Just Four Days
Bobby: “Bertie! Our revered Technical Director, Tim, has made an observation. As he cruises serenely along the waterways of England in his canal boat, ‘Sola Gratia‘ with Tracey and the doggies, he notices things.”
Bertie: “Like wot?”
Bobby: “That there are stories where there are no pictures of you!”
Bertie: “So bleedin wot? It’s my blog, and sometimes I am not actually in the bleedin story. I am just the bleedin narrator. Like last week in ‘Trigger‘. I wasn’t in your dream. I wasn’t sitting on the stile with you dripping tears on your phone. And didn’t see ‘Chris Packham’s Walk’. I just narrated what you told me.”
Bobby: “Calm down, Bertie. It’s not criticism, but just that people like to see where you have been.”
Bertie: “Well they will be really happy next week then when they see me and you at Buckingham Palace. But first, I will tell our beloved readers all about the Just Four Days… Just last week. Wot’s that pasty doing here anyway?”
Just Four Days
It all started at Wisley Gardens. Weeks ago. We were sitting on a bench when his phone “pinged” in that irritating way. A message from David. Best friend and Sutton United supporter. There for the “Greatest Day” when we won the league and promotion for the first time in 123 years to the English Football League (EFL).
The euphoria has changed to excited anticipation. Who would be their opponents for that very first game? And now David knew. Away to Forest Green Rovers (FGR). Unbelievable! Forest Green is Nailsworth, close to Stroud and not far from Slad and Swift’s Hill. And Diddley’s ashes. These days her legacy is one of joy and anticipation of going back to that glorious part of England. The Southern Cotswolds.
Within five minutes he had planned and booked three days back at the Frocester George. A short break culminating in the football match. A time of hope that Covid was finally retreating. We could stay in our favourite hotel/pub. We could go to watch a football match. We could live life again. Carefully but not so fearful. What an opportunity! The occasion at FGR would be bigger than the result however badly we wanted Sutton United to win. But first get a ticket from the ground.
Just Four Days
Bertie: “Hurry up Bobby. It’s time to go. When will you ever stop all that checking of doors, windows, lights, plugs and switches? I know it’s GAD, but doesn’t it get on your flippin nerves?”
Bobby: “As you know, Bertie, living with any kind of mental illness is much easier if you accept how you are. Go with the flow. Stay calm and disciplined. Don’t worry if you have to recheck. But use the technique of ‘STOP’. Locking the front door has been checked three times. Now STOP. Cross it off your mental list. STOP.”
The sun shone and off we cruised the pretty way to the Cotswolds. Through the Berkshire Downs to Lechlade and a chilled cider at the Trout Inn beautifully situated on the bank of the upper reaches of the River Thames. Covid safety rules were totally accepted by everyone enjoying normal life again in a sunny pub garden by the river.
Next stop Swift’s Hill. It’s 131 miles from Laurel Cottage to Swift’s Hill. In ‘Trigger’, Bobby wondered if he would actually get up Swift’s Hill. Everyone knew he would, but GAD ensured he didn’t necessarily believe himself. Of course, he did and had some profound thoughts on top.
We love all the poetry posts on the Laurie Lee Centenary Walk. Looking through the window to Slad. Diddley’s school. The church where Laurie Lee is buried. The Woolpack. And the place Diddley’s ashes were scattered. Floating down on the wind to The Woolpack!
He remembered Diddley more than anything. The ups and downs of their life together and how he had come back to this very spot every year since she left us. He thought of a great friend Peter. Overnight from contentedly fit and enjoying life to serious illness (not Covid).
Intensive care, and a partner in Anna coping with life’s vicissitudes. And was grateful for what we had in that brief moment in time.
Sutton United produced a special commemorative shirt to celebrate their achievement. We all bought one. It arrived just as we were leaving. All season ticket holders are listed in tiny letters on the back.
And so to the Frocester George. Rachel still there. In fact, most of the staff he remembered. Like many places, they had taken lockdown as an opportunity to refurbish the already high standard of hotel accommodation. We love the Frocester George.
Slimbridge had also taken advantage of lockdown and completed some very impressive new projects. An enormous aviary, where quite large captive birds had plenty of flying space. An open air amphitheatre. A bit of Hawaii.
But rain threatened. “Would we like a trailer ride?” the young lady at reception asked. Bobby had visions of a children’s play farm, but was encouraged to find that it went way beyond the confines of the public areas out on the field system and onto the bank of the Severn Estuary. Summertime activity. If you get a chance, jump on the trailer. At present lots of room due to social distancing.
The “Goose House”. Reconstructed exactly how it had been originally built. The land of Slimbridge is owned by the Berkeley Estate of Berkeley Castle. The Goose House was for shooting parties. Peter Scott himself was originally a Wildfowler. Giving up shooting them for photographing and, most famously, painting them.
