1st - 6th DECEMBER 2013



These days the Metrological Office consider that the seasons start at the beginning of months, so the 1st December, heralds the start of winter. However for Dad and Uncle Brian it means their usual pre Christmas visit to Armathwaite Hall.

I of course was originally adopted here, and with my girlfriend Polly, take a number of our Hug pals along to stay too. It is always warm and cosy, so we were not bothered if the days were to turn out cold and wet as we would all be snug inside.

A few days before Dad, asked, "have you decided who is to go with you and Polly this time?"

"Jacques, as he is from Armathwaite too, being the Spa bear, with his pals Southey and Wray. Wray has taken new boy Ashley under his paw, so he is coming for the first time. I am also taking Babar the Elephant for his first visit, and of course it really goes without saying that Fred, Gladly, Craig and Ralph will be amongst my guests."

"Great", replied Dad. "I was hoping that you would also take Charlie Bear, Horatio, as it is my intention to get a companion for him from Toy Chest in Keswick."

"That's fine", I replied. "Roll on Sunday."

"Amen to that!", exclaimed Dad.



For Dad, it was with some relief that Sunday had arrived, as the last week had been very busy with workmen rebuilding the porch at the front of the house and Uncle Keith visiting too. We had packed last night as had Dad and Uncle Brian, so it was not long before Dad had loaded Uncle Brian's mobility scooter, and got the luggage stowed too.

"OK", called out Dad, "that's all done, so you can get settled on the back seat."

"Right let's go", said Fred, as he marched out of the door, with us all following behind.

Some of the parts of Uncle Brian's scooter, the seat and battery, have to be on the back seat as there is not enough room in the boot, so as can be seen Fred, Gladly and Wray were quick to bag the seat, and Babar stood on the battery, to give him a better view. Polly and I with our backs to the camera, were content to enjoy the journey with Horatio, Ralph and Craig.

As we pulled out of the drive, Gladly asked, "are we going straight there, and if so will you be having lunch in the Brasserie?"

Uncle Brian replied, "not this time, as we have an invitation to Matthew Jardine's the cabinet makers, to see there Christmas exhibition, but that does not open until 12:00.

"That's where Dad got the cabinet for the Wendy Sue bears, to keep them safe", interjected Craig.

"Correct", replied Uncle Brian. "So, we going to have lunch at Cocklakes, just off the A66. There is a cafe and farm shop, as well as a lake, where Rytis, who works in the restaurant at Armathwaite, sometimes goes fishing."

This being the case, our route was via the M6, where the views of the Howgills and other fells was reasonably clear. As we passed by Wray remarked to Ashley, "Dad and STAG have climbed all these Howgill fells, and all those that you will see over to the left as we continue north."

"My", responded Ashley in wonder, "STAG really are truly an intrepid group. I don't think I would ever be brave enough to do that."

At Penrith we turned west on the A66, and made good time, until we were halted at some road works, controlled by temporary traffic lights, as one lane was closed. Some traffic came through in the opposite direction, but then the lights in our direction did not turn green, nor did any more vehicles then come through in the opposite direction. The temporary signals were malfunctioning, and so after a minute or so, with some other vehicles, we went through on red, as otherwise we might never have got to Cocklakes, which was just a short distance past the road works on the left.

As Dad parked, I said, "we have packed a picnic, so we will be fine, while you and Uncle Brian are having lunch."

"OK, Fletcher, enjoy", Dad replied.

"Come on pals, it is dry and not too breezy, so let's go and sit on the jetty by the lake", suggested Polly.

"OK", said Fred rather reluctantly, "provided we can come back and sit in the car, afterwards, if Dad and Uncle Brian have not finished their lunch."

It actually was lovely sitting out, as we munched away at the sandwiches & cakes, with this delightful view across the lake that was mirror smooth, reflecting the backdrop of Great Mell Fell.

"What a nice start to the holiday", said Babar. "Thanks so much, Fletcher, for inviting me along."

Meanwhile Dad and Uncle Brian were in the cafe, that adjoins the farm shop.

We had had warming flasks of tea and coffee with our food, but despite this, we did after a while begin to feel rather chilled, Fred saying, "I think it's time we were going to sit in the warmth of the car."

"OK", I said. My pals hurried off, but I said to Polly, "How about posing on that rock on the verge, for our picture?"

"Sure thing", replied Polly. "Like Dad, I am never camera shy!"

"I'll take the picture", said Craig.

In the previous picture, you might have noted some hens ranging free. They were rather unusual and Craig was able to get a shot of them for us.

Very soon, Dad and Uncle Brian came out and we set off again.

"Did you have a nice picnic?, asked Dad.

"Yes thanks", Ashley replied. "Was the meal nice in the cafe?"

