the university, mainly training a colleague of our friend James Tooley. Sandie joined them for lunch, and spent the rest of the day shopping and catching up with emails. After work, James took us both to his home, deep in the country 27 miles from Newcastle. We’d heard a lot about it, and again this was our first chance to visit. We sat out in the garden and sampled some wine from his brother’s vineyard in Berkhamsted.
On our way home from Newcastle we stopped in Loughborough, and had an enjoyable lunch and chat with our friend Jacqui (Roger arrived home just before we left). All in all, with opportunities for visiting friends as well as taking Aunt Margie out and doing some paid work, this was a really good trip!