1.5 days with Sheila at The Abbots were wonderfully familiar. A quick visit to St Marie’s together to close it for the night; a takeaway; a nice chat. Monday a couple of hours sweating in the ‘vegetable garden’; stopping by Rosemary and Peter’s on the way to Sainsbury’s to drop off a book for the book club – and so a cup of coffee and apples and grapes from the garden to take home -; cooking together in the Aga (lambstew with potatoes, courgettes and runner beans and apple/Blackberry crumble from our own garden to finish). Finally an evening musing ‘on what once was’ and getting older.
Tuesday morning’s farewell was emotional – did saying hello to loved ones in NL chafe with it? As I try to regain myself, oscar steers us past ‘the old post cottage’ where we lived long ago. Even on a 3rd confrontation, it remains alienating to see how everything has changed now that it has become a post for the guards of the adjacent estate. The bedrooms will surely no longer be pink and light blue 😉 .
On the way to Sulhamstead Hill, I chat Oscar’s ear off with childhood memories he’s heard so many times before but then the country lanes bring me back to the here and now.
No fences or sideways along busy roads today. We do stop regularly because the road is too narrow for a car to pass a packed bike – great opportunity to pick a few blackberries again 😋.We spread a sandwich on a bench in a public garden where all the residents, fathers, mothers and children, pass by with dogs or horses. How does everyone have time for that on Tuesday mornings? Maybe we should move to England?
Unfortunately, the campsite we thought of no longer exists, according to the proud owners of the modern 13-in-a-dozen bungalows. Fortunately, 15 km further on we find a super relaxed farm campsite. A huge field in which spacious tent pitches have been mowed here and there, with an enthusiastic woman farmer as manager. So it can be done, even in England.
On Wednesday, too, we cycle through the countryside, this time with a considerable amount of altitude metres. We also pass through Winchester and end up at a slightly braver but also fine farm campsite with beautiful skies.
Thursday the last leg to Portsmouth from where we sail to Bilbao. What is it that you immediately feel you are in a port city? The houses? The local pub where we spend the last hour before boarding leaves nothing to the imagination. We walk straight to the fully paved garden to avoid being confronted too much by the beer-smugging gentlemen. Here too, however, we are told bad jokes about the bosom of a lady friend and another ‘gentleman’ in equally dirty tracksuit bottoms who remarks that if he wanted to compliment the lady in question, he would give her a pat on the back. But we are also invited to ride our tandem in. “You wouldn’t want it to be stolen at the start of your holiday, would you?” When we tell them what journey we are making, one after another comes to look. “How many kilometres?” “No way”. And of course all the familiar jokes about who sits in front and behind and whether you should pedal behind. After half an hour, we are generously waved goodbye.
And then the boat trip. Which is long. 32.5 hours off the grid. Friday morning we fall silent for a while due to a technical problem. However, after 45 minutes we seem to be sailing again and, one by one, the ventilation and lights come back on and the sockets also come back on. Reportedly, it does not affect the ETA. I hope so for the parents of all those small children, as they are having a tough time.
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