Back to back

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2018 by David Palmer

We had snow and freezing temperatures from the 16th March thwarting my attempts to dig the vegetable allotment over. I occupied myself with cutting, stacking then burning the wood I had collected over the summer, the huge pile of picture framing wood purchased on eBay was beginning to run out and if this awful wintery weather didn’t end soon I would have to forage for more. On the 18th Sarah and Lee came over. Sarah to see Charlotte and Lee to accompany me on a clay pigeon shoot near Welford. The roads were treacherous, many of the side roads suffered from drifting snow and I have to admit I was hoping that our shooting party was going to be cancelled, but it was not to be. Apparently, nothing but lightning strikes halts a shoot!

The shoot took place at an Outdoor Adventure Park. As we arrived, sliding and bouncing along the rutted, muddy and snow covered country access road we saw that we were not the only ones mad enough to brave conditions that a polar bear would think twice about. Passing by a quarry we spied 4X4’s crawling along track ways that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Somme,  shortly afterwards we cut across a cavalcade of mud splattered quad bikes that seemed to be having fun in the mud, but I knew better, fun was not possible at these temperatures, fingers and toes were certainly being sacrificed in the name  of camaraderie.


There was just Lee and I and a couple of guys (father and son) from London who had opted to stand in a windswept field and shoot a twelve bore at little clay discs. To test our manhood we had to wait for around an hour in an unheated portakabin while our instructor finished with his quadbike duties. It was bitterly cold, as was the half mile tramp through deep snow to the shooting field. After the safety talk and some advice on how to get a good ‘kill’, we took it in turns to shoot the clays flying around at various angles. Ironically, there was a couple of hares sat in the corner of the field, nonchalantly digging away the snow in order to munch the grass underneath.

Did I enjoy blasting little bits of clay to pieces? Yes, but I haven’t been so cold in a very long time so I won’t be doing it again unless Mr Putin send his troops over to test our nerves.

It soon became evident that despite the increase in medication and a fixed MRI date, Charlotte was not coping with the intense pain in her back. Something had to be done. After a family meeting, it was decided that the best course of action was for Charlotte to be in hospital where her pain could be better attended to and an increased likelihood of an earlier MRI to determine what exactly was the cause. Charlotte was reluctant at first, but eventually relented and late in the evening of the 21st Sarah took her into Kettering Hospital. It was the right course of action as the doctors could see that something serious was wrong and she was admitted onto the Acute Pain Ward. She got her MRI scan the following day and her medication was adjusted. The scan showed that disks L5 and S1 had slipped out and wouldn’t go back in, she was transferred to the Spinal Team for consideration. Options were a spinal injection to reduce the size of the discs and failing that, an operation would be needed. She moved wards to Barnwell and on the 28th she had her spinal injection under general anaesthetic.


While Charlotte has been in hospital, Sue and I have been supporting Suraj by taking and picking up the boys from school and covering elsewhere wherever we can, but none the less it has been a huge strain on Suraj. It has also affected the boys, both have been ill and indeed Ellis spent a spell in hospital himself with a temperature and pain in his knee. However, at present they both appear to be well, though on the day that Charlotte had her operation, I took Lucas to the area cross-country competition at Wicksteed Park and despite being always in the top three in past events, this time he was way down the field and obviously affected by his mother’s illness.


Charlotte was hoping to come out of hospital for Easter, but the physiotherapist quite rightly decided that until she could walk and cope with stairs she should stay where she is.

It has been very difficult time for all the family. To have Charlotte in such pain has been distressing for us all. Anguish and sleepless nights have been the norm these past few weeks and though we know there will be an end to it all, it doesn’t seem to be any time soon. Undoubtedly, Charlotte’s injury is life changing, making it unlikely that she will be able to continue with her gardening business and no doubt there will be other issues that will have to be addressed in the future. For the present, I would be most grateful if my eldest daughter was pain free and off the very strong and potentially addictive pain killers.


