Graham and I have never met, but we both used to live in Guildford, he used to visit my aunt’s pub and he follows this blog. So this post is dedicated to him.
It was a perfect day. Celia and I, suitably booted, with our lunches in our back packs along with waterproofs – just in case, and in the event totally unnecessary – took the train from Waterloo at 10.00, reaching Guildford just over half an hour later. The day was mild, the sky blue.
Up the Mount to the cemetery, along the path and onto the Downs, and greenery. We hoped for bluebells and we found them. Lots of them. Lots of other flowers too, not all of which we could identify. Down the hill which leads a sandy track and the main wooded part of the walk where there were bluebells galore.
We heard birds. Again we could not identify them, part from the woodpecker. We reached my favourite crossroads of paths and continued towards Compton. There were only four horses in the fields either side of the track when we came out of the woods. Usually we see many at this point, but there was some construction going on and maybe the horses had been moved further away. The chickweed looked wonderful. Could you eat it I wondered. Apparently you can, but frustratingly after this part of the walk we barely saw any more. We watched a bumble bee disappear into a bee hole in the bank beside the path. Lunch was in the picnic in the area of Watts Gallery, our vittles supplemented by cake from the café. A robin joined us at our table. It has obviously worked out lunchtime is a great opportunity for extra snacks.
I’m rather hoping Anne will tell me what these birds are. There were several of them on the cliffs when I made my way back to town from the party. I heard there were three crane birds at Bempton Cliffs, and the puffins were already about.
The forecast was not promising, but the sun is out and it’s going to be a lovely evening. Carol’s lilac is blooming, the lilies of the valley Celia gave me several years ago have multiplied and the flowers are appearing, the May flowers look like a bridal gown.
I have spent the day with MasterB. He’s having his dinner now, having already enjoyed an aperitif of biscuits. I am trying to encourage him to use his grooming arch. It’s probably the least successful thing I have ever bought him. He sniffs it, but does not behave like the cat in the adverts. As the weather is warming up he is shedding his coat for lighter late spring wear. Using the arch would relieve me of some grooming duties.
I still have some Bridlington photos to share, but I need to be quick. Celia is coming round, and then we are due at Michele’s at seven. She has kindly offered to host snacks and drinks for my birthday and May Day at her flat.
First some more dogs. I met Jesse and Valzar on my walk yesterday morning. Jesse shot by me like a bullet in pursuit of a ball thrown by her owner. A collie she is full of zip and energy. Relucanttly she sat still for a photo. Valzar is a rescue from Italy, mistreated, beaten and locked in a shed, he is still nervous and constantly checking with his new people for reassurance. They have had him thirty days. The first three he refused to leave the house. Then they managed to get him down to the beach and saw a different dog, a dog who raced around, who went in and out of the water, who looked alive, alert, happy. He accepted a treat from me, touched noses with a friendly Labrador but was happiest sitting between his owners. I’d love to see him in a year’s time.
And actually I realise now I am out of time or I shall be late to my own party. Add your prayers to mine for a happy, confident Valzar, a dog who deserves so much more than his earlier life has given him.
When I met up with friends Humph and Jane for breakfast yesterday morning at the Wish Cat Café it turned out we had all seen the land train in which would take us to the party venue and thought it would be a good way to travel. So it proved. We trundled along the esplanade, out towards and along the cliffs to Sewerby. Children waved to us. Whoever had the idea of introducing this service to Bridlington deserves recognition.
The party was lovely. Why I didn’t take a photo of the cake I have no idea. It was wonderful, and as well as featuring a photo of Ray on the top, included a model of her beloved piano and some paintbrushes and a palette on a lower tier.
There were speeches, music, the fizz flowed. The room buzzed with conversation. No one in my hearing mentioned the coronation. I realise I am becoming a tad obsessed by the disconnect between the gushing pieces in some sections of the press and my own experience and feelings. Today I read how we are being invited to stand (in front of televisions, in parks, wherever) and swear an oath of allegiance to the king during the ceremony. I seriously thought I was reading a satirical piece at first, but alas not. Bonkers does not really cover it.
