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An idiots guide to Kayaking

Day 1 – The Start
We awoke early this morning at the  Well Cottage, Ewen, Gloucestershire which is owned by Bridget and Neil Pass.  Bridget and Neil donated the nights stay at the cottage to help us out for the challenge after seeing it on Surprise Surprise.  Not only were the beds at the cottage some of the most comfortable we have ever slept in (or attempted to sleep in thanks to Isabella’s grandad Jon snoring) Bridget and Neil made us feel like family the whole time we were there.  Topped off by the fact we received our first donation of the day from Bridget and Neil’s very generous grandson Milo.
After loading our stuff into the van (generously donated by Rates Ford) we soon arrived at our start point in Cricklade.
At this point myself and Nick we full of beans (literally from our cooked breakfast) and raring to go.  And so the days kayaking begun.
We had been on the river a matter of minutes when we passed the first swan of the day.  He struck me as a simple chap and merely decided to play chicken with us in the water.  Unfortunately for him when it came to being simple he had more then met his match in me and Nick and needless to say he blinked first.
We started the day in very fast flowing water. You would think this would have made things easier for us but the swirling water was pushing us all over the place but mainly into all the trees that had collapsed into the water.
The trees in fact became a slight problem as I went to go between one only to end up as a seesaw sitting on a log and stuck!
After getting over the hurdle we carried on in the fast flowing water.  By this point we had come cross abot ten more swans that were nesting on the banks of the river.  Now swans are not known for being thy friendly anyway but if you try to get in one of their nests for a rest you will soon know about it.

One swan in particular went into attack mode and chased me and nick along the river.  Fearing for our lives we missed the warning being given to is from Jon who had stopped to take pictures of us.
If the swan had not been chasing us we would have heard him say “don’t go round the corner as the water is really fast an there is a massive tree blocking the way”.
As Nick rounded the corner first he managed to build up enough speed and hit the tree at the right point to bounce himself over and carry on down the river……I managed not to do this.
Becoming stuck in the fast flowing water i was pinned sideways against the tree unable to move.
Nick had no choice but to park up and get out of his kayaking and climb across the tree in an attempt to rescue me.  This is where Nick monkey skill came in handy an he didn’t seem to slow down as he skipped across the fallen tree to my aid.  All the while being filmed by Jon who was hoping he would fall in so we could claim the money from ‘you’ve been framed’.  However Nick refused to jump in the water and I can’t blame him.
We were soon both free and carried on.
The next ten or so miles went fine and we were making good time.  However blisters started forming, skin started disappearing, cramp started setting in and muscle really started to hurt.
As we headed towards our next lock where we were stopping for lunch we came across yet another swan.
The next ten or so miles went fine and we were making good time.  However blisters started forming, skin started disappearing, cramp started setting in and muscle really started to hurt.
As we headed towards our next lock where we were stopping for lunch we came across yet another swan.
This swan saw us coming, turned and slowly swan around the corner.  Myself and Nick laughed saying “he wasnt a very brave one was he?” And we were right but when you have friends who needs to be brave.
As me and Nick followed the swan around the corner we were met by about 50 swans. (Not exaggerated).  We had no choice but to hold our breath, make our peace with God and slowly make our way through the army of swans.  I can only liken the tension felt to a scene from the walking dead where one wrong move would have us eaten alive.  This is why I preyed that the several on lookers sitting in a pub beer garden didnt make any sudden noises to spook the swans.
After surviving our near death experience we also conquered a “canoe pass” around a lock which is basically a small set of rapids and also because our arms were just that tired we could bring ourselves to get out of the kayaks again we went through our first lock.
Not long after this we made it to our end goal in Newbridge, Oxfordshire and the challenge was complete………..what’s that Nick?? “There’s more to go, lots more”!!!!!!! 
To be continued!
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Day 2 – The day after the start
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> We awoke this morning not feeling as bad as we thought we would.  Muscles were stiff and saw but we both still felt in good spirits.
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> We headed down for breakfast and decided that we would go for the lighter/healthier option of porridge today rather then the cooked breakfast we had yesterday.  Jon decided to have the cooked breakfast to show is what we were missing!
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> Soon we were in the water and on our way again. The first five miles were swallowed up fairly quickly especially when we realised we were in a race with two ramblers who were twice our age who were walking the same route as us.
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> We carried on our route and met some little new born lambs who came to the river bank to see what all the noise was about. Luckily none of them fell in so they didnt need rescuing. Lucky for them as we were not sure how we would go about saving them anyway!
