1 September 2013

Good morning from beautiful, downtown Byfield and profound apologies for the interruption in our regularly scheduled service. As I warned you last time, we’ve been in the States for most of August and although I had great intentions, you will not be surprised to learn that there were simply too many distractions for me to put my good intentions into practice.

Naturally, the complaints have been flooding in to the relevant department here at the Befouled Weakly News which have been dealt with in the usual manner – by ignoring them. There were even complaints from those who were on holiday with us!

I also need to apologise to those of you who have the misfortune to be a subscriber to this dubious publication and who will have received notice of a posting yesterday. This was sent out a day early in error by the robots who actually compile the Amusements section of the News each week. It seems they have been so frustrated by my incapacities and decided to publish an Amusements piece in the month of August come hell or high water.

So, to recap, Ms Playchute and I have spent the past month partying and holidaying on the shores of beautiful Lake George in upstate New York. The “excuse” for this visit to the Lake was a family reunion and grand celebration to mark my father’s 90th birthday and it was a huge success. At the height of the celebrations there were forty Stragnellians in attendance (as well as assorted outlaws and hangers-on) ranging in age from my father at 90 years old to my folks’ newest great-granddaughter at 4 months. A motley crew to be sure but we sure had a wonderful time. The weather was outstanding and Lake George was as beautifully limpid as ever.


One of the highlights of the reunion for Penelope and me was having our three sons in the same place at the same time, the first time we’ve all been together since our visit to Tuscany in 2011. Although Ben and Donna could only come for a weekend, Nick, Lucy and Annabelle were there for a full two weeks as was Adam whose journey from and back to China took about three days each way!

Still, Adam made full use of all the entertainment opportunities that Lake George provides. These included:

  • sauna
  • jacussi
  • DVDs
  • swimming
  • kayaking
  • water skiing
  • gourmet dining
  • viewing (and participating in) various forms of entertainment at the Royal Command Variety Show

not to mention the 17 rounds of golf he played at the Huletts Landing Country Club. He certainly got his money’s worth!

It was also especially fun to spend such an extended, quality time with our favourite granddaughter (and before you get too worried about my bias and prejudice, she is our only grandchild so far so clearly she is my favourite). We paddled in the Lake, built sand castles on the beach, walked in the woods and kayaked. Her interaction with her cousins, especially three year-old Lilia and one year-old Azalea, was wonderful to see.

I have not yet finished the final collection of least bad photos but the following should give you a feel for what a glorious time we had. (And, I make no apology for the numerous photographs of my favourite granddaughter amongst this selection).

As well as enjoying a fabulous three weeks at Lake George, we also had an opportunity to pay a visit to my father’s first cousin (and therefore a cousin of some description of mine – first cousin, once removed, apparently), Bunny Wilkening, who owns the White House at Lake George which we “borrowed” for our family reunion and where we ate dinner most days. Many of the more interesting gatherings and celebratory events were also held here and, the White House has a lovely lawn rolling down to the Lake with a delightful sandy beach at the bottom where the great-grandchildren spent much of their time playing and paddling. Bunny lives in Burlington, Vermont and, for some reason, has been an avid follower of the Befouled Weakly News and an active commenter for some time. It was a delight and pleasure to see her and to take her out to the Skinny Pancake in Burlington which Penny and I were very keen to visit. When we arrived we were spotted by the owner, Benjy Adler, (another Lake George contact), and given the royal treatment. No queueing up for us – we had personalised waiter service and the “skinny pancakes” were delicious. The place was absolutely heaving and we did have to wait a while for our crepes to arrive but it gave us plenty of opportunity to catch up with Bunny and, as I say, the food was outstanding.

Ironically, after our wonderful celebrations, sister Susie had an article appear in her in-box which has relevance for all of us who know and love Lake George. The article describes a study to be undertaken to develop a model of the Lake which they hope will enable them to understand the effects of climate change on Lake George and other lakes. Why Lake George?

Lake George makes an ideal subject partly because it’s among the most pristine we’ve got. Thirty-two miles long and 200 feet deep, fed by networks of springs and streams in a watershed that is 95 percent unbroken forest, it is relatively unperturbed by pollution and human interference. As an added bonus, scientists like Swinton have already amassed an impressive store of 30 years of hardcore data on the lake.

That data already suggests that there’s trouble in paradise.

So, after all that fun and excitement, we flew back last Tuesday and have spent the last few days trying to recover from the jet lag. The flight back to the UK was great apart from one minor inconvenience – the airline got our seating requests completely wrong. For some reason they had designated the section we were sitting in as the “Crying Infants and Screaming Toddler Section” when, in fact, we had clearly requested seats in the “Boring Old Farts” section of the plane. To be fair, it was only one young boy, aged about two, who cried, screamed and vigoroulsy whined throughout the seven hour flight apart from the half hour or so when he was dozing. It’s just that he happened to be located just across the aisle from me. I blame the parents myself. They had seemingly made no preparations for flying with a toddler – they had no toys, no food and no drinks for this child who, not surprisingly, was not too keen on sitting silently on his mother’s lap for seven hours – what were they thinking?

On Thursday we collected our Molly from the second of her holiday homes. Dave & Sue Walton had very kindly offered her accommodation after she had spent the first part of her holiday being spoiled by Jo and Colin Heydon’s children Martha, Tess and Herbie. We are exceedingly grateful to all of them but, somehow, I think they’ve been looking after the wrong dog – they each declared that Molly was no trouble and was a delightful canine companion. Some mistake, surely.

Now that we’re home, things are gradually returning to some form of normality. On the day we arrived back I switched the boiler back on and it immediately began making the most impressively frightening noises – deep growling groans accompanied by a clanging and clattering. The leak from the expansion vessel confirmed our worst fears – this boiler is knackered! To be fair, we have been thinking for some time that it would need replacing and I suppose it’s a good thing that this has been confirmed now rather than in the depths of January or February. I just hope we can limp along until we can arrange its replacement.

Just what you want after a lovely, lovely holiday.

Great Grandma pinching RoxyAnd finally, although she’s not yet 90, today is my mother’s birthday so let’s not forget to wish her a very happy birthday. We will, however, need to persuade her to stop pinching her great grandchildren!

Love to you all,