Our Diary UK 2018 - Part 1

Once again the time has come to put pen to paper and bring you up-to-date on what's been happening in our lives over the last six months. We were really pleased to escape the bitterly cold northern European winter at the beginning of the year - although even southern Spain was cold. We were generally wearing winter clothes when we went outside and only managed to get into shorts in March. But it was still a lot warmer than the UK. This year we shared a 3-bed, 2-bathroom apartment with Gill and Aidan - they couldn't work their 10-acres over the winter and thought escape was a good alternative. They stayed about 2 months and we then moved into a smaller apartment for the last month. We managed to resume work on our book after about a year - during which time Sharmini and her reading group had given us feedback, as had Maggie & Trevor Page who had read it during our trip down the French Canals last summer. The feedback was really useful and we hope the re-write has improved the book. We just need to see if anyone is interested in publishing it now!

We also enjoyed going to a few concerts/plays while we were in Spain. Fuengirola has a fantastic theatre where they host plays, bands and concerts - for a very reasonable price. We also enjoyed the "La Cazuela de la Abuela" festival - literally translates to "grandmother's casserole". Participating restaurants compete by offering a small plate of their speciality and customers get to vote. The sample casserole and either a beer or glass of wine only cost 2 Euro, so very good

value. Some restaurants served dishes that weren't strictly casseroles, but it was fun to try a variety of them. I think we managed about 20 - and for each 5 reviews, free gifts were offered by the judging committee. We thought the event, held over 2 weeks, was a great way to get locals and tourists to try different restaurants. In all, 57 (of about 122) restaurants participated. It was great fun!

We didn't take the car with us this year - but managed to survive using public transport or shank's pony. We enjoyed a couple of days away in Cordoba which was great. The train service was excellent and our accommodation in a converted convent interesting. The city is fascinating with an old Moorish mosque now converted to a Christian church. The building must have been fantastic before being cannibalised. Anyway, it was a fun couple of days.

Back home we managed to contract the terrible cold/flu that Christine had contracted at Christmas. The wracking cough was enervating and we were annoyed to get it again, although in a slightly milder form. Once again, it took about six weeks to recover and we were still coughing and spluttering when we joined the Ocean Cruising Club in Bristol. They organised a formal dinner on board the SS Great Britain and it was great to catch up with some cruising friends. A tour of the ship showed life on board a transatlantic liner of a bygone era. The new Isambard Kingdom Brunel museum is in the same grounds and was very interesting.

In May we embarked on the P&O cruise ship "Arcadia" for a one-week cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. Having seen these cruise ships all over the world while we were sailing, it was a treat to experience one for ourselves. Sailing out of Southampton made it very easy for us to join the ship - and we found the holiday enjoyable. There were two "black tie" nights as well as lots of fine dining and evening entertainment. The theatre on board had the capacity to seat about 750 people on three tiers - and the shows were impressive. They put on two shows per evening - one after the first dining session and another after the late session. We also enjoyed going to a couple of ballroom dancing lessons held during the day, and put our new found skills to the test on the dance floor on several evenings. The ship visited Bergen, Sogne Fjord ,Geiranger Fjord and Haugasund and we had two complete days at sea at either end of the cruise. At the Sogne Fjord we had booked an excursion on the historic Flam Railway which included descending from halfway down the peak on mountain bikes. It was great fun. All-in-all we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Upon our return we were still coughing and spluttering and took a couple of weeks more to recover. Then it was time to start packing all our possessions into crates, boxes, etc. in anticipation of putting the house of the market. We emptied the loft and started sorting through our stuff again - some of it we'd never unpacked after shipping it back to the UK from Poco Andante. We rented another storage unit and moved most of our possessions into it, leaving us living out of a suitcase for clothes and more-or-less camped out in the house. Cleaning the house to within an inch of its life took another week. Christine didn't want to have to keep tidying and cleaning it while we put it on the market, so we decided to take a camping trip to Ireland!

After a bit of a damp start, we headed west across the south coast along the "Wild Atlantic Way". The scenery is certainly spectacular - but the cloud was so low during our Ring of Kerry drive that we couldn't see a lot of the views! But the weather finally cleared up and we had a further two weeks of glorious sunshine. It was interesting that most villages had at least 2-3 pubs, quite often alongside one another - but obviously getting sufficient business to keep trading. Keith enjoyed the genuine Guinness beer - which he found tasted different from that in the UK. And the food was lovely. The other thing we enjoyed was the live music at most bars each evening. It was possible to do a pub crawl just to try out the different music.

On the way back from Ireland we popped in to visit Keith's family - only to discover that Sylvia had had a nasty fall and damaged her newly replaced knee joint. She'd just come out of hospital after a four month stay to recover…

We headed to Dorset to stay with Gill and Aidan for a week or so, helping them install a watering system to help them through this dry, hot English summer. But after a week, we realised our own garden must need attention and we hadn't yet had an offer on the house. So we returned to Southampton and spent a busy week watering the vegetable garden and lawns. Fortunately this revived them from parched dry to lush green. The house was still looking tidy and clean after our month away and a week later we received an offer which we accepted. Now it is a case of waiting for the UK conveyancing system to meander its way through the tortuous process. Until we agree an "exchange of contract" date, we don't know if it is all going through - and certainly can't make any travel arrangements. This is very frustrating…

We also managed to catch up with Rob & Jas and Rosie & Juno and Charlotte & Rachel for a very hot sunny day at 4 Kingdoms Adventure Park in Newbury - rides, animals, and messing about on boats. A great day - with the exciting news that Rachel is expecting a baby next January! A third grandchild to look forward to- we're so pleased.

Anyway, we're having fun doing research about possible routes to take on our trip to Australia - and where we might possibly settle. Watch this space!