Monday, October 3, 2016

Family: Visiting the Past

Our fourth day in England saw us on the road to the Cambridge area. It was a baptism by fire for Larry as far as driving. He'd been doing well on the smaller roads we'd traveled so far but now we were taking the major highways.

We got totally flummoxed at Oxford. The roundabouts were plentiful and frequent, the traffic fast-moving, and the signs still unfamiliar and confusing. Being lost is okay if you're seeing interesting things and I know there is plenty to see in Oxford, but we didn't see any of it, just industrial buildings and the like. However, like Bristol, the vortex finally spun us out in the right direction. At this point we were still navigating by map, with no GPS. In the end we made our destination about 2 hours behind schedule, partly because of rain, wrong turns, mostly because of slow, slow traffic. There had been a lot of rain in some areas and even some minor flooding, and with the heavy traffic it was a recipe for accidents and slowdowns.

So we were right glad to find our hotel, the Black Bull in Godmanchester, our base for the next two days. We got our bags in, then we were off again to Sawtry to see family.

The drive was totally worth it when we saw Aunt Grace and our cousins Robert and Julie at the door. Aunt Grace is my mother's sister and she is 95 now, a woman who was a teen during World War II and married a British airman. Cousin Julie is recording stories from her these days and her memory, sharp as a tack, is full of details we would never know without her. A true treasure.

Aunt Grace Swindells

My cousin and gardener extraordinaire, Robert, whose life story could be a book.

We had tea and a short visit, then Julie took us off to Caldecote to visit our cousin Philip's widow Hazel. More tea, some delicious cakes and mince tarts, lots of hugs and conversation, and then we went on to visit the grave of our grandfather, Ernest Thomas Hagger. I wrote a bit of his story in a recent post which you can read here. I cannot explain the connection I feel to this grandfather I never met, but it does me great good to visit his grave and think about this gentle, good man who died far too young.

Such beautiful, tranquil countryside. You would never know that the traffic to get here was backed up for miles, but Julie knew back ways so we avoided almost all of it. She made sure to point out this road name. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Afterwards we went back to Grace's for a fine supper of fish and chips. Truly no one can make them like the English! Grace had served the tea earlier, and now served and cleared up dinner, refusing any assistance. She is an amazing woman--still living on her own and doing most things for herself. We had a good visit with Grace and Robert before finally saying good night and heading back to our hotel. We stopped in the pub for a Guinness for Larry and met some interesting people from Birmingham, ending the evening much later than we expected but very contented and ready for sleep.

The Black Bull, like most inns in England, reputedly has ghosts, but once again our tired bodies slept soundly, undisturbed by any wandering spirits. The next morning we we up early for a breakfast with a young cousin I'd not yet met, and her son and fiance'.  We walked to a nearby restaurant (our hotel served only continental breakfasts and only for guests) for a full English breakfast. It was such a delight to get to know Jenny, and her little son was such fun, very bright and entertaining, but also very polite.
Jenny, me and her son

Back at the hotel, cousin Julie collected us to go off for tea with another cousin, Shane, and his family. Julie's beautiful daughter Christine, was also there. We went to the most amazing garden center. I could have filled suitcases with Christmas ornaments of the most beautiful kind, but I behaved myself. I'd been Facebook friends with Shane's wife JoJo so we knew each other a little bit from that, but it was the first time I'd met my cousin and his family in person. Three energetic children were such a hoot! Very busy, they were, while we visited and talked a blue streak.

Me, Christine and Julie

Shane, JoJo, Larry and me

Julie dropped us at our hotel where we said goodbye to this sweet cousin, and we took off for a quick walk down the street. Godmanchester is full of charming buildings.

But we'd not got far before yet another cousin tooted his horn! This was Les, whom we had stayed with on our last visit to England, and we were off to spend the rest of the day with him, cousin John (who writes By Stargoose and Hanglands blog), and their mother, my Aunt Flo, who was married to my mother's brother, Uncle Ted.

What a time we had! A fantastic lunch with Les (and by this time I was SO full!) of Bubble and Squeak for me and more fish and chips for Larry, Then tea with Aunt Flo, a good walk with John and Les around beautiful Grantchester, more tea (this time with cakes, sandwiches and incredibly sweet tomatoes raised by John).
Me, John and Les with Aunt Flo.

Then an evening in Les' "local", the Green Man pub and visiting with a few of his friends, and finally back to the Black Bull for some solid sleep.

Because Sunday, we would be off to Wales...

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

1 comment:

Brig said...

Loving this trip, thank you for taking us along with your words & pics.

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