Blighty part deux – 8th to 20th Sept

Tuesday 8th September

The evening at Carl’s is fab.  Great food, sangria and games.  We all play Brainiac together which is sooo entertaining – Trish manages to guess ‘platform shoe’ from a cleverly molded lump of plasticine by Carl which simply looks like a lump of plasticine.  But she fails to guess ‘sleeping bag’  from his molded slug!   After Brianiac we play Pointless, where I cheat repeatedly and still come last!   We finally meet Snoop their Beagle.  Only 3 weeks ago he ran out of the house and under a car.  Everyone thought he’d be dead, but he survived but with a broken spine and pelvis.  Amazingly after some major surgery he’s on the mend – thank God.  And he’s a lovely dog.

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Wednesday 9th September

Today, despite plans to walk and geocache we don’t actually manage to leave the house.   Instead I remember I’ve got a trial lesson on Skype with a new French teacher.  There’s no introduction in English and it’s French all the way.  After ten minutes I’m shattered and still waiting for him to switch to English but it just doesn’t happen.  Soooo different from my last lesson and Manon (workawayer from horse farm, Sweden) told me I wasn’t paying to talk English.  After 25 minutes I’m beginning to relax, it’ll be over in 5 but Jean overruns by 15 minutes.  And yes it’s been tough but I spoke a lot of French and Jean is positive about my abilities so we’ll see how it progresses.  After my lesson, I publish the blog – always a time consuming exercise.

Carl and Trish are taking us out for dinner tonight.  So when Carl comes home from work we get the train into Birmingham, meet Trish from work and start at the cocktail bar Botanist.  It’s supercool.  Then it’s on to Fumo, picking up Jamie (Daz’s nephew on the way).  After a couple of (very expensive) cocktails we move to a couple of fab pubs, which look like renovated banks, and all revert to beer.  Then we go out to dinner at a very nice restaurant.   Thanks Carl and Trish for looking after us!

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Thursday 10th September

It’s going to be a quiet day today.  We pack up and say our goodbyes to Bailey and Snoop.  It’s been a whistle stop tour but great fun.  Today we’re driving down south to Marlborough to stay with Vik and Gav. We do need to return the hire car but that’s about it.   Gav and Vik have been storing our bike and biking gear but our planned departure date of 21st September is looking unachievable.  Finally I’ve managed to see a doctor – it seems I’m probably anaemic and need a referral to a specialist and to ensure we’re not stuck here for months, we’re going to pay to go private and fingers crossed it’s quick.

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Friday 11th September

Gav and Vik are at work and we go into Andover (they’ve lent us one of their cars – ain’t that brill) to get my blood test done and Daz needs a haircut – he’s planning on growing his hair into a ‘manbun’ so he just needs the back and sides tidied up.  After that it’s a couch fest – very relaxing.


Saturday 12th September

Jane visits today.  She’s flying off to Boston on Wednesday to her eldest son’s, (Peter) wedding so she is so happy.  It’s great to see her, as always, and we all go out to the village fete and then later return home for some amazingly fabulous but extremely large fishcakes made by Vikki.

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Sunday 13th September

Today Jane has booked lunch for us all in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s restaurant in Winchester.  Ang (Angela) also joins us.  It’s such a lovely treat for us all.  Thanks Jane.

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Monday it’s Gav’s birthday and we pop off to Swindon to visit the outlet village.  I get new Crocs and even Gav buys a pair.  A croc convert we hope.  Tuesday we do a treasure hunt in Bath and Wednesday we go to Salisbury for an escape room experience, which is great fun. Basically there are a set of interconnected rooms that we have to navigate through by solving puzzles and clues to open boxes, doors and find other clues to help us proceed, there’s even at one point an exercise bike linked to the lights that someone has to pedal so we can see what we are doing for part of the puzzle!  We have a great time trying to escape!!



Thursday I have an appointment with a specialist.  This fast track experience is costing £150 and before my examination she’s explaining that the subsequent tests required will be a biopsy (£300), ultrasound (£300), operation (couple of thousand).  Oh dear.  But when she examines me she finds a prolapsed fibroid.  There is no need for any further tests and she is happy that the serious nature of the fibroid means I can go back on the NHS and hopefully treatment will be within a couple of weeks.  Result.  We are so relieved, Daz says we should celebrate and we go into Winchester for a nice meal and a glass of wine.  Then on our way home we gate crash at Jac and Trax.  They’ve moved into their new home in Tidworth and it’s absolutely fantastic.

Friday we visit Deborah and John and have a lovely meal and catch up and meet their beautiful new puppy Stanley.

