Leah is 18 and is off to Dundee university to do a 4 year primary education course and leaves at the weekend and Eve is 16 and has become a bit of a party animal. Today we go into Edinburgh, I get a blood test done and then we go into town for some retail therapy.
Debbie is back today. She’s been in New York for the last 5 days, leaving the girls to fend for themselves. We’re so looking forward to seeing her – she’s been doing all our admin; scanning all our mail and putting it in the cloud for us to read. We’re lucky to have such great friends who will look after our admin and give us a roof over our heads and even the use of their car on our trips back home, we can’t use our own home because there’s a tenant in it.
Wednesday 2nd September
This morning Jol and Joelle come to visit. It’s great to have a gossip and catch up. Today I also have my first trial italki French lesson. To be honest it’s an uncomfortable 30 minutes. But early days!
Thursday 3rd September
Leah is packing for her imminent move to Halls of residence in Dundee, Eve is in school, Larry is still working in the States, Debbie has chores to catch up on. Basically we do very little – just a little washing up and occasional dog walks with Sasha.
Debbie has heard Darren asking about having my hair done. This time last year I told him i’d love to have orange hair and would get in done as soon as I left the Army. Well of course it hasn’t happened, although my last haircut in Iceland, that’s what I asked for. So Debbie and I pop in to the local hairdressers in Ladybank and ask if she can do it. She says yes but she is fully booked. To be honest I was relieved but of course Debbie asks her to ring us if there’s a cancellation and we’ve just walked into the house when she phones with a cancellation – so tomorrow I have my appointment.
Friday 4th September
Today I’m waiting for my Skype French lesson and the start time approaches and passes. It turns out I didn’t appreciate the time difference, my lesson is 11am not 10 am. Well that’s it, we’ve planned to see Lynne today and I’ve been stressing and dreading this lesson since 9am. So i’m not putting myself through that for another hour. Instead we take Sasha out and then visit Lynne, an old friend from Army days.
In the afternoon i’m off to the hairdressers and after a slow start, once Gillian realises I’m pretty much open to any of her suggestions, she really embraces the plan. First I have all the colour lifted with bleach, then she’s ready to colour. She wants to clipper the sides and back and dye them purple. The rest is orange. It’s a fantastic colour and I love the cut too. Debbie comes to pick me up and can’t believe it. I know Daz will be happy because he wanted me clipper my hair and Leah, of course, is amazed. Great result. Thank you Gillian.
Saturday 5th September
We’re up for breakfast and there’s only Debbie. Leah has already gone to work,she has a job in Iceland in Dundee, Evie stayed at a party last night and Larry has gone to a vintage car show with his coffee van despite only coming back from the States late yesterday afternoon. During breakfast I show Debbie my neck – I’ve got a ring of blisters along the back of my neck – something to do with the hair bleach/dye. Daz and I load the car with all Leah’s bags. We have a plan, Debbie will drive Evie into Dundee whilst we’ll get the train. So after taking Sasha for a walk, we get the train into Dundee. We have a look round town
and then head for Iceland. Leah is on the till and has been there for her full shift.
She looks totally at home in her new role – most impressive and we thought she might be embarrassed by our presence but she’s fine. After her shift ends we all walk up to the university
and queue at student admin for Leah’s keys. The whole area is full of parents and their children and their luggage, all here to settle in before Fresher’s Week. We get the key for Leah’s room, for the first year she will be in Halls of Residence. We quickly find her room – very nice with ensuite. She’s basically in a flat with 5 others with a shared kitchen/lounge. It seems a really nice layout. Neither classes nor the Students’ Union is more than a couple of minutes walk, but Iceland and the town centre more like 15 minutes. Now all we need to do is find Debbie and the car but she’s not answering the phone. Finally we make contact and they come up to Leah’s room.
Then it’s a couple of trips to the underground car park to fetch all her gear – would’ve been so easy if all the stairwells weren’t jammed with other students/parents doing the same thing! It’s soon done and we unpack and we demand a quick tour of the students union before we leave.
It’s an emotional time and Evie is really upset to see Leah go!!
