So here we are - Thursday morning and it's dark as we load the car, gradually the mizzle retreats and by the time it is 9am we are set up.  The regulars are already sweeping the market - looking for the same bargains we turned down last week, and they move around the stalls with speed and determined deliberation.

Today I have secured the same space as I have used for the last three weeks - it seems to work for me and I'm getting to know fellow traders who are regulars and always here.  Which brings me to the next big decision - whether to go for a fixed and permanent market stall?

One gazebo was up, the second had arrived, as Friends of Spital Cemetery gathered and slowly and steadily more and more people arrived  and kept arriving.

This was our Remembrance Service - Spital-style to remember those who fought, died, survived and went through the trauma of war and conflict at home and abroad.

The question every market trader dare not ask: will it rain? And this morning (whilst still dark) it was clear and almost warm. As we loaded the car to go to market the spitting mizzle started and by the time we had set up and prepare for the downpour - the clouds had passed and it was back to being nice again.

So whoever brought the threat of rain with them appears to have gone home and taken it back with them.  This is good.

Today is a big day in the world that is Chesterfield Market - there is a 1940's theme complete with vintage cars, numerous people in costume and appropriate dress and of course a full parked up replica Spitfire.  It's fair to say that the day is a real triumph.

The number of Stallholders is massively up and the foot-fall feels hugely increased with people - what is also clear is that people are not just Chessie folks, though they are here aplenty, but people have come  from further afield.

Not sure I thought this is what I would be writing about today - but here I am on Chesterfield Market as a stall holder.  It a mixture of bric a brac, books and political emphera with a bit of promo for a local campaign I'm working on to bring home to the town some medals from a Derbyshire solder of World War One.

But the bit that is most fascinating for me was my own nervousness and the opportunities for learning, trading and of course the ever-fascinating people watching.

Okay okay I confess, I keep things, I hoard, I treasure and value things.  The extent of this is that since I was hooked to the game of Ice Hockey I have kept all of my programmes.

And yet right now I am sitting here in my front room with a signed Streatham Ice Hockey stick that has been taped with the Rainbow Tape that is supportive of the LGBTI community in sport.  I can't deny I'm slightly stunned by this - sport is not my forte, but advocacy is.  But due to one of my best mates, Edmund Heywood, I find myself passionate about a sport and indeed a sports team.  Since we went to the first match together, I have found myself rescheduling travel, indeed cancelling other activities, to be in Streatham, at the Ice Rink, cheering, screaming and shouting my Hockey team on.

This was all enough for me until it was suggested that the team, like others have in North America, take up the cause of Pride Tape.  Now Pride Tape is a simple device, built on the tradition of taping your stick before the match with a grip you prefer, but in this instance the Tape is in rainbow colours.

And so when the team skate out onto the ice - they do so to cheers and a throaty roar of support, but this week was different for me. First my bestie and I had done some work generating friends and family to attend and so we had some mates around, second was we had encouraged representatives from local public sector groups and LGBTI groups and third as the team swept out I was stunned.

My voice went dry, my eyes welled up and I my heart soared - there was my team.  Only this time it was my team through and through - Captain Adam Wood had lead the way and his stick was awash with tape and all others had followed suit.  

This week the team were mine to my core - this was a symbolic gesture that reached out beyond the team skills and into the teams attitude, their approach and their own value of their fans.  I was a fan who saw their messaging of rainbow tape and I felt valued beyond that I have ever felt in a sport. 

So Streatham, Adam Wood, Jeremy Cornish, the team, Carrsy I want to say thank you - it was symbolic and it was powerful and all those we had bought to see the match they loved it too.  But sly credit above all goes to team rock and drummer extraordinaire Dawn - it was only in the third period we saw her drumstick fully taped up - and I nudged my best mate Eddie and turning back to the game we cheered louder.

And for the rest of season and ongoing I will be encouraging, teasing, temping and dragging other LGBTI friends to come and see the team that has captured my imagination in the hope and aim that it will capture theirs.

It's a treat - a good old fashioned genuine medieval castle without the ruinous charm of Cromwellian destruction - this is a high rock outcrop with a superb surviving keep and a great defensive bailey. It sits above the Derbyshire village of Castleton (which boasts several worthwhile pubs and a new visitor centre), but more than anything else it sits atop Cavedale.

