Like pretty much everywhere in Europe this year, summer in Scotland was the best in a long time as I told you in my Munroamers post. This prompted our great friends from Kendal, Mike & Het, to pull their caravan North into Scotland and have a tour. They did really well too and we were delighted when they accepted our invitation to come and spend a few days with us in Dundee. It was a laugh from start to finish and included a visit to the Falkirk Wheel and a walk up West Lomond for me and Mike. They really are a splendid couple and we always feel totally at ease with them which is a huge bonus. We also visited a childhood haunt of Het’s (Anstruther) and of course had a fish & chips lunch at the famous chippie.

At the Kelpies

At the top of West Lomond

It was while we were visiting Anstruther that I suddenly received a missed call from the son of my Auntie Pat and I feared the worst. My fears were realised when I later received the bad news that Pat had passed away after suffering a stroke. Needless to say, Mary and I attended the funeral in Newcastle and met up with all the English relatives. I didn’t know I had so many cousins! We remember with great affection how Auntie Pat and Uncle Brian (not long departed himself) came to Vilanova Park for a few days at the end of a Mediterranean cruise and the absolute belter of a time they had with us and our friends. Now both are gone unfortunately, but they’ve left us with happy memories.

Pat & Brian at Montserrat

Brian & Pat at the Biker Bar

I should mention that we’ve done loads of work in the flat this summer and it now boasts a brand-new bathroom, a new living-room ceiling, wallpaper, lighting and carpet, so we’re quite happy to fly back for a short break anytime to enjoy what we’ve spent our money on. We also had our annual weekend away at the scout camp in Powburn with most of Mary’s family and once again Ben came along with us. This year he decided it would be much more fun to sleep in the dormitory with all the other kids rather than be cosy in a private room with Grandad George and Granny Mary. We also celebrated sister Claire’s husband’s 50th birthday and all dressed up in Blyth Spartans strips for the occasion. Mad, but a great laugh!

Claire, Ally, Bruce, Dot, Mary

Ben doing grass-sledging!

I saw plenty of the grandchildren this summer and had a terrific day with Artemis to myself which included a visit to see one of the 50 penguins Dundee City Council had spread around the town before auctioning them off. Well it wasn’t really much of a visit because the Council had positioned one of the flightless birds (named Chic!) right outside our window and at the entrance to the park opposite. It was a delight to see it there first thing in the morning and I’ll miss it now that it’s gone.

At the swings with Grandad George

Me and Arry with Chic

I’ve always thought that the beauty of living here is that it hardly ever rains, even though when it does it fair chucks it down! But this time around we’ve been left reeling by the utter monsoons that have swept through here on a fairly regular basis since our arrival back in Vilanova 7 weeks ago. Indeed, it was so bad the first evening we were here that the sheer weight of water brought down the partly-erected awning, snapping one of my new glass-fibre poles (you know, the ones that are virtually unbreakable!). Since that day we’ve been plagued by the notion that every time we leave the caravan unattended to go somewhere there is a chance we’ll return to find the awning lying on the ground and our possessions soaked if not ruined.

And it’s not only in the awning that we’ve had problems. That awful damp smell returned to the front of the caravan on my side of the bench seats and I had to go in with serious intent to track it down. I never did find out where it’s been coming in over the years but I found the results of the intrusion: the window shelf witnessed water penetration over a long period of time and I was forced to cut out a couple of feet of it and replace it with new wood. That seems to have done the trick and we’ve had no more bother since, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the rainstorms don’t find their way in and ruin things again.

On a happier note, we’ve had lots of family out to visit over the past 2 weeks as it has been the Scottish school holidays. George, Fiona and grandson Ben started the ball rolling when they flew in 2 Thursdays ago for a 2-week stay in Vilanova Park – just in time for Mary and I to fly back to Scotland the very next day! No. it’s not that we don’t get on, it’s just that we had arranged to fly home to attend sister-in-law Ally’s Silver Wedding Function in the Queen’s Hotel in Dundee. Everyone was going to be there and we really didn’t want to miss out on a good party, which is exactly what it turned out to be. The live band in particular were excellent and had a crowd on the dance-floor pretty much from the start, even chucking in a Gay Gordons and a dashing White Sergeant for good measure! Son Scott and his girl Keira were there too and they came with us the next morning to visit Dundee’s new top attraction the V & A Museum built in the town centre on the banks of the Tay. That was really impressive and we hope to visit the actual galleries when we’re home at Christmas.

Me, Mary and Scott

Exciting times for the City!

Second son Gavin came to the flat on the Sunday evening and at 3 in the morning we headed off to Edinburgh Airport in his car which he left there before joining us on the flight back to Barcelona where he spent four days with us and his brother getting in a bit of sunshine between the downpours! I was of course in my element with 2 of my sons and my grandson with me out here. We all had a trip to the Camp Nou to tour Barcelona’s stadium and trophy room and we all got the souvenir photos you can buy there. Here’s some from the collection.

The leader of the pack!

Just before going out onto the pitch

Ben with Leo

Gav flew away again on the Friday morning but we were back at the airport for a second time that day when Ally and Dave flew in late that evening fresh from their Silver Wedding celebration the previous weekend. George, Fiona and Ben stayed another week with us and we managed a few trips out to local spots including Roc de Sant Gaieta, Coma Ruga, Castellet, Tibidabo and Barcelona Zoo. Mary and I were quick to acknowledge that this place is heaven when the family are out here sharing quality time with us and it’s just a pity they can’t be here more often. Mary’s family have now returned home as well yesterday and that explains to a certain extent why I have now found the time to sit down and add to my blog. The previous 2 weeks have been full-on and I’m a bit worn-out although in a totally positive way. I’ve done a real lot of driving people around but it has been worth it and more!

