Well it didn't take many clues for you to guess that the river in my photo last week was indeed 'The Mersey', and the little ferry crossing it gave us the title 'Ferry Cross the Mersey', which of course was a huge hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers!
Apparently when the ferry was decommissioned some years back there was an uproar in Devonport and an enormous campaign was launched to have the service reinstated. The public vote won and Gerry Marsden himself came to Tasmania to open the newly commissioned ferry service. Thanks for all your lovely replies as always, and I'm really chuffed that you've enjoyed reading the blogs over the last couple of weeks. As promised here is the final instalment…
Driving back from the airport with Peter and Sarah was fun as we chatted on about all that we'd seen and done. Sarah made us supper which we ate while looking through our photographs and comparing notes on the places we'd visited. We were in bed by midnight and, as I lay there in the dark listening to the cicadas, I tried not to think about leaving…
That's the funny thing about family isn't it? It doesn't seem to matter how many years have passed; once you're together it feels as though you've never been apart, and although Peter's and my more recent memories weren't shared, our childhood and adolescence had been, as had the last few weeks, and I didn't want to say goodbye.
The following day was incredibly hot and sunny, enabling me to do a white wash and dry it all in the garden before we left for the airport After a rather emotional farewell to Sarah and Clare, Peter drove us once again through the Sydney suburbs and then over the Harbour Bridge. The sun blazed through the windows and apart from Colin nearly rupturing himself while heaving my suitcase out of the car boot, we got to departures without a hitch.
We'd all agreed it would be best if Peter literally dropped us at the airport, rather than delaying the inevitable, unlike eight years ago, when the whole family had come to wave us off. All that time ago – Sam hadn't had his accident, both boys stilll lived with me and I was well… I dropped my handbag with a thud and clung on to poor Peter like a limpet… "It'll be OK", he whispered into my wig…
Both of us were in tears, but as he turned to leave and Colin gently put his arm around me, guiding me towards the departure lounge, I prayed that he was right, and that one day we would see each other again…
Off to Abu Dhabi
I didn't bother with my flight socks this time as I'd mistakenly packed black opaque tights in place of my black lycra trousers! Feeling very like Marcel Marceau, I was relieved that during my visits to the toilet most people were asleep, or they could have been forgiven for thinking there was a cat burgler on the plane!
We arrived at 11.30pm and then had a very comfortable 90 minute taxi ride to Dubai which cost us just £20!! I've paid that to get from QVC to Victoria Station – all of six miles!!!
Neither Colin or I have visited the Middle East before and The Jumeirah Beach Hotel, where we spent our first night, is one of three fabulous Hotels right on the coastline. It's shaped like a giant wave and the room we had was absolutely huge, with an incredibly comfortable bed, a massive bathroom and floor to ceiling windows.
As dawn broke and my body clock told me it was mid afternoon, I opened the curtains and saw the incredible sight that is the Burj Al Arab. This seven star hotel boasts jacuzzis in every suite, personal butlers and a fleet of Rolls Royces to take you wherever you wish. There's even a helipad and an amazing cocktail bar that leans out over the ocean.
All that said, our hotel was fabulous too and having had our breakfast in the sunshine, we settled on to our sunbeds and enjoyed the warmth and waiter service on the beach! The day passed too quickly, and we waved goodbye to the Jumeirah Beach and headed off to the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray which is situated on the West Crescent of Dubai's Palm Jumeirah, with stunning views across the Arabian Gulf.
We really didn't know what to expect but were absolutely flabbergasted by the sheer opulence and lavish interior of this glorious hotel which is designed in keeping with an Ottoman Palace. Huge gold pillars rose upwards to ceilings that Michael Angelo would have been proud of and a wealth of golden lanterns hung with turquoise and ruby red jewels gave out a warm light throughout the corridors.
Our bedroom was equally palatial and the bathroom was amazing. All marble with a sunken bath that could have easily accommodated an entire rugby team! There were a vast number of different restaurants within the hotel offering 'authentic dining experiences' and we decided that Lebanese food would be interesting, and were not disappointed.
Hard to believe we actually had room for breakfast after all we ate the night before, but sitting outside with a gentle breeze blowing and the sun breaking through the clouds, we tucked into crispy bacon and scrambled eggs.
We chose to stay within the hotel grounds by the pool and spent another day in the warm sunshine doing really very little! We had planned to go out for the night but after a couple of laps in the marble bath, jet lag took over and I slept on and off for 14 hours! Luckily Colin had been equally tired and slept fitfully, so having crammed our belongings into our vast cases we had another fabulous breakfast and then took a taxi back to Abu Dhabi airport.
It's a funny thing being away from home for such a long time… sometimes you feel as though you've been gone forever and miss everyone terribly, and other times it's as though you've only just left home!
I watched the sky darken as we flew towards Heathrow Airport and thought of how different my life had been this time last year…. but how through Breast Cancer Care and the Carol Concert, Colin and I had been half way round the world and had the best of times with our respective families. Every cloud as they say…
I hope you enjoy the photos, and promise I'll let you know how my appointment at The Marsden goes this week. Enjoy the sunshine and I'll look forward – as always – to hearing from you.
With my love, Ali xx