With the relaxing of the coronavirus lock down we have been emboldened to travel further afield to see friends and relatives. At the end of last month we went to Nottingham and Edinburgh and last week we visited friends in Eye, Suffolk. It had been over a year since we had seen these old friends and over two years since our last visit to Suffolk. There was much to catch up on.
Once again, we had great Suffolk weather. That showed off to best effect the improvements to our friends’ house and outbuildings, which had continued up to the lock down last year, and the private allotments that they have recently purchased and taken fuller control of.
These allotments are tremendous; they are colourful, well-tended and, judging from the health of the vegetables on show, fertile and not by savaged by deer or badgers. I am particularly jealous of this last point having seen all my Jerusalem artichokes on my own tiny allotment plot excavated and eaten by relentless badgers in recent weeks.
Since our last visit to the Eye allotments, the wife in the couple has extended her animal husbandry alongside the vegetables, flower beds and an orchard cum meadow. There are now pigs in addition to the squad of chickens and a grumpy, blind duck.
There has already been a cycle of acquiring pigs, feeding them up and sending them to slaughter that the current pair Oxford Sandy and Blacks/Gloucester Old Spot crosses are blissfully unaware of. Given how friendly and enthusiastic for life that they are, I’m not sure I could bear the emotion of farming pigs in this way but I have to say that the pork we had at dinner on the first night of our stay was delicious!
Eye itself is a pretty town in which the wife in the couple seems to know everyone. The town is a good size with a market and a nice range of independent shops. It is surrounded by a mix of chicken factories and old airfields that are starting to be homes for small businesses. One such is Bruha Brewing which we were able to visit (following my first and rather precarious cycle ride for several years) to sample their very satisfying craft beer.
The town is also surrounded by arable farms criss-crossed by lanes and footpaths and we took ample opportunity afforded by the sunny weather to get our steps up to normal levels after the long drive to Suffolk. There was time, too, to visit Wyken Hall Gardens and have a lovely lunch (again) at its restaurant, The Leaping Hare. We have a lot of shared history with our Suffolk friends and it was great to catch up in such relaxed and attractive surroundings.
Then, this week, we had a visit from my best man (BM) who is another long standing friend from university. Again, the formula of a pub visit, walking and a nice meal was a good, solid backdrop for a great mutual sharing of recent events and life developments. BM’s life rarely seems dull and a recent hip replacement and impending retirement added to the normal interest. If he doesn’t move on to a new job after all, perhaps we will be able to catch up more often.
Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I are starting to enjoy and plan more trips and visits as Covid lockdowns are eased to allow them. Last month, for the first time for me in ages, we visited LSW’s aunt, cousin and his wife for dinner. It was an evening enlivened by their dog amusingly pinching a third of the quiche (the rest that he left for us was lush!) and a spectacular view of a sunset over the Severn valley from their house.
Now we are starting to schedule trips to Ireland, London, Scotland, Bath plus dates for local get-togethers with local village friends and neighbours. Normality in retirement is returning.