Preparing for a visit

They say that being retired gives you the freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it. Well, that is the theory; in reality freedom does require a certain amount of planning. Since the last blog was written much of what Sue and I have done is preparing for our trip to Canada to see aunt Gwenda, not the how do we get there and back, plus what do we do when we are there? That was done way back on wet and cold January evenings, when flights, routes, hotels and car hire were decided on and booked. No, we have been preparing the house and family for Sue and Dave not to be ‘at home’ for two weeks. Notifying the ‘kids’ has its problems, we won’t be around to support Charlotte with her difficulties brought on by the horrendous injury to her spine, Sarah and Lee won’t be able to have their Dad’s tuition on how to sail, Mia won’t be having her long walks with lunch and then there is Jamie. Not much support needed there, other than checking his website for errors and making the garage available for the occasional bit of work on his cars. Besides, tell Jamie we won’t be around for a while goes in one ear and out the other, instantly. It is always a surprise to him when he rings on my mobile to discover that we are not answering the house phone because we are not at home. I guess Jamie comes the closest to being truly freer than any of us as he does what he wants, when he wants, largely because he takes little notice of anything that doesn’t satisfy those two categories. For example, last night he rang to let me know that he and a friend were off to Rhodes for a week (he has not long since returned from there with Ashton). Have a great time I responded and pointed out that we will be returning from Canada the week before he goes. Today he rang, surprised that we were just parking the car at the airport and enquired as to how long we were going to be away and how was he going to get his quad bike out of our garage with the house alarm system on? Hmmm.

Sorting out the washing, the garden, the pool, two allotments and the running down of the food in the fridge takes precision planning, some obviously more important than others, but they can make then the problem of forgetting to pack a spare of socks pale into insignificance if we returned to an empty pool, a dead greenhouse, a smelly wash basket or an even smellier fridge! Things we have experienced over the last four decades of travelling to our annoyance and occasionally significant cost.

Well sod it! Val next door is looking after the garden greenhouse and pool. Charlotte and Suraj are keeping an eye on the house through the security cameras. And we are on our way to see Gwenda. What will be, will be.

We are travelling to Toronto with Sean, his son Dominic and his girlfriend Caitlin. We journeyed to the airport together, meeting Caitlin at the service station off the M11 next to Stansted airport for lunch before travelling on to the airport. It is a fortunate coincidence, but we are on the same flight out and back, booked into the same hotel in Toronto and have rented a car from the same company. How’s that for chance?

We are flying with a new airline called Primera. They are Icelandic owned and are probably the first budget long haul airline. We appear to be on their first flight to Toronto as the maiden flight should have taken place 2 days prior but due to late delivery of aircraft it was cancelled. They appear to take their business model straight from the Ryanair manual; cheap tickets and you pay for everything extra such as food, seat choice, hold baggage, etc. etc. The seating is primitive, but I think more comfortable than Mr. O’Leary’s versions, but like short haul there is no TV on the seat back, but you do get a USB port and are encouraged to bring your own media. I am not sure it is a good move, but I do think it will be influential on the rest of those in the business of getting us about the planet. Oh and the aircraft are new, clean and service seems quite efficient.

It was an excellent flight, we had a strong tail wind so flight-time was just a little over seven hours and transit off the plane through customs and the very new-tech security system they have here went smoothly with no delay. Our fellow travellers even had their luggage already off-loaded from the belt when we got to baggage reclaim. Sue and I are travelling light and have only cabin bags which hopefully will pay dividends when we migrate from hotel to hotel on our marathon trek of Ontario.

We had a short wait to catch the shuttle bus to our hotel for the night, the NU hotel (yes, it does look fairly new). As soon as we checked in, Sue settled into our room sorting out the loose ends of the day’s journey while Sean and I went in search of much needed refreshments. Dominic and Caitlin opted to sort out a few loose ends in their room (I guess) rather than join us at a bar a few doors away.

Sitting and chatting watching the other patrons of the establishment we were sat in was fascinating. Most were also eating, scoffing enormous quantities of grub with just a fork to shovel it down, to a European just looks wrong. No matter how many times I have travelled to this continent and witnessed this rather lazy method of eating it always seems to irk. However, I am all in favour of the portion sizes!

Sean and I returned to the hotel around 2.30am (standard Greenwich sensible time) and hit the sack. What will tomorrow bring?

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