We’re Off

Friday 17th January and though we weren’t in any particular hurry, excitement, mixed with trepidation woke us up.  Yesterday Alicanté airport had been closed due to a major fire on Wednesday afternoon causing massive disruption and chaos, with aeroplanes ending up everywhere. Apparently our local airport, Murcia, looked like Heathrow with planes parked everywhere.   

Fire at Alicante Airport

Fire at Alicante Airport

And the appointed hour Jim arrived and we went for a Menu Del Dia in the village prior to heading to the airport.  Fortunately Marian and Martin had gone through Alicanté earlier in the day and gave us an update; partially working, much chaos, especially where in the cars drop off area, limited flights, and no air bridges in action, but worst of all the VIP lounges were closed!   We had also checked out Vueling website and our flight was still scheduled for departure.   

Heading off to Alicanté feeling good, Christine was checking the paperwork and suddenly discovered our ESTA’s were out of date, I couldn’t believe it as I knew I’d checked them earlier when we originally booked, I could only offer a pathetic excuse, ie “age” but one starts to wonder!!!   A swift turnaround to collect the laptop so we could apply when in Antigua but, this also meant the extra time we’d built in for any chaos we may encounter at Alicanté had gone.  

Blasting down the motorway, speed limits, what speed limits? We arrived at the airport and to our astonishment the drop off area was virtually empty, good start.   Arriving at the checkin desk, no queue, wonderful.  Oh well so far so good but no doubt Security will “stuff” us, or will they? No, it was a very small queue so we were through very quickly, result.   The transformation from this morning was amazing and we had time to spare.

Good flight watched Downton Abbey

Good flight watched Downton Abbey

Our flight was called and as scheduled we departed virtually on time, our earlier worries were un-founded, well done to the staff and operators of Alicanté airport.

Touching down in the cold and damp UK, we collected up all our bags and headed to the airport hotel for a short night!

Up early and headed straight to the BA check-in desk and after only a few minutes we were checked in and headed straight to the worst part of any airport, security.   What greeted us?  A very long queue you would have expected but no, straight into the Hall and immediately onto the security belt, unbelievable, never been known to man before, what’s happened at Gatwick airport I wonder!   OK breakfast beckoned, so straight to the lounge to sit and eat in comfort!!   We were really surprised how well everything was going, everything seemed to good to be true and of course it was.   At the appropriate time we headed to the gate to board and was greeted upon arrival by an announcement stating there was a “technical issue” with our aeroplane which would cause a delay of at least an hour.    d258af46-18f4-417e-be64-816246a583ff

Whatever the “technical issue” was, it got sorted and we boarded within the hour, good, we’ll done BA but then after we were all seated, he pilot came over the PA telling us there was ice on the wingtips and until it had been de-iced, we weren’t going anywhere, oh dear still a glass of bubbly came round so all was not lost!   Half an hour later and we were in the air, yeah we’re really on our way now.

After a reasonably comfortable flight we touched down in Antigua, our home for the next two and a half months.  Collecting our bags and clearing formalities was a doddle so headed for a taxi.   Here you don’t just go to a taxi rank, you go to a “dispatcher”, tell him your destination, he gives you a piece of paper with the cost on and organises a driver who duly arrived and we loaded.   As we were just about to leave we were stopped and two more couples joined us.   Our fare was US$16, now with three couples the driver was paid US$48, a good amount for half-an-hour’s work!

Small but adequate

Small but adequate

We were greeted at our “cottage” by the owners mother who showed us around and organised her husband to run us up to the local major supermarket where we collected enough provisions to get us over the weekend.   The distance to the supermarket + carrying bags back means we need a car, full stop!

How to describe our cottage; interesting, quaint, rustic, adequate, cosy and just right.   If you remember the Morecambe & Wise show with Andre Previn and the piano scene.  Morecambe was playing the piano badly and when questioned, he told Previn that he was playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order; that scene came straight into my head as we first wandered about the cottage.   It needs a thorough upgrade, but if this was done, we wouldn’t be here as it would join the other rental properties on the island, very expensive!!  

