Hard to believe that something so much anticipated is now behind us! But our trip went well and here we are back in Spain in the grimmest of weather conditions yet hearing of wall to wall sunshine in the UK. Never mind, we know it’s only temporary and you deserve some sunshine!

Poco wasted no time on getting up close and personal with Graham!

Our boating friends, Jill and Graham house sat for us while we were away and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They arrived 24 hours before we were due to leave so we had plenty of time to show them round and explain things and for them to meet the dogs who we have never left before. We departed with not a single qualm and knew that all would be well. The flight was late and we didn’t arrive at our first overnight stop (Birmingham airport Ibis hotel) till gone midnight.

Next morning we picked up our hire car and headed for Tewkesbury where we were reunited with Glen and Pete on their boat, Slo-Motion.

A grand day catching up with these lovely people and so good to spend time on a boat again!

It was so good to see them we first became friends in St. Jean de Losne when we had the barge and we’ve also spent time during winters together in our motorhomes in Portugal. It just so happens that they have also met Jill and Graham whilst on the waterways of France. We spent the day with them, then drove over to Huntingdon to stay with my sister, Janet, for two nights.

A quick trip further south to visit my college friend Jean and her partner Peter was on the agenda for the next day and to make the acquaintance of their recently rescued Alaskan Marmalute, Ayesha.

9 year old Ayesha, her previous owner suffered a stroke and could no longer look after her

What a powerful but beautiful girl, Nigel declined to hold the lead when we went for a walk after lunch, having watched Peter having to run at times to keep up with her! Back in Huntingdon we took Janet for a meal at a local hotel where I have previously stayed when I visited with Belle and Dash. It’s quite some time since I have seen Janet so it was good to spend some time together. She now has three grandchildren with another one on the way.

Cheers! Janet and me choosing our meals in the George Hotel, Huntingdon.

Next day we headed up to Oakworth in Yorkshire to stay with more friends but on the way we called in for a cuppa and a chat with my cousin Roger and his wife Jackie. Now, in 2018 they celebrated their golden wedding. I was a bridesmaid and another cousin filmed the occasion. Roger has since had the film transferred to CD and kindly leant me the disc to bring home to watch. Seeing my 17 year old self, my smiling mum and dad, my sister and her then boyfriend, later husband and all the other relatives was a delight and also very emotional. So many of the faces on the film are no longer with us and it brought home to me how much time has passed and how much special people in one’s life matter.

Oakworth was another opportunity for a dog fix, Mary and Martin have two well behaved border collies.

Also another meal out in the evening, I have never been out of the kitchen this long, nor eaten out so often in 48 years! After a very comfortable night and a leisurely breakfast it was time to move on to Cumbria where our friend Philippa was waiting for us in Cockermouth. It was a lovely drive through the Yorkshire Dales passing the three peaks of Pen-y-gent, Ingleborough and Whernside. Nigel was pleased to see that the bus shelter in which he used to doss in his youth was still intact! Then we headed up the M6 and through the Howgills and over Shap into the north Lakes.

Blencathra from the A66 with a little dusting of snow on the top.

At Philippa’s, the canine fix was the lovely Mabel who we have only seen via WhatsApp. We were warned about how big she is…an Old English sheepdog/Weimaraner cross!


Head licking! Good job we like dogs!

A very convivial evening followed with red wine flowing (didn’t it, P? ) and a gorgeous home made steak and ale pie courtesy of Olivia, a friend who is staying with Philippa at the moment completing her PhD in animal husbandry.

This brought us to Thursday, the long anticipated day we would head to Bolton to see our family over the weekend. We took a circuitous drive through Cumbria, stopping off in Keswick for a comfort break and coffee.

View of Skiddaw from the car on our route south

Late afternoon we checked into The Last Drop Hotel in Bolton. This was another Memory Lane trip as it was where we had our wedding reception in October 1974. We put our luggage into our room and realised that it looked out onto the courtyard and tree under which we had our wedding photos taken almost 48 years ago.

We didn’t dash round to see the family, we had said we wouldn’t descend on them until the Friday afternoon after school and work commitments were over for them for the weekend. So instead we had a siesta after all the driving and then in the evening, we welcomed our friends, Jo and Mark who we hadn’t seen for many years and had dinner with them at The Last Drop. It was Jo’s birthday so an amazing coincidence that we should meet up again after so long on that day.

