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A heavenly summer?

As the heatwave continues it is weird to see my neighbours’ children living my own vivid recollections of the long dry summer of 1976. I lug my tatty plastic watering can around the garden every evening, and I catch myself wishing that the pinkening sunset sky would at least have a go at gathering a few clouds to produce a shower overnight. Typical – never satisfied! (Post script – it has now rained which is perhaps why I have managed to summon up the energy to finish this post.)

We are lucky that our house remains tolerably cool, at least in parts, but we also had the chance to escape the London suburbs twice in the past couple of weeks.

Firstly, we drive for four hours to the Norfolk coast for a weekend with Mr J’s cousin and his wife in their static caravan. We are thus transplanted immediately (well, after four hours of driving, which I suppose is not technically immediate) into a whole new world. My previous experience of static caravan parks has been a little dispiriting; an appearance over the latest coastal ridge of sprawling white boxes covering a once rolling green sward offending my sense of natural beauty as I march endlessly on my South West Coast Path mission.

Here, however, I am predisposed to enjoy the generous invitation and we are swept through the entry gate in VIP style, attaching our “We’ve checked in” dangly sign to our rear-view mirror and carefully following our host through the winding site roads to the quiet corner where his home-from-home is located.

The site is enormous and I am immediately disorientated, unlikely ever to find my way back to the entrance I fear. I later disprove this theory and manage a walk unaccompanied to view the beach and sea. 

A tired reveller?

Inside the ‘caravan’ is a full Tardis experience, and a gentle (no, actually, quite a brutal) reminder that it is possible to keep a place completely box-fresh and beautiful even when spending considerable time in it. Whilst this place is not old, it has been used by our hosts and their offspring and young grandchildren for at least two seasons – and has not a scuff-mark or breakage to show for it. I secretly dread to think what this couple thought of my own scuzzy abode when they stayed with us a few years ago. Even though we had a weekly cleaner back then (and ok, I am not completely unhygienic or untidy even now), our place must have seemed terribly ‘tired’.

More importantly, this ‘caravan’ accommodation is attractive and comfortable. Our nearest comparison is the selection of rented recreational vehicles /mobile homes in which we have occasionally holidayed over the years. This is in a different league entirely. Also, it becomes obvious very quickly that we are not expected to lift a finger all weekend other than our trigger fingers on the pre-booked rifle range activity.

Caister beach accessed from the caravan park

A delightfully care-free and chat-filled weekend ensues. We are not tempted in the slightest to invest in a second property of any sort (lord knows, dealing with the one home we already have is more than enough), but we can completely see why this particular investment by Cousin P is such a hit.

A few days after our return from Norfolk, we embark (literally) on a narrow-boat adventure in the wilds of Surrey with our adult offspring. We have form for this sort of thing, having dragged the unfortunate progeny up and down various canals in France when they were teenagers, resulting in Daughter J’s only reliable French phrase (‘Ne sautez pas dans l’écluse. C’est très dangereux!’ as a result of my yelling this angrily at foolhardy French youths) and an enduring nightmarish memory of Son J’s ‘incident’ with a lock-paddle handle (best not go there) – but this was to be a gentle way of spending a day together loosely in honour of Mr J’s birthday which occurs sometime around this time of year. 

A Jillings operated lock

I decide to avoid the narrow-boat crew briefing on the basis that I am perfectly capable of steering such a craft (probably) and all the other crew family members are bigger and stronger than me, and should therefore do most of the work. I make a desultory attempt at decanting some of the food and drink from our various cold boxes and bags, but discover the on-board fridge is maxed out by only a fraction of our generous comestible rations, and go for the ‘they’ll be alright where they are’ option and instead test out the seating arrangements.

Once under way, we all revert to our ‘en famille’ norms – Mr J at the helm, Mrs J floating aimlessly around whilst Son and Daughter lark about a bit. In fact, the locks are negotiated splendidly with very little ‘sautez-ing’ and certainly none actually into the écluse. I find I am less fretful than on previous occasions, trusting that these young adults will likely have more sense and coordination than their younger selves. Daughter J is sporting very stylish canary-yellow trews and white blouse, which she miraculously manages to keep clean despite energetically operating lock-gates, sitting on the grassy banks and generally clambering around as required. Remarkable! Whose child actually is she?

