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.

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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.

An operation, boat repairs and a good deed

Posted in Uncategorized on Sep 23, 2018 by David Palmer

Over the August Bank Holiday I went sailing with the Sarah and Lee. They had practised their boating skills over a very pleasant but balmy summer and were feeling confident on the water, but on this occasion the wind was up and they felt that they needed dad around to show them how to cope when conditions were a bit more challenging. Things went well at first, but a small accident where Lee ricked his wrist while lowering the keel at the jetty prior to raising the sails proved to have unforeseen consequences.

Up until lunch the sailing went really well. The sails were full and Annie proved to be very responsive to the conditions, heeling over quite nicely and zipping along at quite a pace. It took Lee and Sarah a bit of time to adjust to conditions that they had not up until now experienced, but after a few panic situations they settled down into a routine that ensured that they could begin to enjoy finding out what their Catalina 22 was capable of. After a couple of hours or so on the water we returned to the shore for a very pleasant picnic lunch.

The afternoon sailing session did not go well. It is their way to motor out of the small bay where the craft are launched and then raise the sails when they are clear of other water users (canoeists, windsurfers etc.). This strategy works well when there is very little wind, but today was different! Sarah and I struggled greatly to raise the mainsail, finding it impossible to haul a large area of canvas against a wind that was increasing rapidly. Annie was speedily being blown towards the dam wall and confusingly we had no control over the yacht, she wouldn’t come around into the wind despite Lee turning the tiller. Eventually, I realised that the motor was still on and we were blithely being propelled to imminent doom. With the motor switched off, Annie turned into the wind, and while Sarah gave it everything hauling on the mainsail sheet, I fed the canvass into the mast then took over and sailed her away from danger.

For the next hour and a half, Sarah and Lee took control of their yacht and practised in conditions that had now become quite challenging. I could see that they were beginning to work as a team and now understood that sailing requires 100% concentration and lots of preplanning/discussion of what you are going to do next. With lots of lessons learned and confident that Annie wasn’t going to founder in anything shorter than a hurricane we set sail for the jetty and Annie’s trailer.

As with leaving the mooring, it is their routine to drop the sails as they enter the small bay and cruise in on the electric motor. However, on this occasion, with the sails down the motor stopped some 100m from the jetty (flat battery). As we drifted slowly towards the shore, we had to call for a tow from the rescue craft on duty. There wasn’t enough time to raise the sails and make our own way before we grounded.

Tied up along side the pier, we called for the tractor to haul Annie out on her trailer. That is when we discovered that the keel was still down (we thought it had been raised) and as she was pulled onto the trailer, the two rear supporting hull pads snapped off. We eventually worked out that when Lee had ricked his wrist at the beginning of the day, that was when the keel cable had snapped and we were no longer able to raise it. It was a serious dilemma, we couldn’t get Annie out of the water with the keel down or put her on the trailer with two of the supporting pads missing. She was towed once again to a less used pier and made fast alongside, to remain there until we could think of a solution. As we left, I took one of the broken pads with me.

The trailer repair was a pretty straight forward task, but the raising the keel required a lot of thought. I returned a couple of days later with Peter. I had made two new pads using the one I had taken away with me as a template and I replaced them, while I did this Peter smartened up the trailer by painting it a very fetching grey. I returned a few days later with Mia and replaced the front two supporting pads as they were in poor condition and it seemed sensible to replace them all.

That weekend while Annie was still in the water, Sarah and Lee took some friends for a quiet and incident free sail.

It isn’t possible to replace the keel cable while in the water, so we had to find a way to raise it in order to get it onto the trailer. Lee bought a long length of strapping and a ratchet connector to do the job, he dropped it off in Harborough for Peter and I to attempt it. It worked! By running the strapping under the hull until it caught on the dropped keel, we allowed it to sink a little way down the keel, then by pulling back we managed to tilt it to around 45 degrees. Keeping it under tension we brought the strapping vertical to the boat then connected the ratchet to the two ends and tightened further until the keel was squeezed fully up. The gods were smiling on us, I had expected to be there all day, endlessly repeating and refining the process until we either completed the task or gave up!

The tractor arrived with the trailer and she was soon back on dry land ensconced with her other chums in the boat park. How we replace the cable is a problem that requires further thought.

The beginning of September was a busy one for the Rothwells. The 2nd was Charlotte’s birthday, the 3rd was Charlotte’s and Suraj’s wedding anniversary, the 4th was Suraj’s birthday and Charlotte’s spine operation and the 5th was Lucas’s first day at secondary school and Ellis was in Year 4. They all went to the seaside and Wells-next-the-Sea for Charlotte’s birthday, it was a gorgeously warm day and besides being a break for them all, it was a chance for Charlotte to get out before she becomes house-bound after her imminent operation.

Suraj had booked in quite a lot of time off work to ensure that he could look after Charlotte after the operation and on the day before, Sue and I had Ellis and Lucas to stay, so that she could hopefully get a decent night’s sleep. I took the boys that evening to Sarah and Lee’s for a fish and chip tea then we went to see the speedway at Leicester Lions. None of us had been before and I was probably the most excited, it turned out to be a brilliant night. Luckily, it just happened to be the last meeting of the year, and their 90th year celebration. They hadn’t won a single meet and were bottom of the league and were taking on the champions, Somerset. And they beat them, even though they were up against the world champion, New Zealander Jason Doyle.


Charlotte was due to have her operation early in the morning and she was first on the list, however they couldn’t find a suitable vein for a cannula (she hadn’t slept and was exhausted) and she didn’t go into surgery until late in the afternoon. The procedure should have lasted around 1.5 hours but ended up being 4.5 hours. A very long stressful day! The surgeon was pleased with the outcome and when we went to see her the following day, though very sore and still in pain when she moved, she was able to lift her right leg and rub her feet together, something she has not been able to do. She looked very tired but was feeling quite positive.

Suraj had the duty of seeing the boys off for their first day in the new school year and did a pretty good job, though Charlotte had prepared them well for school without her.

On the 7th Sept. we had Mia to stay for a few days while Lee and Sarah jetted off to Geneva for a break. They stayed in a lovely Airbnb property and appeared to max out on this sight-seeing and culture opportunity. I do believe that they were so impressed with the city, lake and life style that they wouldn’t mind relocating there (we’ll keep Mia then?)

