Last weekend was a long one away from the ship.
On Thursday morning, with frozen snow making the footpaths still very treacherous, I set off by bus to Stratford-upon-Avon and met my brother and two of his good but separate friends Patricia and Edmund for coffee.
It was grand company and as always happens when retired people get together with time on their hands and good conversation to digest, the time flew by. Though all had proclaimed very early on that we had our own separate tasks to perform in the afternoon, surmising at that early stage that we had plenty of time in which to do it, when lunchtime arrived and we were still at the Encore Bistro with by now cold coffee cups in front of us, we found it very difficult even then to say farewell for the moment and go our own separate ways.
However eventually we did, and David and I had lunch together followed by a little shopping afterwards, but very soon the evening was with us and it was time to set out for the RSC Theatre. It was the first night of their production of ‘The Winters Tale’.
It was very popular and though there was one or two empty seats in the house, the audience like me was very enthusiastic.
I thought the production directed by Lucy Bailey was brilliant as well as being very artistic in the set and costumes. She managed to turn most successfully what I think is a very odd plot into something very acceptable but full of wit and colour as well as emotion. The production also made splendid full use of all the technical and impressive wizardry that the new theatre has to offer by way of props etc. As always by the end of this play I was so transported by the whole event that I was sorry when it had to end. I could have easily sat through it all again.
Having stayed the night with my brother, I returned to the ship late the following evening while the ice was still around. A very cold icy wind during the day had impeded any speedy thaw.
But the following day, Saturday, was much milder when I set off early for the railway station on my journey to Brighton. It was a long journey too, through the centre of London and to make matters more tedious, south of the city all kinds of engineering works were going on and I finally arrived at my destination at three o’clock.
The pier at Brighton
A traditional Brighton Cob
I had booked my rail ticket online, but on discovering that to travel on Sunday would have meant even more disruptions and as a result I would have missed most of my granddaughter Delilah-Rose’s fifth birthday celebrations, I decided to travel on Saturday and stay at a bed and breakfast for the night.
The Brighton Eye with pier in the background
The bed and brek that I chose was optimistically called The Marine View Hotel and though it was close to the sea front it was not close enough unfortunately to be able to live up to its name. But the single bed was comfortable, I slept well and the following morning ate a hearty breakfast before walking up the hill to meet the family.
The party itself was wonderful and it took me back many years to when my own children were that same age. Lilah’s mother Millie had booked a local church hall for the afternoon and also an excellent children’s entertainer, who managed to keep the twenty five five-year-olds’ attention for an hour if not exactly quiet.
Grandson George having fun
Candle blowing ceremony
They all enjoyed his blend of story-telling, comedy and magic (with the right amount of audience participation of course), with little eyes wide and mouths open in awe, mostly with sound emanating forth. They loved the man with his gaily coloured props and live rabbit that everybody had a chance to stroke at the end.
The present opening ceremony
The tea party was a much more serious affair with food to be eaten and parents fussing about making certain that their little precious one in particular had enough to eat. It all went so well with Lilah managing to blow all her five cake candles out almost with one blow, while everybody else traditionally sang ‘Happy Birthday’, mostly with the correct words, though one or two of the older boys were ever so clever in using the rude ones!
Lilah’s daddy, my son Rupert was there, as also was E-J my daughter, who with husband Steve and son George, had travelled down by car from High Wycombe for the day. It was lovely to see them briefly again too.
Eventually everybody went home and, in the end, Delilah-Rose went to bed, leaving Millie and myself to enjoy a bottle of wine between us. She had kindly offered to put me up in her spare bedroom that night.
I slept well beneath her sloping roof where a large roof window enabled me to lull myself off to sleep by gazing at the stars above. It was a lovely night and almost like sleeping outside. However I did have the benefit of a warm radiator in the room as well.
On Monday the travelling by train was much better and I was back aboard ‘Futurest’ by 2 pm.
The ice had finally all disappeared.
It had been a lovely weekend.