My Little Grand Tour

It was over so quickly; my Little Grand Tour. Two and a half weeks passed in the blink of an eye. But what a two and a half weeks they were!
I left V C Bird International Airport on 28th May. It was the first time I’d left from the new terminal building and I was very pleasantly impressed – apart from the attitude of the Immigration Officer – Did you have to look so bored, Miss? Nobody likes being yawned at! – and the cost of a diet coke and bag of crisps… $27EC!!! I know that airports are always expensive, but I honestly found this excessive!
A somewhat cramped and crowded flight brought me into London Gatwick North Terminal and the longest queue imaginable for the bloody scan-yourself passport control. There must have been a thousand people in front of me trying to get through five – yes, FIVE! scanners. But once I was finally through I had the best hug in the world from The Daughter. Lovely beyond words to be with her again!
She whisked me to West Sussex to my friend MHS’s for a quick coffee and ‘hello’ and to pick up the bag I’d left with her back in February when I went to Antigua, containing the stuff I had to off-load to avoid paying a hefty excess baggage charge.
From West Sussex, we zoomed across-country to Surrey to The Daughter’s place, where I fell into a deep sleep for almost two hours, before having a shower and change of clothes and a trip to the Thames Court in Shepperton for Sunday Roast. Smashing food, shame about the parking! OMG! Whoever painted the parking bays must have a Smartcar. Lovely lunch, though, right on the River Thames on a very pleasant afternoon.
The rest of the day was spent comatose on the sofa, catching up with the Daughter and then enjoying a lovely cheese and crackers dinner.
The following day was Bank Holiday Monday, so we went to Woking to spend our Debenham’s vouchers – given to us after the crap Personal Shopping Experience we had in their Oxford St Store back in January. New sandals for me! The Daughter got her holiday toiletries as she was off to Portugal the following week. We had lunch in Bill’s – a first for me – but a very nice experience. I had roasted aubergines with chick-pea dhal. It’s not like me to have a full-veggie meal but it was scrummy!
The following day – Tuesday – I went round the M25 in rain so heavy it was like driving through fog. I had to stop at South Mimms and wait for it to abate. Then onto Junction 29 to Upminster where I spent the next three nights with my old chum MC. He refers to me as OF (Oldest Friend), which is better than the other way round, I suppose! LOL! On the first night I woke up at 2.30am for the toilet and found myself standing with my nose two inches from a blank wall. At The Daughter’s the bathroom is en-suite and I’d completely forgotten where I was!!
They were three very hectic days, which included trips to the storage unit, doctors, lunch with another old friend, JA, who has had the horriblest couple of years yet always manages to get me roaring with laughter. As she said,’Who’d have thought all those years ago when we met on our first day of senior school that we’d be sitting here talking about pensions?’ Who indeed? And a fasting blood-test, which almost caused me to pass out.
I got there just after eight and was pleased to see there were only about eight in front of me. Unfortunately, there was only one ‘vampire’ and she went at her own pace, which veered between slow and stop-completely-while-I-walk-around-the-reception-area-and-pass-the-time-of-day-with-colleagues. Finally, I got in at ten past ten (!). And then she couldn’t find a vein!! She tried the usual left arm in the fold of the elbow first. She told me to make a fist. I explained that due to my knuckle-replacement surgery I can’t make a fist very well. She sighed. She slapped – and I do mean slapped! – my arm several times before shoving – and I do mean shoving! – the needle in. But it stopped after drawing out a very small amount. This appeared to be my fault, judging by the huge sigh and filthy look she gave me. So she then undid the tourniquet and tightened it – and I do mean tightened! – round my right arm and told me to make a fist again. I’m better with the right hand, so duly clenched my fingers to my palm, but this wasn’t good enough and led to more slapping and sighing. She once again shoved the needle in and this time, wiggled it about. I complained loudly that she was hurting me as she hadn’t reacted to my yelp of “Ouch!” or my leap into the air. She shrugged.
