[Saturday 30th July 2022]
As Chie and Erika would imminently be leaving for Japan for the summer, Erika and I decided to do something fun together today so we went to the zoo. I don't think we'd been together since December 2018, but there was a time when we'd go on a pretty much weekly basis.
[Friday 29th July 2022]
Tried a new ESW producer today, who had just released their first wines, and I had happened to walk past the vineyard a few years back so I was keen to see how it had turned out. Andrew also came and met me on the heath.
[Wednesday 27th July 2022]
I worked today, but with Erika now off school for the summer she made lunch for us. Later on I went for a stroll to the heath, the girls came and joined me for a bit, then we went to a local Korean restaurant for dinner.
[Monday 25th July 2022]
Having quickly glimpsed Tintern Abbey yesterday, and never having been for a proper look myself, we thought that might be a nice thing to do after checking out of our cottage. Later on made another stop off on the way back to London in Marlborough, where we had lunch at a tea room.
[Sunday 24th July 2022]
Spent the afternoon in Tintern, which is not far from where we were staying in Brockweir, so we walked there and back. Met Bec, Dave and Louise for lunch in Tintern, and then a bit later on were joined by Jessica too.
Back to Brockweir in the evening for a light supper of leftovers, then I went down to the river one last time and was treated to a surprisingly nice sunset.
Some video footage I got of this evening's sunset:
[Saturday 23rd July 2022]
A spot of shopping in Monmouth in the morning, then lunch at the Boat Inn, followed by an afternoon visit to Trellech to see the stones and the well. Then popped into Tintern Old Station for a coffee and an ice cream. In the evening Robin and Robert came over to the house for dinner.
[Sunday 10th July 2022]
I've never solved a Rubik's Cube in my life, and had never really seriousl tried, but today wiyth the helo of some online tutorials I decided to finally put my mind to it.
[Friday 8th July 2022]
The back garden was having a bit of an infestation of fruit flies, making it hard to sit out and enjoy a glass of wine without them constantly trying to drown themselves in it.
[Tuesday 5th July 2022]
Erika's sports day in the morning, an earlier than usual trip to the heath in the afternoon, then later on, it being the night before bin day, I attempted to actually enjoy the front garden for a bit.
[Saturday 2nd July 2022]
Erika's school had its summer fair this afternoon, and I went to help out for a bit on one of the stalls. In the evening, Erika had a sleepover to go to (although she decided in advance she would leave at bedtime and come home so she could get a proper night's sleep) so I had another late evening stroll to the heath.
[Friday 1st July 2022]
Picked Erika up from school at lunchtime today after she returned from her camping trip. Went for a quick lunch at the Pineapple with her friend, then after that back home so Erika could have a nap on the sofa. Later on, I went for another late walk to the heath to catch the tail end of the sunset.
See also this video of today's and yesterday's sunsets:
[Thursday 30th June 2022]
Erika was off on a school camping trip this evening. Chie and I went out for dinner to an old haunt (Cafe Pacifico, London's oldest Mexican restaurant) then later on I went for a later than usual evening visit to the heath.
[Saturday 25th June 2022]
Burgundy stocks were starting to get a bit low, so I decided for a change to head over to Hampstead, visit a wine shop there to see what I could find, then head onto the heath from that direction.
[Friday 24th June 2022]
I found work rather stressful today. Partly as a result of a new performance management system we've just adopted, but also partly a post Avebury "return to normality" slump. So, it being a Friday, I decided to call it quits around 4 and head to the heath for a bit.
[Tuesday 21st June 2022]
Given the rail strikes planned for today, I attempted to get all the way from Avebury to London by bus.
To my surprise, there was a bus from Avebury to Swindon at around 6:15am, and I recall hearing somewhere that you can get a kind of day rover ticket for a mere £7.50, with which you can get all the way to Oxford. In my sleep deprived state, I didn't really think through whether getting to Oxford was actually a meaningful objective, but on arrival at Swindon bus station the S6 bus to Oxford was sat waiting there, and the alternative would have involved spending more than just a few minutes in Swindon, which after yesterday's brief tour was a prospect I wasn't at all keen on. In hindsight, I would have been much better off hanging around in Swindon for an hour or so (loathed though I was to do so) and then getting a National Express from there directly to London.
