Day 4/212: A Real Holiday

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Trying to keep our Fridays sacred and go away on our own to visit new places, we took a drive to the nearby little town of El Vendrell the day before Scott was due to come out on holiday. This place is about half-an-hour away in the car and, although we’d driven through it several times on our way to Roc de Gaieta and so on, we’d never actually parked up and had a look around. So, once we’d found a parking place, we set off to explore the town. as is nearly always the case, we headed for the church in the main square and then strolled around the surrounding streets. We were rewarded with a very pleasant afternoon and the usual one or two surprises. The painted walls in one of the streets were a delight, recalling a famous 7-storey human tower by the Castellers of the town. Impressive!

Nice drawing

Nice drawing

Do I come over as an insensitive, unfeeling oaf? That’s a rhetorical question of course! So when Lady Burton slips into one of our little cosy chats of an evening that she would like to have a couple of nights away from Vilanova Park during Holy Week when she’s not working, well, what can I say? I could have offered to find her a wee job just for that week, but a long stay in a Spanish hospital waiting for swellings to go down persuaded me otherwise. OK, dearest light of my life, I will take you on holiday. “Where?” she asked. After a night’s sleep to process an idea circulating haphazardly in what I call my brain, I announced I was going to take her to places beginning with the letter B.

I love the sport! Keep as much of everything as a surprise if you can and you are sure to provoke a reaction. I got what I wished for. Mary started reeling off long lists of places she knew began with “B”. Barcelona was of course top of the list and she had actually suggested we have a couple of nights in a hotel in the Catalonian capital already. But George wouldn’t be the infuriating tease he is if that’s as far as his imagination could go. Oh no! And it wasn’t Brussels either, which, given the events that were to happen there shortly after we left, was a godsend. Nor was it Birmingham (why ever would we go there?) I booked the first 2 hotels but still said nothing.

On the Thursday morning, I took Scott back to the airport for his return flight to Edinburgh. Tragically Mary couldn’t come with us as she had rearranged a lesson with Jordi Calvo, the C.E.O. at Prysmian for 9 o’clock. However I was back in time to pick her up and drive her back to the campsite, before preparing for my weekly game of golf with my 3 pals. Maybe it was the boost of having spent time with Scott, or maybe it was the thought of all that money Mary was earning, but I played out of my skin for the first 9 holes, 8 of which Dick and I won, and the match was over 8&7 at the twelfth hole. I had gone out in 28 strokes, a remarkable score which I surely will never repeat, and my very average 36 on the back 9 gave me a total of 64, six better than I had ever shot before.

Not bad, eh?

Not bad, eh?

The next day, the one before we were due to leave on holiday, I held off until about 3 in the afternoon, then finally told Mary where we were going. Bilbao!! She jumped up and down like a wee girl who’s just won her Primary 4 egg-and-spoon race! She knew immediately of course that a visit to Bilbao would naturally involve going to the world-famous Guggenheim Art Gallery which had turned the Basque town on its head in recent years, making it suddenly one of the “must see” cities of Spain. I also knew that there were strong comparisons being drawn between Bilbao and our home town of Dundee, due to the new V & A Museum currently being built there alongside the Discovery.

Needless to say, the rest of that Friday was a flurry of scarves, perfume, hair-doing, nail-painting, knickers-packing, handbag-searching ……… and that was just me! Mary was packed and ready to go on holiday by midnight and I wasn’t far behind, with only a trip to Simply to fill up with diesel to distract us from heading north on Saturday morning. The weather forecast wasn’t the best I’d ever read, I have to say, so Lady Burton was warned to include plenty warm clothes in her wee suitcase. We were genuinely excited when we got up on Saturday morning. We were going on holiday! Woo-Hoo!

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Day 4/210: The return of the son!

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My intention in this post is not to get you right up-to-date with what’s been happening over here. That’s because there’s simply too much of it and I don’t think I could fit it all in to one letter from Spain. So I’m going to tell you some bits today and then more as the next few days go by. It’s Easter weekend now and the campsite is absolutely stuffed with holidaymakers, mostly Spanish families, so it’s a whole lot noisier than normal. Who needs an alarm clock when you have a wee Spanish baby not 10 metres away who can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t go a bike, can’t sing, can’t speak English but can cry louder and longer than almost any child I have ever heard! His parents make no effort whatsoever to prevent this continual screaming, probably convinced that eventually the child will pull itself together and open a good book. But we won’t hold our breath on that happening now, will we?

I recently googled “How to bring up a Spanish baby” and it said “Sticking your fingers down your throat will probably work, but best not to eat it in the first place!”

A fortnight ago today, Scott came out to visit, necessitating an early drive to El Prat airport to pick him up and bring him back to Vilanova Park where he was going to spend 5 days with us in the caravan. Scott being Scott, we were hardly in the ‘van when he announced he wanted to go for a walk somewhere, so, after a spot of breakfast, we drove down to the front at neighbouring Cubelles and repeated the walk Mary and I had described in our last blog post. The big difference was that Scott now has a “smart watch” which monitors every step he takes, so he wanted to try it out with us in attendance. Sometimes he just forgets we’re not 21 any more and there he was, striding along the front at about 6mph with his Mum and I struggling to keep apace. We visited the huge breakwater down by the desalination plant then retraced our (rather too quick) steps back to the car.