On the 9th Sue and I took Lucas and Ellis to the Lubenham Scarecrow Festival. We go most years (weather deciding) but on this occasion I do believe there appeared to be more scarecrows, more attractions and more visitors than previous. Good news for the village funds and associated charities.

On the 11th Charlotte’s car was collected for its annual service from our driveway where it has been parked since last February. Annoyingly, the garage messed up the paperwork on the manufacturer’s warranty and later that day it was returned without its service. It is now booked in again for a date in November, on the positive side it did get driven and quite a distance, something that has not happened for nearly 8 months. The following day my Fiesta went in for its MOT and passed again with flying colours, probably due to the fact that I had cleaned its inside for the first time in a year!

On the 14th I went for my last eye injection. I recently read an interesting article concerning the NHS and Lucentis (my medication) and was stunned to learn that it is £582 per injection! Thank you Aneurin Bevin, without your vision (not a pun) I and many more would either be very poor or just plain blind.

On the 20th Mia arrived again for a few days. This time Lee and Charlotte are away with Lee’s extended family to celebrate his stepfather’s 60th birthday. There is 18 of them and they are staying in a cottage in Lincoln.

Despite Charlotte’s present predicament, she has always thought of others before herself, and no greater testament to that is the coming to fruition of a thoughtful and kind-hearted initiative she has been working on through the horrendous trials of the last year. Close to where she lives is a road bridge over the A14. It is a suicide hotspot and despite her own problems she determined to make a difference and set about doing something about it. Enlisting the help of friends, family and social media she proposed that sympathetic messages be displayed on the bridge in an effort to encourage the desperate and forgotten to think again. The week before she went into hospital, she, with friends and family displayed the messages that she had created on the bridge.

Unwisely, six days later the Road Authority removed the messages, worried that they would be a distraction to drivers. This happened at the same time that Charlotte was in hospital and it created a media storm that the authorities couldn’t ignore. With flack coming from the MP, local and national radio and newspapers. On leaving hospital she was interviewed by the press and radio on the issue and eventually the authorities had to bend to the feelings of the public and common sense. There is now going to be 8 professionally designed messages displayed on the bridge and a possibility that this may be repeated on others with similar problems in the area. That’s my girl!!!!

Charlotte-Bridge

Other news:

Jamie has sold his apartment (subject to contract) and he and Ashton have put in an offer on a semi-detached property in Desborough. Strangely this is the same property that Charlotte and Suraj were looking at when they first decided to move closer to the grandparents.

Sarah and Lee are going to Iceland in May for her birthday.

God bless the NHS. Sue and I have our Flu jab booked in for next week. We learned our lesson the hard way last Christmas and do not want to repeat that!

I had an email from Joan and Phil (Italy) a week or so ago mentioning that they were woken up by an earthquake. No damage done, but on checking the Earthquake website locator the epi-centre appeared to be in their garden. Now that is a claim to fame you wouldn’t want.

A reminisce:

Quite a while ago as a Year 3 teacher I was teaching in Wigston when a had a child transfer into the class from an inner-city school. He couldn’t read, didn’t know even the basic phonetics. It soon became obvious that he was just as bright as the other children in the class and though shy, he had a pleasant nature that you just warmed to. Determined to get his reading up to scratch I kept him in at lunchtimes, three time s week and gave him 1:1 tuition throughout the rest of the year. He never complained about his loss of lunchtime freedom and I used to enjoy chatting to him. When I met his parents they seemed supportive and asked if they could do anything to improve his reading. Besides ensuring that he had half an hour each night with his class reader I suggested that they subscribe to the Beano comic and sit and read it with him so that they would get some enjoyment from his reading too. At the end of the year he read as well as any of the children in the class.

On the final school day, it is customary and hugely gratifying that the children often bring a small present for the class teacher as a thank you (from the parents). That year, the children had just left the classroom to start their summer holidays and I was helping stack the chairs in the classroom with the caretaker and headteacher, when the lad returned clutching a little parcel. I guess his parents had bought a little present as an after thought when they saw what the other children had done. As I thanked him, he asked me if I knew what was the best thing about this year. Thinking I was about to get some praise, and with witnesses, I fished and said that I couldn’t think what. “Reading the Beano,” he said, “The Beano taught me how to read, without the Beano I wouldn’t have been able to read.” Deflated, I told him that I was pleased and wished him well in the future.

“There you are boss,” said the caretaker to the headteacher, ” Lots of money to be saved there, get rid of the teachers and subscribe the kids to the Beano.”

Away Days and a Reminisce

Posted in Uncategorized on Aug 26, 2018 by David Palmer

Shortly after the last blog our Mediterranean summer came to an end. On the 27th Charlotte, Lucas and Ellis arrived to enjoy Harborough by the Sea and cool off afterwards in the pool, before enjoying a family BBQ.

On the 28th July, Mia arrived for a few days while Sarah and Lee went to the annual fireworks competition which they go to each year at Stanford Hall.  It proved to be the last hot day of the summer, the following day the first rain for two months arrived in Market Harborough. We didn’t get much, unlike several other parts of the country which suffered from flash flooding, however we had enough to kick-start the very parched and brown lawn into growth (yippee, not!)

On the 31st Ellis had his 8th birthday. Prior to this, on the 25th, Sue and I took him to Macdonald’s for his favourite happy meal as a treat. On the actual day, Sue, Charlotte, Lucas and the birthday boy went to Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock. As Charlotte was unable to accompany the boys on the rides, Sue rose to the occasion and rolled back the years and with lots of determination, a few squeals and a thorough soaking, she survived and even says she enjoyed the whole experience! Possible parachute lessons as a 65th birthday present?

As well as Sue and I attending the Silver Screen at the Odeon cinema, Sue has also started to take Lucas and Ellis while the schools are closed to the Kids Cinema on a Thursday. She always returns with favourable reports on the films that she sees, obviously implying that I am missing out on a good experience, but I am not falling for that one!

On the 10th Aug. I had my second eye injection at the Royal in Leicester. I was in and out of the hospital within half and hour and this time there was no pain, or black holes in my vision and encouragingly the following day I noticed a distinct improvement in my vision.

