Silly Saturday- About and Out

So you are allowed to venture to more places now, as long as you have booked in advance, taken six negative Covid tests, have a vaccination certificate and don’t mind queuing. To save stress why not visit places and attractions nobody else will want to visit?

Your friendly local.
Boat trips
Buckingham Palace – the cheap replica.
Orient Express – economy size.
Forgotten art gallery.
One star hotel
Two star hotel
Family hotel
Economy sized great cathedral.
Plastichenge
Marina
A rural hideaway full of charm.

Enjoy your weekend.

Silly Saturday- Out and About

Monday is England’s next step on the ‘roadmap’ to normality. Wherever you are you may be closing down or opening up or more likely your leaders are doing another u-turn. Normality is a long way off and though you might read messages on line from your favourite places – ‘Welcome Back’ – do they really mean it? Here are some nice places you probably won’t be able to go to…

London

Bridges open, but one way only, bad luck if you’re on the wrong side of the river.

Dreamland.

Dreaming about eating out? Stick to dreamland, everywhere else is fully booked.

Bournemouth

Must have beach app on phone to check if you are allowed to visit.

Portland Bill

Lighthouses – good for social distancing, but only one visitor at a time.

The Moon

Someone else got their first, closed until further notice.

Cruise Ships

Cruises currently limited to passengers who have been vaccinated and are good at rowing.

Portmeirion

Wales, different rules to England, you may not be allowed to cross the border.

Salisbury Cathedral

Cathedrals are always interesting to visit, but this may be as near as you can get. Enter only if you are fully masked and have had a negative Covid test.

Air museums

Museums are popular outings, especially if it’s raining, but book in advance for your thirty minute slot, book separately in advance for a cafe fifteen minute slot.

Iona

Scottish holy island – ferry only goes once a day. Scotland has different rules to England and Wales so you may not be allowed across the border… what a shame, you would really have loved Iona…

Kingston Lacey

National Trust houses always popular for an outing; they are opening up again – of course you have to book in advance and once inside will have to walk round in single file, one way only, no stopping or turning back…

A Big Country House

Chances of getting inside here for a look round? Very unlikely…. unless you live there.


Where will you go for your next outing?

Silly Saturday – Not Going Out

Whether you are stuck in your twenty bedroom mansion with many acres of private grounds or alone in a tiny flat, there are some advantages to being in the majority of the population not allowed to go out. Remember that feeling when your mother believed it when you said you felt ill and you didn’t have to go to school? Recreate that inner freedom of spirit for yourself every morning.

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You don’t have to decide what to wear each day, even if you are still in your dressing gown when you put the bins out no one will be around to see you.
If you are a schoolchild you are taking part in the biggest social experiment ever; if your exasperated parents call you a rat they just mean it affectionately, you are a laboratory rat. Perhaps the experiment will prove that actually nobody needs to go to school. If you had no friends at school you are a winner, nobody has any friends at school now.

 

Parents, if you are one of those families that appeared in that documentary, Twenty Two Children and Another on the Way, you are laughing, now is your time, with a ready made school and team sports. As you could never afford to go out anyway with all those children, life goes on much the same.
Adults, you don’t have to go to work, or if you have to work from home you can do it in your pyjamas.
You don’t have to go out, you don’t have to go to that boring party, your in-laws’ wedding, that tedious conference, parents’ evening, to the cinema to see that ghastly film your partner wanted to see and you don’t have to go to the dentist.
You can watch television all day long, especially twenty four hour corona coverage.

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Tired of decision making? Remember waking up to sunny Saturdays and discussing how to make the most of a nice weekend? We must go somewhere, but where, a favourite place or somewhere new? A local walk or major expedition? Take a picnic or eat out? Shall we call Barbara and John and see if they want to meet up?

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Ironically you will get to know your neighbours better, even if you do have to yell from your balcony, over the fence or across the road. They are home all the time and the ones that tried to avoid you are pitifully grateful when you wave to them.
Your dog is happy, very happy, never lonely and five walks a day with each member of the family going on their allotted outing.
If you are an introvert this is your time. No one is going to tell you that getting out more would be good for you.