On the 29th we woke to a horrible day. Damp and miserable. Sue went to see Charlotte and then stayed with the boys while Suraj did some much needed shopping and then visited Charlotte. I spent the morning repairing the posts supporting my grape vines and strengthening the supports. When my electric screwdriver battery ran flat I took my bike to have a new chain, cartridge set and gears while the battery recharged. The winter mud and snow had worn most of the moving parts and they were slipping quite badly making it awkward and at times downright dangerous to cycle.  Returning in the afternoon to continue with the vines I received a phone call from Sue informing me that the hospital had gone into ‘meltdown’ with a Flu epidemic, with visitors to the wards only being allowed 15 minutes and could only see patients in the corridors.  I had planned to visit Charlotte at 3pm, but then decided against it, opting to finish my repairs. As if in protest, it began to first drizzle and then pour down. I stuck manfully to my task; soaked, cold and utterly fed-up I completed the job and then drove home to change into dry clothes and fire up the wood burner for some much needed warmth.

The rain did not abate all night, so it wasn’t surprising that when we woke the following morning the River Welland had overtopped its lower bank and flooded the field opposite. I had planned to plant some onions in the morning, but after the soaking of the previous day I wasn’t keen to venture out again so spent the time in my study watching the river slowly recede (despite frequent showers), and created a video of our recent trip to Cyprus.


After lunch I went to see Charlotte, but had to delay my visit for half an hour or so as a friend was already there. I amused myself window shopping and bought a packet of peanuts! The physiotherapist arrived while I was with Charlotte and she was taken to practise climbing a set of stairs. Charlotte found the activity exhausting and I could see that she was very unsteady, particularly on the way down. However, I was surprised to hear that the physio’ was happy to discharge her home. Returning to the ward, Charlotte was excited to be decreed OK to go home. A nurse arrived to arrange the special equipment necessary for the transfer home. Soon, three Zimmer frames, two commodes and a stable shower seat arrived, with various other bits of kit to be supplied later, such is the legacy of living in a three story house. While the medication was being sorted out I loaded up my car with the equipment and took them to Rothwell and a surprised Suraj.


It being Easter, there was the inevitable problem of the pharmacy filling the prescription, especially so when the Junior doctor on duty completed the prescription incorrectly. Poor Suraj had to make two trips to the chemist in Kettering, one to find out the prescription was wrong and then again with a rewritten one. He eventually got Charlotte home, with the correct medication.

Snow Avoidance

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2018 by David Palmer

The adult members of the Rothwell and Braunstone sections of the family along with Jamie thoroughly enjoyed the Murder Mystery weekend in Grantham that I had bought for them as a Christmas present, way back in December. Unfortunately, Ashton was unable to accompany Jamie as she was the latest member to succumb to the Flu virus and spent a week in bed, back in Daventry. Sue and I entertained Lucas, Ellis and Mia over the weekend, though I did manage to sneak off on Saturday afternoon to watch a depressing defeat by England to a much better Scotland. I suspect that nothing will be learnt from this loss and it is France up next!


The same day that we took charge of the grandchildren, Sue and I both had dental appointments. My broken tooth was deemed to require a crown and at Sue’s check-up she was also informed that she needed a crown (we have separate dentists). It was one unfortunate coincidence as at £244 a crown, we truly were King and Queen for the day. I guess it is fortunate that with my 65th birthday on the horizon, my first month’s pension will be going straight back to Government coffers! Both crowns were scheduled to be fitted on our return from Macedonia.

After the 24th Feb. the weather took a turn for the worse. Fierce frosts and bitingly cold winds. Much of the country was covered in snow and there were several warnings of heavy snow with a ‘danger to life’ broadcast regularly on the media. Harborough however, seemed to avoid the worst of the snow and it just became a chore to keep piling the logs on the wood burner to keep out the cold. I did manage to take advantage of a huge mountain of leaf compost left by the Council near to my Welland Park allotment. Over several days I mulched all the fruit and vines and then dug more into the raised beds at home, before transferring 12 dustbin loads up to my vegetable allotment on Douglas Drive. I would have dug this into the soil but the frost was too deep, so I scattered it on the surface in readiness for a later (warmer) date.

On the 1st of March (white rabbits) Sue and I awoke to a steady fall of snow. None was forecast! We were flying from Stansted on a 4.30pm flight to Thessaloniki and were expecting to leave for the airport around midday but we reviewed our plans and left after breakfast (8.15am). We were lucky. The snow turned into a blizzard and at a crawl we only just made it out of Harborough to the A14, passing several abandoned vehicles on the way.


