As always my life away from Integra remains full on with a diary full of activities primarily revolving around family, music and football.
As I write, my brother Chris and family are over from California and are enjoying weather that is more akin to their sunshine State. Having flown in on a Thursday we set off for the next three days to have a long weekend in Sussex exploring old haunts around Hastings, Rye and surrounds. Highlights included playing pirate golf on the seafront, riding on the miniature railway, visiting the fisherman's museum and Hever Castle, several fun family meals and, of course, England's win over Sweden! There were eight of us on the trip as both Sue’s mum and Chris and my mum joined us for the break. With my mum now residing in a care home having been diagnosed with dementia, this was almost certainly the last time we will ever get to go away together. There were a few challenges but they were all managed and an excellent time was had by all.
May saw a number of family birthdays – my son Tom, son-in-law Ian and myself, and these were followed in June by daughter Carrie and in July by my mum, brother Chris and granddaughters Ellie and Taylor. It keeps the local card shops in business!
Father’s Day saw my son Tom and family plus Sue and myself attend a lunch at Watford FC and we took the opportunity to check out our new seats in the Upper Graham Taylor Stand for next season. We have had to relocate our seats due to ground improvement works but I feel we have ended up with a better alternative so all happy (at least until the season starts!).
Repair works at home have virtually been finished now following our fire last November. The frustrations of getting the kitchen refitted have been immense but the distractions of other aspects of our lives, has kept our annoyance in check.
With mum now residing in the wonderful Whiteplains in Denham, I am in the process of selling her home in Pinner. Everything is going quite smoothly but it is time consuming and somewhat stressful, particularly clearing out a lifetime of memories in terms of furniture and personal effects. It is bad enough clearing a property when someone has passed on but doing so when the owner is still alive is somehow worse and I must admit to feeling uncomfortable with many of the decisions I am having to take, even though I know they are right and necessary.
Music has taken a little more of a backseat recently although I have been to a number of gigs and have a busy autumn period planned.
In recent weeks I have seen gigs by Papa George (twice), Val Cowell, Del Bromham’s Blues Devils, Storm Warning, Sari Schorr, Nigel Bagge and Martin Harley. In the coming months I have gigs to attend by Camel (twice), Wishbone Ash (five), Giles Hedley, Stevie Nimmo, Southbound and Sam Kelly.
As the year moves on, I am starting to think about my set lists for my annual gigs as part of the Wishbone Ash convention that will take place in Leicester this year in October. I am playing on the Friday night (12th) at the Barley Mow in Granby Street and, hopefully, on the Saturday lunchtime/early afternoon (13th) at the Y theatre virtually next door which is where the main event takes place.
In May I attended an evening with an all-time hero of mine, Derek Bell, a legend of the motor racing world and winner of Le Mans and Daytona. I was delighted to have been invited to attend the evening which took place at Porsche UK in Reading and to meet Derek and get his two autobiographies signed.
Obviously the really big sporting news at the moment is England’s progress at the World Cup. As I write we are due to play Croatia in the semi final for a place in the final on Sunday. The performance of the squad under the brilliant leadership of Gareth Southgate has been superb and a great example of how teamwork and togetherness can give one the extra edge. Fingers crossed. It’s coming home!
Domestically, Watford have made some sensible additions to their squad and, whilst there will be one or two departures I am sure to come, I am confident that we will, once again, start the season with a better squad than the previous year. I fully expect a top ten finish in the Premier League next season.
Finally, having no further holidays other than odd long weekends, planned for 2018, I have just booked to go to Croatia with Sue and friends Andy and Marianne next April on another small boat cruise that will take in the islands north of Split. Having done a similar trip last year amongst the Dalmatian islands between Dubrovnik and Split, we are looking forward to extending our knowledge of this beautiful region.