You will have plenty of time to catch up with all those ( my ) books you wanted to read.

 

What advantages have you found in your confinement to home?

Getting Out

One Saturday morning at 7am I got up and looked out of the bedroom window to see our next door neighbours standing across the road in their dressing gowns. I then noticed a fire engine standing outside their house. We had slept through the fire and the arrival of the fire brigade. A fire in their loft had prompted the hasty exit of three generations.

I sent Cyberspouse down in his dressing gown to bring them into our house, while I put some clothes and the kettle on. Over the next couple  of hours, other branches of the family, who luckily lived close, arrived and we chatted more to all of them than we had since we lived there.

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Fortunately ‘getting out of the house’ for most of us, most of the time is less dramatic, usually accompanied by cries of ‘Are you ready yet?’ I wonder why it’s so hard to get out of the house in time. I always end up rushing. If you were told you had five minutes to leave the house, leave the house forever because of imminent war or natural disaster, would you be ready, could you decide what to take? It takes me longer than that to get ready to go to the shops.

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It is a wonder that anybody ever gets to work or school. Here is a handy list of items you need before you set off from home; delete those not currently applicable.

Door keys, car keys, keys for bike lock, watch, ID for work, bus pass /season ticket, lunch box, homework /briefcase, bottle of water, reusable coffee cup, mobile phone, phone charger, tablet – electronic, tablets – medicinal, inhaler, reading glasses, sun glasses, shopping list, shopping bags,  book/kindle to read on the bus /in the canteen, coat, umbrella, PE kit/gym kit, dog, children, baby. If you are a writer add pens and note book.

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If you are a citizen of the the USA and believe in the right to bear arms you may have even more to remember. When Team G were coming back from Las Vegas for their visit I asked them to bring some magazines – think craft, gardening, cooking, lifestyle, culture – What I got was ‘Guns & Ammo’, I turned the first page to see this handy advertisement..

You say it to yourself every time you leave the house ‘Phone. Keys. Watch. Wallet. SCCY.’ You’re not fully dressed unless you’re carrying concealed.

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I would be even slower getting out of the house if I had to remember my firearm.

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Perhaps this one would fit in my handbag.

But even if you’re sure you have everything and your easy to conceal gun is loaded, it’s not easy to leave the house. Did you put the bin out for the dustmen, are all the doors locked, lights, gas turned off, toilets flushed, dog in, cat out, goldfish fed, plants watered. Interior doors closed in case fire rips through the house, burglar alarm set. We don’t have a burglar alarm, but I’m sure that would add more minutes and stress to getting out the door.

And as you finally close the front door and turn round to look at your home you realise there’s a window wide open upstairs. There’s  a big black cloud looming and you haven’t got your umbrella, but that’s okay, because as you re-enter the house you realise the baby is still in the high chair, so the cat must be in the pram.

October Outing – Stourhead

Last week we went on what could be the ultimate autumnal outing, certainly for those of us who haven’t been to New England in the fall. Thanks to modern weather forecasting the predicted blue skies and sunshine made the gardens of Stourhead picture perfect. It was a little early for nature and photography experts, the trees had not reached their full colour potential, but when a gentle breeze sends golden beech leaves floating to the ground it is like pennies from heaven and perhaps this is the closest to heaven on earth most of us will get.

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Like most National Trust properties and other great houses and castles that you pay to enter, you are sealed off from real life. There is no traffic except the gardeners’ tractor and trailer, no traffic noise, no building work going on, no homeless people to remind you of the darker side of life and little likelihood of being mugged or caught up in a street riot. Your children can safely run around, as long as they don’t fall into the lake…  Everybody is there to enjoy nature or a healthy walk. I guess there is always the chance a fight will erupt between photographers spoiling each other’s view, perhaps the loser rolling down the manicured lawns into the lake; that would make a good story, but it didn’t happen on our visit.

