This was a big rugby month with the AB’s playing England and Wales, we got tickets for the AB’s v’s Wales at Cardiff, Thornton stayed for the weekend and we picked up Mark and Tony up on the way to the game in our NEW CAR, which for £100 was a bargain (even if we had to change a tyre on the way home because it had a nasty bulge) AB’s did us proud even though the game itself wasn’t all that exciting. After the match we headed into the city for a few beers and a bite to eat soaking up the Welsh atmosphere who even though had lost were still in high spirits. Now we have a car there’s no stopping us first we’re off to Stonehenge via Old Sarum which we found because we got a bit lost and went the wrong way but this is a cool ruin of a castle near Salisbury. We also went off to search for the white kiwi, like the white horses but was made by kiwi solders stationed here during the war. After finding the town (the kiwi pub and Picton Kiwi Barracks gave it away) we headed up the hill doing a bit of off roading which we both decided wasn’t such a great idea even if it was fun. Never actually saw it but the locals said it was there. To end the day we stopped in Marlborough for tea & scones with jam and clotted cream – very nice.
Another wedding this time in Bremen, Germany, Kiki’s home town. We flew into Hamburg where Richard & Kiki picked us up before we met up with other family/friends going to the wedding, Kiki gave us a walking tour of Hamburg before heading off to Bremen with a quick stop at her parents before going to our hotel. Next day we went to the civil service for her brother and his new wife (double wedding) before doing a bit of site seeing and of course enjoying a Becks (Bremen is the home of Becks and also the fable the town minstrels of Bremen). That night we met up with the rest of the Edinburgh crowd for dinner, drinks and clubbing getting home at some horrible hour. Lucky the wedding was in the afternoon as we all got up late with just enough time to scrub up and jump on the bus to take us to the church. The service was lovely and even though in German you got the jist of it, the couples left the church to lots of red balloons being released then it was on to the champagne reception where bubbly was had by all and the cutting of the cake was done. Photos of everyone were taken before we jumped on the bus to be taken to the evening reception for cocktails, live music and a fabulous dinner – the desert was a stage show in itself with fireworks and everything. Next came the usual dancing but with a few German traditions as well, also every a a piece of a picture to paint on a canvas for the couples as well as a recipe book made with recipes from each guest and we all got a post card to send on a certain date so they get one a week for a year. Unfortunately we had to head home the next day so we caught a double decker train to Hamburg and then the airport bus back to catch our flight home.
Didn’t I get spoilt for my birthday, apart from getting loads of pressies Ian surprised me with dinner at the Manor House a very exclusive hotel in Castle Combe which was absolutely lovely and silver service all the way. A friend from work invited us to her wedding in Wales, so we joined the convoy down to Pembroke where we were welcomed with good old Welsh hospitality – I’m sure the owner of the pub where we stayed had been on the piss since the day before, it sure was a laugh talking to him. We all got dolled up and headed to the reception for dinner, drinks and dancing. Next day we took the scenic route home via Pembroke castle and Temby beach.
Manchester held this years commonwealth games and luckily we managed to get tickets to the Rugby 7’s semi finals and the final of the Netball, both of which the kiwis had made it through and in the 7’s actually won. The netball was one of the most exciting games I have seen, even the blokes got right into it and were yelling even louder than us girls. We had Lots of visitors this month with Ian’s parents, Martin and Hillary, staying for 3 weeks, Aaron and Vicky poping in for a night before starting their Europe trek and also Brett and Jill came down from Edinburgh for a weekend. This meant doing all the touristy things the South West has to offer including Stonehenge, a maize maze (here I must mention in the girls v’s boys race the GIRLS won), Haynes museum (a must for blokes), Bath, Avebury, Lacock etc etc….. This was a good opportunity to get the old BBQ out and for Ian to show off his culinary skills, hope everyone liked well done!
It was time to visit Edinburgh so we hired a car for the weekend and drove up for Richard and Kiki’s leaving drinks – it was good to be back in the social circle again and the weekend was spent eating, drinking, and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Before we left Scotland we stopped in Aird, where Ian’s mum was born and visited the church where his grandmother Molly is buried. Richard and Kiki dropped in for a night on their way to Germany where they plan to live for the next few years – guess the phone bill will be getting bigger!