Slimbridge is wonderful… But the heavens opened and the rain was of biblical proportions. As soon as there was a slight easing off we did a runner, vowing to come back the next morning.
Back to rump steak dinner at the George.
The sun shone. Just for the morning. We were going to see Chris and Angie in Nailsworth in the afternoon.
Slimbridge was wonderful for the second day. We turned over the traces of memories from the past. Walked the summer walk way along the River Severn and watched the Flamingoes.
Nearly all the family were at Nailsworth. It’s lovely to have such a foothold in the Cotwolds with friends who grew up with Diddley.
Hawaii at Slimbridge. Mock road and golf course. The Nene goose was the rarest in the world, until Peter Scott bred them at Slimbridge. Reintroducing them back to Hawaii had its problems. Especially being run over. But now, it seems that the Nenes find golf courses and the close cut grass just right.
Flamingos. All six species are represented at Slimbridge. Peter Scott thought their lineage was linked to Swans, Geese and Ducks and brought them to Slimbridge. He was wrong, and now we know they are related to Grebes and Pigeons. Some of those first birds are still there and are over 60 years old.
Trained birds give flying displays. The children loved this Magpie Goose. “It’s a Goose without proper webbed feet. It comes from Australia and doesn’t like water much. WHY?” asked the young lady. “CROCODILES” screamed the children.
Which brings us to this seemingly innocuous video. These are Greylag Geese. There are hundreds there delighting the children with their antics. THEY ARE WILD. Like many other birds, they choose to fly into Slimbridge and out again as it suits them. Food and security are their main reason, of course.
But places like Slimbridge introduce children to the natural world in a way that engages them. Purists have accused such places of being zoos. Ask a Nene Goose. They would have been extinct years ago but for Peter Scott and Slimbridge.
Nenes like knees!
Rib eye steak back at the George.
Forest Green Rovers
Self proclaimed greenest football club in the world. Owned by a benefactor from the world of eco energy. Favourites for promotion, playing Sutton United. Naive little minnows from Surrey and favourites for relegation.
We say “Surrey”, but when we met Nick Godwin at the ticket office we had to acknowledge that the world sees Sutton as South London. For the match was live on Radio London with a commentary to come from Nick.
The occasion was more important than the result. Hard fought through blazing sunshine and torrential downpours. Veggie pasties, with indescribable contents, but very tasty. Tea with Oat something milk. Just one blot on the FGR experience. No programmes. We love programmes. Remember Sutton v Leeds 1970?
And Sutton lost in the very last minute. It was such a shame but the start of a very long journey in the EFL we hope that will see us together with David , Andrew , Daisy Mae and all the other supporters hanging onto every game in hopeful anticipation, That’s football. That’s sport.
The journey home was special and gets its own title and text from David. Hold onto your seatbelt. I haven’t recovered yet!
The Day I Was Overtaken by an Ice cream Van on the M4
Here’s David’s version:
What a great few days. It was disappointing that Sutton lost, but only in the last minute. And now Bobby had to drive home. Cruising just under the speed limit is his preferred driving style.
Relaxed. Serene. Listening to Classic FM. With David there, he missed out on Classic FM. Got onto the M4 at about 68.5 mph. Suddenly, this ice cream van flashed past in the middle lane. Trying hard to be the fastest ice cream van in the world. Mr Whippy was more than a cone and sprinkles.
“Look at that!” exclaimed David. Bobby didn’t realise how envious he was and suggested he stop for a few minutes at Membury just a mile away for a cup of coffee. Just to stay alert. He likes “lerts”. The ice cream van was there too. So what was the rush?
“I can drive.” Seemed a good idea to me and Bobby. And so he did.
“DAVID… HOW FAST DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING…100 MPH. A TON”.
The last time we had gone that fast we took off in a bloody aeroplane. “David… Speed limit. David. Average Speed. David wot’s the bloody rush. What would Carol say?” “She drives even faster.” I hid behind the seat!
To be fair, he wasn’t dangerous to us or other drivers but, of course, a brown envelope would have Bobby’s name on it. And he is ever mindful of his working days at the Highways Agency, where he witnessed the reality of driver behaviour.
” thought we would never get home. Carol has ordered a take-away curry!”
A mathematician would probably calculate that excess speed saves you just a few minutes. But risks a brown envelope. Fine. Points. At 100mph a ban. Or even prison, if you hit something. I asked David for permission to write this, but didn’t wait for a reply.
He is of a certain breed, male usually, who lives life peacefully like those nerds who take pictures of Sutton United’s coach but turns into Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel of a car. Unless you are Princess Anne… on the same road.
Lighting a Candle for Diddley and Peter
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