Saturday 31 December 2016

Happy New Year

Cheshire Wife is away.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Let me entertain you

So we have new neighbours and we thought that it was about time that we did some entertaining and invited them in, but how should we go about it. We had been round to one of the new neighbours, who have children, for tea. If we reciprocated wouldn't the children be bored? That is if they came. At Christmas time it is more usual to have people round for drinks, but the neighbours are Muslims. Now on the other side we now have a single man. Some thought would have to go into how we entertained to keep all parties happy. Then we had to think about the fact that we did not want red wine spilt on our off white carpet. Not a very sensible colour I know, but our living room is dark and needed a light carpet. After some consideration we decided to invite all of the neighbours from the five houses around ours to a small drinks party, which would give all of the neighbours a chance to meet the new residents. If they all came it would be, including us, twelve adults plus two children, Surely that would be manageable and the guests would fit into the kitchen and the dining room rather than the living room. So no need to worry about red wine being spilt on our off white carpet.

The format had been decided. The next decision was the date. Not everybody could come on our preferred date, which meant changing it to an earlier date. Not ideal, but we wanted as many of the neighbours as possible to be able to come. Next there was the issue of sprucing up the cottage before we let any of the neighbours set foot inside it. Most of the time I am too busy to notice the dust and cobwebs. However, I was sure that the neighbours would notice them while trying to make small talk with one another. Hence the cottage had a clean, which I am embarrassed to say was much needed in some areas. It was not a one woman effort, I did have some help from husband.

Now we just needed to buy the food and drink. I had decided that we would have an outing to Waitrose on the other side of Chester. For those or you unfamiliar with UK supermarkets Waitrose is considered to be the most upmarket of our supermarkets and consequently the 'go to' option for party food, but you do pay a premium for their supermarkets to be clean and well lit with uncrowded aisles. Husband came with me, which he does not normally do, but I needed a strong man to carry all those bottles of wine that we were going to need. On my list were stollen, mince pies (sorry I cannot make pastry) and mulled wine, which is a popular drink here in the UK at Christmas time.

The drinks party was to take place on the Sunday. On Friday we went to the supermarket. Our first problem was the mulled wine. We could not find it and had to ask an assistant. To make life easier I wanted ready made mulled wine, but they only had two bottles. That would not go far among twelve people. So OK plan B, I'll have to make it myself from red wine. Mince pies we found, but where was the stollen? Again we had to ask and they were actually out of stock of the bites that I wanted. Never mind, I bought slices and cut them up. This was disappointing. I had expected Waitrose to be better organised.

On Friday evening I cleaned the kitchen floor and on Saturday morning everything was going fairly well until the U bend under the kitchen sink decided to block while husband was out, of course. I have always regarded plumbing as being his department. I am sure that I could unblock the U bend if I wanted or needed to, but there are times when it pays to play the helpless little woman. Husband was not too pleased to be asked to unblock the U bend as soon as he walked through the door, but then I was not very pleased that it had happened when I was busy in the kitchen. It took several attempts over the course of about an hour, during which time the air in the kitchen turned very blue, to unblock the U bend. Luckily up until that point my preparations for the drinks party were going well and I was ahead of schedule.

In the afternoon we managed to put up the Christmas tree and some decorations to make the cottage feel at least at bit more festive. I had decided that I would only put the decorations up if I had the time to do so. It seemed strange to have decorations up when  not one Christmas card had arrived. The next task was to sort out some suitable music for the CD player. We have enough CDs to start a shop but most of them are not appropriate background music for a party and we do not have any CDs of Christmas music.

Finally on the Sunday morning I made a jug of non-alcoholic punch from a recipe that I found on the Internet. It tasted fine to me and went down well with our tee total neighbours. We had an early lunch. Changed into our party clothes. Husband lit the log fire in the snug and we waited for the guests to arrive. It seemed to go OK. Everybody got along. There were no arguments or fights and no one got drunk. No wine was spilt and no glasses were broken.

We had enjoyed having the party and had learnt a few things along the way. It was a challenge. There had been more to think about and consider than we had perhaps expected. My next challenge is Christmas lunch tomorrow, but I have done it several times before.  

