Before going round the Truro museum, in the morning of Wednesday, 8th September, I had had a coffee (ordered by QR code!) in the café next door, and shared a table with a stranger visiting from Leicestershire. (Covid-wise, I managed to sit a good few feet away from her.) She asked me if I had yet visited the Cathedral, and I decided to do so in the afternoon. She in turn thanked me for various ideas she had gleaned from my own visits already done. We both said that there was so much to see in Cornwall that we would have to return to the county.
The rain had fully stopped by the time I left the museum, though the air was still very damp. It was only a short walk to the Cathedral.
I couldn’t take a view of its west front from further back because of this:
It was rather fun to watch. I think they were replacing old benches, and adding to seating capacity in the square.
Inside all was much quieter.
I particularly liked all the verticals of this aspect.
As well as the architecture, there were many objects of interest.
The origin of a 141-year-old tradition:
This is half of a beautiful piece of embroidery, but I could not see what its function was. It was about 2 ft/60 cm high, and presented behind glass at ground level in a side aisle.
This fantastic painting is explained below.
With commentary by the artist:
A backward look as I was about to leave.
After that, there was another church in my sights. One of the booklets I had been studying to prepare the Cornwall trip was an old one by the Archaeological Department of Cornwall County Council, but I had not yet been able to use any of its suggestions. However, the village of Breage could be on my way back to my BnB in Penzance with a little diversion. (Though I do wish I’d not relied on my satnav which, so helpful in finding me a car park in the morning, led me a totally unnecessary merry dance through single track lanes to get there. I should in this case have looked at my maps.)
The 15th century church of St Breaca‘s attractions, from the booklet, were a Roman milepost, which took a while to find, mediaeval wall paintings and a cross.
John Miller, in the commentary to his painting in the cathedral, had referred to Cornwall as the land of the saints. Here is a reference to the local ones. Another panel gave a description of each.
At last I found the Roman (3rd century) milestone, tucked away in a corner.
Discerned by those who could read it was its abbreviated transcription of ‘the Emperor Caesar our lord Marcus Cassianus Latinius Postumus, pious, fortunate, august’.
The church was as wide as it was long,
as can be seen from this model.
There was an impressive list of every incumbent of the parish since 1219, and one before.
The cross, in the churchyard, is described as Hiberno-Saxon.
The next day was meant to be the peak experience, though I was having my doubts as to whether it would happen…
This was my choice for Monday morning, 9th September, the third day of my holiday in the far tip of Cornwall. I thought the walk would probably stretch me, but I had a reason for choosing it, from my other ‘walks’ book, by the Ordnance Survey.
It started at Perranuthnoe, the sun having cleared the heavy sea mist which prevailed just 20 minutes earlier as I had set off eastwards from Penzance.
For about half of its distance the walk would be through fields and lanes.
After half an hour I realised that I had failed to take my walking pole from my boot. Too far in now, I would have to manage without, something I was not looking forward to for the second part of the walk, along the South-west Coastal Path, up and down, up and down, cliff and cove, where my pole would, I thought, make all the difference to the ‘down’ bits.
I was most surprised to see this beehive to my right at one point, though further from me than this photo makes it appear.
Just metres further on I saw this shack, clearly party of a homestead. For the next couple of hundred metres, well spaced out, there were more dwellings, rather less ‘shacky’.
The last section of the inland part of the walk went north-south, along a path with, to me, a vertiginous descent, and very slippery because of little pebbles and soil. How I missed my walking pole to steady me, balance not being my strongest point. I grew increasingly fearful of the coastal path to come. At points down this steep path I used the method toddlers use when going down stairs…
As I neared the end of this descent, I could see Porth-en-Alls House, which took me back to 1973, though I had not seen it from this angle before. But I did recall seeing from the House the waves crashing onto the rocks of the promontory.
Where inland met coast was my reason for wanting to do this walk. When I was in this tip of Cornwall for the only previous time, in 1973, I had stayed for three weeks at Prussia Cove, near Marazion. This was, and still is, an estate of holiday cottages on the coast, and mine was one of the Coastguard Cottages, which I had all to myself. I was there, on unpaid leave from H M Treasury, as secretary to the International Musicians Seminar, founded just the year earlier by the celebrated Hungarian violinist, Sandor Vegh, and by Hilary Tunstall-Behrens. It still runs, and still takes place at Prussia Cove, based on Porth-en-Alls House. (I had no knowledge of H T-B’s exploits when I was introduced to him on taking the job!)