She then examined the back of my left hand in the search for a vein, but gave up as, being fleshy, my veins aren’t prominent on the back of my hands, and quite frankly, if she hadn’t been able to stab one in either arm – where I could see veins quite clearly – then what hope was there for my hand? So, she went back to the left arm again and this time managed to extract enough to fill the vial. I staggered from the medical centre, clutching my arm and also my stomach. By this time it was a quarter to eleven and I was starving!! I elbowed my way through BHS to reach their restaurant where I ate a four-items-for-one-ninety-nine breakfast, plus a sausage. Well – I deserved it after all I’d been through! It took days for the bruises to disappear!
The three days with MC were great; such a laugh. We had a fabulous meal in the Ginger Lounge, Upminster, which I can highly recommend and sat together hurling abuse at the EU Referendum debates on TV. I say debates… I watched Faisal Islam “interview” Michael Gove. I’ve put inverted commas around the word interview, because I came to the conclusion that Islam must be on something. He just sat there barking questions at Gove and then shouting him down before he could start to answer. He obviously thought he was Jeremy Paxman, except he wasn’t. He just came over as ridiculous.
I have to admit I got sick and tired of the EU Referendum while I was in UK. I know it’s important – I’ve completed my postal vote – but it’s slipped into the ludicrous. I have to say that I so admire Denis Skinner; one of only a handful of Labour MPs to stick to their guns and speak their minds on leaving and not follow Corbyn’s half-hearted attempt to convince working class people that their best interests lie with the bankers and free-loaders in Brussels. The Remain campaign’s biggest argument seems to be that those voting ‘leave’ are brain-washed, knuckle-dragging xenophobic, racist bigots, thus demonstrating themselves to be even bigger bigots. IMHO. The Referendum is certainly creating strange bedfellows.
On Friday, I bade farewell to MC and scooted round the M25 aagain – this time over the QEII Bridge, through Kent and into Surrey to spend the day with the Daughter as we got ready for …drumroll!… Amy and John’s Wedding!!! It was back in Essex, in Leigh-on-Sea, the following day, Saturday. And what a wedding it was; absolutely lovely in every way! The reception was ‘Afternoon Tea’. Amy looked stunning and it was great to meet up with old friends and to see the Daughter with childhood friend from dancing, like Amy herself.
Tired and happy, we drove back to Surrey for a few short hours sleep before I drove The Daughter to her bestie’s house in Stanwell, at 5am to get the taxi to Gatwick for a holiday in Albufeira. Sad to say goodbye to my kid, BUT, little did she know I had a surprise for her!!
I went back to hers, picked up my weekend case and got the train to Yeovil, where I was met by another close, dear friend, CS. Officially retired, she is the most active person I know. She lives in the picturesque, chocolate-box village of Limington, where she is Clerk of the Parish Council, keeps the most gorgeous gardens herself, which are open to visitors, volunteers at the local hospital and still does consultancy work and training. She lives in a converted barn, which is stunning. We chatted and caught up, before she had to go to a neighbour’s house, who was opening their garden to the public that afternoon, and produce a hundred cream teas. I offered to help, but that would have offended her regular helper, so I sat with my feet up and watched the Men’s Final of the French Open, which Murray, sadly lost.
That night we walked through the village to have dinner in the Lamb and the Lark (or was it the Lark and the Lamb???) and on the way, she brought me up to speed with each house and its inhabitants and the villagers’ darkest secrets. I feel a book coming on!!
On Monday we went into Yeovil – what a lovely place! Had a look round and a coffee before going home and then dinner with her close neighbours, who I also know as I used to work with them,too. We had a very pleasant evening. The next morning it was up early and the train back to Surrey, where I picked up the car from The Daughter’s – although not before sheltering for half an hour from the HAILSTONES!!! – and then driving to Dunstable to see JB.
Rain followed me round the M25 and up the M1 and ten minutes after I arrived there was an almighty storm and torrential rain for two hours.
The two days with JB were also spent just laughing and reminiscing. On the first night, as it’s an age since I’ve slept in a single bed, I found myself on the floor. LOL! But then, amid the laughter were the tears we shed as Dr Arthur Digby died in Holby City. Boo hoo!! Horrible! I left on Thursday with a belly-ache because of all the laughing we’d done. Smashing therapy and lovely to see JB again!
