Off to the station in Oxford this morning to relive the daily commute I did for ten years: Oxford to Kingham. A chilly day with bits of blue sky poking through the habitual grey clouds. At the station I phoned S to tell him I was on my way. "I'm in Stow," he said. "It's snowing, big fat flakes." "???"
By the time I got off the train at Kingham, it wasn't snowing, but it was raining hard enough that without even a thought of a souvenir photo, I dived into the warm car. From there we drove to my friend H's gravesite, a natural burial site in Leafield. It was a pretty dreary time to be there. It's a field, with graves dotted around amidst the trees. It was drizzling, the leaves had all fallen off the trees, the grass was unkempt and greyish in the rain. We walked around a little but didn't stay long.
On the off-chance, S had sent an email to our former neighbours A and D in Stow-on-the-Wold a couple of days ago to see if they were around. They were, so we made a date for lunch at the Queen's Head, which used to be our regular Friday night haunt (and still is theirs, twenty years later). We drove sedately back to Stow along my daily route from the station, which I used to whizz along in my little Suzi the Suzuki, bounding into the air over humpback bridges and leaving Porsches and BMWs in my wake (loved that car).
We arrived a bit early, so had a wander; no snow left and the rain was just a faint drizzle. Stow hasn't changed much, still basically thriving on pubs, restaurants, and antique shops. A few pubs have had their names changed and that's about it. We visited our old house and were a bit gutted that the people we sold it to in 1997 have chopped down our cedar tree.
We hadn't seen A and D for 15 years, so there was plenty to catch up on. Their daughter B got married in September, so we admired the photos. It does make you feel old, I remember bouncing her on my knee when she was a little baby.
A had to get back to the office, so we bade each other goodbye not long after two, and set off to our next stop: sunny Huddersfield. Thank goodness it wasn't snowing any more. 170 miles, 3 hours, said the satnav. It took us five hours. Hours of nose-to-tail traffic around Birmingham. Hours of those ubiquitous "smart motorway" roadworks in more heavy traffic. Crawling along round Manchester on the M60. We felt as if we were in a timewarp: the miles left to drive going slowly down while the estimated time of arrival got later and later. We eventually drew wearily up outside G and A's house at about 7:30.
We haven't visited G and A at home before; they live in an absolutely splendid Victorian house, which I fell in love with instantly. They plied us with food and wine, a great help in improving our mood, and after lots of chat we were all off to bed before midnight. What a day! And with all those activities, I only took about half a dozen crappy photos ... blame the weather.