It has become a tradition that I visit the castle in Caergwrle where my mother’s ashes have been scattered and where her commemorative bench is sited on her birthday (16th June), this year we were away in Canada on the date and afterwards we had been too busy with hospitals and supporting Charlotte with the boys to journey to Wales. On the 13th, Sue, Charlotte, the boys and I drove to the castle. We stayed overnight at the nearby Trevor Arms.  This year we had our picnic by the bench instead of up on the castle as Charlotte is unable to climb any steep slopes. We visited and Doreen and Aunty Josie to catch-up on family news before having a short walk around Maes Paes Park and settling into our accommodation for the night. On our return journey we first stopped at Alyn Park in Wrexham and then we visited the National Ironworks Centre near Oswestry. It is an absolute gem and worthy of a much longer visit than we had time for. A bonus for the boys was a free tub of ice cream. The sculptures are superb and beautifully laid out over a vast acreage, such a shame that we hadn’t the time to thoroughly investigate all the attractions. We shall return.

Sue has continued to ramble around the Leicestershire countryside with her U3A group, but unfortunately on a walk from Gumley on the 16th she took a nasty tumble (the laces caught in her boot hooks). She looked very shook-up when she returned home and spent a couple of hours on the bed to recover, but she was still stiff and sore for a couple of days afterwards. Coincidentally, while Sue was tumbling, I was taking Parky (the pigeon) to Charlotte’s for her to look after, the following day Sue and I were off to visit Devon with Ellis and Lucas. Unluckily for me, as I was carrying Parky down the steps in the back garden, Charlotte stepped on my trailing boot lace and I took an involuntary crash dive with the pigeon in my hand. Luckily we both survived unharmed, but how is that for a coincidence?

On the 17th and 18th we had Sarah, Lee and Mia to stay. To celebrate their wedding anniversary Lee and Sarah had a lovely day in London finishing with catching a performance of the Lion King.

On the 19th Sue and I picked up Lucas and Ellis from Rothwell before travelling down via a short stop for a picnic and a walk along the pier in Clevedon to Buckfastleigh in Devon where Pip and Paul live.

As expected, the boys loved the garden, it is steeply sloped with a myriad of secretive paths that meander in, through and around various plant and garden features (it took until the last day to discover the small 4th pond!) Over the last few years they have opened their garden to the public, but this year, due to some extensive globe-trotting they hadn’t time to ‘get it up to standard’, though I couldn’t find a weed anywhere.

The following day after breakfast it was decided that the beach needed a visit, so under an ‘iffy’ sky we set off to Bigbury-on-Sea. Our journey along narrow and narrower country lanes was not a good one, after first being significantly delayed by a juggernaut trying to make its way along a road that could only make progress if the stream of oncoming car drivers exercised considerable patience and backed up, squeezing into by-ways and gateways to enable the inconsiderate ‘professional’ driver to meet his deadline. I guess being in the ‘holiday mood’ contributed to the bonhomie and prevented the harsh words and bloodshed of road rage. Relief at passing the obstruction was short-lived as within a mile we met another clown attempting to navigate his articulated dominance over we fewer wheeled mortals. Again, it took great co-operation by the sensible to permit the insensible to make progress. As we eventually passed, I crossed my fingers that some where behind me, hopefully not too far away was another multi-wheeled donkey, but making his way in the opposite direction.

The closer we got to our destination, the gloomier the conditions became, eventually resulting in fog/sea mist over the last few miles. However, after parking up above the beach, the murkiness receded offshore to intermittently shroud the headland and far off beaches, but thankfully not ours (the hazy sun shines on the righteous). We spent the next 3 hours doing beach things and having a picnic. The beach is popular and has quite a few water sport outlets to satisfy the cravings of those holiday makers wishing to play among the Atlantic waves. Not for me anymore, far too chilly! It was noticeable that most of the adults and children taking to the sea wore full wetsuits. Hmmm, how times change, as a child I remember splashing about in the sea all day with just swimming trunks on and yes I do remember getting cold but I ignored that because I was having fun and I would only be there for such a short time. How times change.

We returned to Buckfastleigh without delay and via a different route. A pox on all lorry drivers!

The following day Paul took a break from painting the external walls of the house and accompanied us to Cox Tor on Dartmoor. It was a complete contrast to the previous day, the sun had put his hat on and had certainly come out to play. It was hot! The Dartmoor landscape is famously bleakly beautiful and no more than on such a wonderful day. Arriving at the car park at the foot of the Tor we were initially disappointed not to find the anticipated, friendly Dartmoor ponies, but after a bit of exercise (and sweat) we summited the feature to find them there, munching nonchalantly on the already well cropped vegetation. Sooooooo friendly, not bothered by the growing numbers of people eager to stroke, scratch and even cuddle them.

We had  picnic lunch alongside a pretty bridge within the moor. Afterwards, we amused ourselves by constructing a dam across the torrent that Isambard himself would have been proud of. Great fun and a team effort!

Moving on we found another picturesque bridge with yet more inviting water gurgling and splashing into deeper pools. Sitting on fold-up chairs squeezed alongside the steeply sloping bank (the flatter spots had been taken by those who had been there all day) we watched the boys take to the water, Ellis bravely down to his underwear. After a little while, Pip and Paul left us to visit the dentist in Ashburton. Paul had broken a tooth and had an appointment to have it removed (he wasn’t looking forward to it).

We returned to Buckfastleigh via a brief stop off at yet another but deconstructed bridge over playful water.

Our final day in Buckfastleigh was quite a busy one. During the morning we visited the Butterfly and Otter Sanctuary, jus a few hundred metres away. A fascinating place, lots emerging and flying butterflies to see and feeding time with the otters was a delight. The staff member who guided us around the feeding otters was superb, very knowledgeable and quite amusing.

After lunch back at the house we walked the boys down to the Abbey, it is celebrating its millennium year but is always a stunning place to visit. The rebuilt Abbey gives us an insight into what those that were destroyed by Henry VIII must have looked like. We returned briefly to the house before setting off to do a spot of geocaching up on the hill in the grounds of a derelict church. We managed to find one geocache but failed dismally on one other.