Despite hearing on the radio that chaos was reigning throughout the country with train and bus cancellations and more worryingly a growing list of closed airports, we had a relatively straight forward journey with no delays. The A14 and the M11 had little traffic, obviously most people had heeded the warnings and were staying at home. For most of our route it did not snow and there appeared to be only a thin covering in the surrounding countryside. We reached Stansted far too early so  took advantage of the close-by services on the M11 and had a leisurely lunch and a rest before proceeding to the car park and catching the shuttle-bus to Departures.

After checking in, we waiting out the last couple of hours before being first in the queue at the departure gate. Annoyingly with 30 mins to go, it was announced that the gate had been changed and a mad dash to the other end of the airport ensued with our fellow passengers. We boarded just a little late, but because we had missed our slot we sat patiently on the plane for two hours before eventually taking off. I guess we can count ourselves lucky as their appeared to a rapidly growing list of cancelled flights. It was snowing heavily as we took off.

We landed in Thessaloniki just before midnight (local time) and waited in the Arrivals Hall for our pre-booked transfer just afterwards. As the Hall slowly emptied of fellow passengers I rang the number of a text that I had received  as we landed, it was from the transfer company informing me that our driver would be waiting for us. A flustered Greek informed me that we HAD been picked up, then asked where in Athens airport we were, he then mentioned he couldn’t find my name. When I eventually got through to him that I was in Thessaloniki. he assured me it would be half an hour before our driver came. Ten minutes later the man himself arrived with a taxi driver in tow. He explained that as we were two hours late, his iPad spread sheet of pick-ups had naturally changed to the following day and he had not spotted it. Our driver had picked up someone called Thompson instead. We just wanted to get to the hotel and our bed, listening to his continuous apologies stretched my patience, but eventually we did exactly that. We were to have another problem with our return transfer, but that is for later in the blog.


Our hotel was the Ilisia. We chose it because it was centrally located to all the attractions on Egnatia, one of the Roman Empire’s most important roads, and it provided breakfast. Facilities were basic, but the room was comfortable, though the shower was small.

We had done some research on what to do while in Thessaloniki, but we hadn’t decided on how we were going to get about, other than discounting hiring a car as parking looked difficult and that proved to be definitely the case. After a substantial breakfast we set off in search of a Tourist Information office. Fruitlessly we checked out the harbour, then the train station and the bus terminus. We even dropped into one of the International hotels to check with the concierge service, but no luck there either. With surprise, when we returned to our modest little hotel, the receptionist produced some brochures from which we chose a trip to some monasteries. He rang the company for us and after a brief discussion, he gave us instructions on how to find their office to book personally. He gave us a map of it location. Finding the office, we eventually booked three trips.

We next visited Thessaloniki’s iconic attraction, the White Tower. It looks small from the outside, but it is indeed a veritable ‘Tardis’ inside. It is a museum housing artefacts and a description of the city’s development over five very comprehensive floors. We both found it exceedingly interesting, usefully, we were given a gizmo that gave an English commentary on the displays. The view from the battlements gave a great view over the city and we were able to locate most of the sites described in its history from the floors below. Well worth a visit.


Feeling peckish we walked around half a mile to the Skyline Tower, for lunch. The restaurant rotates 360 degrees over around an hour and gives another great view of the city. We discovered here that if you order food and drinks, you are most likely going to get a free bottle of water, bread and a dessert. We soon began to take this into account when we ate over the next week as a small snack ends up being not so small.


We had a good wander around the back ways and alleyways of this very busy city, eventually stopping to  eat our evening meal at a small restaurant next to our hotel. We slept well that night.


We had booked a historical tour to the ancient cities of Pella and Vergina for today so it meant an early breakfast and a short walk to the central square to catch our transport. Our minibus arrived on time at 8.15am.


