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The humans and I spent a convivial few days in Cheltenham over New Year.

There were lots of new friends to meet:

1 Totoros

Presiding over the whole thing was King Boris, who was a very welcoming host:

2 King Boris

This little fellow wasn't in a very good mood:

3 Grumpy Kitty

But I soon won him round, and we became friends too (this had nothing to do with the alcohol behind us, honest!):

4 Happy Kitty

There were also games aplenty, most of which we hadn't played before. We enjoyed Sailing to India:

5 India

We were a bit baffled by Mottainai, but still had fun playing it:

6 Mottainai

It was great to see our friends, both old and new, and a good time was had by all!

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Last weekend, my primary human and I travelled to Devon to take part in a writing retreat. There were only two writers involved, plus the wonderful hostess, Charlie, so it was quite exclusive.

Here was where all the magic happened, fuelled by constant refilling of the teapot!


In between writing sessions, my human worked on the mammoth knitting project she's been doing all year - getting close to the end now, so it was great to have some time to dedicate to it in comfy surroundings.


The bed was gloriously comfy, with a really thick, snuggly duvet, and we got lots of sleep.


The other writer was just across the landing, but she and my human spent most of the time ensconced in their rooms, working away. Mealtimes were very sociable, though, with plenty of opportunity to discuss progress and exchange encouragement.


It was lovely to take a break in the evenings and curl up by the fire with a book.


The house was very isolated, which had a very good focusing effect, and made it feel like we were in our own little world, away from the bustle of London.


All in all, it was an excellent location to make some real progress on a new writing project, and we'll hopefully be able to go back for another weekend next year!

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On Friday, my primary human and I travelled to Suffolk to enjoy a Reading Retreat (http://www.readingretreat.co.uk/), which turned out to be truly marvellous. It took place in a lovely cottage:

Retreat 1

We were shown to a very comfortable room, which was nicely decorated and had lots of character:

Retreat 2

My human had brought some of her own books, and also had some recommended to her by one of the organisers:

Retreat 3

We were also given a goody bag full of all sorts of wonderful things:

Retreat 4

Cressi and Sara, the organisers, had thought of everything:

Retreat 5

And I really do mean everything!

Retreat 6

The kitchen was the site of many an interesting conversation, and lots of amazing cooking:

Retreat 8

We got delicious three course meals every night, each with their own beautifully printed menu. And there was an impressive range of yummy snacks available at any time:

Retreat 7

Each evening, everyone gathered in the dining room to enjoy the wonderful food:

Retreat 9 But, of course, what we were really there for was the reading time. And what better way to enjoy a book, than sitting in a comfy armchair, with a large cup of tea and some brilliantly presented snacks:

Retreat 10

We were both very sad to leave, but are definitely looking forward to attending another of these weekends in February!

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Today, I gained valuable insight into my primary human's life as a writer in London. She graciously allowed me to accompany her to Good & Proper in Clerkenwell, where she was due to meet a friend for a writing date:

Writing Date 1

First, and most important, was breakfast! Writers need lots of sustenance to fuel their creativity. We started with Honey Orchid Oolong tea and some tasty snacks:

Writing Date 2

Then came the choice of which notebook to use. So many pretty notebooks...

Writing Date 3

Apparently, they all have a different and very specific purpose. It's not just that my human is obsessed with buying stationery, no sirree!

But once the notebook was selected, the next decision was which colour pen to use:

Writing Date 4

How writers get any work done at all when they are constantly faced with such difficult dilemmas, is beyond me.

Luckily, Writing Magazine was on hand to provide inspiration, guidance and news of submission opportunities:

Writing Date 5

It wasn't just an excuse to take a break and do some light reading, at all!

Then it was back to the grindstone. Ack! The existential horror of the blank page...

Writing Date 6

Definitely time for more tea - Dragonwell this time!

Writing Date 7

Lest this gives the impression that my human spends all her writing time drinking tea and messing about with different coloured pens, let me assure you that a very great deal of creative work was accomplished, which I am sure will lead to amazing things.

The tea was delicious, though...

