Sunday, 3 August 2014

Last week in the UK, the sad ‘goodbyes’

Jackie's new cat shoes (that should have been in the last blog)

Time has flown and unbelievably, on Monday morning, we’ll be departing these shores for a new continent on the other side of the pond.

It’s been a really great experience being back here, it’s cost us almost nothing from an accommodation point of view as we’ve been house-sitting for people we know and people we didn’t know, but do now, stayed in lots of different houses in the relative locality of Birmingham and Solihull, seen things from a different perspective on each occasion, looked after cats and a dog (plus two fish!) had the experience of two great weddings to attend and been treated to some fabulous weather (fabulous if you like it hot, that is), so we’ve done a lot and loved every minute of it.
We’re now seeing people for the last time for a while and there’s a real sadness attached to that, but it makes us realise that the UK is our home and always will be, travelling is just something we do in between so, we’ll be back!

Terry, Jackie and Sue
After our final rabies jab we took Jackie’s mum’s lounge and dining rooms apart ready for new carpets to be fitted (good job it was sunny weather and stuff could go outside) and then went into the village for an Indian curry (fabulous!). Friday daytime was spent putting the house back to rights on top of the smart new carpet, which makes the rooms look bigger and then, in the evening, a visit to Terry (my former business partner) and his wife Sue at their splendid house in Kenilworth. Fabulous meal cooked by Sue and a dessert prepared by Terry (there’s a revelation!) and a thoroughly enjoyable night. Their ‘wrap-around’ garden allows us to follow the sun and strategically placed tables and chairs in several places meant we could enjoy pre-dinner drinks and a starter in different areas, followed by the main course inside as it got dark.

Terry and Sue's garden in Kenilworth
Jackie, Denise, Fiona, Jenny, Becky and James
Saturday morning was hot and sunny and I went for another Park Run, this time with my friends Bill and Martina and their son Alan. Martina runs pretty well, normally doing the 5km in a little over 25minutes (much better than my 28min 33sec the previous week), so I tried to keep up with her and did an impressive (for me) 25min 55sec – well pleased! After baking a cake we headed off to my sisters for a family day. My daughter and family were there along with Steph and Sam and Nick. Denise and Paul had laid everything on, so there was plenty of food, plenty to drink and, with everyone on form, it was a noisy day, but also baking hot! Blue sky, little wind and sunny. We spent the day moving tables and chairs round the garden in an effort to remain in the shade, it was just too hot in direct sun.

Abbie, Steph and Sam
Fiona and James
Denise, Abbie, Nick, Paul, James, Steph, Sam, Fiona and Jackie
Paul, James, Steph, Sam, Nick, Fiona, Abbie, Jackie, Brian & Denise
Denises 60th birthday cake (baked by me!)
On Sunday we thought we would be moving out of the house we were staying in in Hall Green. Abigail had said she would be back on Sunday after two weeks away, but the text message she sent said ‘what time do you want me back on Monday?’ No problem for us and gave us another night with Sooty, who turned out to be a real cutie! Abigail seemed really pleased with us, gave us an excellent reference on the housesitters website where we first made contact and said she will arrange her next holiday to coincide with us being back in the UK so we can house sit again! How nice is that! Great for us, her house is centrally located, in very comfortable and has Sooty there!

Becky, James, Jenny, Abbie and Nick
Jackie and Brian with Sooty
We moved back into Helen’s house in Solihull, Helen’s away in the USA with Phil and his son Harry, so Maggie their black cat is here, being looked after by Helen’s lodger Eva. She’s quite happy for us to be here, saying she was a bit lonely on her own, so we’ve reacquainted ourselves with Maggie, who ran off when we first arrived, but gradually realised she knew us and, by the first night, she was back on the bed sleeping with us and taking more than her share of space!