After a very nice breakfast at the hotel, something I could really get used to, on the Friday morning I met up with some ex colleagues for coffee at a garden centre. A very pleasant couple of hours passed in great company and then Nigel and I headed to the Lowry outlet for a bit of shopping and then round to Drew and Alana’s.

Saving the best till last (no offence to other friends and family), we finally got to see our grandchildren and meet the new baby. Cuddles, hugs and presents were exchanged, the older two children entertained us with their antics and soon it was time for tea.

Baby Wilbert with mummy
Baby Wilbert with Daddy
And at last, Baby Wilbert with Grandma
Hattie and Percy
Hattie teasing grandad!
Something amusing them!!

No cooking for me again but this time a trip to our favourite Chinese take away that we used for years when we lived in Bolton, and boy it tasted good after all this time. The children were delightful, chatted away to us as if they had seen us yesterday, no hint of shyness or wondering who we were after not seeing us for so long. We stayed until just after their bedtime and then made arrangements to see them the next day.

On the Saturday we went to the National Trust property at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, where there is an exhibition of cotton manufacturing machinery some of which was working for demonstrations. The gardens are beautiful too so there was an opportunity for Hattie and Percy to safely run about and let off some steam. We were lucky with the weather as we had been for all of the trip, it was cool but dry and pleasant.

Tree climbing tuition
Hattie made it
Percy watching on
No visit to the UK in early spring would be complete without mentioning the beautiful sight of daffodils in parks, gardens and verges.

On Sunday morning we went to say hello to our old neighbours and then set off to have a walk around one of the reservoirs near “home” where we used to go often with the dogs but the car park was absolutely rammed as it was such a nice day, so after a pleasant drive around all our old haunts we went back to the hotel to pack. We met up with the family again later for a meal at a local pub and then it was finally time to say au revoir to this lovely lot!

Our beautiful Hattie, wearing mum’s glasses!

And so the day arrived to fly back to Spain, having returned the hire car we checked in and got through the not very enjoyable experience that is Manchester security check. We had arrived in plenty of time as we had read that this could take a long time. Upon waiting we came upon the news that there was an unusual weather phenomenon happening in Southern Spain, a calima…..traditionally an atmospheric phenomenon in which dust, smoke, and other dry particulates obscure the clarity of the sky. We were seeing pictures from home of dark orange skies and reports of eclipse-like conditions with complete spooky stillness and no birdsong.

Graham took this photo from our front door, it became even more orange later.

Shortly after we arrived home to a rapturous welcome from Belle, Ditto and Poco, the wind suddenly got up and on my walk the next morning I discovered that part of a tree had blown down across the road in our local village that we had just driven along the night before.

The road in the village that we had passed along the previous evening. Glad we were not 20 minutes later or it may have fallen on us!

Also some damage to fences and climbing plants had happened in the garden overnight. It wasn’t long before the inevitable red rain arrived and it has hardly stopped yet. The grand clean up hasn’t started yet, we will be doing it when we are sure there is no more to come! I have just read a weather forecast that suggests we will get more red rain this coming Thursday and Friday!

Red rain gushing from the downspouts
The aftermath!
The cleaner rain made an attempt to wash the tiles a little but still much to do.

Our house sitting guests had loved their week and a bit and the dogs were absolutely fine with them. They left the next day to return to their winter home in Oliva, Valencia. It’s about two and a half hours drive away. They hadn’t been home long before we got a message asking to check the spare room, Graham has left his drone behind! He hadn’t used it here either mostly because of the bad weather! We will meet again before they return to their boat in the Netherlands to reunite man and drone! Maybe I’ll make another tartiflette, eh, Jill??

Hattie’s cactus drawing now adorning the fridge.

As always when something good ends, it has felt a bit flat this week but we have been to and fro to Ikea as we are planning a new kitchen. More on that hopefully next month.

Lastly, apologies to all friends and family we didn’t get to see this time, it wasn’t favouritism (apart from the Bolton crew of course), just logistics and geography. We drove almost 1000 miles in a week, that was more than enough!