For a hobby that involves sitting behind a screen in silence, blogging has turned out to be surprisingly sociable. Write enough words, throw yourself into enough Twitter chats, engage in enough Instagram banter and before you know it, you will find yourself immersed within a network of blogging companions. Initially, this starts off in a virtual sense and subsequently (once you feel bold and brave enough,) you take things to the next level by arranging a rendez-vous on the other side of the screen for a real life meet up (or what has affectionately come to be known within inner circles as a Tweet up.)
I have made some genuine friends in the blogosphere and I hope they know who they are but as with new jobs and new schools, some of the people you encounter along the way fall under the umbrella of acquaintances rather than friends, people who leave an impression in your life softly and transiently, flitting in and out, leaving faint trails of nostalgia behind them.
But then, there are the other type; the friends you feel you have known a lifetime, the ones you can converse with for hours without even an utterance about your respective blogs, the ones you trust implicitly, who continue to leave a treasured imprint in your life, even if the blogging stops or the geographical distance between you grows.
A Weekend in Cheshire
Around three years ago, I was blessed enough to make one such friend through Twitter and blogging and before the January blues had a chance to manifest in 2018, Pumpkin and I headed up to Cheshire for a welcome escape from city life with the lovely L and her husband alongside us for company.
After dropping off our bags and rehydrating with a cup of tea, we kicked off our staycation with…more cups of tea of course! What’s a weekend in the British countryside without a decent afternoon tea after all?
And with that logic firmly in tow, we were led to the quainter than quaint Ginger and Pickles Tea Room in Nantwich, where the walls are flooded with kitsch, vintage artwork and reams of accolades and where the enormous portions of cake and super-sized scones give the proverbial finger to the overpriced, tiddly portions so often seen in afternoon teas down in London. With a vast selection of teas and coffees on offer, I committed the ultimate afternoon tea sin by ordering coffee. I was warned by staff that the Spanish latte was set to be a sweet one and with the viscous condensed milk pooled at the base of the cup, I was more than willing to oblige this.
Once we consumed our fill of hearty sandwiches, we powered through the scones but our appetites barely allowed us to make a dent on the top tier of cakes that awaited us. Our food waste fears proved unfounded, however, when our delightful waitress offered to box them up for us to take home.
The logical next step in the chronology of our day should have been a long walk in fields and foliage to burn off some of the carb loading we had all partaken in – and as unconvincing as it might sound, this was very much our collective intention – but the rain had other plans. With that, we bade farewell to rainy hikes and said hello to browsing independent homewares stores, marvelling at Tudor buildings and camping indoors again for a round of more alcoholic and less caffeinated drinks in a rustic Cheshire pub as the last of the daylight drifted away.
A Day Trip to Chester
Thankfully, the weather turned a corner for us the following day, as we headed on a mini road trip and arrived under a blanket of blue skies. Our destination was Chester, a mere hour or so away and a city stooped in historical charm.
It was my second visit to Chester but my last was at least 7 years ago and all I really recall was the maroon woollen hat I purchased from a hat shop, an accessory that continues to draw derision from Pumpkin, who repeatedly likens it to something our monarch would wear. This time, my goal was to leave Chester remembering Chester for Chester and not for the Queenie hat I acquired there.
Our day got off to a good start with a gentle amble along the old Roman city walls and I was fortunate to have a patient group of companions, who had no issue with me pausing at every Tudor building to take a photograph (there are a lot of Tudor buildings in Cheshire.) It was hard to imagine we were seeing the same buildings that Henry 7th and King Charles had seen so many centuries ago.
On summer days, tourist crowds flock into Chester and boat tours provide a picturesque vantage point from which to view this ancient city. In blustery winter temperatures, however, we had no interest in windswept hair and chilblains so we joined the many locals, who had parked up in Chester that Sunday to raid the last of the post-Christmas sales stock.
The shopping area, crammed with an abundance of high street favourites is split across two tiers, the higher of which makes for prime people-watching positioning but all this gazing and sitting in the car left us hungry for an early lunch. The temptation persisted for a further round of afternoon tea but with one under our belt a mere 24 hours earlier, we resisted the urge and dined at the more contemporary but no less intriguing or innovative The Botanist, where the ceiling candy provided a stealth of distraction from the task at hand of ordering.
The waitress returned back and forth a mere four times before we were finally in a position to place our orders and despite an extensive menu of options, including a dedicated vegan menu, we all found ourselves ordering the hanging kebabs in unison. Our flavours may have differed but our concepts aligned. Great minds (and it would seem, great friends) think alike.
The endless giggles and stories exchanged during our time together were as much a curse as they were a blessing, for our time in Cheshire flew by significantly more speedily than either of us really would have wanted. But with a weekend of repeat shenanigans pencilled in for London and with the prospect of our train back down looming on the horizon, we made our way back to the car park to draw a (pencil) line under this particular chapter (which I suspect will prove to be one of many.)
Fortunately, we had the good sense to pause at main courses at the Botanist, which left a bite sized chunk of time to head to the Snugburys ice cream farm, an endearing family run ice-creamery, where the silky concoctions are all produced on site.
The farm itself lies in the middle of a field (that rather felt like it was in the middle of nowhere) so my typical London excuse of “I only got a cone because I happened to be walking past the place” became redundant.
With more than 40 flavours to sift between on the menu, I had my work cut out but between the seasonal specials and some of the highly unusual offerings, I averted my eyes from the hot chocolate and hot brownie options on the menu and stayed true to the ethos of the place with my double heaped cone.
Those curious about how to spot the ice cream farm from the roads needn’t worry about their sat nav signals for the gigantic hay bunny is a clear pointer towards it, if ever there was one. The hay sculptures, which vary year to year and sadly have been subject to vandalism on some occasions, have become almost as famous in their own right as the decadent ice creams themselves.
As our London-bound train pulled into the platform and we prepared for our return to reality, we were left a much-needed life lesson reminder by the staff at Crewe station, their chalky food for thought setting us up in a more soothing, philosophical way for the week ahead:
“Good days give happiness,” it read – and we had just had two of the best ones.
What are your experiences of friendships in the blogosphere?