I have now as you are aware, dear reader begun the next chapter of my life & what n initiation I have experienced!
One of the plans that I mused over pre retirement was to visit Australia & see one of old colleagues in Adelaide however financial constraints especially the decision to pay off my mortgage forced me to put that intention on the back burner.
Instead I chose to visit Spain staying in my sister in laws apartment for 5 days ("O yeah..." I hear you say)I planned,& subsequently went alone. My intention was to clear my head of work, to spend time reflecting, to relax, & to eat & drink the culture of Iberia. (as you would/do!)
Well the solitude was at times overwhelming, so much so that at these times reflection became a pressure which resulted in me becoming morose. I did relax, I discovered walking also I discovered that I am a 'people person' (not as I previously believed a loner). I would stop & talk with every person (especially those who spoke English!). The walks along the very long beach were exquisite with e warm Mediterranean lapping at my feet. Whist the wine was cheap & of excellent quality.
The food? Well, I discovered that cooking for one is a chore & I'm sorry to say that I grazed & ate out only occasionally ( x 1 in fact!)I read & watched satellite TV....&....then God & the Icelandic volcano entered the frame. Bollocks!! I was stranded alone with money running out & not wishing to amount debt. Monarch airlines had cancelled all flights, I was unable to contact them via phone as my sodding mobile had died, phone cards were expensive-I'd used them to keep in touch with home on occasion. Visits to Alicante airport via bus were like a trip into the 7th circle of hell, with people weeping, tearing their hair out, kids crying etc etc all trying to get home to the UK. I waited on one occasion 3hrs to be sen then thought "sod it" & decided to make my own way to the channel port & attempt to get a ferry to the UK. It was like Dunkirk C1940 all over again!!
Then..the Calvary appeared in the form of my brother in law who was holidaying in Mercia some 40 miles away. He & his wife called for a spot of lunch!! He was supposed to leave 3 days prior to coming to see me but was told that the earliest he'd be able to leave Spain was on the 8th May!! (NOW DEAR FRIENDS, THE AIRLINES HAD BEEN CONTINUING TO SELL TICKETS DESPITE FLIGHTS BEING BANNED & WERE PUTTING PASSENGERS IN SEATS ALREADY SOLD TO OTHER PASSENGERS)
We decided to go on line & book a ferry crossing from Cherbourg to Rosslaire in Eire for the 24th April. The plan was for us to drive thru Spain, France, Eire then to Belfast (where he lives) then I'd get a flight to Birmingham.We'd stop off x 2 nights in a hotel en route. The total mileage we calculated would be approx' 1,900 Km.
The trek began on Thursday last & ended on Saturday. I arrived in B'ham finally on Monday 26/4/10 after spending an additional £195 (after a cock up in booking my ticket on the hotel computer in Brittany) flying in. to B'ham via Belfast
What a journey!! But what an experience.
I visited a German war cemetery in France, practiced my French, ate some wonderful French food whist spending even more money on hotel bills which my insurance nor the airline refuse to refund.(Fascist money grabbing bastards)
So Woollie is home in the loving bosom of his family again.
And what have I learnt?? I've learnt how much I love the family. How much I love my wife. That I'm a people person.I've learnt that time is precious & that we ought to use every moment & put it to the best possible use.I've learnt that I love my home. But I have confirmed to myself something I'd forgotten: That I love France. Though Belfast too is a delightful place & I'd recommend that you take a trip there.
I brought back loads of Spannish coffee, (called 'Bonka' well, with a name like that it had to be brought, & its really lovely coffee)Sardines (in tins) & bottles of wine.
O & the mortage is paid off.