"Lovely. We both had the piping hot and delicious chunky vegetable soup, then Uncle Brian had a ham sandwich, while I had a beef and cheeseburger with salad.

"Huh, typical", grunted Fred.

So the next stop was MJ Cabinet Makers. Dad was recognised and they chatted with Matt and his wife, while having some mulled wine and a mince pie. Then they browsed the wonderful items that were on display, made in locally sourced wood, ranging from coasters, candlesticks, boxes, to wall cupboards, unusual clocks & chairs including rockers. It is all craftsman made and truly beautiful and unique.

From here it was not far to Armathwaite Hall. I went as usual with Dad to check-in, Danni welcoming us. Unsurprisingly it was very busy with lunches and afternoon teas, but nevertheless we were able to exchange pleasantries with a number of the staff. A porter kindly brought up the luggage. Then the rest of my guests came in and settled on the settee in our usual room, overlooking the lawns and Bassenthwaite Lake.

After the journey, we were all, Uncle Brian and Dad included, just happy to rest. I always arrange room service for my guests and later we had a very enjoyable dinner. Tonight Dad and Uncle Brian were eating in the Lake View Restaurant, and they went down and sat initially in the lounge, where Alina brought them their drinks. The hotel was decorated for Christmas, and I intend to include quite a few pictures later in the story, but this in the Lake View Lounge, was just one of the many Christmas trees.

The dinner was quite delicious. One of the desserts was intriguingly described as 'A Tasting of Childhood Memories', prompting them both to have it.

Consisting of small bites of a homemade snickers bar, rice crispie cake, traffic light jelly (strawberry, lemon & lime), ice cream cone, toasted marshmallow, and a lolly pop, it was a work of art! A superb end to the meal.



Today my pals and I were content just to rest in the hotel. This was with the exception of Horatio. He went with Dad and Uncle Brian, to Keswick, the intention being that Dad was to perhaps adopt a new Charlie Bear to be Horatio's best pal. First however they went to the Theatre by the Lake, to attend the presentation of the plays etc., that are to be performed in 2014. These are to be Dancing at Lughnasa in April, then for summer, Rookery Nook, Dracula and Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, with next Christmas, Peter Pan. Later when Dad told me, I made a note to tell Rex and Starbuck, our theatre going hug pals. They were pleased and excited at the prospect of seeing them all, although Rex commented that he would have rather liked the Shakespeare to be an historical play.

Afterwards with Uncle Brian on his scooter, they went to into the town to shop and have some lunch, and then finally to Toy Chest. However when they got there, much to Horatio's dismay, it was closed. A hand written note read 'back in 2 minutes', so they waited patiently and the owner did very soon return, having been to the bank. Being a cold day, Dad insisted that for once Uncle Brian came in to the shop. It was as well he did too, as while Dad was floundering to see one he and Horatio liked, Uncle Brian suddenly said, "how about this one." Well just one look was enough and Dad's heart melted. He was a perfect companion for Horatio and so had to be adopted. He is called Earl, and here he is on the right, with Horatio, relaxing in the Lake View Lounge. We love too how his feet have been sculpted.

That evening Dad and Uncle Brian had dinner in the Brasserie, Marian having reserved their usual table, at which three chairs are placed, the third being for a few of my guests. Earl of course went to be introduced, with his pals Jacques, on the left and Ashley on the right.

Jacques, is one of the Armathwaite Spa bears, who was given to Dad by Arturas on a previous visit in 2012. This was because he was forlornly sitting on a shelf in the Brasserie, not being able to be adopted properly, as he had a defective nose. Now thanks to Dad's bear making friend Aunt Wendy, he has had an operation to give him a new nose, which he naturally wanted to show off. Aunt Wendy also gave him duck, which when touched flashes in all different colours.

We all like watching the TV series about Eddie Stobart, and through this Uncle Brian suggested that Dad adopt one of their bears (what with this and finding Earl today, we think that Uncle Brian must be going soft, as Dad is not supposed to be adding to the Hug, but here is Uncle Brian encouraging him!). Some of the Stobart drivers have become real personalities as a result of the programme, one being tramper Ashley Maddocks, known as the Welsh Wizard. So when our new pal arrived Dad decided that he would be named after him.

A lovely meal was enjoyed, the dessert being Dad's favourite, Bramley apple crumble with sauce Anglaise. Yummy!!

A lovely relaxed evening, with Marian and Nicky being able to chat at times, as well as Marian's fiancee Alina, when she called in on the way home. Just before leaving Dad took this shot of some of the Christmas decorations here.



Another chilling out day, with Polly and I keeping Dad and Uncle Brian company in the Lake View Lounge. In the morning Dad went for a relaxing body massage, then we all had a nice snack lunch.

