13th May - 17th June 2009

We flew from Jacksonville, via Atlanta to Manchester on a great connection with Delta.   We had rented a small four door car for the duration of our 5 week stay.     For some reason the hire car company decided what we really needed was a sporty two door coupe.   Although it was infinitely more fun to drive, it was no fun at all trying to load three grandchildren in the back.   We tried to get the vehicle changed, but in true British style, the hire car company didn't seem to have any other cars available during the whole five weeks.   Still, the grandkids loved climbing around all over the front seats like monkeys (thank goodness it was a hire car!).
After a couple of days at Dad's near Manchester, recovering from the trip and de-jungling the garden, we were off to Wales to catch up on our share of grandbaby-sitting.    

With preparations well underway for a house move at Phil's son's house, conditions were a little cramped.   Despite already having 5 people living in their small terraced home, and the walls of each room being lined with packing boxes, Nathan and Tracy managed to find space for the two of us on their sofa.    Unfortunately there wasn't room for our luggage, so we lived out of the car for a while.     

There was a garden under those weeds after all!

After a couple of days in Wales, friends in beautiful Crickhowell, Gwyn and Angie, kindly offered us a room in their house for the duration of our visit, a key and the freedom to come and go as we pleased.    Not only did this make our life much more comfortable but it meant that we got to spend time with our friends too, which was great.

Beautiful Crickhowell

Enjoying the peace at the Gwyn and Angie's house!

We recklessly offered to baby-sit overnight for the three grandchildren, which was a first for us, to allow their parents some grown up time away.    It all worked fine but was tiring for us novices, particularly as 2-year-old Gareth (renamed Dr No, in honour of his new favourite word during our stay) not only wanted to share the bed with his grandparents "Dodo" and "Shisheen", but also wanted most of it to himself.    

Around midnight, Phil was about pushed out onto the floor one side of the bed, Gareth diagonally across the majority of the bed, Christine teetering on the other edge. Christine arose to attend to another crying child elsewhere and devised a cunning plan to relocate herself and her pillow to the sofa, to finally get some sleep. Meanwhile, Phil sneaked from the one side of the bed around to the other side.   Now as sleeping "Dr No" methodically worked his way eastwards across the bed, Phil would finally get enough room to sleep on the west side!   

I'm sure you can walk a bit further.....please.......

Gareth taking Shisheen for a jog


We enjoyed some lovely weather during our visit and decided to make the most of it with a family picnic.   We hiked uphill to a beautiful meadow, quite a workout when carrying a child on your back.   The grandchildren didn't seem quite so small at that point!    

At the end of the afternoon the adults were envious of the children, who were able to cool off in their paddling pool.

Haven't you got one of those in our size?

Christine, Linda, Geraint and Joan enjoying the spicy food

As was now becoming a tradition on our trips home, we met our wonderful webpage hosts, Linda and Geraint for a delicious curry at the Vegetarian Food Studio in Cardiff.   This time we brought along our lovely "sister-in-law" Joan too.

During our stay, both Phil's children's families were moving house.  Jo-Ann was buying a house in a more rural location, a better place to raise their young son, whilst keeping her city house as a rental investment.  

The lovely house she'd bought was, however, a true interior decorating nightmare, having been owned by folks with possibly the world's worst taste in decor.  The house was adorned with a riot of loudly patterned carpets, every wall and ceiling seemed to be coated with loudly patterned, textured wallpaper and every room finessed with red curtains. The living room focal point was the most hideous fireplace built out of grey brick and stone with perilous sharp corners, just waiting for a grandchild's tender head.  The house itself would be quite charming, once a wallpaper steamer was taken to every surface which wasn't covered in carpet!

Phil and Christine volunteered for an intensive four day spell of decorating at the new abode, in which time, three bedrooms were gutted and re-decorated.   Work continued until 9 pm each night.  Well, there was little else to do, no furniture, no TV, just a radio, two cast-iron chairs and table to eat off and our inflatable mattress for a bed. It felt a bit like a spell of hard labour.  We left exhausted but pleased to have helped. 

Migraine attack anyone?

Taking it easy at the end of a long day (ha, ha).

Phil in his element at Trish's birthday

Luckily our decorating work put us in the right area to join our friend Trish in celebrating her birthday at a lovely Middle-Eastern restaurant in the Mumbles.
Exhausted, we staggered back to Nathan's where finally a moving date had been set.  Box-packing continued in earnest. Tracy, Christine and Phil attempted to pack mountains of toys into packing boxes.   Meanwhile, Dr. No decided he needed each and every one of the toys right then and there, and took them right back out of the crates!

The day before the big move, we helped poor over-worked Tracy dismantle the garden shed, the Wendy-House, disconnected the appliances, pack more boxes and clean the house.   The movers came a day early to load some boxes into the truck, which at least gave us a little more room to work.    By 5 pm the day before the move, the house was completely empty of furniture, except for the bed, TV and sofa.   The children were staying with their other granny.  All that was left to do was to move was the contents of the attic, everything seemed under control.   Then.......we saw the contents of the attic....Aargh!   With a chain of four people passing stuff down the ladder, then down the stairs, we worked from 8 pm until 11.30 pm.  By 11.30 we were beginning to see floor in the attic but the entire downstairs of the house was completely filled again.   At this point we did a runner and left Nathan and Tracy to work, presumably late into the night.

Moving day arrived. One child was in school, the other two in day care.  After helping move the final items and breakables out of the house, we sat and waited and waited and waited for keys to the new house.  The new owners even turned up to move into the old house and still we had nowhere to go.    Phil and Christine were despatched to recover two children from day care and keep them entertained until they had a home to go to.

Unfortunately it was at this moment that poor little Polly became ill with a nasty ear infection.   She screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed.   We had nowhere to go, so we drove around in the car for a while.   Eventually, in a car park, poor Polly fell asleep in Christine's somewhat cramped arms, in the front of the car.  Phil quickly took noisy Dr. No somewhere far from the car.  Finally when she got home from work, were able to head to Polly's other granny's house .   

By the time Tracy was able to get Polly to the doctor, Nathan had keys to their new house.   In Tracy' absence we began unpacking the essentials for life, primarily the kettle and tea pot.    Boxes were opened, beds reassembled and possessions placed randomly in cupboards.    Perhaps they' would be able to find everything again by our next visit at Christmas!   By the time we left around 9 pm, again exhausted, at least people had beds and could make tea.

So our trip was drawing to an end, we said our tearful farewells to family, hoping that all necessary building  work to the new properties would be completed by our visit in December.  We returned to Dad's for our last couple of days.    We enjoyed a lovely dinner with relatives John and Ann followed by a day of trauma with Dad's internet service provider before staggering onto the plane, looking forward to the opportunity to get some rest. 

In Atlanta we sat forever in a plane with non-functional air-conditioning, in the baking heat. On take-off we were optimistic about the possibility of getting a drink of water but our hopes were dashed.  Our descent into Jacksonville began as the cabin crew were about three rows away from us with the elusive beverage trolley.   We then sat at the gate, again in the baking heat, waiting to de-plane for another extended period.   Anyway we got there safely, always the main thing.

Back in Green Cove Springs we returned to a gleaming, newly T-cut Harvey-the-RV.   We only needed to apply wax and eliminate the new resident colony of ants and we'd be ready to hit the road for our summer inland exploration.

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