In no time at all we were back into the swing of things here in Vilanova, me doing nothing and Mary working all the hours God sent her (Well we need the money, don’t we?). We arrived on the feast of the Epiphany (la fiesta de los Reyes) to find Spain celebrating Christmas by closing for the day. Thankfully Mike and Het had foreseen this circumstance and arranged to share their evening meal with us so, after a quick afternoon nap, we found ourselves in their caravan tucking in to a lovely pork joint. Drink was also taken I believe.Two days later and it was us returning the compliment by having them over for tea that night as we did not want them to have to cook the night before flying back to Blighty. I launched into my signature mince and tatties presented together as a Shepherd’s Pie and I was delighted when our guests scraped the patterns off their plates (not Willow Pattern unfortunately). Mike and Het took the opportunity to have me sign their copy of “Socrates” and also the copy they had bought to take home to their grandson. I was happy to oblige.

Tea in the awning

Sign here please!

Sign here please!

The following day as planned we drove our friends to the airport just as they had done for us before Christmas. For the next few days over the weekend we kept a very low profile, just getting on with our own business. The only socialising we did was a night up at the bar with Fred in the company of Jeanette who had flown over again from Copenhagen. The weather then turned a wee bit sour with a couple of days of rain but the temperature never dropped below 10 degrees during the day so there was little to complain about.

On the Tuesday I had my work again, picking up Guillem from the school bus, letting him play in the park with his friend then walking him home where we got stuck into his homework in French . We then had an hour’s English before his Dad Ramon produced our tea. I finished at nine o’clock which coincided with Mary coming out of school so I was able to go and pick her up at the market in town. That same day however, our French friend on G Block, Claude, the husband of Chantal, was taken into hospital and what followed took up the rest of our week.

The next day I was called from my bed just after nine to drive our next-door neighbours Robert and Margaret into Vilanova for their doctor’s appointment but that included waiting for them to get the prescriptions they were given from the chemist’s, so my morning disappeared. On my return I enquired as to how Claude was doing but a tearful Chantal told me he was going downhill fast with all sorts of complications that a 74-year old would find difficult to withstand. To help out I offered to drive her and two others to the hospital about 5 miles away so that’s where I took them after dropping Mary at her work just before five. The news came back later that Claude had stabilized although he was still in Intensive Care.

Friday morning at eight o’clock my French friends woke me with the sad news that Claude had passed away late the previous evening. This came as a bit of a shock for us as you can imagine. His widow asked me if we could accompany her to the funeral parlour soon afterwards to translate from Spanish or Catalan into French so that she could make all the necessary arrangements for poor Claude’s cremation. So we found ourselves in a totally unreal situation, sitting listening intently as the Spanish undertaker’s assistant explained how to fill in all the forms etc. before we told Chantal in French what she would have to do. This was certainly a long, long way from the Speaking Test scenarios we had dealt with as teachers back in Dundee.

That afternoon (a gloriously sunny and warm day by the way) we went back down into Vilanova to catch the tail end of the celebrations of the feast of St. Anthony Abat, an annual parade and displays centring on horses, but we had missed everything. Instead we headed for the port and beach. We spent an excellent time down there, cheering ourselves up with a stroll across the sands, a seat out by the harbour watching the waves coming in and then a coffee and cake at the seafront café we particularly frequent.

We had a long lie Saturday and then smartened ourselves up in preparation for the funeral service down in town. We drove in convoy with 3 other cars out of the campsite and down to the funeral parlour where we were conducted into a lovely chapel of repose. Therein we were able to pay our last respects to Claude whose open coffin was placed to the side of the dais. He looked very peaceful in his smart clothing and he had lost his beard and moustache, making him look younger than previous. An hour later the lid was closed and a funeral service was conducted by a Catalan priest. We had chosen a Catalan speaker as opposed to a Spanish speaker as we thought the French families would be able to follow the service more easily and we were proved right as we managed to hold onto what he was saying. At one beautiful moment he invited us to join in the Lord’s Prayer and we did so, in Catalan, in French and in English simultaneously!

As fate would have it, the couple who had driven Chantal to the funeral rooms were not going to the cremation so I found myself driving to Sitges behind the hearse with the widow in the passenger seat of the Audi and Mary in the back. Chantal remarked en route how people wear all sorts of clothing to funerals nowadays in France, all except anything red. Guess what Mary had on?! I’m sure Chantal hadn’t even noticed but Mary swiftly removed her coat as soon as we reached the crematorium and chucked it in the boot. Saved! The cremation was no more than a final chance to say “adieu” to Claude who was for a last few seconds visible in the open coffin, then the lid was shut and we were asked to leave. Back at Vilanova Park we were invited for a drink but declined, to give the family their own time together.

As you can imagine, Sunday was a serious day of rest although I spent a bit of time in the bar with a new friend who had been working on enhancing my old photographs of Wee Georgie and Family, using some sophisticated Photoshop equipment. What a great job he did, even rescuing Joe on his First Communion day photographed with Grandma as you can see below almost completely erased due to damage over time. You’ll see the cleaned-up version in my autobiography.

Outside the Cathedral in Dundee

Outside the Cathedral in Dundee

I’m off to the communal meal tonight onsite while Mary is working then we’re having a get-together with Chantal and her family tomorrow followed on Friday evening by dinner with some other friends Jennifer and Ernest (important to be him!) so the social whirl continues unabated. Phhewww! We also have a group hill walk of 10 kilometres  on Friday afternoon.

As a treat I’m leaving you with the most beautiful child ever, my granddaughter Artemis!


The hairy bit is her Daddy’s arm!