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Roquet Man

After our recent short trip to Marlow for the drive-in movie, we went on a much grander adventure last week. An extra twenty minutes in the car.

The Road to Aylesbury…

Take it away, Elton:

...We packed our bags last minute pre-drive
Zero hour nine AM...

In fact, it ended up being after lunch.

We stuffed the car with garden games, a blow-up giant avocado (with accompanying blow-up stone) and, in a fit of optimism to defy the British climate: multiple pairs of shorts and our swimming costumes for an outdoor pool. No rooftop box, in case we took a wrong turning and ended up in Cornwall. A dizzying drive along the myriad motorways of Britain (well, the M25 and the M40), around 60 miles for the family staycation, to be fair less Easy Rider than Herbie Rides Again.

Can’t help thinking of Elton again for the are-we-there-yet journey,

...I think it's gonna be a long, long time...

Arrival at the cottage was straightforward, meaning no need to get within two metres of any other human being before being given sanitised keys. And so it proved for the rest of the week.

This guy in the grounds was firmly told to stick to the distancing limit:

Statue in the grounds
It’s OK, I used a telephoto lens to maintain appropriate social distancing.

We experienced an odd sense of timelessness and falling out of the world for a while. Ask him, he even has a very natty Lockdown beard.

The cottage is attached to a hotel with an entrance door retro-fitted with a motion sensor, and a thermometer able to take my temperature automatically before the laser cannons activated. A sign of the times, and lucky that no facial recognition was required for registration. My chin-to-nose face covering made it look more like I was there to commit armed robbery than check in.

Aside from a food delivery to the cottage and the usual dance to keep everyone’s distance, that was it, a week of more isolation but with unfamiliar kitchen devices and a real garden. Bliss. No air tickets, knackering plane rides, all the stuff that makes a holiday generate a need for recovery time when arriving back home. Just Aylesbury for the week.

Not a holiday destination that any of us would ever have particularly considered – no offence – but it proved to be awesome. Not that we saw anything of Aylesbury proper, but that didn’t matter, we were Oooh! (Out Of Our House) for an extended period of time, somewhere unknown, somewhere DIFFERENT. OK, no beach parties, lingering sunsets over an azure sea, blahblah, but peace and quiet, and time to kick back with the family.

Aside from one game of footie and University Challenge, no TV for the whole of the week, and – shocking news – it was not missed. At all. I’m not going to suggest there was no social media stuff going on, but it was at a much reduced rate. And there was the allure of not having to open post. Remarkably liberating. Also, my position as Bin Tsar was furloughed for six splendid days…

We played games, all four of us – Father, Mother, the Offspring – not just taking advantage of the lawn with a croquet set that we had finessed into the car. The kids thrashed us. They were also better at Funny Bunny (a family favourite board game for ages 4+ – improved by combining with cocktails). And a card-based Mahjong without the incessant clickety-clack of frenzied tiles that I remember well from Hong Kong – the police station on Lamma Island has always been a particularly loud venue for that sort of thing.

The other thing that we did, courtesy of BBC Good Food Magazine, was a stay-at-home (in Ayesbury) European Tour of Cooking. The kids joined in and we were each responsible for dinner on one night, travelling by food to Portugal, France, Spain and Italy with matching cocktails for each country. A touch of the exotic, albeit in Buckinghamshire. Fun for all the family.. We didn’t manage to persuade the Offspring that loading/unloading the dishwasher would be an exciting first-time novelty fest of fun, but we were on holiday rather than totally delusional…

Anyway, my point is that the little things matter. I think just switching off from mundane household tasks as far as possible, even if you haven’t gone anywhere, doing different stuff at home or wherever you are, seems like a breath of fresh air. That didn’t really impress itself upon me in a practical sense until we got back home and Life re-started in that inexorable way that it does, with a jolly round of car servicing/repairs, acquiring a replacement microwave, the trepidation before a new diet starts…

A re-start. A new paragraph.

'Till touch down brings me round again...

Cheers,

Alan

Sangria, jug of drink on our staycation in Aylesbury
Solid serving of our five-a-day…
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