Sunday, 27th March, 2022
UK is back to 5 hours ahead. This Blog is being written at 3.00 pm (FT)/8.00 pm (GMT). We have completed over 3 hrs of exercise – gym/walk/swim – had a lunch of salad and salmon dip and are now resting before Dinner out. I apologise but I was so tired last night that I couldn’t manage any more.
In the early evening, we drove to Sarasota Opera House for a Gala performance to celebrate the 40 year career of their Director, Victor DeRenzi. Champagne, wine and canapés to start.
The Opera House itself is quite delightful and relaxed although plenty of patrons dressed up in evening suits and bow ties for the event. We were smart-casual and comfortable with that.
Kevin had sent me a clip of an Elton John impersonator from a pub in Spain. I was hoping to reciprocate. Only after I had taken this photo did I see the instruction above the stage to turn our phones off.
The highlight for me was an audience performance of Verdi’s Va Pensiero to finish guided by the Italian libretti on a scrolling screen above the stage. I can’t help singing, thinking of sad experiences and crying at this point. I warned the man next to me who said he was the same which made me feel liberated. I sang my heart out and wept.
The Opera House looked lovely as we left to go to the restaurant M had booked. It was a Spanish restaurant called Columbia in Armands Circle by the beach. It had a fantastic menu which majored on fish.
I had the Pompano en Papillot which was delicious and we shared a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Back home, I won Wordle getting EPOXY in 3 goes.
So we weren’t in bed until 1.00 am (FT)/6.00am (GMT) and were up at 6.00 am (FT)/11.00am (GMT) for the gym again. After coffee we go on an extended walk around the neighbourhood. In this delightful weather, the expensively built gated properties look delightful and exotic under blue sky and strong sunshine. We leave on Wednesday evening and land in Gatwick early on Thursday morning. It has been a good trip packed with worthwhile experiences. M&K have been very generous and made it really enjoyable.
Monday, 28th March, 2022
Happy 68th Birthday to Jane. Not sure whether she’s in London or Yorkshire but I send her best wishes from sunny Florida where thoughts of packing have started. We fly on Wednesday evening and land on Thursday morning.
I will turn the heating on to air the house before we get on the plane and the hot water on as soon as we reach the airport. We ‘walked round’ the outside of the house last night through the magic of CCTV (I’m so glad I thought of installing that.) across the internet.
Everything looks good. I even looked into the conservatory-kitchen by turning the lights on and off with my smartphone. I love it. Just as it is great to be able to put a letter together for Jane, turn it into an illustrated pdf and email it from my smartphone across the globe. No red phone boxes on the corner and pressing Button B now!
Kevin contacted me this morning as we walked to the post office. He had dropped his phone in the bath and was testing it out. He wants to know the funniest thing we did together at College. I am struggling to remember. Any ideas?
I have an old friend called Caroline who lives in Grotton, Oldham. She has no digital skills. Like so many of the wrinkly generation, she is rather scared of computers. She and I have exchanged postcards from all round the world for the past 35 years. I had a card but no stamp or postbox. We walked for 30mins to a post office and back in the sunshine. It was absolutely delightful.
When we got back onto the IMG campus, a worker had a baby racoon cornered outside the club house. He was trying to catch it in his cap and he asked for my help. The little, baby racoon was very frightened and was hissing at us and trying to fight back. I just had time to take a photo.
Tuesday, 29th March, 2022
Our penultimate day in Florida on this trip and it is turning into a scorcher. Alarm went off at 6.00 am and I was still tired from the night before. We went out to a waterside fish restaurant for Dinner. We ate outside. For the first time in a month, I got a mosquito bite. The sunset was beautiful across the ocean.
We had already done a supermarket shop at Publix supermarket to replace things we had consumed. I found the perfect box of chocolates for our hosts although the raw salt on the outside was a bit strong.
Kevin sent me this this morning and suggested I would ‘smash it’ in the gym. I’ve invited Julie – in the absence of other offers – to join me in the challenge.
I suspect that, at the age of 71 (almost) and with a hernia repair in the offing, Boogie Bounce would be a bit of a stretch but I’m willing to give it a go!
It is 29C/85F at 4.00pm (FT)/4.00pm (GMT). We are going out to eat AGAIN this evening. Nice as it is, I will be glad to eat a home-cooked meal that is ingredient and calorie controlled in the next few days. Glad to get back under control without temptations.
Wednesday, 30th March, 2022
Glorious morning for our last one in Florida this trip. I’ve done 2 hrs in the gym and it is now 9.00 am (FT)/2.00 pm (GMT). Our flight this afternoon has been altered slightly and we now fly from Tampa Airport at 18.50 (FT) arriving at London Gatwick on Thursday at 8.00 am (GMT). When we land, we will try to carry on as if it is a normal day, following UK times.
M&K have been incredibly generous and they saved the best until last yesterday. We ate out at the delightful Shore Restaurant at a table with a real view.
We will have a walk in the glorious sunshine for about an hour, return to shower, change and complete the packing before M&K drive us to Tampa Airport for our flight. See you on the other side.
