Tag Archives: Anna

The Snowy Peaks

Sunrise/sunset: 05:58/17:56 Daylength: 11hr58min

And so I have returned from my holiday. It was not as restful as I could have wished, but I did catch up with almost all of my immediate family in the UK. Quite a task when they are rather scattered.

I will start with a picture of our plane in Bardufoss, just as Andrew and I were boarding. I commented on it after my last holiday, but the contrast between Bardufoss and Heathrow couldn’t be much greater. I meant to take a photo at the end of our journey, but was so pleased to have arrived, I quite forgot.

We spent a couple of days in Winchester with my daughter Anna and her girlfriend Lauren and then headed up to the Peak District to meet my parents. A few months ago, when booking this holiday, I decided I wanted to meet up with Mum and Dad. Driving up to their home in Yorkshire seemed quite a long way, so looking at a map of the UK, I plumped on the Peak District, as somewhere that was in between Winchester and North Yorkshire and was noted for being beautiful. I knew I would be hiring a car and I was looking forward to gambolling amongst the daffodils and driving round in blue-skied, spring weather.

It was wet on the day we drove up, and the journey was longer than I had realised. I had hoped to be there to pick my parents up from the station, but they decided to take an early train and there was no way that, with almost two hundred miles to go, I could make it there comfortably by one o’clock, so abandoning any idea of getting there early, I decided we would take our time, given that the driving conditions were quite unpleasant.

At about two in the afternoon, Anna received a plaintive text from Mum. They had arrived soaking wet after quite a walk from the railway station. The inn where we were staying was all closed up until five. They had been allowed in to their room, only after a special appeal to the landlady and that was only because there were absolutely no cafes open in the village of Bradwell where we were staying.

When I had planned the trip, I had hoped that my dad would drive the two hour journey to join us, so that we would have two cars. What I hadn’t planned for were the Dire Weather Warnings. Far from the spring holiday I had been imagining, an Arctic Blast was to arrive. Understandably, Dad had abandoned the idea of driving. While our inn had received wonderful reviews, I hadn’t really checked out how much there was to do in the village. The idea that the inn itself would be closed until five each day hadn’t been part of my calculations either. Nor was the fact that it was Monday afternoon and the inn wasn’t going to be serving food in the evenings until Wednesday. What on earth were we going to do for two days in a village with nothing to do, with only one car and six people? How were we going to feed ourselves? Mum was also cross, it seemed, as she had been told I had received an e-mail with the information that check in was after five. I confess that, at this point, I began to think the entire trip was going to be a wash out.

We arrived at about four and spent the intermediate time driving around Bradwell and Hope Valley. It was certainly a charming place, with steep roads, bounded by grey stone houses and drystone walls, which were sometimes so narrow that the distance sensors on both sides of the hire car were flashing at me. I noted that there was an Indian restaurant in the next village. Potentially I could drive everyone there in two trips, but curry two days running didn’t sound too appealing either.

When we finally drew up in front of The Shoulder of Mutton Mum came out to greet us. It hadn’t really been so bad. They had been allowed into their room, which had been quite warm. The landlady had brought them milk for their tea and four pieces of cake. The room Andrew and I were shown to was lovely. Each of the rooms was named after animals and ours was The Hare. As well as a lovely view from the window, it was clean and fresh, with lovely touches on the theme of hares. Even the mugs had hares on them.

Better still, when we went downstairs, the landlord greeted us warmly. There was no food on offer in the bar, but if we would like to buy in fish and chips in the village, or order carry out from somewhere else, they would set us up a table in the restaurant and we could eat in comfort there. To my amazement, at no extra charge, we were provided with a table, plates and cutlery on both of the first two days of our stay. It was also realised that, because of the way the booking had been done, we hadn’t received the e-mail we should have that would have told us about the five o’clock check in. It was just an unfortunate oversight.

We spent Tuesday exploring Castleton. Mum and Dad went on the bus (a fifteen minute journey) and we joined them in the car. I should certainly have checked out what would be available a bit more before travelling. I am out of touch with opening times in the UK and had assumed there would be historic houses open to explore, but we were a week too early. Still, it was lovely wandering around Castleton and we did get some lovely food as there were several cafes open. Though it was chilly, it still felt spring-like.