At Alex and Rob's BBQ (note the green BBQ bottom right!
After two days of tiling my daughter Fiona’s kitchen and doing as much as I could before them all moving in on 9th August, I went for an evening CT (Computerised Tomography) scan at the QE Hospital in Birmingham. Just routine for me as a result of the family gene defect and all was good for me, so I now have the complete MOT and a clean bill of health, with no more tests for two years.

Alex, Rob, Jackie and Brian
It was unfortunate timing for the CT Scan as we had been invited to Rob and Alex’s house for a BBQ on the same day, but although they said it would take up to two hours, due to having to wait for a radioactive drink to percolate through and an injected dye to filter through the blood stream so that the appropriate parts glowed in the CT scanner (sounds horrible doesn’t it!), I was out by 8:00pm and eating BBQ’d food prepared on R&A’s improbably small BBQ and drinking beer by 8:30pm, so it was a full day. Great to see R&A and hear of Alex’s forthcoming trip to Arco in Italy to take part in a paraclimbing competition. She really is an amazing woman!

Maggie (looking very much like Sooty), but she is a different cat!
Our good friends Ian and Helen were next to say goodbye to and we stayed at their house overnight so we could eat and drink with them at the ‘Old Mo’ real ale pub, followed by more drinks back at theirs. And all this on a ‘school night’ for them, so we hope the midnight finish wasn’t too hard on them, particularly as Ian had his first meeting at work at 07:30am the following morning! We heard them get up, but we just rolled over and went back to sleep.

Maggie cat prowling the garden at Helen's house
Pauline, Jackie and Brian
Friday we faffed some more, just to make a change, before having an unexpected evening in, after giving away nearly all our food! Oh well 4 eggs and bit of cheese, so bought a smidge of bacon and mushroom and had a big omelette. Saturday, round to Mum’s, spent ages on the web sorting out the itinerary for when she comes out to the States, so that’s the 9-30 Sept sorted, nowhere near as organised for ourselves, but I’m sure it’ll be fine! Went up the pub for a ‘Friday’, we used to go out on a Friday for a bottle or two of wine straight after B finished work (it may have been the first day of my working week but that didn’t seem to matter!) so we haven’t done that for a long time! So very pleasant farewell evening there.

Look how much wine the three of us drank! Actually they were only 186ml bottles (but we did have 4 of them plus a full 70cl bottle)
Final afternoon in the UK for a while. Paul, Denise, Brian and Jackie
Just to add to the stress we had to go out Sunday morning to try to buy a new pair of approach shoes for B as he got his out yesterday and the heel had collapsed! I know they sell shoes in the States, but somehow, going without something so fundamental just seemed wrong, fortunately Oswald Bailey were having 25% off Merrel shoes, so hopefully have something suitable that will last longer than the last pair (bought very cheap in Malaysia) at not too scary a price. We are now sitting in the garden with Denise and Paul, the lamb is roasting in the oven, and we are beginning to chill – what’s not done now isn’t going to happen. All we have to do is break the news to D&P what time we have to get up in the morning!

It has been lovely to be back, we’ve seen nearly everyone we wanted and cat sat for some wonderful cats. We’ve also been touched by the friends and family that we’ve met up with, we’ve been made to feel very special and loved, and almost as though we haven’t been away. 

We’ve also realised how many other lovely people there are, Helen for just opening her house to us, Stephanie whose house we ‘airbnb’d’ in Kings Heath who we sat and talked to for a good two hours in the morning before we left and Abigail who is planning to organise her next summer holiday around our return.

It’s been amazing that we’ve managed to spend the whole of our visit either house sitting or on two weeks ‘holiday’ in N Yorks and Scotland, we almost feel guilty that we haven’t really stayed with any of the lovely friends who have offered us as much time as we’d like (bar the odd night here and there) – just wait, we will be back and will call on you at some point, so please don’t be affronted!

Hopefully airbnb as well as providing us with some cheap accommodation will also provide us with the chance to meet some ‘real people’ as we head off again into the wild blue yonder.

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