Monday 26th to Thursday 29th September

We caught the afternoon train from Exeter by a few seconds, traffic holdups and roadworks. It is becoming a habit. Couldn’t find our booked seats but it didn’t matter. Tickets are a QR code now, scanned by a conductor or not. The internet shows we paid. Countryside is lush green again, hard to believe it was suffering a drought only a few weeks ago. Whenever we go for walks I’m picking up conkers, my inner child still remembers. It’s an English thing, too hard to explain here. A kind of inedible chestnut used in a traditional game.

We were met by Phil and Suzie on the platform , the barriers were open. Didn’t recognise them at first. Phil’s beard is white and he has lost weight. Big hugs all round. He drove us home in the BMW, gorgeous car, one of his collection. He’s always loved cars.

Hilary was cooking, her hair is white too but the smile and hug are just the same. We talked and ate and swapped photos. She has gone back to watercolour painting, roses mainly and is still knitting beautiful jumpers.

They have finished renovating their extensive house, garages and garden. The place looks fantastic. Apple trees are laden and pear trees too. Deer come and munch on the windfalls. Suzie introduced Rocky the rabbit who I know through Instagram! He loves blueberries and banana treats and is quite a valued member of the family.

We visited Slimbridge the following day , a breeding sanctuary for endangered water birds, although there are lots of others who drop in for a free feed. The flamingoes were a healthy pink against the green background. Each pond or stream was connected by bridges we walked over and they paddled under.

The day after was much brighter and Phil took us to one of the canals that crisscross this country and are well used for recreation nowadays. They were built in the industrial revolution to transport goods on barges, long flat-bottomed boats. We walked along to the lock and saw one of the gates opening to let a boat through. The old mechanism works as well as it did two hundred years ago.

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