2 October 2011

Well, credit where credit is due. The Met Office predicted an Indian Summer this week and a glorious Indian Summer is precisely what we have had. It’s been a fabulous week with clear sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s. It’s also been a bit humid and certainly very still making it feel perhaps somewhat “hotter” than it might otherwise but, from my perspective, it’s been delightfully gorgeous. Thursday evening was so lovely we had what may turn out to be the final barbeque of the season. You’ll be surprised to hear that we barbequed Sandy’s salmon with pesto, Amy’s potatoes and Penelope’s butternut squash and spinach gratin. Absolutely delicious, all of which was finished off with a pear and walnut tarte tatin with pears fresh from the tree. Pen’s folks were persuaded to join us as were Nick and Lucy.

We walked round the local reservoir a couple of times this week and, as it had been quite some time since I’d been there, I was struck by how very, very low the water level is. I certainly have never seen it this low and, as we walked around on one occasion, we met an “old-timer” who has lived in the area all his life. I asked him if he had ever seen it this low and he confirmed that he had not. This is due partly to a summer which, although it hasn’t been brilliant, has had, in fact, relatively little rain but also, apparently, due to a mishap at a neighbouring reservoir. Both these are used to replenish the canal system and it seems that the neighbouring reservoir, Clattercote Reservoir near Claydon, sustained some damage to its sluice gates which prevented it releasing any water. Hence, all the water for the local canal system over the summer had to come from Boddington.

The geese, ducks, swans and other bird life are loving the exposed banks which have sprouted with fresh greenery and I suspect the fishermen are loving the fact that there is now so little water that the fish virtually leap into their arms. The slideshow below will give you a feel for what it’s looking like – you need to bear in mind that the water is generally at or very near the top of the rocks and stones where the fishermen are sitting and the “beach” and greenery where the wildfowl are feasting is completely submerged. (Click an image for a larger version).

Before we left for Italy I ran across an article in the Guardian with some useful tips for holiday makers abroad. Tip number 8 was:

Pre-buy car hire excess insurance

If you are flying or taking the train to your destination, don’t get caught out at the car hire desk by being overcharged on the extra insurance. Car hire policies come with an excess – typically €700 – and if you crash the car, you will have to pay the first part of the claim.

The person renting your car will be very keen that you take out the firm’s extra insurance. It will be very expensive, and despite what they will tell you, you do not have to.

Pre-buy it before you go and you will save – and get more cover. For £39, icarhireinsurance.com will sell you an annual European policy to cover hire car excesses (up to €2,500), or a daily policy for £2.99 a day. Drivers will not only be covered if their hire car is damaged or stolen but also if the roof, tyres, windows and undercarriage are damaged – better cover than you will probably get from the car hire firm’s own policy.

So, having read the article shortly before we left, I did pre-buy the car hire excess insurance and am I glad I did!

Those of you who have been paying attention will remember that I had an incident with a tyre on the return journey from San Gimignano which had to be replaced costing in the region of £100.

A few days later I had another incident when a lamp post leapt out into the road as I was parallel parking and viciously struck the car at the precise point and level of the passenger side rear tail lamp resulting in a shattered tail lamp lens. Clearly I wasn’t able to replace that as easily as the tyre so naturally I reported it (in fact both incidents) when I returned the car at the end of the holiday. We completed a variety of accident incident forms which I was able to bring home with me and send off to the insurance company once the invoice for nearly £300 arrived. (I know – £300 for the replacement of a rear tail lamp lens! Naturally, this is one of those sealed units and the whole thing has to be replaced for want of a broken lens.)

As I hadn’t heard anything from them for about two months, I was about to contact them fully expecting the standard insurance agent’s response along the lines of: “I’m very sorry, sir, but your insurance protecting you against accidental damage to your hire car does not, in fact, offer you any sort of protection against accidental damage to your hire car.” However, a couple of days ago two cheques dropped through the letter box in full and complete payment for both incidents. How nice to have a positive, hassle-free experience with an insurance claim.

And finally, I ran across an article in the Guardian last week which stated that Christmas has already arrived in Britain’s High Streets.

As Britain’s high streets struggle to cope with a flatlining economy and collapsing demand from shoppers, major retailers have decided that Christmas needs to come earlier than ever.

A decade ago, retailers would not start their festive promotions until late October, but this year – with dozens of retail chains on the brink of bankruptcy – selection boxes, mince pies and even advent calendars and Christmas puddings are already on the shelves of supermarkets across the country.

Only 142 shopping days left!

Love to you all,