At last, in one place again, after three hard weeks on the road, most of which was enjoyable if not a tad tiring, with close to a couple of thousand miles of driving behind us. And tiring was certainly the order of the day at AgriExpo livestock show in Carlisle when myself and a colleague were set the task to speak about cows continually on TV for over 8 hours. Yes, that is a big challenge even for me. I think we coped OK and have already been asked back for next year’s event. Our few quiet days in the Lake District were cosy and mainly confined to indoors due to the weather, but one doesn’t go there for that really. We were highly fortunate to have a great pub, the Tower Arms in Sawrey, only 100 yards away, during which time we definitely became their ‘customer of the week’. We never did get to see Beatrix Potter’s house, although I was made to sit through the film, which was a little too Disney for my tastes.
What followed was the highlight of our time here, a couple of nights in the Feathers Hotel at Ludlow followed by a magnificent wedding of Sam (my eldest son) and Izzy at the ancient and luxurious Brynsop Court near Hereford. This place really did pull out all the stops, from its 13th century banquet rooms to a purpose built barn which its owners had purchased from the BBC and then re-erected it in all its glory in the grounds. Much drinking and dancing was to be had until the early hours when most of the guests were shipped back to Hereford on a bus. I say most, as somehow two of my nieces managed to miss their lift, but got there eventually. With games rooms, music rooms and lit fireplaces everywhere back in the grand building it would have been rude not to sample yet more hospitality as waiters appeared from the shadows with yet more grog until our palatial bedroom eventually called us in around 3am. It was great to catch up with some of the boys’ old mates, all of whom I remember as bairns; so nice to see them all doing so well and many with bairns of their own.
From there we headed south again although soon realised that the roads in UK are so atrocious, what should have been a four hour trip to Cornwall quite a while longer as I zigzagged around endless potholes that would rattle the fillings out of your teeth, let alone plates out of our cupboards. Having done little or no work in the previous two weeks I had to sacrifice some of my downtime in our next wee cottage to the dreaded computer and microphone. However, we did get to see most of the hostelries in Padstow including a meal in Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant which was splendid. We also took the foot ferry to Rock (the other one) and sampled some of Paul Ainsworth’s food which, I have to say, was a tad ordinary and over-priced, particularly when the waiter persuaded me to have some ‘new Cornish’ potatoes as a side dish – In November? Three tiny ones duly arrived at the cost of seven quid! Even Shell would blush at making that much profit!
Next up was a trip back to Herefordshire, this time to an old school reunion at Lucton. I was hoping to see a classroom full of my old mates that joined me there 50 years ago but sadly only a handful turned up. We were treated to a roast beef dinner not dissimilar to the ones we endured half a century ago and then a speech from an ‘Old Boy’ which purveyed his life in minute detail from his post-war school days to date. I definitely heard snoring from the back benches, particularly during the bit about varying sizes of rivets in 1961. Afterwards I couldn’t resist having a smoke on the prefect’s lawn despite that fact that I am neither a prefect nor a smoker. Some things just have to be done!
Now, as I sit looking out at the North sea, wind and rain are still very much on the agenda, lashing against my window and throwing the waves up with it. Poor Haggis has been nearly swept away a few times although she did manage to catch a rather poorly pigeon which was as much a surprise to her as it was to it. I believe it may even by raining back home in France this week – sacré bleu!
Tomorrow I have to interview the Minister of Agriculture for Scotland, in Edinburgh, who hasn’t been in the job very long. As my initial list of questions has since been sent back with a red line through most of them, particularly the ones about exports to France, maybe the weather is all we will have to talk about! I doubt she will accept the blame for all of it, though.