Across the Atlantic to Barbados

Posted in Uncategorized on Jan 19, 2019 by David Palmer


We are now fully settled into the ship’s routine of entertainment and mealtimes, supplementing it with trips to the cabin, gym and deck etc. Of course we could eat when we wish, skip an activity, or perhaps attend a club/group that we have rejected as being too active (Zumbah), uninteresting (Bridge) or beyond our abilities (dance/choir) to sign up to. However, there are plenty of alternatives but I guess it is human nature to find a way of enjoying your time without too much effort, and we have done that. It is a long cruise though and you never know, we may decide to join the amateur dramatics or even meet Bill W. We have 6 sea days to fill before Barbados!

Today was significant as the Palmer clan added a new family member, Harry the sandy coloured greyhound arrived in Rothwell. It was remarked that he bears the family nose, so shouldn’t have any trouble fitting in!

On our second sea day (13th Jan.) the ocean took its cue from the sun and was on its best behaviour. Warm blue skies emerged from the blustery, grey days of our passage so far from Europe, the surface of the waters gently undulating like a blueberry jelly, without the hint of any random creamy topping to catch the eye. No sign though of any wildlife, neither in the sea or air, just the occasional small amorphous bits of brown flotsam seemingly in a hurry to speed aft. Not even any other shipping. The on-board interactive map show us as following the mid-Atlantic ridge, roughly half way across this great expanse of water. Lemming like, onto the newly appeared sunbeds. One brave lady even entered the pool for a swim, testing the water for the presence of any killer whales, no one followed her. Sue and I kept to our routine of activities, welcoming the extra seating being afforded to those of us not yet eager to ‘tan-up’ quite this early in the adventure.

On the 15th I spoke to Sarah through the miracle of the internet, she had some bad news regarding their house move which should have taken place last Monday, it appears that their vendor is selling two properties in order to fund their onward move, but the other property unfortunately has a limited title deed which needs to be removed before the sale can take place. The buyer of Sarah and Lee’s house has sold with an exchange of contracts to his own house, therefore leaving him potentially homeless if the issue of the limited title deed is not solved a.s.a.p. Last minute problems in house moves are to be expected but can still be quite traumatic for all involved, I have every confidence that the solicitors will rise to the occasion and sort out a mess that they should have seen and sorted a month ago. They have a week to do so.

Back on board, the daily temperature has risen to 20 degrees and we had our first BBQ on deck. Sue tucked in with gusto but I had just returned hot from the gym and satisfied myself with my usual fayre from the salad buffet. Despite all the same activities going on, sunbathing appears to be the most popular pastime with passengers, most seemingly to be asleep. Sue and I soldier on with our daily selected list of ‘things to do’ except we now play scrabble up on deck rather than in the air-conditioned games room. As an elderly gentlemen mentioned to me at the coffee machine, “Life can be tough at times.” I agreed, “There aren’t many of us that can cope with such hardship!”

Oddly, our mornings activities on the 17th were interrupted by a second life-boat drill. We have never had two of these on board a ship before and neither have any of our fellow mariners standing dutifully on deck roasting under a searing sun. Though the sea we are skimming through does look rather calm, blue and inviting, plus according to the ship’s newspaper, it is now also quite warm, I hope our captain is just being over cautious and the crew aren’t secretly fighting an iceberg strike below the water line, I have no wish to check the editors’ accuracy on the sea conditions in person.

“Land Ahoy!’ was the cry Columbus heard as the island (later named Barbados) was sighted 400 years ago and on the 18th the cruise ship Columbus slipped quietly into Bridgetown (previously James Town) and took its place alongside the dock among four other cruise ships already moored up. Laying opposite the P&O ‘Britannia’, we seemed dwarfed in comparison, but to our rear was the much smaller Fred Olsen ‘Braemar’, ensuring that we had bragging rights over at least one set of cruisers’ that we may meet on shore.

The day was ideal with little puffs of cloud sliding across a blue backcloth, occasionally dimming what at first appeared to be a warming, friendly yellow disc, but would as the day progressed prove to be a not quite so friendly open oven door. After breakfast we left the ship and joined the thin line of rucksack carrying evacuees filtering into a crammed dock terminal, mostly seemingly bent on logging onto the WiFi, we joined them. Charlotte was online so we chatted for a while catching up on family news before again joining the line of escapees, first passing through a throng of eager taxi drivers keen to ferry us off to one sight or another, we declined.

Our walk into the town centre and its most popular tourist spot, “Broad Street’ took about 30 minutes with occasional stops, the longest being at the fish market where we saw the boats being unloaded of their catch, this seemed to be mostly tuna, one fish in particular was easily 2m long.

It was very hot, so ducking into shops to look at the merchandise was more an issue of survival rather than purchase, air conditioning can be a life-saver at times. Saint Mary’s church was at the end of this crowded street so we decided to investigate its cool interior. The front and side gates were locked and chained, but on further circumnavigation we found the rear gates slightly ajar and a gardener busy about his business, he said nothing as we walked past him and finding the church door open, we entered. It is a pleasant enough church, not fussy with decoration, obviously well used but not that well maintained. After a few photos, a wander around and a sit down to rest hot feet we emerged into the furnace to find and photograph the towns two central bridges, hence the name: Bridgetown.

This location is the centre of tourist activity as lying at the end of Broad Street it attracts those bent on shopping, plus being just a few hundred metres away from a local beach of white coral sand, those cruisers keen on sunnier activities pass through gripping towels and suncream. To take advantage of the passing trade are bars, gift shops and traders selling art etc. from stalls located on the bridge itself. We had a brief mosey around to see what was on offer, before purchasing tickets to the very impressive English style Barbados Parliament.

We began by working our way though the Museum of Parliament outlining the history of democracy on the island, it is the third oldest Parliament in the Commonwealth. From there we proceeded to the National Heroes Gallery of which according to the displays there are 10 of them, I found Garfield Sobers the most interesting (I have gone off politicians!) Next, we had a conducted tour of the debating chamber and then the Senate. Knowing the history of the island, unsurprisingly they are exact replicas of the British Parliament, I just hope that their representatives are not as self interested and deceitful as ours.

Fully politicised we set off in search of Saint Michael’s Cathedral. It wasn’t far, just a few (hotfooted) minutes walk away. As with St. Mary’s, all the usual gated entrances were barred against entry but after another circumnavigation we found an open entrance, but were stopped from entering by a sign indicating that the building was locked due to repair. It invited us to visit the grounds but we wanted the shade and cool of inside, not the heat of gravestones and concrete.

We returned to Broad Street and purchased a Christmas bauble that Sue had spotted earlier, before revisiting the area around the bridges and checking out the rather sad and dilapidated main outdoor market area. Apart from fruit and vegetable stalls there only appeared to be rather seedy local bar shacks, all in poor condition as was their local customers. We hurried back to the touristy gift shops along the little harbour on the other side of the bridge, very much a barrier between the the haves and the have nots. I bought a T-shirt and then guiltily dropped my change into the out held cup of a beggar crouched patiently on the bridge.

The beach was just a short walk away and that is where we went next. It was busy, yet there were plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas available. We could tell which beachlovers were from the Columbus as they had their distinctive blue and white striped bath towels with them. The brilliant white coral sand besides being the trademark of the Carribbean and cool underfoot is a great reflector of the sun’s heat and it wasn’t long before our slow amble along the beach, around beached jet-skis and toasting bathers had its affect. Wading through the surf had some cooling influence, but without getting fully immersed it was a battle we could not win as we had neglected to bring either swim-wear or towels. After around 40 minutes or so we left the beach to those much better prepared and made our way along the board walk towards the sanctuary of our metal home for the next couple of months. We stopped to purchase drinks at a supermarket before visiting the Pelican Art Centre located just out side the cruise terminal.

We hurried back to our cabin for cooling drinks and drop off the bags we had managed to fill in our foray into Bridgetown, than disembarking for a second time we returned to the WiFi inside the Cruise Terminal along with many passengers from the other ships to pick up emails etc. etc.

The Columbus left port at 5.30pm.

Many of our fellow cruisers had taken tours to various parts of the island, others who had visited before had used local transport to revisit favourite spots. We had chosen to see its capital and make up our own minds on Barbados by experiencing its culture on our own. Would we visit it again? Yes.

Columbus sailed to the Azores

Posted in Uncategorized on Jan 11, 2019 by David Palmer


Due to a delay in refueling we didn’t leave our berth in Amsterdam until midnight, by then we were snug in our cabin.

A sea day means that on waking we read the morning ship’s daily magazine in earnest and plot what we are going to do in between meals and the evening entertainment. Today would have been my first visit to the gym but a sore ankle that I have been carrying for a couple of weeks now wasn’t improved by yesterdays city ramble, so that activity will have to wait.

We did attend two quizzes, a bingo session and an interesting lecture on Liverpool.

We are starting to become familiar with the layout of the ship and are now not having to retrace our steps as often, but I guess that means that we are getting less exercise, but to compensate we have decided not to use the lifts and are stretching our legs up the many stairways.