Our first night, though strange with noises of “critters” we were unfamiliar with, was fine, and Sunday was all about sorting ourselves out.  In the afternoon we needed some exercise so walked the mile and a half to Dickinson bay and had a couple of beers, and  reminded ourselves what the white sandy beaches looked like.  Fortunately for us, the hour or so we were in the beach bar the sun was shining, but

Beautiful beaches, sun and Carib what else could we wish for

Beautiful beaches, sun and Carib what else could we wish for

both on the way to the beach, and on the way back, we were drowned by tropical rain showers, it was like being under a hot shower.  On the way back we quickly came to the conclusion we were just too far away from everything so a long term car hire was definitely needed and upon our return set about researching all the possibilities available. 

Tomorrow we can start relaxing and get on with our “ordeal” !!!!!!!!!!!

P.S.   We understand from our friends in Spain that the day after we left, Alicanté airport was closed again; we were very lucky to get into the short open “window”

P.P.S.   We have also missed the Goto Frier currently attacking Spain!

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The Last Leg

Apart from the dismissal display from the drones, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Bruges over the new year, it was a very good decision to go there.

Just a few of the Caves

Just a few of the Caves

Thursday we were up at the crack of dawn as we have an all day drive, just under 1,000Km drive to get to Châteauneuf-du-Pape so we’re waiting for the breakfast restaurant to open, that’s definitely a first for us!   In the mean time we’d loaded the car and settled our account. 

We hit the road at 0800hrs as planned, and headed south-west on a very damp, miserable and overcast day.  To give us any chance of

Lovely narrow streets

Lovely narrow streets

getting to Châteauneuf-du-Pape within a reasonable time we had to use “péage”  as often as possible.   Because Christine couldn’t drive it was down to me so stopped for a couple of coffees occasionally!

We left in darkness and arrived in darkness and with Châteauneuf-du-Pape being an old small village where the streets are extremely narrow,  it was challenging to say the least, especially as our SatNav took us to a small, narrow cul-de-sac as our destination.   A ‘phone call to our lodging for the night was also interesting as the “lady of the house”  didn’t speak English and our “school-boy French” 1a6125eb-99fe-4911-aff0-d430868be4aecouldn’t cope.   I drove to the nearest bar and managed to “persuade” the lady behind the bar to ‘phone the hotel proprietor, tell her where we were, and could she come and get us as nobody in the bar had heard of the place we were staying; scary or what?  By the time I had thanked everybody for their help, this very smart woman turned up and the “three” of us got into the two front seats: the back was chock-o-block.  She directed us back to within a few meters from where we were originally,  so SatNav wasn’t too bad.  Her “hotel” was in this narrow street with zero room for parking so we were directed to the local municipality car park, but was full!  She then showed us some waste ground where other cars were parked, so this was it, we where we parked: not the most secure bearing in mind we had a car full of stuff, and all on show!  We now

B & B

B & B

walked back to her establishment, a private house with one “suite”: obviously this one “suite” supplemented her income.  I would describe our abode for the next two nights as a “Rustic Boutique Hotel”, everything was there including an sitting room, though I use the word “sitting” loosely.   After arrival we ate a couple of rolls we had made at breakfast, in case we got hungry en-route; we then headed back to the bar that had been so helpful earlier as a thank you.

In spite of our surroundings we had a comfortable night and a very nice French breakfast.   Our task today, Friday, was to rest, taste some Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, buy some and have an excellent lunch.   We accomplished all our tasks, though got carried away with what we bought, special “occasion“ bottles that can also be put down.   Whilst at lunch and going through the wine list we noted a label from one of the bottles we purchased several years before and noted the price of 5e54234b-9f5b-4dc2-b5ca-a2a5627eb763€45, ah we thought, we probably only paid about €15, what an investment and decided to order one.  The waitress queered this order and asked if we were serious, why we asked, and she said it was a 1961 vintage and it wasn’t €45, it was €450!  It had been on the list so long, the zero had faded!!!  Wow, what a lucky escape.

We returned to our Rustic Boutique Hotel with every intention of going out again later but just couldn’t be bothered, after all we had completed our tasks and also had been to Châteauneuf-du-Pape before on many occasions.  Our evening went quickly playing crib etc.fae3989f-272a-4316-88dc-74c53fc816da

Saturday morning after a leisurely breakfast we hit the road, today we only have a short hop, 450kms about 5 hours and when we get back into Spain, Christine can drive again😡

We arrived at our hotel, 4kms from the AP-7 early afternoon and immediately went food shopping, tomorrow and Monday are red days, so nothing is open.   We then wandered around looking for somewhere we could eat later.

