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Monthly Review: February 2024

Submitted by Bethany on Thu, 02/29/2024 - 10:00

At the beginning of February, we decided to resurrect our “Frolic Fridays” - when we use my day off to go something fun in the area. We had the idea last summer when we were traveling with Steve and we did them all together for a while, then time and life and work intervened. As my work begins to ramp up again, I was inspired to really try and make the most of my days off rather than just lolling about on the couch.

So, for our first adventure this month, we went to the Big Pit! There is a bit of story here - Steve and I have wanted to go to the Big Pit since we all moved to the area in 2020. Then, in 2021, I was invited to go with a work group, so I went without Joel and Steve. They then held that over my head for years! I was going to surprise them with a trip later this year, but Steve ended up making plans with another group of his this month. So, Joel and I went together and now we have all been to the Big Pit. 

What is the Big Pit, you ask? Why, it’s a National Coal Museum! It is actually still classified as a working coal mine, and was a true working coal mine into the 1980’s. Due to safety restrictions, you aren’t allowed to take any electronics (including phones, cameras, watches, etc) underground so you can’t take any photos. You get all dolled up with a helmet (thank goodness cuz I hit my head on the ceiling once) and headlamp (otherwise it is pitch black!) then you descend in the elevator and get a guided tour. Our guide this time even gave us a chunk of coal he scraped from the wall - he reminded us that it hadn’t seen sunlight in over 300 million years! 

The next Friday was less exciting, but still fun. We drove East towards Lydney and stopped at a burger van we have passed many times and always say “hey, we should stop there sometime.” So this time, we did! We ordered a full breakfast sandwich (basically a Full English on bread) and a Wild Boar burger. Both were delicious and we will hopefully be back, maybe on a day when the weather is nicer for eating outside.

Then we stopped in at Taurus Crafts to buy some more earrings from Rainbow Glass - I’m aiming for a full rainbow collection! After that, the adventuring was a bit of a fail. We had planned to visit the nearby St. Briavel’s Castle, but when we got there we learned it was closed until April 1st. Whoops! So then we decided to cut our losses and go visit the mobile phone stores to sort out some things with my contract and see about getting Joel a new phone. But they were busy and we didn’t feel like waiting…so we ended up just going home. Exciting stuff, I know! For dinner we decided to order Chinese food to celebrate the Chinese new year which would begin the next day. The year of the dragon feels especially good living in Wales!

Then it was Superbowl Sunday! Usually, Steve comes to watch the game with us, but this year he just came for pre-game festivities as he had an early morning the next day (going to the Big Pit!) I made a seven layer dip and at the last second we sort of half-heartedly decorated it to look like a football field. What do you think, can you see it? The game itself was actually quite exciting with a tie going into overtime - though I just baaarely made it to the end as that was 4am our time! 

Tuesday the 13th was Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras or “Pancake Day” as they like to call it over here. The grocery stores lean hard into promoting pancake day although I get the feeling most people don’t really know what it is about! I made American pancakes and you can see I attempted to make one a heart (since the next day was Valentine’s Day) but then I just gave up. They were tasty, though!

Joel and I are pretty chill about Valentine’s Day, so this year we bought a heart-shaped pizza from Asda and stayed home to watch romantic comedies in our cinema room. 

On Friday the 16th we had a big adventure of which I took far too many pictures! Ages ago a church member from Monmouth invited us on a trip on the Severn Valley Railway steam train experience. Chris was gifted this experience as a present for his 70th birthday - he got to help drive the train for part of the trip! We were so excited to go along for the ride. (It was cancelled several times due to unsafe conditions so I think Chris was nearer 72 by the time we got around to going!) Here’s Chris all excited to be in charge of the train. 

It was such a cool experience to ride on a vintage train - at times I felt like I was on the Hogwarts Express! I was just waiting for the trolley lady to come by so I could buy some chocolate frogs…

The views were incredible and we were blessed with a beautifully sunny day. Check out this photo Joel took where he caught the shadow of the train on the field!

When we stopped before the return trip we were able to get a tour of the signal station and climb up on the front of the train. The conductor said when the train is going full speed the fire gets so hot it is pure white and you can’t look directly into it! Right now it was just glowing coals, and of course, the top of it was the perfect place to keep the tea warm. We were grateful for this truly British experience! 

On Friday the 23rd, we frolicked with Steve, road-tripping out to West Wales to Tenby! This place gets heaving with people in the summertime, but for some reason in February the beach wasn’t very busy. Tenby is known for colourful houses and beautiful beaches and even in February it did not disappoint! The houses built into the cliffs are really amazing to see!

From there, Steve wanted to check out the “Church Doors” cliffs which were a short drive away. We had to hike down a lot of stairs and then across some very unstable rocks, but the view was worth it. I didn’t get as close as the guys did as I did not trust myself on slippery surfaces, but it was beautiful nonetheless. 

Here is a panoramic photo Joel took from up close!

While in Tenby, we talked to someone in the gift shop of the RNLI (Royal Navy Lifeboat Institute) who reminded us that some nearby beaches were filming sites for the Harry Potter films. So we headed to Freshwater West beach where Dobby the elf was “buried,” and looked for his grave. People visit here every year to add rocks and socks to the memorial.

This can also go down in history as the day that Steve finally introduced us to Toby Carvery - a mid-level UK chain that serves a Full English breakfast as a buffet and then a full roast dinner as a buffet! That is right up our alley, and I’m embarrassed to admit that this day we ate at Toby Carvery for both breakfast and dinner, lol. I didn’t take any pictures though!

The last week of the month I was absolutely slammed with work as I prepare for four funerals within three days next week. But on the 29th, Leap Day, we got to visit Amy and Ben and their new baby girl! She arrived on the 17th and I couldn’t wait to go snuggle her. So on Thursday, we visited to hold the baby, play games, and I brought loads of food! Amy was so grateful and I was surprised to learn it wasn’t standard in British culture to bring food when visiting a new mom. All the baby snuggles were so worth making some casseroles to bring! 

You can tell we really leaned into making Fridays fun this month, and there wasn’t much to share about mid-week life - just doing my job and chugging along! 

XOXO, Bethany