But no, I apparently knew better than this, and so spent something like an hour and three quarters on a long, slow bus to Oxford. That said, at least I was moving, there was plenty of available seating, and in my half asleep state I found it oddly relaxing.
This eccentric diversion via Oxford might have been justifiable had I actually stopped for a while in Oxford, perhaps had a hearty breakfast with some Dons amidst the dreaming spires.
But no, on arrival at the bus station in Oxford I saw just a few steps away was one of those "Oxford Tube" coaches, getting ready to leave, so I immediately jumped aboard that. This is pretty much a direct service into central London, but being beholden to the prevailing traffic conditions it is anything other than quick. It was something like two and a half hours to get to Marble Arch, where I arrived some time after 11, having spent 5 hours travelling on buses. For comparison, the train from Swindon to Paddington is usually just under an hour.
I had booked the whole day off work, predicting I might have some long and difficult journey home and/or would be somewhat sleep deprived so probably not of much use even if I did get back by lunchtime.
I thought I might have a nap when I finally got home, around midday, but somehow that never really happened, and impressively I managed to stay awake until gone 10pm tonight.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon editing together what little video footage I had managed to take, which was in any way usable, to produce the YouTube video. It's only 6 minutes in the end, which seems a bit of a poor show considering I was in Avebury for 14 hours, but there you go.
[Monday 20th June 2022]
Going to Avebury for the summer solstice (and indeed the winter solstice) seems to have become a firm annual fixture for me now, and despite the sub-optimal timing of it this year (Monday night to Tuesday morning) and a threat of a rail strike, I was still determined to be there for it.
Although I nominally went with Andrew (like last year, and 2019), we decided in the end given our differing work commitments it would be easier to each make our own way there and back. I arrived around 4:30, a good couple of hours before Andrew, and in hindsight should probably have tried to build in more of a walk, but as it was I ended up just wandering around the vicinity of Avebury. It was quite a warm day, and I was keen to spend as much time as possible in the shade.
Andrew arrived some time around 7, and we took up our usual position somewhere on the embankment to the south of the village, near where the West Kennet Avenue arrives at. This gives a good vantage point for watching the setting sun, as well as a commanding view of whatever the other attendees are doing in amongst the stones in the field below.
We pretty much just sat there for the next four hours or so, drinking wine, engaging in the usual banter, and watching the scene before us. The sun set arround 9:30 and it was a pretty decent one I suppose - take a look at the photos and you can judge for yourself. Certainly a lot better than last year, when there was nothing to see but grey skies.
I'm not sure we did quite as well with the random chats with strangers this year though. There was a group sitting in front of us - and one guy from that group occasionally made some polite conversation with us, but to be honest something about him rubbed me up the wrong way a bit, and I'd rather he hadn't bothered.
Andrew headed back to his lodgings (a couple of miles outside Avebury) some time around 11, can't really remember exactly when, and at that point I went and sat amongst the stones with the majority of the other people, watching the fire jugglers etc. The group who had been sitting in front of us on the embankment had randomly left a large bunch of bananas behind, so I distributed these among random strangers. This seemed to provoke some confused responses - "Are you a politician?" one young woman asked. No, I just didn't want to carry that surprisingly heavy bunch of bananas around.
Eventually I decided it was time to go and find a quiet spot to lie down for a few hours, planning as I was to be up again for sunrise. I had brought along a bivvy bag and a (very thin) sleeping bag, so as long as I wasn't getting under anyone's feet I could go pretty much anywhere. Once I'd found a quiet spot out of the way a bit, I attempted to do a bit of night photography, and some night lapse videos on my GoPro, but neither were particularly successful.
I think I did actually get at least a tiny bit of sleep, perhaps at most 2 hours, and just after 4am I woke up to find it was suddenly practically daylight. So I got all my things together and headed back to the stone circles to watch the sunrise.
It was quite a nice sunrise, but slightly marred by the fact that while it was happening I got trapped in a conversation I didn't really want to have with a somewhat grizzly old guy, one of those people where you feel they're constantly teetering on the brink of losing their temper. So I then had to spend far longer than I wanted to disabusing him of all the preconceived notions he had about me just because I happened to be wearing a tweed suit. Perhaps I will invest in some more incognito attire if I go again next year. I would much rather have spent that hour watching the sunrise in quiet introspection.
