For the first time in months, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I got in the car and had an all-day outing together. We went to The Newt hotel and garden in East Somerset. We left quite early so that we could walk around the ever-evolving garden and then have a leisurely lunch at the hotel before drifting back home feeling full and very satisfied.
We have visited The Newt garden a couple of times over the last year or so. It is a wonderful space even at this time of the year. The attention to detail everywhere is amazing. The garden construction and quality exudes wealth, but also love for craftsmanship and plants. What I like especially is that the garden is continuing to develop rapidly. That makes it worth visiting time and time again, not just from one season to the next, but year to year.
The entry pass is valid for a year. As a result, there is a risk that parts of the garden nearest the entrance and the surrounds of the café, cider works and firepit, are being overrun by local mothers with pushchairs with toddlers and babies finding socially distanced company in a lovely environment. However, it’s nice to see children enjoying the garden and, anyway, there are several paths off the beaten track which could explore while LSW perused the quality products in the shop.
Lunch, in a glass roofed annex to the carefully restored hotel and amid several equally trim outbuildings, was excellent. We drank cider produced on the premises rather than wine. I haven’t had cider for many years but it was lovely and, having become inured to the high cost of quality craft beer over recent years, I may buy some to take away next time we visit. The whole day was a lovely break from lockdown routine.
In that lockdown routine, the differences between Saturdays and Sundays and every other day have become decreasingly distinct. Those differences between workdays and weekends were huge pre-retirement. For most of the latter couple of decades of my working life, I worked in London but returned to the family home in Gloucestershire on Friday nights and left again on Sunday afternoons. So, not only was the weekend activity different from the other days, the location and immediate company was different too.
Sometimes work impinged on the weekend – sometimes very considerably – and that blurred the weekend but, now I’m retired, Saturdays and Sundays are almost identical to every other day. At times it feels like it is only the day and date on the newspaper voucher I hand over at the newsagent every day that keeps me grounded in the progression of the week.
However, there has remained some structure to my weeks in retirement and LSW and I do still have some rituals that distinguish between the weekends and the rest – albeit some have been disrupted by the current pandemic.
For example, the pandemic and the associated lockdown of hospitality has disrupted our regular Sunday visit to the local pub. Since retirement, and since the village pub reopened a few years ago, we have popped up to the pub, usually via a lengthy walk, to finish the weekend quick crossword over a couple of Sunday lunchtime drinks. Now limiting our visits to a quick drink without a complementing lunch is disallowed under the lockdown restrictions. The only good thing about this is that my weekly alcohol intake has reduced and so my New Year resolution with regard to alcohol is well within reach.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also disrupted my attendance at live local football on Saturday afternoons. Two local teams I sometimes watch have played no football for several weeks and the team I love, Forest Green Rovers, have only been watchable on live internet streams. Watching live football has long been part of my weekend schedule. So, it felt a little bit wonderful (despite the bone crunching cold) when, yesterday, I was able to return to a live game at my football team’s stadium to watch the mighty Rovers triumph. I’m still hoarse this morning from all the vocal support (through a face mask) during the game – just like the ‘old days’.
Amid all this weekend routine disruption, one weekend ritual has been maintained: bread! Breakfasts during the week are, for me, fruit, yogurt and granola; for LSW they are more varied but are usually porridge and some combination of fruit, seeds and syrup. At weekends, we abandon all that healthy stuff and have slice upon slice of locally made bread (Salt Bakehouse sourdough is our favourite). On Saturday’s I have it untoasted and slathered with home-made jam. On Sundays I have it toasted with Marmite; always! That way, I know which day is Saturday and which day is Sunday 🙂