my journey to health and well being via exotic destinations

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in which I enjoy midsummer in England’s green and pleasant land


Wild woman of the fells – going up the Gable

It’s hard to remember that only two days ago I was standing on top of Great Gable in bright sunshine admiring the Lakeland vistas from one of its highest peaks.

 As I sit here on a grizzly June afternoon on the train from Durham to Kings Cross I try to recall the past two weeks of my return to the green green grass of home.


Parkhill Road, new lawn and cornus in full bloom

Leaving Singapore to return to England for a four-week foray has been fun – meeting old friends and family for lunches and suppers; celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary; doing the first cut on our newly laid lawn; the first balmy al fresco supper – on Midsummer’s Day,  the anniversary of Louise’s memorial, so always a special day, and one of her favourites. I show off my Tom Yum Goong to Son and friends. Also doing the not so fun – deciding what to take to Singapore for the next few years, what to leave, fighting with John Lewis deliveries and directing the packing.

The Tom Yung Goon special on Midsummer's day

The Tom Yum Goong special on Midsummer’s day

A little mental titivation at Cambridge University in between, with old chum Fi, to hear Professor David Spiegelhalter, speak engagingly and fascinatingly on hazard ratios (he is a statistician!) and its effect on us: encouraging that as a woman I am going to live longer than men, less so that my life chances decrease by 9% per annum between the ages of 25 and 80, but on the positive side, its only the first 20 minutes of exercise that do any good, the next 40 are a waste of time…phew!

Glen View cottage in Grasmere

Glen View cottage in Grasmere

And so to continue on my very English odyssey by way of several days in the Lake District. Dear friends John and Hilary Pooler have pretty cottage in Grasmere (Glen View can be booked via and are local experts. We had two great days walking in fine weather – a Great Gable circuit, starting at Honister Pass and ending at Seatoller; and then the Helm Crag circuit, descending via Far Easedale; and two more normal Lakeland days, meandering about at lower levels in the on/off drizzle.

Great Gable summit

en route to Great Gable overlooking Buttermere

Hilary atop Green Gable looking across to Great Gable

Hilary atop Green Gable looking across to Great Gable










In another life, when I worked for Heinemann Educational Books (1979 -1993), our founder and my mentor, the old man of Lakes Alan Hill, used to organise an annual, what would now be called ‘teambuilding’, trip to Borrowdale, where Heinemann owned a share in Seatoller House, a charming B&B. The Lake District Trip, as it was known, was a great leveller, with 30 plus of us at all stages of fitness and fatness chugging up and down dale and hill in the day, and repairing to hostelries of an evening (always the same rotation: the Bridge at the Scafell Hotel, the Fishes in Buttermere, and the final night party at Alan’s Rossthwaite house); finishing by playing charades and parlour games – squeak piggy squeak and wink murder were favourites.

Steep descent via Aaron's Slack  to Styehead Tarn- now a much better path than in the 1980s

Steep descent via Aaron’s Slack to Styehead Tarn- now a much better path than in the 1980s

Great Gable from Honister Pass brought so many memories flooding back: Alan and I leading the slow group – re-named on two occasions as the ’pregnant cripples’ to reflect our respective statuses; banana and honey sandwiches, crisps and Just Juice forming the perfect picnic; baking hot days and stripping off to undies to swim in the tarns and pools – such as Sour Milk Gill; the time our new and reviled MD dropped a pack of condoms out of his wallet (he never recovered form the ignominy); sharing a double bed in the ‘family room’ at Seatoller House with female colleagues. These were indeed the times of our lives.

Self outside Seatoller House

Self outside Seatoller House

Thinking of Alan, long since dead, reminded me of the times I used to take him round Africa to help decide on company strategy. So eccentric was he that he packed two identical suitcases – lest one got lost! He was renowned for always wanting to change his room, wherever he stayed and for being professorially absent-minded. On every departure I had to check to see what he had forgotten – shirts, underpants and his medications – always at least one – and scoop them up! He loved to regale people of our adventures (and we had many) – always embroidering the tale to make it funnier.

