In the UK

12th August - 23rd November 2010

Mid August found us back in the UK, to take care of Joe, Christine's Dad, during a course of radioactive iodine treatment for his thyroid cancer.    We'd planned and expected to stay for five weeks, until he'd recovered from the bout of treatment.    Unfortunately, however, despite his valiant battle, he passed away rather unexpectedly at the end of August.   Despite his 80 years, this came as a profound shock.

We found ourselves with lots to sort out and Delta Airlines kindly made all the necessary changes to our return tickets with no hassle or charges.     Friends Chris and Vivian took wonderful care of Harvey-the-RV, now stranded in the mountains of North Carolina.    Before winter set in, they moved him out of their garden and down the mountain to a storage facility, where he would be safer from the winter ice storms and the falling tree branches they would cause.

On the positive side, our extended stay in the UK gave us the chance to spend plenty more time with family and friends.     For a change, we were present for grandsons Gareth and Iwan's birthdays,     We even managed a family get together in Crickhowell, an excellent photo opportunity for Dodo and Christine with all their grandchildren. 

Birthday parties and get-togethers.

Somewhere along the line, we had the idea to view a couple of properties in Crickhowell, near the family. It was just out of curiosity, of course, with no intention of buying until the Joe's home in Cheshire was sold.     

In typical Phil and Christine style, the first property viewed was THE ONE.     After much deliberation, an offer was made and accepted and we faced the daunting prospect of owning two properties in the UK.    For people whose only homes for the last 13 years have been fully mobile, this was quite a scary prospect......Still, we had the long delay between our offer being accepted and finally moving house, in which to worry about it.

Raising the beam at Jeff's

Meanwhile friends Jeff and Jane kindly allowed us to use their vacant holiday cottage in Crickhowell, on condition that we assisted with the installation of a new oak beam in their own home.    

The planned day arrived and anxious about back strains or losing a toe or foot, if the beam dropped, we turned up to help.     Luckily, Jeff had several other big and burly friends lined up to help.  With much grunting and groaning, the beam steadily made its way through the garden and the lounge window.    The beam was wider than the room, naturally, and the team, now reduced to four, began the time-consuming, tricky process of moving the huge beam from its ground position diagonal across the room, to its final resting place above their heads.    Jeff had given this task much thought and preparation and slowly and carefully we raised the beam into position.   It had been an interesting challenge.


Back in Cheshire again, we were busy getting ready for the anticipated house move.    Sorting through Dad's house we got to be on first-name-terms with the workers at the local dump.    Freecycle, a wonderful website for passing on unwanted but useful items, was also a godsend.  House viewings came thick and fast and despite the poor economic climate, we soon had an acceptable offer on Dad's property.    It seemed we wouldn't be stuck with two properties for long after all.   We counted our blessings!


Windgather rocks, near Buxton.

Sunday lunch with the Breakalls.

Now that we wouldn't be regularly visiting the North West any more, we decided to do some exploring and hiking.     Phil even got a long-promised day trip to Buxton!

Feeling somewhat orphaned, Christine resolved to keep in closer touch with the blood-family that remained.     This led to a lovely day out in Shrewsbury, with Dad's cousin Ruth's family.   We took a lovely, muddy walk with Jean and Lesley before lunch and later enjoyed Richard's walking tour of historical Shrewsbury.

Our next trip was to Kent to visit Christine's Aunt and Uncle.    From Manchester, Kent seemed close to Ipswich, so we combined this trip with a visit there, to catch up with old sailing buddies Brad and Susie from Windharp.     When we discovered that French sailing friends Marc and Beatrice (Coconut) would also be visiting that weekend, we were delighted.   We'd last  been together in 2001 before crossing the Atlantic on our respective boats.  Now we were able to finally meet Marc and Beatrice's two gorgeous little girls.

Together we sampled the local culture (the pub) and enjoyed a party on a renovated barge.    The girls did some shopping, to help Beatrice stock up on British delicacies to take back to France (if such a thing is possible).    During our stay we took some lovely walks in the local Suffolk countryside.    It was a wonderful weekend.

Brad and Susie's beautiful home

Christine, Susie and Beatrice

Marc, Phil and Brad


Our visit coincided with Halloween, so we kept all the great British Halloween traditions.    Brad and Marc's pumpkin carving became very serious.    Those brave enough even bobbed for apples in a bucket of icy cold water from the stream in the garden!

International competitive pumpkin carving competition

Marc gallantly braves the cold.

Gorgeous Suffolk Sea Coast

As always, our time together felt too short after such a long time apart but everybody was on a schedule, so we parted company vowing that the next reunion wouldn't be so long in coming.

We headed down to visit Grace and Brian, Christine's Aunt and Uncle, close to Maidstone.     On arrival we were treated to our second Sunday lunch of the day, when we were reunited with cousin Andrew and his family.     

Next morning it was time to walk off all those Sunday lunches and Grace took us on a lovely walk through the grounds of Leeds Castle.    This helped us work up an appetite for lunch at an historic pub in the area.    Later, Phil and Brian enjoyed a trip to the local pub, while the girls had fun sharing family stories until their return.    It was wonderful to be able to spend time getting to know family with whom Christine had never spent much time.

Christine and Grace at Leeds Castle

Just room for a quick pub lunch?

Christine, Grace and Brian.

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