Our Diary UK Part 4

The steady trickle of Newsletters from across the miles is a timely reminder that it is the season of good cheer and that we must put fingers to keyboard to share our events of the last six months with you. It can be said that relationships are built on shared experiences and, although we are separated by geography, sharing thoughts and life events will hopefully support and maintain our friendships. So what has happened in our life over the last six months or so?

We did manage to use our rash purchase of camping equipment once and took ourselves to Northumberland and the Border counties. The weather was kind to us and we managed to mix the wild and picturesque landscapes with historical and architectural visits to Glasgow and York. The highlight for Keith was a visit to the Farne Islands where we were nose-to-beak with the puffins and seals. The sunshine combined with a high tide allowed us to get very close to the thousands of birds adorning the rocks. We managed to get some lovely photos in the clear sunshine.

Christine is a great fan of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh style of architecture and design. We spent a great day checking out his buildings and various examples of his art scattered around Glasgow. The downside of the experience was a leaky airbed which we had to blow up every few hours each night - not good! This we exchanged for a new one upon our return to Southampton.

Another exciting event this year was the marriage of Keith's daughter Charlotte to Rachel. It was a happy and lovely day, with the girls looking so beautiful in their wedding dresses. Emily and Jon came over from New Zealand and it was great to catch up with them - together with Robert, Jas, Rosie and Juno. The Reading Ladies Ruby Teams' guard of honour was a delight.

Our big adventure for 2017 was joining Maggie and Trevor on "Kouba" their Prout Catamaran. They had planned to take Kouba through the Canal du Midi into the Med. The 250 mile trip with about 200 locks took six weeks. It was quite exciting in places as Kouba was "dimensionally challenged" - sometimes with only 2 inches to spare when going through some of the narrow lock gates. This, with unknown cross-currents into and out of the locks taxed Trevor's quite accomplished manoeuvring skills. It is easy to see why this is a popular way to spend your retirement - just ambling through the beauty of the French countryside along avenues of plane trees which dappled sunlight onto the tranquil water. We visited many small picturesque villages, all at a very gentle pace punctuated with activity as we tackled the numerous locks and bridges along the way. There were many memorable experiences and happenstances - most revolving around good food, wine and friendships. This adventure was on our "Plan B" so many thanks to Trevor and Maggie for satisfying our itch.

We returned back to the UK in late August just in time to visit the Southampton Boat Show. Not to buy a boat or equipment - but to catch up with fellow cruisers from the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) and the CA (Cruising Association). We spent a lovely day yarning and propping up the bar. Christine also arranged to visit the Oyster Yacht stand and caught up with her old work colleagues. While she did this I drooled over the Oyster and marvelled at the excellent workmanship of these ultimate cruising boats.

We have also spent time with the family this year and managed to cheer on Charlotte and Rachel playing for Reading Ladies Rugby team - before Charlotte suffered a nasty broken ankle! Emily flew back to New Zealand and our time together was oh too short. Robert managed to get three months' Paternity Leave and Keith helped out with a few DIY chores with him which he enjoyed. On a sad note, Keith lost his older brother recently but it was very nice to catch up with his family in Wales. Christine's niece Pippa and her son Xavier visited from Australia and we enjoyed a lovely few days with them.

On a number of occasions we donned gumboots and visited Gill and Aidan's small holding. They have accomplished so much in the last 10 months. We had "fun" helping them with some of their chores, including helping to build their huge barn, pig pen and chicken coops. We were rewarded with produce from their extensive vegetable plots as well as some of the pork from their home grown pigs - which will adorn our Xmas table this year.

With autumn approaching a new challenge beckoned… We started Ballroom dancing lessons - just for fun! This has been a source of great hilarity to us both - especially as Keith has two left feet and not a bit of musicality. Although he did get a thumbs up from our instructor for his waltz last week!

It has been bitterly cold here in the UK during the past month, and we are looking forward to returning to Torreblanca in southern Spain early in January for three months.

We have prepared two slide shows - one of our trip through the French canals and the other of the rest of the period...

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas (or whatever) - and a healthy, enjoyable and prosperous New Year.

UK Photos French Canal Photos