Our guide introduced himself then we the drove a short distance along Egnatia to pick up another couple who hailed from Torquay. It was a lovely sunny and warm day, just right for walking among ancient ruins. We chatted and considered the views as the  landscape changed from a bustling city to  seashore and eventually open countryside with a frame of snow capped mountains in the distance. After an hour or so we arrived in Pella. This now ruined city was once the birth place of Alexander the Great and contained the palace of his father Phillip II who constructed the city to a grid plan. It was once situated on the coast and was an important port in the ancient world, now it is several miles from the coast as the bay has silted up. Much of the site remains to be excavated, but what has been uncovered is pretty impressive. The museum located within the site has some superb artefacts, not least the stunningly beautiful oak leaf crowns found in the many graves, demonstrating that the city was very affluent. Thessaloniki was named after princess Thessaloniki of Macedon, the half sister of Alexander the Great.


With the site and museum thoroughly inspected we boarded our minibus and travelled the 15 miles to Vergina, best known as the site of ancient Aigai, the first capital of Macedon. It is an important site as it contains several burial mounds, one of which contains the tomb of Phillip ll, and though others have been robbed out, his remained undiscovered and like Tutankhamun’s contained all the original artefacts. We entered his huge burial mound through a short tunnel that opened out into an underground complex of excavations, following a well trodden path around the increasingly ornate lesser royal tombs , until we came at last to Phillip’s resting place and it was truly majestic. A definite must for any visit to Macedonia.


Lunch was taken at a restaurant just outside the site’s entrance before we drove back to Thessaloniki. We spent the early evening walking  with what seemed the whole population of the city along the harbour front to a very impressive sculpture containing umbrellas. The Macedonians do come out in force in the evenings, congregating in large groups intent on drinking coffee in the many cafes or strutting along the pavements in their best glad rags. We came across a variety of stalls and entertainers on our wandering, the most memorable being a man rolling inside a large hoop to classical music, his interpretation of the music was quite enchanting.


Returning to the hotel we rested our legs before eating our evening meal in the restaurant of the previous evening.


It was another early start and another lovely day, perfect for the mountains  and to discover some very special monasteries. We were going to Meteora to visit a female and a male monastery. Our tour part was much larger today and we had a coach to accommodate us. We were the only Brits on board, but there was a single American also. The guide was good and everything said in Greek was repeated in English. Our route took us past Mount Olympus, looking very impressive with its top of snow and clouds. We had been there over 30 years ago and still had good memories of this famous feature so central to Greek history and culture. After a couple of hours we stopped at a café where unfortunately Sue broke her sunglasses on a visit to the toilet. Luckily, there was a rack of them for sale by the entrance and she bought another pair.

Another hour of travelling brought us to our destination. The place is famous for the numerous ancient monasteries perched atop rock towers. There were many more than we can see today but they were destroyed by the Muslims in antiquity. The ones remaining were probably too difficult to scale. We first visited a small female monastery, the nuns run their own little shop inside the entrance and by the numbers of visitors I guess it is a little goldmine for them, Sue contributed to their coffers with the purchase of another decoration for the Christmas tree. On entering, despite wearing slacks, Sue had to cover her legs with a wrap-a-round skirt and unlike the Greeks, as foreigners, we also had to pay an entrance fee. The views from up there were suitably impressive and worth the fee alone.


We broke our journey to the male monastery with  a scramble over one of the rock towers for photos.


Where as at the previous location there was no climbing to enter the sanctuary, the coach and a convenient road saw to that, our next adventure entailed a steep and arduous climb up a winding staircase that clung precariously to the rock.


This monastery was larger and had some beautiful ancient tapestries within the church. The original method of entry was via a windlass and rope that raised a box from several hundred feet below. This method is still used today, but only for the transference of goods, the windlass has been replaced by an electric motor. As there was much more to see in this place we spent quite a while wandering around. Our guide, discovered us inside the church, gave us a detailed description of the tapestries, explaining that his PhD on the Byzantium period included several of the tapestries we were looking at. Everything in them was symbolic, it was interesting to have them explained.


Visit completed, we had lunch in the little town below the imposing towers of rocks. From our dining table we could  see the little caves that the original hermits carved out of the rock, so long ago.



