I am now a widower having lost Mary to Cancer in May 2020. I am trying to visit all the Cricket grounds featured in my last Birthday present from her; ‘Remarkable Village Cricket Grounds’. I travel in my 2008 Swift Voyager Motorhome staying mostly on CS or CL sites.
I had driven Voyager to Julia’s place on Thursday afternoon. We loaded everything we needed for the weekend, trying not to forget anything important.
On Friday at 3pm I picked up Julia from her workplace in Trowbridge. We made a short pit-stop at her place to drop off her work gear and collect her cat Pandora.
Now Pandora is a mature 13yr old pussycat. She spent her early years living exclusively in a 4th floor flat in London but her last five years or so have been in a bungalow with a small back garden. Now she is to become ‘Vancat’ – no doubt she will take a while adjusting.
For now a travel cage (small dog size) sits on the rear dinette seat with her in it for travelling. Ultimately we want to just keep her on a reasonable lead to just prevent her getting under my feet while driving, but for that she has to get used to wearing her harness.
We set off on our two hour journey to Roundhill ‘Camping in the Forest’ site near Brockenhurst (in the heart of the New Forest). I had checked on the ‘net’ for road works etc on our route and found nothing but the usual Friday ‘Volume of traffic’ type hold ups. So with Pandora vocally expressing her displeasure at being caged and, no doubt, the unaccustomed feelings of Voyagers motion we were on our way. At least she did not suffer with any sickness so that at least was a blessing.
We ignored the satnav route around Salisbury (it being the city I grew up near). Using my local knowledge we avoided just about all the holdups associated with its ring road. Only minor congestion on the rest of our journey so we managed to shave 15 minutes of our estimated travel time.
Arriving at the ‘Rally field’ we found a good selection of Motorhomes, Campervans and even a couple of caravans. We pitched up near some trees but still with the chance of some sun getting to the Solar panels on the roof if the weather permitted.
A quick stretch of the legs, meeting some new friends in the closest units to us, and a brief meeting with our organiser Ads of ‘Herman Hits the Road’ YouTube channel fame. As well as a brief chat he did give us our Rally sticker to add to the few we have already stuck up.
Pandora was much happier after we let her out of her cage to explore her new ‘house’ while we prepared and ate our fish & chip supper.
Saturday 10th July 2021
Overnight there was a lot of rain and Saturday morning was mostly heavy showers. We watched other brave folks trying to film Vlogs using golfing umbrella’s for cover. We also saw some New Forest ponies snacking on the grass around the vans as they progressed across the rally field.
Even Pandora noticed them through the window. They must have been the biggest animals she’d ever seen (by the look on her face) and she quickly jumped down onto the floor to hide.
Today was to be Julia’s introduction to Vlogging but we decided to wait for the promised improvement before starting. In fact was about lunchtime before the precipitation diminished enough for us to venture out.
We did the basics first, introduction to the GoPro; how to hold it etc. Then the harder stuff like walking and talking. This is surprisingly difficult at first. Walking, thinking of what to say and speaking clearly as well as keeping the camera level at the same time as avoiding stumbling over holes and avoiding, on this occasion, stepping in horse poo.
We did manage a little chat with our hosts Ads & Zoe as we walked, looking at all the vans, around the edge of the field.
Now I know I’m biased but I do think that Julia did a very good job of her first Vlog.
Later in the afternoon the sun made an appearance just as we all congregated in a large circle for the much anticipated ‘Tea & Cake’ event. A really good selection of cakes (some very fancy decoration work too), biscuits and even a bit of fruit.
I didn’t see much tea, but a lot of beer, lager and wine was consumed while we all enjoyed a few words from Ads, a Bingo session and a tricky Brain Teaser quiz. Charades followed which did get a lot more people involved and was a really good laugh.
We stayed for a while chatting with folks around us but were concerned not to leave Pandora on her own for too long so returned to Voyager for a proper meal. After the washing up we did the ‘make the bed shuffle’ while talking about the day and how pleased we both were with how Pandora was coping in her new environment.
Sunday 11th July 2021
What would a Sunday away be without a full English breakfast so as the sausages and hash browns were cooking in the oven we set about re-arranging Voyager into ‘travel mode’.
There had been more rain overnight but the morning turned out to be pretty overcast but mostly dry. Good enough to cause no problems with the emptying jobs outside.
After breakfast and with the washing up done and stowed safely away we ventured out to say our goodbyes to our new friends. Everyone agreed it had been a terrific weekend. We were chatting with a small group when a loud noise alerted us to the sky as the Red Arrows performed a diamond formation low level fly past above us. Ads said it was all arranged and as he was the only one to get a video shot I’m tempted to believe him – He is after all an infamous YouTube creator.
We left the rally field late morning and had an uneventful journey home. All the usual unloading done before the heavens opened again except, of course, for that essential USB charge cable that requires going through every last cupboard in the van to locate.
As they say on all YouTube vlogs: Please like, subscribe and leave a comment below.
You may remember that I made some changes inside Voyager before my first solo road trip last year. To be totally honest, although I had good intentions to get out and about using my electric bike it never actually happened. Consequently it was an easy decision to revert back.
Julia had never been away in a motorhome but was very up for giving it a try. She enjoyed our day trip to Weston Super Mare in late April so had tested the Thetford facilities. Something that seems to make novices very apprehensive.
She had expressed an interest in visiting the New Forest so after phoning around several I eventually found a suitable CL site on the edge of the forest near New Milton.
