Day 5/221: A Pinch of Tarragon

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Well, Scott, Keira and I went along to the Camp Nou that Wednesday (2 weeks ago) and saw an absolutely brilliant Barcelona totally dominate Sevilla, not a bad team themselves remember, and run out easy 3-0 winners. They scored all their goals in a wonderful 8-minute spell in the first half, including a super overhead-kick from Suarez and Scott was delighted when Messi scored the first of his double as it was the first time he’d seen Leo score a goal live.

But the score wasn’t the story of the day! Oh no, it was the thunderstorm that rolled in about 10 minutes before half-time! One tiny point of which to take note: the Camp Nou has no roof! Meaning that, after my gallant gesture of giving my weatherproof to Keira, I had to sit and get soaked until I could take no more then dash back underneath the terracing and sit out the half-time break with a thousand other very wet fans. Keira stuck it out as did my coat while Scott had a moment’s relief from the downpour fetching her a drink from inside. But it was Barcelona playing so out we both went to take up our seats again. Once completely drenched, we were able to forget the rain itself, but the flashes of jaggy lightning overhead when we’re sitting exposed a hundred feet or so off the ground meant I kept at least one eye on the sky for the rest of the match.

Keira and Scott at the Biker Bar

The kids flew back to Scotland the following day and I raced back from the airport to take part in a game of Walking Football which was a whole load of fun. Unfortunately, soon afterwards, my lower back/hip began to play up and I was to spend the next ten days or so hirpling around and getting other people to tie my shoelaces! Getting in and out of the car was agony, while Mary’s application of deep massage was that weird combination of pain and pleasure. By the grin on her face, she really enjoyed making me scream as she dug her elbow forcefully into my Gluteus Maximus. I’m glad to report that I’m a lot better now and managed a game of golf – minus full swing – with Joke last Thursday, scoring another 66 which is rapidly becoming my average score now.

I’ve got back into writing again so life has become a lot simpler here on the campsite, what with Mary still working. Our days are now much more ordinary, following a bit of a pattern and we no longer get as involved as we used to in the socializing with our friends, despite the fact that there’s still tons of dinners, parties, happy hours and general merriment going on. Mike and Het went to Portugal in the autumn, Fred and Jeanette are busy preparing for their wedding, Dick and Linda are unable to come out this year and Jeremy has gone back to Leeds.

One thing we did both attend last week (because Mary was on holiday) was the Wednesday dinner but this time it was not at the campsite restaurant as usual but down at the Wok which we’ve been to a couple of times. The food as always at a free buffet was copious and excellent and we all ate until we were bursting. To help the party digest their food, I provided them with a quiz all about Scots and that made up for Lise’s weekly quiz at the bar. I was a good boy and did the driving for Mary, Tom and Margaret, sticking to the “agua con gas” all evening.

It was great having Mary all to myself for a whole week over Easter and we made a point of being alone together as much as we could. Stop it now you lot: don’t get any silly ideas in those warped minds of yours! But we did make a decision to go to Tarragona for Good Friday and stay in a hotel, to give us the chance to attend the processions for which the town is famous. We drove down on Friday morning, left the Audi at the hotel just out of town and took the bus to the centre where we had lunch then went to the Placa del Rei to watch the Roman soldiers head off to escort the floats back up to the square. They would all be leaving from that same square at eight in the evening to parade through the streets of the old town.

Ecce milites romani!

While we were thrilled at the sight of the Roman escorts, we were even more taken by the floats themselves, although “floats” is a misnomer and in no way captures the reality of these objects. They are large heavy wooden platforms depicting the stations of the cross and they are carried around the town by volunteers from various “societies” – Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods – each person strapped to the platform by a sturdy leather belt. There are about 15 people visible carrying them, but I did manage to get a peek inside one and there was a group of big muscular types actually inside supporting the frames on their shoulders. As it was 25 degrees outside on that Friday, the carriers must have been grateful for the frequent pauses in the procession. Those on the outside all wear robes to denote their provenance and many of them wear quite sinister hoods, reputedly copied by the Klu Klux Klan!

Spooky!

The platforms themselves are beautifully ornate and have been sculpted by local master craftsmen. Their depiction of the passion of Christ is very accurate (not that I was there!) and they certainly make you turn your head.

The Last Supper

Having seen enough for one afternoon, we made our way back to the shops then sat down for a meal at about seven in the evening. An hour later we were back on the streets to see the main procession crawl its way through the narrow Roman vennels, this time by candlelight. The music to accompany all these was provided by all sorts of different kinds of bands, some mainly drums, some trumpet and flute, some bagpipes but all in uniform and sober-faced. There were lots of women and children in the procession and we even spotted a baby and a dog!

The night procession

Coming up the Rambla Nova

“We are the Romans …….”

As you can imagine we barely stayed awake on the ten o’clock bus back to the hotel and we were quickly in the Land of Nod. The following morning, we breakfasted at a McDonald’s, bought a 4-venue visitor pass and set about taking in all the main historic sites of Tarragona. These were the Praetorium, the Circus, the Muralla and the Forum. All gave us an insight into the establishment of this first Roman outpost in Iberia about the time of Jesus Christ and just how important the town came to be. I won’t bore you with stuff you can read up for yourselves but here are a couple of photos which include us enjoying ourselves.

Mary with a new friend

Shooting from the hip!

                 Lady Burton of Tarragona!

Tarragona old town

The inevitable selfie!

A shadow of our former selves!

On Easter Sunday we watched the Pope’s Mass from the Vatican, had breakfast then went down into Vilanova where we wandered around the front taking in the sight of the Spanish folk celebrating the Resurrection. The weather was once again quite beautiful and the afternoon went by in a flash, but not before we had taken advantage of the Sunday opening to go into the deep-water port for a closer look at the really big yachts which use this facility. I pointed out to lady Burton that my pension just wouldn’t stretch that far!

Yacht to see the others!

