So last week we headed up to collect Carol’s brother Colin from Lancashire and then headed over, for a few days away, to a little place called Crookham Eastfield up in Northumberland. It’s very close to the River Tweed on the English-Scottish Borders and it’s a lovely, fertile and peaceful part of the world, rich in places to visit.
The cottage we rented was pretty basic but it was clean and provided a handy base for exploring. Colin’s a very keen fisherman so we spent a fair bit of time following the course of the Tweed – one of the leading salmon rivers in this country. But we also discovered some delightful historical features in the nearby villages of Etal and Ford as well as some fantastic beaches and seascapes overlooking Holy Island and Lindisfarne. A highlight was visiting Bamburgh Castle which is just so dramatically imposing…
Less imposing was the little harbour town of Seahouses, just down the coast. We thought it had a reputation of being a little bit like Whitby but it was a more like Shitby. We had some rubbish fish and chips for lunch and after fighting our way through the world’s largest gathering of dogs, we headed back inland to our little place near the river.
The next day we headed westwards and spent the day at lovely Kelso built on the confluence of the Teviot and Tweed rivers, the junction of which is a famous fishing location…
We spent some some checking out the cool shops including Colin’s favourite fish and game outlet, a cool home accessories shop where we bought a brilliant Emma Bridgewater breakfast tray and a rather good local antiques shop, the like of which has largely disappeared from our towns these days. To make up for the crap meal the day before we found a superb French bistro, shop and butchers called Hunters and had a great lunch around the outdoor tables in the beautiful sunshine. Bliss…
The only down-side to the trip was the driving experience along the worst motorway in this country – the M6. We had sections cordoned off for miles on end to allow for the grass in the central median to be mown. Except that nobody was working on it. Nobody. We then had larges sections reduced to 50 and 60mph speed limits to allow for essential work to create another ‘smart’ motorway. But again nobody appeared to be doing anything. We did see signs saying ‘don’t worry we work at night’ but if the lanes are already reduced and sectioned off, what’s the difference? Get on with it FFS.
We also had two separate and long delays – the Thelwall viaduct had reduced lanes for some reason which wasn’t clear and then another where we were stopped, engine off for more than 30 minutes. The reason, we heard on the radio? A bloody cow was on the motorway. What? How does that happen? It obviously wasn’t speeding judging by the time it took to get it mooved off. Sorry about that.
It was almost a 7 hour drive home, plus a bit more to get some shopping, which was just draining. At least, I said to myself, we wouldn’t have to experience that again in a hurry. Ah ha. Yesterday I had to go to my dentist for some root canal treatment – always a fun afternoon. My dentist Pete is an old friend as well as being a great dental surgeon. His practice is based in Wheathamstead, a few miles north of St Albans. We’ve gradually moved further and further away from there over the years until now it’s about a 2.25 hour drive away – each way of course.
And so yesterday I had a 45 minute appointment from 3pm and set off around 12.40pm. All was going well until I passed junction 12 on the M1. I come off at j10 for Pete’s…. I’d almost made it. However the ‘smart’ signs came up saying queue ahead advising us to reduce our speed to 60mph then 40mph. By this time we were all stopped with engines off. No news on what the problem was. It was 2.05pm when I stopped. At 2.30pm I called the dentist’s receptionist to forewarn her I was stuck in traffic and still around 35 minutes away that is provided the problem eased soon.
Half an hour later we were just starting to roll but realised I couldn’t be at the dentists until way past my appointment time. I called her again. She advised that I’d have to re-schedule to this coming Friday as Pete needed a clear 45 minutes to undertake the procedure. Bugger.
Here was the cause of the problem; 2 cars that had run Ito an HGV and both badly smashed up…
Because traffic was backed up on both sides of the M1 I took the next turning off and found a way through the back areas of Luton (at school’s out time) to find a route back to Milton Keynes via Houghton Regis. I spent 5 hours in total in the car before reaching home and I still have to undertake root canal treatment and pay for it, as well as a cancelled appointment fee no doubt. Grrr.
I realise of course that accidents happen but I really cannot remember the last time we had a trouble-free long journey which was an enjoyable drive. We just have too many cars and lorries for the available road space. and these smart motorways are useless. Thee’s no point telling me of a queue ahead without letting me know about its duration and possible alternative routes to escape it. Couldn’t they just send auto remote message to my mobile instead of investing £millions in these useless gantry systems?
I used to do about 50,000 miles a year and generally enjoyed driving. Now, I hate motorway driving in this country, especially on that bloody trip up north. I think the 6 in M6 stands for the amount of hours you should allow to travel up it. Happy motoring – don’t make me laugh.