A bit of a drive (about 75 miles) but we stopped halfway for lunch arriving at site mid-afternoon. We spent a lovely couple of days at Valesmoor Farm.
There is an equestrian centre next to the CL field so not only did we see some wild New Forest ponies while walking on the open moorland over the road but also saw some friendly ‘tame’ horses in the training area as well.
Long term readers will remember Mary and I had enjoyed quite a few Camping Club Rallies during 2019 and I wanted to show Julia what they were like. Now rallies are not happening at the moment (Covid rules) but some of the groups are organising Temporary Camp Sites (TCS) over long weekends at locations previously used for rallies. So after leaving our New Forest site we drove to the Beehive field in Bradford on Avon (BoA) for a couple of days. Although not a rally the setup of this TCS was the same just lacking the usual organised social events like BBQ’s or afternoon teas.
We both enjoyed being parked up in the field and having occasional socially distanced chats with our neighbours. We even explored the nearby canal towpath for a few hundred meters before my knees and Julia’s hips forced our return to Voyager.
The weather forecast for the entire time we were away was for heavy showers. We did have them but for the most part they were overnight. In fact on the last full day in BoA the sky was blue, the sun shone brightly and I rolled out the awning so we could sit in the shade enjoying our afternoon cup of tea alfresco.
I was surprised when the ice cream man arrived, but not surprised he did a roaring trade that hot day. A lovely whippy cone with sauce and flake went down very well.
On our last morning we were set up ready to leave by 11.00 with just a bit of apprehension in my mind. We had again had a considerable amount of rain overnight and I was so concerned about the likely state of the field I dug out the traction mats I have carried for some time.
I needn’t have worried, when I let Voyager down off the levelling rams and reversed into the traffic lane using the drier undervan ground for traction everything was fine. The well-worn line between vans was obviously compacted enough to cope with our 4½ tonnes.
So all that remained was to collect Julia’s cat Pandora from the cattery she had stayed in while we were away. We are hoping to get her trained to enjoy vanlife with us but she is rather old so it won’t be easy. Hopefully next time you will get to meet her.
It is now one year since my wife Mary passed away. She was the light of my life and I will miss her forever.
This last year has been difficult for everyone but on a personal level I must tell you that it is only now I am starting to realise the effect it has had on me.
All my working life I had been a fixer but the one thing I most wanted to fix I couldn’t. That was the hardest to accept. Even though I knew it was coming it was still a shock when it happened.
I did what I had to while still in shock.
Throughout the whole of this I kept myself busy with garden and house maintenance chores that have to be done regardless. I was having regular video/audio calls with my sister Melanie and Mary’s younger sister Lynn. I felt grateful for the support they offered me.
Apart from the first few weeks when my head was all over the place (I had some very strange ideas at one point) I tried hard to appear ‘normal’, answering the ‘How are you’ questions positively, but looking back I see the true place my head was at. Nobody saw and I didn’t share the dark thoughts I had in the quiet times when alone at night.
I’d always enjoyed a glass or two of wine but two became three, then four until a bottle a night became normal. It did stop me thinking too much though.
Mary and I had shared everything. She cared for me when I had my knee op and I cared for her as her health failed at the end. We had planned for so much more.
I had lost my wife, my partner, the one I had cared about the most. More than that I had lost my purpose and all the plans we had made together.
I tried to come up with replacement ideas. Mary had helped with the cricket book. It worked for a while – I enjoyed my holiday in Voyager. Meeting family on the trip was good but on reflection visiting cricket grounds around the country on your own is not exciting. I managed three on one day but essentially I was taking pictures of empty fields. I’m sure continuing posts on Instagram and Facebook would have been of limited appeal.
After my holiday things began to change with the pandemic. Varying degrees of lockdown for a long time. Calls with family decreased as everyone has their own lives and problems to worry about.
I hadn’t been looking forward to Christmas or the New Year. The pandemic meant no family gatherings anyway but even if they were allowed I wouldn’t have joined in. I was in my dark place with my smiling mask showing to the world.
But then something happened in mid-December that changed everything.
Julia, a friend of ours messaged me, asking me to tell Mary that she had lost her husband Richard to Covid.
It was hard telling her that Mary had passed as well. I felt really bad having to add to her grief and she felt the same for me. We continued chatting over the coming weeks, each of us understanding how the other felt. Neither of us accepting the ‘doing OK’ ‘feeling fine’ comments we were so used to using. We both knew the same black hole.
Our text chats soon became video chats and over the coming weeks we dug each other out of that hole. We found lots of things in common with similar likes and dislikes.
I have never been a believer in the afterlife but I have felt some things since Mary’s passing that make me believe she is helping me from afar, sometimes by stopping me make mistakes and recently by steering Julia and me together.
No one can know how things will turn out but, in a much better place than I have been in for months, I feel I have a chance at being happy again.
Sorry I’ve been away for a while but a few update blogs coming over the next few days.
While away in September I thought the solar system wasn’t working as well as it should be. Luckily the weather was very good and I didn’t have any power issues.
Investigation during October proved that the flexi-panels I fitted over the cab had both failed. I had read before fitting them that they were not as reliable so was not that surprised. I had bonded them very well with Sikaflex so there was no way I was going to get them off so I just clipped the wires off them and left them there.
I managed to find a large 300W rigid panel. Fitting it did require a bit of planning and some aluminium fabricating but with the help of a couple of friends I managed to get it secured to the roof.
