Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Dunge Valley Gardens

I went to Dunge Valley Gardens on a sunny afternoon towards the end of May. It's a treasure of a place hiding deep in the beautiful Goyt valley above the Cheshire village of Kettleshulme. I first discovered it soon after we moved here, now seven years ago. Whenever I arrive in a new place I have to go exploring - it's a way of connecting with my new environment and putting my small life into a wider, more meaningful context. But when I followed the small brown signs with the enticing sounding name, like Alice through Wonderland, I truly never expected to find something quite so surprising and alluring on the apparently bare green hillsides around me.

Since that first discovery, I have taken family, friends and French teenagers there and every visit has never failed to delight. I am filled with a sense of wellbeing every time I visit - but I have always chosen my days and timings carefully.

The best time to go is towards the end of a sunny day in May when the rhododendrons and azaleas, for which it is particularly renowned, are at their blooming best. By arriving a little later in the day you are more likely to have have the place relatively to yourself. Or you could sit and have a cup of tea on the terrace above the lawn and wait for the other visitors to drift away before you plunge yourself into the lushness.

It had been a few years since I'd last been, but having carved out some time from my own heavy gardening schedule, I grabbed my camera and set off as bright early summer sunshine played hide and seek behind white puffy clouds. The light was sharp, shiny and sublime, the sun hot and the air clean and fresh, yet warm and still.

I drove up through the Goyt Valley hills before turning off down a long descending driveway. I recalled the first time I had done this thinking 'Where on earth is this going? What can possibly be down here of any interest?' Then suddenly you find yourself in a sunlit gravel car park with an attractive long low stone house in the background and a makeshift entrance booth surrounded by pots of rhododendrons and azaleas and other shrubs for sale.

You are greeted by the owner - an unusual character who sometimes gives you the impression he'd rather you weren't troubling him, but I have learned to accept his nature over the years and always attempt some friendly conversation. When you see what he and his wife have created since 1984, you can forgive them any idiosyncracies - even the slightly bossy signs which greet you from time to time telling you to stay on the paths, or not to touch, or some such slightly terse instruction (which are no doubt born out of the tedious business of dealing daily with the general public - which can test the patience of saints, after all).

I always start my visit with a drift around the lawns which stretch below the flagged terrace surrounding the house. In May the grass is acid green and all the generous borders are bursting with fresh new life. A lady in a floppy straw hat and her slightly effete son sit talking on a bench in southern tones while I admire the rich dark blue forget-me-knots, the emerging broad leafed hostas, the sky blue meconopsis.

I then take a short wander along the narrow little paths which weave around and through the wide borders, ducking under specimen trees and brushing past shrubs and roses, with the chink of tea cups and light conversation in the background.

This done, I set off down the pale grey gravelled paths which lead off behind the lawns to the wilder world beyond. They take you down towards the stream where giant gunnera grow, over small wooden troll bridges (thoughtfully covered in chicken wire to avoid slipping on damp days) before climbing up the hill through bright green blades of grass and clumps of green headed hellebores bowing gracefully to the rays of sunshine which illuminate their beauty.

From here I descend the path back towards the lawns, crossing another bridge which takes you across the small boggy pond full of marsh marigolds and irises and other water plants, before another path loops me into the lower end of this narrow hidden valley in which the gardens have been formed.

You duck under, around, past and between a sumptuous array of rhododendrons with their endlessly diverse flowers and foliage.

For dedicated plants people many of these are helpfully labelled. A tiny specimen caught my eye - a 'wren' azalea - and then just after this came a 'giant' rhododendron with leaves over a foot long - so outsized that they twist your perspective and render the other plants out of proportion as very tall people do 'normal' sized people. As I continued up this path on the left hand side of the valley I was struck, as I always am, by the stark juxtaposition of bare sheep-studded hillside with lush valley. It is such an unlikely combination, and yet feels entirely natural. The trees are tall and the canopy high, so you do not feel claustrophobic - there is always a glimpse, a vista, of the world beyond which helps to create the incredibly strong sense of place as you wander through this tiny Himalayan kingdom in the middle of the Peak District.

