And what a week that was! First of all, a big thank you goes to my friend and web feature editor Alan Lambert at the Dorset Echo offices on the Granby Estate for the personal tour he gave me during my brief visit to Blighty last week. It was certainly an eye opener as to the inner workings of a landmark whose only aspect I had previously noticed was that of a great huge grey building!

I have to say; inside in the advert and editorial offices, it looked like something resembling the Daily Planet offices in the cartoon books, a hundred tops of heads busying themselves over a hundred computer screens. I didn’t know so much went on or the operation was so vast! Definitely worth a visit especially when the presses are running. Thanks again Alan, it was brill and we’ll speak again soon.

However, the main reason for our impromptu visit was to attend the very proud and gratifying event involving our son, Luke, graduating from the highly prestigious RAF College at Cranwell as a RAF Officer.

It was just as an emotional time as when our youngest son Joseph passed out at Dartmouth, but this was the icing on the cake. The day was sunny, in fact the only sun we saw all week, and the parade magnificent as again we bore witness to a hundred or so young men and woman working to better themselves, positively striving to achieve greater things while carrying on the time honoured traditions of the Royal Air Force.

It’s funny, but being there, you could feel the difference in the atmosphere as the cream of the armed forces marched past, braced upright, to the stirring tunes of the Regiment band knowing that this was what actually still made Britain great!

All too soon the day, like Joe’s, passed quickly leaving us with a hundred photos and memories of an emotional gathering hard to explain to anyone outside of the military. I don't know who cried more, my wife or I, but no shame to it, I was a very proud father that day.

Luke, like his brother, had changed. His bearing and outlook of the young boy at home had been replaced by the air and stature of the Pilot officer he would now endeavour and aspire to be. He had waited so long and worked hard to get where he now is, so good luck to him for his future.

I stated some time ago after Joseph left home, that it was the hardest thing my wife and I had ever had to experience, but the happiness of our children outweighs any personal grief by a hundred fold and seeing them both so happy in their chosen professions with the world as their oyster just about says it all.

So, pool cleaned, house painted, roof re-tiled, new car on drive, kitchen just about sorted, well, sort of! The chill of winter was rapidly approaching as the temperature finally came down from the searing high forties into the bearable but warm mid thirties. We had made a second list of a number of tasks to be done or things still to be bought which could now be attended to at a more sedate rate. The boys had been out to visit and had returned to Blighty, Joe to start at the Naval College and Luke back to the phone shop. Mum and Dad were due to come out in November so we wanted everything to look spic and span and more homely.

You know when you move and you get that feeling that it’s not quite your place yet? It’s either the smell, the pictures on the wall, even just your personal touch in the bedroom or the pans in the kitchen, whatever, the Villa was starting to look good, but it still wasn’t home.

While we lived in Court Barton on Westcliff, Portland, I always thought that to be our true home. After all, we had lived there for some nineteen years experiencing everything from the birth of our sons, to illness, to long friendships and relationships with other Naval families, going away to sea, in fact, living comfortably believing that we would live and die there.

But things change with the change of your surroundings. We moved into Weymouth soon after the closure of the Naval base and the end of my term as a serviceman. St Patricks Avenue at Littlesea was a beautiful house in an equally beautiful area as was Portland. But it afforded us the luxury of greater opportunities for us and our children with regard to schools, entertainment, and future employment.

People still ask me now how come we could leave such a lovely house with its panoramic aspect and location in favour of the one where we now live. And to tell you the truth, I’m still not sure! All I know is that sometimes if you feel something is right or you feel you should be doing something else, be somewhere else, you should just do it!

So trying to make the Villa more of a home did not necessarily mean spending large amounts of money on major works, but more of putting the little things in place that gave it familiarity and comfort.

And that’s where Bauhaus and Leroy Merlins came in!

Okay, so what’s so special about these particular DIY stores? Well, the answer is, nothing much apart from the size of them, they are huge! And you can get just about anything and everything for the home, from a screw to a swimming pool.

These particular kinds of outlets as I said earlier are pretty new to the Spanish, with DIY & business centres springing up on large reclaimed land complexes primarily along the coast.

One area in particular has two of these DIY centres, a massive furniture retailer, an electrical outlet and numerous other large sports & fashion shops surrounding a five thousand space car park. I tell you, it’s a day out in itself with a cinema complex and restaurants to boot!

Anyway, it was on one of these many trips to ‘get ideas’ that we decided to purchase a new computer table/bureau for bedroom three as that would later double as an office space. Our car was decent in size enough as a compact family saloon, but when it came to anything larger than a pedal bin or a broom, carriage could become a problem. Nevertheless, we chose a lovely unit which we were assured would come flat packed and fit into any size vehicle. Hmm! Heard that one before, but it was a lovely unit and just what Rose wanted, we would manage somehow. We collected it at the depot entry point flat packed as promised and although at this point I was still confident of its transport, it was obvious it may take up some space.

