Posts Tagged Loughborough

Dancing in the church

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!

Tea in the garden

Birthday boy

Ring out those bells!

A gaggle of geese on the Avon

Saturday 5

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.

Churchyard drinks

Happy couple

In the church

The bride and groom, 25 years on

Most fun in the church for centuries

Strutting their funky stuff

Sunday 6

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.

Coate Water

Any alligators?


Monday 7

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.

Tuesday 8

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.

Richard III statue at Leicester cathedral

Richard’s tomb

Do not annoy this guy

Richard III puppet show

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!

Reconstruction of Richard III

Storm trooper armour

Leicester Guildhall


Inside the Buddhist cafe

Wednesday 9

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.

Thursday 10

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.

A new Hope

Birthday girl

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.

A wet Thursday in Rochester

Rochester castle

Inside needs work

On the ramparts

Rochester cathedral

Artwork in the cathedral

Friday 11

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!


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Five years on

In April we celebrated not only Sandie’s 65th birthday but also the fifth anniversary of our retirement from NFER.  We wanted to travel, and decided we would have the ‘gap year’ we were unable to have when we were young.  This is why we called our blog ‘Ian and Sandie’s Gap Adventure’.  But we felt that a year would not be enough, so we would have a gap lustro (Spanish for a five-year period).

Looking back, we realise how lucky we have been to have had so many wonderful opportunities. During our gap lustro, we have:

  • Lived and worked in New Zealand, for a year and then a further nine months
  • Lived for a year in Ghana doing voluntary work
  • Spent five months travelling throughout South America
  • Travelled extensively in Australia, South-East Asia and South Africa
  • Visited Bali, Tahiti, and the Cook Islands
  • Visited Hawaii, California, Florida and New York.

So what happens now the five-year period is up?  The travelling will NOT come to a sudden stop – there are still too many places to see!  But we’ve decided that it would be good to have a ‘base’ in the UK, to return to between travels, rather than staying in the Travelodge with our possessions in store, Claire’s shed, Claire’s loft or Andrew’s basement!

In February, we looked at a lot of properties.  We decided that a flat would suit us best at this time, and made a successful offer at the beginning of March.  So since returning from South Africa on 13th April, we have spent a lot of time looking for furniture.

Bed testing

Bed testing

We have also spent time with Claire and family, and looked after the boys while she was on her second trip to Dubai.  And we spent three days staying with our friends Jacqui and Roger in Loughborough.  As usual, we enjoyed their great hospitality – Jacqui even made another birthday cake for Sandie, including her favourite coffee, walnuts and pecans!

Sandie's birthday continues

Sandie’s birthday continues

While in Loughborough we went with Jacqui to visit Whatton Gardens – only a few miles out of town, but we’d never been there before, not even when we lived in Loughborough ourselves.  The next day Roger took us for walk along the River Soar.

Whatton Gardens

Whatton Gardens

Part of the terracotta army has escaped to Leicestershire

Part of the terracotta army has escaped to Leicestershire

An early butterfly

An early butterfly

Spring is here

Spring is here

Normanton on Soar

Normanton on Soar

The four of us went out all three evenings, enjoying a variety of entertainment: dinner at the college (prepared and served by catering students), a concert by Hathern Brass Band, and a church barn dance.

Posthorn gallop by Hathern Brass Band

Posthorn gallop by Hathern Brass Band

Barn dance in full swing

Barn dance in full swing


We returned from Loughborough via Redditch.  We went to look at a dining table and chairs we’d seen on e-bay, which proved to be exactly what we wanted.  We were able to combine this with a visit to our friends Jenny and David, who live in Redditch and luckily were free on the day.  They invited us to a lovely Sunday lunch, and we were able to catch up on news since we’d last seen them more than two years ago.

The evening after our return to Wycombe, Ian babysat while Sandie and Claire went to the Swan Theatre, to see Midnight Tango, a show featuring Vincent and Flavia from Strictly Come Dancing.  The packed audience illustrated the power of television, and the dancing was brilliant of course, but we felt that the attempt to make a story out of it did not wholly succeed.

On Thursday 2nd May we are off to the USA for two months.  We had hoped to exchange contracts on our flat before leaving, but this did not quite happen.  All seems in order though, so we should exchange soon and have somewhere to live when we return at the end of June!


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Our UK tour 2012

On Thursday 27 September we hired a car and began a tour of friends and family in the UK.  We drove first from High Wycombe to Faversham, with two stops on the way – one pleasant, one less so.  First stop was Slough, where Sandie collected her new specs and Ian had a tooth extracted. Second stop was Box Hill, where we enjoyed a circular walk which took us up to the top of the hill and enabled us to enjoy some glorious views of the English countryside.

View over Surrey from Box Hill


We stayed for four nights with Andrew, Ellie and the girls.  On Friday they were all at work or school, so we did a pub walk (6.5 miles) from Conyers Quay.  Part of the walk followed the Saxon Shore, rather bleak but beautiful.

Marshland near Faversham

Walking the Saxon Shore Way

On Saturday afternoon we took Hope and Isobel to Margate, where we strolled along the beach and visited the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery.  The actual galleries were closed (preparation for the next exhibition) but there was a colourful interactive art installation which kept the girls entertained for some time.

Hope & Isobel on Margate beach

The installation at the Turner Contemporary gallery

It had been Hope’s eighth birthday a few days earlier, and she had had her party the previous weekend, but on Sunday there was a family get-together in her honour.  Claire drove down with Charlie and Oscar for the day, and we were joined by Ellie’s mother and sister, brother and his family.

