Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Return Of The Snowbird

I've just opened my last Amaretto flavoured creamer, I'm down to the final dregs of my coffee grounds and my supply of puffed wheat is almost out of.....puff.

What do these odd facts mean ?

They mean that in two days time, I'll be off to Orlando airport to return home as my 6 month winter sojourn will be over. Next winter I really will experience a cold winter for the first time this century as I plan on staying in the UK. It's been so long since I spent winter at home that I seem to have developed Dickensian images of experiencing Christmas in England. A warm glowing log fire, a heavily decorated Christmas tree in the corner, rosy cheeked kids opening presents and a dining table groaning under the weight of a huge turkey meal with all the trimmings. Oh and the Queen on telle at 3pm with the sound muted !

I'm not sure if old Charlie boy wrote about such scenes but then again, Hollywood has messed so much with my mind that I donno what's real and what's made up anymore. Certainly seeing the Queen on tv didn't appear in the plot of any Dickens novel I read.

Of course I might be somewhere completely different next winter. I don't really 'do' cold weather after being in Florida for half of the last 12 years. For instance, even though it's April, the temp here tomorrow is due to be spot on 90F and the temp in Leeds......45F. Even with my maths skills, that's half as warm ! I doubt my sun kissed ebony knees will be exposed to the English population until sometime in mid August - by which time they will be pale and uninteresting again !

Will I EVER return to Florida ? Never say never but a return is not on my radar at the moment. I'm still (relatively) healthy and I want to travel while I can still walk up an incline without a rope around my waist. For the last few years I've been fortunate enough to combine spending the winter months in Florida with travelling around Europe in the summer. Ok that sounds a bit grand as in the summers we've only gone to a few European countries and only for a few weeks at a time but still......the statement stands.

We've (Daphne, Stephen and myself) visited Belgium, Holland, France, Italy and Spain in the last 3 years and I have to say these all too brief visits to Le Continent have only whetted (I love that word) my appetite for more travelling, either solo or with friends. Of course touring during the winter months is a different matter, which is why I've been more than happy to have been here in sunny Florida.

But it's time to more on. On to pastures new maybe. Where do most retired Brits go for the winter ? SPAIN !!

I may have said it before on here but when I'm abroad, I like to steer clear of my fellow Brits as for the most part (and I know this is a terrible generalisation), Brits abroad are best avoided.......even those NOT wearing Man Utd shirts ! So to spend an entire winter in a sort of 'Brit community' in somewhere like Benidorm would be like hell on earth for me. When abroad, I like to BE abroad and mix with the locals (English speaking ones of course) and sample the local food (fish and chips, roast beef and Yorkshire pud, curry etc......all locally sourced) and even watch local tv stations (showing Coronation Street and Premier League footy). I like to blend in you see ! Oh yes.

So if that rules out vast tracts of Southern Spain, where else could I go ? Well there's always Australia I suppose. They speak a form of English there, love us Brits (!?!) and share my passion for a good bbq. Just not shrimps, please. Yuck.

Sadly they're pretty crap at cricket and swimming and footy - most sports really. In fact, they favour a strange version of footy which is a mix of soccer, rugby and street brawling and they believe that riding large waves on polished slabs of timber is fun. We Brits think waves are for looking at from the comfort of a beach deckchair so the idea of standing precariously on a glorified Ikea wardrobe door is totally alien to us.

No, I don't think wintering in Australia would be for me. Too far, too expensive to get there and full of Australians. And spiders. And jellyfish. And Koala bears.

Ruling out most tropical islands and not wanting to create further argy bargy with Argentina by spending the winter in the Falklands, I need to look closer to home but still somewhere south enough to be warm.

Tenerife ? Hmmmm.

Who ? What ? Where ?

Tenerife is the largest of the 7 Canary Islands which lie off the west coast of North Africa so it would seem only appropriate to be a snowbird there. Get it...snowbird......canary ? Oh please yourselves !

It 'belongs' to Spain and best of all, there are direct flights from my local Leeds/Bradford airport !

A work friend (Daz) moved there with his family and now runs his own mountain bike operation as I believe that unlike in Florida, there are a few hills in Tenerife. Spookily enough, being almost exactly on the same latitude as Sebring, it's pleasantly warm there in the winter, renting a condo for 6 months wouldn't bankrupt me and once again, I'd not be in England.