Rose waited with the trolley while I collected the car and brought it as close as possible to the entrance. After opening all the doors and the boot and sliding the seats forward fully and removing the parcel shelf, it was now obvious that the term ‘square peg in round hole’ would come into play! Indeed, trying to fit 12 feet into a ten foot space was going to be interesting. Well, people passing were obviously fully aware of the situation though puzzled that the man standing next to the heavy bundle of collapsible wooden furniture appeared totally unconcerned, from the outside anyway. I looked at the packs from every angle until finally deciding to get on and bung it in any way I could!

First things first: Rose had to get in with her seat back fully forward and her head resting on the dashboard. The first of the four boxes came in from the back slipping over her head, jamming against the windscreen, as did the second. The third box however had to slide in diagonally resting finally against the gear stick with the back jammed against the rear screen. The fourth and final package, well, that came over the top and sat about eight inches over the edge of my seat after the rear boot closed. There, no dramas, all I had to do now was get in and drive. We had already released the handbrake to get pack No 3 in, good job we were on the flat! I got into the drivers seat with the steering wheel nearly on my chest, with my knees barely able to bend in any direction. Rose however appeared to have disappeared completely with my enquiries as to her comfort met by grunts and expletives. So off we went back home with gears one and three being unavailable, as was the handbrake and the rear-view mirror with Rose spitting every two minutes, ‘are we there yet?’!

I tell you, if I’d have had to brake suddenly or been involved in an accident we would both have been write offs, and if we’d had been stopped by the Guardia that day, I would have been sixty before getting my license back.

We arrived back at the Villa some forty minutes later whereby I immediately unloaded the packs to relieve my poor wife whose neck was now crooked.

It took a week for her back to straighten though copious amounts of Sangria helped, or so she said!

Looking back, this was one of a number of things we did which, though now appearing stupid, were necessary to get the job done. Our good friends Syd and Lynn did enquire afterwards as to the reason we had not made two journeys, or why I had not gone back later to pick Rose up, but after all said and done, where’s the fun in that and we saved 5 euro worth of petrol!

Colourful character

To start this new ‘who’s who’ living here in Andalucia is one of life’s truly unsung heroes. Here living in my town of Cóin, I am privileged to have met and call myself a friend of Sidney Knowles, not a name that you’ll agree readily conjures up recognition, but perhaps he is better known for his exploits.

Sid Knowles and his shipmate ‘Rattler’ Morgan were the very first ‘frogmen’ seconded into a special operations team led by the maverick mine and bomb disposal officer Lieutenant Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb. In Sid’s own words, they taught Crabb to dive, he taught them bomb disposal, fair swap!

During the Second World War, Sid and the rest of a makeshift and experimental team endeavoured to thwart the underwater mine and bomb attacks being dished out by the Italians who were operating out of North Africa, on ships based or at anchor in and around Gibraltar. There is no doubt that this small but effective and brave team of men helped save thousands of lives and kept the war effort going within the whole Mediterranean theatre.

Their exploits are well documented in a famous film that was made in 1958 called ‘Silent Enemy’. Crabb was played by Lawrence Harvey and Sidney Knowles by Mikey Craig. It amazes me that when I asked him of his time and the dangers associated with the tasks they took on, Sid replies with the cheekiest of smiles, ‘Didn’t have time to think of the danger, it was just a job that had to be done’! Now that’s brave.

(Oh, and as a footnote, Sid’s been trying to get his memoirs published for some time and I tell you you’ll never read anything more gripping. Only trouble is, he doesn’t have plastic breast’s, weigh 6 stone soaking wet in a rag on a catwalk, has an IQ of 33 and plays football or is as shallow as the 3foot end of a pool on a reality show, so come on, someone help him publish something that’s real!!!)

Worth a visit

The beautiful town of Ronda (no, not the one in Wales, the sunny one!) lies 60km up a winding mountain road from Marbella, (or 50k from Coin) in the mountain range known as the Serranía de Ronda. It stands at an altitude of 739 m and has approximately 35,000 inhabitants. It is one of the most visited towns in Andalucia. Some artefacts found around Ronda date back to prehistoric times (as far as 28000 BC). Every architectural era is represented here including Roman, Arabic and modern Spanish.

We’ve been up in a car along one of the bumpiest roads I know and I’ve visited on a motorbike now that the new road is open and I have to say the aspect and sheer beauty of the place never fails to impress me. The Gorda Bridge is a marvel in itself and is surrounded by a number of Ventas and restaurants and is a stones throw from the huge bullring which dominates the town centre.

The town is cut into the old and new by the river cut chasm and if you ever get the chance, go to the park and stand on one of the outcrop railings that overlook the sheer cliff, I dare you!

Oh, and believe it or not, they make a very delicious black pudding there!

Eating, find the main underground car park in the square and try the fish Del Dia’s, lovely, but stay clear of the Pasta house, not much cop. Also, Deli next to Bullring is attached to a bar, that’s where you get the black pudding and the tastiest Sheep’s cheese ever.

Next week

Mum and Dad visit and what are we doing for Christmas?