Yes, it's been ages since I've blogged! No, I don't have an excuse!
I'm going to sneak an announcement in here so that I don't have to do a whole separate blog about it - my plans to return to Spain are all on hold. I'm not going back in January. There are a lot of reasons, which I won't go into here, but the upshot is I'm staying put for the time being. So that's that done - on to the proper blog post.
Having the loan of a car again thanks to Cathy and Sid's little jaunt to the Orient, I finally managed to organise a few days away. I'd been meaning to get together with Hannah for ages - I met her in Spain in February 2008 and we'd then become really good mates in Madrid. She came back to the UK in October 2009 and we hadn't seen each other since. So the delights of the M25 and M40 delivered me (thanks to Cathy's Sat Nav and Sid's dinky little Citroen) to Madeley, to a little village in Staffordshire where Hannah's boyfriend's parents have a house that they built from scratch 30 years ago while they lived in a caravan in the garden with a newborn baby (Steve!)
Hannah and I spent the afternoon trying to find the ruins of a local manor house but, despite having fairly clear instructions, all we found was a muddy path, horses, a fallen tree for me to trip over and a fence which was inexplicably completely inoffensive when I grabbed it, but remarkably electrified when Hannah stuck her hand on it 10 minutes later. After a yummy dinner, the three of us struck out in the pitch dark to the local pub (local = a mile away). We'd planned to get there cross-country but having discovered quite how muddy it was, that looked like a bad idea. Instead, we walked on the pavement-less, streetlight-less road under an amazingly starry sky. I relied on night vision, Steve had a great, retro, heavy 80s torch which gave off about as much light as a glow worm, and Hannah attached her wind-up torch to her head. Between us, we managed to fend off the onslaught of oncoming traffic and made it in one piece to the pub. We duly took over the pool table (no mention will be made of the results) and the quiz machine, and sampled their finest brews. Soon it was time to take our lives in our hands and return to the house via the same dark road which had now turned into the equivalent of Brands Hatch due to the number of people now leaving the pub (why they didn't have the sense to walk there, I don't know!)
Sunday dawned and Hannah and I decided to get out from under Steve's feet by heading to a local car boot sale. Hannah invested in a pair of rather startled-looking wooden cats and two candlesticks for her fireplace. I bought fake Rolos and a packet of fig rolls (am I the only person that thinks they're the most nostalgic biscuits in the world?) Having deposited the cats at Hannah's place, we went to an Arts and Crafts Centre based at a farm - so twee that Hannah had never managed to drag Steve to it. Giving in to the hunger brought on by the car boot sale, I dived into a very tasty bowl of pumpkin and apple soup (it was Hallowe'en after all). We wandered round the farm part, oohed and aahed over tiny chicks, huge pigs, cute ponies and slightly smelly goats. Hannah cooed over the shop's Christmas decorations. I commented on the fact that it was "still bloody October!" We headed back to the house, took the dog on rather muddy walk then drove across town in a proper workman's white van to collect a table and chairs Hannah had bought for their conservatory. The area we picked it up from was clearly going for Hallowe'en in a big way - most of the houses were decked out with glowing pumpkins, cobwebs, skeletons and were expecting a deluge of scarily-clad children (and probably adults). Having delivered the furniture to its new home, we headed back for a scrumptious roast dinner before Steve went off for an evening's table tennis. That left Hannah and me to drink our way through the evening, generally putting the world to rights and catching up with nearly a year's random chat. An early night beckoned as they both had to get up for work the next morning and obviously I had to leave when they did.
It was a very chilled weekend in a lovely part of the country and it was definitely worth the wait to catch up with Hannah.
Enough? Thought so! The rest of the trip is for the next blog...