I allow the others to take turns at the helm and my sole boating contribution is to hang onto a rope whilst we are rising or falling in the locks, and throw (rather well on this occasion) or catch (rather less reliably than throwing) same rope as needed. 

‘Viking’ hired from Farncombe Boat House

The views alongside the Wey Navigation are gorgeous and we spot a kingfisher, at least one heron and many many dragonflies – along with geese and cattle and the occasional tow-path rambling or SUP-ing human. A few other narrow-boats are out and we share locks several times with one – all amicable. We encounter a couple of lively groups of children, prompting the use of the French phrase under our breaths a few times but no need to use out loud, and one spectacularly stupid youth jumping from the very top of a large tree into the water, fortunately without serious consequence.

Lunch is a triumph as I wheel out a seemingly endless supply of dreadful picnic foodstuffs – until we realise that there is far too much for the small deck table (which I single-handedly assemble, to no cries of congratulation at all, which is a slight disappointment) and some of the tastier-looking items are less appetising than anticipated. No doubt when I am next required to provide a picnic spread I will make exactly the same mistakes again – I am quite predictable in this way.

A lovely day is had by all and the offspring return to their respective over-warm homes up in the smoke while Mr J and I collapse in front of the television in clammy suburbia.

As I record this, I realise that I am rhapsodising (I just checked and that IS a word) more than usual about these recent events.

From further memory delving, I now understand why.

On our first evening in Norfolk, my Fitbit had some sort of actual fit and ate its own battery. It buzzed and displayed peculiar messages but my random pressing of its many invisible buttons had no effect. By Saturday lunchtime it had given up the ghost completely and, as I had not thought to take the very specific charger it needs (because it should not have needed charging), it spent the remainder of the weekend in darkened silence on my wrist where it had to stay because I would otherwise have revealed the lily white strap mark I have allowed to develop there. Not cool.

So now, according to Fitbit, I have been defunct since Saturday … and thus presumably all of my subsequent events, activities and thoughts have been heavenly.

Hmm. Perhaps it’s just the heat.



My last post ended on a hope that my Fitbit would win out, and I would continue to achieve a high step-count.

Perhaps this is an unfair analysis, but I’m doing pretty well so far. Having reached the grand old age of 60, I immediately set off on a trip which encompassed:

  • the visiting of an old friend who has somehow transformed himself into the lord of the manor in rural Worcestershire (a very grown-up position),
  • the wedding of my nephew, including the gender reveal of the happy couple’s expected infant at the reception, and
  • a walking holiday in Cornwall.

The first two of these did not assist my step-count much at all, although yomping around the Worcestershire estate went some of the way towards it, but they made me feel that I was at the more senior end of the population. However, the walking has been spectacular and will keep my averages up for some time to come.

Hurrah once again for retirement.

Don’t run in your mask

I had a lovely afternoon and evening yesterday. I travelled up to London on the train, alighting at Vauxhall and walking along the river, through Parliament Square and then St James’ and Green Parks to get to Piccadilly Circus where I met a couple of friends for cocktails and dinner. We were at Brasserie Zédel (and its Bar Américain beforehand) which were both fabulous.

Slight hiccup on entry – I initially failed the temperature test. There’s something about a fringe-and-mask-and-spectacles combo that these machines really don’t like. After a little face-furniture reorg, I registered an acceptable result.

Although I imagine the pandemic is causing management plenty of issues, the reduction in the number of tables made for a more spacious experience for us. We’d booked a table, but arrived in the Bar on spec. Our experience was seamless. I suppose I should expect no less, but it’s still nice when it all works out. We were collected when our table booking time arrived and we paid for everything at the end. There was even some live music, and we had excellent service (from behind the masks of course). It’s strange having to put on masks to move between the spaces, or to go to the Ladies etc. Particularly strange to see good friends attired like this for the first time, their lives affected just the same as mine in this respect, despite all our other varied experiences of lockdown which of course formed part of our chatty catch-up.

I noticed as we left that there was some live performance happening in the Crazy Coqs space too. Ah – remembering a previous visit there last year.

Trying to get an arty pic of the London Eye and the moon.

Having said my distanced goodbyes and once again avoiding the bus or tube, I walked to Waterloo Station for my return journey. I dallied on Golden Jubilee Bridge to take photographs of the moon, and finally arrived at Waterloo, marvelling at how easy it was to cross the road with the reduced traffic these days.

