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As Time Goes By: Eightieth Birthdays

...Returning to the bus stop, and waiting at the zebra crossing, the man in front of us was quietly conversing with a green parrot perched on his shoulder. It was answering him in short squeaks and squawks...

Eileen Perrin continues her engaging autobiography.

In March 2002 Les and I went to Kew Gardens and saw masses of daffodils in bloom, and an orchid festival display in the Princess Diana glass house complex.

Les was still working on his voluntary job with Harrow Housebound Library service driving the van for the home-visiting librarian with Books on Wheels.

My Creative Writing group which I had run for the Harrow U3A since 1992 was still meeting in our front room fortnightly and I had about 12 regulars.

I also took part in Keep Fit on Tuesdays, and attended a Lip Reading class with Les.

We had both enjoyed free travel on London buses and Tube trains for ten years since 1982, but now did not use it much.

We had good friendly neighbours in The Gardens with an assortment of nationalities, including Polish, Armenian, Indian, Welsh, Jewish, Sri Lankan, Irish, Czech, Greek, Spanish and Tariq next door from Baluchistan, who came to live there in 1992. In 2002 they went over to join in the Hajj ritual at Mecca and returned safe and sound in spite of the huge and frightening crowd of 50,000 who were there.

That summer we had a holiday in northern Spain at the Hotel Monterey in the Bay of Roses on the Costa Brava, 50 miles from Girona. ( Follow the coast from Rosas, right around north and then eastwards and you reach Marseilles and the French Riviera.)

Rosas had the largest fishing fleet in Spain.

The hotel looked out at an exceedingly long esplanade and wide beach over which the wind-surfing locals flew, often being carried far out to sea.

All week long the palms along the immaculate promenade hadn’t cast a shadow on our usual thirty-minute walk into Rosas in brilliant sunshine.

The view seen beyond the hotel dining room window was of palm fronds tossed, rustling in the steady and persistent ever-cool on-shore wind, and because of the wind the blue unused swimming pool was seen to be surrounded by stark white empty sun-loungers now bereft of coloured cushions, unwanted even by the stalwart German or sun-kissed French.
Come Sunday and the wind dropped at last. The scene was of fluffy clouds and sail boats on a calm sea, with Microlites, scuba-diving schools, wind-surfers leaping the cresting waves and water skiers behind a speed boat.

I recall we had been attending a computer class in Harrow and were newly on e mail having been using Val’s old computer and printer for a couple of years, replacing our I.B.M. word processor.

In the nearby town of Rosas we found an Internet Cafe where we could sit at computers to check our e mail, and send hotmail to friends and family.

Why bother with picture postcards and stamps on Spanish snail mail.

One amusing incident we witnessed was when a customer, speaking English, was helped by the proprietor Don Carlos to put her details on to a Dating Service. A thin elderly peroxide blonde was sitting with him who was showing her how to use the P.C.

“So, you are looking for someone?”

My mind immediately thought of family history and ancestors.
But no. She was describing herself as a 5ft.2 blonde and we looked across and saw this very unglamorous and mousey-looking little lady who was obviously hoping for the best and doing what she could.

She again repeated, - “English 5ft. 2, blonde…..”

Oh Heavens, she was after a soul mate.

From beneath an adjacent Websurfer’s chair a rough-coated dog looked up emitting a small howl. Its master, a bearded skipper enlightened us, saying “She doesn’t like me looking at the wall for an hour.” Evidently this place was a home to many English people.

Returning to the bus stop, and waiting at the zebra crossing, the man in front of us was quietly conversing with a green parrot perched on his shoulder. It was answering him in short squeaks and squawks.

The traffic cleared. We could safely cross.

The man had a limp, as if with one artificial limb.
Oh God, we thought - Long John Silver himself.

In August 2002 we holidayed in Somerset in a beautiful rural setting at Cricket St.Thomas.

In November we joined a group of U3A members for a project at the British Museum, which was to choose and research any subject in the museum, write it up and prepare a presentation to the group by the end of six weeks. I chose the work of Mary Delaney and her wonderful cut paper collages which look like paintings they are so finely put together.

I learnt that Mary became a friend of Queen Charlotte and King George the third and often met them at Kew Palace, showing the princesses how to make collages.

I became 80 in December 2002 and by April 2003, the year in which Les would attain the same age, we were given a family lunch at the Old Crown in Girton arranged by Val, to which his family, Cathy and her children and Leslie’s sister Lorna and husband all came.


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