I then asked, "Dad it would be nice if we could get few pictures of the Christmas decorations, in this part of the hotel."

"That's no problem, Fletcher. Just let me go and get the camera, and then you and Polly can come along and tell me what you want to take."

We start in the Lake View Lounge. Yes there was a picture earlier, but there are not one but two large Christmas trees here, this being the other one.

Here the mirror is decorated, with the table in front of the fire set of afternoon tea. To the left the open door through to the cocktail, shows another brightly lit tree.

And next the panelled hall, viewed from the main staircase to the bedrooms.

Up the stairs on the landing yet another tree and reindeer figure, stands in front of the large window.

Late afternoon, we all returned to the room to rest, and Polly and I settled again on the settee with our guests. Living with Dad, is truly Bear Heaven!

While we as usual had room service for our dinner, Dad and Uncle Brian ate in the Lake View Restaurant once again tonight, getting as usual their favourite table in the right hand corner by the window. A delicious and leisurely dinner followed, and here are some of the dishes that were served.

Dad's starter - Goats Cheese Roulade Rolled in Savoury Crumb, Tomato Relish & Apple Sorbet...

Uncle Brian's main course - Parmesan Gnocchi, Butternut Squash, Grilled Courgettes, Toasted Pine nuts...

And lastly, Dad's main course - Confit of Salmon, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Red Wine Reduction, Watercress Salad...

This is what I and a number of my guests had that evening too, and we can tell you that it was every but as good as it looks!



"What are the plans for today?", I asked Dad, after they had returned from breakfast.

"Uncle Brian and I are just going to relax in the Lake View Lounge. I will be taking my computer with a view to making some more progress with one of STAG's adventures, while Uncle Brian is reading."

"Sounds like it will be more of a relaxing time for Uncle Brian", I replied.

"Can Wray and I come down and sit with you?", asked Southey.

"Sure lad. Anyone else want to come too?"

Fred replied, "no thanks. Fletcher has borrowed some of the board games that are available, and we are going to amuse ourselves playing them."

"Have fun", replied Uncle Brian.

So the morning was whiled away, and prior to going to the Brasserie for lunch, Dad brought the technology to the room.

Seeing that Southey and Wray had not returned, Jacques piped up, "can Ashley and I go along with our pals too."

"Of course", Dad replied.

They were welcomed in the Brasserie by Johnny, and my pals settled on the chair provided for them at the usual table.

l-r - Ashley with Jacques, Wray & Southey

Seeing us, Johnny was prompted to say, "where is the giraffe?"

Our giraffe pal is called Gerry, and is quite tall, which has caused Uncle Brian to forbid Dad to allow him to be one of my guests. However he is now out voted, as a result of Johnny's request, and he will definitely be coming along, when we come to stay at the beginning of March next year!

A nice snack lunch was enjoyed, with Johnny being kept busy with customers. After a while Sunshine, Johnny's fiancee, came on duty. Just so lovely to see her, and quite a lot of chat ensued. My pals were fussed, Ashley being commented on especially, as they had not seen him before. Jacques too was keen to show off his new nose to her and Johnny.

Returning to the room, Dad said, "I feel like getting some fresh air, so does anyone want to come for a walk round the grounds."

"Yes please", cried Jacques and Ashley."

"Us too", chimed up Wray, Southey and Babar."

"I'll narrate this part, if you like", called out Jacques.

"Fine, pal", I replied.

So off we went, leaving Uncle Brian, at the time, busy ironing his hankies.

"Which way are we going?", asked Jacques.

"Out the front door, then round to the terrace and along towards the spa, "Dad replied.

Turning right after a while, Ashley said, "I like those statues of deer. Let's sit on one and have our picture taken."

Strolling on, it was right at the junction bringing us to the lawns, bordered by trees and bushes, some still having leaves in autumn colours.

"Right lads, it's across the lawns now", instructed Dad.

They were very wet, so it was wet paws all round too. Well that was apart from Wray, who had hitched a ride on Babar's back!

We soon dried out, as the path through the woods was strewn with the leaves that had fallen from the trees.

"It is lovely through here", remarked Ashley. "I'm so glad I came to explore."

Coming round a corner, he then said, "whatever is that structure, with the seat and tall roof?"

"Once a long time ago there was an equestrian event here, and this was one of the jumps. Now the seat makes a great place to have our picture taken", and this time I took the opportunity to sit on Babar's back.

This done, Dad said, "we'll go through the gate and down to the pond, then along beside it to the track and head back to the hotel.

As we crossed the car park, Southey called out, "there are the alpacas, on the other side of the field. I wish they would come over here, so we could see them better and Dad could get some pictures."

