Friday 31st March
We spent the day preparing the boat for our departure in the morning. This didn’t take too long as we try to keep RR pretty much up to scratch.
Claire finished off the packing while I put the cover on the dinghy and checked that all was OK with the mooring lines etc. I stowed a few loose pieces of equipment in the lockers but after spending 5 months here I felt that the boat and our belongings would be perfectly safe.
Chris and Valeria on board 'Windependant' arrived back in the marina after picking up their boat from the yard where it had been cleaned, anti-fouled and generally titivated. It looked good and it was nice to see these two again.
We had arranged to go out that evening for a farewell dinner to the Wild West bar/restaurant with Graeme, Jayne, Valeria and Chris meeting them at 19.00 for the stroll up to the restaurant. We had a very nice evening which was tinged with a bit of sadness as these two couples would have left the marina at Olbia by the time we returned to our boat in June.
We slept surprisingly well waking up at 07.00 on Saturday 1st April. We showered, put the rubbish in the bins, shut all the stop cocks and I unplugged the electric from the pontoon leaving the solar panels to keep the batteries topped up.
Claire and I carried the bags to the car that Graeme had bought round. I went back on board and pulled the gang plank up tying it to the back-stay. The boat was quite a way off from the pontoon and it needed both Claire and Graeme to help pull the boat in enough to allow me to jump off. Well the
first attempt nearly ended in disaster with me on the wrong side of one of the lines very nearly getting knocked off RR and into the water!! The second attempt wasn’t much better but I jumped and landed on all fours on the pontoon. Jayne and Graeme dropped us off at the departures entrance. It took less than 10 minutes to drive there from the marina! The airport is that close we could have walked.
We said our goodbyes to these two-lovely people and soon we were flying over Olbia looking back at the marina as we climbed into the perfectly blue sky. The journey was uneventful, we had booked the flights online getting two one way tickets for £20 each!! We both read our books, I have started reading the 'Sharpe' series by Bernard Cornwell and enjoy them very much. We were soon at Gatwick and I had a Cornish pastie before we left the airport. I have a mental list of the things I wanted to eat or drink whilst back in England, things we couldn’t get where we had been travelling and a pastie or two was definitely on there.
We caught the train to Redhill where my big sister Lauri was waiting for us. It's a short drive to her beautiful house in Surrey where we were to stay for a few days.
We had a shower and a catch up before we jumped back in the car to drive over to Roger and Jo's house for dinner. David had been playing golf with Roger and they turned up a few minutes after we arrived. It was great to see everybody again. Roger showed us around his lovely home before we sat down to a very nice meal. Jo was looking for a bottle of beer for me and she kept pulling bottles of larger out of the fridge. I explained to her that I was sick to death of larger and really wanted an English beer. Well as if on queue the next bottle she pulled out was Doombar.....one of my all-time favourites and pretty high on my mental list of must have food and drink. I was a very happy boy. The food was great Jo is a good cook. We ended the night sampling different spirits. I tried a Patron, XO Cafe tequila which was very nice, the only nice tequila I have ever tasted. We then had a sip of a gin from Devon which was very smooth. Roger moved onto the whiskies which I refused to try because any type of whisky makes me sick.
We had a great evening but I was pleased to see my bed.
Sunday the 2nd April is the birthday of both David and Peter. My very nice brother’s in law.
We started the day with a nice cooked English breakfast followed by a stroll to the local pub for a couple of beers. Lauri was having a few people over for dinner to celebrate including Danielle and Stuart. The last time we saw these two was at their brilliant wedding.
We spoke to both Karen and Peter over the internet. It was great to hear and see them again.
We had decided to visit Chartwell on Monday. Chartwell was the private residence of Sir Winston Churchill. It’s a very nice house in wonderful gardens. The children were off school so it was a lot more crowded than we expected as there was an Easter egg hunt in the grounds. Fortunately, no eggs were hidden in the house so it was a little quieter. The house was very interesting with many artefacts from Winston Churchill's life. I think he must have been an extraordinary man and I also think Great Britain was lucky to have him during the second world war.