There are little wooden seats at almost every turn, inviting a moment of contemplation (a game I once had with the girls when first I took them here was to make sure they sat on every one of them). Some are hidden amongst the exotic shrubbery where you can sit and be enveloped in the sweet earthy scents and the watery tunes of the two or three little streams which tinkle down through the valley to the accompaniment of a wealth of beautiful birdsong. Others are perched at dramatic viewpoints such as at the waterfall or high up at the head of the valley where you can look down on all before you. It was up here, I was told, that two young owls often perched, but I didn't manage to see them. Instead just the green hills behind me and the magical world below me, a moment of peace in which to sit, feel, think, listen and appreciate.

The meandering paths shift from gravel to stone flags, to bare earth and roots and back again. I always find myself madly follwoing every twist and turn, muttering to myself like the White Rabbit at the sheer pleasure of it all.

It is indeed a children's paradise but, as you might expect, there are typical requests from the owners that say children should be seen but not heard. Harsh, perhaps, but an instruction I nonetheless appreciate as this is a peaceful place where only natural sounds should reign.

Having lost myself for an hour in this little slice of an exotic Himalayan kingdom where I draw much inspiration for my own small 'dingly dell' back home, I returned to the house to peruse the plants for sale, enthused by all I had seen.

I found myself a beautiful lemon rhododendron, a blue azalea, a sweet-scented viburnum and a number of those dark blue forget-me-knots and meconopsis. As I was choosing, I fell into conversation with Jenny, the owner (who told me about the owls and the fact that they were nesting in an old tree down near the hosue) and asked why, this year, the gardens are no longer open in July and August. She told me that too many recent wet miserable summers had made them decide to open just from March to June, 'and besides', she added, 'we're getting older'. I suppose it will not be long now before they decide to retire and it is not clear, despite a daughter living with them, that there is anyone in place to continue this labour of love. I fear that one day soon they will just close the gates and keep it to themselves - and it will leave a huge hole in my celebration of early summer as well as being a great loss to the area. So hurry - you don't want to miss it - and I shall republish this post next year, hopefully, in time to remind you to visit.

Meanwhile, I would have loved to stay for a cup of tea and a final few moments of quiet calm, but I had children to meet from school - and a boot full of plants to find a new home for. It was time to say goodbye, for this year at least.


Dunge Valley Rhododendron Gardens, Windgather Rocks, Kettleshulme, High Peak, Cheshire, SK23 7RF.
Tel: 01663 733787

If you spend £12 on plants from their Hardy Plant Nursery then entry to the gardens is free.
'We have one of the largest collections of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in the north of England with Magnolias, trees, shrubs and perennials for sale. Meconopsis Sheldonii (the Blue Poppy), Prunus Serrula, exotic double flowering Hellebores, and Tropaeolum speciosum (the Flame Creeper) bring customers from all over the country.'

Online Catalogue:

[Please note, this is a completely independent review. I just love the place and wanted to share it with you]

Friday, 9 July 2010

A Moment in Time

Saturday 3rd July 2010

As I write this N, recently returned from Nigeria, is quietly downstairs in his study fiddling with the new watch he bought himself on the plane, while outside my bedroom door there is the intermittent patter of small feet across carpet as G and L rush around gathering new bits and pieces for their endless games of Barbies. I have just found them in the bathroom discussing new hair styles for Rapunzel, chuffed that they have finally released her tresses from some manky old elastic bands which were curtailing her beauty. The house never seems quite complete when one of the girls is missing - E is off with her Year 6 classmates on an adventure weekend in Castleton which happens to be just 15 minutes away from our house. It is nice to know she is nearby.

It is really noticeable how she and her muckers have subtly grown up in the last six months. Until Christmas the boys in their year seemed more of an irritation than anything else. There were complaints, even during the rehearsals for Beauty and the Beast (Year 6 puts on a musical every year), of the boys just being silly and disruptive. Now though, softly softly, they have infiltrated themselves into the tight little groups of girls and are starting to be embraced as fellow friends, potential boyfriends, and people who will be missed when they all get split up in September as they move into Seniors (the boys are on one site, the girls on another).

With the end of the school year drawing nigh, there have been a stack of Leavers events and activities over the last few weeks (let alone all the normal end of year stuff), all of which I seem to have been heavily involved in and N has been absent for, his work commitments leaving me playing the part of Single Parent once again.

