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March 2nd, 2018

11:15 pm: Exeter Snowpocalypse, Part Two
Fed up with the lack of water, we decided to relocate ourselves from my place to Alice's house down by the river where the electrics might be in an uncertain state but at least we wouldn't have to keep melting snow to flush the loo.

Walking through town, we found the main roads still closed but there were quite a lot of people wandering around on foot. Much to our good fortune, Marks and Spenser in town was open, enabling us to stock up. Possibly unsurprisingly, there was no great shortage of stock; rather, the staff were going through, frantically stickering perishable items that were clearly about to hit there sell-by dates. As a result, we picked up a lot of stuff — including a big pile of sandwiches for lunch for the next few days and a number of meal-deals — for almost nothing.

Arriving at the riverside, we found the house in a good state, with relatively little disruption from the re-wiring work. The damage to the plaster seems to have been limited to a series of discrete holes — mostly around lightswitches and plugs — with most things working as expected. C&J joined us, both of them having been in to work as normal, and we got the fire going and had a really lovely evening enjoying the intermittantly falling snow...

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March 1st, 2018

11:00 pm: Exeter Snowpocalypse, Part One and a half
After supper, we went out to go and play in the park. There we went on the swings and A tried the slide — so icy at the bottom that she carried on sliding long after she was off the actual ramp — and pronouncing it excellent fun. We also tried out a couple of the see-saws but the highlight of the evening was the roundabout which, like a swing, could, once going, be sped up and slowed down by simply extending and bending one's knees.

We saw a handful of other hardy souls while we were there, including a man training with a skipping rope. As A said while we were on our way back: it's amazing how something simple becomes impressive just because it's being done in snowy conditions!

09:27 pm: Exeter Snowpocalypse, Part One
Waking up to a light dusting of snow this morning, I immediately took a photo of it and dashed in to the bedroom to show it to A, who'd been lamenting Exeter's lack of snow for quite some time. We were both excited by it, but my reaction was somewhat dampened when I noticed that, once again, our water pressure was low, suggesting that the building inlet had frozen. We had a slightly leisurely breakfast watching the snow coming down in swirls and I went in to the office where I discovered only DJM was in and was about to leave before conditions became too severe.

During the morning, there were a series of announcements about the impending snowpocalypse and the closing times for the various eateries at work were updated. I had a meeting with a colleague, rescheduled from the day before, and ate lunch early before returning to my desk. At around 1320Z, we were all asked to leave and told not to come in tomorrow. I took a few photos, caught the last bus into town, and took a few more pictures of Exeter in the snow. By this point, the blizzard had started in earnest and id din't really let up until the end of the day.

Arriving home, I was greeted by a curiously lovely smell in the hallway. It was stronger in the flat and, when I went through into the kitchen, I realised what it was: A had baked a lemon drizzle cake! Sadly we were still without water — A had had a number of conversations with the neighbour from the basement — but we had some big bottles of water from Tuesday and we put on some big saucepans of snow to flush the loo.

After tea and cake, we went for a walk in Belmont Park, where the entire community had turned out to enjoy the snow. We were particularly impressed by an enterprising group of students who were attempting to sledge using a large ABS suitcase — we felt they'd've been more successful had they opened it up and used the two halves together rather than leaving it closed. We walked back the long way round and went round by the dry ski slope — very much covered in snow — and put down footsteps in the pristine snow.

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February 27th, 2018

09:08 pm: First signs of Jack Frost
Woke up early and went through my usual morning routine, only to notice that the water pressure was suspiciously low. Realising the shower was unlikely to work, I warned A about the problem, kissed her goodbye, chucked my washing kit in my bag, and dashed off to the office. After having a shower there, I emailed the landlord about the problem and got on with my day.

I got a quick response from the landlords saying that some of the others had also reported a problem with the water and, as I suspected, the inlet pipe into the building had frozen in the cold overnight. By the afternoon, A reported that the water was back on — the daytime temperatures had clearly been enough to thaw things — and the landlords had been round to apply more lagging, in the hope of preventing the problem from happening again

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February 25th, 2018

09:00 pm: Back to Exeter
Another late start to the day, getting up some time after my father had headed out for his usual Sunday bike ride. We pottered around in the morning and went for a walk in the park, sans crutches, doing mostly the same route as yesterday, out to the war memorial and back. Afterwards, we tucked into a lunch of bread and cheese and the soup from Friday before my mother ran us to the station in good time to catch our train to Birmingham.