We also managed to find time to roll our eggs (cream egg size but hollow) down by the café at the beach so at least a wee bit of tradition was maintained. When we got home to the caravan, we had some FaceTime with Gavin and Ari but couldn’t contact the rest of the boys so they’ve been written out of the will! I told them this on Messenger and they are queuing up today to wish me a belated happy Easter, old man! Hmmmmmm!

The next post will probably be in a fortnight when we get back from our weekend in Madrid to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. My, how time flies. Don’t tell Mary, whatever you do, but I’ve loved every minute! (except that time she walked in front of the TV just as Germany scored in the World Cup Final!)

 

Day 5/208: Heat

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We have now left winter behind in Catalunya and can expect a daily dose of sunshine and warmth most days from now on. In fact the past 3 weeks have been pretty good if the truth be told, with sun from dawn until dusk amid increasing temperatures of 20+ now and only the odd thunderstorm crashing through from time to time, depositing enough to keep the plants alive for another week or two – but only just! It has always astonished us just how little rain there is around this part of the Spanish mainland and, while we obviously thought there would be less rain than in Scotland (that’s not difficult pretty much anywhere!), we have been genuinely surprised at how week after week can pass by without a single drop of rain. The trees and plants must be hard as nails to survive in this climate.

Winter was easily the worst we’ve had since we came out in 2013. The sun had very little heat in it and the evenings and nightimes were as cold as winter in Scotland except for the frost and snow. The heating in our caravan went on in mid-November and we’re only just now thinking about turning it off. Lady Burton would have it on all year round if she could! So it was only last week that the winter clothes were consigned to under the bench seats and the summer stuff was brought out for a good old airing prior to being washed then worn. The “just in case” clothes in the boot of the car are now a jersey or a cardigan, no coats or scarves, although I may make an exception tomorrow night when I once again return to the Camp Nou!

Tasty!

This time, the reason is the presence of youngest son Scott and girlfriend Keira who arrived on Saturday morning to spend 5 days with us out of their Easter holidays. They are staying in a Europarcs chalet only a couple of hundred meters from us. We managed a day out with them on Sunday, up to the Biker Bar then down to Roc Sant Gaieta where we take most visitors and they had a day by themselves in Vilanova yesterday. Today is an all-day trip to see the sights of Barcelona and we’ll meet up with them later after Mary has finished work. Tomorrow we head off to see Barcelona v Sevilla at tea time and they’ll be flying back to Scotland on Thursday morning. We considered flying back with them but all the airlines have tripled their prices for the Easter holidays as they usually do and we don’t like being ripped-off so it looks like our Easter will be spent improving our tans at the campsite or popping in and out of Barcelona if we feel like it.

Six of our closest Dutch friends have all returned to Vilanova after winter back at home. Dear Tom and Margareth are delighted to be back and although they have not had their health problems to seek, they are both in fine spirits and having a whale of a time. Hans and Marianne have come back fit and well and Hans even managed down to the walking-football game this morning, a game I attended as well after taking a family to the airport. Walt and Joke are back too and both are looking good, especially the lady of the pairing who is sporting a new hip. It clearly hasn’t affected her much as she produced a ripping 67 at the golf last week, her first game since her operation and her best ever score at the Portal del Roc. I of course kept her in place with a 66! These six Dutch friends are lovely people and a real example to us all, each one the wrong side of 65 but living life to the full.

On the tee, Jordi Burton.

Jeremy, my friend from Leeds, went back home a couple of weeks ago, bringing to an end our weekly golf challenge, a match-play contest of Jeremy and Fred v Darren and me. I’m pleased to say we won the challenge (5-2 I think) but the sport was excellent and always played in good humour, including a wee glass at the 19th hole! Add the golf to the football and throw in a weekly hike up to the watchtower (Thanks to Jeremy and wife Bernie for coming with me those few weeks) and you can see that I’m trying to keep the old body moving, as is Lady Burton in pursuit of a daily 10,000 steps recorded on her Fitbit.

Despite the cold winter, our health hasn’t really been too bad, although, with working in school with kids, Mary does tend to catch a few bugs and then pass them on to me out of admiration and total devotion! I think she’s missed one day of work only and has dragged herself out of bed a couple of times way beyond the call of duty. To help out, I now try to remember to put the water heater on so she has plenty hot water for doing the dishes when she gets home!

On the subject of work, there may be changes ahead next season. It all goes back to the sudden demise of our friend Annie which I reported in my last post. This shock caused us to reassess what we’re doing and consider travelling again while we still can, as it’s always better to see places while you’re still alive! The problem would of course be Mary’s work which starts at the beginning of September and goes through to the end of June. Opportunities to travel are therefore restricted to the peak holiday seasons just like they were back in Scotland when we were both teaching. So we are considering travelling around the bits of Europe we missed on the first adventure in 2012/13, not only while we have a pulse but also have the E111 European Health Card (Thank you Brexiteers!). I’ve suggested we do that in September of this year then fly off to the West coast of America in April 2018 to see San Francisco, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and the wonderful National Parks. I hope I get a glimpse of Yogi Bear!

Mary will soon have a meeting with her schools to organize next year’s allocations and hopefully she’ll be able to bash out a deal that allows her to travel at those aforementioned times but work for the six months in between. She doesn’t have to work however and that will be entirely up to her.  We’ll let you know when anything definite is agreed. Meanwhile she continues to do her classes, both with adults and children, Monday to Thursday and still works at the Prysmian factory on Wednesday mornings. She earns just enough to keep me in beer and wine and still have a little left over to pay for the shopping. Oh and don’t forget my weekly golf round! That’s 15 Euros a time, you know!

The news from the boys is all very positive. George’s family are all well and Benjamin is making good progress in P1 at SS Peter & Paul’s. Greg & Karen are both employed full-time now, Greg on the estate in Arbroath and Karen in The Casino in Dundee. They have settled in fine in our flat and seem as happy as they have ever been. Good luck to both of them! Scott is now living with Keira and he goes off to his gym each morning while she, bless her, heads for the Primary School where she has a P7 class at present. Gavin has just finished his Diploma in Legal Studies (he’ll pass of course) and won not one but two competitive mock court appearances during his course. He hopes to do some casual work now in Dundee or Edinburgh with the Courts before starting his apprenticeship year with the Procurator Fiscal’s office. I don’t know exactly where he’ll be working but I do know that 3 months is to be spent in The Hague in the Netherlands.