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At the weekend, my primary human and I took a visit to see her parents and, while we were there, we played a round of adventure golf. I was on hand to help with the flags:

Golf 1

The course had a safari theme, though it didn't look like this zebra jeep was going to get very far:

Golf 2

This fellow had the right idea, though he probably should have been paying more attention:

Golf 3

To begin with, all seemed serene and pleasant (though my human and I both nearly ended up in the lake after disturbing the turtles):

Golf 4

Some of the animals were a bit excitable:

Golf 5

I saw the sign, but I was rather more worried about him damaging me!

Golf 6

And his friend further round the course was even more formidable:

Golf 7

Luckily, some of the residents were safely confined:

Golf 8

But I decided not to push my luck, and found somewhere safe to take a break:

Golf 9

At one point, some hard manual labour was required to get us across the river:

Golf 10

The golf itself proved a bit challenging in places, and I had to help my human retrieve her ball more than once:

Golf 11

But she was victorious in the end, achieving what was apparently a record score within the family!

Golf 12

We all had lots of fun, and it's the taking part that counts, right?

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Most of the humans on our group holiday last week took the opportunity to explore the surrounding countryside one afternoon. The closest village was Little Cressingham:

2nd Clermont 1

We also found a rather beautiful ruined church:

2nd Clermont 2

It proved a pleasant spot to take a break from walking:

2nd Clermont 3

And we managed to stumble into some quite dramatic lighting:

2nd Clermont 4

We also found reference to the property we were staying in:

2nd Clermont 6

Then it was back to the house for a much needed rest, though some of the chairs were more comfortable than others:

2nd Clermont 7

There were G&Ts all round before dinner:

2nd Clermont 8

And there were plenty of games to choose from to round off the evening:

2nd Clermont 9 It's always good to go for an outing when on holiday, and this walk was very successful!

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The humans and I have just returned from our annual group gaming holiday. This year's venue was Clermont Hall in Norfolk:

Clermont 1a

It was an impressive building - though we did encounter multiple problems due to lack of maintenance, which was a real shame because we all thought the place deserved better care. Still, there was much to admire:

Clermont 1b

Each room had a different style and feel - this one was particularly bright and airy, though the chairs weren't very comfortable:

Clermont 1c

This was my favourite room, where we held a salon event one evening, with the humans taking turns to perform (there was music, recitation, and a very interesting lecture):

Clermont 1d

There was a library, where much companionable discussion and private study went on:

Clermont 1e

This delightful room was right at the end of the house, and hosted both guitar practice and Scrabble:

Clermont 1f

The upstairs landing was spacious enough for a meeting area, though I don't think it was used at all during our stay, as we had so many other rooms to choose from:

Clermont 1h

The master suite was declared quite ridiculous, and my humans declined to use it, though another pair took up enthusiastic residence:

Clermont 1i

This much cosier bedroom was also rejected by my humans, though it was a close second choice:

Clermont 1j

Even the bathrooms were rather splendid (though there were quite a few leaks to contend with):

Clermont 1k

And here, at last, is the room my humans did select for their stay - quite beautiful:

Clermont 1l

As you can see, the environs were quite spectacular, which is why it was so sad that the property had been quite badly neglected. Luckily, the group adopted an equanimical attitude to the problems and still managed to have a lovely time.

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Our lovely friend, Hugh, offered to take us to Guernsey for the day in a prop plane he has access to, and we jumped at the chance. We had an early start, driving to Duxford airfield to meet Hugh and inspect the plane:

Guernsey 1

We had to change our flight plan because it turned out none of the humans had remembered to bring their passports, and Hugh was also a bit worried about the weather over Guernsey, so we planned to head to Newquay instead.