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> We continued on our journey and made it to the 11 mile point.  It was here that we received a massive boost at the pub we stopped at for lunch. A nice cold pint! Only joking of course. We were paid a visit from our beautiful wives Christine and Charlie and Nicks little girl Edie.
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> Seeing the girls looking well rested and planning to meet up later for a nice bottle of wine really made me and Nick feel like would could achieve anything!!!
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> Before I get in trouble, that was also a joke as they could not have been more supportive which is shown in the fact the drove 2 hours to come and see us for about 30 minutes before we were back on the water and away.
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> A special thank you to Christine for bringing me some gloves as my hands were in some trouble.
>> After helping us back into the water Jon was heading back to his white van when he bumped into the two ramblers from earlier.  While explaining to them they were now falling behind us in our race on the Thames a goose decided to fly so close to his head that it almost took him off his feet.
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> After leaving the girls and getting back to it, the water decided to change and with it so did our day.  For the next three to four miles the water felt like we were at sea.  Waves pounded the kayaks an pushed us backwards and just keeping upright becomes a struggle.
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> We pushed through and were soon in Oxford.  We negotiated our way through the city and were soon heading out the other side.
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> We had just made it on to a stretch of water about a mile long when about 200 meters in front of me i saw a goose take off and start flying in my direction. I started to panic when the goose was less then 10 meters away from me and had yet to change course as it was about to take me out of the kayak. Certain i was about to be smashed in the head by a goose i lifted my paddle in the air to protect myself. This seemed to do the trick as the goose immediately changed course and flew away. Disaster averted!
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> The last 10 miles of our day became very very hard. Waters changed from choppy to calm at the drop of a hat and our bodies started to really feel the two days on the water.  Annoyingly at this point the lock keepers had disappeared for the day so we had no choice but to climb out of the kayaks every time we came to a lock and walk round. Now our kayaks are light but you would have thought we were trying to lift cars out of the water at this point in the day.
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> Eventually we rounded the last corner of the day and we saw Jon. Never have I been so happy to see my daddy.  Both myself and Riley let out a cheer and with the end in sight we powered to the last lock.
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> Another 30 miles down and due to the poor conditions it was now 19:40 when we were in the water at 08:30.
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> Lets see what tomorrow brings!
Day 3 – The pain goes south!
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> The days are getting harder and the thought of getting back in the water is causing us more emotional pain then physical. That being said, the pain in our shoulders is more physical pain then emotional so it all works out nicely!!!
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> After a healthy breakfast we were back in the water and on our way.
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> We are finding it more and more difficult to find things to write about because our days are long and most of the time we are on massive open stretches of water with nothing in sight other then a couple of swans or geese.  That being said sometimes a couple of geese are all you need for a nice story.
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> While approaching a lock today myself and Nick saw mummy and daddy goose with some of their little babies on the side of a bank. They looked a little distressed (that’s right we have seen so many geese in the last few days we can tell when they are upset). On inspection of the river we saw three baby geese had fallen into the water and were trying to jump back out.  Thinking they would be able to manage it and not wanting to lose our place at the lock we moved into the queue of boats.
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> As one of the boats in front of us was so big it took up most of the lock we had to wait for another turn.
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> As we floated there we noticed that mummy and daddy goose were still by the bank and still looking in the water.
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> Being the brave kind souls we are we headed back to see if everything was alright.
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> As we got back to the bank we could see two of the babies were still in the water and looked to be struggling.
>We decided that we would help them out.
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> Now, if you have ever been near a goose that is protecting its babies you will know this is a scary thing.  The goose gets so mad that it thinks that its an angry cat and hisses at you.
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> So with mummy and daddy goose hissing at us we moved slowly closer to the babies.
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> As we got in range we slid out our paddles and managed to get the ends under each of the babies who just gave up moving and sat on them.  We then lifted the paddles to the top of the bank and the babies jumped off and joined their families.
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> Believing we had made a slight difference in the human goose co habitation of the planet that little bit better we waved at the family of geese who promptly hissed back at us and waddled away.  That’s gratitude for you!!!
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> The rest of the day was fairly uneventful apart from every painful stroke reminding us we were indeed completing a challenge.
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> Soon we cross by a sign for Reading and our hearts were up lifted as we knew we were slightly passed half way.
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> As for the update on the pain our bodies are going through, as well as necks, shoulders, arms and hands the pain has now spread to our coccyx and lower backs due to the time we have spent sitting in the kayaks.
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> Maybe our next fundraising event will be to put us back together!!!! 🙂
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> See you tomorrow.