As with the outward journey, on our return we passed a Syrian refugee camp located in a particularly isolated spot next to some old quarries. Though I had only the briefest of glimpses of the place I could see that they were living in new, purpose built portakabins. Each had a solar panel on the roof and there was no fencing evident, they seemed to be able to go where-ever they liked. However, there were no other settlements nearby,  just a few isolated farmsteads. It seemed populated by mainly women as I could only see fully garbed figures in black moving about between the units. After a short stop for coffee we arrived back in Thessaloniki quite late in the evening, we opted to eat out in a restaurant down by the harbour before retiring to bed feeling rather tired.


Yesterday, whilst returning from Meteora, the guide informed us that the company had cancelled our trip planned for  a couple of days hence. We were expecting to visit a lake and enjoy a boat trip on it to see the flora and fauna. However, apparently the water was up and no boats were venturing out. So, our first trip of the day was to the Ammon Express offices to discuss what our options were. We eventually decided on a refund as the only viable option with the time remaining,  a visit to some thermal pools was available but we had no swim gear with us.

During the rest of the morning we caught the city hop-on-hop-off tour bus which began its route next to the White Tower. It is a convenient way to see the sights of the city, though we didn’t hop-off and completed a full circuit. As we arrived back at the hotel it began to rain. We took lunch in the restaurant next to the hotel watching the rain get increasingly heavier. Satiated, we spent the next few hours in our hotel room, Sue read a book and I listened to HFM (the local radio in Market Harborough) on my mobile phone.WP_20180305_12_48_53_Pro[1]

As it began to get dark, the rain ceased and we decided to visit the Thessaloniki Liverpool Supporters bar that we had discovered a few nights prior. However, it was shut.


On our way back to the hotel we came across a bar called the ‘Rehab’. It turned out to be a rugby bar! We got chatting to the barman, he happened to be 37yrs old and played fullback for the local side. Interestingly, he explained why the bar was called ‘Rehab’; Macedonia  doesn’t have many clubs, but several years ago they were offered financial support from the RFU. To qualify they needed to have 20 playing clubs (a viable league) so in typical Greek fashion they made up the shortfall with phantom clubs. They were caught and thrown out of the RFU fold and are now officially seeking rehabilitation. It seems it is the Greek way, live for today and hang the consequences, I suppose this attitude manifests itself in every facet of life. You can see this along Egnatia; filled at all times of the day and night with myriads of smartly dressed locals scurrying along the pavement, carrying several bags of  items newly purchased from the hundreds of clothes outlets along its length. And, as evening descends, the bars, cafes and restaurants become filled to bursting with locals intent on eating and chatting. Does nobody in this city cook for themselves?



Today was a late breakfast and under cloudy skies we took a walk up to Thessaloniki Castle, on top of the hill, or so we thought. When we reached our goal we discovered that there was an even higher hill, just half mile away. It was a steep climb and we were glad of the cloud cover keeping the sun hidden, unable to radiate our already heated bodies, then as if by magic, as we fronted the main gate, he made an appearance. On our ascent of the hill Sue unfortunately lost her new sunglasses and though we both searched for them earnestly, they remained lost.

Entrance to the castle and recently a prison is free. It has a sinister atmosphere, but provides superb views of the city below. I found the isolation cells particularly foreboding and couldn’t possibly imagine being locked away there for any length of time.


Escaping the prison we had drinks at a small bar by its main gate before setting off down the hill back into the hustle and bustle of the city. Stopping briefly for a rest on a bench situated next to the perimeter wall of the castle, we were given a couple of oranges to eat by a Greek gentleman who had obviously chosen to take a rest too, he had completed his shopping and was carrying his groceries up the hill and home. Though he didn’t speak English, we thanked him then peeled and scoffed the fruit while he moved on. They were gorgeous!

Finding Egnatia again, Sue discovered some Africans selling sunglasses and after a bit of haggling purchased another pair. A little later she bought some nuts from the market to nibble back at the hotel. Later,  while we were resting I heard  racket going on in the street below. It was a demonstration marching up Egnatia. They were the K.K.E. (Communist Party).


As we were searching for a restaurant to eat our evening meal, we came across the K.K.E. holding a rally in the central square. We joined them, mingling with the large crowd listening to the speeches from the platform. A TV crew were filming the event, so we may have been on Greek telly! We had no idea what was being said, and being the first political event we have ever attended it seemed more like a circus, with flags waving and fast food being vended among the crowd, most people were occupied talking to each other, seemingly oblivious to what the ‘main man’ had to say. As we left the square we came across a small group of riot police hidden round a corner. I asked them what the rally was about, they shrugged and said that they were communists complaining about America and NATO. I don’t think they were expecting trouble.


