HAPPY EASTER!

I would like to wish all my blogging friends a very Happy Easter. I hope you all have a peaceful time.

Although I am not religious, I respect those who are, and appreciate the spiritual comfort they get from their faith.

However you are celebrating the season, be safe and well.

An Unexpected Unfortunate Event

On Sunday, I posted some musings, and I mentioned that we expected our first seasonal visitors, one of my stepsons and his girlfriend.

They were late arriving, something always of concern when a long drive is involved. Due to be here by 11am, it got to midday, and then the phone rang.

After turning off the main A47 road just four miles from our house, the car had been involved in an accident. It was undrivable, and three cars had been involved. Fortunately, nobody had been injured.

A recovery truck had been called, and I was able to go to where they were to collect them once the truck arrived to take the car away.
(The damage is so severe, it is unlikely to be repaired through the insurance)

But it was much more complicated than that, of course it was. They had only been intending to stay for lunch, drop off presents, collect theirs, and drive home again around 4pm. Now they had no car, public transport was not an option with no direct train route and a Sunday service, so they were stuck in Beetley, both due to go to work this morning.

Phone calls were made in abundance, but nobody could help by giving them a lift home, or lending them a car. I wasn’t about to make a 260-mile round trip in heavy traffic in the dark, and Julie’s bad back would never tolerate such a long car journey.

So they had to stop the night, miss work today, and I drove them back this morning. So, no serial post yesterday or today, and no sign of me around the blog. I am just back from a 6-hour journey, and looking forward to the dinner I am going to cook soon.

Julie’s son now has to try to buy a car tomorrow, using taxis to visit dealerships close to where he lives in Bedfordshire. On top of that, he is a self-employed tradesman, so lost a day’s pay today, and probably tomorrow too.

But there’s more!

They had booked up to spend Christmas in a hotel in the Cotswolds, hoping to make it special. If they don’t get a car tomorrow, they will be unable to travel to that area, as it is too far to go using public transport. On top of that, they will lose the £500 they paid, as it is too short notice to claim a refund.

As I dropped them off just after 1 pm, I was hesitant when wishing them a ‘Merry Christmas’

Ollie’s Holiday: The Porch

In our house in Beetley, Ollie cannot see outside. If I open the back door to let him out, he only has the familiar surroundings of our garden to look at. So being able to sit outside for a large part of the day, and most of the evening until bedtime, that’s a real treat for our beloved dog.

Because I spent so much of our holiday sittng happily on that covered porch of our cabin, Ollie was happy to be out there with me. When I got up each morning, I would carry his bed and toys out onto the porch, and leave them there until we closed up to go to bed for the night.

(All photos are full-frame, and can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

At various times, Ollie would take himself off down the ramp and explore the hotel beer garden. I was lucky enough to have the camera handy when he was ‘patrolling the porch’.

We love the fact that we can take Ollie on holiday with us, and that it is just as much a holiday for him as for us.

Our Holiday: Winceby Battlefield

Not too far from where we were staying, there is a memorial to a battle fought during The English Civil War. I have always been interested in that period, and have been a member of The Cromwell Association for a long time. As we were going to be so close, I thought we could combine it with a trip into the nearby town of Horncastle.

Winceby is tiny. A ‘blink and you miss it’ village. I had expected some signs directing me to the battlefield, but after driving back and forth for twenty minutes, there was nothing to indicate where it might be. Giving up, I started to head back, on the busy main road. As we passed a lay-by on that road, Julie spotted a notice board that looked relevant. After turning round in a side road, I drove back and parked in the lay-by, and there it was.

(Both photos are full-frame, and can be enlarged for detail by clicking on them.)

Behind the sign, a hedge borders the fields where the battle took place, in a landscape virtually unchanged since that day in October, 1643.

If anyone is interested, here are some more details about the battle.

On 10 October at the village of Horncastle, approximately 6 miles west of Bolingbroke Castle, the Royalist force commanded by Widdrington came upon a cavalry detachment screening for the Parliamentarians sieging the Royalist garrison. A brief skirmish took place and the Parliamentarians withdrew. The Parliamentary detachment reported back to the main army that the Royalists were moving towards them.

The next day the two opposing forces simultaneously took steps to confront each other. Manchester took part of his force and arrayed them on Kirkby Hill to prevent the Bolingbroke garrison from leaving the castle and organizing an attack from the rear. With the remainder of his army, Manchester advanced towards Horncastle. Meanwhile, Widdrington and the Royalists moved out of Horncastle and advanced toward Bolingbroke Castle.

