Our Travel blog
Friday 19 August
We were back in Cambridge for a few nights to sort out domestic arrangements. On Friday Alison’s son had his final interview for college in Twickenham and so the three of us boarded a mid-morning train in a state of concealed nervous tension, polite conversation masking inner worries and anxieties. By happenstance one of my sons lives in Vauxhall, a couple of minutes away from the transfer from the tube to the over-ground for Twickenham so I alighted there and met him for coffee. We then spent a curious afternoon wandering around Vauxhall City Farm. This is a smallholding in a wedge of land that houses small mammals, sheep, goats and birds, a couple of snorting bad tempered pigs, a one eyed cat and some llamas. Or Alpacas, I’m not sure which but they had 1970’s funk band afro hair and malevolent stares that appraised visitors, deemed them unworthy of further consideration and returned to grazing the scrubby grass.
We had a super time, I got to feed goats and sheep, we both admitted to being tempted to give the dozing chinchillas a shove off their perch for looking so unbearably cute, and smug with it, and we discovered the world’s most bizarre donations receptacle. Basically, and there really is no other way to phrase this, it’s a cows arse into which one is encouraged to insert loose change. Now far be it from me to question the wisdom of this but I’m not sure that it’ll end well if we teach young children to shove their pocket money into a bovine’s rectum. I fear that there will be tears before bedtime.
During a satisfying lunch at the farm we got news that the interview was successful and so our respective parties rendezvoused at the station and retired for coffee and congratulations. Later we parted company, three of us heading north to Kings Cross where we had a cheeky curry before passage back to Cambridge. Alison’s father kindly collected us, a much appreciated favour as it appears that more people use Cambridge station at rush hour than live in the entire United Kingdom. I swear most so called commuters just shuffle round the station in a continuous loop like hunched figures in an M. C. Escher lithograph.
Saturday 20 August
We had the pleasure of a family reunion today. Hosted by one of Alison’s brothers and his family he had the idea to gather as many of the descendants of their Great Grandfather together as possible, based upon a family photo taken 30 or so years ago. The age range was from 18 months to 1106 months old. It was great fun, tales were told, family anecdotes exchanged and barbecued food eaten with finger licking relish. We all posed for a family picture and left full in mind, body and spirit.
Sunday 21 August
One of the consequences of Alison’s son getting into college is the necessity to sell her flat in Cambridge that he has been renting. So Sunday morning was spent trailing Alison around Tesco while she slowly loaded me up with tins of paint and other goods. We then spent the day splashing three coats of paint on the walls, a sizeable amount onto the floor and quite a significant amount on me. The other two finished with practically no splashes of paint or drips and clean hands. I on the other hand looked like a snowman with a silky sheen. I don’t even get surprised at these things now.
Back at the in-laws I scrubbed myself with a Brillo pad and bleach until I glowed a radiant pink whence I burst out of the bathroom with a triumphant Ta Dah! Note to self, this is not advisable when your towel is insecure and certainly not in the in-laws house.
Monday 22 August
Today started with a trip to a DIY store. In this as well as previous visits to these temples of manly delights I’ve wondered at the wisdom of so many sharp and spiky inducements to all manner of ill-judged projects. Apparently there are over 70 fatalities a year from DIY accidents, 50 of which are ladder related and a staggering 40,000 people visit A&E because their use of a ladder wasn’t fatal. Although ladders are clearly the major cause of DIY mishap an additional 60,000 injuries are treated at A&E every year for misadventures at ground level. Even painting, which you’d think is relatively safe if conducted without steps led to 4,000 DIYers visiting casualty, injuring themselves either slipping on paint or tripping over a paint pot. Knives and other pointy stabby implements result in 20,000 sheepish people bleeding over the hospital floor because they’ve tried sawing through a pipe with a Stanley knife or attempted to lay a wooden floor with a chisel and blue tac.
I mention the floor deliberately because the one in the flat was obviously laid by someone to whom the concept of a straight line, or ability, is clearly alien. In light of the mess they’d made just trying to saw two boards to approximately the same length I wasn’t at all surprised to find they hadn’t laid any edging to allow for expansion and contraction and had somehow made the living room floor so much higher than the hallway that the threshold was virtually a step.
Anyway, with plenty of colourful language, not all of which was under my breath, we made the floor as cosmetically pleasing as possible with what we had to work with. Unless, of course, you are in the market for an attractive first floor one bedroomed flat in Longstanton, handily positioned in close proximity to Cambridge via the guided bus, in which case it has a stunning wooden floor and luxuriously finished silky walls.
Tuesday 23 August
With the morning to ourselves and the sun beating down we gave Mavis a really good wash inside and out. The front overhang, the bit that sticks out over the cab like a 1950’s quiff and in which we sleep, was coated with a thin patina of dead insects. While I toiled outside with the hose Alison set to work inside. By midday the inside gleamed like a show home and the outside sparkled in the sunshine. Alison appeared from the doorway to shake out a duster and caught me, hose in hand; clothes drenched, hair glistening with cherry scented car shampoo, feet buried under a foot of foam and the windows of houses half a block away still dripping. I smiled a cheery greeting and waved, narrowly missing the postman with a jet of water. Turning to apologise to him I heard the door of Mavis slam shut a fraction of a second before the full force of the water from the hose in my hand struck it. She knows me so well.
Once I’d been changed, fed and had my nap we went to give the flat a final polish. I left Alison and her son to the estate agent where they agreed on a price beyond our expectations. Meanwhile I walked back, taking advantage of the good weather to cavort with traffic on a road that is supposedly closed to all motor vehicles but that seems to attract them never the less. It seems that everyone using the road believes that they are the only person on it so treat it as their own personal racetrack. Now, I know I go on about Audi drivers, so let the record show that for the most part they are gorgeous examples of the human race, but one Audi was steaming along in the middle of the road coming at me like a bat out of hell, well, more accurately a bat out of Oakington but that wouldn’t have made such a memorable song. I raised my hand to acknowledge his thoughtfulness at giving me such a wide birth and he literally jumped in his seat and swerved. It was clearly the first time he’d seen me. Presumably he just assumed he had the road to himself and would merrily zoom along regardless of pedestrians or other trespassing motorists. In the interests of fairness a Ford Z-Tec came past in similar fashion from the other direction which just goes to show Audi don’t have a monopoly on reckless drivers.
Tomorrow we head off for the deep south for Brighton beckons.
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