Holiday: National Trust’s ‘Strode House’ (Day 6) – Final Day

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It’s our last full day here today in Cider Country – and there’s a storm a-comin’! The local forecast paints a very (very) wet picture of this area after lunch. So, with welly-weather in mind, we’re going to cram in TWO properties before the wet stuff hits us.

On a more positive note – the hot water is back on! Hurrah!

…but the non-functioning central heating is still broken, and there’s no response to our emails – thanks NT!

Back to happier things…

First up, Tintinhull Gardens, only a short drive from base-camp, and possible the smallest, cutest NT property, we’ve ever been to…

Is it me, or are Garden Gnomes getting taller?

As the photos show, this location is primarily ‘gardens’, but we did also get a short glimpse of the House as part of the through-route to the main attraction. The Gardens were in the process of some major renovation, but they still looked good. I think what surprised us most of all was how busy the place was! We arrived just two minutes after opening at 11.02am – and already the car-park was almost full. We got the last of two spaces before the ‘overflow’ would have been required.

We loved it for its cuteness!

Our next and final stop was NT’s Montacute House (where they filmed some of ‘Wolf Hall’). By comparison to where we’d just visited, this was in a different league – the House, big and bold; the outside, even more varied and colourful…

We felt some rain in the air (as expected) so we ‘did’ the outside before going round the House…

…and then it was off round the House…

There was plenty to see, and the NT have done a great job in maintaining the condition of the House. It was in an excellent state, and when we got to the final room – the Long Gallery, another (very pleasant) surprise awaited us…

…in the rooms off the Long Gallery, there was a chronological exhibition of various related paintings on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. It really brought the House alive!
Today was a gave us a good contrast of two very different types of properties – and we enjoyed them both, but for different reasons. Montacute House was our last NT property of this holiday – and we’ve certainly got our money’s worth out of our renewed subscription (having visited six during this week alone!).

It’s back to base now to grab a quick lunch ‘next door’ in Barrington Court before assembling our bits and bobs ready for re-filling the car. At this time of writing (3.30pm), there’s still no central heating (although ironically, the temperature in the Lounge isn’t too bad), and STILL no response from the NT. I’m glad we’ve been told that we’re being treated as a ‘priority case’, otherwise I’d hate to think how they’d deal with the situation if it were less important!
Baring teeth smile

Practically speaking, it looks like we’ll end up leaving the property before the heating is fixed! Hope the next family are Eskimos or spend a lot of their time elsewhere during their stay!
Sad smile

What was this holiday like then?

1 Strode House
With all our planned visits visited, it’s now time to return to reality and begin the packing! It’s also an opportunity to reflect on a part of the UK that we don’t know too well and where (almost) every tree is APPLE and destined for Cider!

The immediate and surrounding area itself has been fantastic, with plenty of old properties and quaint towns to enjoy ‘lost in time’. We self-catered for most of our stay, and if we had a Financial Director, they would have been proud – we came in slightly under-budget! We prepared, cooked, washed-up, did the washing, used the iron and (almost) fixed the router – talk about making the most of the facilities!

Getting around has been very straight-forward, although the numerous B-roads that twisted and turned made us a lot more cautious behind the wheel than we would have otherwise been. It was easy to tell who the locals were: They either drove tractors at top speed, or they drove round the country lanes in their cars as if they were being timed – although very courteous when we mutually approached a single track road (of which there were many) most didn’t slow down a jot having local insider knowledge of the precise width of the road! Scary stuff for those of a nervous (and wider) disposition.

Slightly below-par has been the facilities and service from NT who never really saw the importance in keeping us ‘in the loop’ with our various ‘challenges’ during this stay. We coped (just) with the complete lack of heating, as well as a couple of days without any hot-water. Although the emergency electric heaters would have helped, this was a very large property to keep warm, and I think we would have bankrupted the NT, if we’d run them 24/7!

Additionally, past comments in the Visitors’ Book have lamented the lack of wi-fi and (after it was eventually installed) the woeful connection speed. Clearly, no-one from NT is reading this book, because during our stay, our connectivity was so slow, it wouldn’t even register as much as a zero on my app that measures connectivity. However, I did discover how to reboot the router, and that gave us a tolerable speed for a short period each day – Shhhh! don’t tell the NT! Using the mobile phone was like being back in the early 90s – one step in the wrong direction and bang goes the signal.