Now this week just gone in a determined sense of purpose we went a walked Cavedale itself.  A small narrow path through a deep sharp ravine it was one of the most interesting, invigorating and memorable walks I have done.  The rain was attempted to loose itself upon us as we started, the stones splashed bright with the waters of the night before. As we strode nervously forwards on the wetted and rounded stones, umbrellas in hand to act as walking sticks and supports, the waters of previous days rolled down under our feet.  In gentle terms we felt and commented that it was like climbing a waterfall ourselves.

#Derbyshire

It was not the most obvious weather - a gentle mizzle - but we resolved to walk regardless.  Indeed we have resolved to consciously get out of the house and walk and explore and discover and appreciate.  We don't know rural Derbyshire well and this summer has been a great revelation - heathers, rocks, scapes, walks, climbs, trees and waters that have been unappreciated by us.  The last few weeks and months have started our new education.

#Derbyshire

One of our interests are canals - in varying forms. Living on a canal is a treat and experience all of its own, a canal boat holiday is a relaxation rarely matched for speed and solitude, canal tow paths provide escape and retreat on foot and by bicycle and the associated fauna fills most crumble bowls for a weekend feast.

 But in all these forms - we find ourselves drawn to the inland waterways.  Their flat directive quality roots back to the period when Britain moved from a rural agrarian economy to a revolution to fuel an Empire - but they reflect a link with that past - pre-rail and roads and before noise and smoke dominated the sky-line.

#Derbyshire

It was vague and gently unplanned, but we found ourselves as hoped at Monsal Head overlooking the deep valley. The depth of the beauty matching the rise and fall of the valley sides - broad and welcoming at the basin, high sharp and deceptive at the top.

This was a place of views, of appreciation and of exploration. Tracing the slender path down from the head down to the feet where the water ran, past the tunnel, across the aqueduct, down the escarpment where the hawthorn grew wild freely and aplenty. Who knew, who knew indeed that fresh grown wooded green came in so many colours. As the clouds passed over and the shadows briefly bathed the trees so the health of this haven was evident and glorious.

#Derbyshire

So having parked, we walked a few yards, crossed the busy road and climbing over a short stile dived down into the wooded yonder. At first we had a steep stoned stepped descent towards a fast flowing stream - a small newly repaired bridge allowed access and then a steady upwards rise from the small valley.

The rock path hinted at the rock escarpment we were enjoying but the low close trees prevented us from seeing the view at first. Our legs were gently stroked with every pace by the fronds of the palm like leaves - but besides us as we walked also the strong purple thistles we have come to know well.

I travel, I like travel, I have become a pretty good traveller. So much so, I. My own mind, that I have developed a dislike of tourism - I prefer the real, the raw, the natural - not just of nature but of people, lives and the built and developed environment.  I find the ancient history of Greece or Rome as vital and gripping as the modern emergence of Tel Aviv, Dubai and more.

Yet here I am in a seaside town - perhaps the illustration of what I might not like and I find myself charmed and enchanted by it.

The simplicity of a beach that is variously hot sand, wet pebbles, raining and misty through to burning and scorching.  A sweeping bay of guesthouses and bed and breakfasts that are punctuated by pubs, ice cream stores and chip shops.  A pier that feels past its prime and hosts a pub, a pizza house and of course a snooker hall.  A soaring cliff edge with a vinicular railway, a war memorial topped by winged victory set on the edge of a rugged medieval castle.

So yesterday, 1st July 2017, on the 1900th anniversary of the commencement of Hadrian's Wall I travelled to Carlisle to see a special Turma: a modern reenactment of a Roman cavalry troop practising for war and conflict.

The event was magnificently supported by the Ermine Street Guard - the UK's premier Roman reenactment society and sticklers for historical accuracy.  Anything of which Prof Simon James of Leicester University is the President, and before him the late Peter Connolly, could not be anything else: accurate and tested.

This morning an era truly ended.  I walked out of my flat in Douglas Court, Quex Road, London, NW6 and I pulled the door shut.  For the last time.  It was one of the most truly fightening things I have done.  It has been our rock, our castle, our retreat - safe space and great fun.  But times change and we move on.

 
But out of that flat and apartment we have married, we have hosted a party or two, forged friendships, cried and laughed.  In that time I have lost elections, won elections, travelled far far abroad - often further than either of us every imagined.