That evening, around 8pm Pip and Paul took us back up the hill to a lane alongside the graveyard of the church we visited that afternoon. After climbing nearly 200 steps by way of a narrow dimly lit path, we saw the first of our quarry, Horseshoe bats flit randomly overhead. After a short while we started to see more and more emerge out of the gloom. A  great place to see bats; a lonely hill-top, next to a graveyard outside a derelict church (spooky eh?) After awhile we noticed we were not alone, another couple were watching the bats over a five bar gate into a field. A strange Devonian pastime? We joined them in the gathering dusk, until they quietly left, I noticed that they seemed not to cast a shadow, I wonder???

We left to return to Leicestershire after an early breakfast the following morning. We thanked Pip and Paul for looking after us so well and wished them well on their next adventure to South Africa at the end of September. Our return journey went without incident and just 3.5 hours later we were back to cooking ourselves and washing up etc. etc.

On the 25th Aug. Sue and Sarah travelled up to Salford to see Uncle Stan. I sorted out my car insurance, reducing the quote by £45 and then discovered that Jamie’s rabbit who I was looking after (while he conducted a seminar at the Langham Hotel in London over the weekend) had diarrhoea and had soiled itself badly. What fun, washing faeces off a rabbit! It was a first for me and even though the creature sensibly co-operated by remaining still throughout the process it will be the last.

Do you think this rabbit is pampered?

Jamie has had an offer on his apartment and it looks as if he and Ashton may be in their own house by Christmas. I wonder if the rabbit will get a choice of bedrooms?

Our house is alarmed, there are sensors at various locations around the rooms and this includes cameras inside and out. If triggered, the system will not only phone me, but send a text and an email containing a photograph. The camera that is triggered will also video what set it off and store it away safely. This is quite useful as I can also look remotely at what is happening and if (as occasionally happens) it is a false alarm, I can reset the system on my phone or tablet. While we were in Wales, the alarm went off at 13 minutes past midnight and a rather spooky video was recorded. I can’t explain it and on returning home a few days later there was absolutely nothing out of place. Have a look:

A Reminiscence

This is a story I related a couple of weeks ago to a friend while I was on a walk with Mia. It happened a long time ago, way back in the mists of time when I was a young teacher. He found it fascinating, I hope you do too.

I was teaching at a school in Belgrave, Leicester when the Headteacher received a call from County Hall asking if he would release me for a week to support an activity trip between two county schools. He agreed to and then informed me. It appeared that a school in Market Bosworth had linked up with a school that served RAF Cottesmore on the other side of the county to organise a week-long trip on motor cruisers on the Norfolk Broads.  Unfortunately, the organiser had promptly died of a heart attack (when you read on you won’t be surprised at that). County Hall was keen for the trip to go ahead and had trawled their records to see who had a sailing qualification and picked lucky me. I agreed to join the trip as long as Sue could come too. So, the head at Sue’s school got a phone call and he too agreed. You didn’t say no to County Hall in those days.

Prior to the trip I visited both schools and met the staff and children. One of the teachers who was at Cottesmore had previously worked at the school in Market Bosworth (that’s important to know). Accompanying adults were to be the Deputy Head and cook from Market Bosworth, the landlady from a pub in the town and the teacher from Cottesmore I had previously mentioned (a motley crew). There was to be 30 children on three motor cruisers and three sailing dinghies to be towed behind the cruisers. The itinerary had all been planned out for us, there was little to do other than be one of the staff (so I thought). The deputy and Landlady would  crew a boat of Bosworth children, the teacher and cook would crew one made up of a mixture of the two schools and Sue and I would crew one made up of children from Cottesmore.

The children were to travel to the Broads by train with the staff, but I and the teacher from Cottesmore were to drive down in a van containing everybody’s luggage and that is what happened. A good start.

As the cruisers were the largest on the river system the boat company gave each ‘captain’ of the boat an hours practical lesson on how to operate and steer the craft. As I was ‘experienced’ I was excused this so I sat on the dock and watched the others perform. They struggled, an hour was not enough, but that is all they got. It was obvious that they couldn’t cope with towing a sailing dinghy behind them so it was decided that I should tow all three. Appropriately, my cruiser had only been delivered that week and had not been governed down to 6mph and therefore was capable of towing three. Lucky me.

Before we set off, it was discovered that I was the only one able to read the charts, so I became the lead boat. Later in the day when I moored up for lunch, it was mildly amusing to find out that the other two couldn’t moor theirs. After half an hour watching fruitless attempts I eventually jumped on board as the boat passed by and moored it for them. That is what happened at every stopping place for the whole week; around 15 minutes before we had to stop, I opened up the engine and broke the speed limit, moored my boat, ran back down the river bank, jumped on board the first boat and moored it before doing the same for the remaining craft.

On the first evening I was concerned about the sleeping arrangements on board the boats, particularly the one crewed by the cook and teacher, so I quietly had a word with the gentleman to discover that while he was at Bosworth school he had an affair with the school cook (her daughter was in his class). As this was frowned upon, County Hall moved him out of the school to Cottesmore (they did that sort of thing in those days). Hence the link and a continuation of the affair. Who am I to judge I thought? Later on in the week, as I was sitting alone on the deck after our evening meal (admirably cooked by Sue), the teacher came over and asked if he could sleep on our boat, it transpires that he had an argument with the cook and she had kicked him out. Unsympathetically I told him no and sent him on his way. This incident was to rebound on us all at the end of the trip!

One afternoon, as we were moored up at a chandlers taking on fuel and water, I was sitting on the quay watching our last cruiser being filled while a sailing cruiser was tacking vigorously back and forth across the river making its way up-stream. In horror I watched the craft fail to tack in time and it rammed its prow straight into the side of our boat and stuck there. After many apologies by the skipper of the boat and a swapping of hire details we eventually managed to part the two craft. The next couple of hours was spent while waiting for the engineer in the chandlers to fix the hole with fibre glass, he left me some spare, “Just in case,” he said. I was to need it a few days later.

As previously mentioned, I am towing three sailing dinghies behind. The rivers on the Broads can at times meander very sharply across the flat landscape and navigating a large 12 berth cruiser around these can in itself be quite a problem, but with three dinghies behind I am literally twice the length again. When the children ran into the cockpit to tell me that the last dinghy was sinking, I discovered when I moored up that there were submerged posts just off the bank on the last bend I had rounded and one had ripped a hole in the hull. Thank you Mr Chandler, an hour later I had repaired the hole and we were back on our way.

