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!

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims – Toby Clements

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims - Toby Clements
Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims – Toby Clements

The first in a four part series set in the Wars of the Roses starts with a young canon and nun fleeing their Lincolnshire Priory in the hard winter of 1460. They soon take on new identities to escape charges of apostasy.

Jean borrowed my Frinton purchase when she and dad stayed in the summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. So, spotting a copy in my pre-Christmas whizz around Barbican library, it was an easy choice. A good one too – and not simply because it turned out I’d read the other three novels I picked up!

Plenty of adventure as Thomas and Kit find themselves travelling around the country, and across the Channel, on boats, horses and foot.

I particularly enjoyed the Welsh section, and the chapter spent in Hereford, when the Chained Library gets a mention.

Handily I have the next two – further Frinton purchases – at home. Less handily I’ve already promised to let Jean have them when we get to 40A in January. She’s been waiting patiently to find out what happens after the Battle of Towton….

The only disappointment was discovering that the author is/was a literary critic at The Telegraph. No wonder there’s such a glowing review from them on the front cover…. It’s not what you know, eh?

Publisher page: Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims – Toby Clements