An English 'Summer' - possibly!


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Europe » United Kingdom » England » Oxfordshire » Abingdon
September 2nd 2015
Published: December 25th 2017
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An English Summer 12 July - 31st August 2015

The last Blog saw us planning our visit to Stratford. The performance of Othello was very enjoyable and, even better, the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre provides the intimacy that we had come to love in the temporary theatre. No one is far from the stage so it is easy to become involved in the action. At school those studying Literature came to Stratford for a week. I loved this experience but really struggled at the theatre. As much as I enjoyed the plays we were always so far from the stage, up in the 'Gods', that it must have strained by eyes. Without fail I fell asleep within minutes until eventually I realised, thankfully, that if I chewed constantly I could overcome the need to close my eyes. Nowadays everyone is close to the stage so this shouldn't be a problem for anyone.

Since Stratford we have wandered around, not quite aimlessly, but on a whim, calling into places that we have not had time to visit previously or where we wanted to see friends and family. We have returned to Abingdon a few times to see Anna, popped into Essex (where we walked out to Wallasea Island reserve and saw our first Adder), went to a quiz with friends from Eastbourne, saw friends from Australia in Worcester and camped near Gilli so she could spend a day with us. Travelling in Astrid makes all this movement very easy as we do not have to pack or carry cases.

We stayed in Chirk just over the Welsh border and took the bus into Chester which Jim had never visited. Originally a Roman town it also has some beautiful Tudor buildings including covered walkways or galleries. Then we moved down to Devon, staying at Exeter Racecourse en route. We were parked just by the Tower and Finishing Post. It is a lovely site with excellent facilities.

From there a longer journey took us down to Slapton Ley, between Dartmouth and Kingsbridge, on the coast in Devon. This was perfect so we stayed 3 weeks. We were very lucky as most sites are full during the school holidays. We managed to book a few days to begin with and then we kept checking online to grab any cancellations that freed a space and managed to stay the 3 weeks. We also had one of the best sites, spacious and quiet, which is a rare find during this period. Slapton Ley is a lake running alongside the sea, separated only by the road which floods frequently in winter. We were 5 minutes walk from 2 hamlets (3 pubs) and the bird hide and 10 minutes from the sea and coastal path. When the weather was good we managed a number of 5 to 7 mile walks but the reason cancellations occurred was that the good weather was interspersed by very rainy days. We think lots of people decided to pack up and go home.

Bus trips into Dartmouth and Salcombe were easy and it was much more comfortable letting the bus driver struggle with the narrow roads (especially the double decker!) than driving ourselves and it provided us with good views over the fields and hedges.

One day we were walking along the coastal path and had identified where we would stop to eat lunch on a bench on the return journey. When we arrived back a lady was sitting there but as there was sufficient space we asked if we could join her. We had a fascinating conversation! Sheila (she told us her name) was incognito as she quickly explained. She had on a very large floppy hat hiding much of her face, and huge sunglasses fitted on top of her specs. At first we did not know what she meant. Had she escaped from somewhere? Was she a celebrity? If so, her identify was safe with us. We would not recognise a celebrity even if we tripped over one wearing a mammoth name plate. We are totally ignorant in this field and possibly proud of it!

Anyway we started chatting and it proved very interesting. Sheila has suffered from severe ME for over 20 years (she is now 50) and for many of those years she was housebound in a wheel chair. In fact her neighbours never saw her and only knew she lived there when they spoke to her visiting parents, asking them if they looked after the house for someone who lived away. This only changed last year when someone told her of a 3 day course designed for ME sufferers that had had some good outcomes. In desperation she decided she had nothing to lose by attending the course. Many of you will know that I have used NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) over the years and am a firm believer in the power it provides to individuals to manage stress and associated illness. This course proved to be NLP packaged under a trade name.