Despite having booked seats all the way through, we separated for the first part of the journey because it seemed easier than turfing people out of their seats. Changing at New Street, we had time to make it to M&S to pick up a train picnic before the second leg of the journey. We arrived in Exeter on schedule and found A's parents waiting to pick us up.

After some indecision, we decided not to go to the quiz. We're down two core memebers and the others needed to prepare and pack, ready to move out for a week or two while the house is rewired, with A moving to my place and her parents moving round the corner to house-sit at D&P's while they are in Spain.

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February 24th, 2018

10:11 pm: My sister's 40th party
We got up at around 08:30 and got dressed ready to walk to the park and watch the start of Coventry parkrun. As we were leaving we noticed some huge helium balloons in the drawing room — a big 4 and a 0 and unicorn with a rainbow mane — clearly the results of a dawn visit from my niece!

The park was lovely but cold and we arrived at the monument in good time. As we were walking there — A walking a bit slowly but unaided — we were overtaken by someone on crutches, who then, at the start, asked someone to take a photo of him for posterity, while A noted sagely that he was going to pay for it later. We watched the start and waited for the leading runners to complete their required two laps of the course, noting the first woman, first dog, and first pushchair. With the weather positively baltic, we didn't wait for all the finishers — we didn't even stay long enough to see the man on crutches complete his first lap — but instead headed home for a shower and tea and hot cross buns for breakfast.

Once my parents had put the lunch on — the carnivores were having slow-cooked lamb — we pottered until my sister and family arrived at half-past eleven, with my niece and her family arriving shortly after. There was much cooing over the balloons — the children loved them and the unicorn was a particular hit with my sister — before a round of blinis and prosecco.

Lunch, when it came, was excellent: I had cauliflower cheese, spanakopita, and lemon potatoes cooked with the lamb while the others had the same, just with added meat. For pudding we had an amazing croquembouche made by my dad. He hadn't made the profiteroles himself, but he had done everything else, filling them with cream, making the caramel, and constructing the cone of piled pastries — the whole thing was really impressive and capped off the meal perfectly.

After lunch, A&I went for a walk round Earlsdon, both to stretch our legs and, in my case, to escape from the slightly overwhelming number of children. The wind was still very cold, but we were largely sheltered by houses and it wasn't too awful. We got back in time for tea and cake — A is off chocolate until Easter and I passed on it out of solidarity — and a fun time was had by all, with much discussion of my sister's forthcoming celebratory holiday to Cosa Rica.

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February 23rd, 2018

10:30 pm: Visit to Coventry
Day off to travel to Coventry ahead of tomorrow's family lunch to mark my sister's fortieth birthday. I'd packed yesterday, but A spent a busy hour sorting out what she wanted to take and worrying that she hadn't got enough — or possibly the right sort of — clothes. We got away on time, taking a taxi to the station in deference to A's still reduced mobility. Slightly annoyingly, we didn't get either a confirmatory text or a message that the driver was waiting by looking out of the front windows and, when we got in, he confirmed that their alert system had been down for days!

The train journey was smooth and we travelled on our Two Together railcard for the first time. The discount on the tickets was more than enough both to cover the cost of the card and to provide us with a healthy saving to boot. We got to Birmingham with about 20 minutes to spare, successfully navigated the vaguaries of New Street with both a person on crutches and various bags and found our seats on the Coventry train.

We got to Coventry just after two and had lunch — spinach and lentil soup with bread and cheese &mdsah; with my parents and one of my nephews. When my dad went to pick up my youngest nephew from nursery, we went the first of many walks in the Memorial Park, returning just as my dad returned with child in tow. We then pottered for the rest of the day and went to bed early to prepare for tomorrow.

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January 27th, 2018

11:56 am: One hundred and third parkrun
Decentish parkrun, although I was quite slow and clearly need to do some work on my base fitness after a month or so of limited cardio work. We ran the winter course, which was just as well because, as I was getting changed, I realised I'd left my trail shoes at A's after last week's run at Killerton. C managed a PB, smashing 30 seconds of his time, and D was slow, but she is running for two these days.

