Next stop England!

Country lane near Little Melton
Country lane near Little Melton

The last week or more has seen me travel from Cusco to Norwich, via Lima, Madrid, Gatwick, Lydney and Sherborne. I left Cusco on 26 June and flew to Madrid, where I spent half a night, before flying onto London and catching a coach to Chepstow, where I was picked up by Min. After a couple of days rest and recuperation and catching up on the lack of two nights sleep and the time difference, it was off to Bristol airport on the train/bus, so that I could hire a car to drive to Dorset and my parents. A few days there and I was off again. This time to Norwich, via Watford to visit friends, for a housesit for 13 days. Hopefully, things will be a little calmer and more relaxed now!

Unusual road sign near Little Melton
Unusual road sign near Little Melton

Norfolk is an area that I do not know at all as it is many, many years since I have visited. I am in a small village called Little Melton and I have some pot plants and one cat, Saffy, to attend to. So far, she is ignoring me and, as I write, is asleep on top of the boiler. It is obviously a comfy spot! She will soon realise, I am sure, that I am the source of the food supply and become less aloof.

The weather last week was beautiful and I could see England at its best as I travelled around. The hedgerows are full of elderflower and cow parsley and the lanes full of tractors! It was also the start of Wimbledon, so there was some excellent television viewing to be had and it was a good time to be a couch potato, television in itself being a bit of a novelty after all this time.

I can also flush the toilet paper down the toilet once again and use the tap water to brush my teeth. Surprisingly, it took me several days to stop looking for the little bin beside the toilet. Not only that but the locals understand me and I understand them! Hooray! No more struggling with a foreign language.

It does, however, seem a little tame after all that noise and colour in Peru but I have some beautiful old buildings and a vast array of goods to choose from in the supermarkets by way of compensation.

A varied roof line!
A varied roof line!

Yesterday, I attempted to visit Norwich myself, having been given a quick tour on Sunday by Amanda, Saffy’s owner. However, as soon as I parked, I realised I had left my glasses and phone in the house. I decided to return and get them but then got totally lost as Norwich has a one way system and I couldn’t find the right road out of the city. Needless to say, I rely on my phone for maps so ended up spending quite some time on some very unfamiliar roads. I had visions of desperately driving around all day in ever increasing circles. It took a while and the reassurance of a tank full of petrol (as opposed to a nearly empty one) to relax and find the way back.

After that, I thought a trip to Wymondham (pronounced in typical British fashion, Wind-um) would be easier. And it was! I had a wander around the small market town, visited the Abbey, which had major building works in progress, and then went to the supermarket where I marvelled at the choice and bought more than I really needed, just because I could!

The afternoon was spent in front of Wimbledon, once again, with occasional forays to the fridge. I may have to get myself into a routine and do some exercise soon!

My latest 'charge' sitting on the boiler
My latest ‘charge’ sitting on the boiler

At ‘home’ in Lydney

Lydney

21 August

The day did not start well. I checked my bank accounts online, only to realise that my Air N.Z. cash card had been scammed and a few hundred dollars had been withdrawn in New York. This entailed a long phone call to N.Z. to sort it out and, hopefully, the money will be refunded. Luckily, I don’t keep much money on that card.

It was a cold, grey day and Min had bought tickets for us to see ‘West Side Story’ in Cardiff. We planned to catch the 11.17am train from Lydney but, after we had bought the tickets, we discovered that the train had been cancelled and had to wait on a draughty platform for half an hour for the next one.

Reflections in Cardiff
Reflections in Cardiff
Fun fair outside the Millenium Theatre
Fun fair outside the Millenium Theatre

However, the train, when it arrived, was warm and fast and we reached in Cardiff about 12.30pm. We then had to catch a bus down to Cardiff Bay as the performance was at the Millenium Theatre. The bus was a long time coming and, in true British fashion, three came at once! The delays meant that we were somewhat short of time for lunch but we still managed a plate of anti pasto at an Italian restaurant overlooking Cardiff Bay, where there were a number of catamarans, including one belonging to Team NZ, practising for a race on Saturday. The Alinghi team were just finishing lunch in the restaurant when we arrived and were out on the water not long after.

Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay
Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay - spot Team NZ
Cardiff Bay – spot Team NZ
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay

We made it to the theatre in good time and spent the rest of the afternoon engrossed in the outstanding production by Sadlers Wells. The voices and dancing were superb and almost as good as the last version of ‘West Side Story’ that I saw at Tauranga Boys’ College! The Millenium Theatre is an excellent venue and, even though we were in the Upper Circle, we had an unobstructed view of the stage.

