Betsy at Gweryd Lakes

Betsy’s Hike to Offa’s Dyke Part 1 – Unite the Llans!

Ruthie and I sat at the kitchen table, murmuring to each other, mindful to keep our voices low and out of Betsy’s earshot.

‘I think it’s time,’ I said.

‘Please Sean! Wait a while. She’s not ready!’ Ruthie begged, reaching across the table and clutching my hands, tears welling up in her eyes.

I sighed. ‘Look, if we don’t do it now she’ll not develop. She’ll stifle. Tony and Val had the right idea – you’ve got to push her to get the best out of her.’  (Tony and Val were Betsy’s previous owners and had wasted no time in taking her to the wintry depths of Scotland).

‘Well, yes, but… ‘ Ruthie grabbed a tissue out of her pocket and dabbed her eyes. ‘She’s not ready!’

With that, she folded her arms and buried her head in them before a tsunami of tears could drench both her and me and any cats in the vicinity.

I sighed again. I’ve been doing this a lot. Ever since the subject of taking Betsy over the border into Wales arose.

‘What’s your problem with Wales?’ I asked.

‘It’s too far. It might break her.’

‘Break her!? You heard what the man at the garage said. That engine will outlive both of you. That’s what he said. We’ve spent a small fortune on her so that she can do what she was designed to do – travel and camp. We’ve done the suspension, sorted out the CV joints, plated the wheel arches, had her re-wired, even bought some pretty stickers.’

‘Yes, but -’

‘We’ve T-cut the headlamps, changed the wiper blades, spent a small fortune on bedding, fitted her with genuine Mazda mud-flaps, even-’


‘But WHAT!?’ I cried.

To be honest my outburst was a tad unfair. I knew what she was worried about. No matter how much work you do to a vehicle, you never know how they’re going to react to being pushed up a 20% gradient such as on the steeper parts of The Horseshoe Pass near Llangollen.

‘She’s old!’

‘Ruthie,’ I started, taking a deep breath, ‘Betsy’s got a 2.5 litre diesel engine, with less than 80k on the clock and with permanent four wheel drive. Horseshoe Pass is a piece of piss. You’ve just got to trust Betsy to do what she was built to do. She’s magnificent. Trust, Ruthie, trust.’

Ruthie grimaced. But it was a grimace of acquiescence and that was enough. I started packing…
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numbered sheep

Counting Sheep at Shugborough

I mentioned in a previous post that we’d planned to visit Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. Amongst the 19th Century Grade One listed gardens are eight monuments –  or ‘follies’ – some erected as early as the 1750s. It is said that on these follies, various inscriptions allude to the mysterious Man-Monkey, a large ape-like spectral creature that has been repeatedly seen in the areas around Cannock Chase since the 1800s. You can read more about the strange beast here.

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Sean with Holly the Verendum

We Are Such Staff as Dreams are Made On

This mid-life crisis is really taking its toll on me. Most guys who reach their mid-forties might change their car, perhaps going for a convertible or a sports model. Some might decide to wear white trainers, take up a sport with an unhealthy enthusiasm, get a David Beckham haircut. Others might grab themselves a mistress, or quit their job to become a ranger at Whirinaki Forest Park in New Zealand, or go vegetarian, or decide to start eating meat again. Or even go on a cabbage soup diet.

I bought a wizard’s staff.

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Defrag of the Mind

We haven’t been out in Betsy this week. Sure, we discussed it. Ruthie had planned a walk around Shugborough Hall and Milford Common, which would have given me a chance to check out the markings on the follies dotted about the Hall’s gardens which, according to Nick Redfern the full-time monster hunter, allude to the infamous Man-Monkey seen at Bridge 39 on the Shropshire Union Canal in 1879.

But with the weather forecast to be wet and dreary, I did what most men do when planned events are cancelled at the last minute and they’re left with nothing to do. I decided to screw with my mind with the aid of Bing (I don’t have a games console).

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Wonky Donkeys at Wenlock Edge

Wonky Donkeys at Wenlock Edge

Ruthie stood at the kitchen table, fists clenched and brow furrowed.

‘I just cannot bloody believe it! The cheek of them!’ she fumed.

‘What’s that?’ I asked, glancing up from Level 10 of Angry Birds, ‘You look a bit piqued.’

Ruthie was having another bout of middle-class-ness. She wafted her hand in the air as if swatting an invisible fly. ‘I didn’t get my free coriander in my veg box!’

A few seconds ago, I’d wondered why she was frantically swirling her hand around inside the carton, a bit like an excited kid playing lucky dip at a village fete, eager to grasp something other than last Christmas’s cracker cast-offs. But this was no fun. Ruthie had been short-changed. And when you’re having a middle-class “episode”, a missing coriander is enough to drive you to do something that will attract the attention of someone like DCI Barnaby.  Continue reading