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Sunday morning and it was great to greet the Turkish sailors who’d arrived home in the middle of the night, exuberant and thrilled with their newly acquired skills, but covered in bruises sustained while sailing in very high winds.Clive and Alexandra kindly took me to the tube and I set off for Victoria Coach Station to meet up with Pauline who’d left the day before to take in a West End Show.

I’ve always preferred trains to buses and this journey absolutely reinforced the reasons why! It’s almost always a tube ride to a train station so the tube has to be negotiated whatever you do. But Victoria Coach Station, central though it is, is quite a hike from the tube and main line stations and it feels as if everyone else is making exactly the same journey. They’re either going the same way as you are – very slowly – or they’re coming towards you!! Negotiating pavements full of people trundling luggage is a very slow process and when you’re trundling a case behind you on both hands, you need even more space if you’re going to pass anyone. I was hot and cross when I finally arrived at Bay 18 of the Coach Station and Pauline was on the point of ringing me to see where I’d got to.

Even when you’re on the coach, you have to wear your seat belt and the journey in this case from London to Nottingham takes 3 hours and 20 minutes (only 1 hour and 20 minutes by train where you can walk through the train unrestricted!). I hope I never have to go by coach anywhere again!

When we lived in Broxbourne we had two lovely neighbours called Roy and Elissa. Soon after we went to New Zealand, they moved up to Cropwell Butler, a village about 20 minutes east of Nottingham. They’d very kindly opened their home to both Pauline and me and we had a week of unbelievable hospitality – and unlimited use of Elissa’s car – which was a huge bonus.

Elissa used to have her own business providing catering to corporate dining rooms, weddings, special occasions and the like, and is a fabulous cook and provider. We felt very pampered, coming home quite late evening after evening and being treated to sumptious fare like the meal she gave us on our last evening – starters of potted shrimps from Morecombe (Elissa told us that the Queen eats these frequently!). And delectable Grape Brulée for dessert.

With magnificent roast duck in between (that photo didn’t come out very well and by the time I realized, I’d eaten it all up!!)

The Nottingham tournament was much the same as the other two. The weather was the worst we’d experienced and we spent a lot of time in our waterproofs. The grounds, however, were absolutely stunning with lawns 1-5 stretching out into the distance one way, and magnificent trees surrounding lawns 6 and 7 stretching out the other

On the odd moment when there was a gap between games, it was lovely to wander in the grounds behind the lawns and enjoy the tranquility and the wild life.

Neither Pauline nor I covered ourselves with glory at this tournament and didn’t make the final day on Saturday, so we had a lovely day out with Elissa instead.

She took us to the Workhouse in Southwell.

This was built in 1824 but this exterior picture doesn’t give any indication of the grim reality that existed within, where we weren’t allowed to take photos. The Workhouse concept introduced a harsh and revolutionary system that was designed to cut the cost of caring for the poor. The system started in Southwell and was later adopted across a national network of over 600 Union workhouses. I found the experience very upsetting and saddening.

From the Workhouse we moved on to a lovely garden centre nearby in Southwell where we had a delicious snack lunch (not daring to eat much with Elissa’s cooking to look forward to in the evening) and wandered around a swan sanctuary in its grounds.

Then we drove into the town and visited the beautiful Minster.

Southwell Minster was founded in Saxon times and rebuilt by the Normans as an independent church in the Diocese of York. The different architecture of the two periods is very evident. It was damaged in the Civil War and later restored. It became the Cathedral of Nottinghamshire in 1884.

Instead of returning to Cropwell Butler the way we’d come, Elissa drove us through the centre of Newark with its quaint streets and lovely old buildings.

Our coach didn’t leave Nottingham until the afternoon so we had time (and the weather) to spend in their beautiful garden, pulling out the odd weed. Elissa has designed and built a beautiful Japanese area for which she still has many plans but, situated as it is right outside the spare bedrooms, it’s a very restful sight first thing in the morning when pulling the curtains!

Finally it was time to say goodbye to good friends, who’d been unfailingly kind and hospitable, and Honey, and return, once more to London to be with Kate and family before going off to Scotland with Suzi for two weeks.

Nottingham, England - 11 August 2008

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