The children selected on my boat were a hand-picked bunch of RAF reprobates. They had been everywhere, seen everything and had little self-control, though on reflection they were the least of my problems, except for one incident. We were on the river leading to Great Yarmouth Marina, it was a gloriously warm Bank Holiday weekend and there were lots of craft on the river. Our little flotilla proved to be a bit of a log jam for some other river users as crocodile fashion we made our way along the watercourse. As with a car, I had a rear view mirror, I noted that a small speed boat with four teenagers was attempting to overtake us all. I watched as they eventually managed to squeeze their way past the other two cruisers only to then crazily weave from side to side behind my mini-fleet. I could see lots of waving of arms but thought it just the exuberance of youth as there was no way he could get by. As we entered Yarmouth Marina they took their opportunity and on full throttle, engine screaming shot alongside, gesticulated, then cut straight under my bow. I slammed the engine into full throttle reverse and stopped the boat dead in the water in just a few metres. The little speedboat disappeared rapidly among the many other boats, then in horror I saw the bow of the cruiser behind, being steered by the Landlady, ride high in the water as she slammed the throttle, full on forward as she bore down on me! I had over the last few days been giving the staff lessons and how to control their boats, hoping not to have to moor them each time we stopped. She had obviously remembered that to stop the boat fast she had to put on full revs, but forgot that she had to use reverse as well. I watched as in slow motion, she realised what was about to happen (sink three dinghies and slice the back-end off my cruiser) and she turned the helm violently away, slewed to the right and hit the marina quay, on full revs driving the front of the cruiser up and onto the quay itself, scattering a packed audience of tourists. I remember there being quite a lot of applause at this. The Harbour Master had witnessed what had taken place and was soon there sorting things out. The front of the cruiser was smashed but luckily above the water line and it was soon pushed back into the water. Despite me reassuring the landlady that the boat was covered by insurance and that it would be repaired at no cost to us, she was so embarrassed that she insisted that she pay for the repair and it was done that afternoon as we spent the afternoon on the beach.

I found out later the reason why the speedboat had  weaved erratically behind, then cut me up on entry to the marina. My little cherubs from Cottesmore had emptied the onboard refrigerator of eggs and tomatoes etc. and had great fun lobbing them from the back of our craft at the teenagers. Great fun, but breakfast lacked a few essential elements for the rest of the week!

We did have a very worrying incident.  One night, we were anchored in the middle of a Broad, instead of our usual mooring alongside the river bank. That afternoon I had been out with the children in the sailing dinghies, teaching them how to sail, it had been a fun time, though I found it quite tiring after I had worked my way through all thirty and was looking forward to sleep that night. It was not to be!  We had eaten our evening meal, played a few games in the main cabin and were getting ready for bed when one of the girls had severe difficulty in breathing. She was not a known asthma sufferer, but this was certainly an asthma attack. I sat with her outside on the back of the boat talking and calming her down as we had no inhaler aboard. Mobile phones had not yet been invented and we were half an hour sailing from the nearest shore and then probably a little more before I could find a landline. It must have been a full hour before her breathing returned to normal, she was one scared little girl and  I was one scared adult trying not to show it. Eventually she fell asleep, but I am afraid I didn’t, worrying about what might have been and still could happen. The following morning, I acquired a spare inhaler from one of the children on one of the other cruisers and slept a lot easier the following night.

Eventually, the week drew to a close and we returned our craft back to their owner (a little worse for wear). All that was left was to catch a train back to Leicester, but that would have been too easy! It had been planned that I would travel back by train and the cook would accompany the teacher in the van with the luggage. While waiting on the platform with the children, I became aware that there was a huge argument going on between the illicit lovers. As the train was pulling into the station I saw her grab something from her partner and throw it across the train tracks, then ran off. As the children were boarding, he rushed up to me and explained that she had run away (I knew that!), but that she had thrown the van keys over the track, which were now on the other side of the train. Brilliant! I told Sue to get the children back to Leicester, I had to stay and find the keys . This was not going to look good to parents I thought, glad I wasn’t at either school.

First we looked outside to see if she was anywhere to be seen, no luck. It was then that I was told that the argument was over an old boyfriend that lived nearby, he had turned up at one of our stopping points and she had gone off with him for the night. He thought she had probably gone to his place, but he did not know where. I was glad that my life was nice and simple. Next, we crossed the train tracks and with the station master (who couldn’t help smiling when he heard the story), looked for the keys. We couldn’t find them and the van was locked. We walked to the local police station to find it closed. We used the phone outside and was assured that a constable will arrive presently. He did and took us back to the train station (he couldn’t help smiling when he heard the story). Magically he opened the van and started the engine. The constable professed that he thought he knew who the man was that the cook had gone off with and asked what we would like to do with the situation.  Though my fellow professional wanted to leave things as they were I was not of the same mind. I pointed out that though she looked as if she had thrown the keys, we could not find them, so she may not have and may still in her possession and as this was a hire van, that could constitute a theft. I asked him to apprehend her and find out what she did with the keys. We then drove back to Leicester and did indeed meet the train with the luggage and as far as I know, the parents were none the wiser (unless the little ones told?)

The constable did visit the occasional lover and found him rather disgruntled, he had just returned from work to find his car gone and was glad that the police had turned up, he was keen to report it stolen. The cook was stopped by a patrol car on route back to Bosworth. I am afraid I know nothing else on this affair other than I was told quite few years later that the cook and the teacher were now married.

You couldn’t make this up, could you?

 

 

Eye, eye, standby

Posted in Uncategorized on Jul 26, 2018 by David Palmer

Full recovery from our journey took a few days, but through necessity we plunged straight back into routine and the British weather obliged us for once by remaining sunny and warm; the lawns got mowed, the pool was returned from green to blue and the allotments were watered and weeded.

Sue visited Holdenby Hall on the 19th with the U3A History Group for a spot of Victoriana and followed that up the following day with a trip to the cinema with Charlotte, before enjoying an outing with her rambling group 24 hours later treading the fields of Leicestershire under what appears to be up to now, permanently blue skies.

