Tuesday 31 December 2019

Thursday 15 August 2019

Be careful what you wish for

This is nothing to do with UK politics, but as I have given them a mention I might as well add that a blond Billy Bunter would not be my choice for prime minister. Anyway I did not have a vote. Boris Johnson now has the job, and we shall have to see what sort of a fist he makes of it.

This is a follow up to my previous post -  Bucket List. The Greek islands cruise that I mentioned at the end of it had been on our bucket list for some time. We had seen a suitable cruise which sailed last year, but had dithered about booking it and had missed out when it got booked up quite early. So when we saw a Greek islands cruise for June 2019, back in the Spring of 2018, we did not hang around. It was with a cruise line that we had sailed with before and we were happy to cruise with them again. We booked it and we had been looking forward to it for over a year. Husband and I met on a Greek island thirty years ago and it would be our wedding anniversary during the cruise. So for us the Greek islands are a special place, even though the cruise was not visiting the island where we met.

This cruise line has three identical ships. We have now cruised with them three times - once on each ship. On our previous cruise with this company we had been woken up one morning by a loud clattering from the pool deck above our cabin.We complained and the staff were very apologetic about it. They volunteered that they had a policy of no noise before 8 am and it would not happen again, and it didn't. This time we were in the adjacent cabin. Unbelievably on our first morning we were woken at 6.15 am by crew clattering around on the deck above our cabin. Greece is two hours ahead of the UK, so to us that was 4.15 am. Of course we complained, but the staff did not seem interested or to take us seriously and the early morning manoeuvres above our cabin continued. After a few mornings of this I was waking up at the crack of dawn anyway. We complained again, but we were still plagued by early morning noises. Out of nine mornings only two were quiet. Long before we were even half way through the cruise I was counting down the days that we had left as I was desperate to come home for a decent nights' sleep. I just do not function, if I do not have enough sleep and sight seeing is hard work if you are tired. The route that the cruise took was good and the weather was great, but for me the whole thing was spoilt by a lack of sleep. By the time we got home I was like a zombie.

I thought that once we were home and I was sleeping in my own little bed, that the sleep issue would be a thing of the past. Strangely the first night home I slept well, but then the early morning curse kicked in and I was waking just after 6 am, even though we do not have a pool on the roof of our cottage. I was desperate for sleep, but kept waking up early. I felt like I needed a holiday. I did not feel as if I had had a holiday, but hey where had all that dirty washing come from? It was a weird few days before my normal sleep pattern re-established itself. Of course, in the mean time, dog tired and worn out through lack of sleep I had picked up a bug. Not your standard English cold, but I suspect a souvenir from someone else's foreign holiday. Seven days later and husband had it too. It was a holiday not to be forgotten and for the wrong reasons.

Having had nothing more than a cursory apology from the staff on the ship, we wrote to the UK managing director about our experiences. From him we received a very casually written letter with an off hand and flippant tone, which essentially said that noise was a fact if life. No apology and no assurance that it would not happen again. As a consequence, we have cancelled a cruise that we had booked with them for Christmas and New Year, and they have lost us. Cruising is big business and some sectors of the cruise industry are receiving a bad press and rightly so.

Saturday 15 June 2019

Bucket List

Recently I have been thinking about our bucket list. Husband has been retired a few years now. So we have visited some of the places on our list. Some we would like to visit again. For others one visit was enough and we can cross them off as done. This gives us the opportunity to add some new destinations to our list, as the world becomes a smaller place. Most of the items on our bucket list are places to visit. Until I married I lived the life of a gypsy, changing jobs and moving on every few years and I have done enough stupid things in my life not to want to do any more.

The night after finishing my A levels I went to an outdoor, all night pop concert. At 3 am in the morning, as Free blasted out All Right Now, I wasn't well and wished that I was a million miles away. That cured me of ever wanting to go to anything like that again. Husband and I have seen several popular artists over the years. Most recently at the Manchester Arena, after the bombing. We arrived as request two hours before the concert in order to allow extra time to get through the enhanced security, which took about 20 minutes, leaving us with two hours to fill in before the concert started - 20 minutes late. The concert lasted two hours. Then we had to wait an hour to get out of the car park. Manchester is a one hour drive from our home. This is not a GCSE maths question, but it took us seven hours to see a two hour concert. The question is - was it worth it? And the answer is no.

