Mom’s 80th

It’s pleasing to know that people actually read the blog because I get complaints when I don’t post every day now.  I didn’t post on Saturday or Sunday because we didn’t do much on Saturday actually.  Helen went for a run, Stephen & I played Twilight Struggle, we watched the first game of the IPL, we watched some Master’s Golf and we ate breakfast, lunch and supper. We did have a traditional Southern Shrimp Broil for dinner on Saturday which is slightly unusual given we are in England and not in Southern USA.  It is more understandable when you know that my sister and niece are with us too at my parent’s home but they actually live in Tennessee.

Yesterday (Sunday) was my Mom’s 80th birthday.  Before we headed off to Church we gave her the present that we had organized for her from the family.  It was a collage of pictures of all 16 grandchildren – pictures chosen by the grandchildren and all from when they were much younger (except the ones you are still young). 

We then headed off to Church and straight after Church we went to the Old Cottage Restaurant for lunch to celebrate.  My aunt and uncle who live in the UK (in Cardiff) and their 3 sons (my cousins) and one girlfriend, all met us there too.  And one of my parent’s oldest friends (Val) also drove down from her home and met us at the restaurant as well.  It meant there were 18 of us for lunch and it was good catching up with family. I don’t know my cousins that well because we have hardly seen them much so it is probably better to say I enjoyed getting to know them better.  After lunch it was back to my parent’s home for tea (as if we hadn’t eaten enough already at that point).

The day ended with most of us watching the Masters Golf tournament until the very last hole (it was one of the closest majors for quite some time). Unfortunately the guys we were routing for didn’t win and the guy we didn’t want to win, won.  Bit inconsiderate really given it was my Mom’s 80th birthday.

P, H, S, M & C


Burley Street

My family (or at least some of them) complained that I failed to mention what we had for supper on Thursday night and so my blog was incomplete.  So here’s the completion: We had lamb shanks.  Now I can move on to yesterday!

Everyone got up at different times – Helen and I were up first (which is not unusual).  Helen decided to go for a run around the area.  At 8 degrees (feels like 2 degrees), I prefer to stay indoors.  After breakfast and after everyone had woken up, we (P, H, S & C) decided to walk into Burley village.  It is 1.5 km walk (1 mile). Unfortunately the biggest shop – the general dealer – was closed.  Probably taken his friends to the beach – seems to be a thing around here. There is a fudge shop though in the village and we did know about that so we ended up there – tasted and bought some fudge. We had scones and tea/coffee at one of the local tea rooms and then headed back to my parent’s home.

Stephen and I enjoy playing a particular strategy game called ‘Twilight Struggle’.  My niece’s husband (does that make him my nephew-in-law) introduced us to it. We had shipped another copy to my Dad’s house so that we could play while we were here and then the plan is to take it to Portugal (sorry Kirsten!) in July.  Stephen and I both like it because unlike most board games, the element of luck affects the game minimally.  What matters far more is your strategic thinking and planning.  It does take quite some time to play but the good is that you can play a few turns then leave it and come back and play some more.  After having played it on and off yesterday we are about 1/2 way through at the moment.  Stephen is currently winning but that is mainly because he has remembered more of the rules than I have which has definitely helped him (we haven’t played in well over a year).

Stephen and I have also managed to fit some work in during the rounds of the game; Chloe and Michael have both managed to do some studying and Helen had kept her crocheting going! Dinner last night was a braai – very unusual because Friday night is usually fish night at my parent’s home (for as long as I can remember we ate fish on Fridays!). Braai was Saturday night and so now my whole equilibrium is thrown off as I keep thinking it was Saturday yesterday and Sunday today. Probably take me a few weeks to get my rhythm back now.

The evening’s entertainment is The Master’s Golf tournament. Another two nights of that to come still!

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, C & M (because he didn’t join us on our walk to Burley)

Bourton-on-the-Water to New Forest

We left Bourton-on-the-Water yesterday to travel down to my parents. As we were in no rush we had a late breakfast (9am).  Helen had wanted to go to a wool shop in the village but they were closed on Wednesday (randomly).  Everything only opens at 10am in most UK villages and so we had to wait for 10am anyway.  Helen discovered that the owners had friends with them and so decided to shut the store for the day and to go to the beach with them (it was around 10 degrees so a lovely beach day!).

The drive down to my parents home was about 2 hours and was relatively easy.  The traffic was light and with a stop at a ‘services’ on route we arrived at just before 1pm.  It was a beautiful clear day both in the Cotswolds as well as in the New Forest (which is where my parents live).  The temperature rose to around 14 degrees – a lovely UK spring day!

My parents live in a village called Burley Street which is almost a suburb of a slightly bigger village called Burley.  It is in the New Forest which is a protected area.  Most of the ‘forest’ was destroyed in 18th century already through a storm (4000 Oak trees were lost in one storm in 1703) and the Royal Navy who used the wood for naval ships.  It now has very few trees and is more like an open pastureland.

The unique thing about the New Forest is that horses (called New Forest ponies) just wander around in the area.  My Mom (horse whisperer!) has some ponies come regularly and get her attention by eating her roses.  She tries to chase them but they know she will give them a carrot or two and so they hang around for that.

We went in the afternoon to the shops in Ringwood which is the nearest town (about 7kms away). The British have some crazy regulations and we hit one while trying to buy paracetamol.  You can only buy a limited quantity at one time.  The ridiculous thing is that we were 4 people present but the rule doesn’t change.  So I said to the cashier then just do another transaction and she said she can’t do that either.  So I simply gave Stephen cash and sent him to another till and he paid for it separately.  It is a ridiculous rule that is so easy to circumvent it makes no sense to have it.  And for paracetamol! It wasn’t like we were trying to buy hundreds – we only had two boxes!

