After returning from Spain, we had three and a half weeks in High Wycombe, before leaving for Florida. As usual, we kept ourselves pretty busy.
We went to a barn dance – our first for ages, and great fun. We’ve been for walks in the sunshine (October was quite mild) and enjoyed the beautiful autumn leaves. We’ve had several get-togethers with friends or family, usually over a meal. Brenda and Phil live some distance away, so we arranged to meet them in Banbury, which was convenient for all of us – easy to reach by train from Wycombe, and gave us a pleasant day out.
We’ve been to the cinema three times. The first time was not actually a film: it was a live transmission of Don Giovanni from the Metropolitan Opera in New York – a great production. We highly recommend the two films we saw: I, Daniel Blake (powerful stuff from Ken Loach) and A street cat named Bob (an amazing true story about a former drug addict and the remarkable cat who ‘adopted’ him).
Sunday 23rd October was Oscar’s birthday – our youngest grandchild is now five! He’d had a climbing party (!) with his friends on Saturday, but on the actual day Claire brought him and Charlie over to us. Andrew, Ellie, Hope and Isobel also came along – High Wycombe is almost halfway between Stroud and Faversham, so it is convenient for a family get-together! We had a leisurely lunch at a pub, chosen because it has a playground, so the children could run around outside while the adults talked, and watched what was going on. Later we had a birthday tea (cake made by Ellie) at our flat.
Claire and the boys stayed overnight, so we saw more of them the next day. They came up again later in the week (it was half-term holiday) and we took the boys swimming – they are very keen, and are making good progress in their lessons.
We enjoy occasional days out in London, but the one we had recently was even more packed than usual. We’d applied for US visitor’s visas, which will enable us to stay there for up to six months. The initial application is done online, but is followed by an ‘interview’ at the Embassy, and ours was scheduled for 9.30 on Tuesday 25th October. This meant making an early start, and paying for full-price travelcards rather than the off-peak ones we usually get. However, the good news was that Paul had a meeting in London the same day, so we arranged to meet.
The Christmas lights in the West End have been put up, though not yet switched on. From the Embassy we made our way to Leicester Square, where (as usual) we bought cheap theatre tickets, and then browsed round Stanfords travel bookshop. By then it was midday, but we were to meet Paul at 3, so we filled in the time by doing a walk around Bloomsbury which Ian had downloaded from the Internet.
We met Paul in a pub which was just opposite his office, and familiar to us from our many visits to the DfE when we worked for NFER. The vague plan was to have a drink and later go somewhere else for dinner, but we got talking (and drinking, of course) and ended up just staying there for dinner. We left about 7, and Paul then returned to Bury, while we went to see Kinky Boots – the musical. We’d enjoyed the film, several years ago, but didn’t think the music added much – it was easily forgettable. We arrived home at 11.30pm – having set off at 7.15am, it was quite a long day!
Soon we’ll be off
The Embassy held on to our passports, and we had to collect them the following week from a place near Slough, which we were able to combine with a visit to the cemetery, to put flowers on Sandie’s parents’ grave. As soon as we had our passports back, we booked our flights to Florida, and will be off there tomorrow – the day before the US election.
Like most people we know, we are appalled by the possibility of victory for Donald Trump. There is little we can do to prevent it, especially at this distance, but we’ve found a way of making a small contribution to the campaign. Avaaz (online campaigning group) asked for volunteers to work with a US partner organisation by sending text messages to young people in swing states, aiming first to identify potential Hillary supporters, and then encourage them to go and vote. The system is highly automated, very fast and costs nothing; you use a computer rather than a phone. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve sent out literally thousands of texts – and there are thousands of others doing the same. Whether it has any impact remains to be seen. We shall be in Sarasota on November 8th, so we will be able to join in the celebrations – we hope!