All-in-all, we really love the fact that the National Trust allows us to place a foot firmly in the past, but could you please put the other one in the 21st century, and get the basics right (and that includes the central heating!)

Holiday: National Trust’s ‘Strode House’ (Day 5) – Birthday Boy!

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Well, here we are – In Somerset for my 61st. It was good to wake up and (when I eventually got a signal) to see all the good wishes via social media. I think for the first time, there were more ‘happy birthdays’ via the ‘interweb’ than by traditional cards.

The main event for today is to visit Lyme Regis where we haven’t been for over 20 years!

But first there’s the mega pressy-opening session, and before that the birthday-breakfast (courtesy of Chef Ann). Too many pressies to list here, but safe to assume that I’m mostly surrounded by chocolate and gin – and just one multi-pack of socks. Clearly I’m a simple soul with predictable tastes! 😁

And so, after breakfast, Ann acted as all-day chauffeur and we headed for Lyme Regis, arriving just after 11.30.


Parking was dead easy and after paying our dues, we were soon re-enacting the scene from French Lieutenant’s Woman walking out towards The Cobb. It was initially a bit overcast, but the sun came out as the morning turned to afternoon.



We always try and find somewhere ‘a little different’ for my Birthday Lunch and this year was no different. Ann had located a highly recommended smallish bistro/restaurant slightly off the beaten track called The Millside Restaurant. It was only about a 10-minute walk along the sea-front towards the town centre and right next to the River Lym.

What this place lacked in size (a dozen covers inside, six outside), it more than made up for in both service and food quality and presentation. We bagged a table outside,soaking up the newly arrived sunshine, and perused the Menu…
There was even a separate GIN menu too! They must have known I was coming!! 😉

To make us feel even more at home, the owner’s two cats arrived and sat, staring at us as only cats can. Eventually, Ann supplied the chips whilst I provided slithers of burger! The result? Two happy humans and two slightly much fatter cats!! 😁

Butternut Squash Soup

Best Burger ever…?

We couldn’t handle Dessert – we were just too full (and *I* don’t say that very often ever!). However, we’d set our sights on some Mr Whippy ice-cream from a local merchant on our walk back to the car – and we REALLY wanted to leave some room. A combination of the warm weather and my slow eating speed combined, to allow my ice-cream to run down the outside of the cornet and  into my hand, heading towards my wrists. At his rate, my whole body would be covered inside the hour. Swapping hands didn’t help – I now had BOTH hands looking like they’d been attacked by seagulls! Yuk!! This afternoon, around these parts, I’m now known as Super Sticky Steve! Luckily, the men’s loos were just down the road, so there was time for a rinse! 😉

Thirty seconds later – Super Sticky Steve!

With my hands now back to normal, we headed back to the car and navigated into uncharted waters (well, water AND land actually!). We’ve never been further west along the coast than Lyme Regis before now, so today, was going to be a real adventure as we arrived in the town of Seaton. 😮

I’m not sure what we were expecting, but we we got was a lovely town, *not* full of crappy gift-shops, just very clean streets, plenty of parking and lovely views.

Super Views of Seaton

After a thorough walk a long the seafront (I declined the option of a look round the town – it’s my age!), we headed for the car and headed back to ‘Chilly-Towers’. We hadn’t been home very long when the Estates’ Manager arrived to look at the central heating. In the end, he was as confused as we were, and left promising to scratch his head and get it all sorted.

Wow! What a day! I’ve eaten too much, drunk too much, lost a battle with a ‘Mr Whippy’ and been to a town I’ve never been to before – Thanks Ann, it’s been a perfect day and it’s only 6pm!😁

Tomorrow – our last full day here – we’re heading for NT’s Montacute House (where they filmed ‘Wolf Hall’) and NT’s Tintinhull Gardens.

