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….
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….
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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).
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.
A manic week, trying to get work/life projects into shape before my hols, with a few extra curricular activities included; some planned, others not.
Relaxing morning with F&I on Tuesday watching the birds on the feeders and having mothers’ meetings in the bird bath and then sitting on the patio enjoying coffee and cake with L&M and dad. Then work!
Down to Ewyas early on Wednesday morning for a follow up blood test, arranged from Abergavenny last Friday morning. In the evening we went down to the Abbey with dad and Jean, N&T to watch Rain or Shine’s The Recruiting Sergeant. After Drs and work I was a bit too wound up to enjoy the evening as much as I wanted to, even with an M&S picnic beforehand. After a sweltering day it turned cool in the evening, a bit too cool. Huge moon.
Got to work early on Thursday morning so that I could duck out after a speedy late lunch to drive to Ross to sell my MX5 back to Bowens Garage. I love it but I’m just not driving it and it stresses me out with all the keeping clean, driving-s0-the-battery-doesn’t-go-flat and other maintenance. So I took the hit and we now have a clear view of the birds and the pear tree from the kitchen window. And I feel better for it.
Then we had to speed back to Ewyas for me to have another blood test – I’d had a phone call and text message in the morning asking me to come in for another one ASAP as my sodium levels are (too) low. Wasn’t prepared to then be asked to drive the blood sample to the hospital for overnight testing so had a chat with the Dr and she’s going to phone/text me my results tomorrow. It’s likely to be just as I’m boarding… Let’s hope the levels are low because I drink a lot of water and don’t take a lot of salt.
A couple of hours more work, and then time to pack for Ladakh and online check-in!
Up early Friday to catch the 06.43 HFD-PAD train. I’d decided to allow as much time as possible for travelling to London and out to Heathrow for my 18.30 flight to Delhi, and to spend the morning/early afternoon working in the LO office.
Back in the smoke, I had my first go on the Elizabeth Line – aka Crossrail. The signage at Paddington isn’t great – “Elizabeth Line” doesn’t feature on the signs you see on the platform when your train pulls in and instead you need to look at the floor on the main concourse. Not easy when that’s full of people. That said, once I’d found my way to the eastbound service it was a speedy 11 min to Liverpool St – magnificent!
I headed back to Paddington early afternoon and was once again stymied by the signage. Westbound trains (currently?) leave from platforms 11, 12 and 14 but it’s not at all obvious how to get to 11, which of course was where the next Elizabeth Line train to LHR was due to depart from. Still, I made it to T3 a bit before 3pm and was sitting in the departure lounge by 3.25pm having done bag drop and security. No long queues for me.
A smooth flight, and mandatory masking except for small children etc – and there were lots of those, and lots of coughing. Uh oh.
Landed in Delhi a bit after 8am on Saturday. Spotted some likely fellow trekkers in the visa / immigration queue. Out of the terminal, Valerie Parkinson was waiting for us and once she’d corralled all 11 of us (turns out there had been 6 cancellations and 1 new booking since I’d bagged the “last place”) it was into taxis and through the busy streets of New Delhi to the Jaypee Siddharth hotel. A briefing from VP in the cafe/bar while rooms were sorted out and then some money changing (90INR : 1GBP). I’m sharing with J, the only other woman on the trip (cf 5 women when I’d booked). Took the taxi tour option for the afternoon – Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, India Gate, Government Buildings and Shri Laxmi Narayan Temple. Monsoon downpours limited what else we could do. Group dinner at the Mughal Mahal restaurant just down the road from the hotel.
Up early Sunday for our flight to Leh. All good. Taxis to the Hotel Glacier View, not far from the Kang Lha Chen where we’d stayed in 2016. Checked into our rooms and relaxed, acclimatising to the thinner air at 3,500m, until VP took us out for an afternoon orientation tour of the bazaar and old town. Thankfully not much has changed. Tea (and late lunch for some) at the Leh View rooftop restaurant overlooking the gilded roof of Leh Gompa. Leisurely afternoon, then buffet dinner at the hotel.
Leh’s night time audio entertainment comprises barking dogs and two 3.30am calls to prayer that segue into one another. Fighter jets optional.
Another acclimatisation day, but a little more active – we drove to Shey to visit the old palace and temple, then walked across the valley to Tikse where VP gave us a guided tour of the gompa. Back to Shey for a late lunch then back to the hotel for a snooze and prelim kit bag pack, then a kit check (boots primarily) and trek briefing with VP out on the terrace.
Dinner out at another rooftop restaurant – Il Forno, overlooking the main road and entrance to the bazaar. I had pizza and banana lassi 🙂
That said, generally I’m finding I’m slow to acclimatise – headaches, no appetite, stuffy nose/head.
But other than that it’s so far, so good!
There will be some photos, once I’ve sorted through them.
Featuring Wine Wednesday, a long weekend in Walton and a Loosemore Family Meal.
Work’s done for the year.
Tuesday was my first day in the London office since COVID kicked off. Strange and not so strange. The part that worried me most was the morning commute and after consultation with H I opted to get the train from CJ into Waterloo and to walk the rest of the way.
