Week 4 – Back On Dry Land (An Intermission)

You will be pleased to hear that, as I had to do something about our e-mail addresses anyway, I have taken out a hosting arrangement on which I could put a blog page, so you may not have to see all this in future. All I have to do now is figure out how to use it! If you do want to read on, this is how we spent our fourth week numbered among the homeless:

After only three weeks ‘at sea’ we have enjoyed a whole week’s shore leave. Once again we stayed in our daughter Jen’s flat and she again went out of her way to make us feel at home, while being largely invisible due to her shift patterns and other commitments. Once we picked up the car there was a lot of shopping to do, though that was mainly to keep us in air-conditioned spaces. There was also the chance to go through the accumulated mail redirected from our old house and deal with all the closing statements for utilities and services.

The initial driver for our return was that we had long been booked in for an afternoon picnic with Gary Webb and Cecilia on Thursday afternoon. The word ‘picnic’ doesn’t do justice to the elaborate spread on offer and the effort that must have gone into preparing it. It was the perfect summer evening in Gary’s shady garden and everyone there had a wonderful time.

Since we were down here anyway it was then a chance to arrange to do other things and meet up with friends. As Jen was off on a trip to Nice for 4 days from Monday, we could also repay her hospitality by “cat-sitting” for a few days. In the end we wouldn’t be re-joining the ship until the next Thursday.

Friday was, essentially, a ‘rest day’ but on Saturday we visited son Nick’s house in Tonbridge for a belated birthday BBQ. Though the promised thunderstorms had marched through overnight the day was still warm and sunny. A more pleasant temperature but a bit breezy. We also got a chance to look at a house Nick is considering buying down there. Interesting place that has obviously been lived in and neglected for years. If one can see past the dirt, outdated décor, half-hearted DIY efforts and ramshackle furnishing there do seem to be lots of opportunities to improve it and add some value over a few years. Jen and her boyfriend Dave came and joined us so, with the two grandchildren racing about as well, we had a really nice afternoon.

Sunday was interesting for being so uninteresting. Friday’s brief, intermittent thunderstorms had done little to relieve the arid ground but it looked like heavier, steadier rain had come through overnight and that continued, with grey skies and persistent penetrating drizzle, right through to evening. After two months without rain, it was both strange and strangely familiar. We stayed in the flat most of the day. There was plenty of general ‘stuff’ to do, changing addresses etc. so, with no specific plans and the weather now sheeting rain, it should have been a great opportunity to catch up on things. Somehow, however, the very fact of not being able to go out easily makes you very restless. By 3 o’clock it was reminiscent of the classic Tony Hancock’s ‘Sunday Afternoon at Home’ with a frequent bored sighs and a deal of pacing. Relief came as Dave turned up to collect Jen, packed and ready for Nice next morning and we all repaired to The Wattenden Arms for a farewell dinner. By the time she returns we will have returned to the boat so, as we won’t see her for a month or two, it seemed justified.

On Monday it was our wedding anniversary. Last year was our fortieth and that was pretty full on, with a surprise trip to Bouillon in Belgium for the weekend and the works. This year we have been so busy with other things I am not sure either of us had really kept track of it and given all the other engagements we have over this week it was quite nice to celebrate with a quiet night in. We did go to meet Digby the cockapoo, who belongs to Hannah & Sue, friends of Jen’s from the Hockey Club. We have been thinking of getting a dog and what breed might be most suitable. The cockapoo seemed to come out a small enough, intelligent enough and sufficiently undemanding to be manageable in our little world. This was chance to engage with one, face to face and hear how his first couple of years had been for the owners. I think we have come away thinking it is probably a good choice but there is much to do from here in identifying a suitable breeder and working out when a puppy might be available and we might be ready for it.

Tuesday was a bit of a binge day. Through an accident of timing and organisation we were scheduled to meet with my brother John, his wife, Ali and our mother to celebrate the latter’s 94th birthday with lunch at Nutfield Priory and also to meet our friends Steve & Judy and Ray & Carol in the evening at Chez Vous in Warlingham. Nutfield Priory offers lovely surroundings and beautiful views across Surrey from the North Downs plus an eye-wateringly expensive menu. Even a glance at the bar snacks makes you wince, headlining with Ham & Cheese Toastie – £9! To be fair Chez Vous doesn’t trail far behind in never knowingly being under-priced and both establishments provided good service and excellent fare for a pleasant family lunch and a great evening out with friends. Neither was a recipe for either health or wealth so time to row back for a week or two I feel.

Before heading out for an afternoon of gluttony I had a walk up round our old area of Caterham on the Hill. I was spotted by a former neighbour, who was driving in the opposite direction. An arm came out of the window accompanied by a cry of “Is everything alright?” to which I only had time to reply “Fine thanks” and she was gone. Speculation will now be rife as to whether we have even left the area at all and what happened to the boat?

We were going back on Thursday morning, with Jen flying back in the evening in time to feed the cats. Wednesday was a bit of a fill-in day, therefore, but a chance for Sue to use a full size washing machine before our return to the boat and to go and check out some things we have been thinking about for when we move into the new house etc. Having no car normally means such opportunities are quite rare so even though it was Croydon it was worthwhile before dropping the car off at it’s storage location and packing for the trip back.

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Posted in Cruises, Parting Shot, South Downs.

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