Pictures
Friday, 17th March 2017
The cats new holiday home
Tabitha and Amelia were delivered safely to their new cattery in Hardwick, the Angelite Cats Hotel! No pond but bird feeders and the owner's cats strolling around for them to look at. Larger 'chalets' than at Phyllis's, also the owner Brenda had a very large house. Rough unmade road to get there, we may have found not too bad a way through the labyrinth to get there.

We set off about 1pm but managed to forget various useful items we should have taken! Virginia remembered her turquoise coat just in time to dive back into the house to collect it, but more seriously I forgot the charger for the iPad, the camera connector or thought I did, headphones, and Virginia her book club book of "Howard's End"! I didn't start the journeying in a good frame of mind. We dropped into Thurrock Lakeside where we eventually parked by Marks and Spencer's. I got an expensive lead and plug at iSmash there, and we also got a Chinese takeaway for this evening, but failed to get eggs and also failed to get soap which we didn't know would have come in handy at our holiday cottage.
Our holiday cottage
It was quicker over the Queen Elizabeth Bridge on the eay to Kent than ever before, we wait and see how well the Dart charges go as the old toll-booths have gone replaced by a snapping licence plate scheme. We found Etchinghall Barn with the normal amount of fun. It's a lovely and spacious place, the lounge has one wall all window looking out onto a patio and garden. Some of the doors have a strange lock with a pull cord on the inside to free the lock which is a wooden tongue falling into a groove. If the cord broke you would be well and truly trapped - Ginny and I were confused by how it worked at first. The Barn has a farmyard gate to get through but it didn't seem to be on a working farm - the owners have a very big house and kindly checked on how we were doing. There was wifi available which came in very useful for arranging meals and hotels and keeping in touch.

Our holiday cottage has among the crockery two William Hartnell mugs listing his first and last utterances as Doctor Who. It also has some Christian books, some books perhaps left by Dutch visitors. I read a historical romance by Georgette Heyer and will try more. The barn was converted into the holiday cottage we were in plus a games room for the family only - happily they didn't use it yet while we were there. Virginia read her way through the visitors' book which was interesting, some observations have been addressed since they were made.

The charger saga continued that evening - the second time I plugged the new charger in there was a flash and it stopped working! Happily Virginia had brought two chargers with USB connections - tried the first one, the iPad recognised something had connected, there was a heart-warming beep . . . But no charging! In desperation tried her second charger and this one miraculously did work!
Bodiam Castle
We made full use of our National Trust membership - we saw Bodiam Castle (a fine castle ruin with a decent sized moat where Virginia used to be taken by her father when young), and also Bateman's owned by Rudyard Kipling whose daughter ended up at Wimpole Hall. At Bodiam Castle we had to wear wristbands - I put mine on with difficulty, almost sticking the paper to me rather than to itself. When it came to try to remove it I couldn't tear it apart! Had to wrestle it over my wrist and off. We had pea and ham soup at Bateman's, a pretty place but not a lot else apart from the house. On the way back Ginny drove and a bird shat on me through the open window! Some aiming that.

The weather was mixed - it was damp which dampened the experience of seeing Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. The National Trust have arranged the place strangely, you come to a small cafe and bookshop first, where they leave the doors open so you feel the draft - but there's a much better cafe further on where we had baked potatoes for lunch. The gardens were ornate and styled - the buildings owned by socialites. Interesting seeing book repairers at work. One day it just tipped down constantly and we stayed indoors apart from venturing out for food.
Groombridge Place
It was a fine day however, a nice sunny day and warm when we navigated through Tunbridge Wells to get to Groombridge Place, which was seemingly in its off season, or not open to visitors. Neat formal gardens, we also had a long walk along a canal then through the Enchanted Forest (to the eyes of a child enchanted). The house itself was private, moated, scenic. We then voyaged to the popular Scotney Castle, and had a bite to eat before touring the house (last owner was a lover of cats) and a little of the gardens. We didn't go as far as the Castle itself down in the valley and undergoing repairs. Eclectic set of books on the multidinous shelves.

We ate three times at the Goudhurst Inn, the first time on Saturday evening having to park at the overflow car park at the Primary School. Finding our way back there in the darkness (Kent seems to be economising on street lamps) was a challenge and dangerous. A busy inn on the Saturday due to people watching rugby. The inn specialises in pizzas, I had pizza for two of the meals there. Their meal had cottage pie with wonky vegetables so I had to have that one night, the vegetables didn't seem wonky to me! There was an apple crumble dessert with hazelnut which was crunchy. On summer nights there would be great views over the valley. By the end of our stay we knew the roads enough not to need the Satnav to get there and back.

We had a Sunday lunch at the Green Cross Inn - the meal was fine, an odd feeling though being there of almost intruding. At first we were the only diners while staff chatted among themselves, but then the place filled up with apparently local regulars who knew the people running it well. That morning we attended Pembury Baptist Church where we had a very warm welcome, people very friendly. The Pembury streets were converted into one track roads thanks to car parking along them, hard to get around. We learn that Goudhurst is said "Gaudhurst" unlike what we had been saying! Sermon was on James which we had been studying in home group.

Holidays can be very stressful, and problems with getting around on the roads stressed me out this time. A foretaste was trying to get into and out of Lakeside, but what did for me was the Satnav favouring one track roads - I can't cope with miles of driving along one track roads worrying about meeting oncoming vehicles. The fun didn't stop with leaving Kent - a slow drive back round London to Cambridge, and we narrowly missed trouble on the M6 on our way to stay at the Ramada Hotel in Solihull so we could attend a surprise 50th do at the Kings Arms in Knowle for our friend Yvonne. Returning from the do late at night to the hotel was a nightmare - road closures forced a detour which ended up facing a flooded road! Happily wisdom overruled stupidity and I didn't attempt to drive through the water. But backing up the car in the darkness so I could try to turn it around was close to panic. The Satnav for once behaved and found us another way back to the hotel. Returning to Cambridge the next day was almost as bad - the M6 was blocked and we had to take a tedious scenic tour round Coventry.