03 January 2013

Midlands New Year

In summer, I attended the wedding of my colleagues Paul and Louise. It was great! I say colleagues; by that time, Paul had already started working at Keele University, although they hadn't moved house yet. Later they did. It was a loss. Did I keep in touch? No, I uttered the "busy" mantra and thought I'd do that "manana". Manana never came; something else did. An invitation from Paul to come over for New Year's Eve in their new home up north! That would be a great opportunity to patch the communications hole. I accepted. Happily. So did Jon, even though for him it was more a case of continuing contact, rather than re-establishing it. And that way we had already added to a chain: both the previous year (not blogged) and the year before, the New Year had been greeted by a company mainly consisting of Paul, Lou, Job and me. Pete and Sabrina were considering.

In the mail Paul sent, he summed up what they had to offer. A scenic village location, a pub 5 minites walking away, possible walks, music instruments, booze, floor space, and, I quote, "best of all, for endless hours of entertainment, Stanislav who will be moving in in 3 weeks." To fully understand this text one needs to know that Stanislav is a Siberian Tree kitten. Whether it was Stan or something else that pulled Pete and Sabrina over the edge, but all decided to come.  

Deadlines and weather warnings confused travel plans until Sunday afternoon. I had just come home the afternoon before, and was in the office, seeing to all these little tasks that accumulate when you're away for a week. Then Jon phoned; what about driving up right now? Before the heavens would open? It sounded like a good plan. I went home, grabbed some clothes and a book, drove off, received a text asking me to bring a sleeping bag, found a place to park, phoned Jon to ask if I could borrow on of his, realised he didn't answer and was probably in the shower, turned around, drove back, swore, got my sleeping bag, drove up again, parked at Jon's, jumped into his car, set off eastward, encountered a "road closed" sign, turned around, tried another route, and then we were really off. And about four swift hours later we knocked on the door of a cute cottage, and greeted Paul and Lou. And by Stan. Who was as cute as we had anticipated. 

The star of the event: Stan!

A nice and relaxed time then followed, which started out the only way you can start out something like that: with lots of playing with Stan, drinking wine, and catching up. There is no way you can be introduced to a fluffy kitten and not be quite absorbed with it. But that fortunately does not rule out a quite necessary exchange of information. Paul and Lou told us how they were faring up there. They wondered about my thoughts on York. And our hosts were already considering moving house; their life clearly hasn't quite calmed down yet!

The next day we surely continued the Stan-swooning, but we also managed to extract ourselves, in order to do some exploring of the surroundings. The weather wasn't all too good, and we were in very calm mood, so that meant a drive, a bimble around a town, a coffee, another drive, another bimble, chancing upon a shoe shop that offered goods to Jon's liking (Paul drew quite a priceless Married Man's bored face - and it wasn't Lou doing the shopping!), and calmly having lunch in an ancient pub.

Downtown Nantwich, a village near Paul and Louise

Inside a Nantwich pub

Later Pete and Sabrina showed up, and the cozy, relaxed bimbling and hanging around continued. This time we also checked out the keele University campus (including the ancient mansion that is part of it) and the village pub. We even did an iPhone game (with Jon and me being very sceptical in the beginning, bu that changing quickly.) It was great! It's nice to take well over a day to just hang out and chat with friends. Which I already had done (with different friends) in the Netherlands, but that's no reason at all not to continue it. And I won't try to hide the role Stan played in all this. He's just adorable. Maybe we'd do the same thing next year! Although the "kitten" will then probably be a 6 kg cat, at least!

Keele Hall in the evening light

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