Wow. It feels as though I have been away for ages, though I've only actually missed two weeks. I have had a busy time but I will try to keep this fairly short as it is getting late and my bed is calling to me. First here is my smile for the week.
It was actually taken a couple of weeks ago and it is the official photo for a pantomime that was on stage in Wolverhampton, and it depicts my son Ben as Baron Hardup (father of Cinderella), and my grandson Marcus as Buttons. They were on stage with Marcus' mum, and his sister and brother, and the show was excellent.
I have missed a couple of weeks on here as I went to UK 'undercover', so I was unable to use Facebook etc as the family would have know I was there. Only Ben and one other person were 'in the know', as I wanted to surprise the rest when I turned up at the pantomime. I knew that my other sons, including the one who lives in Denmark, would be in the audience on the Friday night, and I had a seat right next to theirs', and the look on their faces when they came in and saw me, was worth the few days of hiding. Then the show began and I saw the ones on stage suddenly register that I was there. It was great fun. After the show we all met up in the bar before moving on to our son James' house for a party.
The next night was Marcus' 21st birthday so it was the start of a long weekend of partying!
It was lovely to just sit and chat, and catch up on everyone's news.
My daughter-in-law Jo had saved another great surprise. She had made The Snowman. Many years ago I had bought small gifts for everyone intending to make crackers to put them in, but the crackers didn't get made, so in a last minute rush, I put all the tiny parcels into a cylinder box and made a snowman around it. The first time that everyone was together at our house after Christmas, I opened up the snowman and distributed the gifts. It became a tradition, and every year there was great excitement when it was Snowman time. Then, when I packed up to move to Spain, I handed my snowman on to Jo and her family have continued to enjoy it. Sadly his life came to an end, but Jo made a replacement and I was delighted to see him make an appearance at our party.
There were fourteen of us altogether, and when we had drunk and talked ourselves into the ground, we all found a space somewhere to get our heads down for a short while. The next morning I had to be on a train at 11.00 and they all got up to see me off. That's when we realised we hadn't taken the obligatory group photo, so dressed in an assortment of PJs, slippers, jumpers etc, we stumbled out into the sunshine where we persuaded an innocent passer-by to take this photo.
It is a bit 'morning after the night before', but a great momento of a great night. I also got this photo of our five boys. I love them all to bits!
I had actually arrived in Birmingham on the previous Monday, and stayed at Ben's house, so I could have my eyes tested and some new glasses made. The health care out here is great but I have not been happy with the eye tests I have had, and my poor eyes need all the help they can get! So the test out of the way, I then took the opportunity to do some shopping. Ben had the week off work because he had a pantomime performance every night, so in the mornings we did a tour of the Bullring shops, and one day we went to Hobbycraft in Coventry. I love the look of New Street station now it is more or less finished, especially the undulating panels of shiny metal that distort the scens they are reflecting.
And beside them, up high, is the red eye, carrying a welcome, and a serious of changing adverts.
It is all really impressive. I did a quick walk through part of the new John Lewis' store, but I didn't have time to really look around in there, but there will be other visits, and I am sure I will see it properly another time.
The real purpose of this visit was to see all my sisters who live down on the south coast, but as there are no flights from here to Bournemouth during the winter, I had to fly to the Midlands and go down by train, so I was really pleased to fit in a trip to the optician, and then to the pantomime as well.
So on the Saturday I just made it to my train and was met at the other end by sister Jean (Jean Straw of MyCrafty Corner).
I only had a few days with her, but she had organised visits to each of our other sisters, plus our usual trip to the Range and Lakeland. So on the Sunday we started off with lunch down on the sea front, and we decided to have a walk along the prom before we ate. It was a grey, misty day but there were loads of folk walking dogs, teaching children to use new bikes and skateboards, or just out for some fresh air like we were. We ended up walking further than we had intended because we could see a new structure on the end of Bournemouth pier, and wanted to find out what it was. It turned out to be a tower from which a zip wire stretched across the water to a platform on the beach. We walked along the pier and stood watching people who had spent (a lot of) money to ride down this wire. Rather them than me!
I made Jean stand with me to take a selfie.
As you can see, we were enjoying seeing one another again, and we had worked up a good appetite for a very enjoyable lunch.
When we had eaten, we drove to my sister Brenda's house. She is well into her eighties, but despite having had a very nasty fall just before Christmas, she was looking really well, as was her husband. Their daughter was also visiting them so I was able to see her and it is many years since we last met. This is Brenda with Jean and I.
She suffers with the same drooping left eye as I do, so we are a pair well matched.
