Down in Dorset

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AT LAST……………A chance to get back on the road again with our caravan!

Dorset was our first choice for the first outing since lockdown as it was only a relatively short drive from home and we could meet up with our friends Kev and Val who live nearby in Chideock.

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The site was a C.L.  just north of Bridport in a small village called Salwayash. A C.L. is a small caravan site that is only allowed to have a maximum of 5 caravans/motorhomes at any one time, and generally this means you are with like-minded people who are travelling to these spots to enjoy the peace and tranquility, and the view!

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We were lucky with the weather and although the beach was busy everyone seemed to be keeping a safe distance apart. The coast path here at West Bay is stunning!

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Not only is it stunning, it is very hilly. You certainly know when you have walked a couple of miles along this path……every hill seemed to go up!

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We sat down to catch our breath on top of one hill which had a great view of a short par 3.  I found it very interesting to sit and watch the golfers attempt to land their golf balls on the saucer-shaped green but Jane soon got bored and was more concerned about getting back to the car without having to having to re-climb all those hills again! We found a flatter footpath back which took us through the golf course……….great!

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The next day I had an early start so that I could meet up with Kev and do a bit of geocaching …………

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The tracks and footpaths were great quality and very easy to walk on, not at all overgrown like some I have recently experienced! The views of the rolling countryside were an added bonus to the geocaching !

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The section of the B3157 which runs along the coast from Bridport to Abbotbury is amongst the most beautiful that I have driven along. The road is rolling and very windy (as in it winds, rather than blowy) and you get a stunning view of the coastline around almost every corner.

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The joy of being down here for a week is that you have time to do the drive both ways !

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When you get close to Abbotsbury you get a good view of all the cruise liners that are at anchor in the bay just off Weymouth waiting patiently to go back to work. We counted 6!

I hope it all gets back to normal soon as we have a cruise booked in early January next year, fingers crossed!

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We carried on along the B3157 which takes you to Portland. Portland is a place I had heard of many times before on the local news but never visited until now. On one side of the peninsula you get a great view of Chesil beach…………..

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…….on the other you get a view of Weymouth bay and the cruise liners.

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Our campsite was on a farm and the nearby footpaths led to some very interesting walks either amongst the crops or……………

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………amongst the livestock. The only thing I didn’t get to see was anyone else, it was lovely to be able to stroll in peace in the countryside.

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We came on this trip with our friends John and Margaret Simpson. They have a motorhome and seemed very professional and well rehearsed when they got it all set up!

On a previous visit to Dorset Kev and Val introduced us to the lovely food of the Hive cafe on Hive beach, so I thought I would bring John and Margaret and let them enjoy the freshly caught sea food for themselves.   Lobster, king prawns and chips….bloody lovely!

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On the Thursday evening, which was J&Ms last night, we all got together for a socially distanced BBQ outside our caravan, the weather was great, the food was lovely and the company was very entertaining !

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Hair Cut

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“Looks like you’ve dragged through a hedge backwards” was the comment Jane made 10 weeks into lockdown.  I thought the wild look was fairly becoming but apparently not, so something had to be done………Gary mentioned that he had a set of clippers and that if I was feeling brave he would have a go. So with nothing to lose apart from my hair and dignity, and with  no hairdressers appointments in sight, I thought I would give it a go………

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Jane said she didn’t want any blood on the kitchen floor so we went alfresco, well outside at least!

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I think he did good job, although I think he might have taken a little too much off the front…… it makes it look like my hair is receding!

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When dad found out the price Gary was charging he said “I’ll have some of that” and had his done as well.  Funny thing was that Jane was very reluctant to have hers don, saying she was quite prepared to wait until Christmas, if needed, for an appointment with her favourite stylist to become available.

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I’ve made another appointment with Chez Gary tomorrow morning for a trim, it’s not quite so bad this time, just a bit wispy!

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Out and About During Lockdown

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I am extremely fortunate to live here on the outskirts of Braishfield, Hampshire. I have lived in or around here for most of my life having moved here in 1966 from central Southampton.

The first weeks of lockdown took me back to my childhood when there was little traffic on the road and life was lived at a slower pace. This is one aspect of these troubling time that I have truly loved.

I have been able to walk from my house and explore the country lanes and footpaths of what seemed at times to be a bygone age.

It has been a long time since I really took notice of our lovely surroundings and the comings and goings of the seasons.

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We were truly blessed with great weather during this period of enforced captivity, and I certainly made the most of my daily walks or cycle rides. Seeing the countryside start to wake up from winter was a privilege that I would have missed if we had managed to stay in Spain, as planned.

 

The bluebells were stunning this year and they seemed to last for ages…..

 

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I have well and truly explored the footpaths in and around Braishfield and Romsey……….

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And it’s great to discover new places so close to your front door……..

