I'd booked the flights in February and it wasn't until just before we were due to leave and I printed out our boarding passes that I realised we had eight days, not just a week, of holiday. It felt fantastic!
The last time I took the children to England it was Christmas; the weather was cold and wet; the days were short and it was dark by 4pm. This year, we were treated to eight long, glorious and sunny days; the sun didn't set until 10pm and rose again by 5am. We revelled in the rich greenery of the Cheshire and West Yorkshire countrysides. We had one short sharp thunderstorm soon after we arrived in Huddersfield which was noisy and quite spectacular and very welcome.
My sister has moved house and is now in a beautiful old farmhouse with acres of land.. I have, in the distant past, posted about the many tractors around here, including very beautiful Lamborghini ones...and since visiting my sister, I have tractor envy. She has her own little tractor to cut the grass and of course, we had to have a go!
|Here's Romy receiving instruction....|
We were treated to wonderful home-cooked meals and the children and I slept in the old, almost but not quite, converted barn, all together in the same space. I fell asleep every night to the sound of laughter and silly stories and games of 'I went to market' (a memory game where each player adds something else to the list of purchases...) and just general messing around.
We visited my parents and found them not too badly organised. Dad has just got a hoist and a new bed which helps Mum and the carer to get him in and out of bed and in and out of his chair. He looks well under the circumstances but is always anxious to speed up the time between his daily routines - often, by 3pm, he's anxious for supper and bed.
After a couple of days relaxing, enjoying the sunshine and my sister's garden, we hired a car to visit friends in Yorkshire - sadly missing Janice by a week or so as she had returned to France, more or less with Le Tour. Check out her blog for more lovely information about this! I had arranged to meet my dear friend Karen (of Southwold Famous Five fame) in Salt's Mill in Saltaire, one of my all time favourite haunts. I'd dropped Mateo off in Huddersfield to meet some of his friends so it was just Romy, Ruy and I who went. We arrived early and I positioned myself near the entrance so that I'd see Karen when she arrived. However, there were two entrances and she managed to sneak up on me - very sneakily she did it - and caught me by surprise. We'd sort of expected a slightly tearful and emotional meeting as it's more than four years since we've seen each other, but our outburst of hysteria was unexpected! We both burst into a mixture of laughing and crying and hugging which became a mascara- and nose-dripping spectacle with my children and Karen's husband, Philip, looking on in slightly embarrassed amusement. It was perfect!
We had a lovely lunch together and lots of catching up. It's twenty five years since Salt's Mill opened and the chap in the Diner is still there, welcoming the hoards and he remembered and chatted to us as if we'd only been there last week.
And then Karen handed me a very precious little parcel. It was Mavis - our prize pig from the Treasure Hunt we did in Southwold (see earlier link!) - who, as we were there in 1984 as I remember, is now 35 years old!
After this lovely afternoon, we went to stay with my friend Marion, over in Huddersfield. Like everyone else we stayed with, Marion had prepared us some wonderful food. I did wonder whether it was because we had unconsciously been missing 'English' food but I suspect it was more the special care that people made on our behalf and we are most grateful - certainly one very direct way to our hearts. We stayed overnight and so the next morning, I was able to drop Ruy off at a friend's house and call in to see another before going to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with Marion, her son, Ali and another friend, Clare. This is the place we visited most often from our home in Huddersfield and at the time, is where FR did his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees so we got to know it very well indeed. Sadly, the University of Leeds has closed the campus based here now and all the buildings that were home to FR showed great signs of decay and neglect...we couldn't get to see some of the older and more beautiful buildings as the grounds were roped off for visitors. I didn't honestly pay too much attention to the surroundings as I was busy enjoying my time talking to my friends but I think the children were glad to be back. Mateo took some photos on his phone and they're not brilliant but do capture some of the amazing trees there and some of the unexpected features!.
With Marion, Clare, Ali and Romy
When we returned to my sister's, she took us on a stunning walk around Marbury Country Park with Twigg, Cocoa and Fizz. And we had a pub lunch at the side of the Trent and Mersey Canal, where the Anderton Boat Lift is now operational again. It all seemed very civilised and organised and pretty. And that's not to say Spain isn't these things but my three words are not the first that come to mind when living in Andalucia...(Photos to follow - they're on my sister's phone and she's now in Belgium.)
The rest of the week was made up of more visits to Mum and Dad, a quick trip to the chiropractor, a shopping day at Cheshire Oaks - more because one of the cars was in for a service there - but we did get a few items and overdosed on the outrageous amount of choice of things for sale. A once in a lifetime visit, I suspect! And Ruy got some great archery practice and he and Romy were invited to hit a few balls on the Golf Course Driving Range just next door - which they enjoyed very much!
And suddenly it was Thursday and time to come home again. It was wonderful to spend time with my sister and to see my parents and so special to spend time with precious friends too. But we were ready to come home again. I always tend to say 'home' for England, but my children don't. They had a great time - and Ruy in particular, had a brilliant day with his friends, including catching his first fish - but Alcala is their home and they were ready to return. And that was a good feeling too.
After a goodbye and utterly indulgent meat-and-potato pie meal at my parents'.....
...we pootled back to the airport and climbed aboard our plane home with some satisfaction.
And at the other end, FR was waiting for us with a lovely picnic and the beach bag prepared for a late night dip in the Med! Don't ask me why I didn't take any photos of my two brave children swimming in the sea at 10.30 as I have no excuse, just as I have no excuse for not having a photo of Karen and I in our emotional meeting. But these things are firmly fixed in my mind's eye and you'll just have to believe me that they are wonderful!
So, we've been there and we've come back again. Not story of Hobbits or dragons but a journey, along the way of which we all made a few discoveries, found many things to make us feel grateful and felt the pleasure of returning home again.
And that is no bad thing.