Catchup –2021/2

Spring 2021

Like many, covid restrictions really put a bit of a damper on all our plans for the year and we spent the early part of spring riding locally when we could, just taking a flask and some biscuits out so we didn’t need to stop at any cafés etc. In April we managed to get Holland and Cas into the garden to sit and catch up. It was warm enough by then to sit outside. Holland worked in a shop all the way through the worst of the Covid, so was at risk and a risk to us but I’m happy to say that he never managed to catch it. Cas suffered both mentally and physically after being made redundant at the end of the furlough scheme, even though they had worked all the way through. It hit their self-esteem badly and the inactivity it led to meant they put on quite a bit of weight. Too much, considering their health issues. However, a long time friend who we’ve known since she was about 10 years old is now a fitness trainer and specialises in people who not confident, are pregnant or simply don’t want to/can’t go to a public gym for a variety of reasons. Cas gets ‘mates rates’ and Erin has benefitted too, as I think they spend as much time talking as they do exercising!

Karon with the Pino on White Hill – next to Watership Down, on one of our local rides.

Also in April, I undertook a few charity rides, raising money for Postrate Cancer Research. It was prompted by a few of my old Army mates being diagnosed. As we were all ex-56 Battery colleagues, it was decided to ride/walk/run/swim distances of 56 units. I completed 3 x 56 mile rides, others swam 56 lengths of the pool or walked or ran 56 miles during the month. It got me out and I rode alone, so had some ‘me’ time to contemplate life, the universe and all else.

About this time I decided to sell my recumbent trike. I found it difficult to ride as I wished, as my pacemaker needs some upper body movement to know when I’m active and increase my heart rate accordingly. Sat in the recumbent chair, my legs were busy, but my upper body not so. I was constantly struggling as my heart rate just wasn’t fast enough. Yes the electric motor I had fitted helped, but it seemed pointless to rely on it, as riding a ‘normal’ bike I have far fewer episodes like that. Anyway, I sold it to a lady (ex-services) that now has long covid and has mobility problems, so I think the trike will be useful to her.

Prosecco picnic with the Nutty Tandemers. A great long weekend in Scotland.

In June ‘21 we had our first trip away with the Tandem, driving to Callender in Scotland, staying on a holiday campsite (in a mobile home) and meeting up with another two couples to go out riding together. By this time restrictions had eased somewhat, so it was easier to stop for lunch and socialise in the evenings.

It was a lovely long weekend and the weather stayed kind. The scenery in the Trossachs was lovely and it was great to ride in new places with toatlly differnet landscape to our local lanes, which we now know every single inch of! Our friends are great Prosecco advocates, so there were plenty of stops for Prosecco picnics. In the evenings we took turns in entertaining the other couples and on our last night we all went out to dinner together to a local hotel.

On the way back home Karon and I stopped off to ride and bag some BCQs – a national cycle treasure hunt and we called in to see friends in Dumfries and Galloway. Later in June we took part in a 10-mile time trial in the New Forest – another fund raiser, this time for ME research. We started riding out with the Tandem Club and managed a get-together with long standing friends to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.

New Forest time-trial in aid of ME research.

In August the Tandem Club laid on an impromptue rally on the outskirts of Nottingham. We stayed the week with some friends in the town. They had helped organise the event, so we just tagged along with them and never missed any of the activities etc. We were featured on the local BBC News website and they used one of my photos. Also in August we headed over to East Sussex and Kent to collect some more BCQs and complete the SE area of the UK. Once again it was good to be out in new pastures.

The Pino in Nottingham during the National Tandem Rally

Normally in October I would have made my annual pilgrimage to Germany, back to Lippstadt where I was stationed all those years ago, but this year, I met up with just a few friends and their spouses to go on a walking tour in London. Our friends had organised the ‘Jack the Ripper’ tour, which was interesting and not too gory. Fascinating to see some of the old streets and architecture that has changed little since those times.

Some of my paintings and digital work over 2021 with a few earlier pieces to complete the matrix.
My DeviantArt site

Just before New Year ‘22 we drove to Blewbury and met up with three cousins and their husbands/wives. We sat in the Red Lion and had lunch together and did some catching up. Family get-togethers are a rarety these days as most of the older generation that used to regularly get-together are no longer with us. 