I wish you all a Happy Christmas

Sunday 18 December 2016

A funny turn

Yes. I know that I have been AWOL yet again, with good reason. I have been busy and my laptop has been sick. The busyness will be the subject of another post. But for now here is the sick note.

 Recently the screen of my laptop changed to an unusual shade of red and husband diagnosed that it was gravely ill. He made it comfortable and advised me to use it with care. Then ordered a new hard drive and set aside time to install it along with all the necessary work that would need to be done. In the meantime my laptop had a bit of a rest, which probably did not do it any harm. Yesterday husband set about restoring it to full health and found that there was actually nothing wrong with it. It seems that my laptop had just had a funny turn. I suppose that computers, like us humans, can have off days. Normal service, whatever that might be, will be resumed shortly.

Saturday 5 November 2016


Earlier this year when I wrote about the state of affairs in our lane I did not expect to be writing this post only a few months later. Well that bottle of champagne that had been on ice for some time, waiting for the house at the top end of the lane to sell, was joyfully drunk about a month ago.

When a sale of the house fell through in the Spring we heard with dismay that the owners, who I had named Del Boy and the WAG, had taken the house off the market and decided to stay. We thought that they would never move and we were going to be stuck with them forever. They were truly the neighbours from hell. Amazingly, they somehow had managed to sell a house that was not for sale, when for eight years they could not sell a house that was for sale. Almost unbelievable, but true. There were always a lot of comings and goings next door, so we would never have picked up that there was a potential buyer around. The first that we had any inkling that a sale might be imminent was in the middle of September. We had been away for ten days and returned home on a Friday afternoon. The next day there was a self drive hire van in their drive. Over the course of the weekend they appeared to be moving out some of their furniture and belongings. We needed to know what was going on. So husband hot footed down to the neighbours at the end of the lane, who had kept an eye on our cottage while we were away, with a little present for their good deed. Coincidentally they happen to  be the only neighbours that Del Boy and the WAG spoke to. To our surprise Del Boy had told them that they were close to selling. What good news to return home to. So we started to watch with eager anticipation they comings and goings next door. After the weekend's activity nothing much happened  during the next few days and following weekend, but they were still living there. Then, it is hard to fathom I know, they went away on holiday for a week. On their return there was a lot of frantic activity, culminating in them finally moving out on the Thursday and the new owner moving in the following day, which was the first Friday in October. At last Del Boy, the WAG and their barking dog had gone. I can not say how pleased we are to have seen the back of them.

At the end of May the new owners moved into the first house in the lane, which had stood empty for seven months while they sorted out some problems with the house, had decorators in etc. By this time the grass, which had not been cut since the previous Autumn, was about two feet high. And it took our new neighbour a considerable amount of time to get it under control.

Now the lane is fully occupied and we start the next phase of its' life. So far the new neigbours are fine, quiet and law abiding, with no barking dogs or loud music. In some ways life is quieter and less colourful than it was when Del Boy and the WAG lived next door. Without intending to, they certainly entertained us and life with them next door was quite an eye opener.

Friday 7 October 2016

The price of driving a bargain

I know that I have been AWOL again. For a good  reason. Well goodish. Back in May my mouse and I spent rather too much time surfing the Internet. The result was a problem with my neck and a weary mouse. In an attempt to give my neck a chance to recover I awarded the mouse a well earned rest, but every time that I picked up the mouse my neck complained. The only thing to do was to have a complete break from using the mouse and the computer. Needless to say I have found other things to do with my time and my mouse has got used to being idle. Enough of waffle and excuses.