The Parliamentary horse, which moved faster than the infantry, met the Royalists advancing in the opposite direction at Winceby. The field of battle was not ideal as the land falls away into sharp gullies on one side, but it was not poor enough to prohibit a battle. The two forces were approximately the same size and composition, all cavalry.

The ensuing battle lasted about half an hour. Cromwell feigned a retreat and lured the Royalists from a good defensive position onto flat ground. A small party of Parliamentarians advanced on the Royalists who discharged their weapons at them. Cromwell then led his main body of horse in a charge hoping to press home his attack before the Royalists had time to reload. But dismounted Royalist dragoons managed to fire a second volley, hitting several of the Ironsides. Cromwell had his horse shot from under him, apparently by Sir Ingram Hopton (who was himself killed in the subsequent fighting and is commemorated by a memorial canvas found above the font in St. Mary’s Church, Horncastle.) The canvas’s inscription describes Cromwell as the ‘Arch Rebel’ and bears the incorrect date of October 6, 1643 for the Battle of Winceby.

Cromwell was only able to rejoin the battle after he had secured another mount. A Royalist cavalry division under Sir William Savile counterattacked Cromwell’s right flank. The Royalists were, in turn, attacked in the flank by Sir Fairfax’s horse. In the resulting melee, the Royalists lost cohesion when the command by Savile to about face was taken to be an order to retreat and Savile’s horse fled the battle. On the Parliamentarian’s left wing the Cavaliers enjoyed greater initial success, but the collapse of the Royalist left and centre meant that Widdrington had to retreat or face envelopment. A flanking attack by Cromwell’s reformed cavalry was enough to cause the Royalists to flee the field in confusion.

In Horncastle, at a place now known as “slash hollow”, some Royalists were killed or captured when they became trapped against a parish boundary gate that only opened one way (against them) and in their panic the press of men jammed it shut. For the remainder of the day the Parliamentarians hunted down Royalist stragglers not stopping until dusk, which in October occurs in early evening, when they were recalled by Manchester. The Royalists lost about 300 men and the Parliamentarians about 20 with a further 60 wounded

Given the fact that Cromwell was present at the battle, and it was a significant victory for the Parliamentary rebels, I would like to see the site better commemorated.

Our Holiday: The Cabin

Last year, we really enjoyed our time in the wooden holiday cabin. Then this year it was even better, as everything was familiar. So much so, we have booked it again for much the same time in 2022, seven days in September.

Here is an overview. It has two double bedrooms, and two extra beds in the roof space, accessed by a ladder. A large bathroom with shower, and an open-plan living room and fully-equipped kitchen. TV, iron and ironing board, two sofas, a dining table and chairs, and a private picnic table to the side. Enough storage and hanging space too.

Wi-fi is also available, through a connection supplied free of any extra charge by the hotel. But the signal is sometimes erratic.

But for me, the joy is the covered porch. I sat there quite happily for hours, watching the clouds and the world go by.

And it is only 100 yards to the huge unspoilt beach!

(All photos are full-frame, and can be clicked on twice to enlarge for detail.)

Back, But Not Quite Back

Well, I am back from my holiday week by the sea, and delighted to report that I am smiling! The weather was perfect; nice temperatures combined with blue skies and a sea breeze. The one shower we encountered was when we were driving back from somewhere, and it only lasted for ten minutes.

All in all, the perfect English seaside holiday.

Ollie enjoyed his change of scene, and made new friends too. He even got to sample a special canine ice cream, and there will be a photo of him enjoying that in due course. As we have been to that same place on four previous occasions, there will not be many new photos other than some of our accommodation, and Ollie relaxing.

But returning home to a house left closed up for seven days means there are jobs to be done, so I will not be back to blogging until next week. Meanwhile, I have had to delete hundreds of emails and post notifications, so apologies for not being around your blogs. However, I will do my best to reply to all comments left during my absence, and will get on that starting from Monday.

My thanks to everyone who continued to read this blog while I was away, ensuring that I had steady numbers of views even when I wasn’t around.

Best wishes to you all, Pete.

Off The Grid

You may recall that I am going on holiday on Saturday.

(Weather Forecast; ‘Showers/Rain/Windy’. 😦 )

**Update**
Getting warmer from Monday! 🙂

I have a few things to do before that, like taking Ollie to the Vet today, and to the groomer on Friday. Then I won’t be back until the 11th of September. That means no posts from me for a while after this one, and I doubt I will be catching up with or commenting on the posts of those of you I follow.