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Day 4 – “knock knock” “who’s there”? “THE WIND”!!!!!!
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> The penultimate day (apart from a few miles to finish off on Saturday) was finally upon us.
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> Just to cause ourselves a little more pain we got up at just gone 06:00 to make sure we could have breakfast and be in the water for an 08:00 start.
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> After eating a questionable cheese and ham toastie we were on our way and we thought the weather was beautiful. And at the start it was!
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> Even though it was the fourth day we ate up the first six or seven miles very quickly. We soon arrived at Marsh lock where we were met by a special guest.
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> Great Britain’s kayaking Olympic gold medalist Mr Ed Mckeever came along to give his support to myself and Nick.  This in itself was special enough however we then found out Ed had taken time out to come and see us between his training sessions for the World Championships in Germany which take place next week. We can’t thank Ed enough for showing us the support he has and we wish him the best of luck next week.
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> After having a chat and multiple pictures with Ed we were back in the water. Ed did mention we had a long straight coming up but we still didnt realise what was about to come.
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> We were now passing through Henley. This was lovely until we hit a part of the water known as the ‘Henley Straight’. Apparently this is where boat races are held.
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> As we entered the The wind caused waves to come crashing at us.some coming over the front of the kayaks. We paddled as hard as we could but seemed to make little progress.  It didnt help that we could see all the way to the end of the straight which must have been over a mile long and the end didnt seem to be getting closer.
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> I can only liken it to walking home after a few beers with the boys. For ever one step forward we took we were blown back two.
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> Eventually we made it to the end of the straight and passed through another lock. We thought at this point the wind had given up but we were mistaken.it stayed with us for the rest of the day making paddling conditions not the most enjoyable
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> Being persistent as we are we continued on the journey. It was not long before we passed the 100 mile mark.
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> We wanted to get a picture of this moment so we decided that after passing under the bridge that marked 100 miles, we would move over to the side to get a nice shot.
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> As we paddled over to a little beach area, we built up speed so we could get as far as possible on to the beach so we didnt get wet feet getting out.
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> Moving at a fair speed and the beach approaching fast i became aware of some rather large rocks just uUnfortunately I became aware of these rocks a little too late and much like the Titanic hitting the iceberg I hit the rocks and once again became a seesaw rocking back and forth out the water. To make thing more unfortunate Nick was still unaware of the rock as he shot passed next to me and also crashed on the rocks. To add to his pain, i had put my paddle out to stop him thinking I would be helpful however this just smashed him in the face hurting him further.
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> We were soon out of the water and checking on our kayaks and I am happy to say they are both fine and we can continue our journey tomorrow.
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> Even with the wind and waves against us myself and Nick made a brilliant time on today’s run. Often Jon had to park a mile away from the locks and by the time he had walked/jogged to see us he arrived just as we were paddling out of sight having past through. At least we are keeping our driver fit as well!
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> We will keep you posted on our last full day of kayaking.
Day 5 – Day of the plagues.
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> Our last full day of kayaking was finally upon us.  Once again we were up just after six, packed and moved to the dining room for breakfast.
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> Jon ordered his usual, I ordered scramble egg on toast and Nick just wanted some toast on its own.
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> Soon the breakfasts were delivered. When my scrambled egg and toast was put in front of me i looked down to see that my toast had been made into the shape of two bunnies. I was some what confused by this but assumed it was just the way they did their breakfasts.
> That was until the woman next to me ordered the same thing as me.  When I saw it put down in front of her, her toast was normal.  I like to think that I just look so youthful that they thought i was young enough to enjoy the bunny toast…….and I did.
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> While enjoying my breakfast i noticed Nick slipped away from the table without eating anything. When he returned he told us that he was not feeling very well and had a feeling he had food poisoning.
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> Regardless of Nicks feelings we were soon in the water to start our journey.(to be fair i told Nick several times to go sit in the van for a bit but he was adamant “we started this together so we will finish it”
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> As we started paddling down the river with Nick battling his plague we were soon met by another.
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> we soon realised that there were about two million little flys all over the river.these flys stayed with us for about five miles. I believe that Nick ate about ten of these flys in a short period of time making me think the real reason he didnt have breakfast was not illness but he didnt want to fill up before he ate his flys!
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> The rest of the morning went smoothly with us keeping a steady pace because of poor Nick.
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> We were very lucky to get another visit from our kayaking Olympic gold medalist Ed Mckeever.  It was once again a nice boost to see Ed and have a chat.  With our spirits raised (and some paracetamol Ed found in his pocket helping my muscles) we continued on.
