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29 May 2010

Hope adds to the blog...

After 2 months of being a “normal” person, sans living with a busy vet ~ aka my best friend ~ and the show horse, my life had gone to a lazy routine of feeding the animals and mowing the farm, with exception to my 40 hour job! When Kim came home after her grandfather’s funeral, the silence came to a screeching halt! A frenzy of telephone calls, text messages and quick visits, quick meals. Kim is home! Soon, the accelerated start of my UK adventure!

Flying on a buddy pass, which always leaves me with a doubt of my actual travel time, Kim, Sherman, Sydney and I bolted out of the house at 10:30 on Wednesday morning to catch an early flight to New York City. Originally, I had planned to leave at 10:45 p.m. which allowed me time to unload a truckload of feed and finish mowing grass, but not now! The volcano has made European travel very sketchy, so when news of the giant beginning to rumble again made the skies an unfriendly host. We rushed to Atlanta to leave Sherman and Sydney with Kim’s parents and then to the airport only to find that we had arrived one minute AFTER the cut-off for checked bags. Thankfully, there was a flight leaving in 2 hours to London Gatwick instead of the originally planned London Heathrow destination.

After settling into our Business Elite seats (SWEET!), we were off. Before the first meal service was complete, Kim was cocooned into her recliner and I was enjoying my first trip in the front of the plane! Champagne? Why do we need Champagne just to sit down? Are we celebrating our seat upgrade? Becoming a formal team of elite travelers? All over a little extra leg space and a serving of warm mixed nuts??? Ok, I’m in!

As I follow our flight on the TV screen, I sadly leave the farm life with excitement of seeing Kim’s new life. Tate – would he be glad to see me? Would Kim’s roomates be OK with me crashing there? I wonder if I will see Mike and Emma? My mind was busy.

Landing in London. Off to the bus. While waiting, Kim’s buys me a cup of Americano. Nasty stuff. I always forget how bad the coffee can be in England…

We arrive in Cirencester and walk to Mike and Emma’s couple of blocks away. A very modern abode right in the middle of town. In England, most cities have very tight housing and a healthy respect for a central park. Families gather for daily walks to the green space, pet(s) in tow. In England, dogs are part of the family. They are always in the pubs, in the parks, everywhere! I absolutely love it… and as a side note, it is quite refreshing to see the heavy use of bicycles and so many people walking around.

Emma is running around like a mad woman, but manages to cook a wonderful dinner for all 6 of us. It was great seeing her and Mike for the first time in a while! After dinner, Kim and I leave for a quick trip to see Tate.

The Clinic and vet work. The clinic is impressive! More like a small vet school set-up. 11 vets work in the clinic which has a barn for stud work, another barn for clinic horses and an office/lab/surgery theater. With lots of turn-out… nice place! Very English with stone walls, fencing and even an arena!

Photos of the clinic and local scenery

Neston Park Farm. Absolutely wonderful… This is an old estate which is a “stud”. In England, the breeding farms are simply called Stud. So, Neston Park also has a wonderful set up as a rural butcher, gift shop, deli and petting zoo on one side of the farm, and in the older parts of the farm has several barns with horses, cows and goats. It is also used as a movie set!

Needless to say, I have missed being Kim’s tech. Being back on the road was a good feeling. I must say, though, that I have not missed her crazy schedule and like most of you, would like to see a frequently updated blog and receive a few e-mails from the English abyss. BUT, Kim is slammed. Imagine having to service a ton of the horses in the South Cotswolds, which her clinic does, with very few others vets in action. Every barn, every rider for multiple disciplines… it was crazy. The nights that Kim was on-call, she was taking a 1:00 AM trip, then a 3:00 AM trip, then an early morning visit to go along with the “normal” day of scheduled appointments. Kim was understanding of my vacation time though and dropped me off of her schedule to be a tourist. So, from her house, I walked into town and I spent one morning in Tetbury for a day of shopping. Tetbury’s claim is their platform of being the biggest antique city in the world ~ and it was impressive. Kim dropped me off a second day in Cirencester for a day of adventure with Emma!

The Barn (or Yard). So, On Cirencester day, Kim buzzed me around town for a quick orientation, and then she dropped me off in the central part of town. I went searching for contact saline solution! It is hard to find in the world of a national healthcare system… Then, after another horrible coffee, I met Emma and Mike at their house and we took Lilly to daycare and Amelia to school. Very Harry Potter seeing all of the kids in their school uniforms with blazers. Then, off to the barn! Emma and I went to see Maghony Chief “Mo” at his retirement pasture. He was looking absolutely great. Such a kind little guy. Emma shared that Mo is now best friends with the two people who live in the house adjoining his paddock – hey, everyone needs a buddy! He stands by his gate gazing into their house. Being a retired Rolex horse, I am sure he enjoys having his “people” around!

Afterwards, we went back to the main barn for me to meet Archie, Danny and Eli! These are some really nice young horses that Mike and Emma have started since their re-location to the UK. Definitely top quality!!

The barn is typical for a barn in England (or the US for that matter). Absolutely beautiful vista and a really nice XC set-up. On Tate’s stall, I see a “DANGER” sign. I laugh! But, Emma tells me it was there before Tate, they just left it there. Karma.

