I am still here :)

I am still supporting Malcolm on his run around England’s southwest coast path. The up and down terrain has been matched with ups and downs in both wellness and morale.

The other runner Tom pulled out two days ago due to incredle pain in both shins and that was after two days of using walking poles due to a knee injury sustained last Saturday.

Mal has been suffering off and on from intense pain in a number of areas, but is determindly walking on using poles to make life easier. This has meant that the goal of doing 1014 km in 14 days was not achievable so a new plan was drawn to finish in 17.

We are now on day 13 and reasonably on track, over 700kms completed so far. Since Tom has left and Mal’s wife has arrived I have managed to squeeze a couple of runs and two consecutive days of five hour walks. The scenery has been great and the weather not bad and I have immensely enjoyes the walks. Sadly I did not take my camera on them so do not have much in the way of photos.

We have been doing 18 hour days, 12 walking plus all the pre and post stuff. That combined with a lack of internet has meant no blog posts, either here or over on coastpathrun.co.uk for days. Once I am back in the real world I can summarise, but it has been an interesting and challenging fortnight so far !

I have no idea exactly when this will be over, nor what I will do, where I will go and where I will live until I go to Paris on the 9th July. In fact I am not sure what I will after Paris either. Chamonix probably, but before and after Suggestions are welcome !

Sleep is number one on the to do list !

I will get around to catching up on blog reading when I have some internet that is not on my mobile data plan. There is better internet access in hostels in SE Asia than in southern England !

An “oh sh*t moment” – ERR 01

When I was in Kuala Lumpur I planned on buying a 16 -35 mm f2.8 wide angle zoom lens for my Canon 5D mk1 that I had sent to my uncle’s house in England. The prices were good so I ended up buying that lens plus the classic white 70-200mm f2.8 as well, at the time this seemed like a good idea.

When I got to the UK and packed my old LowePro camera bag with the 5d plus the new lenses and then went to pick it up I wasn’t so sure how good an idea the 70-200 was. The bag was crammed and damn heavy, especially as I have been using a very light and very small Panasonic GF1 for the past five months all around Asia.

When I was out walking back from Porlock Weir yesterday afternoon I stopped to take a photo of the view out over the sea and BAM the mirror locked up and ERR 01 was displayed on the screen. I shut the camera down and tried again and got the same result. I thought “Oh sh*t !! Tomorrow I have Mal and Tom turning up for their big adventure, which I was going to photograph, I am miles from anywhere and my camera has just died”

I made a very fast (it was also raining), walk back to the hotel, grabbed my laptop and ran back down to the lobby and Googled “ERR 01”.

Google said it was an error with the lens connecting to the camera, I ran back upstairs, chucked the 70-200 on and everything worked fine. Whew…

It looks like the 24-105 lens needs repair, but at least the camera works and I am now very relieved I bought the two lenses in KL !

A walk to Porlock Weir

Day 163, Friday 15 June 2012, Porlock

After those wines last night and what has to be the softest and most enveloping bed ever I slept like a dead person until 6:30. I really seem to have sleep dialled at the moment, I hope I have not hexed it !

I had arranged a skype with a friend for the morning and had a few vacant moments trying to work out time zones (I have now set up dual clocks on my computer !) before realising I was not really late. I went down to the hotel restaurant and ate my body weight in fried food for breakfast, plus they added baked beans to the fired breakie as I have not had a good sausage, egg and bean breakfast yet !

Once everything was sorted I went for a walk to Porlock Weir, a smaller village about two miles away. I walked through some of England’s fabled bridal paths, which are tracks for horses and walkers and in many cases mountain bikers and are all over England linking country towns and villages. The path took me up some of Porlock hill and I really enjoyed being back in the countryside again.

