Herefordshire Week 002: Monday 06 – Sunday 12 January 2020

Another week of slowing sorting things out here in Herefordshire. The snowdrops are out.

Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops: Snowdrops
Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops

Monday’s job was to convert the dining room into the TV snug. A success. We moved the dining table and chairs into the “hallway”, and now have a large table where things come to rest. In time I’m hoping it will be a nice place for a leisurely breakfast looking out over the trees and what we euphemistically call “the rose garden”. We also cleared some of the sideboard – jigsaws will go to dad and Jean for their jigsaw swapshop; toys will go to the St Michael’s Hospice Warehouse, which we are planning to visit tomorrow (Monday). All the glassware remains, ready for the Annual Birthday Party in March.

Tuesday saw an early morning start to return the hire car to Enterprise. The A465 morning rush hour traffic jam started at Belmont and continued to the Asda roundabout. We had a couple of hours to use before our rendezvous with dad-the-taxi, which we spent fruitfully in B&Q, Waitrose, Curry’s and Wilko. The range of opening hours resulted in much walking alongside traffic on the A49. You can see why people drive. The price for our taxi back out to Forty Acres was to help dad load the trailer with garden waste and to transport it to the cottage compost heap. Most of the cuttings were from a bay tree, so I kept a few sprigs to dry the leaves for cooking with.

Settling into Forty Acres: Morning sun on Ewyas Harold Common
Settling into Forty Acres: Morning sun on Ewyas Harold Common

Tuesday afternoon was our first experience working from our new home; and my first real working from home ever. So far so good.

I’m lucky enough to be able to continue my existing part-time pattern – Tuesday afternoons, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phil’s an experienced remote worker, but for me it’s a new experience. Most of the time I’m working with people in other countries anyway, so it’s not vastly different other than in terms of my working environment. I’ve booked my trains for my first week back in London – I’m going back roughly once a month to join our global team video conference call and for other key events. I see these return visits as being akin to the Keeping In Touch days people have when they are on maternity/paternity leave. I don’t think I’ll mind working in greater isolation – I’m not a very sociable person at work, at least in terms of seeking out chats, coffees etc. If anything I can get too engrossed in my work. I could do with more occasional interruptions to get up and move about a bit more. One thing I know already is that I’m going to get a better office chair.

One big question about working remotely has been whether we can get a good enough internet connection. It’s essential for both of us to do our jobs, and our part of Herefordshire is still waiting for Fastershire to arrive. The roll out was due to start in Q4 2019 (and was due to start then ever since we’ve been planning to move here – a good 18 months). Phil emailed for an update (we’ve both signed up for updates but none has ever arrived) and – surprisingly – got a response. We’re now scheduled to start Q1/Q2 2020. We’ll see….. Let’s hope it’s not a Crossrail schedule. For now we have 4G wifi courtesy of Three, and although it’s a bit patchy at times, it seems workable.

Tuesday’s trip to Curry’s provided the Roku Streaming Stick Plus TV plug-in. The cottage has no TV aerial, and we’ve zero reception. So, we’re saying au revoir to broadcast TV and moving over to 100% streaming – downloading and iPlayer-etc-ing. This week’s telly viewing comprised Dracula, Jonestown and Wisting.

Wednesday and Thursday were work-focussed; so much so that on Wednesday I totally missed Wine Wednesday. Hazel and Catherine sent me a photo – I do miss them! I was rarely the first to arrive at Bow Lane Wine Vaults, but if this week was anything to go by I really need to reestablish the WW finishing work deadline!

This week we also worked out our morning walk / run alternatives. I’ve a well established route from the Barbican to the London Eye and back, finetuned to last just over an hour, AKA 1 x In Our Time + 1 x The Allusionist in podcast listening terms. Before starting work on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday morning, I tried a few options for my early morning walk, Herefordshire-style. Headtorch on. The route to the Abbey and back proved relatively busy; the route to Kerry’s Gate, down to Riverdale and back proved much quieter – and hilly, which is good. Friday morning’s walk came with a technicolour sunrise and a massive moon, mewling buzzards and darting hedge sparrows. Magic. That’s the one.

Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops
Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops: Sunrise

With dad’s taxi service, we picked up the car on Friday – it’s a 10 year old Nissan Note, roomy for four tall people and plenty of space in the boot – and spent the rest of the day with dad, taking stuff to the tip and ferrying the fridge/freezer and washing machine dad and Jean had acquired for us back to the cottage. A lot of manual labour today!! More so for Phil and my dad to be honest. That done, Phil and I moved the remaining spare bed out of my office and into his more spacious office. And sorted the bedding. There’s a lot of bedding here…. much of it destined for the St Michael’s Hospice Charity Warehouse.

Saturday started with a wet walk, down to Quarrels Green and on to Upper/Lower Jury Farms, along the “main road” to the crossroads and back via Wellfield and The Foxes.

The rest of the day was dedicated to sorting out the kitchen, which was always going to be a mammoth task. As Phil says, this house is where things go when new stuff is bought so there is a vast collection of crockery, cookware, pots and pans – not all of which is required (or desired). Lots more things went into the charity shop boxes. We need dad and Jean to come and decide what they want to keep. They both say “get rid of everything” but I think our “everything” is rather more ruthless and widespread than maybe they’d expected. But that’s OK. Another of the tricky things has been working out where to have things, like where’s the best place for the kettle / tea / coffee etc, and where’s the best place for the breadmaker (and all its ingredients). I reckon we will be rejigging things for a while yet. We’ve confessed to moving the cutlery drawer….. And repurposing the main bin for recycling…..

Sunday – more kitchen clearance, plus our first weekly shop at Aldi and Sainsbury’s – where our amateur status was revealed by the want of a pound coin for a shopping trolley – plus a trip to Newtown Motors aka Hereford Nissan, to suss out getting the radio etc activated in our car. Then on to The New Barn for Sunday lunch with dad and Jean, and our Abbey Dore neighbours Peter and Suzy. Top tips on local hairdressers (Lucy’s in Peterchurch) and Thai Home Delivery from Sunanta’s Thai Kitchen in Ewyas Harold – two things we struggled with in the Barbican! Phil did the drive home.

Settling into Forty Acres: Our car!
Settling into Forty Acres: Our car!

Weatherwise we’ve had a lot of rain (with more to come). Turns out we need to get the gutters cleared. So far we’ve had no joy in finding someone to do them. That’s a job for next week. Friday and Sunday were lovely sunny days with beautiful blue skies. Gorgeous. I am looking forward to having finished all the “jobs” and relaxing / enjoying the area a bit more…..

To follow our progress moving to the country, check my Herefordshire Week Notes here each Monday. Phil is doing his version too. If photos suffice, mine are on Flickr: Adieu London; Hello Herefordshire.

(Don’t tell anyone, but I can hear mouse size scamperings in the roof…..)

Where next: Picos de Europa – El Anillo de Picos

August / September 2020 will see Steffi, Hazel and I – plus Rache – return to Northern Spain to walk El Anillo de Picos in the wonderful company (and excellent guiding) of Alfonso Gallego de Lerma.

Destination: The Picos de Europa, Northern Spain.

When: August / September 2020.

What: Steffi, Hazel and I – plus Rache – return to Northern Spain to walk El Anillo de Picos.

How: In the wonderful company of Alfonso Gallego de Lerma who was our excellent guide/leader on Exodus’ Picos de Europa trip we did in July 2019.

Why: Last July’s trip whetted the appetite even though the bad weather restricted our routes and made the Grade 5 trip closer to the standard Grade 3 holiday than any of us would have wished.

This time we’ll get to spend a long week in the Picos de Europa proper, hiking in and around  the three massifs. We will be staying in refugios and carrying “everything” with us.  That shouldn’t be as dramatic as it sounds – we are used to carrying wet weather gear and warm layers plus lunch and water in our day packs and will only need a sheet sleeping bag for the refugios which will also provide all our meals. I for one am not renowned for my vast wardrobe when I’m walking …. Plus we will have clean clothes to enjoy once we’ve competed El Anillo.