Mother and son

Mother and son

And Dad too!

And Dad too!

With the weather forecast predicting heavy rain for most of his visit (never buy any lucky white heather from Scott!) we decided to visit Montserrat the next day, Sunday, when the sun was going to be out. What a shock we got up in the mountain as we neared the parking places. We were faced with a queue of about 100 cars all going nowhere fast and we sat for about half-an-hour contemplating our fate. But as always Dad took the big decision, pulled out onto the wrong side of the road, overtook the entire line, crept between the line of cars on the other road at the junction and drove off down the mountain again. I intended to return in an hour or so after all those who had come to hear the Boys’ Choir would have left. But three corners down the mountain we spotted a parking place recently vacated and pulled in.

The classic pic

The classic pic

This now meant a long walk of about a mile up the mountain to the monastery area but your intrepid Burtons did just that, rather than miss out on a visit to one of our favourite places. Montserrat is a beautiful spot and Scott enjoyed the wonderful views to the north and east stretching from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Sea. We kept our time in the church to a minimum as that’s not entirely his cup of tea and spent a good two or three hours walking the hillside paths. Scott was particularly impressed by the funicular but strangely didn’t fancy a ride on it – Mary was very grateful!

Scott in front of that funicular.

Scott in front of that funicular.

Before we left the mountain Scott simply had to add a “Messi” to his worldwide collection of poses.

Couldn't really miss this opportunity

Couldn’t really miss this opportunity

As predicted, the rain came on Monday curtailing some of our plans but we did manage to get in a set of tennis in the morning while Mary was at work. I raced into a 3-1 lead but then the young one stepped up a gear and I crumbled, losing 5 on the trot to leave him champion. Scott came with us at 5 o’clock to pick up my pupil and wee pal Guillem from his school “Bel Air” but then he went off into town with Mum to do some shopping while I did my lessons. We all met up later on at the bar for a beer or two then we went back to the caravan where Scott showed off his recent purchases. The lad’s got style, y’know!

On Tuesday I had to take a customer to the airport and Mary was working most of the day so Scott came with me in the car and, after depositing the two travellers at El Prat, we returned via the main C32 road, allowing us to pull in at the Barnasud shopping centre in Gava. I had an unexpectedly brilliant time shopping with Scott and we both came home with some really nice new clothes. Mum wasn’t totally left out however as son bought her a lovely top and a cosy pair of pyjamas at my suggestion. Mary was typically delighted with her presents and we both got hugs and kisses.

After dropping Mary at the Prysmian factory on Wednesday morning, Scott and I headed up to the Portal del Roc golf course and managed a quick round of par 3s. This time the old man came out on top, shooting a steady round of 70 and leaving youngest son trailing in his wake! Then we met Mary after work at 13.30 and drove down the coast to visit Sant Roc de Gaieta and Coma Ruga where the fish nibble your feet. I’d rustled up a bit of a picnic salad and the sun came out for a while giving us a fine afternoon which was topped off by hot chocolate and churros in a café nearby.

Scott and his Mum at Roc de Gaieta

Scott and his Mum at Roc de Gaieta

As usual, before we knew it, it was time for Scott to leave. We’d managed 5 days and nights in the caravan together, had a brilliant time, hadn’t fallen out over anything and had done a wee bit of bonding together again. He left us confident that all was well in his world and that we needn’t worry too much about his future. I must say he did impress us with his grown-up attitude but I’m glad to say he still has his OCD tidiness thing which we find very amusing, given our complete lack of that social grace! We were sorry to say “Bye bye!” to our youngest but he keeps in close contact with us and phones regularly to let us know how he is (unlike some!)

Our Dutch friends, Tom and Margareth have just returned from their road trip down and back up from Seville, taking in all the best places to visit and enjoying a long break from Vilanova Park. They have clearly had a ball and they look all the better for their adventure, given that they are both the wrong side of 65 and even 70 in Tom’s case. As usual, he got himself into trouble in the cowboy town, got arrested

Hands up!

Hands up!

and spent a night in the cells!

Throw away the key!

Throw away the key!

A couple of weeks ago, we all had a bit of a barbecue round on “G” block. Fred, Jeanette, Dick and Linda were the hosts and Jeremy, being half-Australian, did the Barbie. Old Scouser Jimmy kept us well entertained with tales of old Liverpool, sang us old songs from that city including the original “Maggie May” and even got out the banjo to accompany his songs! What a laugh we had! Once people had had a few, I was requested to take over and lead the community singing on guitar which I did using the new one bought for Dick to learn on. The following day we were the talk of the campsite, our singing having been heard at the furthest corners of the site.

Food, glorious food!

Food, glorious food!

Some of the girls fancied a dance

Some of the girls fancied a dance

To bring you bang up-to-date, I’ve just come back from watching the cyclists in the Tour of Catalunya go flying past the entrance to the campsite, reminiscent of the twice we’ve seen the Tour de France go by on previous holidays. Spectacular, colourful and very, very quick! Sorry, I forgot to take a camera.

More news in the next day or two. Enjoy!