At the same time I decided to upgrade the charge controller to a Victron MPPT 100|30 for increased efficiency and its ability to handle the increased voltage from the new panel. Its Bluetooth app on my phone meant I could monitor the performance of the system whenever I was in range.
Reasonably early start (for me) – left the site just after 10.30. Bit of a slow drive to Morrisons Kings Lynne (lots of tractors) but once there I stocked up. My supply of lager seemed to have evaporated – along with the usual fresh things like bread and milk. Filled up Voyagers diesel tank – and that hurt a bit, but I’m enjoying myself and everything costs I suppose.
Two cricket grounds today – the first at Snettisham (pg184) hadn’t seen any play this year or been prepared for any in the near future. But it’s crossed off and the view from the boundary of St Marys Church was pretty good.
Onward, via some pretty, narrow in places, roads to Holkham Hall estate (pg98). Payed only for parking and found a shady bit of the parking area. I prepared and ate my sandwich lunch (a bit late at gone 2 o’clock) and studied Google Maps to find where the pitch was in relation to me.
I had thought here might be the maiden trip with the e-bike, but no, the pitch was within 100 meters of where I was parked so an easy walk even with my knees.
Photos taken – back to Voyager and on the five or so miles to Fallowfield Farm CS. Another lovely field but much busier than most I have used – a dozen or so pitches with electric and more without. All the electric ones were in use but that’s fine with me. The forecast is good for the next few days so I opted for two nights (£12/nght) as I’m in no hurry and a whole day chilling sounded good.
I sat out in the late afternoon sun, with a cup of tea, while I updated my social media again – got to keep my friends aware of what I’m up to. Now I haven’t really been in a hurry since I retired but not moving on every day is so much more leisurely and I like it.
I flash fried a thin steak with new potatoes and mixed veg for my meal, followed by plain yoghurt with fresh raspberries for afters. A very good SW friendly meal. Only I had three small lagers while preparing and eating it and half a bottle of red wine later in the evening – so syns through the roof.
Tuesday 15th September 2020
As I said a chill day. Obviously did all the chores after breakfast – emptying grey and black plus filling fresh – dumping the rubbish and sorting the recycling.
I also repositioned Voyager for more sun during the afternoon. I even put out the awning. Had my lunch alfresco, only a sandwich with a few olives washed down with more lager – it’s evaporating fast.
A siesta in the afternoon- well why not.
Then more blog work – got caught up at last. Plans for the next few days. Only four more cricket grounds this trip, but I will have completed all the Norfolk and Bedfordshire ones and one in Oxfordshire as well.
Wednesday 16th September 2020
All the normal chores completed I left Fallowfield about 11o’clock and meandered my way to the only cricket ground of the day.
It was at Aldborough (pg18) the last Norfolk ground featured in the book.
There was evidence of recent matches but nothing on today. I strolled, took some snaps did my social media posts then prepared and ate my lunch while looking out over the green.
Next it was onto my campsite for the night. I had to travel nearly 60 miles as the grounds for tomorrow are in Bedfordshire (about 130 miles total). I had decided to split that journey with a stopover near Thetford. I did a quick supermarket shop on the way – just the usual fresh stuff and more of those evaporating lagers.
Grove Farm CL was pretty quiet (bit of traffic noise around rush hour) and run by a very friendly couple. Again £10 for the night with only essentials provided.
I cranked up Skygo and watched the last England Cricket ODI while preparing my chicken supreme pasta meal. Then the washing up, all while Australia managed to scrape a series win with two balls to spare. It was a nail biting game but ‘we was robbed’.
Thursday 17th September 2020
Usual stuff – left field at 11 o’clock with a 75 mile journey to Southill Park (pg188).
Satnav got confused around Huntington because I followed the A14 on its new section which isn’t on its map (prompting me to consider an upgrade). She found me again eventually but I went North instead of South for a bit.
Anyway I eventually arrived at the gatehouse of the estate where the cricket ground is located. It was my first true FAIL – it’s only open to the public on match days. Initially I was going to give it a half tick but on mentioning it on social media one of the comments was to score it as a bye – brilliant idea, after all I did drive by. So following the same logic Ullenwood is getting classed as one as well. I may schedule another visit on a match day possibly combining it with a visit to the Shuttleworth Collection Museum which is very nearby.
The second ground I found with no problem not too many miles away. The small village of Ickwell Green (pg106) has a lovely ground which features an old oak tree well within the playing area. It was roped off today as one of the recent storms had caused an upper branch to split and fall – it’s still a very impressive tree though.
Like many other clubs any shot that hits the tree is signalled four.
Another van lunch while overlooking the ground then onward toward my overnight stop ‘Tile House Farm’ Little Horwood. Another 30 miles but at least I got through Milton Keynes before the rush hour.
Arrived, pitched up, paid my £8 for the night, updated social media and brought blog up to date.
I cooked chilli and rice but had forgotten to take the mince out of the freezer this morning. Luckily it’s been a warm day and although not out until after lunch it was pretty much defrosted before I started.
Friday 18th September 2020
Another lovely day, bit cool first thing but we are nearing the autumn equinox so that’s got to be expected. I have been so lucky this trip – no rain, varying temperatures but always comfortable.
After my normal morning routine I’m off on my 30 mile drive to the last cricket ground for this first road trip.
Warborough Green (pg212) is another picturesque ground surrounded by some lovely period houses. There have definitely been some matches recently but there was no preparation, when I visited, for any this weekend.
