Our Travel blog
Wednesday 2 November
We left Blythburgh for Colchester where we grabbed a few last bits and bobs from storage and then onwards to the Abbey Wood site in Greenwich. Well, it’s in Abbey Wood in South London but as it is in the Royal Borough of Greenwich then I guess that makes a more attractive sounding name. It is though a very attractive site, set in hilly woods secluded from the surrounding urban sprawl. The only sounds we heard from outside was the occasional aeroplane. As it’s a woodland site the autumn trees had carpeted the ground in soft orange and yellow leaves. When we arrived a warden was busy re-distributing them with a noisy leaf blower, a fruitless exercise considering they just whirled around and settled behind him but he did get to wear lots of exciting safety gear and a helmet with a visor so I’m guessing he felt a surge of machismo every time he caught his reflection in a caravan window.
The area is named after Lesnes Abbey, or The Abbey of St Mary and St Thomas the Martyr at Lesnes to give it its full title. It was founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci when he was Chief Justiciar, the monarch’s chief minister, which was a role similar to today’s Prime Minister. Some sources say he may have founded the abbey as penance for his part in the murder of Thomas Becket which is interesting, if only to us, because our very first stop on this tour was in Canterbury where poor old Thomas was murdered, so to be staying near the ruins of Lesnes Abbey on the last night has a curious serendipity to it.
Anyway we didn’t venture out to look at the Abbey ruins, or the Bronze Age barrows or indeed anything else. On the journey here we had a brief discussion and decided that fish finger sandwiches were our favourite on-board dinner and so as the stars came out over rapidly thinning trees that’s what we settled down to for our last dinner in Mavis for the time being.
Thursday 3 November
This morning we were reunited with our cats. It was lovely to see them and in particular to see their reaction to us. Leo was smitten with Alison and after a cursory hello Mojo dived into her carrying crate with a ‘well, let’s go then’ look on her face. They travelled in relative comfort with us to Cambridge for an overnight stop where they nestled down in our bed while we busied ourselves moving furniture for Alison’s parents. Earlier in this blog I playfully awarded her parents 4.5 out of 5 on trip advisor. Let the record now show that without their generosity and kindness our summer would have been much harder. They’ve provided us with good food, laundry facilities, showers, electric hook up and warm convivial evenings in abundance and sometimes at short notice. It is my pleasure to formally up their rating to 4.9 out of 5; well there’s always next year and we don’t want complacency creeping in.
We’d just got to bed and turned the light out when we heard a rustling from amongst the various bags and boxes we’d stowed for tomorrows move to Shallowford. And that, dear reader is how we discovered a happily chomping Leo with his arse hanging out of a bag of dry cat food; somehow it felt like a version of normality had returned.
Friday 4 November
In another serendipitous moment, as we hit the road for our final trip we joined stationary traffic just like we did on our first trip to Canterbury. After an hours delay we trundled north with two surprisingly settled cats and arrived to a warm welcome. Our home for the next few weeks is a large basement room with a separate kitchen and bathroom. We set about organising it into a cosy environment, although it’ll take a couple of days to get rid of the boxes and bring the final personal items in from Mavis to turn it from a room into a home.
The cats are certainly settling in. They’ve been busy exploring every nook and cranny and rubbing their cheeks against the furniture and us. I read that “when cats rub their head against you, they’re marking you as one of their own with the concentrated scent glands in their cheeks and head. Congratulations, you’re family.” I was severely reprimanded by Alison for rubbing my glands against guests and I think that cats should be expected to meet the same standards. Likewise the theory that when cats bring dead animals into the house they do it because they consider you family needs to be challenged. It’s palpably nonsense. They’re trying to teach you that without ceding to their every demand that half a pigeon could be you. It’s the feline equivalent of waking up to find a horse’s head in bed beside you. Cats are prima donnas; selfish, arrogant and demanding. Leo and Mojo are back in charge…and we love it.
