NAILSWORTH: My train ride from Oxford to Stroud, the nearest station, included one change at Didcot Parkway. So I disembarked happily; and was left standing alone on the platform. Oops! I found a strange object saying HELP. I pressed “dial” and it rang, and rang, and rang. I glanced anxiously at my ticket which told me my train was departing in about 3 minutes. There were 2 trains at platforms other than mine. The HELP object continued ringing as I began to feel somewhat more anxious! The operator was all concern and sweetness when she answered and said, run for it, but I’ll let the conductor know you’re coming. So off I hobbled, with my giant 25kg suitcase, little suitcase and handbag! Down the lift, along the corridor, couldn’t see my WAY OUT at first. But finally went staggering up a very long ramp, regretting every item in the case! The conductor smiled broadly and helped me aboard, wishing me a pleasant journey. It was lovely! The countryside entranced me, especially the quaint villages we went through! We seemed to be travelling through a series of valleys and the views were lovely.

Finally, it was my stop! I approached the train door wondering where I would find Jax with all 8 carriages discharging passengers. Would you believe she was standing at the right spot, right at my door! It was wonderful to finally see her face to face and give her a big hug! We talked non-stop! It was as though I hadn’t seen her for a while and we were catching up like old friends do! Comfortable, natural and wonderful.

We took the scenic route to her home, stopping at Coaley Point to view the countryside all the way to the Severn! The farms and villages looked like miniatures. I couldn’t believe the vibrancy of the green! Or the multitudes of trees!

Arriving in Nailsworth was amazing! There were flags and bunting strung across the streets and from one building to the next. Cheering people lined the streets waving flags. I was told there was to be an open-topped bus with a brass-band oompahing soon. No, not for me, alas, but for Nailsworth’s very own 2 x Olympic Gold Medallist Ian Reed, a rower from Team GB. We decided to walk down and cheer along a little later. Jacky’s parents live over the road from the Town Hall where the Bus ended its tour. We saw the young Olympian close-up and we even made it on to BBC World News later that night! Exciting! Yes, wonderful and simply the best!

The other Minxes, and their hubbies, were invited for a fabulous dinner party that night. Jax pulled out all the stops and served up masses of fabulous food, wine and 2 really excellent puddings. We all laughed, and ate, and laughed, and drank, and laughed some more. I brought out the beautifully sequined, feathered and netted, bright red, mini-hats and the sparkling, jewel encrusted Minx brooches and issued my challenge: To Cardiff and the Minxes Roar Tour! Purple tops, red hats and minx brooches de rigueur! The hats and brooches were promptly donned in all their feathery finery and glittery glory, Then, because the boys felt awfully left-out and rather under-dressed, Jacky produced some wacky wigs which went down a treat! It was a magical, perfect night!

4 month old Miss Binky made us laugh even harder with her kittenish antics. She challenged herself to several circuits of the L-shaped sitting and dining room. Without touching the floor!! She was into everything, smelling the wine, attempting to taste it. Wanting the nibbles before and after dinner, sitting on everyone’s lap, so none were offended. Mandy is her favourite person in the whole world and she disappeared up Mandy’s trademark maxi dress a few times, amidst much squealing and giggling! She and Skye the Westie eventually curled up together in blissful sleep.

It was the most awesome night! I felt completely relaxed and at home. Certainly none of these people were “strangers”. Amazing since it was the first time I’d met any of them!

Sunday 16th September CHEZ BOBBY AND BETTY: NAILSWORTH: Jacky’s mom and dad graciously invited us to lunch at their home on Sunday. They live in a beautiful semi, with a magnificent, colourful garden. Another perfect day. The most excellent food, followed by an amazing Strawberry crumble and 3 kinds of cream! Oh very stuffed and extremely happy was this lady from Africa! How humbling and beautiful to be so readily and embracingly accepted into people’s homes and hearts. They are a very special bunch!


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