Hello and welcome to the latest blog on October 1st 2021.
This final week of our trip back to the UK began in a way we never could have foreseen. It started with the press running inflammatory headlines telling people not to panic at the news that a few petrol stations had run out of fuel. That was all it took. Everybody rushed to fill up their cars and in less than 24 hours the pumps had run dry. Chaos ensued. Queues for fuel jammed up the roads, causing delays and short tempers – and yet more panic.
We didn’t know anything about it until we were halfway across the country – and halfway through a tank of fuel. We arrived at the farm campsite where we had planned to meet up with my brother and family for a few days and did the calculations. We had just enough fuel to get us to the cottage in Kent which was our next stop with Michael’s parents but there was no spare capacity. If we got stuck in one of the many traffic jams that had brought towns across the country to a standstill we were likely to find ourselves stranded.
When life goes a little off-piste help comes from the most unlikely of places. We were chatting to the campsite owners about our predicament and it turned out that they had their own supply of diesel for the farm, both red diesel (not legal for use on the road) and white diesel and they were happy to sell us enough to get us safely on to the next stage of our journey. Their kindness was all the greater as they were waiting for a delivery themselves, but were still happy to help us out. Their attitude was in stark contrast to the appalling behaviour that seems inevitable when any commodity runs short, and which was not generally showing the British population in their best light.
Three or four days later and things were beginning to show signs of coming back to normal, but the episode had shocked us. It seemed inconceivable that such a vital component of modern-day life could run out so quickly. Yet more proof, if it were needed, that we live on a knife-edge and, for the most part, are blissfully unaware of it until the system breaks down.
However, all that aside, we have had a wonderful week, a fitting end to our trip. We have spent our days seeing the sights of Kent, and our evenings drinking too much, eating too much and spending precious time talking and laughing with family – and you can never have too much of that these days.
Here are a few highlights to share with you.
The following collection of pictures were taken at Great Dixter Gardens and what a joy it was. It isn’t easy to ensure that a garden is still colourful at this time of the year, but it is possible if you know what you are doing. The borders in this iconic and inspirational garden were literally exploding with colour. The weather had turned grey, windy and cold but we hardly noticed, utterly entranced by the kaleidoscope that unfolded before our eyes. Soft pastels and bold reds and oranges, delicate blooms and hard,shiny berries, leaves of every shade of green and foliage whisper-soft or dagger-edged. What a delight!
I am finishing this blog on our last night. We are beginning to pack our things, Michael and I in preparation for an early getaway to France on the Shuttle tomorrow morning, and Michael’s parents as they head back home. The thought of saying goodbye is beginning to weigh heavy on us.
It has been almost a month of rapturous hello’s and subdued goodbyes. There has been a poignancy to this visit that I have never known before. Each block of time that we spend with friends and family doesn’t seem quite long enough and we wish that we had given ourselves an extra week so that we could have visited some of the people that we missed seeing this time round. This cramming-in of reunions, trying to catch up on the last eighteen months of lost time, is a new experience.
Every single farewell ends with the same sentence – ‘hopefully it won’t be so long next time’. None of us are that secure in our future anymore, but we have to believe that things are getting better and that we won’t need to say those words again. I’ve always disliked saying goodbye, even before the pandemic came along and changed everything, so I won’t say them now. ‘See you soon’ sounds much better. Huge hugs and kisses to everyone we’ve seen – and those we sadly missed.
And we can’t wait to see you again – very soon!