Having said goodbye to all our visitors for the moment, the end of March was a return to normal life, if our life could ever be called “normal”. Both of us developed quite nasty colds which hung around for a few days, confining us to barracks once on a day when it was thankfully chucking it down so we missed nothing. There were now more frequent changes in the occupants of the pitches around us as those who preferred to spend the winter here chose to pack up and travel back to their homelands as winter faded and the sun began to return to frozen wastes.

Robert and Margaret, the old couple on the first pitch on our road, finally decided to call it a day after 14 years here at Vilanova Park. Declining health and a series of falls and mishaps eventually persuaded them that it was no longer safe to live away from their family, so sadly they were forced to call for the assistance of their son and grandson who came out and helped them to pack up and prepare to leave. This took about a week, during which they sold off or gave away most of the contents of their caravan as well as their tow-car before being driven to the airport for a final flight back to England. God bless them both!

Margaret and Robert

Margaret and Robert

The great bonus of this quiet time was that I was finally able to sit down at the laptop and get stuck in to the second book of “Socrates”. The Muse crept up and enveloped me as April made its debut and the words fairly tumbled onto the page as if a dam had burst. Before I knew it six chapters had emerged into the light of day, six thousand words or so, with the rest queuing up in orderly fashion in my noggin, waiting to be typed into existence.

As always, Mary was my editor and sounding-board and I would pace around the awning anxiously waiting for her verdict on the quality of what I had written. I’m sure you can imagine the delight I felt each time she pronounced a chapter fit to be read and indeed possibly superior to the standard set in book 1. I do believe I could have finished all ten chapters during that fertile period but I had to set aside my keyboard as the tenth approached, heralding our return to Dundee for Easter.

But unbeknown to almost everyone, a major change in our circumstances was about to take place. Unfortunately, our good friends Kate and Dave from Bath had decided to stop touring with their caravan, opting instead next autumn to fly over and hire a chalet. This left them needing to sell their rather nice 4-berth Bailey Pageant Burgundy, a lovely caravan just 5 years old, plus a whole awning full of the trappings of long-stay on a campsite. To cut a long story short, they offered us the caravan, we agreed a price, shook hands on the deal and arranged for us to take possession when they left for home on the 25 April. But more of that later!

Our journey home to Dundee was with Ryanair via Prestwick from where we caught a train to Glasgow Central, nipped over to Glasgow Queen Street and took a second train to Dundee where Scott picked us up and drove us to our temporary digs at Mary’s Mum’s house. As always, she overwhelmed us with love and kindness, feeding us, washing our clothes, even giving us hot water bottles at bedtime and letting us use her car! Thank you, Mum, we both love you dearly.

We had resolved to have a less hectic visit than the chaos that is Christmas time with family, so we took it slowly, concentrating on our nearest and dearest and leaving it to fate to bump into friends we hadn’t seen for a while. I suppose 40-odd years is a bit excessive but when we chanced upon my primary school best friend, Eddie Weir, in Boot’s in Lochee one day, there was a genuine moment of nostalgic emotion between us and we couldn’t stop hugging each other. We immediately made plans to meet to catch up all those years apart, but as usual we ran out of time this holiday and I have had to write to apologize to Eddie for not finding an hour to share a pint or two. We have agreed to meet in the summer and I intend not to break that promise.

The first day of our holiday we caught up with Mary’s family and in the evening Scott and I went into town to attend the engagement party of an ex-Kelso player Liam Feeney, one of the many second generation boys at the club whose fathers were my team-mates. At this event we met up with several of the present Kelso players and Committee members and I was able to have a first-hand account of how the season had gone. It was a bit of a laugh when those who were unaware of our circumstances accused me of spending too much time under the sunlamp!

The very next day, we were up to George’s where we saw both of our grandchildren, Ben and Artemis, plus their Mums and Dads and a very tall Daniel who must have been sleeping in a Grow-Bag for the past 4 months! That afternoon I went to watch Gavin and Scott play for Kelso up in Carnoustie where I enjoyed a 2-2 draw played amidst an occasional dust storm as the topsoil blew off the adjacent ploughed field in the howling gale! The referee, my old friend Calum Race, told me he considered abandoning the game at one point when visibility was reduced to about 20 metres.

The keeper never saw it!

The keeper never saw it!

 

After Palm Sunday Mass, we drove to Coupar Angus to visit our 92-year old aunt Cissie, the doyenne of the family. We found her bright and cheery if a little confused but we could see that she is very frail now and somewhat unsure of herself. On our return we were cheered by Mum’s classic steak pie (bought as usual from the Lochee butcher’s) and I must admit that I doubt if there is a better meal on the planet. I took advantage of being back in Dundee to make appointments at the Diabetes and the Hypertension Clinics at the local health centre and I had a thorough MOT on the Thursday which showed me to be imperfect but still game!

Monday involved me meeting with Elaine (Lainey), the illustrator of Book 1 of Socrates, the Sprinting Snail of Sorrento.  We chatted about the possibility of her illustrating Book 2 as well, but as she has some family issues and might not have the time over the next 6 months, there is just the possibility I will have to buy the rights to the drawings from her and then seek a new illustrator. Any offers? On Monday evening we were invited down to Auntie Marie and uncle Ian’s where we caught up with their side of the family. Ian proudly played us a recording of his granddaughter Nicole singing “Somewhere” from West Side Story which I consider the best I’ve ever heard of her amazing voice and we could hear that her time at the Conservatoire in Glasgow is having a positive impact on the development of her singing.