When I was younger I sailed and capsized dinghies. Given the right conditions of sun and enough wind it is exhilarating, but my interest in sailing ran its' course and I gave it up. Another sport that is equally exhilarating is ski-ing. On my first ski-ing holiday, another first time skier and I took the chair lift up the mountain unaware that we should have pulled the bar down to hold us in. There we were hundreds of feet up in the air - one false move and we could have plunged into the valley below. And I have skied on and unintentionally, off piste, when husband and I got separated on the mountain as mist suddenly decended and I lost my way getting back to our hotel. This was long before the days of mobile phones. What might have been is too scary to even think about. That was our last ski-ing holiday.

So what else might be on our bucket list other than places to visit? Well the cottage was renovated and decorated some time ago and now needs freshening up, but that hardly worthy of a bucket listing. For a few years now we have had the vegetable garden that I was determined we should have. Our newest addition is a strawberry bed - that really pays dividends at this time of year. However, what we have never managed to do is to get on top of the garden itself. It has been my mission to do so ever since I retired and this year I am determined to achieve it, but as has been the case in previous years I am at the mercy of the weather. Last year was initially too wet, then too hot and dry. And we have been away in the Autumn for the last two years, which has hindered our progress with the garden as Autumn is a good time to be getting on with a lot of gardening jobs. This year we shall be here in the Autumn, but before I wish away the Summer I am hoping that the weather will be kinder this year and allow me to make some progress in the garden. However, lets not get ahead of ourselves as next week we are crossing another item off our bucket list. We are off on a Greek islands cruise.

Monday 29 April 2019

Hitting the tourist trail

If like me you live in the UK, you have probably had a damp and miserable weekend with an extremely wet Saturday. Here, it must have rained non stop from Friday night until the early hours of Sunday, making Saturday the ideal day for all of those jobs that have been put off for a rainy day, but my jobs will have to wait for another rainy day. This weekend husband's sister and brother-in-law  came to visit with the intention of seeing Chester. They arrived late Friday morning around the time that it luckily stopped raining. We had booked a table for lunch in a restaurant at Lower Heswall, on the Wirral, overlooking the foreshore.

That went well and we then had a drive round the top of the Wirral taking in the golf course at Hoylake and what we could see of Hilbre Island on a murky day.

On the way back we stopped off at Parkgate, where we had a walk along a fresh and blustery Promenade.

Then it was home for a cup of tea. So far, so good. For Saturday we had planned to go into Chester, where there are lots of sights to see when the weather is fine, or at least dry.

Saturday started as it intended to go on - wet, cold and windy. Almost our worst nightmare. What were we going to do? Well we took a taxi into Chester and started at the cathedral.

We joined a group of about thirty for a guided tour of the inside of the cathedral. Inside was dry, if cool. Even the guide was wearing an overcoat. He was very good and it was interesting.

I was surprised at the number of visitors to the cathedral on a cold, wet day. Well we were all keeping dry for a time. Outside, after the guided tour, it was still raining and we needed to make our way down to a popular resturant by the river for lunch. In the expectation of the resturant being busy we had booked a table, but we turned out to be the only customers! Lunch eaten, the rain was coming down sideways and we set off to walk around the city walls - well at least part of the way.

By the time we had walked to the Eastgate clock we were cold and rather wet and decided to abandon

the walls in favour of the cover of the Rows.

Now it was time to head home to get warm and dry and for a well earned cup of tea. Then in the evening it was off to a restaurant overlooking the race course for dinner.

And of course as our visitors set off for home, on Sunday morning, the sun came out.

The photographs are borrowed and were taken under better weather conditions than we experienced.

