Autumn is drawing to a close and winter beckons. In Putney, there is an outside chance of snow in the morning, after weeks of warm, occasionally very wet weather. As always in such autumn weather, mushrooms have thrived.
My first thought when seeing a wild mushroom is a line from the 1970s thriller Marathon Man, when Laurence Olivier’s character quizzes Dustin Hoffman, ”Is it safe?”
Many years ago Mrs IS attended a mushroom picking course, courtesy of River Cottage, but she has never been keen to put her knowledge to practical use. I have always been happy to go along with that; it is not something you want to get wrong.
“Is it safe” has come up in a different context over the last couple of days. I was booked in for some sailing this weekend, but with the weather forecast heading downhill quickly, our skipper had doubts about heading out of the Solent. The sail was almost cancelled last night and the axe fell finally this morning. It was impossible to argue with the decision, Gosport also having the possibility of snow tomorrow, along with the prospect of a breezy force eight wind.
In the Bernese Oberland, snow is falling tonight, which is much better news.
Cliveden sits on a hill above the River Thames near Taplow. Home for many years to the great and the good and latterly the site of events leading to the Profumo affair, the house is imposing, almost intimidating. The last private owners, the Astors, gifted the estate to the National Trust. Today, the house is run as a hotel.
Mrs IS’s recent birthday produced an excellent present from her book club friends in the form of afternoon tea at the hotel. Today was the day chosen for the repast. We arrived early and built up an appetite walking the large park, which was fortuitous as the tea offered would have fed much of the county of Buckinghamshire. In the end, we needed a doggy bag for some of the cakes. We are unlikely to go hungry in the next couple of days.
It was a grey day and raining steadily on the way home. It was a good trip out though. Mrs IS, an afternoon tea aficionado, thought the Cliveden version to be up there with the best.
We have been visiting Southwold in November for many years. It used to be a quiet, almost melancholy time of year with an empty beach under cloudy early winter skies. This week, the sun has shone more or less constantly. It is Friday and weekenders have been arriving all day. The car park at the Swan hotel is full, the pubs are packed and the queue at the chip shop this evening stretched some way down East Street.
The clocks have changed now of course and it has been dark since 5.00pm. It is also bonfire night and fireworks are criss crossing the night sky, along with the beam from the Southwold lighthouse.
It is out of season here on the Suffolk coast. The Idle Skiers are in Southwold, with winter beckoning and the half term holidays over. For the beginning of November, however, the town is remarkably busy yet again.
It has been a sunny day, with a strong northerly wind and a lively sea. It was a marked improvement on yesterday. It seems par for the course whenever we travel that the skies open and torrential rain falls. Yesterday, we surfed up the A12.
For a while, it seemed that not only was it low season, but that Suffolk was closed completely. To start with, the Orwell river crossing cafe, renowned purveyors of bacon sandwiches to hungry travellers, had closed its doors and was fenced off, shut forever it seems. When we reached Southwold, we discovered that the Crown hotel, a local landmark, was also closed, apparently for maintenance works. Even the Co-op had shut, for a major renovation.
We struggled also to find refuge in the Lord Nelson hotel (our favourite pub in the U.K., a point made ad naseum in this blog). When we were last here, the pub was full of people eating dinner and it was almost impossible to find a table. Currently, the kitchen is closed (there seems to be a common thread here), but the pub has been full to overflowing with locals out for a beer or two. We first set foot in the Nellie in 1988, when it was very much a locals place. In the intervening years it has been colonised by tourists like us and by second home owners. At the moment it seems to have come full circle.
The Idle Skiers headed north yesterday to see family.
Tonight we are in Morecambe. Earlier in the day, the town enjoyed a cloudless pale blue sky seen too rarely in this part of the country. The view from the promenade over to the Lake District hills is always beautiful, but so often grey or obscured by rain. This morning was almost perfect, although the tide was out and the Bay just wet sand.
We were told a few weeks ago about a television crime drama, The Bay, set in the town. Somehow, we have managed to miss entirely the two series which have been produced. Today though I was reminded about another drama set in Morecambe, The Entertainer, a 1960 film about a fading music hall comedian. It has all the angst required of British films made in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but for those of who lived in the town then or in the following decade, it is a picture postcard of the final glory days of this resort. The theatre used for the stage scenes is the Alhambra, a magnificent building in the true seaside tradition. Scenes are located also in the Art Deco tea rooms near the Clock Tower and the old Avery, the pre-cursor to the long closed Winged World.