I have rather mixed feelings about this year's summer solstice overall then. Last year I definitely had the sense of having chickened out by booking a bed and breakfast rather than just staying up all night (or trying to wild camp somewhere in the vicinity). Sleeping in a comfortable bed, and having the prospect of having to drive back to London last year, had meant I just couldn't be bothered to get up for the sunrise last year. So I definitely did a better job of that this year - I was there for both sunset and sunrise, and successfully slept in some random patch of grass. Well if you can call that "slept", it was more of a late night power nap really.
Also this year the weather was undoubtedly far better than last year. Warm, summery, and clear skies - I really couldn't have asked for more.
All of that said, I still have this sense it sort of lacked something this year. It's hard to put my finger on what. I think it was probably that sense of atavism. The late night walk I had done last year, along West Kennet Avenue, and then through the shanty town of vans (vanty town?) on the Ridgeway had felt really magical and other worldly. This year I didn't stray far from Avebury itself, so I suppose I never got that far from the crowds (and there were a lot more people this year). I did walk part of the way down the West Kennet Avenue late at night, but perhaps I was too tired (and/or I'd had too much wine) by that point to fully appreciate it.
Anyway, I hope you'll agree some of the photos of the sunset and the sunrise are quite nice, and perhaps this is one of those trips I'll eventually look back on in a more positive light.
[Thursday 16th June 2022]
Sat on the heath for a bit in the early evening, and a film crew showed up. Assumed they were here to interview me about my stylish attire and impeccable taste in wine, but no it turns out they were doing a piece for the news on the hot weather.
[Wednesday 15th June 2022]
There has been a lot of back and forth over Erika's eyesight in the past few years, with optometrists here (Boots i think) saying she does need glasses, but on summer trips to Japan the optometrists there saying no she doesn't, and in fact it might be actively bad for her eyes to wear them.
So we decided to get a third opinion, suspecting that perhaps high street opticians / optometrists here aren't always being as thorough as they ought to be (they have a fairly strict time limit on how long they can spend on each eye test I believe) and/or the fact that the eye test is free means they're potentially quite incentivised to actually sell you some glasses. After school today we went to an independent optometrist recommended by someone at work, who did a very thorough examination (about an hour) and came to the same conclusion as they did in Japan.
We will apparently need to keep an eye on it (ho ho) and go for more regular appointments, perhaps once every 3 months, but it seems once again Erika is back to not wearing glasses.
Although, that said, she has a pair of glasses with completely plain non-prescription lenses, and somehow she does seem to find it a little easier to see with these on. Not entirely sure what's going on there?
After that we went for dinner at a local Italian restaurant on the way home.
[Tuesday 14th June 2022]
After some protestation (I really didn't want to spend an evening around King's Cross) I went down to join the usual suspects for some al fresco wine in Granary Square, as a send off for Natalie who was heading back to Switzerland.
[Sunday 12th June 2022]
Erika and I went down to Surbiton this afternoon for Jim's birthday. On the way there we stopped off in New Malden - London's Korean Town - for some Korean food for lunch followed by a Korean cafe.
[Sunday 5th June 2022]
Another fairly quiet day following the immersion in all the flag waving etc of the first two days of the long jubilee weekend. Constructed a Marble Run with Erika. Popped out for a bit later on in the afternoon to meet Christian for a glass of Gevrey Chambertin.
[Wednesday 1st June 2022]
I was off work all week this week, but didn't really have much planned today. Went for lunch at the Pineapple with the girls. Then in the evening the girls were out for dinner and I oddly decided to have a camping meal out in the back garden.
[Monday 30th May 2022]
Drove from Mum's to the Peak District in the morning, and met our friends from London (who were also staying in the area for some of the half term holiday) for lunch at the Druid Inn, before going for a walk to the Nine Ladies stone circle. Later on we headed to Buxton (by way of Bakewell) where we stayed the night, and I attempted a wild camp on a nearby hill.
See also this video which captures some bits of the day:
[Saturday 28th May 2022]
We were supposed to be travelling to the Midlands today, but Erika had been slightly unwell overnight, so we decided to wait another day and see how she felt. As such a day spent at home: Gavignet in the garden towards the end of the afternoon, and a bit later on Erika did some electronics.
