Is it time to go away again?

I did think that not working and being at home would be a bit of a struggle, but it turns out not to be the case. We seem to have slowly and carefully adjusted our routine to the day starting with the alarm going off at 8 to the gentle commentary of Chris Evans (not sure on reflection that gentle is the best adjective to use, but I’ll move on) bringing us to life with a lovely cup of tea. (So glad that the spare plug for the kettle is on Roger’s side of the bed!) The day then seems to progress with tasks or outings that leave us gently tired, satisfied and happy by the end of the day.

ImageWe’ve completed one of our ‘list’ walks which was the Clarendon Way between Salisbury Cathedral and Winchester Cathedral. We took the train to Salisbury and then walked towards Winchester in wonderful hot sunshine. We stopped after 13.7 miles in Broughton, in the Test Valley and were glad of the well placed Greyhound Pub for a resting place while we waited for our son Jack to collect us. With only two blisters between us, we were dropped out at Broughton the next morning and completed our walk into Winchester having walked a further 13.2 miles. We touched the cathedrals at both ends and enjoyed the whole walk in the sun, with not a speck of rain.

We were blessed with large swathes of bluebells in the woods which I’ve tried to capture for you. For anyone planning to walk it, watch out for the signs, you go through large parts of it with no signs at all, so a good mapping app on the phone helped us out several times

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Other activities that I’ve embarked on over the last couple of weeks, include completing a recording of ghostly singing to assist in a final project for one of my nearly graduated friends – I’m promised that I’ll receive a credit in the final cut. Was all a bit weird to be recorded singing adhoc notes in what was quite a random series of oohs, and aahs. We wait with bated breath for the final cut to see if I make it!

Easter was lovely, and we managed to spend time with both sides of the family sharing fun, laughter and too much food which seems to mark most family occasions.  We also managed a trip to the Bishop’s Palace in Wells which is where we celebrated our wedding reception. We have a lovely photo of most of our guests with us on our wedding day and it was nice to reproduce in a small way after 22 very happy years. Not sure that my hair didn’t clash a bit with the other participants!

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Last week I put my Christian aid activist training into use and attended the AstraZenica AGM to ask a question about paying the living wage to all staff working within their premises in the UK. It was a strange process to be there and be asking the board of trustees a question in front of a large collection of their shareholders. The trustees weren’t very forthcoming to any of the questions asked by anyone and I felt were inclined to give sweeping comments rather than actually answer the question. On reflection I can’t think of one that they did answer. In relation to my question, they do pay the living wage to all of their directly employed staff, but not to their staff who are employed under contracts by them which typically would include catering staff, drivers and cleaners. The chair of the trustees stated that he knew nothing about this, but did state that they would look at this. We’ll wait with baited breath to see if they make any changes and I’m sure that Share Action will keep on top of them by reminding them of their assurance to look at it. 

Since that excitement, both children have gone back to their respective universities, we’ve had our 22nd wedding anniversary, collected our new (to us) car, I’ve played in a brass band concert and had lunch out with a couple of friends. Oh the joy of being a lady that lunches! The back garden is now looking very passable with appropriate veg planted that won’t mind being left in the  ground a bit, the house is passable, and a bit less cluttered although a trip to a charity shop is much needed. We have a week with a few pressing commitments and then next week we’re off to Guernsey to stay with old friends. Liberation weekend should be great, but is clearly the story of another blog…..

 

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Reflections from home

Scotland, France and Italy now seem to be a bit of a distant memory as we’ve settled into life at home – although without work, so can’t complain too much! Since coming home 10 days ago, we’ve done a fair bit of house sorting and now have a huge pile of stuff for a car boot sale to come; we’ve dug lots of weeds out of the garden together with the last of the 2013 leeks which were still really yummy; been to a shipping forecast fancy dress party and most importantly caught up with family and friends. We’ve saved the photos on the computer and considered where to go and what to do next. As well as this we’ve reflected on where we’ve been and what we’ve seen so far. These are my top ten reflections – in no particular order…

