Mill Rythe

It was not an auspicious start when Chris had to advise us all of a delayed departure for our coach. Jewel’s own coach was in for planned maintenance, and the replacement coach they hired broke down the day before our trip. The replacement water pipe had to be sent from Belgium, but thankfully it could be delivered promptly (that is the only reference to Brexit in this report) and driver Andy took possession of the coach at 1pm to be on time to make the first pick up at Parkwood Green at 2.30. With further stops at Rochester Airport, Chatham Viaduct and Gravesend it meant there was not the usual comfort stop en route as we had to hurtle to Haying Island in time for dinner. We made it, no mishaps, the journey enlivened by frequent and often risqué banter between Andy, Chris and Bella in particular. I hasten to add that we knew Andy from last year’s Isle of Wight trip – and he remembered us, especially Bella. But no Melanie this year, Charley (Charlotte) making her first courier trip to Mill Rythe with us.

The meals were all pretty good, table service available from Nikolas (Hungarian) and the first breakfast’s conversation the next morning centred on reactions to our rooms and facilities. It was generally pretty basic but adequate but a common thread was the difficulty we all seemed to be experiencing in achieving the balance between scalding hot and freezing cold water supply in our showers. We survived.

Penny, Jean, Shirley and Geoff set off on the Saturday excursion to Chichester. John stayed behind to join Bella, Barbara and Brian for a very quiet day chatting, for the morning in the sun but out of a fresh breeze. It clouded for the afternoon but around 4 it was back as we took possession of the resort’s store of woods to bowl on their all - weather surface. Geoff returned just in time to join in, Lucy and Chris joined us after an energetic day of exploration and swimming, plus two gentlemen on their holiday. One was a bowler, the other playing for the first time. The Resort sports coordinator, Chantal, also took part, and strangely she had no knowledge of bowls at all, so I guess it is rarely used. She picked it up well, we had a great time, and we may be calling on Lucy if we are short, she did really well. Our ‘guests’ loved it too, I suspect not just the actual game but the huge sense of fun we bring to the party. As usual, laughter rang out and I noticed we had a good few spectators who enjoyed what they saw. We always make an impact.

After the previous day’s late arrival, we this time had the energy to sit in on the evening’s entertainment, the main attraction being a Tom Jones tribute performer, who did a pretty good job. Not good enough for most of the group, who left him to it after a while, and unfortunately a little early for John, as two songs after he had left was ‘I’m never gonna fall in love again’, which ‘Tom’ announced was written by Lonnie Donnegan. Holiday regulars will know that John is a big fan, and he missed ‘Tom’ inviting the audience to sing both ‘My old man’s a dustman’ and ‘Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight?’ Neither John nor I was aware Lonnie Donnegan wrote for others. We shall have to investigate.

The second of our full days, Sunday, was wall to wall sunshine. Only Geoff joined the coach, as he wanted to replace the presents he had bought for his grandchildren at Chichester, which had proved unsuitable. He was unlucky in that quest, and would have done better to follow the rest of us who all trooped along to watch Lucy and Chris try archery. Could this be the only activity known to man which Chris had yet to experience?! As it happened, it proved to be a problem for him as he tried to find a set up that enabled him to use his working eye. That required him to a) shoot left handed and b) with a front on stance which no one would choose to adopt. I don’t know how he managed at all, and for a while neither did manage, but gradually they got arrows onto the target and full marks to them. That the later arrows did not look so impressive was due to the strange challenge of knocking a small rubber duck off the top of the butts, which encouraged high aim and led to all participants shooting over the butts. Though Lucy did send an arrow into the butt just a foot below the butt with that very satisfying thwack. Again, a lot of laughter from everyone, including Chris and Lucy, and they did ok for newcomers.

Some of us took the rest of the day easy, some of us took it very easy, until another hugely enjoyable bowling session – Geoff back for that, I am pleased to say – and rather than the resort players’ show in the theatre there was an impromptu one off trip for our group as Andy agreed to take us to the tip of the island onto the beach. John declined the invitation and I am not sure how much Bella and Penny got from it, apart from a fresh wind on their faces. Geoff and Chris could pick up some of the moonlight on the water. Those with good sight could actually enjoy the effect of the moonlight through a cloud formation I had never witnessed before. I won’t try to describe it here but it was really fascinating, I loved it.

We had a very fast and direct trip home the last morning, unlike last year’s experience. It was perhaps jointly prompted by a big change in the weather, very cool, sometimes light but occasionally very heavy rain, and the desire to return another passenger swiftly home. A man who started the trip with us at Parkwood Green had been taken to hospital on the Sunday and kept in overnight. He was discharged on the Monday morning, but without a diagnosis, and anyone would understand if Andy was keen to see him home and into the care of his own GP. It suited us very well, and it did not stop further banter between Andy and the usual suspects.

I think we missed our usual ‘home entertainment’ - we missed Hans, not just for his singing – but it was a very enjoyable weekend. No need for it to be the last RBBG holiday if we buy into a particular package as we did this year, but we shall see.

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