This weekend’s prompt from Linda G Hill for her regular Stream of Consciousness Saturday thread manages to tie in quite nicely with the reason I didn’t post anything last Saturday.
” “-cat-” Use the letters at the start, middle, or end of a word and make it the subject of your post – or just use the word “cat.” “
Back to the old stomping ground.
Ever since Rhonda and Audrey arrived from America this time last year, Audrey has been inordinately excited about the fact that she now has “new cousins” in my sister’s children.
But because my immediate family all live 250 miles away in Crowborough, East Sussex, the only chance she had to meet them in person was in March (when they all came down for our somewhat delayed wedding reception) and we’ve not had a chance to get up there and catch up with them since.
That is, until last weekend.
As the end of the school holidays coincided with Halloween, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the journey back to the place where I grew up, introduce Rhonda to some old friends, have Audrey spoiled by her newly-acquired grandparents and let her go Trick or Treating with those eagerly anticipated cousins.
So as soon as work was over on Thursday and I’d had a quick shower, we all jumped in the car and headed eastwards.
I’ve made the journey many times over the years, but never at night.
Isn’t it amazing how different everything looks (or doesn’t look) in the dark?
Road junctions for instance.
Especially when there’s an outbreak of cones, roadworks, temporary signs and closed off-ramps on a stretch of previously familiar motorway.
In short, we (ok, I) got lost somewhere around Winchester, had to backtrack a few miles before the unfamiliar became recognisable again and we finally arrived about two hours late.
After spending Friday catching up with family, listening to Audrey chattering happily with her new cousins, playing with my sister’s two cats and being treated to a meal by mum in the evening, we scheduled a trip out onto Ashdown Forest, the setting for A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.
If you come from Crowborough, it’s pretty much compulsory to go to the world famous Pooh Bridge at least once, to play a game of “Pooh Sticks”, as played by Pooh and Christopher Robin in those enchanting books and we couldn’t go back to my old home town without taking Audrey out there.
So on Saturday morning we drove over to pick up my old friend Biff and his dog, Luigi, before visiting the official Pooh shop and taking a very pleasant stroll through the forest in the autumn sunshine, culminating in a few races on the river (making certain we gathered plenty of sticks on the way, as the area around the bridge is a barren, stick-free zone) and allowing Audrey to fall in deep boggy puddle, filling her boots with mud and requiring us to make a quick diversion on the way back to change clothes.
Then it was time to meet up with a few mates at my old local, The Wheatsheaf, a real pub with low ceilings, open fires and plenty of dark wood paneling, a place that never seems to alter, despite the passing of time and changing clientele.
We had a few drinks, caught up with the local gossip and arranged to meet up with anybody we missed later on that evening.
Trick or Treating was obviously the highlight of Audrey’s weekend, getting to dress up and terrorize the locals with my sister’s kids, who were wonderful with her, keeping her entertained the whole time and making our stay a real pleasure.
It was so good to see Rhonda enjoying the company of my old friends that evening, listening to us reminiscing about our misspent youth and fielding questions about her life in America.
I’m always grateful to have a group of people who are just as pleased to see me as I am to see them, even after all these years away.
I hear about so many people who lose track of those people they grew up with and that really would be a shame because, as Rhonda says, I really do have the most wonderful collection of friends.
Leaving with a promise to return before too long, to spend longer in the land of Pooh next time, we weaved our way back to my sister’s for the final time on this flying visit.
We made sure we left in daylight on Sunday morning, to avoid any more navigational mishaps, arriving home after only a small diversion and just the one deer jumping out of the fog in front of the car.
I rang my sister to let her know we’d made it home safely and she asked whether we had an uninvited cat in our luggage, as one of hers had gone missing. We had no stowaway on board as far as I could tell, but the next day there was a rather worried appeal on Facebook for anyone who spotted an escaped cat to please return it.
Fortunately there is a happy ending to the story, as the errant feline turned up with a minor back injury, slightly disheveled and dehydrated the next day behind a neighbour’s garage, requiring only a quick once-over by the vet and a drip to facilitate a full recovery.
All-in-all a fabulous weekend, with great people that I’m so lucky to know and a family who have been nothing but supportive in the emotional and financial maelstrom that has made up the last year or so of my life.
Thank you all, we couldn’t have done it without you.
See you all again soon.