There was a formal dinner and this was preceded by the Captain’s Welcome Reception (DJ’s etc. worn). We were first in the queue to be presented to our tall Greek ship’s captain, a mild mannered man with a soft handshake. After our photograph with him we sat in seats alongside a single elderly lady from Germany who was second in the line. After a glass of champagne there followed some very delicious canapes, then several more glasses of plonk while we waited for the captain to shake the hands of all the other guests. While we waited we chatted (as best as we could) to our seating partner. Her English like our German was not expansive, but we managed. We discovered that she was 79 yrs old, she was on the World Tour (120 days) and would be celebrating her 80th in Mumbai. She lived near the Dutch border but started her cruise in Tilbury rather than Amsterdam, I think that she was annoyed that her travel agent had sent her on flights from Dusseldorf to Amsterdam then Amsterdam to Gatwick and finally a long transfer to the port in Tilbury to catch the ship, when she could have got on board in Amsterdam. However, she looked quite a fit and alert lady for her age as proved by the fact that a couple of years ago she spent 4 months flying around the countries of South America, that’s brave thing to do at any age. When all hands had been shook the captain along with the rest of his senior heads of departments, took centre stage and introduced themselves and wished us a pleasurable journey.

The show was a dance extravaganza called appropriately ‘Anchors Aweigh’, well known nautical tunes danced to in a variety of sailor outfits and accompanied by the ship’s resident singers with support from a ‘well oiled’ Sue, the champagne either has magical qualities or the alcohol content was high.

Our evening meal was again with Ian and Diane with the remaining two place settings remaining stubbornly empty.

The following morning in addition to attending the quiz sessions we played Jackalo, a long board game where you push wooden discs down a board, trying to get them through small openings that attracted various scores. It was fun but frustrating, there was lots left for improvement.

The afternoon was taken up with a lecture on first names, we followed that up with another quiz then a game of scrabble. As we transfer from one activity to another, we pass by others that seem quite enticing but then you can’t do everything can you? However, we did sit for awhile and listen to the passenger’s choir being practised, they were singing Moon River and it was really rather enchanting, such a shame Sue and I have voices that replicate mating toads!

The evening entertainment was a stand-up comedian from Wolverhampton, he had an excellent repartee of gentle humour that didn’t upset any category of the human race (mostly) too much. A quality essential for any entertainer on a multinational cruise ship if they wish to attract a lengthy or repeat contract.

The 9th was a full activity day with the usual quizzes and lectures, but I opted out of a seminar on pain control with Sue and went for my first session in the gym. On meeting up back in the room I learnt that Sue had also left soon after me, disappointed at the focus of the lecture, which appeared to be that pain was not good for you and that it was a symptom of something being wrong with your body. Now that wasn’t a surprise to her, so she retired early for coffee in the restaurant. Perhaps the next session may be more informative.

We did watch our first on board film, a Liam Neeson action movie called “Commuter’. An entertaining but far fetched plot that required its audience to ‘buy into’ the idea his 60yr. old character could fight like Mike Tyson and that some very powerful and rich people were scoundrels who wanted to keep secret their dastardly ways. I could only align myself with one of these concepts, the other was too ridiculous to contemplate. Can you guess which?

The evening show was a pantomime, Aladdin, having witnessed a much more professional production in Kettering over Christmas this version was hilarious because of its blatant amateurishness lots of fun and laughs from audience and cast alike.

We have taken to doing a couple of turns around the deck after our evening meal and it has been noticeable that on each occasion it is becoming warmer as we head further south. Summer days are here again.

The ship has 1200 passengers and 620 crew from 28 nationalities, there are no children on board (it is an adults only voyage), the age range of the passengers certainly weighs in favour of those in the retired bracket but there are a few from 20+ years upwards. It’s not many, other than the retired or of certain professions that can afford the time off for a cruise of such length (120 days completing the World Tour). There are a few passengers that are working on board whilst enjoying the facilities, I did come across a writer the other day, he was complaining bitterly about the lack of WIFI in all parts of the ship, but I have seen others with heads buried into their laptops with screens displaying spread sheets, word-processors and other work related software. So far I have resisted the temptation to ask what they are doing and why.

We are now becoming familiar with the faces of our fellow travellers and the greetings are becoming warmer and more familiar as the days pass. As we are all in the same boat, we have the incentive to get on with each other and chat, no meal passes without an exchange of pleasantries and then inevitably the conversation comes around to: How many cruises have you been on. Where are you disembarking. Where are you from. Have you been to ……. There is No mention of UK news and definitely Brexit has never been mentioned (so far), not even by the foreign passengers. What a relief. If the conversation lasts for any length of time then relationships and children are discussed. We were surprised to discover that many of the couples we meet and chat to are not married or even partners, they met on a past cruise, live separate lives in different parts of the UK or Europe and meet up on board when it is next time to cruise. It makes sense, rather than pay a hefty single supplement for each cabin, book as a pair and share one, saves a lot of money. We have seen on past cruises a slot in the activity timetable for singles to meet each day, I guess this is where it all happens with the result being evident on this ship. There are no timetabled singles activities on the Columbus (job already done), but the there is a club called the ‘friends of Bill W.’ It is where any gay or lesbian passengers get into contact, they meet every day at 5pm in the Aft Observation Lounge (some one has a sense of humour).

We docked gently into Ponta Delgada at 8am with with hardly an onboard shudder. If our alarm hadn’t gone off at the same time, Sue and I would have been unaware that we had reached our 2nd port of call. At breakfast we could see that it was a grey morning and the town was already bustling with activity.

We had holidayed in the Azores a few years ago so didn’t feel the need to join any organised trip to discover the island, we already done that and decided that we loved the place. The day trippers had already left the ship for their adventures by the time we disembarked and ignoring the polite requests of the taxi drivers at the end of the pier, we plunged into the town with its pretty black and white cobbled streets and emersed ourselves into Azorian culture.

First, we headed for the one focal point from which we knew where everything else was located and that was the Collegia Hotel, which had accommodated us on our previous visit. It was still there, unchanged and still felt like a warm, safe sanctuary if needed. Why do we always return to places we have visited in the past?

The nearby Arts and Culture Museum (Dept. of Sacred Art of C Machado) was open, we had attempted to peruse its contents several times before, but on each occasion it had been shut, after paying 90 cents for a 1Euro entrance ticket (it was all we had and we are pensioners after all) the staff kindly waved us through. The building was a retired church, originally built by the Jesuits before they were thrown off the island during the reformation. The large and impressive altar was intricately carved with the most complex groups of designs and characters we have ever seen. Like so many others it was originally going to be covered in gold leaf but the Jesuits left before it was finished and in our opinion it is much the better for it. Our miserly 90 cents appeared to provide us with our own personal guide who gave us the complete history of the building and of the many other artefacts in the rest of the museum. We completed our visit with a display of Azorean roof tile production, I found it particularly fascinating (I don’t think Sue did) as a few years ago my step brother and I had re-roofed his Bulgarian home with similar pantiles.

We returned to the ship for lunch and then headed back into town, first visiting an ATM to collect some of the devil’s coinage, the Euro. Next stop was the Palace of Santa Anna (Jardim Do Palacio De Sant’ Ana) and its gardens, the site contained the current Azorean President’s offices in a very impressive, obligatory black and white mansion like building. The palace was off limits so we meandered around the beautiful gardens, conveniently the trees and shrubs were all labelled, inviting them to be read and discussed, which we did.

Not yet satisfied with our intake of floral knowledge, sights and smells, conveniently a short way down the road was the Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botanico Jose Do Canto), it too possessed an impressive building that was off limits to us, but only because the original home of Jose De Canto is now a 2 star hotel. We first explored the little chapel of Santa Anna close to the entrance and probably where Jose used to pray. The gardens themselves were vast and home to a great many species of trees and shrubs, again all labelled and all requiring reading. It took some time to oblige, but I don’t think we missed many. However, one large specimen insisted on dropping its seeds onto us painfully from a very great height, after checking that it was the tree playing games and not (as in the past) a troop of monkeys amusing themselves, we hurried on without knowing its species, original location and dimensions. He shall remain an unknown.

Next port of call was the fortress down by the harbour. We had taken many photos there on our last visit so as my feet were sore (my watch was telling me they had taken 11597 steps since waking) we checked that it was still in the same condition as we had last left it and went back to the ship for much needed coffee and a feet up.

The evening show was an excellent concert of classical singing with violin.

The captain promised us a sea swell of 4-5m throughout the night and the whole of tomorrow, this should be interesting.

The journey starts…….

Posted in Uncategorized on Jan 7, 2019 by David Palmer

5th & 6th Jan.

Whether we went travelling again depended on Sue getting well, neither of us wanted to repeat the disappointment of cancelling of our trip down the Amazon of last January, so with that in mind Sue resolutely stuck to the task and remaining in pyjamas for four days, she kept herself warm, dosed herself with medication and ate what ever I cooked, without complaint. By Friday, we felt that she had got on top of the ‘bug’ and permitted the family to visit in the evening for a fish and chip supper.

On Saturday morning Sue showed further improvement and seemed nearly back to her old-self so we set about getting the house ready for our extended absence. The alarms and camera passwords had been transferred to Suraj so that he could monitor the house online. Our neighbour had been asked to keep an eye open (we do they same for them), the pool had been topped up and for the first time during a winter excursion I had left the cover on. Gas, water and some non-vital electrical equipment had been disconnected and Jamie had been primed to take us to Tilbury Docks. He had booked to have a meal at the Oxo Tower in London after dropping us off at the port with Ashton, but when she woke up she was too ill (may have caught Sue’s bug) and he was taking his best friend Tommy instead.

