Hello, thanks for popping in. I'm afraid I'm a bit fed up: we had hoped to go camping this week and I was really looking forward to it but at the last moment our arrangements fell through and we couldn't go. I was SO disappointed. However, the Best Beloved had a bright idea and suggested that we pretend we are camping and have a staycation instead. It's been fun: we have used the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom in the house but otherwise we have spent our time in the summerhouse, the garden and on outings. We have rediscovered our love for the summerhouse and decided that we should spend more time in it, whatever the weather. (I should point out that there is nothing grand about it, and one of my friends refers to it very disparagingly as "the shed".) We have even seen a bit of sunshine (gasp!).
Every morning has begun with our usual camping routine: a pot of tea, a bowl of cereal, a boiled egg with soldiers, another pot of tea and the newspaper, all enjoyed in the summerhouse in a lovely, leisurely manner. Simple things can make me very happy.
On Wednesday we visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. This is the UK's centre of remembrance, for civilian as well as military deaths, and is home to more than 300 memorials. Every year in November we see it on the television and say to each other, "We should go there," but we never have done until this week. We spent more than four hours there and we'll go back. Like most people of our generation, all of our grandfathers served in the armed forces in either the First or the Second World War and we worked out that if we added in our great-grandfathers and the Best Beloved's father, we had ten men who marched or sailed off to do their duty. Widening the circle to include uncles added another three, plus two aunts in Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps... and every single one of them came home. I was reading this week about Thankful Villages, a term popularised in the 1930s for settlements from which all members of the armed forces survived the First World War, and the Best Beloved said that we are a Thankful Family. We are. So, we didn't go to the Arboretum to find a particular name, but while we were there we found ourselves remembering and reminiscing about our men and women, and that was good.
First, we took a tour on a land train with a recorded commentary, which was a good way to get an overview of the site. The tour lasted for just under an hour and then we made our way up to The Armed Forces Memorial which looked glorious in the sunshine. More than 16,000 names of those members of the armed forces who have died since the end of the Second World War are inscribed here and it is the centre of commemorations around Armistice Day. It has been designed so that if there is sunshine on 11 November at 11am, a shaft of light will fall through the gap in the wall onto a bronze wreath in the centre of the circle.
Our next stop was the Naval Service Memorial - the Best Beloved's father, grandfathers and step-grandfather were all Royal Navy career sailors - and from there we went to The Arctic Convoys Memorial because two of them were on those ships during the Second World War.
We wandered through the Navy Wood and arrived at The Korean War Memorial. My father-in-law earned his medals with the Far East Fleet during the Korean War and the Best Beloved was delighted to find his father's ship, HMS Charity, listed on the memorial plaque. We remembered and retold his father's stories about that time, and we smiled fondly. It was good.
Lastly, we visited the Burma Railway Memorial, which comprises actual pieces of the track, made, ironically, in England, and the Far East Prisoners of War Memorial Building. Although none of our family was involved with the war with the Japanese, I know of three men who were and I wanted to go and pay my respects to them. I called them up on the electronic roll which holds the names of 57,000 British servicemen who were taken prisoner by the Japanese. This building holds an exhibition about the war in the Far East and I found the atmosphere incredibly intense; there were middle-aged men in there weeping as they read about the hardship and the cruelty displayed there. It was a very emotional end to our visit.
If you want to visit the Arboretum, be aware that although they tell you that it's free, it's not really because you have to pay £3 to park your car (and the spaces are rather small) and another £3 for a map of the site, which doesn't list all the memorials! The full list is £6.50 but I looked them up online on my 'phone instead. We also paid for the tour on the land train, which was worth every penny. The major downside of our visit was the truly appalling cup of tea I didn't drink in the café, the worst I have been offered in a very long time, possibly ever, and probably largely due to the nasty UHT full cream milk which was in it. Yuck!
On Friday we went to Lake Vyrnwy in Powys. We took a picnic and our binoculars and spent a few hours there, through sunshine and showers, although I was a little disappointed in the lakeside bird hide: we were in there for almost an hour, during which time I saw one great crested grebe, one heron and one fish! After I packed my binoculars away, three cormorants turned up but honestly, I think the birds hide when I go to a bird hide. However, the chairs were very comfy and nobody else was there so the Best Beloved was able to have a nap!! After all, he's on holiday.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x
EDIT It has been pointed out to me in the comments below that my grandfather was involved in the Japanese theatre of war, making this memorial area more significant to me than I had realised.