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I constantly struggle with choosing between urban and rural when deciding where I should live when I next have to live somewhere for a longer period. I really enjoyed my time in Bristol, I liked the street art, the easy access to anything you need as malls are close and convenience stores are almost 24/7, the constant hum of people, access to public transport and gigs. And then I get out into the country and into the trees, and just relish the slower pace, the peace and quiet and the access to hill trails and mud. I love to take photos in both environments. Thank goodness I do not have to decide just yet !

Porlock Weir is a small fishing village on a minute harbour on the coast of the Bristol Channel.

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I was there for about twenty minutes before the rain started to come down. I took a few photos and today was one day I really regretted not having a tripod with me. Of course, yesterday when I was carrying my gear around I was very pleased to not be humping a tripod !

I just loved this old break water.

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Summer on the English coast !

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I huddled in a coffee shop for a while and then took a long walk back to the hotel in the drizzle, naturally I was wearing one pair of jeans and the others were being washed, so it was shorts for the rest of the day.

I didn’t go out much till 5:30 when I went to the pub and had a pub fish and chips, a couple of pints of Atlantic IPA (very nice) and watched the football, France v Ukraine and England v Sweden..

Cute English Villages – I guess the first of many

Day 162, Thursday 14 June 2012, Bristol – Porlock, Somerset.

Another great sleep, but no sleep in this morning, up at 7.30, coffee and finish packing up my stuff for the trip to Cornwall. The walk to Bristol station took about twenty minutes so I left nice and early and thankfully the morning was dry. The bus was half an hour late arriving and the guy who loads the bags into the bus was the grumpiest bugger I have met in England. Bus stations in the morning are an interesting place to people watch, lots of people moving through some happy, some sad, some completely nuts ! It was an interesting time.

I was going to be getting three buses today, the first two were booked, Bristol to Taunton and Taunton to Minehead, the third was going to winging it. At the station I found out I could get a bus directly to Minehead, frustratingly this was not an option available on the National Express website, oh well. The ride to Taunton in Somerset was pretty good, more in the country than the ride to Bristol so the view was interesting. We arrived in Taunton thirty minutes late which I was thankful for as I still had a thirty five minute wait for the next bus standing outside in what was quite a cold breeze, almost wished I had gloves and a beanie on!

The hour and a half ride to Minehead on the Somerset coast was great, a ‘normal’ sized bus going through these narrow, winding country lanes, numerous times we had to stop and wait as trucks or buses coming the other way completely filled the road. The bus terminated at Minehead Butlins – oh I so wanted to go in and have a look, maybe stay a few days : ) But, no, I humped my pack, my ludicrously heavy camera bag and my wheelie bag in to town and waited and waited and waited for a bus to Porlock – thirty minutes late. It was cold and drizzly and I had no where to dump my bags so I had some English chips – with salt and vinegar of course, but didn’t get my camera out. I will be back there of course for the start of Coast Path Run in three days time – plus I will be in a car then, such luxury!

The ride to Porlock was only a few minutes, through some really tight streets, Porlock main road was barely two cars wide. I am staying at the Lorna Doone hotel, where I am meeting Mal and Tom on Saturday. I will be sharing a room with someone, not sure who yet, so I will enjoy a couple of quiet nights on my own. After settling down (unpacking my bag and throwing my crap all over the room ! ) I went for a walk around town and snapped a couple of images. The town is oldish, the Top Ship pub was originally built in the thirteenth century, but I could not find any info on the church.

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the Top Ship

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The view from my window

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Some of the first leg of CPR !

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After walkabout I went to the pub next door for chicken and leak pie and three pints of Exmoor Ale. The pub was really quiet at 5:00, but I was there to watch some football and do some blog writing catch up. After the football I went back to the hotel and sat in the lounge and watched another game with a Geordie from Aussie and used the internet as it does not work in the room.

I got called into the restaurant by this rather drunk woman from Zimbabwe to have a couple of wines with her and her sister and the hotel owners, it was amusing and I got a wee bit pickled.

