It was timely to go on this holiday in Gran Canaria, for Ella had a distressing experience with her youngest daughter, Laura.   A phone call from Laura brought tears to Ella, and it was quite some time before Ella would reveal the cause of her sobbing.  It was all the more surprising for this to happen with her youngest daughter, for I understood they were generally the one to be made the most fuss over by the mother and the sisters.

After Laura revealed to her mother that she was pregnant, Ella went quiet and was at a loss for words.   This was due to the fact that following the depression after her last birth, when Christopher was born, the doctor had advised her not to have any more children.   With Ella living in Ludlow, she fortunately was able to keep Laura company during the time of this post-natal depression.  This loss of words was interpreted by Laura that her mother could not care less.

During this pregnancy, no further communication was received before going away, or later from Laura.   Must it be that a family has domestic upsets throughout life, for we were just about to see some hope in coming to terms with Harry acting in a more rational manner.    This glimmer of sunshine was surrounded by clouds, where I think my Guardian Angel was hiding!

This trip was also timely from another aspect, for we had to thank the tourist agency in providing this venue after the original booking to Madeira had to be cancelled earlier in the year, due to its being over-subscribed.

It meant that by taking this holiday, and not returning to do my ambulance car driving any more, I would have prevented the computer at Winchester Ambulance HQ throwing me out at the age of 70.    In bridge, we would have caused this a pre-empt move.   We were continually reminded that it was not possible to continue this activity, because the computer was programmed to delete the name of any driver who had reached the age of 70.   The date for me to be chopped was 25th November, 1985.   It meant that I should not also be met with the two standard phrases, “You’re early” or “You’re late.”    I should also miss those who were most grateful for the lift they received.   

Possibly the most important aspect of this service was the reminder that so many people were worse off than yourself.   I would think that after some of my trips, that many would change places with me, particularly, those who were waiting for a kidney transplant and were permanently linked to a dialysis machine until a replacement kidney came their way.

I was aware that this hospital work had helped me out of my depression when in bereavement at the time of Gladys’ passing.   There was also the gathering of drivers whilst waiting for their patient, having treatment and exchanging their latest tales of lost patients!

Over the years, experiencing so much sadness and family worry, I had learned to switch off when going away and try to lose myself wherever my magic carpet at that time might be taking me.    So as the plane took off at Gatwick for Las Palmas, my switch came into operation.     Not so for Ella, knowing that this cloud of Laura was still with her, as she sat with a faraway look, with very little to say.

As with all new travel, I endeavour to take in as much as I can.  On this flight, I had a window seat and could see, below the plane, minute crafts, causing white trials in the sea, like a plane in the sky, as we passed over the Bay of Biscay and hugged the coast of West Africa until the Canary Islands came into view.

The flight captain, who had kept us informed of our progress, told us we were on time, taking roughly four hours for the trip.   The island we could see was Lanzarote, and as the plane reduced height, passing Fuerteventura island, the captain said we were now in view of our final destination, Las Palmas on the north-east side of Grand Canaria.    Ella now took an interest in all that was going on about us.

On the plane were young families dressed in their summer wear, which we thought they had no other clothes to dress in.    Immediately upon arriving at the airport and queuing for our transport to take us to our hotel, Las Margaritas at Playa del Ingles, on the south-west side of the island, we realised it was us who were over-dressed.   The temperature was a pleasant 70 to 80 degrees.  The general dress for the locals was open-necked shirts for the men around the airport, but as the coach made its way along the coast and reached San Augusta, the first of the holiday resorts to pass through, it was a case of how little they dare wear, by the holiday makers.

It was obvious that this volcanic island had been developed by the Spanish to attract sun-seeking holiday-makers and their development of masses of hotels had made use of experience gained in such places as Costa del Sol, Spain.     Our hotel, Las Margaritas, was awe impressive as we approached its entrance.   Like so many more that we had passed, it consisted of hundreds of apartments with balconies overlooking the hotel swimming pool, surrounded with sunbathers on deck chairs.  