Christmas at home 2021.
Cousins get together in the Red Lion, Blewbury.

Covid prevented us from going to Spain early in 2022 for some winter sun, though it would have been nice to escape for a while, the hassle of travel at that time of restrictions was just not appealing.

We stayed local and it really was a repeat of the year before with us just riding locally on the better of the early spring days. However, in April we did manage to get away, up to Hull for a weekend, for an Army reunion. It was good to meet up with some of my (now) old colleagues from those days back in the 1970s but also sad to find out several had succumbed to covid or other ailments since we last met.  Karon and I stayed in the area afterwards for a few days and went out riding… yes, to collect a few more BCQs.

56 Battery Royal Artillery reunion in Hull in April 2022

In May we decided to take the plunge in continental travel again, and drove to the Saarlaand in Germany to attend a long-weekend tandem meeting we had been invited to. The place we stayed was very near the French and Luxembourg borders, so one of our rides passed through both countries. Some of the scenery was spectacular with steep hills overlooking the River Saar – very picturesque. 

One of my holiday sketches from Siena ended up on a book cover.

In June we went through the trauma of having a new kitchen fitted. It didn’t go particularly smoothly, but we got there in the end, and the new kitchen does look lovely.

Karon and Holland on Glastonbury Tor.

Over the year we had several trips in to Newbury as Karon had a series of private dental appointments to try and save her teeth from the effects of her auto-immune disorder. It was an expensive course of treatment and not one we had really planned for in retirement, so our savings took a bit of a hit.

Riding with Dutch and German friends alongside the river Saar in Germany, May 2022.

In July, we had another trip to Germany, but this time we cycled all the way – to the International Tandem Rally which was being held near Osnabrück. We used the trailer and cycled from home, first north towards Milton Keynes, then east for Harwich. It took us five days to get to Harwich and then we had an overnight sailing to the Hook of Holland. Four days to get across the Netherlands and just the one to reach the campsite where the rally was taking place. We stayed in a small holiday home on site and went out with friends each day to explore the surrounding countryside and visit nearby towns. At the end of the week, we packed up the bike and trailer and cycled home again, reaching home on the 16th of August after leaving on the 20th July, so nearly a month away. Once again (like when we cycled through France in 2019) it was very hot with a couple of heatwaves in that time.

On our way to Harwich for the ferry to the Hook of Holland, July 2022
Scenery during one of our International Tandem Rally rides in Germany, August 2022.

In October we drove up to Scotland to visit friends and relatives, staying for just a week up there but managed to see some of Karon’s Aunties and Uncles, my sister and brother-in-law and some very good friends who live in Dumfries and Galloway. Unfortunately, I managed to pick up a bout of covid on the way back from Scotland. Luckily I was only bad for a couple of days and laid up for a week.

Karon on Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, October 2022.

In November we attended an old Army friend’s wedding in Kent and had another good get-together.

Karon and friend Ida at the Kent wedding.

Christmas was fairly quiet for us, with Cas and Holland coming for the day. Cas stayed over and Holland walked home as he’s less than a mile away. 27th December Holland was not well – with severe neck cramps and spasms – and he asked me to drive him to A&E. It was dark and wet and innexplicably, I missed a red light, which resulted in a car crash. Though both Holland and myself were ok from the accident, the car is a write-off and the occupants of the other car had some injuries, but nothing life-threatening. Not a great way to end the year.

Christmas Dinner night out locally, with friends.

So, I am without a big car at the moment, which means no travel with the tandem. At least we had decided not to go to Spain again, so there are no up and coming trips in jeapordy. Hopefully everything will be sorted by mid-May when we are due to go back to Germany for the annual tandem meet their. We will stay on the continent after, as the International Tandem Rally is in Brittany this year, a week later. Then in August we have the National meeting in Stratord on Avon. We’ll cycle there from home and camp for the week.

Not a good end to the year.

That brings me up-to-date. Not a brilliant year but we have managed to get away and have added some good memories to our cache.