I spent the day with them all at Alton Towers a few Tuesdays ago. (This is a theme park nestled unexpectedly, and surpringly attractively, in the rolling green Staffordshire moorlands in the grounds of a once stately home.) We were all split into groups and another parent and I were in charge of five girls (including our daughters) and six boys. It was a day of high adrenaline, hot sunshine, getting wet and having fun together. True, there was also a lot of queuing, a lot of walking and much hurtling through the air at high speeds which meant we all came home exhausted - but very happy.

At the end of the week was the School Walk where the entire junior school does a 7 mile hike up and around the hills surrounding the school. Another glorious summer's day and my memory filled with large groups of children walking alongside cool canals then climbing up high and gamboling through flower-filled meadows, down stoney paths, along lanes and through villages back to the school for a big picnic.

The Junior School Talent Show followed the picnic lunch. L was singing a Take That duet with a little Year 3 boy called Sam who's taken a shine to her and they're often seen hand in little hand. Parents were not allowed to watch but I managed to lurk and catch them on stage doing their stuff in front of a sea of faces - two tiny seven year olds in shorts with huge microphones, looking like rabbits in headlights but singing beautifully together. I was so proud. I couldn't do that now, let alone at their age.

After school that same afternoon was Summer Fun Friday (the equivavlent of a school fete) with stalls and bouncy castles, cheerleading displays and all the usual stuff. I helped set up. I helped clear away. Another fun but exhausting day, finished off with supper in a pub garden with friends where N was finally able to join us. The long light evenings made it far too late a night for all the children, but one to savour.

Then on the Sunday of that weekend was the Leavers' Party. I could hardly believe it had crept up on us - so long in the planning and now suddenly here. A band of parents arrived at school early to set everything up. It was another glorious summer's day, perfect for a happy send-off into the next stage of life. I donned apron, hat and silly plastic gloves ('elf and safety') and helped behind the barbecue, serving up hotdogs and hamburgers to hungry folk. I watched the scene from my corner of the playground - a bucking bronco, a treasure hunt, a red sofa on the playing field where a photographer was taking pictures of them all, and a Leavers 2010 banner with all their names on it, wishing them luck, which made me choke with emotion when I first saw it. Time spun forward to the day when they are adults looking back on this moment that we were living now. One of those days which we all have tucked away in our own adult minds - a special day when we were once children, long ago in the mists of time. I took a photo of E and some of her friends standing under the banner, knowing that one day in the unknown future they would look back on this and remember...

As I served my hotdogs to mothers and fathers and watched them go and sit down at a table with their families, I wished N was there to share this rite of passage with me and our daughter. But he was up in those big blue skies above, on a plane to Africa. What different lives we lead.

A disco followed and I lay down my plastic gloves and hat and managed to go and have a peek at them. As I watched their dance moves, their smiles and laughter I was reminded of the Christmas discos they've had in the last four years and noted the subtle changes which have taken place in comportment and body language. They were growing up, for sure. One boy, who I watched doing extraordinary break-dance moves with his sunglasses fixed firmly on his nose and who had dedicated his talent show song to E earlier in the afternoon, gave her a present at the end of the disco. It was a black leather cord looped through a golden butterfly. It was sweet, it was perfect - the girl with the golden hair and clear blue eyes, the girl with her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds, the girl who had played the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, a part that was made for her and her voice of an angel.

So as my eldest daughter takes her first significant step towards adulthood I think of my youngest, with her little sticky legs poking out of her shorts, who has spent the afternoon gamboling around with her friend and singing partner, giggling and getting into mischief. I will savour that for now, because I know that all too soon she will be at that Leavers Disco too, with a different look in her eyes and different thoughts in ther head and maybe Sam will be handing her a present too...

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Nice Smells and Nasty Smells

