So, Summer School ended. On the Friday night, most of the teachers who were left headed down to the pub. I went too, but didn’t stay for too long – being a bit of a boring old fart! – and knowing that I hadn’t packed yet! Mr FD was due to arrive by train at 12.00 but I’d promised to drive some of the teachers to the station by 9.00, so I didn’t want to be late to bed.
On Saturday morning, I fulfilled all my tasks and got to the station to meet Mr FD at the appointed time. He had left the car he’d driven over from France (& had hoped to sell, but was unable to) at his mum’s, & took the train to Newbury, where I met him. We had planned to go to the Hawk Conservancy Trust but the weather was horrid, so instead we drove to a pub we used to go to occasionally when I was at college in Winchester: The Bush at Ovington
Being a little way outside Winchester, it depended on one of us having a car, but it was a lovely place to go. To be honest, it hadn’t changed that much in the 35 years, and sitting in the bar brought back so many memories: there was the big table next to the open fire that we liked to sit at, here was the River Itchen that was so lovely to sit by on summer evenings…. Today, we both had some good British beer, a chicken-and-watercress sandwich, and (for me) some delicious parsnip and ginger soup. Mr FD had chips. I was allowed one.
We were due to stay at a friend’s in Southampton, so we made our way to Southampton Town Quay for a walk (the weather had brightened up a little by then) and a sit, to watch the boats going up the Solent. Then we arrived at Norman’s. We have been friends since my days at college, when he was the College chaplain. We have always got on very well, and I often think I would have loved him to be my Parish Priest: he is so wise, and sensible, and Godly. But, I think, not comfortable. He would be challenging too. He was – as far as I can remember – when he was Chaplain.
Anyway, he had invited Ian (another friend from College – but not this Ian)and his partner for dinner, so we had a lovely time catching up and just chatting. Norman cooked us melon & proscuttio for starters, then salmon with hollandaise sauce, new potatoes and green beans, then a “fruit crunch” – basically fruit salad with lots of red fruit and a touch of rum, topped with crushed amaretto biscuits, and then a layer of whipped cream and greek yoghurt. With brown sugar sprinkled on top, then left in the fridge overnight, there is a delicious fudgey topping as the sugar melts. Yummy!
The following day, we set off for Frome to catch up with more friends from college. Mr FD has known them for almost as long as he has known me, and gets on very well with them. He and Kit like the same music, and can talk Tech for hours, while Alison (another one) and I just fall into chat-mode instantly. Their daughter Hann was there, as was my Godson, Joe – which was a surprise, but definitely a happy surprise. We had a bread-and-cheese lunch, then strolled into Frome town centre to look at the Independent market there – lots of lovely things. I was particularly taken by the idea of book gardens:
which I think are rather lovely! I might (only might, mind you!) try making some for presents if I can find any appropriate books. Emmaus would seem a good starting place. We had tea in a café – very hip and happening, but terrible service! – and then strolled home, Kit & Mr FD forging ahead while Alison,Hann and I chatted about everything and nothing. Joe had gone to meet friends in the pub.
Mr FD and I had visited Asda on the way and bought pizza and salad, so we had that for dinner, and basically spent the evening chatting, comparing Tech and watching Athletics on TV. Very chilled. Very pleasant.
In the morning Mr FD popped back into Frome to buy some medication, while the rest of us tried to choose names for the two kittens that A&K were going to collect that afternoon. I still don’t know what was finally chosen! Mr FD had bought himself a new phone, which meant that his old phone was passed onto me, so I was able to gift my old phone to Joe (who was using an i-phone-something with a broken screen). Godson was very happy.
After lunch, Mr FD & I headed in the direction of South Wales, where we were going to visit friends from his University days. First we were due at Roger & Mags. Mr FD & Roger had “got mildly drunk together on our first evening at Cardiff University” and they have been friends ever since.
This is a not-very good picture of Roger & Mags’ fluffy ginger cat, Oscar. I didn’t take any pictures of Roger & Mags!
When we arrived, Roger had taken the afternoon off work, so we sat and chatted about music (Mr FD & Roger definitely have the same taste in music!) and sport and Tech. When Mags got home, we then set out for a lovely little pub somewhere not very far from them, in Caerphilly, but, a little like The Bush, very olde worlde.
More good beer, and good food. I started with a goats’ cheese and black pudding salad, followed by a Welsh lamb burger, and fries. Mr FD had laver bread to start, in a type of croquettewith oatmeal and bacon, and then he went the whole hog and had a double burger – one Welsh lamb and the other Welsh beef!
The following day, Roger & Mags had both taken a day off work so we went for a lovely walk (a little too far for me, as I was struggling by the end, but still delightful) We started at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery
and from there we followed part of the Taff Trail, above the River Taff. We made a detour to visit the site of an old Iron Foundry, that would have been active in the 19th century, but is now quite derelict.
Halfway round, we stopped at another pub for lunch. More good beer, and this time I had Welsh Cawlserved with bread and cheese. And sweet potato chips.
Mr FD and Roger had the most enormous ploughman’s lunch ever, served with 4 types of Welsh cheese, a thick slice of ham, a pork pie, pickled beetroot, pickled onion, salad and a bread roll. Mr FD didn’t (quite) finish his – though I did note it was mostly the salad that he had left!
The second part of the walk was alongside the river and was really lovely. Incidentally, when we got back home to France there was a BBC 4 TV programme about the Taff, which showed parts of the walk we had done. Here is the link for anyone in the UK who might like to see it.
When we got back to Roger & Mags’ I’m afraid I fell asleep! But later that evening, Mags cooked us a delicious salmon-en-croute, and then we watched some Gavin and Stacey repeats – how appropriate for South Wales! – and a recording of Only Connect. Another chilled time, spent with old friends.
The next day, Roger & Mags had to go to work, and we were scheduled to go on to Neath, slightly further to the west, to call in on another frriend from Mr FD’s Uni days. But the telling of that part of our holiday will have to wait…