Part 1 was published here yesterday


I would not like to give the impression that our town is not at all welcoming to people of all ages and backgrounds because that would be quite wrong.  There are many fine restaurants and bistros, along with wine bars, a fine church and a theatre, lovely public gardens and marina and a river which winds its way majestically through an avenue of weeping willow trees, past ducks and swans fighting playfully with each other as they rush for food thrown to them by bystanders. Occasionally there will be a shriek of delight as a male swan leaps out of the river and snatches from an outstretched hand a tasty morsel of food about to be offered.

Narrow boats too are a delight to been seen, as they jockey for the best mooring position alongside the fun fair and summer market.  Many people enjoy this spectacle and can be heard to say so as they breathe in the fine aroma of diesel fumes and wood burning stoves wafting lazily from the boats.

People enjoy a family picnic on the fields alongside the river, sharing happily the area with dog walkers who often allow their dogs to run loose around the picnickers and attack young and old as they become over excited.

There is much entertainment to be had for onlookers as the most illuminating conversations transpire.  Many an overseas visitor will have learned some basic Anglo-Saxon English before peace and harmony returns as the protagonists go their separate ways.

We are very lucky in summer that we get a better class of street singer and street musician, which makes a pleasant change from the incessant drone of accordion players that appear at other times of the year; although it is fair to say that Nessun Dorma gets a little irritating when heard several times a day at very loud volume.

Time is short for our visitors so many partake of some of the attractions. A rowing boat on the river – even if you can’t row – is very popular though some need to be told that if the pointy end is at the front it makes the boat much easier to row.  But who cares when it’s about showing your loved one your rippling muscles, tattoos and expertise?  Many are, after all, Brits and on a beautiful day, there is nothing quite like relaxing in a rowing boat at £20 for a half hour with your family safely ensconced in bright red life jackets.

There are fine views to be had from the pleasure boats vying in friendly competition with each other for business as they have done for generations.  Taking visitors on a very pleasant trip on the river, where they can watch the antics of rowers and power boats as they skip (mostly happily) along.

When it’s time to depart and find our way home, a slow walk to find the car and a lovely day is made complete when we find a pretty bright yellow envelope placed strategically in the middle of the windscreen by one of the towns friendly and effective civil enforcement officers.  This invites us to send a donation of £70 parking fee to an address within seven days.

We then wave a fond farewell to this haven and start our drive home, passing acres of green pasture (soon to be a ‘delightful collection of executive family homes’), the pretty yellow and blue hues of rape seed and linseed fields, travelling for endless miles behind the smiling tractor driver towing a huge trailer with no number plates lights or indicators, as he takes his load of hay piled high and thoughtfully leaves a trail of hay or whatever behind for us to appreciate. It certainly proves that antihistamine tablets work, as our sore eyes and runny nose is not as bad as experienced in previous years.

Summer is the time for roads to be repaired of course. These need to be done when schools are closed, and so we were lucky on our 15 mile journey today that we only came to a standstill at four sets of temporary traffic lights, all it seems, being supervised by a large bloke in a yellow jacket and white safety helmet, talking earnestly on a mobile phone while staring down a hole (not on the highway) while oblivious to the gridlock that the ‘works’ are causing. It’s something to do with increasing traffic flows apparently.

Gratefully we drive off only to find that the road for the next five miles is restricted to 20mph as a top dressing of stone has been applied. This is rolled down on to hot tar by a huge roller and the rest left to be distributed by traffic.  Drivers are more than happy to do this, as we all understand that we must have good safe road surfaces so we are all happy to have a stone hitting the car’s body work or have the windscreen shattered by that very, very, important driver on a mission of life or death, speeding past or in the other direction and causing such a wonderful display of flying stones.

On the way home we make small detour to call in to a local church fete, these like school fetes are not so evident these days, as most prefer the sights and sounds of a street market or car boot sale where there is always a variety of fast foods from across the world on sale.

And now finally back home.  It’s still early evening and the neighbours decide to barbeque and eat outside on their patio, open the doors and windows, turn up the music centre and play those long forgotten melodies of yesteryear, the ones that bring back such fond memories of that long ago holiday in Benidorm.

Mostly though, it’s all traditional fun.  We’ve all had a good day and can relax while listening to the neighbours choice of music, somebody mowing the lawn, the trampoline kids screeching with enjoyment, with the traditional smell of burnt burgers on the bar-b-que together with the lingering smell of the bonfire thoughtfully lit somewhere near.

As early evening turns and the sun starts to go down, the roar of the traffic through the village fades, all is at peace, only the occasional motorcycle racing along the main road accompanied by the (all too often it seems) emergency vehicle sirens break the silence.

As I dwell on the thought that this is summer, not just a country summer, but a full blown hot British summer and reflect that with all the turmoil in the world people still find enjoyment in traditional ways and according to the local hotels I can now book my Christmas event.

Photo by norbert_blech

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