So, what did everyone do over the long Jubilee weekend, eh? Street parties? Picnics in the park? Champagne and strawberries under a glorious blue June sky? Lining the streets of London to wave a flag and cheer at the Queen?
No, me neither.
I was in a field. In Derbyshire.
Why oh why oh why was I in a field in Derbyshire? You may well ask. Well. Mr WithaY's new chosen career is that of bushcraft instructor, and he had been asked to go along to the Bushcraft Show to help out with one of the trade stands - a company he has been training, and latterly working with.
He asked me if I'd like to come along, to meet his colleagues, look at all the other stands, and see what it was all about. I said yes. But only on the condition that I could book us into a local B&B, as I have decided that I am too old, too creaky, and in all likelihood too wheezy to camp much these days*.
I found a pub with rooms a few miles from the showground, booked us in for three nights, and off we went on Friday afternoon. It was a hellish journey, inevitably. A long Bank Holiday Weekend, plus the usual evening rush hour traffic meant that it took us probably two hours longer than we had expected, but we arrived eventually. Mr WithaY rang his colleagues to find out if we were needed to go and help set things up, but they were only then leaving home, and weren't likely to arrive much before midnight, so we were free to go and grab some dinner and have an early night, ready for an early start on Saturday.
So. Saturday morning - having left the pub too early to enjoy the included-in-the-room-cost breakfast chiz chiz chiz - we drove across to Elvaston Castle, and this is how the showground looked:
As you can probably tell, it was a bit damp. I did like the giant three-point teepee though. It had a big tv screen in it.
Saturday was successful, there were a lot of people wandering around, and there were many demonstrations of various skills going on. Flint knapping proved very popular, and drew crowds every time the knapper started working.
See how he knaps. I asked him what he does with all the broken bits of flint once he's finished, and apparently they all get placed in a special spoil heap at a university, to ensure that the archaeological record isn't polluted with 21st Century flint arrowheads.
There was also a lovely lady making willow baskets and things. I watched her for ages.
It made me want to have another go, after the excellent day Mr WithaY and I had last Autumn in Somerset, basket weaving.
There was also a chap there who had made several canoes and kayaks. He told us how he'd travelled to Canada, visited some Colonial re-enactment type place and asked them if he could learn to make a canoe in their workshop. They considered it, finally told him he could, but only if he agreed to dress as a Voyageur while he did it, and talk to the public. He spent three months dressed up, learning canoe-making, and said he loved every minute.
Unfortunately, all day on Sunday it pissed down. The rain woke me in the night - did I mention we were staying in a pub, not a tent? - and it didn't let up for about 36 hours. The numbers of people coming through the show were correspondingly low. As I hadn't packed my wellies, by lunchtime my feet were soaked and I was cold and miserable.
I think this encapsulates the mood:
Hopelessly optimistic, offering strawberries and scones in a sea of mud and cold, cold rain.
I took myself off to the car and sat there in the dry, if not the warm, reading my book, playing Angry Birds and snoozing intermittently until it was time to leave. One bright spot was a phone call from some lovely mates who live nearby, who were:
(a) miffed that we hadn't thought to ask them if we could stay at their house, and
(b) seeing if we'd like to meet them for dinner later.
That cheered me right up. A wet, cold, grim day was thus lifted by a lively and good-humoured evening with our mates, and several large glasses of wine. Mmmmm wine. These are the mates we went to Cornwall with a couple of years ago. When Mr WithaY fell in the river. Yeah, you remember.
Monday was much better. The sun shone, there were loads of people, and suddenly everything looked cheerful and interesting again, rather than just rain-sodden and squalid.
We left at about 6 in the evening, having helped to take down the tents and so on, and had an uneventful and much shorter journey home in the bright evening sunshine.
One other highlight of the trip was travelling over to Matlock to pick up my clock. Remember I said I'd commissioned a clock as a "Congratulations on doing 23 Years in the Civil Service" present for myself?
It was ready for collection last weekend, so we went and collected it. Readers, it is a thing of beauty, and I am completely thrilled with it.
Look, here it is in the box, about to be put up on the wall in pride of place. The brush is for dusting it.
And here it is in situ:
It is keeping excellent time so far, but my genius clock-making mate assures me it will need to be adjusted sooner or later. In the meantime, I am enjoying the look of it, and the rather reassuring tick-tock it makes.
It's joined my Rickenbacker on the list of Things I Will Save In A Fire.
*Although if we get one of those funky circular tents you can fit a wood-burner in, I might reconsider