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Its also great to revisit places you haven’t seen for years and years. This is Braishfield church where I was star of the Christmas Nativity as King Herod’s chief fan-waver in the late 60s!

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Further beyond Braishfield it’s so very quiet even when there isn’t a lockdown.  I walked for two hours on this day and didn’t meet a soul…..great!

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The only noise to be heard was the wheat rustling in the wind!

 

On the odd occasion, for a change, I cycled in to the centre of  Southampton. It was reassuring to know that there was very little traffic on the roads and that you could safely go about your journey without having to worry about those large lorries coming too close!

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But the best of all was to be out in the countryside and to see places like Farley Mount without the usual throng of people……….

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Mind you if we see scenes like those at Bournemouth, where thousands of people are flooding the beaches when we haven’t fully come out of lockdown, then the restrictions will be reimposed and we will have to start all over again!

 

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Ten minutes walk from our house are the Harold Hillier gardens and although they were closed we got to see the rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias at their very best from the side of the road!

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Lockdown DIY

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Before lockdown my vast toolkit consisted of a hammer, a saw and various screwdrivers.  I have now added to that impressive list with the addition of, not one, but two different types of electric sander.

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This project was to keep me quiet for many weeks  It’s amazing how much dust comes off one set of garden furniture…………..

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So much so that after phase one of my DIY I had to completely clean out the garage and wipe off my forlorn golf clubs which were propped in a corner looking all unloved !

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I started this project full of enthusiasm, but as the days passed I started to be more concerned about what was happing in the boxed sets that I was watching on the television. I got a second wind and finally finished the sanding down just in time for……….B&Q to open!

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It was quite exciting for another type of shop to be open. I didn’t even mind the queueing, the weather was good and all I needed was a few bottles of teak oil to finish off my project!

 

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So here it is in its full glory, my lockdown DIY project. I feel rather chuffed that I have managed to save a table and chairs that were looking really quite ropey, and we now have something for our guests to sit around when we are finally allowed to entertain again!

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On our second trip to B&Q the queues weren’t  quite as long, but we still had to wait outside and this time it was raining!

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Lockdown Garden

 

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We had a week after our arrival back home from Spain before the UK went in to lockdown. We used that time wisely, getting soil into our raised beds and planning the garden. This was going to be an April project but as it looked like we might be stuck at home for a long while we made sure that we had enough projects on the go to keep us amused!

The photo above shows the very early stages of the border at the back of the house, mid March I think……

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This is that border in mid June. Jane has done all the creative work and I have been employed (on a temporary basis) as a labourer!

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This is the side of the garden in mid March………..

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And this is it in mid June……………..

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The corner of the garden mid March

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And again in mid June………

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Before……..

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After…….

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Time to enjoy the recently renovated garden furniture (there will be another blog about my attempts at DIY!)

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For any serious DIY tasks like putting up a sail it’s handy to have my brother Gary and his mate Paul take control.  I think they have done a cracking job (after quite a bit of faffing around!)

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But now we have a great place to sit and enjoy Jane’s homemade cakes………….

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For those moments when we are allowed a socially distanced get together with friends, Rosie brought everything with her……….even some loo roll to wipe her hands!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping in Touch

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I  wish I had invested some money in  Zoom shares at the beginning of the year. Who would have thought in January that the only way to see your friends and family was online! It was great to be able to keep in touch with your mates from the comfort of your own home.

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Going online at breakfast time was also a useful way of waking my brain up in the morning.  Andy, a friend of mine from the David Lloyd club, set up a regular daily crossword  meeting with some other club members and we were able to pit our wits and try to set a record time every morning………I think our best time so far is just over 6 minutes! The pork pie behind Andy is there to help me focus!

The use of these live get togethers online has had a great many benefits for many people.  My dad suffers from Alzeimer’s and you can see his spirits visibly lift when he starts his internet singing group!

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It’s not just dad that gets to feel these benefits, both Jane and I get a lot of enjoyment from joining in with all the old favourites, and also to see the smile on dad’s face!

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I actually think that singing is the thing that gives dad the most pleasure these days…………

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Recognisable songs are a connection to his past that he never seems to forget………….

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Dad was very pleasantly surprised when a group of friends from the Baddesley Balladers called by for some socially distanced singing. He really enjoys the social aspect and it’s great to see him take part  and to be amongst old friends.

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Talking of dad’s old friends, the guy with the mike is Ray Godwin, one of dad’s mates from school, it was he who arranged this little get together. Thanks Ray, not only for this, but for all your help and advice throughout this difficult time for dad and for us!

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Staying Home for 12 Weeks

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Well, as life starts to slowly edge towards normal and we are handed back more and more snippets of our old life, it’s about time I caught up with my blog.  How could I not find time before now for an update?   I had great plans not to waste my time watching television and just mooching about……..oh well, at least I had started off with great ideals!. Don’t you think box sets are great?  So we got safely back home from our aborted trip to Spain, and hopefully we can head back there in the autumn if travel is back to normal by then. This time I hope we get to stay in more salubrious surroundings than the supermarket car park where we spent our penultimate night on the Iberian peninsular in March!