Ok I'd not know a soul (apart from Daz), not many people would speak English, the food might not be agreeable to me or my delicate stomach and I might have a problem keeping up to date with the goings on in Wetherfield but hey, once again, I'd not be in England.

I do know they have t'interclacker as I can Skype with Daz so that generally means electricity. Hopefully clean running water and good indoor sanitation are also available (you can tell I know little about Tenerife) so as long as I don't develop an aversion to all things pasta, I should be good to trot. Well not literally !

Anyway that's all in the future. My immediate problem is how to get everything back home that I've accumulated over the last decade of coming here every winter. To keep the baggage costs down, I'm thinking my bike, golf clubs and lots of clothing will have to be sacrificed. The clothing loss will be lessened with the knowledge that I'm not exactly the same shape as I was 10 years or so ago. Many items should've been discarded already but you know how it is.......I told myself I WOULD get into those size 28 waist pants again one day. Ha ! Those days are LONG gone.

So packing will be....interesting to say the least. A challenge at best and a nightmare at worst. At £32 for the first extra case (thank you Virgin Atlantic), a few essentials may fall by the wayside. Or the next garage sale to be more practical.

Of course I may return here at some point so hopefully all relatively important items can be packed away in crates for that eventuality. I'm hoping that I can say 'au revoir' and not 'adieu' to the friends I've made here in sunny Buttonwood Bay although only the French Canadians would know the difference and, being snowbirds, they all went back home weeks ago.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Deb and Den for letting me share their lives here for so long. Never has so much been owed to so few by even less few.

Catchy eh ? Yeah I know, not as pleasing as that other guy's quote.

As you may have gleaned from my many blog posts and photographs from this park over the years, it's a beautiful place and I'll be sad come Saturday when I leave. But I have a homecoming to look forward to - maybe a burst pipe or two, the house like an icebox, 6 months of accumulated dust and no palm trees in the garden. Sighhhhhhh.

On the up side, I'll get to hug old friends (even if they don't want to be hugged), have transport again, be able to get traditional English takeaways like Chinese and Indian and watch tv adverts that don't mention trucks with impressive torque stats, medications with life taking side effects or someone called Gary who insists he be my first port of call if I have an accident or need a lawyer or both.

Speaking of adverts, I may just watch the BBC for a few hours so as not to get ANY. Wooohooo.

So my next blog post should be from sunless olde England where we drive on the left which is right, use both the fork AND knife to cut meat and can speak English without the need for subtitles - cause it's OUR language. We invented it so there.

I'll say au revoir for now (as adieu will be my next door neighbour) and 'see' you all again from t'other side of the pond.


Lisa said...

Have a good trip home!

Jennyta said...

Safe journey, Ian. You never know, this time we may get to meet up on this side of the Pennines again...?

rhymeswithplague said...

You will be sorely missed (no pun intended). It's been real, and all that. We'll still be blogging buddies, I hope. I'll read yours if you'll read mine.

I was going to suggest the Canary Islands and I kept on reading and lo! (and behold!) you thought of them yourself. Great minds run in the same channel.

I would emulate Tigger from Winnie the Pooh and say "Ta Ta For Now (T.T.F.N.)" but I suppose the F.N. will have to go.

Next winter, we'll be takin' a cup o' kindness yet (an sheddin' a North Georgia tear) for auld lang bloggin' syne.

Silverback said...

Thank you, Lisa. T'other Ian sure is a lucky man.

Yes Jenny, I'm sure we'll meet up again soon. For one thing, we've STILL not been to Chester Zoo !

Thanks, Bob. Thanks for using two words when one would do ! No, seriously, thank you for your continued patronage of my blog. Please send sponsorship money in pounds sterling from now on.

Helsie said...

Of course if you did choose to come to Australia in your English winter you would be here for our hot weather..and wet season...and bush fires..and cyclones..and it would be the wrong time of the year to try to visit the Outback, without mentioning the danger of killer spiders, sharks, snakes and crocodiles. I think you've made the right decision to stay in the Northern hemisphere . Pity though, it is a pretty terrific place.

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