Home Again:

by | May 2, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

I woke the next morning to a beautiful sunrise over the English Channel and a €6.50 breakfast deal of coffee, croissant and orange juice.

I don’t like driving long distances, especially in the UK. So, I decided to split my four hundred mile plus journey, from Newcastle to Plymouth, into three separate segments. I randomly chose Derby and Bath as my two stop-off points. Who would have thought that my first destination would host a football match between my beloved and already relegated Carlisle United, and Derby County? Under the management of Brian Clough, the Rams won the First Division Title and, two years later, repeated the feat  under former player Dave Mackay.

As I arrived, the Rams had beaten the Blues two-nil to secure automatic promotion to the Championship for the first time since 2017.

I had to visit three pubs until I found one that had any beer. Luckily it was a craft beer bar selling very expensive, but excellent ale. The name, Suds and Soda went down well with some folks. I made a hasty retreat when the thirsty hoards came in seeking alcohol of any description. There’ll be some sore heads in Derby tomorrow. I’m thinking of booking the night of 15th May here so I can experience it in a more sedate mood…let’s see.

***

Before I left Newcastle, I exchanged gifts with my beautiful Sesame Seed, an emotional experience indeed. A card, made with love, a book, and an incorrect name. How was I to know that it wasn’t her husband’s name? Anyway, I prefer Andrew and she assured me she’d call him that from now on. A result in my book, considering, as the song said, ‘It should have been me!’

Birthday was the theme of her present which was perfect . What are sixty-three gifts compared to one which is truly intended?

“I’ll read it, then you will be the first to read my story.” I said as I left her in Central Park, (Gosforth, not New York), her image blurred by my tears.

***

On waking in Derby, I received the full force of Midlands weather as the rain rattled off the restaurant below my window and the cricket ground resembled a paddy field. Breakfast complete, I set off on my two and a half hour journey to Bath, wondering how I’d fill in my time before check in. Never worry, the Highways Agency came to my rescue with a virtually total fifty mile an hour limit, meaning I arrived in Bath four hours later.

The nice man at reception explained the Clean Air Charge to me , informing me that Shimamoto was exempt in Bath, Bradford, Bristol and anywhere else beginning with a ’B’. Nevertheless, he dropped the bombshell that I’d have to pay £8.50 for parking.

So, Bath. What’s all that about? A city built by the Romans on a spot which ticked all of their boxes of cleanliness. My impression? A jaded old man with dementia, who still has the respect of his family because of his special past. As I said to my brother, there is a paradox of tourism, foreigners, and the highest number of homeless people with dogs, I’ve ever seen in one place.

There was a proliferation of craft beer establishments, nevertheless, some masquerading as pubs. One, The Grapes, confessed to being a ‘Japanese themed bar.’ Their claim to fame? They sold Asahi Dry on draught!

I did find the usual hidden gem, in the shape of Kingsmead Street Bottle, a tap house with ten keg beers and two fridges full of cracking cans. I bought a half-price T-shirt for Joe and enjoyed a few Drop Project Flow American Pale Ales. Perhaps Bath will be my stop-off on 15th? Or shall I just fly back?

Meanwhile, off to bed before another encounter with the British road system. Roll on Tuesday when I can begin to enjoy driving my baby again, after all, that’s why we are there.

My third and final leg involved a relatively uneventful drive down the M5 from Avon, through Somerset to Devon, and finally Plymouth.

“Great Britain’s Ocean City” claimed the banner above the ferry terminal. Both rather ambitious these days, I thought, having spent six hours in this dreary place. It reminded me of one of those models we made at junior school from yoghurt pots and stuff, sprayed a gun-metal grey. The weather didn’t help as a hefty wind from the south west scooped up a combination of salty spray from the Atlantic, and moisture from the equally depressing low clouds. The whole event made a visit to the Hoe an forgettable experience.

No wonder the Pilgrims chanced a three thousand miles journey in an upturned walnut shell.

I recalled my recent visit to Plymouth’s Breton cousin, Brest. I began to see that port through rose coloured spectacles, something like comparing a middle aged but still beautiful Bridgette Bardot to Nora Batty. That short stretch of water was getting wider every time I crossed it .

Speaking of which, I boarded Brittany Ferry’s vessel, the Amorique for the nine hour overnight crossing. A nightcap of one pint of Lagunitas IPA and I was gently rocking to sleep half an hour later 

I woke the next morning to a beautiful sunrise over the English Channel and a €6.50 breakfast deal of coffee, croissant and orange juice. The tiny port of Roscoff beckoned as the huge ship sidled up to the dock.

I was home.

Inspiration returned the following day in the form of a dressing down I’d received from my lovely friend Corinne and an encounter with a ‘perfect’ specimen. Things seemed to be looking up in the romance department!

Here it is…

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