Early evening we ventured out to a restaurant we had “clocked” earlier and ordered a plate of mixed cooked meats and a plate of grilled vegetables.   When the meal arrived, it looked appetising and we both dived straight into the vegetables as we felt we had been deprived of them; everywhere we went, especially in Bruges, it was chips with everything and we were fed up with them.  Our meal plus a starter, desert and a bottle of very drinkable wine came to €39: this was bliss as previously we never seemed to get out of any restaurant with a bill of less than €110, like-for-like.   This is why we live in Spain.

The hotel we’re in will be very handy on many occasions in the future when travelling by car and for future reference it’s the 

Hotel SB Express:  

Placa de les Corts Catalans, 4a3966270-2bb7-4b35-b45d-5faa121c3a8d

43005 Tarragona”

A modern comfortable hotel on the lines of an Ibis

Being Sunday we had a gentle run home, arriving back to a mountain of post and in time to watch the nail-biting match, Wasps V Saints. Before un-burdening the car, my goodness it needs a valet!!!!!!

p.s.   As we opened the post Christine leapt for joy as her new driving license had arrived😁😁😁

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Bruges

Monday morning, 30th December and our escape from the U.K. started, albeit not quite as early as we intended!  We were very concerned, firstly it’s Monday,  then going on the M25 and followed by the Dartford crossing, three potentially regular hold-ups that we may encounter.  Fortunately traffic was fairly light for a Monday Morning, the M25 was running well, the Dartford crossing was clear so we made excellent time allowing us to stop for a coffee on the M2 services.

Arriving at a very empty Dover, checked in and waited to board a

One of the bars we visited

One of the bars we visited

DFDS truckers ferry to Dunkirk.  Two hours later and after a very smooth crossing we were in France heading to Bruges a about an hour up the road.

Our hotel is right in the centre and driving through the extremely narrow cobbled streets, full of Pedestrians and being attacked by

The square by day

The square by day

hoards of bicycles turned out to be quite a challenge though unknown to us, our biggest challenge was yet to come.  We arrived at the hotel entrance and Christine went to do a recce whilst I stopped the traffic.  Very quickly she came out with instructions as to where the parking area was: behind a brown door back down the road.  Off we went again to circumnavigate the one way system again  arriving back to the hotel and the “brown door”.  Turning in we soon realised that we had no chance of getting through at an angle due to it being so narrow.  So I reversed back out, stopping more traffic, again, and manoeuvred the car so I was facing the entrance at ninety degrees, I then had to bring the wing mirrors in as we squeezed through with a “coat of paint” clearance on both sides; still we were in, and more importantly don’t have a long trek to a public car park; thank the lord Christine booked a space as there are only 6 available.

The square bynight

The square bynight

That evening after wandering around the old Market square that had a large “Christmas market” before we returned to a restaurant close to our hotel that looked very busy and had exactly what we both fancied, copious amounts of mussels.   After a thoroughly enjoyable meal we waddled  back to the hotel for the night.   It’s time we got back onto our diets, this eating nonsense has to stop PDQ!

After a hearty breakfast we headed out to see Bruges in daylight, last night the place was heaving and this morning it’s no different.   Our first task was to do a recce for tonight so headed out to t Zand, a very large modern square just outside the old town where everything is going to kick off around 2230hrs.  Whilst there we had a coffee where we discovered the waitress had lived in Alicanté for 14-years, but had

Our carriage awaits

Our carriage awaits

come back to Belgium to earn sufficient money to buy a property back in Spain: Northern European Wages V Southern Spanish Property prices, good luck to her.   Whilst enjoying our refreshments and as we looked through the window into t Zand we decided we should book a table for the evening to be “on-the-spot”.

After our morning’s excitement we headed back to the Christmas market and take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the old town, this way we get a feel of the place without wearing out one’s shoe leather!   Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for our carriage driven by a very pleasant lady and pulled by a 7941ed6e-5059-469c-a20e-a1f0cb7d4f2dhorse named “Vic”.  Listening to her commentary about Bruges one starts to realise just how much history there is in this city and that it was originally established in the Bronze and Iron Age, though it became established by Julius Caesar in the first century BC.  It has had a very chequered history since then, but today it is a beautiful place to visit with its narrow cobbled streets, 21 churches and numerous hotels.

