Hello again. I have decided to start this week with a couple of little things that have made me smile this week, and then I will have a very condensed version of my time in Birmingham and Manchester.
I am happy that the weather has improved greatly this week, and most days we have had some sunshine, with bright blue skies. It comes to an abrupt halt around 5.00, and we have really needed the fire to be lit most evenings, but blue skies days are fine by me.
One morning I noticed this little ray of sunshine sitting on my front step. The plant is a very old house plant, a chrysanthemum that I put there, because I can't bear to throw them away while they still show signs of life. The flowers were much bigger when it was new, but it has produced so many little ones that I am glad I kept it.
Yesterday I heard a lorry engine running outside for longer than usual, so I peeked out and saw a man unloading this.
It made me smile because it meant the Town Hall were getting ready for Christmas. From my posts of previous years you will know that we have a telegraph pole outside our gate, and every year we have a Christmas light hung from it. There is one the same every few metres down the road. I assume they are hired as every year they are different. I could see we have a star this year but I didn't realise what the rest was. Soon the man was lifted up by the bucket crane. He was having trouble fixing it to the pole arm. I think his hands must have been cold.
Today it is clear that we actually have pretty angel under the star. We have had an angel before but I think this is a different one. It won't be turned on until the week before Christmas, but I am looking forward to seeing it.
We had a bit of a health scare with Chris last weekend, and I had to take him to the urgencia in Garrucha. (Urgencias are emergency drop-ins found in most large towns, which are open whenever the doctors surgeries are closed. By going to one, you can often avoid a long drive, and a long wait in the hospital A&E). They were very good there, and kept us for three hours while Chris had regular checks, plus oxygen and drips, and when everything was back to normal, they sent us home. We knew he had an infection but the antibiotics hadn't kicked in at the time. Thankfully they did do the trick, and he is now fine.
Last week was cold and wet, and as I can normally dry my washing outside, I do not have a tumble drier, and there is little space inside for hanging things up to dry. So I was reluctant to tackle the pile of worn clothes I had brought back with me, and I was really glad to see the forecast showed we would have better weather this week. So Monday I managed to get two loads on. By the time the first load was done, a sharp wind had got up, and I had a battle to get things on the line. I doubled pegged everything and hoped for the best. I did have to rescue a couple of items than blew down, but I was happy to get everything washed and dried by the end of the day.
I had another mince-pie session also on Monday. I made five dozen for my boys while I was in UK, and then six dozen last week for the church Christmas Fair last Saturday. They had a sunny, though a bit chilly day, and there was a good turnout. I was happy to see my pies selling like 'hot cakes', and the event raised 3,436€, which is more than last year, and gives a much needed boost to our church funds.
This weekend I am on tea duty after Church, so I made a further six dozen pies, half for church and half for us. I will need to do one more batch so I can donate them for after the carol service on 18th, but that will be me done then.
So back to my holiday. As I have so many photos I have made collages with some of them. After the concert in London, Chris returned to Spain, and I went to Birmingham with our youngest son Ben. He had to work some of the time, so I jumped on a bus (a luxury we don't have here), and had a lovely wander through the city. I am not a city person really, but we have no big stores around here, and my shopping trips usually are just to food stores, and hardware centres, so it was good to take my time and see the various trends this year. Debenhams had a great clothing sale and I was able to buy a few treats for myself. I always used to go to British Home Stores, and I really miss them, but I am very pleased with this year's purchases.
I also like to go through the New Street Station. It is a slightly odd design in my opinion, but I like it as a visitor. I took a photo of the 'eye', just as the changing photo came to the iconic bull. This was my landmark for getting back home, but when I came back out under it, I couldn't find my bus stop anywhere. Ben later told me that there are three eyes. I didn't know that, and I was obviously under the wrong one!
In the main atrium, the floor had a special display of photos of women making up a photo-mosaic of a vintage lady. I didn't have time to read up much about it, but it was all to do with the Suffragette movement, and the anniversary of women getting the vote.
As I walked down from my bus that first morning I was again delighted with all the autumn colours in the trees. The leaves were falling rapidly, and I dare say the trees are bare by now, but I enjoyed seeing them.
After a few days I went out to visit our son Tom in Denmark. Then I visited our second son Mike and son number one in Wolverhampton, (More about those next week).
My last trip was to Manchester where son number four, Jonathan, lives with his wife Ella. I made friends with their new dog, Rudy, a staffie/greyhound cross. Jonathan took the afternoon off and met me at the train station. Just outside was this very poignant armistice day display, to comemorate those who lost their sight during the wars.
Together we walked down into the town through the newly opened Christmas market and I loved it. It is far larger and more exciting than the one in Birmingham. I loved all the stalls piled high with decoration, little wooden houses, elves and gnomes, etc. etc. Of course there were also lots of food and drink stalls. We had a warming mug of rum punch, and tried tasters of some other liquors too.
There was a large inflated Father Christmas, high above the square, and everyone was cheerful and enjoying the atmosphere.
I offered to buy Jonathan a decoration for his home and he chose a black star with flowers cut out and backed in red and yellow. It lit up from inside and was very pretty.
For his wife Ella I bought three little ceramic owls that were "See no evil; Hear no evil; Speak no evil".
She knew instantly what they were, and she loved them.
The next day I had to get back to Ben's as I was flying home from Birmingham the following day. Jonathan took me back to the station on a tram. We decided to walk the last bit and we went through a big park area where this fountain was flowing. In Spain they usually turn them off at the end of the summer season, but it looked as though this one would be going all winter.
I very rarely take selfies, but I realised I had been so busy at each of my sons' houses that I hadn't got many photos of them. So I stopped him by the fountain and took this one of Jonathan and I.
Ben's partner was out on my last night in UK, so I quickly packed my cases, (and made up a parcel for Ben to send of all the things that wouldn't fit in!), and then he sang for me. He has all his music set up in his room, and he played a bit of piano, and then did some karaoke. Here, at my special request, he is singing Ed Sheeran's 'Supermarket Flowers'. It is one of my favourites but he won't sing it in public because it makes him tear up. But I got my own private showing!
When he had sung enough, we went downstairs and he persuaded me to try his Virtual Reality headset. I was unsure as I have seen people falling over and feeling sick with one, but I stayed firmly sitting down and he talked me trough it. I actually amazed him because I completed a big roller-coaster ride, and I am never willing to go on one for real. (I still wouldn't). But it was a very strange sensation to be sitting in an empty theatre, with the lights dimmed, when in my head I knew I was sitting on a sofa in Ben's room! I didn't know he had taken a photo of me but he showed me this the next day.
And then it was time to fly home!
So I will close this week with some stunning sunsets that have happened just this week. The first set were taken on Monday. They all happened within about a quarter of an hour, so I sat and watched the amazing light show.
And finally I have two from last night. I popped out around 5.30 to look for something I needed from the Chinese bazaar in Vera and as I parked the car I saw this lovely sunset.
It was just dying down, and as the colours left the sky I saw this big flock of birds (probably Spanish starlings), heading home to roost for the night. I just managed to catch them before they flew off.
Phew! Well done if you stayed with me through all of that. Now I just have time to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and then I am off to a double choir practice. First I have one for a small group of us who are learning a Spanish lullaby for our church carol service, and then the main choir as we have two concerts before Christmas.