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, M & C

Bourton-on-the-Water Day 2

As we were spending the day in the Cotswolds there was no pressure to get up earlier. Most of the museums and shops only open at 10am. After having breakfast we headed to the model railway in the village. While the shop opened at 9:30am, the railway only opened at 11am so that plan was thwarted. The Woolen Mill shop was fortunately open and so we headed in there and did some shopping – well I did some shopping – found 2 jerseys I liked. By this point the rain had let up a little and it was 10am so we decided to go the Model Village.  The Model Village is an entire replica of the town down to including a model of the Model Village! The detail was quite remarkable – they even had working gutters on many of the buildings.

We then headed to the Motor Museum which was far more than just old cars. The amount of memorabilia was quite incredible. Gas pumps, sidecars, signs, toy cars etc.  They have quite a few cars from around the 1930s and most of them are in very good condition. The kids did behave like kids with some of the displays! By the time we were finished there the model railway had opened and so we headed back there again. It brought back memories of the model railway my Dad had constructed for my brother and me and then the set he helped build for our kids as well. Lots of reminiscing about how you could get trains going in opposite directions and if you got the timing spot on you could get them to pass each other in the station etc.

We had exhausted all the museums in the town at this point. As we could see the bakery from our hotel window and had seen them baking since before 6am this morning we thought we should at least try their wares. Helen had seen them make chocolate eclairs and so the men felt obliged to give them a try (they were pretty good) and Helen and Chloe had scones with jam & clotted cream. They had to wait for them because they were sold out of the first batch they made and were making more. They said they were worth the wait.  Helen and Chloe were inspired and both of them at some point said they wanted to start a bakery!

After all the morning activity it was time for a short rest and then at 1pm we headed out to Lower Oddington (the English have some strange names of towns!). The reason we went was because I had read that there was a Church that was built in the 800s there and it had a medieval mural dating from 1500s.  As we hadn’t eaten lunch yet we found the only place in Lower Oddington that served food and went there. It was called Fox Inn ( and the food and the atmosphere were good – a really good find!

After lunch we went to the Church (St Nicholas Church of England). It is about 0.5 miles outside of the village. The church is surrounded by a grave yard with many of the grave stones being from the 1800s. The church was open though there was nobody around at all. It seems they still hold services there but you would definitely have to come wrapped up warmly because it was icy cold inside. The mural covered the one whole wall. Incredible to thing it was painted 600-700 years ago. There was a list of rectors up from 1200s until 1977!

The rest of the afternoon we spent relaxing at the hotel and then headed out for dinner at the number rated restaurant in the village – The Rose Tree (  Another good choice as the food was again very good. Now we are all off to bed!

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, M & C

PS: The pic is a photo from our hotel room window.



UK trip

We left last night from Cape Town for the UK.  It is my Mom’s 80th birthday on Sunday and we decided to come over and celebrate that with my parents.  It is actually the first time for a while that just the family is traveling together.  The flight over was pretty uneventful except for Chloe being asked for her ID to prove she is of drinking age when she asked for champagne before take off. That is the first time any of our kids have been asked for proof of age when having alcohol on a flight (and some of them ‘might’ even have had before age 18!).

It was usual English spring weather when we arrived.  10 degrees C and raining. After having showers and breakfast in the BA arrivals lounge, we went off to find the shuttle bus to Hertz (who we were renting a car from). Standing outside waiting for the bus for 10 minutes in 10 degrees was a slightly shock to most of the family.

We had decided to spend 2 days in the Cottswolds on route to my parents. The last time we had slept in the Cottswolds was when we only had one child and he was in a pram still – probably around 20 years ago. The drive from Heathrow to the Cottswolds takes you past Oxford and takes about 2 hours.  We could only check in to our hotel at 2pm and given it was about 10:30am when we arrived in the area we decided to do some sightseeing in the area to kill some time.  We drove to Upper & Lower Slaughter & Stow-on-the-Wold.  Slaughter is really a strange name and makes you think the name must have come from some kind of killing spree.  It actually has nothing to do with that at all.  It comes from the old English word ‘Slohtre‘ which means ‘Muddy place’.  And that is exactly what the Cottswolds are right now – muddy. We were quite amazed by how many pheasants we have seen and even stopped to photograph one or two.  They really are beautiful birds.

We had tea & coffee in a quaint tea shop in Stow-on-the-Wold and walked around that town as well. Helen had remembered there were stocks in the town square.  The stocks are now somewhat weather eroded (only the bottom section was still present) but it is a quaint little town.  By this time it was nearing 1pm and we took a chance and headed to our hotel in Bourton-on-the-Water.  We had booked into the Old Manse Hotel which is exactly the same hotel Helen and I stayed in with Stephen 20+ years ago.  Fortunately we could get 2 of our rooms immediately so we unpacked and then went to find a lunch restaurant in the town.

After lunch we all felt the need to catch up on some rest/work/sleep and then at 5pm we went for a walk around Bourton-on-the-Water.  Unfortunately many of the shops had closed (or maybe fortunately) but we walked down the river well into the residential part of the town and then turned around and walked back up the river again in the other direction.  We walked for approximately 40 minutes which was probably good for all of us especially since afterwards we went into the pub for pint (or half-pint for most of the family).  We had dinner in the hotel and are all now settled in our rooms for the night.  I think we will all sleep well tonight.

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, M & C