Quite an Expedition
Trying to plan our spring expedition this year was .. challenging!
We had three major plans you see – first and foremost, Mark’s first grandchild was due on 14th April, and we also had to plan to get some vital work done on Badger under warranty where the damp was coming in rather badly. And that had been booked in for 3 days which were then set in stone. So our plan was to get that done after the baby’s due date and just after Easter. And the third thing was to visit car dealers to try and sort out a new car as we both felt that it would be inadvisable to keep our diesel Mercedes- and anyway we wanted a change !
But then came the phone call – the baby (still at that point known as “Fidget” for reasons that should be obvious) was to be induced to make an appearance early. So thanking our stars that we had got Badger ready in advance, we headed South to greet him. We didn’t rush down; rushing in Badger is A Bad Thing because it is very tiring, so we took some time which was probably just as well as despite being induced on the Friday “Fidget” was obviously comfortable where he was and didn’t put in an appearance until the Sunday, 2nd April. And became Magnus Oliver Newton.
The delay allowed us to take some time out in Cambridge to look at some cars – rather briefly at Jaguar and Land Rover as we would have to buy rather old ones if we wanted to stay in budget, but rather more interesting was the Hyundai Ionic, which we test drove and really rather liked.
We finally got to meet Magnus on the Tuesday when with Liz (Mark's ex-wife and Magnus' grandmother) we helped collect him – and of course, his parents, Oliver and Nicola, from the hospital and have our first cuddle! He is, I might say, absolutely gorgeous !!
Because of the change of plans and dates we had been obliged to re-organise a number of visits, but during that week we managed: hair -cuts with Alcatraz (we had had to cancel appointments because of leaving earlier than expected); a delicious dinner with Steve and Julie; an excellent Indian at the local Tandoori in Melford with Steve; a lunch with Karen our book-keeper; an evening out with Tim (Mark’s older son) and “his” Vickki; more cuddles with Magnus; a dinner at Tim’s with Vickki’s son Jordan another evening followed by a barbecue the next day and a couple of nights up in Beccles with Vickie (my older daughter) and Mark. We slept at: the Old Railway Station where we had lived and sold to Steve; at Mark’s ex-wife’s – (Liz) house in Colchester (yes really!); on the driveway at Tim & Vickki’s and on the parking area at Vickie & Mark’s. It was nothing if not full-on. AND there were heats of the World Wide Bridge Contest running which had to be kept an eye on !!
Then on the Monday, just as we were looking forward to a quieter week and a chance to catch up on some work, came the bombshell. Mark had an email from his sister-in-Law Sue telling him that his brother, Geof, had died in the early hours that morning. Completely unexpectedly out of the blue.
I leave it to you to imagine the shock that this caused. Tim was wonderful, coming over to Beccles and taking Mark over to Sue’s to see her. Because of it being an “unexplained death” there would have to be a post mortem, and with Easter looming the next weekend, this threw everything into the melting pot as far as arrangements were concerned, and it all took a bit of working out especially as poor Mark was totally stunned his brother's death and obviously not thinking very clearly.
We decided to try and stick to plans that we had made as far as possible so the next day we went back to Colchester with Vickie and Mark to introduce them to Magnus and to take them to the Thai restaurant for dinner in the evening and we booked ourselves in at the Colchester campsite for two nights and at Polstead for the third. This gave us a couple of days “free” and spent one of them working and the other going round car dealers looking for a new car as we need to change the Mercedes.
I had been unable to find a campsite in the area with any space at all over the Easter weekend (we had intended to be heading West at this point ...) but Liz stepped into the breach and offered us the spare room, which we gratefully accepted and she and I organised a family get together at hers for the Saturday which was a lovely day. I was treated to a new image of my daughter Vickie - that of Biker Chick as she arrived on "her" Mark's very powerful motorbike. A family gathering can be horrendous but this one worked really well, with a simple buffet, and everyone getting on brilliantly, chatting, organising future visits and, of course, spending time cuddling Magnus who was as good as gold throughout. There are lots of pictures of him on Mark's Flickr account, some from earlier in the week and some from the party.
On Easter Monday we headed off to Banbury, so that we could get Badger in to be fettled on the Tuesday morning, and I found a peaceful site with a lake and birds for us to relax a bit.
On the Tuesday we had arranged a hire car and we had a lovely day mooching round antiques centres (got a lovely 1960 picture of the Paris Match cover with Julie Christie for the living room) then heading to my sister Julia’s for a couple of nights. On the Thursday we met up with my niece Emma (very very pregnant niece Emma) and my enchanting great niece Tia at a sanctuary with the fluffiest, cuddliest rabbits I have ever encountered. During this time, Sue telephoned with the news that the PM had shown that Geof had had a heart attack brought on by a chest infection, and that the funeral would not be until 2nd June, which meant we didn’t need to change our plans of going to see my younger daughter, Catherine in Bristol and my 5-year grandson, Sam. So … we picked up Badger, spent a very enjoyable evening staying with our old friend Mark Horton aka Ratty, and his wife Liz, and headed West.
We had a lovely time in Bristol, very relaxing and entertaining, including a visit to a great garden centre (getting thoroughly lost on the way!) with a crazy golf course that Sam loved, a delicious Indian take-away, a Catherine-style moussaka and a lot of laughter. If you get the chance, ask Catherine about her experience of hire cars and be prepared for great entertainment!
And on the Sunday we finally headed North and back home … through snow, believe it or not ! Badger behaved well, though, and fortunately the snow wasn't lying on the roads so it was OK.
And that’s enough for now – more later when I have had time to catch my breath. Just a final thought before I leave you though ... Now that Mark is a "proper" grandfather, does it mean that I can be an "improper" grandmother to Magnus - I do hope so !!