  1. Why is Rome quite so full of lavishly decorated churches and cathedrals – and who pays the upkeep? All gorgeous of course, but so many of them. Are they all full on a Sunday morning?
  2. Why do the Italians make such scrummy gelato? can you buy it over here?
  3. Siena is really the most beautiful city, small and quaint.
  4. Donkey racing around a small market square is great for a Sunday afternoon of entertainment.
  5. When will the French and Italians fork out for seats on their toilets and ban the ‘hole in the floor’ type loos as being unsanitary and unusable.
  6. Venice doesn’t smell and is really lovely although very expensive – take sandwiches and a flask.
  7. Italians and French are either very proud of cars made in their own country or they’re subsidised by their governments to drive them?
  8. Not speaking Italian in Italy made me feel a bit incapacitated, but the Italians are great at speaking English and were extremely friendly.
  9. If you go to the Vatican, make sure you climb the dome of St Peters Basilica and post cards from the Vatican post office. They’ll get to your loved ones in UK more quickly than the normal Italian post.
  10. If you want to see quaint walled towns, built on hills, Tuscany’s the place to go. All gorgeous.

What’s next for us – well, more jobs around the house, being here for the kids whilst they’re both back from uni, a brass band concert, Easter with wider family and a few lunches out with friends. After that, the plans starting to come together. In only 100 days from today the Commonwealth games start and we’ll be Clydesiders doing our bit, so we have a trip to Glasgow for more training, some time in Guernsey, a TOGS weekend in Devon, Crick boat show, Edinburgh Fringe, Greenbelt festival, as well as helping mum clear out her attic. All good fun and lots to look forward to……

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We left Stigliano with the intention of heading north to lake Garda. I had always wanted to go and visit the Italian lakes and mountains, but as we read our guide book on the way, it painted a picture of crowds, over development and disappointment. We stopped on the way for lunch and decided that we didn’t want to risk disappointment and instead turned right. This led us to Fusina, a small town a short ferry trip away from Venice. We didn’t want disappointment to interfere with this break. DSC01333We got to the campsite in time to head over to Venice for the evening and it was beautiful. The streets were sunlit and people we’re beaming. The water was glistening as we had a quick look around to get our bearings ready for a full days visit the next day. We did go back and went on ferries down the canal grande (twice), we visited Piazza San Marco and went into the Basilica, we looked at the gondolas but didn’t go on – frightened by the possible rip off, we visited the island of Murano and had a lovely day in the sun. No disappointment to be had here. I even had the opportunity to have my photo taken with a  couple of local police officers. (Not sure if their jackets or my hair are more high vis!) DSC01370   DSC01384It was then time to head north back into France, so off we went driving towards Milan and then towards Turin before heading into the Alps again to pass back into France. This time we went throughout the Mont Blanc tunnel, so up we went into the Alps above the snow line again before whisking through the tunnel and coming out in Chamonix. Quite beautiful, although more of those terrifying roads that I’ve mentioned before. What is it about the French and Italians building aerial roads which seem to be so high in the air, completely unattached to anything other than very long legs? My experience with Lego as a child and parent taught me that these were just not safe?? Gives me the heebegeebies just thinking about them. We then headed around Geneva to a pretty village near Chalon-sur-Saone, and a lovely camp site that unfortunately wasn’t open for another two days! (Curses to our campsite book, maybe we should have splashed out on the 2014 edition?) Anyway we rough camped for one night and then moved on the next day, bolstered by a visit to a boulangerie and made our way to Les Andeleys, our final stop before we head home. IMG_0358Fortunately this camp site was open and was alongside the River Seine. Our pitch gave us the most magnificent views over the river and the bridge. We spent many happy times watching a range of boats passing up and down, varying from huge container ships to river cruisers and small private boats. Our days here we’re spent enjoying short but hilly walks, visiting Claude Monet’s house and garden (incidentally worth a visit for the garden on its own. I can see why he was so inspired) and just enjoying the sun and water, with a regular supply of fresh bakery produce to supplement us. In the evenings we’d shut ourselves in the camper, warm and cosy, safe from the midges that clearly loved the combination of water and countryside, and watch the bats flying round hopefully eating those midges up. DSC01422DSC01412             Over three weeks spent in Europe and time to go and see how home is doing, so off we went to get our ferry from Caen. Just time for a nice meal in the town first, to savour those French chef skills.

Boats and bats

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