20 Dec 2010

Brrrrrrr .............

Quite a few months ago – well, back in May actually - I caught up with an old school friend, also a Debra. She and her husband Wayne had arranged a house-swap with a family in Sidmouth, Devon and suggested I join them for a couple of days. So that started the ball rolling and I went ahead and booked some cheap Ryanair flights, and made arrangements to visit various friends in different parts of the country.

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but really – as I’ve said to myself many times this last week or so – what on earth was I thinking!! Far too much driving on my own, and given the bad turn of the weather, some of it’s been a nightmare, to say the least.

The first night I stayed in Somerset with my brother-in-law Phil and his wife Val, before heading up to Scotland to the West Coast to spend two days with Neil and Jane. I actually didn’t take a lot of photos on this trip, and I think it’s because when I finally arrived at one of my destinations, I was usually a little shattered and in dire need of winding down.

On the west coast, we did get out on a rather cold but clear day and had a lovely walk along the beach at Irvine.

Four generations of the Richies
The family dogs - each has its own basket but they seem to prefer the 'tight fit' option
Boat harbour, Troon
On my last night, I was really lucky - Tom agreed (after a little persuasion from his Dad) to give me a recital of the bagpipes.





The next day, a trip along the M8, not long re-opened after being closed for 2 days and stranding many motorists overnight.  A couple of nights in Penicuik with friends George and Issy, and a chance to catch up after a couple of years and to see their lovely new home. (Sorry George and Issy - not ONE photo! I blame it on all that wine that kept mysteriously appearing from the cellar .....)

Next on to Gloucestershire, the Cotswolds, to stay with Camilla and David for a couple of nights. What a pretty part of the country that is – not somewhere I’d been before. Real picture postcard villages. And how nice was it to relax in such good company, be taken out to a wonderful restaurant in a nearby village, and go shopping in down-town ......... hmmmmmmmm .......... forgotten the name of the village!

The morning I Ieft to drive south, some of the minor roads were a bit frozen, and it started to snow. Camilla emailed that they had 17 inches of snow during the day! So I got out by the skin of my teeth in that instance.

I arrived in Devon later in the day and my GPS seemed to take me the ‘quick’ route but not the best route, and I ended up on narrow and steep roads when heavy snow started. Probably as frightened as I’ve ever been driving.


I was behind a breakdown truck that had a broken down car at the back and I was able to follow the tracks of his tyres through the snow – very slowly.

But more scary was going down a couple of hills – in one instance a double decker bus was coming up-hill, a metre forward and then sliding a couple of metres backwards, and also sliding towards the middle of the road. Traffic behind it was trying to slide backwards to get out of the way and I was trying to get past it and avoid being squished against a wall.

Anyway, I live to tell the tale and had a lovely day with Deb and Wayne, and their Kiwi friend Matt and his wife Kate.
Wayne and Matt - bags of salt/ grit for the driveway ....
Deb McC - taking photos of the snow

One of the highlights of this part of trip was a long-standing reservation at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant at Padstow. It was over 100 miles away, and fortunately Matt volunteered to drive and made it look easy.

Interestingly, when we arrived at Padstow, they'd had no snow whatsoever and everything was green. They’d totally missed out on it.

The meal itself was memorable. Often when you build something like this up, it can be a little disappointing. Not in this case – it was all fantastic and as we figured it was likely to be a one-off experience, we went all-out in the food department, and also did ok with the wine, a delicious New Zealand sauvignon-blanc.

And then a wander around the very picturesque fishing village before heading back.


Back up the M5 the following day to spend my last night [or so I thought] in the UK with Phil and Val again. A bonus was that I caught up with all four of their kids who I haven’t seen for four years. Phil and Val have been down to visit a couple of times, but not the kids.
A damn fine place to chill a glass of wine while the kids toboggan in the street
To finish off the tale of ‘snow, snow, and more snow’, I’d like to say that I got away ok, ready for warmer Christmas in France. Not to be. It didn’t happen. I should be back in France now, but right now I’m sitting in a very ordinary hotel, surrounded by snow, not far from Bristol airport.

I headed to the airport very early this morning and was delighted to hand the keys of the rental car back. Snow was forecast, but it looked like I was going to beat it by the barest of margins. In fact, flights were departing from the airport right up until 9.00am. Then they stopped. My flight was scheduled for 9.10am. We’d already gone through security, etc, but by this time the snow was coming down in buckets, and the airport was closed. I’ve managed to book another flight tomorrow, flying into Toulouse, not Beziers, and am so hoping that this time it gets off the ground.

And the rest of the family is affected too. Paul is heading to France - he set out from Brisbane the other day, and got stranded at Singapore, unable to continue to London. He’s rescheduled to avoid London and go via Paris, and I’ve yet to hear if that’s underway. But Paris airport is in a bit of a shambles weather-wise too, so it’s still a wait and see situation.

And then there’s Nic’s two oldest girls – they’ve been stuck in Canada for the last couple of days – they seem now to be re-booked on a new flight to arrive in France on Wednesday. I’m sure we’ll all be laughing about this in a few days when we’re sitting down to a Christmas lunch and a few wines – but I’m not laughing just yet!!

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