A quiet Friday, not going out anywhere, with a Sunday sermon and funerals for the coming week to prepare. Just as well, as the weather was glum. Clare and I started discussing a holiday break after Easter. Although we'd mooted the prospect of spending time in Santa Pola, what both of us had been thinking about was the possibility of another cruise, this time on the Rhine. It's probably too late to get anything in May now. Last time we booked nearly a year ahead too. We can but dream ...
Well, this morning, we decided that the Koln-Basel was what we wanted to do, and sooner rather than later, so we went ahead and booked a very expensive cabin on a mid May trip, which was all they had left. Again we'll go with Riviera Travel, as last May's Danube experience was so enjoyable. Perhaps that week of total photographic indulgence made the memories extra vivid, but on dreary days, I think of many things I enjoyed and the insights gained into Eastern European history and culture, without needing to open a Google Photo album to refresh my memory.
The Rhine has a history with which I am more familiar, largely because of our past travels in Eastern France and Germany, also, having grown up after World War Two with all the stories recounted in the family, the documentaries and movies on telly. It's one period of history, perhaps too raw to have been covered in Pengam Grammar School classes at that time, which I read several thick historical books over the years. This cruise will put some of that narrative into geographical setting, but much more, because of the amazing history of Rhineland cities over the past millennium of European history.
I shall resist feeling guilty of extravagance. Working away so much over the past year, we haven't had a lot of time for holiday leisure travel, so it's a matter of quality time together rather than quantity, doing something we both delight in. I feel privileged to be act as a locum pastor abroad, to be able to live in Spain, and discover another language and culture in more depth than I could if it was holiday. Nevertheless, it is work. I'm on duty when I'm there, no matter what else I get to do when I don't have work things to do, and sometimes loneliness is the price to be paid in order to keep on working in this particular way.
Much cheered by our decision, we drove out to Dyffryn House and Gardens for lunch and a winter walk. Much work done pruning bushes and trees, and renovation work on ponds, since our last visit. With so many flower beds cleared, the seasonal contrast is vivid and helps me see things about some vegetation I wouldn't usually notice, just because there are so many flowering plants and bushes attracting the eye. I got some great photos of coal tits, blue tits and chaffinch feeding at the bird table, perfectly placed outside the restaurant. I just can't believe it's six months since we last came, judging by my photo albums, though Clare thinks we may have come for a walk one day before Christmas when I forgot to bring a camera, or brought a camera without SD card or charged batttery. I believe her, though I can't pin down when. Put it down to memory lag.
The other good thing about today is that I've received requests for locum duty in Malaga for June and July, and Mojacar over December and January. That's a lot to think about, all in one day, and a great deal more to look forward to.