Archive for May, 2017

To In-Seventy and Beyond!

On Wednesday 3rd May we left our home in Sarasota and headed for our home in High Wycombe.  We had to remember that we were flying from Orlando, not Tampa – it seemed a long time since we flew out in November!   In our rental car we had two full cases, one very heavy.  When we first bought our condo (more than two years ago) we had visions of flying the Atlantic with just hand luggage, but we realise now it will never happen – there are always things to take back and forth.

First week back

Of course, it is never as hot in the UK as it is in Florida.  But as we were returning in May, we did hope for mild spring weather.  In fact, it was mostly grey and very cool: going from max temperature 30+ to 13 was quite a shock.  We had the best tans we’d ever managed to acquire, but could not show them off as we needed to cover up!

Still, being back in the UK had compensations.  The day after we landed, our Friday night pub crawl (with Caroline) took us to the Crown at Penn, so Sandie could enjoy her ‘vegetarian fish and chips’ for the first time in six months – halloumi seems impossible to get in Florida.  On Saturday night we had dinner at Chutney, our favourite Indian restaurant – we haven’t yet found one as good in Sarasota.

On the quest of halloumi

We had several appointments lined up for immediately after our return.  Sande had an eye test and chose new specs – badly needed as she managed to scratch her current ones earlier this year.  Ian went to the health centre twice, for his regular check-up and tests.  We both had dental check-ups scheduled (in Ian’s case, a bridge tooth needed replacing), but these were cancelled at the last minute as the dentist had gone sick.

On Sunday 7th we had a meeting of the company formed to manage a small block of flats, one of which we own.  Since we had to go to Slough for the meeting, we combined it with a visit to the cemetery where Sandie’s parents are buried.

The new Curve building in Slough

On Weds 10th we had a day in Reading, where we did some shopping and went for a stroll along the canal.  The sun actually came out and it was very pleasant sitting at a canalside pub with a glass of wine in our hands.


Along the canal

Second week back

We had our delayed dental appointments, and Ian had his bridge tooth replaced.  Sandie collected her new specs.

On Thursday 11th we went to see the screening of NT-Live’s Obsession.  We decided it was not really our kind of play!  The next evening we went to our folk dance cub, for the first time since October.  We took the bus to Bourne End, and then strolled along the Thames – delightful in the early evening sun.  We did our pub walk on Saturday evening, but sadly the pub where we’d decided to eat was not serving food that evening, so we ended up at an Indian restaurant in Hazlemere.

Evening on the Thames

Geese and goslings along the Thames

We’ve linked up with two local groups that were new to us.  As we now know, there are ‘Pulse of Europe’ gatherings in many cities to highlight the positive benefits of the EU; in Wycombe a small number of people have a stall near the parish church on Sunday afternoons.

Pulse of Europe gathering

‘Skeptics in the pub’ is a national (international?) organisation of open-minded people who meet to discuss all kinds of issues.  The Wycombe group meets twice a month, but the main meetings now take place in a hall, as the numbers are too large to be accommodated in a pub. But there is a bar there, so the title is still reasonably accurate!

On Tuesday 16th Sandie had lunch in town with our friend Anne.  On Thursday we went to Slough, for s trip combining business and pleasure.  We had to see our solicitor and sort out some things regarding our flat there, but we took the opportunity of having lunch with our friends and former colleagues Sarah and Tami.

21 in Centigrade!

Friday 19th May was the big day when Ian reached 70.  We’d booked for dinner and theatre in London, but it happened that Ian was needed at a business meeting that afternoon, which fitted in quite nicely.  We went to London by train as usual; after coffee in the West End we strolled down to Millbank, where we met our ERA colleague Lesley for lunch.   Then she and Ian went off to the meeting, while Sandie amused herself, mainly by looking round the Tate.