I continue to work on Monday evenings with Guillem although it won’t be long until his family have to move to the other side of Barcelona to facilitate Beti’s new dentist job. Guillem will be attending an English-speaking school next session as opposed to the French-speaking one he’s presently at (He speaks Spanish and Catalan at home!) but he takes it all in his stride and remains a lovely humble young lad. Lady Burton and I are, after 4 years, very fond of him and will be gutted when they have to move but I’m sure we’ll stay in touch. Maybe as a “sweetener”, his Dad Ramon has given him a pet dog whom they have named Balou and now as soon as we get back from school Guillem and I take the dog out for “Walkies”, well Caca and Pipi actually!

Balou!

I should remind you all that our caravan and fittings no longer go into storage when we leave for home at the end of June. They stay exactly as they are right now. With a wooden floor in the awning (the benefit of which we have really appreciated over the winter) we now pay for the full twelve month deal so we don’t have to dismantle anything. This means we have accommodation here in Vilanova Park available for anyone who wants to hop on a flight out to Barcelona in July or August. We’re not greedy so the rent would be minimal to family and friends and we’d even consider giving the place for free to a family under the right circumstances. It’s got all the facilities including British TV and a washing machine, electricity and gas are included and the campsite has just about everything you could ever want for a holiday. Drop us an email or call if you’re interested. This is a genuine great offer so don’t be shy! Money will not be an issue.

There’s not much to report on the writing front this time. I’ve made progress with turning the Blog into a travel book and brother Joe has done his usual scalpel job on the editing side. Becky is finishing off the drawings for Socrates 2 so that should be out in the not-too-distant future. I’ve been uninspired all through the winter but hopefully writing this post will give me the urge to do more. I hope so! Bye! Bye!

The joys of Vilanova Park

Day 5/170: Immortal

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Four weeks ago we celebrated Burns’ Night with an afternoon session a couple of days and one postponement after the traditional 25 January slot. The postponement was due to bad weather surprisingly, which doesn’t happen all that often out here, and the missing of the actual date was because Mary was working. However our event was really well-attended and we reckon it was a great success. We spent 36 hours getting the food prepared, which meant peeling a mountain of potatoes, buying 6 tins of corned beef, making a giant pot of lentil soup and of course using the half a dozen haggis we had brought back with us after Christmas. The food was very well-received and we managed to convert some more people to the delights of haggis, butternut squash and tatties as well as good old-fashioned stovies. I even found some pork dripping to cook them in!

I bring out the haggis

I bring out the haggis

Jeanette " Is there for honest poverty"

Jeanette ” Is there for honest poverty”

The entertainment was once again diverse and challenging. Geordie-born Vera next door recited “To a Mouse”, Teresa behind us did “To a daisy”, good friend Jeanette, dressed in tartan, took us through “A Man’s a Man for a’ that” quite brilliantly, I addressed the haggis, Scots Annie had us in tears singing “My Love is like a Red, Red Rose” and I finished the proceedings as I had done last year with “Tam O’Shanter”. We have now created an annual challenge for our friends to take on a Burns’ poem and be brave enough to perform it in public at our event. We’ve had people from London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle, Copenhagen, Cornwall and Great Yarmouth try their hand at Burns’ poetry and they’ve all given it their best shot. Well done to all of you!

The guests listening to Annie sing.

The guests listening to Annie sing.

Annie singing

Annie singing

In my last post I mentioned Scouser Dave the entertainments organizer who had been obliged to return to Liverpool at Christmas after suffering a heart attack here on site. Well I’m really sorry to say that poor Dave slipped into a coma back home and passed away quietly after it was decided to turn off the ventilator which was keeping him alive. Dave was a really lovely guy with a smile and a joke for everyone, so an evening was organized a couple of weeks ago on a Monday night where 50 friends of all nationalities turned up to honour his memory in song. The little karaoke, just like the one he used to do for us after the fish ‘n’ chips meal each Friday night, was a great success and had us all in tears of laughter. We also signed a book which we have sent to his widow along with some flowers.

I’ve been quite busy recently doing the teaching I’ve arranged on the site. My two wee girls, Annie and Daisy, are making excellent progress in Spanish and can now greet people, tell their names, ages, what they like and don’t like, and can identify animals and colours. They’re learning the time just now as well but generally speaking soak up what I teach them with seemingly no effort whatsoever. I’m also becoming quite good friends with their parents and have had one session of Spanish with Mum Claire. My other pupil Abi, a 30-year old former rep with Eurocamp, is also still doing her hour per week and making steady progress. Of course I still do Monday evenings with Guillem but he’s so good now at English that it sometimes doesn’t feel like I need to teach him anything more complicated. We’ve started trying to learn 10 expressions every week so he can now say things like “It’s up to you”, “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “It’s a no-brainer”. All very impressive when he uses them correctly in an appropriate context.

My sixty-fourth birthday was last weekend and we celebrated by having a Menu del Dia at our favourite Vilanova restaurant. In the evening we went back downtown, this time with close friends Fred and Jeanette, to a tapas bar near the Town Square. The food and beer were excellent and we had a great time waiting for the bell to ring which heralded the arrival of new trays of hot food. It wasn’t a late night however and we did manage a couple of swift ones in the campsite bar before closing time.

I had an airport run a couple of weeks ago to pick up my pal Jeremy’s wife Bernadette, fresh from a trip to Mexico. She spends a lot of time away teaching “hot” yoga which is yoga indoors in sweltering heat. She says it’s good for you! She comes from Dumfries originally but lives with Jeremy in his home town of Leeds when they’re not travelling (together or otherwise). They have however spent 20+ years in Sydney, Australia and both speak with strong Aussie accents. On the subject of friends, we’ve heard from Tom and Margareth who tell us they’re not in a position yet to return to Vilanova due to health issues. It’s a shame they can’t get back as they say it has been quite depressing spending the whole winter indoors in Holland.

