It's been a fun-packed long weekend: four places in four days with Mr A and Lola II. A bit like a world tour: Northeast London, West London, Hampshire/Dorset and Warwickshire. A very short world tour that leaves out the part of the world that isn't the bottom half of England.
We started at mum and dad's. The reconstruction of the bathroom was going well, lunch was lovely as usual, both computers in residence needed hardly any remedial work, the lamp I'd brought was safely delivered, and we also left a DVD of a relatively recent version of the Barchester Chronicles now that mum and dad have a DVD player. I hope they like it - Mr A and I loved it. Lola II and I each managed to delight a parent as well. Lola II found a small widget that was lost, which dad needs in order to make his projector screen work, and I gave mum a biro with only a tiny bit of ink left, so that she could finish it off. I'm pretty sure mum was more delighted with her pen than dad was with his widget, but of course it's not a competition. I did win, though.
Leaving the parents behind, we headed west for dinner at one of our two favourite Japanese restaurants in Ealing: Hare and Tortoise (the other is Okawari). Lola II likes it when other people go to Hare and Tortoise with her, because she's so often in there alone - it proves that she does have friends. The main difficulty when I'm there is that I want to order everything.
Next day was Saturday, and we voyaged south. We reached Winchester for lunch, and found our way back to the very fine pub where we lunched on Lola II's birthday weekend a year ago, the Wykeham Arms. It was just as good as we remembered it. A few miles further, and we paid a visit to Mr A's mum and dad, and his sister who happened to be there for Easter.
Mr A's mum has gradually been losing her memory over the past few years, and while it is very sad and sometimes distressing, it can make for some blackly amusing and highly repetitive conversations. At the present time, she is preoccupied with the habit of young people of living with each other rather than getting married, which her granddaughter (Mr A's niece) is currently doing with her boyfriend. Her own three children have had four failed and two successful marriages between them, so experience should indicate that marriage isn't necessarily the most sensible living arrangement. Because her short term memory is so impaired, we came at this subject a number of times, and from several different directions. I don't think I convinced her.
Last stop for Saturday was with Carole and Julian plus family and friends. Beer, wine, turkey dinner, trifle, jelly shaped like a wobbly Easter bunny with green jelly grass, chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, and a trip to Bournemouth beach on Sunday, where Lola II stood alone contemplating the waves like the French Lieutenant's Woman. It was, as ever, a very convivial visit, including after-dinner gymnastics instigated by the youngsters. The older among us remained relatively competitive, but were reminded of the passing of the years by a tendency to land very hard on the carpet. Why we were being challenged to form 'human loops', and why on earth we would respond to such a challenge is quite beyond my understanding. It's one of those things that just happens when you're having fun with good friends.
Monday brought our scheduled walk in the Warwickshire countryside. We had been promised about 6 miles, a full 139 feet ascent (and descent), a pub lunch and convivial company, and we got all that and more. Pete even managed to persuade the more easily led among the party (i.e. Mr A) to make an extra unscheduled stop at a second pub. We made sure we slagged off Rog because yet again he failed to turn up, visited Sal's hives, talked a bit about bees, did some walking, had lunch, walked some more, and then talked about bees again.
I trotted out my one bee-related fact about honey made of rhododendrons being poisonous, which Sal trumped with facts about colony size (50,000 bees in a hive at full capacity), bee poo (yellow, not in the nest unless something is very wrong), types of local forage (not a great deal), storage temperature for honey (below 10 degrees C), hive temperature (constant 34 degrees C), when to move a hive (winter when they're all inside, or they won't be able to find it again), more about bee poo ('cleansing' flights), bee glue (can't remember the fancy name for it), the going rate for letting a beekeeper put a hive in your field (one jar of honey a year), and there was probably more that I've forgotten. Then we talked about how to clean conservatory windows. We really know how to enjoy ourselves.
Now it's back to work, and not much time left either. I was hoping to have a few days of leisure at the end of the holiday, but it looks like I've used those up over the weekend. Oh, the life of a student is hard.