It was wakey wakey at around 8am this morning. Joey and I both stirred at around the same time. Since Joey didn’t want breakfast, I was the only one who went downstairs this morning for the all-you-can-eat buffet.It was a traditional English breakfast offering, with sausages, eggs, hash browns, bacon, mushrooms, toast, juice, fruit and cereals. Although they looked lovely, the sausages were not that tasty. Still, I took full advantage of the offering, given I’d already paid handsomely for it all anyway. Despite Joey insisting he didn’t want to eat anything in the morning, I managed to sneak a croissant and an apple for him, which he ate to my delight.

First up today on the agenda today was another trip to the Smyths toy shop, where Joey had his remaining £16 left in his budget to spend. Whenever we’re at a toy shop and Joey wants something he can’t afford, he tends to stare at it longingly. In this instance, it was a Power Rangers Mega Fury sword that had his attention in a vice. Since we’re on holiday, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well-behaved Joey has been, I told him I would make up the difference if that’s really what he wanted. Once again, I left Smyths with a beaming Joey and all was well in the world.

We had arranged yesterday for Stacey, one of my many nieces, to visit Dad’s today at noon so we could spend some time together. The plan was to then meet up with my brother Richard, Stacey’s father, as well as his son and his son’s girlfriend, for lunch. For whatever reason, Stacey was a no-show. Worse still, we couldn’t reach her by phone either, so we were in the dark as to why she didn’t turn up as planned. We gave it an extra half hour just to be sure but had to leave Dad’s eventually to meet up with Richard. In fact, neither I nor Dad was able to rase Stacey by phone for the rest of the day. Hopefully nothing untoward happened.

Seeing Richard in person again was a lot of fun, albeit a little exasperating at times. Richard has no filter and speaks his mind openly and freely. His vocabulary heavily relies on four-letter Anglo-Saxon swear words. I did initially try to encourage him to mind his language, but it was a constant uphill battle that I was never going to win. His son, Jonny, and Jonny’s girlfriend were both lovely. She is from Romania, so I took it upon myself to learn a few Romanian words. With the aid of my Google Translate app, I was somehow able to manage Încântat de cunoștință, which is “pleased to meet you,” by listening to the spoken translation over and over. When the time came, it seems I delivered it quite well, as it triggered broad grin and a massive hug from the lovely young woman. I treated them all to lunch and even left Jonny’s girlfriend with a few of my puzzle books, as she enjoys doing Sudokus and such puzzles. This is the first time I’ve seen Jonny since he was knee high to a grasshopper. He has turned into a terrific young man and a totally different person to the one I previously knew. I think it would be a nice privilege to maintain a relationship with him and his girlfriend into the future. We have so many relatives like this with whom we have only fleeting contact with over the years. Having a large family can be a real blessing, but it brings with it those sombre moments in which you realise you can’t be everywhere all the time. Richard, on the other hand, hasn’t changed a bit. I’d try to describe him in more detail, but no description would ever do him justice. He’s unique and we love him all the more for it.

The time spent with Richard and this portion of his family was all too brief – quality over quantity. Joey and I bid farewell to them all via some massive bear hugs, and we made our way back to the hotel. Joey wanted to drop off some things and I took an opportunity to jump into the shower. On our way back out again shortly thereafter, I mentioned to the staff at the front desk that our room hadn’t been serviced yet. I also mentioned that the temperature was uncomfortably warm. It seems that despite the A/C controls in the room appearing to function, the temperature controls are not in the room. Instead, a computer system controlled by the front desk manages it all centrally. The nice lady disappeared for a few moments and then returned to tell me she had lowered the temperature in the room. She also said she’d arrange for the room to be serviced, so I was hopeful we’d have made beds and fresh towels by the time we returned later in the day.