We found our restaurant and while eating our meal, noted that the communists had peacefully ended their get-together and were dribbling past our location with their flags now carefully furled on their way home. Probably to a meal of beetroot and cabbage, washed down with Greek vodka.


Another late breakfast. Venturing outside we discovered it was already hot and sunny. The morning was taken up with a visit to the Archaeological Museum located near the Skyline Tower. The Greeks obviously have a lot of artefacts, I suspect that most are stored in dozens of warehouses all over Greece, rammed to the ceiling with lots and lots of ancient nick-nacks, what else could you do with them? Lord Elgin did his bit and tried to help them out years ago. This museum must have had the pick of what he didn’t take as it houses a comprehensive collection of ‘things’ that are very well displayed. It takes ages to work your way through the exhibits and I reckon if you read every description, you would seriously wear away several layers of retina. It is very popular with the schools. I lost Sue among the exhibits for around 45 minutes, I eventually discovered her among the displays of sarcophagus. I may have already passed her several times before I noticed movement.

On a less serious activity, we boarded the Pirate ship moored alongside the White Tower. We have passed it several times this week on our way to other places, but this time we were going to sail on her and shuffled up the gang plank past the fierce looking Black Beard. Passage on her is free, but you are encouraged to purchase refreshments which are priced appropriately to make a profit. Our voyage lasted precisely half and hour and was incident free. It was pleasing to see Thessaloniki from another viewpoint.


We returned to the hotel via a wander around the ruins of Gallius’s palace, hidden among the apartment blocks of the city.


While Sue rested and read her book, I took to the streets and followed the ancient castle walls as far as I was able, discovering other archaeological sites on my journey. Much of the wall isn’t in good condition and there is not a recognisable route to follow it, the city is missing out on an excellent tourist opportunity here. There are a few information boards here and there, but the route I followed was rather scruffy but it wouldn’t take much to tidy things up. It’s a shame. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours of wandering.

That evening we returned to the Skyline  Tower for our evening meal. A piano player was advertised as playing from 7pm –2 am (yes, this city does party 24/7). It was nice to see the city lights rotate around us while being entertained by a fine pianist.



It rained while we had a very late breakfast, but after packing our suit cases in readiness for our departure the sun came out to cheer proceedings up. We took the opportunity and went out to do a spot of shopping. Sue bought a pair of slacks suitable for her to do her Tai Chi with her U3A class back in Harborough, from a stall in the open-air market off Egnatia. Returning to the hotel we checked out, stored our cases in reception and then found a restaurant in a nice sunny spot near central square and had lunch.

Afterwards, while sitting in central square enjoying the sun for one last time, Sue noted a guy looking quite suspicious near a small group of Indians/Pakistanis. I thought nothing of it , but he was quite wary of our presence. A little later the group surprised us by producing a cricket bat and then set about playing the game between two lampposts.  It was at this time that the suspicious guy got involved in conversation with a young Greek looking lad on a nearby grassy patch and he gave him a bag.  I was absorbed in what was a very good game of cricket until several police started searching all around us, lifting manhole covers etc. The suspicious guy now seemed to have joined the game but had moved to the far side of the square, I don’t think the other players knew him. Sue pointed out that the young lad was now handcuffed and being led away into a van. It was obviously drug related and I guess we should have been good citizens and informed the policeman searching around our seat that the ‘pretend’ cricketer was linked to the arrested lad. However, we had a flight to catch and didn’t want to miss it. We unsuspiciously wandered out of the square. He got away with it this time.

In the photo below, the one sitting down was the drug dealer watching the cricket.



We did a last spot of sight-seeing by visiting one of the many churches on our return to the hotel.

Our taxi pick-up was at 6.30pm. I first received a confirmation text 15 minutes before it was due, then at 6.30pm I received a call from the taxi driver saying he was 4 minutes away. A few minutes later a taxi drew up and the driver said, “Airport.” I told him yes and asked if it was for Palmer, and he replied, “Yes, airport.”

