Last March robbed us of our annual centre parcs pilgrimage, or rather the snow that blanketed almost the entire country robbed us. For weeks before our March booking I could be heard repeating the positive mantra 'March is always lovely, no risk of snow'.how wrong could I be... Even two days before our due departure we were all optimistic that the weather would change and we would be afforded sunshine and warmth to melt the snow. Alas all our hopes were dashed as they begun to issue notices to say that some people had been unable to leave centre parcs and it wasn't much fun as most of the services and activities had to close or be cancelled as the staff were unable to get in. Luckily the whole country was affected so we were able to cancel and rebook our stay at no loss or extra cost, something which is unheard of in the holiday industry even with insurance. Good old centre parcs... Mind you they have had enough money out of us over the last 10 years that I don't feel too sorry for the organisation.
So rather than our usual March retreat we are here in late September and Autumn in the forest is beautiful. I've already gathered a bagful of pine cones to adorn my Christmas floral arrangements and am ever hopeful that we might be roasting chestnuts on the BBQ tomorrow evening.
Our party is one short this year, our lady housemate who had lived with us for a little over 8 years has moved and is now living with a family member some three hours drive away. Although the decision was ours that doesn't stop us missing her immensely and I suppose, much like the end of any relationship, we will be reminded of times together when we arrive at familiar places or events throughout the year. She was a quiet woman by day, preferring not to speak out loud, she was altogether louder at night and would check on us throughout the night affording us little sleep. Nevertheless, this trip is already strange without her, listening to Lady Gaga on the way here and singing along to her favourite tunes imagining her own choreography brought a few tears and stirs them in me again now as I write..... Enough of that.
So much about this trip is different already, yes we are all 18 months older than the last time we were here. For some of us that doesn't make much difference but for our granddaughter who is approaching 6 it reminds us of just how much she has grown and developed in that time. The big difference I am referring to is the sad closure of 'the world famous comfy cafe'... It's been trading since the nineteen twenties (you might wonder why I am writing some numbers out rather than using the digits? My keyboard is broken and I can't use the second two numbers so I'm having to write them out.... This got me into serious trouble writing out an invoice earlier in the week so I'm taking no chances now). As we approached we could tell it was closed because there was a tonne of rubble dumped across the entrance to the carpark, on further inspection it looked as if the place had been abandoned with tables and chairs still laid out on the sun terrace. Sad days... We automatically assume that they have gone out of business but that can't be so as it was always busy, no matter what day or what time we visited it was always busy. I like to think that it is just being refurbished, we can only hope.
Our car contains the advance party, our gentleman housemate, granddaughter and our friend who has joined us and been a valuable supporter for the previous two trips. Our gentleman housemate isn't too well with a nasty cough and cold so he wasn't really paying much attention to where we were going and I don't think he could fathom what I was talking about when I reminded him we were going to the house in the forest. His confusion is forgivable as he has known for some weeks that he is moving house too but none of us know where or when so its been a confusing and frustrating few weeks for us all. I could say more on that but this is intended to be a lighthearted recollection of time spent out of the ordinary routine rather than an exercise in flagellation.
I was pretty confident that as we approached the check in lodge the penny would drop and he would remember where he was and what was in store. Not sure if it is the cold or his ageing that is holding that penny back, but he was silent on approach and check in. As we parked up at our holiday home with the promise of some lunch at the pub there was a tiny glint of delight in his eyes but still no exclamation of 'I've been here before, I know it' which is the usual phrases used at such times. Indeed one of the reasons we go back to the same places is this kind of familiarity as it reduces anxiety and promotes independence activities. There's been some development around the place so our familiar walk to the amenities took a different route past some lovely riverside lodges just to tempt us into parting with around three thousand pounds for a weekend. We were admiring their vista and accommodation when all of a sudden it happened... He remembered where we were as as squirrel scrambled up a tree he shouted ..... 'it's a quill'. Content in knowing that we will be hearing that same phrase several times every day, as if it were the first time, for the duration of our stay