Over the past couple of days, we have been collecting British coins. A nice little pile of them totalling around ‘two pretzels’ were begging to be put to good use, so Joey and I swung by the Lakeside shopping centre again to exchange them for another couple of Joey’s favourite snacks. While there, I tallied up in my head how much I’d spoiled Joey thus far and decided I needed to balance the equities a little for Jae. To remedy this, we went back into the shop where I had previously bought Jae a couple of heavy metal band T-shirts and picked up a third one to add to the two previously purchased. Two kids made happy in a single day – I was definitely on a roll.

The Lakeside shopping centre was buzzing with energy today. This was evident not only in the huge numbers of people but also at the lengths I had to go to in finding a place to park the car. Fortunately, the multi-story, which I’ve never previously used, did provide the necessary relief in the end. I probably should have predicted this predicament. After all, it is Saturday today. It didn’t really affect us that much. After all, we’re not on the clock and have no time pressure.

We didn’t remain in Lakeside for too long. Neither Joey nor I relish the thought of wandering around aimlessly among hordes of people in a shopping centre, and our buckets were starting to fill. I wanted to stock up on some British food items to take home with us, so it seemed that now was as good a time as ever to pop into the nearby Tesco. Considering the congestion on the roads, however, I decided to drive a little farther away from the hustle and bustle of Lakeside in the hopes of finding a supermarket that was going to be less busy. We found a nearby Sainsbury’s that fit the bill. It was still big enough to provide a wider range of options but not so busy that it was a chore to move up and down the aisles.

Before long, my shopping trolley was laden with chocolate, vinegar, gravy, biscuits, pot noodles and various other foodstuffs and brands that we simply cannot obtain back home. The only thing I didn’t put into the trolley was meat products, such as bacon and sausages, both of which are just not the same in Holland. For one thing, we don’t have a cool box in the car, so any meat products would need to be purchased at the last-minute before we head back to the ferry on Monday. Additionally, I’m not even sure we’re allowed to move meat products between EU and non-EU countries anymore. In all the years we have travelled back and forth between the UK and the continent, we’ve never been stopped entering the EU to have our things examined. It’s a risk, but then again, it is bacon!

Joey and I were both by now starting to lose some of our steam, but Joey had a hankering for a can of his favourite Fanta. They only sell them in larger quantities at the bigger supermarkets, so I stopped in at a smaller supermarket in South Ockendon to pick up a small sized six-pack before we made our way back to the hotel. There was good news and bad upon entering the room. The temperature was much more to my liking now, but the room itself has still not yet been serviced. Sigh.

Shortly before settling down in front of the laptop and completing the lion’s share of today’s blog entry, I had a couple of video calls with Sandy and Jae so we could exchange notes on our day. It was good catching up with them both. We all miss each other. Just another couple of days before we’re reunited again.

Just when I thought this blog entry was done and we could settle in and doze off, I had the brainwave of popping over to Dad’s again. My brother, Paul, had just arrived there, so Joey and I decided to swing by for one last time. Dad asked me to swing past the chip shop to pick hm up a pie, which I confirmed I would. Shortly thereafter, a brief chat session with Paul had Joey doubled over in stitches:

Paul: Bring pie
Me: I already told Dad I would bring him a pie
Paul: Bring more pie

Paul: and saveloy

Paul: in a bag with chips so they don’t get lonely

In the event, I ordered myself some fish and chips as well. Normally, if I order fish from a British fish shop in South Ockendon, it would always be Rock Eel, which is elsewhere known as Rock Salmon, but technically it’s Spiny Dogfish. It’s a lovely piece of fish with a single one-centimetre-wide bone running down the centre. When I asked for it, I was told they no longer sell it. The young fella behind the counter didn’t see to know what it was, other than that it wasn’t on the menu. Evidently, the ‘fish it until it’s completely been wiped out’ mentality of the fishing industry around the British Isles has come home to roost. I settled for a piece of cod. One wonders how long before they’re all gone, too. Not wanting to contribute towards the demand for over-fishing is one of the reasons I only rarely eat fish.

With eyelids starting to droop, Joey and I bid our farewells to Dad and Paul after an hour’s worth of catching up. We made our way back to the hotel and have now settled in for the night. Looks like I might get to sleep before midnight for a change.