I keep thinking I should drop the coronavirus bit from these posts, but on the train to Doncaster today two women sitting behind me were talking about how they had both recently had the virus, and mentioning friends and acquaintances who are ill with it now. I thought of the man beside me on the tube this morning who sneezed, and hopes I have not been infected.
Maybe the sea air this evening will have banished any germs. I am in Bridlington in advance of Ray’s birthday celebrations tomorrow. She turned 100 a month ago, but the tea party is tomorrow. I’m staying by the seafront, and I love the view. Bridlington has evidently seen better days, and is now starting to reinvent itself, to look to a future, rather than past glories. As a result it’s a mix of run down, tired and very dilapidated buildings, and joyously restored ones, as well as a modern, confident leisure centre. The library building is an example of decayed civic pride and I rather love it. I’ll post a photo at some point. Local cuisine appears dominated by fish and chips. I was starting to wonder if anyone actually ate vegetables at all.
I’m a bit of a home body. Celia is always whisking off to stay with children and grandchildren, meeting up with her brother for a holiday; Octavia goes backwards and forwards to Yorkshire to stay with her mum, nips to Menton for weekends, has regular holidays in Croatia, the US and I imagine will any day soon be off to Australia again. The last time I left the UK was before the start of the pandemic. I was supposed to be going to Marseille in April 2020, but of course that didn’t happen. I rebooked flights a couple of times and then got a refund. Since then all my trips have been in the UK.
This weekend I am going to Yorkshire for Octavia’s mother’s 100th birthday bash. She actually turned 100 a month ago, but this weekend end has been fixed for the gathering. I’ll only be away a couple of nights, but it’ll be good to be out of London in the spring. In June I am going to visit my friend Patou in Brittany whose husband suddenly a few weeks ago. The flights are booked, I hope I have cat cover for the incomparable MasterB. This is going to be my first use of two passports on one trip. I understand I use the UK one leaving and arriving in London, my Irish one arriving and leaving Rennes. I have a qualm though. I had to register my passport in the advanced passenger information section for my booking. I could only register one. I’m hoping, if I show the other, alarms are not going to ring, uniformed officers descend and drag me off somewhere intimidating for questioning. I tried Easyjet’s customer service number hoping for clarification, enlightenment even. No joy. It has a limited menu and that menu does not include anything relating to my question in options one, two to three. There was no option four for other as I had hoped. Any insight one or more of you can offer gratefully received.
Unplanned, I seem to have started January dry. Octavia does Dry January which is not quite the same thing. The Nozeco opened on Christmas Day morning is still in the fridge. Yes, there’s very little alcohol in Nozeco, very little in Becks Blue, and I have several bottles of that, I just don’t fancy anything alcoholic or even approaching the idea of alcoholic. Benilyn continues to be my tipple of choice, which is odd because it tastes disgusting. I couldn’t get Benilyn original, so have Benilyn Non-Drowsy after the pharmacist assured me it didn’t contain any ingredients which would keep me awake. It’s also red, but a brighter red than Original. Just as unpalatable though.
Still my cough has definitely lessened. It’s not yet gone, but it’s in departure. hanging around the duty free section perhaps, or in the bookshop, flicking through books it has no intention of buying. I hope its flight is called soon. I feel as though I have been coughing for ever. Work continued all last week and then into the weekend. I was up in the morning, out and about, doing my stuff, home and eating good healthy food washed down by water, and then to bed with a Lemsip around half past eight.
I’ve not worked today, and the diary is gloriously empty until next week. That’s how I feel now, but by Saturday I shall probably be fretting and worrying about my income. Well, being freelance and self employed was my choice. It can be precarious, but I don’t have many extravagances, so I get through. Also January and February are always quiet and a chance to recharge batteries, and as I didn’t do a jigsaw over Christmas this may be my chance.