 

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Back home to a rather grey Braishfield to see Charlotte, and cramp her style as she had been promised the run of the house for a month and was looking forward to some peace and quiet on her own!

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We had to settle for Lepe Beach and forget all about the Costa del Sol.  Still, it was very bracing!  As it turned out the weather couldn’t have been better for being at home and stuck around the house and garden!

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Spain had gone in to lockdown 9 days before the UK so we all knew it was coming.  Jane thought it would be a great idea to go to B&Q to get a few projects to keep us amused whilst at home, unfortunately everyone else had the same idea!

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When lockdown eventually arrived it was surreal to see Romsey so quiet in the middle of the day………..

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Everyday tasks like doing a little shopping took so long, but with most people in good spirits it wasn’t really an unpleasant experience, especially as the sun was shining most of the time.

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And when you got home it was great to celebrate with a small tomato sandwich made with fresh crusty bread………why did food taste so much better when you had little chance of burning off all those extra calories?

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We are extremely lucky where we live to have such wonderful countryside right on our doorstep. So as the David Lloyd club was shut and I was unable to go for my daily swim it was time for me to explore the area in which I have lived for the vast majority of my life. I wasn’t disappointed, there have been a lot of changes since my childhood and most for the better.  The photo above is of the Romsey canal.  When I was a kid it was very difficult to walk this route as it was just too muddy and covered in stinging nettles!

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To keep us from going mad we set about doing loads of jobs, and whilst the weather was so good, it was actually a pleasure to wash and polish both cars and the caravan………..

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And to polish my shoes……..

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Dad was set daily projects by his art teacher and produced some great results!

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Gary tried his hand at making some low calorie Easter treats………very tasty!

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My nieces are neighbours so they found their way to get their Easter eggs!

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I think we were amongst the last people into IKEA to get some DIY projects to keep me amused….(they are still up after nearly 10 weeks!)

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The Thursday night clap for the NHS started in the dark but as the weeks slowly passed by the evenings got lighter and we were able to see our new neighbours rather than just hear them!

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To keep myself amused I finally got around to starting scanning all the old family photos that I have acquired over the years. Sadly most of the acquisitions have happened due to a death in the family………but spending time editing the photos gives you time for quiet reflection……. The photo above is of me and my mum in 1961!

 

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Dad (on the left) aged about 10………..

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Grandad in training for the RAF in Torquay……..1940s

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My mum’s family in East Ilsley in the early 1960s.  That’s me on the bonnet of my Uncle Keith’s car!

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Me in the middle with my brothers Paul and Gary.

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Mum, why did you ever let me grow my hair like that????

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It was my 59th birthday during lock down so I thought I would dress (or half dress) for the occasion. It did get a laugh when I logged on to do the daily crossword with my friends from the health club!

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I am writing this edition of the blog as we are gradually having to get used to a new normal. We still can’t do many of the things we used to do, but as things change we are thankful of every new little bit of freedom we are allowed……..Jane is now allowed to meet up with her borrowed dog “Skittles’ and there are smiles all around!

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But even whilst we have all these new things to look forward to as lockdown eases, there is someone lurking in the shadows to change Jane’s carefully crafted stone spiral in to another shape……..I wonder who that might be Gary?

 

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Spain for a Day

Saturday 14th March

It was an early start for us to catch the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in sunny Spain. We had been a little concerned about the coronavirus and its implications on our holiday, so we had regularly checked the FCO’s latest travel advice and we were good to go………or so we thought!

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As soon as we were on board and in our cabin Jane got the antiseptic wipes out and gave our bedroom a thorough clean, this is not a time to take any unnecessary risks!

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I thought the best way to avoid any contamination was to sit on deck and take in some sun. Whilst I was out getting a tan everything in Spain was changing quite dramatically and extremely fast. The FCO’s advice changed from avoid the 3 infected regions, to “only essential travel allowed”. The ship was full of people trying to get any information on what we should do next and this was pretty difficult to get hold of. Rumours of all campsites having to close, along with all restaurants and bars, were abound! We also heard that everyone was told to stay indoors and not only should they not drive anywhere, they were not even allowed to walk the streets!

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So as sunny Santander came into sight our plans had changed from a relaxing month in the sun to how are we going to get back.  We were lucky to be one of the first cars off the ferry so our immediate plan was to try to get back on the same ferry………..no luck there ,as many people had travelled up from the Costas overnight and the ferry was full.  Some kind passenger that we had been speaking to on the crossing pointed out a booth where they were taking bookings for upcoming sailings. We were lucky enough to secure the last space for the caravan and the last cabin on the Tuesday sailing from Bilbao, so all we had to do was find somewhere to stay for two nights.

