If we were having coffee, I would tell you all about the string of stressful events which eventually led to the happy conclusion of my wife lying on a sunbed by the pool at the Hermes Hotel in Kefalos, Kos. To make me even more happy, she reported that she was reading my second novel, Knitting Can Walk!, and was thoroughly enjoying it. She only reads on holiday so, had the holiday been cancelled, she would not have started it until next year!
Let me take you back to the beginning of this string of stressful events.
The idea was that my wife, Joy, was to go on holiday to Kos with my son, Pete, daughter-in-law, Jodie, grandson, Alfie, and Pete’s best friend, Tim. The Hermes Hotel is run by a family of New York Greeks who we have known for years. Pete goes to visit them in the winter when they return to NYC while there are no tourists to fill their hotel in Kefalos. I usually go with them, but the eldest of our three dogs is very old and infirm and we didn’t want to leave him in kennels. So I was to stay behind to look after Ronan, Bertie and Maisie.
The week before last, the travel agent asked Pete for his Mum’s details for the ticket. These included passport number and expiry date. At this point, I realised that Joy’s passport would expire on 4th August. Most airlines won’t let you fly if you have less than six months left on your passport.
I set about getting her a replacement using the fast track service of Her Majesty’s Passport Office. This meant that, having booked an appointment on the Tuesday morning and paid in advance for the passport and service, I appeared that the office near to Victoria Station in London with the completed forms, Joy’s photographs and a letter authorising me to pick up her passport. The photographs had been taken in the booth at the local Post Office which had assured us that they were acceptable for passports.
The forms were efficiently processed and I was told to report back to collect in four hours. I wandered around London for three hours before ducking into a pub for some lunch. While I was eating, Joy called me to tell me that I might as well head home as HM Passport Office had just called to say that the photos wouldn’t scan for printing and she had to send some more. I went home. Joy had some more photos taken, this time in a professional studio, and sent them by express courier.
The next morning, we received a call to say that the second photos hadn’t scanned either. We went back to the Post Office and took a third set, which we sent by express courier. On Thursday afternoon, when I called the Passport Office, I was told that Joy’s passport had been successfully printed. Hurrah! I told them that I’d be on the next train and should be there to collect it within two hours.
I was horrified when they told me that it had already been sent out to us. “It might arrive by Monday.” They didn’t have a tracking number, but they told me the name of the courier company. After several calls, I managed to track the package and took delivery the next morning, Friday.
With the necessary details, Pete was able to get the tickets.
All seemed well.
On Thursday, the taxi was due to pick up Joy at 09:30 and collect Tim on the way to Pete’s to pick up the rest of the family on the way to the airport.
At 07:00. Jodie called me with the bad news that the holiday company had gone bust and the flights were cancelled!
To cut a long story short, Pete managed to find alternative flights, leaving on Saturday but for nine days rather than the original seven. The cost was substantially increased. Furthermore, Tim wouldn’t be able to go as he works as a manager in a distribution company where leave is tightly controlled. Only three direct flights were available, which were taken by Joy, Jodie and Alfie. Pete had to fly, several hours later, via Athens.
There were more complications. I had booked myself onto a Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick starting next Saturday. I am taking my aging, ailing father and looking after him. As Joy wouldn’t be home until Tuesday evening, the dogs are having to go into kennels after all.
And so it was that I was up at 3 am on Saturday morning so that Pete and I could drive Joy, Jodie and Alfie to the airport. They are useless at travelling on their own, so we checked them in, dropped their bags and saw them through to security with strict instructions to get them to the lounge and to the gate in time to board their flight.
All day yesterday, I was tracking their flights and progress until they had all arrived safely in the Hermes Hotel in Kefalos.
I am left at home, not quite alone. I have the three dogs, and you are all welcome to join us for coffee.
This afternoon, I took the dogs for a walk along the side of the River Test at The Cleaves, Longparish. Longparish is the village in which Joy grew up and was the home to many generations of her family before her. It is beautiful and tranquil.
As I told you, Ronan is old and infirm, like my father. He waddled along until he came to a shallow side stream. He entered the water. You can see how much he enjoyed his dip. He turned to me and smiled. I love that dog so much and he loves me. He is a happy dog.
To add to my happiness, my beloved football team, Dundee United, beat Dunfermline Athletic by two goals to nil to reach the last sixteen of the Betfred Scottish League Cup.
Enjoy your coffee!