Sandie in New Bond Street

Statue at Millbank

Inside the Tate

We met up again in a nearby pub, and then Lesley went home and we went back to the West End.   We looked round Stanfords bookshop and were then in perfect time for dinner at Brown’s restaurant.  It was not far from there to the Prince of Wales Theatre, where we saw The Book of Mormon, which we’d long wanted to see.  It was very funny, extremely well done, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Celebrations continued over the weekend.  On Saturday evening we had a birthday dinner at the George and Dragon in Marlow.  It was originally planned by Claire as a surprise event, but then Ian decided to invite the family.  So he knew that they were coming, but not that several friends were joining us!  It was a great evening, giving us the opportunity to catch up with some old friends, and meet new ones: Phil (Maggi’s fiancé) and Ant (Claire’s boyfriend).  We had a lovely dinner, followed by a mango-flavoured birthday cake made by Hope and Bel (with help from Ellie).

Ian shows off his new Star Wars chess set

Remind me again – how old am I?

Multitudes assemble

Fun in the pub!

Mango birthday cake, with age in binary (1,000,110)

Charlie and Oscar stayed overnight with us, and on Sunday morning we played cricket outside. Claire and Ant joined us later; Andrew, Ellie, Hope and Bel also came over, bringing another cake – this one to celebrate Claire’s birthday on the 23rd.  More cake, drinks, cards and presents!  Some of Ian’s cards seemed intended to reassure the recipient that he wasn’t really 70 at all: 46 in hexadecimal, 21 in centigrade, 18 with 52 years’ experience etc. But our favourite (and most positive) message was composed by Charlie: ‘To inseventy and beyond’!

Slog it, Charlie!

An unorthodox stroke by Oscar

Playing chess with Hope

Claire’s exciting cake!

Claire admires her presents


Soon after our children and grandchildren had left, Caroline took us to Piggot’s Farm, where they hold music weekends culminating in a concert open to the public.  We heard close harmony singers in one barn, and an orchestra in another.  It was an interesting place (our first visit), and we enjoyed a relaxing end to a wonderful weekend.

Concert at Piggot’s Farm

Tea in the courtyard


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The Biggest McDonald’s in the Universe

While in Orlando we alternated ‘rest days’ with full-on days out.  After our day at Universal, we had a relaxing day spent mainly at our resort complex.  In the morning we went to the pools (there were two, plus two hot tubs), and in the afternoon we ventured a short distance to do some shopping.   We had dinner at an enormous McDonald’s (supposedly the biggest in the world), with a massive indoor play area.  The really strange thing was that they did pizza and pasta as well as the usual McDonald’s fare!

Hot tub fun

The biggest McDonald's in the Universe

The biggest McDonald’s in the Universe

Kennedy Space Center

Monday 17th April was Charlie’s birthday, and he had elected to visit the Kennedy Space Center.  Unfortunately Oscar woke early with a temperature, not feeling well.  So our first stop was to buy some suitable children’s medicine. After a dose he fell asleep, and was much brighter when he woke up, though ‘on and off’ throughout the day.  At one point the fast road we were driving was closed, and we had to detour.  Still, we reached KSC at 9.30. After a look round the rocket garden, we did the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.  There were two introductory films, and then a huge space to explore, with the rocket and lots of related exhibits.  In the afternoon we explored the Atlantis Center: introductory presentations about the shuttle and a lot to look at, plus a launch simulation which Sandie tried.

Blast off!

The giant crawler

Apollo astronauts

Atlantis space shuttle

Astronaut and friends

The Rocket Garden

Charlie wanted to have his birthday dinner at a Pizza Hut, and we finally spotted one in the outskirts of Orlando, when we were nearly home.  But it was a really depressing place: we’ve decided that the Pizza Huts in the UK are now better than those in the US!  When we got back Ian looked up photos of our two previous visits to KSC, in 1982 and 1989.  It was interesting to do a ‘compare and contrast’, and see how different the place is now.  It has expanded enormously, and become more like a theme park.

Kennedy 1982

Kennedy 1989

Kennedy 2017

The next day Ian managed to lose his bridge tooth, so we had three men all with gappy teeth!

Mind the gaps!

Back to Disney

After KSC we had another relaxing day, the highlight of which was playing mini-golf at Disney’s Winter Summerland – a great course with fake snow, ice, and Christmas music.  Wednesday 19th was our big day, the climax of our trip, with a visit to the Magic Kingdom.  The park was open 8 am-midnight, which meant a very early start in order to make the most of our day.

