I tried my luck one last time at scoring a free breakfast this morning, but it wasn’t to be. This time there were a couple of staff acting as gatekeepers. I went in and had a nice breakfast anyway, but this time I had to pay for the privilege. I wasn’t complaining.

After packing this morning, I went to the Smyths toy store at the Lakeside retail park to see about picking up some more Lego kits for Joey. It’s his birthday in a couple of weeks and we also have Christmas coming up, so I wanted to take advantage of the wide range of kits they have to choose from as well as the currently discounted prices. Most of the sets are marked down for whatever reason. A kit of £100 is closer to £70 for example. I took full advantage of this and tanked up on another £500 worth of kits – mostly Star Wars. The trick will be in keeping this a secret from Joey until the time comes

I collected Jae from the hotel, and we went to check out. That wasn’t without a bit of drama. Apparently, the car park is no longer managed by the hotel. A private company now has dominion over the parking. This has been the case since about a month ago. There’s a new parking ticket machine just outside the hotel main entrance where you’re supposed to pay the £5/day charge for using the car park. When we checked in originally, I was told I would only have to pay £5 for the entire week as a hotel guest, and I took that at face value. We couldn’t figure out how to convince the machine to only charge me the £5 for the entire week, so I just told it I had parked for a single day and was charged the £5. Since I’m driving a FRV (Foreign Registered Vehicle), there’s little chance of any recource.

All week long, there was a spot in the car park that had a bollard in place, meaning nobody could park there. I happened to look a little closer and the sign on it this morning. It read that it was reserved for room 10, which seemed a bit odd. There were also cars parked in the disabled bays that weren’t displaying a blue disabled parking permit. This also pique my interest because I happened to share the elevator this morning with a lovely lady in a wheelchair, and I noticed she was parked farther away from the main entrance than I would have expected.

I asked the staff at the front desk about the bollard and the cars parking illegally in the disabled bays. The lovely lady explained that since the car park was now managed by a private company, they no longer had access to the details about whose car is whose, so they’ve no way of contacting the car owner. As for the bollard, she thought it was simply a cheeky guest trying to illegally reserve a parking slot for themselves. The car park was also full of litter, so it clearly wasn’t being serviced regularly. The upshot of all of this, as I pointed out to the hotel staff member, was that it was clear there were no checks and balances in place by the car park operator. They are collecting £5 per day per car parked there (by way of the cameras that are recording the car registration plates), but they are putting no effort into actually managing the car park – it’s a total free-for-all. To me, this also meant that the peace of mind that the car park was actively managed was little more than smoke and mirrors – an illusion. There was clearly no active management of the car park taking place. I told her that this made it less likely I would entrust my car to this car park – and thus would likely not choose to stay here again in future. She actually agreed with me and urged me to contact the hotel AND the private car park vendor to pass on my feedback. I will do exactly that.

We went over to visit Dad for one final time, and we bid our final farewells for this trip. I’ve been pleased to see that he hasn’t significantly deteriorated since the last time I saw him, which was a little earlier this year. There’s a good chance that we might visit the UK again before the end of the year, but that’s a trip that’s yet to be fully conceived and arranged.

We had about 45 minutes to spare after leaving Dad’s, so we made our way to the Tescos in Lakeside to do a final round of buying of comfort items. Mostly this was things like new bottles of my vinegar, some of Jae’s favourite pot noodles, baked beans, cereals, tinned SPAM, some bacon & sausages (yes, I know I’m running the risk of them being confiscated if we’re pulled aside for a random immigration check), chocolate, Jae’s flavoured water and a few odds and ends.

It does have to be said that the credit card has taken a real walloping on this trip – significantly more than I had originally budgeted for. The budget, such that it was, was more an arbitrary one than anything else. I had [what I thought was] a rough idea about how much I’d end up spending. I think I topped it by around a thousand Euros. Much of that was money that went on other people, like spending money, stuffed toys, meals, microwave ovens, birthday and Christmas gifts I hadn’t anticipated on getting, etc. I don’t spend money if I don’t have to unless doing so makes me happy. I’m pleased to say that I was made very happy during this trip. I am leaving the UK a contended man knowing that I was able to bring some smiles to various people’s faces. To me, that has much more intrinsic value than the money itself.

Despite getting on the road with plenty of time to spare, we arrived in Dover to find rows of vehicles all queueing side-by-side to get through immigration and the check-in kiosks. We had to queue for the better part of an hour and a half before reaching the check-in kiosks and being assigned a boarding time. I can only assume there was some sort of earlier hold-up that had created a backlog. Alas, we missed our 2:40pm departure to Calais, but managed to get onto the 4pm departure to Dunkirk. That would be a slightly longer ferry ride but a slightly shorter car ride to home from the other end – swings and roundabouts.

So, that’s it for this trip. We crammed a lot into a short space of time but came out the other end largely intact. I feel a lot better for having seen Dad in relatively good shape – for an 86-year-old. Jae strengthened their relationship with their Granddad and some of our other relatives. I got to see Ree-Ree and her clan from Australia, which was an unexpected bonus. I also got let into Richard’s world, which was another unexpected bonus I loved. I was also able to indulge my own passion for West End shows and squeezed in two of the best shows in town – bliss! But best of all, and by some margin, was the quality time Jae and I got to spend with each other this past week. In Jae’s world, Mum & Dad necessarily have to devote a lot of time and energy into managing Joey. Jae understands this but it can still be a hard pill to swallow sometimes. I’m really glad Jae got to be the centre of my attention for a whole week, and with the normally firmly engaged spending brakes largely relaxed for the duration, which lowered the normal stress levels for all involved.

To finish up, I want to thank the legion of followers of my blogs. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having you all along with me for the ride. I look forward to you joining me on the next trip, whenever and wherever that will be. Thank you 🙂