Visit to the UK

11th December 2006 - 30th January 2007

Our "holiday" in the UK turned out to be far from restful.   Our plan was to spend Christmas at Phil's mum, Phyllis' house in Crickhowell and Christine's Dad, Joe, was to join us for the festive holidays.  Phyllis hadn't been well for a while and when we arrived in Manchester, Phil set off straight away by train to Wales.   Meanwhile Christine completed her duties as Joe's transatlantic cleaner, before joining Phil a few days later.

As usual we'd picked up some kind of bug on the plane trip and spend much of the next week trying to take care of Phyllis and ourselves.   When the time came for our regular visit to our GP for a check up, we almost felt too poorly for a visit to the surgery, but braved the trip, staying with our friends Dave and Silke overnight.   It turned out that Dave and Silke were also unwell, so we spent a glamorous evening together steadily using up their entire stock of tissues.    It turned out that we were in line for another two similar bugs during our stay, one of the joys of winter in the UK.

Just before Christmas, Phyllis felt worse and decided she would prefer to go into hospital over the Christmas period.   

The next day Joe arrived by train to spend Christmas and spent several days plonked in front of the TV while Phil and Christine were hospital visiting.   It seemed Phyllis was holding her own and being well looked after at Bronllys hospital.

Christmas Day arrived, a plan was hatched to make a hospital visit after lunch, to spend some time with Phyllis and then on our return to start cooking Christmas dinner for ourselves and Joe.   However, making plans can be tempting fate and we discovered on our return, after beginning preparations for Christmas Dinner and putting the food in the oven, that Joe was unconscious in an armchair.   After fraught discussions with the NHS hotline we were told to call an ambulance, which arrived in only about two minutes, the paramedics being familiar with the address from their visit a couple of days earlier.

The ambulance whisked now conscious Joe off to Neville Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, accompanied by Christine, whilst Phil stayed home to make sure the house wouldn't burn down with the oven on and joining us in the emergency room later.     

A couple of hours later a doctor arrived to give Joe a thorough check-up and he was admitted for observation.   However, the hospital kitchen was closed for the day, it now being 6 pm on Christmas Day and Joe hadn't eaten, so another return trip was made to Crickhowell to prepare a sandwich for him.    Once he was in the safe care of the hospital staff, we finally made our way home, shell-shocked, exhausted and starving hungry.    Finally at around 9.30 pm we ate a now somewhat dehydrated Christmas dinner, which had been reheated in the microwave.  

For the next several days we had to split our time into visits to two different hospitals, which were of course around 30 miles apart in opposite directions from the house.    Our record was four visits in one day.

After a couple of days of observation and tests, Joe was released from hospital and decided to extend his stay in Wales until after New Year.

Phyllis seemed to be improving and there was  talk of her coming home before our planned departure date back to the USA, so that Phil could help her settle back in and ensure she could manage OK.   

Before we knew it, New Year was upon us and we were invited to a party at friends Bob and Lindsay's house in Crickhowell.    The invite said the start time was around 7.30 pm and seemed like it would be an informal house party, so we planned to turn up a little later, after cooking Joe a roast dinner to make up for the Christmas dinner he'd missed.   We rolled up, bottle in hand at around 9 pm and were horrified, on glancing through the window before knocking, to see around twenty five people sat around the table, eating dinner.   Here we were two hours late, bellies still swollen from our roast dinner and highly embarrassed.   What was to be done?   Should we sneak away and hope nobody spotted us or brazenly stroll in and apologise for our tardiness.   Being more famed for our brazenness than for our sneaking abilities, we decided on the second option and ended up having a jolly good time, even managing the cheese course, if nothing else.  

As was tradition in Crickhowell, as midnight approached we all made our way up to monument in the village square for fireworks at The Bear Hotel and a street celebration to see in the New Year.   This tradition was always a great way to finally catch up with all the friends you may not have seen otherwise.

On New Year's Day Christine and Joe were off on the train back to Cheshire, keen to set up an appointment with a specialist before Christine was due to fly back to the USA.   Phil meanwhile held the fort at Phyllis' house and made daily visits to spend time with him mum.

As the last week of our planned stay in the UK drew on, it seemed Phyllis wouldn't be released from hospital before our departure and it was quite a dilemma for us whether to extend our stay in the UK or stick to our plans.   Ultimately the decision was made for us when Phyllis passed away peacefully two days before our flight date..........Despite her extended illness, it still came as a terrible shock to us.

Turmoil followed as our plans were changed.   The kind folks at American Airlines came to our aid again as they had in the past and despite our tickets being free "air-miles" tickets, they held our return open indefinitely for no charge.   Anju had been left in a high demand spot in the yard at Green Cove Springs Marina and had to be relocated to the storage yard as we had no idea how long we'd be delayed.   

Phyllis, we'll miss you............

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