After the run, we had coffee and caught up with J and formed our plans for the day. I offered to go and pick up the things on A's shopping list from yesterday and J said she'd go to the hospital for the start of visiting, to help A get changed and presentable. C was going to take Martha to the groomers and come by to pick up J for her hair appointment while I stayed at the hospital. D said they'd probably come by tomorrow & asked if there was anything they could bring.

With everything settled, I grabbed a shower and got on with the rest of the day.

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January 26th, 2018

09:30 pm: A goes into hospital
Up around six in the morning to give A time for a last shower and left the house well before seven to allow A to drop me off at the bus stop for work, before heading to the hospital.

Despite going through the usual pre-op early — during which the anaesthetist recognised her from her last operation — she didn't go into theatre until 13:15. She came out after a couple of hours and then spent a few more in recovery, fighting off the effects of the anaesthetic, until she was well enough to be moved up to the ward around 18:45. By this time, we were waiting in the hospital reception and we went through once we got the all-clear from the nurses.

A looked terrible when we arrived: bundled in blankets and with a towel around her head because she felt cold, even as the rest of us were stripping off layers of clothing to deal with the sweltering heat. But she started to perk up after 30 minutes and by 20:00 when visiting hours were over, she was well enough to roll her eyes and argue with her mother about her menu choices, and order me and her father to do tomorrow's parkrun.

The whole thing was pretty tough to start with and I was emotional and wobbly enough that I didn't entirely trust myself to speak, but things got better both as A improved and I got a grip and realised that it was a bit self-indulgent to be teary when I was just standing by a bedside.


January 25th, 2018

11:45 pm: Lydford Gorge and Waterfront pizza
Having both taken the day off work, A&I headed out to Dartmoor to go walking with the dogs. We'd originally planned to go to Meldon Reservoir and set out, diligently following the instruction in the guidebook. This took us as far as Sourton Cross and then told us to follow the signs to Okehampton and Meldon. Somewhat baffled, we went one junction too far on the A30, came back, concluded we couldn't find what we were looking for and started off along the A386 until we saw a sign for Lydford and decided to do the walk along the gorge.

We arrived in the village and parked opposite the Castle Inn — a favourite from the days when E & I used to go to The Barn a lot. We harnessed up the hounds and walked up the road to the National Trust tea rooms at the start of the gorge walk, only to discover that the paths were closed until 10th February. Not willing to accept defeat, we walked a couple of miles along the road to the second NT entrance to the gorge and, finding the slow and steady path path open — the quick and steep path was closed for work — we made our way down to the bottom to walk to the waterfall.

A wooden mushroom with coins pushed into it. There were a few bits of shapped wood along the path, mostly animals, including snakes, boars, and even a small deer.

Martha enjoyed her walk, even if she did end up towing a whole load of branches and twigs after her at one point, following a dive through the undergrowth. As usual, she ended up seriously filthy and it took several rounds of washing in the bath to get the worst of the mud out of her coat...

A in front of Whitelady Waterfall, currently in full flood with the all the recent rain.

Whitelady Waterfall in all its winter glory!

From the waterfall, we discovered that the path back along the gorge was indeed closed — the gate across the river was padlocked, making the situation pretty clear — so we retraced our steps and reluctantly walked back along the road, keeping our eyes open for a path that would let us bypass as much of the main road as possible. In the end, we didn't really find anything and retraced our steps, only going off-road to avoid the narrow bridge on a blind bend on the outskirts of the village.

Back in Lydford, we jumped in the car and drove back to town, where we put the hounds straight in the bath. Flo was only superficially muddy, although when we washed the feathery hair on her tail, it ran completely black for a couple of minutes while we flushed the filth off. Poor Martha was very grubby and it took a few lather-rinse-repeat cycles to get her close to clean, and she looked pretty miserable by the time we were finished. We then gave them a quick towel dry and put Martha under the hair dryer — yes, she really needs it, otherwise she stays damp forever.

Once the others got home, we scrubbed up, and, after A got packed ready for the hospital tomorrow, we went out to dinner. A had decided she wanted pizza so we went to On The Waterfront, where I had a Nutty Goat pizza, A had a You've Pulled, J had a Crabster burger, and C had a gluten-free Cluck 'n' Moo. We had a lovely time and the couple on the next table down were endlessly amusing — every so often we'd catch an odd and extremely questionable snatch of conversation, including one of about dubious sexual practices of rugby players!

We finished up the evening with a quiet drink in Samuel Jones before heading home to prepare ourselves for tomorrow...

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