Family Fun

The photo below was taken in the in the late sixties or early seventies and is of my brother Alan, sister Lesley and of course me when we were mere nippers. It has pride of place in my dad’s living room and is a reminder of how we once were.

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Anyhow, after a boozy evening we decided it would be a good idea to try to recreate it forty five years later.

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After a couple of false starts, we finally managed to get the same expressions, although I think mine was a little too serious!

Our days in Jersey

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A little damp looking out of the window at breakfast on our first day in Jersey

graham with cider

Gluten-free cider of course 🙂

After breakfast we decided to go and explore St Helier, a ten minute walk from the hotel. Fortunately the taxi driver had given us general directions to find the town centre and we were soon browsing the shops, doing some reconnaissance for Abby before finding a cafe on the promenade for a mid-morning coffee. I texted my sister to let her know we’d arrived and said we’d meet her at lunchtime, then did some more wandering before grabbing a drink at one of the pubs near the high street. Whilst we sat outside, we watched someone being interviewed outside the council offices nearby (and watched it again on the local news channel later that evening).

We met up with Lesley for some lunch before heading back to the hotel for a rest, then  ventured out for an Italian meal at La Cantina, which we had spotted served gluten-free pasta. I naively telephoned to book a table before we set off but needn’t have bothered as it was very quiet, being a mid-week evening. The meal was excellent. We took a slow stroll back to the hotel for an early night.

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Gorey Harbour

tiffin in tiffin

It would have been rude to drink the tea before the champagne

The next morning we picked up Lesley’s car and went exploring the island, including visiting Gorey and the Jersey Pearl showroom before stopping at St Brelade’s Bay for some lunch. I dropped Tina off at the hotel (she’d not slept well during the night) and I took Lesley’s car back and picked up some wine for the later in the day (we were spending the evening at her house, with Jason, Iona, Isla and a takeaway). We met Lesley after work, picked up the girls from school and then drove back to Lesley’s house in St Peter’s. The island is so small, it only takes 30 minutes to get to most places from St Helier. Lesley’s girls were pleased to see us and I was soon helping make a car out of a cardboard box (isn’t that what uncle’s are supposed to do?). After enjoying a lovely curry, some cider and wine we eventually headed back to the hotel, via a taxi and both slept much better after an exhausting day.

We managed to get a good walk in the next morning before the rain set in for the day so returned back to the hotel before getting a lift by Lesley to Tiffin for afternoon tea (and a glass of champagne). When we went to pay we had a nice surprise as Lesley had rung them whilst we were there and paid for the meal. Thanks sis!

We visited Pizza Express in St Helier for our evening meal before retiring back to our hotel, fully stuffed from all the food we’d eaten throughout the day.

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Last minute purchase for a special lady

Check out at the hotel was at 10am so following breakfast we packed up our cases and left them at reception before wandering into town for the final time. Again the rain started to fall so we dodged the showers by visiting any of the shops to try to keep dry. We had about an hour left to kill so started to look in the windows of the jewellery shops, of which Jersey is quite famous for.

During our stay Tina had mentioned about getting an eternity ring and spotted one she like in a shop window, so in we went. Thirty minutes later she was leaving the same shop wearing her new, diamond encrusted white gold ring, with my wallet significantly lighter!

And then it was time to leave Jersey, with getting home far less hassle than getting there.

I’ll be heading back there in a couple of weeks when I’ll be helping Abby to relocate.  I’ll be travelling by sea this time so they’ll be no problems with fog, I just hope the Channel is relatively flat as I’m not a great sailor!

Journeying to Jersey

Back in September we decided to gamble on booking flights and a hotel to Jersey to coincide with Abby’s relocation to the Channel Island following her managing to secure a job there. Unfortunately her start date was delayed by paperwork which meant we had travel there Abbyless. Oh well, we would just have to have a holiday instead.

We had managed to pick up reasonably priced EasyJet flights from Gatwick and decided to let the train take the strain, rather than have to suffer the hassle of driving around the M25, especially as we would be returning during Friday rush hour. Having never used a ‘no frills’ airline before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but was impressed by the online booking process, the dedicated app and of course the price.

The downside to using a budget airline is that you need to avoid taking hold baggage as it bumps the price considerably, but that wasn’t an issue for us as we were only going to be away for five nights. As the flights got closer we were able to check-in online using the iPhone app, which presents the boarding passes in an electronic form, something I’ve never used before and a little scary as you don’t have physical paperwork to fall back on. Similarly I’d booked the train tickets online and the accommodation using my favourite hotel booking app (Booking.com). Don’t you just love the 21st century.