On the 20th I took a phone call from the Doctor’s Surgery. They had previously attempted to call whilst on the road in Canada with the results of a recent health review, but I put it off until I returned to the UK (just in case it was bad news). However, everything was fine and there was no need to start taking a multitude of pills that quite a few of my friends seem to have been prescribed after their health review.

However, just prior to flying to Toronto I had noticed that I was having problem with the sight in my left eye, part of my vision was becoming increasingly distorted. Some 30 years ago I had a similar problem with this eye and after laser surgery removed the problem along with around 30% of the vision in that eye I adjusted to the quirks of seeing the world slightly different. By and large my brain and good eye would fill in the missing parts of an image during most situations, but this was not the case whilst playing sport etc. Playing squash became pointless as it wouldn’t take my opponent long to find out that I had a problem with a ball that came directly at me from off the wall (I couldn’t gauge where in space the ball was), things happened too fast and my brain had little time to compute its position from just one angle of view. I gave up squash. Tennis proved to be a less of a problem as shots directly at you are rare and the distance the ball had to travel gave my brain a chance. I would play the occasional air-shot and look a bit of a fool but the rest of my game was ok so opponents would never guess.  Catching a high ball in rugby would be a problem, but experience gave me an edge, so I was rarely underneath one and carried on enjoying the game for many more years. Golf was peculiar, when the ball is driven off into the distance, I have to concentrate really hard as to where it is going. If I lose sight of it for a brief second I am usually at a loss as to where it has ended up. Quite frustrating, and often results in a lot of hunting and lost balls. Though I love the game, I rarely play golf mostly because few of my friends enjoy the game and unfortunately all of them still work. Playing pool creates a different problem, I will occasionally catch the end of the cue against the ball prior to playing a shot as I can’t gauge the distance of the cue tip from the ball accurately enough (unless I really concentrate). I blame the beer for such lapses and smile sweetly at opponents enjoying the free shots I give away. Driving is fine, as regular visits to the opticians over the years have confirmed, though for the last couple I have had to resort to driving glasses, more due to the fatigue my eyes suffer from concentrating, rather than any loss of view.

Normally, when I first began to notice fresh distortion, I would have checked it out with the opticians straight away, but made the hard decision to delay as I feared I may lose my driving licence just before I was required to drive in Canada to see Gwenda. Luckily, there was no further deterioration and despite having to adjust to driving on the wrong side of the road we had no problems as the distorted part of my vision was filled in by my good eye and on the occasions I tested my vision with my left eye alone, the issue was off to the far left of my sight and remained small.

On the 26th I went to see the optician and as expected she requested an urgent appointment with the eye department at the Royal Hospital in Leicester. The vision in the left eye had reduced significantly from my last eye test, but surprisingly it had improved in my right. She could see no issues on the retina so suspected that the problem lay behind. The hospital rang a few days later and an appointment was made for the 9th of July. Sue drove me to the appointment as I knew I would be having drops in my eyes that would blur vision and prevent safe driving. After a couple of hours of ocular examinations, and an injection of dye to highlight problems, it was decided that I had fluid build up behind the retina and a course of three injections was needed. Thankfully my vision was assessed as being ok for diving. I had the first injection on the 12th. It is not pleasant having a needle go into your eye, but it is interesting seeing the chemical flood into your vision. I was concerned that I had a circular black hole in the lower part of my vision where the needle went in, but thankfully after 24 hours it disappeared. I was given antibiotic drops to take for the next five days, and apart from some soreness for a couple of days everything went well. It is early days, but I believe there has been a slight improvement to my vision, two more jabs to go!

Quite a while ago Sarah had seen a specialist for a problem that she had been having with her eyes. Some of her lashes were growing inwards and would require attention if more serious problems were to be averted. At around the same time as I was seeing the optician about my own eyesight, Sarah underwent laser surgery to remove the offending lashes. The procedure seems to have been successful and hopefully the remaining lashes have learnt their lesson, and will grow in the right direction from now on. They have been warned!

Charlotte continued to struggle with the pain from her two slipped discs, looking after a husband, two children, a cat, countless chickens and a home has not been easy for her and she has relied heavily on a large selection of pills to try to keep her family life as normal as possible, but it has been horrendously difficult and without strong pain killers it would have not been possible. Sue and I have helped out when possible but the situation has taken its toll on the whole family. Matters weren’t helped by an unsympathetic and unprofessional local pharmacy which reduced her to tears when recently she attempted with Sue to arrange the delivery of some medication. The officious attitude displayed was compounded by some outrageous comments from one of the staff in the hearing of all those present. A complaint was made to head office and an apology received, but quite rightly I do not think that  Suraj is leaving the matter there. Battling debilitating pain, lethargic GP’s and a NHS system that through overload has gone into slow motion has made life hard for our daughter.

Not long after this unfortunate episode, Charlotte had another MRI scan and an appointment with the specialist. It was obvious that the spinal injections had not worked, the scan showed that one of the discs had turned black and the other was grey and on its way to the same condition. She was offered a choice of an operation or continued physiotherapy and a life of painkillers.  She chose to have the operation, though there are risks involved with this route. Because she has been suffering for so long and that her discs are deteriorating she has been placed on the ‘Urgent’ list, this means she may be called for an operation at short notice, so the family is now on standby to get her into hospital when called and cover what ever needs to be covered during and after the procedure. Recovery will be around 6 months, but I guess may be longer. In preparation for the operation she has stopped taking one of the strongest (but addictive) painkillers, Tramadol. The first week of abstinence produced the expected withdrawal symptoms but she coped well, proving she is a very strong individual. As a family we will help her pull through this awful situation and reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

*Since writing this blog Charlotte has been given a date for her operation. It is the 4th Sept., the same date as Suraj’s birthday. Fingers crossed that is a lucky omen.

On a much lighter note, though ‘football didn’t come home’, watching England progress through to the semi-finals of the World Cup was not the tortuous affair of previous excursions into this competition. At times they played well, produced the results they should have done and though they eventually lost to the Croatians, they weren’t a disgrace and I do believe they were the better team, though not the strongest (we can work on that). For once it was nice to host a BBQ for friends and watch an England soccer team not lose in the quarter finals. Especially as I had purchased a new HD, 3D cinema projector to watch the matches on! On an even lighter note I watched the semi-final along with Paul, Peter and an awful lot of more  sophisticated real ale connoisseurs at the Langtons Beer Festival, held at the Langton Micro Brewery. Apart from the match result, the accompanying music and refreshments were first class and ample.

