London – day 256 (J)

I woke up naturally at 06:00 and my brain went in to overdrive while my body was saying go back to sleep. The deciding factor in what to do was hearing little Benjamin start to stir and cry upstairs. So, up, showered and ready to go, I left the house at 07:20 and headed to the train station for the starting point of the 151 bus route. Knocking on a door at 08:30, as a surprise, seemed a bit excessive, but I was greeted enthusiastically by Clare and Martin, and thankfully both of them were dressed. Loads of hugs ensued while the kettle boiled and finally managed to sit down for a wicked catch up (with loads of coffee). We Skype’d Katherine and Tracey in Oz and I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. Let’s just say there was talk of the map of Tasmania, merkins, Julie Andrews, temple monsters and pixies. This won’t make sense to 99% of the readers, but as a reminder to ourselves, we shall probably crack up just thinking about it. I went down to Lidl and got some croissants while they cleaned the house (expecting Martin’s parents for Father’s Day lunch at 13:00) and we smothered them with butter… Coz that’s just what you do. Train to Victoria, tube up to King’s Cross and one was reminded of the stations tie with Harry Potter, watching Gryffindor students wander about. They kicked us all off the train as there was no driver, then rushed us all back on as a driver had been found. The train journey was so nice I couldn’t concentrate on reading my book and it was worth it when I saw a field ablaze with crimson red, covered in thousands of poppies.
Nicola picked me up at the station, and the plan was we’d have dinner at Morrisons across the road, but they stopped serving at 15:00. So, she got a salad and we waited for Helen and Carol who were somewhere en route, the minibus service having brought them full circle around the town before getting back to the car. We zoomed down to Garden ‘T’ of the Letchworth Garden City open garden day and Nic kindly paid for me (proceeds going to Red Cross and other worthy charities). I managed to visit 9 gardens with them before 17:00 closing time. The gardens were lovely: long narrow gardens with big lawns and borders, small gardens with livestock, an old post office with sculptures, water features and fruit/ veg patches and orchards. They were all a bit different and it was wonderful to see such vibrant colours and flowers, and made me start dreaming of having a massive garden of my own to have space to create different aspects and themes.

Nicola and I watched a bit of tv after catching up – The Last Leg. The lads usual antics, as always, keep you up to date with current affairs and put a jovial spin on the otherwise mundane or incredulous. I was really impressed with myself to notice that the first ad in the commercials was a slow boat in Laos that she, I and Katherine had visited almost three years ago. Clearly we need to start recording more video on our trips and making money through creating short commercials rather than writing blogs. A lovely home cooked meal, with Nigel visiting and entertaining us with tales from work. The only damper to his celebration evening was the lack of a cup of tea.  Back on a train heading home, my poor ears are suffering going through all the tunnels at high speed. Plus, being almost finished writing today’s blog, I’ll have nothing more to do to keep me awake. Here’s hoping I make it back and not waking up in some random part of the country.

Sunday 19th June 2016

Dookie – day 256 (K)

Woke up early and I made breakfast – extending my cooking skills from cereal to fried eggs on toast. Slight scary moment where the eggs didn’t all cook evenly but flipped them over to double fry them. Phew! Crisis averted!! Got dressed for a walk, put Chilli dog in the back of the car and drove 20km to the town of Dookie. During the car journey, we had to keep the car windows open as Chilli kept letting fluffy off the chain (an Aussie way of saying she was farting – lots!!!). Parked the car at the start of the 9.4km circular trail, a very picturesque trail that starts at the base of Mt. Saddleback and crosses some of the Goulburn Valley’s most fertile farm land. The trail follows the old railway line to Katamatite which was constructed by the Yarrawonga Shire in 1890 and taken over by the Victorian Railways in 1892. The railway was closed in 1986 and the rails removed shortly after. The branch line from Shepparton to Dookie is still used by grain trains. Local residents formed the Friends of Dookie Rail Trail group to encourage the City of Greater Shepparton to take out a lease on this section of the rail corridor and the rail trail was completed in early 2010. The trail was relatively flat as we were surrounded by scenic views of rolling hills, olive and orange groves, vineyards, cropping lands and the most beautiful church ever. The trail was deserted and had a severe lack of bins as we had to carry a very smelly dog poo for over 7Km until we could throw it away!! Stopped off in the local pub for a glass of wine at the end of the walk, as passerby’s made comments about the size of Chilli – she is quite literally a cross between a dog and a Shetland pony!! As it started getting colder, we finished up, jumped back in the car and headed home for dinner with more wine. A hilarious Skype with Jayne, Clare and Martin back in the UK had all five of us in stitches as Chilli dog was passed out on the carpet next to us. She looked so peaceful that I had to have some cuddle time!! 16 days to go.Sunday 19th June 2016