[Wednesday 25th May 2022]
New rain jacket arrived today, this had been the subject of much dithering but the main requirements were something which was very lightweight and packable, but also wouldn't end up soaking wet on the inside (from condensation or whatever causes that) like the very cheap one I had used on my walk in Wiltshire in March.
[Sunday 22nd May 2022]
Erika did a charity fun run around Kings Cross around lunchtime. I went off to pick up a new suit after that. Then some kind of tagine for dinner at home in the evening.
[Friday 20th May 2022]
Just one picture, of some wine out in the garden.
This week had been a rather bad one on the stock market, and I'd "lost" rather a lot of money, which was a little disheartening. That probably influenced the decision to pick up one of the cheapest bottles I currently had in my cellar, but it was actually surprisingly good regardless.
[Thursday 19th May 2022]
Early evening stroll to the heath, after what seemed like a bit of a hiatus, having been mostly house bound since Saturday what with one or the other of us being unwell.
[Tuesday 17th May 2022]
Chie seemed to have got whatever stomach bug / food poisoning I'd had over the weekend, and spent most of today in bed. Erika thankfully never got it though, so I wonder if it might relate to the lunch Chie and I'd had together last Friday - the only time Chie and I ate something which Erika didn't.
Fortunately I was back to normal by this point, so I was able to take over all parenting responsibilities. Played ping pong with Erika on the kitchen table in the evening.
[Monday 16th May 2022]
Recovering today after the rather unpleasant bout of food poisoning, or whatever it was, over the weekend. To my surprise I actually managed to put in a decent day's work and commended myself on how nobly (and/or muggishly) I had confined my illness to my own free time.
[Sunday 15th May 2022]
I had been rudely awakened in the middle of the night last night with what seemed to be a case of food poisoning. Spent almost the entire day today lying in bed, with quite a high fever earlier on in the day, and not really feeling up to doing anything.
I suspect this might have been a case of salmonella, as apparently there's a lot of it about, and other forms of food poisoning / stomach bug don't usually come with a fever.
Really not very nice, but thankfully fairly short lived!
[Saturday 14th May 2022]
Spent much of the daytime down in the centre of London - visited Walker Slater to drop off some trousers to be altered, and went for a long stroll from Covent Garden to St. James's then up through Mayfair and Marylebone, ending with some Palestinian food for a late lunch picnic in Regents Park. In the evening Erika and I watched the Eurovision Song Contest.
[Thursday 12th May 2022]
Went to the heath with Jeremy so he could take some photos to work from for a family portrait he's doing of us. After that the girls headed back to go to an event at the school, and I remained and lurked about on the heath for a bit.
[Wednesday 11th May 2022]
A bit of a rainy day, so I attempted to put up a tarp on the heath with only a very small amount of string. It wasn't very successful.
I made a short-ish video of my very amateur attempts to sit up a tarp shelter with this minimum of accessories, but decided to leave it unlisted as it was a bit boring. Anyway, here it is for posterity or something:
[Saturday 7th May 2022]
Unusually I managed to persuade the girls to go for lunch at the Pineapple after Erika's Japanese school (usually they've snacked on the way home and aren't hungry any more). After that Erika had a playdate for the remainder of the afternoon, and I went off to the heath for a bit.
[Thursday 5th May 2022]
I felt a bit worn out today, from having worked hard the past few days, while also trying to fit in time to deal with the aftermath of the plumbing emergency, and decided I needed to have a bit of me time. So off to the heath in the late afternoon / early evening with a bottle of Vosne Romanee and a packet of Monster Munch. You won't read that sentence anywhere else.
[Tuesday 3rd May 2022]
The washing machine had started leaking all over the kitchen floor yesterday evening, which turned out to be due to a blocked drain. I spent much of last night and today (in bouts between my actual day job) unblocking the drain and cleaning up.
After a fair bit of plunging, and removing a couple of U-bends, I couldn't seem to dislodge whatever it was, so called a plumber: albeit they wouldn't be able to visit until Thursday. Then it occurred to me the plunger had developed cracks where the rubber had perished, and probably wasn't forming a perfect seal. So I went and got a new plunger and tried again. and eventually I actually managed to dislodge whatever it was. Still a lot of effort involved after that of mopping up and putting everything back together.