After the 3 days Sheila was well on her way to recovery and is now fully restored and planning to go travelling in Eastern Europe in the autumn. She described some of the difficulties involved in recovery. Firstly, coming to terms with 'losing' 20 years of her life to her illness. She explained that the trainers were quite clear that she had to let go of regrets or anger about that in order to move on. Secondly, giving up a support structure of friends who are part of the ME community and had formed most of her life during those years. It was interesting to hear that there is a 25% Group, the proportion who are most badly affected by ME, and Sheila had to give up this status to move on.

I was particularly curious to know the explanation for the 'cause' of ME as I was unclear about the role NLP could play without understanding this. Sheila passed on the explanation she had been given, which is that a long term stress reaction eventually impairs the immune system and then "gets stuck", so continuing to create the chemical changes in the body (essential for a healthy stress response) but because it is long term it becomes damaging and debilitating. That certainly matched my understanding of stress and health issues but I would like to see more research results and medical analyses of ME to have a clearer understanding of the mechanisms at work.. Something else to check out when we are online. However it worked, it seems to have changed Sheila's life and I wish her luck on her travels. Eventually we discovered she was incognito as she lived about 30 miles distant and did not want to risk meeting anyone she had known during her illness.

Reluctantly leaving Slapton we returned once again to Abingdon and had a lovely evening meeting up with James' parents for the first time and visiting Oxford for the day. Then we moved down to Eastbourne stopping off at the Secure Storage Facility outside Abingdon where we plan to leave Astrid for the winter. The thought of leaving her is worrying but the young man managing the Facility was reassuring so we started to feel a little happier about it. I am sure it is what pet owners feel leaving their animal in kennels!

Eventually we ended up in Abbey Wood, not far from Greenwich, where Gilli was able to come and visit. Despite being so close in to London the site was pretty with a rural feel about it and huge flocks of parrots flying overhead. It provided the opportunity to take the bus to Greenwich where we visited the National Maritime Museum, viewed the Cutty Sark, walked through the pedestrian tunnel to the other side of the Thames (from where there is a great view of the Naval College - quite Venetian in a way and 'Canalettoesque') and back.

The Museum was more engrossing than I had expected. Although aware of our Naval heritage I had never stopped and thought about the impact of seafaring activities on the British Isles in general, being ignorant of the fact that it was a great 'industrial' activity for a very long period. It provided incomes directly and indirectly for a huge proportion of the population, facilitated trade and because of the infrastructure put in place over generations it probably had a role in facilitating the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately of course it also facilitated slavery and colonial expansion at the expense of other cultures and peoples.

Although we all associate William Wilberforce with the Abolition of Slavery it was interesting to see how many other activists fought against it before and after Wilberforce's legislation. What horrified Jim and I was learning that when slavery was abolished the great estae owners (slave masters) were paid £40 million to help them adjust! That was half the GDP (although it was not called that at the time) of the British Isles. Imagine how much that would be in today's money some 200 years later.

Naturally there is much information about Nelson and the Napoleonic Wars but again other people and their exploits are described in detail, even Zheng Ho gets a mention from the early 15th Century (See blog about Malacca for more about Zheng Ho who I think is the greatest explorer ever.)

Now we are in Abingdon again for Jim's birthday and off to a Brewery this evening for a tour with Anna and James. Then on to Cambridge for a few days before meeting up with Chris from New Zealand in the west Midlands and after that we have to prepare Astrid for hibernation so there may not be another blog until we reach South America. We fly to Sao Paulo on the 23rd September.

Summer in the UK has been fun and interesting, a chance to meet up with lots of people and visit places we have promised ourselves we would visit one day but the weather has been a challenge. This is true not only in Scotland where they are saying it is the worst summer for 30 years, and farmers are having dreadful problems as they have little winter food for their animals, but all over the country we have experienced some good days interspersed with a lot of rain and low temperatures. It is worrying as I have difficulty imaging how we could cope here during the winter if we find the summer so uncomfortable!

On a more positive note we are looking forward to our next overseas adventure and will keep you updated.


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