Apologies for the failure to provide any advance warning of last week’s Weakly News “outage”. Some of you know that what it’s like becoming increasingly incapable of remembering stuff and remembering that we were off to the south coast last weekend was clearly one of those things that this tired brain was incapable of doing.
As I mentioned, we were making our way to the south coast to spend some time with our friends Sue and Stuart and to join in the celebrations surrounding Stuart’s 60th birthday. When we had planned all this many months ago, we knew that Sue and Stuart would have a houseful of family and guests so, on this occasion, we would be obliged to find alternative accommodation in the vicinity. Similarly, some months ago our neighbours across the road, Paul and Mary, commented that we would be welcome to borrow their camper van if we ever wanted to.
There was clearly a symmetry here that was crying out to be exploited so, after undergoing a thoroughly professional two-part orientation and induction process with Paul and Mary on Tuesday and Thursday, we packed the van and set off on Friday afternoon. We had arranged space at the very comfortable (and popular) Blacklands Farm Campsite and arrived there in the early afternoon to claim our pitch.
Friday evening we met up for dinner with Sue and Stuart and their Irish relations (Stuart’s daughter Fiona, her husband John and their four children over from Ireland for the occasion) along with Sue’s daughter Jo, her husband Richard and their two kids. It was great fun and we had not hitherto met Fiona and her family.
Some of you will remember the occasion (in 2004) when we took Pen’s folks to Ireland to do a bit of family history in Oz’s ancestral village of Inistioge. As it happens, Stuart’s daughter Fiona and her family live in the village of, you guessed it, Inistioge and they are well-familiar with the influence the Butler’s used to wield in those environs. They were amused to hear the story of how Oz’s grandfather was dispatched to Australia to get him away from the temptations of all the young women on the estate and how the family sent the parish priest out to Australia to try and save his soul when he fell in love with a Protestant! They were also interested to hear that the Butlers had owned the village pub until about fifty years ago and also to learn of the plaque in the churchyard dedicated to the memory of Thomas and Mary Butler, Oz’s great-grandparents. It’s a small world.
After a very pleasant and comfortable night in the camper van, on Saturday we made our way across to Sue and Stuart’s for the birthday celebrations proper. There were members of Sue and Stuart’s extended family from all over the UK, more food and wine than any one gathering could possibly ingest and the weather, after a grey and somewhat dreary start, cleared and the day was sunny and warm. A splendid occasion which went on until the wee, wee hours. After another very comfortable night in the van, we made our way back to beautiful downtown Byfield arriving home late on Sunday afternoon.
I ran across the following photo on the BBC web site on Friday – a photograph of our favourite diplomat welcoming Kate and William to Canada (or, at least, that’s what I thought when I first saw it.) I know he’s used to being in war zones and having to interact occasionally with some less than salubrious characters but having to deal with the Royals! Nightmare!
Of course, Jordan has “form” when it comes to dealing with the Royals. We all remember, I’m sure, how professionally he looked after the delightful Sarah Ferguson, aka Fergie when she visited Liberia during his stay there.
We’re looking forward to our holiday in Tuscany (a bit of advanced warning about some potential disruption although we hope not too much – the place is supposed to have internet access so we hopefully will be able to post the odd photo or two). We leave on Saturday 16 July and fly to Bologna where we will collect a hire car and drive about an hour and a half to a place called Bagni di Lucca in northern Tuscany. (Look it up on Google Maps – it’s a bit north of a line drawn between Pisa and Florence, both of which are on the list of things to see and do).
The villa looks lovely and we’re all looking forward to a bit of hot sunshine. The thermal baths are on the “To Do” list as is the nearby Wind Cave (although I seem to be generating enough wind on my own these days). We’re there for two weeks so, if anyone has any particular tips or things we mustn’t miss, please let us know!
Tanto amore a tutti voi!