Well, I finally sorted the bus ticket problem to get from Pontevedra to Oporto so that I could fly home to the UK and play Grandma for a couple of weeks. Having found it impossible to buy tickets in advance at the bus station, we bought my ticket online and eventually got it printed at the hotel we were staying at. Our host seemed completely unable to deal with computers - so much for silver surfers!!!! - but his son sorted things out for us.
So that was that and on Thursday I saw Phil off to his final chess game in the morning, pottered about in our room for a while and eventually went down and paid our bill. I had a little chat with our host, commenting that we had seen him on Wednesday evening, looking "muy elegante" with his white shirt, black trousers and tie. He had, it transpired, been on his way to his choral group; they had an appointment to sing down in the centre of town. This choir, of which he had been a member for years and years, sang in competitions all over the place and even won the occasional prize. Photos on the wall in the hotel and everything. People have hidden depths, you see.
Then I trundled my suitcase along to the rickety old bus stop to wait for a bus to town: quite a long wait, for Thursday was "Asención", the day Mary went up to Heaven and therefore a "día festivo". Buses ran every hour instead of every half hour. But I had plenty of time and finally met up with my friend Colin and his daughter in Plaza de Verdura for a little something. I had planned to walk in a leisurely fashion down to the bus station but Colin insisted that he would run me there and so I was able to spend a little more time contemplating the world from under a sun umbrella by his pool and chatting to his daughter, setting the world to rights.
When I finally got to the bus station, I checked at the info office for the platform my bus would leave from and, on being asked if I had a ticket, checked that my printout was sufficient. Yes, it was, the clerk assured me, but thereby hangs a tale. Waiting for the bus, I got chatting to a pair of sisters who were, it turned out, en route for Manchester where one of them had a place on a graduate training programme at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her sister was going along for the ride, hoping to find some kind of work, any kind of work, and improve her English. They had also had trouble getting tickets and had ended up at a travel agent’s, a solution I had considered.
Anyway, the bus arrived, around 15 minutes late. I showed my computer printout to the driver. "¿Y el billete?", he growled. So I explained that the only ticket I had was my printout and that I had been assured it was sufficient. Grudgingly he let me on the bus. Phew, what a relief! Then at Valença, just across the border into Portugal, we all had to change buses. Apparently there were two buses going half full to Oporto and they had decided that we could all travel on the same one. So I had to go through the same rigmarole about my ticket once more - not to mention that I had some difficulty locating my printout this time round - but fortunately the efficient driver of bus number two had his own computer printout with passengers’ names on it. How clever was that!!!
And so, despite sea mist coming in at the last minute and making Oporto airport into a strange grey place, curiously cold after the sunshine and heat of the previous days, I made my way to Liverpool without further mishap. The runway was wet. How strange! I had almost forgotten what rain was like. And there my daughter was waiting to take me on my onward journey, as the airlines call it, to Manchester.
Since then my life has been a busy family whirl, feeding lots of people, catching up with family news, going for a walk in the wind and watching some of the family turn into nerds who play a supposedly creative game called Minecraft, with all their iPhones talking to each other in a strange invented world. Who would have thought that such things could exist!