He dutifully arrived to pick us up at 1.30pm before picking Tommy up on our way to the A14. We completed the journey in a little over 2 hours, with just the one delay thirteen miles away from the port. There had been a crash on the slip road off the notorious M25. Fortunately it delayed us just for 20 minutes and we were soon checking in onto the Colombus.

Our cabin was ready for us so we quickly located it, dropped off our carry-on baggage and set off to find the Plantation Bistro for a much needed coffee. With thirst quenched we returned to the cabin to find that our suitcases had been delivered so we set about putting away things in drawers and checking the various documentation left in the room for our information.

Like most others, we then had a good wander to locate the position of various facilities before returning to our cabin and changing for the evening meal in the Waterfront restaurant. We had opted for a second sitting so it wasn’t until 9pm that we sat down. We had also opted for a table of six so that we could chat to fellow travellers, but disappointingly we were the only ones that turned up, so ate alone. We hoped that the others had chosen to eat in the buffet for that meal and would turn up on the following evening or perhaps they were guests that weren’t being picked up until Amsterdam, we shall see.

We managed to stay awake long enough to take in a show in the theatre, the ship’s resident singers sang a medley of songs finishing with Nessum Dorma. Then off to bed.

Breakfast was followed by a game of bucket bean bags in one of the bars. A fierce competition, magnificently won by myself by a huge margin, with Sue coming in 2nd place, my prize for lobbing bean bags into a bucket 3m away was a ship’s pen. We were brought down to Earth with a dismal showing in the following quiz, with a score of 7/25, though 11/25 won the prize of a plastic piggy bank. Truly life-changing prizes.

The ship docked in Amsterdam at 1pm so after lunch we left the ship to see the sights. As our berth was in the centre of the city most of the tourist venues were within a 30 minute stroll, today it was rather a chilly wander around this canalled city, constantly on the lookout against being mown down by the seemingly millions of healthily motivated citizens on bicycles going about their daily business business. We felt sorry for the poor little children strapped into box like contraptions on the front of mum or dad’s cycle, they looked blue with cold while the adult looked decidedly warm with the extra exertion of transporting their offspring.

Following the map on my mobile phone we easily found ourselves outside the Anne Frank Museum after navigating and photographing our way over picturesque bridges and alongside busy tourist boat infested waterways. We knew that the museum was booked out weeks ago, but we were playing our luck and hoping for fate to smile on us, she didn’t. After a few photos outside we visited the nearby Tulip Museum and discovered the history and industry of tulip growing. It seems that they originated in Afghanistan and the sultan Sulliman the Magnificent was particularly struck by them, it is thought the name tulip is derived from the shape the flower and its similarity to that of the turban. Sue made some purchases in the shop.

We next came across the Cow Museum and then the Duck Museum, amusing affairs of plastic/pottery collections of of these animals in as many different poses and situations as you can imagine. A bit of fun that raised a smile on an increasingly cold day.

We finished our ramble around the city with a wander around Magna Square where the Royal Palace is situated. The square itself was busy with various protest groups displaying their banners, posters and propoganda paraphernalia. There was the pro-Israeli group opposite the pro-Palestinian group, with the pro-Lebanese to one side, all very low key and civilised. Scattered around were also the obligatory human statues touting for donations, for a while we were attracted to a whip cracking entertainer who promised over his Tannoy to all and sundry a superb performance of what we never found out as the cold got into our bones as we, along with everyone else waited patiently while he set up the equipment for his act. It appeared to be some sort of bondage thing (very apt for Amsterdam), but we left chilled out before he started.

We visited a Mison pottery outlet on our route back to the ship, Sue to make a purchase and I to escape the Dutch refrigerator outside.

The Dutch passengers were still boarding the boat as we returned, eager for warming coffees we hurried inside.

The show before our evening meal was a musical and dance affair. We had company for dinner, Ian and Diane from Plymouth, they had eaten in the buffet the previous night. We got on well and chatted throughout the meal, we wondered if the other two seats would be occupied on the following night.

Pepper, Boilers and Christmas.

Posted in Uncategorized on Jan 2, 2019 by David Palmer

With Brexit dominating the  news 24/7 it was a refreshing change on the 28th Nov. to get out into the Leicestershire countryside on a ramble with John. I had plotted a circular route from the Royal Oak in Great Dalby  into my GPS using some new software, it had indicated the distance as being 9.9 miles but in reality it turned out to be a little over 12 miles! However, the weather had been forecast to be foul, but except for a brief shower we had a relatively easy journey with a strong wind assisting us up several steep inclines towards the latter end of our trek. Lunch was most welcome and was washed down with a very unusual plum porter.

The following day the central heating boiler decided to die. It is under a service contract with HomeServe and I was pleased to be informed that the contract provided for a free boiler, I would just have to pay for its installation. A fitter called a few days later to survey the site and provide us with a quote for installation. Wisely,  I had already asked a friend (he owns a local building and heating company) to give me a quote on replacing the existing boiler and I was surprise to find that the two quotes were exactly the same, less 60p!!! One with a FREE boiler and one without. Of course the ‘FREE’ boiler could only be fitted by one of the company’s own accredited fitters, not surprisingly I preferred to pay for a new boiler and have it fitted by a company that I trusted not to try to rip me off. I conveyed my thoughts to HomeServe when they enquired as to why I had not chosen them.

Sadly, on the 1st of December Pepper passed away. Pepper was Charlotte’s cat. It was on the same date that her other cat Murphy passed away a few years ago, though in much more tragic circumstances. Pepper was loved by all in the family, his rasping growl would always greet you AND let you know when he was hungry. He spent much of the last few years inside the house, not caring to venture out into the big wide world, preferring cuddles and sleep to adventures and fuss. I for one shall miss that skinny little bundle of fur.

Now that Charlotte is on the road to recovery we have started to resume our habits of the past. On the 4th Dec. Sue had her U3A walk cancelled due to muddy conditions so she accompanied Charlotte and I for lunch at the Red Lion in Clipston. Though she can’t as yet drive she has taken to catching the bus into Harborough to see friends and of course her mum and dad.

On the 7th the Rothwells came over to Harborough for ‘Late Night Shopping’, this annual event is popular in the area, more for the street entertainment, free mince pies and mulled wine rather than yet another opportunity to purchase late Christmas presents. There didn’t appear to be as many people or entertainers as in the past, but the shops and stalls did seem to be very busy.  The following day I attended the annual Christmas luncheon at the rugby club, meeting up with old chums and catching up with the latest rugby gossip. It was a pleasant and reserved do and for once I arrived home early and under my own steam. How life changes as you get older (and wiser?)

Lucas had his twelfth birthday on the 10th and met up with his friend Hamish from Newark to celebrate.

On the 15th Sue drove to Tenbury Wells to meet Philippa and swap Christmas presents. They both stayed the night at Sheila’s, celebrating Philippa’s birthday with a meal at a local hostelry on the Saturday night, before return home on the Sunday. That Saturday morning I had an early appointment at the Eye Clinic at the Royal in Leicester. I caught the 6.40am bus from Harborough as driving after an eye injection was not an option. Annoyingly, I lost my long distance glasses at some time during the day. I had only taken them in case they were needed to be checked and ironically they weren’t. Fortunately a replacement pair only cost me £15.

My second Christmas dinner of the season was on the 20th with my Thursday night pool playing chums. We took a taxi to Loddington and dined at The Hare. It was another quiet affair among good company in pleasant surroundings.


On Christmas Eve the family arrived for the start of the festivities. Sue had unfortunately contracted the chesty cough that was apparently working its way through the population of the town. While the Rothwells went for the traditional afternoon walk into town I stayed with Sue to keep her company and also keep an eye on her. Sarah, Lee and Mia arrived after work later in the afternoon, bringing with them a pre-ordered selection of hand-made pizzas from Asda, and very tasty and very filling they proved to be.  After munching through their personalised Italian cibo Charlotte and Sarah set about preparing the vegetables and turkey in readiness for the following day’s meal. Sue took to her bed.

By 8.30pm all had been scrubbed, chopped, sliced and seasoned and we set off (minus a sleeping Sue) to Kettering for an evening of tenpin bowling. It was an activity that in the past we did each Christmas, but it was put on hold when Lucas and Ellis  made an appearance as it does make for a very late evening. We bowled until 11.30pm with lots of family fun and wind-ups going on. However, I was surprised to see that the majority of lanes were empty, when we have been in the past on Christmas Eve the place was heaving with families and groups of friends having a great time. You would have to book months ahead to get a lane.  The bar was open and food was available, where were the good people of Kettering?

Returning to Harborough it was off to bed and sleep, though Ellis did take time to check on his tablet the current location of Santa and confidently announced that he was presently in Spain, it would be awhile before he got here. That was lucky, we wouldn’t want to miss him, would we?

I have it on good authority that Mr Claus had arrived before 5am, but Sue and I didn’t rouse ourselves until 8am, when all the family assembled to look on in wonder at the mound of presents around the tree. That must be some sleigh Mr. Claus has, you have to feel for Rudolf and co, they certainly earned their carrots this year.