Kitchens should be full of nice smells - the frying of onions, a waft of garlic, toast and the aroma of fresh coffee. Today mine has been a far cry from this idyll. I came down this morning to be met by an updraft of cheesy stench which I spent some time puzzling over. Now, at some point over the last 24 hours - and I really can't remember if it was last night or this morning - I heard a big bang. It sounded like something had fallen down or over, but I couldn't see anything obvious. It was only when I went to take my tea mug to the sink at around 9am that I was overwhelmed by the hideous odour. Bit by bit, my senses took in the information: a breakfast plate put down in a puddle of something which came to light only when I picked it up to put it in the dishwasher; a large amount of white spatters all over the cupboards next to the sink...and then finally the penny dropped. Yesterday I had been sorting the fridge out a bit - things liquifying in the vegetable drawer, a mouldy punnet of strawberries, you know the sort of thing (let's not pretend we're all domestic goddesses, eh?) - and had also removed a well-out-of-date but not opened carton of single cream (lid slightly swollen) and a very bloated packet of mozzarella cheese. Both these were victims of our sailing holiday - never got round to eating them before we went away and didn't get round to eating them when we got back because vaguely conscious they were past their sell-by-date and would probably be less than palatable (nothing worse than cream or milk that's turned -specially when you've just put it in your tea or on your cereal! highly gag-worthy). My eyes fell on the packet of mozzarella next to the sink which I had put there yesterday and was summoning up the courage to open and put down the waste disposal in the sink (such is my obsession with recycling, you see, that I didn't just dump the whole unopened lot in the bin - a decision I now regret). I noted that it was no longer bloated. Indeed. Such was the build-up of gas and putrification inside it (especially since removed from cold fridge and left in warm kitchen) that the wretched thing had exploded. Oh joy. I then spent a merry half hour or more disinfecting, washing down, bleaching and generally trying to eliminate the hideous smell which seems to have seeped into every pore of the marble worktop and grain of the wooden cupboard doors. It's been with me all day - even under my fingernails, which will not disappear despite endless washing and much gardening.

Then, to cap it all, this afternoon, having picked up the girls from the school bus and been to the library and the doctors' surgery, I then found myself having to 'age' paper for G's history project on Great Explorers of Tudor Times. I have been putting sheets of photocopying paper in the top oven of the Aga to make them turn brown, then taking matches and pretty well using up a whole box and making a whole load of mess, let alone risking life and limb and the house insurance, by burning the edges to make it look more authentic. Tonight, of course, trying to do too many things at once, I burned them all not once, not twice, but three times - releasing acrid burning smells into the kitchen every time I opened the oven door and realised I'd cocked up again.

Ah yes, my home is a joy to be in right now. A far cry from glossy interiors mags where scented candles glow romantically in every corner and piles of home-made cakes and freshly baked bread are arranged enticingly on the perfect country kitchen table....No, let's get real shall we?

On the up side, I have managed to scribble down a new Fridge Food post, long overdue, if you want to pop over and take a look (and if the antics I describe above haven't put you off!). Here are a couple of photos to tempt you....

Washing Around in Cyberspace

This is a quick impromptu post based on a couple of unwanted Followers. It's quite unnerving to log on and find that your latest Follower is sporting a lot of provocative breast. I clicked on the icon, expecting the worst, and the worst certainly came. Bits of a female you can't see without a mirror and a cucumber suddenly filled my screen. This is not really what I want. In fact, I suddenly feel rather lost and alone, and really quite vulnerable, out here in cyberspace. Where have all my 'friends' gone? There just seems to be an aching silence and a feeling of use and abuse pervades this place. It makes me feel rather sad on a day when I was feeling sad enough already.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

So Where did Last Week Go? - Final Part

Tuesday Evening, 8th June

This turned out to be as nice as I hoped it would. We were joined by our four best friends up here, and everyone had taken the trouble to dress really smartly, which added to the sense of occasion. We sat and talked in the low lit, comfortable lounge (it not being warm and fine enough to sit outside as we normally would), sipping champagne, perusing all the deliciously tempting menu options and making lively conversation. The evening continued in the same vein - and as we were quite late we were the only ones in the restaurant, but it made no difference. We made more than enough atmosphere all by ourselves. We came away from it replete, happy, and filled with a tremedous sense of wellbeing. What more could you ask for on your birthday?

