Holidays in Wales and England

6th December 2002 - 9th January 2003

"Wonder if it will ever really get light?" we thought to ourselves as we sat in the luxury of the National Express coach from Gatwick to Wales at 11 am on a cold and frosty December morning, the day we arrived in the UK to spend five weeks catching up with family and friends.    Unfortunately due to delays caused by a rogue passenger not allowed to board our Monarch flight from Grenada via Tobago to Gatwick, and the subsequent removal of their baggage from the aircraft, we'd missed the bus we'd booked by internet and already been welcomed back to the reality of the UK with a "bus rage" encounter with a disenchanted booking clerk at the ticket office, just what you need after 10 hours aboard a plane and no sleep.   Welcome to Britain.....Actually it did get properly light once or twice during our visit (see photos for proof), we even saw the sun but nevertheless quickly lost our healthy Caribbean glow.    Surprisingly we acclimatized fairly quickly and no longer needed our thermal underwear after only about two weeks!

 

"Lend me your specs, Captain Grandpa Sir, so I can take a look at that chart", said Midshipman James Rees.

Of course a highlight of the visit was our introduction to a potential new crew member, Phil's grandson James, who was already over six months old.   Phil's sister, Rae, has a sign on her fridge stating, "If I'd known what fun grandchildren were, I'd have had them first".    This was the first time we were able to experience the joy of grandchildren and the joy of being able to hand them back to their parents too! 

It was great to be able to spend so much time with family. Our visit home last Christmas of only two weeks just wasn't long enough and this time we were able to have many family get-togethers and even track down old friends we hadn't seen for many years.     Phil's son, Nathan, generously lent us his car for most of the duration of our time in the UK on condition that Dad didn't write-it-off, so we were able to be independent of public transport which always makes life considerably easier in rural Wales.

During our first week in the UK, Christine traveled to Cheshire, to spend some time with her father.  It was strange being separated from one another, normally we're together in a very small space 24 hours a day, seven days a week.    As a special treat, Christine was taken by her Dad to visit the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, where he's a volunteer and even allowed to climb aboard the helicopter and the Shackleton bomber which were on display, for a special tour by his colleague, Harold.   One afternoon we also took a trip to Bolton to visit second cousin John and meet for the first time his wife Ann-Marie, who Christine had only ever met by e-mail before and their children Siobhan and Ciaran.  After a visit to big sister, Sue and lunch and a good chinwag with old school chum Fiona, the rest of the time in Cheshire was taken up with computer lessons for Dad, Joe and trying to fix all the things on his new PC which weren't working correctly.

Reunited after our ' long' separation we spent a fun weekend with Dave and Silke, old friends whose wedding we'd been unable to attend in June in Germany but at least we had an opportunity to see all their photos.   We also spent a night out with them and our good friend Trish in Newport, at the end of which, Christine was allowed the exciting opportunity of being designated driver of Dave's new Mercedes sport coupe.   The trip was somewhat adventurous as Christine struggled with the concept of the six gears, having only driven a 20 ton yacht with the gears forwards or backwards for the previous 18 months!

We got together with Trish again for dinner in Crickhowell and a trip to visit our friends Gwyn and Angie Dix and see Gwyn's slides of his adventures in Ecuador during the summer.

 

"Are those pests I see approaching?" - Sophie, demonstrating how her boom walking tricks have been adapted for bannisters.

The stunning view from our room at Phyllis'!

By this point in the visit Phil was suffering withdrawal from his latest passion, the game of Mexican Train Dominoes.  Phil's Mum, Phyllis, gamely volunteered to learn, so we could play almost every afternoon, as we had done in Grenada, and keep the Captain out of mischief.    Christine even learned a few new words from Phil when the inevitable day arrived where Phyllis gave us both a serious domino trashing! 

For the past year Phyllis had been doing a marvelous job of keeping our ex-Pest Control Office, Sophie Jane Bubblebrain, out of trouble and in Whiskas meals.    Sophie did condescend to approach us after about a week but it was purr-fectly obvious that her loyalty now lies with the owner of the house which doesn't move across the sea and bump up and down!

On the last Friday before Christmas Christine took a trip to visit her ex-colleagues at Continental Teves in Ebbw Vale, where she was welcomed like one of the family.   After a friendly chat with plant manager, Tom Whyatt, during a stroll around the factory to see what had changed in 18 months, it was surprising how many colleagues greeted her and passed by before suddenly realising that it was no longer normal to see her there every day and stopping in their tracks to ask what she was doing there!    Of course when she arrived in her old "Small Series" Department, all of her ex-department colleagues were in a meeting, so nothing much changes after all!   It was great to see them all again.

The weekend was spent in Worcester with friends Steve & Kathy Beehoo, eating too much, drinking too much and talking about their plans for the next year, when they plan an escape like ours!   On our way back to Wales we couldn't pass Malvern without visiting Fran and Andrew and their children, Ellie, Lydia and Oliver.   We were sorry to miss Hannah, who was away but who promises to come and crew for us.  Then we were only a few miles away from Phil's old friends Annie and Norman Stanier and couldn't miss the opportunity to visit their beautiful and award-winning "Dragon House".

Lydia, Oliver, Phil, Ellie, Andrew and Fran in Malvern.

Christine with Annie and Norman in their beautiful home.

 

Christmas was spent with family in Wales and despite having nine people for Christmas dinner, all went smoothly.  We had quite a full house with Diane and Graham now living with Phyllis, the two of us visiting, Christine's Dad staying over the Christmas period (thanks to Phil's sister Rae for use of her house), Graham's mother Joyce and Graham and Diane's two daughters Lucie and Kate, who was visiting from San Diego.   After dinner we were joined by Jo-Ann and Mark, Nathan, Tracy and of course, star-of-the-show, grandson James.  

Christmas Dinner - Before

Christmas Dinner - After

 

Despite the cold weather, we managed to take some lovely walks and admire the views around the Crickhowell and Abergavenny area, in most cases to walk off yet another meal!    We had to modify our usual style of walking when we're in hot climates, instead of dodging from shady area to shady area, actively trying to walk in the sunlight made a pleasant change.

View from the bridge in Crickhowell on a sunny day!

 

Walking off Sunday lunch at the Bear Hotel with Steve and Kathy.

 

Before we knew it our five week visit was drawing to an end.  We managed to fit in a major shopping trip, mostly to buy more video entertainment for the next year, as mostly its impossible to buy the PAL system videos in the Caribbean.   This was much aided by our lottery win.   (No begging letters please, our massive 107 win was spent before we even won it!).

The house that Phil built, Crickhowell.

 

 

There was time for a few more get-togethers with old work colleagues, Geoff Jones, Hilary Pritchard, Mike Sandy and Sharon Walters-Davies from Christine's old company and dinner with her ex-boss Steph Curtis and his family. Phil's ex-colleague Linda Ditchburn and her partner Geraint treated us to a balti curry before we left, miraculously the only one during the whole five weeks!

On a sadder note, Phil had to attend the funeral of his good friend Eddie Lowe, who tragically died suddenly just after Christmas.

 

We welcomed in year 2003 at the Bear Hotel in Crickhowell, watching their excellent firework display in the rain and suddenly it was time to make our farewells again and head back to Gatwick to catch our flight back to Grenada, hoping we'd find Anju where we left her!   Our luggage was only 10 kg overweight this time!

Thanks to Phyllis for putting us up and putting up with us, Graham and Diane for chauffeuring us (and everything else) and to Trish for letting us stay in her house until our bus left at 2 am in the snow.

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