Since January 2015 I had been looking, on and off, for a replacement car. Like all of us my car, Bluebell was ageing and needed money spent on her. I had decided on the make, model and colour that I was looking for. Now it was just a matter of finding it. With each MOT, tax and insurance anniversary my search intensified.  Then wained, when I could not find what I was looking for. Searching via the Internet allowed me to view all possibilities countrywide and saved what would have been many fruitless trips out to second hand car showrooms. Last year's prang, although repaired to look like new, had left Bluebell with a rattle and the driver's door window did not always shut as tight as it should. If I was going to change the car I realised that I would have to consider an alternative colour. So that decision made, it was not long before I found a car that was a possibility. In addition to being my second choice colour of white silver, it was older than I really wanted and the details supplied by the dealer sparse, by comparison with other cars that were also for sale. Over the course of the next few days e-mails flew between myself and a salesman at the showroom, that had the car 30 odd miles away. Eventually I managed to prize out of him the information that I wanted regarding the car, which appeared to be a middle of the range car without many extras, but it would suit my needs. Now it was decision time. Did I want the car moved to the local dealer so that I could see it? Yes, I thought so, but before I got around to asking for that to be done, I followed home from the supermarket a top of the range model that I had not considered. In fact, you do not see many of them about. It set me thinking. So there are some benefits to doing the supermarket shop. It did not take me long to establish that the local dealer, just two miles up the road, had two or three possibilities, all within my price range and more suitable colours than the car that was 30 odd miles away. OK they were all older. I reasoned that if I bought an older car, that I just would not keep it for so long.

What I have ended up with is a silver grey top of the range car with a lot of extras, which I would never have specified and shall probably never use, but at £10 more than the low specification middle of the range alternative it seemed to be a bargain buy. It has cost more to tax and insure, but it is fun to drive even if I do not need the extra power. More importantly a silver grey car is a more practical colour than white silver for someone who lives up a muddy lane. And those heated seats will come in useful in the winter won't they?

Monday 27 June 2016

Something to celebrate

Away from the doom and gloom and turmoil in the UK, husband and I are celebrating our silver wedding anniversary in Agios Nikolaus, on the Greek island of Crete. As we had met on the Greek island of Alonnisos, when we decided to go away to celebrate our anniversary we thought where better than somewhere in Greece? We had been here before a couple of times and been smitten by the place and the hotel just outside the resort, where we are staying. The weather is reliably hot and sunny. The food is good. All the ingredients for a super lazy week in the sun. Sadly we return to grey, wet England tomorrow, but for now here is the current view from my sun bed.

Tuesday 17 May 2016


I do not think that we were being unrealistic, when we went away at the beginning of February, in expecting to find some changes to the lane, on our return five and a half weeks later. This is our lane taken from the end of our drive, looking towards the bottom end of the lane and the main road, which is really another lane.

It looks like a country lane, but we are not really in the country. We live on the outskirts of a village, a few miles from Chester. There ar just three houses in the lane, with a fourth house at the end of the lane on the main road. We live in the middle house - a Victorian cottage. It was originally two farm workers cottage, which have been knocked into one at some point in the past. Then various owners have altered and extended it. Both of the other houses are modern having recently been rebuilt. They have also both been for sale on and off over the last few years. Consequently we have been expecting that we would have new neighbours for some time now. Living next door to a house that is for sale is unsettling. Will the house sell? And if so when? Then there is the uncertainty of not knowing if your new neighbours will be to your liking. Would you be better off if the old neighbours stayed?

After a couple of sales had fallen through, the first house at the bottom end of the lane sold eventually, at the end of October last year. We had been given some brief details about the new owners and we were interested to see what our new 'lane mates' would be like. Husband has met the wife and two children and we have both met the husband, when they were making one of their many vists to the house, but seven month after they became the owners of the house our new neighbours have yet to move in. More than once they have said that they will be moving in in the next few weeks, but the house continues to stand empty and unloved. The garden, which has had no attention for some time, is fast becoming a wilderness.

Then turning in the other direction towards the top end of the lane and the farmer's field, again photographed from the end of our drive.

The house there has also been for sale, on and off, for about eight years now. We were delighted when we found out that the current owners of this house were trying to sell, as we have never got on with them and we know that the wife has never liked it here. This house has also had offers that have not proceeded to a sale, if we are to believe what we have heard from the neighbours. There is a bottle of champagne 'on ice' to celebrate when they eventually go, but it is looking increasingly as if it will be vintage by the time they move out. Before we went away in February we were told that this house was 'under offer'. Consequently we had high hopes that by the time we returned, the house would be sold and we would have some new neighbours. Imagine our delight when we arrived home to find a different car in the drive of the next door house. However, it did not take us long to realise that we had the same old neighbours with a new car! The sale, if there ever had been one, had fallen through and the neighbours had decided to take the house off the market and stay put, much to our dismay.

