So it's nice to be able to dwell instead on the past couple of weeks and our experiences in the North and South (see Elizabeth Gaskell). Maybe the first thing to say is that the weather has been exceptional: no rainjacket since our first day in Cornwall!
From Cornwall we travelled not far north to Somerset, to stay for a few days at Parsonage Farm in the tiny village of Over Stowey on the edge of the Quantock Hills. I've blogged Parsonage Farm before, so suffice to say that it's a gorgeous place and we enjoyed walking on the hills and eating in the pubs. But we never saw a Lesser Spotted (hardly ever spotted) Woodpecker!
Jeannie explaining to orphan lambs that she has no food for them.
Tea in the garden at Parsonage Farm.
We met up with Jim and Cheryl Wilson for a night (see their Marvellous Adventures blog) and then committed ourselves to the bosom of the M5 and M6 to be whirled up north to my sister's near Bolton, Lancashire. Now you may not be aware that this country, as well as its well-established class structure, has an even deeper north-south divide than Tasmania! Probably even before Elizabeth Gaskell, southerners thought the north was populated by clog-wearing labourers with laughable accents, while the northerners believed the other half to be effete aristocrats busily grinding the faces of the poor. And there's still more than a bit of that, but our experience (as southerners originally) is that the north is full of lovely people who smile at you in the street and stop their cars to ask whether you are lost. That don't happen in London!
With Kate and Chris we visited a couple of stately homes and gardens, marvelling at the vast numbers of people who come to enjoy them. We also got to meet our very new grand-niece, Sophie: a real little charmer.
Tatton Park being enjoyed by the crowds.
Kate & Chris on the steps of the church where they were married 34 years ago, to the day.
Jeannie and our nephew Robert, the Boy from Bolton.
Why is that man making funny faces at me?
Family group, Andrea is the only one you haven't met already.
Our final stay in the north was in the North York Moors national park, an area that I've never been to before, but which Jeannie visited as a student. We stayed in a B&B at Kirkbymoorside (good names up there) and since the weather was so good we bought a book of walks and did one each of our four days. It's lovely country: deep valleys with stone walls and very white sheep in very green fields and then miles of open heather moorland on the ridges (or "riggs" locally). Just made for walking, and many people do; at every stop we would see people putting on walking boots and shouldering packs. We met plenty of people on the tracks and one pub offered covers for muddy boots at the door!
Italy? Bring it on!
Next stop: Italy, and some more walking. Watch this space (but don't forget to breathe, dunno when I'll get wifi next).
What's that? Wedding......? Did someone get married? (OK, we admit it. We stayed in and watched)