The nearby Six Bells public house was just over the road from the Pavilion. Very handy for a swift half at lunchtime.
It was well attended with many diners eating alfresco in its lovely courtyard – it did look very appealing – however if I have even a small one midday I can very easily fall asleep in the afternoon, which is not a good idea when driving on busy motorways.
So that is the last ground visited for now – a total of ten visited with an addition two extras (byes).
The 75 mile journey home, mostly on fast roads, was uneventful. So now I have to get the deferred chores done – if I had been away any longer I would have found a campsite to do my laundry but as it is my home machine will take the strain and while it does I can start to think about my next trip.
Any future pandemic lockdowns permitting it won’t be too long before I’m off again.
I now travel without Betty the trailer on the back of Voyager so no more trundling on Gordon the mobility scooter. My knees haven’t got any better but I decided I would try an e-bike for local transport instead.
Voyager doesn’t have a garage, in fact her only external locker (apart from the toilet cassette) contains my gas bottles, so I have removed one of the double seats of the dinette and made an internal ‘garage’ for my new folding transport.
I planned my journey – that’s just the way I am –Google Maps is my friend, he helps me check my routes and destinations, so when I left home on my first real Road Trip since lockdown I was happy I had everything covered.
However, I had forgotten the first rule of travel. Plan for the unexpected.
Wednesday 9th September 2020
The postcode of the first ‘Remarkable Village Cricket Ground’ entered in the Sat Nav and I’m on my way. The journey was fine, I had been passed the Ullenwood ground (pg 208) many times but I had to take a snap to cross it off the list. It is right next to the entrance to Crickley Hill Country Park where I knew they had a Coach Park. I would be able to park Voyager there and walk the short way to get my photo. Trouble was, as there are currently no Coach trips due to the pandemic this parking area was blocked off. Best I could do was turn around in the small Car Parking area and beat a hasty retreat. I couldn’t even pull off the road and take a snap out the window. Oh well, I’ll leave it on the list for another day.
Thankfully the other three grounds I had planned for the day were no problem. I stopped for a sandwich after doing Stanway (pg196)
and then on to the third Elmley Castle (pg82). This one was down a narrow lane but I managed to park for a few minutes and get a snap.
Then on to my first campsite for the night. Hyde Farm near Pershore Worcestershire is a Certified Site that cost me £14 for the night (no electric). Their Toilet & Shower facilities where available but I prefer to use my own so only made use of fresh water & Elsan point.
It had turned into a warm late afternoon, so I had a bit of a relax with a cuppa enjoying the last rays before cooking Mary’s go to meal for day one of Road Trips – Sweet Chilli Prawns with rice (lovely). Then the washing up followed by some creative photography of the pretty weak sunset.
Thursday 10th September 2020
After a leisurely morning, apart from the chores of course, I set forth for the only ground on my plan for today. Just over 35 miles but some roadworks (aren’t there always some roadworks) meant it took nearly 90 minutes to get there.
Stoneleigh Abbey (pg200) is a wonderful backdrop for a game of cricket.
Originally a monastery, then a large Country House it is now owned by a trust and has been converted to flats.
I had a good explore of the gardens before enjoying a quiet lunch in Voyager.
Then a 20 mile drive to my CCC (Camping & Caravanning Club) CL site for the night.
Westmead Farm, Withybrook near Coventry has set aside a small field with water & Elsan points. Very basic but for £10 it had all I needed. I was the only camper there so only birds and the odd tractor passing kept me company.
Friday 11th September 2020
Busy morning – breakfast, washing up, shower then fill the fresh water tank, empty the grey and toilet cassette – all by 10 oclock.
Today I had booked my first timed visit to a National Trust property – Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire for 12.30. Sat Nav said I would arrive at 11.45 after my 70 mile journey. I was a bit worried when I met the infamous roadworks but only 35 minutes delay so no problem.
I wanted to see the cricket ground featured on page 60 of the book. I saw it on the left as I got closer to the car park. Bike or walk I asked myself. I opted to walk – I will get the bike out soon but there were a lot of people visiting. In fact the car park was pretty much full – I used the Coach Parking area (they weren’t accepting Coach’s anyway).
It was only a couple of hundred metres to the ground and I’m still nervous about riding my bike. I have done it at home in the village but I’m not completely comfortable on it yet (don’t want to fall off in front of loads of people – vanity I suppose).
To fill you in I was a proficient cyclist in my early teenage years (cycled to/from school 3 miles, all weathers for several years) but from age 17 I moved on to cars and haven’t got back on a bike until now – at age 65.
Anyway the cricket ground was well maintained – the heavy roller was preparing the wicket for an upcoming match, so I got a few snaps before returning to Voyager.
I did divert via the NT shop (usual stuff) and other buildings, chapel, garden and views first.
A sandwich for lunch.
I got my Instagram, Facebook and Polar Steps posts ready but had to wait until I left the area and was nearly at the exit before getting a phone signal to actually upload them. Something to bear in mind if you visit.
Onward the 50 odd miles to Roy’s (Mary’s brother) place for the weekend. He had told me that motorhomes could park in the car park at the end of his road. He’d seen some there the previous weekend. I found it after a short visit to Tesco for essentials.
Saturday 12th September 2020
After overnighting in the car park (I did check the sign which said it was free 6pm to 8am) I went to buy a ticket for a few hours just after 8 o’clock. It was at this point I read all of the small print – Parking for Cars, Vans and Motorhomes – Tick. But – ‘Any person sleeping, camping or cooking shall be liable to prosecution’! Oh well – at least I didn’t get caught!