We have even thought about moving ourselves to put an end to all this uncertainty, but have not seen anything that would suit us and after all the effort that we have put into the cottage we really do not want to be starting again with another house.The lane is looking paricularly good, at the moment, with the hawthorn/May in flower and I am left wondering why wouldn't anyone want to live here?

Sunday 24 April 2016

From South to North

 Next stop - New Zealand. It is a big country of two islands. Stunning scenery from snow capped mountains and glaciers, turquoise lakes, fjords and waterfalls, hot springs and geysers to palm trees, sandy beaches and vineyards. It has it all. Most visitors concentrate on North Island or South Island, but we had to do a sprint through both islands, over the course of three weeks, as husband has family on both islands. Some go for the high octane sports, others for the wildlife. We went for the scenery. Here is a snap shot of our trip.
After Sydney we flew to Christchurch on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. Here the recovery from the 2011 earthquake is underway. Below is the now famous cardboard cathedral 

that has replaced the old brick cathedral which is currently a sad sight, while it is decided if the old building can be safely repaired.

Leaving Christchurch we drove south west to Queenstown, stopping for lunch at Lake Tekapo - below.

From Queenstown we went on a very long all day trip to the fjord of Milford Sound, which should have been all blue skies and sparkling water, but what we got was grey skies and heavy rain. The waterfalls from the cliffs around the sound were stunning but everything was so grey!

Next day, weatherwise, normal service was resumed we explored Queenstown itself and we took the gondola high above Queenstown to get this view of Lake Wakatipu.

After Queenstown we travelled north up the west coast to our next destination of Lake Wanaka. On the way we stopped at Arrowtown, which grew up in the 1860s following the discovery of gold in the River Arrow. Today there are more than 60 of the original wooden and stone buildings, but no gold. It looks like a film set from a western. Pity about the cars.

From Lake Wanaka we moved onto the Franz Josef Glacier, where the cloud base was almost down to ground level. Consequently the visibilty was poor and we did not see the glacier. Our next stop was Hokitika- another little town founded during the 1860s good rush, but not nearly as attractive as Arrowtown. The 2013 Man Booker Prize winning novel The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton was set here during the gold rush. We stopped on the way there at this treetop walk, which was quite a feat of engineering 20 metres above the forest floor. I found this a bit unnerving as it swayed around as we walked along, with quite a drop below us.

Then it was onto Nelson (below) in the north east of South Island. Here it was warm and sunny which was much appreciated after three days in the car and two cool grey days.

One day we explored Nelson and the next day drove west up the coast, stopping for lunch at Mapua waterfront - below.

Then it was time to leave South Island and take the Interislander Ferry from Picton - below

through Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sound to Wellington on North Island. We then  drove to Martinborough, where we stayed three nights in this impressive looking, but disappointing hotel. While in Martinborough we took advantage of being able to walk to some of the local vineyards and sample the wine.

From Martinborough we drove north to the volcanic and geothermal area of Lake Taupo, which at 606 square kilometres is New Zealand's largest lake. Here we spent three nights staying by the lake, giving us two days to explore the area. We did a cruise of the lake during which we saw see these Maori rock carvings created by a local tribe in 1980 at an area known as Mine Bay.

In the afternoon it was back into the car to investigate the area around the lake, which took us to the Huka Falls, where  New Zealand's longest river, the Waikato, is slammed into a narrow chasm dropping 10 metres into a surging pool. The roar of the water was deafening.

The following day we visited the amazing  Orakei Korako cave and thermal park.

    Initially a ferry took us across the river -  above, to a valley of hot springs

silica terraces

and colourful mud.

The next morning it was time to move on. We travelled north again, up the Thermal Explorer Highway to Rotorua where we again stayed by the lake, with its distinctive sulphur aroma. While there we had a very pleasant swim in the hotel's geothermally heated swimming pool.

We only had one night here. Then we were off again. Up north to the Coromandel Penninsula and a two night stop in Whitianga, which gave us a day to take in some of the local scenery by taking the ferry across the harbour then walking along the coast.

Now we had one day left in New Zealand. We  had a drive along the Pacific Highway which winds around the Coromandel Penninsula before heading to Auckland for an early flight to Hong Kong, via Melbourne the following day.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

City life

After three nights in Singapore it was time to move on with another over night flight to Melbourne in Australia, where we arrived at our hotel mid morning and thankfully were given immediate access to our room. After unpacking and an early lunch we went for a ride on the free tram, which runs from near Flinders Street railway station. Both husband and I struggled to keep our eyes open while on the tram. That evening we had an early night.