Back in town, Emma and I share a Ginger beer and she cooks another divine dinner! It was great! And great seeing the Winter’s happy…

Badminton. For those of you who have been to Rolex, Badminton is nearly the same event, but with a definite English flair in the attendance, trade fair and environment. The place was covered with people… and dogs! Badminton is a TINY town about 10 minutes from Kim’s flat (about 2 hours NW of London). On the days of the 4*, thousands of people descend into the sleepy village and spend their day on the Badminton Estate. The unusual things, to me, are that you can place a bet on the winner, and/or you can fly your airplane or helicopter to the event and park on their runway! Ah, to be rich…

Since Kim was working (and it was pouring rain) we opted to watch the live coverage of XC on TV and went to the event on Monday (a bank holiday) to shop in the trade fair and watch show-jumping following several mare checks and a Bangers and Mash (English Sausage and Mashed Potato) dinner at the local pub.

One final stop on the vet tour bus was the countryside of Wales. What a BEAUTIFUL place. After stopping in a Show Jumping barn - complete with a 300,000 gbp horse lorry (with 4 wheel steering – among other things) and horse swimming pool – we took a break along the Wye River valley, stopping for an evening at the magical Tintern Abby ruins.

London. After the busy start of the week, we make one final trip to the clinic for the carrot and apple offering to the Tate. Afterwards, I take him out for a hand-graze while Kim finishes up a weekend of paperwork. One of her housemates and clinic nurses, Ella, stops by and quips that she can’t believe how good he is. Five minutes after she walks away (and for the first time ever), Tate takes a good bounding leap away from me and strikes out behind. I see a flash of his English footwear. Asshole. Back to the stall he goes… nice…

Kim and I then take off for a mini vacation to Holland to finish my mission to deliver Sherman. On the way, we stopped in London for Hyde Park, the Royal Mews, the Tate Gallery, dinner, and a play at the Globe, the Shakespeare Theater! “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Quite a fun day!

Holland. For those of you who have never traveled with Kim, you will never be able to appreciate the pace. I find it rather funny, in a way, that every minute of it is so “fly by the seat of your pants”. As Kim says, run hard and you can rest in the train (or on the ferry, or on the plane) - you get the idea. So, at 5:00 am, we are running down the sidewalk of London to Liverpool Station. The London Tube. Then the National Express to Harwich. As soon as the train doors open, we run to the ferry. We rested in our bunk for the 8 hour cruise, and then we run to the train. Mind you, Kim thinks she is terribly far ahead of me and she is doing a nice collected canter down the ¼ mile gang-way. About that time, she turns her head to the right to see me pulling a Zenyatta - passing her with a smile. Luggage in tow. I just smile and swish my imaginary crop. She almost fell down laughing :0)

In the train, all you can see is a blanket of tulips, then small towns with the most bicycles in the world! Bikes are everywhere!! Double and even triple stacked in bike parking areas. It was amazing. After spending a day sightseeing at the Van Gogh Museum, the canal tours, the flower gardens, it is back to the hotel for a short night.

Sunday morning, we pick up Mr. Sherman P. Keeton from the Amsterdam airport. As we get off the bus, we see Sherman being walked around the cargo area parking lot. As we walk up to him, he blinks like he can’t believe his eyes! As soon as we get close, he knows it is us. He drops to his back and begins to cry. Although he had a miserable haircut, it was great to see him too! Evidently, KLM airlines didn’t know Sherman was on the plane, so after landing in Amsterdam (and a previous lay-over in Detroit), Sherman and Kim are FINALLY together in Europw!

Notice I said Europe. When we hustled back to catch the ferry, it was a no go. Sherman’s paperwork was out of sync with the clock, so Sherman and I had another night in the beach town of Hoek van Holland. Kim had to get back to work so she went ahead of us. However, our newfound bed and breakfast was delightful. After Kim left, I wandered the 2 streets of the city and found a place to grab something for dinner. And it had to be something that Sherman would also eat. Chinese! Ok, so in this little Holland town, it was me and a Chinese menu written in Dutch. No guesses there! After my best interpretation of a chicken, the Dutch lady at the Chinese restaurant served me a delicious chicken and broccoli dinner with a huge smile. She also offered me a small change purse and a nice set of chop-sticks, in a bag, to take home with me. Very friendly!!

The next morning, a traditional B&B meal of eggs and coffee and from my plate, Sherman was served toast and cheese! After a walk to the beach, my foot’s growing blister was glad to return to the ferry for our 8 hour return trip to England… then London, then Tetbury.

Home. Spent another quick night in Tetbury, spending most of my time packing, then Kim and I went to a good ole American institution for breakfast – McDonalds. The coffee, as usual, was terrible… on the marquee, they are advertising a “great line up” of American hamburgers! The New Orleans burger. The Texan Burger, The New York Burger. They all looked like something out of a horror movie. Nothing like any burger I have ever had!

A few minutes later, my BFF and Sherman were headed into the English countryside for another day of vet work and I was standing at the bus stop, watching 4 ducklings learning to graze. From the bus stop, it was back to Heathrow. Then a 10.5 hour flight home. The volcano was erupting, so the airline chose a path north. From the plane, the ¼” tall mountain spewing a steady stream of smoke looked harmless. The ground below showed another tale. Lava and ash have covered the ground and the lakes/rivers were obviously polluted. At the ocean, the mouth of a river dumped a mound of silt almost looking like aerial photos of our great Mississippi River. Below, you knew of the destruction. But to me, I’m going home and the volcano will not affect me again for a while…

After 2 hours in U.S. customs and baggage claim, I travel via Marta to Sandy Springs to collect Sydney. Back home we go for another adventure! Well, more like the reality of feeding animals and mowing the grass. But at least I will finally have some good coffee!

2 comments:

  1. love it!!! glad you had so much fun with Kim, Hope!! ;)

    Kristen

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  2. Wonderful job blogging! I almost felt like I was there and am so glad you had such a great visit with Kim. I know she is doing a wonderful job over there but we really miss her over here.

    Debbie

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