Notes from the river bank

Christmas refreshment

Jen and I have been enjoying a week of refreshment with our families over the last week.

Jay from Mum’s kitchen window in Cheltenham

After the Christmas services, we packed the car and went off to Cheltenham to spend a few days with my mum. She was keen to cook the Christmas lunch for us, which she did on Boxing Day. We had a restful time enjoying Mum’s generous hospitality!

We had a nice surprise on the Wednesday morning (the 27th) when we found it had snowed overnight. As we were keen to enjoy this weather, we went for a walk up Leckhampton Hill on the Thursday.

View from the top of Leckhampton Hill to Cleeve Hill.

Jen at the trig point on Leckhampton Hill.

Just before Christmas we had the sad news that mum’s great friend (and my godmother) Chris Baines had passed away. We went up to Willaston in Cheshire for the funeral – for which the church there was packed out. Over many years she’d made a major contribution to the area both as the head of a local secondary school and later chairman of the magistrates, as well as being a stalwart of the church. I remember her as a most generous godmother, and have many fond memories of her.

George’s cake: or maybe it’s a construction site? Rebekah, George’s cousin, watches him blowing out the candles.

After this we spent a few days in Devon with Jen’s family, in a couple of rented cottages near Moretonhampstead – partly to celebrate the New Year but also to celebrate George’s 3rd birthday the previous day. We were joined by Rachael’s family who were over from New Zealand (her mum Lesley) and from Australia (sister Sara and neice Rebekah).

Having the holiday in Devon was particularly convenient because Jen’s wider family were able to join us for George’s party and most of the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

A break during George’s present opening: Katie, Charlotte, Jeffrey, Mary, Rachael with George, Claire, Austin, Margaret (Louie in the foreground)

Pass the Parcel: Tasha (with the parcel) shares a joke with Claire (in the pink).

Most people were able to stay for the New Year’s Eve meal. As it happened it was Jen’s and my turn to cook, so after a starter with Sara’s pumpkin & apple soup, we served a beef stew followed by Jen’s apple crumble.

New Year’s Eve meal. Clockwise from left: Claire (Jen’s cousin, in the pink), Jen, Andrew (Jen’s brother), David and Christine (Jen’s uncle and aunt), Margaret (Jen’s mum), Tasha (Claire’s daughter), Lesley, Sara, Rebekah (Rachael’s mum, sister and niece) and Rachael (Andrew’s wife).

George (Jen’s and my 3 year-old nephew) quietly getting on with his own activity.

Although George was often in the thick of things, he also has an ability to get on with his own playing while others are being distracted elsewhere. In fact, he was so concentrated that he was oblivious to my photographing him.

It was one of those holidays where even the bad things worked out well. We meant to go to the Lost Gardens of Heligan on New Year’s day, but Andrew’s car developed a problem, so we abandoned the trip half way. Instead we decamped to the Liskeard tavern and had a leisurely lunch there, while waiting for the breakdown service. It was actually a most relaxed and enjoyable lunch: we couldn’t have planned it much better if we’d tried.

On our way back we stopped off at Burrow Mump, to admire the heartland of King Alfred’s Wessex – Athelney lies a short distance away. The nearby fields of the Somerset Levels were flooded, which gave a good feel for the area – and what it might have looked like in Alfred’s time, before the drainage ditches had been put in. Then we had a final lunch in the King Alfred Inn at Burrowbridge.

Looking over the flooded Levels from the top of Burrow Mump.