This was a busy few days for me. It began on Thursday morning when I was due back on Emma Britton's Show on BBC Somerset. I had been due on a couple of weeks back, but there was a change of plan at the last minute and I was postponed for two weeks. I found myself for the first time in a long time being stuck in seriously bad Taunton traffic and actually arrived at the studio about ten minutes late. I was on the panel with Kate from the company Travels on Horseback (www.travelsonhorseback.com), a lovely lady who I had appeared on Emma's programme with before. We had a great discussion and it was also fantastic to know that my Aussie friend from Facebook, Jennie Towan, was listening on the other side of the world - and gloating about the Test Match. (It's only the first test, Jen!)
On the Friday I was off down to Exeter for a return visit to the Maynard School. As like last year they wanted the day to run from 10.30am to 4pm, which was fine by me. I left home giving myself plenty of time to get there - only to first come across a big smash on the A30 on Windwhistle Hill. This held me up for about 20 minutes, then when I finally got to Exeter I found the place virtually gridlocked with Christmas shoppers. I finally arrived at The Maynard approximately 10 minutes before I am due to appear at the start of my show. But as ever at this lovely school, I was warmly welcomed, especially by the lovely Keagh Fry, and was soon changed and ready. As ever it was a small group, 14 ladies this year, but they were very responsive, full of laughs and again in superb costumes. After the morning session, Keagh and I have a very nice lunch (Fish and chips!) and then it's back to the hall for more nonsense. Of course with it being an all girl's school I can't allow the jousting result to go into our year long score, but as you can guess, the ladies won!
Now instead of heading for home, I was now heading off to Dartmoor and an evening with my cousins, Mike and Janet Baker at their lovely home in Manaton. I had last visited them about 15 years ago with my late Grandfather, and had driven down there in bright summer sunshine and daylight. I was now fighting my way out of a yet again gridlocked Exeter, it is pitch dark and it is starting to snow. My sat nav seems to not have even the slightest idea where we are going. So instead of the sensible way of getting to Manaton (down the A38 and then turn off at Bovey Tracy) I now find myself on some tiny unlit track, with snow thick in the fields around me, somewhere near Mortonhampstead. And this seems to go on interminably. Added to which there seems to be absolutely no road signs whatsoever. After what seems like a lifetime of pitch dark single track lanes, with more and more snow falling, suddenly I see a tiny road sign that says "Manaton". Thank God for that! I slithered down this road and find myself by the church in Manaton which I remember parking up by the last time I had visited Mike and Janet all those years ago. But all is still pitch dark and snowy and there is no sign of their house. I finally slide down another hill and see some lights in the darkness, and there is Mike leaning against his front gate smoking one of his roll up cigarettes. As I climb from the car, I am sorely tempted to fall to my knees and kiss the ground, a la Pope John Paul II. I was warmly welcomed into their nice snug home, in which they have just had installed a brand new wood burning stove, which was so nice to sit around. Janet cooked a lovely meal, we drank too much wine and Mike let me have four trenchers (Tudor wooden plates) that he had specially made for me. I stayed overnight and after a nice breakfast I was soon on my way back to Somerset.
There was a fair bit of snow about on the hills of the Dartmoor, but not as much as I expected, but I thought it would thin out as I got closer to home. WRONG! By the time I got to Chard there was thick snow all around. Well, what other type of snow would you expect in Chard? I stopped off at home for a quick sit down and a cough (as Tony Hancock nearly said), I was off and out the door again for another run around at Barrington Court for their annual Mistletoe Fayre. As usual there were the fabulous selection of stalls and vendors of fine foods, drinks and wonderful crafts. It was good to see the Blackdown Babes selling group again, but there was slightly less people around this year than in previous times. This was mostly due to the weather most people assumed, so we are hoping for a better turn out tomorrow. Matthew seemed in good form, but I didn't see much of him.
All this and we are still being hammered by the Aussies in the first test. SIGH. Some things never change...