Sunday, 14 August 2011

View from the Pointy Bit

A few days ago, I was standing at the end of the world. Or rather, the end of the world so far as Portuguese chaps in doublet and hose a few hundred years ago were concerned. And having stood there, I can well imagine why they might think that the point on the horizon where the sky meets the sea should be the end (after all, it's a long way to Boston, Mass. from there). We were at Cape St Vincent at the most pointy end of Portugal on holiday with our extended family (extended, that is, apart from the absence of the very lovely number 2 daughter who had to stay at home and work and look after the dogs). The team for this year's holiday was my beloved and myself, daughter 1 plus boyfriend (a very good sport in every sense of the word and therefore fitted in well), children 3 and 4, my beloved's brother and his two boys. An excellent mix of foodies, sporties and smarties!

The great thing about the pointy bit is that you can do gentle beaches and little waves on the south coast or you can go for the big waves and watching the surfing fraternity on the west coast and the mix of the two is, for us, a winner. Now I must at this point explain that we (the beloved and I) have been down this end a few times as we have dear friends who own a villa down there and have kindly invited us out to see this very special bit of Portugal which is as different from the Yorkshire-by-the-sea, golfing bit near Val and Quinta as the Dales are from the centre of Leeds. These dear friends were also there during our holidays with part of their extended family and the whole melange of brothers and sisters, half brothers, step children and sundry boy and girlfriends which we amounted to in total is magic.

I do, as you will know by now, love the big family thing. And the pleasure that we get from being not just with the ones we live with all the time, but the ones we love and don't see very often is something that cannot be underestimated. The brother in law and his boys also live in a pointy place. They live at the furthest corner of England where probably similarly doubleted and hosed gents looked across and thought they were at the end of the world (clearly they would discount France on the grounds that in those days we owned large chunks of it - or thought we did anyway). So we don't see them often enough and it's a joy to get together and share months of experiences and humour all packed into a short space of time.

So that's it for another year and I sense that what lies ahead for me anyway is a series of challenges and changes for which I may, or may not be prepared. We'll see, but change is in the air and I shall be embracing it. And in the meantime, I am sustained by my lovely, big family and our gorgeous friends and all that they bring to our lives. Slushy perhaps, but true nonetheless.

And here's a picture of our own pointy bit - the amazing pyramid of this year's holiday team. Rather proud of this actually...!

Postscript: We had one very sad bit of news on holiday... The amazing Uncle Bill Hook passed away. The most modest gentleman who regarded his life as so unimportant in the grand scheme of things and yet was, amongst his many other achievements, the English translator in Colditz. He told us tales of meeting Rommel and his life in Colditz as a prisoner of war before he came home to marry the equally formidable Auntie Margot and become a Sheriff in Edinburgh. He was especially fond of number 1 daughter who was at university in Edinburgh and they became great friends including the daughter taking her 90-something great uncle on holiday! Amongst our many memories of Bill will be his attendance of number 1's graduation. We were only allocated two seats for me and the beloved but Uncle Bill said not to worry, he could get in most places. We were sitting in the gods of the McEwan Hall with the other parents before the graduation started waiting for number 1's arrival. No sign of Uncle Bill. Then the dignitaries arrived including a member of the Japanese royal family who sat in a magnificent chair like a throne. And in the next throne-like chair... Uncle Bill. Unforgettable and very much loved. RIP.