A Bar-B-Q in England

The summer family bar-b-q normally happens at the end of July, round about the birthday of the lovely Jules. This year the calendar is well cluttered at the back end of July, so we had it at the front. Everything was nicely organised for a full house of family, in-laws and friends, when one of our number decided to sneak in an extra holiday, the knock on effect being he had to work this weekend so we were an in-law down. The fun thing about the bar-b-q is that we do nothing except eat it. Jayjay prepares lots of nice food, and has the bar-b-q food ready too, and Gra does the cooking, plus he often brings things to try too. This year Dawn cooked a cake, which was also yummy. While all this was going on I was alternating between eating and chatting and wandering around the garden taking photos.

1537 Foot bridge at Ashford Kent
Footbridge as Art – as we head north to the bar-b-q.

1648 A garden awaiting a bar-b-q
Our chef Gra chatting to AJ

1670 Common Blue butterfly maybe
One of the locals resting up

1654 Butch guarding his tape
Butch in the shade

1680 Mating Green-veined butterfly maybe
If you have Sex at a Bar-b-q, I guess it’s best to do it discretely.

1693 Vietnamese Lantern
A Vietnamese lantern, but we didn’t see it working!

1735 Bar-b-q in progress
The first food to hit the bar-b-q.

1752 Sunshine and bar-b-q
An assortment of family, including in-laws and ‘adopted as’ in-laws. Well – you can never have too many in a family.

We have meat eaters, veggies, and gluten frees amongst us, so we had a wide variety of foods, and of course we all, (nearly), cross-ate to try all the flavours.
Come 7pm we started to scatter our various ways. Jules, AJ and I headed for Ynys Mon, Wales. I drove the first half of the journey, and the girls kept an eye out for Red Kites along the M40 motorway. As we approached Birmingham, a sunset started to develop, but I wasn’t going to stop until I got to the half way distance, 140+ miles, and when I pulled into a service station to top up the drinking bottles and swap drivers, the sunset was still prettyish but fading a bit. Jules took over the driving and headed north, but the woods and scenery hid the sunset, and I didn’t get a good view of the sky for the best part of an hour or so, and then the gorgeous colours and patterns were no more. Better luck next time.

As usual, I went into photo doodle mode, and experimented with the camera’s program settings. I discovered the moonlight setting and it takes three photos and puts them together to get the sharpest image. Unlike the burst mode that takes up to ten pics in a fraction of a second and saves them all, this only produces one photo at each press, and often at slow shutter speeds. The advantage is that in poor light it does seem to produce nice pics (not guaranteed of course) and I don’t have loads of pics to sort through. I can’t remember all the pics I took in ‘Moonlight’ mode, but I’m thinking most of them were. The blooming exif data doesn’t appear to tell us this info – which is incredibly stupid of some git at Canon. I’m going to do a carefully documented experiment to see if some of the weird numbers and things in the EXIF data give me a clue. Carefully documented and Andy don’t necessarily go together, so we shall see!

1761 Sunset from the M6 motorway
Pastel sunset colours from the motorway.

1775 Dusk from M56 Motorway
Stanlow Refinery from the M56 motorway with ‘moonlight mode’

1816 Night drive across North Wales A55
Jules cruising at 68 mph. Another ‘moonlight mode’ pic.

1820 Night drive across North Wales - in the A55 'Pen-y-Clip' tunnel
Nearly home, in the A55 ‘Pen-y-Clip’ tunnel.

Taken in ‘Moonlight mode’. Not perfectly crisp, but good enough considering the bouncy nature of roads. A nice safe ending to a fab day. I remember hoping that all my American friends had had a nice day too, celebrating their 4th of July.

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A Re-union – The Party

Please note, some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. I’ll apologise now for not naming every one personally, but I find it hard to mention every one and still sound interesting – some bloggers do it so easily, but not I. Every conversation was fab, and it was so fun. Another fascinating thing; although we had got greyer, older, wider, every ones mannerisms were there, as I remembered them; the way they laughed; they way they told jokes; the walks; the smiles; the shrugs and myriad other little things that project our personalities, and friendships too.

It’s just short of five, and we have just arrived at the hotel – remember! We partly unloaded the car, and because the disabled slots near the reception were full, we had to park in one miles away. Well, the other side of the bar anyway. I decided to retrieve the rest of the stuff after a sortie to the bar, guessing that perhaps the early arrivals may be there. They weren’t, but it wasn’t a waisted trip, as I grabbed the extra bits to take back to the room.

Re-union Venue - Oxford Witney Four Pillars Hotel
The Oxford Witney Four Pillars Hotel – now that’s a mouthful

I met one of the Daves and Christeanne on the way back, who gave me the evenings plan. Back in the room, I spotted Pete, getting something from his car. I opened the window (we were on the ground floor) and we had a super chat. Forty odd years fell away, just like that.

Six thirty arrived, and we went to the bar for the pre-meal meet up, and it was the beginning of a fun evening. We chatted for an hour, with gentle meanderings through our little group. One of the many delights of the evening was meeting Pauline for the the first time who is a partner to Pete. She is lovely. (Yes you are), and it is so nice that Julie thinks so too. We never travel anywhere without food and drinks for the day(s), because if we are having fun, touring, geocaching or whatever, it annoys us to waste the time having to stop and find somewhere to eat, and Pauline and Pete are the same. If we go some place with a tea bar, then we will of course make use of it, (I always rate places more highly if they have a tea bar).

To us, ok, me – a restaurant is just a posh tea bar, and a cafe is a good tea bar. We ambled in to the posh tea bar, and got seated. I was seated next to Christeanne, and an empty chair. Opposite was Julie between John and Pete. I have a theory, that sitting beside your wife means you only have one new person to chat to, and besides, we can listen to our partners any day. This didn’t work tonight, because Terry couldn’t bring his wife as she had just had a knee op, hence I got the empty seat to partner.

The meal was very nice, and the staff were brilliant. The chitchat and stories and reminiscing were of course top notch, but what else would you expect from an elite group of ‘Sooties’ – (Go and read the previous story if you don’t get the joke) – and most everyone took photos. We finished the evening with the girls sensibly going to bed, and the boys chatting into the early hours, but as a prequel to the chat, lovely Pauline took a group photograph of the boys before going to bed herself. We lined up our cameras on a table, and Pauline took a pic with each one, so giving several of us, a very nice souvenir of the re-union. People on Flickr said, ‘What a great photo of your re-union Andy’, and I didn’t even take it, LoL. When I went to bed about midnight, there were still four hardy souls reminiscing away.

The guys after dinner shot.
Back Row: Pete Dave Pete John – Front Row: Terry Andy Dave Alan

Sleeping was the only poor thing about the event, and it wasn’t the hotels fault. I was hoping to sleep laying down, but the ribs wouldn’t play ball and started complaining. I eventually hit on a suitable arrangement of pillows that allowed me to sleep sitting up.

We knew Pete and Pauline were going to be at breakfast as soon as it opened, so we wanted to be earlyish too to say farewell. We weren’t quite as early as Pauline and Pete, but before they left, everyone turned up. It turned into a breakfast party, and no one left for Ages. Absolutely fabulous. The food was so yummy, even bettering the dinner of the night before.

Life’s interesting coincidences. When I was a boy, my parents had a friend called Pauline P, who was Irish living in England, and the Garden of England at that. Now I have a new friend called Pauline P, who is English, living in Eire, and we get a new holiday home thrown in, and on the west coast at that.

In the next exciting instalment read about the oldest geocache in England.