On Tuesday we had a really good lunch at the Park Hotel with uncle Gerard then on Tuesday evening I managed to have a couple of hours alone with my eldest George down at the Taybridge Bar. He was able to update me on his job, his aspirations for the future, and how the 3 members of his family were doing. While Ben is thriving and sleeping much better at night times, Daniel is preparing for his National Exams at St. John’s High School, the first diet of the new Curriculum for Excellence Exams. Fingers crossed there then! Daniel is however quietly confident and all reports suggest he will do well. No pressure of course, son! Unfortunately George told me that his partner Fiona has to go into Ninewells Hospital on Easter Saturday for a quite serious operation and he was of course anxious on her behalf. Fiona did get through the operation and back home 3 days later but has since had to be readmitted with an infection. Our thoughts are with her just now.

On Wednesday Mary and I drove up to Arbroath where we spent a couple of hours with our daughter-in-law Eve and baby Artemis. Now that she is all of 7 months old Ari appears to have decided that granddad is no longer the Bogeyman so she does not feel the need to screw up her face and scream as soon as I enter the room. Indeed she sat happily in my lap for half an hour playing with her toys and posing coyly for a barrage of photos. Eve’s maternity leave will be up at the end of the first week of May but thankfully her mother Elaine will be taking over the reins, something I’m sure she will be desperately looking forward to. It will of course be a bitter-sweet moment for Eve but after wall-to-wall baby she’ll appreciate becoming an individual again.

Does she look worried to you?

Does she look worried to you?

That next day, Mary took the train to Edinburgh to meet up with sisters Dorothy and Claire and children, prior to a visit to Edinburgh zoo to see the famous pandas. Mary would be spending the night with Claire and kids in Edinburgh followed by a day around the city. I visited Ben at his other grandparents’ house then popped into St. Paul’s Academy to leave a couple of copies of “Socrates” for the school library. Of course I met loads of my old colleagues and friends and the “popping in” lasted the whole afternoon but I was pleased to find most of them fit and well and surviving the daily whirlwind that is teaching in a secondary school. Good luck to you all. I genuinely miss you.

Do I look like I want children?

Do I look like I want children?

From there I drove out of Dundee and up to Blairgowrie where I spent the first of 2 nights with my cousin Renée and her husband Stef. Their daughter Teresa and her daughter Becky (who visited us here in Vilanova at the tail end of last year) came round for dinner as well and we sat at table late having a great catch-up. Good Friday was lazy until I had to drive back into Dundee to pick Mary up at the station and then return to Renée’s. Mary had obviously had a cracking good time in Edinburgh and talked all the way back about what she and her sisters had gotten up to. Cousin Ricky came for dinner that night along with Teresa and her husband Steve so it was brilliant having all that family around the table. All too soon on Saturday morning it was bye! bye! to Blairgowrie and the cousins but we left in the knowledge that Cissie was not doing well and might have to be admitted to hospital, something she, like my late mother Peggy, considered to be her worst nightmare.

After settling in at Mary’s sister Ally’s, Scott and I met up with Gavin to watch Kelso 2nd XI in a league match against Morgan Academy FPs. Later we met up with Mary, bought a carry-out curry and went back to our flat where we stuffed ourselves to the point of bursting. Greg showed up just as we were starting and, but for George, the family was complete again. We noticed as usual that Scott has kept the flat like a new pin, much better than we ever have! Gavin and Greg took the train back to Arbroath and Montrose respectively then we went over to Ally’s house but hardly survived half an hour before the Sandman did his best!

Easter Sunday was a riot of mass, bacon rolls at Ally’s, a visit to George, Daniel and Ben to roll our eggs in their garden, Lochee Park to roll more eggs with Ally, Dave and the kids including Dorothy’s two wee ones, Beth and Zak, then we all had tea at mum’s, one of her famous lasagnes. Back at Ally’s we made final arrangements for our departure before going to bed.

It is in the giving that we receive! Thank you, Ben!

It is in the giving that we receive! Thank you, Ben!

After our hosts were all off to school and work on Monday morning, Scott came over and took us to the bus station where we caught the Citylink to Glasgow Airport and the Travelodge just next to it. When I checked up on auntie Cissie, she had indeed been admitted to the Perth Royal Infirmary (or the Perth D.R.I. as they say in Dundee!) with a urine infection which was causing her some considerable distress, but at least she is now not alone and in good hands.

The Houghtons, Dave, Stephen, Sarah and Ally

The Houghtons, Dave, Stephen, Sarah and Ally

Early on Tuesday morning we took a Jet 2 flight back to Barcelona where our Dutch friends Tom and Margaret were bang on time to pick us up and deliver us safely back here at the campsite. We spent the afternoon settling back in then I drove Mary to her work and did the shopping for the rest of the week. Phewww!

I think I’ll stop there and write you the story of the new caravan tomorrow. You can get too much of a good thing, you know!

20140427-130728.jpg

Mary and I in the garden with Ben

Advertisements