David and Lauri were very kind in offering to drop us off at my parents’ house but we needed to stop along the way for a pint and a sandwich. We found a pub near Biggin Hill, the famous World War two airfield. Doombar was on tap as well as fish finger sandwiches. All was good in our world.
Soon we were knocking on my Mum and Dads front door. It was great to see them and they both looked very well.
At the top of my list was to have some fish and chips. My parents have been going to the same fish and chip shop for ages so on Tuesday 4th April we walked the mile or so to Honour Oak and enjoyed a very nice portion of cod and chips. I can’t describe how nice they were. My Mum and Dad went back whilst Claire and I went the long way home as I wanted to show her One Tree Hill. I used to play there when I was a boy with Guya. It’s called ‘One Tree Hill’ because Queen Elizabeth 1st is reputed to have rested under an oak tree on the summit back in 1602. It was also used as a part of the chain of beacon points during the Napoleonic wars to signal London should enemy ships be sighted in the channel. It must be one of the highest spots in London. It has always been left as common land with lots of trees and places to hide. At the top is an old metal beacon on a pole and a round gun emplacement left over from the second world war.
My parents always keep a couple of Oyster cards (Travel cards for London transport) and we topped these up with £20 on each while we were out as Claire and I were going into town in the morning to hopefully get our American visas sorted out.
So, there we were in Grosvenor Sq outside of the American Embassy. It was 09.30, quite cold with a blustery wind. There was two queues both quite long with a tent type thing at the end of each. As we were English we joined the end of one of the queue’s and waited a respectable amount of time before asking the guy in front of us if we were in the right queue. He wasn’t sure but just then a lady came along the line checking that we had the correct forms. We were in the right queue but when we had got to the front of this one and had our bits of paper stamped with a number we had to join the end of the next queue. I asked her ‘what happens when it rains’ she looked at me as if I was mad and said ’we all get wet’!!! It just seemed odd to me that one of the richest nations in the world could not provide protection from the elements for those that wished to visit their country.
Anyway, we shuffled in the cold for about 40 minutes, the rain held off and soon we were inside. We went through the same process as you do at an airport. Belts and shoes in one tray, phones, keys etc in another tray. We then walked through the detector thing and put everything back on. We then entered the main building of the embassy and was directed into a very large room with lots of seats with lots of people sitting on them. We were told to find a seat at the front and look at the big LED screen fixed high on the wall that had a series of numbers slowly moving down whilst at the same time from out of the speakers a female American voice said the number that was at the top of the list. We sat in this room for about 30 minutes before our number was called. We went to a window, very much like the post office and talked to a nice man. He didn’t ask why we wanted a visa, just general stuff, he took our bits of paper and passports. We had to put out thumbs and fingers on a pad which scanned our finger prints then we were told to join the queue around the corner.
Before we got to the corner we were intercepted by another woman who directed us to seats at the back of the big room. We were told that our row of seats was 199 and we were to get up when our number was called and join the queue. Another 20 odd minutes went by before we were called. We joined the end of the queue where we waited to be called forward to another post office type window where a very nice woman asked us the same questions, took our finger prints and relieved us of our passports. She said that we had got the visa and that they would be inserted into our passports and sent back to us within 7 days. Result.
Time to celebrate. My old friend Guya and his wife were in London so we agreed to meet them in Smithfield’s market for a pint or two. Also attending were my very good friends Dave Simonson, Dave Pearce, Iain Skerritt, Paul Bruce and my old friend and boss Richard Warwick. The London Pride tasted like nectar to me. It was great to see all off these good people.
Soon it was time to leave. I had had about 6 pints and we had to get to the Bird and Ape in Cambridge Sq near Covent Garden to meet Joy and Ed for a bite to eat. It was an Italian restaurant!!!! As if we hadn’t had enough over the past 6 months or so but the food was great and the company even better. I love my kids. Ed and Joy seemed very happy and they agreed to visit us again at my mum and dad’s house this coming Sunday.