Never lost it!

Never lost it!

The walking football is still taking place although it’s probably going down to just once a week as there are few who seem to be able to cope physically with Tuesday and Thursday. Those who pick up a twinge on Tuesday very rarely recover in time to take a game two days later. My other exercise is on Wednesday mornings once I’ve taken Mary to her work at the Prysmian factory at 09.00. That’s when Jeremy and I walk up to the tower where we have a short breakfast before walking back to the campsite. His wife Bernadette joined us last Wednesday and also two days ago when we took on the longer walk of 14 kms. This one is the one I went on with Joe and Mo when they were over and although it’s quite a bit further to walk, you get up onto the crest of the hills in a much more gradual way and then it’s a pleasure walking the tops back to the tower.

Bernadette & Jeremy

Bernadette & Jeremy

And now this post gets difficult. Last Saturday morning at 10.00, a gardener from the campsite saw our dear friend Scots Annie collapse on her decking. The ambulance was here promptly and Ann was taken to the local hospital at Sant Pere de Ribes with a suspected stroke. We drove over there to help as soon as we got the news but weren’t allowed to see our friend, and then a doctor told us that she was being transferred to Bellvitges Hospital in Barcelona. We followed on a couple of hours later and tracked her down to A&E where we were able to have a conversation with her although she was clearly paralyzed down her left side.

We were cheered up by being able to communicate with Annie but when the doctor came in, she explained that Ann had had a cerebral infarct and that it was very serious. I asked (in Spanish as Annie was only a few feet away) if we needed to contact her family in Scotland and the nod of the head told the full story. Annie’s sons got there that night and early on Sunday but her daughter was delayed due to lack of a valid passport. As you probably have guessed, Annie passed away on Monday morning. Her death has been a huge shock to all of us and we don’t quite believe she’s actually gone never to return.

Annie was cremated in Sitges today and we held a little send-off for her down at her bungalow at two o’clock, an event attended by a great crowd of people of several nationalities. Thankfully, Tayport Sandra, who had had dinner with Annie on Wednesday evening a couple of days before her stroke then drove up to Bilbao to get the ferry, made it back just in time. There were speeches, poems, songs Annie loved and more. The French community sang one of her favourite songs “La Vie en Rose” and I led an unaccompanied rendering of the song she sang at our Burns Supper “My Love is like a Red, Red Rose”.

Annie's porch today

Annie’s porch today

 

The crowd wave Annie off.

The crowd wave Annie off.

At 15.30 we all went up to the campsite entrance to wave “Cheerio” as the hearse took a detour up the hill to Vilanova Park then drove round the roundabout a couple of times so that all her friends would have the chance to say a last “Farewell” to one of the most amazing characters we have ever met.

The sash says "Cheerio!"

The sash says “Cheerio!”

After that, we drove some of her family to the crematorium in Sitges where we witnessed Annie take her leave of us. God bless.

Annie Gibb R.I.P.

Annie Gibb R.I.P.

Scottish Summer

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It is absolutely hammering it down outside and the sky is a uniform grey: uniform, not even 50 shades. This morning there were six or seven families in various types of tent pitched out on the large expanse of grass that makes up the middle of our little caravan park, the 5 roads, here in Alyth. It’s just turned 13.45 and they’re all gone. It won’t be because they have to work tomorrow or get the kids to school because it’s a public holiday and it’s still the summer holidays from school. No, it’s because of the rain. We’ve been here a week and it’s rained every day at some point, even on Tuesday when the temperature peaked at 27 degrees, the hottest day of the year.

To be brutally honest, the weather doesn’t bother us all that much, given where we live most of the time. But we do feel for all the people who spend their lives in Scotland or all those who visit our beautiful country. We’ve met 3 couples from the latter category here on this campsite and they have spoken with resignation about their visit. The first two stayed one night each on their respective tours, both couples sleeping in a wee tent next to their cars. Both had breakfast in those cars as the rain battered their flimsy accommodation to the ground. They both agreed that Scotland is immensely beautiful ……… if you can see it through the stair-rods. Brave faces were to the fore but we could see they were being sorely tested. God bless!

Mary’s Mum is apoplectic about how awful the weather has been. If she can’t get her sheets hung out on the drying-green then it is officially a state of emergency at her house. Given that she finds things to wash which others simply do not perceive, you can take it that she finds herself glued to her Tablet, examining the weather on a half-hourly basis and making advance plans for the next whites or coloureds wash with military precision. She soldiers on with admirable stoicism but we can see how the weather breaks her heart.

The rain has just gone up a further two levels of ferocity here and we are extremely thankful that the Magic Caravan continues to be 100% waterproof. I must admit that we did have some qualms about spending 6 weeks in our first-ever caravan after it has been sitting out at a storage site in Birkhill to the north-west of Dundee. But we have to say that it took no more than a rub down inside and out to restore it to presentable level and once hooked up to the mains we were delighted to find that everything still worked, lights, sockets, fridge, water-pump etc. I have given it a replacement fully-charged battery with new terminals and all is now well with the internal 12v system which should stay topped-up once I have attached the solar-power trickle charger I bought at Maplin’s.

At the 5-Roads campsite

          At the 5-Roads campsite

We arrived here a week ago today after an excellent 8 days in Tayport at Mary’s brother’s house where we looked after their amazing cat Zak while they holidayed down in the Lake District. We enjoyed ourselves on the other side of the River Tay from Dundee and the view back towards the city as we would drive along the coast road from the bridge to Tayport ranks as one of the best we have seen anywhere. Strange how you can travel all around but still be moved by the beauty of a place where you have spent the vast majority of your life. The only near-equivalent I could conjure up was the view of the St. Lawrence River from the Olympic Stadium in Montreal but even then the Tay with the two hills of Dundee in the background wins hands down. Stunning!

