It's been a lovely week here in Aldsworth, enjoying catching up with a few people, some good meals, good pubs and walking the dogs.
After last week's blog, I was contacted by three people. A fellow nomad traveller, Mary, and her partner, Ken, are house-sitting nearby and an old friend from PwC days, Peter Simmonds. Then another old friend, Alison, reached out to let us know about the Bell Inn in Aldsworth and that her Grandfather used to run a butcher's stall in the Oxford Covered Market that we visited last week.
We arranged to meet Mary and Ken in a nearby town, Aldermaston Wharf, which is on the River Kennett. Much to our delight, it's another canal full of locks and barges. It was great catching up with them both, as it's always fun meeting new people. We're still quite new in our house-sitting adventures (on to number four today!), but they've done something like 130 or so, which is quite an achievement! There was lots to learn from them about getting the most out of the housesit and what some of the dos and don'ts are, including some amusing tales of when things go wrong (caring for a few hand-reared deer that turned into Ken having to load fodder onto a pick up in order to feed several 100 of them in a paddock).
We've also tried to take the time to explore the local area and we've enjoyed walking along the Thames in both Goring and Pangbourne. It's been raining lightly fairly nonstop since we arrived, but we've just rugged up and taken a very English approach to it all, you just have to get out there!
On Wednesday, we caught up with Pete at the local pub and enjoyed a reasonably priced lunch, a long two-hour chat about life and what we've both been up to. One of the delights of meeting old friends is the familiarity and connection that it brings. It was wonderful to see Pete again. It's been sixteen years since we worked together, but the connection was immediate. We really appreciate him taking the time to drive out into the sticks to meet us!
I realised we were close to the Uffington White Horse, so that was our mission for Friday (Thursday was cold and miserable, so we just stayed home with the dogs). It was another interesting drive down tiny winding roads that were frequently covered with water from flooding. I overheard conversations in the local farmshop about people having to backtrack quite a bit, fortunately we didn't have that issue.
The White Horse is over 3,000 years old and carved through the turf to the chalk below. It's of particular interest to me because of my Terry Pratchett fandom, the "Downlands" (up here where we are located in the rolling hills – the name comes from the old English word Dun meaning hill) and the White Horse feature in his Tiffany Aching series.
It was cold, wet and miserable and a slightly frustrating visit, too. One problem with car parks here is that they don't all take credit cards. The ones that don't often have an app instead, but the link to the app doesn't work (it's only in the UK app store, and you can't download it with a foreign phone), and the phone number alternative can't be dialled from a Greek mobile. Basically, as a foreigner here, you're stuck with a frustrating 15-minute attempt to work out that you just can't pay, so you either move the car or risk a fine. We just risked it.
As we were walking out to the White Horse, the wind and the rain whipped up, and while we were willing to brave some weather, we had the wrong shoes (we hadn't realised we'd be walking through fields), and it was getting too damp, so we headed back. I promptly then slipped and fell on the wet grassy clay and ended up covered in mud. No damage, fortunately, just to my pride. Of course, I tried to stand up and immediately slipped over again. (Karina: I tried so hard to keep my laughing quiet, Tim was actually quite cross.)
Cold and wet, we went home, I had a shower and we did the only sensible thing – sat in front of the fire to warm up.
The dogs have been lovely companions and are always happy to see us. But I learnt a very valuable and expensive lesson about not leaving things anywhere they might get to them, before leaving for an outing one afternoon. I thought my gear was tucked away safely. But, no, they pushed the chairs out, climbed up onto the kitchen table (something they apparently do regularly) and then the youngest one, still very much a puppy, proceeded to destroy my expensive Bowers & Wilkins Active Noise Cancelling headphones. She also chewed the end of the earpieces off my reading glasses. The glasses still work, although there's a generous serving of duct tape on the earpieces. The headphones are in the bin. Probably about €500 or more worth of damage, all told. This house sit hasn't really saved us any money.
Saturday, we spent some time cleaning the house and went back to Aldermaston Wharf for a longer walk. Now it's homemade meat pies from the local farm shop for dinner and packing, so we can leave early tomorrow. The homeowners return tonight sometime around midnight, and we'll be heading out of here early the next day.
As to the sale of Matilda? The photos have been mostly sorted out, and the listing looks much better now. There was some interest already, which is positive, we'll keep waiting and seeing how it all goes!
Until next time,
Tim & Karina