New Year was spent in the UK. We made the most of our trip by shopping for plants, picking up the final part of the bulbs gift (see previous posts), catching up with as many people as we could and to getting ourselves a dose of high-octane live-music.
Andover is a strange place, bypassed by the road from London to Lands-End, quiet and sleepy with, on the surface, not a lot going for it. When we first moved there about 20 years ago what attracted us was that it was not Basingstoke. That is a bit negative I know but unless you have lived in Basingstoke you will not appreciate the sentiment (my personal opinion – I know a lot of people who love Basingstoke). In the intervening years Basingstoke has mellowed (and possibly so have I) and Andover has had the time to show her real, hidden, side to me. It is a fine place, a small market-town, close to Salisbury Plain inhabited by lovely people. It does have faults though and there are a lot of people, individuals and groups, working very hard to repair them. Her one claim to fame is that the great rock-band The Troggs started their chart topping career in Andover. Several members of the band (through several transitions) still live in and around the town and Reg Presley, the front-man, was a great supporter of Andover. I regret that I only got to see him perform once.
It is perhaps a part of the Troggs legacy, with a bucket full of help from the Andover Gig Guide team (www.andovergigguide.co.uk), that there is an incredible amount of visible musical talent within the town, that there are a large number of venues willing to host live-music and that there is real encouragement shown to young and mature musicians to perform live. Andover has a thriving music culture.
At the start of each year the Station Hotel (Inn) hosts an annual rock-jam. Organised by the Inn staff and Mark Holden of band ‘Less is More’it allows musicians from any local bands who want to be a part of it to come and perform ‘covers’ (everyone knows the music). The one stipulation is that performers mix together and no single band will play its own line-up. By the end of a drink fuelled night this has, in the past, led to five or six drummers and up to 20 other personnel on the stage entertaining us and themselves at the same time. It is a key night for the diary. This year was no exception and provided an exceptional night of live music.
When we had recovered from this wonderful night we loaded the car and set off back to Puymangou. It is a long drive. We tend to cross the Channel through the tunnel and then drive across France avoiding Toll-Roads. Even using Toll-Roads with no stops you would expect a 10-hour trip. For us, coupled with my need to stop every time I see something I want to photograph, it takes a fair bit longer. ‘Sensible’ people may well split the drive over 2-days. Having said that we have recently been stopping in the beautiful town of Pont d l’Arche. There are major works on the bridge at Rouen so traffic is diverted across the Seine at this Pont.
The church looms majestically over the bridge and below it there are winding medieval streets of shops and café. The very friendly café we have started to frequent is small, warm and cosy and always full with laughing local people same dash in and out but many loiter with their part wrapped baguette, drink and chat. Make a point of finding a boulanger and buy a few pastries for one of those peckish moments in a few hours time.
So, with the car loaded, I thought I should pump the tyres up to compensate for the extra (massive) load (of seed-potatoes and bulbs). The drive to the garage was surprisingly uncomfortable. Once I had corrected the air pressure the improvement in the ‘ride’ was astonishing and I believe the fuel economy was probably improved (although given the load it would never be good). I was surprised that one such simple piece of trip preparation can make such a serious impression on the pleasure of the trip; and it could so easily be overlooked. Once home and the car had been emptied we rushed over to La Roche Chalais before I had time to readjust the tyre pressures. Once again the ride, with no load, was very uncomfortable.
A few minutes with the pressure gauge and the tyres were back to normal and the ride was as comfortable as ever. It is a simple precaution; a few minutes adjusting the tyre pressures can greatly improve the enjoyment and cost effectiveness of the trip. This provided a reminder to me that we must ensure that guests can make use of our pumps and gauges when they are here.
Anyway we are safely back in Puymangou, pussy-willow in bloom, gorse covered in a dusting of yellow flowers and even fully blooming daffodils in a sheltered garden in the village (not a ‘host’…. however, yet). Now fired up by our dose of live-music and working hard at getting the gites ready for the holiday season, we are planning to open our bar for guests and local musicians to create our own, occasional, Live-music venue.
So a final note for my many non-English as a first language speakers in the readership; the reference to ‘Host’ of daffodils comes from a lovely poem by William Wordsworth. It is a rhythmic pleasure to read (http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/daffodils/)