Saturday, 24 August 2019

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

What an awesome night out I had in Bicester last Sunday - significantly better than many of the ones I had when I was actually living there. I think this is one benefit of moving around - you make new friends wherever you go but the ones you made where you were before welcome you back with open arms when you return.

The pessimist in me might suggest that people were only so pleased to see me because having been absent for almost two years they might have forgotten what a pain in the arse I am! The optimist in me hopes that's not the case and I am not actually one of those people who gets gets described as "alright in small doses" behind their back. I'm sure there is an element of absence making the heart grow fonder but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I had chosen this particular Sunday to revisit my old stamping ground after receiving an invitation to a Christening. My friends, Anne and Mark, had recently had a new baby, something that in itself had been news to me due to my sparse use of social media these days. I had completely missed the fact that Anne had been pregnant with baby Bevyn and that she had given birth until a chance meeting in Sainsbury in Bicester a couple of months ago. When I saw her pushing a buggy with a baby inside I asked whose baby it was. When she replied "mine" I realised how out of touch I am. But it was a nice surprise. Sometimes it's nice not to know everything that's going on so going off radar is not necessarily a bad thing.

Thankfully she wasn't offended so when the invite came along I was only too delighted to accept. When it later transpired that my dear friend Laura was celebrating her birthday out on the same evening, I knew I had picked the right date to return home.

The Christening itself was lovely, as these things always are, giving me a chance to reconnect with a lot of people I hadn't seen in a very long time. I can't even try to mention everyone here, there are so many, and if I try I am  bound to offend the one person I'll forget so quite simply, thank-you everyone I spent time with that afternoon. And, yes, Funky Mike, I have subscribed to your YouTube channel!

It was effortless to slip so easily back into conversations with people even after years of absence and if that's not a true test of long standing friendship, I don't know what is.

In the evening, after what I believe is colloquially known as a "cheeky Nando's"  I went to the karaoke at The White Hart, a night I founded over a decade ago when the pub was about half the size it is now. Today it is in the capable hands of Charlee and the night was everything I had hoped it would be. The drink flowed as I enjoyed moments with more friends of so many years standing. It was one of those nights that you hope will never end and without doubt the best night I have had out this year. Again I reflected that time doesn't dampen friendship, as the time apart I've spent from these people has made the bond stronger if anything. We may not have spoken and my fleeting Facebook time again means I may not have liked their statuses or commented on their posts as I simply haven't seen them but as I've said time and time again, that isn't how I think friendship ought to be measured. It's what you do in the real world that counts. And last Sunday I got to spend quality time with some really special people who know who they are. I promise I won't leave it so long next time.

Now I am back home in Evesham, the new town I've come to call home and I went out last night to enjoy a few drinks with some of the friends I have made here these past couple of years. It's still early days and I don't have a shared history with the people here, but I firmly believe if you're friendly, approachable and make an effort to integrate, local people wherever you go will accept you, and you can build friendships with them. But you do have to make that effort, even if it's daunting walking into a new pub for the first time or entering a playground to pick up the kids at a new school where you know absolutely no-one. I was bold on my first day at Jamie's new school and walked straight up to two people and started talking to them. We're still chatting two years on. It's like anything in life - you have to put the effort in and step out of your comfort zone sometimes. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have the amazing back catalogue of friends I have built up through my life, moving from place to place, job to job and pub to pub! If you're reading this, chances are I met you somewhere along this amazing journey we call life and if you've been a part of mine - thank-you!

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Devon delights

We're enjoying a well deserved break down in Devon this week and I do feel justified in saying well deserved. It's a phrase I see bandied about rather a lot but everyone in the family has worked really hard this year at work and school to move things forward and we really have earned this trip.

I know I haven't posted endless details of what we've been doing all over Facebook but seriously who wants to see all that constantly anyway? I could post endlessly about how well the kids did at parent's evening, how well my latest book's doing and all that gubbins, but honestly, do people really want to see all that stuff? Too much of that gets you unfollowed faster than you can #hashtag your latest check in of where you're having your dinner - yes we get it - you're eating out tonight whilst the rest of us are at home. Good for you.

This is why I rarely post to Facebook at all now, let's be honest it's all getting a bit old hat. I'd far rather chew the fat with my neighbours in the street or with a few pals down the pub than document the minutiae of my daily life online. I probably post once or twice a week now - there is also this blog of course, but my contributions are increasingly rare - that's what a busy life does for you. I'm only writing this now because I've found the time late at night on holiday (fuelled by a local brew I picked up from Skinner's brewery in Truro).

I've been on a bit of a fitness drive lately, determined not to allow my waist size to keep up with my age any longer so have been doing ten laps, twice a a day of Charity Brook park on my bike. I was worried I might lose the slight fitness gain I have made due to not being able to cycle whilst away but need not have worried. Ilfracombe is very hilly and so are many other places we have visited. There are steep climbs everywhere which is just the job to keep things in check. This is just as well considering the inevitable seaside diet of fish and chips and ice cream.

We've been eating out most evenings finding some really nice eateries in the area but I have been again annoyed by the increasingly ubiquitous "skin on fries" that seem to be cropping everywhere, even when not described as such. I think it started off being seen as upmarket and trendy in posh restaurants that didn't want to refer to them as just chips, but everyone's jumped on the bandwagon now. Personally I just think these places just can't be arsed to peel their potatoes properly. It seems I am in a minority with this opinion so I suppose I must just be being fussy. Thankfully we found a lovely place to eat tonight in Georgeham tonight called The Rock Inn which offered perfect hand cooked chips with not a piece of skin or an eye in sight! Bravo Rock Inn, the 5 star Tripadvisor review will be along at some point (if I ever get around to it).

It's the third time in the last decade we've holidayed in this area and there is so much to enjoy. We've had a day on Croyde Beach (my third favourite in Britain) where Jamie famously ran into the sea fully clothed as a one-year-old, followed by a walk up to nearby Baggy Point. We've done the tunnel beaches in Ilfracombe and explored the stunning Lynton/ Lynmouth area. The views along the coastal paths around there are truly breathtaking.

We walked all the way down from Lynton to Lynmouth and had planned to take the cliff railway back up but the queue for it was packed. This railway incidentally is incredibly environmentally friendly - and invented by the Victorians long before saving the planet became a pressing issue. The whole thing ingeniously runs on water. So we decided to walk up the path which whilst not quite a sheer cliff face was more challenging than anything I've encountered back home in Worcestershire, with the possible exception of the Malverns. It was worth it, though. I had caved in to temptation and had a cream tea shortly beforehand so this trek helped to undo that sin.

I do so love this part of the world and have a long standing ambition to walk the entire length of the South West Coast path which runs from Poole to Minehead. Believe it or not this is a stunning 630 miles long! Obviously I can't do this anytime soon with two young lads to look after but in about a decade or so, I fancy the idea of doing this one summer over a couple of months. I could walk about  ten miles a day and stay in a different seaside town every night. What an adventure that would be!

In the meantime, I shall leave you with a piccie of the boys enjoying the beach, and I hope to see you all soon.

A postcard from Devon.
Since I can't be arsed to send real ones any more.

Cheers,
Jason