Wednesday 5 April 2017


Rocking the hi-viz coat and wellies in this
rendering by our artist fella, Brian John
With our series of inbound visits last week barely seen off the premises (see previous post) I needed to get packing for my out-bound mission, off to the UK to see family in Hastings and old mates in our former stomping ground of Faversham in Kent. Family these days is my big-bro, Tom and 'me dear aul' Mum, 'Pud Lady' in these pages. Mum is about to go, like me, through a 'significant' number Birthday - she is soon 90 as I am soon 60 so I wanted to spend a bit of quality time with her this time instead of my all too frequent "flying visit" style trips.

Shiny Vauxhall Astra hire car, only days old, outside Mum's.
The mission was to take the normal shape - an Aer Lingus flight, Knock to Gatwick, and then hire of a car in UK for the running about. The first part of that was easy, the 2nd nearly came unstuck and turned into an hour and a half in car hire hell at the airport, and got me indoors at just after midnight.

Primroses and magnolia in Mum's front
It was partly my fault and partly that of the Aer Lingus website where I booked my flights (and car) on line. I saw no-where who the car hire firm actually was (Hertz? EuropeCar? Avis?) but that's not been a problem - you just wander round the big foyer and try your name and booking reference at each till you strike gold. Aer Lingus have also moved their flight from mid afternoon to 8pm-ish too, but I didn't think that would be an issue either. Anyone hearing warning bells yet? What I'd actually written down was Aer Lingus's ref number for my car.

Battle Abbey. Mum in wheel chair centre bottom of pic.
We touched down at 9 pm and I walked to the car-rental 'room' and started my hunt, frustrated at each by having to stand in a short queue before I could even ask my question but also running out of desks to ask at. Finally, I was advised to go try the 'Inter-Rent' porta-cabin out in the dark where the 'indoor' desks said the guy had been evicted from North Terminal by building works but hurry as he didn't normally work late and might be closing.

Mum has map and is ready to explore
Battle Abbey and Senlac Hill
Off I went, increasingly fed up, to find one man soldiering through a queue of 8 customers at the end of a 13 hour shift. I suspected that if I queued for the 45 mins I might still be blown off with a "not our reference number" line. No such problem. The guy (Alex was his name) was as helpful, friendly and professional at my end of the queue as he had been at the 'beginning' - a true hero. Above and beyond. He had my name on his list, sorted me out a Vauxhall Astra and sent me on my way at 10:30 pm. Aer Lingus and Inter-Rent get my vote. You can keep your Hertz, Avis and EuropeCar. I got indoors by just after midnight to find Mum and Tom waiting up for me - Thank You very much, both.

At the Queen's Head, Icklesham, near Rye (Sussex), left to
right, myself, Mum and Tom
To cut a long story short, I had a lovely time both at Hastings and in Faversham and very pleasant company with friends, family and former neighbours all delighted to see me and me to see them. My time in Hastings was blessed by 2 superb, warm, sunny, blue sky days, so we took the hire car and Mum's wheel chair and went on a series of little scenic tours, interspersed with meals, coffee breaks and the inevitable games of Scrabble.

Fish and Chips. You can always rely on the Queen's Head
for a decent portion. Top left of the picture is an equally
generous crab salad. 
On Saturday, we drove all round the lanes 'behind' Hastings looking at the spring flowers - carpets of Lady's Smock, primroses, wood anenomes, celandines etc and the chance of an early orchid. We drove down to Hastings sea-front along by Marine Parade and pushed the wheel chair all along to the newly restored and re-opened pier, out to its very end (it is all nice and flat for this pusher's 'maiden voyage'). We headed out to the family's favourite pub/eaterie, The Queen's Head in Icklesham (near Rye in Sussex) where I managed a fish and chips 'fix'. We bimbled out to the famous Great Dixter garden (Northiam) where there was advertised a "Plant Fair" for Mum to buy a specific Clematis she wanted ('tangutica').

