Dottie's Funeral - In Tallahassee Dottie Sams' family and friends gathered on 24 September to bid farewell to a woman who had influenced many people wherever she lived from the US to South America, Europe, and back to the US. The service was very tasteful, although very sad for Denis and the rest of the immediate family who had grown so close to her over the last 10 years. She will be missed by many of us, a large vacancy in the family.
Family times - After the funeral service family and friends gathered to share stories and good times. During the rest of the week Bob took care of chores, ordered a few boats 'presents', shared a few family dinners, and spent some 'quality' time with Denis.
Isle of Wight - While Bob was in the US, Judi received an invitation to visit Lyn, mother of one of our good cruising friends on Amanzi Warrior. Isle of Wight is an idyllic island in the Solent, south of Southampton - a vacation spot for the wealthy and home to a few lucky people. Sort of a Martha's Vineyard with castles, it has farmland, quaint homes, ancient fortifications, stone churches, and beautiful scenery. Lyn took Judi on a tour of the island and hosted a scrumptious dinner with several friends from IoW (as it is called). The journey to and from was also interesting as it entailed bus rides through the beautiful New Forest and ferry crossing from Lymington to IoW and return from IoW to Southhampton. All in all, it was a delightful weekend.
Bob's return flight - Pretty much like clockwork - American Airlines provided smooth flights and good food from Jacksonville to Miami and London. A fast express bus connects London with Ringwood and Judi was at the Ringwood bus station - a happy sight after the quick trip to the USA.
Unloading Boxes - Our friends Rory and Sandra in NZ just published a couple of books, and on Thursday three pallets of books arrived at John and Peggy's (Sandra's parents) from their publishers in China - another demonstration of global commerce. We, alongside their neighbor Jim, pitched in to unload 3000 pounds of books from pallets and stack them in John's garage - the staging point for distributors and bookstores around the UK. We were glad to be able to repay a small part of the kindness that John and Peggy have shown us over the years.
New Forest - Since we need to stay around until next week we decided to spend a few days in New Forest, a beautiful area between Ringwood and Southampton. It was established as a royal hunting ground in 1079 by king William The Conqueror, that's right, almost 1000 years ago! It has quaint villages, pine forests, walking trails, and 100' redwoods and Douglas firs - transplanted in the 19th century. We stayed at Holmsley, a WWII air base converted into a caravan park with an unusual layout of power points installed beside runways and taxiways. The forest is also a pastureland and horses run free along the roads and fields - driving through is an interesting exercise. Deer abound, we watched does trying to eat the green grass while a stag in rut tried to add to next year's herd.
Medical News for Bob - When Bob's dermatologist removed a pair of skin lesions last month she was concerned about a lump on his neck. A biopsy and subsequent CT Scan confirmed a malignancy in two lymph nodes, the same type created by the skin lesion. Thus sun damage, created over the years, has turned into cancer. After a quick consultation with a plastic surgeon, an operation is scheduled for early November to remove strings of lymph nodes from each side of his neck. The CT Scan indicates that the cancer has not spread, so the surgery should solve the problem. So now it looks like we will remain in England until the end of the year and future plans remain in limbo.
First Impressions of the NHS - For 14 years we have been traveling in places of the world where medical care is inexpensive (sometimes downright cheap) and yet competent. In the UK we requested removal of the skin lesions as a 'private' patient, obtaining quick service at an eye-watering price. For the surgery, Bob will be covered under Britain's National Health Services (NHS) where most services are paid for by the government - the tradeoff is time. Most procedures require waits, often many months although in this case it will be only two weeks. The 'waits' are supposedly created by high demand and limited 'resources', however the hospitals and doctors have plenty of time and room to handle patients who pay, which of course makes the resources even more scarce, thus making the wait times longer and forces people to pay for even more of the procedures out of pocket. Like the US and most developed countries, the system is not ideal and provides better care for the rich than for the poor.
Lunch with Friends from Way Back - Over the weekend we went to Southampton (or S'ton as some signs say) and had lunch with Tom Skelly and his wife Valerie. Tom and Bob worked together for many years on both coasts of the US developing interesting computer systems. Tom is now British helping their airplanes avoid each other and we had good times over a pint or two at The Talisman, a typical local pub.
Close Encounters with the Local Fauna - We have seen lots of rabbits, squirrels, pheasants and a few fox in our drives around England. At a local caravan park a fox decided that Bob's sandals looked quite tasty and it carried one of them a few feet away to have it for dinner. - A bright flashlight made him look at us but it took a concerted approach on our part for him to drop it and saunter away, interrupted but not afraid.
A "Boat Show" - Well, not really, but almost. London's Excel Convention Center hosted a Caravanning and Camping show over the weekend so we decided to go to London using the village of Chertsey as our base. The first day was devoted to window shopping in London, Bob at the technology shops in Tottenham Court and Judi at the department stores on Oxford St. Interests converged where we browsed for books at Borders and sipped a cappuccino as tired feet were given a break. The next day we repeated the 80 minute train ride to London and spent the day at the Excel center, looking over the new motorhomes, in particular interiors (like the one at right) since ours is pretty shabby after 10 years of use. We saw a few interesting ones but were disappointed by the small selection of interesting products.
Fall in England - Driving around the countryside is similar to the US with many trees covered in bright red and orange while others are almost bare. It is reminiscent of New England (coincidence??) in the Fall, although because of the Gulf Stream it is warmer here than comparable latitudes in the US. While we wait for Bob's operation date we have driven north to Hanley Swan, a small village with a very pretty caravan park and pretty walks. On Saturday we followed one of the walks in a local guide that took us on trails, across cow fields (complete with cows, bulls, and cow patties), mud bogs, streams, pretty back yards and narrow lanes. It was a fun day, with an enjoyable lunch at the Swan Inn, a local pub and an encounter with a goose at the local pond who insisted on snapping at Bob's muddy boots.