After returning from our camping trip, we had ten days in Sarasota before our scheduled flight back to the UK. We made the most of the time, enjoying the sun, meeting up with friends and taking part in our regular activities (art and dancing). Sandie also went to a meeting of the Sarasota Genealogy Group – she has long wished to research her family history, but other things have got in the way, so she thought that joining a group might inspire her to get started.
We managed to fit in two more theatre visits. The play Guess who’s coming to dinner now seems rather dated, although the issues have certainly not disappeared. We’d never seen the musical A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, and were rather disappointed – it was a good production, but not as funny as we expected.
We also had two outings to favourite beaches. We went to Siesta Beach on a Wednesday morning, fairly early (to ensure a parking space). There was quite a breeze at that time, so not many people sunbathing. But that does not mean the beach was deserted! There were many people promenading on the firm sand near the water’s edge: walking, jogging, running, even cycling or pushing buggies. There were also people engaged in traditional beach activities: building sandcastles, collecting shells and playing volleyball. Few were swimming, but there were people paddleboarding or parascending.
On Sunday we went again to Anna Maria Island. As often, we parked at Manatee Beach, and took the free trolley to City Pier. We were earlier than usual, and their café was not yet open, but we got coffee at the nearby Rod & Reel Pier. Then we walked along the beach, around the top of the island and all the way back to Manatee Beach, where we had lunch. This is probably our favourite beach walk, and contrasts with Siesta. The dunes are closer to the sea, and there are lots of birds. Sometimes there are no people at all at the top of the island – not so this time, as it was still peak season, but the beach was certainly far from crowded.
A week of birthdays
Monday 11 April was our last day in Sarasota. In the morning Sandie went to her tap dance class as usual, and in the afternoon we went to the library, where our friend David was one of a group of five doing ‘theatrical readings’ of excerpts from books by John D MacDonald. In the evening we went to St Armand’s Circle, and had dinner at the Crab & Fin restaurant with our friends Jane and Phil. Both Sandie and Jane had birthdays coming up later that week, so this was an early celebration!
After lunch the next day we left Sarasota and headed back to the UK. The journey was uneventful, except for being diverted to a different terminal at Heathrow, which meant we had to take a train to the bus station. On the way to Wycombe we saw a large bank of daffodils, evidence of an English spring – we’d bypassed winter while away. At home we found (not surprisingly) a huge pile of post awaiting us. There were several cards on the table, and Sandie thought they must be early birthday cards. She soon realised that they were actually Christmas cards, sent by people who did not know we were away. Reading Christmas cards in April seemed bizarre!
On Thursday evening we celebrated Sandie’s birthday by doing a ‘pub walk’, calling at three village hostelries. At the final one we had dinner, and for Sandie it was ‘vegetarian fish and chips’ – not fish at all, but battered halloumi, which we cannot get in the US, so it was a real birthday treat!
We were not home long though. On Friday, less than 48 hours after getting back, we were packing again, to go to Bussage for the weekend. We stayed in Claire’s new house, where she and the boys are now settled. That evening, Maggi joined us and swapped birthday presents with Sandie: it was Maggi’s birthday the previous Sunday. We had a Chinese take-away dinner, followed by a birthday cake for Sandie (with 8 candles, not 68).
Charlie now belongs to an under-7s football team, and we’d planned to watch him training on Saturday morning, but the session was cancelled. However, in the afternoon we watched him and Oscar demonstrate their scooting prowess at the skateboard park in Stroud. Later, when the boys were in bed, we helped Claire blow up balloons and put up decorations, because it was Charlie’s 7th birthday next day!
Luckily Sunday dawned bright and sunny, so Charlie was able to go out for a practice ride on his new bike. Maggi joined us for a celebration lunch at a local pub. Later she and Claire got busy making Charlie’s birthday cake, in readiness for his party at a playcentre on Monday evening. By then we were back in Wycombe!