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On the 25th of July, I took Jamie and his friend Bill to East Midlands Airport to catch a flight to Rhodes. They hired a car while they were there and managed to get around the island enjoying the same kind of weather as we were experiencing in the UK. I picked them up just after midnight a week later.

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Recently we seem to have been hitting a period when the electrical items around the home have decided to play up. First one of the ovens in our double oven died and this resulted in the purchase and installation of a new one. Next, the kitchen fridge decided to struggle to keep food fresh so, after cleaning out the filter, repositioning the face-plate and cutting down the base board to allow a greater flow of air and lowering the temperature control, things improved somewhat, but as the temperature for the last month or so has  been well into the 20’s, we decided not to replace it until cooler times and see how it performs then. Annoyingly the dishwasher came out on strike. It refused to finish its cycle and filled up with water. Again, I stripped it down, cleaned all the filters, flushed the piping and in gratitude for a bit of pampering it is now working fine. On a personal note, my mobile phone decided to play up. It is a windows 10 phone and I love it, but with an increasing number of updates it is running low on memory and is now becoming unstable. Unfortunately, it won’t permit me to reset it to free memory so I have bought a new one, a Sony Experia XA2 ultra running Android. Finally, with such high temperatures and no forecast end to the oppressive heat in sight, the air-con in my car began to struggle, so into the garage it went for a re-gas and now I drive in comfort. I wonder what will be next?

As in 1976 we are going through a rare period of dry and hot weather conditions. The lawns are yellow and brown, the soil is heavily cracked and the poor farmers, like me, are struggling to keep their crops watered. The cattle and sheep are eating the hay and silage set aside for their winter feed and we are beginning to get hose pipe bans around the country (but not in our region yet). On a more positive note, there appears to be an abundance of fruit. We have so many black currants that Sue has put a sign up at the end of the driveway and is selling punnets of them for 50p. Black berries seem to be dripping out of every hedge and I have never seen them so large, I am expecting a bumper harvest of grapes.

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Sue has been out several times with her rambling groups, but due to the heat she has often come back exhausted. I have been out each day on my mountain bike, because I go off road and the ground is so hard it has taken its toll on my trusty steed. Over three days I had 8 punctures! Not thorns, but splits in the inner tube due to the rock hard uneven surface, riding is similar to holding onto a rampant jack-hammer at times. On a couple of occasions I had to call Sue to come and pick me up in the car when the inner tube split, was replaced by the spare that I carry and then this one split a few miles on! Events came to a head on one particular day when I inflated the tyres to make them more solid to try and solve the splitting problem and after a few miles of rough going, the inner tube burst through the tyre wall without splitting. Counting myself lucky I deflated the tyre, inserted the inner tube back inside and reflated it. Further on into my route for the day I was descending at speed down a disused railway bank which necessitated a sharp turn at the bottom to avoid a hedge. My disc brakes decided not to bite on hard enough and I buried myself in a rather nettly and thorny bush. After extracting myself, pleased that I wasn’t too roughed up I tracked along a freshly mown green lane, to bury the front wheel into a deep hole that was hidden by a covering of grass, being catapulted over the handle bars was more embarrassing than painful so after checking the bike was ok a set off again. Within 200m my rear wheel locked and I slewed to a stop. Dismayed, I  found that the derailleur mechanism had mangled itself into the spokes so badly that I couldn’t free it to allow the wheel to move. Sue had to come and fetch me again. It took three days in the bike shop and a brand new set of gears to put her back on the road. So far (touch wood) we have had no more incidents. I will never again complain about muddy tracks.

Usually, I look after Mia during at least one day in the week when either Lee or Sarah work in Northampton and she accompanies Peter and I to Bridge 61 at Foxton Locks for lunch (usually Yorkshire pudding, sausage, mashed potato and mushy peas covered in thick onion gravy, heaven). With the recent temperature being so consistently high, like all other furry/hairy animals Mia has suffered in the heat. I have to ensure that she has frequent drinks and at every opportunity she finds shade and sits or lays down to recover. In this heat she is no lively bouncing bundle of mischief. I do feel sorry for the cattle and sheep we pass on our ambles, they are also clearly suffering and in many of the fields there is little shady sanctuary to be had.

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Jamie has his apartment up for sale .

When he has viewings he brings his rabbit Maddy here, wisely he wants to give potential buyers the impression that they are purchasing an apartment not a hutch. We house Maddy in an old chicken coop of Charlotte’s and I have extended it with a wired run into a hedgehog box. I am not sure what she thinks of the situation, but she just sits quietly under the shade in her cage. She can be quite petulant, sometimes she will turn her back on you when you approach and at other times she seems eager to make contact. Unfortunately, we do not heave any of her favourite food (iPhone leads) and she has to make do with lettuce, dandelions and carrots.

As the schools have broken up, on the 23rd July Sue took Lucas and Ellis to the cinema as treat. They saw Sherlock Gnome, their reports were quite favourable but I profess to being dubious about that. I think Arthur Conan Doyle would turn in his grave. The following day, Sue went to see a more adult film at a Silver Screen session, before meeting up with me at Charlotte’s. I took Sue, Charlotte, Lucas and Ellis to Geddington ford for a lovely picnic. The boys played in the ford while i cooked sausages on a BBQ. It is a beautiful and historic spot, very popular with the locals for picnics and indeed it did get quite busy. The weather was gorgeous and we vowed to do it again. I had parked near the Eleanor Cross in the centre of the village and after packing up we went to read its associated information board. While I wandered over to look at the church I got engaged in conversation with a local resident who was very keen to relate the history of the village to us. Half an hour later, filled with fascinating facts and anecdotes we eventually managed to extract ourselves from our new-found Canadian friend. Sue and I would have loved to continue chatting to this very knowledgeable gentleman, but the heat was fearsome and the boys were getting restless, so we retired to The Star hostelry across the road to quench our thirst and cool off.

