You’ll be wondering where I’ve been! Well, we’re back in Vilanova, but not quite as simply as you might expect, because we’ve come back after Xmas and the New Year, returned to England last week and are now back again in the caravan. The unplanned visit last Thursday was to attend the funeral of dear Uncle Brian who sadly slipped away on 13 January after a short illness. Having been particularly kind to me over the years, especially when things were not going well, there was never a question of not attending, despite that involving a flight to Stanstead, car hire and a drive up the A1M to Newcastle and back.

The funeral  went as well as any such event can go and Mary and I had a lovely time afterwards at Brian’s local pub where we met up with almost all of the English side of our family, including many I had never met before! My brother Joe and his wife Mo had made the hazardous journey down from Lochcarron by bus and car and it was great to hear the news of their latest grandchild, little Mabel Rosa, a second daughter for their son Rory and his wife Lana out in Melbourne. Once again, one leaves and one arrives: it’s remarkable how often that seems to happen. But we’ll all miss Brian, even over here where he made a mighty impression on our friends when he and Auntie Pat came to visit last spring.

Our visit back home for Xmas and the New Year was excellent despite me ending up on antibiotics for a horrendous cough and URI. We started Xmas day early with a drive up to Arbroath for breakfast with Gavin, Eve and Artemis (at 08.00!) where we were treated to our granddaughter opening her presents for the very first time now that she is 16 months old. From there it was back down to Dundee to see George, Fiona, Daniel and Ben and yet more presents being opened. Isn’t it wonderful having grandchildren? After a short nap back at the flat, we all went round to Mary’s Mum’s house for Xmas dinner with the family in Dundee.

Ben, enjoying our laundry basket!

Ben, enjoying our laundry basket!

New Year was slightly different with Mary and I accompanying Scott over to a friend’s house in Monifieth where we spent a couple of hours with the parents. We then picked up Greg and Karen before returning to the flat then off to Mary’s sister’s house for the bells. We had a fine time there but called it a day around 3 o’clock and went to bed. This wandering about was made possible by a totally cooperative Mary who, bless her, agreed not to drink but drive us all around, quoting that it would make up for all the driving I have done over here. She’s an angel you know!

Having given Scott BT Sports as an additional present, I was able to watch the Dundee derby a couple of days later from the comfort of the living-room while the boys all went to see it live, but I did join in with the post-match drinks down the Perth Road with them and all their friends. I was once again proud to observe both Dundee and Dundee United supporters mingling happily together in the après-match banter despite the rather one-sided result. Let’s just say my team didn’t win! One other United supporter I met was my old friend and ex-colleague Erwan Ansquer whom we bumped into at the Central Library in Dundee. It was nice to catch up on his news and to discover that his wife Sandra and the two girls are all thriving.

Me with Erwan

Me with Erwan

Much of the rest of the time was taken up with book stuff which I’ll tell you about later. We flew back at the crack of dawn on 8 January thanks to Scott who drove us to Edinburgh airport at 4 in the morning. Well done, son! Mike and Het were there at El Prat airport in Barcelona to take us back to the caravan park and we had a quiet day before I went off to see to Guillem as usual, as it was a Thursday. The following week, my brother called to tell me that Uncle Brian had passed away while I was teaching Guillem at his home but luckily I was able to use their broadband to make contact with those I needed to speak to. So now we had to busy ourselves with making arrangements for a journey back to Britain.

From the moment we had returned, Mary had been coughing her guts up, seemingly having caught what I had had back in Dundee. This would not go away however and one Saturday, the feast of St. Anthony Abat and a public holiday with parades of horses and riders, I took her down to the hospital to get examined. 3 hours later we emerged with prescriptions galore, hoping this Spanish cocktail would do the trick. Well, it did eventually but my poor darling still has the last traces of that damned cough. Naturally she blames me!

I just couldn't resist!

I just couldn’t resist!

How Spanish is that?

How Spanish is that?

Life here on the campsite has been relatively quiet. We have a new entertainments provider, a Scouser called Dave, who runs the bingo on Monday nights and the quiz on Wednesday evenings after the communal meal. He is busy organizing a fish and chips night for Friday so I’ll let you know how that goes. Mike and Het have recently invested in a full-size awning which I helped erect last week along with several other able-bodied guys while Het kept us provided with hot tea. Tom and Greeta have bought a new kitchen tent from which wafts lovely smells most teatimes, Dick and Linda have returned to their usual pitch next door to Fred, and Carol and Rob are just back from Xmas in Liverpool (or the Wirral as Carol insists!).

Our social life as party people has involved only three get-togethers. The first was a dinner at Fred and Jeanette’s before she went back to Copenhagen. She had asked me to sing a few songs after the meal so I took along the trusty guitar and would like to think I surprised her with my repertoire. I printed off some lyrics too, so all those present were able to join in the singing. Jeanette’s cooking as usual was the highlight of the evening and not the post-meal entertainment. Our second “do” was a spontaneous gathering in Sandra’s awning next door late one Tuesday night where Mike and I were the only males present, six of the girls making up an interesting but very noisy coven! It must have been good because we actually got some complaints.

Two Saturdays ago, we were invited down to Ramon and Beti’s for a meal to celebrate Guillem’s 9th birthday. Both sets of grandparents as well as a couple of aunts and uncles and two or three cousins were there to help with the celebrations and we had a truly lovely time with them all. We gave the wee man a jigsaw as a present but I told Beti it was a present for her and Ramon as I expected it would keep Guillem nice and quiet for a long time!

See you Jimmy!

See you Jimmy!

 “Wee Georgie” continues to surprise everyone (including me!) with its sales at Waterstones and I am always on the lookout for different ways to market the product using social media and the internet in general. After those 2 good articles in the Dundee Courier Weekend Magazine and Scottish Television online, we now await the page I’ve written about my metamorphosis from teacher to writer in “The Peoples Friend” on Valentine’s Day. Make sure to get yourself a copy as I think it’s a good read. I’ve had fun watching the book move up and down the bestsellers’ chart at Waterstones especially when I find it next to or preferably above a more famous memoir such as Maggie Thatcher’s “The Downing Street Years” which I overtook recently. I’m also trying out a couple of other avenues about which I’ll keep you informed as and when.

The big news on the writing front is that I have finished “Socrates 2” and will be sending it to Joe for editing shortly. As Lainey is no longer part of the team, we are doing our own illustrations for the second book so that should be quite exciting too! With a bit of luck we’ll be able to publish sometime between Easter and the summer. My work as a wordsmith will have to be concentrated on finishing “Wee Georgie 2” but that means 50,000 new words so that won’t be happening any time soon.

The future has changed slightly and we’ll be back in Dundee for the whole of March to help look after Ben and to see Scott through the first 3 weeks of his second Primary School placement. We intend to return to Vilanova for Easter weekend and on until late June but that could easily change so don’t take it as set in stone as we are prone to making decisions at the last minute.

Right, I think we’ve caught up on the adventure at last. I’ll try really hard to write you a few lines every week or so from now on but please don’t hold your breath! I’ll finish with the biggest surprise yet, from this very morning. This is genuine!

First time we've seen this here!

First time we’ve seen this here!