Slowly but surely we have been getting to know the ins and outs of our new caravan, appreciating to the max the wonderful extra living space that we now have. I doubt if I’ve ever heard Mary so enthusiastic about anything we’ve ever bought before, with perhaps the exception of that set of tea towels I bought her for her birthday a couple of years ago! Now we can sit (or lie!) in separate rooms, we can be in the caravan at the same time without seeing each other or asking the other to move to let me past, we can use the loo in comfort and we can even have a shower without going to the toilet block.

It’s strange but we’d never really missed these basic comforts when we lived in the Magic Caravan. Somehow or other we must have simply adapted to the constraints of our situation, just like we adapted to having a hugely reduced income when we started the adventure. It certainly shows you how flexible we can all be if we decide to alter our lifestyles and do something more fulfilling. In truth, modern caravanning is nothing like it was way back in the 50s and 60s when gas mantles provided naked flame light in the rooms and middle-of-the-night sprints to an unlit and unheated toilet block were standard. No, no, Mary describes our new dwelling as like living in a hotel, so plush and well-appointed are the trappings of the Bailey Pageant Burgundy Series 7!

I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed though. It’s still like being in a war zone when it rains! Not that it rains very often over here, but when it does, as I’ve told you before, it briefly tries to make up for all those dry days at a stroke. It starts with a mild plink-plonk above your head, picks up tempo to a rather interesting light drumming, takes it up a couple of notches to a “that sounds heavy” level then lets you have both barrels like the last line of a Green Day chorus until you can’t hear yourself think! The noise is quite surprising, a bit like if you’ve ever sheltered beneath a corrugated iron roof to escape getting a soaking. I did that last summer up in the mountains around Glencoe with my group of Germans when I was working for Rob Roy Tours. Not that we could escape getting drenched up in those parts. It wasn’t so much a hike that day as a paddle! Scotland at the height of summer, eh?

So, back to May in Vilanova. Our Dutch friends, Tom and Margaret, decided to throw an afternoon get-together to say farewell to all their friends on Sunday 18. This coincided with Scott’s arrival later that evening at El Prat airport, Barcelona, which meant that, while the assembled company got stuck in to drinks and snacks and quietly got merry, Georgie boy sunk a whole deck of Fanta Limon Zero as he doesn’t drink and drive, unlike some out here. I wasn’t feeling at my brightest that day, having slightly overindulged the previous day while watching a feast of exciting football from around Europe.

The boys on their way to the Final

The boys on their way to the Final

Although both the Scottish and English Cup Finals were up for grabs (well bottled Dundee United!) and three of our tangerine-bedecked lads, Gavin, Greg and Scott were at the final in Glasgow, all eyes and ears over here were firmly fixed on the winner-takes-all clash at the Camp Nou where Barça needed to beat the visitors Atletico Madrid to steal La Liga from them on the last day. Despite going a goal up, the Catalans could not however thwart the wonderful exuberance of Simeone’s cracking good team and an equaliser was enough to hand a well-deserved  title to the Madrileños! The locals were gutted of course but there was a surprisingly large contingent of Atletico supporters in the bar and they celebrated in style while the beaten men cursed and dragged themselves back to their homes for a cosy evening of spite and bile!

I must correct a terrible oversight from earlier in the month when I failed to mention how delighted I was that my old favourites, Dundee F.C., won the Championship title on a day of ridiculous tension and more than a tincture of controversy. While Dundee were holding on to a 2-1 lead over Dumbarton at Dens Park and thereby securing the title, their challengers Hamilton Academicals kept their hopes alive by hammering 10 (yes, ten!) past a beguiled Morton who had defied all the odds by defeating Dundee two weeks earlier. As I listened to the goals raining in at Greenock, I knew, as did everyone in Dundee and beyond, that an equaliser from Dumbarton would send Hamilton into the Premier League and force Dundee to try for promotion via the play-offs.

Thankfully, Dundee held on and the celebrations on the pitch were unrestrained and so well-merited. It was brilliant that my eldest, George, got to see the second half live and even better that my grandson Ben was with him at his first ever football match. And to make sure the day was almost perfect, George ensured that the wee man joined the pitch invasion at the end and gave us this classic photo!

Dundee's next keeper?

Dundee’s next keeper?

So, there we were, sober as judges at Tom and Margaret’s farewell “do”. On two occasions our hostess had come over and whispered in my ear, asking me to go and get my guitar and give the assembled guests a tune and on both occasions I had responded in the negative. But when she asked for a third time, well, God bless her, I crumbled and fetched the said instrument of torture. In fact it was a really good move because, as sometimes happens when I play for a group of guests, I chose the songs they wanted to hear luckily and the whole party quickly warmed up and moved to a new level. By the time we were roaring out the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer”, the pitch was jumping and we almost took ourselves over the edge with a second rendering of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by your Man!” Just wonderful, so it was!