Fresh start from the 12th. With the return of the short stories, and hopefully some news about how the holiday went.

Best wishes to everyone, Pete.

A Busy Day In Beetley

I am not used to being busy. My life is usually unhurried, with a certain familiar routine that comforts me in my retirement. But when a holiday is on the horizon, there are things that need to be done.

So there was much activity chez beetleypete this morning, including a rare trip into the heart of Dereham. (Sounds impressive, but it’s a very small town)

Up early, in the bath, dressed and ready by the time I am usually contemplating my second cup of coffee. I left a glum-looking Ollie wondering why I was going out without him, and drove through the gloom and light drizzle. In town, I was very lucky to find a nice big free parking spot right opposite the bank, my first destination.

As I do not yet cooperate with ‘Internet Banking’, occasional trips into the branch are necessary. This time I had to transfer funds from a savings account into a current account to ensure there was enough to pay the bill on Saturday week. Then there was a standing order to increase, and a transfer payment into our joint account. Second stop was across the road, to ‘Abigail’s’. This is a privately-owned gift shop that also sells a range of greetings cards.

When we are on holiday, it is our wedding anniversary on the Friday, so I had to make sure I had a card to take.

Back in the car, and less than a mile to the nearest supermarket. It has a petrol station attached, and I wanted to fill my car to the brim with diesel, ready for the longer than usual drive coming up. After waiting behind two cars, I was frustrated to discover that the diesel pump in that lane was ‘Out of Service’. Not wanting to drive around again to a different lane of pumps, I drove just over a mile to a much bigger supermarket where I was able to fill up immediately with no issues.

(*Worth noting here that the fuel prices have increased dramatically. The cost to fill my car has gone up from £55 to £63 today, in a matter of weeks)

Time to go back home. A very early lunch, followed by Ollie’s dog walk. (In light drizzly rain of course) After that, I had to fill the garden waste bin with hedge cuttings, so it can be left out for collection while we are away. I also sorted the regular waste bins while I was at it.

The time was now fast-approaching 4pm, and my next task was to iron the clothes I am taking on holiday. With chilly weather and occasional showers forecast for next week, it was an easy decision to take thicker shirts, and warm tops. I also washed a warm coat and thick fleecy cardigan, as I presume both will be needed.

It is now 5:15pm, and I am getting hungry. I think that is partly because of the early start, but also because it is decidedly cold for August, at barely 15C. Too early for starting dinner just yet, so I came in here to check blog posts and emails. (I also had been doing that between jobs, and when the iron was heating up)

For those of you with genuinely busy lives, my day might well seem like a holiday, I get that.

But I predict an early night for me!

Ollie And Our Holiday

On Saturday week, we are going on our long-awaited seven-day holiday. Nothing too exciting, exactly the same place we went to last year, during the same week. But it wil be nice to be somewhere different, and in sight of a beach too.

Ollie is coming along of course. Ever since we got him, we have always taken a holiday where dogs are welcome, so he never gets left behind. With Covid-19 still very much on our minds, our accommodation is self-catering, and the small seaside place we are travelling to will be quiet from the Monday, as the kids go back to school.

Less than 100 miles from Beetley, the drive to the Lincolnshire coast is not arduous, and we know the area well enough to find enough things to do for a week. Ollie loved it there last year, as the lodge has a porch at the front. I put his bed there and he sat outside with us, able to watch the world go by. Well, not the ‘world’, but the other residents of the cabins and the hotel they are based behind.

With the holiday imminent, Ollie has begun to shed his fur in spectacular amounts. Everything we have is covered in fur, and we are stuck on a merry-go-round of dusting, vacuuming, and washing clothes. And to put the tin hat on it, he has developed an ear infection, as well as a skin infection on the skin exposed by the loss of fur.

He is due to go to the groomer the day before we leave on the holiday. A good grooming and shampoo should deal with the worst of the moulting and skin problems, but we have to tackle that ear infection before we leave Norfolk. So he is off to the Vet on Thursday, to see what can be done.

The treatments that have worked in the past, steroids and antibiotics, now make him breathless as he seems to have developed an allergic reaction to them. So we are hoping our regular Vet can come up with something to help poor Ollie.

Otherwise, we might all have a miserable holiday.

Egypt,1989: Part Three

Back at the Hilton, we had time to reflect on how much we had enjoyed the cruise. It had seemed too short, and yet it had genuinely been relaxing and enjoyable; so perhaps after all it was just enough.

