Memory is a transient thing. At times vivid; sometimes clear; usually selective and sadly, often sketchy. I urge you all to commit events to something more permanent than the neuro-network of your brain. Whether it is the collecting of a mementos, a few words in a diary, a blog or the snap of picture. These things are actions of worth because they return so much more than the effort they take.
If only I did as I said! Were it so, the UK blog and accompanying pictures would be so much more…Or would they? With only me giving witness to these events I can tell you all sorts of things. Suggest that Rachel and I live lives that would be the envy of starlets. That we have done marvelous things and have friends even. I’m rambling. For those who know us – you know us for what we are and hopefully want for nothing more. For those who don’t, well you would soon figure it out. So here is the UK blog. Overdue, under-cooked but filled with a few tasty morsels ….
The Scandinavian Adventure finished we returned back to our freeloading ways of taking food and lodging from friends and mainly family. We probably outstayed our welcome on several occasions and whilst we are sorry we are also self-serving and ignorant. So. Make no mistake we will be back unless legal paperwork reaches in the meantime.
Gary and Mel are our oldest joint friends. They didn’t exist before Rachel and I (I mean they did. Just not in our worlds). Consequently, it was a big thing to be there for their small and beautiful wedding. We have shared much with these folk and it was an honour to be amongst the few close family members at the do. We arrived in Crawlie and managed to convince a farmer to let us park in his farmyard just a few 100 metres from the venue. We therefore arrived all glowing on our bikes (the hotel had banned our down-market mobile home to grace their manicured tarmac) and left several hours later to pedal home happy and full of champagne.
Our second big event on returning was to re-evaluate what we would do next and that was narrowed down very slightly by figuring out what we didn’t want to do. Namely, to continue living in Crawlie and travel around Europe. Crawlie was perfect in so many ways but you can only cover so many miles at 60mph without air-con whilst worrying that something would break. The idea of spending summer months in the van no longer appealed so she had to go. And go she did. Like shit off a shiny shovel. I placed the add in Gumtree at 9.30am and by 12.00 we had sold her. All too quick! There was no time to have one last forage; one last cosy up in the comfy bed; one last engine catastrophe. We felt a little bereft. In truth she will probably run without a hitch for the next two or three years now. Sadly not with us driving her though. So good luck John Smith may you cover happy miles.
We did a few housesits whilst we were back. These to give us a location near to people or away from people. Depending on your perspective. Ipswich was nice with a dog that looked like Barbara Streisand (go figure the breed) and just a short way from Colchester; one in Weymouth. A fantastic seaside town of yesteryear with Punch and Judy stall, dripping ice cream, tatted-up Londoners with out of place walks and muzzled dogs and people swimming from the knees down in the still cold water.
We stayed in a cosy cottage with miles of running to be had amidst rolling downs and sheep shit. Here we got to see Holly, Jim and new grandson Teds – more in a bit on that - and, due to excellent timing, got to meet up with an old friend who happened to be sailing around the United Kingdom with his dog in a 55 year old, 22ft long Waverley yacht. Peter Matheson is a singular man. Driven, Focused, mad and looking for something – although, not sure what. Anyway, Pete was 3 months into his voyage and hoped to make some money for childhood cancer. ‘Bumble Ahoy’, as the voyage was known, followed fairly closely on the heels of a similar piece of big hearted madness called ‘Tractor Bumble’ involving an old open topped tractor and travelling 8,000ish miles around UK and up to the arctic circle and back and is to be followed by ‘Giddy up Bumble’ – Yup! You guessed it. Crossing the Pyrenees and some more stuff on a donkey – Donations to any of these would be welcome as its costing him personally a small fortune to do this stuff.
We stayed in a great Victorian place in Colchester. Opposite the Recreation Ground and just 2 mins from where I grew up as a boy. I was tempted to go smash some windows, play on the swings and set fire to stuff in the Lanes.
We did a further housesit in Chelsea Harbour looking after a lovely house and dog and got to spend time walking in London. Boy did we walk. Miles and miles each day. 2 hours with the dog then traipsing the streets and taking in all sites. Buckingham Palace, Horseguards Parade, Picadilly, along the Thames, Regents, Hyde, Richmond, St James’ Park, Saatchi Galley – Fantastic display on Selfies, The Natural History Museum (Which is the best - whale skeleton or diplodocus?), The V&A, The Wallace Collection, Kings Road…..The list goes on. I had no idea there were so many posh houses! What a great few days. And finally, the last sit in Salisbury. Again to see Holly and co and enjoy all the beautiful countryside and architecture that there is to see there.
So, back to Holly (my daughter), Jimmy (the husband) and Teddy (the grandson) who is the centre of their world. We got to spend a fair bit of time in different places eating walking, drinking and generally having a jolly time. They both work part time in order to give the little chap and each other the time together that they deserve and, although its all fairly new, I have high hopes for the arrangement. Teds gets loads of quality attention and they get the right amount of work/home balance so can give their very best to both. Its enviable and they are fortunate they can do so. Both Holly and Jim are loving parenthood and I understand that Teds is enjoying childhood too. He’s a lovely little chap and raises all sorts of emotions and memories in me – certainly enough of the good stuff for me to openly embrace grandadship. I am 56 after all!
My eldest son (who lives in London and was on holiday during the London housesit – grrrrr) has got engaged and is due to marry the lovely Victoria next year or so. We had a little champagne breakfast in Colchester when he was there to celebrate. They are a beautiful couple and were they rich I would expect Hello Magazine to do a full page photoshoot when the big day arrives.
My youngest son Rob lives in Colchester so it was easy to spend time with him and Justin and there very hairy cat. Rob and I like climbing so we took the opportunity to go a few times and even get some outdoor climbing done in Kent. A great day spent chatting where I had one of those seminal moments when I came to realise that my son was no longer a boy but a man. Well done Rob.
Rachel's niece Katy turned 18 when we are home and we got to spend a pleasant evening with her and her family to celebrate. Well done Katy but sadly its all downhill from here on in.
We had meals with old friends, rekindled some lost friends and hopefully cemented all those important relationships that may seem to be minimised when we are hundreds of miles away but actually aren’t. We hope you guys know this. We love you and need you.
I think that’s about it. Just, in closing, a very special thanks to Dave and Maureen – Rachels parents – for your generosity, wine, lumpy bed and terrible company. And my sister and Howard who repeatedly offered us a room and food.
Onward we go. Our next bit of life involves a drive down to the south of Spain in Ron (the burgundy fiesta) and a housesit for 5 months.