Weekend Anticipation

Scrolling through Twitter, and reading some blog posts, I notice once again that build-up of excitement concerning Fridays, and the anticipation of the coming weekend.

People are posting about their plans to do something on those two days off, what they are going to eat, and looking forward to drinking some alcohol in many cases. There are mini-breaks planned, trips to major cities, shopping sprees, even doing nothing but staying in casual clothes and binge-watching Netflix.

My life in retirement takes no notice of weekends at all. They are just two more days of the week. Even the shops are open as normal, though only until 4pm on Sundays. I can do something different if I want to, but why would I? I am able to see things or to go to places during weekdays when everyone else is at work. Why go to the coast or tourist sites when everyone else is crowding there on their only two days off?

For me in Beetley, a Saturday and Sunday might just as well be a Tuesday and Wednesday. It has been that way since 2012.

Refreshingly liberating, I assure you.

A Non-Lockdown Saturday In Beetley

It wasn’t that long ago that I was posting about lockdown life in Beetley. To be honest, it wasn’t that different to life before lockdown, at least for me.

Now it has been almost a week since ‘Freedom Day’, and not much has changed around here. On Monday, I collected an Indian takeaway meal from a restaurant we use. Staff were still wearing masks and face shields, and the screens were in place between tables. But the diners were not wearing masks of course, so I kept mine on as I waited for the meal to be prepared.

I went into Dereham on Tuesday, and did the ‘big shop’ at a huge supermarket. Around two-thirds of the customers were weaing masks, and all the staff I saw were wearing them too. They had an announcement playing over loudspeakers suggesting masks should be retained, and that shoppers should still try to social distance where possible.

I saw some maskless shoppers grinning at that, and all of those not wearing masks were quite obviously younger than forty.

Out walking with Ollie, fellow dog-walkers are still keeping a reasonable distance if they stop to chat, and we are standing at the side of narrow paths to allow others to walk by without having to be in close proximity. But the youngsters and teenagers playing around in the river or basketball court are behaving as if Covid doesn’t exist any longer, with close physical contact, and not a mask in sight.

Where Julie works at out local Doctor’s, most people are complying with the mask rule, which is still in force for medical sites. Only a couple of people refused to wear one this week, and they were not allowed into the building. In one case, a woman became abusive and aggressive, and the manager had to be called down to make her leave.

Next weekend, there is a big family party in the Watford area, in Hertfordshire. I wasn’t going anyway, because of leaving Ollie. But Julie was looking forward to attending the 50th birthday party, and seeing many of her extended family. However, that area has shown an alarming spike in Covid infection during the last week, so attending a party inside has become a worrying prospect. Wearing a mask in that situation is not much fun, so she will likely cancel her long-awaited trip.

This all goes to show that despite ‘Freedom Day’, the virus is still around, infections are still increasing, and many of those who didn’t want to wear masks are taking full opportunity of the relaxation of rules.

In many ways, nothing has changed at all, so we carry on as before here in Beetley.

Ollie And The Heatwave

Since Ollie turned nine in February, he has slowed down considerably. But he still likes nothing better than to accompany us anywhere in my car, and is able to jump up onto his bed in the back as if he is still only two years old. So he was delighted when after watching us pack up the car last Thursday, he was called outside to leap into his spot.

The first day in Essex was actually overcast, and not very warm. He was pleased to see my cousin’s two small dogs again, even though having so many people in the house made him rather agitated, perhaps because he worried that he might be left behind.

By the time we arrived in Kent late on Friday afternoon, the weather had started to warm up considerably. We were grateful to be able to eat outside at my friend’s house, but Ollie stayed inside, finding some cool carpet in the shade to lie on.

On Saturday, it was almost 30 degrees (C) and we drove the short distance to a local Country park to give him a good walk. In the absence of a river, I took along his water bowl and a large bottle of water. Ollie was soon slowing down in the heat, so after an hour, we sat under a tree near the cafe there, and Ollie was lying down on the long grass in the shade. Despite drinking lots of water, he couldn’t seem to cool down, and was panting constantly.

The next day, I walked him to the local park near my friend’s house, somwehere he has been many times before. But there was a lot of traffic in that large town, and Ollie kept stopping on the pavement, flinching at the noise as cars and buses drove past close to us. By the time I got to the park, I had to sit in some shade and give him a big drink from his bowl. As he showed no sign of wanting to continue the walk after that, I decided to head back, by which time it was close to 31C there.

He spent the rest of the time lying on the kitchen floor, and when the sun moved around and we sat outside to eat, he ventured out to find any small breeze and the cool decking of her patio. For all three days in Kent, he had seemed grumpy and listless, though I was pleased that he ate all of his food, and had a good appetite.