After a brief “nap” back at the hotel we headed off to the restaurant in t Zand where we had a very pleasant evening though the food wasn’t the best; the menu looked good but let’s be generous, we’ll put it down to the extra burden of New Years Eve.  

  • We were in the square with perhaps another 15/20-thousand other 0aed696f-eaa3-4d34-acf7-2974d371999arevellers all singing along to the band up-front on the big stage waiting for the clock to countdown.  We had also been told that this year because of global warming etc., etc., etc., instead of fireworks they were introducing a display of laser drones as an experiment that if effectual would be the way forward.    Just before midnight 42-blue drones arrived; firstly they formed a square in the sky before they did the countdown to 1200 o’clock, they then changed colours a few times before they
    Prefer fireworks

    Prefer fireworks

    repositioned themselves to light up “2020” in the sky, they then left! 

The atmosphere was great, the singing was “interesting” as they had to have songs in Flemish, Dutch, French, English and German but the drone show was a total damp squid, something drastic needs to change if it is to take off.   

Leaving the square we headed back to the room in time to watch the London fireworks from the Thames embankment, far better, perhaps this is where we need to be next year!

New Year’s Day, and after breakfast we felt a good long walk was called for so headed out to circumnavigate Bruges along 12-km of the canals. 05ff00f5-2a43-45b4-af70-95b98035f76b Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact, making it one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe.  The historic centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.  Amongst the notable sites is the Church of Our Lady whose brick spire reaches a staggering 115-meters making it the world’s second highest brick tower.  There are also 360-steps one can 58d50cc3-9802-41b3-a9e0-1a52d6a6a7cfuse to reach the top and have an amazing view of Bruges, we declined to climb up!  And when up there one can get deafened by the 47-bells ringing out.    This church also claims to hold Michelangelo’s only sculpture of “Madonna and Child” outside Italy

We enjoyed our much needed walk after which a very late (1300hrs) mid-morning coffee was needed!  An hour or so later we fell into an Italian restaurant for a lighter “than recently experienced” lunch

Geoff found the only Irish bar in town

Geoff found the only Irish bar in town

followed by a walk back to our hotel.

Out of all the places we’ve eaten, our first restaurant was the best and we only stumbled upon that by chance though I must say we are surprised by how expensive everything is here; a tourist place

One of the beautiful squares

One of the beautiful squares

though!

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Christmas Period

Friday morning we were away fairly early and arrived at “Oakham Bites”  in good time to enjoy our “long awaited” double bacon baguettes, yummy yummy.  Our drive to the M25 was clear and we made good time which is more than can be said for the rest of the

Fire bowls

Fire bowls

journey.  Oakham to The Dartford Tunnel was a nightmare, bumper to bumper and not helped by the M23 being closed due to flooding.  We eventually got through the tunnels and headed to Woodham Ferries to look at Indian Fire-pits:  we fancy one for our patio but after seeing the size, we had to reconsider as it was far too large to fit in the car due to  everything else we had.  We finally arrived at Jane’s in time for dinner. 

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

Saturday 21st and we headed down to London to meet up with Andrew and his new girlfriend, Holly.     This afternoon we were going to another carol concert, but this time at The royal Albert Hall.  We didn’t have the famous “Alan Titchmarsh” on this occasion, but the compare we did have was very good, and a good time was 1f9d48c6-de42-4423-8c6c-dc51d667a3c1had by one and all.  The Royal Albert Hall is a magnificent venue with acoustics to match.  After the concert we left and after a rather extended taxi ride due to heavy traffic, we arrived at the Chiltern Fire House, a drinking establishment in a converted old London fire station.  The surroundings as we walked in were very

Such a magical place

Such a magical place

opulent,  and the three barmen were all dressed in white dinner jackets; it looked rather expensive!!!!  I ordered 2 Gin and Tonics, a glass of white wine, and a glass of bubbly and expected the worse but wow, I never in my “wildest” did I expect what came; I was presented, “very nicely”, with a bill for £81.65: I won’t be going there again!!!!! 