Actually, a lovely little friend popped up on the path by my foot to say goodbye. It would have been rude not to have taken her picture.
Thursday, 31st March, 2022
Wednesday evening in Tampa and Thursday morning in Gatwick. Tampa Airport is quite basic and parochial. We dropped our bags and went through security quickly. Few people and well organised. We went to the one Business Lounge – The Admiral Club – but it isn’t up to much. We certainly wouldn’t have paid the fees people pay if they use it privately.
The British Airways terminal is plastic and brash and very limited in its facilities. It wasn’t very comfortable.
The newspaper headlines generated by the government were all about masks being dropped on flights but BA made it clear they would remain compulsory in the airport and on the plane. Very easy flight. Business Class makes it very comfortable. The ability to sleep on a bed really makes the difference. The biggest problem is constant eating and drinking with no exercise.
Within 5 minutes of landing and as I stood around the Baggage Reclaim area, a Whatsapp message came in on my phone from Kevin wanting to know how I was. I appreciate that. Soon after that, Dr John Ridley texted to welcome me home and give me a link to a university talk he was giving which, he says, includes a reference to me. It will have to wait until tomorrow.
Back in the UK by 9.00 am (GMT)/4.00 am (FT), our taxi was waiting for us and we were home for 10.00 am. The car had been stationary for a month but started immediately and the brakes hadn’t seized as we drove off to Sainsburys where we were absolutely shocked by the empty shelves. After the abundance of America, our supermarket looked positively 3rd world. Very few fresh vegetables and very light on milk.
Back home, tiredness was beginning to set in but I tricked my wife into accompanying me on a 10 mile walk out in the sunshine. It is now 7.00 pm (GMT) / 2.00 pm (FT) and I am really tired but I am determined to make this a normal, UK-time day just as I was determined to complete my fitness target. It is mind over matter in the end. My mind is strong even if my body is failing.
Friday, 1st April, 2022
Happy new month. Up late this morning. By 8.30 am, the day was absolutely gorgeous with blue sky and strong sunshine. Still feeling quite tired. Having my hair cut and doing my exercise will probably be the sum of my activities today.
Been absolutely lovely to hear from so many friends acknowledging our return to UK. Kevin sent me a cartoon this morning. For many years I used P&O ferries from Hull – Zeebrugge en route to Greece. Kevin told me it was snowing in North Yorkshire yesterday and is freezing there this morning. It may be beautiful down here but still relatively cold. I was delighted to check my fig trees this morning and they are leafing up well.
I received ‘welcome home’ greetings from Julie and an introduction to an 18 certificate publication that she seems enamoured with at the moment. Freezing in Bridlington this morning apparently – a beautiful coastline but so often too cold for me. I definitely feel more suited to Florida sunshine and warmth.
John Ridley really took prize billing last night when he sent me a link to his talk which he performs all round the country on a regular basis. I’d known about this for quite some time but he chose last night to let me know that I was featured in it including a bonkers college photo. He sent me the link by text and I’ve added it to the graphic which advertises his talk. If you click the photo with sound on, you will be able to open the talk. Don’t get too excited, it is just a gentle homily of everyday folk but it would mean something to a Riponite.
The link is also here but it is a bit ‘clunky’ so you need to give it a bit of time to load. I’m sure John would be pleased if you did. I did cringe a bit when I listened to a talk that included my 1971 hairstyle and the story of a wig but I am not really too embarrassed.
The one thing out of the mountain of mail that was waiting on our doormat when we got home and which gave me some concern was this.
I have no idea what any of it means or how serious it is but it sounds imminently life threatening. I am going to seek a meeting with my GP to discuss it. She will spell it out in words of one syllable to a biologically illiterate idiot like me.
Saturday, 2nd April, 2022
Beautiful morning bright, sunny but cold. No real frost which had been forecast. My exercise routine is being hampered by a problem with my treadmill. There was a power-cut while we were away and it looks as if a surge afterwards may have damaged the computer board inside it. The electrics are dead completely. Looks like I’m going to be pounding the pavements for a few days until I can get it fixed.
And that’s what I’ve been doing this morning. It’s pleasant but cold. I am still struggling with the tiredness of travel and the adjustment of time. Forced myself to stick to normal routines and local timings but feel vaguely zombie-like under the surface. Can’t help comparing UK with America and feeling we are so far behind the times of development and luxury, of technology and choice, of general wealth and life chances. It was quite a revelation.
Back in UK scenery, there is a lot to enjoy when it warms up. Trees are starting to open. The grass is growing wildly. Photinia hedges are popular down here and grow really well. Along our walk they are everywhere. Still, I can’t stop thinking about the next escape – France or Greece. I feel there is little to keep me here.
Having a pre-op assessment on Monday and looking at booking flights/hotel to Athens in June with, maybe, France in April/May. Strange feeling not being wanted / not belonging. All will depend on the operation dates.
Addendum: While media warn people of steeply rising power prices, British Gas quietly returned to our Bank Account £150.00 which we had in credit with them. It is really helpful to travel and to manage our heating, hot water and lighting remotely.