Dundee seen from the Tayport road

Dundee seen from the Tayport road

Catching up with the family has taken up most of our time since our return to Scotland. We started with two nights at Scott’s flat in Falkirk after we left Mike and Het’s in Kendal, that being the final stage of our journey home. There then followed 1 night at Mary’s Mum’s (luxury!) then meeting up with George and family for lunch, tea with Greg and Karen in Montrose and a brief stop-off at Gavin’s in Arbroath on our way back to Tayport. We actually went to see where Karen works, a popular stately home near Montrose called The House of Dun and, after a cup of tea at Karen’s café, Greg took us around the ornate gardens which were really beautiful. I think we’ll be going back to visit the interior at some point next month.

Lord and Lady Burton

               Lord and Lady Burton

Out of the blue we found ourselves invited to a wedding reception at the famous Invercarse hotel in Dundee following a conversation between Lady Burton and the new groom, her ex-French Teacher Brian Gould. We had an enjoyable evening dancing both modern and Scottish and we caught up with uncle Gerard who was in attendance along with a smattering of old Dundee teachers.

The groom, Lady Burton and a tramp!

     The groom, Lady Burton and a tramp!

I did the driving that night, mainly because I’m being very good following a spate of high blood-sugar tests. The good news is that my full blood tests came back on Thursday and showed readings lower than last year and such as to cause no concern to the doctor. This was a great relief to both Mary and me and suggested I’m behaving myself (at last!).

On Friday we had my cousins Stef and Renée over for fish and chips in the awning and the weather was kind enough to at least not rain while we were actually eating! They will be reciprocating this evening with dinner at their house in Blairgowrie where we will also get a chance to catch up with their lovely children Ricky and Teresa, both adults and doing well. Yesterday Mary went off in the car – strange, that sounds like she exploded! – to meet with some old school chums in Dundee and three hours later I took the bus to Dundee to meet up with George, Ben, Gavin and Arry to go swimming at the Olympia pool where Scott used to be a lifeguard. I had a wonderful time with our grandchildren, splashing around, getting zoomed around the Rapids, buffeted by the Wave machine and enjoying the thrills (or should that be terror?) of sliding down the green and red flumes. I think I found them fun but maybe my heart thought different!

I’ve firmed up several details for the next few weeks. Next Friday we’re off up the mountains as we always do in early August. Not Lady Burton of course, as the “Munroamers” as we call ourselves is strictly male-only and includes only me and my 4 sons. Unfortunately only three can come with me this year, Greg being the odd-man-out as it’s harvest time on the Estate where he works and he’s needed there. I’ve booked a big static deluxe caravan near Comrie for our accommodation and we’ll be within spitting distance of Ben Vorlich, Stuc a Chroin and Ben Chonzie which are our three target mountains for 2016. On Monday, Mary and I are off up north to visit brother Joe & wife Mo at their house on the banks of Loch Carron. This is becoming an annual pilgrimage and we never fail to have a great time catching up. A small libation may even be taken!

We’ll stay there until Thursday morning then drive back to Dundee for one night before heading to Powburn in Northern England for the annual get-together of Mary’s family at the scout camp. This year, for the first time, we’re going to be taking grandson Ben with us as he’s nearly 5 and will be starting school a week later. But instead of coming home on the Sunday as usual, we’re driving back over to Kendal to help Mike and Het celebrate their joint 60ths! Ben will be there too and I’m sure we’ll have a ball. When we get back to the Magic Caravan on the Monday, we may just have a rest!

Aunt Ellen called two days ago to inform us that uncle Peter (Dad’s wee brother) had passed away in Cardiff at the age of 80 after being ill for a while. I have fond memories of Peter grabbing me around the waist and lifting me up to the ceiling in Grandma’s house in Leeds when I was a wee boy in the early 60s. Our thoughts are with his wife aunt Anne and her children. RIP uncle Peter.

Peter was the brother furthest to the left in the photo on page 73 of “Georgie”, a photo of Dad’s Mum and Dad and all of his siblings. I think uncle Terry and auntie Pat are the only two survivors of that splendid photo. The two memoirs continue to do well both at Waterstones and online at Amazon. I am busy having “Wee Georgie” reprinted yet again (200 more this time) and I suspect it won’t be the last. I have a signing at Waterstones in Dundee on 13 August, my third such event and once again they asked me, not the other way around. Slowly but surely I am beginning to feel the urge to write again so you never know what I’ll be telling you in the next post. Disappointingly, book 2 of Socrates the Snail remains frustratingly unillustrated and I can’t seem to find a reliable artist anywhere who can meet a deadline. Do you know anyone who might do the job for me?

Well that’s us up-to-date today. It hasn’t actually stopped raining but at least Ginger baker is no longer practising his favourite drum-solo on the roof of the Magic Caravan. I leave you with Arry and Ben post-swim. Wonderful, but then again I AM their granddad!

Uber-cute!

                Uber-cute!

Just at the last second before I posted this, I’ve received the first photo of Fred and Jeanette’s new motorhome. I wish them all the possible joys in their new abode!

Absolute luxury!

                Absolute luxury!

Day 4/290: Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

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After giving one of my classic explanations to illustrate a technical point of the French language (you know, the language that doesn’t have a word for “policing at football tournaments!), one of my first year pupils woke up with a start, saw me looking at him and decided to play the old “distracter” card by asking a question, whether connected to the lesson or not. Most of my pupils were well-versed in this technique and used it on me frequently, knowing full well that, if I was bored by the lesson myself, I would deliberately take the bait and answer things like “Sir, did you watch the Rangers game last night?” or “Mr. Burton, does your son work in Jamal’s store in Kirkton?”.