Finally the day of travel arrived, and after dropping Rio at the kennels, we set off towards Bedford Station for our two hour train ride to Gatwick. We did have a little apprehension about the flight as the weather wasn’t looking good, with thick fog affecting large parts of the South of England causing flight cancellations, but as we were not actually flying until mid-afternoon there was plenty of time for it to burn off.

The train left on time and soon we were heading South, with visibility still poor but brightening up. As we got closer to London I checked the app and all was looking good until suddenly a message flashed up on the screen. I stared in disbelief as the words ‘flight cancelled‘ blinked at me. The app gave me two button options ‘Re-book‘ or ‘Refund‘ but by this time we were reaching London and I’d lost all mobile signal. I made a snap decision and suggested we leave the train at St Pancras and consider our options.

tina enjoying her wineAfter some thinking, some failed attempts to get through to EasyJet we decided to try to re-book our flight to later in the day. With return train tickets already paid for, a hotel in Jersey booked for the week and the car park paid for for five days, we were really committed to being away for the week. But unfortunately there were no flights available on the day due to the impact of the weather. We re-booked for the early morning flight the next day.

Next problem was where to stay. I got straight on to Booking and found a Premier Inn close to the airport and we re-boarded the Gatwick train, not before trying to get through to EasyJet just to see if there was any chance of getting a flight later in the evening. We couldn’t get through!

On arrival at Gatwick we made our way to our unplanned hotel accommodation and soon found the bar for a well-deserved glass of wine, followed by a nice meal and an early night in order to be fresh for our five o clock alarm call.

Fortunately the rearranged flight suffered no hold-ups and we were checking into our hotel in Jersey, even managing to make breakfast, which went down really well. I checked my mails and noticed a mail from EasyJet apologising for the cancellation of the flight and asking for feedback. That was something I would definitely be giving but not until later in the day when I had time to think of a suitable response.

More of the actual holiday break soon…

Empty Nest Syndrome

Well is it really four months since I last blogged, how remiss of me,  must admit I’ve completely lost interest in adding updates!

Since the last blog, there’s not much been going on; I got an Apple Watch, which is pretty cool. I changed roles within Virgin Media and am now based in Birmingham (not loving the longer drive every day though) and we’ve holidayed in Turkey (really loved Kalkan).

But otherwise it’s been pretty normal; lots of hassles with dad’s care (not the carers, just the financial side of things with the council) and Rio being his normal self, needing attention all of the time.

Big news on the family front though. Abby, having finally split with her husband earlier in the year, has landed a nursing job in Jersey. We’re a bit sad that we won’t get to see her so often, but we’re really pleased for her and at least we’ll have an extra excuse to go and visit the island more often (my sister already lives there so we can kill two birds with one stone so to speak!).

And the other piece of family news is that this weekend saw Matt move out to live with his fiancee Chloe, to a house in Kettering. They’ve moved into a lovely two bedroom place, which will be a perfect starter home for them both.

So that means that our nest is empty once more 🙁

Just as I was typing this out Tina remarked that this will be the first time in 25 years that we’ll be living on our own again. How time flies!

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The Big 30

weddingToday Tina and I have reached the milestone of being married for thirty years!

Normally we don’t do anniversary cards or prezzies, but this year (as its a special one) I surprised Tina with a card I had ordered with photo of a moment during our holiday in Australia. I also gave her a silver necklace with a pearl on the end; pearl being the gift for thirty years of course!

Today we have a double celebration too, with the family getting together later, as it’s also my dad’s 74th birthday  (Happy Birthday dad!). This is particularly poignant as, after his accident forty years ago, doctors only gave him a life expectancy of 65!

We think he’ll outlive us all though 🙂

IMG_1448Anyhow, back to the anniversary, I had a quick look at the statistics of marriages and surprisingly 42% of all marriages end in divorce but by the time you reach thirty years the chance of divorce by the next anniversary is below 1%.

Looks like that option is unlikely then!

Over recent months Tina and I have been discussing how we’ve managed to stick together for so long and we both have come to the same conclusion that our marriage is based on the T word…Tolerance

And of course love xx

Bikers Wedding

Yesterday we attended the wedding of Tina’s niece, Anna who got married to Andy, a long term biker. They met a couple of years ago when Anna mentioned to a friend that she would love to ride a Harley Davidson and she was introduced to Andy, who just happened to own one. Anna and Andy were really suited and it wasn’t long before love blossomed, leading to an engagement and yesterday’s wedding.

