Herefordshire Week 143: Tuesday 20 – Monday 26 September 2022

Weeknotes 140-143 will be published out of chronological order, mainly because for most of that time I was away in London and Spain, and I’m still playing catch up.

This one’s going to be short and sweet.

Still in Northern Spain on Tuesday and Wednesday, relaxing in Llanes and exploring the coast on our drive back to Bilbao. Flew home Wednesday night and stayed at Hazel’s along with S. A fab trip. I’ll do a post about it soon, but I need to write up my diary first….

A Beer in Bilbao - Homeward Bound
A Beer in Bilbao – Homeward Bound

Crash-landed back into work on Thursday, then got the evening train home.

Spent Fri frantically working through admin.

A GWVC-funded navigation course took up all of Sat & Sun… excellent training from Colin at Borderlands Outdoor in the lovely Forest of Dean. Phil took the opportunity to go to London to see friends and for an acting class.

Finally managed a much needed lie in on Monday and took things a little easier… although I did spend a few hours mowing the grass. Good to have got that out of the way.

It’s still very, very dry – lots of patches of dead grass and there a huge cracks in the clay all around The Grounds. I wonder what will happen when we do finally get some proper rain.

Also a bit concerned that I’ve not seen any goldfish in the pond; Phil mentioned the heron had been hanging around on the yew hedge….

TV: The Outlaws (finished off season 2 – vg), Grand Designs.

Podcasts: The History of England

Photos: Herefordshire week 143 on Flickr. (There aren’t any yet)

Phil: w/e 2022-09-25

Trace Elements – Donna Leon

Trace Elements - Donna Leon
Trace Elements – Donna Leon

It’s a sweltering July in Venice and Brunetti and Griffoni, with occasional assistance from Vianello and Signora Elettra, are investigating the last few cryptic words of a dying woman. They wind up investigating environmental crime revolving around a water sampling company, and a murder.

Plenty of pertinent observations about food, friendship, misogyny and modern life in Italy – and Venice in particular.

Publisher page: Trace Elements – Donna Leon

Picos de Europa – El Anillo Extrem(e) with Alfonso & Manu

Mucho Gusto!

I’m back after my 10 days in Northern Spain with Hazel, Steffi and Rach, and our exciting eight day hut-to-hut trekking circuit of the Picos de Europa with Alfonso and Manu.

Picos de Europa - Relief map
Picos de Europa – Relief map

We did El Anillo Extrem, which turned out to be Extrem (ES) by name and extreme (EN) by nature….

In fact I don’t think we quite realised what we were letting ourselves in for when we talked to Alfonso about a private trip after our 2019 Exodus introduction to the mountains of Northern Spain.

But it was totally fab. And no COVID this trip!

The first four days were coloured by the weather – cool, wet and very windy conditions made to soggy, muddy walking and we did Alfonso’s Plan B Itinerary on a couple of the longer days. But in Soto de Valdeón the sun returned and – in blithe ignorance – we embarked on the much more adventurous second half of our trip.

But it was “nothing we hadn’t done before” …. just chain-rails and rope-rails, grade 3 scrambling, rock climbing, via ferrata-ing up and around rock faces, occasional abseiling down….  none of which we had anticipated. Plus narrower trails, more scree, steeper, more sheer drops and trickier terrain – especially the moonscape around Cabaña Verónica.

A well earned beer, Collado Jermoso
A well earned beer, Collado Jermoso

We had a great time 🙂

So much so that we’ve asked A&M to plan a trip for us next year in the Pyrenees!

Herefordshire Week 141: Tuesday 06 – Monday 12 September 2022

Queen Elizabeth II died.

London, Aylesbury, Gatwick, Bilbao & Arenas de Cabrales.

Tuesday (R’s graduation ceremony – yaaay!), Wednesday and Thursday morning I was in a leadership course at work. A good blend of focused, applicable sessions and meeting colleagues from a range of European offices.


Tiring though, especially when you’re trying to wrap up the day job before going on hols for 10 days. And sort out Family Christmas.

