Monday 28th December
Tabitha and Gareth were muttering about heading to the Grafton Centre this morning, partly to check out the sales and partly because they were bereft of food and drink in their house.
We didn’t really have time to do the Grafton Centre, but did need some supplies for the next day or two, and it seemed sensible for them to do a proper shop while they had access to a car to bring supplies home. We headed off to Tabitha’s Sainsbury’s - which I am a bit worried to discover I can nearly find my way around as well as I can the one in Chesterfield, and certainly better than the one in Archer Road in Sheffield, which merely confuses me. Collecting Sainsbury’s is quite fun though, it must be said, not nearly as much fun as collecting Waitroses!! Tabitha’s is one of the best. It is also one of the largest.
Anyway. Enough of that. Time for us to head to West Dean, which is oh-so-nearly but not quite in the New Forest, near Salisbury. We bade a fond farewell to Tabitha and Gareth and left them to put their shopping away and to spend the day playing Mario Kart with friends and relatives around the world.
We were extremely keen to avoid the M25 so asked Jenny to take us avoiding motorways. She took us across country via Milton Keynes to Oxford and then down the A34. Not, perhaps, the way that I would have taken us to Oxford, but it would do. The middle part of the plan was to find a roadside pub, or a pub in a village not far from the road, for lunch at around 1:00. Off we set.
At around 1pm, having navigated our way around the gadzillion roundabouts on the ring road around Milton Keynes (bloody roundabouts; stupid town planners; poor back ;-( ) it gradually dawned on us that not only had we not seen any roadside pubs (most unusual), but we also had not seen any signs to pubs off the road (practically unheard of). They must be unusually abstemious in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire is all I can surmise. When we did venture into a village, it was to find that the pub was not serving food. Oh well, never mind. We’re getting close to Bicester. There’s bound to be something there.
And there probably is. But we will never know. For the road into Bicester was at a complete standstill. We decided to head for Oxford by Another Way and turned round.
ALL the roads into and around Bicester were at a complete standstill!!!!! There was traffic chaos all around us. We snuck onto an almost deserted slip road heading to Aylesbury and escaped. But still we could find no pubs! We were nearly into Aylesbury when we ran across a pub. And it was open. And there were cars in the car park. And they were serving food. But very, very, VERY slowly. They were completely unexpecting quite so many people to call in for lunch. I think that most of the people had done what we had done, found no pubs, and simply stopped at the first one they saw. If you kept going, there were quite a few pubs serving food further down. But who was going to risk it?
We had a long, long wait for lunch. But it was definitely worth it. I had probably the best steak sandwich I have ever had, even in Australia. And the side chips were thrice cooked and delicious. If you should be passing near Aylesbury, The Plough and Anchor, run by the two fat men (this is not me casting nasturtiums on their corpulence, but the description over the door) would be well worth a visit.
It did, though, mean that we were quite a bit later navigating the narrow, winding roads around West Dean than we had meant to be, and it was extremely dark. This had the advantage that you could tell if traffic was coming towards you, though. And Jenny delivered us to the door - so no need for map reading for me. Tiny country lanes are a bugger to try and read in a national road map.
The Hobbit House is a studio flat conversion over a barn or cart shed. And it’s lovely - although one of the wood beams is a little low for The Builder. Sort of forehead height :-S
There is no internet here. And no mobile signal for me, although The Builder has full signal. There are only three television channels, and they are all snowy. We may actually have to go wild and talk to each other!!! And the kitchen, though quite well equipped, doesn’t have any sharp knives, or scissors. It does, though, have a hand turned cake mixer and a large fine mesh sieve. Not quite sure what you would want them for - there’s only a caravan style oven. You couldn’t possibly bake a cake!
Tuesday 29th December
We seem to be doing a run of continuous Sundays!
One steak sandwich is not enough to sustain a Frannie indefinitely, no matter how good a steak sandwich it might have been. We had bought in Sainsbury’s in Cambridge a turkey breast which I had roasted last evening and which we had with a potato, cabbage and carrot mash. Today we have mostly been eating. Roast beef with all the usual Sunday roast accompaniments.
We collected Gwen this morning and took her down to Whiteley so we could all visit Jeanette, Matthew, Rebecca and Evie.
It was raining. Hard. Before collecting Gwen we had to visit Waitrose so we could post the calendars to Stella and Tony and to Austin. There was a very long queue at the post office counter at Waitrose, all complaining about the rain. But at least it wasn’t snowing. We could all move about without trouble r danger. And it is, after all, late December.
Didn’t take us long to reach Whiteley. The motorways were busy, but not unduly so. Mind you, the Tesco car park as remarkably full. Anyone would think the supermarkets had been closed for weeks. In fact, some of them opened on Boxing Day and all of them were open on Sunday and Monday. No idea what the attraction of Tesco was. We drove past and pulled up outside Jeanette and Matthew’s place.
And spent a lovely afternoon tormenting Evie, eating roast beef and roast potatoes, talking to Rebecca, getting an internet fix, chatting with Jeanette and Matthew, drinking wine (even Gwen had a glass, which is uncommon), playing on our laptops (Rebecca had a new one for Christmas, and Evie had a baby laptop - one for babies, not a very tiny one), and generally catching up. Then suddenly it was nearly five o’clock and time to take Gwen home!
Oh - and I have acquired a new hat. Jeanette has/had a leather Australian akubra-style hat that she doesn’t seem to like. It has come home with me to live on the hat wall with my actual akubra. I wonder how waterproof it is - for it is raining hard again this morning.
I have a quiche in the fridge, intending to have it for supper after lunch with Jeanette and Matthew. But in fact neither of us was remotely hungry. So we spent the evening watching a snowy June Whitfield tribute evening on the telly and nibbling on twiglets, hula hoops, ginger biscuit and chocolate.
It was very definitely a Sunday on a Tuesday. So much so that I was quite surprised when I rang Freyja to find that she was at work!!
Memo to self: It is best NOT to drink the last mouthful of tea when using West Dean’s water, even if the water has been filtered before being put in the kettle. Chalk is not an appetising addition to the breakfast supplements!
It’s Wednesday morning now. Time for bacon rolls before braving the weather and heading out