The following morning we did a hop on hop off bus tour of Melbourne and in the afternoon we went on a boat trip up the Yarra River. The next day we had a walk around the Botanic Garden, which was similar to an English garden albeit with some more exotic plants than would happily grow here in the UK.

Our three nights in Melbourne were soon over and we were onto our next destination of Sydney. While there we did another hop on hop off bus tour. We should have shares in them. They are a good way of getting around and seeing a lot in a short space of time. With hindsight we probably would have been better going on the route out to Bondi Beach, but we chose the city tour, hoping off at Darling Harbour, which is to the west of the  harbour bridge, to have lunch. Then getting back on early afternoon to finish the circuit.

Later we went for a walk around the Botanic Garden which was rather parched, with nothing much worth photographing apart from the rose garden, which was hosting a wedding and was cordoned off. It was St Valentine's Day and it was hot. The bride in a long white dress and veil and her groom in a DJ must have been ready to wilt.

What I did photograph was this statue by the gate where we entered the garden. It is known as the 'Satyr' and there is a sad tale to his existence. He was modelled on the sculptor's younger brother and a goat. The younger brother jumped or was pushed from a ferry in Sydney harbour and drowned. Years later the widow of the sculptor paid to have the Satyr placed where he now sits, looking out onto the spot where the younger brother drowned.

With one day remaining in Sydney we took a boat trip around Sydney harbour, which was a lot bigger than I had expected it to be. We stopped off at Watson's Bay for lunch. Then completed the trip around the harbour and made the most of the photo opportunity.

Saturday 2 April 2016

On the way ...

Down Under our first destination was a three night stopover in Singapore. I had never been that far east and was not sure what to expect. Our car journey from the airport to our hotel whisked us through what seemed to be an enormous building site, with lush patches of green. The buildings were mainly high rise flats or offices. Temperaturewise it was about 30 degrees Centigrade, with grey overcast skies. We had left home around 10 am on Friday morning and arrived in Singapore early on Saturday afternoon. Somewhere we had lost a night and with it our beauty sleep! Needless to say we did not do much that day. The next afternoon we were booked on a tour of Singapore, which took us down to the waterfront, where there are a variety of buildings, housing shops, offices, restaurants and bars.

We had not realised that it was the Chinese New Year and consequently a bank holiday. It was heaving with people both visitors and locals. We just had time to take a few photographs before getting back onto the coach.

As it was the Chinese New Year we could not get anywhere near singapore's Chinatown, but we did manage a walk through the colourful Indian Quarter.

And then we were taken out of the centre to the Botanic Gardens, which are an UNESCO World Heritage site and include the National Orchid Garden. Singapore's tropical climate allows these immaculate orchids to grow out doors.

This was our first ever stopover and I know that we did not make the most of it, but the experience will help us to plan stopovers better in the future.

On the way back from Down Under we had a four night stopover in Hong Kong, which did not get off to the best of starts when Quantas left husband's suitcase in Melbourne. Things did not improve when he attempted to get Hong Kong dollars from an ATM at the airport, inserting his credit card instead of his debit card into the machine and consequently using the wrong PIN number, which meant that his credit card was locked and could not be unlocked until he got back to the UK. Our first evening in Hong Kong was spent trying to find M&S from the receptionist's vague instructions, so that we could purchase husband a change of clothes. I know that we should have packed some of his clothes in my suitcase, but he was not keen to do so. His suitcase did arrive the following day.

Once the suitcase had been unpacked we were able to set out into the damp,cold and grey Hong Kong weather. We were staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST)/Kowloon area. Every street looks the same with the same shops. We eventually managed to find our way through Harbour City to Victoria Harbour.


Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than any other city in the world.

On our second day we were more adventurous and bought a 48 hour ticket for the hop on hop off bus which gave us access to three bus routes, the Star Ferry, which runs a shuttle service across Victoria Harbour between the TST and Central districts of Hong Kong, the Peak Tram, a harbour cruise and a Sampan ride. We did not use all of the tickets, partly because it was difficult to fit every thing in and partly because of the miserable weather, we did not do the harbour cruise or the Sampan ride.

