Back to Europe

Dick and Irene Craig
Sun 5 Jun 2011 16:09

We arrived back at Gatwick on the morning of the 6th May, picked up a rental car and went to meet our friend John at his house for coffee. John lives quite close to Gatwick. He was the guy who flew to South Africa towards the end of last year to join us on holiday at a game park and Victoria Falls.

We then drove to Stoneleigh, near Esher, to meet Dick’s cousin. We try to meet him whenever we are in the UK.

At Westbourne, we visited Ed, Dick’s son, his lovely wife Naomi and their two boys, Koby who will be five in September and Milo, who will be 2 in November. They keep their parents very busy. We were lucky to be able to spend the next 2 days with them and join in the family activities over the weekend.

Monday afternoon we called in at Cleeves, the house where we lived from 1985 and which we sold in 2007. Dick wanted to see if the current owner had built a house in the garden, the application for planning permission for which we had contributed considerable effort. No house had been built after all and the owners thought that they would probably sell up within the next year or two. The main house and coach house are no longer used as a hotel and the rooms in the coach house, as well as the gardener’s cottage, are rented on a long lease.

That night we stayed near Basingstoke with Jan and Henry and had a lot of fun trying to remember how to play Bridge. None of us had played for over 2 years so it was pretty basic. Dick has known them since the early seventies. I have known them since 1983, when Dick and I became an item.

We spent the night in Shaftesbury with Terry and Wendy. Terry collects vintage cars and has a huge garage with an apartment over. In order to afford us the luxury of lots of space, Wendy had gone to a lot of trouble to make us comfortable in the apartment, after we had spent an entertaining evening with her and Terry in their main house.

The next night we stayed at Marshfield, near Bristol and Bath, with Dick’s cousin Janet and her husband David. Janet had been very busy working on a project to obtain planning permission and funding for the provision of tennis courts for the village. Not yet officially open, they were already in almost constant use, the enthusiastic villagers keeping the coach very busy.

Before traveling back towards Bishops Waltham in Hampshire, we stopped for coffee with Fay, Janet’s Mother, who lives in Chipping Sodbury. We had seen Ian and Anna only a few weeks previously in Barbados but this time we were also able to catch up with Anna’s daughters Rachel and Gemma, plus the dogs, all three of them.

We then drove to Lee-on-Solent to spend the night with Frank and Jean, Dick’s cousin and his wife. Frank joined us on Tucanon way back in 2007, when we did Rally Portugal.

Next day, as we were almost passing the door, we called in on Jenny and Mike who live in Kingworthy, near Winchester, before driving to Colchester for a brief visit with our friend Caroline. She had joined us for the EMYR in 2008 and early in the season at Corfu, in 2009, when we all three sailed to Venice and back, via Italy and Croatia.

Next stop Woodbridge, near Ipswich where we were having drinks with Alison and Tic, supper with Joanna and John and then sleeping at the new house, built in the garden of the old house belonging to Margaret and Stewart, Dick’s cousin and her husband. It was our good fortune that Margaret and Stewart had to attend a social function that couldn’t be cancelled or postponed, as it also gave us the opportunity to catch up with Dick’s first cousins, once removed, and their husbands, having not seen any of them for a number of years.

Despite all the traveling, we were able to spend prolonged periods of quality time each day, with my Mother. She now lives in a Nursing Home in the New Forest, moved there by my sister last September, when it was considered that Mother couldn’t cope on her own anymore. We were delighted at how much she had improved by the end of the week, when it was time for us to depart the UK.

The flight to Alicante was ten minutes late on arrival but Ryan Air consider this to be on time and therefore the bugle was played to draw our attention to the fact that another flight had arrived on schedule.

Richard, a friend who had been staying in our house since December, met us at the airport, accompanied by his Chinese friend Jing-Jing. They remained with us for a few days before moving to alternative accommodation.

I had forgotten how beautiful it is here overlooking the vines and surrounded by hills and mountains. Forgotten how much I like this house. Even the bathrooms and kitchen, which I had planned to refurbish, look fine to me after having been away for over two years and thus looking at them with fresh eyes.

Oranges from last season were still on the trees and we picked them and some lemons, which seem to appear throughout the year, squeezing them to make fresh juice for breakfast. Delicious!

Having not played bridge since we were last in Spain, over two years ago, we struggled to relearn our system, managing to play two or three afternoons a week, depending on the other demands such as dental, doctors and hospital appointments. Fortunately nothing major.

I spent a lot of time de-heading the weeds in the back garden, before the flowers turned to seeds. I had managed to weed about a third of the area when the gardeners arrived and just strimmed the rest down. The Spanish seem to have a completely different approach to weeds. I guess that when they grow again, I will perhaps catch them before they grow too big and eradicate them with weed killer.

During the first week back at home, I had just finished watering the pots on the naya, when I slipped and fell down the steps onto the terrace. I badly bruised my right leg and my buttock. The fall occurred because I was wearing crocks on my feet and the water had leaked from one of the pots. The crocks are lethal on wet tiles. I was lucky not to have hurt myself badly.

The pool has a leak. Apparently it has been leaking since February which accounts for the quadruple increase of the water bill.

The builder arrived and donned scuba gear to identify the source of the leak. He then treated it with a sort of underwater silicon, type of stuff used on a boat. We are optimistic that the problem has been solved but won’t know for certain until the water level after a week, hasn’t fallen by much more than 2cm, the anticipated loss due to evaporation.