Europe – July 2017

T-46 – pre-departure

Monday 12th June

My attention to the various details of the holiday has come and gone a few times over the past few weeks. With now just six and a half weeks to go, it’s no longer about the logistics of the travel itself but of who we are going to see and when. We have limited time and want to see as many people as we can. The problem here is that it’s proving more of a challenge than I first thought.

All the flights and train journeys are safely booked and paid for, so at least that’s no longer a worry. I’ve made arrangements for rental cars for our time in the UK and Europe. This means won’t be beholden to people needing to collect us from airports or train stations, nor are we going to be a burden on them for that same reason. That in itself is already a big load off my mind, as it gives us both a degree of independence as well as flexibility.

Arranging our time in the UK, especially the first few days, has been a bit of a logistical challenge. Some of the relatives we want to see are themselves going on holiday or are otherwise unavailable at certain times, which means we’ve had to shift a few things around to make sure we manage to get to see everyone at least once. So far, we’ve made specific arrangements to go and see Annie and her extended family and then Jacqueline and her extended family. We will of course see everyone whilst there but all of Annie’s mob live close to each other and so we’ll be able to knock them out all in one hit. Jacqueline is flying out on holiday herself and we have a very limited window of opportunity to see her, hence the arrangement there. Hopefully, seeing everyone else will be easy since they all live not too far from Paul, who we’ll be putting us up for the duration, and Mum & Dad, who live very close to Paul. We’ll hopefully be able to visit Richard at some point as well, although the details of that still need to be ironed out. We don’t actually know where he’s living at the moment.

I’m trying desperately to arrange for us all to spend a day in London and to take in a kid-friendly West-End show, much to Sandy’s chagrin (she isn’t nearly as keen on the idea as I am). The ladies from Sandy’s antenatal class are, hopefully, arranging a get-together for them all, which Sandy is really looking forward to. Sandy has kept in touch with the girls over the years and is very much looking forward to that reunion.

We did have high hopes of arranging a family day out to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers studio tour in Watford with a whole load of nephews and nieces. We even tentatively scheduled a date and told everyone but it turns out that this attraction is so popular that we couldn’t get any tickets for the date we earmarked. After checking availability, it became clear that we had better book at least for ourselves as all the tickets were almost all gone. We barely managed to squeeze just ourselves in for four tickets – much less for anyone else. As it now stands, it may be that it’s just the four of us going. To make matters worse, the only time slot we could get was 17:30 in the evening on our last day in England, so it’ll be a late night with a rush to get packed ready for our train journey to Paris the following day. This is the one thing that Sandy has been looking forward to above all else for our time in the UK, other than seeing friends and family. If I didn’t manage to book at least something, she would quite possibly have lynched me.

As I’ve been typing this, I’ve been speaking to Lisa and she has offered to throw a family BBQ (not to be confused with throwing family onto the BBQ) on the weekend that we arrive. Hopefully, various family members can attend this. Time will tell.

It seems that I may also be doing a couple of author visits during our time in the UK. Paul has arranged for me to address the kids at the Thurrock Marching Brass (the youth band with which most of my own youth was occupied and now re-spawned and run by Paul). He is also arranging a visit at a local community centre, so that’ll be great. I can see the local rag headlines now – local boy turns author and returns from the other side of the planet to speak to young kids about his journey as a published writer.

It hasn’t been just the trip to the UK that has been a bit of a juggling act. We had a video-conference last night with Peter de Wit, one of our favourite cousins in Holland. He is helping us to arrange a time and locations in Tilburg (roughly in the centre of the country) so that we can invite family and friends there to meet with us. With people spread out over the whole country, it’s just not practical for us to travel around trying to visit everyone. Hopefully, this way we will be able to see the biggest concentration of people with the most efficient use of time.

The kids still don’t know we’re visiting Disneyland Paris but the cat was nearly out of the bag yesterday when Jennifer came into my office as we were in that video-conference. Up on the screen, I had a spreadsheet open with our itinerary. “Oh, Daddy, are we going to Disneyland Paris?” Jennifer blurts out all excited. Sandy quickly shuffled the windows on the screen as I tried to explain that we were just looking at some of the things that are around Europe and that it wasn’t on the cards for us to actually be going to Disneyland Paris. She’s a smart cookie so I’m not sure if she bought the deception or not.

Last week we spend a couple of hours at Dandenong Market picking up a whole heap of Ozzie animal soft toys and other ‘Australian gifts/souvenirs’. We’ve picked up a little something for all the kids from our nephews and nieces and a few other friends to boot. Fortunately, there was a market stall also selling enormous duffel bags to help transport it all. Hopefully, we’ll still have enough volume and weight allowance left over for our own luggage by the time we leave.