There were lots of checks to carry out, so I took the opportunity to examine the interior. The actual seats were a lot more comfortable than the one I tried:

Guernsey 2

I doublechecked the instruments to make sure everything was in order, and declared us ready to take off:

Guernsey 3

We were soon in the air, enjoying wonderful views from about 2000 feet. My primary human was particular pleased when we passed over Oxford and she could identify several landmarks from her time there:

Guernsey 4

It was after this that things started to go awry, as the weather turned against us, and it became dangerous to try and fly through, under, or over the heavy clouds and rain. We tried various places to land, and eventually ended up at Henstridge, a small airfield in the middle of nowhere in Somerset. Hugh did a brilliant job of remaining calm, and got us safely on the ground. We were all ready for lunch by this point, and the airfield turned out to have an excellent cafe. The weather continued very changeable, and there were reports of a thunderstorm over Duxford, so we decided in the end to abandon the plane at Henstridge and travel back to London on the train.

Our transport problems were not yet over, though, as our train terminated unexpected at Woking, and the next one was then considerably delayed by signalling trouble:

Guernsey 5

Once we finally arrived back in London, my primary human and I took the opportunity to head home, but Hugh and my secondary human still had to travel to Cambridge and then on to Duxford to pick up the cars (and poor Hugh will at some point have to fly back to Henstridge with someone to pick up the plane).

So, it was a long day, with lots of unforeseen changes to the travel plans, but it was still good fun. The people at Henstridge were very welcoming (they even gave my primary human a bottle of wine to drink while the menfolk were securing the plane), and the company overall was excellent. So we weathered the storm (quite literally) and managed to have a convivial time all the same.

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My primary human likes tea. A lot. So much, that there wasn't enough space in our kitchen cupboards to store it all.

So, we decided to invite some friends over to drink some of it. We started off with an excellent buffet-style repast of interesting bread and various types of salad:

Tasting 1

Then it was on to the tea! Obviously, since the purpose of the event was to use up some of the tea we already had, my primary human purchased seven new types of tea to add to the selection... One of our friends also brought two types, so we had a total of twenty-two available for sampling! There were scorecards and everything...

Tasting 2

The whole thing went very well and was highly enjoyable. We had traditional tea ceremony music, and there was much conversation and laughter, so I would declare the occasion a resounding success. However, it did not solve the problem of tea storage in the slightest. So, my secondary human suggested the purchase of a new tea storage solution, which resulted in this rather glorious cabinet being installed in the kitchen:

Tasting 3

As some of the tea had been fully drunk, and some had been returned to my primary human's office, it turned out that one of the drawers was going to be left empty. So we bought more tea... Additionally, my good friend Trent (who acts as Deputy Morale Officer where my primary human works, reporting to the Chief Morale Officer, Mister Duck) decided he should get in on the act, and prompted the purchase of a similar storage solution for the office:

Tasting 4

So, now my primary human has the benefits of beautiful objects and easily accessible tea both at work and at home. Marvellous! Fancy a cuppa, anyone?

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In mid-July, the humans and I travelled down to Swanage, a little town on a promontory on the south coast. We stayed for a week, spending time with friends we hadn't seen in a long time, and enjoying the sunshine.

Swanage 1

We came across many fun and interesting creatures during our time there. These ducks had a lovely spot in a local playground:

Swanage 2

This fellow looked after the house where our friends were staying:

Swanage 3

There were owls of all shapes, sizes, styles and expressions all over the town:

Swanage 4

This impressive gentleman stood sentry every day outside one of the shops on the high street:

Swanage 5

Mister Quacky formed one of our party and enjoyed finding respite from his rather enthusiastic human in high places:

Swanage 6

We came across this rather lovely painting in an excellent cafe we found for lunch one day:

Swanage 7

We took the steam train to Corfe Castle on one of the days, which made for a great trip:

Swanage 8

The castle itself was visible from various points in the town, and we very much enjoyed exploring it:

Swanage 9

We had plenty of delicious food in between our wanderings:

Swanage 10

We also find time to relax, which made a nice change from dashing about all over the place:

Swanage 11

Overall, Swanage is a beautiful place, with plenty to see and do, and all very walkable:

Swanage 12

It also had plenty of good photo opportunities...

Swanage 13

We picked us some lovely souvenirs from our trip, which have found a good home amongst our other ornaments:

Swanage 14

It was a great week. Always good to get away from London for a while. Good company, plenty of exercise, and lots of fun.

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