Back to Blighty (23rd Nov to 13th Dec)
My 3 weeks back in the UK was manic. I also had a cold for 2 of the 3 weeks and could barely let that slow me down as I was cramming in so much visiting and catching up. The only change I made was the night I met up with Nicole, Neil’s daughter, in High Wycombe one evening. On the drive back up the M40 I thought I was going to have to pull on to the hard shoulder as I was having a coughing fit and couldn’t even manage to swallow water. As it was chucking it down with rain and the spray was appalling, I didn’t want to be on the hard shoulder with the lorries thundering past in reduced visibility. As I was just past the mile marker for my junction I managed to pull off and into a lay-by before my coughing, now retching, fit finished. I was coughing so hard that the back of my shoulders hurt. Great.
Spent as much time as I could with friends as well. Maria, as promised, made me her lasagne and we had a Chinese takeout from the Winson in Crown Way which was another tick from my wish list. We also went to town a few times and had lunch (plus once with Mum) at Aroma on Bedford Street (behind the Benjamin Satchel). Fabulous place with a nice choice of lunches and teas. We also met up with an old friend Tash along with Maria’s brother Richard. As I suspected the price of drink in the UK is ridiculous. Two 250ml glasses of white wine was £11.80! I can get 5litres for €5 which is perfectly drinkable. A bottle of Prosecco and a pint was £28. Despite alcohol being readily available and as cheap as milk here, I have not seen drunk people rolling around the streets (except the English on holiday) that we are told will happen if cheap drink is the norm in the UK.
Saw Rachel, Philippa, Annie and Mum and I went down to Porthcawl for a night to see my x-in-laws, Roy and Lorraine. Unsurprisingly weather in Porthcawl as we walked to and from the restaurant was wet. As we left in the morning though it was cloudy bright and I drove along the sea front and along Rest Bay to look out across the choppy water. Just a few miles from Porthcawl, in Bridgend, is a McArthur Glen shopping outlet. Wasn’t there when I lived in Porthcawl; probably a good job as Mum and I spent 5 hours there (including lunch). Also had chance to catch up with most of the old gang from the Commission and we had a nice night out chatting and catching up.
Did get bargains, unplanned clothes shopping, from M&S. First trip £105 RRP of clothes for £13.50, 2nd trip £50 RRP for £4.50. I gave 2 of the tops away to friends but have replaced my navy/white stripe jumper with a navy/pink stripe jumper plus a pink denim skirt too. Excellent.
Caught up with my friend Philippa who has recently been diagnosed as having Early Onset Alzheimers and at only 54 she is very young. In fact classed as a young person with dementia. Phil is doing great in herself and remaining positive. She is still in full time work with the local council who I believe are treating her as a bit of a test case as they have not had anyone yet with this illness still in work. Hopefully they will be able to put in place very soon some methods to help Phil such as part-time hours and a dedicated parking space. I have to say that the Alzheimers Association have huge amounts of info and literature in easy to access and read formats which has been a great help both with Philippa and with Dad.
Dad seemed OK in his home. I noticed that he is repeating words and phrases over and over more than he used to but that is one of the symptoms of his dementia which is also known as Picks Disease. His weight is still increasing which is an issue I have with the home to manage as another symptom is gluttony. Having said that, when I was visiting one day he left his biscuits for over 20minutes until I asked if I could have one, then he ate the other. This was surprising as I was given to understand that he scoffs whatever is put in front of him and looks for more. To be fair they were “rola cola” * style biccies so maybe he was just being discerning, unlike me. I did get him a t-shirt, which he put on straight away over his shirt as soon as I gave it to him. See pic – Santa’s ‘Little’ Helper. *Peter Kay reference for cheap and nasty.
Weather in the UK warmed up after that first weekend and was unusually mild, although wet, while I was there. Leamington had nothing like the kind of rain that the North experienced which caused the dreadful flooding in Cumbria and the Lake District areas. Generally, I missed the rain while out and about.
My first full weekend back, when Mum was in Lanzarote with her friends, I went to stay with Gary (my elder brother), Lorna and Harvey. It was great to catch up with them both and spend some time with Harvey. I did the same the following weekend with my younger brother, Gavin with Tammy and their kids Alfie, Eva and Zac. Eva is a poppet and spent most of my visit holding my hand or sitting next to me which was really nice. Again, great to spend time with Gavin and Tammy and the kids. During both visits I had a cooked breakfast which, as not cooked by me, was even better than when I do one.
After breakfast with Gavin & Co Mum and I went to a baby shower held for my cousin Katie. Her first baby, a girl (let’s hope so as all gifts were pink), is due on 23rd Dec and as yet not put in an early appearance. However, after my big breakfast I wasn’t ready for a full cram tea with sandwiches, mini tarts, scone with jam and cream plus a piece of cake. I took mine to go to have later. If you are local to Leamington, Vinteas on Park Street is a great tea-room and they also deliver (locally) tea for tea in a box and you get to keep the teapot and teacups. If I was back, I’d certainly try this. It would make a good gift too.
Just read the bit above, I sound like an advert for food and it looks like that’s all I did was eat. To be fair eating 2-3 meals a day for 3 weeks does include a fair bit of eating. Not so much of the drinking though. Having a cold and driving knocked most of that on the head plus the cost!
Packing to come back was a right mare. Mum and her friend Barbs are coming out at the end of January and have 2 x 20kg cases booked for a 2 night visit so I get to use a case worth of weight. Good job as I have left behind a case weighing 18kg already and both my hand luggage coming back and my case were right on the limit. Admittedly without Christmas pressies and 15 x balls of wool in a kit for an Attic 24 Coastal Blanket from the Wool Warehouse (voucher present from Nicole, thanks sweetie) I would have got more stuff in my case but didn’t want to leave my pressies till the end of January. I had a huge list of stuff to get which I either can’t find in Portugal or is expensive. I also had vouchers from Boots for No7 so bought 6 packs of face wipes – they weigh a tonne alone.
It was nice being back this close to Christmas. Our forays into town and the pubs/restaurants were festive and I bought and wrapped my presents while watching Channel 5 Christmas movies or listening to Christmas songs. It is the hardest part of what we are doing; leaving behind friends and family. I’m pleased we are near enough to get back easily enough and of course for others to come visit if they can.
Had my Christmas nails done my cousin Sarah. Red and glittery. Mine are very plain compared to some of the designs she does. See more designs on her Facebook Page ‘Nails by Sarah at Boost’.
We have been thinking about next summer and at the moment are thinking we may stay this side of Gibraltar, going along the coast and maybe not head into the Med until the end of the season. We are told that there are so many places to explore along here and we expect the weather to be good in the summer so may pick a spot to stay for a number of weeks again. The taxi driver from the airport was telling me that a lot of the hotels on the Algarve are already nearly fully booked for July/August next year as so many people are avoiding Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia and some parts of Greece so the Algarve is picking up more tourists.
Thanks to Mum and Bry for having me to stay and insuring me on the car so I could get around. Looking forward to your visit in March.
Haven’t managed to mention all friends and family I saw but was great seeing you all.
Wishing all readers a very Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.