Still BBQ weather here in Cartagena. 50+ adults today. Great company and music.
3 Countries: 24 Hours
Sounds jet setty doesn’t it? In a 24 hour period I have been in the UK, Portugal and Spain. Admittedly the Spain visit was Sanlucar for shopping the day after arriving back into Portugal from the UK. But still, 3 countries in 24 hours.
Since my last post we have stayed on our anchor on the Guadiana at Alcoutim/Sanlucar and just chilled. We have gone to the regular music night on a Tuesday in the Riverside Tavern, I have received a parcel from home (still took 16 days despite being tracked and signed for!) and I have been back to the UK for a visit.
Exciting news, Marian Keyes yup Marian Keyes the Irish novelist and non-fiction writer, best known for her work in women’s literature and Irish Book Awards winner, follows me on Twitter. I was very excited as she is one of my favourite authors (The Other Side of The Story, The Brightest Star in the Sky, This Charming Man.…) Neil, not so much, as he didn’t know who she was but Mum gave expected response when I told her. Also found Marian has a YouTube channel and does a regular Monday vlog. Love, love, love it. From watching interviews and reading her latest book, “Making it up as I go Along” you can see that elements from her own life influenced the Walsh sisters in Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, Angels, Anybody Out There and The Mystery of Mercy Close.
Mum had hoped to be coming her to visit in August but it was not to be. I was disappointed so Neil suggested that I could go back. “What if I miss summer”, I asked. Neil laughed and pointed out that summer will still be here in Portugal when I get back. Unlike the UK summer it can be relied upon to be hot more that a few days at a time and for more than a few weeks. I booked my flights.
Although Alcoutim is still in the Algarve, it is about as far from the “Algarve” as most Brits know it as it is possible to get which also means that the transfer to/from Faro airport was pretty expensive so we hired a car for Neil to drop me off and collect me. Also gave Neil the opportunity to stop at a Lidl and NOS shop (Internet cards) on the way back after dropping me off.
I had nearly two weeks in the UK staying with Mum and Bry and visiting friends and family. It was great to catch up. The afternoon I arrived Mum and I went to town so I could buy a birthday present for a friend and then went into the Asda supermarket. It was strange to see so much variety of food stuffs that we just don’t see in Portugal/Spain or are hard to get/expensive. For example, large jars of curry sauces in Asda were £1. Now we have moved away from the tourist areas we just don’t see them and when we did they were around €4.50 per jar with only a choice of 1 or 2 flavours. The choice in the UK Supermarkets was massive and something you take for granted when it is there in front of you everyday. I had to moderate what I wanted to buy thinking of space/weight in my suitcase to take back. I did however pick up some more Shwartz dry packet spices (lightweight and small) and a dozen packs of stir fry sauces which make for a quick and easy meal.
Saw my Dad when I arrived and was able to deliver the Twiddlemuff * in person. He didn’t get what it was to start with, which is not surprising. On my first visit he didn’t seem quite with it. However, when I went the next morning he was on better form and was a lot brighter. I had just managed to sneak in a visit before the home was shut to visitors though. They had a lot of residents down with a sickness bug overnight. Typical as I was visiting the UK; they were shut for just over a week. The home has implemented a new patient monitoring system which is available to me on-line. This is great, particularly being remote. The Daily Care Breakdown has way more detail than I need to know e.g. when he’s been to the loo, how much he passed, that he has been shaved, given a drink, how much he drunk etc. This information is vital for the home to monitor but I do get to see things like that the Dr has visited and what about, that he has gone out for a trip, that he is communicating with the other residents and staff and what he has been involved in. When I first looked, it said that he had been to the Theatre on Saturday night. When I queried this through the Social pages (for messages and photos) it turned out to be an error in inputting. The system has only been in place for a few weeks and the staff are getting used to it. I was concerned that it was a time and motion study and that the home were looking to reduce staff numbers but the Manager assured me it wasn’t and they were looking to increase staff numbers as they had a number of new rooms. The Manager said that it was giving staff about an extra hour a day of care time as they no longer had to manually write down what was being done and made shift handovers quicker. However, the amount of messages/queries I have sent already I wouldn’t be surprised if they chuck me off. HaHa
I did lots of shopping during my visit. Mum and I went into Leamington town numerous times and to Stratford-upon-Avon and Banbury. I missed the Marks and Spencer sale. I asked during my last week and said to the lady at M&S that although I know they can’t give out the date the sale starts, I said I was going back to Portugal the next week, the Tuesday. She told me that I’ll just miss it. Oh well, I guess I’ve probably saved some pennies/pounds by not being able to go to the sale. (I’ve had a sneaky peak on-line and the pyjamas I liked, not that I need any, were not in the sale anyway).