Wednesday 9th June

There was an inevitable flatness to today after the joys of yesterday. The weather was still unseasonally cool and I had to contend with yoga after a late night and lots of alcohol. It was a bit of a struggle. I really had no desire to hang upside down on ropes or exhaust myself in demanding, body-aligning, body-strenghening positions. But I knew I had to go through with it to get me in the mood for the evening when I was due to teach some yoga to the Combs Brownie Pack. I had been knobbled by Brown Owl a few weeks earlier who had fixed me with her beadly little eyes and given me no option but to smile and agree. I spent the afternoon back at home trying to devise a routine suitable for a bunch of Brownies. I realisesd this whole little exercise was stressing me somewhat - largely because I had no notion of how successful it would be, given I've never taught yoga in my life before. Would I be up to it? As ever, I take these sort of things far too seriously and worry too much about doing a good job. So, when the time came, determined not to be late for once, I slipped into my yoga kit, grabbed my mat (unwrapping it for the first time since I bought it three years ago - I'm not good at practising at home!) and headed down for the village hall, nicely on time. And as is always the way with me, when I'm on time, everyone and everything else is late and when I'm late everyone and everything is on time. So there they were, in a certain amount of chaos finishing one activity (the theme of the evening was 'pyjama party' and they had been allowed to invite a friend each so there were twice the amount of Brownies there than usual - a key fact I had been unaware of) and were about to be given marshmallows dipped in a chocolate fountain. I could not help thinking that this was not an ideal yoga situation: an overcrowded room full of hyperactive kids with blood sugar count about to go through the roof...

So, with now only 20 minutes to go before parents came to collect the little cherubs, I attempted to create some order (difficult with Brown Owl, Tawny Owl and three helpers all clattering around clearing up the chocolate mess and talking to eachother) and give a little intro talk about yoga before launching into the set of positions I had selected during the afternoon. All things considered, it went reasonably well, if not exactly textbook, but it was all a bit of a rush and I was darned glad it was over. I had done my bit.

Thursday 10th June

The notation in my diary today was '9.10 Dentist - fillings'. This is not a good start to anyone's day. If you're late they strike you off the list and as this is the only National Health dentist for miles around and a bloody good won at that, I bust a gut to be on time but still find myself hurtling along the lanes at an unsuitable pace. Not helped this morning by the fact that the answerphone message I'd received from the dental receptionist the day before (they always remind you of your appointment in an attempt to save you from getting yourself struck off) told me the appointment time was 9.30am. It was only by chance that I looked at my diary just before 9am and saw that I'd written 9.10am - and I wasn't even washed or dressed. So I threw myself into the shower, hastily brushed and flossed my teeth to save too much embarrassment and admonition, and flung myself into the car. I arrived, panting, at 9.15. The receptionist looked up calmly and told me my appointment was 9.30am. Still, it's the first time I've ever been early, so I resisted the temptation to go off and squeeze another job in rather than hang around the (slightly smelly) reception for a quarter of an hour more than I needed to, I resigned myself to the pile of slightly dog-eared magazines. Most worryingly, instead of the glossy interiors mag, I found my hand reaching out for the Saga mag. Now, for those of you who don't know, this is for pensioners (i.e the over-60s). What is becoming of me? Have I lived too long in the High Peak to be bothered any more about style and glamour?? This is a worrying development and one I shall have to ponder on more deeply. Meanwhile, I was happily flicking through the Saga pages finding plenty to interest and entertain me. Not least of all a rather wizened and world-worn John Humphrys (oh so famous news journalist and long-term presenter of the probing 'Today' programme on BBC Radio 4) who's tale of buying land in Greece and building a holiday home thereon, with all the usual beaurocratic and territorial complications (which clearly nearly killed him), made for a reasonably compelling read. He rents the house out when he or his son's family are not there and gives the income to charity. I even found myself opening my notebook and scribbling down the contact details (email him at or visit The Kitchen Table Charities Trust for anyone else who's interested).

By now it was 9.45am so I'd been in this smelly place for half an hour. Suddenly, though, my name was called and in I went, with a certain amount of trepidation. The last time I had a crown done, it was agony (she'd attempted to do it without anaesthetic, till I could take the torture no more). This time I was having an old grey filling taken out, a small amount of decay removed and a shiny new white filling put back in. I lay back in the chair (not before she'd put a pair of outsized green plastic joke glasses on my nose - she likes a laugh, this one) and watched an equally outsized needle, with (she told me) a particularly outsized dose of extra-strong anaesthetic ('just to make sure') in it, head inexorably towards my mouth ('open wide') and into my back right cheek/gum area. She held it there for what seemed an eternity - then the next thing I know I'm told to go back to the waiting room. I hadn't reckoned on this. Apparently I had to wait 20 minutes for the anaesthetic to do its job. Well, already as I was getting down from chair I felt rather peculiar. My heart was racing and I could barely walk in a straight line. I was told this was the adrenaline in the anaesthetic. Great, I thought, as my heartbeat hit new heights, now I'm going to die. And all for a filling. So I staggered back out to the waiting room, no doubt alarming some onlookers, and went outside to make a phonecall to one of the friends I was meant to be meeting for a (belated) birthday lunch. I warned her I might not make it. Or at least to bring a bib for me as I was likely to be dribbling a lot. I then teetered back in, feeling decidedly queasy by now too, and continued flicking through the Saga mag. This time I read all about its glamourous and very posh ex-editor, Emma Soames (Churchill's granddaughter), who had surprised everyone when she quit her job as editor of the Telegraph magazine (having previously been editor of Tatler) to go for this seemingly rather downgrade job. Still, she made a great success of it - which was probably why I found myself choosing that over the other mags in the pile. She turned it into an interesting read rather than just a repository for cruising and Stanner stair-lift ads.

