First stop, Stockbridge Down to run the children and the dog into quiet submission before a mooch round the town. It's a beautiful area of downland, one of the highest points in the area and on a clear day like Saturday you can see other high points. Being
Stockbridge itself then. As I said, a pretty, if gentrified town west-ish of Winchester. One of those towns you can imagine Jane Austen passing through in her horse-drawn coach on her way somewhere. A wide high street with many beautiful and clearly old buildings on either side, and history seeping out of every brick. Ignore the fact that those who know say that people living on one side of the high street don't talk to people on the other side, and enjoy the typical Englishness of it all. Clearly, the rumours (as above) cannot be true. This is a genteel and well bred place. The kind of place where perhaps it's not the done thing to take your clearly very muddy spaniel with you when you are mooching round the shops (a clean one would be OK). Nor, perhaps the kind of place where parents shout at their children in the street for playing lightsabres (without actual lightsabres) resulting in one child punching the other one in the nose and an enormous nosebleed...
No, it's a good job we don't LIVE in Stockbridge, but it's lovely to visit.
We did have business there. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be given for my birthday a pair of those leather wellies that adorn 'country folk'. I don't pretend to aspire to the country folk look, but the boots are very, very warm and very, very comfortable, and when your daily routine involves walking many rural miles in hot pursuit of a well bred but wayward dog, warm and comfie is good. Anyway, the soles had started to come off the warm and comfie leather boots - and for the price that I know was paid for them, this just should not have happened - so, nosebleed dealt with, back to the shop we went.
I was also keen to visit Thyme and Tides, which is a bistro/deli/fishmongers which opened in 2010, and although we've had a couple of trips to Stockbridge since then, I've never managed to actually get in (probably because of the children/dog combo causing havoc). Anyway, enough of my bad parenting, and defective boots, on Saturday I actually got inside - not to the cafe which was absolutely heaving even if I'd been in the market for a table - to have a lovely browse of the deli and a good chat with the very friendly fishmonger. It's crammed full of loads of lovely things: bottles and packages promising deliciousness at every turn.
Fortunately, I had some money given to me at Christmas with the strict instruction to spend it on myself. Is it deeply sad that I spent it on a bottle of lemon olive oil...
... a tin of stuffed vine leaves...
and some Spanish cooking chorizo?
So judge me. I don't care
Purchases completed, I rejoined the Husband who had kindly taken the children and the dog off my hands, but had failed to complete any shopping he might have wished to do (a birthday present for his dad) because he couldn't work out how to lock the retractable lead in the retracted position and thus tie the dog up outside a shop. I took the dog and Pink back to the car, deposited the dog and went to visit my second favourite shop in Stockbridge - the Kitchenware Store (I'm so predictable).
There was a sale on. I had some of my Christmas money left. There were lots of things I wanted to buy. I was pondering a Leon cookbook and some rather fancy cupcake cases when I heard the sound every parent dreads to hear - the sound of object hitting floor and a quiet 'ooohhhhhh, sorry Mummy'.
So yes, there were loads of things I wanted to buy, and lots I could have bought, but I ended up with a plastic flower tea strainer, with a broken petal.
You can't win 'em all, I suppose.