 

Old rockers!

Old rockers!

At eight o’clock we zoomed off to the airport where we picked up a smiling, happy Scott before driving back to Vilanova Park where we caught up on what’s been happening in his life over a chicken-and-chips takeaway. Delicious! Scott was very impressed with the new caravan and elected to sleep on the bench bed rather than slink next door and spend the night alone in the Magic Caravan. This proved very helpful to us as he was able to report on how comfortable the make-up bed was at the end of his stay.

Downtime for Scott

Downtime for Scott

We quickly resolved to spend the next 2 days locally and enjoy the good weather, given that the forecast was not the best. The first day, after we had deposited Mary at her work in town, we came back to the campsite and had a “no holds barred” tennis challenge. Scott raced to 4-0 in the first before the old man took control and ran out victor by 7 games to 5. Set 2 was a more straightforward stroll in the sunshine for yours truly and it was just a pity that the 6-3 win was not celebrated by the traditional leap over the net. Not nowadays dear readers! Still, I think the wee man was quite impressed that I can still move (a little!) around the court and he admitted he had not expected me to return some of his shots which he thought would be winners. It’s nice to know I’m still alive!

On the Tuesday, Scott came with me to pick up Guillem and then wandered around the Rambla by himself until Mary finished work. They then spent a couple of hours in town before I picked them up in the Audi after I’d finished at Guillem’s. That evening, we decided to hit Barcelona reasonably early next morning but for a change I said I would drive into the city to save us time with it being Scott’s last full day for this visit. And that’s what we did on the Wednesday, me driving us into Barcelona and straight up the Tibidabo hill for a reportedly splendid view of the city from above. That is, assuming that there isn’t a thick fog! By the time we were at the top of the hill I could just about make out the side of the road! There was unfortunately no alternative but to turn and drop back down below the cloud by which time the view was more at block of flats height and the vista was gone. Mary and I will no doubt get to admire the panorama on a future visit but for the moment, sorry Scott, maybe next time.

Scott plus famous Gaudi lizard

Scott plus famous Gaudi lizard

All was of course not entirely lost. We called upon the assistance of the lovely Victoria, roused her from a winter slumber, gave her a few moments to literally recharge her batteries and then asked her to take us as near to Park Guell as she could. She obeyed like the good girl she is (are you listening, Mary?) and soon we were in an underground car park at the bottom of the hill. From there it was onto the outside escalators and back up the hill without a car to worry about. With the weather holding we had a very enjoyable couple of hours in Gaudi’s famous park but left in plenty time to get back to Vilanova in time for Mary’s class. After work she joined us at the bar and we had a good, family chat outside on the terrace until near bedtime.

Serious father and son shot. Gorgeous, and Scott's not bad either!

Serious father and son shot. Gorgeous, and Scott’s not bad either!

Son and Mum. Sweet!

Son and Mum. Sweet!

In the blink of an eye, we were waving farewell to our youngest at the airport (again!). We think Scott enjoyed his second visit to Vilanova Park and his gypsy Mum and Dad and he has absolutely promised us that it will not be his last either! We love you being here with us, Scott, and we sincerely hope it won’t be too long until you come back – mainly so I can whip you at tennis again! As we drove back on the C31 to Vilanova the sun came out again and stayed out (except at night times) for the following week, just to remind us of one of the reasons why we’re here.

Met this guy in Park Guell

Met this guy in Park Guell

The following day was a duvet day for both of us but I soon got into the zone and back to work on finding and inserting old photos of Dundee into my memoir “Wee Georgie”. This part of the final preparations for publication has been much more difficult than I could have ever imagined as I have to ask permission for use to the owners of every photo I want to have in the book, except for family photos of course. So far the search has been successful with D C Thomson’s, Retro Dundee, Dundee City Archives and a private collection by Norman Moore all giving me access to their wonderful photos of Dundee in the late 50s and early 60s. Here’s a sample.

Lochee West Station

Lochee West Station

I hope to finalise the permissions in the next few days and then I’ll send the text file and photograph files off to Great Yarmouth Printing Services who did “Socrates the sprinting snail of Sorrento” for me in December. I have been in contact with the head printer there and we’re closing in on a definitive version and format for publication. It’s getting quite exciting, I must admit!

Well, that’s Scott’s visit documented so I’ll stop there and send you a report on the rest of May tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed today’s contribution. Stay happy and try to find time to enjoy yourselves. We certainly do!

This woke us up one morning!

This woke us up one morning!

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