Happy Birthday via Social Media/Texts

Amie B

Angela C

Ann McL

Anthony C

Antoinette U


Carey H

Carl G

Carmen P

Carol A

David J

Debi B

Denise M

Fiona M

Francesco F

Geoff B

Heather E

Helena B

Helen K

Jason H

Ian H

Ian McL

James H

Jane S

Janet S

Janine C

Jenny R

Jerry F

Jo K

John W

Julie T

Karen H

Karen J A

Karen R

Karin S

Kate P

Ken B

Kerry D

Kevin P

Larry H

Lydia W

Lyn and Richard

Malcolm L

Mark S

Mick C

Mike P

Nicki C

Nigel OS

Neil P

Paul M

Pauline O

Peter L

Peter W

Ralph G

Ralph P

Rhiannon L

Richard K

Richard P

Rosi L

Roy C

Sally B

Sean C

Stella H

Stuart McL

Sue J

Sue R

Tania M

Tom T

Trish C

Val A




Angela C



Carol A 

Chris and Pete M

David and Val


Gill and Chris

Ian and Ann

Ian and Sharon

Jo and Janet

Karen and Paul

Karen and Ralph


Margaret and Alan

Margaret Spencer

Neil, Debbie, Alfie and Frankie

Nick and Celina

Nicki C and Richard



Paul, Sue and Ben

Philip P

Roger and Jane

Roy, Susan and Lauren

Rosi L

Sally B

Sue and Paul

Trish, John, Sean and Conor

Valerie H


Ann – Hermes Gift Set and Jaeger Tee Shirt. Raspberry Ripple Gin. Plum and Vanilla Gin. Orange Gin

Alfie and Frankie – Malfy Lemon Gin

Bev – Marshmallow Kit

Conor and Sean – Greenall’s Wild Berry Gin

David and Val – Socks and bottle of Bailey’s

Denis – Damson Gin. Elderflower Gin. Garden Lights

Julie, Tom, Nick, Lewis and Georgina – Greenall’s Wild Berry Gin

Jo and Janet – Elemis Toiletries. Alnwick Gin

Karen and Paul – Belgian Chocolates. Tawny Port

Lee – Hendrick’s Gin. Bright Shirt

Nicki and Richard – Tanqueray no. 10 Gin

Roger and Jane – Raspberry Gin. Black Tyre Shine, DVD: Deutschland 83

Rosi and David – Letter Opener, Chocolate Tasting Set, Ice Ball Trays

Trish and John – A set of ‘his and hers’ Gin Glasses

Oliver – Car Magazine. Mars Bars Multi-Pack. Haribo’s. Galaxy Ripple Multi-Pack



Previous Birthdays…


Holiday: National Trust’s ‘Strode House’ (Day 4)

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First job of the day, was to ask NT to retrieve the monkeys (the brass ones) from all the rooms and sort out the complete lack of hot water. We managed to get through to them on the phone, but they were a bit lack-lustre, and even by the time we got home, we weren’t sure what we’d find…

Enough of our domestic troubles – back to the plan for today where we’re off to:

Knightshayes was impressive. It’s a Gothic Revival House officially known as Knightshayes Court that also includes a stunning garden and park. Building began in 1869, and it has since been home to three generations of the Heathcoat Amory family (prominent landowners who got their riches from Lace). What makes the House special is the gothic design. Apparently the original owner got through two designers before deciding it was all still too OTT! Eventually the family moved out (having tried to conceal/replace some of the original ‘gothic-ness’). They finally threw in the towel, handing it over to the National Trust in 1972.

Certainly, much of the interior design divides opinion – especially the ceilings and the wallpaper – but I quite liked the boldness of it all. Subtle it ain’t!!


As you’d expect, there were lots of rooms, with some of the decoration quite ‘normal’…

…but with some designs, they were probably best viewed with the lights OFF!

…whilst some that were more modest…

From the outside, the ‘look’ was just as controversial. I’d look after it though!

But you couldn’t knock the stunning views…


And if that wasn’t enough, this place had probably the largest kitchen garden I think we’ve ever seen! It was simply massive – the Rhubarb display alone was around half the size of Corby!


After the assault on our eye-balls inside the House, and the sheer enormity of the Kitchen Garden, it was off towards Tiverton for something gentler – Lunch! Unfortunately, when we arrived, the intended stopping-off point (The Canal Basin) was inaccessible due to a major access road being closed. We then spent ages circling the town, looking for somewhere else picturesque to enjoy our picnic, but after about 30 minutes, we gave up (although I think we’re both now experts of all the street names in the town!)