Itinerary: Factoring in travel to/from London, our itinerary is:

Day 0: Travel to London
Day 1: Fly to Bilbao. Travel to Arenas de Calabres.
Days 2 to 8: Trekking through the Picos.
Day 9: Relax and swim…. Drive to Bilbao or Santander. Visit the city.
Day 10: Fly to London
Day 11: Travel back from London

Steffi has  booked flights and Alfonso is booking hotels and the refugios (turns out four clients is a good number, as is Alfonso’s price), so we are All Systems Go!

Herefordshire Week 001: Monday 30 December 2019 – Sunday 05 January 2020

Adieu London, Hello Herefordshire.

A week of packing, cleaning – and worrying – interspersed with socialising. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with Hazel at the new Everyman in Broadgate Circle, lunch with Simon, Susa and Jane, Troy at the British Museum and TJBR round for dinner and presents.

The worry/ies? Would the Medium Van we’ve hired from Enterprise be big enough for all the still-accumulating boxes? Would I remember how to drive? Did I need any further ID docs for our Hereford car hire on Friday? Will how we’re leaving the flat meet the expectations of our spare room renters?

Meals have been imaginative usings up of the things in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. A larger than normal number of Gs&Ts.

We welcomed in 2020 quietly. A combination of “that’s what we usually do” and post-packing/cleaning/worrying weariness. I was in bed by 10pm, finishing off Granta 85: Hidden Histories, which turned out for be my 1000th review on SparklyTrainers.

Thursday 02 January we moved to Herefordshire. The van hire went fine, as did driving back to the Barbican and packing the van. Excellent service from Enterprise Rent-A-Car in both Tower Bridge and Hereford. Highly recommended. The drive west featured the A40/M40/A40/M5/M50/A49, with a late lunch stop off at The Old Prison cafe, just off the Fosse Way near Northleach.

Unpacking the van proved quicker than packing it had been (no lifts, fire doors or road crossings to contend with) and we had time to enjoy a cup of tea and some tiffin to recharge our batteries before we started to put all the boxes into roughly the right rooms.

We are here!
We are here!

Friday was designated car quest day 1. Our mission to find a second hand Honda Jazz took us to Blenheim and Stourbridge, without any joy. However, we did come to the conclusion that we should ditch the Jazz fixation, and focus on what was on offer locally. We had spent the drive back from Stourbridge contingency planning what to do if we couldn’t buy a car before the hire car goes back on Tuesday. You definitely need a car in this part of the world. That said, you would manage with supermarket shopping deliveries, taxis and the local bus services, but you’d need plenty of time (and money for those taxis) and the ability to get out into the surrounding countryside would be limited.

Car quest day 2 proved far more successful and yesterday morning we bought a 10 year old Nissan Note from M3 Auto on the Rotherwas Industrial Estate, located courtesy of AutoTrader’s excellent filtered search.  All being well we will be picking it up Tuesday morning after it’s been MOTed, had the 2 rear tyres replaced and the interior re-valeted.

Dinner at The Temple Inn with dad and Jean last night. It changes hands in a couple of weeks time. I wonder what changes that will bring. Glad we managed one last meal there from Gill and family.

Spent most of today clearing my “office” room (involving close encounters with childhood toys – the wooden garage and the Lego in its case, both made by dad, plus Patty People (aka Fisher Price Little People) and Playmobil. Also lots of dust), moving in dad’s old desk and setting up my LW office. All working perfectly. Phew. Let’s hope the wifi continues to hold up….

We did fit in the Kerry’s Gate – Bacton walk after lunch, and I sorted out car insurance this evening, and now this first set of Herefordshire Week Notes (henceforth HWN) is done it’s time to relax. More unpacking / clearing / cleaning calls tomorrow.

Evening viewing: The Trial of Christine Keeler and Dracula. Both excellent. We do have lots of flies here at the cottage however. Gulp.

An eventful 7 days. It feels longer than a week.

(With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I’d taken “before” photos of the rooms we’ve rearranged.)

 

Granta 85: Hidden Histories – Granta Magazine

Granta 85: Hidden HistoriesMy 1000th review on SparklyTrainers, and my last book of 2019.