Millenium Theatre, Cardiff
Millenium Theatre, Cardiff
View from the bar in the Millenium Theatre
View from the bar in the Millenium Theatre
Outside the Millenium Theatre, Cardiff
Outside the Millenium Theatre, Cardiff

Afterwards, we had time for a short walk around the High Street shops before catching the train back to Lydney, feeling very uplifted by all the music.

Lydney

22 August

The day dawned with a blue sky and sun, at last. After breakfast, Min and I set off for Monmouth for a wander round the shops. I managed to replace the phone I had had stolen in Colombia and, after checking out all the charity shops, we went for coffee at a very quaint cafe. On returning to the car park though, we discovered that disaster had struck and someone had hit Min’s car. However, the lady was waiting for us and hadn’t just driven off and left it, which was very good of her.

Henry's cafe in Monmouth
Henry’s cafe in Monmouth

Min dropped me off in Lydney on the way back, so that I could get a haircut. Luckily, I got one straight away, as I hadn’t got an appointment. I then walked back up the lane to the house, stopping to have quite a long chat to a dog walker along the way.

Lane up to Min and Des's house
Lane up to Min and Des’s house

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and playing with my new phone, although Min wasn’t quite so relaxed! I made her ring the insurance company, which caused her a bit of stress and she was also more than a little upset to learn that her cataract operation, due to happen on Wednesday, had been cancelled.

Lydney countryside
Lydney countryside

We were able to sit in the garden for a while, the sun still being out, something which has been a bit unusual of late. I have even been wearing polar fleeces, it has been so cold!

Lydney

23 August

I had the laziest day ever today. Min and Des did some gardening whilst I watched, after being assured that I couldn’t do anything. There were many runners going up and down the lane, as part of a triathlon, some of whom were still going at 9pm, so either there was a very staggered start or there were some unbelievably unfit people taking part!

The gardeners having a tea break
The gardeners having a tea break
One of the gardeners at work
One of the gardeners at work
There is a gardener under the foliage somewhere!
There is a gardener under the foliage somewhere!

In the afternoon, I read my book and had a snooze. There were days in the past when I would have felt very guilty about this but those days are gone!!

Tri-athletes
Tri-athletes

In the evening, I was treated to a Thai dinner in a cafe in Monmouth, which was very good, after which we returned home and had a nightcap of Calvados that I had brought back with me from France.

Lydney

24 August

Min and Des had some very old friends visiting today and most of the day was spent imbibing vast quantities of wine and eating. I could not keep pace, so I washed up and had a nice cup of tea!

Lydney

25 August

One or two of us were a little the worse for wear today but, thankfully, I wasn’t one of them!

It was pouring with rain virtually all day but I walked down to Lydney and back, nevertheless, when Min and Des drove down to the supermarket. The rest of the day was spent trying to finish my book (one less to carry with me), sorting and packing.

We had a lovely seafood dinner in the evening, with an aperitif of Prosecco to set me on my way, as tomorrow is a big travel day.

Across Southern England

Birchington

14 August

I spent the morning trying to sort out my belongings and seeing how much I could fit into the very small case I had bought yesterday. The answer was not nearly as much as I wanted to so will have to consolidate further! I am determined to travel more lightly.

After lunch I set off in the pouring rain to Birchington in Kent where I was visiting old friends. This involved a drive up the A303 (queues at Stonehenge), onto the M3, then the M25 (not as heavy traffic as I had anticipated) and then the M20. Motorway almost all the way, so it wasn’t too bad a trip, although I managed to break a bottle of wine, which fell onto the floor after I had stupidly left it on the back seat. The hire car now has a smell of eau de sauvignon blanc. The carpet doesn’t appear wet though so I am not sure where the liquid has gone!

I arrived at Fran’s in the pouring rain at about 5.30pm and had to sit in the car for a while waiting for the rain to ease. We then had a very enjoyable evening, catching up over the last few years, with Chris, her husband, and son, Jon.

Birchington

15 August

Fran had a friend, who lives in Spain, arriving today for lunch and to stay the night, so we had a relaxed morning, chatting and going to the local shops, before Bob arrived. The weather had brightened and warmed sufficiently for us to have a very leisurely lunch outside on the patio.

