My body clock apparently still knows I’m on holiday and saw fit to wake me at around 6am this morning. This time, I was determined to fight it on the issue. I decided to do my usual morning rounds on the phone and then roll over and try to go back to sleep. Morning rounds for me consists of things like checking e-mail and messages, checking my book sales page, checking Facebook, reviewing the BBC News app, and so on. With my routine curiosity satisfied, I did indeed roll over and hoped I’d get a little more sleep. The next thing I know, it’s 10am. Result!

Jae, of course, was still sleeping. Since we had plans for today, I had to wake them up. Jae and I are both the type of people that don’t much care for ‘shock and awe’ tactics when it comes to being woken up. Neither of us are morning people. A gentle nudge to get their attention, followed by the offer of a pot noodle, did the trick just nicely.

Once Jae was tucking into her pot noodle, I chanced my arm at the restaurant still being open. Now just past 10am, it was always going to be a long shot, but I thought I’d give it a try all the same. Alas, the ‘restaurant closed’ sign said it all. The annoying thing is that our room is about as far as it possibly can be from the restaurant via multiple corridors, so it was quite the hike there and back for no reward. This distance from room to reception is both a blessing and a disguise. On the one hand, it does mean that we must walk a long way to and from the room each time we come or go, but it also means we have the minimum of disturbance from other guests making their way to and from their rooms. There’s but a single room that’s beyond ours at the end of the corridor, so we don’t really have any foot traffic to worry about.

Our principal objective today was to visit our very good friend, Cara, and her kids. Cara is one of the original group of women who were part of Sandy’s pre-natal maternity group when she was pregnant with Joey. We were a group of 7 or 8 couples who all followed the same government run pre-natal classes. These were delivered (see what I did there?) by two midwives who managed each of the pregnancies and subsequent births. We would get together once a week for a couple of months leading up to the births, where the midwives would teach us all about pregnancy, childbirth, pain management and all that sort of thing. For many years following all the births, our group remained in regular contact with each other, providing mutual support and social connectivity. Many of the ladies, such as Sandy and Cara, have remained close and in contact with each other on and off ever since. We’ve shared our experiences, life’s ups and downs and been there for each other throughout the years – even though Sandy and I have lived overseas for many years. Whenever we visit the UK, we do what we can to visit some of these very good friends. When Cara found out we’d be visiting this week, she made sure to put a visit to her onto our calendar. It was an invitation I didn’t want to let slip by.

Once Jae was finished with her pot noodle, I dropped her off at Dad’s while I went to a nearby supermarket to pick up a couple of bits and pieces for our lunch with Cara and her family. Cara had posed a question about what Jae wanted for lunch. Jae was very specific about what she wanted. Erring on the side of caution, I picked up some of the ingredients, just in case Cara didn’t have them in house. I also took the liberty of picking up a bunch of flowers for Cara.

One of Cara’s kids suffers from anxieties, finding it challenging to leave the house. We can completely relate to this, of course, with Joey having similar issues. Sandy thought it might be an idea to see if some of my puzzle books might be of interest – something he could do that doesn’t require him leaving the house. The previous time I was here, I brought a large box full of puzzle books for Dad (I have 94 different puzzle books in my collection now). There were quite a few that he wasn’t using because the print wasn’t big enough for him, so I grabbed all of those and put them into the car.

We made it to Cara’s near enough at the time we planned. She hasn’t changed at all, and it was a real thrill to see the kids having grown several inches since the last time we saw them. Cara is one of those people that you could instantly connect with despite not having seen her for several years. It was like time hadn’t passed.

Cara laid on a lovely lunch for us all and we had a great time catching up, playing cards and just generally being at ease with each other. Jae and I even took up the challenge of getting into the hot tub for a bit of relaxation – absolute bliss.

One of Cara’s many strengths is the ability to organise fun things to do, at short notice, and with whatever is on hand at the time. After we had all dried off from the hot tub, she suggested we play ‘Shite Bingo’. For the uninitiated, this is essentially the regular game of Bingo, with numbered balls, bingo cards and markers, etc. Prizes were, and I quote, absolutely shite! She found ‘worthless’ bits and bobs that were lying around the house and paraded them on a table as the ‘shite’ prizes. It was hilarious to say the least. After several fun games, with Cara playing the role of Bingo caller, everyone came away with something. I snagged a rather lovely little England flag and a small plastic baby bottle attached to a keychain. I shall treasure them for the foreseeable future.

We had a lovely time catching up with Cara and her family. We shared notes on the various ordeals that life has thrown at us all over the years. Sometimes, I wonder just how we’ve made it this far in life given the hurdles we’ve all had to overcome. But here we are – all alive and kicking. That’s must surely say something about the kind of resilient people we all are.

As we were wrapping up our time at Cara’s, I was haggling with my younger sister, Little Jacky, about the planned visit to her in Basingstoke. She is leaving for a holiday to Spain (I think) first thing in the morning and hadn’t yet packed – nor was she going to be home from work at a reasonable hour tonight. In light of the stress she was clearly under, I proposed we skip the jaunt up to Basingstoke this time and we catch her on the next visit. She’ll still be here the next time we swing past, although I’ll probably insist on that roast lamb for dinner the next time around 😉

We left Cara’s shortly after I surreptitiously handed each of the kids a bit of pocket money as a little treat from us. I had to do that clandestinely to avid the otherwise inevitable confrontation with Cara. As I was driving away, I learned out of the window and shouted, “Please don’t be angry with me. Love you!” I later got a funny message from her telling me she thought it might have been that I’d left an unflushed turd in her downstairs toilet or something like that which might explain my last-minute comment as I was driving away. We love Cara to bits 🙂

Ever since we first conceived of the trip to the UK, Jae has been insisting that I take her to a Toby’s Carvery, which she and Sandy are quite fond of. It’s a restaurant where you can get a traditional English roast dinner buffet style, where someone carves the meat off for you right in front of your eyes. I’m not overly fond of it myself, but I did say I’d find an opportunity to take Jae while we’re here. With the plans to visit little Jacky now abandoned, it meant we had a bit of spare time on our hands, so I found the closest Toby’s Carvery to where we were and drove there. We were taking a chance on getting a seat, given we hadn’t booked, but they were able to take us. Two carvery meals and two refill soft drinks later, I parted with £27 for the experience.

A half an hour later and I was dropping Jae off at Dad’s again, while I went back to the hotel to shower (and nap). I’ve sat here for the past hour or so writing up the blog, but I think it’s time I went and relieved Dad of Jae again.

Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to meeting up with another old friend, and to spending the evening in London at the show. It’s amazing how much you can cram into a short stay if you put your mind to it.