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It’s always a very special treat to visit my father’s Sussex family. His mother died and his father re-married so his sister, Jen, is only half a generation older than I am. But you’d never know that either she or Colin was any older than me! They both play golf several times a week and both have handicaps in the silver range! I’ve written blogs about my visits here before. They’re endlessly kind and generous and Jen always goes to great lengths to make sure that as many relations as possible are around. This weekend was no exception.

I knew that they had an evening golf game and dinner to attend but they very kindly picked me up from the station at 3.30 and dropped me home before they went out. Their daughter, Caro, Director of the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, was ‘in charge’ and I joined her family for dinner that night.

The family home is pretty big and was easy to ‘divide’ so that the two families can both live in it separately but close at the same time. Caro and Mao have three sons. Two were at home but Nico was overseas on a month’s voluntary project in Malawi, teaching and painting as well as going on a land and river safari, so I missed him on this occasion. He reported that his biggest impression was the warmth of the people. Ben and Hector were very much in evidence, however, and were constantly on the move. Both are very keen on sport and very talented.

The next morning, Tony arrived just after breakfast to join the party and Suzi followed soon afterwards. Jen was flat out in the kitchen having organised for her brother’s widow, Kathleen, and cousin Richard to join us for a beautiful lunch.

With the heat wave still very much in evidence, it was a delight to relax for a lazy afternoon of chats in the garden.

The trees in their ‘garden’, situated as they are in the grounds of the prep school they used to run, are always a sight for sore eyes. The varieties and the different colours surround one on all sides and have a very soothing effect – always changing in the light and the seasons.

On Sunday, Jen had organised another lunch, this time to include as many as possible of Caro’s and Jan’s families. Even though Jan and Phil themselves left for Malta during the night, they somehow managed to pop in for a few moments on Saturday evening. It was great to have so many ‘young things’ around, all with fabulous stories to tell about what they’re doing with their lives and what they’re planning for the future.

After lunch, some of the ‘young’ had enough energy to indulge in a few games of tennis.

But as no gathering of the family would be the same without some sort of game, the rest of us played Racing Demon! I hadn’t played it before but it was soon pretty obvious that if you weren’t on the ball, opportunities would slip away in a second. It was huge fun – and very noisy!!

Both Tony and Suzi had to leave on Sunday evening but Jen’s organisation wasn’t finished yet. One of my favourite cousins, this time on my mother’s side, had sadly died several years ago, way before her time, but her husband, Robin, lives nearby and had kindly invited us to lunch on Monday. We had a very leisurely and delicious lunch, outside again in beautiful weather.

He’d moved house since I’d seen him two years ago and was delighted to be able to show off both his new home and his vegie garden. I’m not sure what he was feeding to the cabbages!

On Tuesday morning, Jen left early to play in a golf match (Colin played a match in the afternoon – such is their fitness and commitment to the game!) Colin kindly took me for a walk around the school grounds, specifically to show me the 40 acre lake the school acquired about four years ago in conjunction with a local fishing club. He showed me the centrefold of last year’s school magazine and I attempted a photo to show the position of the lake in relation to the school – top left – and their home in the scheme of things – bottom right.

Cricket is a very popular sport at the school and when I pointed out three cricket pitches in the photo, Colin corrected me and said that there were, in fact, seven but that because it was so difficult to get an aerial view that covered the whole of the grounds, some were out of sight in the photo!

The lake runs along the edge of the former boundary of the school, separating it from the A27 road to Portsmouth. It’s a wonderful asset for the school.

School was out but there was a marvellous holiday programme going on with 200 children taking part in all manner of sporting activities. The new lake was DSC00384proving very popular with a group of young kayakers.

Ben was taking a group of children for cricket.

There was another group playing hockey.

There were tennis, gymnastics, soccer, and many, many more sports on offer. The children choose two sports that they play every morning, and in the afternoons they can move to other sports. It must be a logistical nightmare and it’s not surprising that it only runs for two weeks. Many of the former students come back to coach and there’s competition for the places.

And in the pre-school area there was one little man who decided that he was far too young for all that activity and contented himself with sorting out his coloured pens!

Everywhere we looked there was colour, this bed having been designed for the Jubilee celebrations.

And then it was Wednesday and time to move on to my next adventure. As always, it was sad to say my goodbyes, never knowing when we’re going to see each other again.

Jen very kindly offered to drive me the short distance to Emsworth but I insisted that she put me on the train at Chichester because the A27 in a nightmare at that time of the morning. The 10 minute train journey would probably have taken over half an hour in a car – and then she would have had to battle her way back again.

Sussex, England - 18-22 July 2014

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