After breakfast, Suraj and Ellis were the delivery elves, they did an efficient job with no one seemingly short of things to unwrap for an hour or so. Gratefully, we all appeared to get what we had wished for, and more besides. Though the suppressed excitement of opening a brightly coloured festive parcel is hard to beat (even if you do know what is inside), watching the curiosity and then the surprise of others opening theirs is what Christmas is all about. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the birth of baby Jesus too!


The rest of the day went thus: Sarah and Charlotte with the occasional help of Sue cooked a splendid Christmas lunch while the rest of the family attended to their presents. Satisfyingly gorged and with pots, pans and crockery washed and temporarily put away,  toys, gizmos, electronics etc. were again perused and ‘sorted out’. Late in the afternoon, all except Sue took an invigorating walk around the Farndon Fields estate to give Mia some much-needed exercise and also to aid the passage of freshly digested turkey with trimmings. After preparing and then consuming the evening meal, the family all sat down to watch the film  ‘Mowgli’ on the lounge cinema system. An excellent film, very enjoyable. Sarah, Lee and Mia departed to travel up to Lee’s parents in Nottinghamshire to celebrate his birthday.


From my observations, the majority of households (those with children) in our neighbourhood (at least), seem to follow the same tried and trusted procedure. You can’t beat it. Only 364 more days to go to savour it all again!

Boxing Day started with an appointment for Sue at the walk-in clinic at the local hospital. The diagnosis was that the cough was viral and antibiotics would be of no use, it may take a couple of months to fully recover. Chesty cough remedies were advised.

Afterwards we drove to Peterborough Greyhound Stadium to continue the festivities. We had pre-booked a couple of tables to ensure that we were not going to have to stand for the afternoon. At £30 a table it is expensive but there is always the chance that our winnings may cover the cost, though it hasn’t done so far and it didn’t this year! Suraj and Lucas were the only ones to show a significant profit, the rest of us crashed and burned to a variety of degrees! As usual we took advantage of the bar and fast food outlet to top up our already inflated breadbaskets. There was a little bit of excitement early on in the afternoon as during the 2nd race the hare continually refused to be chased by six eager greyhounds but eventually after much cajoling by the technical staff and lots of practise runs he played ball and the afternoon went smoothly. As usual he didn’t get caught, despite wearing a bright orange jacket that seems to upset the canine population, he is far too fast.


Due to the delay it was a late return to Harborough for tea and another evening film session. Ashton joined us briefly to say hello and confirm that she would be joining on tomorrows’ traditional Christmas celebration.

Sue and I looked after Lucas, Ellis  while Charlotte and Suraj took advantage of the sales and did some shopping. Later in the morning Lee and Sarah arrived and we added Mia to our shepherding duties while they too went off in search of bargains. We all met up again at 5pm in the Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering to watch the pantomime Aladdin. It was by a long way the best production we have seen to date. An absolute magical evening that captured the festive fun of Christmas perfectly. The flying carpet routine left us mesmerised, how did they do it?

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We returned home to traditionally finish off the rest of the turkey with the obligatory chips and salad. You can’t beat yuletide food!

On the 28th everyone left. Sara and Lee to prepare for their move to Newbold Verdon on the 7th January, Jamie and Ashton to do likewise for their move to Desborough on the 24th January and the Rothwells to look after Mia for a week in practise for acquiring their own dog in the near future. I think they may possibly be homing a greyhound as I saw Charlotte pick up a few leaflets concerning retired greyhounds. We shall see how the dummy run with Mia goes. Owning a dog is life changing and not just for Christmas (so the advert says).

Over the next few days Sue struggled on with a worsening cough and bouts of coldness and high temperature. Early morning on New Years Eve day she had an appointment with her GP who confirmed that she had an infection in her right lung and prescribed antibiotics and rest. On return she took to her bed and remained there for the rest of the day.

The Rothwells celebrated the New Year at home, watching the London fire works display on the TV, Sarah and Lee travelled to Cotgrave and Jamie and Ashton booked into a hotel in Nottingham and partied there. Sue and I (as in past years) were in bed and listened to the ‘friendly fire’ detonating outside.

New Years Day saw no improvement in Sue (but no worsening) and she remained within her quilt cocoon, letting the medication do its work. We were both due to travel to Rothwell to have lunch but Sue wasn’t well enough, so I travelled alone, bringing back a plate for her to consume in bed. The Rothwells had been looking after Mia for nearly a week now so I was not surprised to learn that they had already picked out a replacement for when she is returned to Sarah. Pinned to the kitchen door was a poster of ‘Mate’. Mate is a retired sandy coloured greyhound and soon to be re-homed in the next two weeks in Rothwell. Charlotte informed me that his racing days are now over because he ‘looked at’ the other dogs during his last race. This apparently is a ‘no, no’ as it puts the other dogs off. A pretty good tactic if you ask me, a dog that has learnt to psych-out the  opposition should be kept and raced, not re-homed. I didn’t know, but greyhounds are trained not to look at other dogs, I guess their telepathic skills must be awesome. Perhaps Charlotte, Suraj and the boys may just have invited a canine psychopath into their home?


This year I acquired a Google Home mini as a Christmas present. A fascinating bit of technology that (I am sure) will soon infiltrate the whole  of society for the better or worse. Being one of the ‘good guys’ I don’t see me having to worry about the little sphere sitting in the lounge listening in to what is happening in the Palmer home (no matter who is surreptitiously in control), but I certainly wouldn’t have one anywhere near me if I had criminal tendencies, but then it is my experience that the majority of wrongdoers aren’t the brightest of cookies and would most likely possess one.

On the 2nd of January, Sue felt a little bit better and managed to leave her cocoon and came downstairs, we had the central heating on and also lit the wood burner in the lounge to warm her passage around the house. During the morning we denuded the Christmas tree then I dug the large suitcases out of the loft to pack in readiness for our (fingers crossed) imminent cruise. Frustratingly we are still waiting for the cruise tickets to arrive. I have email attachments of their scan, but the actual tickets have been sent by special delivery and should have arrived by now. I feel a critical review in the making!


Costa Christmas can be draining!

Posted in Uncategorized on Nov 23, 2018 by David Palmer

It seems to me that Christmas is getting earlier each year. Decorations, music, advertisements and films etc. etc. etc. concerning the 25th have no place in September, October, November or dare I say even before the 20th of December! AND as soon as THE day is over, we are sure to be reminded that there are only 364 shopping days left until Xmas!!!!! I do look forward to this magic day, and it might be an age thing, but when it does eventually arrive it feels as if I have just  been running two marathons, back to back……… exhausted and not able to raise a smile let alone a mince-pie (which I don’t like). So, if I don’t manage to purchase any cards or presents for my loved ones this year I do hope that they will understand that I don’t care for them any-the-less, it’s just that I have succumbed to fatigue and in need of some sort of therapy (and it’s not retail).  HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

One Saturday morning we had a visit from our neighbours, they enquired as to whether we had been having trouble with our drains. Their toilets were filling up and wouldn’t drain away, that can be very tricky. They wanted to look into the drain beside our kitchen to see if it was blocked. We had been having the odd gurgling noise from the bath plughole in the downstairs bathroom, but it wasn’t concerning so it was with reluctance I raised the cover to the drain. It WAS blocked, and full of our neighbours attempted flushings of that week. They had bought some rods that morning to use on the drain outside their house but they had failed to free the blockage. They were now inserted into our drain but failed to impress whatever was causing the problem, fetching my own set of rods they were attached to those already in use and despite the extended length the brown liquid sludge stubbornly refused to budge. Remembering that I had another drain up the drive under a large Blue Spruce, we (with difficulty) lifted the cover. That was also full to the brim with the offending secretion. When the rods were lowered, I was surprised at the depth of the manhole. It was just over two metres deep! With some judicious poking with the rods the blockage was eventually dislodged and thankfully everything quickly flushed away with a gurgle to only god knows where. And he is welcome to it. The smell on my hands stayed with me for several days, no matter how many times I washed them.

On the 15th Nov. Jamie and I travelled to Fuengirola on the Costa Del Sol. Jamie had spent the previous three days in London on BD business and didn’t arrive back into Harborough until  late on the 14th. We flew from Birmingham with Jet2 on a mid morning flight to Malaga, the 2.5 hour journey meant we arrived at 2pm. We took the train from the airport to Fuengirola. A fast, clean and efficient method of transport that shames the extortionate and stumbling British Rail system. The route is the same length as that from Harborough to Leicester, but a much more pleasurable ride and at 2.70 Euros compared to the crowded £10+ Midland Mainline version there is no comparison.

It was a 15 minute walk to our centrally located Hotel, the Itaca. A comfortable hotel just a few minutes from the beach and its long, long ribbon of bars, hotels and restaurants  stretching without a break along the southern Spanish coast. After checking in and approving our top floor, sea view room we changed into shorts and T-shirts and hit the first beach bar that we came across, We had the first and last authentic local meal in Fuengirola of our stay. I opted for a plate of anchovies and Jamie a dish of local prawns, mashed potatoes with coleslaw and tomatoes. Very acceptable fayre, but unfortunately our choice of bar for the rest of our stay in Fuengirola ensured that local cuisine was definitely not on the menu. It is well-known that the Brits have taken over the Costa Del Sol and exported their taste in grub ‘to boot’, bars and restaurants run by expats are predominant.