I found the whole thing rather draining.
[Monday 2nd May 2022]
May Day Bank Holiday. Chie and Erika were heading to Greenwich with friends, so I tagged along for the boat trip there, and met my two chums who live in that neck of the woods for wine and pie and mash in Greenwich Park.
Alas the outing was slightly cut short by me being called home for a plumbing emergency.
[Sunday 1st May 2022]
I should have been waking up in a ditch and watching Morris dancing first thing this morning, but c'est la vie. Instead I had a decent night's sleep in a proper bed and so was able to make a meaningful contribution to family life. Quite a lazy morning/afternoon, and we didn't leave home until 3ish, when Chie took Erika to meet a friend for yet more trampolining, and I popped to the Pineapple for a bit.
Later on I joined the girls again for dinner round at a local friend's place. We ordered in a huge amount of curry from our favourite Tiffin Tin.
[Saturday 30th April 2022]
Went for a walk in the South Downs today, thinking I might also do another wild camp at the end of it, but ultimately decided against it.
I had rather liked the idea of trying to find somewhere around Chanctonbury Ring for a wild camp, such that I could then wake up early the next morning - and watch the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men's May Day dance there (performed at 7am). When I got to Chanctonbury Ring though I seemed to go off the idea, and got the train back to London instead.
Anyway that aside it was a nice walk, albeit with a lot more people out and about than I'd been used to from previous walks on the South Downs Way. It might have been a bit more pleasant had I not been carrying 11kg or so of unnecessary camping stuff!
[Friday 29th April 2022]
Jeremy popped round in the early evening. We've been discussing him painting a family portrait of us, and he wanted to take some photos from which to make some initial sketches. It will be interesting to see how that develops.
The only photo I took today is randomly a pair of HP sauce bottles (one old and one new), showing the state of Big Ben* with and without the scaffolding.
* Yes I know it's not strictly called that!
[Thursday 28th April 2022]
I had really slogged away this week up to this point, both on the work front, and in terms of domestic duties, and by the time the end of the working day arrived today I was just a bit worn out with it all, so headed to the Pineapple for a bit. Then went back home and made dinner. Then went back to the pub again.
[Tuesday 26th April 2022]
Went to pick Erika up from her woodworking class in the car for a change, as what with work / cooking dinner I'd ended up cutting it a bit fine. I seemed to be really hard at work in general this week, then very busily engaged with cooking / cleaning / childcare in the evenings, and had very little free time for myself.
Nothing really to report apart from that.
[Sunday 24th April 2022]
Chie was still recovering today, although definitely seemed to be getting better. We thought it best she stay home and rest, so I did more taxi duties, taking Erika to a "local" (it's actually a bit of a trek) leisure centre for a trampoline session, as part of her friend's birthday celebrations. I suppose we could have walked, but it started in the morning, and Sunday mornings Erika likes to have as lazy a time as possible, given it's the only day of the week that she can.
After the trampolining there was a follow on birthday party at Erika's friend's house, so I deposited her there, went back home to check on Chie, then popped to the Pineapple for lunch. I went back to the party after that, thinking I'd be picking Erika up and taking her home (kid's birthday parties are usually only a couple of hours long) but actually they seemed to still be in full swing, and we ended up staying into the early evening.
[Saturday 23rd April 2022]
Chie had quite a bad stomach ache when she woke up this morning, so for a change I drove Erika to her Japanese school. When I got back again, Chie was in so much pain that I was concerned it might be appendicitis, and took her to hospital. After the usual multi hour wait the doctors did some tests and decided it was more likely gastroenteritis, so sent her home again.
Fortunately Erika had been out at a play date in High Barnet for most of the afternoon, so later on I went up there to pick her up, which explains the rather odd sole photo from today, of High Barnet tube station.
[Friday 22nd April 2022]
Definitely time for a quiet evening in tonight after the previous two night's outings. When not engaging in family life I spent much of the evening reading a book about the Colony Room which a local friend had lent me. I found it really entertaining, albeit a little bittersweet that the world described there has vanished, and I never really got to see it.
[Thursday 21st April 2022]
I didn't really want to be out two nights in a row, but the timing wasn't my choice. Leon was in town today, so we did a tour of some places around St Pancras / Kings Cross / Granary Square / Coal Drops Yard / whatever you call that area.