Up at 6.30am – a bit of a shock to the system – and who’d imagine I’d forget which platforms the Waterloo trains run from? The train was a bit busier than I’d imagined but not so different from Monday’s journey in from Essex, and I really enjoyed the walk along the South Bank and over the Wobbly Bridge as a technicolour sunrise took over the whole sky to the east.
Settled into my Hotelling Desk and thankfully the other person who’d booked in for the day was a no show. Got my new headphones working, tracked down my mug and picked up my parcel. These things are Important. Caught up with a few folks over coffee and, at the end of the day, wine. KMCA winter drinks rounded off my first day in the office since January 2020. Then it was the Northern Line back to Hazel’s for a cheeky Deliveroo dinner.
A tiring day. But good to be back in the office and being able to meet people in person again. And I discovered that the southbound Northern Line now has a branch line that goes to Battersea Power Station!
Another full day at work on Wednesday; same commute as yesterday.
Wrapped up at 5.50pm – having to pack everything up every evening and take it back to my locker required multiple journeys and took an age – and speed walked to Bow Lane Wine Vaults for Wine Wednesday. Another “first since January 2020”.
Found Catherine in an uncomfortably busy BLWV and with Boris announcing Plan B. As we loitered in vain for a table we decided on our own Plan B – to go straight to Pizza Express. Rachel materialised as we were texting Hazel (mysteriously late) and it was wonderful to find Virginie at the pretty empty Russia Row restaurant.
Prosecco and pizzas all round, and really special to hang out again.
Thursday was a long day.
I spent the morning in the office for my last “day” at work for 2021. I’m glad I managed to get to the London office at least once this year, and just in the nick of time (Hello again, Plan B). Unfortunately the plan to meet up with D for lunch was foiled by a Ping.
Early afternoon train to Witham to meet up with Phil at his folks for a cuppa and a mince pie, then drove east to the Essex Coast and a long weekend in a seafront AirBnB back in Walton on the Naze.
Walked to M&S and Aldi to pick up supplies – walking to the shops is now a novelty – and then settled in for an evening on the sofa, nice and snug and looking forward to waking up to sea views in the morning.
Friday’s breakfast came with a sea view, then a bracing stroll along the prom to Frinton. Lots of the beach huts showing signs of Lockdown TLC. A potter along Connaught Avenue culminated in The Hospice Bookshop, where Phil bought of a couple of books on puppies…
Lunch back at base then a lazy afternoon in PJs channel surfing on the bedroom TV.
Takeaway Thai from the Pearl of Samui for dinner. Quite honestly the best Thai anywhere.
Saturday started with an amazing sunrise and the seafront flat really came into its own.
After breakfast we headed out for a mooch around Terry’s, a successful visit to Lilley’s Bakery and a stroll along the High Street checking for changes. Not so many.
Purchases dropped off at the flat, then back out to walk to Hipkins to check on the beach hut….
All good, so we continued up to the Naze Tower and on to the headland, and all the way along the estuary shore to Stone Point and Pye Sand – making the most of low tide. It’s a lovely wild stretch of strand, tucked between Hamford Water and the Walton Backwaters and Marshes.
Back via Hipkins / Hall Lane park with its (temporarily ?) relocated beach huts, Joy Otter Walk and the decommissioned Coastguard Station. Late lunch and a couple of hours reading before we headed round to see Margaret and Richard for tea and cake, and a glass of wine or two. Catching up on all the Walton news.
A glorious morning on Sunday with blue skies and sunshine, so breakfast done I set out for a quick spin around town checking out cafe / takeaway options ahead of the Wivenhoe arrivals. Luxuriating in T shirt weather in December I decided to stretch my legs a little further – over golden sands to the beach hut and along the front to the Naze Tower, then back via Old Hall Lane and Hall Lane to Foundry corner, the perennially muddy footpath to the Naze Marine Caravan Park and along the “sea wall” and more muddy footpath all the way to North Street. Smashing. No camera with me, of course.
With half an hour before Tom, B, Dad and Jean were due to arrive, I picked up Phil and we strolled south along the Prom, passing people eating ice creams and drinking coffee/tea al fresco at Mays, and returning to town along the upper path past Burnt Farm and the Seaview Caravan Park – ready to rendezvous with Dad and Jean, T & B.
Cloud cover caught up with us at the station rendezvous, so we picked up sandwiches and drinks at the lacklustre Potatoe Shack (yes, that’s the correct spelling) and lunched in the green kiosk near Ice Cream Central. A stroll along the sea front took us all the way to Hipkins where dad and Jean took a breather on a bench while T, B, Phil and I continued on to The Links Cafe for tea and cake. Then back to the station, where our guests headed back to WIV.
A leisurely afternoon featuring The Living Daylights, then the 6.30pm to Wivenhoe where T, J & B were waiting to take us all to the Wivenhoe House Hotel. Dad and Jean were staying there for the weekend and treated us all to a long overdue family meal. Very Christmassy, and easy to forget Omicron, except for the masks.
Today’s the first time dad, me and Tom have been together for ages, stretching back pre-COVID.
Slow start to the day, Monday.
An orange and turquoise sunrise sky glimpsed through the bedroom window, and a couple of episodes of The Essay. Clouds arrived as the tide receded, and we decided we were missing home, had done all the things we really wanted to do in Walton, and that we’d drive back a day early.