We walked down the strip to the little harbour crammed with low and mid range yachts, nestled up against a few, much larger trawlers that were either being repaired or disgorged of their catch. Conspicuous as ‘non-locals’ with our sunny gear on amongst the ‘wrapped up’ Spanish and naturalised Brits we returned to our hotel after first choosing a sports bar aptly called ‘The London Pub’ as the venue for our evening meal and entertainment: the England v USA match with the added interest of Wayne Rooney making an appearance.


As planned, and taking into account the time difference we were  sat in front of the bar’s large screen at 9pm, with two curries and a pint each of Spanish lager to wash down UK’s national dish. The game did not disappoint, 3:0 to the good guys and though Rooney had only a late cameo role, he displayed the skills that made him England’s record goal scorer. The bar was well populated by fellow countrymen, however there was a distinct lack of locals, they were possibly wringing their hands in darkened rooms after Spain lost to Croatia 3:2 earlier in the evening (we watched it in our hotel room).

Breakfast was substantial and of course suited the English taste buds. We caught the train into Malaga Central, a 45 minute journey and cost 14 Euros for two return tickets!

We ambled downhill through the bustling streets of this small city towards the harbour checking out the many statues and festive displays on route. Christmas comes early here too. As we find in many of the countries we have visited in the past, the local population are very law-abiding when it comes to pedestrians. Look across a road and the cars will stop. At pedestrian crossings, if the  green man is not flashing, locals will not cross, not even if there are no vehicles visible from horizon to horizon. Why did Jamie and I feel so guilty each time we exercised a bit of judgement and marched across junctions, leaving a crowd of obedient Spaniards behind, no doubt tutting the foreigners.

The harbour had some esteemed visitors that day. The Costa Pacifica was in port, and had discharged its cruisers into the city, some of whom we were to come across in the castle, high above the city. But more impressive was the Octopus, the £220 million  super yacht with a permanent crew of 60 and once belonged to Microsoft co-owner Paul Allen, it now belongs to his sister Jodie. Jamie was particularly inspired by the sight and size of the vessel and vowed to have one just like it. I preferred the Costa Pacifica.

The climb up to Malaga castle was strenuous but worth it. Seven Euros entrance for the both of us certainly was more cost-effective than Windsor Castle, but then I guess we are not paying for part-time Royal residents here. Great views of the city and port and lots of battlements to scramble around on. A must for any visitor to Malaga.

On our return to the city, we briefly visited the outside of the city’s enormous cathedral before taking lunch in the sun at a pretty restaurant in the centre. It was fun watching one particular waiter trying to attract would-be diners with a variety of patter and dances. He had some success and obviously enjoyed what he was doing, I don’t think he minded at all when they walked on, he would get them next time. I guess it is the thrill of the chase rather than the kill that mattered.

With appetite satisfied and the afternoon moving to its conclusion we retraced our steps back to the Itaca.

That evening we again chose ‘The London Pub’ (when in Rome etc. etc.) and watched the Welsh lose to Denmark, despite Gareth Bales best efforts his fellow team mates were not up to the same standard of the opposition. Jamie opted for spare ribs washed down with Sangria, and I chose the more exotic steak and kidney pie, with chips and peas, washed down with Guinness.

After a late awakening and another substantial breakfast we headed towards the castle that we had seen from our balcony, lit up in the distance before we retired  the previous night. It didn’t take us long to find ourselves on the opposite bank of the little river running into the sea next to the small but imposing fortification. An information board gave us the name Castle of Sohail. We crossed via a contrasting modern suspension bridge before climbing up the usual winding and cobbled track through the entrance and into a large courtyard with the only evidence of internal structures being up against the walls and in poor repair. There was a small information office set into the wall by the entrance, it had a few artefacts and leaflets and entry to the castle was free. We climbed the walls, photographing the vista as we circumnavigated from tower to tower, inside one of which we squeezed our way up to the very top via a narrow, claustrophobic staircase. It reminded me of my pot-holing days.

Returning to the bridge we stopped awhile watching a group of canoeists play ‘pass the ball’ with great skill. As we headed back down the coast, the sun decide to hide behind ever darkening clouds. Passing by the haunts of the previous night we continued on past the harbour and on towards Torremolinos. Striding on with determination we reached the hill housing atop a large black bull statue and derelict windmill that marks the location of this resort made famous in song and for drunken tourists  (in the 80’s). As we climbed a quite treacherous local path up to these iconic features it began to drizzle and then quite soon after, pour down. Hurrying down the slope to a group of trees we sheltered until the worst of the cloudburst had moved on. Arriving back at the beach we made our sodden way back towards Fuengirola. On the way, the sun came out and dried us out so that by the time we had reached ‘The London Bar’ we were feeling refreshed, ready to take on the world. Well, the Japanese at least! And that is what we did.

With great timing we had arrived in front of a large screen, just in time for the England v Japan rugger match. With proper English grub ordered and suitable refreshments in hand we spent the rest of the afternoon cheering on the lads to a well deserved (but tricky) win.

We returned to the hotel to change into long trousers in readiness for the evening’s entertainment. It may be November, but as Jamie found out on the first night that this is southern Spain and the mosquitoes are still out at night and just as keen to bite as they are in the hotter summer months. After ordering a 4am taxi from the front desk it was back to the our favourite bar on the beach and the Portugal v Italy match, more wholesome British fodder washed down with suitable beverages. Can’t remember what the score was, I wasn’t that interested in the match, but Jamie was keen and no doubt can.

We did indeed catch our 4am taxi back to Malaga airport. We would have preferred the much cheaper option of the train but as the first train of the morning was 6.10am and our flight left at 7.15am that was not a choice we could risk. However, Jamie informed that we were transported in a top of the range Mercedes (whatever that is) and it did make for a very comfortable journey.

The Ryanair flight did leave on time (why does Michael Kevin O’Leary have his planes fly at such ungodly hours?) and though I was expecting to watch a few episodes from Netflix on my mobile, I fell asleep and woke up on the descent into Birmingham. We were back in Harborough by midday and enjoying another wonderful British traditional meal, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with all the trimmings, cooked by a very English lass, my Sue (by gum, it doesn’t come better than that!)

On the 20th Nov. Sarah dropped Mia off before travelling on to work in Northampton. Mia spent the rest of the day with Peter and I, ambling through a very chilly south Leicestershire countryside before having our favourite lunch in Foxton. Sue went shopping with Charlotte during the morning and then went to her U3A History group in the afternoon. I arrived back home with Mia shortly before Sue returned and it wasn’t long after wards that Sarah made an appearance. She stayed for tea before accompanying Sue to Harborough theatre for a performance of ‘The Madness of King George 3rd’, Mia and I curled up in front of the log burner and watched ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, on the TV. Mia found the programme quite boring and soon fell asleep and snored (loudly).

The 21st was another bitterly cold day, I couldn’t get warm at all on my morning bike ride, no matter how frantically I pedaled. We met Joan and Phil for lunch at the Sondes Arms in Rockingham. They had flown in from Italy at the weekend, it is their yearly visit to relatives and friends with an opportunity stock up with items that are difficult to obtain on the continent. The venue used to be a regular Tuesday haunt of ours before Charlotte slipped two discs last February and we have not eaten there since. The meal, and the company was excellent, both Joan and Phil looked well and appeared in good health, though they were quite concerned about my recent eye problem. We presented them with a bottle of my experimentation batch of red and pear wine to drink before they return to Italy at the weekend, fingers crossed on that one! They are concerned about their situation with Brexit and it was no surprise that we obviously shared the same opinions on politicians, there appears to be no difference between any of them in whatever country they purport to represent. As a solution they are contemplating returning to the UK, renting out their home in Santa Vittoria and renting private accommodation in the Harborough area. In preparation they have visited an estate agent to look at the cost of rental properties. With a great deal of luck, things will be much clearer as to whether such decisions have to be made by next March. Fingers crossed on that one too! If all goes well we are hoping to meet up with them again during the spring.


Old Friends

Posted in Uncategorized on Nov 9, 2018 by David Palmer

The temperature has certainly started to fall as the year marches on to its finale. Leaf gathering has started in earnest, the chain saw has seen a lot of use and the log pile is now satisfyingly mountainous. Most evenings have seen us fire up the log burner, though on the first occasion there was panic as the room started to fill with smoke! Though I had swept the chimney around a month or so ago, I must have created a blockage somewhere. The following morning I swept it again and released nearly two tubs full of soot from their perch. Next year, I shall have to send Ellis up the chimney to do the job properly, it will be worth a couple of farthings!

On the 18th Oct. I attended a surprise birthday meal at the Cherry Tree in Little Bowden for Roger Woolnough , he  is now 70 yrs old (and still making a good impression as Ebenezer Scrooge). A couple of enthusiastic past school colleagues had contacted a variety of friends and eight of us gathered to surprise the septuagenarian. It was nice to meet up and exchange news and the odd bit of gossip concerning colleagues who hadn’t attended (isn’t it ever so?) I had walked to the pub and on returning home at around 11pm I was bemused to hear a weird sound coming from across the river next to the driveway. I was even more puzzled when Sue called out to me from one of the bedroom windows on that side of the house. The noise had been keeping her awake since she went to bed at 9.30pm. I dug out a very powerful torch from the garage and crossed the river to discover the source of the racket. It was certainly an animal either in great pain, calling for its mate or complaining loudly about something. Sue thought it may be a badger, I thought muntjac or fox. Following the sound I could hear the creature crashing through the undergrowth, but couldn’t manage to light up the culprit who managed bewitchingly to stay out of the beam. I eventually gave up and joined Sue in a nice warm bed and listened to the racket outside until sleep eventually crept upon us. Research the following morning identified the source as being the barking of a muntjac.

