Our Diary UK Part 2

"Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get." If your box is as big as the world and you have already savoured many of its delights which do you choose next?

It's been over a year since we moved back into our pied-a-terre near the New Forest. The 12 years of letting had taken their toll, but a spot of paint and lots of elbow grease soon brought it up to muster. With the bulk of the painting and decorating done we tried our first new chocolate … revisiting office life and a 9-to-5 existence. (It was Shiny on the outside but tough and chewy in the middle!)
Christine's role was closer to our previous life with a contract at Oyster Yachts (she's still there!). Keith took a temporary assignment at a contact lens manufacturer, which he has just completed and has retired again (for the fifth and final time). Hurray!

A huge blessing at spring time came in the form of Gill and Aidan, who stayed with us whilst waiting for one of their tenants to move out. They worked like Trojans, laying carpets, flooring, building decking and they even re-laid a concrete path. To top it all, they had dinner on the table waiting for us after our hard day in the office!

A sweet delight has been following the exploits of all our friends and family ocean sailing, marathon running, long distance cycling, traveling to exotic locations, etc. etc. You are an amazing bunch - vive le spirit of adventure.

2016 is a leap year… I knew something was up when Christine had booked a table for two at one of our favourite eating establishments for 29th February. Manly pride was at risk of being upset, so with trepidation I raised the subject of matrimony on the drive to work one day (very romantic!) Thankfully Christine said yes! However, she was still planning to get down on one knee in the restaurant; I persuaded her otherwise and ordered another bottle of wine!

It was then left to me to choose a date and get everything organised. A quick search on Google revealed that this was not straight forward and clear cut. Our first decision was how and where. The how was easy - we were going to elope; anything more would be way too complicated. The where was also easy -Southampton Registry Office in the historic medieval quarter. The how was a bit of a conundrum. The logic is to book the location then arrange the legalities. Not so. A phone call to Southampton created confusion … yes they have rooms available but sorry if you don't live in Southampton, you can't book them up until you get legal notice from your local authority (I decided to play dumb -not difficult). I asked the simple question "how do you get married?" It then became as clear as a glass of cloudy champagne. We were under the auspices of the New Forest District Council - through them we had to serve legal notice. But in order to get legal notice we had to have a date and location. I could see a Catch 22 coming up. But the breakthrough was that we could reserve a room but they wouldn't confirm until the NFDC had served notice. So by paying a booking fee we had reserved a slot. I was sure the rest would become clear. The next stop was serving legal notice. The first question the local Registrar asked was "have you a date and location?" Yeah! Got this sorted, so with my booking reference I arranged an appointment. Two months before the big day we turned up at the Registrar's office armed with loads of documents. We were directed to a small office along a dowdy corridor and sat in two chairs alongside another couple. At the allotted hour a friendly female face popped out of a door said good morning and then disappeared again. A couple of moments later the door opened again and, with an apologetic smile, it was announced that there was a double booking for this appointment! And we were second - this allowed time for Christine to feed the parking meter more money! The meetings went well involving a bit of musical chairs - first one then the other filled out forms and made declarations. We were together when Christine produced her Australian divorce papers. "Oh I'm not sure that these are recognised in UK Law" the Registrar announced! She took out a dusty file full of loose sheets from an equally dusty filing cabinet and proceeded to flip through the sheets one by one eventually stopping at the correct page. Thankfully not a problem - and so opened the door to our new life together. It amazes us that people in authority (who do these tasks on a day-to-day basis) assume that their clients know the process inside out! However this was the last hurdle.

A few more fees to pay and so began a flurry of activity - letters confirming our booking, offering options on type of marriage ceremony, promises and vows. From our side we had to arrange witnesses; Jill and Mike, old cruiser friends, agreed to fulfil this role. And being a softy I organised flowers. On the weekend before the wedding I popped into the local florists and requested some wedding flowers. "We can fit in a planning meeting next week" was the surprising reply. "But I want them by Thursday" I said firmly. "This is your planning meeting!" I then produced Christine's wedding outfit, much to their amazement. "The flowers have got to match this" I said. After a 30 minute discussion we had arranged the flowers!

The wedding day itself was a delightful treat - all strawberries and cream. Only 6 people attended; bride and groom, two witnesses, the registrar and a celebrant. The location and weather also came to the party. We then had a celebratory lunch and flew off to La Rochelle for few days honeymoon. All in all lovely - although now I know why people employ wedding planners!

An amusing aside was that our suitcases were laden with boat spares; Maggie and Trevor from Kouba were cruising the west coast of France and were aware that we were going to La Rochelle - but not that it was our honeymoon. They needed some boat spares and asked if we could help out - no problem- that's what cruising's all about. We met up and had a further celebration or two in the old port of La Rochelle- a fitting end to a great event.

Oyster Yachts have a subsidiary based in Mallorca, Spain - a popular holiday destination. Christine had a visit planned to introduce a new accounting package and to train to local staff. As part of our research into lifestyles we decided to try the "package holiday" in a large all-inclusive resort. With Christine's business visit completed we moved to a large hotel in a popular holiday location. We could see the attraction of just basking on sun-beds next to the pool or sea shore, wallowing like a harem of sea lions but decided that's not what we are looking for. This was definitely a "sickly sweet, almond-flavoured chocolate" - the one that's left in the bottom of the box.

Our next mini adventure is to rent a villa on the Costa del Sol in Spain for the winter - to try out the migratory life style and follow the sun south.

Our sincere best wishes to all our friends wherever you may be. We miss you all and hope to catch up somewhere, somewhen. Merry Christmas to you all.

I can't finish this newsletter without commenting on the political turmoil that is happening on both sides of the Atlantic. My only comment is that I believe economically we will all survive - but my big concern is that populism will turn into fascism, as history has demonstrated - and I will support all moves to stop this happening Happy New Year!