Past Challenges,  Santiago 2018


Dear Humphrey,

Here we are in Montreuil-Bellay nearly a third of the way into my journey and so far everything holding up pretty well although I cannot deny being pretty pooped at the end of every day.

The early mornings are best, walking through woodland listening to the dawn chorus, neighing horses and friendly frogs.. the reptiles not the people. France seems to have a lot in every stretch of water and they make a wonderfully friendly noise. Cocoa would love them! And of course there is always the attentive and fiercely protective dog around every corner. Here are two:

We have passed through some lovely country; left behind the dairy farms and the hay cutting and now seeing a lot of vineyards (it’s called the Loire) and also some big farms.

We have visited Angers where they house a huge tapestry called the Apocalypse. It’s really huge and I cannot think what the artist was ‘on’ when he designed it…multi headed dragons and multi headed dogs.. and at one point ten men in a bed! Think we will be better off with the Bayeux tapestry.

Getting out of Angers was a little frustrating. In order to ensure the walkers have an agreeable journey they tend to route one around the industrial bits. But in the case of Angers it was a long way west and east and not a lot of South which is the way I really want to go!

Also we have to share these routes with bicyclists and as France seems to be on one permanent holiday (they have had three public holidays already this month with one more to go! ) there are a lot of them. As both Geoff and I are a little hard of hearing, we tend to be constantly mown down. We have discussed possible solutions. There is extensive scope on G’s back pack which is huge and in which he carries his lap top and we thought of a placard ‘Two deaf  English men.. Attention svp’ Or rear view mirrors attached to our hats/ heads in some way. All other suggestions welcome.

Very Sadly Geoff leaves tomorrow. He has been a great fillip and organises all places to stay and where to eat. He is an expert on tripadvisor. I will miss following this:

Rear view of GP

Back to the gite d’etape tomorrow

Our accommodation last night requires some explanation. GP had identified a chateau belonging to a Shaun Trenchard and ever curious he had booked us in there to discover whether they be related to his great friends (also wel known to me) the Trenchards. Such was his expectation of style and elegance, GP had to remove his black pants (of a size and the which Mike Tysonwould be pleased wear) from the drying line on the back of his pack before we arrived. We had also identified what appeared to be shortcut to the Chateau through a wood to its rear. We were prevented from so doing by a huge wall which GP was keen to find a way through. Thankfully I persuaded him it would be better to arrive by the front gate. I mention this because we subsequently discovered that the principal business of our hosts was raising wild boar 🐗 behind this wall! 

On arrival st front gate (shut) we brushed ourselves down ready to meet the undoubtedly stylish chatelaine or staff! One thing which alerted me to the fact that might not be as we anticipated was a row of marigolds planted in a line to each side of the  solid steel gate. Our intercom call to the house was answered by a cheerful voice and the gate was soon opened by a youngish girl woman called Beatrice dressed in jeans and a T shirt who we slowly discovered was our hostess and that her husband Shaun was back in England doing we were not sure what but amongst a number of his other interests was being in a rock band and at some point during the evening we were treated to some of his music.

We were not in fact staying in the chateau which itself was falling down and owned by another, but in the stable block which had been refurbished very stylishly at ENORMOUS expense to house boar shooting parties. Beatrice was extremely attentive and keen to show us the boars in the boar pen. One of her dogs only had three legs, a victim of an attack.  To our horror Beatrice leapt in to the pen armed only with large stick in order to drive them out of the cover. Later she was to inform us on one occasion she had been pinned to the fence by a wounded boar which Shaun then shot. We were treated to a video of Shaun in his absence Putin like stripped to the waist with shaven head splitting rows of three foot Long logs with one blow of an axe seemingly in an attempt to get him in to the Guinness Book of Records. Another photograph we saw of our absent host showed him in combat kit, dark glasses armed with a very large semi automatic rifle. Clearly not a man to upset and by this time GP was thinking no relation to his friends!

The whole set up just did not stack up. The very expensive decor tastefully done, Beatrice the local girl from the suwho now married to this Putinesque character and she did all the housework, cooking, etc for these large house parties in addition to feeding the boar and overseeing the man drilling the maize crop who later joined us to tidy up the cold boar sausages and mashed potatoes we were served for dinner! And also share in the bottle of wine we had ordered.

Any way dear Humph I am probably boring you but it was a memorable and extraordinary evening. Our room, suffice it to say, was very comfortable.

Finally you should know what wonderful support and encouragement I am getting from the Carer groups on twitter and elsewhere. To hear about how what I am doing gives them an opportunity to spread the word about what they are doing and the challenges they face.. is humbling . The more followers we can encourage to learn about it all the better. In a way that is more important than the money raised. But both are key.

With lots of love

your friend and master

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