Must remember to read all of the small print next time.
I walked up to Roy’s flat – he gave me a guided tour. He’s only been here a few weeks but looks pretty much settled in. We had a good chat and planned a visit to his eldest daughter Michelle at her place a few miles away. I had looked up a couple of likely CL campsites for the rest of the weekend and made several unsuccessful attempts to book one. Decided to try again later.
I followed Roy to Michelle’s where I met her partner Antony. We had coffee, some chat and I passed on Mary’s bequest. Antony very kindly made a couple of phone calls and found me a campsite not far away.
Then it was off to Boston Town centre. Roy needed to do some Bank stuff and Michelle wanted to hand in her CV for a retail position.
Sophie (Roy’s other daughter) had to work but we met up with Darren (her partner) and her boys Jacob and Harry.
Had a bit of a mooch around the market and centre in general – pretty much like any town centre these days although St Bololph’s Church is quite impressive.
Michelle and Antony kindly gave me a memorial Angel for Mary that I will add to those already in the arbour at home.
Then back to Michelle’s where I said my goodbyes and moved on towards my campsite for the next couple of nights. I was pointing the wrong way on the road so Sat Nav made me do a quick tour on a square of estate roads – during which I did pass a cricket ground with a game being played. Had to stop for a photo.
Walnut Lake Park is an adult only site and pretty cheap for a site these days at £18 per night including electric.
Sunday 13th September 2020
We had arranged to all meet up in the afternoon so before that I had time for the chores. Gave the bathroom and kitchen a good seeing to and dusted and Dysoned the rest of Voyager. It doesn’t take long when I’ve got my cleaning head on (as Mary used to say).
Also managed to catch up with my Blog draft and plans for the next cricket grounds to visit. There are three in Norfolk.
At about 3.30 two car loads and a scooter turned up with all the family. Roy, Michelle and Antony, Sophie, Darren and the boys – and a big surprise to me one of Roy’s sons Russell with his new girlfriend Anna. All I can say is it’s a good job we did it today as the Covid rules are changing tomorrow when this wouldn’t be allowed.
I passed on Mary’s bequest to Sophie & the boys – that’s pretty much them all done now.
As the campsite was only allowing a maximum of two visitors I jumped in Roy’s car and we all moved to The Ship Inn at Fosdyke for a social in their beer garden.
A good chinwag, with many photos taken and much laughter. It made a change to be able to imbibe a little alcohol as I’m not driving until tomorrow.
They delivered me back to Voyager, we said our goodbyes and they were on their way. I cooked, washed up, watched some YouTube and retired early – it had been a good weekend.
To be Continued – I think thats long enough for now.
Things have become clearer in my mind as to what happens next in my life. I am not half the man I used to be – I had thought that for a while. Mary was in very many ways my ‘better half’ and over the many wonderful years we were together she ‘improved’ me. Not overtly with arguments but subtly by example, opening up to me, showing me her ‘weaknesses’.
I was forty-seven when I met her, with two failed marriages behind me. Yet she saw something she liked and was prepared to take on.
Now that is not what I intended to say when I sat down – and it got more difficult as I went on (it’s hard to write with tears in your eyes.)
Anyway what I wanted to say is that even as just me I am going to continue to use the social media handle of ‘YokellCouple’ on this Blog, and on Instagram, YouTube and a Facebook page. Mary had her individual FB account that I did a few posts on, but that just didn’t seem right, so I’ve created my own (thankfully all Mary’s FB friends have added me as well).
Mary passed away on 23rd May, my birthday is 22nd June, but she had the foresight to order my birthday present early from Amazon. She told me she had, but when it arrived made me promise not to open it until the day. I was pretty sure I knew what it was – you know the way couples hint at things they see with a ‘that looks nice/interesting’ sounding out their partner for potential gifts.
I was good and didn’t open it until my birthday – to be honest I almost forgot about it, busying myself with the memorials I wanted to produce for her as well as all the official stuff that needed to be done.
Anyway it turned out to be the book ‘Remarkable Village Cricket Grounds’ which describes ninety plus idyllic village cricket grounds around mainland UK.
For those that don’t know cricket is the only sport that both Mary and I enjoyed watching – both on TV and in person.
So after flicking through the pages, getting a feel for it, I started to wonder if Mary had other ideas in mind when she picked it for me. Now I can’t be sure but I think she had in mind that I could travel around in Voyager and visit all of the grounds for myself. So that is what I will do, not all of the time of course but it will ensure I get to see more of our lovely island than I ever would have.
To that end I did the nearest one to home recently, a pub with its own cricket ground attached – with a team made up of locals.
I had a delicious ‘Covid safe’ meal on an outdoor picnic table near the boundary.
Instead of chatting as I would have had Mary been with me I posted a couple of photos on Facebook and ‘chatted’ with friends who commented.
The title of this Blog is the first comment I received – from Mary’s sister Lynn.
A lot of plans of a lot of people have had to change in the last few months.
Our plan to attend an Easter Rally at Weymouth was cancelled and I had to be content with video chats with the family – all very nice but definitely not as good. Such a shame as the weather was fantastic.
Camp sites were closed down for an unspecified time and the country has been locked down.
For most of the time the weather has been fine – a few not so good days but for England it was a good spring.