On the 6th April Claire went into London to spend the day and most of the night with her good friend Helen. I walked Claire to the station then agreed to meet her at Covent Garden later that evening as I was going out for a beer or two with friends in Islington. I had a very good night meeting up with Peter Hawksworth, who I hadn’t seen since he came out to Menorca to help me celebrate my birthday. Dave Pearce was there also as well as Neil Houseman, Guya and Dave Simonson. Again, I had drunk too much and was a bit late to meet up with Claire and Helen in Covent Garden. They had also had a very good time starting with afternoon tea followed by shopping, cocktails and a show at the Theatre Royal, Dury Lane. It was nice to see Helen again. We last met her and her family in Barcelona last summer.
I was sooooo pleased to lay down on my bed when we got back home!!!!!
Friday 7th saw Claire and my Mum going to the Ideal home exhibition at Olympia while Dad and I went to Lewisham hospital to find out the results from his recent ECG. We were there slightly early and we had only been sitting for a few minutes when we were told that Dad needed another ECG as the old one was taken too long ago so off we went to have this done in another part of the hospital. It all went well and we came back with the graph and waited again for the doctor.
We went in after 10 minutes or so to be told that my Dads heart and blood pressure were fine. He is 88 this year so that was good news. His original complaint about feeling dizzy most days was not due to any problems with his heart so he was still in the dark about what was causing it.
When we left the hospital, we decided to go on the bus to Bermondsey for a pint in the Marigold pub that was on the corner of Cluny St where my Dad grew up before the war. I was pleased that the pub was still there and we sat outside in the sunshine supping our beers while Dad talked about the old days. When we were done, we walked on to Manzes for a lunch of pie and mash. Manzes has been serving food from this building since 1902. We walked along to the Old Kent Road and caught a bus back home. We bumped into Mum and Claire in Cranston Rd so we all walked back to the house together. I had a great day out with my dear old dad.
After the last few hectic days I think we all deserved a rest so we spent Saturday around the house. The weather has been fantastic and we sat outside for a few hours soaking up the sun.
Now we had our visas we could book our flights to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands (BVI’s). We tried all of the usual sites with most of the flights coming out around £800 each, one way with two stops and a journey time of 20+ hours. We then tried Cheap flights.com and found two tickets for £320 each. The journey time is 37 hours and we have 3 stops but and it’s a big but we spend over 15hours overnight in a hotel in Ft Lauderdale. So really its two separate days of travelling rather than one long trip. Done!
Sunday 9th, Joy and Ed turned up. Claire cooked the best roast dinner I have had for ages and after dinner we had a lovely afternoon in the garden with a few beers and a game of boule on the grass.
Tuesday 11th April is my sister Karen’s Birthday. Although she is in Australia we celebrated for her by going to the Hackney Empire to see the BBC concert band and singers Claire Teal, Mica Paris, Emma Kershaw and Louise Marshall perform a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. We all enjoyed the evening very much including a beer and ham, egg and chips in the Witherspoons opposite the theatre. We know how to live!!
Wednesday was another rest day, I help out around the house, cleaning the conservatory roof and cutting the grass. We had a Chinese takeaway that evening which was another thing on my list.
Thursday 13th and I was back on the trains going to visit my friend and old boss Richard Warwick at their new offices near Bromley by Bow. It was great to see that the company I had enjoyed working for right up until I left was in new premises and doing well in a strengthening market.
I left just before 12.00 meeting Claire, Mum, Dad and the lovely Sonia at Liverpool St. We walked over to Spitalfields for a bit of lunch. It was great to catch up with Sonia. We have been friends for a long time, we even held the reception for our wedding in her back garden.
After lunch, we walked through the market, past the minories pub to the Tower Hill pier to pick up the river clipper which took us down to Greenwich. It was a great trip. We passed a few tall ships that were gathering in London for a parade of sail before heading off to Portugal, Bermuda then Halifax, Nova Scotia. We hope to see some of these Tall ships again when we arrive in Bermuda.
