Back to Blighty
We are going to leave Red Rooster in the marina in Almerimar for a few months to catch up with friends and family over the winter. It will be the first time that we have left our floating home for more than a night or two since we stepped aboard all those months ago in Tollesbury, Essex to set off on our adventures.
Claire was having a real struggle packing for the 3 month trip we had planned starting with a flight out of Malaga. I stayed out of the way as she packed and re packed everything several times. The allocation of 20kg in her bag just wasn’t enough!! Of course this meant that a large portion of her stuff found its way into my bag and all of the heavier items subsequently moved into the carry on flight bags!! I have always thought it odd that these aren’t weighed as well! Ours were so heavy I struggled to lift them as I manhandled our gear off the boat on the morning of the 26th December.
We had arranged for Elizabeth, a local woman who runs a one car cab service to take us to Malaga Airport. We were waiting on the dock for her at about 08.15 when Jayne and Graeme appeared carrying mugs of tea and coffee with two bacon roll’s ahhhh that’s friends for you.
Elizabeth was on time and as we were loading our stuff into her battered old Peugeot 206 when Alan and Bijuca appeared to say goodbye to. We left happy in the knowledge that these two lovely couples would be keeping an eye on our boat whilst we were away.
We set off with Elizabeth wiggling her way through the marina and out onto the duel carriageway. I found myself gripping the door handle as we accelerated onto the motorway towards Malaga. Talk about driving fast, I am sure she would have given Stirling Moss a run for his money. She never stopped talking and when she told me her age, 72!!!! I wished I had sat in the back with Claire! She drove about 115 miles in just under 1hr 40 minutes. It was unbelievable. When we had got our stuff out and I had paid her I asked if she was going to have a coffee or something before setting off for home ‘Oh no’ she said ‘I need to dash as I have someone coming over for lunch’ Oh that poor, poor car!
The first part of our trip was to meet my daughter Grace and a few friends skiing in Switzerland. We flew to Zurich on a Swiss airlines flight, which was great. The cheap airlines are good, and our flight wasn’t that expensive but it was so much better, free food and drink whilst sitting on leather seats. When we landed we jumped on a train, to Chur, then another to Arosa where we would all meet up for a week’s skiing.
Most of the group were already at the hotel when we got there and it was really, really good to see them all. Grace my daughter and her boyfriend Ash were the last to arrive and we went out to help them unload the car as they had bought out our ski gear with them. Claire, nearly a year ago had packed a large hold-all with all of our ski clothing, boots, salopettes, helmet, gloves etc. This we left at Claire’s mums. A week or two before Grace left for Switzerland Wendy, Claire’s Mum dropped the bag off to Grace for her and Ash to put it in the car when they were leaving. After most of the car was unloaded I asked ‘where is our bag?’ Grace and Ash looked at each other and at that moment I knew that all of our ski gear was still in the bag in Essex!!! Bugger.
Everything turned out OK though, we had to hire ski’s and poles anyway so we added boots and a helmet to the list. Our friends rallied round and before the night was out we had enough clothing and equipment to allow us to enjoy a fantastic weeks skiing including a brilliant New Year’s Eve fireworks display over the frozen lake in the centre of town.
As usual the week just flew by and it wasn’t long before we were all saying good bye, promising to do it all again next winter.
Claire and I were traveling back in the car with Grace and Ash, we all commented on the fact that it was a good job that they had forgotten our large ski bag as we only just managed to get us and everything else in for the return journey!!
It’s a 12 hour drive home from Switzerland and we were all shattered by the time we got to Grace and Ash’s place, we borrowed my old VW camper that’s on loan to Grace while we were away to drive the last hour or so from theirs to Claire’s Mums house. Boy did we sleep well that night.
Now that we were back in England we felt it only right that we should catch up with as many friends and relations as possible. We had a firm booking to go skiing again for a week to Courchavel with Claire’s Mum and Dad on the 7th Feb another date set in stone was for the Shearwater Mid-Winter Dinner on the weekend of the 12th & 13th March and we had booked a flight back to the boat on the 17th March so everything else had to fit around that.
