I spend the morning with Claire and her very nice sons. I love spending time with this family unit. Claire and her husband Richard are wonderful parents and their boys are always happy to talk and be around me, even though it may be years in between meeting me. They are polite, intelligent and cope with me teasing them. I have watched them grow up and Claire tells me that they still read the books I have given them over time. I like that. Jack is 11 and is so very excited to have Fin around and we have to walk him with his bandana. This of course lasts about five minutes before Fin does his business and I make Jack pick it up, which surprisingly he conceded to do. He wants a dog, so he may as well experience it in all it’s glory. After that Jack leaves us to play with his mates in the trees. Claire and I laugh…something we said mate? The reality of owning a dog is not so romantic in it’s stark reality.
In the afternoon I drive the hour and a half to Carly and Bob’s in Lingfield and am met by very excited children, hugs all round and I am so pleased I took the time to visit. Bob makes us food and we sit around the table playing Aware (a-warr-rey). It is an African counting game and is tactical and I have never found anyone who did not enjoy playing it with me. I have great fun in my new friends company. I have parked in the car park at the back of their flat and I sleep there quite peacefully.
When I get up and get dressed Carly and I walk the dogs with Roshan in tow. Lingfield is a village surrounded by countryside and we walk the fields with a river running through. Carly ever the survivalist lays traps in the river to catch crayfish. I love watching this young woman, who just works with nature at its best.
Smudge the pup has been very assertive with Fin in the flat and now Fin wants to play chase me in the grass, but smudge being still very young cannot cope and we laugh as she gets in between my legs to protect herself. I nearly fall over her and push her back into the fray. After an hour she more or less gets her head around it and both dogs are giggling as they run in circles playing together. Unfortunately Roshan had a little bag of training treats for smudge and being only a pup herself, feeds Smudge one too many and the dog grabs the bag, razer sharp milk teeth biting her hand. Tears all round as a small pool of blood collects on the wound. Life is a tough learning curve. Roshan is a little toughy though and she is soon back to her normal self. Somehow she managed to find dog muck and stood in it. Carly took her to the river which is narrow and deep and has a sharp slope on its banks, to wash her feet and shoes. Fin follows and went to get a drink, misjudging the tuft of grass as solid. With a large perlop he went head first into the river. I roared with laughter and then tried not to follow him as I dragged him out. Poor chap is saturated and as usual, whenever he has had a dousing of water, he runs round in circles, the lunatic.
My visit with this family is a lovely way to start the end of my trip and as the last week on the road starts I am aware of how much I had done in the last three and a half thousand miles. I have about another three hundred to do, before I enter the boundary of the city I call home- for now. Before I leave the ever generous Bob gives me an awning that he and carly used once on the caravan. It stays in the bag and as we felt it best to see if it works when I get home. I hand him a framed embroidered saying that I have had on the wall of the Hobby to remind me of the shortness of life.
Sing as if no-one is listening
Dance as if no-one is watching
Live every day as if it were your last.
Bob is clearly moved and I hug him. I have enjoyed my time here and now I must away, back to Claire’s. As I drive away Roshan runs up the road alongside the Hobby grinning from ear to ear. I shall return and this friendship will endure, of that I have no doubt. Some folks you meet and you just know that it is not the last time you will spend time with them.
The drive along the M25 car park is a pain, but I am determined to get to Claire’s without satnav. I manage it right up to the last bit, when Claire rings me and I am fortunate that I get directed onto the right track, as I have already gone through the town circular once.
After a roast dinner we settle to chatting and then join the boys on the sofa and watch a movie.
I wake after a bit of a wonky sleep. The road looks level but has a squint bit just where my bed is and I could only sleep on my right side without feeling I am being sucked to one side. When I am dressed I put a chock under that wheel to even it out as best I can. Yesterday Claire’s friends and neighbours keep turning up for a look as she has told the whole world about my trip and many are curious. I am flattered that Claire holds me so highly, so put up with the intrusion into my home, grateful that I like to keep it tidy at all times.
Every one is at work or school, so I get a bath, which is a teat and then go out with Claire’s friend Ann. She generously takes me shopping as I want to cook for Claire this evening and give her a night off. No-one else cooks in her house. A Carlson Special fish pie is in the menu with a cheese board to follow. As I get to the check out I realise I have left my wallet behind and am deeply embarrassed and ask Ann if she can help me out. What a burke!
We later go out for a dog walk with a couple of Ann’s friends and what seems like a million working spaniels. It is a pleasant walk around a lake, but I so need to sit by the sea and I would curl up and die if I had to live here.
I get ready to cook when everyone comes home from school and work, homework done and all settled for the evening. Claire suggests we open the very nice Chilean Rose chiraz that I bought for the meal and of course, I agree to be polite! Then she drags me off to meet her next door neighbour and we get engrossed in chatting and almost forget the time. Another glass gets poured and I am started to feel pizzled as I haven’t eaten for a long time. I better crack on or no-one will eat tonight. With the pie in the oven I get the cheese out and make up a board for afterwards and the table is laid. Success…the pie is fabulous and Claire is happy, so I am happy.
After we sit with Jack at the table and he experiments with the cheeses. He tries the goat, sniffs the ewe, and dips into the running blue cow, with an assortment of pumpkin oat, wheat and marmite cracker. I love that he gives it all a go. Claire has never had white stilton before and her palate falls in love with it and polishes it off. I’m not really a blue cheese lover, but love cambazola and my cousin Philip introduced me to Saint Agure when he was here before I left. The small pot of runny stuff is gorgeous. I get a buzz out of discovering new tastes and like to share that. We have all fed well today.
Claire pours me a port to have with the cheese but I sensibly refuse and have a strong coffee instead to try and straighten out. I know I have already had more wine than is sensible. It makes me sleep badly and sure enough I wake in the early hours struggling with pain and have to take something for it. One glass is enough for me…what a lightweight!