The holiday makers who came to the town then, or their children and grandchildren, now travel to the Mediterranean for their summer holiday. Many of the old landmarks have gone and the town looks for a new role for the future.
We cycled today, which is not something I have occasion to write very often. I do get out on a mountain bike occasionally in London, but we couldn’t remember the last time Mrs IS cycled. It was probably in the Lauterbrunnen valley about fifteen years ago.
However, they say you never forget. We picked a route that avoided the roads for the most part and after Mrs IS’s early Pilates commitments, we were away by mid morning. After forty minutes or so, we were in Wadebridge, a small market town on the River Camel.
Mrs IS called for a coffee stop and we rolled up to what looked like a cafe. It turned out to be a pensioners drop in centre. Their advertising was geared to mobility scooters and similar. Still, they greeted us warmly and provided us with the required coffee . It was pleasing and slightly disturbing at the same time. Did we really look that old?
It was a beautiful ride, sunny with a strong headwind in the afternoon and just the occasional quick rain shower. We arrived back in Padstow around 3.00pm after what seemed to be a very long trip. We were sure we had cycled much further than we originally planned and sure enough the intended 30 kilometres or so turned out to be 59.54 kilometres. Next time, we might plan the route more precisely. The last 0.54 kilometres were an absolute killer.
A hard rain is gonna fall, wrote Bob Dylan in 1962. The Met Office said pretty much the same thing yesterday and they were absolutely spot on with that forecast.
We had managed to find some petrol towards the end of the week and so we set off for Cornwall as planned. As seems to be the norm when the Idle Skiers head for the west country, it rained prodigiously. I would say it rained cats and dogs, but it was more like an entire zoo of rainfall.
Early this morning, it was still raining and it was forecast to stay that way. However, the weather on the north Cornish coast often beats the forecast and it did so again today. The sun emerged, people headed for the beach and by mid afternoon, with the tide coming in and a strong wind blowing, the surfers were out on the water.
Tomorrow, we head for Polzeath to test out the waves ourselves. The forecast is poor again, but we hope for the best.
Mrs IS’s birthday celebrations continued apace today with afternoon tea for friends, who descended on Pall Mall from far and wide.
I took the opportunity to head for Lord’s cricket ground, where the last match of the season, a five day county match for the Bob Willis Trophy, got underway. It is intended to be a showpiece event, but really it is too late in the year for that. Warwickshire are playing Lancashire, the latter county losing the toss this morning and being put into bat in difficult conditions. They were rolled over pretty quickly and probably only the weather can save them now.
The weather today was chilly and at times very wet, so we have come full circle from the cold and damp start to the season in April. The country as a whole has moved on since then of course. In the spring, the populace was still cowed by the virus and people gave each other a wide berth on the street. This week, without the slightest worry as to social distancing, they are fighting each other in garage forecourts over the limited amount of petrol available. Real progress, I am sure you will agree.
The Idle Skiers should be on the road on Saturday, but with 150 miles to cover, it is doubtful at the moment whether we can make the trip without one of us having to push the car.
It has been a day of celebration for the Idle Skiers. It is Mrs IS’s birthday, and a significant one at that. Twenty one again, of course.
We went for a walk in Richmond Park. We also walked to the park and back from it, in a circuitous route which saw us cover 20 kilometres in all. Last summer, or for most of it anyway, the park was almost empty. Now it is back in full swing. Most of south west London seemed to have joined us, walking also, running, cycling and riding.
This evening, we have been to a favourite restaurant, the Glasshouse in Kew. Every table was taken. Just at the moment, London buzzes like the old days, way back in 2019. Long may it continue.
The Idle Skiers are in Cyprus and have been for a week now. What with one thing and another, it has been two years since we were last here and it is good to be back.
We are staying on the Akamas peninsula, where arid brown hills meet a deep blue sea and where the Middle East seems a stone’s throw away. It is hot still of course, almost thirty degrees when we arrived. For the last couple of days, a light wind has cooled things a little and lightning has criss crossed the evening skies.
It is late now and the lightning has cleared. Along the coast, the lights of the village of Latchi shine brightly. A couple of fishing boats in the bay are heading back to the harbour there. The hills are just a dark smudge and the only sound is the Cicadas scratching away.