Just right for dipping in and out for bedtime reading on the lead up to our move to Herefordshire. I particularly liked the last essay, Giles Foden‘s White Men’s Boats, and the personal histories from Diana Athill and Brian Cathcart.

And I’ve just spotted the Giles Foden has written a full length version of the hidden history of the World War I British naval expedition to Lake Tanganyika, overland, led by the inept Geoffrey Spicer-Simson: Mimi and Toutou Go Forth.

Publisher page: Granta 85: Hidden Histories – Granta Magazine

Christmas Week in Walton on the Naze

Home after our seven day sojourn by the sea, the highlight of which was a beautiful “blue skies and sunshine” 25th of December – what The Sunshine Coast does best, although not always at this time of year.

Happy Christmas from Walton on the Naze
Happy Christmas from Walton on the Naze

The week sped by, mainly because it was broken up into a series of “events”.

Settling in and Shopping

We arrived on Friday, early evening, only to find that The Tollgate fish and chip shop was closed for Christmas! So it was Plan B: Yates’s for F&C with mushy peas a la Aldi back at the flat. But first, a quick visit upstairs to wish Margaret and Richard Season’s Greetings and an early Happy Birthday for Richard.

Happy Christmas from Walton on the Naze
Happy Christmas from Walton on the Naze

Saturday started with our Christmas Food Shop at M&S and Aldi – 99% successful (and surprisingly easy – neither were as busy as I’d feared) with only the M&S Festive Vegan Roast unaccounted for. A tactical strike back at M&S on Sunday sorted that out and revealed that Sunday morning was Prime Christmas Food Shop time.

To Frinton for coffees at the Bird & Bean accompanied by a bacon donut for Phil (verdict: try it!) and the usual mooch along the shops of Connaught Avenue. Back to the flat for a late lunch and a leisurely afternoon. Sunday was similarly leisurely, after the Festive Roast foray. We ventured out early evening for a pint at The Victory, with beer spillage.

Gyford Guests

Monday was early Christmas Dinner with Janet, John and Sue – very successful roast ham, mashed potatoes, roast parsnips and carrots plus stuffing and pigs in blankets followed by Christmas Pud. The less successful aspect from our perspective was the lack of leftovers!!!

Sue stayed on to Christmas Eve, which started sunny and saw Sue go for a swim in our southern stretch of the North Sea. Very impressive. We celebrated with a late lunch in Frinton – back at the Bird & Bean, naturally – followed by more mooching then homes (various).

Christmas Day

Christmas Day provided a smashing sunrise, two strolls along the beach, beautiful blue skies and the option of a 10am swim from The Last Fisherman Cafe. We participated, as spectators. Phil had cooked on Monday, so I was doing Wednesday and spent a relaxed couple of hours preparing our Christmas Day dinner, assisted by a glass of white wine and some nibbles.

Christmas Morning by the Beach Huts, Hipkins Beach
Christmas Morning by the Beach Huts, Hipkins Beach

Our plates of M&S Vegan Festive Christmas Roast with gravy, roast potatoes, roast parsnips and carrots, Brussels sprouts, green beans, broccoli, stuffing (and a pair of pigs in blankets for Phil) didn’t last long. No room for any afters, although after a walk along the prom and back via Southcliffe we did manage a cup of tea and some small cakes… Just tidying up!

Kings Reach Christmas Dinner
Kings Reach Christmas Dinner

Afterwards

Boxing Day was wet and windy. A day to stay inside, and to finish Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims – and to wish I’d checked that I’d not read the other three novels I’d picked up at Barbican Library before bringing them to Walton. Read a few chapters of The Beckoning Silence, but not gripped. That evening we finished watching The Knick. Glad it got less graphically gory as the series wore on.

Today was overcast and mild. No great incentive to head outside, but we did manage a trip to the glass recycling bins, and on to the Yacht Club where we saw how the glass recycling bins get emptied. Thankful for Phil’s backlog of LRBs either side of lunch, during which we almost finished off all the leftovers…. There’s a tub left for tea once we get in. Plus plenty of cheese.

Next…

Five days to pack the ever expanding list of things we are taking with us to Herefordshire. That’s come around fast!