On Monday evening we returned to AreandAre from a wonderful weekend in Sheffield visiting Fred and Sarah (with intermittent sightings of their two teenage sons!), friends of Barry's (and mine since 2007) who spent a year living and working in Gisborne in the early 1990s, long before Barry and I met.
The journey to their amazing home entailed driving in the dark and wet along Snake Pass, the main route from Manchester to Sheffield, which resembles said reptile with its preponderance of twists and turns - as well as hills and adverse cambers (sloped bits!). It was hair-raising motoring for me, due to the number of vehicles 'needing' (needlessly!) to race along at way faster than the 50mph limit. It reminded me of the 'main' road north-west out of Gisborne, called 'The Waioeka Gorge'. Another drive I wouldn't relish on a miserable winter's night!
Boots for Barry
Since we've been in England, I've often despaired at Barry wearing the badminton trainers, bought as a birthday present a couple of years ago, for general walking. Now the ground is so soggy and muddy, I'm concerned they'll be ruined if he continues.
So why not just buy some walking boots you may ask? Good question! It's not about money, because I'd rather he had some instead of destroying his sports shoes. You'll have little idea how challenging it can be to source a pair of shoes, never mind walking boots, that will fit Barry's feet - everyone except his son Tom who has a similar problem! He has what are affectionately known as 'Hobbit' feet, which he could've capitalised on for a (walk-on!) part in The Lord of the Rings - with no need for cosmetic enhancement. I'm not sure if the photo adequately shows the predicament …
Barry's 'Hobbit' feet, photographed at his birthday party December 2012 - the hair was a guest's add-on feature!
Comparing feet - Barry and Tom's 'stand' out somewhat!
Fred was fairly confident we'd find some boots at a new store from France, called 'Decathlon', which had recently opened in Sheffield, stocking a large range of outdoor clothing and shoes at discount prices. After trying on around a dozen possibilities, and seeking assistance for our plight, alas it was not to be.
Next stop was 'Go Outdoors', where Fred felt certain we'd find success. Once again though, despite trying many different boots, and having a modicum of success with getting help from the overworked assistants, none came close and there was just a "Ouch, no, they hurt" every time from Barry.
Finally we visited Clarks, who have an amazingly efficient customer service, and eventually he put a pair of size 11G waterproof black leather GORE-TEX boots on and said "They're not too bad"! The young female assistant probably wished she'd had a boisterous five-year-old rather than a 58 year old, plus supporters,
eager desperate to find something to fit!
Of course the 11H would have been even better, but sadly there was no stock of them anywhere in the country - maybe they've all sold out, though the more likely scenario is Barry's feet are rather unusual and there just isn't a call for such a wide fitting!
Barry finds shoes that fit - hurrah!
We were invited to accompany Fred and Sarah to celebrate 'Burns Night', at a friend's home on Saturday 25th January - the Scottish poet Robert Burn's actually birth day! Apparently there's recently been a big surge in acknowledging this occasion in UK - and in Dunedin in New Zealand it's quite a big thing too. I was sat next to a cardiologist who'd lived there for a year during his internship.
A fun evening, no photos sadly, but it included incomprehensible renderings of Scottish poetry, the welcoming of the haggis and eating of such (it was delicious!), Scottish salmon, and copious quantities of a variety of whiskies. I'm not a whisky drinker, in fact even the smell makes me nauseated - Barry's the same, but being a bloke he felt obliged to try it and did so twice! He says he still dislikes it, but it felt like the proper thing to do at such an event - bless him!
Sadly the weather wasn't kind enough to us to allow a bracing walk in the Peak District on Sunday, despite us both finally having suitable footwear!
My youngest daughter did her psychology degree in Sheffield, during 2002 to 2005, so I've visited the city of steel many times in the past. Barry and I made a short visit in 2007, but he'd never been into the town before. As well as Sheffield Steel production, it's also known for the movies 'The Full Monty', 'Brassed Off', and sadly the Hillsborough disaster.
We enjoyed a stroll around town on Saturday, visiting Kelham Island and the Sheffield Canal Basin (Victoria Quays) on Sunday. We hope to moor up in the basin at some point on our meanderings, but it's one of those canals with a long route just to the town, then you have to turn around and go back - so it'll depend upon timings.
Barry took some photos which will be far superior to mine, and hopefully he'll get from his camera in the next day or two so I can post them! In the meantime, here's a couple from me ...
The Town Hall in Sheffield with a couple of dodgy geezers in front ...
… and looking towards the train station
Suppliers of the future
On Monday we visited the two suppliers of our new business venture, in Chesterfield, and even collected some stock! We have the go-ahead from CRT now to trade from the boat, so it's full steam ahead!
Sadly, or fortuitously depending on how you look at it, Barry suddenly realised he'd left his new boots in Sheffield while we were in Chesterfield - so we detoured and returned to collect them, and enjoyed a very different Snake Pass experience in the fading daylight.
We used a hire can once again from Enterprise - it's fascinating driving a different car each time. This journey was in a Honda Civic - very nice to drive. After returning the car on Tuesday morning, and filling up with petrol, I worked out that using public transport would've only saved us £22.77! Not having the hassle of getting a bus to the station, carrying bags, changing trains half way, having to be collected and then taken back to the station, is worth way more than that!
Thanks again Enterprise Wrexham, they're such a friendly and helpful group of people, it's a pleasure to hire cars with them and be ferried from and back to the Marina each time. What an amazing service. If only it wasn't an extra £10 a day to insure Barry to drive too.
There'll be more about our plans in the coming posts, which may or may not be on Wordpress by then, watch this space ...