The next day, we had arranged to make the trip to see the Colossi of Memnon, opposite Luxor. This giant pair of statues is all that remains of the once-grand temple of Amenhotep III, and they are both representations of him, dating from around 1400 BC. They are quite damaged, and the features are worn away. Despite this, they are very impressive, towering sixty feet above the ground, the only things visible for any distance around them. The large bases have carvings in the stone, and one of the statues is known to have been rebuilt during Roman times, after being damaged by constant floods.

It seemed to me that they must have been something very special at the time they were erected, as they still had tremendous power as I gazed at them that morning. That afternoon, we returned to the centre of Luxor for a better look around. It was as dusty and dirty as we remembered though, so we didn’t stay there very long. Besides, we had our trip to Abu Simbel to anticipate.

A taxi collected us the following morning, for the trip to the airport. We had paid extra to fly to Abu Simbel, to avoid the long drive in the heat, and to allow more time at the site. There was little or no procedure at the airport, as it was an internal flight. We just walked across the tarmac to the aircraft, and were met by a pleasant young man, who introduced himself as our guide for the day. There were no flight attendants, no safety briefings, and the pilot and co-pilot sat in a cockpit with no door.

The plane was a relatively modern jet, and there was only a handful of other passengers. After take-off we flew surprisingly low, and soon came in to land. The guide informed us that we were not there yet, just collecting more tourists from other airfields around the area. This happened twice more, before the half-full aircraft gained height, and headed for Abu Simbel, to the south-west.

On the way, we flew over the Aswan Dam, and Lake Nasser. This was purely for touristic enjoyment, and the guide told us when these spectacles would appear, and on which side of the aircraft we should look, to get the best view. As we approached our destination, we moved around to get the first view of the monument, and even from that height, it was duly impressive. A coach awaited our arrival at the airport, and took us the short distance to the site. We were then informed that we would have two hours to explore, before the flight back.

The present site of the statues of Ramesses II is a huge artificial mound, containing a cave-like exhibition within. The statues were moved here to avoid being lost to the floods, after the creation of the dam. Between 1964 and 1968, the blocks were all cut, and individually numbered. They were then moved over 200 metres away from the water, and elevated to almost 70 metres. This is acknowledged as one of the greatest modern feats of engineering. It is hard to comprehend the scale of these huge structures. The four statues of Ramesses II at the entrance are so large, that just one of the toes is bigger than my head. As well as this, there is the Small Temple (not that small…) with six narrower sculptures around the door.

Inside, the wonder continues, with carved columns, and the UNESCO-funded exhibition, showing how the massive feat of engineering to save the site was carried out. Two hours was not really enough to appreciate everything on offer, but it was very busy, with more tourists than we had seen anywhere else previously. I took lots of photos, but made the mistake of over-compensating with the polarising filter, due to the strong sunlight. I was still using film then, and when I got the results back eventually, I was devastated to see that I had almost turned the skies black.

Nonetheless, it was a completely overwhelming experience, and well-worth the additional expense of the flights, (paid in advance in England) which added around £100 to the overall cost of the holiday. We flew back to Luxor and returned to the Hilton, with only one more day left. That evening, we dined well, eating all the most expensive items on the menu, before retiring to the gardens outside, to relax in the cool of the night air.

The following morning over breakfast, we considered the options for our last day. We decided to get a horse-taxi into Luxor, and to visit the temple on our own, taking more time, and unencumbered by even our small tour party. The feeling of having to return to England in December, cold and wet, industrial action overshadowing my job, and Christmas a few days away, was hard to shake off.

We haggled over a few trinkets, bought the last souvenirs, and enjoyed our wander around the impressive monuments for the final time. We returned to the hotel to start packing, leaving out only what we would need for the evening, and the trip home. We did not get away unscathed though. My wife had a bad stomach upset during the night, which resisted all medications, and continued into the following morning.

Hanging around at the airport didn’t help, and the public conveniences left a lot to be desired, as toilet paper had to be purchased from an attendant. Once on the flight home, my wife was further embarrassed by being allotted her own personal toilet, in case she had anything contagious! Even on our return to England, this condition persisted long enough for her to have to see her doctor.

I had to go back to picket duty on a strike, with an unseasonal tan.

But I would go again, do it all again, because it was truly memorable. In less than two weeks, we had stepped back over three thousand years in history, and experienced somewhere totally different to anywhere that either of us had ever been. Despite the political changes in the region, and the fact that the cruises are now more popular than ever, I would urge anyone to visit this fascinating country.