Saturday evening is a quiet affair and Larry’s isn’t back until 7pm from the car show. Tomorrow Evie will be off to the conservatoire in Glasgow early and Larry will do another coffee day at the car show so we need to say our goodbyes today. It’s sad to be going but it’s been a lovely week. We’re lucky to have friends that will put a roof over our heads, feed us great meals, and look after us like this. And of course to see Leah and Evie growing up and planning their futures is fabulous.
After our walk, it’s lunch and we’re off to catch the train to Edinburgh. We’ve hired a car for a few days. First stop will be the Lake District – tomorrow we are doing the Via Ferrata up through Honister Pass. It’s only a couple of hours drive and we’re in Cockermouth. We’re staying with a ‘warmshowers’ host Mim, who’s a really keen cyclist and has already done a 9month bike tour through Asia, some of Australia and New Zealand. It’s great hearing her stories about her trip and how they managed the heat in Asia and having a cycling partner without any map reading skills, negotiating skills or packing skills. After dinner, which she’s cooked for us, we take a quick walk into Cockermouth – it’s a pretty market town on the river Cocker and Derwent. There’s bunting all over town and decorated bikes in every shop window or on display around town in celebration of the Tour of Britain, the bike race, which started in Anglesea today and comes through Cockermouth on Tuesday.
Monday 7th September
Today we’re up early and drive along Derwent water, through Buttermere, along Buttermere lake to Honister Pass. The scenery is breathtaking and there’s a mist lying on the water – very ethereal!
At the top of the pass there’s Honister Slate mine – and we’re ready for our adventure. Via Ferrata – the iron walkway originating in the Dolomites to allow the Italian army to cross the mountains more easily. And here it follows the route of slate miners from bygone days. There are ladders, cables and bridges set in the rocky cliffs and our leader, Hayley leads us along the route. Fortunately there’s no one in the group that is really nervous or scared of heights, so we complete the course in good time. The views along the route and from the top are spectacular.
From the slate mine we head for Keswick and stop to look round.
And then we head to North Wales. We’ve got another host who lives only a few kilometres from the zipwire experience we have booked tomorrow. Our host has had some unusual travel experiences including teaching Welsh in Patagonia; being arrested and severely beaten in Bolivia and being expected to teach English to a class of 50 ranging from 6 to 16. Our adventures seem tame by comparison. He’s also not adverse to smoking a bit of weed, or in fact, growing it. He cultivates the seeds indoors and then sows the seedlings in various locations around the Welsh hills. He’s certainly different to our army colleagues but great fun to chat to. We cook dinner together and chat away about our various travel experiences.
Tuesday 8th September
After a fat boys breakfast we head up to Zip World. First we do the Little Zipper. This ride is about 30 seconds of flight at about 30mph. We’re all underwhelmed by the experience. I made sure we went first so as not to have too long for the fear to build and actually I’m pretty OK because even looking down the line, the descent looks quite benign. At the bottom we wait for the rest of the group before being driven up to the Big Zipper. From the top we can see Tryfan, Ogwen Valley, Anglesey, the Menai Straits and the entire slate mine which is made up of approximately 32 galleries, each individually named eg Duchess, Marchoness. The miners would abseil down the cliff face and drill holes for the explosives. They used zip wires to move the blocks of slate. They were paid only by the quality of the slate they mined not the hours worked.
Unfortunately once we’re at the top we’re told there are retaining wires at the bottom that need renewing so there’s a delay during which my fear levels start to rise and I can see the drop off for this flight is really steep compared to the last ride. So I’m getting pretty nervous. Finally it’s fixed and again we manage to get in first. We’re hooked up in our harness and we can see the flight path over the lake. This is the longest course in the northern hemisphere and fastest in the world with speeds reaching up to 100mph. We’re in position for the longest time before we’re released. And finally we’re off and it’s incredible as we fly out over the lake. Fabulous.
From ZipWorld Daz was hoping for a fishing trip that our host told us about. So we drive over to Anglesea and to Beaumaris in the hope of joining a fishing trip, but just like Iceland, it’s not to be
Instead we have a look round the town and Castle, eat fish and chips on the beach in the glorious sunshine before heading to Tamworth to see Carl (Darren’s brother), Trish, and the family.