After drinking the “liquified gold dust” we headed over to Il Baretto, a very nice Italian restaurant just over the road from the Chiltern, here Andrew treated us to some excellent food, especially the fish dishes.

After all our good byes were said we headed back to Liverpool Station and caught the train back to Shenfield and were met by Dave who took us back to Pascals Paddocks.   We are staying with Dave, Jane and Mia for Christmas so are settled now ‘till the 30th December: our travelling in the U.K. will then be complete.

Both Sunday and Monday were taken up with “Mia” duties, washing,

Checking if Santa had left a note, which he had

Checking if Santa had left a note, which he had

ironing, shopping and in between, relaxing.

Great excitement Christmas Eve, and to take her mind off it Mia had her friend Mason over to play all day.   By the end, everyone was anticipating Mia would crash-out as the two of them had charged

Opening presents

Opening presents

around non stop all day; they played both inside and out, never stopping.   After dinner Mia wrote a note to Father Christmas and put it with a mince pie, glass of port and carrots ready for him, hung up her stocking, well a sack! and then we all sat quietly and watched a Christmas film to calm her down.    Guess what, no such chance, she was wide awake at bed time though eventually she did crash-out and then everyone sprang into

Mia getting stuck into her presents

Mia getting stuck into her presents

action to get all the presents around the tree etc.

Christmas morning and the “oldies” were up early impatiently waiting for Mia to wake.  However much noise we made and in-spite of pulling the curtains, she carried

Dave fixing Barrie plane together

Dave fixing Barrie plane together

on sleeping.   During this time Jane had managed to put blankets on, and turn out, several horses “and” still change back into pyjamas and be in bed for the moment Mia arrived towing the sack filled with presents from Santa.  But it didn’t end there, Santa had had also delivered stockings for everyone.  There was great excitement as

Mia on her new skates!

Mia on her new skates!

Dave and Jane with Mia between them on the bed, and Christine, Irene (Dave’s Mum) and yours truly on chairs all opening our presents and eating chocolate: a very happy family moment.

During the morning there was open house at Pascal’s Paddocks, Dave was busy cooking bacon butties for one and all. Jim and Sue then joined the party as we all sat down and opened the presents under the tree though I feel Mia was a 7d4fcc77-9088-471d-93d3-7dc24725c4f1little overwhelmed with so many presents.  This session was followed with Jane and Dave cooking the Christmas dinner whilst the adults figured out how to assemble a number of toys; hard work or what!!!!

The 8 of us sat down to lunch after the queen’s speech and enjoyed a mountain of tender roast lamb with all

Lovely Xmas dinner

Lovely Xmas dinner

the usual Christmas trimmings, followed up with traditional Christmas pudding and washed down with copious amounts of various drinks; alcohol through to water!!!!  

After clearing everything up, games were the order of the day. We were “expected” to play Twister but as we were all feeling

Geoff’s Xmas present

Geoff’s Xmas present

rather bloated, more sedate games were played.  We enjoyed Sevens, then there as a small cribbage school at one end of the table and a memory game going on at the other.  A break was then taken for a quick snack, ha ha  before we resumed; we then all played Mahjong, though it for four players we had some learners so played in teams.

After a wonderful and exhausting day, the party ended and we all hit the sack around midnight.   Thank you Jane and Dave for a great Christmas Day.

A rainy Boxing Day dawned and we were up, but not too early. Today arrangements had been made for a walk around Weald Park with the

Lee’s new toy

Lee’s new toy

dogs and friends, but it ended up with a rush to get out on time in the end.  After a rushed breakfast of chocolate cake everyone went except me, I had elected to stay back, didn’t fancy walking in the rain and mud!!

An excellent lunch today, a “ Beef Wellington” was cooked by Dave and consumed as if we hadn’t had a square meal for the past 6 months, and this was followed by another rich Christmas Pudding; stuffed or what.   

After lunch we all said our goodbyes to Irene who was being driven 4fa28eca-1176-43a5-beec-3909edc1138bhome to Newmarket by Dave, we on the other hand just crashed out in front of the tele and soon followed by an early night, after all we had over engulfed!!!!!

