I'm on the Cotswolds again, staying in my touring caravan at the Caravan Club site on the western edge of Cirencester. It's my Autumn Holiday. Very likely my last outing in 2012, but you never know.
I was here last May, and always intended to return. Well, it's just as nice as before. Spacious, lots of lawns and trees. The mains hookup has a digital TV socket too - so I've missed nothing that I would want to watch. A very modern, immaculate and inviting toilet and shower block - I had an amazingly gorgeous long hot shower just this morning: well worth the effort of leaving my warm, snug caravan at 7.30am, when it was only just daylight.
The only thing missing, so far, is sunny weather. But it's now set to become much colder, and perhaps that'll mean clear blue skies, sun, and frost. I wouldn't mind one bit. I've brought along plenty of clothes suited to chilly conditions, both pairs of boots, and gloves of course, and I'm ready for some crisp days out. Today it's going to be Westonbirt Arboretum, only a few miles away. This is the national collection of trees, and according to a report on BBC Radio 4's Today programme early this morning, the colours are wonderful, with leaves ranging from yellow through orange to red and purple. It's brightening up as I type this, but it's still cloudy, and I'll be lucky to see the Arboretum at its best - you need a blue sky and sunbeams for that - but if I don't go there today, the winds may have blown all the leaves off the trees! Its up to the gods of fine weather: are they lying in a drunken stupour from the previous night's excesses, or are they alert, on the job, and minded to smile on my hopes? I shall encourage them. I generally find (it's almost a philosophy with me) that if you make a personal effort, if you stir yourself and get out, and do it, you will be rewarded.
Yesterday I went into Stroud. It hadn't previously whispered to me, 'I'm a must-see place to visit!' but the afternoon was half-over, the light indifferent, and I wanted somewhere not far away to spend an hour or two in. The outskirts weren't exceptional. Lots of old mills, albeit set in wooded valleys, left over from an industrial past. But the hilly town centre was half-quaint, with some fine old buildings (such as the Subscription Hall) and some narrow streets, mostly pedestrianised. I walked down into the High Street, and immediately discovered three shops that drew me in.
The first was a second-hand bookshop with a very good selection of books. But being on a strict daily budget I looked, but did not buy. The second was stuffed full of superior-quality ladies' and gentlemens' accessories from the 1920-1950 era. Hats, bags, all kinds of personal adornments. A tan Morrocan leather handbag caught my eye. It was beautifully made in thick but pliant leather, with big and practical interior compartments, lovely. The man said I could have 10% off for cash. That meant £44 for a beautiful bag with character. I nearly bought it. I decided not to, because on close inspection I saw that one of the straps had become partially detached, and there would be no way that I could myself get that fixed economically. But it was a wrench to forego that bag!
At the third shop, a boutique, I had much better fortune. It was at the tail end of their sale, and they still had racks of once-expensive clothing now ruthlessly marked down to clear. Marked down to £15, or even £10. I tried on two skirts, was tempted by the price, thought better of it, and in the end bought a well-fitting dark patterned casual jacket that will make my top half look slim, and go very well with jeggings. For £10. So I kept within my daily budget. Tomorrow they get in new stock. I was just in time.
Still no sunshine. Never mind. At least I can have soup and a roll for lunch at the Arboretum, go for a jolly good stroll, and kick the fallen leaves with my Dubarry boots! Hmmm...they offer £1 off as a concession...and I can prove my age with my passport...now do I sacrifice my pride, be a cheapie, and claim the concession for 60s and over? You betcha.