The drive home on Monday wasn’t too bad, and I decided to stop off at Thetford Forest so that Ollie could get out for a walk, and have a drink. For some reason, he wouldn’t follow me after I parked the car, and kept looking back at it. I had to settle for him having a short drink before getting him back in the car for the one hour drive to Beetley. The next morning, he seemed happier, as the temperature in Norfolk, though still hot, was a full 5C lower than it had been further south. Even so, after fifteen minutes in his preferred area of Beetley Meadows, he ran into the river and stood there for over twenty minutes.

Today was still warm and sunny, but a lot fresher than it has been. Ollie has decided that he must now sniff and mark a lot more places than ever, presumably making up for that ‘lost time’ away. It took me almost thirty minutes to walk less than 400 yards, and I found myself standing waiting for ages until he was ready to catch up.

So at least during this short heatwave, dog-walking now has a new name.

‘Dog-Waiting’.

Just Back

Hello to everyone. I have just returned from my four day holiday in gloriously hot and sunny weather.

During that time away, I did not look at any emails or blog posts, did not turn on my mobile phone, or watch anything on TV.

After unloading the car, I have just logged on to find 96 posts, and around 30 comments on some of mine. I cannot possibly catch up on the posts I have missed, so will be starting from scratch from tomorrow. My apologies if that means I have missed something crucial or important. If so, you can let me know by email.

The latest fiction serial ‘A Good Runner’ will continue from tomorrow. Sorry to have interrupted it, and I hope that hasn’t ruined your enjoyment.

I will do my best to reply to all comments on my posts as soon as possible.

Best wishes from an unusually sunny and warm (hot) Beetley.

Pete.

Heading South

Tomorrow, I will be leaving the confines of Beetley, passing through the Norfolk County border checkpoints, and heading south with Julie and Ollie.

For the first time since March 2020, we will be visiting relatives and friends in Essex and Kent, on a 250-mile round trip. I know that’s not much by American standards, but after close to eighteen months of lockdown, it feels like a real escape to me.

As a result, I will be away from the blog for a few days. The serial will return after I get back, and I won’t be doing any other posting, or commenting on blogs I follow. I suppose I could try to manage that on my Fire Tablet, but I doubt I will want to struggle with that.

I thought I would let everyone know, in case you thought I had dropped dead!

Best wishes to you all, Pete.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Not a Brit.

If you come from the UK, it is very common to be called ‘A Brit’, especially by Americans and Canadians. But it is easy to overlook the fact that Great Britain is made up of four very different countries. England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have different cultures and traditions, varied histories, and also languages other than English.

It may say ‘British Citizen’ on my (expired) passport, and I have to state my nationality as ‘British’ on many official forms and documents. But as anyone born and raised here will tell you, I am English. If I travel to any of those other three countries, I would be regarded as such too.

The United Kingdom is far from being united.

At least half the people in Scotland would like that country to be independent, and to rejoin the EU. Wales also has a Nationalist political party advocating independence and the use of the Welsh language, though it has moderate influence there. Northern Ireland has a complex and tragic history, intertwined with religion and over one hundred years of struggle in the modern era.

Those other three countries also have their own devolved governments. Their powers are different in each one, but generally allow them to make many of their own rules and laws with having to refer to the national government in London. Scotland and Northern Ireland also have different banknotes, though the currency is still The Pound.

We don’t have a ‘Great Britain’ football team either. Each of the four nations has its own team, with dedicated fans and followers. The national Cricket tean is the ‘England’ team, not British. Playing any of the home nations (as they are called) in any sport carries the same rivalry and nationalistic fervour as if we were playing Brazil or Germany.

I am not able to state my nationality as ‘English’ in any offcial capacity, but I have never thought of myself as anything else. In the same way, someone from Scotland or Wales would call themselves Scottish or Welsh, wherever they happened to live.

In my remaining lifetime, I am unlikely to see a total break-up of Great Britain. Even if Scotland voted for- and was granted – independence, Wales and Northern Ireland are unlikely to follow. But given the choice, I would advocate that.

Because we are different, so it makes sense to me to be separate countries.

Meeting Good Friends

Regular readers will know that I often mention my friend, Antony. He sends me interesting video clips, and as an accomplished photographer, he also took the photo on my ‘About’ page. I have known him for a long time, since we both worked as EMTs at the same ambulance station in London, then much later he came to work alongside me for the Police in that city. He still lives there, and still works in the same job.

In 2014, we attended his wedding to Natalie, on the south coast. Then in 2017, Antony and I (with Ollie) had a walking holiday in the Lake District which was later the subject of many photo posts on this blog. But given the distance, we haven’t seen each other since, despite keeping in regular contact by phone and email.

On Thursday, Antony and Natalie were returning from a trip to the north of England, and had arranged to stay the night in Wells-Next-The-Sea. As this is only a short drive from Beetley, we could meet up, enjoy a coastal walk, and then go to a restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, Julie hurt her back badly on Monday, and was unable to come. Nonetheless, I was delighted to see Antony and Natalie, and we did go for that coastal walk, followed by a very nice meal and a long after-dinner chat.