The Peak Tram, Hong Kong's 125 year old thrill ride rises almost vertically up to the 552 metre high Victoria Peak - the highest point on Hong Kong island. On a clear day the view from the summit is spectacular , but this is what we got...

One evening we climbed to the top of the Harbour City shopping mall to see the 8 pm laser show, which happens every evening and lasts for 20 minutes. The visibilty was so poor that we gave up after five minutes.

Our final day in Hong Kong marked a special occasion, which I shall post about later. On the way there we walked through the HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) building and had to take a photograph of one the lions that sit outside.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Beware the Ides of March

This is not the post that I had intended to write on return from our trip Down Under, but as John lennon once said 'life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.' However, I really did not plan to spend last Tuesday evening in the A&E department of our local hospital. Ironically it just happened to be 15 March which is the Ides of March!

I had never experienced an A&E department from the patient's point of view before and I hope that I never have to again. My husband had collided with the wall while playing squash early on Tuesday evening, hitting his head and badly cutting it in two places. At the squash club someone managed to staunch the bleeding and put a temporary bandage on his head, then take him down to A&E at the local hospital. By the time that I got there just before 8 pm he had been waiting for 30 to 40 minutes and he had to wait until about 10.15 pm before being moved into the treatment area. Then there was a wait of another hour before he was seen by a doctor. So that was a wait of four hours for a head injury to be treated. If my interpretation of the NICE guidelines on head injuries is correct he should have been seen no later than one hour after arriving in A&E.

As the evening unfolded I had watched in horrified amazement at the running of the A&E department. As the patients arrive they take a ticket from a machine, then wait for the number to flash up outside the cubicle of the streaming nurse, who they are then able to see. She takes their temperature and blood pressure and asks a few basic questions so that she can prioritise the patient's place in the queue of patients waiting to be seen. The patient returns to the waiting area until called by the booking clerk who takes their name and address etc.There was a steady stream of patients coming into A&E, but not many moving out into the treatment area, with the result that by about 10 pm there must have been about 40 patients waiting to be seen. From the manner in which some of them sauntered in, they had obviously been there before and knew the form. For some it seemed to be social occasion. The couple sitting behind us were discussing the royal family and speculating on Prince Harry's paternity, while another couple sat in the corner reading the newspaper as if it were a convenient and warm place to spend a Winter's evening. Some patients came in alone. Others seemed to bring the whole family. On the wall was a large television screen - everywhere has them now. I was amused to see the hospital soap Holby City was on - nothing like the real thing! I do not watch the soaps. I had to look at a TV schedule to work out what it was, but just fancy going to A&E and seeing that on the TV there!

It was obvious to me that not more than half a dozen of the 40 or so patients were real accidents or emergencies. When husband was waiting to be treated I overheard the doctors discussing some of the patients and saying that they should have been referred to the out of hours GP service. Others I suspect should have gone to see their own GP. This should have been identified by the streaming nurse, who was hopelessly out of her depth. I was all eyes and ears. That evening they apparently had treated several constipated children. Then there was a young child who had helped himself to some paracetamol suspension, whose father was convinced that he had taken an overdose, but the doctor worked out from the amount that was in the bottle before and after the child had taken a swig, that he had not imbibed very much at all. The father was sent home with a lecture about keeping the paracetamol suspension out of the child's reach. Some people should not have children.

Shortly after husband was moved into the treatment cubicle the patient in the adjacent cubicle jumped off the treatment couch and walked off, fed up with waiting. The doctor in charge said that he was not going to pursue him, as he turned up every week with some problem or other. Next into the adjacent cubicle was a young man with a plaster cast on his arm, who had missed a fracture clinic appointment. The cast had become uncomfortable, so where else would you go with this problem than A&E? He had arrived at A&E a good hour and a half after husband and got seen before him! They removed the plaster cast and sent him for an x-ray, but they could not do much for him as he really needed to go to the fracture clinic. Meanwhile husband, with a bloody bandage on his head, and I patiently waited to be seen, feeling as we had become invisible.