Two longer term consequences of my involvement in this event arose for me personally. The broadcaster and music critic John Amis, and radio presenter Natalie Wheen, visited for a couple days on behalf of the BBC. I found myself singing 4-part music with them once or twice. We remained in touch and had few further sessions, this time with five singers, back in London, once in my flat in Kentish Town.
The other consequence arose because it was my task, on the eve of Sandor Vegh’s arrival, to visit the cottage where he was to stay to check on, (or was it to light?), a fire to warm the place. (I think this was April.) The ‘cottages’ on the estate are well spread out, and a black and white cat was hanging around one of them. I can never resist talking to a cat, and I was a little embarrassed that she followed me all the way back to my own cottage. Free to leave if she wanted, she adopted me, and my reward was to find a dead mouse by my slippers nearly every morning when I woke up. I was informed, by the estate owners I think, that they thought she had been left behind by some previous holiday makers. Missy, as she became, virtually jumped in my car as I left Prussia Cove to return to London, my lovely companion for the next 12 years.
After 15 minutes or so, I arrived at Porth-en-Alls House. From that angle it did not seem at all familiar to me. But I was delighted to hear string chamber music emerging from this building, stopping and starting as if learning/rehearsing was going on – for these concerts perhaps?
I snuck this photo, in which a violinist can just been seen. One of these presumably.
I failed to see the Coastguard Cottages, and I had neither the energy nor the time to go searching for them. It was very hot, not a cloud in the sky all day.
My dread of the Coastal Path was unnecessary. That descent to the coastal path had been much worse than anything I encountered from then on. That said, this climb was steep!
Reached the top, I sat down on the narrow path, rested and took this photo. Fortunately no-one wanted to get by in either direction while I was there.
I arrived at Cudden Point.
This was the view as I passed over it, with Perranuthnoe in the far distance.
Brief exchanges with people coming in the other direction, or just resting, added to the pleasure of the walk. Footsore and very weary, I could see Perranurthnoe was getting nearer,
and then as I rounded every headland, it came nearer and nearer (as it were).
Three hours and 15 minutes after setting off, I arrived at the Beach Cabin Café, where a cheese sandwich and some apple juice refreshed. And I hadn’t even had to queue, despite the staff shortages in hospitality venues announced everywhere.
My ‘sandwich’ half eaten (it was a doorstep with copious filling, salad and crisps, much more than I wanted) I walked the few paces down to the beach to see what was attracting those going by, before climbing wearily back to my car.
It was only 2 pm, so the day’s entertainment could not end there.
Or six nights, five days, anyway. I had done the ‘Beauchamp’ early music course in 2001, when it was based at a place called Beauchamp House, in Churcham in Gloucestershire. Most people camped, and a few of us, including me, living in France at the time, stayed in B’n’Bs.
The scale of things being too large for me on the whole, I had not done that course again, but this year I just felt I wanted to get together with lots of fellow amateur singers and players to make music for a few days under the aegis of some known and trusted tutors. The course had not been held at Beauchamp House for many years and had known several different homes since. It is run by the Gloucestershire Academy of Music, and this year was being held at the independent school, Rendcomb College, near Cirencester, for the first time. It was amazing that the course took place at all this year, and all precautions were taken to ensure a Covid-safe environment, including all participants having to take a negative-outcome lateral flow test within 48 hours before arrival. In the event two people were ‘pinged’ during the course of the week and went straight home.
I arrived on the Sunday with an hour or so to spare before dinner, and walked round (just) part of the grounds.
The timetable was that all 70 participants, plus the four tutors, were all together working on one piece in the evenings, the first session of the day was in instrumental specialities (I was with 30-odd singers), and pre-lunch and post-tea sessions were in changing mixed groups, with the post-lunch period being free.
During Monday’s free time, I took up the suggestion of the very able organisers and visited Cerney House Gardens, just two miles down the road. I took lots of photos of course, and these will be the subject of my next-but-one post.
On Tuesday evening, I was taken to Emergency at Gloucester Royal Hospital, in an ambulance for the first time in my life. I have written that up, and that will be the subject of my next post. (Teaser: it was a mental, not a physical problem.) Here is a photo I took in the ambulance, which will show you that by that time I was sufficiently well to be sitting up, not lying on the ambulance’s gurney, and aware enough to think of taking a photo with my phone. This is Shaun. He has just done a lateral flow test on me. Phil was driving.