I will mention, briefly, Brexit. I was in the UK when the result was announced and I am mainly/currently concerned about the £/€ rate, also £/$ rate as most of the income Neil gets from Amazon is in $s, freedom of movement and healthcare provisions in EU countries. As I said to my Mum, if it becomes difficult, we can always cross to the Caribbean sooner.
This year, in fact in the same week, it is Claudia’s (niece) 21st, her brother Elliott’s 18th and my birthday so Claudia invited us to a BBQ at Draycote Water near Rugby. It has to be noted that she was the last to arrive after her Dad and Lorna had got everything set up. Claudia, Elliott and I had our own birthday cakes, cards and presents. It was a surprising hot and sunny day and we played with Harvey (age 7) and some people got sunburnt not realising how hot it was. I’d worn long jeans not expecting it to be so warm and had to roll them up. It was a great place for this kind of thing. Harvey and I had a walk around and counted 17 gazebos that had been set up with groups bbq’ing, eating, playing ball games and enjoying the day. One large group near us had a loudspeaker and even set up a game of bingo. It was great to see Claudia and particularly Elliott as he lives in Somerset and is not always up visiting his Dad when I’m home. For my Mum July is a very busy birthday month with her daughter, husband, sister, granddaughter and grandsons birthdays.
On my last evening my brothers, Gary and Gavin, and I had dinner with Dad at the home. The staff had set up a table in a small lounge with tablecloth, flowers and jug of squash and we brought in a Chinese takeaway. We had a good few hours with Dad and no-one interrupted us. When I got the Twiddlemuff to show the boys, Dad took it and started to use it. In fact, we had a job taking it from him when we were moving him to his bedroom.
It’s sad to say that he has deteriorated since Christmas. He is less mobile than he was; can’t stand up without assistance and a lot of encouragement, doesn’t walk without an arm of someone else and/or the bannister. This is not because he physically isn’t able, but his mind isn’t allowing him to move. He wants to get up and wants to walk but something is blocking the process needed to physically move. Trying to get him to stand up can be a real ordeal and can take ages. It is not like he is a small person that can be physically helped easily; he can’t be lifted. His speech is also different. Dad now repeats the last thing you say to him and it is only when I spent a couple of hours with him at a time that he starts to instigate a conversation. I noticed that if I sat down and fired questions at him he just tended to repeat the words and if asked a yes/no question he can’t be relied upon that the yes/no answer is the correct one. One afternoon I was pottering around his room while he was watching the tennis, I was checking his clothes, washing his shoes, tidying his DVDs and he was making comments about what he was watching without any prompting. One thing though, he can still laugh. The boys were messing around while we were visiting and he was joining in laughing with him. It is something all the staff will say that he has a sense of humour and laughs a lot.
After visiting with Dad, Mum and I watched the final of The Great British Sewing Bee. It has to be said that this, along with The Great British Bake Off, is one of my favourite programmes and the only one I have bothered to watch while being away. There is something reassuring and heart warming about contestants/competitors who help each other out when they are struggling. If you don’t know how to make a button placket, someone will help you, if you don’t know what heat the oven should be on for your cake, someone will tell you what they have theirs on. This support and sharing is not something you see in many reality TV programmes I guess. On the whole, I don’t agree with reality TV, unless its on a Freeview channel. I object to paying a licence fee/subscription fee to be entertained by my peers. I can look out of the window for that. I pay for excellent drama/comedy writing, documentaries with stunning photography, some quiz shows and lively debates. Of course, this was when I was paying for a TV licence/Sky TV. Although, even a licence payer cannot watch BBC iPlayer outside of the UK (in line with their T&Cs). Why not? If you pay your licence fee, what does it matter where you watch it?? Same with Amazon Prime. You can only watch it in the UK even if you have paid your 79 quid. This is a great pity as Outlander is shown on Prime. Maybe a question for Twitter?
It was great seeing friends and family and hard to say goodbye again. Although I FaceTime with Neil everyday I missed him and Gleda and was ready to come back to the sun. It’s bittersweet saying goodbye when I will miss them all but am looking forward to getting back to Neil.
I arrived back to Faro in the evening of Tuesday 5th July. Neil was waiting for me and by the time we got back to Alcoutim it was dark. We loaded up the dinghy and then Neil hauled my case aboard. I was home.
*A Twiddlemuff is a double thickness hand muff with bits and bobs attached inside and out. It is designed to provide a stimulation activity for restless hands for patients suffering from dementia.