On the 27th, Sue and I went to the Shoulder of Mutton in Great Bowden to see Dr. Marshall’s Remedy, they are a band formed many years ago from the parents at Farndon Fields School and had recently reformed. I had taught their children and the band members were good friends of mine at the time, but since retiring (10 years now) I hadn’t seen them, until Sue and I met Kim Tempest at the Moody Blues concert a few weeks ago. His daughter Bethany (she is now playing with the Moody Blues) was there and we had a chat about school days and how expensive it is to learn to play the flute to the standard she is at. Another friend was there that I haven’t seen for a few years. Dr. Tom Blake was a fellow pool player at the Catholic Club on Thursday nights and in the past I had joined him on some charity weekend walks in Derbyshire. Years ago I (and still) am grateful to him for diagnosing Compartment Syndrome and thus saving my leg after being misdiagnosed after a rugby match incident. He has been suffering from stress and been off work for over a year and is just now returning to his duties as a GP.

On the 29th Sue took me to the hospital for a consultation concerning the treatment of my left eye. There has been much improvement, but there is a tiny anomaly and it was felt another injection would be needed. I am waiting for the appointment date. I guess I am lucky as prior to seeing the consultant I was chatting to another patient and was dismayed to hear that he is on his 16th injection and he was 74 yrs old!

Halloween passed without incident. A pile of treats were stacked by the front door but there was no takers, we could hear the cries and noises of excited children all around, but none were brave enough to venture down our driveway. This year (as in previous) I had grown pumpkins for the family, but it had been a bumper year and the plants had produced 14, over large fruits! After Ellis and Lucas had taken theirs I put up a sign at the end of the drive and offering them for a £1 each. All but two went, a handy contribution to my seed buying in the spring.

Each morning now we have a visitor to the back door. The three-legged cat which I originally called Trio, who we now know is called Millie (she was run over and lost her leg) comes for milk and any titbits on offer. She has taken to lazing in the garden throughout the day in the hope of further snacks, however she is quite aware that Mia visits and always stays alert for any doggie noises.

On the 2nd November I and six other rugby friends, flew to Cyprus to meet up with yet another rugby chum, Jim and his wife Bridget. It was a very early flight out of Stansted and after picking up a hire car in Paphos and following Jim, to the Villa Alexandros in Latchi on the other side of the island, it was dark. We had travelled on the same flight as Roy (rugby chum) and his wife, Julie. They were staying with Jim and Bridget in Argaka.

We all met up again later that evening at a seafood restaurant in Latchi Harbour for a splendid meal. It was a very late night as we moved on to play pool in a bar before returning to our villa via taxi.

The following morning we had breakfast in Latchi before driving over to Argaka to see Jim and co. After around an hour of chatting I suggested that our little group have a little walk up the mountain to the little monastery that Sue and I had visited last February. We took Jim and his two dogs, Harby and Shoby with us. The little church was being decorated with flowers by some proud parents in readiness for a christening that afternoon . After a wander around the cemetery looking at the quite elaborate tombs we returned to Jim’s before driving down the coast to the little fishing harbour of Pomos, near to the Turkish border. There is a lovely fish restaurant situated above the harbour which affords lovely views of the surrounding mountains and the colourful fishing boats below. An ideal spot for lunch on a gorgeously warm day, and that is exactly what we did after a short amble around the harbour.

With hunger satisfied and feeling very pleased with the world, we embarked on the most important element of our foray to the Mediterranean; to watch the England v South Africa rugby match being played at Twickenham. Yes, we could have travelled down to London and watched it there at much less cost, but that would be missing the point, touring is an essential part of rugby life and this is the sort of activity that is a substitute for not being able to play the game anymore.

Jim had organised for us to watch the match in Saddles  bar, Polis. A very appropriate venue as the landlord was South African and had played the game himself. We discovered that he was the best friend of Paul Hollywood (Chef and Great British Bake Off host), they went to school and played rugby together. Paul had a property on the island and the rather nice (and expensive) motorbike parked outside the bar had been a gift from him. We were well looked after by our host with refreshments and nibbles throughout the game and though England won by the narrowest of margins, it was undeserved yet it didn’t stop us rubbing it in (well, he was SA and naturally thick-skinned).

Victory in the bag we moved on to a restaurant on the other side of Polis that Sue and I had been to on our previous visit to see Jim and Bridget, it was very popular with the locals and the food was authentically Cypriot. At Jim’s suggestion we opted for the meat meze and it proved to be an excellent choice. Fifteen courses were supplemented by copious quantities of the local beer. The quantity of food presented was formidable and it was with difficulty that we waded through the final four courses. I found the bowl of local snails a distinct problem, no matter how hard I tried to winkle the little B******s out of their shells with a tooth pick, they refused to be dislodged. After twenty frustrating minutes I managed to extricate just one and the effort wasn’t worth it, no taste and very tiny. Roy had the knack and polished off two bowls of the little creatures! Bloated and happy we taxied back to our Villa.

No one wanted much for breakfast the following morning, so at the little café in Latchi we just had scrambled egg on toast with fruit juice and coffees, before I drove our little troop to the nearby popular tourist spot of Baths of Aphrodite. It’s a lovely spot situated at the start of the Akamas and at this time of the year is quite quiet and not visited by too many tourists. Surprisingly we discovered an eel in the pool, it was nearly a metre long and lay at the bottom of the pool staring unconcerned back at us. We took its photo.

After a short scramble up the treacherous mountain path originating at the pool, passing several mouflon on the way, we stopped and took photos of the stunning scenery across the bay towards Pomos in the distance.

We were due to meet the Argaka contingent of our party at The Farmyard Restaurant, Kathikas for lunch at 12.30pm, it was a pleasant drive up into the mountains, but the higher we got, rain clouds began to appear (it poured while we ate). The restaurant is very popular with the British on the island as it provides a very traditional English carvery. The place soon filled up with eager ex-pats keen for a little bit of British tradition. The bread and butter pudding was superb and I just had to have two helpings! Though the views from our lofty location were spoiled by the weather the food more than made up for the disappointment.

On our return to the Villa Alexandros we were again greeted by glorious sunshine and chose to sit around the pool, and eat pomegranates, watching a very Mediterranean sunset over the Akamas. The moment and location, perfect to chill.

That evening we walked the 20 minutes or so into Latchi (raiding an orange orchard on the way) to a sports bar for refreshments. Jim and Roy joined us later for pizzas while we watched soccer on the large screens around the bar. It was another late night. Though planning to walk back to our accommodation, Jim insisted on  ferrying us back in two lots in his car.  From previous experience I knew what was coming, but my fellow tourists were ignorant of Jim’s debatable driving skills, death wish and fantasy to out-do Lewis Hamilton. They are now wiser.

The following morning it was felt that our stomachs didn’t need any more augmentation so we satisfied our selves with just coffees before I drove over to Paphos for a spot of sight-seeing. Perfect weather and a pleasant drive through the mountains.  We had found a suitable bar next to the harbour and fort and were well into refreshments before the Argaka contingent joined us. Bridget and Julie preferred to window shop and left us to take a pleasant lunch and ‘people watch’ from our picturesque vantage point. A couple of hours later we found the female members of our party enjoying ‘Happy Hour’ down the promenade.  I had a tentative plan to visit Roger Woolnough (birthday boy) who was staying in one of the hotels along the seafront (he had flown to Cyprus the day before we did), but the ladies were keen to move on to our afternoon activity, so he didn’t get the surprise of our company.

Before journeying to the Aphrodite’s Rock  Brewery in the mountains above Paphos, we did a spot of shopping ourselves and then stopped for ice-creams. The Argaka contingent were already well into their paddle of beer samples by the time we arrived, but undaunted we soon got up to speed. The beers brewed were really very good, especially compared to the lager Cypriot alternatives. We ate again, unfortunately only pizzas as that is all they did on a Monday. I was looking forward to the steak and ale pie, mashed potatoes and peas that they do every other day of the week!

With all samples tried and supplements quaffed, and the sun starting its descent over the Akamas, we said good-by to our supplementary tourists from Argaka. We wouldn’t see them again until our return flight at Paphos Airport. As they left, the Master Brewer asked if we would like a tour of his brewery, and of course we were delighted to accept. Over the next hour he treated us to a fascinating description of the process of producing the nectar we had previously been sampling. It was excellent and we promised to give him good reviews on trip advisor.

I had parked our car outside the brewery and up a narrow lane, I decided to bring it down to the brewery gates thus saving the legs of my fellow beer appreciative chums. On arriving at the gates I spied them scrumping pomelos from a tree in the garden of the villa opposite. With a car full of happy tourists clutching their contraband of large yellow fruits I made a quick getaway.