Friday 12 April 2019

Five to two

In case you we wondering, this isn't about a diet. We were away or five weeks and it has taken me two weeks to catch up with myself. I was going to say catch up with everything, but I don't think that  will ever happen. It is great to go away, but at home, I am constantly behind with everything, or that is how it seems. If or when I do feel that I have caught up, it is just in time to go away again. I am not complaining. There were years when we did not have the time or the money for much of a holiday, when we were renovating the cottage and had two elderly mothers to think about. I would rather stay at home than slum it somewhere cheap and cheerful. We have learnt from past mistakes. Like many retired couples we are now ticking destinations off our bucket list. I know that we have only just returned from a long trip away, but we have already had to think about trips booked for later in the year, which required us to book flights and accommodation, even as far ahead as next January. One hotel that I considered was already booked up for the date that we wanted. Not so long ago we pretty much left it until the last minute to book holidays. We were not so bothered about where we went. It was more a matter of finding somewhere suitable at an acceptable price. Often there would not be much choice. However, that may not have been a bad thing. It simply made the decision of where to go easier. Now we want destinations of our choice often at specific times. So, it is essential to plan and booked ahead.

I  do sometimes wonder if we shouldn't stay at home and get on top of  the garden, but we have been told to travel while we are fit and able to do so. On our travels we often meet like minded travellers, some of whom are much older than us and who are still enjoying galivanting around the world. Recently the husband of a friend has become terminally ill and been advised not to leave the country. Their globe trotting days are over. You never know what might be around the corner. So we shall continue with the travelling and the garden will have to wait.

Friday 25 January 2019

Dry January

So Dry January seems to be the buzz phrase at the moment. My alcohol intake is not that high that I feel the need to participate. However, I have found January this year to be rather dry and boring without resorting to abstaining from alcohol. Here in the UK the daily news is Brexit, Brexit and more Brexit. Sometimes the problems in Venezuela get a mention, or maybe the goings on in the USA, or the antics of the yellow vests of France. Last week Prince Philip hit the headlines, which made a change, but now that he is back behind a safety belt he is no longer news.

The other issue which is a big yawn is veganism. At the moment every newspaper and magazine sems to have an article about vegan food or vegan cosmetics or something else vegan. A vegan diet must be so boring. Where is the enjoyment in life if you only eat plant material? Sister in law gave us some vegan chocolates for Christmas. They are in the cupboard. We haven't eaten them yet.

Then we come to social media. What did we do before it took over? We read books, spoke to on another, watched TV or went to the cinema, theatre or the pub. I am not interested in Facebook or Twitter. I don't have time for either and I am not interested in reading about the minutiae of other people's lives and I am certainly not going to provide a running commentary to my daily life. Anyway it would be boring like Dry January! I went as far as opening an Instagram account, but it would not work. So that was the end of that.

The weather here has been anything but dry. We have had enough rain to waterlog our garden and on Tuesday and Wednesday we had snow and ice.

Yesterday I had another bum haircut and today I have a stiff neck from the hairdresser's wash basin. So I guess that I am looking for a new hairdresser. In the meantime, we are off to New Zealand to see husband's relatives. Me with a brown paper bag on my head.

Saturday 5 January 2019

Too close to home

Strangely yesterday afternoon I was fretting about the lopsided haircut that the hairdresser had given me the previous day and bemoaning the fact that we had moved to Cheshire from Surrey, where my lovely little hairdresser never seemed to make such mistakes, when I saw the headline on the BBC news website that a man had been stabbed on a train in Surrey. Initially I did not think too much of it. It was Surrey and we no longer lived there. Then husband who is always voracious for news read the report and to our horror it appeared to have happened at what had been our local railway station and what is more the victim had died.

We lived in the attractive village of East Horsley, which is situated between Guildford and Leatherhead. It is affluent, leafy Surrey with nice houses, many of them large. Residents in general are professionals, who commute up to London from Horsley by train, as did my husband for several years.

The incident happened between Guildford and Clandon, which is the stop before Horsley, where the culprit got off the train and legged it, meaning that a very dangerous individual was at large in the area. The police have now arrested someone and hopefully it is the culprit.

Thankfully last night, 200 miles away, we slept soundly. I wonder how many in that area of Surrey were so fortunate.

More information on this story can be found on the BBC news website

Tuesday 1 January 2019