Yesterday I arrived back in Vigo after a long weekend of non-stop activity back in the UK, some of it self inflicted, I must confess. Well, you can't go back to the UK to help out your daughter without doing a bit of socialising yourself. This is why there have been no posts for the last week.
What I wrote on our return from Pontevedra, around a week ago never got posted, for one reason or another, and will be recycled for another occasion.
Here is what led to my brief return to Blighty. Shortly before we set off to spend the summer in Galicia - and I really mean shortly - a matter of a few days notice - our daughter put in a request for some babysitting presence. It turned out that on the first weekend of July she was invited to go on a friend's hen party weekend. Now, I am not entirely convinced of the need for stag and hen parties. The Spanish call them "fiestas de despedida de soltero/a" - a party to say farewell to your bachelor/spinsterhood. Don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to people going out for a drink with their mates before they get married. There is a long tradition of the groom being taken out by his friends on the night before the wedding and being made to drink copious amounts of alcohol. In this age of equality the friends of the bride feel they have a perfect right to do the same. Nowadays the bride and groom usually have the best man and the chief bridesmaid organise it. And it is understandable that the happy couple might want to do this a good few days before the wedding in order to avoid wedding day hangover problems. Consequently it usually occurs some weeks before the wedding day.
No, my objection is that the whole thing has got out of hand. The "party" has morphed into a mini holiday, a weekend, or longer, away somewhere. Many a historic city has been ruined for other tourists, cultural travellers, by gangs of drunken (usually British) young men playing tricks on the groom and young women dressed in pink with t-shirts declaring who they all are. The pink t-shirt brigades often include the mother or even the grandmother of the bride and possibly the mother-in-law to be.
And then there's the question of "saying farewell to bachelor- or spinster-hood". Often the happy couple have been living together for years already while they saved up for the expensive wedding. Surely they have already said goodbye to their single status long ago? Ah, well! So it goes!
My daughter assured me that she and her friends had no intention of wearing pink tutus or bunny ears or anything of the sort. They had an evening of learning to make cocktails .... and then drinking them. The next day they put on their posh frocks and fascinators and went off for a day at the races. An apparently sophisticated couple of nights away. But still .....
Anyway, as her partner is away on holiday somewhere else, she needed someone to care for her children and dog: yours truly! At a pinch the oldest grandchild could have done it but whether the house would still be standing and the younger children and the dog still safely around was a different matter.
So I arranged to fly home to Manchester on Thursday of last week. This involved an overnight stop in Porto as the flight was due to leave at 10.20 am and the first bus from Vigo to Porto left Vigo at 9.00 am Spanish time and arrived at Porto at 9.45 Portuguese time, just a little too late to ensure getting through security and to the gate in time to board the plane. After sleeping in a room with a view of the airport, I arrived in plenty of time to have breakfast at the airport cafe and get through security without problems. So far so good! The gate for my flight was on the board, as was an ominous "more information" notice.
More information was not forthcoming until we had gone through the final security check and into the holding area for budget-flight passengers. Then they told us, at around the time we should have been boarding, that the flight had little or no chance of departing until 12.30. After some time we all received a kind of credit card with €4.50 on it so that we could purchase refreshments at the airline's expense. We were advised to hang onto the card in case they needed to re-charge it later. (Some budget airlines are more considerate than others.) However, no re-charge was needed; we finally set off at around 1.00 pm. It was only when we were on the plane that the pilot explained that there had been a huge electrical storm over Manchester on the night of Wednesday to Thursday. Friends have since told me horror stories about hail stones the size of golf balls! The plane which should have left Manchester at 7.20 am on Thursday morning had not been able to land there and had been diverted to Birmingham. A replacement plane had been flown in later but had had to wait in a queue to land at Manchester which was still in state of chaos.
So there was some small consolation, we told each other. Imagine having arrived at Manchester at 6.00 am for the flight to Porto and having to wait around for hours in a state of semi-somnolence for a delayed departure! (More about this kind of thing later.)
I had a pleasant weekend with the grandchildren, who all behaved perfectly, in some instances charming friends of mine. The smaller ones kept a friend's even smaller granddaughter entertained while she and I caught up with the gossip. And after my daughter returned the older one accompanied me to Manchester centre for a shopping trip (mostly clothes for her) and was good company at lunch with another old friend of mine, who had not seen said granddaughter since she was about eight years old. So, not at all bad!
They say lightning does not strike the same place twice. Is that true? I don't think so!
On Tuesday morning, yesterday in fact, my daughter drove me to the airport for the 7.20 am flight to Porto. Yes, THAT 7.20 am flight. All went well. To begin with! We boarded the plane on time. Then the captain said there were problems with air traffic controllers on a go slow over French air space. Or it might have been something entirely different. What it meant, though, was that our plane taxied out away from the boarding point and sat on the runway for best part of an hour before taking off. Brilliant!
We landed in Porto at 10.30 am. My mini-marathon began. The bus to Vigo was due to leave at 10.45. Fortunately I was able to get off the plane quite speedily. I scurried through the airport to get to passport control. Fortunately, again, there was no queue and I was through as fast as possible. It was now past 10.40! No time for a toilet stop! I ran out of the arrivals hall, amazingly managing not to knock anyone over en route, and reached the Galiza bus stop at 10.45 on the dot.
Of course, the bus arrived some ten minutes later, as you might expect!