Three days to Coast Path Run and I am getting a bit nervous, I cannot image how Tom and Mal feel.

Bristol – one cool city

Day 159/160/161, Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday 11/12/13 June 2012, Bristol

I spent three full days staying with Mel in Bristol, Mel worked on the Tuesday and left for a festival late afternoon on Wednesday, but we had a day and a half together which was great. The weather was average for most of my time there, a touch of sun on Wednesday morning mean we got out to have a big breakie in a cafe in the sun, but most of the time it was cloudy and drizzly.

Everyone in Mels flat works so it was another big lie in for me as Mel is not exactly known for early starts. Mel’s Spanish flat mate Jess made us a great Spanish omelette for breakfast, and then Mel and I went walkies. I wanted to get a couple of clothing items and a hydration pack in case I decided to get in a longish run while Mal and Tom are out on the trail.

I must say, even though the weather was less than average – it was raining, that Bristol is still a nice city, even in the more run down sections like St Pauls where Mel lives. There is a good mix of new and old buildings and really old buildings, parts of the cathedral have been there since the 1100s ! But what I really liked about Bristol was the street art, the council have allowed artists to paint a number of walls and some of the work is massive and a lot of it is beautiful – I took loads of pictures over a couple of days. There is also some quite good graffiti and slogans as well, especially around the Stokes Croft area where the riots were last year – outside Mels old flat, in the BBC footage of the riots you can see Mel and her friends sitting on the roof of their house. I have posted seperately about the stree art, but here ar my two favourites. This one is massive, two-three stories high !IMG 0774

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Mel showed me all around the main parts of Bristol including the markets at St Nicholas’s I was tempted to buy a hoodie there, expensive and quite cool, but want something basic while I am in Cornwall anyway. There was an awesome record shop in the market – all it sold was punk and metal! And the coming gigs, awesome – and I am not going to be there for any of them. Next time I come to Bristol I will tie it in with a good show.

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We visited St Mary RedCliffe church, a sign inside the door said daily services had been held here for over 800 years. (I so LOVE this old stuff)

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An effigy of Sir Robert Berkely from the early 1200’s.

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For lunch on Monday we went to the Hatchet Inn, open since 1606 – wowsers. I had half a pint of Doom Bar ale – not bad…

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Bristol Alms houses, founded in 1483.

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We wandered back to Mels and then took a marathon walk up to the Sportsman Bar so I could watch England play France in the football, we got there just after kick off so there was no seating free. At half time we decided to go another of Mels old flats that was quite close by and watch the second half there with some of friends. We grabbed four assorted polish beers – the cheapest in Bristol and watched footie, ate curry and talked crap for a few hours. I met a load more of Mels friends, most of the DJ’s in the Jungle Syndicate – they are all into dance music here and Bristol has a big scene. It was a good night, a nice bunch of people, Mel has always made really good friends and they welcomed me into the group which was most cool.

Mel worked Tuesday so I got up late and just went on more walkabouts in Bristol, I took a lot more street art photos and walked up to the museum for lunch. I got a bit lost a couple of times and then remembered Google maps on my phone !!

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I had a walk around Bristol Cathedral, this chapel was built in 1220!

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The grave of Abbot William Hunt from 1441.IMG 0869

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Richard was making one his famous curries for dinner, so there was a very full flat at dinner time, another fun time with Mel and her friends. The large shared dinner seems to be the in thing here, which is great for an active social life, but I would not cope with all those late nights!

Wednesday Mel and Richard were off to work at a festival a few hours away so were leaving town mid afternoon. I was staying one more night which was cool. Mel and I were up and out the door for 9.00 and went for a walk in some glorious – though sporadic sun shine, we stopped up the Gloucester Rd for an expensive big breakie in the sun then shopped a bit before heading back to hers she could pack.

It was sad to see Mel and Richard leave, but I am so pleased to have been able to see her a few days and have some fun. Once they had gone I walked up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge about an hours walk away. The bridge is over the River Avon and was most impressive !