Mum surveys Senlac Hill from the top. I reckon if those Normans
had had to push their Mums up in wheel chairs then they would
not have won the Battle.
On the Sunday we headed out to Battle Abbey and Senlac Hill, the site of the famous 1066 Battle of Hastings, where the pushchair crew had to step up a gear. This battle, as any school boy knows, involved the Normans (and William the Conqueror) charging up Senlac Hill to knock the pesky Saxons (King Harold's mob) off the top. The Abbey was build on top of the hill (afterwards, obviously!) to commemorate the victory and the bits open to the public include the hill. Even the wheel-chair friendly walk route which is lightly gravelled just to slow you down a bit, includes some of the top-slopes of the hill inside the 'skirts' of the abbey, so there was some good heavy-breath slog up the slopes even though Mum is not 'heavy' to any degree. You put any 'little aul' lady' in a good wheel chair and try it, be my guest.

Oh we do like to walk along the prom, prom, prom? Hastings
sea-front and Pier shrouded in sea mist.
On the final morning (Monday), Mum and Tom had a funeral to attend, so I nipped back to the sea front to get some pictures, having deliberately not taken the camera on our walk, my 'maiden voyage' as wheel chair pusher. Sadly there was a thick sea-mist and although it always looked like it was just about to burn off, there were to be no sunny pictures that morning. The sun did not break through till I was heading off after lunch, bound for Romney Marshes and Faversham.

Tom, Mum and myself. 
In Faversham I was to meet our good friend John W, former husband of Diane (Diamond on here) and their disreputable looking Patterdale Terrier cross Ragworth. The plan was to spend the evening with John (we had a lovely stroll round the Front Brents area and north side of the Creek), have a bite to eat and then I'd stay the night in his spare room. On the Tuesday morning I could then work my way round as many former neighbours and friends as I could net before I had to head back to Gatwick in the afternoon for my flight home. Thanks you to all of you who I did meet and who I missed - better luck next time maybe.

Plenty of sailing barges still in the creek despite 'bogey-man'
developer, Michael White allegedly killing all the ship-wrightery
I got to meet and have a nice chat with a friend who I only really know since leaving Faversham (chatting on Facebook etc), Griselda C-M and her husband, staunch supporters and 'activists' of the Creek Preservation campaign. I met film maker Mike M who I know from Cambria days (he made the "Red Sails" film). I had nice chats with neighbours from both sides of our 'old' house in Whitstable Road (Jackie and then Betty and Jim). I met another good friend (Dave) in town as I was wandering about and I also got a good look round the Standard Quay and Iron Wharf areas of the Creek (the south side).

Every town should have a Pirate Ship.
A footnote to that last sentence should probably include mention of the latest "attraction", a rather mad Pirate Ship. This rather disreputable looking piece of fakery (a load of wooden 'topsides' added to an old wooden hull and flying the requisite 'Jolly Roger') turned up in Faversham a few months back, mooring up for a rest en route to Spain, crewed by half a dozen lads from (John tells me) ages about 30 to 50. They didn't manage to stay long as they didn't fancy paying the mooring fees (Why should we? We're Pirates!) charged by Faversham's 'bogey-man' waterfront developer, so he had them 'evicted' using a local tug-firm. These boys rather robustly (I was told) untied them from the quay and towed them down to moor them outside the sewage works outflow where they remain to this day. They have to get aboard and disembark by scrambling across a dodgy grass bank and some mud and then teetering up a long, springy plank in best pirate tradition.

The Creek's main developer finally gets
permission to convert the first of these
 lovely wooden weather-boarded grain
warehouses into a restaurant and wine bar. 
That's about it. I grabbed a spot of lunch with John and then headed for Gatwick, there to hand my car back in with none of the Friday night dramas. I flew home painlessly to be met at the airport by the Lady of the House and got a noisy welcome from dogs and livestock. And so to bed in MY OWN BED (well, my half of 'our bed'). No matter how lovely it is to go travelling, there is something special about finally getting home and being able to sleep on that old familiar mattress.

Thank you to all involved in this break. If I have forgotten to name you specifically, then I apologise for that.

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