We flew back to the UK on Wednesday 15th June. But we were only in Wycombe for two days before packing our bags again, collecting a rental car, and heading for Gloucestershire.
A weekend chez Claire
We looked after Charlie and Oscar while Claire was on a work trip. On Saturday we took them to Avebury, a place we visited several times when we lived in Swindon. Charlie was interested when we explained that there was a whole village within the circle of massive standing stones. We viewed them from both sides of the ditch, and the boys enjoyed running down the steep bank on one side, and up the other. On the way back to Bussage we paid a brief visit to West Kennet Long Barrow.
On Sunday there was a special session at Charlie’s football club. He took part in a penalty shoot-out competition, and then all of the members were given trophies. After a quick lunch and change of uniform, Charlie was off to a Beavers’ Fun Day – it was a busy day for him!
The referendum campaign
After returning to Wycombe, we spent most of the next three days campaigning for Britain to REMAIN in the EU. We put lots of leaflets through doors; in the process Sandie got bitten by a dog and had to go to hospital! On Thursday we spent all day handing out leaflets to people in the street and at the railway station. Sadly, it was all in vain, as a narrow majority across the UK voted to LEAVE. Like many thousands of others, we are appalled at this result, and at the negative impact it is already having on our nation, with much worse to come.
Back in Sarasota
On Sunday 26th June we flew to Florida once again. It was great to be back on Sarasota. Florida is of course very hot in summer, but the sun and the warmth made a pleasant change from the rather miserable weather we’d had in the UK. We enjoyed being back in shorts and sandals, and eating on the lanai!
The main item in our luggage this time was Ian’s collection of chess sets. He has seven, but gave up collecting long ago because of lack of space. The sets have been packed away for the past eight years, because we’ve had nowhere to display them, but there is plenty of room in the condo. So one by one they were unpacked, washed and then set out in our display cabinet.
The pool at Central Park is particularly inviting at this time of year. Sandie enjoys being able to walk in without even the initial shiver, although Ian complains that the water is really too warm! To be honest, we’ve not swum very much on our first few visits, as we usually spend most of the time there talking to friends (often while standing shoulder deep in the pool). The referendum disaster has been a constant topic of conversation; everyone we’ve met, it seems, wants to know our views, and what we think will happen now (answer: who knows?).
The great car hunt
Our first four days were devoted to searching for a car – we’d been thinking that buying a cheap one and leaving it at the condo might make more financial sense than renting each time we come over. We looked at lots of cars, and test drove several, but rejected most of them – too big, too small, too expensive, too old, etc. We’d begun to think it would be better to continue renting, which does have advantages; but then we discovered how rental prices had shot up, probably due to post-referendum exchange rates. So back to buying, and we settled for a dark red Focus estate (nine years old, but low mileage and excellent condition), now christened RufUS the Red. We spent most of Friday filling in mountains of paperwork, relating to car, number plate (in the US this goes with the owner, not with the car) and insurance. But finally it was sorted, and Ian was able to drive Rufus home.
Fourth of July weekend
Our rental car was due to be returned to Sarasota airport on Sunday – which meant we had two cars for the weekend, but ironically the places we wanted to go were mainly within walking distance. On Friday evening we walked down to the bayfront, as is our normal custom, but this time we did a detour up Main Street as there was a display of speedboats taking part in the annual races. We were amazed by the crowds – it’s not usually so busy off-season – but apparently people come from miles around to watch the races.
On Saturday morning we decided to return the rental car, as it was the most convenient time for doing so. After handing it in at the airport, we took the bus into the centre of town. The bus station is very close to the farmers’ market, which we enjoy visiting on Saturday mornings. We had our morning coffee on a converted open-topped double-decker bus which serves as a coffee shop – drinks made and sold downstairs, seats with small tables and sun umbrellas upstairs.
We’d bought tickets for a play at the Florida Studio Theatre (one of the few Sarasota theatres we’d not previously visited) on Saturday evening. We intended to eat there, but at the last minute we were invited to an informal early evening barbecue at the Central Park pool. It was good to meet more friends and neighbours. The play we saw was Relativity (about Einstein, as you might guess) and was interesting, although it did consist mainly of two people shouting at each other!
Sunday morning dawned cloudy, but still hot, so we decided to go to the beach. Our favourite beaches are on Anna Maria Island, but we’d been there one evening when our car search took us very close. So this time we went to Siesta Beach, just south of Sarasota. We arrived early, which was just as well, because the large car park there was already almost full. There were crowds of people on the beach or in the sea. We enjoyed a swim, a stroll and our morning coffee, but then the clouds blackened and a wind blew up, so we quit before the rain started!