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  • mcneiljune2

To the UK and back March 10th -12th 2023

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

This trip was special. A promise is a promise and we’d made one to be with family in the UK for a special party involving 80th birthdays and a 60th wedding anniversary. I had just returned from my photography trip to Iceland which meant a quick turn around and back to the airport within days.

Arriving in plenty of time before boarding our plane, we started to receive messages from the airline company. At first it was simply a delay, then it was a longer delay then there was no further information. Rumours circulated. Airport information indicated a departure gate and we moved with anticipation. There was no plane in sight however and we rationalised that we'd been moved simply to release pressure elsewhere in the terminal.

Normally in such a situation, I’d hunker down and read. This time, I found myself sitting next to a lady who showed a video of snow ploughs clearing runways at our airport destination; we wouldn’t be going anywhere in a hurry.

I learnt that the lady’s name was Claire and she had a sketchbook on her lap. Turned out she was a self taught artist living in Spain, specialising in Pet Portraits. She showed me some of her work and I was blown away! You can see for yourself at her website:

She asked if I had any animal photos she could draw and I brought up some of the Icelandic ponies I’d recently taken. We talked and talked. Our artistic experiences differed only in our respective mediums, howeverour aspirations, doubts, passion and commitment to our chosen hobbies totally coincided.

In the event the delay for our flight was over 4 hours. It didn’t matter. Claire and I filled in the time very nicely. We were both grateful in the end that we had been delayed for so long and hope that back in Spain, our mutual artistic respect and admiration will lead to ventures together. After going our separate ways, it came to light that we’d both been taking photographs on the flight and had captured similar images, particularly of ice patterns on the window! Anticipating snow at our destination, I was disappointed to see mostly green fields and plenty of water around as we landed.

We landed at our destination and were reconciled to not having time to visiting family that evening as anticipated. Instead we consoled ourselves with a meal of fish and chips. Sat in our car parked underneath a street lamp, we unwrapped the paper in which our fish and chips were wrapped. Using fingers and not plastic forks, we relished each mouthful of this authentic British meal, eaten exactly in the way it should be!

The day of the party dawned. It wasn't until 7.30 in the evening, however to be sure we'd actually make it to the location on time, we decided to have a recce. Thank goodness we did. Even Google maps was confused as we found ourselves negotiating narrow streets in a small rural village with few landmarks to help out. Eventually turning into a small opening, the cricket green and club house came into view; we'd found it!

Breakfast was next on the agenda and then a visit to Shakespeare country was planned. It was bitterly cold, although overcast. We'd come prepared though and were wrapped up well. Walking through Stratford-upon-Avon we headed towards the river. Water levels were extremely high and the fast flowing river had turned a red-brown colour with the turbulence.

Clare had shown me some of her sketches of rusty padlocks, door handles and weathered rope. As we wandered around an old churchyard, I spotted an old, rusty door handle. I took a photo with the intention of seeing if I could achieve a similar effect through photo editing. I rather liked the result. I feel another photography project coming on!

Sometimes the best laid plans............and all that! After warming up in a very comfortable hotel lounge with a huge cup of coffee, we headed out towards one of the few high points in this lowland landscape. En route, a telephone call meant a change of plans and a dash to pick up a drone which had been gifted to me. We made it; a round trip of about 120 miles which hadn't originally been on our agenda!

It was then time to get ready to party! The weather warmed slightly, however as darkness came, the rain arrived! Due to our earlier recce, we found our way and claimed one of the limited parking places at the party location. We were early, however soon the place was packed; apparently there were over 100 of us! It was lovely to watch as aquaintenances were renewed and new ones made. It was bizzare to know that the majority of people in the room were all related, one way or another. Photo albums were pored over as everyone looked back over nearly a century of family life. Even the King and Queen played their part with a congratulatory card. Live music enhanced the atmosphere as food, drink and speeches helped to create such a memorable occasion. The lighting wasn't conducive to good photos, however memories remain.

Our return flight home the next day was uneventful. Cloud lifted as we entered Spanish air space and the Pyrenees looked beautiful as we flew over. It was also lovely and warm!

PS. I passed my drone exams and am now legal to fly throughout Europe in specified areas. The next blog is already being written in my head about drone as well as travel adventures!

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