We've been in Shropshire and deepest, darkest North Wales this evening.
It took what seemed an eternity to get out of London. First, Nathan, who's been deaf as a post for the last week, was forced to pay a visit to the Soho walk-in clinic to have his ears syringed. I'm not sure "walk-in" best describes the service he received. I suppose he walked-in, but it was many hours before he was able to walk out again. That said, it's fairly impressive that any surgery in this country could exist on a Sunday, and Nathan can now hear again, so I shouldn't complain.
After limping out of the clinic, we got stuck in London Marathon traffic. The situation was compounded roadworks. They always choose weekends to dig up every last stretch of road in the capital, whilst simultaneously taking every last tube train out of service. The roads were therefore gridlocked and it took us over an hour to get to the m40.
You drive out of London, and every spare dot matrix sign on the motorway urges drivers to "plan journeys carefully during the Olympics to avoid being late." Sadly, with a broken infrastructure, no amount of planning will ever be enough.
I worked in the car on the way up. Although I've now finished writing the Fleet Singers composition there's a mountain of work which needs to be done in terms of formatting the scores and all the parts.
The journey was made rather magical by the schizophrenic nature of the weather, which gave us a little taste of pretty much everything it could muster up. The clouds billowed in whites, yellows, browns, greys and blacks whilst the watery sun lit up rape fields and early budding lime green trees to create a unique patchwork of primary colours which, randomly, was entirely devoid of any shade of red or orange.
We crossed the border into Wales at about 7pm, and there was a fabulous pasta bolognese waiting for us. Nathan's sister caters so well for those of a vegetarian persuasion.
It was fabulous to see the family en masse. Nathan's nephew, who is just 13, now towers above me, begging the question, what is in the water in that corner of North Wales that wasn't there when my short-arsed Welsh relatives were growing up? Nathan's sister Sam lives within spitting distance of the village my Nana was from.
I came away from Sam's house with a pink painted thumb nail. Is it just me, or is the smell of nail varnish not one of life's great temptations? Petrol, creosote, Tarmac, nail varnish, marker pens, glue. Tell me I'm wrong!
We went home via Nathan's Mum and Ron's house and have left the house laden with piles of cake which we're determined to polish off on the way home.
A funny thing happened when Celia brought out the Dulux charts and asked which of the 100 or so colours she should paint the accent wall in her kitchen. Nathan and I simultaneously pointed at the very same shade of burgundy. I dunno, you spend ten years together, and the signs of morphing begin. My friend Ellie laughs exactly the same way as her husband Allan. I swear some couples start to look the same, to the extent that when they have children, it becomes impossible to tell which of the couple has provided the child with each of its features. By the time Nathan and I reach our 50th anniversary, I fully expect us to be indistinguishable.
350 years ago, Pepys started his journey to Portsmouth, with a less-than fond goodbye from his wife, Elizabeth, who was seriously miffed not to be invited to join the official Navy party.
They stopped for buttered eggs in Lambeth, which sounds like quite a pleasant 17th Century meal. Their coach got as far as Guildford, where they rested for the night in a guest house Pepys had stayed in during the previous year. They picked asparagus for their supper, which Pepys, unsurprisingly, described as the "best he'd ever tasted", apart from the asparagus he'd had in the same guest house the previous year.
The talk in the coach to Guildford was saucy to say the least, so much that the first edition of Pepys' Diary to be published (in the 19th Century) censored a large passage of text, which was only reinstated towards the end of the 20th Century.
I'm gonna quote it in full, cus it makes me laugh!
He, among [other] good Storys, telling us a story of the monkey that got hold of the young lady’s cunt as she went to stool to shit, and run from under her coats and got upon the table, which was ready laid for supper.
I love a good four-letter word!