The dress code for the wedding was leathers or jeans, and was a casual affair at the local registry office, with a small number of family and friends in attendance. After the ceremony the bride and groom departed to the celebratory meal on Andy’s Harley. The evening reception was held at the local Plaza Hall in Thrapston, where a blues band and Disco kept the bikers (and non-bikers) entertained.

Everyone had a brilliant time and I must admit it was one of most enjoyable weddings I’ve ever attended.

Although not official photographer (that was Anna’s son Charlie’s responsibility) I did take a few photos to capture the day, trying to snap a few ‘off-guard’ pictures rather than the usual formal ones. Here are a few of the best.

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Not a mole hole to be seen

lawnDuring our recent excursion to London we decided to take a look around the Queen’s pad, which had been open whilst Her Royalness was away at her Scottish place during the Summer holiday.

The State Rooms were very palatial (which I guess they should be as they’re in a palace) and the picture galleries were amazing, even for a complete art ignoramus that I am.

But for me the wow factor was the garden, a vast expanse of green lawn surrounded by trees protecting Liz and from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. It was pretty flat, almost of bowling green standard and very well manicured.

I suspect the Queen doesn’t have trouble either with the corgis digging it up, unlike Rio, who I’m certain would be sent to the tower if he was let loose in the royal backyard.

Selfies

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It’s all the rage and who’s to go against popular culture, especially in London as can be seen in this collection of selfies. No ‘smart phone on a stick’ for us though, just the traditional holding at arms length and pressing the shutter button (or the equivalent on what is, technically, not a camera).

By the way, the backdrops include the Tower of London, the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and the Greenwich Maritime museum resulting in a sort of ‘selfies does landmarks’ montage.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of a selfie is:

A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media:occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary

Love the clarification around social media etiquette 🙂

A year to remember or forget?

The weeks turn into months and before long another year goes by; with the last twelve months having some ups and probably more downs overall.

Last year we celebrated Abby’s wedding on a scorching hot day in July but were soon brought down to earth following the death of Tina’s dad, who didn’t really recover from the fall he had the previous winter.

A week in Turkey in September finished off the summer and set us up for the long and wet winter to come. In December we booked our next holiday; planning the November 2014 trip carefully to ensure we get to see as much as we can. Christmas and the New Year came and went and before long it was my fiftieth birthday, enjoying a wonderful time in London, visiting the Shard and a posh restaurant.  In March my dad suffered his second Pulmonary Embolism (PE), spending his birthday in hospital, although there was an added bonus of being able to speak to him for the first time in six months following the fallout I’d had with my mum.

In April I changed my job and after seventeen years of managing a team, I went to only having myself to worry about. And I’ve loved every minute of it!

Tina’s fiftieth soon arrived in May and again we headed for London, with Tina being able to tick off one of her bucket list items, namely having Tea at the Ritz. In fact she managed to tick another off shortly afterwards when her and Matt went to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and saw Nadal and Federer play. Now she wants to go again!

dad abby tina matt chloe at pubIn July, the biggest shock to hit the family was the unexpected death of my mum; incredibly having a PE similar to my dad had earlier in the year but unfortunately not so lucky to survive it. Of course I went through many emotions including sadness, guilt and regret, especially as the last time I’d spoken to her was shortly after Tina’s dad’s funeral the previous August. And as she was the main carer for my disabled dad we knew we had some tough days to come in sorting out his future well being. The family rallied around him, getting through the funeral and working through the various options we had to take. In the end we opted for live-in care, using a company that specialises in providing carers for people in my dad’s situation. The option is not cheap though and with no financial or care help from the authorities, the long-term future of this choice is far from clear.

In August I did my first ever sailing in the Solent and loved it. Not sure whether I can afford to take it up as a pastime though and we live a bit too far from the sea!

And so today sees the end of the full year of the above ups and downs and I’m now looking positively to the future.

Our Australia trip is getting closer and closer; even Tina seems to be getting excited and is even talking about doing the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and a helicopter ride over Uluru, or Ayres Rock in old money.

And even Rio is starting to calm down now he has reached his third birthday (well he will do next week and of course he still has his mad moments!).

Mum

Yesterday we held the funeral of my mum, Joan Wright, who sadly passed away earlier in the month.

Joan WrightHer death was unexpected and a shock to family and friends alike. It was also particularly hard to understand as she’d not really been ill or suffering recently other than a shortness of breath. I personally have also found it difficult as we’d had a falling out recently and so there was also an element of guilt that we couldn’t patch up our differences.

What I can do it try to continue to take up her determination and drive to look after my dad, as mum has been his main carer for over thirty years.

I thought it would be fitting to write an eulogy for the funeral, which was read by the celebrant who held the service.

It’s now your turn to to take it easy mum, rest in peace!