We might be on holiday, but my body insists on getting me up early each day. It must be said that being put up in someone else’s house – even when it’s family – can still be stressful for all concerned. It doesn’t matter how welcome we are, we’re still living in someone else’s space. Whether conscious or sub-conscious, you’re always tiptoeing around the concern of breaking someone else’s house rules, worried about how much we’re imposing, getting in the way, making a mess, etc. We are an untidy family at the best of times but living out of suitcases makes us infinitely untidier. Jacky likes to keep her house spick and span, and the toll of her sleeping on the couch is definitely having an effect. She was walking around like a zombie this morning. Will she hold out for another couple of days? Only time will tell. So far, she’s had the patience of a saint.

Nobody else was awake this morning, except Frank, the dog. Frank is an ageing bulldog. It’s a lovely beast, but not the prettiest of things to look at. He has a contorted face with flaps and bits drooping from various points around his head, his tongue hanging lopsidedly from one half of what I think is its mouth. To say he’s ugly does a severe injustice to people with elephantitis. I’m minded of the movie The Fly. It’s almost like a genetic experiment gone hideously awry, like a scene from Aliens 4. He slobbers about the house making the most bizarre noises, occasionally getting an uncontrollable urge to hump something or other. He also frequently emits grotesque smells (so I’m told). Still, he’s part of the family and we love him all the same.

I thought I’d freshen up this morning with a shower before the morning rush kicks in. The taps in Jacky’s bathroom are a little temperamental. If you don’t get them set just right, there’s not really enough water pressure. I wasn’t inducted into this little eccentricity until after my shower. At times, it felt like trying to have a shower under a dripping cloth.

Jacky cooked up a lovely breakfast this morning. As a happy bonus, she didn’t bugger up the eggs again either. Good times. With the weather here in the UK getting steadily better, I decided to spend the morning in the back garden writing up my blog from the previous day. We’re into the home stretch of the holiday now, but the days have still been full-on, and I’ve been shattered at the end of the day to the point I wasn’t able to finish my blog and post it as I normally do before going to bed. The entire garden and outside furniture were all glistening with morning dew. It was lovely, but I had to first clear a patch for me to sit and type without me or the laptop getting wet.

Sandy decided to take Joey and pop out to the shops for something or other. I think she went to Hobby Craft. There’s no real alternative to this back home, so she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity while we were here. She has already popped into a Hobby Craft on a couple of occasions previously, eyeing up what do spend her money on which she has set aside especially for this purpose.

The plan today was to visit Paul and Rhianna on the one hand, and then Sandy was to meet up with Kerry at Lakeside. In the meanwhile, I would take Dad to B&Q to pick up some plants for his garden.

Sandy took her time coming back with Joey, and she wasn’t picking up her phone when I called either. We’ve had hit and miss success with phone reception here in the UK. Not being able to reach her was starting to stress me a little. We had a narrow window of opportunity to pop over to Paul David’s for a visit, as they had plans and were only going to be at home between specific times.

We ended up driving away from Jacky’s house about fifteen minutes later than planned, but I made good time on the drive over to Grays. It was only to be a fleeting visit with Paul & Rhianna for a couple of hours today. I took Jae & Rhianna with me to collect some chip shop lunch for us all and, we then spent some time catching up. We managed to squeeze in a bit of relaxation and fun by playing some fun games on Pauls’ PS4 – the kind that you each use an app on your mobile phone to participate in the game. It was called Hidden Agenda. Ok, so I used the words relaxation and fun just then to describe this game, but it was all about how to solve a heinous murder. You’re all presented with gruesome facts with realistic murder mystery scenes being played out to dramatic horror sound effects, and then you each have to make choices that influence how the game then plays out, with majority voting that rules the direction the game take. Oh, how much fun we all had! In truth it was a bit of a giggle. While everyone had to make choices throughout the game, one participant was secretly assigned a secret mission to complete. Everyone had to use their powers of observation and misdirection to try to uncover who the mystery person was who had the secret mission.

After the brief visit, we bid our farewell to Paul and Rhianna (his daughter, by the way). As planned, I dropped Jae & Sandy off at Lakeside before collecting Dad from South Ockendon. Joey was in a foul mood. His options were to go to Lakeside with Sandy, or to remain with me while I take Dad to pick up some plants. Unfortunately (for him), he disliked both options. He was sullen, moody and non-communicative…pretty normal for Joey when he’s in one of these moods.

Having ultimately elected to remain with me, I took Joey to Dad’s. Dad has become quite frail in recent months – not entirely unexpected for an eighty-five-year-old man. He used the electric stair lift to make it down to the front door and we took his walking frame with us, which I had to fold and somehow get into the back of the car once Dad was safely in and buckled up…a complicated process in and of itself. In the end, I had to fold one half of the back seat down to squeeze the walking frame in.

I managed to park right outside the main entrance to B&Q, which is exactly where all the trolley shelves were laden full of plants and flowers. I let Dad go a little made in picking out whatever he wanted. We ended up getting something like thirty trays and/or pots of various plants, tomatoes, flowers and shrubs. At £60, the final tally was a very small price to pay to make an old man very happy.

On the way back to Dad’s, he was telling me about various SMS messages and e-mails he had been receiving from the phone company, gas company, etc., all explaining how he is in arrears and needed to pay them money back. This was causing him some concern. Each one of them was, of course, a scam. Like everyone else, I get them myself daily, but Dad is less tech-savvy and more easily drawn in. I don’t know whether he has been taken in by any of these before, but he’s their perfect demographic for this nonsense. I did what I could to educate him and to put his mind at ease. He at least has the sense to call upon one of us if he runs into these things, although I admit it was a little unsettling to see him so driven to anxiety after receiving one of these fake notices. After we dropped him off, got him settled and unloaded all the plants into his little back garden, I showed him that the e-mails and SMS messages he’d be receiving were all fake, and duly deleted them.

We said goodbye to Dad and set off to meet up with Sandy and Jae at Lakeside. We eventually found them roaming around the shopping centre aimlessly, as women do. I felt a slight tinge in my left testicle.

It was nice meeting up with Kerry along with her son Thomas. The last time we visited the UK, our accommodation plans fell through right around the time we were driving the car off the ferry. Kerry came to our aid and gave us refuge for the week we were here. You can’t by better friends than that.

As somewhat predicted, coming to the shopping centre with Joey meant that he would again have his eyes on the toys all within physical reach. He was pining for more Lego that was once again out of his financial reach. We did our best to manage him but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.

We said goodbye to Kerry and Thomas. This immediately threw Sandy into a sad state of mind, and she was already tearing up in the car. This was another one of those ‘goodbyes’ that she had been fretting over ever since the idea that she would come to the UK with us was first presented as an option. It was gut-wrenching, but little I could do about it.

Back in Stevenage, I dropped everyone off and then went with Jacky to collect Ella and her friend from the cinema. Jacky’s car failed its MOT recently and was waiting for a minor fix. It wasn’t anything serious, but enough to keep the car off the road for a few days. I’ve been driving her on occasion here and there as a result.

Finally back home for the duration, I was thoroughly cooked and running on an empty tank. I had no energy to sit and write up the blog, although I did manifest a bit more energy to sit and chill with Jacky for a short while before collapsing into bed. It’s now almost noon the following day and I’m just about done with this blog entry.