I should take a 9-iron…


We were parked at Disney by 7am, collected our tickets and took the ferry across to the Magic Kingdom.  We’ve been there many times of course, but somehow you never lose the excitement.  We were at the castle forecourt in time for the official opening at 7.55, and then (following the well-established Schagen tradition) it was off to ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.  We managed to do five attractions by 10am, just as well because after that the queues were long, although not as bad as we’ve seen them sometimes.

Ferry to the Magic Kingdom

Here we go!

Claire’s special badge

Disney parade (1)

Disney parade (2)

Disney parade (3)

Disney show

Real ducks!

Charlie and Oscar are now big fans of Splash Mountain; Sandie and Claire also love Space Mountain, and Ian’s favourite is the Buzz Lightyear ride (he managed three attempts at shooting the Evil Emperor Zurg).  We attended Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial, and Oscar was picked as an apprentice.  We had dinner (a buffet with visits from Winnie the Pooh and friends) in the Crystal Palace, but had to complain about the air conditioning – it was turned up so high, we were freezing and glad to be back outside in the warm!

Dicing with death

Take that, Zurg!

Battling pirates

Pooh, it’s cold in here!

Castle light show

Back to Sarasota

Next day we checked out of the resort, and paid another visit to Disney Springs, giving Claire an opportunity to do some shopping.

Monsters at Disney Springs

Then it was back to Sarasota, and more visits to playground, pool and the beach.  On Saturday morning we did our usual trip downtown, to the library and the market.  We had coffee on the bus, and the boys were able to try out the trampolines and the climbing wall – Oscar loves climbing, although this one proved rather difficult for him.  In the afternoon we went to St Armand’s Circle for more shopping and another visit to Daiquiri Deck.  On Sunday we did a similar trip to Venice, ending up with dinner at Sharky’s on the Pier.

Pool action (1)

Pool action (2)

Base camp on the beach

Bouncin’ (1)

Bouncin’ (2)


We’re on the bus!

Do not give this boy chocolate ice cream

New t-shirts at Sharky’s

Venice sunset

All too soon it was time for Claire and the boys to return home.  On Monday morning we took the boys to the pool while Claire did her packing.  Then it was off to St Petersburg for lunch and a stroll along the bayfront, before saying farewell at Tampa airport.

Farewell to Florida

The condo seemed quiet when we returned there on our own.  But we had only nine days before our own departure, and a lot to do in that time.  There was our usual cycle of activities, and saying goodbye to people we won’t see again until November.  We needed to clean the condo, wash the sheets, decide what we wanted to take to England, and do our packing.  In addition, Sandie was on a rota for feeding a neighbour’s cat while they were on holiday.

We needed to arrange to have our post forwarded, and change to minimum car insurance while we were away. The car itself had to be ‘put to sleep’ for the summer, battery removed and a protective cover put on.  We succeeded in one of our goals for this season, to get Florida wills drawn up and signed. We’ve been busy with forward planning too: travel, possible work projects, and campaigning for the forthcoming election.

But we’ve still had plenty of time to enjoy ourselves.  Last Friday night we did our usual pub crawl, to the Bayfront where there were a number of young people dressed up for a prom. On Saturday we went to the Players again, this time to see the 1960s farce Boeing Boeing. On Sunday we went to Siesta; after our usual beach walk we met up with friends Robert and Kathy for lunch, and visited the ‘Siesta Fiesta’ art and craft show.  On Monday evening we went to a meeting of the Europeans in America group: dinner and drinks at a pub that was new to us.  Tonight friends are joining us for drinks, and to help us finish up some of the food in our freezer.

Prom queens at the Bayfront

Bayfront sunset

Sarasota jazz band at the market

Siesta Beach exercises

Siesta Fiesta

The weather has been consistently hot (30+), so we’ve made the most of the CP2 pool, and our lanai.  Twice we went round to the bayou, where we sat in the evening sun, listening to the birds singing, watching the pelicans dive and the fish jump, and catching the occasional glimpse of a manatee. A real highlight was when a manatee and her calf swam right up to the deck.  We love life here, and will miss it!

Pelican in flight

Manatee and calf















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