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This old uni building was for sale, I was quite tempted : ) If only, it is next to the bridge and would have a monster view over Bristol city.IMG 0886

I was very fortunate to get invited to one of Mel’s friends place for dinner with some other people, which was incredibly nice of them and again I had a good time, and couple of drinks : ) a couple of her friends worked in Chamonix in the French alps, (where in my fantasy world I will get a job doing something completely unrelated to computers.) they have given some contacts there, and one of their friends has said I can possibly stay at their place as well and I have his number – how cool is that !!! very cool I think.

My baby girl and I

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Yay yay yay – I get to see Mel : )

Day 158, Sunday 10 June 2012, St Johns Wood – Bristol

Off to see Meliesha – Triple yay’s, really excited to see her, meet Richard and hang out in Bristol.  A photo in the next post – its all about context people!

I slept on the couch at Kate and Dave’s place, awesome couch, had a good sleep and a massive lie in as no one moved until well after nine when Trudi came out of her room and made some coffee. Dave meandered in a bit later on and made an unexpected but much appreciated breakfast – albeit just before I left at eleven !

I caught a couple of tubes to Victoria station, I was a wee bit concerned that on a sunny Sunday morning I would be trying to manoeuvre a pack, a wheelie bag and my very over loaded camera bag onto crowded tubes, but it was all fairly quiet. Victoria train station was still in a festive mood.IMG 0746

After a bit of vacant wandering around I found the coach station out the back of the train station. Meliesha had booked me on Megabus and there was one in the station, as I was so early I was not concerned there was no driver on the bus, or sign to say it was going to Bristol. I hung around until after the departure time and as there was still no driver I rang Megabus and found out I was in the wrong place – by about two hundred metres…. Once I found the real Victoria Coach Station, I found I had missed my bus, bugger !

Now I was in the right spot I realised how completely stupid I was waiting where I was, there are loads and loads of buses – and so few at the other place. I found myself another bus in an hours time and rang Mel to let her know…

The journey was Ok, it took a heck of long time to get out of London and from there we were pretty much on the motorway all the way to Bristol, so there was not huge amount to see. There were small touches of little villages and church spires in the distance and I was getting quite excited about what I was going to be able to see while I am in Cornwall later in the week.

I arrived in Bristol twenty minutes late at 4:30 and Meliesha and her partner Richard were there to meet me. So cool to see her again, I really miss my babies and being able to spend a few days in her town and meet all the friends, especially Richard, she has made was very exciting. We had a twenty minute walk from the bus station back to Mel’s place in St Pauls via Stokes Croft. St Pauls is one of the less “middle class” suburbs of Bristol city so it was an interesting walk, lots of street art to look at as we wandered though the constant drizzle to their shared house. The landlord and I are not entirely sure of how many people live in Mel’s house. I am not 100% convinced that at any one point anyone knows how many people are actually under the roof – a constantly flowing succession of people moved in and out of the main room. Mel and Richard (M n R) have given up their room and have moved in with one of their friends to allow me a room in their house. Very cool – and hugely appreciated.

After dumping my pile of stuff we went walkies though Stokes Croft looking for a roast dinner, we tried a bunch of bars but seemed to be too late for most of the locals and ended up back almost where we started at the Canteen. We didn’t get the roast but had a great meal and a couple good pints (Gem and Seven). On the way back to the flat we picked up a couple of drinks and I got meet some of Mels crew. it was a good night in the flat.

So good to see Mel and meet Richard and the Bristol crew 🙂

A quiet day

Day 157, Saturday 9 June 2012, Brentwood – St Johns Wood.

Yes – a great sleep was had ! back to normal, which is so good. I also mooched in bed a bit longer today as i was trying to catch up on a bit of interneting and reading. After breakfast I walked back up to Brentwood town and picked up my repaired sandals, looking at the weather forecast I think i will be needing them in Cornwall over the next couple of weeks, not because it is sunny, because it is wet and i have no gumboots !