WW with H and R and F. BLWV is now Balfours – it’s OK, but I think they’ll soon learn that the after work regulars don’t come for food. Sadly Pizza Express Russia Row is no more. So we went to the one in Leadenhall. Not a patch…

Bit of a work-crisis on Wed evening / Thursday, but was back on top of things by the time I logged off on Thursday and headed north to Aylesbury for an overnight stay with C and SL.

And it was while I was sitting on the train to Aylesbury when Buck Pal announced that The Queen had died.

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, dies aged 96
Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, dies aged 96

I still can’t quite believe it. I feel like I’ve been dropped into a parallel universe where King Charles is greeting the public.

And just when I really hoped things wouldn’t get any worse: Right wing, Free market Govt, Economy / Inflation / Recession, Gas & Electricity bills, War in Ukraine, a divided society fuelled by anger and hate, and controlled by powerful, manipulative people with no morals.

Still I had a lovely time with C and SL. Just what I needed. Good company, good food and a walk to Wendover Woods and picking a large carrier bag’s worth of damsons. On Friday, not only did Charles make lunch for us but it was a special Vegetarian Version of the Mid-Autumn Festival specials – Steamed Egg with Silken Tofu & Sweetcorn and a Buddha Mixed Vegetable Bowl:

Charles makes lunch
Charles makes lunch

Friday afternoon it was back into London to nip into work to pick up my Picos Pack and to leave my work clothes etc in my locker from hell. Then the Northern Line to H’s. Armed with a bottle of wine.

Saturday morning, after a leisurely start, Hazel and I got down to packing for Picos. For me this entailed emptying my big rucksack (stuffed to the gills), filtering out all my work stuff, working out exactly what I need in my daypack for 8 days hut to hut in the mountains of Northern Spain…. Oh, and putting the damsons into H’s freezer. Turns out 1 large carrier bag = 8 takeaway tubs.

Into CJ for a final spot of shopping for the trip then lunch…. and with a couple of hours spare until we needed to head down to Gatwick I decided to nip into central London to pay my respects to The Queen at Buckingham Palace.

I made it to The Mall – very speedy walk to Buckingham Palace and then on down the Victoria. Quite an emotional experience.

The Death of The Queen: Buckingham Palace
The Death of The Queen: Buckingham Palace

It’s going to be a strange time to be away and I’m really sad that I will miss The Queen’s lying in state and her funeral too. Very different from how I felt about missing the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death 25 years ago. A whole range of reactions from family and friends.

Back to CJ then the train to LGW to rendezvous with S & R in our rooms at the Gatwick North Premier Inn. Very hot rooms. Repacking to accommodate poles etc prompted the purchase of an extra hold baggage, and happily we were able to take advantage of the Twilight Bag Drop that EasyJet are trialling at LGW. Worked like a dream. Then back to our room to tuck into the M&S “bits” H and I had got for dinner. One of the reasons my big rucksack had been So Heavy had been the two bottles of wine…

Early start on Sunday for our 6.15 flight to Bilbao. All good.

Good morning, Bilbao!
Good morning, Bilbao!

BIO is a small airport so we were swiftly through COVID checks and passport control – my first post-BREXIT experience. There are stamps!

Alfonso materialised in his new van looking fitter than ever. It felt strange to actually be doing this trip at last after two years of failed attempts, but that feeling didn’t last long.

We spent the (sweltering) morning strolling around Bilbao – lovely on a Sunday morning: we had coffee in an open air cafe next to the Guggenheim museum, explored the riverside’s sculptures and pedestrian paths, flower markets, and bric a brac stalls and had a mooch around the old town.

I was all a bit zombie from the hecticness of the past week and the day’s early start, so I snoozed for most of the drive to Arenas de Cabrales. Once there we checked into the excellent Hotel Picos de Europa, in a lovely old building in the heart of the town, then headed out for a late lunch, a beer and an ice cream / sorbet to cool us down. After a bit of time to relax (unpack!) at the hotel Alfonso ran us through the route and recommended kit. Then repacking and dinner out.

Back in the UK, The Queen’s coffin arrived at Holyroodhouse.

The Death of The Queen
The Death of The Queen

After a sweltering night, Monday saw the start of our 8 days doing El Anillo Extreme.

