A Birthday, Snow and Marrakech

The ten-hour flight from Los Angeles went quickly, as soon as the in-flight dinner was consumed it seemed that breakfast was being served. Probably thanks to being seated in a pair of seats towards the rear of the aircraft, instead of the usual three or four arrangement, the eight-hour period between meals must have been in deep sleep as we remember nothing of the flight. The only hiccup being on disembarking; as we were not parked at one of the satellites we were bussed to the terminal, unfortunately, they had laid on one too few coaches for the number of passengers on board and it was nearly an hour after we first touched down that we entered the building. We landed at 12.30 pm and were home to a cold home by 4.15 pm.

The following day was my birthday, I am now 70 years old and counting. Since hitting the awful thirties I have usually contrived to be far away from Market Harborough on these annual occasions, enjoying the freedom to do as I please, not celebrating the macabre fact that I am closer to my maker than I was last year. Of course, I understand that the family wish to show their appreciation for this milestone and it is hugely gratifying, but the selfish in me finds being the focus for gifts and emotion awkward, I am more comfortable at giving than receiving, and I don’t do public praise very well, I guess it’s the result of being an only child.

Sarah and family were the first to arrive late morning, leaving me with Mia they soon left to do some shopping in town. The tribe know from experience that Saturday is for rugby (irrespective of birthdays) and come 3 pm I would be watching ‘the game’. In the garden room, with a couple of pals, I watched the Tigers beat Bath before rejoining the family in the lounge. Charlotte and her family had also arrived and were keen to begin the celebrations.

Sue had booked an Indian meal for us all at the Shagorika in Harborough for 5.30 pm, it was there that we met up with Jamie and Ruth. Though the service was slow (we were used to that on the Crown Princess) the food was good, though for some reason they didn’t sell alcoholic drinks. We guessed that they had fallen foul of the regulations and had lost their licence.

Returning to Willow Bank, I was surprised when the expected birthday cake turned out not to be the usual affair of iced cake and candles. Knowing that I am not fond of sweet things, cake and biscuits included, I was presented with a cake made from wedges of all kinds of cheese, which was very acceptable and a thoughtful way to conclude a celebration I wasn’t looking forward to.

As Sue busied herself with catching up on the housework and episodes of the various TV programmes she had missed I set about tidying up the planning for the coming jaunt to Marrakech with five of my friends. The weather had turned bitterly cold and our winter wood supply was nearly depleted, forcing us to resort to using bags of coal purchased during the summer until I could find time to get the chainsaw out and hunt for windfall branches. The cost of energy is now so extortionate that like many, we are reluctant to switch on the central heating until absolutely necessary.

On the 7th of March, I attended an appointment with the consultant on my poorly left foot. After several x-rays and a lengthy discussion on my options, it was decided to go down the same route of physiotherapy and podiatry which seems to have worked on my right foot (so far).  I now await appointments for those. We discussed the possibility of an operation to fuse the ankle which would reduce any pain but would also severely limit my mobility ( I don’t want that!). Regular, injections of cortisone were ruled out as being short-lived relief and not guaranteed to work. I hate the fact that this body is wearing out, it’s less fun being locked within a structure that doesn’t move like it used to and complains with pain whenever I think I’m young again! However, I’m a million times more fortunate than many my age, and I am grateful for that. Whinge over!

After the coldest night of the year so far (-15°C in Scotland), we woke on the 9th of March to falling snow and a blanket of the white stuff 5cm thick on the ground. It continued to snow until mid-afternoon. Unsurprisingly the younger members of the family got very excited and opted to freeze to death engaged in snowy activities. Apart from a couple of trips across town to MOT Sue’s car and I took a short walk to Sean’s for coffee and a chat, we remained inside, close by the log fire, watching the squirrels and birds feed on the grain and peanuts I had scattered under the Scots Pine.

It snowed most of the following morning, but the sun came out during the afternoon and by the evening most of the white stuff had melted in Harborough, the rest of the country was not so lucky with the news full of blocked roads and stranded vehicles further north.

Early Saturday morning (11th) I rose early to check in online for the following day’s jaunt to Marrakech and a trek through the desert on camels. As expected, navigating Ryan Air’s website didn’t go well. The 24-hour window you have to check in, coupled with a 5-minute countdown timer adds pressure to the process, as does the multi-screens of options which I rejected when first booking the flight. Having already inputted my five fellow traveller’s details many months ago I had to repeat this only to find that on each occasion, the site announced that ‘something went wrong’, and gave no clue as to what. As a test, I decided to just check myself in and annoyingly it worked and I printed out my boarding card. Checking the others in one at a time frustratingly didn’t work. As a guess, I accessed my account to discover I could add friends, so I did, again inputting their details. Returning to the check-in process I repeated the process and this time it worked. It took an hour of confusion and frustration. It is by far the worst flight website I have ever used, the drop-down menus are ‘buggy’ and the layout is designed to trap you into buying something you have already rejected.

The plan for the rest of the day is to watch England take on France in the Rugby Six Nations at 4.45 pm (I am not optimistic about the result), and afterwards, attempt to sleep. Our flight from Stansted is at 7 am, which will require an early 3 am start from Harborough. Fingers crossed it goes without a hitch.

In a few days, it will be Ruth’s birthday and thoughtfully Jamie has organised a surprise night away for her. Just as I had completed printing out the boarding passes they arrived with their dogs Nala and Rocky. They will be looked after by Sue when I leave for Morocco.






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