Anyway, I’d just finished what I assumed was an inspired explanation of the present tense of –ir verbs when Jordan shot his hand up immediately I caught his eye. I anticipated some deeply-thought analysis of the verb system and expected a question like “Sir, are there many exceptions to the basic paradigm?” but that’s not quite what I got. “Mr. Burton sir, sir, have you ever been abroad?” “No son, I’ve been a man all my life!” I quipped. A sea of puzzled faces stared at me and at each other, trying to fathom the hidden wit therein. No-one got it. So I had to explain it to them, by which time even I didn’t think it was very funny.

This classic tale of opposite perspectives within the classroom will hopefully illustrate that the chances of actually knowing what a pupil thinks of your lesson are close to nil for a million reasons. It’s best to think of it in terms of priorities. Where on that list in a teenager’s head lies my French lesson? : after “Can’t wait for the bell to ring”: after “I’m starving”: after “Hope Celtic win tonight”: or even after “God, I would love 5 minutes with Charlene Kerr”. You can see that your lesson would have to be awfully interesting to drag their hyperactive minds away from their stomachs or from below their waists.

As teachers, we never knew the half of what was happening in their lives outside the classroom and to be honest it’s maybe just as well. For example, I had been using memory training techniques with some success with a group of detached 4th years, struggling to keep them on track and to apply themselves in a disciplined manner, something they clearly weren’t used to. For all that, they genuinely appreciated my attempts at trying to interest them and a really good rapport had grown up between them and me. I continued to play the friendly-but-still-the-boss role and they knew I was their teacher and not their pal, so we got on well, as long as I worked them on Mondays and Thursdays but played language games with them last period on a Friday. Well you would, wouldn’t you?!

So, having taught them how to picture something in their minds to help remember what a word meant (Picture a fisherman peeing into a river = “pêcheur [the French for fisherman]), we stumbled upon the word for a lobster. I felt they were ready to try and conjure up their own images so proudly announced “OK guys, can someone come up with a picture to help remember that the word for a lobster is “homard” (pronounced OMAR)? Pandemonium! The whole class fell about roaring with laughter. I frantically searched my words to find out what I had said that was so funny. Nothing. I gave in and asked them what was making them laugh. No response but the hilarity continued. I asked again. Wee Kenny at the front sobered up long enough to say “Sorry, Mr. Burton, that’s dead funny but we just can’t tell you why!”

To get to the bottom of this, I resumed the lesson and waited for the class to dismiss at the bell before calling Kenny back just as he was leaving. Alone with him, I asked again what their secret was. Kenny repeated that he couldn’t possibly tell me what it was, but I pleaded with him and promised not to be angry or upset with the reason. “Alright, Mr. Burton, I trust you so here goes. You know some of us watch porn at home?” I nodded as if he had said “cartoons”. “Well, there’s this black guy with the biggest thingy ever on some of these films and his name is Omar! We were all imagining a lobster with its claws snapped shut tight on his most famous bit! Sorry, Mr. Burton, but you said you wouldn’t get angry or tell on me.” I reminded Kenny that we had a deal, we shook hands and he left the classroom still laughing to himself.

You know what, I bet you to this very day no-one in that class ever forget the French for “lobster”!!

People often ask “Did you have a lot of funny moments when you were a teacher?” and the obvious answer is “Of course, many, many crazy things happened.” So I’m going to tell you the funniest thing which occurred not that long before I retired in 2010.

One day I was in the school office at St. Saviour’s High School, filing some reports when an old man buzzed at the by-then-always-locked front door. I pressed the button to let him in and he came over slowly to the sliding hatch window of reception. He was accompanied by a little old lady whom I took to be his wife and they both looked upset if not quite devastated. “How can I help?” I asked. “We need to speak to Danny,” he replied “There’s been a tragedy!” “Danny who?” I asked. “Danny Martin in 4th year”. This set off the alarm bells in my head. Danny, a lovely boy of average ability, had lost his mother only 2 years previous and had required a lot of support to get him through what was for him a hugely difficult period in his life.

Quick as a flash I ushered the couple into the Administration corridor, sat them down in the thankfully empty Boardroom, offered them a cup of tea then excused myself and left in search of Danny’s Guidance teacher Frances. I caught up with her in the library and told her she would need to go and fetch Danny from class and bring him to the Boardroom where his grandparents, who now looked after him, were waiting with what purported to be bad news. I returned to the Boardroom and tried to get an idea of the level of the “tragedy” but neither of the two would say anything other than how horrendous it all was and how would Danny get over this second hammer-blow.

A knock on the door told us Frances had found Danny and brought him to us. In he came, face twisted in anguish even before he heard the news. “Grandad, grandad, what’s happened? Tell me what’s happened” he pleaded. “Oh Danny, Danny it’s awful. It’s a tragedy!” sobbed his grandmother. “Tell me, tell me” Danny repeated. “Oh son, son, “ said grandad. “we’re so sorry. The dog’s eaten the f***ing parrot!!”

Frances and I dived back out into the corridor and attempted to stifle the roars of laughter welling up from inside. I clapped my hand over my own mouth and rushed into my office throwing the door behind me. Frances unfortunately had to sober up at once and go back in to console the now weeping Danny and his distraught grandparents. She put on a good show but admitted later it had been a real struggle. By the time I had recovered enough to go back into the Boardroom, Danny had been led away to the toilet to dry his eyes. I tried my best to give words of consolation to the old couple and it was the Grandad who finished me off with “And it was a right good speaker as well!” I excused myself a second time, claiming I was urgently needed elsewhere and never actually managed to return to see them off the premises. Oh brother, were my sides sore by the end of the day!

You can tell from these two tales that school wasn’t all boring and repetitive, although don’t ask me to go back into the classroom now I’m retired. Oh no, I’ve done my stint, come out of it relatively intact with most of my marbles and have no intention of ever repeating the dose. I leave that to Lady Burton nowadays whose services are clearly much sought-after out here in Vilanova. Mary has done 3 different jobs this year, sometimes working long hours for little reward financially-speaking, but has really enjoyed the experience and is delighted that both the language school “Global Connect” and the Prysmian factory have asked her to continue for the next session starting in early September.

