The first thing that we did in the UK was to buy a car because we felt that it would be a lot cheaper than hiring one for three months. By the end of day 2, we were the proud owners of a ten year old Peugeot 207 Estate car. (I’m a bit of a BMW man, but I was impressed by the spec of this car which only cost £3,200 - air con, cruise control, automatic headlights, automatic windscreen wipers, etc .)
Over the next three weeks, we did our usual round of seeing family and friends. We stayed with Brett in Stevenage; Craig in Reading; Gareth in Lymington; and our friends Mike & Rona in Portsmouth. There was then a long car journey up to Accrington to see my Mum and most of my brothers and sisters.
At the end of July, our son Craig and Kristen flew off to Peru and Brazil for three weeks, so we were fortunate to be able to house-sit for them. It’s lovely to stay with family and friends, but it’s very wearing being entertained every day and night, so we were very grateful to be able to lounge about in Craig’s house.
We didn’t do a lot while staying at Craig’s, but we did see a few old friends. Tony Cummings fixed my front tooth which had fallen apart a few months earlier - he did the original repair which lasted 34 years, which is pretty good dentistry. We went to a Flash Trash reunion, seeing some of my best friends, with whom I skydived for seven years.
When Craig returned, we went on a mini UK Tour. As well as visiting more family and friends, our main aim was to visit areas of the country that we might want to live when we sell the boat. We visited The Peak District; Accrington; Hadrian’s Wall; Glencoe; Mallaig; Glen Affric; Northumberland; Harrogate; Yorkshire Dales; Sandbach; The Peak District; Bebington; North Wales; Shropshire; Herefordshire; Lincolnshire. Phew!
We camped for 9 nights in Scotland and Northumberland with gear that we mostly borrowed from family and friends. It was miserable. The UK had a heat wave from May until the end of July with tropical temperatures. Of course, as soon as we set off to go camping, the weather turned and it was cold, wet and windy in Scotland - we froze in our lightweight summer sleeping bags.
One of our problems when we return to the UK will be that we can’t afford to live where our sons live. Brett and Tash live in Stevenage, which is a London commuter town - Craig & Kristen live in Reading which is even more expensive. In both of those places, we’d only be able to buy a small house in a crowded residential area, which would drive us mad.
We would prefer a “character” detached house with about ½ acre of garden and some large out-buildings where I can have a workshop. It would be nice to be a little isolated in a rural setting, so I can make a lot of noise, but we’d like to be close to a village where we can get provisions and hopefully a nice pub. This would be a £1 million house in Reading - we need somewhere a lot cheaper.
There are three areas that look like possibilities - The Yorkshire Dales, The Peak District and Shropshire/Herefordshire. Unfortunately, all three areas would involve 3-5 hour journey to see our sons. At the moment, the Yorkshire Dales are coming out on top. The good thing is that it’s very rural and the house prices are relatively low, but the bad thing is that it would be a 4-5 hour journey to see Brett or Craig. We’ll just have to wait until we get back to the UK next year.
While we were on our UK tour, I spent a lot of time researching Family History. I find it a fascinating puzzle, almost like playing Cluedo - Great, Great, Great Grandad Kenyon lived in Ainsworth in 1820 and was a Cotton Weaver, where was he buried? Glenys and I visited many graveyards across the UK, uncovering the headstones of our ancestors - I know how to show a girl a good time...
Our UK Tour was terminated by the main event of the year - the birth of our first Grandchild. Piper Rose Howarth was born on the 14th September weighing in at just less than 7lbs. We drove down to see her the day after her birth and she’s a little cutie (of course, we would think that.) We spent our last three weeks staying in the south of England, so that we could drop in and see Brett, Tash and Piper.
Eventually, it was time to return to the Caribbean. We packed all our new acquisitions into three large cargo bags (teak grating, steering conduit and cables, engine parts, etc, etc). The car was returned to the dealer from who we bought it - obviously at a much reduced price. With insurance and tax, it cost us about £1,500 for the three months, which I think is much cheaper than an equivalent large rental car. We’d done 5,600 miles on it after all.
Our last night was spent with Brett, Tash and Piper - it was a great 3 months with many happy memories.