Once inside the station, all be-masked as per the rules, I noticed there were precisely two minutes until my next train departed. I was the wrong side of the station. I set off at a gallop, negotiating other mask-wearers careering towards me on similar missions, and miraculously made it onto the train with about 10 seconds to spare before the doors closed. Hurrah!

Then realised that I could no longer breathe.

I think by the time I reached Clapham Junction (two stops, in case you haven’t used this line endlessly for 30+ years as I have) I had just about determined that I would not, after all, pass out or die.

My Fitbit has awarded me all sorts of things for this.

Getting all technical

Today marks one week since I started using a new Fitbit. I now have a Charge 4 which has replaced my old Alta HR. This one is less attractive I feel – rather larger and blacker – but I am able to configure it with an easily readable clock face which also displays key data of my choosing (albeit absolutely minuscule, but just about visible through my varifocals).

I realise that I am a complete nerd with my stats, so I am watching carefully to see what has changed – if anything – by a) using the new device instead of the old one and b) switching it to my left wrist. I always wore the Alta on my right wrist because when I originally bought it, I still wore a nice watch on my left. I am ambidextrous so  although I fessed up to the Alta being on my dominant wrist (I write with my right hand), and have now told the App that I am wearing the Charge 4 on my non-dominant hand, I don’t expect to see much difference. The main ‘over-counts’ in the past were peeling potatoes and hair-brushing, and frankly I don’t do enormous amounts of either. We wait to see if any exciting stats come out of my increased focus over the next months.

Given that I have spent the past week or so eating out more and scoffing various birthday gifts of fudge/choc/marzipan etc, I am targeting a much higher daily calorie count in the coming weeks to compensate, so it’s nice to have a new toy to play with for added motivation.

As it happens, I am also in full-on technical mode today, having spent a random couple of hours successfully (I think) working out how to add a Follow button to this website. I have long wondered why it didn’t magically have one (my travel blog seemed to come equipped with one without any assistance from me – see here if you want to read that one – rather quiet since lockdown of course), but it seems because I use a website for onecryingeye rather than a simple blog and chose a different host, there was rather more for me to do to make it happen. But I did, and I am now feeling inordinately smug.

And hoping that now I will garner enormous numbers of followers. That’s just asking for trouble, and disappointment, but hey. Can’t just write for myself forever can I?

Pounding pavements

I’ve spent the last few days using an App to track my walking trips. Whilst I’ve been a slave to Fitbit for years, I thought I’d like to see those little maps of my walks, like I see friends posting from Strava on their Facebook pages. I do not want to post mine anywhere (er, probably…), but am keen to have a record of my perambulations around the neighbourhood in these continuing strange times for my own reference.

I am using Endomondo – the free version. I don’t need bells and whistles – just so long as I have a map and it creates a nice one plus some simple stats.

I’ve also already been awarded two gold cups. These leave me cold, to be honest, although sometimes prompt me to share with my husband so he too can be suitably unimpressed that I went further than ever before (on Day 3 of use – hahaha). Fitbit has given up awarding me things – I reckon I’m past it now, but no doubt I will soon have walked to the moon and back so perhaps they’ll let me know when I do.

In addition to checking my progress mile by mile – which annoyingly interrupts my podcast or audiobook whilst I’m marching along (note to self, there must be a way of switching this bit off – research needed) – I have an extra distraction this week: spotting all the different inspection covers in the pavements! Oh dear – I really wish I was not doing this, but one of my friends has taken to posting pictures on social media of these covers in unusual places (well, in Richmond Park where you might expect it to be more wild). Someone commented that there should always be an indication on the cover of what lies beneath – hence I keep glancing more closely at the wretched things as I go past. I will stop this soon (I hope).

Anyhow, I am pleased to report that I have achieved the following*:

  • Thursday 5.07 miles in 1 hour 31 minutes
  • Friday 4.74 miles in 1 hour 27 minutes
  • Saturday 6.18 miles in 2 hours 1 minute
  • Sunday 4.63 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes (split in two ambles)
  • Today 5 miles exactly in 1 hour 41 minutes (some of it hiding under a tree in the rain – yes I know that’s not a good idea but the thunder didn’t arrive till later)
  • In total I have seen 473** manhole or inspection covers

*I promise not to share this again

**this is a completely made-up number (otherwise known as a lie) but I have certainly seen a lot.

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