Saturday, Alex and Mandy come to visit from Torquay.  Mandy used to live with me and Vikki in Andover when she was working at Twinnings, Andover.  It is so great to catch up with them and we go into Marlborough town to enjoy the evening scene, play Killer and then go out to Vik and Gav’s favourite Indian restaurant, which is fabulous.

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Sunday 20th September

Today Mandy and Alex leave and my mother, brother (Meirion) and his partner (Joanna) and their 2 dogs arrive.   Well what a bizarre visit.  My mum hates my hair which is absolutely fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  However, what isn’t fine is that when I tell her I’ve had numerous compliments she tells me these people are just being polite.  Oh dear mum, such a shame you think your opinion is the only right opinion and you feel within your rights to insult my friends, whose hospitality I have relied on since my return to the UK.   And then the visit continues in much the same vein and is much like pulling teeth.  My brother has absolutely nothing to say to us after 8 months of travel and when we attempt to ask him about himself he is his usual monosyllabic, taciturn self.  I’m at a loss to understand why he even wanted to see us.  At least we have Joanna’s effusive manner to counterbalance my brother’s reticence and pedantry.  Finally the visit is over and even Daz’s usual exuberance has been beaten into retreat.  What a shame!

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Home sweet home – well almost. Back in Blighty!

Tuesday 1st September
So our first stop back in UK is with Debbie in Ladybank. It’s a year since we saw them last and OMG the girls are so grown up.

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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.
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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.
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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. P1020543 P1020542 P1020546

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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.
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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 P1020560 P1020561
and then head for Iceland. Leah is on the till and has been there for her full shift.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.

Sunday 6th September
Our last day in Scotland and it’s a beautiful sunny day so we take Sasha to Tensmuir beach – Debbie knows I love this beach. And it’s so beautiful.

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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!

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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.
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From the slate mine we head for Keswick and stop to look round.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.


Leaving Iceland

Monday 24th August – 29th
So it’s our last week and we’re just trying to get any jobs Ása can think of complete before we go. So in addition to the usual chores there’s some grass strimming and preparing the geocaches for our very special Bildudalur geocache trail.
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We really hope people will enjoy this trail. When we go to clean the summer house on Saturday, it’s filthy. There’s cigarette ash on the floor in the upstairs bedroom -they’ve been smoking out the window. There’s a huge pile of washing up in the kitchen, all the floors are filthy and the bath is full of dirt. So it takes an age to clean, damn them!!
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Apart from that it was a quiet week, the tourist levels are dwindling as the season comes to an end and there are days when the B&B only has one room occupied, we can only imagine how quiet it gets in the village over winter!

Sunday 30th August.
After breakfast we leave Bildudalur and head for Reykjavik. We stop for coffee with one of Ása’s friends on her farm and then head into town. We’re so lucky Ása has found a bed for us with her cousin. And to thank her for everything we take her out to dinner.
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Monday 31st August
Asa drops us off at the domestic airport as today we’re flying to Scotland via the Faroe Islands. It’s a very small airport right in the city. The Faroe Islands ae very scenic as we fly over them, and we enjoy the sunshine during the hour stopover,and then finally we are back in the UK… Well Scotland at least, but last we heard it was still part of the UK!! Guess what… It’s drab and it’s raining, oh well!!

So we left the UK 8 months ago on 2nd January. Since then we’ve worked on a husky farm in Finland (6 weeks), taken a cruise around the Norwegian coast, worked in Sweden on a horse farm for 3 months, 3 weeks in a B&B/ceramic workshop in Tolne, Denmark and 2 months in a B&B in the Westfjords, Iceland.
Places visited:
Finland – Helsinki, Inari, Ivalo and Karigasniemi.
Norway – Kirkenes, Vardo, Honningsvag, Hammerfest, Tromso, Bodo, Trondheim, Molde, Torvik, Floro,Bergen, Flam and Oslo.
Sweden – Floby, Falkopking, Stockholm , Gotenburg, Skvode, Stromstad and Marstrand
Denmark – Tolne, Copenhagen, Frederickshaven, Skagen, Hjorring and Londstrup
Iceland – Reykjavik, Bildudalur, Patreksfjord, Talknafjord, Latrabjerg, Raudersande, Isafjordur, Jokulsarlon, Vik, Eyrabakki, Selfoss, Myrvatn, Dalvik, Husavik, Akeyuri, and all the other natural sites of Iceland like Gullfoss, Geysir and too many more to list!!! Not to mention the wildlife we have seen!
We’ve had some awesome experiences, met fantastic people and seen fabulous sights. Thank you to everyone who hosted us or worked with us! We’ve had a brilliant 8 months.

But it’s not over yet, we are only in the UK long enough to sort out some admin, see friends, check the bike and then we are off, cycling to France, then Spain, Portugal and who knows where, as we hunt the warmth for winter.