Sonia went back to Liverpool St on the clipper while we jumped on a bus and were soon back home where we reheated the rest of the Chinese food left over from the night before. It was delicious.
Believe it or not we went back to Greenwich on Friday, getting off the bus at the top of the park. Stopping for a cream scone and a cup of tea in the café near the Royal Observatory before walking down to meet Julie, Steve, Gemma and Maddie as well as Laurie and David underneath the prow of the magnificent Cutty Sark.
We had a stroll around, it was very busy as the venue with the added attraction of the Tall Ships made it almost irresistible on this fine Good Friday. We found a nice beer garden and soon we all had drinks in front of us, Young’s bitter this time. Very nice.
We enjoyed a nice chat before strolling along the river towards the Trafalgar pub. We turned up Park Row to walk through the park. Lauri and David left us there going back to their car and home. We continued through the park to catch the bus.
Mum soon had a good selection of food spread out on the table with everyone helping themselves. It was good to spend time with Julie and Steve and the two girls. They left around 6 to make their way back to Reading. We do appreciate the efforts of our family and friends to meet up with us when they can.
Well we couldn’t relax, we had to get packed as we were leaving for Essex in the morning to spend a week with Claire’s Mum and Dad.
Saturday 15th. We have had a very good stay with my Mum and Dad. We have spent a lot of time together over the past two weeks and we all got along very well. I was sad to be off but it was time to go.
Claire and I were using this part of the trip as a test for the journey out to the BVI’s with our luggage. First, we walked for 15 minutes to the station then we needed to get 2 trains, 2 tubes and a bus to Wickford where we would be met by Claire’s Mum and Dad. It took about two and half hours. It wasn’t that bad really and I think we managed quite well.
It was good to see Alan and Wendy again and we had to get some shopping before heading back to Stone. We unpacked again had some dinner with Wendy and Alan before walking down the sea wall to the sailing club for a drink or two with Denise who was working behind the bar that night.
It felt good to be back in Stone Sailing Club (SSC) we’ve had many very good nights here. We stayed until closing then made our way back to the house where I fell immediately into bed.
We counted ourselves lucky as it was the long Easter weekend and many of our friends were at the club. I was surprised and happy to see Dan Tindale who was over from Palma to visit his family. We had a good chat as he fiddled with his new Nacra 17 which is a very nice racing catamaran used in the Olympics.
Sarah, Chris, Rory and Charlie was there and I had a go on Rory’s Aeroboard which is one of these new Segway type things……. it’s a lot harder than Rory made it look but I didn’t break anything!! It was a beautiful day and we sat outside at the tables on the grass chatting. Geoff and Jan was there along with Bridget and Rodger Brown.
Later that evening we attended the famous ‘Harry’s quiz’ it was quite enjoyable as there was as always, a very good atmosphere at the club. Towards the end of the evening Amy Tindale turned up having been picked up at the airport by Jan. It was great to see her. She looked knackered having been on a hen do in Barcelona.
We are still doing our HIIT exercises every other day. Claire goes for her 5-mile power walks and I don’t. While she was out I did some maintenance jobs for Alan and Wendy. We went back to the club to see Claire Wood and her kids. The weather has been fantastic and again we sat in the sun chatting.
Joy and Ed turned up just after lunch and it really was good to see them again. It was also great for Joy to be able to catch up with ALL the Tindale clan as Jack, Kelly and their children were down also. Joy had a problem with the indicators on her car so I walked back to see if I could fix them.
After Joy and Ed left (I managed to sort her car out) we walked to Tindale towers to say goodbye to everyone as Easter was over and Dan was flying back to Majorca.
The next few days passed pretty quickly, we went to see Denise and Ron for a drink at there’s but our focus was now on getting everything ready so we could leave on Monday on the first leg of our journey out to the BVI’s.