Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Grand Adventure

A sweet, massaman-like curry
 And so I began my grand adventure!
I flew out of Melbourne on a cold wet June day. The thought of flying was exciting, but the thought of transit lounges made me nervous. It turns out transit lounges were fine, but the flying got a bit hairy. After 30 minutes of horrible, horrible turbulence, the pilot pinged us to say we were safely through. I really could have done with an earlier one saying "You aren't going to die today because of these clouds". I guess the important part was that we didn't.

I flew Royal Brunei. Polite helpful staff, lovely clothes, prayers at three stages of journey and pretty good food- poorly captured in the picture above. We got fed to the point of bursting. I had packed treats in case we were left to starve like I was on Lufthansa 20 years ago, but didn't really need any of it. My bottle of water was handy but not necessary. It was unlike the trip to the US a few years ago which was like crossing a desert according to my kidney's experience.....

But starting this story with the tales of transport is not really how I want to tell this story. It isn't about travel, it is about a gorgeous man actually.

So while I am flying Royal Brunei, I am actually flying to England to see Mark and meet his family.

I haven't a plan for how I am going to write this but I have loaded a bundle of photos which I guess will be prompts to memories of events and heart and I will weave it into some kind of mad nest of words!

Woodstock for breakfast. I was already in love with lanes and green
I arrived at Heathrow, turned around a couple of times at some ungodly hour of the morning and there was my Mark! A sight for weary eyes if ever there was. We left the airport and after going around one particular roundabout about 10 times waiting for the satnav to find us, we were off to Woodstock to visit Blenheim Palace. (Google's dictionary can agree with Blenheim but not Heathrow. Inexplicable)                                                                         

Blenheim on a 'fine' day
I have been here before. Having been an anglophile and reader of historic fiction, I love Blenheim's connection with QE1 and the Marlborough's. The more recent Churchill references leave me a little cold as I am not comfortable with the English use of Ozzie bodies as cannon fodder.
At this point in my journey, I was filling up my soul with images of Mark and green to take back with me to Markless brown Australia. Mark was playing hard to get with the camera, but the green let me drink deeply!
Lovely hole in the tree to imagine filling with owls, squirrels and pixies.

A view of green can only be improved by....
adding Mark
Beautiful palace vista can only be improved by....
adding Mark
I will stop tormenting him. A simple vista.....
All the photos I took were taken by the camera in my phone. I have been pretty pleased with it. So when we reached Blenheim's butterfly house, I tested it without even going to its macro setting. Amazing clarity. I have had a collection of cameras over the years. One, my 21st birthday present, was very valuable. But none have given me this quality combined with simplicity.
From Blenhem it was on to Newent where we were staying in a cottage Mark had rented for us. Beautiful and quaint. I had to send Mark on walks by himself just so I could sit in the sunroom and enjoy it. He was way too busy to have time to sit!

The garden was as pretty as an English garden can be but there was something I had glimpsed in the advertising material and I wanted to confirm my suspicions!
Sure enough! Two gum trees in the back yard. In fact when we spoke to Julian, one of the owners and in fact a Chelsea flower show winner, there was also a Wolomi pine in the back corner too.

Our Front door. Mark reached to steady me everytime we walked down they cobbley stones. I assured him I could manage, but he then and now insists that I needed the assistance. (Makes me feel even older than I am, but he means well)
Fred- teleporting Turtle. Never seen move, but always discovered with food

And there you see what this trip was all about! I am so proud it is ridiculous. Do they say there is no fool like an old fool? Well that might be a bit harsh, but I certainly feel as giddy and happy about this 2nd attempt of happily-ever-after as I can ever remember feeling. Thank you ! I adore my ring. It is so beautiful. I shouldn't be this materialistic, but as it twinkles away while I am typing, I have to say thank you again!
Our first day was spent on a trip to Cheltenham for a food and wine festival. Great smells, good music and food with dodgey weather. We enjoyed lunch and wandered to a nearby pub just as the crowds started to thicken - very much like the clouds were.
We made it to the pub, armed with Pims for me and  a beer for Mark and then he heavens opened. We sat in warm comfortable surrounds and congratulated ourselves on our fine timing.

Once the weather cleared - which it did- and in fact did a lot over the course of the holiday so I will now try to avoid references to rain as Mark would like me to remember this as a lovely fine summery holiday. 
Anyway, when it cleared, we headed towards Gloucestershire. When I saw the cathedral's spire over the town, I asked mark to take a side trip there as I had heard snippets of its story over the years.
Poor old thing! 
It isn't getting the money that Salisbury's is getting and the centuries of people visiting it have not been kind. It's like it has had 1000 years of choir boys scratching away at every surface since. I would describe it as a grand old heap.
Interesting thing is that in England I got to learn [artner's pace. And quirks. he doesn't read all the little signs with information but he can't help singing loudly in a church.

Cows at Three Counties Show
Now what I have to do is make sure this doesn't become a day by day, blow by blow of the trip.
However the next day we were off to the show!!!!
Sheep watch the judging of "Humans in white coats"

Tewkesbury Abbey. Not as huge (though still quite large!), but obviously had better trained choir boys as it hadn't been worn nearly so much.

