After a feverish work-out of last-minute cleaning, changing sheets and other preparations for my mum and step-dad’s arrival to look after my daughter and son for the weekend; we jumped in the car without a clue about where exactly our hotel was situated in Wales and headed for the Severn bridge.
On the road we were behind a car with an old Badminton Horse Trials sticker promoting the 2004 event from the 29 April – 2 May – the weekend we got married. Was this going to be a good omen for the weekend we wondered? It was touch and go as we neared the end of the trusty sat nav’s instructions. We were about 5 minutes from the chequered flag on the little Garmin screen that signalled we had reached our destination. But, as we looked around, all we could see were rolling hills on the cusp of being classed as mountains, moor-like grass as far as the eye could see, hundreds of sheep and…..shooting range targets (the kind that look like a soldier shouting at you). About a mile ahead of us was a red flag, strangely the same distance as the chequered flag on the Garmin – “is this some kind of a joke?” my husband exclaimed. “Have you booked us a room in some squaddie digs?” (note we both made the booking but, as soon as there are any concerns, my husband disowns the role he played).
I was rather enjoying this journey and started to laugh. “No seriously where the f**** are we?” my husband said as he stopped the car and cast a very doubtful look at the Garmin and then the red flag on the horizon. In frustration I said “Just keep going we will never get there otherwise” I was so intrigued to find out where this was going to take us, whereas my husband was convinced that we were trespassing on a military training area. I convinced him to go on and a few miles, sheep and right-turns later, a sign appeared for the hotel.
I assumed that Garmin (now an inanimate object with a name as it is easier to blame when things go wrong) had taken us the longer ‘scenic route’. “Oh you came that way did you?” said the hotel receptionist, “not many people know to come that way but its the quickest route.” I was stunned and thought she was having a laugh and I told her so. She looked at me as if to say ‘Ah bless, not from the country are you? Probably Londoners’.
It wasn’t that but more that as a teenager I used to ride on MOD land and once ignored the red flag, hacked onto the common-land and then something exploded about several hundred yards from us and my horse did the most sensible thing and galloped off into the sunset. As I was trying to control him I thought I was hallucinating when the ferns on the ground suddenly rose up by about 6 foot to become soldiers who were leapt left and right to avoid his hooves.
For me it didn’t matter if the hotel was Fawlty Towers, I just loved the fact that you appeared to go some magical mystery tour to find it. It turned out to be a bloody good hotel too. I will tell you more tomorrow….
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Thanks for reading.