As you know, Greg is getting married to Karen on the second of September but Mary is due to start induction at Global Connect about the sixth so it looks like we’ll be setting off on the road back to Vilanova almost immediately after the wedding. A pity, but needs must! But before that we have the journey home via the Tunnel this time, staying in all sorts of places and circumstances (Falkirk, Tayport, Alyth to mention three) catching up with the family, doing a couple more Munroes with the boys, Greg’s Stag, Karen’s hen Party, Arry’s 3rd birthday then Greg’s wedding. I don’t think we’re going to have much time to catch our breath you know but better that than be bored.

For the last two weeks of July we’re hoping to stay in the Magic Caravan on a site in Alyth recommended by cousins Stef and Renée. This will mean giving the wee caravan a bit of a once-over to make it totally fit for habitation but we’re looking forward to that and can’t wait to get it back to the condition it was in when we were touring Europe3 years ago. Our wonderful “Magic” caravan has been having a rest for the past 2 years on a storage site at the back of Birkhill just north of Dundee. Every time we’re home, we pop in to check it is ok and just sit down for a few minutes to remember how fantastic that tour was. Will we ever do something like that again? Who knows? This is George and Mary after all!

The famous Magic Caravan

The famous Magic Caravan

Just in case I scared you all with tales of blood sugar levels off the charts last post, I should let you know that the regime seems to be working most of the time and I feel fine, although I still think my levels aren’t under control quite yet. But don’t worry, I intend to get a full set of bloods done as soon as I get back to Dundee and we’ll see what the results tell us needs done. In the meantime, I have little or no commitments apart from one more night with Guillem, so if I don’t feel up to anything in particular, I can just stay put and watch the footie which has so far been interesting if not actually enthralling. Events off the field seem to dominate at the moment but I have no intention of stating the bloody obvious as far as English hooligans are concerned. And let’s not forget the despicable behaviour of some Russian fans as well. Pathetic!

The weather is worthy of a mention at this point as it’s full-on typical Spanish Scorchio now with few clouds, blazing sun and ever-increasing temperatures. It’s really off-limits to be outside between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. this month and factor 30 or stronger is a must. You should see the state of the Brits out here in force on holiday with kids who should be at school. Their massive amounts of skin get totally frazzled in this heat then they go and hide their sunburn under a football top. Can’t remember if I’ve told you this before but the Brits are the only people who wear football tops on holiday (other than the obvious kids wearing Barça tops with Messi 10 on the back). I saw a Dutchman with a colourful Feyenoord top the other day but in general it’s only Brits, predominantly English and Irish, who wear what their kids are wearing. How weird is that?

El Prat!

El Prat!

Friends Mike and Het are back home in the Lake District for the summer. I drove them to the airport last Thursday and we promised we’ll try to have a couple of nights with them on our way home at the beginning of July. If it’s as much fun as the last time, we’re in for a treat (but let’s not repeat the new Audi clutch for £1400. Ouch!). That leaves pretty much Mary & I and Walter & Joke as the only ones of our group of friends still here, although Darren, Bob & Sandra are still around as well. Scots Annie has moved in to Sandra’s caravan on F23 at the bottom of the road and we gave her a wee hand to settle in. Joke and I had our final game of golf last Thursday but neither of us played particularly well, probably because it was so very hot out there. We were on our knees by the end of the round which made my round of 66 seem not too bad actually, especially finishing with 5 consecutive 3s after hitting each green with my tee shot. Not a single birdie though.

As Mike was going home last Thursday, he finally persuaded me on the Saturday that Mary was away back in Scotland to give the “boules” tournament a go. I got paired with a Dutch woman and we lost all 3 games. He asked me to try again on the Wednesday and I ended up paired with our friend Kate from Stornoway. Would you believe it, we won all 3 games then won the final! Beginners luck of course. I tried again on Saturday past, got to the final again, mainly due to the other 2 in my team, but we got reamed 10-0! Back down to earth with a bang! Mary must be my lucky mascot as I’ve reached the final both times she has come to watch.

For the first time in her new career, Mary had a works’ night out on Saturday, spending the evening eating tapas and drinking outside in a wee square down in the old town. The whole thing was paid for by the Global Connect people and she had a really nice time with her colleagues. I was very happy for her and left her to finish the evening properly and get a taxi home rather than “queer her pitch” by going to collect her in the Audi.

She even got flowers!

She even got flowers!

Day 4/256: Y’know wot I mean, Arry?

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One of our greatest wishes was fulfilled two Sundays ago when son Gavin and his wife Eve stepped off the plane at Barcelona airport in the company of our only granddaughter Artemis (from now on known simply as “Arry”).They were likely very excited at the prospect of 6 days of Spanish sun on our campsite at Vilanova Park, but I doubt if their own expectations came anywhere near the sense of anticipation Mary and I had as their arrival approached. Living out here 10 months of the year, people are always asking if we miss the family. Of course we do, and our two grandchildren at least as much as our four sons. So we absolutely couldn’t wait for the Arbroath Burtons to find time off work to get over here and check the place out.

Our first surprise was when they walked through the arrivals lounge where I was waiting for them. Because they didn’t just have a big case, a big kit bag and a cute little case for Arry. No. Gavin was also steering an airport trolley laden with a child’s buggy and a full-sized child’s car seat. Safety First indeed! Hugs and kisses exchanged, we squeezed their belongings into the Audi, strapped the bairn into the well-travelled seat, found room in the back for Gavin and Eve too and drove off back down the road to Vilanova. The sun was out and it was cosy despite a stiff breeze, helping to immediately lift everyone’s spirits to holiday level. As usual I employed the tactic of talking to the adults first while acknowledging Arry’s presence from time to time to give her the chance to settle to her new situation. It worked fine and the wee pet was soon fast asleep!

