19 September 2021

Well, that was a lot of fun but, sadly, we are slowly having to adjust to “normal” now that Ben, Brex-Anna and Max have returned to LA after a two-and-a-half-week visit. It seems remarkably quiet around here – no one is playing trains on the kitchen floor in the mornings.

It’s been a great visit made all the more special for having been so long since the last time we were able to be together. And, they did all the heavy lifting – an overly long flight from the West Coast to London and back again – undertaken with a three-year-old! At least the flights were relatively sparsely populated, I gather, so they had enough room to be reasonably comfortable, I guess. But still, it’s a long flight here and back and we’re very grateful they made the effort. Hopefully, it won’t be quite so long before we can repeat the adventure.

During their final week we had a great dinner out with the whole famn damily. We visited the Cromwell Cottage which is just up the road from here. We’ve driven past it many, many times over the years and I’ve always thought, “I wonder if that place is any good?” And, it was.

We did have a bit of excitement getting there. The pub/restaurant is just by the side of the road and immediately before a narrow stone bridge over the River Neen. There’s only room for one line of traffic and you always have to slow down to check the oncoming traffic before crossing. As we arrived, we could see just up ahead of us the flashing lights of a police car and, as we got closer still, a very large lorry which was across the road blocking the traffic. I guess that the lorry driver was happily following his SatNav when he came to the bridge. Not confident that he would make it across without removing half the bridge, he attempted to turn around using the driveway of the Cromwell Cottage in his efforts to complete a three-point turn. Hmm, unfortunately that didn’t go too well.

Fortunately, there was just enough room for us to squeeze by and into the car park. Nick and Lucy and Adam and Ava, however, were coming from the other direction and had to wait as the police shepherded the cars one by one around the lorry. Still, we all got there more or less on time and had a lot of fun. I’m not sure the other diners, clearly having chosen a Tuesday evening for a bit of peace and quiet, were all that enamoured with the clamour created by a three-year-old and his five-year-old cousin but we didn’t get thrown out and the food was very tasty. We’ll have to go again.

Our sunflowers finally emerged over the past week or so. A pretty good show although certainly not the height of Jessie’s.

Steady progress in the Route 66 excursion. This past week I cycled past Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, a site of special significance to my younger sister Susie. She was born there while our father was performing his patriotic duties with the US Army during the Korean War. I was hoping to erect a blue plaque – Susie Stragnell was born here – but the authorities would not let me enter. Too much of a security risk.

I read this week that Sir Clive Sinclair had died at the age of 81. An interesting chap and clearly very, very clever. I love the quote from the article that, “Many modern-day titans of the games industry got their start on one of his ZX models.” Our Ben, who is certainly a modern-day titan of the games industry, had his start on a ZX81 and progressed to a Sinclair Spectrum before eventually moving on to “proper” PCs later.

Sinclair was certainly interesting even if some of his wackier ideas were perhaps a bit ahead of their time. He developed the first calculators which were small enough to fit into your pocket even though he, apparently, never used one. He always carried around his handily portable slide rule for all his required calculations. He also developed a tiny, tiny television which never really caught on. Nor did his “masterpiece”, the C5 – an electric vehicle which was a financial disaster and eventually forced the company into receivership. Who wants to ride in an open-topped vehicle in the inclement British weather and, at the same time be out of the sight-line of most other traffic? I seem to remember that one of Ben’s classmates at primary school had a C5 which, if I remember correctly, he rode around on with a fox tail hanging on the back. Ironic, I suppose, that neither the tiny television nor the C5 ever caught on given that folks now regularly (not me) watch television on their mobiles and electric vehicles are all the rage.

We’re off later this afternoon to Stratford – we are taking Annabelle to her first Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors which should be fun. And, we’re off next weekend as well so, if you are lucky, you may escape another Picayune. You’re welcome.

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating as much as you can, wear a f**king facemask when you go out and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,


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