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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sad but satisfying




21st October 2012
When you have a day which is close and muggy you have the opportunity to rise above such stultifying weather and forge ahead with a new project or give in to the sense of entropy and vegetate.

I chose the latter course for yesterday and did nothing.  I fed and watered myself and read the newspaper and that was basically it.

I refuse to feel the guilt that such a giving-in to indolence should encourage; I look on it more as a day of preparation for the journey and return which is facing me this evening.

As the trip is so short it is difficult to feel much about it – apart from the fact that it is a necessary one to show support for my cousin in our shared sense of loss.  And given the number of people who travelled from Scotland to Stewart’s funeral and had to make hurried departures from the house to catch various trains to go back to whence they came I can say little.  The distance between Barcelona and Cardiff can actually be covered in little more than three hours if you are going via Bristol as I am.  A couple of hours to Bristol and then about an hour from Bristol to Cardiff.

But you are supposed to get to the airport two hours before your plane is supposed to depart.  There is the delay in getting off the plane and getting the car.  At least with the new crossing there is less chance of being held up on the Bridge than there used to be with the other one.  So I will actually start off at eight in the evening and get to Cardiff (having gained an hour in the difference between time in Spain and time in the UK) by about one or two in the morning.  Ah, the delights of air travel.

I am packing a coat of some sort.  I have not worn a coat since I came back from France, but I fear that I may have to indulge the British weather a little.  I am also wearing jeans and not shorts.  In Spain I aim to wear shorts until late November and in some parts of December, but I am not so jejune to believe that I can do this in the country of my birth!  We shall see.  The last time I went to the UK I was delighted by the weather and was even able to have breakfast sitting outside the cafĂ© – and we had to move because we were not in the shade and the sunshine was too intense!  Fond hope for the end of October I fear!

Monday, surely, will be the day when my material from the Open University arrives.  That will give me just over a week until the course proper starts on the 3rd of November and I had hoped to be a little more in advance than that to give myself a flying start.  Still, the fact that Toni is studying as well is an incentive to take things seriously and make sure that the cut off dates for the tutor marked assignments are merely reminders for me rather than ominous fingers of doom as they were the last time I attempted OU courses!

Just over a week and a half after the course has started I am back in the UK for a more extended time with commitments right, left and centre which are going to take up my time.  It is recommended that you allow fifteen hours of study time a week for the course which is over two hours a day.  A couple of days lost and you are already up to three hours a day and that is difficult with the best will in the world.  But these are cavils provoked by nervousness of not having the material this near to the start of the course.

United Nations Day looms when, not only will the traditional celebrations take place, but also it is the opening day of the website for the course.  You see, everything is now related to the OU!

Nowadays you do not have to get up at the crack of dawn and watch, through bleary eyes some academic lecture on BBC2.  I can well remember crawling towards the television and sitting close enough to see what was going on because I had not put my lenses in and clutching a cup of tea wondering what the hell I was dong and why!  Now there are DVDs and anyway the schedule of the BBC is too full to allow academics to do their things and do them with Beatle-style haircuts and in black and white!

Now for a shower and a change into my British clothes to prepare myself for the rigors of modern travel.  At least I have my newly-found Nano to soften the edges of boredom which strikes me as soon as I have passed passport control!

Today – 23rd October 2012

An hour waiting in the plane on the runway was not the best way to start the journey to Bristol on Sunday evening.  Although the plane was full I managed to get a seat on the front row between two people who looked daggers at me as they thought that they had managed to keep a free seat between them.  The harsh element of their disappointment was that they had kept the spare seat from almost the whole of the loading of the plane until I, the last person to board claimed it!

Leg room was the only thing that kept me sane while we waited and waited for a new slot to fly because the rain had taken our allocated slot away from us.  Rain?  A little rain?  So much for modern technology.

A further irritation was the fact that my hand luggage, the only case I was taking to the UK, had been tagged as something which needed to go into the hold.  This is because so many more people are taking substantial cases instead of putting a large case in the hold.  This means that the overhead storage gets filled with remarkable speed and you are left bewailing the wasted time as you stand sullenly with the other zombies waiting for the carrousel to jerk into some sort of movement.

Luckily my bleats of injustice were listened to and I managed to get my case on board in the overhead rack, though it was nowhere near my seat.

I eventually arrived in Cardiff at about 1.48 am and Pauls Squared (bless him!) made a cup of tea and made a more than generous ham sandwich to keep body and soul together.

The funeral of my aunt, the reason for my visit, went very well with a short but clear service and an enjoyable get together afterwards.

My late aunt was a forthright character (I discovered two or three of us had used the word “feisty” to describe her on our sympathy cards) and it is difficult to regard such a vital woman as dead, so her character is irrepressibly alive in our collective memory!

In a welcome return to eccentric clergymen of bygone days, the young, chubby faced vicar who took the service was accompanied by his liver coloured Labrador who lay contentedly behind her master as he conducted the service.  And, as the coffin was hidden behind the curtain in the crematorium the vicar picked up the dog’s lead and led the rest of us out of the chapel.

Paul was not in the best of moods when he finally came back from school so to lighten the atmosphere we went to an Indian restaurant and had a truly excellent and reasonably priced meal in The Spice Island in Rumney.  By the second or third drink we were all feeling a little more mellow and getting up the next day was just that little bit more difficult!

However, get up we did and, with the usual delays along the Avon and under the suspension bridge I made good time to the airport.

Once through the increasingly arduous security I got out my new Rowling, “The Casual Vacancy” and started to read.  In spite of the fog in the area which was delaying a plane to Jersey the climactic conditions did not appear to impede our progress and the Barcelona plane was not delayed.

The problem with getting something to eat and drink and going to the loo and carting around a case and a very large book is that something has to give.  And I lost the book.

The book was bought in Tesco and I paid nine quid for it rather than the list price of twenty.  I was annoyed.  And the flight was being called.

I trudged resentfully to the gate and waited discontentedly for the queue of Celtic supporters to make their noisy way into the plane.

At this point the particular sort of luck which is the positive counterpoint to my feckless unconcern made itself felt.

For the first time in my life (at least in an airport) I heard my name being broadcast with an invitation to return to Security.

And there was my book – linked to me because I had used the card and addressed envelope from Hadyn as a bookmark.  Time after time I am saved from my own unconcern.

The flight back was uneventful, apart from the Celtic fans momentarily hosting the cans of beer that they were drinking before returning them to another part of the plane!

The fog and drizzle of Bristol gave way to bright sunshine in Barcelona as one of the Celtic fans exiting the plane remarked in a delighted tone to his colleagues, “It’s just like July!”  They should be so lucky!

A disconsolate Toni was raised from his depression by going to a new restaurant for us in the centre of town called, “Tast” – and I have officially designated it as “A Find”.  For €12.50 we had an inventive and delicious meal with the only drawback being there was but a single glass of wine to accompany the repast.

The rest of my Olympic First Day Covers have arrived with the surprising addition of an free official Philatelic Bureau “Gold Medal Winners” album to put them in.  God bless the Philatelic Bureau – though they do not appear to have sent me the “Olympic Memories” FDC which should have been issued in late September.  I think another phone call is in order.

As indeed has been necessary for the OU material which has still not arrived.  A very helpful lady told me that another batch has been sent – which should mean that the original shipment will arrive bright and early tomorrow!

I will be glad to be back in my own bed – and tomorrow is United Nations Day! 

Hooray!

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