I stumbled upon a delightful film on Film4 this evening. Finding Your Feet. I missed the first fifteen minutes or so, but the story was fairly undemanding and I think I filled in all the gaps. It’s an unassuming film, probably low budget, featuring places I recognise close to where I live, and with a gentle talented cast including Tim Spall, Celia Imrie, the late John Sessions in a minor part, and Imelda Staunton. I loved it. It was kind. Just what I needed. No car chases, no hugely dramatic showdowns, high body count or spilled blood, and somehow all the more precious and life enhancing for that. Tim Spall at the helm of a narrowboat which I know he has done many many times in his own life, particularly after his recovery from cancer.
I am finding life in this country hard. We seem to have turned into a horrible parody of ourselves; a divided divisive society, people on the edge of destitution because those elected to govern simply don’t seem to count swathes of the population as important. Horrible hateful comments about Harry and Meghan, even from people I usually respect. Maybe it was always like this. That there was a civilised veneer which was ripped away by Brexit to reveal the hideous truth beneath.
I am lucky. I have good friends who are enormously important to me. I have a beautiful, gentle cat who I love and who I dare to say loves me. Though he may love biscuits more. These are the things which make life good.
It’s suddenly Christmas. December has a habit of arriving calmly and then rushing into a mad frenzy. There are increasing numbers of people – men mostly – walking or riding bicycles dressed in Father Christmas hats or even the whole outfit -in central London. Christmas trees have been appearing for several weeks, though bizarrely not in Westminster Abbey, while in St Paul’s both Samuel Johnson and John Howard have had their statues hidden by Sandringham’s best.
No, I’m not doing any fireworks tonight. I quite like the colourful displays, but I thoroughly dislike the increasingly loud fireworks. The effect on pets, domestic animals and wildlife is appalling. So tonight I shall be mainly sitting on the sofa, watching television or reading, giving reassurance to MasterB that he is safe. To do this, I shall ignore all bangs and flashes, behave in a way that I hope convinces him there is nothing to be afraid of. It seems to work pretty well. I wish I could say the same technique is effective when it comes to storms, but sadly it’s not. Storms terrify him.
This morning was definitely cooler. Like many, I have not got my heating on. Actually I haven’t needed it, the weather has been so mild, but over breakfast I thought this might be the time when I succumb. However, as the day wore on, I realised I was perfectly warm. Yes I am wearing slippers and a thick jumper (sweater to those of you across the pond) so perhaps I’ll manage a few more days, maybe weeks, before I give in. Some people are saying they are not going have the heating on at all this winter. I don’t think I am hardy enough for that, though my first energy bill may change my mind. I’ll look out the thick socks.
UK politics continue to dismay. We have a Home Secretary and assorted underlings who seem entirely devoid of imagination, compassion or empathy. Anyone seeking asylum here is regarded with extreme hostility, housed in what are effectively internment camps. Chris Philp, a man whose smooth appearance inadequately disguises a soul so callous it seems as though he’s trying to get to the number one position in the list of Most Coldhearted Living People, most of whom are members of his own party and include Jonathan Gullis who really makes you wonder about the selection process for Tory candidates, thinks asylum seekers complaining about the dreadful conditions where they are housed is a bit of a cheek. The Daily Mail, whose long and shameful record of xenophobia is well documented, had a headline this week One in Six of Us Born Abroad. No I didn’t read the piece, but I am pretty confident it was meant to outrage (a favourite Daily Mail word) his readers. Some on Twitter pointed out King Charles III’s father, Rishi Sunak’s father, Winston Churchill’s mother, the captain of the men’s England football team’s father were all born abroad.
Up in the air and currently above the clouds, heading home after ten days in NI. In the way of these things, the time seems to have passed in a flash while the day I left home seems long ago. The weather has been kind, Uncle Bill’s birthday tea enjoyed by all but especially the man himself. The autumn colours have been beautiful, the dogs appreciative of their walks, Belfast abuzz.
On the final walk this morning there was a short shower of very fine rain. We’d left the house in sunshine, so I was doubly grateful it wasn’t a downpour, though a piece in the Guardian yesterday about the benefits of walking in wind and rain, and yesterday was very windy, may make me revise my opinion of wet weather walks (and encourage me to upgrade my waterproofs). Then there was a rainbow, arcing above the house where Poppy Junior lives. We didn’t see her, though we heard her barking in the house on the return leg. She knew we were there.