Saturday 5 November
Consider this. Late in November 2014 the Conservative government of the United Kingdom banned any pornography produced in the UK from showing spanking. To the best of my knowledge no one has been harmed from watching a consensual slap on the rump. Reflect then that around 1,000 people are treated in hospital for injuries caused by fireworks every year in the UK and of those about 5% are regarded as serious, potentially life changing injuries. Unlike films showing spanking, you can buy fireworks at your local supermarket along with the tinned peaches and toilet roll. You can purchase a bag of sparklers that burn at a temperature five times that of cooking oil to hand around to the children. You can shove a few 150 mph rockets into the trolley next to a bottle of whiskey to keep the chill away while you set them off.
Fireworks were invented in China around the 7th Century. Someone mixed some potent ingredients like potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal together and made crude gunpowder. One report I’ve read suggests this was completely by accident while they were searching for the secret to eternal life. However it came about, thanks to some startled Chinese alchemists wandering around without their eyebrows and waiting for the smoke to clear we can now buy all manner of colourful projectile explosives.
And we really do love them; the UK spends around £15 million on fireworks every year. A lot goes on organised displays, which are by far the most sensible and safest method to enjoy colourful pyrotechnics. It’s probably not a surprise to learn that most accidents requiring hospital treatment happen in the nation’s back gardens, or in the streets when they fall into irresponsible hands, sometimes literally.
Not that every organised display is completely safe but the chances are far greater that it will be. I used to take my boys to a delightfully inept display in a nearby small village. Sparklers could only be used in the designated area, so hordes of over excited children were corralled elbow to elbow into a roped off pen where they singed each other’s hair trying to write their names in the air in sparkly light. During the main display a stray missile would end up in a hedge or lodge in a tree raining bright embers down on the puzzled organisers below. One year a hedge caught alight and everyone went ooh and aah thinking it was part of the display. Catherine wheels would refuse to spin, despite prodding from people, first with long poles, then a stick and finally a push with bare hands. The climax to the evening would be a sign made out of fireworks that spelt out Thank You. Or at least we think it did. When first lit it glared so brightly you couldn’t look at it, then a thick plume of acrid smoke would drift over obscuring the whole display. We’d all clap then drive home to tend to our burns. It was great fun. We first went because it’s what dads did with young children on bonfire night but we continued well into their teens just to watch the burning foliage. We only stopped going when it became safe.
Actually the best bit was the announcer. Speaking through a network of tinny loudhailers nailed to trees that had survived previous displays he would deliver a running commentary something like this:
“Ooh that’s a bright green whizzbanger going up … (loud bang) … to Rob and Josie’s youngest… (bang)…green and red there…(series of loud explosions)…7pm tomorrow night in the village hall…(bang )…with…(bang)…and…(bang) of the (bang)… and a nice firm…(bang)…ooh…(burning tree)…well Roger has that under control nicely now, we’d like to thank…(wail of ambulance siren)…and not forgetting …(loud bang)…for the tea…tea…tea.
The best thing we ever heard him say was ‘woops a daisy’ when a deafening mortar burst at ground level yards from hastily retreating spectators, showering them with a rainbow of white hot sparks. We loved him dearly, whoever he was, a true stolid gent of the highest order, calm, unflappable and determined to carry on even though his job was patently absurd. I suspect he was related to someone involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade.
For all that I don’t recall any incidents that weren’t solved by the onsite first aider or a parental kiss. Nevertheless around the country as we playfully celebrate burning people alive, emergency services and hospital A&E departments will be needlessly stretched treating burns and injuries. Still it’s nice to know that year after year no one dies or is scared for life from watching couples playfully spank each other.
Back at Shallowford and we’ve spent much of the day sorting out, resorting, remembering things that we have back in Mavis necessitating some more sorting and generally, pretty much sorting. The place is beginning to look cosy; we’ve divided up the large room into a bedroom and sitting room, the record player is set up, the dining table assembled and the kitchen cupboards are full. Tomorrow is our first official engagement, which is…drum roll please…to help at a bonfire night and firework display! I have every confidence that it will be a safe and grand affair.
By rights we should be finishing our blog here. This will be the last chronological entry but it doesn’t seem right to finish without some reflections and thoughts on our 7 month odyssey, so there will be one further entry sometime soon where we do just that. For now though there are two felines demanding our attention so we must obey.
Bye for now.
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