We met Alfonso’s mate Manu over breakfast – he’s coming with us to see more of the Picos (and, as it turned out, to be a very, very welcome extra pair of experienced mountain guide hands!) – then a short drive to Puente Poncebos and the walk / hike / trek along the the Cares Gorge and up to our first Refugio, Vega de Ario (1630m). We’d opted for the easier Blue route. Everything’s relative…

Cloudy morning gave way to rain. A lot of rain.

You’ll have to wait for my Picos trip write up to find out more…

TV:  Something trashy at H’s!

Podcasts: History Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 141 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-09-11.

(Yes, catching up with the Weeknotes backlog…. It’s now Friday 07 October 2022.)

Herefordshire Week 140: Tuesday 30 August – Monday 05 September 2022

The week’s – nay, the decade’s – big news is that the pink house, Wellfield, is no more.

And B is in his first flat. YAY!

AND Baby L arrived safe and sound!

Tuesday morning was a mix of Pensionwise, Picos prep and setting some strawberry runners. We (Phil) also partially patched the crack in the small pond.

Pond putty
Pond putty

Work – typical – has turned manic, the week before I’m on a course for the whole of my working week and then going on hols. VWW but no Family Zoom (thankfully – more time to Get Things Done, including ordering Euros).

On Thursday Phil dropped off the car at the garage first thing and picked it up late afternoon, and The Rattle Has Gone! Hurrah.

He also noticed that Wellfield had gone! That must have happened on Wednesday. We didn’t hear a thing.

Busy day Friday – dropped Phil off at HFD for his London / Interesting weekend, supermarket shopping, iStore appointment (iPhone is completely kaput, so I’ll have to make so with the Samsung until post-Picos), town shopping, collected train tickets, library books and Diamox prescription. Then up to B&Q for paint testers (and a quick look at kitchens….), General Dogsbody for a sack of peanuts – lucky birds – then, at last, to dad and Jean’s for tea and catch up.

Back home, late lunch then started the freezer defrosting, threw some more stuff on the Picos Packing Pile, cleared the last of the lettuces, then there was just enough time for a cup of tea before chatting with one of the ladies coming on the Naar Phu trek in Oct/Nov.

After All That, vegged out on the sofa watching Bohemian Rhapsody. Just right.

Walked down to A&As for tea and chat on Saturday morning, picked blackberries on the way back and put together a crumble with those and the Laxton Superb windfalls. Did some more admin until CW arrived 4pm-ish. We chatted in the conservatory until pizza and crumble time.

Damp on Sunday, we’d had rain overnight (not enough but better than none). But dry enough for breakfast at Gwatkins. Another excellent veggie breakfast,  “just the right size” (no need to use an extra wide lens), this time featuring the baked beans, onion, fresh tomato & mushrooms all mixed up together and plonked on the toast. BIG TICK to that. And a nice hard egg and two veggie sausages. YUM.

Gwatkins Veggie Breakfast
Gwatkins Veggie Breakfast

And C drove us back with the roof down and an occasional bust of speed. Vroooom!

Back at base, a bit of essential computer admin and then an afternoon slowly, methodically packing for London (work), Aylesbury (social) and Spain (Picos, hut to hut).

I'm sure it'll all fit in....
I’m sure it’ll all fit in….

A break for tea and toast, a few more jobs, then off to HFD to pick up Phil. Just as the rain starts again…

Up early on Monday to catch the 6.43 to London, complete with large backpack. Spent the 3 hour train journey doing more essential email admin including the all important Looking after the plants! email to P.

Oh yeah, we got a new Tory PM: Liz Truss. From the lying frying pan into the fanning the right wing flames fire.

TV: Borgen (Season 3, Netflix reboot), The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Bohemian Rhapsody, Metal Lords. And some YouTube reviews of the MG ZS EV.

Audiobook: Alice Roberts reading her book Tamed: Ten Species that Changed Our World (excellent).

Podcasts: History Extra,  Books and Authors, You Must Remember ThisLingthusiasm.

Photos: Herefordshire week 140 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-09-04.

(Yes, catching up with the Weeknotes backlog…. It’s now Friday 07 October 2022.)