Hectic just does not describe it, we first had to sort out seeing the parents, Claire’s was not a problem as we were staying with them but my parents were away in Portugal for a few weeks whilst my father recuperated after a recent medical problem and we needed to wait for their return before arranging anything with them.
Denise, Claire’s sister has a birthday early in January and we always miss it due to our skiing so we booked a meal with her almost immediately. The weekends were sorted first as most of the people we wanted to see were working during the week. So we did the rounds for a few weeks before getting back on a plane from Stanstead to ski with Claire’s Mum and Dad. We had a really good week with lots of snow. Another 12 hr drive back home with them, stopping mid-way for a night this time so not quite as exhausting.
We also wanted to visit my newly reacquired friend Kevin McCarthy and his lovely wife Jo who live in Cornwall. We had a proper road trip when we left on the 20th Feb, stopping first at my Sister Lauri’s house in Surrey to catch up with her and David. Then onto Hayling Island to see Kerry, Poppy and Zac (Unfortunately Nick was away) where we stayed the night, up on Sunday morning and back on the road for the drive down to Hayle, Cornwall. Kevin and Jo were very hospitable and we had a fantastic time with them and their dog Luther. The weather even cleared for a few days to let us enjoy the stunning scenery. Whilst there we went to visit Colin and Jen as well as Steve my brother in law and his mum Tam in St Day.
Heading for home we stayed the night with Ian, Tina and Holly in Newbury, it was good to see them again so soon after skiing. We had a good meal and a nice chat. After leaving in the morning we managed to fit in lunch with my sister in Reading before heading back to Essex.
Around all this we saw my lovely daughters Grace and Joy when and wherever time allowed.
Dave and Sue Simonson’s hospitality and house parties were brilliant. It was good to catch up with Dave Pearce, Victoria, Iain and Claire Skerrit as well as Paul and Alex Bruce.
We stayed a night or two with Bridget and Conor enjoying their company and a lovely meal out at Olio’s.
I had two slap heads reunions in London with the boys and it was good to see them all again.
We watched as much of the six nations rugby as possible.
Claire caught up with Helen, Gemma, Nerys and Hannah in Twickenham as well as school friends from Danbury, we also had a nice lunch with Jan in Sandon.
When my Mum and Dad returned we gave them a few days to sort themselves out then went to stay with them in South East London for a few days. It was great to see them looking so well. We spent a nice afternoon back in Reading visiting my sister Julie and her family as well as an enjoyable trip to Greenwich. I have stood on the meridian that runs through the Royal Observatory many times but now it has much more significance for me. We have crossed the prime meridian from East to West when we were in the English channel somewhere near Hastings and we will cross back again very soon as it passes through the Med near Calpe.
We managed to get into London for a meal with Joy and Ed in The Folly a good restaurant near the monument. It was great to see them again. I miss my girls a lot.
We also went to The Shearwater Mid-Winter dinner which was special as it kicked off the 60th year of this great racing catamaran. We took my parents along and Wendy and Alan was there too. It was brilliant to see so many friends again all in one place this time! It started off very well with England beating Wales in the six nation’s competition. The dinner was lovely and as well as all of the normal TT prizes, Alan Howland was given a GP spinnaker by the fleet in celebration of him racing Shearwater Catamarans for over 50 years!!
My daughter Grace had a nice surprise as well winning the 1st lady helm at last year’s Nationals. The new trophy was presented to her by Wendy who had gone to the trouble of having one made for this achievement as she felt that it needed to be recognized and highlighted as sailing was predominately a male dominated sport.
We said our goodbyes to my Mum and Dad as the packing began back in Essex. We managed to see my daughters a couple of more times and had a nice meal out with Richard and Wendy Warwick.
At 0400 on the 17th March we left for the airport with Alan volunteering to drive us. The flight was uneventful and we stepped off of the plane in Almeria to be greeted by our good friends Graeme and Jayne who had offered to pick us up.
Claire cried a bit as we stepped back onto Red Rooster. We had been gone a long time and it felt good to be back home.