She showed us this lovely blanket that she has crocheted. Mum taught us all to knit and crochet when we were very young, though both Jean and Brenda were really good at sewing too, but I didn't inherit that part.
The next day Jean's husband was off to his bowling club so we visited our sister Dorothy who only lives a short walk away. She was also looking very well, and she had her daughter visiting her, so I was having a really good family catch-up week.
Jo always brings her black labrador, Bomber with her when she visits, so it was nice to meet her as I have known her on facebook since she was a tiny puppy.
Then it was Wednesday, and we drove over to Weymouth to see our oldest living sister Evelyn. She and her husband are both nearly eighty-eight, and they are managing very well in their lovely flat that overlooks Weymouth Bay. We had a lovely chat and shared lunch together. Before we left, she gave me some gorgeous teddies she had knitted, for my Africa project.
Aren't they beautifully made? She had made several more but they were for her daughter who is making regular visits to Calais to help the refugees.
Jean had arranged to come back to Spain with me for a visit, and we were due to get the train back up to Birmingham on Thursday, so we were a bit anxious when we saw on the news that no trains had left Bournemouth on Wednesday due to severe flooding at Brockenhurst. They showed film of the water flowing right over the rails. But fortunately the rain stopped that night, and by the next morning they were able to use a diesel train, though the electric ones still couldn't pass through. So we got our train just fine, and the water had receded in most places though the ground looked very soggy. I took this through the train window as we sped through the end of the New Forest.
The rest of my stay was uneventful. I was able to collect my new glasses on Friday morning, and in the afternoon Ben took us to the airport for our flight home.
Jean is supposed to be having a relaxing time to recouperate from a bad bout of flu over Christmas, but I have had a very busy week, and seem to have lurched from one project to the next, sometimes carrying her with me, and sometimes leaving her to soak up the sun and read her book. She must think I have a crazy life-style! I am grateful that the sun has been kind and has shone on us most days.
I did have one event on our first day back that I had tickets ready for both of us for, and you won't be surprised to know that it involved food! It was another fund raiser for our church, held by one of our members at her house. It was an A-Z of tapas, so there was a small taster of twenty-six different dishes! It was another lovely sunny afternoon so when we arrived we sat outside and 'mingled' while sipping glasses of sangria.
Then we moved indoors where the tables were laid out for fifty guests. There was a list of all the dishes on the table, and a small group of helpers waited on us, bringing one delight after another.
As I knew I would not be back in time to do any cooking for it, I opted to provide the Q for queso course. Queso is cheese so it was an easy one to do. It was a wonderful afternoon, with lots to eat, and plenty of time to enjoy it while chatting to old and new friends. As we left the sun was just setting behind the misty mountains.
In between all my meetings, choir practices etc, Jean and I did manage to get down to the sea front and walk all along the prom. It was quite sunny when we left home, but by the end of our walk, the clouds had gathered and it was looking like it might rain. But it held off, and we managed to stop for some lunch, and then get home in the dry.
There seems to be a shortage of oranges, both bitter and sweet, this year, and I was beginning to think I wouldn't be making any marmalade. But on the way home from the beach, we stopped in Turre where there are some orange trees growing along a walkway. Trees like these that are planted just to provide some greenery and shade, are nearly always bitter oranges, and I have often been told to pick those if I need them. So we took a big bag and picked enough fruit to fill it. A Spanish man across the road called out to tell us that they were not nice, and no good, and I tried to explain that I wanted them bitter to make marmalade. They don't use them themselves, and always say they are no good, but when I insisted they were what I wanted, he gave a typical Gallic shrug, and went back indoors. So today I have made the first batch and have nineteen jars to start off my stash. I need around two hundred if I have as many customers as last year, so I may have to go scrumping again!
Also yesterday, Jean helped me to get out all my wool and knitted items for Africa. We counted it and took photos, and then bagged it up ready to go to UK. We found there were twenty completed blankets, and a few more that just need some finishing touches.
Then we spread all the little jumpers and cardigans on the table and had a count up, and there were a hundred and thirty of them. People are so amazing and generous. I am so proud of my team of knitters, and grateful for all their hard work.
I think I had worn Jean out by last night, so we sat down in front of the fire with our knitting, and before long Paco and Tango both jumped up onto her lap. She doesn't fidget like me, so they like sitting on her. Tango is so relaxed, and he just sort of spreads out when he lays down. It makes him look huge.
Well that's about it for this week. Jean is here until early Wednesday morning, but it should be a bit quieter this week, and maybe we will manage to have some craft time together, though if the sun shines we will more likely be outside, making the most of it.