She's just resting her eyes

She’s just resting her eyes

Once checked in and inside their chalet, they were delighted to discover that the grandparents had stocked the cupboards and the fridge in advance, meaning that a welcome beer was called for. The rest of the day was a chance for them to get to know our caravan, the facilities at the park and meet some of our friends from all over. Gav and I watched some football up at the bar while Mary took Eve and Arry around the campsite, showing off the swimming pools and play-parks. We had planned to have tea together but the need for a catch-up sleep rather dictated events and our guests were early to bed having grabbed chicken and chips at the takeaway.

Monday is a long working day for Lady Burton but I had the day off from my lesson with Guillem so it was left to Granddad to show them around and take them where they wanted to go. Lidl was high up that list and I think they were really quite impressed both with the food and drink and the prices. Much cheapness! Before tea we drove down to the beach and paid a visit to the Cow out on the breakwater, which also gave Arry the opportunity to check out her new “Frozen” bucket, spade and rake. With only a little help from Mum, she was able to produce two or three excellent sandcastles but we didn’t spend too long down there as the breeze was colder than you might think.

After tea, Gavin and I came round to the caravan to watch a live stream of the hugely important Dundee v Dundee United derby game with the latter’s continuation in Scotland’s Premier Division dependant on the outcome. Although happy that my team, Dundee, came out on top by two goals to one, I was also quite sad that the other half were officially relegated to the Championship for next season and maybe longer. That I suppose is what you get when you sell all your best players to a rival team in your own league, one reason I have little sympathy for United’s eventual freefall and none at all for their supporters who tortured our fans for years when we fell on hard times. Things have now turned full circle and, to coin a description used over the past 20 years by United fans to mock their neighbours from across the road “Dundee are having a party, the United fans are in their beds!”

Tuesday stayed fine and we all had a swim. However we opted for the heated indoor pool, none of us willing to brave the fierce chill of its outdoors counterparts. It was hot but not that hot! Wee Arry had a ball in the pool and displayed great energy splashing around in her uber-cute Peppa Pig wings. Typically, I managed to attract the unwanted attention of a young French boy who somehow thought I wanted him to depth-charge me from the poolside every time I looked away. I have no idea why he did this but my fierce stare and surprisingly fluent use of a couple of French swear words seemed to do the trick. Arry and we continued to get closer as she became more confident that we weren’t a couple of child-snatchers! I managed to get her to come away with me in search of pine cones and butterflies (standard kiddies interest objects) but she suddenly decided she hadn’t seen her Mummy for over a minute and trotted back to the chalet.

After dropping Mary at the Prysmian factory on Wednesday morning at nine o’clock, the four of us took the train to Barcelona Franca station from where we were only a couple of hundred metres from the entrance to ……. the Zoo! The sun was still shining that day and we had a lovely time looking at the animals. Unfortunately, after a wee tantrum, Arry decided to have a nap, a fairly long nap, meaning she missed some of what was on offer, but she was awake not long after our lunch and able to see the big cats, the giraffes, rhinos and elephants. On the train home, she and I had a great game of “Is that a bus?” in which she extended her replies from “No, granddad, that’s a car!” to “No, granddad, that’s a lorry!” and even “No, granddad, that’s a train!” She must have thought I was awfully stupid!

Stripey horses?

Stripy horses?

Vultures, my favourites. Not!

Vultures, my favourites. Not!

We treated ourselves to a set meal up at the restaurant in the evening and it was then that Eve became aware of the children’s disco outside. A quick investigation with child sold the whole concept to Arry who spent the next hour dragging each of us in turn out onto the dancing area where she strutted her tiny stuff like a professional. Granddad was called into service to gyrate – slowly – to the song “Lollipop” and that was it for the rest of the holiday, a constant “Granddad, you do lollipop and I dance”. As a direct consequence, her exertions provided her parents with an unexpected lie-in when she slept a solid 10 hours or so. I think Eve and Gavin are now hoping a neighbour will start up a child disco EVERY night once they are back in Arbroath.

Classic family pose!

Classic family pose!

We left the visitors to themselves on Thursday until I had tea with them and we headed back to the disco for Arry’s sake but, tragically, we were too late and had to amuse her ourselves. Mary and Eve got her to bed later and then Mary babysat, giving the grateful parents an hour to themselves at the bar. I meanwhile swanned off to a wee get-together of some of my friends, had a couple of wines and passed myself off as a Frenchman to an English mother and her daughter who is now seeking me out for French lessons! Isn’t life sometimes surreal?

The road is so comfortable!

The road is so comfortable!

Friday was the last day’s holiday for our family so we spent it together doing family things. Arry by now was my best friend, illustrating this by waving bye-bye to her parents and leading me round to our caravan where she spent an hour investigating the awning, the caravan itself, our beds, both bench-seats and the cats outside. Even the arrival of a spot of rain did nothing to curb her new enthusiasm and that evening she was rewarded by another session at the wee disco. We even got there on time! She danced and she danced, affording us all the opportunity to take photos, shoot video and generally grin at her doing her moves. A great night was had by us all and we finished with a drink back at the chalet.

See you, granddad!

See you, granddad!

Honest, it was her idea!

Honest, it was her idea!

Dancing Queen

Dancing Queen

Waiting in line for a lollipop

Waiting in line for a lollipop

Saturday was a rainy, early start as we had to be back at the airport for nine o’clock. Gavin’s determination to leave the chalet in pristine condition ensured we were at the airport by nine-forty however and we had to keep the farewells to a minimum to let them get checked in and away. Gavin later admitted they just made it and were the last on the plane. On the way back to Vilanova, I took Mary to Gava shopping centre and let her spend some of her hard-earned cash. She did, and she was very happy doing it. I sat and listened to a school band in the Centre and just relaxed. That was nice!

We loved that visit from Gavin, Eve and the gorgeous Artemis. We are missing them already, but looking forward to getting together when we get back to Scotland in early July. Until then we’ll have to make do with the photos we took and the memories we have. Thank you kids! Thank you Artemis! I’ll stop now as I think there’s something in my eye.

Bonding

Bonding

 

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!

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