The most we have managed are trips around the house to our sun trap patio where we spent several quiet afternoons relaxing on the reclining garden chairs.
Through March and April my health was declining but not too quickly. Into May and I can feel things are changing.
Mary started really struggling towards mid-May and very sadly she passed away on the 23rd.
After it became clear that the Radiotherapy treatment she underwent had not cured her Cancer she has been under the care of Dorothy House Hospice. They promised her she could pass at home and in no pain.
On that Saturday evening she passed peacefully in her sleep. I was holding her hand.
A few days before she was pleased we reached our 15th Wedding Anniversary – telling me they were her happiest adult years.
Over our years together we have done a lot of things and visited a lot of places. We have holidayed abroad in the early years, finding a joint love of the country of Portugal which we visited many times. As things became harder health wise we stayed in this country but still managed many holidays. Recently our motorhome has provided the needed facilities as we travelled to many lovely places. We made the most of it.
She really enjoyed writing hardcopy diaries of our adventures – allowing me to transpose them into our Blog (she never was enamoured with typing). So I have many full A4 note books with her entries as well as postcards and entry tickets stuck in.
Things for me are still very raw – I’m not sure what I will be doing on here yet. I believe she would want me to continue posting but it is one thing typing in her words and totally another starting with a blank sheet.
The one thing she did make me promise was to attend Hermanfest whenever that is now – so if nothing else happens before you should get a post about that.
We have now crept into March of 2020 – meteorologically its spring and everything in the natural world is starting to grow. The narcissi are putting on a lovely display, even the bulbs in my garden pots are making the effort.
I’m looking at everything a little differently now.
But let’s go back to how I left things in my last Blog – I’d had an inconclusive result to my PET scan and was waiting for an Ultrasound scan in February.
During the wait my Lymphedema increased. I was told this was quite normal and that it would recover over time but to me it seemed to get firmer and much more sensitive to touch. Putting the moisturising cream on was definitely more painful. I couldn’t move my neck as much and was getting an increasing numbness around the whole area.
Early on a very wet and windy Monday morning in mid-February I had my Ultrasound FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration) – Doctor speak for an Ultrasound targeted biopsy. The procedure was uncomfortable, even with the local anaesthetic and pain killers I’m taking, but at least it didn’t take too long. We were in and out within an hour.
We detoured from our normal route home to check out where Nigel was to have his MRI the following week – in a private hospital because of the delay caused by the RUH scanner upgrade.
At this time I didn’t have an appointment to get the results of the test but figured I’d get a letter in a day or two. As it turned out I got a phone call the following Tuesday and arranged to see my Consultant at Bath the next day.
I was nervous and hardly slept that night.
The weather was again wet and windy on our journey to Bath and both Nigel and I were very quiet in the car.
At the meeting Emma confirmed that the biopsy had shown persistent residual Cancer. We already knew that there was no further treatment. Right at the beginning I had been told my heart wasn’t strong enough to go through a long surgical operation (about 10 hours) and that Chemotherapy would likely kill me. The Radiotherapy I had undergone had shrunk the tumour but not completely eradicated it.
Now the NHS is fantastic with wonderfully skilled Doctors and Nurses, but even with all the magical machines and drugs they can’t cure everyone.
Fate had dealt me a bad hand. Or is it heredity as two of my siblings have been touched by the disease in one form or another. Either way I am where I am – which is now under the care of Dorothy House Hospice. I have already had a couple of home visits – Sarah is very nice and has already proved her worth by getting my pain control adjusted so that I am more comfortable.
I’m still doing a lot of sleeping but at least when I’m awake I can get out a bit, just not for as long as I used to be able to.
We went shopping to our local town the other day, just for an hour or so. It was lovely to see all the spring bulbs as we passed and rub the Calf’s head for luck in Borough Parade.
I’m now taking Naproxen and have a Fentanyl patch, as well as the Co-Codamol with just a little bit of Morphine occasionally.
I’m pretty much pain free now (well as long as the patch doesn’t fall off which it did the other day). Looks like I’m good for a bit longer so I’ll ‘keep taking the pills!’
Nigel has been my brick throughout the whole of this – he has always been supportive and caring – I just worry that as the Cancer progress’s I may become too difficult to live with – I don’t want that for him.
I have started, in a small way, to get my house in order. I have already had a fight (figuratively) with Barclays Bank in order to close a small savings account. We’ve found a local firm who will make a home visit and draft our wills – something we have thought of more than once in the past but never got around to. No time now for procrastination.
I don’t know how long I have left (well I suppose nobody does) but I’m damn sure going to make the most of it.
As I said in the last Blog we are booked on a CMH rally in Weymouth for Easter.
Then something, as yet unplanned for May, followed by Hermanfest in June.
Voyager’s habitation Check is booked (mostly to get the gas checked after Nigel replaced the Truma Combi boiler). Betty has had her motor mover given the once over after developing a ‘cutting out’ problem at the end of last season.
So we will still be exploring and posting Travel Blogs when the weather improves. Our trips on the 2G’s may be a little shorter but I’m sure just as much fun.
I do still get angry at times (you know the ‘why me’ thing) and I can’t say I’m not terrified and dreading what’s to come. I’m tearful at times but mostly now when friends and family say nice things to me. Nigel’s sister Mel phoned the other day to tell us that Frankie (niece) is expecting a daughter in July. I’m really happy for her but sad it’s another little one I won’t get to see grow up.