That evening we again walked into Latchi and found a restaurant by the harbour, ordering what we thought would be a light pasta meal. However, the restaurant had other ideas and mountainous piles of food appeared on oversize plates. Much to their credit David and Jeremy did finish their allotment, but at what cost to their internal plumbing I hate to think. The rest of us topped out at around half quantity and I think slept more soundly.

We taxied back to the villa and were snug in bed by 9pm.

Alarms sounded at 1.30am and without fuss we were all ready, dressed and packed for 2.15am and the journey back home. The journey was not without incident. There was little if any traffic on the road to Paphos, but as we had to return the car with a full fuel tank it was necessary to fill-up. Finding a petrol station close to the airport we pulled into a deserted fore-court. The system here was: at a terminal on the wall choose then pump number, then the type of fuel, then how you are going to pay then you inserted the correct money/card. Then go to the pump, put the nozzle in the tank and press the lever. Simple. Yes, in English it would have been, but in Greek, nearly impossible. There was an option for English, but it wouldn’t work and the pointer on the touch screen was grossly uncalibrated and you were never sure what you were pressing. We spent half an hour before we got the tank full!!!!!!!!!

It didn’t stop there. On entering the car hire car park, the barrier refused to open. After many runs over the sensor, we gave up and used the intercom to talk to an operator. He was in Larnaca and told us there was a fault on the system which he would try to correct. Fifteen minutes later and with two more cars attempting to enter, he couldn’t do it. At 4am, a staff member turned up and did what we were beginning to contemplate, he pushed the barrier up and held it until we drove through. Must remember that trick. From then on everything went smoothly and we were soon descending into a rainy Stansted.

Arriving back around midday I made some soup then went to bed as Sue was on a ramble and having lunch out. An excellent trip.

Family News

On the first day of Jamie and Ashton’s break in Scotland they were pleased to hear that they had another offer on Jamie’s apartment. Full asking price and without a viewing. It is a young first time buyer eager to get on the housing ladder. It looks as if they will be moving to Rothwell after all.

Sarah and Lee’s move to Newbold Verdon looks as if it is going ahead, all surveys and searches have come back positive, so it is fingers crossed for them too.

Charlotte seems to be making great strides with her recovery. She seems to be moving around a lot more easily and has relieved Sue and I of our school run to pick up Ellis. She again looks like our daughter and not the pained and exhausted soul that we have been looking at for nearly a year now. Encouragingly she has been using the bus to travel into Harborough to see a friend as she can’t as yet drive her car. But it won’t be long now.

Uncle Stanley has now moved out from the care home in Manchester and is back in his own home with care support during the day. The house had been cleaned and equipment installed to enable him to live there, but he is being monitored by social services, who like us think that it isn’t suitable. Only time will tell. He is quite stubborn and independent, it is a credit to him that he has made it this far, but I feel that he would be better off in sheltered accommodation. Sue and Sarah are planning on visiting him before Christmas.

Jamie and I have got a few days booked on the Costa Del Sol on the 15th November to look forward to.







Will it be a vintage?

Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 14, 2018 by David Palmer

Did you know that our galaxy is speeding through the universe a 600km a second and while it is doing this, our Sun is travelling at 782,000 km/hour in a circular orbit around the centre of our galaxy, some 26,000 light years away? Now that is pretty quick! Add to this the Earth orbiting the sun at 107,000 km/hour while spinning on its axis at 1,600 km per hour, a relative snail pace in comparison, but cumulatively, we are whizzing along. Fascinating isn’t it? No need for a crash helmet, no safety belt and no travel sickness tablets. Yet, it takes just a slight little wobble (tilt) of the Earth’s axis (23°) to encourage me to dig out the thermals and fleeces and start stock piling wood for the winter. Yes, since the last blog the nights have started to get cooler and the days not quite so pleasant, winter is on its way. I must stop checking the weather conditions of friends in Italy, Cyprus and Canada, it will become increasingly depressing from now on. It doesn’t help that Sue’s sister and husband are now harassing the wildlife of South Africa over the next few months and posting regularly on Facebook!

On a less dispiriting note, on the 24th Sept. Mia, Peter and I walked from Harborough to Welford for lunch at the Wharf. It was a lovely sunny day, just perfect for a long ramble through the Leicestershire countryside and it wasn’t without incident. Just after coming across a farmer and chatting at length about country matters , he knew Peter and I guess he was looking for a little respite from his hedge cutting duties of that morning, we entered a small wood that was home to a large number of maintained game birds. Our path took us alongside their pens, which unfortunately for Mia had a low electrified fence to keep out the foxes. We had stopped briefly while I explained to Peter that in the wood was an ancient Motte and Bailey castle (only the earthworks being visible today), it was thought that it was strategically located there as the River Welland and River Avon were close by and guarded the traffic travelling between these two water courses, when we heard a terrific yelping and witnessed poor Mia dashing madly around in circles, obviously terrified. She had sniffed the electrified wire with the predictable, shocking result. She soon recovered, but for the rest of the day she regarded all fences with a great deal of suspicion and care. I don’t think that there has been any lasting damage to her olfactory capabilities, she still has the ability to detect the unwrapping of any food item from several hundred metres!

The rest of our journey was pleasant and without incident, suitably finished off with a very large and satisfying lunch. Sue picked us up and transported us back to Harborough. Peter was particularly grateful as like many who have played the noble game of rugby and have developed knee and other joint problems in later life he was struggling to be mobile after resting awhile over lunch and found just getting in and out of Sue’s Suzuki difficult and painful.

That week I had my flu jab. A painless, 2 minute operation that affected me the following morning with a headache and a general feeling of about to be ill, but by the afternoon I was fit and bouncy again. Sue was due to be jabbed later that afternoon after she had taken Charlotte for a hospital appointment, but on arriving at the clinic she was told that she did not qualify for it (not old enough). It took a phone call to her GP to get her on the list and a reschedule onto the next Flu vaccination clinic, which at present hasn’t taken place.

We saw September out without any further incidents other than we booked to go away in the new year. Fingers crossed that unlike last year we will not have to cancel and be able to experience the delights of: Amsterdam, The Azores, Barbados, Aruba, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Tahiti, Bora Bora, New Zealand and Australia.

October is proving to be a time of change for the Palmer family. Jamie and Ashton seem to be well down the road towards exchanging contracts and a move away from Harborough to Desborough. There is a small concern that recent incidents in the apartment block may deter the buyers of his apartment, a few months ago one of the residents in a ground floor flat was involved in a stabbing (drug related) and just this week the flat was boarded up for the next 3 months as cannabis was found to be cultivated there. Hopefully, he will be moving sometime in November.

Sarah and Lee have also seemed to have decided that a move is on the cards and have put their own house on the market and placed an offer in a property in Newbold Verdon. Moving house isn’t the only target they have set themselves, they are using technology to count the distance they walk each day and they are aiming for 75 miles during October after successfully achieving 50 miles during September.

Charlotte is not attempting to move house but she is moving about a lot better now. She is reducing her dependency on painkillers and walking, sitting etc. seem to be easier. She is receiving physiotherapy, following the recommended exercise routines and taking care not to strain herself beyond her limited capabilities. Sue and I are continuing to pick up Ellis from school, while Suraj does the morning run. Lucas is really enjoying his new school and gets himself there and back on the bus. Ellis moved up from Beavers to Cubs this week and it won’t be long before he will joining Lucas in the Scouts. Sue has been busy these last couple of days sewing all his Beaver badges onto to his Cub blanket (glad my sewing skills are aren’t up to that!) Before one school run last week, I re-laid the very wobbly path in the back garden that leads to the tree house via the chicken run. I had been meaning to do this job during the summer but the ground is clay and rock-hard due to the lack of rain and would have been impossible to have got level without the use of a JCB.

I have been helping Jamie on the wording of a new initiative with his company Binary Destroyer and fxLearning for the website. The growth of his business has been quite spectacular and the comments and reviews are very satisfying. Though I don’t profess to understand how to trade in binary I can gauge that he is very successful in what he has developed and there are an awful lot of people who have had their lives changed for the better by his company. I am amazed at the amount of thought, time and effort that he puts into his business and still manages to hold down his regular job. His drive is to be admired.

On the 5th of this month Sue and I went to see The Moody Blues in concert. Time has taken its toll on the original members but the music is timeless and classic so a good night was expected and we were not disappointed. We were however in for a surprise, one of my past pupils, Bethany Tempest was the flautist in the band and her very proud parents and other family members were sat in the seats directly behind ours, now how about that for a co-incidence? Her playing was superb, especially on ‘Nights in White Satin’ one of my all time favourite tracks. During the interval I chatted to Kim, her father and he told me that they are reforming ‘Doctor Marshall’s Remedy’ at the end of this month. It was a band formed from parents at Farndon Fields Primary, many years ago. I shall be going along to watch them and meet up with old friends.

The following day I went with Suraj and a group of rugby chums to Twickenham to watch the Tigers play the Saints. Suraj was a late replacement for one of my friends who had caught a stomach bug and couldn’t make the game so he gave up his tickets. The game matched the weather, it was dire. We caught the 7.26am train from Harborough and were back at 10.45pm, it rained all day! However, despite the conditions we had a good time. A full English breakfast at a restaurant near St. Pancras station was followed by an interesting visit to the London Canal Museum located just behind King’s Cross station. The museum is housed in a building where ice for the rich and famous of London was once stored having been transported all the way from Norway. It is now home to canal memorabilia and other interesting info on the building itself. At £4 entrance fee, a bargain for a London museum.