By now I'd been in the waiting room for well over an hour. I can think of better ways to spend a Thursday morning. Eventually my name was called again and I found myself back in the chair, this time with more sensible glasses on. She asked me if my lip was feeling fat. 'Not particularly' I replied, which was true. 'Oh', she said. 'Are you sure?'. I thought about it for a wee moment (she's scottish) and decided that no, my lip definitely did not feel particularly fat. It was tingling a bit though. 'Oh well', she concluded, 'let's give it a go.' Out came the drill. Out came the scream. 'Ok' let's give you another shot. So another needle was produced and, mercifully, did the trick. I could be operated on in blissful ignorance apart from a slight aching of wide open jaw.

It was completed in a jiffy and I departed, glad to be alive, for my rendez-vous with the girls at The Highwayman, a newly re-opened pub on the way to Macclesfield, with its magnificent hilltop view of the Cheshire plain beyond. In the 20 minutes it took to drive there, I'm pleased to report that the numbness subsided so that when I sat down at the table I was restored to full working order and went on to enjoy a fabulous meal (the new owner-chef trained in Michelin restaurant and his food certainly reflected that). Not a bad end to an otherwise slightly grisly morning. Equilibrium had been restored.

Friday 11th June

I was pleased to note, when I looked in my diary, that I had a free day today - though I had a Ball to go to in the evening. As you do. Just call me Cinderella. This was the day when I was finally going to get round to making up my photographic cards for the local florist-cum-deli-cum-greengrocers. He'd asked me for a 100 cards weeks ago and it had been preying on my conscience. I'd got the photos chosen and printed out, but had rather stalled on putting it all together as sailing holidays and numerous other things kept getting in the way. I had called him the day before we left for Turkey to ask if it was ok to get them to him the week I got back. He said that was fine. But now it was the end of that week and I really had to deliver. So I determined not to get side-tracked by dishwasher or washing machine, garden or phone calls until the job was done. I set my stuff out on the kitchen table, turned on the telly to watch the tennis at Queen's as I worked, and had a happy time making up the cards. It was great to finally get that one ticked off my list.

Having done duties with children I then ran upstairs to change into my 'ball gown' (less glamourous than it sounds - but I was pleased to be able to give one of the dresses I bought in Manchester on my birthday its first outing) before being whisked away in a taxi to Stockport Rugby Club (which, curiously, is actually in Bramhall. So I would have thought it would be called Bramhall Rugby Club. But it isn't. All rather confusing.). It was called 'The Crystal Ball', so everyone was suitably attired in something glittery and you could wear a tiara if you wished. I stuck to crystal necklace and earrings, being short on tiaras, but there were a spattering of men sporting black tie and the required head gear. It as a charity evening to raise money for the NSPCC. We'd gone last year for the first time and the theme was 'tropical' - on one of the coldest wettest windiest nights I can remember. The rain was flooding in under the sides of the marquee. We were there with Italian friends who were living locally at the time. Funnily enough they left the north-west and went back to Italy soon after that.

By the end of the evening England had performed dismally in their first World Cup match, and I had swollen sore feet and a bloated aching belly from consuming a large slice of chocolate tart which was curiously sprinkled, in an experimental sort of way, with sea salt and exploding sugar. Still, it was all in a good cause.


So that, folks, was where my week went and by the end of it my sailing holiday seemed far, far away - but that's a story for another time.
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