Saturday, 13 November 2010

Sunny and Share!

Little trip continued....

8am on the Monday morning saw me heading off on my little solo adventure. I'd randomly picked Whitchurch in Staffs for my first stop, and very pretty it turned out to be. It was a real mix of medieval and modern with an imposing church which, unusually these days, was open. As I'd arrived so early there was really nothing else to do so I had a little wander round in there - very cool stained glass windows and a small brass plaque in the floor which was catching the morning sun through the coloured glass beautifully. I've always enjoyed being alone in any building and, atheist though I am, churches always provide at least a very peaceful atmosphere. I had the place to myself for a good half an hour. As I left, my attempt to get into the wooden choir stalls was thwarted by the locked door at the top of the old stone staircase - one of those where years of footsteps have worn a smooth curve in each stair.

I emerged into the still-early sunshine and, spotting my reflection in a car window, decided I couldn't put off a haircut any longer (needless to say, that's not all I thought when I caught sight of myself, but the hair was the only immediately fixable thing!) The very first hairdressers I found on the High Street were able to offer me an appointment immediately so half an hour (and a very predictable "Been anywhere nice on holiday/Looking forward to Xmas? conversation) later, out I came with, as usual, the exact same haircut, just 2 inches shorter!

I found a little café which enticed me in with the offer of veggie sausage sandwiches for breakfast. It was a friendly place where everyone (except me) seemed to know everyone else by name. My steaming hot pot of Earl Grey came pretty quickly but I'd practically finished it when I heard a voice from the back say "Oh no, the veggie sausage girl!" I quite reasonably assumed they were talking about me, not least because the other customers were a couple of ambulancemen, a builder, two ancient pink-rinsed women and a guy with one leg. A rather harried-looking waitress then rushed to my side and said "SO sorry, we totally forgot - have another pot of tea on the house". Admittedly, I'd rather have had the sandwich for free but what the hell, swimming in Earl Grey tea wasn't a total disaster. At least once the sandwich came, it was worth the wait!

Duly sated, I surprised myself by successfully finding where I'd parked the car and hit the road, this time heading for Ironbridge, which Dade had said was worth a look. Again, a cute little place, straddling the banks of, um, a river. I'm sure I should know which one! I parked and went in search of the source of such metallic fame. I wandered across a small, unimposing bridge, looking up and down the river to see if I could see THE bridge - only when I reached the other side did I discover that I'd just been walking across it! As with so many other things in life, it was a lot smaller than I expected! I took random photos of it from the towpath, had a short wander along the banks and treated myself to a quarter of Everton Mints from one of those over-priced Olde Worlde Sweetie Shoppes.

Since it was still only lunchtime, I decided to head towards Telford but, on the way, see if I could find The Wrekin, a hill Dade had mentioned just a few times! The Sat Nav was no help but I very soon found a tiny white sign towards it. The roads got narrower and narrower, the hedges higher, the corners more twisty and at one point I swear I was actually driving on a cycle path. Now although this is my idea of driving heaven, my rally driving temptation was thwarted by the very real possibility of meeting something coming the other way. Just before I was about to give up any hope of actually finding it, there I suddenly was at the little car park for The Wrekin. With the promise of "spectacular views from the summit" I commenced the ascent. There were very few other people around but the ones I did see were decked out in hiking boots and walking canes, and looked rather fit. I climbed and climbed but I had to admit defeat before the top when most of my body gave out! I discovered on the way down that it was steeper than I'd realised on the way up so I reached the bottom rather faster than expected thanks to slippery gravel, ill-advised shoes and, of course, my poor single Achilles/calf muscle!

Photos of the weekend can be found HERE

Bored with my own company, I headed to Dade's place. I'm sure I heard Sid's little car gulp at the mountain of stuff it was going to be crammed with for the journey south the next morning though, given the strong winds that were forecast, I actually thought the extra weight might help glue the poor little thing to the road! We randomly passed the evening with chat, online TV and a HUGE Chinese takeaway. A perfectly good way to spend Dade's last evening there, before embarking on his own little adventure as my new flatmate and his independent photography career in Brighton. But of course that's for another blog...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

You know what? It's not grim oop North!

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...