30 July 2018

I've fallen in love all over again

Kay came back midday last Sunday (22nd) from her five-month tour of Asia and South America. Which was more than could be said for her luggage - it didn't arrive on the flight from Bogota to London via Madrid. It apparently wanted to stay a few more hours in Madrid. Thankfully it turned up on a later flight and was delivered by courier to our door the very next day.

There was so much to talk about, having not seen one another for so long and Kay powered through the jet lag and lack of sleep to regale me me with never-ending amazing stories of her travels, the history and the geography of the nine countries she had visited. I was in awe that my baby had successfully negotiated half the world and had so much to tell. It was great to have her home in one piece.

We could not relax or chat for long, as we were planning a trip together in less than 36 hours. On Tuesday we were off to Dubrovnik in Croatia.  Kay had been invited to a work colleague's wedding out there - a three-day Indian wedding, which she was keen not to miss, as Indian weddings are lavish affairs. When she had started to book her flights for Dubrovnik, she had hit on the idea that maybe I could tag along too (not for the wedding, as obviously I had not been invited) to have a look around Dubrovnik together for a few days before the wedding. I immediately jumped at the chance. As a widow and lacking in any surviving relatives, apart from Kay, I don't get the chance to go on holiday, unless I go alone, which is something I don't particularly relish at the moment. 

The plan was that we would fly out on Tuesday. I would then fly back alone on Friday while Kay would stay on with other friends coming out for the wedding at the weekend. Kay would fly back to London today, as she starts a new job on Wednesday 1 August - talk about rushing from one thing to another with only a day between!

I have been to Dubrovnik before. A long time ago in 1984 with Greg. At that time Dubrovnik was part of Yugoslavia and Communist. I fell in love with the town at the time. Its red roofs, traffic-free lanes and medieval walls captured my imagination and stole my heart. We stayed at the time in the Hotel Imperial (now the Hilton - that's what happens with the breakdown of communism) just within spitting distance of the medieval Pile gate and from our room had breathtaking views of the red roofs encapsulated by grey thick castle walls. I had never forgotten it and it ranked as the most romantic place I had ever been to. How could I give up a chance to revisit it? 

It did not disappoint. I fell in love all over again. The town had not changed much in some ways but there were differences too. There were pock marks from shells - a reminder of the Homeland War in 1991-95 which we learned a lot about and which I recall from the news at the time.  Croatia had spent a lot of money patching things up. Also, when I had visited before the shops were very subdued, all had the same things for sale at the same prices as it was controlled by the communist state. Now there is a much more colourful, vibrant atmosphere. But the buildings are still preserved in their medieval splendour and Dubrovnik's nickname of "Pearl of the Adriatic" still applies. The only thing I did not like was the overwhelming mass of tourists which at times were shoulder to shoulder along the main thoroughfare. (But then it was July when most schools are on holiday throughout Europe.) Probably the best times to come are April, May or September. Note for the future.

Kay and I stayed in air bnb accommodation down one of the many stepped alleyways, so were literally half a minute away from all the life and bustle of the town. We could wander the traffic-free streets and alleys to our hearts' content right up to midnight and beyond and not have to worry about a bus home to the many hotels that litter the coast  a mile away. We never felt unsafe, the Croatians were extremely friendly and the weather baking. In the two days I was there, we crammed in a walking tour; a cable-car trip up the hill behind for aerial shots and a visit to the fortress for history of that war; wanderings round churches, cathedrals and medieval apothecary; not to mention shops. Oh and countless ice creams! We even called in at the Hilton to raise a glass to Greg, as I felt him there with me all the time.  At night we could choose from a 1001 restaurants in the backstreets all touting for business AND you could drink the water, often refilling bottles from the fountain in the main street.  I was so sad to leave again on Friday and the journey back on the airport bus was spent looking over my shoulder at every turn of the hairpin coastal road to catch one last glimpse.

It's true to say I fell in love all over again.

The pearl of the Adriatic

Those attractive red roofs

The crowds
The medieval walls

More red roofs

The town fountain

A typical alleyway with hundreds of steps

The Imperial Hotel (now Hilton)
A sneaky pina colada on the last evening

19 July 2018

Three more days to go

For those who have been reading this blog for some time, you will know that my daughter Kay has been travelling for the last five months. First to Asia and then to South America. She is due home in three days' time. I am counting down the hours now and cannot wait to get her back in my arms and give her a tight hug. I am so proud of the way she has negotiated her way round this big old crazy world of ours. She's had her 27th birthday while she was out there, but to me she will always be my baby.

02 July 2018

London has been spared a painful moment

I've joined a choir!

When my dear old mum passed away in November, years of dedicated caring for her came to a sudden stop and for the first time in decades (if you count caring for my alcoholic husband too) I suddenly had time for myself. I had yearned for some ME time for ages, but now I actually had it. Time to pursue house improvement projects and some hobbies. Truth be told I was so dazzled by the newly acquired freedom, it was difficult to know where to start. 

I have some major works on the house in view - two new bathrooms for a start, as both are stuck in a 1960s time warp. The showers barely dribble and the colours are so old-fashioned, so it all needs dragging into the 2020s. The kitchen needs a slight overhaul too and the general decoration of the rest of the house, which I did myself back in 2010-2012, now needs renewing.

But that wasn't going to fill all my time or make me some new friends, so I had a big think and decided the first toe in the water was to join a choir. I have always liked singing (well, that's what I call it), so decided it would be nice to do it in a trained way and meet other people in the process.

The local choir was just the thing.  Although I like classical music, I'm not into singing it.  The choir I chose is a selection of gospel, Beatles, Abba, Carpenters. That sort of thing. Gentle melodies with 4-part harmonies. There's about 80 of us in the choir. A lot of Altos and Sopranos, with a light sprinkling of Bass and Tenor.

I have really enjoyed the weekly rehearsals and, guess what, made new friends too. We already have quite a big repertoire and the choir mistress makes it all fun and we do hilarious warm-up exercises at the beginning of each session which reduce us to giggles.

There is a concert each term. The last one (and very first one for me) was scheduled in early March at the local church where we rehearse. I got all dolled up for it, even excitedly dragged Kay along for moral support, but when we got there, the church was all in darkness. It had been cancelled the day before because of a very heavy snowfall. In actual fact, by the time of the concert, the snow had completely melted. If only they had waited a few hours more!  As I was the new girl, they had not got my email onto the system in time to tell me. I was so disappointed that my debut as a star would not happen.

The next concert was yesterday lunchtime. We were to sing at a local comprehensive school summer fair along with other choirs. We had honed our repertoire to perfection in rehearsals and I was all geared up for it. My best friend, who lives a two-hour drive away, wanted to come along to see it and stay with me for a day or two, so all was prepared, beds made, food bought ready for the big day. Then, less than 24 hours before, late on Saturday afternoon, I received an email to say the concert had been cancelled. The pianist was ill. Now one cancellation was unfortunate, but two was beginning to show an alarming pattern. Although I do enjoy the rehearsals, I am beginning to think the choir is a tad disorganised.

But then again, Londoners were spared the moment, when they would have been exposed to the warbling of the lesser spotted Addy.  Maybe not a pretty sound after all.