Ah, how swiftly the paw of Nature works its magic in such a short time. The bluebells are all gone over and sylvan glades that once were light, airy and inviting are now dark and forbidding as the trees stretch their emerald canopies wide to absorb the sun. And all this in the space of one week - Yes: I have returned from my holiday in Wales and have been out to inspect my woodlands.
I am not currently speaking to my partner as, today being a Bank Holiday and the annual fête in a neighbouring village, she had volunteered herself (and me) to assist with a stall for her local Dramatic Society. I wore a vest emblazoned with the name of the society and the fact that this is its sixtieth year. I did not agree to this, but decided to tolerate it. Due to the foulness of the weather, the fête was moved into the village hall, so all was cramped, crowded and distinctly damp. My spirits picked up a little when I was recognised by a family who had seen one of my turns as "Bullseye" in Oliver!, which was hugely flattering. My recovery continued as a gentleman representing two of the local main newspapers asked if I would appear in the photographs to accompany the articles reporting the event. I naturally concurred; this was my first mistake. The next production for the theatre company being a pantomime version of "Robin Hood", a large string of silk and plastic foliage was produced and my partner proceeded to dress me with it - in addition to the vest - to portray me as "Sherwood Forest". The photographs were taken outside, in the car park. In the pouring rain.
AND I had to sit in a pram.
Depending on how the photographs turn out and how they affect my public image, I may have to take steps to deal with my partner. I shall consider the matter privately.
My holiday was hugely enjoyable, however. Far too full to summarise in one blog entry, so I have pleasure in presenting Part 1 of a brief new series:
JASPER'S HOLIDAY DIARY - DAY ONE
My partner and I were travelling a day in advance of everyone else in our party, as the others had been summoned to a celebration elsewhere. Our scheduled time of departure was 11.00am, but customary unpreparedness and procrastination saw us off, following a tearful series of goodbyes for me from Maisie, at 3.30pm.
We made good progress in our Little Green Corsa, stopping only twice for downloading wee-mails. A sight which caused intense irritation arrested me on our first stop. A number of cars containing football supporters had overtaken us at one stage - the day being that of the FA Cup Final between Portsmouth and Cardiff, held at the Welsh stadium. As I passed my golden-amber liquid at the edge of the service station car park, two cars seemingly engaged in some sort of race, squealed into the area, turning every head. The cars sped through the parking area and stopped in the two disabled-only parking bays nearest the doors of the restaurant complex. A number of young chaps poured out of the cars, all drinking some sort of beverage from lurid tins.
Now, as a supporter of Southampton FC (well, it's more toleration than support these days if I'm honest), I naturally would not wish to impugn my Portsmouth brethren - but suffice it to say that these chaps were Pompey fans, and fine upstanding examples of the Fratton Park community they were too. With a disdainful stare, I was ushered into my seat and secured within my seatbelt. It gave us great pleasure, an hour or so later, to see one of these same cars parked up on the M4 hard shoulder, flanked by two lights a-flashing police cars and a group of angry rozzers. With a wry smile, I settled down to sleep.
I woke only to observe our passage over the Severn Bridge (the toll has increased to £5.30!), and slept well again until we reached our destination. Surprisingly, we did not get lost, and the journey took just under 5½ hours, including the two stops.
The cottage, the hamlet (Abercastle) and the beach immediately before us were all an absolute delight. The cottage owners had left two bottles of wine to welcome us, one of which my partner cracked open to toast our successful journey. I was thrilled with the large patio and garden, and its proximity to the shore. We wasted no time in taking a stroll on the sand and I launched myself into the sea with great gusto and a happy yelp.
We decided to round off the evening with a dvd from the selection provided in the cottage. We found a copy of "Ricky Gervais - Animals" and, as my partner is a huge fan of his work, settled on that. We opened the case - to find that someone had nicked the disc. Ah well - we were so pleased with our holiday location that, with a philosophical sigh and a last swig of wine, we retired to bed, the gentle lapping of the waves soothing us off to a happy sleep.