I missed breakfast on Wednesday morning. It was not to be served until 8.00 at the hospital (very civilised compared with what I have experienced in the past), and I was in a taxi back to the course at that time. Having had very little sleep overnight in Emergency at the hospital, and being very scruffy indeed, I did not feel up to creeping in for a late breakfast at Rendcomb. I skipped the first music session, and was found a banana, a chocolate bar and some cake to fortify me at 11.15, at the end of the coffee break. From then on I took full part in all the sessions, bar that of Wednesday evening which I decided to devote to R and R. In the afternoon’s free session, Jill D invited me to join a really excellent group of three recorder players and continuo instruments to sing the mezzo part in a lovely piece by Bach. The players sounded gorgeous. I think I acquitted myself reasonably well, but there were some complicated harmonic changes, and I was only working from a part, not a score, so would have done better with a little work on it beforehand. I really enjoyed the brief interlude though.
I remembered to get my camera out of my bag a few more times, but mostly forgot.
On Thursday afternoon I got a group of four viols and two voices together to do six-part music. Sadly it did not work quite as well as the previous afternoon’s free music-making, not least because I was not on particularly good singing form.
My last photo shows us nearly ready for the final session, on Friday evening. Most of the 70 plus participants can be seen in the picture, but sadly the huge variety of modern copies of renaissance instruments cannot. Hats and coats are because (Covid-safe) ventilation through the huge doors in the four corners of the room meant that it was blowing a chilly gale for most of us – August! – except for those in the large bay of the window.
One way and another I was shattered by Saturday. My aim to make good music with lots of other amateur musicians had been fulfilled – but there were elements I could have done without!
[Works I was involved in were by: Aliseda, Anon, Byrd, Croce, A Gabrieli, Guerrero, Hildegard, Isaac, Padovano, Palestrina, Praetorius, and Victoria (lots). The other tutors were Sue Addison and Julia Bishop.]
I’m not complaining, but there is just one problem in having to book a time in advance to visit a National Trust garden (because of totally reasonable social distancing precautions). It is that you can’t decide to go spontaneously, depending on the weather. But I was lucky last Friday. I had not been able to get a ticket for Barrington Court in the morning, when I had originally wanted to go, and the only spot available was mid-afternoon.
In the event it poured with rain in the morning, was dry, if pretty overcast, in the afternoon, and started raining as I drove home. As I say I was very lucky. Moreover, as a member of the National Trust, I would not have suffered if I had decided not to go, as my visit was free of charge. I wonder if they refund paying non-members who on the day choose not to go because of really bad weather?
There are two main buildings at Barrington Court, a sixteenth-century house, built to a characteristic Elizabethan E-plan, and, immediately beside it, a seventeenth-century former stable and coach block, in red brick, now Strode House, which normally includes, among other things, the restaurant. The gardens still show much of the influence of Gertrude Jekyll, in Arts and Crafts style. There are in addition various 1920s outbuildings.
After this I had to retrace my steps along the broad avenue. At this point I had an unfortunate encounter with a silly woman and her jumping up dog. ‘Don’t worry, he won’t hurt you, he’s very friendly.’ Never mind that he was indeed jumping up at me, obliging her to come close to me, that she still didn’t manage to control him and the only way he would remove himself (his name was Watson) from me was to point hard at his owner, who had by now withdrawn herself from my immediate space when I protested, and shout ‘GO AWAY!’ What is it about such owners who think it’s OK for their dogs to jump up, that you shouldn’t mind having your clothes mauled, and that you should love the antics of their dogs as much as they do?
I was quite discombobulated by all this and had to take myself in hand as I made my way to the formal gardens.
As a coda, I just have to share my huge pleasure at having been able recently to get together twice, with different sets of friends to make music, live. Not over Zoom, not joining in someone else’s recording, but actual live music-making as it used to happen BC. Well, not quite exactly as it used to happen, because this was al fresco. On Sunday we were five, that is two singers and three viol players. On Monday we were four singers, this time gathered in my garden,
A four-day, three-night house party for early music-making fans, between Christmas and the New Year, has been happening for years and years, I’m told, but this had been the first time I’d heard of it, and this was the first time they allowed someone in who only sang, with no other string to her bow, as it were.