(I’m on the right, in case you didn’t know who was who.
The photo can be greatly enlarged by clicking on it.)

As they were not leaving Norfolk until almost 2pm on Friday, they suggested meeting at Holkham Hall that morning. With Julie still unable to walk properly, I went with Ollie, and we met in the car park of that impressive house. https://www.holkham.co.uk/

We then had a long walk around the extensive grounds, happy to have more time to catch up on those five years. Although Ollie had to remain on his lead, he seemed to be delighted to explore somewhere he hadn’t been for a long time.

Then it was time to say farewell just after 1:30pm, hoping it will not be another five years until we meet again.

Finding Bailey

It was a wet dog walk today. I wathed the lunchtime weather report, and they said it would be ‘cloudy but dry in the East’. So I knew to take my umbrella. Ten minutes in, and it was raining lightly. By the time I got over to Hoe Rough, the umbrella was failing to cope with torrential rain.

That meant wet shoes, (Skechers for comfort, not waterproof) wet shorts, and wet sleeves on my cotton top. Then there was walking through the tall grass and shrubs, still wet from yesterday, now soaking my legs on top of the rain. To remind me it was summer, the temperature was a humid 21 C (69 F), and Ollie was hot enough that despite being wet from the rain, he still jumped into the river to cool down.

After a couple of miserable rounds of the nature reserve, I headed back to Beetley Meadows, skidding around on the fresh mud. Over there, I saw a lady I know in passing. She usually has two small dogs with her. Today there was only one. She walked up and asked me, “Have you seen a small dog? It’s a little Spaniel called Bailey”. I told her I knew the dog, but hadn’t seen him. She told me her son was out in his car, driving around Beetley hoping to see him on the street.

I asked her where she had last seen Bailey, and she said he had gone into the long grass opposite the gate to the woodland area. That grass is never cut, and is currently very high. It also contains nesting adders, (poisonous snakes) who would likely be hunkered down in the cooler, wet weather. I said I was heading that way, and would look for her dog. By that time, she had been trying to find her dog for almost thirty minutes, and was getting worried.

Standing next to the long grass opposite the gate, I called out “Bailey” and whistled too. Ollie seemed confused, thinking I was whistling him. Seeing the grass moving about twenty-five feet away, I called again and again, until there was definitely more movement. So I told Ollie to stay, ditched the umbrella, and ventured in, finally catching a glimpse of the tiny Spaniel ahead. I patted my legs and called his name again, and he made his way nervously in my direction.

When he was close enough, I stepped forward and slipped Ollie’s lead over the small head. Then I walked him back to where the lady was standing with her other dog.

Little Bailey was soaked through, and looked exhausted. It must have seemed like being trapped in a grass maze, towering well over two feet above him. Perhaps he became disorientated, and headed deeper into the grassed area, rather than back to the path? We will never know for sure why he got lost there.

But at least he was found, safe and sound.

A Mystery Pain

While out with Ollie yesterday, I started to get a pain in my back. It didn’t feel like conventional ‘backache’, but was no less unpleasant. By the time I got home, I was feeling rather unwell with it, and couldn’t get comfortable. So I took some Brufen, and laid on the bed for a while.

I managed to prepare dinner for when Julie got home from work at 6:30 pm, but I didn’t enjoy it, as the pain hadn’t shifted at all. Before 8pm, still daylight here, I had to take more tablets, and go back to bed.

The pain woke me up after midnight, and Julie found me some much stronger tablets, Naproxen. After taking two of those, I went back to bed and managed to get back off to sleep. I didn’t wake up this morning until 9:20. I had slept for almost twelve hours, and the pain had gone.

Though it left behind that ‘pain memory’, a niggling feeling around the same area where the problem had been. I have no idea what caused it, but I really hope it doesn’t come back.

Summer Solstice

(This post is another moan about the weather. If you are bored with those, please skip it.)

Today is the Longest Day. The Summer Solstice, Midsummer’s Day. Whatever anyone calls it, it is the 21st of June, and definitely ‘summer’ in most countries north of the Equator.

Julie is sitting on the sofa wrapped in a blanket, and I am seriously considering putting the central heating on. Last night, I had trouble sleeping, because my feet were cold in bed. And that was under a fleecy duvet, full tog.

Not that long ago, we had temperatures of 28C (82F), bright sunshine, and humid nights. That felt like summer. This feels more like February, and today was the only day it didn’t rain at all in nearly a week. For the last four days, the best temperature we have reached in Beetley is 13C. (55F)

It seems Global Warming and Climate Change have definitely arrived uninvited in England, if not the whole of Britain.

Coping with an extension of the Covid-19 rules is bad enough, after all this time. And now it is cold and miserable into the bargain.