It was, you will be amazed to hear, a very food-laden weekend. Most unusual for us. Food and wine hardly ever figure in our weekends!
It started on Friday evening when The Builder and I abandoned Marlo to the house (“You’re going out *again*? But you’ve only just got back from work” and he sat by the side of the road and SCOWLED as we drove away!) and went to Ashford in the Water, where we met Bea, Steve, Roger and Kate for dinner. The Builder and I have eaten in Ashford a few times, though we have always gone to the Ashford Arms. This time we went to the Bull’s Head, at Roger’s recommendation. And it was an excellent recommendation. The food was lovely. I probably wouldn’t buy the house white by the glass. It was a very uninteresting chardonnay. It would probably have been better to have put up more dosh and to have bought a bottle of something better. But the food was certainly not uninteresting. Crayfish tails and salad for me, followed by really nice salmon and smoked haddock fishcakes in a lobster bisque sauce. Very yum.
It was a lovely evening. Jenny the Sat Nav had taken us to Ashford via the winding road to Rowsley. The weather was lovely. The company was genial. We came back along more sedate roads, having decided it was getting a bit dark for a walk after dinner (memo: in future, have the walk before dinner, or go in June) and pottered about until bed time.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny. I did a load of washing, while The Builder went to the allotment to collect potatoes and vegetables for Jeanette and Matthew, and for his mother. The clouds rolled in :-( I decided not to hang the washing out and put it on the clothes horse. Marlo observed me packing the red bag with dismay. I spoke to Stella on Skype. She’s home now and looking quite chipper. I do like internet telephony. Talking to someone you can see is almost as good as being there!
We packed everything into the car, left Marlo sulking on the dining room table and trundled off to Whiteley. In the rain. It was Matt’s 40th birthday just over a week ago and they had had a barbecue to celebrate last weekend. We, alas, couldn’t go. It was the weekend of the Cromford Steam Fair and we had organised with Barb months ago to go. So we moved our celebration to this last weekend. Always good to extend the celebration season of a significant birthday. My 50th went on for nearly a month!
Anyway. All was going well until we got to Winchester. The problem with travelling on a Saturday in the summer is that the holiday change over day is nearly always a Saturday. By the time we got to Winchester, we had caught up with all the people who were heading to the south coast for their summer holiday. Fortunately, The Builder live around Winchester for a good many years and knows his way around. We left the main road and the standing traffic and pootled around the back of Winchester – and then foolishly launched ourselves back onto the motorway system, despite the warning signs saying that the speed limit was 50 mph. The motorway was at a standstill. Well, not quite. It was moving but only very slowly. “Let’s come off at the next exit” I suggested. But that’s Eastleigh, said The Builder. I don’t know the way from Eastleigh to Whiteley except on the motorway. Perhaps not. But Jenny does!
And so we got there, to find the house deserted. They were in the supermarket laying in supplies. I was supposed to ring them as we got closer, but none of their phones were receiving. And why were they in the supermarket so late, when they were expecting us about then? Because they had suddenly realised on Friday evening that they had a room for us to sleep in, but nothing for us to sleep on – and they had had to rush out in the morning and buy a futon! Quite a comfortable futon, it must be said.
So a late lunch of bread and cheese and ham and things. And it was still raining. Really raining. So we couldn’t really go out. So we repaired to the lounge room and played with Evie (not quite 12 months and taking up to 12 tentative steps, when aided) and watched The Mummy with Rebecca. I have never seen The Mummy. I had assumed it was a horror film and, as I don’t watch horror films, hadn’t thought about it any further. It’s not a horror film, it’s more Indiana Jones meets the scarab beetles. I quite enjoyed it. Then we watched a Disney film and then, it still raining with enthusiasm, we abandoned the barbecue idea and went with takeaway Chinese.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny too. Only this time it stayed that way. We all went to explore the Whiteley shopping complex, leaving Jeanette to deal with the roast pork we were to have for Sunday lunch. I was after a photo frame for a copy of a picture I had taken of Rebecca and Evie the last time we were down, to give to The Builder’s mother. We had a nice potter about in the shops. Rebecca won a huge inflatable hammer on one of those lift-the-frog-from-the-pond games and devoted herself to beating up Matt with it on the way back to the house. Where we consumed a magnificent roast pork lunch with roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings and vegetables and apple crumble and custard and then had to drag ourselves off to squeeeeeeeeeze into the car and head to Salisbury, while they went to Basingstoke, poor people to collect something they had ordered.
We had afternoon tea with Gwen. Not that we needed afternoon tea, but she had baked cakes and muffins for us. Room had to be found! She’s looking quite cheerful, really. I think she gets very bored on Sundays, when there’s not much happening around about, and the people she might see are likely to be out or busy. And I suspect that now she doesn't get much chance to bake. Not that I think Mick ate much in the way of cake, being a diabetic. It was nice cake, lemon cup cakes and chocolate chip muffins, and a nice cup of tea too. Then we had to dash off, drive to Barb’s in the only rain shower we met all day, deliver some stuff for her before she left for her Sunday Evening shift at the Black Dog and then make our way home.
As we were heading off, we decided, rather than going up the usual road by the Black Dog, which takes you up to the main road at a rather awkward intersection into a VERY busy road, that we would go further along and try a road which takes you to a slip road intersection. The road up from Dinton to Wylye is a winding, narrow, tree lined lane which was fun to drive along - though I might not want to do it on a winter's evening. Brought us up to the A303 - which was completely, really completely empty of traffic heading in our direction. The road just had to have been closed further up. Just as well we hadn't gone up our normal way! We hit standing traffic where the road goes abruptly from two lanes to one, but that nearly always happens. In the meantime, three police cars, two ambulances and two fire engines went hurtling up on the other side. Had to have been an accident. In the end, we turned off the 303 at Winterbourne Stoke and headed across country towards Marlborough.
But it was characteristic of our whole journey home. Studded with standing traffic and detours and other impediments to progress. Eventually we got home at just before 10:00. We left Barb's at 5:30. Normally takes a touch under three and a half hours! We didn't have the tuna I had bought for supper. We had wine. And The Builder had a bowl of dried fruit and nuts.
Marlo was VERY pleased to see us back. I had realised, as we were heading south on Saturday, that I had forgotten to fill his biscuit bowl and to put down an extra bowl of biscuits to see him through, which is what I usually do if we are only going to be away for one night. I sent Tammy a text message asking her to feed him. She sent one back saying she would - but I think I might have caught her a bit early and that she might have been still asleep because we got back to find his bowls empty, his food still on the bench and the biscuit packet knocked to the floor. And Tammy is normally extremely reliable. Alas - Marlo had been unable to get the peg which was holding the bag closed off so he still couldn't get to the biscuits. He was out when we got back. I think he was somewhere down on the farm. A few minutes after I called him he came hurtling over the front wall, demanded to know where on earth we had been and what sort of time do you call this to get home in the evening, then demolished his bowl of wet food in about ten seconds. Had to have another one!