Around 11.15 pm a young doctor came to assess husband and removed the bloody bandage from his head at last. During the evening I had thought about doing this myself to see if the cuts could be held together with steristrips, but had not done so partly because husband winced when I touched his head and partly because I had nothing with me that I could swab the cuts with. As it happened steristrips would not have done the job. The smaller cut in his hair was glued together, while the larger and deeper cut on his forehead required six stitches. By now it was after midnight and at last time to go home.

Sunday 13 March 2016

Journey's end

We are now at our return journey stopover - Hong Kong. Our Down Under adventure is almost over. The photograph is not mine. Since we arrived four days ago the harbour has been shrouded in mist. The weather has been distinctly cool and damp, which  I hope has helped to acclimatise us to the shock that awaits us when we return to the UK.

Sunday 6 March 2016


Now we are in North Island, having taken the ferry accross the Cook Strait from Picton to Wellington. After seeing another branch of husband's family we travelled north to Lake Taupo, which is New Zealand's largest lake, then onto geothermal Rotorua where we stayed next to the lake photographed below. If you look carefully you may see the steam rising above the beach. What the photo does not show is the distinct smell of sulphur around the lake.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Another room, another view

Since I last posted we have moved on a few times and are now on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand and this is the current view from our room looking out to the Tasman Sea. After Christchurch we drove to Queenstown, where we stayed three nights. While there we had a very long day trip to Milford Sound on an exceedingly wet day. The lake was grey, visibility was poor but the waterfalls were wonderful. Afer Queenstown our next stop was Lake Wanaka - just another lake really. Then it was onto the Franz Josef Glacier, where the visibility was too poor to see the glacier. Now we are spending a night in Hokitika before travelling on to Nelson tomorrow.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Room with a view

From Singapore we travelled on to Australia. First to Melbourne then onto Sydney, where we were lucky enough to have this view from our bedroom window. In both cities we went on an open top bus tour and had a walk around the Botanic Garden, which were different. Sydney having a much hotter climate than Melbourne. Also in Melbourne we went on a boat trip along the River Yarra while in Sydney we did a harbour cruise.

From our hotel room on Melbourne's Southbank we had this view of the Melbourne sky line looking towards Flinders Street railway station.

There was something very familiar about this view and also many other parts of the city. Some of you will remember the many postings and photographs of his home city of Melbourne, which David McMahon regularly published on his authorblog blog. Having read many of his postings I felt a sense of deja vu. We have now moved on to Christchurch in New Zealand where we are seeing husband's family.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Monkey business

Un beknown to us we arrived in Singapore during the weekend of the Chinese New Year celebrations. As you will see from this floral display in the reception of our hotel we are now in the year of the monkey.    

There were celebrations going on for the Chinese New Year,but we did mot manage to see much of them. We have now moved on to our next destination.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Summer in February

Where has January gone? We are into February already. Here the in the north west of England we have snowdrops,crocus, daffodils and hellebores in flower. All earlier than usual. Probably as a result of the mild weather that we have been experiencing. We have had a few cold days and a couple of frosts, but no snow. Just a lot of rain and wind. One side of the garden has been water logged and the lawn is rather soggy, but that did not stop husband from cutting the grass last week! It must be a first,cutting the grass in January. Normally it is not warm enough to cut the grass until late March.

Part of the reason for cutting the grass is that with the mild weather, it has grown at a time of the year when it does not normally do so and it is also partly because we are about to resume our gap year, with a trip Down Under, leaving at the end of the week. We shall be away for nearly six weeks, which now seems to be a daunting prospect, although when we booked the trip last Autumn  it seemed like a good idea. As much as I want to go to see Australia and New Zealand, I am beginning to be concerned about what I shall be missing at home. The Spring flowers are starting to come out and they could well be over by the time we return home. Also I have decided that I really do not mind our cold Winter weather as long as I can dress up warm. I know that this is going to be the trip of a lifetime and it will be just that, as I do not think that I shall want to go away for such a long time again.