Thursday night I went to see The Brother in Colin Chaston’s new play, Irons, in Chelmsford. It was like a Spires’ family outing – great to see so many of my cousins and my Auntie Joan there – 89 and still going strong. The play is on in Basildon and then Barking before starting a 3-week stint at the Edinburgh Fringe, where I’m sure it will do very well. I”m just sorry I can’t go and see it.
From the theatre I followed The Sister to Clacton where I was spending time with her until early Saturday morning. We had a lovely day on Friday as we went to Ipswich; virgin territory for me and a strange city that mixes the old, traditional fishing-town with the new. We had lunch on the Marina, where three weddings were taking place.
I left Clacton at 4am on Saturday morning to go to Southend Airport, where I took an easyJet flight to Faro to surprise The Daughter on her holidays. Southend Airport is a breeze; a joy to go through after Gatwick! EasyJet, well, not so good, unfortunately. Talk about herded like animals!!
In spite of having sent the taxi company the full address of Villa Clara where The Daughter was staying with her bestie LauLau and her family, they only knew ‘more or less’ where it was. LauLau was WhatsApping me to find out where I was. Anyway – I finally arrived and sneaked up on her while she was round the pool. I’m pleased to say she was pleased and a tad emotional to see me 🙂
LauLau had a surprise herself later on Saturday when her boyfriend also turned up. LauLau’s family are super nice and made me very welcome. We went out for dinner on Saturday night to Albufeira, which was buzzing. We found a great restaurant (didn’t get the name) with fab food and big screens where we were able to watch the football. Shame about extra time :(. That put a bit of a damper on the meal. BUT, The Daughter had another surprise; LauLau’s other sister (who wasn’t with us) FaceTimed during dinner and asked The Daughter to be godmother to her son, Henry, at Portsmouth Cathedral in August. The Daughter burst into tears!
Sunday was spent round the pool at Villa Clara before we enjoyed Colin’s Birthday Dinner. Colin is LauLau’s dad. We had a smashing time and I was sad to leave early on Monday morning. (Why are my flights always at the crack of sparrows???)
Faro Airport was chaotic – flights to every single UK regional airport – but we took off on time and by lunchtime I was back in Southend. I did a few errands and was more than a little annoyed to get a message from the medical centre cancelling my appointment for the following day with the diabetes nurse. Seeing her was the whole raison d’etre for the blood test the previous week. Yet half an hour after being told it was cancelled, I got a text reminding me of the appointment. Hmm. Left hand and right hand??? I went to the medical centre and was told my appointment was, indeed, cancelled but I’d been re-booked for 28th June. Too late!! I have vented my displeasure in an e-mail.
Monday night was spent in Prezzo, Chelmsford with the Sister, the Brother and the Nephews and a lovely time it was. Then, I went to see the Brother’s new abode in a tiny village north of Chelmsford. The house is gorgeous and the village really is at the back of beyond, but he seems really happy there.
Then, it was last minute errands on Tuesday, including a visit to the cemetery at Eastbrook End to take flowers to my parents’ grave.

Some beautiful English summer flowers for my parents,

Some beautiful English summer flowers for my parents,

And then, it was back to Gatwick, courtesy of the lovely AK, who drove me, where I left yesterday morning to come back to Antigua. I was extremely lucky to be upgraded to Club World on the flight. The section of the Club World cabin I was in only had three other people, so I actually had a loo to myself. Now, that really IS an upgrade. And I am extremely grateful fo it.
And I’m extremely grateful that I had such a lovely time, even though it was whirlwind and tiring, I wouldn’t have changed it. It was amazing being able to spend time with people I love.
Tonight I’m going to the launch of Hub Dot here in Antigua and tomorrow night to Shiva’s Academy of Dance show to support my friend MA.
And then it really is nose-to-the-grindstone. Writing every morning, until Singles, Ahoy! is finished!

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3 thoughts on “My Little Grand Tour

  1. Blimey Elaine I feel exhausted just reading this. It was great to see you and will face time you next week with the “new car”! Speak to you soon x

  2. I’ll make sure your bed is a double next time, I laughed so much those two days I had jaw ache for a week.
    Miss you xxx

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