Instead, we headed for NT’s Wellington Monument, around 25 minutes away.

After a late lunch in the car-park, it was only about half-a-mile up the muddy track, and we were soon staring at this 175-foot-high triangular obelisk (acquired by the National Trust in 1930s). In truth, it’s best viewed from a distance. Close-up, it’s clear that it’s seen better days. As we wandered round the other side, we could see a small army of hard-hatted individuals discussing the construction. We also read a couple of notices, erected by the NT, explaining how some of the restoration in the past had been poorly done. In fact, up until 2007, it was possible to climb up inside the Monument and look out of the (small circular) window at the top. Not now though! Far too dangerous, due to crumbling masonry and other architectural shortfalls (well, actually, it would probably be a LONG fall!)

Last stop of the day was closer to home! – Barrington Court. In fact, it couldn’t have been much closer as it was NEXT DOOR to our holiday apartment (In fact, for complete accuracy, our place is actually part of Barrington Court’s converted stable block). This place is VERY significant in a number of ways: It was the vision of Colonel Abram Lyle (of Tate and Lyle fame) and his architect, James Edward Forbes. They rebuilt the Tudor House after it fell into did-repair and it was the first major property to be acquired by the National Trust – and the dilapidated state almost bankrupted the NT in the process.

But first, it was a look round the ‘neighbour’s’ Kitchen Garden. It may have been on a smaller scale than Knightshayes, but what it lacked in size, it certainly equalled in colour and variety.

We had some good news when we got inside the Apartment – the hot water was now working! Hurrah! We can wash our nether regions tonight….
However, the central heating was still asleep! Boo!
Sad smile
Birthday boy tomorrow and we’re off to the seaside – Lyme Regis and the Jurassic Coast in search of fossils (to keep me company!)

Holiday: National Trust’s ‘Strode House’ (Day 3)

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Today is a cultural marathon, where we’ve planned to take in the following locations. In fact, we squeezed in an extra one, so read on, loyal reader…

Muchelney Abbey


Lytes Cary

The Royal Naval Fleet Air-Arm Museum

They’re all fairly local to here, so we’re not planning to drive further than about half-an-hour from base-camp. I say ‘base-camp’ because just like the mountaineers of days-gone-by surviving in sub-zero temperatures, Strode House seems to have no heating and, as we discovered this morning, no hot water either! Thank heavens for the the two electric heaters I discovered in the cleaners’ cupboard!
Thumbs up

After a lazy breakfast, we headed out just after 9.30 for our first stop of the day – Muchelney Abbey, courtesy of English Heritage.

The Abbey had plenty to show off including the well-documented, two-storey loo for the Monks (no sign of any loo-paper though! Yuk!)

What’s less well-known is the gorgeous apple tree outside the main entrance. We later learned it was a cider apple tree, specifically a variety called ‘10 Commandments’ (because each apple contained 10 pips!)

After inspecting the Monks’ Loo, our next stop was the quaint town of Somerton – supposedly the capital of ancient Wessex. There was a lovely looking Church (St Michael and All Angels), but more especially for us, the Market Cross was the standout attraction.

After a quick look round the shops (including an unsuccessful search around an antique shop in search of a ‘bacon iron’, which we later learned was actually called a ‘tongue press’), we then headed towards our next stop: NT’s Lytes Cary Manor.

Boy, this place was busy – and it had only been open for around 30 minutes and already the overflow car-park was half-full.


A lovely old house, all beautifully restored, together with an immaculately manicured lawn and trees. The house in particular, felt very welcoming.

Luckily for us, the weather forecast didn’t come true (as by now, it should have been raining) instead, it was still dry and actually quite warm. We decided to squeeze in another ‘local’ spot – the market town of  Castle Cary. It was only a short drive, and we soon found a free parking space in the high street. Alas, no Castle remains these days, only the earthworks, so we spent our time wandering around the town centre. What struck us immediately was that the place was almost completely deserted! In fact, on closer inspection, there were hardly any shops open either. All pretty unusual these days, and on exiting the town the only three places doing any business were the two tiny supermarkets and the Pub! Very strange to see a town in 2017 thinking it was still 1977!

