July 21 - September 28, 2002
We got to Britain by overnight bus from Prague after six months in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic. We got to Darlington ( see map) with just enough time to find our outfits and get them cleaned and readied for our nephew Chris's wedding to his girlfriend Sam. It was a big family affair that fell on the day between Jan's birthday and that of her younger brother Dave. And the family even found time to give Gerry a special gift for his 60th. Quite a celebration.
Weddings were a feature of our stay in England. The stay began with a wedding, ended with a wedding (well almost) and in the middle we had, you guessed it, another wedding, this time of a best friend of our nieces Cheryl and Lindsay. It is notable because Jan got invited to the hen party — her first since her sister Sue got married in 1975.
Since getting here a good half of our time has been spent doing "office work" which, if you will indulge our strange definition, includes, besides bill paying, improving our web site and getting it back up. On our arrival we had not had any physical mail for six months. We had to go through lots of bank statements, etc. We happily went through the four or five letters from friends. As to our web site, we last updated it before leaving Israel on April 1. The joke was on us as crucial links appeared to be correct but weren't. We have several hundred HTML pages to fix up.
But perhaps our most satisfying activity during our stay in Darlington was converting a hundred pages of typewritten text about our stay in Tehran, Iran in 1975 - 1979 into computer format. At last we have it in a form that we can work with and who knows maybe some day soon we will self-publish it. Watch this space!
Most of the rest of our time here has been spent with family, catching up with them and doing the general things one does. We have enjoyed having a large selection of clothing, and for Jan, the therapy of ironing. As in 2001 we have followed the news closely. Gerry was up to his old tricks and wrote lots of letters to the editor. One was even printed in The Times
While here we put aside our normal daily tourist activities: museums, churches, and beaches when available. But every so often, the mood takes us and we get out of our cocoon and go explore. One outing was to Redcar, the beach 25 miles to our east ( map). That brought back so many memories for Jan as it was where the Working Men's Club had its annual bus outing. Something to be dreamed about each year. Another outing was to Beamish, the Outdoor Museum. A town has been recreated as it was in 1825-1913. So many of the things in this museum piece can still be seen on the English high street. For Jan there were many memories again, because there was a home there organized much like the very modest house she grew up in.
Jan has also been in touch with old friends from school and college days. We always manage to say hello to the Martins of York when we're here. This visit we enjoyed a day's outing to High Force in upper Teesdale (the Tees runs from the Pennines and skirts Darlington on its way to the North Sea). We also said hello again to Jan's school friends: Jean from childhood days, Cynth and Angie and Jackie from high school days. Angie and Jackie were found courtesy of Jan's favorite URL: the Friends Reunited website.
We have been engaged in another kind of outing: using our borrowed bikes. The Heasmans (Jan's sister Joan and family) first loaned us two bikes back in October last year. We still have them. On arrival it was hard to do the two miles or so to ride the bikes over to their real home. We've now gotten up to 25 miles in a day.
Remember that gift to Gerry that we mentioned? It consisted of gift coupons that allowed us to buy seats to the Royal Shakespeare's production of Much Ado About Nothing in Newcastle just before our departure. We got fantastic seats in the fifth row, close enough to feel like the players were talking directly to us. It was a terrific performance.
-- What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead giveaway.) -- Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. -- In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.