Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Return to Blog - England Trip

It's been a month since I wrote in my blog and there is a lot to write about. So I'm going to do  a bunch of entries to catch up, starting with our (Carol and me) trip to visit Family and friends in England. Good fun, but not exactly relaxing when we are in our homeland. 

We drove to England (see route above) setting off at 6:30am in the rain, crossing France  and arriving in good old blighty about 12 hours later also in the rain. We took a ferry across the channel (cheaper than the chunnel and time to rest and get the duty free). Once on the mainland we popped in at Ramsgate where Amber's boyfriend Patrick was taking an English course and had some stuff for us to take back.

After being flashed by oncoming headlights a few dozen times we realised that we had forgotten to buy and fit headlight correctors  (you need them to stop blinding drivers on the other side of the road when driving a left hand drive car on the left side of the road, or vice-versa ) anyway we decided to carry on to my Sister Janet's in Welwyn where we were staying over the weekend.  As we past Rayleigh (Essex) we thought about popping in on on one of Carols aunts but as it was getting late we gave it a miss. Strangely we found out later that her aunt had died earlier that day.

Janet is my big sister being 10 years older than me but seemingly 10 years younger in pretty much all ways. We spent the weekend talking about all subjects under the sun and beyond, and Monday morning arrived in the blink of an eye.

On Monday we went to see my Dad who is 87 and suffering from final stage Alzheimers and is now looked after in a nursing home. At this stage of the disease he doesn't really recognise anybody anymore and sleeps much of the day. It is very upsetting to see him like this. 

My dad was such an bright and active man whose spent many of his weekends rock climbing, caving  and hill walking and even leading the "dangerous activities" unit in the Hertfordshire Scout movement while still in his 60s. 

We were at the home for a couple of hours with him drifting in and out of sleep with showing no response to our conversations, but then, in one of those events so common in Alzheimers it seems, I kissed his head goodbye and he woke up and became highly aware of us (possibly even recognising us). We then spent the next hour or so looking at old photos with him quite often recognising (with some help) people and places. It was lovely that when we finally said our goodbyes that we knew we had experienced one of his more lucid moments. 

Next stop was to Crowland near Peterborough to visit Carol's mum. I don't know what Carol and her mum talked about but I had a good old time talking to Carol's step father about our usual topics, PCs, Technology and the state of Britain :-) We took in a bit of shopping in Spalding and then on Wednesday morning moved southward to the north of Stevenage Clan boundaries.

On Wednesday we spent a great afternoon with Jim, my oldest and dearest friend.  We have known each other since the start of comprehensive school at age 11 and grew up through those formative years together. On leaving school we went off in very different directions but continued to keep in contact despite that. More recently we have been keeping up to date on our respective healths as Jim is waiting on a Liver transplant. During our visit we found him in great shape but we know how quickly that can change. We  continue to hope and pray for a donor soon.

That evening we spent with my little sister (a whole 4 years younger than me) going through a lot of old photos that she had acquired and I have spent some time scanning and fixing.

Thursday found us at doing the odd bit of shopping in the pretty little town of Hitchin. Carol and I used to go to Hitchin from our respective homes in Stevenage quite a lot of in our teens to visit the good pubs (lots of Music) and to shop in the "hippie" shops. We hadn't been to hitchin for aroud 25 years so were suprised to find one of our favourite "hippie" shop still open and not to mention the local sweet shop with all the jars in the window see below.

In the afternoon we paid a surprise visit to the pub in Gosmore near Hitchin run by my 3rd sister Carol (7 Years older than me). Its always a pleasure to visit if only for the beer and homemade pub food :-)  Then in the evening it was off to Biggleswade for dinner with Carol's sisters Lyn and Debbie. It was especially nice to bump into Lyn's daughters.

Originally we had plan to drive home on Friday but because Carol's aunts funeral  was on that day we decided to shift coming home to Saturday so that Carol could attend. That gave me time to pop in on my stepmother in the morning and to do some shopping at Tesco in the afternoon for all those English things we find hard to get at home like Marmite, Cornish wafers, Diet tonic water, Marmalade, Curly wurlys, Crunchies and other such necessities of living.

This, of course gave us another evening with Marion and my charming nieces who had arrived home from Exeter and Aberdeen universities (why opposite ends of Britain I don't know).

Up early on Saturday got us back here early enough to have a good nights sleep to help get over the fun but hectic week.

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