Friday was a “do anything” day, but Jane had been given an “Amazon Alexia” for Christmas.  We all had so much fun shouting an assortment of instructions, which I have to say  ”she coped with admirably”, that we just had to go out in search of one.   Curry’s PC World in Chelmsford had one, so mission accomplished.  After dinner we enjoyed a few games of Marjon.

Saturday morning I was pressed ganged to Harrow and roll the

What it should look like when finished

What it should look like when finished

ménage before we could escape to meet our friends, Lee and Sarah in Chelmsford.  The main object of this visit was to look at the kit car Lee is building which was a 10 minute drive away from their house.   What a car it will be, a mid-engined, 500 + BHP Chevrolet V8 engine driving the a 6-speed gearbox in a space frame chassis with excellent aerodynamics and minimal weight.  This will be an awesome track car, I look forward to seeing the completed machine.   Back at Jane and Dave’s and after dinner we settled down to a few more games of Marjon.

Sunday, our last full day in theUK, and we headed back down to London to meet up with Christine’s son Andrew, but as the railway from Shenfield was out of action due to maintenance we drove to

Twister

Twister

Stratford and then tube to Liverpool Street Station.

Back at Pascals Paddocks we packed up our surplus as tomorrow we are away early.  Today Tyla and Dan came down to go climbing with Dave and when they came back we all enjoyed a great meal and a fun evening before retiring at a reasonable time.

Mia is under there somewhere

Mia is under there somewhere

Tomorrow the “great escape”  takes place, we head to Bruges for 3 days over New Year. 

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Sonning to Clanfield

Leaving Gill and Trevor’s we headed directly to Seaton in Devon, and apart from a short break, made good time arriving mid afternoon

Stonehenge on route

Stonehenge on route

though the A303 past Stonehenge hasn’t changed; slow moving traffic and this was in the middle of winter!!!!  This section of the A303 needs urgent attention, come on Boris, you can do it!!

Seaton

Seaton

We enjoyed a cuppa with Karon, Andy and his son, Matt before Andy and Matt had to leave and return to Yeovil.  

After settling into Churchill’s guest suite, Karon took us to her local curry house where we enjoyed an excellent curry, and

Seaton beach

Seaton beach

being a Sunday evening in winter, and Seaton being a seaside town, we were amazed anything was open.

The following morning we had a drive around this cold, windy seaside town before heading to Clanfield, not too far from Portsmouth where we were house sitting for Jenny and Bill whilst away.  Staying here gave us the opportunity to meet Christine’s sisters and friends, Douglas and Jill who cooked us a very enjoyable breakfast, and Dave and Sue where we were royally entertained; not to mention the more mundane, catching up with the washing and ironing. 

Horse and jockey

Horse and jockey

We had a very nice evening with Tom and Kathleen at the Horse and Jockey at 1535c74a-6c38-4ac5-8aec-8cd32794b951Worlds End, though again it was raining and the following day we enjoyed lunch with Pat and Dave at the Bat and Ball in Hambledon.  Hambledon is famous for

Bat and ball

Bat and ball

being the cradle of cricket and it is here that the first headquarters of English 4a9d62e6-d22d-4f6a-a7d7-e951322b7786Cricket was established

Thursday evening we hot-footed to Gatwick to meet Bill and Jenny’s flight from Spain. We then we headed straight back to Clanfield where we stayed up half the night catching up with a couple of superb bottles of NewZealand Marlborough, after which Bill and I polished  off half a bottle of Soberano for good

Bill and Geoff

Bill and Geoff

measure.  Thank you both for the use of your home.

Tomorrow we head to Essex, staying with Jane, Dave and Mia.

 

 

 

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Harden to Sonning

Leaving a rainswept Harden we headed south and as we progressed the rain petered out and we saw some sun.  We got to Marian and

Marian and Martin

Marian and Martin

Martin’s mid afternoon, let ourselves in to the cottage and Christine made use of the washing machines.  Marian returned soon after and we caught up with goings on, though this was minimal as we had all been together a few days earlier.   That evening

Royal Oak

Royal Oak

the 3 of us went to


Royal Oak for a meal sitting by a nice log fire.   Returning to the house we all had an early night, after all the next day was Election Day and a “very” late night was expected.

Thursday 12th December, and General Election Day dawned but on this occasion Christine and I couldn’t vote, we had left the electoral list having lived Spain for so long.