Firstly I must apologize for my delayed posting of this update Blog – as you read on you will understand why.
Friday 6th December 2019
After our usual preparations we set off for our first Christmas Rally. We decided that we would leave Betty behind this time and take Dobby instead.
Nigel drove ahead in Voyager while I followed behind in our little WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) – we used our Bluetooth communicators during the 20 mile journey which worked well as we were rarely more than a few car lengths apart.
Now you may ask why not take the trailer – well the highlight of the rally was a visit to the Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum which is a few miles from the rally field location in Didmartin village. The distance would not have been a problem for the 2G’s but the lack of pavement would mean driving on the road in the dark and cold – not ideal at all.
We arrived at the Village Hall about 3.30 and were pitched up in the car park area (caravans were on the adjacent playing field). We were surprised at the number who were attending – a total of 32 units. After getting setup (levelled, silver screen on and everything put in its place inside) Nigel went to the Marshall’s van to pay the dues and get our envelope. Our quiz this time was to decode 20 or so Christmas Carol anagrams – very appropriate.
After our meal and a first crack at the quiz (not as easy as we had thought) we set off to the hall for our social – nothing exceptional but I do like to have a good chinwag with people.
We chatted to some new faces as well as some we have met before. There are of course still some cliques that are not as receptive but I guess that’s just usual in a big crowd.
Back to our cosy van for a good night’s sleep.
Saturday 7th December 2019
We are off to Chipping Sodbury this morning to check out the Victorian Market. It does mean Nigel had to do a bit of walking but his knees can cope pretty well on the flat – enough for our exploration. We arrived just after opening at midday and spent the best part of a couple of hours having a good look around.
We bought a couple of large sausages from one of the street vendors which we took back to Voyager and enjoyed with a few baked beans for our late lunch.
A bit of a siesta after that before we got back in Dobby to go to Westonbirt. It didn’t take long and the que for the disabled car park was minimal so we were there in plenty of time for our 5.20 ticketed start.
Enough time to explore the craft tents and other attractions before setting off on the Enchanted Christmas trail.
A nice hot chocolate drink (with all the trimmings) before we set off – just to keep out the cold.
The trail itself was very good but we were a little disappointed that even with timed entry there were so many people entering at the same time that we were mostly surrounded as we walked. It makes seeing anything a bit tricky from my seated position on my Little Rascal scooter.
We did enjoy it though and managed to get a few nice pics to remind us of our visit.
At the end of our walk we decided to share a foot long hot dog between us – very nice it was to – before returning to Voyager and then back to the hall for our second evening chatting and drinking.
Unexpectedly they also laid on a pigs in blanket ‘hot dog’ super which we partook of – I don’t think we will be having any more sausages for a while though.
Sunday 8th December 2019
Flag at 11.00 along with the raffle and Christmas card hand out (our first Xmas rally so hadn’t thought to bring any – but received eleven from other folks) along with a couple of chocolate oranges.
Then it just remained to get everything packed away and our return journey home.
Between the end of this rally and Christmas I suffered with an infection in my neck that meant a week of anti-biotics followed by a visit, on Christmas Eve, to Bath RUH Hospital when that didn’t completely solve the problem. I was suffering with increasing pain not directly in the area that had been radiated but more muscular pain between my shoulder blades. The doctor I saw recommended pain killers and suggested a glass or two of medicinal sherry to help relax my muscles.
Christmas itself was quiet and more enjoyable than I had expected – maybe due to the sherry!
Then it was time to get ready for the next rally – I had been looking forward to it since we first booked it back in September.
Sunday 29th December 2019
After a sedate morning packing up we were on our way to Clarendon Junior School in Tidworth – a journey of just over forty miles and which took us about an hour. Again we took Dobby instead of Betty because our research had shown nothing of great interest close by but a couple of places to visit about ten miles away.
We were greeted by the cheerful and very friendly Marshalls – probably because we arrived in a short break between showers. We were happy that after all the rain of the previous couple of weeks that we were pitched with the other motorhomes on the tarmac of the kids playground. The caravans were on the playing field on the other side of the school buildings.
After the usual setting up was done we relaxed for a while until it was time to get ready for our evening social.
Now this rally was different to any other we had attended – not only were we staying for double the number of nights but it would be catered as well – obviously it cost more as well and we had brought some food in case we didn’t like something – but it did make a change not having to think of food preparation.
At 6.00 pm we made our way to the School hall which we found decorated with fairy lights and seasonal displays on the tables. We picked our table and took our seats as our fellow campers all started to arrive. We were joined by Mark and Sue who we met on our first rally with this group back in June, Geoff and Linda from the Halloween rally at Corsham as well as others we had not met before. Music was playing from the sound system in the corner – and after folks had imbibed a little of their bring your own tipples some even braved a bit of a dance.
Jacket potatoes with a selection of fillings were served – I had the cheese and onion while Nigel tried the Chilli – both were excellent.
The highlight of the evening was a good rousing performance by ‘David Essex’ – well a tribute artist who was once a finalist on TV’s ‘Stars in their Eyes’ program.
It was a very good evening (if a lot louder than we are comfortable with) – even Nigel and I managed a bit of a smooch to a couple of the slow songs.
Monday 30th December 2019
As we had the day to ourselves we decided to visit Stonehenge. It is somewhere we have wanted to go to since they completed the new Visitors Centre back in 2013 – but you know how it is – the most local attractions get left as you plan visits and explore those further away.