View from my bedroom window
View from my bedroom window
Beach huts in Birchington
Beach huts in Birchington
Where's the beach gone?
Where’s the beach gone?
Inside the beach hut
Inside the beach hut
View from Fran's beach hut!
View from Fran’s beach hut!

Afterwards, we walked the five minutes to the beach front and strolled along the sea wall, stopping at Fran’s beach hut along the way. The tide was extremely high and the waves were crashing over the promenade, although the sea didn’t look particularly rough. On the way back, we sat on a bench overlooking the sea and chatted for a while before returning to the house, where Chris had arrived back from work.

On the sea wall in Birchington
On the sea wall in Birchington

We had a lovely evening, firstly sitting outside over aperitifs and then moving inside for a delicious dinner. Bob had spent 7 years sailing solo round the Mediterranean before settling in Spain and still did a lot of travelling with his wife. He had also been a trade union official so the discussion was quite varied!

Birchington

16 August

We had a very leisurely morning, having a late breakfast out on the patio and making the most of the fine weather, which was not forecast to last. Bob left around lunchtime and we decided to venture into Margate where there was a vintage weekend in progress. Vintage seems to have made a big revival in the UK and the businesses in Margate seem to have embraced the trend.

Book shop sign in Margate
Book shop sign in Margate
Inside the Hospice Book shop in Margate
Inside the Hospice Book shop in Margate
Boxes of real Kentish cider
Boxes of real Kentish cider

Our first stop was at the Pilgrim Hospice bookshop, which is located in the old Bank building. I tried very hard not to buy any books but, unfortunately, was unsuccessful and came away with two more to add to my pile. So much for travelling lighter! It was an excellent bookshop, given that they were all second hand, and I would love a shop like that near where I live.

At the pub in Margate
At the pub in Margate

Chris then suggested going to the pub that had a large selection of real Kentish ciders as well as local beers, so we spent a very pleasant half hour sipping our drinks and watching the people at the Vintage Fair. We wandered around the stalls afterwards and listened to one of the live bands playing in the square. There were a number of people dressed in the style of the 50’s and one very small girl, in particular, amused us with her participation in the dancing, whilst her mother, appropriately attired, looked on.

Vintage clothing stall in Margate
Vintage clothing stall in Margate
So true..!
So true…!
Dressed in vintage
Dressed in vintage
In drag
In drag

Fran stopped to chat with a number of people she knew and also to distribute leaflets for the next ‘Let’s do Vintage’ Fair that she organises a couple of times a year. We partook of a restorative cup of tea and cake in one of the many vintage style tea shops, where we were served by a very tall man, dressed in a very tight nurse’s uniform with a very short skirt, who was definitely entering in to the spirit of the occasion!

Vintage (?) car in Margate
Vintage (?) car in Margate
The Beatles in Margate
The Beatles in Margate

Our last port of call for the day was at the Turner Modern Gallery on the water front. This has continuously changing exhibitions of modern art and is currently housing one by Mondrian. I am obviously a philistine when it comes to modern art as I really failed to see the significance of some of the pieces. However, he did certainly change his style over the course of his life and ultimately had a big impact on the fashion world and the block colours used in dress fabric favoured by designers in the 60’s.

View from the Turner Modern Gallery
View from the Turner Modern Gallery (art work in the horizontal boxes)
Turner Gallery blending into the scenery in Margate
Turner Gallery blending into the scenery in Margate
View of the old Customs House in Margate
View of the old Customs House in Margate
Very attractive umbrellas outside this pub in Margate!
Very attractive umbrellas outside this pub in Margate!

Dinner this evening was at an Indian restaurant in Birchington and was another most enjoyable meal. I am now fitting into all the trousers that used to be a little loose!

Birchington

17 August

This morning, after breakfast, Chris, who’s big interest is steam trains, went off to look at some trains and Fran and I had a trip out in her open top MG, intending to go to Canterbury but somehow ending up in Whitstable.

Fran in her MG
Fran in her MG

The weather was very variable all day, but we managed to reach our destination without getting wet. However, I must be getting old, as I felt quite vulnerable with the top down and both of us felt our creaky knees when trying to get in and out of the low slung car!

Oyster shop in Whitstable
Oyster shop in Whitstable
Kentish clapboard houses at Whitstable
Kentish clapboard houses at Whitstable
Whitstable port
Whitstable port
Inside the fish market at Whitstable
Inside the fish market at Whitstable

On arrival, we wandered down the main street, where there were, like Margate, a number of vintage shops interspersed with the more usual ones. The town was quite busy and we browsed our way slowly down to the port where we went into the fish market for lunch.

