Our drive north is uneventful, always a good sign on England’s motorways, especially when part of the journey is on the M25. A big change since we lived here is that most of the motorways have sacrificed the emergency stopping hard shoulder for another driving lane. These multi-lane highways are always a bit of a shock to us when we first arrive.
Excitement bubbles in me as we get closer to Sheffield and the sights become familiar: Hardwick Hall sits high above the motorway to the left, on the right the ruins of Bolsover Castle snuggle in with modern housing, and Sheffield lurks under the darkness of the far moors. But no matter how many times I do this drive I will never get used to the blank space beside Tinsley Viaduct where the landmark cooling towers used to be. Disused for decades and deteriorating, they were finally (and expertly, not a stone landing on the motorway) blasted down almost exactly eleven years ago.
We meet up with friends to celebrate Neil’s 50th, (If he thought I wasn’t going to mention that he’s now getting a shock) spending the day making pork pies and sausages at Coghlans Cookery School in Stancliffe Hall. It’s a brilliant day, a lot of fun – Simon, the chef/tutor striking a perfect balance of humour and education. The pork pie is a standard recipe but we have free rein in how to flavour our sausages. I’m a traditional girl, sage and onion, but Neil gets adventurous, chucking in a bit of this and a bit of that. I cannot yet comment on the result (they have an Indian aroma) as, at time of writing, we haven’t tried them. We have, however, devoured a pie and I can report a crust crisp on the outside, soft inside, with succulent meat. Maybe a little more seasoning but otherwise a perfect pork pie. If you’re looking for a day out with a difference I can highly recommend Coghlans. They even organised a birthday cake for Neil.
A few words on the man of the moment here. He’s the sort of man that few people speak ill of (well, not that I’ve heard anyway). If he says he’ll do something, he generally does (although his memory is shocking at times). He’s generous to a fault and people always feel they can trust him.
I can see how some would think I’m the dominant one in our relationship – until they get to know him. As my friend said: he can be very stubborn, can’t he? Yes, he can, and when he’s made up his mind about something, nothing anyone can say or do will change it. He’s loyal, but don’t let him down or you’re dead to him. He can come across as distant but he cares deeply about the things he believes in – don’t expect to see posts here about visits to any countries that still hunt whales, for instance, or have a terrible human rights record (or lack thereof).
He’s taken most of the pictures on this blog and will continue to do so – he’s an excellent photographer. But I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve waited (im)patiently whilst he gets the perfect shot and then spends five minutes looking at the screen on his camera to make sure it is the perfect shot. He always takes the lead on rocky paths, looking out for obstacles and warning me, whether I’m on the bike or in hiking boots.
There are many reasons we make a good pair. He likes driving, hates being a passenger, and is terrible at reading a map, whereas I don’t mind being a passenger, am excellent at direction finding, and like to look around me at the scenery – so on our journeys he drives and I rarely do. He can be anal about some things – two weeks into this holiday he washed the car. To be fair, it had been parked for a week in a garage where birds were nesting above it and was covered in white splodges, and I was the one who spotted the car wash as we drove past it and drew his attention to it. And I’m equally anal about some things too.
He’s a good friend and a great husband. And he’ll be a little annoyed at me for doing this. But not for long.
Happy Birthday to my old banger!