I was a little perturbed as we drove through small villages on the way there as Nigel seemed to be ignoring all the signs to Stonehenge heading instead a totally different way. He had already told me he had grown up in the area so I bowed to his local knowledge. Grateful in fact as a travel report on local radio told us of 15-20 minute delays on the A303 near Stonehenge. His route through the Army town of Larkhill had no delays – in fact we were only slowed so he could show me the house he grew up in as a young boy.
So when we arrived at the Centre we were disappointed to see a que for the car park, loads of coaches and masses of people. Luckily there were a few Disabled spaces left so we were OK in that respect but as we got closer to the entrance the length of the snake of people queuing for tickets was prohibitively long.
We decided to skirt around that and had a look around the free to enter displays at the rear of building where we had a chat to one of the volunteers. She told us that even though we are members of both the Nation Trust and English Heritage we still needed to get tickets (at no cost) for audit and Health & Safety reasons. We decided not to bother queuing but did nip into the shop for a fridge magnet and postcard. A proper visit would have to be scheduled for a time when less tourists where visiting – if we can find one.
We retraced our route to Larkhill and used the back road to Woodhenge – a less impressive smaller ancient circle – where the original wooden poles have been replaced by concrete bollards. It was worth a quick look but wasn’t really accessible on my wheelchair so just a view through the car window.
Nigel regaled me with further stories of his childhood as we made our way back to Voyager via Tesco’s for a top up of wine and goodies.
I’ve drunk more in the last few days than for a long time (doctor’s orders) and decided that any weight I gain during this break can be shed again next year.
There was another social event in the hall this evening but before it a Ploughman’s supper. Unfortunately not in the hall as that was already booked for a ‘Slimming World’ meeting – so we all squeezed into a pretty small classroom with child size chairs and tables where we ‘made the most of it’ – food was good though.
After ‘Fat Club’ had finished we adjourned back to the hall for a quiz and silly games – it was fun to watch people making an arse of themselves. Didn’t do at all well in the quiz though.
Tuesday 31st December 2019 (New Year’s Eve)
A bit of a lie in followed by chores – Nigel did the outside stuff – filling water, emptying grey waste and the toilet cassette. I did the inside stuff washing up breakfast dishes and tidying up.
Then Nigel took our plates, cutlery and wine glasses to the hall in preparation for the first social event of the day – a three course lunch with wine – that beats a bring your own BBQ for sure.
After getting dressed up (smart but not OTT) we joined everyone else queuing at the school door waiting to be let in – many comments made about how long it had been since we last queued for ‘school diners’.
The organisers of the lunch excelled themselves – everyone was impressed with the quality and speed of the serving of the meal as well as the availability of wine. I had enough on my plate to feed a small army – and all well cooked and delicious.
Well stuffed we returned to Voyager for a bit of a siesta before preparing for the main event – what I had been really looking forward to – the Masquerade Ball. I haven’t had a chance to get dressed up for ages so had gone a bit mad – buying a ball gown and even a fancy mask.
Again we were impressed with the effort everyone made to dress for the occasion. All the ladies dresses were beautiful with many of the men in evening suits or tuxedo’s. We were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and the five piece covers band ‘Duke Box’ were soon setup and ready to get the party swinging.
They played a wide spread of tunes but were a bit young and loud for us – they went down a storm though.
There was what was described as a finger buffet between the bands sets with enough food to feed double those present so we again felt a bit stuffed.
We spent most of the evening watching and waiting for a slow song we could have a little smooch to – it didn’t come so in the end we just got up and had a slow smooch to a fast 80’s number that the fitter ones around us were having a good jig to.
Much tooting of horns, popping of party poppers and a good round of ‘Old Lang Syne’ as the new decade arrived. The younger ones had a bit of a conga about while we had a bit more of a smoochy cuddle in the corner.
This was the best New Year we have had in a long time – in fact last year we only just managed to stay awake to see the fireworks on the TV.
Wednesday 1st January 2020
A good lie in followed by a lazy day – just the usual chores, then reading and relaxing, bit of Kindle game play etc.
Flag was at 1.00pm where we won a few odd things in the Raffle (Nigel did get some cans of lager so he was happy).
We skipped the family film at 2.30 in favour of a relaxing siesta in Voyager.
In the evening the final social in the school hall – a bit of music and more silly games for us to laugh at. An odd theme of ‘Wedding Day number one’s’ showed that most people weren’t aware of what theirs was – mind you we don’t know ours.
Neither of us were drinking tonight – you can’t be too careful when driving the next day can you? – So we left early and watched an hour of TV before bed. The only TV for this trip!
Thursday 2nd January 2020
The end of our New Year rally and we have really enjoyed it. Hopefully we will have a few more good rallies in the coming year.
The rest of January has been never ending medical appointments both at our local surgery as well as Chippenham and Bath Hospitals.
Nigel is now waiting for an MRI scan which appears to be delayed by a new scanner being fitted at Bath.
I have had a PET scan and seen my Oncology Consultant – the results weren’t conclusive (which is worrying) but we are ever hopeful. I will be having an Ultrasound scan in February for further checks.
I have seen a Physiotherapist about my neck pain and we have ordered a soft neck support that may help.
The pain killers I am taking (Co-Codamol and OraMorph) are keeping me mostly comfortable though I’m sleepy most of the time – but I’m still here so for that I’m grateful.
Oh and we have booked a few days away at Easter on the Weymouth CMH rally with Roy so we have something to look forward to as well.