I do not mind flying itself, but I am not keen on long haul flights and the consequent jet lag and in order to get there, there is the small matter of the long haul flight or flights. We have two seven and a half hour flights, with a three hour transit stop over at Dubai airport, about which I have heard some horror stories - I just hope that they are not true, before we reach our stop over destination of Singapore. After three nights in Singapore we have another long haul flight down to Australia, where we shall have six nights. Then we fly to New Zealand. It is Summer down there and the temperature is between 20 and 30 degrees Centigrade, which is rather difficult to think about when the temperature here is in single figures. At least I do not have to try to pack the thick clothes that I am currently wearing.

The photograph is of Lamorna  Cove - the setting for the film Summer in February.

Saturday 16 January 2016

A New Year to remember

This time last year I wrote a post about a memorable holiday that we had taken over the New Year period.  We enjoyed it so much that we decided to go again and we had another unforgettable holiday. The first holiday was enjoyable and memorable, but not necessarily for all the right reasons. Consequently, when we decided to go again I wondered if we were mad or very brave. Last New Year's Eve I had eaten something which did not agree with me and I spent New Year's Day feeling very sorry for myself. Then at the end of the holiday husband had come down with a bug, which made him feel so rotten that he took an unprecendented three days off work, followed by a cough that last the whole of January. Surely lightening could not strike in the same place twice. We would have been very unlucky if the same thing had happened again. In any case you do not need to go away, or even abroad, to eat something that does not agree with you and bugs can be picked up anywhere and everywhere. I must admit that this time I was ever so careful about what I ate and fortunately we managed to avoid any bugs. The recent holiday was memorable mainly for the right reasons. And we are thinking about going again for next New Year.

For those of you wondering where we have been, we have recently returned from Funchal on the island of Madeira. You are probably thinking that Madeira is only a small island, so why do they keep going back?  Yes, it is small, but there is plenty to see and do and most importantly we are on holiday. We are there to relax and enjoy ourselves. There is no need to be chasing around all of the time, dashing from one tourist sight to another. We are allowed to take it easy. Have a coffee, glass of wine or a beer while watching the world go by, reading a book or looking at a tablet. Years ago we used to spend two weeks lying on a beach and roasting ourselves in the sun. I do not think that we need to feel guilty about doing very little. That is what a holiday is for. We actually try to strike a balance between being down right lazy and running around like headless chickens.

We are not the only couple to have fallen for the charms of Madeira. Many of the guests at the hotel, that we stayed in, are returning guests, which probably has as much to do with the hotel itself as it does with Madeira. We met up with some people that we had first met on our previous visit. Then there were other guests who were returning guests, that we had not met before. All interesting people gathered in the same location to celebrate New Year, relax and enjoy themselves.

At lunchtime on new Year's Eve we walked down into Funchal for a spot of lunch and to enjoy the atmosphere. The previous evening we had walked down to Funchal to eat and had been surprised to find the Cunard liner the QE2 (Queen Elizabeth II) berthed at the marina. By now she had moved and was anchored out in the bay with her tenders running a shuttle service between the ship and the quayside.

 There were now four other cruise ships berthed at the marina with a further six, including the QE2, anchored in the bay. Funchal was heaving with the additional passengers from the cruise ships swelling the numbers of  holiday makers actually staying in Funchal. It was like a carnival atmosphere with a band playing and market stalls selling necklaces, sunglasses, wood carvings and souvenirs etc. By mid afternoon we had to leave it all behind, to walk the 40 minutes up the hill to our hotel, in order to get ourselves ready for the evenings celebrations.

So showered, primped, preened and dressed for the occasion in DJ and long dress we took ourselves down for the drinks reception before the evening's meal. By 11.30 pm the meal was over and it was time to collect my wrap, to go outside onto the terrace, to watch the fireworks from the marina  at midnight. Outside on the terrace the waiters we serving sparkling wine and the band from the dining room had also moved outside. The temperature was mild and with everyone in a mellow mood after dining and drinking well, it was a wonderful atmosphere as we awaited the beginning of the firework display. If there was a count down to midnight we did not hear it, because we were too far away, but we did have a wonderful view of the 129,000 fireworks which lasted eight minutes. Funchal's natural amphitheatre and the ten fully lit cruise ships, in the marina and bay, adding to the spectacle of the occasion. We retired about 1 am, but there was more music and dancing for those that wanted it.

On New Year's day after a late breakfast we went for a a very breezy walk along the coast and had lunch by the this beach.

 Something that we could never do at home on New Year's Day!