After catching the tube then the overland to Twickenham we settled ourselves next to an open fire in the White Swan on the banks of the river Thames, a gorgeous place to have a pre-match drink on a warm sunny day, and also a great refuge to be on a cold wet one. With thirsts satiated, we moved on to a lovely eatery that we had discovered on our last visit there. Fabulous pies with huge mounds of mashed potato, peas and lashings of thick gravy washed down with a fine Malbec and some South African lagers. A very wet walk took us late to the match. Taking our seats, the Tigers were 3:0 up and though in the end they won the game, it wasn’t deserved. It was the first match I have been to where the supporters (from both clubs) were more interested in chatting to each other than watching the dismal spectacle in front of them, The quality of rugby was very poor and it was not just down to the conditions.

After the match we returned to the warmth of the White Swan via a very crowded William Webb Ellis (pub). Much later on, our return journey to Harborough was interrupted by further refreshments at the Murphy’s Irish bar near St. Pancras station. Suraj stayed the night at Willow Bank before returning home to his family the following morning.

The following Tuesday I had one of my more disheartening morning bike rides. I was stopped by a friend (rugby player) as I was (appropriately) passing Great Bowden Cemetery. He is a stonemason and was on a job there. He informed me that a past fellow rugby player, Robin Garfield had died the previous day of a heart attack. He was just 53 yrs and only a month or so ago he had fixed an Ariel problem I’d had. He had died on a similar job. I recollected that I had seen the air-ambulance land somewhere in Harborough while I was at my allotment on the previous day, it had been for Robin. We discussed at length how shocking it was before he dropped into the conversation that he had been diagnosed with an incurable blood condition and had been diagnosed as having 4 years left to live. Awkward situation to comment on, particularly as he went on to say that he was determined to live what time he had left to the full, so had bought a camper van, left his wife, got another woman and now spends all his free time walking around the country with her. Hmmm, I really do now value those rides where the only shocks that take place are to surprised muntjacs or rabbits and perhaps when I make the occasional mistake and take an expected dive over the handlebars into a ditch or hedge!

I attended Robin’s funeral at St, Dionysius in the centre of town on the Friday. The church was packed with many familiar faces, he was a much liked and loved character in the town, having once been a fireman, a rugby player, an actor in the local theatre, a pall bearer for one of the town’s funeral directors and now owned his own Ariel business. He had a wicked sense of humour but balanced it with such a studious and sensible outlook on life. He will be missed by many.

On a lighter note, I have been busy preparing this years wine for bottling. Due to the intense heat of May and June the grapes had the highest sugar content I have yet achieved, but because I changed the pruning regime the quantity wasn’t as much as in previous years. I have decided to mix the white and the red together this year prior to bottling and I am presently waiting for the lees to settle out before I adjust the flavour and bottle. I am hopeful that this years vintage will be an exceptional one.

Breaking news:

Sadly, Jamie and Ashton have had the buyer of Jamie’s apartment pull-out and this has thrown their purchase of the property in Rothwell in jeopardy. At present the apartment is back on the market and they are considering their options. Tomorrow they drive up to Scotland for a Glamping holiday until Sunday, it should give them time to reflect, but it is an unwelcome dampener to what should be a restful break. In the meantime, Sue and I have taken charge of Ashton’s guinea pigs and Maddie the rabbit is back (hopefully no diarrhoea this time!!!)

On a positive note, Sarah and Lee’s offer has been accepted on the house in Newbold Verdon. They have accepted a buyer for their home so hopefully things will go well for them. Sue and I are meeting them tonight to view the house.

Today, I had another eventful bike ride. I was on the return leg of the mornings’ route cycling along the Grand Union canal on a countryside stretch just past the village of Great Bowden when I came across four dogs. They seemed to be milling around in a tight little circle next to the water’s edge. I hadn’t passed anyone up to that point, so fully expected to come across their owner after a few metres or so, but after around 100m I hadn’t, nor was there any sign of anyone further down the canal. Concerned that perhaps the person had fallen into the canal and that was why the dogs were staying at the same spot and yapping I thought I had better check it out. Returning I could see no one in the water, but two of the dogs seemed stuck together and in distress, the other two were showing obvious concern. Were they Siamese dogs I thought? All four were friendly and seemed glad of my attention, but the two locked together at the rear ends were perilously close to the canal bank and looked exhausted. They allowed my attempts to part them, but no matter how hard I heaved I couldn’t budge them. I made several attempts but had to give up, they were locked too tightly together. I opted to call the RSPCA, but that was a waste of time as after navigating at great length through their menu system the automaton thanked me kindly for the call and rang off. I got the impression they don’t deal with dogs in distress. I rang the council and got a better response from the local dog warden, who sensitively explained that the dogs were probably copulating and that it wasn’t unknown for them to become locked in such a position. Now, slightly embarrassed, I pointed out that the dogs were exhausted and dangerously near the water’s edge, it was at that point they fell in! Even submerged below the dark green murky canal water they did not  separate, both were under water with just the leg of the smaller dog visible. I dropped my mobile and stepped into the canal, grabbing the leg I heaved the drowning mutt, still attached at the rear end to his larger mate, onto the bank. They looked quite grateful, as did their two yapping chums, but they didn’t help in the search for my dropped mobile. Thankfully recovering it from an undergrowth of nettles I was pleased to discover that the dog warden was still there and equally concerned that I hadn’t drowned. Promising to come and attempt to sort the dogs out I closed the call. Turning to the dogs I reassured them that help was on its way in the form of the dog warden and they may be in for a little ride in a van. At that point the two inseparables, separated!!!! I watched bemused as the four then milled and trotted down the canal path as if nothing had happened, I rang the council to cancel my order for a warden and a crowbar. Continuing my journey I soon came across a dog walker who informed me that they were dogs from the gypsy site further down the canal, and that made sense.

It was an experience that no doubt will cause friends to chuckle over a pint in the coming weeks, but those dogs recognised that I was trying to help and weren’t protective or vicious, they allowed me to hurt them in my attempts to separate and I do believe they would certainly have drowned in that canal.

A reminisce:

One of the most enjoyable activities I was involved in while teaching was taking part in the annual residential trip. They always created such happy memories and probably the best learning experiences that both young and old can ever experience. This particular memory is about an unfortunate occurrence to a fellow group leader who just happened to be a local councillor, a governor of the school, a part-time firemen with Robin Garfield and a good friend of our family, Roger Dunton. We had a large party of children on this particular residential trip to North Yorkshire with four group leaders. We were visiting the charming fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay, it was a beautiful warm and sunny day and we had completed our separate history tours of the village streets and had just returned from the beach where we had been hunting for fossils along this part of the Jurassic coast. We were all spread around the little harbour area in front of the Bay pub and hotel, sat with clip-boards on laps drawing one or more of the building or boats that were in front of us. It was a good time to rest and recover from the heat and strenuous activities in this very steep settlement. I had settled myself on the doorstep of small cottage enjoying the warmth and prepared to video the scene of children quietly finding pleasure in resting and putting pencil to paper doing something that they enjoyed, before I gathered them all together for the last bit of history for the day.

This was to be an explanation of smuggling, and how this was an important element in the history of the area. I would finish off by taking those that were brave enough, into the hidden tunnels that led off the small stream that emerged from the wall in front of them. Roger, from past trips knew that this was going to happen and unbeknown to me had prepared a rather exciting true story, where the village smugglers were discovered by the Excise men and there was a murder.

As I was panning the scene with the camera I picked out Roger marching into the centre of the landing, shouting and gesturing to the children to gather around tightly as he had a story to tell them. Bemused at what he was doing, I thought this would be a good video opportunity, so I remained where I was and filmed. Great scene; stunning background, well-behaved children what’s not to like? As he shushed the children into silence, he explained that he had a story to tell them. A small group of Japanese tourists (they had latched onto our group the previous day at Scarborough Castle and listened to me outlining the history of the fortress) also gathered round on the fringes of the children.

Then a series of unfortunate events took place. Before they had started drawing, the children had also taken the opportunity to eat the remains of their pack lunch for the day, this had attracted quite a lot of gulls. Of course, much of that spare lunch had been tossed into the air, for gulls to snatch in mid flight and was now resident in their tiny stomachs. These seabirds were now intent on watching every movement of our group from their roosts on the surrounding chimney pots and roof tops. To begin his story, Roger gestured to the buildings around, several gulls misreading this act as preparation for the tossing of more tasty morsels and began their dive towards the group, then disappointed at none appearing at least one discharged its ballast as they wheeled around back to the vantage point of the nearest roof. Gull faeces for some reason, like themselves is white, but rather sloppy and prone to splatter. It hit Roger fair and square on his bald pate with the nearest children getting the benefit of the shrapnel. I have never seen a group of children and Japanese move so fast in my life, in less than a millisecond Roger was the only one left standing in the landing with squealing children and Asian tourists desperately looking for cover from aerial bombardment. I am afraid that it was rather unprofessional of me but I could stifle the laughter but the tears gave me away.

We did see those Japanese tourists again later that week, but they didn’t risk latching onto our group for a free talk again. And Roger never did tell his exciting story, not even to me.