We started with the vermouth bar in Coal Drops, then went to the new craft beer (ugh) brewery bar, which I disliked intensely, and finished our evening's outing at the Wetherspoon's in St. Pancras, which is not somewhere I'd normally choose to go to, but was significantly less hateful than the previous venue.
[Wednesday 20th April 2022]
Christian proposed going for wine on the heath this evening (in fact it had been "booked" since some time last week) and in it turned into a bit of a tasting session, as we both brought bottles along. My contributions were a bit more modest, but Christian brought along some Fourrier, albeit that sadly he suspected it was a bit corked (I couldn't really detect that, but it didn't seem quite at the usual divine level for Fourrier).
As Chie and Erika had plans for the evening, I didn't feel the usual pull to be home in time for dinner, so ended up staying very late on the heath. After Christian headed home I went and picked up a pizza, and took it back to the heath to eat. By that time it was dark and I had the place entirely to myself as far as I could tell. It was a relatively mild evening, and quite lovely in the dark.
[Monday 18th April 2022]
Back in London for Easter Monday. Went to the Pineapple for a bit in the afternoon, then met Erika and her friend after their swimming lesson for dinner at Nando's (how luxurious!).
[Sunday 17th April 2022]
Erika had found a brochure for a farm where you can feed and cuddle baby animals, so we went there this morning. I was a tiny bit sceptical as I instinctively am concerning any kind of tourist attraction, but actually found it quite delightful. It is obviously a genuine family run farm which has found quite a clever way to diversify I suppose. Although they had various different themed areas and activities, by far Erika's favourite was the petting area where you can have any one of a handful of different baby animals come and sit on your lap for a bit. I certainly haven't ever been that close to a baby goat or a piglet before, and Erika was clearly in her element. Although I think Chie was a bit less keen when it came the turn of the little white mouse.
So that went very well, and it was good to have something really nice like this to do on the last day of our short holiday so it didn't have to solely be remembered for the long boring drive home.
We called in at Dad's again after that for our Easter lunch, and Dad had transformed the original plan to do a very traditional Sunday roast type of meal, into a sort of Greek twist on a roast. So that was a very nice send off before the drive home.
I did a bit more than half of the drive home, and somehow found it rather stressful. Perhaps the contrast between the lovely relaxed driving on Dartmoor the day before and today's grim relentless motorways. Anyway, we made it back in one piece, with once again a stop at Reading services on the M4.
[Saturday 16th April 2022]
We hadn't planned anything in advance for today, and I think Erika would have been very happy just hanging around the little cottage in Holcombe all day. However I was very keen to make the most of our time in Devon and get outdoors, so I persuaded the girls to go for a little run in the car, to Dartmoor.
We arrived on the moor in good time for lunch at the Warren House Inn, which remains a firm favourite of mine, despite the fact on some level it's Dartmoor's answer to a motorway service station. It being a fine day today, and in the middle of the long Easter weekend, there was a constant stream of traffic going past, and large groups of bikers would occasionally stop by. However if you can manage to ignore the presence of the road, then surely as pub beer gardens go, few in the world can boast as spectacular views as this.
Erika has been reading Hound of the Baskervilles at school, so in an attempt to make Dartmoor more appealing to her, I chose a venue for a post-lunch walk based on that. The Bronze Age settlement at Grimspound is not far from the Warren House Inn, and features in the book as the place where Sherlock Holmes hides out while he is pretending not to be on the moor but actually is, for reasons I forget now. It's also not very far from the nearest little car park, and seemed like a good manageable walk for the three of us.
On the way there we saw an adder - and I managed to get a couple of photos of it, and even capture it on video (see below) which was quite exciting.
I thought Grimspound was rather lovely today, and we also took in neighbouring Hookney Tor on our walk. In a way I was almost disappointed by the nice weather - to me Dartmoor is meant to be rather bleak and foreboding, but perhaps a trudge around for an hour in the rain and the cold would not have enthused the girls to come back again in the future.