Once back at home I packed up for the few days with Meliesha (my daughter) in Bristol and for the following two weeks as I support the guys on the Coast Path Run around Cornwall. For the first time in five months I am travelling with two bags and a camera bag – as well as humping what seems to be a hundred kilos of camera gear around with me. (And I left my e-reader behind !).

My cousin Paul, his partner Helene and their two year old twins, Charlie and Andrea came round for lunch, it was great to see them again and meet the twins. They had just got back from France so everyone was a little tired. After lunch Paul dropped me and my hundred weight of gear off at the station and I went back into London to St Johns Wood where Kate and David kindly let me stay the night on their couch so I could have an easy ride down to Bristol tomorrow.

Pizza for dinner and football on the TV !

A visit to London

Day 156, Friday 8 June 2012, Brentwood

I had a pretty good sleep last night, I think I am pretty much adjusted to English time now.
Today was my first day of adventuring into the big smoke and I bought myself a ticket that allowed me to get to Liverpool St station in London, use the underground all day and then return to Shenfield station near where I am living. I was pretty stunned to find that even the off-peak fare was almost twenty pounds, things have gone up since the eighties !

I seemed to have picked up a blister on the back of my foot from my new sneakers, so stopped at a chemist on the way to the station and picked up some blister plasters, these worked for a bit but four days later it is still pretty bad and giving my grief in all sorts of shoes. I had to buy a new packet during my walks in London as it got pretty painful.

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I met my old friend Trudi and her niece Kate at Liverpool St station at 10:00 and from there we took the underground towards the NZ Embassy.

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It was very cool walking down Regent St, seeing all the double decker buses and black cabs and the flags from the queens jubilee last weekend. Even though it was a wee bit rainy I was still very happy to walking out there.

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The advertising material in London phone boxes hasnt changed though.

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I wanted to get someone to certify a copy of my NZ passport as I need to replace my drivers licence which was in the wallet I lost in Laos. Apparently you have to make an appointment to see someone and it costs 20 quid ! Bollocks. I got soaked walking down Haymarket in the pouring rain for that.

We then took the underground over to Borough Market, though there was a bit of construction work going on around there, as there is all over as London prepares for the Olympic games next month. The market specialises in food and there was some awesome stuff around, not cheap either, I loved these big wheels of parmesan, yummy…

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We stopped for a pub lunch and I had my first English pint, Brakspear’s Oxford Gold ale – not bad ! The first of a million different types of beer to try, I aim to not repeat a pint, though I am sure I will forget, there are so many options.

Trudi and I went for a walk around the borough station area for a couple of hour, past the almost complete Shard.

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Love this – Auckland could do with some…

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Finally ending up at the Tate Modern gallery.

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Entry was free which was pretty cool, though the Damian Hurst exhibition was fifteen pounds – so we flagged it. We did get to see the diamond encrusted skull though, no photos but still cool to see it.

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I mostly enjoyed the gallery, a lot of modern art is beyond me, for instance, the three white panels on the wall behind me… Though I did like a few pieces. crazy eyes !

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The outdoor eating area where the only guests are pigeons

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From the Tate we wandered across the millennium bridge over the Thames and up to St Pauls.

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St Pauls and Borough, were both areas I worked in when I was a van driver for DHL back in 1987, i recognised the odd part, but a lot of London has changed since then, not so much in that area, but the skyline has certainly changed, with the Shard and the Gerkin dominating.

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I am using the 16-35mm lens, to get the shots I want without too many poles and trees, shooting at 16mm is probably not the best for buildings ! I am loving the lens though 🙂 The front of St Pauls.

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We met up with Kate and her partner David at St Pauls and then nipped down to a local pub to watch the opening game of the Euro 2012 football competition. (One all draw between Poland and Greece)

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After a couple of drinks it was off to a local Asian restaurant for some dinner and then I caught the tube back to Liverpool St and the train back home just before dark.

