On Thursday 27 September we hired a car and began a tour of friends and family in the UK. We drove first from High Wycombe to Faversham, with two stops on the way – one pleasant, one less so. First stop was Slough, where Sandie collected her new specs and Ian had a tooth extracted. Second stop was Box Hill, where we enjoyed a circular walk which took us up to the top of the hill and enabled us to enjoy some glorious views of the English countryside.
We stayed for four nights with Andrew, Ellie and the girls. On Friday they were all at work or school, so we did a pub walk (6.5 miles) from Conyers Quay. Part of the walk followed the Saxon Shore, rather bleak but beautiful.
On Saturday afternoon we took Hope and Isobel to Margate, where we strolled along the beach and visited the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery. The actual galleries were closed (preparation for the next exhibition) but there was a colourful interactive art installation which kept the girls entertained for some time.
It had been Hope’s eighth birthday a few days earlier, and she had had her party the previous weekend, but on Sunday there was a family get-together in her honour. Claire drove down with Charlie and Oscar for the day, and we were joined by Ellie’s mother and sister, brother and his family.
We left Faversham early on Monday 1st October, and drove north to Norfolk. We headed first for Sheringham, where we had lunch with Sandie’s cousin Mike and his wife Jane. In the afternoon we visited Mike’s mother in a nursing home, and then drove to Ormesby, to stay with our friends Una and David.
On Tuesday they joined us for a walk in Burlingham woods, and we discovered that students from a local high school used the woods to display their GCSE artwork – a novel idea, and we had fun spotting the ingenious creations. After a pub lunch we visited the Fairhaven Water Gardens nearby. In the evening we joined other friends (Linda and Don) for dinner at a hotel on the seafront in Great Yarmouth.
The next day the two of us returned to Yarmouth, but on the way we stopped at Caister Cemetery and laid flowers on the graves of our friend Barry and some of Sandie’s relatives, including her grandparents. They died many years ago, but it has only recently been possible to erect a headstone on their grave.
On Thursday 4th we left Ormesby and headed west. We stopped first at Peterborough, a city that Ian had never visited before, to have lunch, visit the cathedral and have a brief stroll along the river. Then it was on to Loughborough, to stay with our friends Jacqui and Roger.
On Friday we walked up Beacon Hill, the second highest point in Leicestershire. It was a nostalgic trip because we went there often with our children when we lived in Loughborough.
On our way back we stopped at the university, where Ian once taught for nine years. In the evening we went with Jacqui and Roger to the new Curve Theatre in Leicester to see Finding Neverland – the musical. The music was great and the special effects amazing; we thoroughly enjoyed the show. On Saturday the four of us drove us to Derbyshire, stopping at the village of Eyam, and again at Matlock Bath on the way back.
On Sunday 7th we drove 300 miles north to Glasgow, to visit Ian’s Aunt Margie who is in a nursing home there. Following a stroke, her mobility is very limited, but we were able to borrow a wheelchair and take her to some of her favourite haunts in the Trossachs and Loch Lomond. We were lucky again with the weather, and the autumn colours were beautiful in the sun.
On Wednesday 10th (our 42nd anniversary!) we completed our grand tour by driving back south to High Wycombe. As it is a long journey, we made an early start. We checked out of our hotel at 8.15, and found the car completely frozen over. Unfortunately, the hire company had not provided us with de-icing equipment, so we used non-essential plastic cards as scrapers. As Ian remarked: ‘We know we’re not in Ghana any more!’