To quote Wikipedia, “Trefeca (also Trefecca, Trevecca, and Trevecka), located between Talgarth and Llangorse Lake in what is now south Powys in Wales, was the birthplace and home of the 18th-century Methodist leader Howel Harris (English: Howell Harris). It was also the site of two Calvinistic Methodist colleges at different times; the first sponsored by the Countess of Huntingdon (an English methodist leader) in the late eighteenth century; the second supported by the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Connexion in the later nineteenth century.” Coleg Trefeca is now the conference centre and retreat house of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, with 14 twin-bedded rooms and several meeting rooms of various sizes. It is a Grade II listed building, and includes the Howell Harris Museum. It welcomes not only religious groups – evidently.
I arrived with a friend in her car (mine would not have taken all her many viols) late afternoon on the 27th, and found that some, after a quick cup of tea, were already planning to make music. We waited until the first official session after dinner, and I sang at that session with five viol players. I was not really intending to take photos during the stay, so have no photograph of that group as I was not with it again.
But my camera finger got itchy the next day, when I realised just how many interesting things there were around the place. First to catch my eye was this clock.
and its explanation, which, as with every other label, was also given in Welsh.
Behind it was a display cabinet.
including these objects:
We occupied the place fully. So manifestations of our own lives were all around.
An unlit showcase in another room included these:
When I walked into the library during this free/informal playing time, I was inveigled into singing one verse of the piece they were playing (it had optional words) in return for being allowed to take their photo.
Also found around the place were carriers for wind instruments and bags of music.
I just happened to look out of my window at 8 a.m. on day three.
This presaged much nicer weather, and later in the day I was tempted outside.
This being the setting where you could try things, I asked, to the organiser’s surprise, if I might have a session with the ‘loud wind’ (as against recorders) though I’m told I must now refer to it as ‘renaissance wind’. I took out the loud version of my voice, and I was pleased to say that the general consensus was that it had worked. These loud instruments are banished to the chapel (the small one if I read the Welsh correctly).
Just a couple more pictures of items in the house:
As we travelled across the beautiful South Wales countryside on day one it had been smothered in mist and fog. As we returned on the afternoon of day four it was glorious in low sunshine – but of course my camera was in my suitcase.
Monday, 16th September was a wet day, and fortunately we did not have to go outside of the monastery, having a full day of rehearsals and a concert in its chapel that evening. I took very few photos, just two, of guests at our concert.
The first is of 97-year-old British veteran, Private George Avery, 71st Field Company, Royal Engineers. (My grandfather served behind the trenches in the Royal Engineers in the First World War, and in the Second my father in the RAF and my uncle in the Royal Navy. How I wish, like so many, that I had asked the questions when I had the chance. And, additionally this day, I was conscious that it would have been my mother’s 100th birthday.)
In September 1944 the Royal Engineers prepared for the drive north to Arnhem, and in February 1945 built the longest Bailey bridge in the world. Private Avery was at Auschwitz shortly after Liberation and says he will always remember that.
Here he is in those days. Same cheeky smile!
The other photo I took minutes later, of the US Ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra. He was born in the Netherlands, but moved to the US when he was three. He had been at the Freedom Museum the day before and had been urged to come to our concert if he was free. Here he is addressing us before the concert, with his wife, Diane, and ‘our’ American, Bill.
The chapel was full, with nearly 300 in the audience, the Ambassador unnervingly just feet away from us as we sang. Here our conductor, Peter Leech, is giving us concert feedback at the beginning of our rehearsal the next day, as we sat in our same places.
Tuesday 17th September. After lunch at the monastery, we set off in the coach for Uden. We were greeted there at the Commonwealth War Cemetery, right in the middle of the town, by a former mayor, Mr Antoon Verbakel. He has been for many years the chair of a group concerned with honouring those buried there, some 700, the vast majority of whom are British. He told us of the history of the cemetery, and said that, while their annual war remembrance ceremonies ares in May, he personally comes to the cemetery at the same time as – and he choked with emotion at this point – as our Queen is honouring the dead in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday. He presented Peter with a book he had written giving the story of the cemetery, after which we were free to walk around.
And many hundreds more, including servicemen from New Zealand and Australia.