We were given the key to our apartment and when told that this was on the first floor, we were delighted to find that our balcony faced south and had a view of the swimming pool and gardens of the hotel.

As stated in the hotel brochure, the apartment was fitted out with twin beds, en-suite bathroom with shower, bath and loo.   The room space was adequate and had no doubt become the standard module for most of this type of hotel.   If for some reason, we had to be confined to our apartment, we would still be able to enjoy our stay.

The large dining room was pleasantly laid out, with sub-tropical plants enhancing the restaurant decor.   Although this gigantic hotel was fully booked up, catering for a small army of holiday makers, it coped quite well and had no complaints about the service.   

There was a strong contingent of German tourists, who gave the impression that this was their hotel.   It seemed that before day-break, they had towels over the deck-chairs around the swimming pool and whenever a queue was formed, they knew how to short circuit and get served first.  The would-be master race, many of whom were well over 6 feet tall, liked to expose their physique on the beaches of Playa del Ingles.

The hotel had a courtesy bus to take its residents hourly to the sea front.  We made full use of this service, spending each day swimming in the warm sea and then strolling along the beach to Maspolomas.   Here, the golden sand dunes were claimed to be the nearest to the Sahara Desert anywhere in the world.    It was from these dunes that an occasional streaker would dart across from a nudist camp into the sea.   

It was interesting to return to the hotel through the many attractions of the Ocean Park, where many sporting activities took place, such as horse riding, tennis, golf and water sports.   At night time, we enjoyed the hotel activities, such as barbecues, Spanish dancing displays and music.

This break-away holiday was a real bonus, having all the ingredients, such as warm and sunny weather, good beaches and fresh air to relax and charge our human batteries.

On the plane home, I noticed that Ella had gone quiet, and guessed that her thoughts had already switched to the family scene at Ludlow.    My thoughts were flashing from the hospital and Ludlow, via Ella, but I had not yet switched on to the home front, and so long as we had not touched down, I was still away from the overhead clouds at Wigan Crescent.

There was unanimity as regards this visit to Gran Canaria, that it had done us good both physically and mentally, and that we would return there some time in the future.

The fact that I had no hockey or ambulance work was an opportunity for Ella to have further indoor improvements made to keep me out of mischief.    This was to give the kitchen a face lift, by tiling around the sink and cooker unit.  Most owners had removed the dresser unit that the builder had built into the kitchen, to give it character.   To replace this feature, a work top with drawer units had been installed with cupboards in line, secured to the wall above the work top.

Ella’s artistic ability came useful, for she located a manufacturer of tiles that would stove her painted tiles.   These special tiles were used to face the buttresses that enclosed the dresser unit.  

The laying of tiles requires certain skills, one of which is to be able to cut them when necessary, to fit the end tiles or in corners.  I had acquired this skill, and felt that I did a professional job of tiling.   Part of the face lift in the kitchen was to replace the kitchen furniture with a pine wood kitchen set, including a round table.   This work I had got on with and finished for Christmas.  

Ella’s tile laying appetite had been fired, and now the bathroom was under a refit programme, including a new bath and tiled surround above the bath.    This task would have to wait until the New Year, for there were plans to go away to Barbara’s at Minehead for the Christmas period.  This was made possible by Harry, who had now been moved to Radnor House after his short spell in Cranleigh Ward at the time we left for Gran Canaria.

A house warming party was held on 13th December at Radnor House, after taking over this half-way house in the community at Southsea.    We were invited to this occasion, but sadly Harry disappeared into his bedroom.   Dr Bale was present, and thought that Harry would never take care of himself like before, in The Retreat.

He did not come home that Christmas, and the indications were that he was settling into his new abode.   He even mentioned that a few at Radnor House had employment, and they were allowed to keep a certain amount for themselves.   He implied that he would like to work in the mornings.  This was considered a good sign by the staff and quoted several residents who had started to earn money.

These moves into the community were an experiment and the authorities were keen to make the move a success.   Some patients, with a severe mental disorder, who had been placed in the community, were not ready for this move, and had been violent, resulting in criticism of the whole scheme by the public.

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Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 15, 2001