There were aspects where there were so many angles and so many layers. I wish the light had been better to have captured the depth of field better

What Ozzie can resist a wobbley Tudor facade? We had a beer there. Partner  feels nervous when the walls are not at right angles. He thinks that if they are going to fall down one day, it would be good to know which day that was going to be in advance (I am putting words in his mouth). For me the thing about 'ye olde English building' is the smell. Damp. Old. Damp.
My lunch
Partner treated me and treated me again. We ate too well.  
When we first walked past this restaurant, it was empty and about 12:30pm. Not a good time to be empty if you have a good reputation so we kept walking. But our feet brought us back as it just looked nice. 
By the time we got there there were a few tables occupied and now well after 1pm.
We placed our order and Partner asked if we could have a little bread. Shiho(?) said it was on it's way.
We had ordered the two course meal- and that is all we were billed for but we were treated to a wonderful meal. Amongst the little extras that we were given was a lovely soup. I later overheard that they had just started serving lunch that week so it may be that they were letting us sample extras that were prepared for a crowd that didn't yet realise the lunchtime option. Whatever the reason, we had a wonderful meal. Thank you very much!

Green, old buildings and narrow hedged roads. I couldn't get enough of them.

We drove....

and drove..

We drove so far we ended up in Wales, where there are strange trench-dwelling sheep. I have never seen sheep who live in trenches before....

Sunshine! And Elderflower Cordial. My new favourite refresher. Here we are at Hellen's.
A dilapidated manor house.

I think Partner and I were falling in love with the less sophisticated, We both preferred our exploring of this crumbling backwater to the commercial splendor of Blenheim.

Three Choirs Winery for Lunch
The trip wasn't all about food but.....
Three Choirs Winery wasn't far at all from Newent. The restaurant had left us disappointed on the Sunday, being fully booked for Father's Day. And even our mid-week lunch time drop in found it bustling and window seats at a premium.
My lunch. Baked Brie and the most delicious chutney I have ever eaten
With our lunch we tried some of their wines. I had a delicious sweet one and Partner's choice was lovely too. Lovely enough to appeal to even my sweet palate.
Chepstow Castle in Wales
Seeing Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility at Chepstow in the evening was a trip highlight!
To be honest- being with Mark was the highlight. All the other things became backdrops to that, but of all the backdrops, this was the best!

Mark had booked us tickets in advance to an evening performance on the castle grounds. We arrived just as the tourist day ended and watched the heavy wooden doors close in front of us to our dismay as we hope to be able to see the caste... not just the show.

We poked the 15 foot high doors and they must be very well hung, as they swung open enough for us to poke our heads through and ask when we might get in. Reopening at 6:45 for the 7:30 performance.
We were on the door step ready to go when it re-opened but once we had staked our claim with folding chairs (bought especially for the evening), we were told 'no leaving the main courtyard'.

The man in high-viz was friendly though and struck a conversation.. "Have you come far tonight?" I dropped the word Australia into a sentence and suddenly we are being told to go and have a discrete look. Mark is not very discrete, but we did take advantage of the offer and had a lovely, private wander through the castle.

Thank you Mr Hi-Viz

Looking along the walls built strategically against the river

Pretty Framed view

7 actors sharing about 18 roles. very well done!
A long held dream come true
Twenty years ago, I didn't make it to Bath. I can't tell you how many years before that I had wanted to go there but 20 years ago I made it within a few miles and for reasons beyond explanation, I was driven away again...
But here is my Bath. My Jane Austin. My roman ruins.

Meeting the people
Meeting the in-laws is something that causes so much anxiety that there are books and movies dedicated to the subject. 
Meeting Mark's family was going to be a big deal for me.
He told me they would love me because they would be happy for him.

He told me often enough that I believed they would want to like me. But it wasn't enough to convince me that, having his best interests at heart, they wouldn't wish for something else for him.

I am the 'older woman', and too old for more kids so not only am I taking him away from his existing family, I am giving him my bunch of teenagers and closing the option of having his own.

I couldn't read their minds, but the People's actions spoke plenty. And I am even more happy. I loved the lunch we had with all the kids enjoying being the focus. And dare I say, enjoying not having a 3 year old of my own needing focus.

And cards, and wine and invitations to dinner.....

What I felt was welcome and not judgement.

This is a subject where the heart feels much, but it is a public space and these are private lives so that is all that is being put out today!
Poole Harbour
Home of my favourite shop- Poole Pottery. Gifts of great beauty were purchased here!
My energy to blog is fading. I have been here for 5 hours and there are still photos with no captions.

Let me quickly caption them and then escape from the computer with just one last message.
Thank you Mark
Masts in the grass
A serpentine waterway finds its way through the rushes

Gulls with dark heads

Captured in flight by a phone. Amazing technology

Look! Water

Harmony points her nose at Corfe Castle
The good girl drove me to the airport proving her worth as a faithful steed

He hates this photo. Tuff

Playing with a bee
very 70s

Spooky swans
Swans should be black you know

This time the red nose is a boat, driven by Mark in the rain

I pursued these allusive creatures. Timid shy things. i have deleted hundreds of photos of tiny specks in the distance. Each photograph matched by a huff from mark who can't understand squirrel excitement

Ok... so not all squirrels are nervous.. i backed off before this guy did!