On top of the shoulder leading fromHelm's Crag

On top of the shoulder leading from Helm’s Crag

The Lakes also reminded me of family holidays with our son, then aged three, rampaging up the fells and our beloved Louise, in a back pack. And later, with the Pooler family again, the children in their teens, girls rock climbing, boys desperately trying to follow the World Cup in Japan, even resorting to taking a portable TV up the fells.

A lonely sheep...

A solitary sheep…

Happy memories of happy times. Tinged with sadness.

Looking towards Grasmere

Looking towards Buttermere

Its all about friendship...

It’s all about friendship…

Grasmere meadows - fileds of cloth of goldGrasmere meadows – fields of cloth of gold

Looking towards Grasmere

Looking towards Grasmere

A babbling brook - I come from haunt of coot and tern

A babbling brook – I come from haunt of coot and tern

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in which I cool down in Switzerland

The Dents du Midi - and CHampery -  from Finnair

The Dents du Midi – and Champery – from Finnair

Discovered a new route to Europe – via Helsinki. In fact there is a scant one-and-half hour connection compared to the new routing by Emirates and Qantas via Dubai where one is marooned for more than FIVE hours, waiting for a connection. Never been that far north before – was rather appalled to see huge pints of lager and shots being consumed at 6.30 am! And the lingo is strange….but all very efficient and I arrived in Geneva a l’heure.

Europe has been enjoying its one–week heat wave and the views from cousin Christine and Diego’s garden of Mont Blanc and the Alps in the haze, foreground of bright blue iris and magnolias reminded me of just how gorgeous Switzerland is in the summer.

Boys will be boys -Ross with two of his Swiss chums, host Tim (centre) and Peter

Boys will be boys -Ross with two of his Swiss chums, host Tim (centre) and Peter

A grand reunion of Swiss friends at Tim and Annie’s BBQ, which coincidentally was also their 27th wedding anniversary. Our 30th is next week! How time flies…

Not a very good pic of my tubs in progress, rockery built in Ausut

Not a very good pic of my tubs in progress, rockery built in August

Then up to Champery to check up on our apartment last seen knee-deep in snow. Now the rockery we built last year is bedded in, the wild geranium, alchemilla and the domestic sedum, aubrietia and ajuga are flowering; our Montana has died again, but the three other clematis I transplanted from our Geneva terrace have all sprouted and one is even in flower – a darling little macropetala. I added to the jollity by planting up my summer tubs – but I wonder sadly who will be there to enjoy them?

Champery High st, with the Dents Blanches in the background

Champery High st, with the Dents Blanches in the background

In my few days in the mountains we enjoy some great food – what a change from noodles, seafood, lemongrass and chilli – new season asparagus and cafe gourmand; and manage a walk below the snow-line and by the river which, as in the rest of Europe, is flowing fast and furious. The meadows are full of wild flowers.

Wild flowers in the meadow

Wild flowers in the meadow

First asparagus of the season

First asparagus of the season

Delicious Cafe Gourmande at the Auberge du Grand Paradis

Delicious Cafe Gourmand at the Auberge du Grand Paradis

Walking by the gushing mountain streams

Walking by the gushing mountain streams

Great drama however in opening the post, which has been waiting 3 months for us! We have been cut off by the cable company – so no internet or phone…neither the company, the bank nor Ross is taking the blame. All I know is its not MY fault. I am livid! It’s costing me £10 per day in data roaming!

Worse than that, numerous letters from the tax authorities as Ross’s former employer (who shall remain nameless though they don’t deserve it) has not paid his tax as promised…there is even one from the police saying: Report immediately to the station; if you don’t, WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE! In French of course….on asking our local Aubergistes if this is  a vain threat, Juliet says ‘Oh no, they come in the night and remove your car plates, so you have to go to them and get them back’. As I write this, sitting here, four hours to go until I leave for fair England, I am full of trepidation.

Oh God, there’s the doorbell… it’s Madame la Poste…with a registered letter. Ross is on the phone as I open the door. Should I sign for it? Pointing to the addressee: ‘C’est n’est pas moi‘ . She looks at me strangely and I have to admit it is ‘mon mari‘. So I sign, open it and find it is a recall for our Hyundai, some problem or other. I feel extraordinarily relieved its a simple case of mechanics and not a prison cell!

Early morning and the Dents are mysteriously silhouetted

Early morning and the Dents are mysteriously silhouetted