By JENNY GRAINER
Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1968. She is a freelance writer and her book Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then has sold more than 2,000 copies.
I HAVEN’T stepped upon British soil for at least two years, actually probably nearer to three, so I decided it was about time I got my act together and went to visit my children who live there.
Since breast cancer took a hold of my life just over a year ago they have all been so good to me, flying over for visits, phoning or sending cards and presents, so one day I found myself on the internet with my flight booked.
Until then I had been very dependant on others to help me get places and see people. When I looked around for help in making my trip, I accepted for the first time I was on my own and not before time.
I have to admit I was nervous – silly, I know. Throughout my life I have faced many problems and battled with all kinds of obstacles to achieve the seemingly impossible, so this should be a doddle, but my life has changed dramatically over the past year and I would be travelling alone so I just didn’t know how I would cope.
My husband got me to the airport, kissed me goodbye and said, “It’s only four days, enjoy it.”
The plane wasn’t full and I had three seats all to myself. It was an uneventful flight with just a few bumps coming down to Gatwick. I sailed through passport control with my one carry on bag and caught the train to Brighton where my youngest son met me at the station.
I’d made it without being mugged, I’d asked for help to lift my case on to the luggage rack in the plane and been given it – the train was clean, modern and fairly on time considering it was a peak hour commuter time of the day, and as a lot of people got out for the airport, I had even managed a seat. The Sussex countryside was as beautiful as I remembered it, the people as reserved as the British have always been, noses in their newspapers reading or doing crosswords and the number of people talking on mobiles was no more than the number in Portugal, excessive.
In my son’s work van we clattered off through the busy streets of Brighton, a somewhat hair-raising adventure up and down streets on the wrong side of the road (to me) in the direction of my daughter’s flat, where she and her husband were waiting for me.
After clambering up some perpendicular steps to her front door, I had enjoyed blissfully happy hugs and was more than ready to sink in to the sofa with the cup of tea offered and start my visit, when I discovered, to my horror, that I had forgotten an important medication in Portugal.
Back to the van and off to the nearby Royal Sussex Hospital emergency department where I discovered they have an emergency GP service – so no long wait alongside the real emergencies. I saw a lovely doctor who had me in and out in less than five minutes, prescription in hand. We set off again to find a duty chemist where I paid over seven pounds for four pills before heading back for dinner and a very welcome glass of red wine.
The next day was a whirl of shops and lunch before my lovely daughter escorted me to a beauty parlour for her surprise gift of a luxury facial, something I haven’t done in years.
In the evening, we met up with my eldest son, who had arrived that afternoon in Brighton from his home in Warrington especially to join in this great family reunion. We had a splendid ‘eat-as-much-as-you-like’ curry then went on to a smoke free pub – for coffee?
Saturday was Brighton Marina day where we all sat outside on the terrace of an Italian restaurant for lunch and I got sun burnt! Can you imagine? I’d bought a new raincoat to take to England with me, and the sun shone throughout the four days I was there. Who could have imagined I would need sun block instead?
In the evening, we bought a Chinese take-away and watched a DVD at my youngest son’s home and on Sunday we drove out to a lovely pub in the countryside for a very English roast lunch before number one son headed back to Cheshire and the new home he shares with his wife and my three lovely granddaughters, the home I have yet to see. Next trip will be to Manchester airport – a very new experience.
Monday after lunch with my remaining son, his charming French girlfriend and my daughter I caught the train back to Gatwick.
The sky was grey and the plane was late. I was singled out to have my luggage searched and they threw my jar of Marmite in the bin, but as I boarded the plane not even the drizzle of rain that had now started could depress me. I had just spent a lovely weekend with all my children and proved to myself that there is lots of life after cancer.