With ever increasing Dire Weather Warnings, Mum and Dad decided to go home a day early. Though they were on the train, there was still a risk of disruption and they had to drive to get their much-loved cat, Sammy, from the cattery. The lovely owners of the inn even reimbursed their room fee for the night they didn’t use. I would absolutely recommend The Shoulder of Mutton. After an inauspicious start, we couldn’t have been made more welcome or been treated better.

Anna, Andrew, Lauren and I decided to stay on and risk it. Though I was wary about other drivers, the potential lack of gritting and clearing of the roads and the lack of my trusty winter tyres, I thought we would probably make it. We took a drive over to Bakewell on a Bakewell tart hunt and as well as buying a delicious Bakewell pudding (like the tart but without icing and absolutely delicious) we got to see some of Derbyshire as the snow began to fall.

Bakewell puddings in Bakewell

It wasn’t great driving to Lower Slaughter near Cheltenham on Thursday. It had snowed overnight and the road that led over the moors at the beginning of our journey was treacherous, with rutted slushy snow that made driving very difficult. We arrived safely however, and met up with my sister, Helen, and her husband, Steve. They came out with us for a delicious Chinese meal in Cheltenham and donated a big box of logs for us to use on the fire in the cottage we had rented. Anna and Lauren took a walk to Lower Slaughter, which they tell me was gorgeous, but it will have to wait until next time as I spent the day resting in front of the fire.

We arrived back in Norway on Sunday night, very late and slightly concerned as a girl beside us on the plane had been vomiting all the way from Oslo to Bardufoss. I hadn’t expected a lot of snow while we were away: the forecast had been clear, but there was a good deal more than when we had left. It was no longer possible to see the road in either direction when turning out of the driveway. Even in my SUV, the snow was too high to see over and I made a decision as I pulled out, that I was going to ask the neighbouring farmer whether they could come round and shift some of it. And so I did. He came around in the evening and cleared the snow from the driveway, as well as some from the sides of the road so we could out out more safely.

I hadn’t realised how much the snow had built up until he cleared it. There was a foot of compacted snow underneath where the cars were parked and now it is clear, you can see just how deep it is when the cars are parked there.

Neither Andrew, nor I picked up the vomiting bug, though both of us have been unwell this week. I guess that’s always a risk of travelling, particularly on planes. I must confess that the burden of the snow feels much lighter now. I don’t know how much I will be charged – I did ask, but the reply was enigmatic. Still, however much it is, it is necessary. Next winter should be much easier.

Anyway, my holiday is over for now, but I would love to go back to both the Peak District and Lower Slaughter, preferably when the weather is a little kinder. There’s also lots more blogging to catch up on, both with work and with a lovely gift I received from Mary, who reads this blog and sent me a Norwegian book with some lovely history attached, which I will write about in due course. I hope you have a lovely weekend and I will see you all again next week!

The Beautiful South

Sunrise/sunset: 08:25/16:37 Daylength: 8hr12min

It seems like ages ago already, but last Sunday I took off from Bardufoss Airport and flew (via Oslo) to London Heathrow. Quite a change of scenery!

It’s been one of those magical weeks. One of the hardest things about living in Arctic Norway (apart from the weather) is that it’s a long way from the UK and family. It’s only a couple of flights, obviously, but there’s a limit to how many times I can manage it each year. So it was a big deal to visit Anna, partly for her graduation, but also because things are moving along in her life and I wanted to catch up in a way that just isn’t possible in a phone call.

In addition, when I visited Anna earlier in the year, my co-author for the Hope Meadows series, Vicky Holmes, had pointed out that Winchester was within relatively easy driving distance from where she lives. That time I hadn’t hired a car, so this time I had rectified that.

I confess I was slightly nervous about driving. The roads around Heathrow couldn’t be much more different from the roads around Bardufoss. The national speed limit in Norway is 50mph and there are no motorways within easy driving distance. I’m generally more worried about ice on the road than about what the other vehicles around me are doing. On top of that, driving on the other side of the road is always challenging, and so I had booked an automatic. Not having to reach for the gearstick (and banging your hand into the door) was one less thing to think about. I had declined the offer of paying an extra £50 for GPS. I feel that GPS in a hire car should come as standard in this day and age, but I was wondering whether it was a decision I would come to regret.