The train stops at Stratford where the Olympic games venues are, there is still a bit of work going on around there, but the site looks pretty good !

It was very enjoyable to beout on the streets of London with a camera, I will be back, by myself so I am not so annoying to those who do not want to stop every ten feet while I take another picture. Thanks Trudi, Kate and David – I had another great day.

Not long to CoastPath Run !


Two days in Brentwood.

Day 154/155, Wednesday/Thursday 6/7 June 2012, Brentwood

Happy birthday Ali : (a bit late I know)

I didn’t take too many photos the past couple of days (though I assure this changed when I went to London the next day !)

My body clock is going to take some time to adjust I suspect, I think seven hours difference may be harder to cater for than twelve. Anyway I was awake at 2:00 am and could not go back to sleep, nor could I be motivated to read or write blogs or emails either. At least the bed is comfortable, the room is peaceful and it is nice and cool, lovely!

I was up at 7.30 and after breakfast and some hastily scribbled instructions I took the twenty minute walk into Brentwood town centre. It was such a great walk, Brentwood is in the London green belt so is not crowded, the streets are narrow and quiet and surrounded by trees and houses that I could never afford, a lot of mock (or real) Tudor and Victorian buildings. Brentwood town centre is a typical English town main street, not a village and not a city – so a mix of the big brands like Boots, Marks and Spencer, Next etc as well as small local business – a shoe repairer for instance (I never did leave my sandals in Bangkok : ). I had a coffee at Starbucks, free wifi of course and bought a map book of England and one of Europe at WH Smiths.


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My main mission for the day was to attempt to open an English bank account. I had heard this was a traumatic and often fruitless mission, so I was full of doubt when I went into Lloyds – chose at random. I was pleasantly surprised to walk out fifteen minutes later with an account number and an internet banking log in! So easy, I can now transfer some money from New Zealand and stop paying fees every time I use my ATM card.

After town I milled around at home for the rest of the afternoon, did lots of emailing and messaging of people I know in the UK and Europe so I can try and come up with a bit of a plan for the next month. My current thinking is to go to France after Coast Path Run on 2nd or 3rd July and then down to Spain to visit my cousin Ian. Then back to London at some stage after that – to look for a real job.

I had a wee burst of enthusiasm late in the afternoon and went for a run around the local streets for an hour, it all felt good and I was pleased that I was still able to knock an hour out, and not all of it was at a crawl ! One of the great things about England after so long in Asia is able to drink the water directly from the tap – so luxurious – we in the west do not realise how damn lucky we are some times.

I had another pretty lousy sleep and woke early again. Thursday was a repeat of yesterday in part, in the morning I walked into Brentwood and dropped my sandals in to the repair shop and had a coffee at Starbucks and used the wifi again. I do have good internet at home mind, so do not need to do it, just nice to have a latte !

I am staying with my mum’s brother and his wife, at lunch time mums other brother Jim and Dad’s brother – Alan and his wife – Joan and one of my cousins from that side – Anthony, came over for lunch. It was so nice to see everyone, you do not realise how much you miss extended family connections until you are away for a long time. Had a very nice time catching up and I look forward to visiting people when I return from my wanderings in a few weeks.

In the afternoon I went round to my cousin Paul’s house with my uncle and aunt. My cousin and his partner, Helene, who is French, have two year old twins and go back to France during the school holidays (they are teachers), so my uncle and aunt mind the house and feed the cats. It was about a 10km drive and it was nice to be out driving round some of the local countryside. England is so English ! Paul and Helene’s house.

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Just over a week until Coast Path Run starts. I am very excited and a wee bit nervous ! Please keep an eye on what is going on – and of course donate to the cause.


I have to now figure out how to do sub menus in WordPress so I can fit England and Europe in !