 

Sue and I have noticed a three-legged cat visiting the garden over the last week or so and today our next door neighbour Viv called to see if we knew anything about it. Apparently she has been watching it in our garden and was very concerned, she brought around some cat food to feed it. It is her intention to take it to the vets tonight and see if it is chipped. In the meantime Sue has bonded with the rather sad little creature by feeding and watering it then giving it the obligatory fondle. I have to admit to having my fingers crossed that the owner will be found and it moves on, or in this case, hops on.

Update on cat: The following morning Sue took it to the vets where they scanned and read the details on its chip. The owner lives just a few streets away, but when the vet telephoned they were out. The cat remained at the Vets. However, later that day whilst I was walking Mia in the park I came across a young pigeon that had fallen out of its nest. To save it from the many dogs that were around loose, I picked it up and took it home. It is now being looked after by Sue and I. We keep it in the hedgehog box that last week had Maddie in residence. It’s getting three meals a day and seems comfortable with the situation. I gauge that it is only a week or two from being able to fly, so our guest is temporary.

After my morning cycle through the parched fields around Harborough I decided to catch up with a bit of paperwork in my refreshingly cool study. First job was to go on-line and claim back some tax that the Inland revenue had overcharged me. Next I complained (on line) to my pension provider asking them to explain why they had reduced my payments by £13 a month. I moved on to research a cheaper energy provider than EON were forecasting for the next 12 months. I used the Citizens Advice website to compare providers. I was shocked at the number of companies there were, pages and pages of them. All of them cheaper, so I opted for the cheapest of all at over £260 less. They had good reports on Trust-pilot so we shall see. I finished off the bureaucracy by researching a cheaper car insurance quote for Sue. The whole rigmarole didn’t take long  and I did manage to keep my cool during the whole process, but I still preferred ‘the old days‘ when we didn’t have endless choices to make and companies trying every ploy imaginable to squeeze a few more pounds from you. I do feel sorry for those , not computer/internet savvy, life must be increasingly expensive!

Lee, Sarah and Mia have been improving their sailing skills over the weekends. They have felt confident enough to take top the water without their Admiral, the only challenge being the heat of the sun as there has been very little wind for several months now.

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When Sue and I go away for a holiday I always make a video of our escapades, here is the latest one of Canada:

 

 

 

Midland to Toronto and Home

Posted in Uncategorized on Jun 18, 2018 by David Palmer

Breakfast of cereals, toast and strong coffee preceded a 10am start to a long day travelling. It was predicted to be hot 28+, but the morning had the sun struggling to break through high cloud.

As we left Midland heading south the traffic started to build up, reversing the trend of the last couple of weeks with more cars than juggernauts. The towns we passed through had populations in the 10’s of thousands rather than just a few hundred that we have previously been experiencing and we could tell that it was a Saturday as lawns were being mowed and cars washed on drive ways. The closer we got to Toronto the more industrial it got and the four lane highway that had been previously snaking its way through fields and the periphery of townships began to take on the feel of approaching a very busy city. No letting the mind wander now, road signs had to be read and the volume of traffic began to squeeze on our little Nissan Rogue.

We changed our plans repeatedly on the journey into the big metropolis. First we were going to stop in Barrie, then we were going to stop in a park near Pearson Airport, but finally we decided on just getting the car back to base. We filled up with fuel a mile or so away from the rental car park and then dropped the car off.

Inside the terminal we found where we could store our luggage and then bought return tickets on the UP Express train into Union Station, Toronto. The journey took 25 minutes and just had two stops on the way. It conveniently disgorges its passengers next to the CN Tower.

The plan was to wander around the city centre, have lunch and then return to catch our flight, and that is what we did. The area around the tower had changed dramatically from when we visited it 30 years ago. The large marshalling yards had been developed into a train museum, Ripley Aquarium, shops and eating houses, it was much improved and today it was packed with people, many of whom were off to see the Toronto Blue Jays play the Washington Redsocks, they were passing through the centre to board buses taking them to the game, dressed in their patriotic shirts of blue.

We had lunch in a restaurant just a block away from the tower. As we were leaving there was a strange beeping noise, when Sue asked what it was, a rather disinterested waitress told us it was a fire alarm. As we exited onto the street, several fire engines turned up, horns blaring away, nobody moved in the restaurant, it was a false alarm. I suppose this must happen often. We next took a walk down to the ferry port where we sat on bollards, watching the water traffic pass by, glad of a cooling breeze from the lake, the clouds had disappeared and the sun was slowly turning the city streets into a furnace.

Sufficiently cooled we headed back towards the centre, stopping at a bar to escape the heat and quench our now considerable thirst. Continuing our way back to the station we were passing Ripley’s Aquarium when I spotted a security guard running out of the building holding a fire extinguisher. What I had taken as smoke from a BBQ or outdoor fast food stall was in fact the outside of Ripley’s on fire. He soon quenched the flames, but where were the fire service when you need them? The fire began on a wood chipped flower border against the building, probably from a discarded cigarette.

We returned to the airport, picked up our luggage and then waited a while for our check in desk to open. We were passengers no. 2 & 3 in the queue. After security, we sat in the bar and had some more refreshments before making our way to the departure gate which for our flight meant a short ride in a bus to the other side of the runaway where we waited inside a building used during busy times. Shortly after we had sat in our seats to wait for the gate to open, Sean, Domini and Caitlin turned up. We chatted about our various Canadian adventures until we boarded the aircraft.

The plane departed on time at 10.45pm. I slept a great deal of the flight, but Sue felt ill and spent some time up front with a stewardess cooling down as she was overheating. She had an attack of her Golfer’s Leg; the last time that happened was prior to a flight from Vietnam.

Caitlin was met by her mother at Stansted and said her goodbyes; we made our way back to Harborough in Sean’s car via a traffic jam near Huntingdon, arriving home at 2pm.

As it was Father’s Day the rest of the family had planned a BBQ at Sarah’s house in Leicester, but this was rescheduled from noon to 3 pm. We arrived there very tired at 3.20 pm. Lee’s parents and grandmother were there as well as all the Palmers. It was a chilly afternoon but the rain held off. Sue and I were both back home just after 8 pm and crawled into bed, two very tired bunnies.