So when I arrived I was pleased to find they were offering to upgrade me to a car with GPS. Better still, they had moved me up a class, so the car I drove out of Heathrow was a nice little Mercedes A200. I guess some of the local drivers must have been mystified at the sight of me driving a neat sports car at 60 mph as I navigated from the M4 to the M3 via a short section of the M25, but I arrived safely at my hotel about an hour and a half later, feeling both relieved and proud.

Having endured the slowest check-in ever (computerised systems are great until they’re not) I went round to collect Anna and her lovely girlfriend Lauren. It’s odd, being on the other end of that “meeting the parents” situation. It didn’t cross my mind until I was on the way, that Lauren might actually be nervous about meeting me, but if she was, I hope the worry was swiftly put aside. We had sharing plates at Weatherspoon’s, which was a lovely, relaxed way to begin our few days together.

Anna’s graduation was on Tuesday, so we had arranged to go to Stonehenge on Monday morning, then we were to meet up with Vicky for afternoon tea later in the day. I hadn’t been sure that Stonehenge would be the most interesting place for Lauren to visit (I know Anna loves ancient monuments as much as I do) but I needn’t have worried. Lauren was soon reading up on the history and telling us fascinating information as we walked round. Stonehenge in the modern age is frequented by people keen to experience the summer solstice, but I was intrigued (and quietly pleased) to find out that, in ancient times, the winter solstice was actually more important. There used to be huge gatherings there, with people coming from as far afield as Scotland with their animals each year. What a tradition that must have been!

The stones themselves were fascinating, not least because they were occupied by a flock of starlings, who called loudly throughout the time we were there, except for on a couple of odd moments when something disturbed them. When that happened, the entire flock (along with a few ravens) took off with an intense rush of wings. They performed a few acrobatic manoeuvres in the sky, then flew back in and the chittering and chirping would start again.

A rush of wings: starlings and ravens take flight over Stonehenge

It was amazing to meet Vicky after all these years. Vicky and I wrote six books together, starting in 2016. We were meant to meet in Oslo years ago, but just before the trip, Vicky was diagnosed with cancer. Since then we have been through a pandemic and it had begun to seem likely we would never meet.

It turned into the most perfect afternoon. Vicky had found a lovely hotel in a village not too far from Stonehenge and we were soon deep in scones with cream and lively conversation.

As well as Hope Meadows, I knew that Vicky had been the driving force behind the Warrior Cats/Erin Hunter series. What hadn’t crossed my mind was that she had also been the creator of other, very popular, children’s’ books, but she looked at Lauren, who is studying creative writing, and diagnosed that Lauren might be of an age to have read Daisy Meadows’ Rainbow Magic series. It turned out that these were some of Lauren’s favourite books as a child and she confessed on the return journey that she had recently put some of her favourites into a box, in case she has children. So not only did I meet a friend I’ve been chatting to for six years without meeting, quite unexpectedly, Lauren also met one of her favourite authors. Here is Vicky, smiling that wonderful smile as she peeps out from behind the two enormous stands of afternoon tea!

Vicky Holmes and the Afternoon Tea!

Tuesday was the day of Anna’s graduation – another wonderful occasion. It was heartwarming to see her looking so happy. Her years at university couldn’t have been much more overshadowed, with the pandemic dictating that she spent most of her second year with us in Norway. It was lovely to see her with her university friends, and with Lauren. Charlie came too and it ended up being another perfect day.

Anna and Lauren outside Winchester Cathedral

The hardest thing, as ever, was leaving. Anna won’t be coming home for Christmas as she is working, so it could be quite a while until we meet again. It was also a tug leaving Winchester. It really is the most wonderful example of a small, cosy, English city. They were setting up the huts for a Christmas market near the cathedral and of course, I want to visit that now! Maybe sometime in the future, I will be able to walk among the weathered sarsens of Stonehenge on the winter solstice and visit the stalls in Winchester on Christmas eve, but all that will probably have to wait a few years. For now, I am back in Norway, listening to the rain on the metal roof of my house, with Triar snuggling beside me, and that will have to do.

Snuggly Triar