It was time to walk to the parish room of the St-Petrus Kerk, where we would give our second concert. This was not just any old kerk. It was the size of a cathedral!
It was just as big inside as it was outside, as we discovered during our rehearsal.
Between rehearsal and concert, we were as bad as the youngsters…
For the concert, the church, while not packed, was very full, probably the same number as the night before. We were delighted to see Private Avery and his family there again in the front row, joining in, along with the rest of the audience, our encore, an arrangement of ‘We’ll meet again.’ The Dutch know it as well, if not better than the British do.
Sunday 15th September. We were free for the early part of the morning as the chapel was being used for eucharist. So I went out for a short walk with Clementine and Mariske. The first thing I saw of note was a huge pile of sugar beet, a first for me.
After a late morning rehearsal and lunch, we piled into a coach to be taken to what had, until recent renewal and enlargement, been called the Nationaal Bevreijdingsmuseum (National Liberation Museum). Having just reopened on 1st September, it was now called the Vreiheidts Museum (Freedom Museum). The Museum was the sponsor of our entire weeklong visit. The journey to Groesbeek took about 45 minutes.
As we arrived, a Dutch Band, calling itself Bill Baker’s Big Band, was playing American dance music of the ‘forties.
We stood and listened for a while, before moving to the museum itself.
Once inside we assembled in the café, were given vouchers for refreshments to be taken later, and were welcomed by the Director of the Museum.
As planned, we moved back to the performing area,
and sang four short items from our programme, not under the tent but in front of it. The woman singing with the band had been amplified and I was a little concerned that the audience would not be captured by our acoustic sound, but they were, and were highly appreciative. I was delighted to find that we had been singing under the EU flag.
After refreshments, we were then free to look around the museum. This was very comprehensive, and dealt fully with the build-up to WWII, its roots in WWI, poverty and unemployment, the rise of Nazism, and moved on to the course of the war, particularly as it affected the Netherlands. Here are just a few of the many photos I took, some of them not as focussed as they might have been by my less than steady hand in dim light.
As I went round, I felt so strongly that our current politicians, many of them a near generation younger than me, should be obliged to visit this museum to understand what the EU is really all about, and why it was created.
This was ironically brought home even more as we realised that our route home was actually taking us through a small corner of Germany. Only the yellow street signs told us we had crossed a country border.
I have just spent a week in the Netherlands, commemorating with an ‘International Liberation Choir’ of 24 singers, the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, also known as the Battle of Arnhem. “In the summer of 1944, the Allies launched a daring airborne operation to secure the River Rhine crossings and advance into northern Germany. Although it ultimately failed to achieve its objectives, the determination and courage shown by the airborne troops and the units that assisted them made Market Garden one of the Second World War’s (1939-45) most famous battles.” (The opening of the National Army Museum’s account. See also the Imperial War Museum’s story in pictures, and a very full account in Wikipedia.)
Friday 13th September. I had had about two hours’ sleep the night before, reading far too late about the Operation, and about the authenticity of the film, ‘A Bridge Too Far’ which I had just watched, (very authentic, except that Montgomery is let off lightly at the expense of Browning), and worried that I would not wake up at 3.15.
Arriving at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, I boarded a train to Arnhem, where I arrived about lunchtime, despite a 75-minute delay at Bristol Airport for lack of buses from terminal to plane.
Fortified by an excellent mushroom and cheese omelette at the Robin-Hood bistro café …
… I caught the no. 300 bus to Huissen, for a short walk to the Dominican monastery where most of us were to stay (several lived near enough not to have to) and to rehearse.
The main function of the monastery, which now has only four monks, is as a modest guest house for groups and individuals. Far from a spartan cell, my room was comfortable and a very decent size. Showers and loos were a short way down the corridor, but there was a basin in each room.
I spent the rest of the afternoon settling in and relaxing in my room, before meeting the others in the dining room for a very early evening meal. The choir was 24-strong: 12 Dutch, 9 British, two German and one American. Sadly the only Polish representative had had to drop out shortly before the week, and the organiser, the amazing Beatrix, had not been able to find a Canadian singer at all. These six countries were those involved in Operation Market Garden in 1944. The British conductor, composer, and lecturer, Peter Leech, directed the music.
Saturday, 14th September. I explored the grounds for a few minutes before breakfast.
