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  • Carol Duval

Winter Solstice 2022

December began with a drama trifecta, the least important being the rush to complete School Gaze. Then there was Noah's surgery with all the accompanying uncertainty and then the shocking news that Rick's nephew, Jay J, had died. We know many of our friends are facing similar life challenges: Ian Stockley, Noelene Marmont and Ian Kelly to name just a few.

Still, we took off and after a brief stop in Singapore, spent a week in the middle of woodland on the South Downs. No wonder the Romans liked this area. West Sussex is still our favourite county.

Luckily we have friends--Wendy and Jim Moyles and Avis and Peter Gunn-- who are similarly fond of the area's pubs, walks and historic properties. Uppark House and Gardens, Petworth and Nymans are old favourites, last visited four years ago, before Covid.

Pet Sit #1: Markyate

After an stress-free week in the B&B, it was 'work' time i.e. dog sitting two wiry-haired miniature dachshunds. Their lovely house is surrounded by fields--unfortunately muddy much of the time because of days of drenching rain and rapidly melting snow. But even on a muddy walk there are welcome surprises.

Christmas was spent with Avis and Peter Gunn: Christmas day with us for Christmas roast duck prepared on the Aga, and Boxing Day at their home in Beaconsfield after a bracing country walk around Cookham.

Two nearby villages have delighted us with their Christmas decorations. Berkhamsted is in a narrow valley while Harpenden is surrounded by rolling hills with wide roads. We were glad to see both had a Cafe Nero and Pizza Express. Lots of soggy dogs inside but no grumbling from us. We were soggy too.

And then there's St Albans! Quirky lanes with lots of busy shops (despite the recession) and St Albans Cathedral, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in the UK. We've seen a lot of cathedrals but this was unexpectedly gorgeous.

Is the universe telling us something? Our next sit in Calne has been cancelled because one of the pet owners has a serious eye issue. Next problem-- the family here are coming home a day early after one of their group in Phuket was bitten by a cobra. Pet sitting with multiple moving parts is not for the faint-hearted! At least we had the local pub, the Red Lion, to send us on our way.

New Year's Day and last walk around the fields of Markyate. Next stop a pit stop in Brill (blast from the past) and then a couple of days in Calne to touch base with the pet sitting couple there. After that, who knows?

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