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.)