Whitstable is famous for its oysters but Fran wasn’t brave enough to try them and I didn’t feel like them, so we settled on whitebait and chips for her and a crab panini and chips for me. She definitely had the better choice! Whilst we were eating, the heavens opened and people poured in for shelter, so the market staff were very busy.

Along the sea front at Whitstable
Along the sea front at Whitstable
Old beach hut at Whitstable
Old beach hut at Whitstable
Sign on a beach hut!
Sign on a beach hut!

After lunch, we strolled along the waterfront, looking at the old fishermen’s and beach huts, some of which had been restored, whilst others were looking decidedly sad. They apparently command very high prices, even though the beach huts cannot be lived in. Whitstable is also a working port and there were a lot of fishing boats, as well as sail boats, moored in the harbour and along the beach front.

Old Fishermen's huts at Whitstable
Old Fishermen’s huts at Whitstable
A 'good' address?!
A ‘good’ address?!

We stopped for a cup of tea (no cake today) and then drove back along the coast via Tankerton, where we had a short walk, Herne Bay, where we could see the end of what was once the longest pier in Britain now out at sea, and Reculver with its ruined church.

The wind farms are out at sea beyond Whitstable
The wind farms are out at sea beyond Whitstable
The beach at Tankerton
The beach at Tankerton
The former end of Herne Bay pier out at sea
The former end of Herne Bay pier out at sea
The helter skelter at the end of Herne Bay pier
The helter skelter at the end of Herne Bay pier
Ruined Anglo Saxon church at Reculver
Ruined Anglo Saxon church at Reculver
Looking towards Birchington from Reculver
Looking towards Birchington from Reculver

Chris arrived back at the same time as we did and we had a leisurely evening (or, at least, I did) over yet another excellent dinner.

George, the tame seagull, waiting to be fed
George, the tame seagull, waiting to be fed

Lydney

18 August

A large part of the day was spent on the motorways between Kent and Gloucestershire. After everyone had gone to work, I spent some time on the internet, packed up and left in the late morning from Birchington.

There was motorway almost the entire distance to Lydney and fairly heavy traffic, particularly on the M25. I stopped at the Reading services for something to eat and drink and reached Min and Des’s in the late afternoon. Whilst it probably wasn’t any further than travelling from Dorset to Kent, it had seemed like a long trip and I was glad to arrive.

Min, having put her neck out, had had a very painful session at the chiropractor, so we had a quiet evening, catching up from where we had left off in June.

Lydney

19 August

My priority this morning was to return the hire car to the company in Gloucester. Min had been intending to come with me but she was still feeling a little fragile, so I drove in on my own. There were no delays and the car was dropped off without any problems and afterwards I had a walk around the Quays and the outlet shops.

Bridge going up in Gloucester Quays
Bridge going up in Gloucester Quays
Tall ships in Gloucester
Tall ships in Gloucester

There was quite a lot of public interest in the Tall Ships that were berthed at the Quays. These had been brought in for the filming of ‘Through the Looking Glass’, starring Johnny Depp, who naturally was not in evidence! However, there were quite a few barrels and sacks lined up on the quayside and a little bit of activity, although not too much filming.

Set of 'Through the Looking Glass'
Set of ‘Through the Looking Glass’
Barges and houseboats in Gloucester Quays
Barges and houseboats in Gloucester Quays
Pub in Gloucester
Pub in Gloucester

After wandering the shops, I walked back through the town to the bus station, stopping to eat a sandwich in a square that had an exhibition of street art, some of which was quite eye catching. The weather had luckily held whilst I was walking, but no sooner was I seated on the top of the double decker than the heavens opened. The journey back took about 3/4 hour and it was quite interesting to get a different perspective of the countryside from such a high perch.

Part of a graffiti/street art exhibition in Gloucester
Part of a graffiti/street art exhibition in Gloucester

Once back in Lydney, a very dark cloud threatened to soak me but, again, I was lucky and just got a little damp whilst I was walking the mile up the lane.

Lydney

20 August

I had a very quiet day today. I’d woken with a headache that I couldn’t get rid of so spent the morning trying to sort my possessions and generally being lazy. We went into Chepstow for a little wander in the afternoon so that I could dither about buying a mobile phone (and, of course, couldn’t make up my mind) and then did very little when we returned home. Sometimes days are just like that!