Hope, her cousin Robert, Charlie and Isobel enjoy ice creams together


We left Faversham early on Monday 1st October, and drove north to Norfolk. We headed first for Sheringham, where we had lunch with Sandie’s cousin Mike and his wife Jane.  In the afternoon we visited Mike’s mother in a nursing home, and then drove to Ormesby, to stay with our friends Una and David.

On Tuesday they joined us for a walk in Burlingham woods, and we discovered that students from a local high school used the woods to display their GCSE artwork – a novel idea, and we had fun spotting the ingenious creations.  After a pub lunch we visited the Fairhaven Water Gardens nearby.  In the evening we joined other friends (Linda and Don) for dinner at a hotel on the seafront in Great Yarmouth.

Art in the trees at Burlingham woods

More student art in the woods

At Fairhaven Water Gardens

More woodland art at Fairhaven

The next day the two of us returned to Yarmouth, but on the way we stopped at Caister Cemetery and laid flowers on the graves of our friend Barry and some of Sandie’s relatives, including her grandparents.  They died many years ago, but it has only recently been possible to erect a headstone on their grave.

The new headstone for Sandie’s grandparents


On Thursday 4th we left Ormesby and headed west.  We stopped first at Peterborough, a city that Ian had never visited before, to have lunch, visit the cathedral and have a brief stroll along the river.  Then it was on to Loughborough, to stay with our friends Jacqui and Roger.

Inside Peterborough cathedral

The towers of Peterborough cathedral

On Friday we walked up Beacon Hill, the second highest point in Leicestershire.  It was a nostalgic trip because we went there often with our children when we lived in Loughborough.

On top of Beacon Hill

Long-horned cattle on Beacon Hill

On our way back we stopped at the university, where Ian once taught for nine years.  In the evening we went with Jacqui and Roger to the new Curve Theatre in Leicester to see Finding Neverland – the musical.  The music was great and the special effects amazing; we thoroughly enjoyed the show.   On Saturday the four of us drove us to Derbyshire, stopping at the village of Eyam, and again at Matlock Bath on the way back.

Autumn colours at Eyam

12th century Celtic cross at Eyam church

Matlock Bath


On Sunday 7th we drove 300 miles north to Glasgow, to visit Ian’s Aunt Margie who is in a nursing home there.  Following a stroke, her mobility is very limited, but we were able to borrow a wheelchair and take her to some of her favourite haunts in the Trossachs and Loch Lomond.  We were lucky again with the weather, and the autumn colours were beautiful in the sun.

Loch Lomond

Autumn colours at the Pond Hotel

On Wednesday 10th (our 42nd anniversary!) we completed our grand tour by driving back south to High Wycombe.  As it is a long journey, we made an early start.  We checked out of our hotel at 8.15, and found the car completely frozen over.  Unfortunately, the hire company had not provided us with de-icing equipment, so we used non-essential plastic cards as scrapers.  As Ian remarked: ‘We know we’re not in Ghana any more!’

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Around the UK in the Green Machine

From Faversham we set off on a tour of England and Scotland, visiting friends and relations. To do this we borrowed back our car, known as the Green Machine, which Andrew uses to go to school in term time. Since his term had just finished, he was happy for us to use it for the next six weeks.

We went first to Norfolk, where we stayed with our friends Una and David in Ormesby, and did a day trip to Sheringham to visit Sandie’s cousin Mike and wife Jane, and also to see Mike’s mother Joan who is over 90 and in a nursing home. Another day we went into Great Yarmouth and had a nostalgic wander along the seafront and round the town, with doughnuts on the seafront and chips from Yarmouth market.  On the way back to Ormesby we visited our friends Linda and Don, and took flowers to the grave of our best man Barry, who sadly died last year while we were in New Zealand.

Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth

Walking on Caister beach, near Ormesby

From Norfolk we went west to Loughborough, and stayed with our friends Jacqui and Roger.  Sandie went on a day trip with Jacqui and her mother, also in her 90s, to Trentham Gardens near Stoke. As Roger was at work, Ian was able to have the house to himself and do some consultancy work.  The next morning we went with Jacqui to Elvaston Castle Country Park – another nostalgia trip, as we went there many times when we lived in Loughborough.

In Trentham Gardens

Elvaston Castle Country Park

We then went north to Glasgow, to visit Ian’s Aunt Margie, who lives in a sheltered flat.  The guest room was not available, so we stayed in a nearby hotel.  Aunt Margie was the third nonagenarian we saw on this trip.  Although still very alert mentally, she is physically frailer now and realises that the time may come when she needs to move to a care home.  We took her to visit two possible places and she is now on the waiting list at both. As the weather was amazingly good, we were also able to take her to some of her favourite haunts, including Loch Lomond, where we did a boat trip in the sunshine.

Loch Lomond in the sun

Aunt Margie enjoys the sunshine

After leaving Glasgow we headed south to Manchester. We stayed two nights in an aparthotel, and found that our window was directly opposite Paul and Rosie’s flat!  They were at work during the day, but we had two pleasant evenings with them, as well as a trip to Lyme Park.  From Manchester we returned to High Wycombe, stopping en route for lunch with our friends Robert and Teresa in Wolverhampton.

Chilling out with Paul and Rosie

Dutch garden at Lyme Park

During our stay in Wycombe we took Charlie to the seaside: first the beach at West Wittering, then into Bognor Regis for rides and ice creams.  After four days, we loaded the Green Machine with all our camping gear, and headed back to Faversham, in time to celebrate Isobel’s fourth birthday on August 3rd.

Charlie enjoys the beach

Isobel's birthday

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