I'm sitting on a railway station, got a ticket for my destination, and I can't stop singing quietly to myself as the train speeds it's way to Newport, South Wales.
I had four reasons to be cheerful, firstly was the thought that my B & B hopping days were nearly over. From here on I had friends in Salisbury, Devon, and a cottage in Cornwall with family and friends for the final week. Secondly, sister Jill was also on her way to Newport, via Pennsylvania USA, with an en route stop off at Welshpool, Wales. I imagined she'd be on her train right now, probably polishing her halo, having done the "neicely" duties of a visit to a 91 year old Auntie Edna. Thirdly I'd be met at Newport by a long lost cousin (not seen for 40 years) and last but not least, tomorrow, I'd be walking with some V.I.P's from "Natural England" who'd been supporting this mad venture of mine.
And as I write, I'm wishing that that particular tomorrow was not so far in the distant past. The reality is, I'm not now on that train, but sitting in front of a fire on a cold winters night in November with another Christmas, without Sophie, looming ahead. And so, this has all but ceased to be a blog, and more a way of finishing a journal.
Flashing back to August, after meeting up with a very sprightly cousin Michael, who certainly didn't look the 40 years older he was, and having enjoyed an excellent evening of good food, wine and hospitality, the next day, with perfect timing I meet my new found friends on Gloucester Station . Stella, a big cheese in the WHI initiative, having been there at it's inception. Fiona and Moira who deal with publicity and advertising, and Mitch, "Pedometer man" which as I found out later, was more than just handing out little gadgets. There's a whole lot of research going into it all, which is all fine and dandy to hear about, until numbers and statistics come into the equation, and my eyes start to glaze over.
Firstly, after initial introductions, the important questions were discussed. To buy or not to buy? Lunch that is, and who was going to map read. On the second issue I gratefully accepted that they, the locals, could lead the way. Fortunate as they were to work in the lovely town of Cheltenham they were also pretty familiar with the less desirable Gloucester.
Mitch route marched us out of town before I had chance to view it's more attractive side (if it had one) and before too long we were heading up the hill towards Robinswood Hill where on a clear day you could see as far as the Bristol suspension bridge. Considering what a popular place it must be, the choice of paths to get there was very confusing. Being a man, Mitch couldn't possibly ask for directions, but we girls could, and somehow or other we made our way to the top, where we paused for photo's. Me in my "whiter than white" T shirt. (and isn't it amazing what a hot wash can do!)
After some deliberation, we decided on the route to Stonehouse where we would have to eventually part company. I looked nostalgically towards Painswick in the distance, but sadly it wasn't on this year's path, and besides that blue cup" (pub) on the map, in another direction, looked like the ideal lunch stop. To sit in the midday sunshine in a quaint little pub in a hamlet in the Cotswold countryside was something to look forward to. Or it could have been. "Closed due to unforeseen circumstances" was the hurriedly scribbled note on the firmly shut door. Whatever their circumstances were, ours were, two packed lunches between four people. But here's the interesting fact,one always packs more food for a "packed lunch" than one would normally eat at lunchtime. And so there was food a plenty. Sitting in the sunshine on a bench outside the deserted pub we metaphorically shared our loaves and fishes.
Mitch marched us on our way towards Stonehouse. An ideal second refreshment break yes? No. It didn't materialise as the sort of quaint town where there would be a "Ye oldie tea shop" to bid our fond farewells over a cuppa, as it turned out to be unfortunately more Calcutta than Cotswold, with a plethora of curry houses lining the High street. Perhaps it was just as well we didn't stop as I'd arranged to meet cousin Michael in Wotton under Edge, and estimated getting there at 5pm . With promises to keep in touch and perhaps to join Mitch on his next "challenge" (climbing Everest) I finally picked up "The Cotswold Way" retracing the steps of last years trek...
5pm came and went. Michael was there, I wasn't. Not wanting to keep him waiting I put a spurt on and puffed and panted my way through the woods on a part of the "Cotswold's Way" I'd merely strolled through last year. Staggering upon Michael outside a most delightfully tempting (open for business) pub. It was however, all temptations considered, a long way back to Wales.