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.
Christmas rolled round at our place with long phone calls home, pressies opened, a few friends over and a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings, plenty of mulled wine & whisky. We had all been hoping for a white Christmas and as much as it was cold enough it was a beautiful, fine day. It did snow a couple of times while we were here but never enough to last a day.
The All blacks arrived in November, so the whole kiwi contingency (with a few other internationals) went to the game at Murrayfield then into the grassmarket to celebrate the win, where we saw our “boys” who after playing a fine game had had the same idea and hit the town.
Our house warming coincided with Halloween and a costume party was a must, it was a grizzly night with lots of scary people and a nasty punch which tasted far to good to be healthy for you.