It was beginning to get dark, so we were quite glad to be heading back to the warmth and comfort, but before we did, I said, "how about taking a picture of the illuminated reindeer, as they are shining out brightly?"

So, with the light failing my pals and I hurried along the drive and came into the hotel via the spa entrance. To get to our room we had to pass the Brasserie. Sunshine was still there, so we went in with Dad for a chat, and our pal Babar got introduced, as she had not met him before. She thought he was lovely. Then it was back to the room to relate our adventure to Fletcher, Polly and our other pals.

"I've had a great time, Fletcher", enthused Babar, "thank you so much, once again, for letting me come to stay."

"You are welcome. Back to me I guess Jacques, to me to narrate the tale."

It was time for my intrepid pals to rest now, as well as Dad, who slept for a while prior to him and Uncle Brian going for dinner in the Brasserie.

Babar asked, "can I come along Dad?"

"Sure lad", he replied. "I am taking Earl and Horatio too, as Sunshine has not met Earl before."

Welcomed once again, Dad and Uncle Brian settled at the usual table, and with the extra chair for our pals of course. Earl and Horatio settled in the chair, and after they had posed for their picture, were joined by Babar. Sunshine really admired Earl, saying "what a wonderful expression he has."

Later Babar, not wanting to be left out, sat on the table to pose for his picture.

Of course a lovely meal was had. Uncle Brian enjoying the fish and chips, homemade mushy peas, tartare sauce, and hand cut chips. Dad had the slow cooked Goosnargh duck leg, with kale, roasted plums and creamed potato. Then they both had dessert, the Bramley apple crumble with sauce Anglaise, Dad's favourite! The meal was rounded off with coffee for Uncle Brian and Assam tea for Dad. By now most of the other diners had left, so there was the opportunity to have plenty of chat with Sunshine and Johnny. A delightful evening, and just before they said good night, Dad took another shot of some of the Christmas decorations.



This morning we woke up to lashing rain and gale force winds, as evidenced by the complete lack of a view of the fells from the bedroom window.

The severe weather persisted for most of the day, and such was the strength of the wind that a tree was brought down in the woods that my pals had walked through just yesterday. A notice was put up a reception to warn guests not to venture into the woods.

So it was a day to just stay in and keep warm. Dad and Uncle Brian were in the Lake View Lounge in the morning, Craig and Ralph going with them, as they did when lunch was had in the Brasserie, where they got fussed by Sunshine, who was working with Johnny and Marian.

This was the last day of the holiday, and Dad and Uncle Brian ate in the Lake View Restaurant, but not before we had all posed of the usual holiday group photograph.

top - Wray, Horatio, Earl, Babar, Southey & Ashley
bottom - Craig, Ralph, Fred, Jacques, Gladly, Fletcher & Polly



A much better day, dry with sunny periods. We were glad about this, and especially for Dad who had to make a few trips to take all the luggage to the car, prior to departing.

After taking the last of the luggage, Dad said, "Fletcher, it's time to get your guests settled in the car."

"OK", I replied, leading them out of the door.

As got to the car park, Southey called out, "look the alpacas are near the fence, let's go and have a look."

Dad had come too and he grabbed the camera to get some shots. First a general group...

And closer of some of this group...

"Aww", cried Fred, "Don't they just have such lovely sweet faces."

Attracted by seeing us and other guests taking pictures, some wandered right up to the fence, and the tallest poked his head through. He is called Duncan.

Immediately after taking this, Dad switched his attention to taking another. However Duncan still wanted Dad's attention, and so nuzzled away gently as his arm.

Dad obliged, by going through the fence gate, and taking this...

And a close-up profile of his head...

"Wow, what a wonderful way to round off our holiday", exclaimed Ashley. "We are certainly very lucky to be invited to stay here. Thanks Fletcher & Polly on behalf of us all."

"You are most welcome."

"We are not leaving for a little while, but you will have to sit in the car until we do. That is except you and Polly, as you always come to check out", said Dad.

So Polly and I sat in the Lake View Lounge, for a while, with Dad and Uncle Brian. Soon then it was time to check out, and Aunt Lorraine did this for us. It was sad for me, as Aunt Lorraine had been the first person I had got friendly with, but I would not see her again as she is leaving to work elsewhere. I said a slightly tearful goodbye and waved my paw as we left.

We called again at Cocklakes, where Dad and Uncle Brian had lunch while we had our picnic sitting in the car, as today it was rather too cold to sit by the lake. Then after stocking up on meats etc, it was homeward bound, at the end of another wonderful time at Armathwaite Hall. And the good thing is that the booking has already been made for the next visit in early March. Can't wait!!

Love and Hugs
Fletcher xx




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