The most memorable feature of the town for us was The Market House, a Grade II listed building completed in 1855 on the site of the 1616 original.

The weather was turning now, and so we headed for our final destination – The Royal Naval Fleet Air-Arm Museum in Yeovilton. As we arrived, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Perfect then, for prepared picnic – and better still that there were picnic tables outside the Museum too (they must have known we were coming!). After our late lunch, we headed inside the Museum.

A good Museum, packed with a lot of interesting exhibits – especially helicopters!

…as well as a slightly edam-flavoured 40-minute ‘virtual tour’ of the inside of the Ark Royal in the 70s (including a flight simulation by helicopter to get us there)…

Best exhibit for me was an actual Concorde – we think it was the original French test/prototype version.

Then it was back in the car to ‘Ice Station Zebra’ where, on arrival, we confirmed that the hot-water had properly failed, as it was now cold water out of both taps in all rooms. Oh joy!
Baring teeth smile

Tomorrow (after the obligatory call the NT’s Holiday Helpline), we’re off to:

  • Tiverton
  • NT’s Knightshayes (A big old house and famous Victorian kitchen garden)

Holiday: National Trust’s ‘Strode House’ (Day 2)

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A slightly later start to the day as we realised that the travel clock we use for holidays was an hour behind the rest of the UK. I suspect it wasn’t changed the last time the clocks went forward. No matter, our mission for today is quite simple! – drive to Honiton and then grab the train to Exeter. After yesterday’s visit to Selworthy Beacon, today is mainly a bit of ‘retail therapy’ – I think it’s down to both of us having spent (far) too many years working in retail on a Saturday!

I’ve never been to Exeter, so everything today would be a new experience!

Things started well as we arrived in Honiton in good time after the thirty-minute drive from the Apartment. It looked quite a large town based on the amount of shops in the high street, but the railway car-park, in contrast, was tiny – 30 spaces max! After taking our pick of a parking-space, it was a quick trot over the bridge to the ticket office where we managed to get two return tickets to Exeter for the very wallet-friendly total sum of £10.10!!! A bargain! To add to the good news, we only had to wait 5 minutes for the train – perfect timing! (as they only run hourly on Saturdays).

On-board, we soon found a seat – a very comfy one at that! – for the thirty-minute (ish) journey to Exeter Central. Free wi-fi too, so one of us is ecstatic! On arrival, the good news continued as the station is handily located on the outskirts of the shopping area in Queen’s Street, so it was only a short walk into the main shopping strip.

First stop though, was a bit of culture in the shape of Exeter Cathedral

DSCN2401  DSCN2406
Wow! This place was in great condition and a real joy to look round. It felt large too, and unlike a lot of cathedrals, it was very bright inside. Fabulous!

With the cultural stuff ticked-off, it was off to our own ‘retail-cathedral’ – the newish (2012) John Lewis (Exeter) just a few minutes walk away. Yummy! this had floors and floors of good stuff, and for once us blokes don’t have to scale to the top to see the latest TVs – they’ve thoughtfully put the AV department on the lower-ground floor!

But before any serious shopping, sustenance was in order, and an obligatory trip to the JL Café was our first destination…

Suitably refreshed, in the next hour, we gave the store a good workout before taking a slow walk in the direction of our reserved table at the local Café Rouge…

Service was excellent, as was the food. The bonus for us was that I’d received a voucher recently from Café Rouge for a free bottle of Prosecco as a birthday gift, and it would have been rude not to use it even if it is three days before ‘the day’!

I needed something to soak up the alcohol as even though Ann was driving back, we were determined to get our money’s worth and not to leave any behind. I really needed something to soak up the booze, so as my main course, I chose the new (to the menu) Lamb Tagine –  it was absolutely delicious and acted as the perfect culinary blotting-paper!
Smile with tongue out

All-in-all, we made lunch last just over an hour-and-a-half (well, it took a while to sink my five glasses of bubbly!). Then, after a few more shop visits, we took the short walk back to the station, saying goodbye to Exeter’s retail scene and catching the 3.30 back to Honiton.

By 4.45, we were back at the Apartment and we’d had a really good day. It was great to look round the Cathedral and our short dose of ‘retail-therapy’ was very welcome!