A quick visit to the Wee Dram in Bakewell was needed as I had ordered a couple of bottles of “Thomas Deakin” gin, a very pleasant orange tasting gin introduced to me by Mark back in the summer.: Meanwhile Marian headed towards Manchester Airport to collect Martin who was flying back from the US.

That evening we sat down to an excellent roast dinner over which we contemplated the results of the general election.  We covered everything from a Corbin led coalition to a Boris majority and everything in between.  When we had cleared up, we sat down in front of the TV, glass of something in hand, though not too sure if it was to celebrate or commiserate but we were ready for the start of the results program in hopeful anticipation and fingers crossed.  When the exit poll was announced at the first strike of Big Ben at 2200hrs, we leapt into the air in absolute joy, our worst fears of another hung parliament were put to bed, wonderful.  Though this was only an exit poll, our combined experiences of these polls told us they are seldom wrong, perhaps a handful of seats either way at the most, so our glasses now became celebratory drinks.   Accompanying our evening in front of the television were 7 Bowles, each filled with Cadbury’s roses.  Marian had sorted them into the colours of the 7 political parties and as the results were announced, so the bowls of the corresponding losing party got eaten: there were lots of blue one left over!!!

We eventually got to bed around 0300hrs but were awake again at 0600hrs to check we weren’t dreaming!!!!! 

 

Jill and Trevor

Jill and Trevor

With little sleep on Thursday night, euphoria got us through Friday as we drove South to meet up with Trevor and Gill in Sonning.  Fortunately it was a reasonable drive with minimal rain and we arrived around 1700hrs, as planned.  We were made very welcome and soon settled into a cup of tea before heading out for an Indian, naturally preceded by a stop at a local before arriving at the restaurant;  fe00e6d4-ff96-472d-a6a9-fa4c7b7bcb31Apparently Teresa May is seen here regularly.

Saturday 14th and a leisurely start to our day including an excellent breakfast cooked by Trevor.   Tonight we are all heading into town for a “Christmas-Carrol Concert” at the “Royal Festival Hall” hosted by Alan e10e63be-5990-41aa-b2fa-b9df342175e0Titchmarsh.   Leaving Sonning, we collected Gill’s Mother then headed to London to meet up with Hillary and Ian, Trevor’s sister and husband at “Brasserie Blanc”, a French food da21e485-ac67-428c-9bb8-8f48c12f8c1drestaurant inspired by Raymond Blanc; it as very popular and extremely busy, but the 7 of

Festival Hall

Festival Hall

us had a very nice meal though a little rushed, as time was short.

Tonight we were going to enjoy the London Concert orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir where Trevor is one of the choristers, which makes tonight a rather special occasion.

75b2aa98-4298-4ee7-b8a6-3bfd18eb3e95It was a wonderful evening, a full orchestra with 100 or so singers entertaining us, and Alan Titchmarsh, quite a funny man adding his two penny’s worth as the compare, the evening just flew by.   

Our experience leaving the theatre was a different story.  The heaven’s had opened just as we were queueing up to leave the festival hall but we had to go as our party, for logistical 6387a9df-bf51-4afc-8241-387b4cd8d003reasons had split up and Gill, who was driving gave us instructions where she would bring the car to meet us.   The pavement outside had about 2 inches of water, well over our shoes and the steps we walked down were small waterfalls, we were soaked right through but being on such a “high”, we didn’t 22a6cdb4-cd44-4c23-8e9a-7967bbc18fb5mind.  We all mustered at the appointed place and said our goodbyes to Hillary and Ian before Gill plus car arrived.  The five of us, wet through squeezed into a Hybrid, not too large a car! and headed home by way of the Christmas lights around the West End.  7350a55d-a0e6-4b6d-99d9-3e34f49b79d2Fortunately with the traffic being very heavy and slow plus it was still raining heavily! we could hang out of the car windows and take pictures as we went along, after all, we couldn’t get any wetter, 467f92b6-2c5d-46b3-a63d-59cd72bb1eeecould we?

The following morning after a very long lay-in and breakfast we said our goodbyes.  It was a super couple of days, thank you Trevor and Gill and it was nice to meet Benji, fleetingly!  we then headed off to Seaton, Devon.

We look forward to seeing Trevor and Gill again next June, at their wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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