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Sunday, December 6, 2015

A wonderful English summer

Tennis at Wimbledon, Burghley Horse Trials, cricket at Lord’s, polo at Beaufort, international show-jumping at Hickstead, the air show at Duxford, visiting magnificent English gardens…oh and some pretty damn fine summer weather.   Our five months in England was absolutely amazing.  We saw England in its glorious summer finery with a few grey days and rainy thrown in just for good measure.  Being able to sip Pimm's at events such as Wimbledon and Hickstead were an added bonus but then that is the great thing about England - there is always something happening.

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All those wearisome jokes about English weather have been cast aside as we were treated to some wonderfully sunny days, and evenings that seemed to go on and on.  At the height of summer it was light at about 4.30am and the sun didn’t set until well after 10pm.  We had some fantastic “sits” in wonderful homes ranging from grand manor houses in the beautiful English countryside to elegant houses in leafy suburban streets.  Our animals were an assorted lot including rescue greyhounds, entertaining pugdogs (they are hilarious), a lovely German shepherd, lots of Labradors and retrievers (our favourites), lurchers, spaniels and the ever gentle and sweet whippets.   We also had cats, chooks, goats, Shetland ponies, donkeys and Irish hunters.  Perhaps our most intriguing charge was a rescue hedgehog named Henry…we never saw him but each morning his feed bowl was empty.  At the same property we fed wild red kites, badgers, deer and a tame barn owl.

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House and animal sitting is all about being totally adaptable.   We live in and out of suitcases as you are constantly on the move and never really know what situation you are about to walk into.   But it’s always exciting and enjoyable with few mishaps (I did manage to lock myself out of one house and had to be rescued by a locksmith!!).  It was wonderful to catch up with fellow Animal Aunts David and Nic Cambridge to discuss tactics.   They have been Animal Aunting for a few years now and thoroughly enjoying it.  Frank and Maria Nelson were also back in town for an AA stint which was fantastic.

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We had a list of "summer" activities to tick off and top was visiting Wimbledon so on our one day off in July we headed to the hallowed grounds.  It was a beautifully fine day and luck was on our side as we not only managed to walk straight in without queuing but ended up with “resale” Centre Court tickets.  It was fantastic to watch Serena Williams in action.  Earlier, we’d sat with a well behaved yet lively crowd sipping Pimm’s on Henman Hill watching on the big screen.  Tennis absorbed us for all of June and into July with the French Open and Wimbledon live on BBC. 

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Hickstead was top of my list and we had a wonderful day there.   A month later I was at Syon Park for the Logines International Showjumping watching the world’s best competing for $1million prizemoney.  We also managed to do a fair bit of Royal watching.   First up was the State Opening of Parliament followed a few weeks later by the Trooping of the Colour.  It’s always thrilling seeing British pomp and pageantry especially the mounted Household Cavalry.   We got a great spot in the Mall and saw all the Royals at close hand before moving up to Buckingham Palace for the flypast.

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Then there was the polo.   After finishing a sit in the New Forest we headed up to Gloucestershire to catch up with Sally Wigley, who was  visiting daughter Annabel.  The Princes were playing in the annual Gloucestershire Festival of Polo and it was obligatory to pop along.   Afterwards we managed to explore the beautiful Cotswolds towns of Tetbury and Cirencester.

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Joining the National Trust enable us to explore some wonderful stately homes and gardens including Polesdon Lacey.  We visited on a Sunday jazz day in magnificent weather.

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We were lucky to be in London for most of August, firstly in Fulham then in Hornchurch and had lovely properties and fantastic dogs.  Our last sit was at the end of August and we then headed to Burghley for the prestigious annual horse trials.  I was covering the event for stuff.co.nz and David was photographer.  We both loved being part of the media contingent and the Kiwi riders were absolutely wonderful when it came to giving quotes and being photographed.   They all performed brilliantly with Tim and Jonelle Price taking out third and fifth respectively.  A great end to our summer in the UK.

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