Tomorrow we’re off to:

I’m exhausted already!
Winking smile

Holiday: National Trust’s ‘Strode House’ (Day 1)

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After a good night’s sleep and leaving the laptop on overnight to download the photos we’d taken yesterday, I discovered that the router was still at it, having spent all night downloading just TWO! (shown below). For the biggest router I’ve ever seen in my life, it certainly lacked speed!

After a hearty breakfast, we had two priorities in mind for today: go exploring and then find some civilisation where there’s a reasonable internet connection!

But before all that, it looked like a beautiful morning in the making, so we had a quick wander around the ‘neighbour’s grounds’ – Barrington Court before leaving.

Barrington Court

Then it was back in the car, and off on our travels. First stop was Dunster and then its Castle. It was a torturous route to Dunster due to the volume of traffic going through Taunton, and as a result, the short 29 mile-ish journey took almost an hour! Yeesh!

The Market Cross at Dunster

Dunster was a picture-book town from a bygone age – simply gorgeous!. Unfortunately, the internet connection was from the same age!! How the heck anyone runs a business here, using their mobile is beyond me! No mobile signal on O2, EE or 3… and no sign of any wifi either!!

Thanks Dunster!

More than slightly disappointed that I couldn’t post yesterday’s blog, we took the short walk up to Dunster Castle.

This was an impressive place from the outside…

…and on the inside too…

These are Dutch painted-leather ‘paintings’ from the 17th century, believed to be the only ones left in Europe.

Then it was off to the Castle’s own Water-wheel. What’s more, it was a double! We’ve never seen one of those before!

They even mill their own flour and oats – very entrepreneurial!

Next stop? LUNCH! We’d packed a picnic and found the perfect spot just down from the water-wheel, by an old bridge

Some nice tropical views too…

…plus some great views from the top too…

And having got to the top, we grabbed a seat to chill-out for a bit and soak up the surroundings. We’d almost given up on a mobile signal, but I thought I’d check the signal one last time to see if things had improved. They had! Right at the top of the Castle, we picked up 4G (yep, 4G!) and I have no idea how or why it should suddenly be available at this specific and remote location. No matter! I uploaded the blog, Ann retrieved her Daily Telegraph on her Kindle, and I was able to finally sync all the photos from my phone.

Next on the itinerary was Minehead – famous for Butlin’s (and still famous looking at the queue for it!). We dropped into the local Morrison’s to pick up some picnic provisions, before heading of to nearby Selworthy. First we looked around the unusual looking Church – All Saints.

It was more traditional on the inside and in really good condition. Lovely!

For our final look around Selworthy, it was a choice from two locations: The village itself or the Selworthy Beacon. Well, the latter to me sounded much more exciting, so we chose the route to the Beacon (it was NT, so it was free!). As we passed though the gate pointing in the right direction, we immediately noticed that the signpost didn’t show the actual distance to our destination! But surely it would be just around the next turn and over the next hill?

Well, 39 turnings and 17 hills later, we almost gave up, but something said ‘go a little further’. We’re glad we did, because as we crossed the main road for the final climb…

…we saw this in front of us! Wow!

..and five-minutes later, we made it! Maybe slightly underwhelming to look at, but I’m glad we found it after all the walking! It was now raining much harder, so we were pleased that the walk back was all downhill. Forty minutes later, we were back in the car. We opted not to simply reverse the route and take on Taunton! Instead, we headed south towards Tiverton,  east along the A361 and then eventually picking up the M5 for a couple of junctions, eventually exiting at the Yeovil exit. It was a longer route back, but it felt shorter – one of our better decisions!

Back at the Apartment, we quickly unpacked all of our provisions from Morrison’s and got dinner ready. We were both knackered, but the ribs, suede mash, broccoli and broad-beans went down a treat! So did the profiteroles and the alcohol too!!!

Wow, what a day! We certainly walked a fair amount and I won my battle for the internet too!

Tomorrow, it’s Exeter (thankfully, by train!)

Photos of the interior of our Apartment, that I couldn’t post yesterday…

Barrington Court – Arrival

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Ahh, what a quaint property! No mobile signal and almost non-existent wi-fi (in spite of having the dwelling’s router right next to me).

This week looks like it’s going to be fun attempting to post blogs! Sorry reader!