Since using and now living in the van our mornings are pivoted on Ken Bruce’s Pop Master. Personally I’m not a big fan of his. His presentational style always seems a bit detached, almost ambivalent to those he interviews. But (like University Challenge) we do love Pop Master. C is much better at it than me. I generally score three – that is three points, not three questions right – whereas she’ll often score in the teens. It’s the same for University Challenge. I just somehow can’t imagine Roger Tilling shouting out “Royal Military College of Science, Ladley” more than once during the show. I am, however, a good guesser. I can logic my way to somewhere close to an answer (note close), but that doesn’t make me Stephen Fry. C on the other hand (no degree and rubbish A-levels, a blurred period of her life) does well with history, literature and, after eight years at Wells, classical music. “Of course it’s Beethoven, can’t you tell by the darkness of the tone?”
My point is if we’re ready for the day or on the road by Pop Master then we are doing well. Yesterday was such a day. We had decided to stay in our very own paddock and walk up onto Oldbury Hill, dropping back down to the canal for a amble home. A shortish walk. Armed with picnic, rug, gay tea (we’ve developed a liking for herbal tea and that expression was coined for me when I worked with the UN in Sierra Leone – maybe more of that at some point) and binos we set off ‘all backpacks and icepicks’ for the day’s trek.
The weather was cooler, but with some persistence the sun said hello throughout the day and, in many ways, it was perfect walking weather. We found the hill easy (it’s all this training) and then picked up the Quarryman’s Trail, an initially poorly marked route through the woods of Hartshill Country Park, round some huge lake-filled quarries and eventually down to the canal. We chatted about stuff, looking at saving for a trip next autumn maybe to see the Jones in the US or backpacking from Singapore to Hanoi. By the time we got to the canal we realised that ‘short’ wasn’t really an apposite adjective for the route we’d chosen, but at least the trudge home was along the gradientless canal.
It was less busy than yesterday and slightly less tidy. There were more live-in boats, rather than retirees boats, the former inhabited by people eking out a living rather than the latter who have time and money to add extra gilt lettering, polished brass and overflowing baskets of flowers to their brown ale palaces. It reminded me of the stretch of the Kennet to Avon east of Bath which is teeming with live-aboard, dingy narrowboats decorated with rusty bikes and slightly dodgy herbs spilling over onto the towpath. These people ought to get a job. Oh. Not sure I can say that anymore…
But it was still effortless on the eye and there were plenty of primary coloured boats manned by happy souls to acknowledge as they put-putted their way down the canal. For the historians we passed, allegedly, Boudica’s last stand against the Romans. The Battle of Watlin Street (AD 60/61) finished her and the Icenis off and she was either killed or committed suicide close to where we stood.
We got back mid-afternoon (7.6 miles in all) and worked hard at doing nothing for a couple of hours. C read and I got out my watercolours, something which I have not done for over eight years. We both went for a run back down the canal where C had an exchange with a couple of dogs. The owner of boat saying “don’t worry they’ve had their tea”. #side-splitting. I followed the same route directly afterwards with a view to having a chat with the comedian if the same thing happened. I’m ok with pets (we inadvertently have a cat at one point) but don’t take too kindly to owners of dogs who think they have a right to frighten passer-bys. A friend of mine was hospitalised by a dog in Greece whilst out running and I was ankle-nipped by a little dog in Brissol whilst running last year. All I could do was stand still and shout at the bloke: “you’re effing dog just bit me – he just bit me….”. I bet the dog was called Charlie.
Back on task. Supper was something out of Aldi’s freezer compartment, chips and salad. And we finished off listening to half an hour of The Blind Assasin on the pocket cassette player (plus JP’s liddle, tiny, roundy speaker) I bought from a car-boot in the Spring. It was its first outing and v pleased we were with ourselves. It’s a good book as well, narrated by CJ from the West Wing, which all adds to the continuum of our current life.
Today Chris and Kelly. So I’d better get on and post this as Pop Master’s only a couple of hours away.