Mary. Ben, Fiona and George at Roc de Sant Gaieta

George and family plus flamingoes!

Ben on Tibidabo

Ally, Stephen and Mary

As for Lady Burton, well she has returned to work for Global Connect, getting her job back as promised after a year off to go travelling with me again. She is presently doing 4 evenings a week Monday-Thursday plus one lunchtime class at the primary school Sant Jordi, although she might be offered more with the resignation of one of her colleagues to take up a full-time job in Sitges. Which brings me neatly to my new interest which is amateur dramatics! My pal Jeanette, Fred’s wife, has been involved with a group in Sitges for a couple of years now and had invited me before to give it a try, but she recently told me the group were short of one Scotsman for a sketch and I agreed to take the part. I have a final rehearsal tomorrow in Sitges and the performance will take place there next Saturday evening. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Fortunately I’ve been able to take up tutoring my wee pal Guillem again and have already done a couple of lessons with him. We had a day out with his parents Ramon and Beti at the Cubelles Wine Festival recently which was a fine event for all, although we were shocked to discover that they’ve been going through a rocky time in their relationship and are currently living apart. We hope that they are able to resolve their differences for Guillem’s sake as well. He came up to the campsite last week to play with Ben whom he has met during his two stays with us in Dundee and it was great to see them together again despite the age gap.

Guillem and Mary in Cubelles

Mary and I had a trip into Barcelona with her friend and colleague Heather to see an exhibition in the National Museum of Catalunya of the life and influence of Salvador Dali’s wife Gala. She was quite a woman and had previously been married to a famous French poet before marrying Dali and spending the rest of her life with him. It was a good day out and I think Heather particularly enjoyed herself. We even managed a tour of the roof, affording us spectacular views of the area around Placa Espanya and of course Montjuic and the Olympic Park to the south.

Heather and Mary looking out over Barcelona

You’ll remember our close friends Tom & Margareth Bakker whom we’ve visited in Holland and who have come to visit us in Dundee. Well, four weeks ago, they celebrated their Golden Wedding here in Vilanova alongside their entire immediate family and their friends from the campsite. We were invited to attend a special lunch with them and their family down at the Wok in town and then a street party here on Section F in the evening. Both events were brilliant and we had a wee singsong later on in the evening. I made a point of playing “The Wild Rover” which Margareth particularly enjoys as she has learned all the words since I sang it for them at a ceilidh in The Fisherman’s in Broughty Ferry when they were staying with us. It was a pleasure meeting their lovely daughters, their spouses and their children again, having been introduced to them during our visit to Petten in the summer of 2014.

The Bakker Family

There was a big day for eldest son George recently when he took part in the Great Scottish Run, a half-marathon through the streets of Glasgow and George’s first ever. He did really well too, coming home in just under 2 hours (1h 57m 34s to be precise!) and as the event was live on BBC2, Mary and I were able to watch it. We even caught a wee glimpse of George himself just after he crossed the finish line. The disappointment was that his wee brother Scott, who encouraged George to enter in the first place, wasn’t able to take part himself after rwisting his ankle at the football a couple of weeks earlier. Scott was of course gutted, especially as he had qualified to run with the elite group of runners who set off first. Chin up, Scotty! There’s always next year.

A happy George

I’m still having a game of golf once a week up at the local 18-hole par 3 course and I’m shooting some reasonable scores in the mid and low 60s although I still haven’t manage to hold it together all the way round and beat 60. Maybe soon though!! I’m going to take part in the annual handicap competition later in November so I’d better get practising for serious. I saw my second hole-in-one live the other day. This time it was my pal Steve who knocked it straight in off the first tee to move alongside Fred who holed out on the fifth hole a couple of years ago. That’s another bucket-list target for me, but whatever you do, don’t hold your breath! Here’s a photo of the only 2 people I’ve seen get a hole in one.

Fred & Steve, aka The Chuckle Brothers

My brother and his wife have finally gotten round to walking a part of the Camino de Sant Iago, starting in Portugal near Porto and walking for 10 days to finish (hopefully!) this Sunday at the pilgrims’ mass in Santiago de Compostella and getting their official certificates. Originally Mary and I were going to accompany them on the journey but it just didn’t work out in terms of mutually-convenient dates, given Mary’s work and so on. Never mind, I’m sure we’ll get round to it while we still have our legs!

Mary won’t love me for telling you this, but she managed to get out of the Audi outside the caravan the other week and walk away not having put the handbrake on! She had to look on in horror as the car sedately rolled away down the hill for 10 metres before taking out a wooden fence and ending up with one wheel hanging over a wee wall. The neighbours and I managed to rescue the car and I patched it up as best I could. Luckily it still runs perfectly so I’ll just have to drive around with the dents and scratches as I’m sure the insurers would make it a write-off and I don’t want that. At least it’ll blend in perfectly with all the Spanish dented cars! The most important thing is of course that Mary was uninjured although she was plenty embarrassed and didn’t hesitate in confessing to them up at reception about her mishap. They’ve now repaired the fence and thankfully haven’t sent me the bill!

The poor Audi!

The poor Fence!!

No news from Greg and Karen this time round so I’ll stop here and try to post once a week for the next wee while. You all stay bright and healthy and get on with preparing for Christmas!! We’ll maybe hang on a bit yet!

Here’s another big day in the family – Arry’s first day at school. She’s my granddaughter so obviously the most beautiful child ever to sit in a classroom. I hope she has her Daddy’s brains too!

Arry, School, Day 1