England - Round The World Tour 2003 T-4

pre-departure

Leigh-on-Sea

Sunday 9th March

Now back at Jacqueline’s, the morning after the big family reunion. It was an absolute blast and ALL brothers and sisters were present – something that happens very rarely. With the exception of Richard’s Stacey Marie, all my Nephews & Nieces were also present. It was a shame that the complete compliment was off by just one. This was also the case the last time there was a family reunion at Mum & Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. It’s an unfortunate bi-product of a large family that live widely dispersed that family reunions are so difficult to arrange. As someone who has lived farthest from home for the longest period of time, I have to bare the most culpability for this problem.

Between the 4 of so or us that had cameras, we took something like 350 photos altogether throughout the fun-filled evening. Some real gems surfaced when we looked at them on the laptop at the end of the evening. Most importantly, the one photo that Mum so wanted to have done came out really well. There aren’t too many group photos of us kids when we were young and where all the kids are present - just one, in fact, as far as I’m aware. Mum so desperately wanted to have the photo re-done with all the kids in the same position as this one remaining school photo. To be absolutely sure that we would get a good shot, there were a dozen or more photos taken from that particular gathering with Jacqueline, John Ashley and Ann standing in the back row and Richard, Paul David and myself sitting in the front row. It was a good thing that so many photos were taken as only one turned out to have all of us facing forward with smiles on our faces. In every other photo, someone was either not facing front, pulling a funny face or was in some other way affected by the merriment of the occasion. None of it matters, though, since there was at least one, perfect photo – so perfect, in fact, that it was immediately elevated to my all time favourite photo and now stands proud as the background to my laptop’s desktop.

As could have been predicted, there were several other group photos taken yesterday evening. Mum & Dad with all the kids, brothers and sisters with their kids respectively, and so on. Somehow, I have to whittle the 350 or so photos taken down to about 40 or so of the best so that I can put them up onto the Internet. This is going to be difficult as I have already sorted through them all once already and could not reduce the total number of ‘best shots’ to less than 105 🙂

Everything is going well. Too well, perhaps. We are enjoying life, having fun with our family, about to head off into the great unknown for an experience of a lifetime and still revelling in the warm glow of the memory from one of the best family reunions we’ve ever had. Today, however, the bubble burst. We received notification that Dad has collapsed with chest pains and has been rushed to the emergency room. So stark is the contrast between the high from earlier to the low of today that it practically cannot be put into words. To make matters worse, it seems that Dad set the house on fire when he collapsed due to his cigarette landing on the carpet! Jacqueline and Richard descended onto Mum and Dad’s house quicker that you could say heart attack. Annie also headed straight for the hospital from her house, which is well over three hours drive away. Fortunately, things are not as bad as they seem. Mary, the next-door neighbour, was also on the spot rapidly, bless her, and had already assessed the situation, ruling out anything to do with Dad’s heart as being the source of the problem. Mary’s previous medical training was put to good use and both John Ashley and myself were able to benefit from her cool headedness and assessment of the situation. Accordingly, we decided to stay put at John Ashley’s house, having concluded that things were under control and that there was little that we could do to contribute to the situation other than getting in the way; a conclusion that Paul David also shared, whom we also kept up to date by phone. Annie, alas, was already in the car and on the way by this time and I doubt that there was anything that we could have said to persuade her to turn back. The fire, it seems, was quickly extinguished and had only enough time to cause superficial damage to the carpet. After a period of what must have seemed like hours of agonising silence whilst Dad was being checked out in the hospital, word reached us that there is nothing wrong with his heart. His EKG came back clear. A chest infection has apparently set in over the past 24 hours. Not helped by what must have been a weakened immune system due to the same cold and flu that has afflicted about a quarter of the population. We are now waiting to hear if he will be coming home this evening or whether or not he needs to stay in overnight. All the terrible thoughts that have been running through our heads over the past couple of hours are slowly subsiding and giving way to more collected judgments about how to handle the next couple of days. Life! It just goes to show that even when you are riding on the crest of one of life’s most exhilarating waves, there is always a shark, lurking beneath the undercurrent, ready to attack at a moments notice. Fortunately, today’s shark was not very hungry.

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