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This was easier said than done.  After a few false starts and a few failed attempts to solicit a bit of sympathy from campsite owners, we settled for the less than salubrious surroundings of the car park at the Eroski supermarket.

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This did have one small advantage as I was amongst the first in the shop when it opened.  We were all given plastic gloves as we entered the store, and were only let in in phases.

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Once inside it was an Aladin’s cave of toilet rolls!  Even though that’s not what I went in for I bought a pack for gifts for when we eventually got back to the U.K.!!

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After every transaction at the till every checkout was thoroughly cleaned before you were allowed across the blue line to pay for your own basket of goods.

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Jane stayed in the caravan whilst I rounded up the essentials to help us survive our 36 hours in Spain. Top of her list was wine, well mine too if it comes to that, crisps, biscuits, chocolate, bread and milk were amongst the staples to keep us going!

 

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I was a little worried at buying these as the instruction were all in Spanish but Jane found a website with an English translation so that was alright!

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Our next night was spent on the dock of the bay, its sounds far more appealing when Ottis Redding sings about it. Cold, wet and windy and packed in like sardines was the reality! During the night we heard a lot of shouting and screaming…….and in the morning were told that an Albanian had tried to get into next doors caravan under the cover of darkness!  He was chased by the owner wielding a baseball bat and wearing his boxers!

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At last we were on board and ready to come home, but we were informed that we had to stay in our cabins for the duration of the crossing……and then I heard the dreaded words “all restaurants and bars closed!”  Jane’s immediate reaction was to send me back to the caravan to get some travel essentials!

The crossing passed with very little incident, and the crew were marvellous bringing us 3 meals during the journey…..you can tell what’s important to me!

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Time to get in to the car and head home. Charlotte had asked us to stop by at Sainsbury’s to pick up some food for the potential lock down!

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Whilst in the store I met up with an old work colleague from my days running the Food Barn, when he used help run Batleys cash and carry.  Paul is now part of the management team of the Sainsburys at Hedge End and today he was making sure that there was no panic buying on the toilet rolls, whilst every single checkout was going flat out!

 

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I thought I would share a post to make you smile during this most serious of times.

I was hoping my blog was going to feature another trip to Spain for some winter sunshine……….now it’s going to be all about trying to stay sane whilst

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1 Diana Drive

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When we started doing all our travelling, there was always the outside possibility that my dad  might be able to sell his field for building, and if that happened then we might be lucky enough to be able to build a house in his back garden.

 

And the fantastic news was that both these things came to pass, and we were to be able to start building a house each, one for all dad’s boys!

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This was the view from the  bedroom window where we stayed at dad’s between our trips abroad in the caravan.

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It was fascinating watching the construction take place.  Some days an awful lot was achieved……….

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Whilst on other days the weather was totally against any progress and we just had to sit looking out of the window and dream!

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When Jane took over the job as site foreman the work rate increased dramatically !

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And we were soon up to the second floor.

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And then not too long after we had a roof……

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And now here we are, almost finished, they are just putting the final touches to the road surface and then we should be able to drive home unimpeded!

1 Diana Drive, named in memory of my mum who sadly is no longer around to see how fortunate her 3 boys have been!

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The Southwest Coast Path

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The south west of England is one of our favourite parts of the country. We have visited here many times before and its charm never ceases to beguile us. Every time we come down we always do at least one coastal walk,  and it was with this in mind that I have set myself a target of completing the whole of the coastal path in the next 10 years, filling in all the gaps that I haven’t previously walked.

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The idea was first put into my head by my mate Kev who has also walked a lot of the path before, but he also wanted to tie it all together so he could say he had “done” it!

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You can either start the walk at Minehead or Poole, and we had chosen Minehead as we had the book “Walking the Southwest Coast Path” (by Paddy Dillon) and it would be a lot easier to follow the route in the direction that the author had written it.  Jane had recently read the “Salt Path” by Raynor Winn, an account of an older couple who were down on their luck after having lost their house and business, and the redeeming effect this journey had on their lives.  I also read it and would recommend it.  I would also highly recommend this first leg of our journey.  We were very lucky with the weather, as you can see, and that of course puts you in the right frame of mind to start with!

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Although both Jane and Val thought the 6 mile walk was all uphill, they did admire the view from the top of the ridge………….

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And they were both very pleased to see the downhill section as this signalled the end of the hard part of the walk.  Mind you navigating your way down this slope was not that easy!

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Back down to sea level, and now it’s only a mile and a half of flat walking before we get to the pub!

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Although some of it is along the beach on shingle, and that’s quite hard work!

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The good thing about attempting these walks out of season is that there is hardly anyone else about and you really get to experience the peace and tranquility of these beautiful areas!

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The pub is in sight, time for a drink and an ice cream!

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