Sunday, 15 October 2017

God Was In His Heaven

The sun shone, God was in his Heaven, The 1st XV won, and all around was the company of good men. I took Dad to the rugby club yesterday and it made me feel glad to be alive and to be part of the brotherhood that is Aston Old Edwardians. We are far from consistently perfect but the small moments of perfection still thrill me.

Where is rugby football at? Well, the administrators in their attempts to confect things for television have bound themselves into an injury crisis born of the supposed ingenuity of coaching. The way I was taught to tackle by that great man of Neath Ray John (still going strong - I saw him earlier this week) has become unfashionable, notwithstanding that it is the safest and most effective way of grounding an opponent. Oh well, what do I know?
not actual gameplay footage

To continue the theme of satisfying experiences, today I have cut the lawn. Stripes a-go-go.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Back On The Chain Gang Again

Holiday well and truly over. Post-holiday sulking almost over, situation not assisted by the bloody right calf straining itself when out for a run on Tuesday. Doesn't seem too bad, certainly not as marked as the repeated injuries I used to suffer, but all intimations of mortality are unwelcome. Particularly unwelcome as the wider Aston Edwardian community tries to negotiate two significant deaths.

Harold Jessop was described to me (by a man who would know) as 'the first modern school teacher'. But he was so much more than that - as a rugby master he inspired umpteen generations and was counted by the genius that is Gary Street as his greatest influence. But above all else, he was a complete and unmediated gentleman. He led a full life but the world is nonetheless harsher for his passing.

Terry Green was another schoolmaster, not one who taught at Aston but a man who played his rugby at Aston Old Edwardians - an inspired and beguiling captain of lower teams, an urbane referee, and a cheerful and always encouraging chairman of the club in my year of captaincy. He was serving as a governor at School when he was taken too soon from us. His funeral was a celebration of a life well-lived, and definitely the only such occasion I have encountered where an Elvis impersonator was part of the proceedings. Beautiful. Terry was one of the two most artfully amusing men I have known - both are now dead. As I've had cause to quote before: ' I have the only cure for life/ and the cure life is joy/ I'm the crying man that everyone calls laughing boy.'

Saturday, 7 October 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 9

We're back at home now after a drive that couldn't have been much different from the difficult journey up to Northumberland. Then we seemed to be in one traffic jam occupying most of Yorkshire whereas yesterday we sailed home with minimal delay. We had pizza for tea to ward off post-holiday blues. I washed it down with a nice chianti.

Our penultimate full day on holiday took us to Alnwick Castle. Fabulous - don't be tempted to do the garden and the castle together in one afternoon. If you must do both on the same day, make sure it is a full day. The state rooms in the castle are particularly impressive - monumental spaces and magnificent art on the walls. Also some of the most knowledgeable and approachable room attendants known to man. As you can probably tell I really liked the place. Hats off to the resident Percy family who seem to me to be handling their great good fortune with an appropriate touch. Oh, and don't worry - they don't overdo the Harry Potter connection.
Dining Room at Alnwick Castle

Our last day took in some beach walks in high winds and an evening meal at the Potted Lobster in Bamburgh. Bloody good, most particularly the salt chilli squid I had as a starter - The Potted Lobster

Final thoughts - Northumberland, a magical county, particularly in the lucky weather we encountered. I have had a monopoly over the company of the Groupie for a fortnight and that can make a magical place seem even more enchanted. Am I glad to be back in the luxuries of home? Not quite yet, but I'm getting there. And anyway we're making a very swift run up to Anglesey tonight to see how the installation of new kitchen and bathroom is going. Not exactly the Percy family but we should count our blessings.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 8

Back to Cragside today, not to revisit the house but to attempt to do justice to the massive estate. You could quite profitably spend the best part of a week getting to know the forests and lakes. There is a six mile road around the estate with numerous parking areas with intersecting walks commencing in them. We found time to do five walks from four of the car parks. Best views are from the Maroon Trail from the Crozier Car Park. What a place.
What a place
We indulged our habit of breaking the journey back here to have a pint of Black Sheep and a large sauvignon blanc at the Victoria Inn. Also a delicious but unnecessary portion of chunky chips. This really is a great part of the world. Gavi going down nicely - will be eating hunter's chicken shortly. As little orphan Annie used to say - it's a hard knock life.

Monday, 2 October 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 7

Kelso Abbey
We conducted a whistlestop tour of the Scottish Borders today, pride of place going to Kelso which (and I may be miles wide of the mark here because I have done no research) exudes an atmosphere of dignified affluence, nowhere better exemplified than in the strikingly well maintained Garden of Remembrance. Kelso may very well be the pie capital of the world - only £1.10 for a chicken curry pie, this a full seventeen pence less than the excellent chicken and mushroom pie I had in Alnwick last week. Can we take these prices home with us please?

We crossed back into England for dinner and on that subject I have some exciting news for you. It is official, OG has spoken and the Groupie will verify his claim - Lewis's in Seahouses is the best chip shop in the world. Yes even better than the Golden Fry in Benllech. Fabulous chips and divine haddock. Fizzy wine for pudding I think.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 6

Yesterday back to Alnwick but this time to visit the Alnwick Garden, a modern wonder of creativity and monumentalism.
The Grand Cascade at the Alnwick Garden
Today has been one of sporadic rain and high winds but in the face of my lethargy I plodded for four miles this morning. Coupled with our walk this afternoon from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle I now feel ready for pesto pasta and vinous accompaniment. Judging by the clatter of bottles we delivered to the bottle bank at Craster we have been doing well by the vintners of the world.  I'm also doing my bit for brewers - two pints of Black Sheep at the Jolly Sailor in Craster. Bosting.

A two week holiday still doesn't feel like enough to do justice to this fabulous area. It's a hard life being me.

Friday, 29 September 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 5

Unwooded, ergo imitation chablis
Two days to report. First up we went to Warkworth. Cracking castle, cracking beach. Northumberland really is, well, cracking. On our way back to base camp here in Bamburgh we had a couple of false starts in sourcing an impromptu early dinner (it is out of peak season after all and publicans have better things to do than keep kitchen staff primed for stray Brummies) but got lucky when we found the Joiners Arms at Newton-by-the-Sea. Now styling yourself a "gastropub" can be a hostage to fortune but they carried it off. Only slightly flaccid chips stopped this being a full-on five star encounter. The Groupie and I shared a stellar baked camembert, served with rustic toast. None of the components is difficult to produce passably but to get it as right as this deserves plaudits. Interesting wine list also, including a Chilean unwooded chardonnay, Campesino 2016. A nice change from habitual sauvignon blanc. Altogether worthy of a detour - Joiners Arms

We awoke to rain today, the first daylight precipitation we have seen. This suggested a take it easy sort of  a day so that is what we did. We ventured to Alnwick so that I could indulge my passion for second-hand books - Barter Books in Alnwick is simply bloody enormous. A good outing for me - found a first edition of Friends In Low Places by Simon Raven to add to my unimpressive collection. Also picked up a massive biography of Don Bradman and an early Piers Paul Read - I do love my catholic authors. After taking in downtown Alnwick we accidentally (well we knew we were going somewhere but we weren't aways sure which somewhere it would turn out to be) lighted upon Alnmouth. Quelle surprise, another cracking beach.

Tonight I will mostly be drinking malbec while the Groupie takes part in a terribly important conference call. I must say I'm rather glad that 'Dave the Mogul Years' is behind me.