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> Just before stopping for lunch we rounded the corner and saw a young couple in a little boat looking like they were stuck.  We paddled over and they told us they had run aground. Being the generous kayakers we are we attempted to get them free by rocking the boat back and forth however this did nothing other then probably making them a little more stuck.  Obviously rocking the boat was not working to well so we came up with another plan.  Facing our kayaks at the side of the boat we both paddled in and attempt to push the boat off the rock and to safety. This seemed like a promising idea at the time but thinking back trying to push a boat that weighed 100x both of our kayaks with me and Nick in them and using arms that we were lucky could only just move us through the water we clearly got no where.  Out of life saving ideas we did what any good Heros would do. We apologised and then sat on the river bank 10 feet away eating lunch and watching them struggle until a little boat came past and saved them properly.
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> After lunch we were both feeling good. Nick’s illness seemed to have cleared up and we were full of energy from our food. That was until we got back in the water.
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> For some reason feeling good and full of energy only lasted a couple of miles. After that every stroke in the water was causing us both pain pretty much all over our bodies. I think it was safe to say that the five days of consistent paddling had taken their toll.
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> After a couple of hours of agony we arrived at the last lock of the day. Our heart were filled with joy “we did” we sang “we made it to the end of the day”. We even summoned up enough energy to raise our paddles high out of the water and high five using them.
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> As we sat over to the side of the lock we wanted for Jon to come and do his usual of dragging our lifeless bodies from the kayaks, throwing us all in a van an driving us to our home for the night………however, he did not appear.
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> After ten minutes of waiting i called Jon on his mobile. “Where are you”? I mumbled. “I’m at the lock. Where are you”? Jon replied. “We are at the lock”. “Not the right one” Jon said in a tone like he was breaking really bad new to someone “you still have three miles to go”.
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> I hung up the phone and Nick could see the look on my face was pain and anguish. “We are not at the right one, are we”? Nick asked “no” I replied.
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> Immediately regretting using our last bit of energy to raise our paddles for that high five we paddled through what were the hardest three miles of the whole journey.  Physically and mentally drained we made it to the end and were soon on our way for our nights rest.
Just ten miles to go and we are done.
Day 6 – The end is nigh.
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> As it was our last day and we only had eight miles to go we managed to have an extra couple of hours in bed.  Unfortunately this meant another couple of hours cuddling up to Nick!
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> Bodies aching we were driven by the fact that in a matter of hours the challenge would be complete and for the first time in a week i would get to see Isabella.
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> Finishing at The Anglers pub at Teddington lock we were under strict instructions from the wives to arrive at 12:30.  Unfortunately through our excitement of finishing and our adrenaline pumping we we cracking through the miles and after passing under a bridge one mile away from Teddington lock we were ahead of schedule.  We had no choice but to pull over to the side of the river and just float there for some time.
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> After being passed three or four times by some
> Drunk students in a speed boat we decided that we should probably leave the danger zone and head for home.
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> In very little time we had sight of our last lock.  Tired emotionally and physically Teddington lock was a thing of beauty.
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> A friendly old lock keeper opened the lock as we approached and we entered the last lock how we had started the challenge just the two of us.
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> While waiting for the lock to empty we high fived with our paddles one last time and congratulated each other as the challenge was basically complete.
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> After leaving the lock we turned left and headed towards the pub where Christine and Charlie had said they would meet us.
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> The girls obviously wanted to punish us one last time so they had chose the pub that was next to the weir meaning we had to paddle extremely hard into fast flowing waters.
This task however was made easier for us as we looked up at a bridge over the river and it was filled with family an friends cheering us on.  What an amazing sight.
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> When getting out at the pub Christine an Charlie had turned the beer garden into a celebration for us.  The only thing that made us happier was the fact that we no longer had to kayak miles in a day and we were finally back with the wives and kids.
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> Having that first cuddle with Isabella after finishing reminded me why we were doing the challenge in the first place.  I also took the opportunity to remind Isabella that it will be her doing all the hard work come September.
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> The rest of the afternoon was filled with lots of hugs and stories about our journey with our families and friends who had travelled from far and wide to see us.  Once again Mr Ed Mckeever came to see us and presented us with Team GB shirts which he signed.  Again we cannot thank him enough for his support.
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> I also have to make mention of a special cake made by Christine, Charlie and Charlie’s mum.  It looked amazing even if I did break part of it!!!
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> And that was that…………..for now anyway!!!!!!
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> Thanks for all your support.
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