The Queens jubilee gave us a 4 day weekend and an excuse to hire a car to trip about, Saturday was spent in Woodstock at Blenheim palace where Winston Churchill was born, the palace was very elaborate and the gardens perfection, the, maze however was a little disappointing and looked a bit scruffy. We then carried on to Oxford for a bit of shopping and an evening row on the river Thames before dinner with Karen & Gavin. Sunday had us heading off south to Wookey hole caves and paper making factory I have to admit these cave even rival Waitomo and our guide was brilliant. Next we headed to Chedder but it was so manic with people we just kept on trucking to our destination for the night, the Golant YHA. Here we saw our first Badgers who get fed by the chefs every night, solid little critters, a bit on the shy side. The following day we headed (quite by accident) to Goonhilly earth station, with 40 satellite dishes this is the most important communications link in Britain, all I could think about is that Aussie movie “the dish” with Sam Neill and them playing cricket in the dish. We then got back on the right track to St Michaels Mount, the tides weren’t with us so we had to catch a ferry rather than walk to the island then a short walk to the top to check out the castle. Penanze and Mousehole was next befor heading to Lands End which was the biggest disappointment as it so commercial with a monster of a building and charges to get in – I had expected to see lonely rugged cliffs with a walking track. Home was calling so we headed back to a good nights sleep, the next day had us driving round Bristol with me getting very frustrated as we kept driving round in circles getting lost, but we eventually found the places we were looking for.
We needed transport so off the the bike shop to purchase, and I hate to say but matching bikes, then we were off cycling to Avebury, Lacock, Calne and all around Chippenham. Never thought I’d be hitting 30 and still cycling!! just keep telling myself it’s good for me especially since Ian’s thinks every ride is a race!
In April I finally got a permanent job, in the South West of England so now the threesome has become a twosome with Ian & I moving down to Chippenham and leaving Brett in Edinburgh – but not before a great night out with all the friends we had made during our time in Edinburgh, our new friends most of which will remain close made this period in our lives special, thanks to you all. Our first day in Chippenham was so successful, Ian found temporary work, we found our house which is a riot of colour and suited us perfectly it even has a back yard!!, found where I was to work and the bus to get there. The hire car was to be dropped off in Bath, this is a beautiful town, we walked around taking it all in then grabbed a coffee & headed to the gardens where we sat under a large cherry tree and enjoyed our surroundings. Our first purchase was a couple of bikes – cycles that is & I hate to admit that they are matching! but this gave us the freedom of the road albeit the short road. Our first trip was to Avebury where the village is surrounded by standing stones, after a pub lunch and visit to the museum it was time to head back a nice round 34 mile trip – maybe a bit adventurous for our first ride or so my body felt the next day. The following weekend we cycled to Laycock Abbey, checked out the Fox Talbot photography museum and the abbey itself.
Finally the 3 of us got round to a weekend in the highlands, travelling up the west coast stopping at Inverness for the night and returning down the east side, bit of a rushed trip but a lot of sights seen. We travelled through Glasgow & up along Loch Lomond, stopping for lunch in Glen Coe before continuing along Loch Linnhe to Fort William, here we checked out the museum. Taking a short detour we went to the monument of Glenfinnan then back to the main road via Neptune’s staircase (canal locks) along Loch Lochy and Loch Ness (no sign of Nessy, must have been the rain!). Stopped at Urquhart castle – unfortunately we were sightseeing out of season and the castle was closed, and finally arrived in Inverness, were we checked out the castle, found a B&B and promptly went out for dinner. Found a great place where Ian had the most amazing Aberdeen angus steak ever tasted, and Brett and my meals were pretty damn good too. The next day we were up early and off to Culloden for a morning stroll through the past, it’s a very sad place. We were off to Fort George after that and then to Aviemore & up the Cairngorm ski slopes, Ian & I went up the mountain only to have it snow so we never saw the view. Continuing on to Perth we stopped at Jill’s (Brett’s girlfriend & Ian’s workmate) folks place to pick her up before carrying on across the forth bridge back to Edinburgh, all of us pretty tired by this stage.
Next came Hogmanay (New Years) Lee came up from London for the occasion and we headed off to Princes St which had been closed off with bands set up at various points, 2 big screens, fireworks, and other entertainment. It was BYO so we had filled up our platypus bottles with drink enough to sustain us till after midnight, which came all too rapidly with all of us singing Auld Lang Syne in our best Scottish accents. The 25th of January is a big date for Scots with the annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796) so we headed off to a Burns Supper at the Queensferry arms. On our entrance a lone piper played till we were seated at our table, the programme started with the “Selkirk grace” and followed by “To a haggis” where our supper (the haggis) was piped in and then stabbed passionately by the poem reader. Supper followed – the main course being “haggis with clapshot n whisky sauce”, after which was songs and poems then a lively Ceilidh, which reminded me of when I was at primary school & had to do the Virginia reel, I don’t think my co-ordination has improved much with time, but it was a great laugh and even the boys started to enjoy it.