The whole of Saturday was spent discovering and rehearsing the repertoire for our concerts. Early on, the director of hospitality led Marianne Schuurmans, mayor of Lingewaard (the municipality which includes Huissen, link is to map), and the prior of the monastery into the chapel to welcome and thank us. In excellent English.
We had the splendid library to ourselves for our breaks.
Not surprisingly, our moving programme told of war, of death, of remembrance, of commemoration, and of peace and hope. It included works by composers and poets of the six nations, including Tallis and Parry, the Canadian Kathryn Rose, Huub de Lange, J C Bach and Hugo Distler, the Polish early baroque composer Bartolomiej Pekiel, the American Peter C Lutkin, and three pieces by Peter Leech. I was choking as we first sang through his ‘In Flanders Fields‘, a poem by the Canadian physician and lieutenant-colonel John McCrae, apparently well-known but which I had never come across before.
After another early evening meal, there was time for a wander round the town.
I was delighted to catch the tail end of a carillon.
Back to the monastery.
I saw an information board which told me that it had been founded in the 19th century, and had played an important role in the war, when much of the territory around had been flattened. The clean and peaceful present-day surroundings were such a contrast.
Last weekend I was in Northamptonshire, at Knuston Hall for music-making, a journey round Renaissance Italy, visiting Florence, Milan, Naples, Verona, Rome, Ferrara, Mantua and Venice, under the expert tutorship of Peter Syrus. We were nine plus Peter. At the same time there were smaller courses happening on Russian culture, Hatha yoga, Making polymer clay jewellery, and Hand embroidery. I took no photos of the actual music-making – or anything else – but I did of the Hall and its grounds.
In our free time on the Saturday afternoon, Frances, who had already kindly driven me all the way from Somerset, suggested we visit Castle Ashby Gardens, about 20 minutes away. Sadly my camera decided to go on strike just after we had got there, so those pictures are were subject to the limitations of my tiny phone.
Castle Ashby is the ancestral home of the seventh Marquess of Northamptonshire.
Entrance to the Gardens was quite along way further on from this view. Having parked, we wandered towards the church, taking this photo of the Castle itself through the trees.
The church was locked when we tried the door, so we wandered around the impressive graveyard.
The vicar turned up after a few minutes and she explained that the church had been locked because it was all prepared for a wedding starting in an hour’s time, but we could explore it now.
It didn’t take long for us to notice that the small, topmost panes of the 19th century stained glass windows had images of musicians playing from the era of music we were making on the course. The organist arrived while we were there, and he said that the windows, and the delightful angel carvings at the ends of the choir stalls, had all been installed in the 1870s by an energetic vicar, the Rt Rev Lord Alwyne Compton, a matter of days before he left to be Dean of Gloucester, and later Bishop of Ely. (The stained glass windows were quite beyond reasonable reproduction by my phone, but I offer the following approximate images of a few of the carvings, mostly blurry because of insufficient light – and possibly a hand not quite as steady as it should have been.)
We moved on to the gardens.
The Orangery is at the end of the path.
What a delightful way to spend a couple of free hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Monday, 3rd June. I spent my final morning at Avielochan, on my way to Inverness Airport. The Grant Arms Hotel, where I had been staying for the four previous nights, has a hide there for the exclusive use of its guests, and indeed ask you that if the little car park already has its capacity of five cars to come back later. I was fortunate in that I was the only person in the hide for the full 90 minutes I was there.
I was fortunate also to have shelter – it was drizzling when I arrived, and for nearly all the time I was there. This was the general view from near the hide as I arrived.
Avielochan was another place where there was to be the chance of seeing Slavonian grebes, though, sadly, again they were not in evidence. But I enjoyed my morning, obsserving a variety of more common birds, some of which are featured below. For a short while, not long enough to get my camera to it, I caught sight of an osprey flying around against the background of the hills opposite.
There was short path beyond the hide, but I didn’t say long. By now I was perishingly cold, even though the rain had temporarily stopped.
And in the event, this was all I saw of the Slavonian grebes.
Despite the weather, and despite the underlying sadness over the very recent loss of my lovely Lulu, I did enjoy my short stay in the Cairngorms National Park. The hotel was a friendly, welcoming place and made me feel very comfortable and looked-after, which I’m sure helped my general satisfaction at the mini-holiday. But I was happy to get home to Bella in the early evening. I feel pretty sure I shall return to Grantown-on-Spey before too long.