Fortunately patience prevailed at the archway to the house. Two Japanese ladies left behind by their party were admiring the masses of red leaves of the Virginia Creeper that smothered the stone arch. They kept rearranging themselves to photograph each other and also seemed to examine each leaf in detail. Meanwhile on one side was Cyberspouse with his camera and on the bank opposite a couple of photographers waiting for the ladies to move out of the way. I like taking pictures with people in, but I guess the others had to wait until next autumn.

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Inside the house, phones were to be switched off, bags left in lockers and no flash photography. My point and shoot compact has a habit of switching its flash back on so I only managed one quick picture of the library before one of the volunteers started telling me how they cleaned the books with pony hair brushes, then suck the dust away with a mini vacuum cleaner. But I did ask the important questions readers and writers would want to know. Did the family of old read all these books? Yes, this was their learning and entertainment centre and only a few books have been found with the pages still uncut at the edges. Does anyone still read them? Yes you can apply. What is the oldest book? ‘Oh dear, I never remember’ said the lady, then called up to an elderly gentleman perched precariously on top of a ladder – one of the hazards of having book shelves that go up to the ceiling. He wobbled down to tell me the answer, a German manuscript of 1591.

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The Hoare family who created the house and beautiful gardens were bankers. Henry ‘the good’ bought Stourton Manor and medieval buildings were replaced by a Palladian villa, but he died in 1724, a year before the house was completed. Henry the Magnificent’s nickname was earned by the landscape vision he created in his garden. With hills, water and classical architecture overlaid by a fabulous collection of trees and shrubs, Stourhead was described as ‘a living work of art’ when it first opened in the 1740s. Henry died in 1785, but like all altruistic planters of trees he could not know how his gardens would look over two centuries later.

You can walk all round the lake, created by damming the River Stour which flows sixty miles to Christchurch harbour. Stop to admire follies, temples and the grotto as well as the views, then return to the Spread Eagle Inn to enjoy refreshments.

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A Tale of Two Sons


Writers are not alone in observing people, pondering on their background story, or even inventing a whole life and family for them. I wonder how wrong our assumptions might be.

Out and about on holiday I saw two very different lives, two very different sons. Thanks to modern technology and perhaps thanks to fund raising friends or rich relatives, the disabled are able to get out and about more easily than ever.

Wheelchairs for those who cannot walk, or cannot walk far have been superseded by bespoke motorised thrones controlled by touch pads for the severely disabled.

Sitting outside a coffee shop, enjoying lunch and the scenery, the table next to us was soon occupied by a young man, perhaps still a teenager, and his carer, or was it his mother? He was a cheerful chap despite his obvious limitations. Chatting to them, they were locals having a regular but simple treat, coffee in a cup with a straw for the young man and a chocolate muffin shared with his mother. Then the son told us proudly he was leaving home tomorrow, his mother cheered, they both had a sense of humour. He was going to the National Star College near Cheltenham, a further education college for the disabled.

However dependent they are, however loving their families, I’m sure most disabled young adults want to be independent and move away from home when they choose, the same as anybody else. I wonder what the future will hold for that young man?

The next day found us at an air museum, where outside and in the hangars there was plenty of room and level access. I spotted a boy skipping alongside his father’s motorised chariot. Strangely, everywhere I wandered I kept seeing them and couldn’t help wondering whether disease or disaster had left the father so disabled.

At lunchtime they turned up near our table and someone brought them over huge plates of fish and chips that neither could possibly manage. The staff behind the self service counter had been particularly bored and uninterested when we were getting our food, so I hoped they had shown some patience and empathy with the father and son. All along I had been expecting a mother or wife to appear, or at least a responsible adult, but they sat alone at the table. We should not make assumptions about how independent disabled people are.

There was plenty to see and they were still exploring late into the afternoon. The son looked a cheerful cheeky lad, but obviously a child who could be trusted not to run off and get lost; a child most parents would be delighted with, who did not get bored, whine or beg to go to the gift shop. I wondered what the future held for them.