We motored back to Holcombe after that. In the early evening we met Dad off the bus at the bottom of the hill in Holcombe, and together walked from there along the sea front to Teignmouth (a couple of short videos of that here). We picked up fish and chips for dinner and ate them on our traditional bench, on the back beach, followed by a drink at the Ship Inn, before getting a taxi back to the cottage. Dad and I sampled some Gevrey Chambertin there, Chie having kindly offered to abstain so she could drive him home later on. We rounded off the day taking Jess the dog for a walk along the front at Starcross.
Took some video footage of our visit to Grimspound:
[Friday 15th April 2022]
Started the day with breakfast at our hotel in Congresbury, which I rather enjoyed - I don't think I've had a hotel breakfast since our short trip to Cambridge in August 2020, and that one had felt more like being in a hospital canteen given the mores of that particular period of history. The food may not have been outstanding this morning, but the service was bright and cheery, and there were wedding guests filing in with various levels of hangover which was somehow rather nice to see.
After checking out, we motored down the M5 in the direction of Devon, and stopped off en route in Taunton, thinking we might be able to get a replacement windscreen wiper blade at a big Halfords there (how exciting) but as it turned out they didn't stock it. While we were there we visited some of the other giant shops in that out of town retail park - a Hobby Craft and a Sainsbury's. Compared to London, where everything is so space conscious, it felt like another world.
We spent a bit of time dithering over what to do for lunch, but ultimately decided to stick to what we know, and proceeded purposefully further down the M5, in the direction of the wonderful Bridge Inn at Topsham. Therein (or should I say thereout given we sat in the garden) we availed ourselves of pasties and cheese sandwiches and of course some beer for me.
The next stop on what seemed to have become an eating tour of the West Country was at Dad's in Starcross where we had arranged to call in for afternoon tea. Dad had decided to make saffron buns, as a sort of locally appropriate alternative to hot cross buns (it being Good Friday), and these were very good with clotted cream and jam.
Back in the car once again, for the short drive to Holcombe, the other side of Dawlish, where I'd rented a cottage for us for the weekend. I'd never really seen Holcombe before, the main road between Dawlish and Teignmouth avoids the old centre of the village - a blessing of course - and I was rather taken with the sleepy little lane going up the hill, lined with thatched cottages. Our cottage wasn't thatched, but that was fine, and it was tiny but suited our simple needs well.
After a bit of time settling in at the cottage, we took a walk down Smuggler's Lane to the sea, and then our thoughts turned to dinner (albeit none of us were particularly hungry having seemingly been eating all day). I had rather naively assumed we might be able to just stroll into the pub in Holcombe and find victuals proffered there, but the rather fraught looking landlord told us the kitchen was completely overwhelmed. So we got back in the car, headed to the deserted Sainsbury's in Dawlish, and bought food for dinner there. Which actually worked out really well - it was a late supper, but we had a big selection of different things we felt like - Chie and Erika had some mussels, I got some fresh pasta, and we all had a selection of tapasy nibbles.
[Thursday 14th April 2022]
We had originally planned to go down to Devon in February, but had to postpone our trip due to the storms. Chie and Erika were supposed to be in Japan over the Easter holidays, but that hadn't worked out either. So we thought we could at least take advantage of the long Easter weekend and get down to Devon.
We had decided to break up our journey on the way down to Devon, and stay a night near Bristol, as there were a couple of things we wanted to see in the area. I found a hotel in Congresbury which had something for all of us: a pool for the girls, and a hill fort immediately behind it for me. So we arrived there a bit before 3pm, the girls went for a swim, and I went for a walk up the hill.
The main draw to the area was our venue for dinner: the Lazy Lobster, a seafood restaurant in Chew Magna. Chie had heard about it and was keen to give it a try. Although of course this sort of place isn't really geared up for vegetarians, I muddled through with some of the side dishes, and the girls seemed to really enjoy it: Erika in particular loved the seafood risotto, which was quite a surprise to me (she never seemed that bothered when we've had risotto at home).
The second draw was the nearby village of Stanton Drew, which is a sort of Avebury-esque complex of stone circles intertwined with a village, and that's where we headed after dinner. It was a lovely time of day to visit as it turned out - heading for sunset - and the stone circles were very atmospheric. Better still there's a pub in the village - The Druid's Arms - which has some of the stones in its beer garden. That was like a slice of heaven for me.
We returned to the hotel after that, and joked that actually we could have just gone back to London the next morning, and would actually have had a very nice holiday.