We got in. It didn’t feel right as we drove off, so I told him I have already paid for this taxi. He said, Yes.” again. I repeated, “I am not paying you for this taxi.” He stopped. He didn’t speak English, and I had already started to ring the number of the driver who had contacted me earlier. I explained that we had got into the wrong taxi and gave the phone to our new driver so they could converse. We got out of the taxi and he took a new fare and drove off leaving us at the side of the road. I rang the number I had used on our arrival at the airport and was asked where we were. I had to confess I hadn’t a clue. I gave my mobile to an old lady attempting to cross the road next to us. Though she also spoke no English, she told him. At that moment, our taxi arrived flashing his lights at us. He had been caught in a diversion and was late on his way to our hotel when he came across us. How lucky is that?

The rest of the journey was without incident.

We eventually arrived home to a very cold house at 2am.

 Reflections on Thessaloniki

The Greeks/Macedonians are undoubtedly a friendly bunch of people, extremely helpful and quick to apologise at the first hint when things aren’t quite right. They love to shop, they dress smartly and appear to adore drinking coffee,  especially in the late afternoon where if you can find a seat in the many cafes, then you are lucky (they actually advertise ‘Happy Hour’ for coffee!). The same applies in the evening, where if you wish to eat in one of the myriad of restaurants, then don’t leave it too late or you are going to be disappointed. The population city then appear to move on into the equally abundant bars where they happily drink and chat the night away until 2am.

When you consider that the Greek economy is trashed and the country relies on increasingly reluctant EU hand-outs, it seems to me that the citizens of Thessaloniki don’t take their situation very seriously. They appear very happy with their lot, with only the Communist K.K.E. (unsurprisingly) bothering to express concern on what is happening to their country. Talking to the workers in the hotel/restaurants and bars that we visited it soon became evident that most seemed to have more than one job, in fact many had more than two. Today I am a waiter, tomorrow I drive a taxi and the following day I work in a hotel seemed a quite common explanation of what they do. I already knew the Greeks are reluctant to pay their taxes and I guess this is quite an efficient way to avoid the taxman, by living a cash-in-hand existence and thus making life difficult to collect any tax.


Being part of the EU seems to be convenience that allows them to live a life-style that otherwise would be unsustainable, they accept EU  intrusion into their lives only as far they wish. For example, as we left the plane, the steward reminded us that smoking was not allowed inside the terminal building, yet every eating establishment and bar we frequented had smokers nonchalantly puffing away, seemingly oblivious of the European wide ban on this antisocial habit. I guess, the story of the Greek RFU acquiring funding from the sports governing body through a ‘little white lie’ shows a willingness to push the limits of credibility to achieve/protect what they want or already have. I fear there will be an unpleasant end game to this and they only have themselves to blame.

Thessaloniki: a great place to visit over a week for those interested in history, archaeology and  Greek cuisine all wrapped up in a party atmosphere. If interested, I recommend a visit soon,  and certainly before the train hits the economic buffers.         


While we were enjoying ourselves in Macedonia, we grew increasingly concerned about Charlotte.  The family has a Messenger group that allows us to keep up to date with each others activities and we gleaned from the frequency and number of posts that our eldest daughter was in great pain from a slipped disc. This was compounded by both Ellis (tonsillitis) and Lucas (poorly tummy) falling ill. Suraj was valiantly trying to hold the fort and had taken time off work and was then being pressured by his bosses because of his absence. Charlotte was prescribed seven different types of medication, with the most worrying one being morphine, an indication of the amount of pain that she was feeling. Even with the medication, at times the pain is too much for her, and there have been many tears. There is no position that doesn’t cause excruciating pain, sitting, laying or standing seems to make no difference. It is an awful condition. Sue and I are trying to help as much as we can.

To cap it all, on the 13th March, Suraj rushed Ellis into hospital during the early hours of the morning with a high temperature and a very nasty infection of his ‘nether regions’. He was admitted onto the wards. A debilitated mother had to stay at home worrying.  When we woke up and discovered the situation,  Sue and I picked up Charlotte and relieved a very tired Suraj, to go home for some much needed sleep. We remained with Ellis until he was stabilised and released to go home, later in the day. Today (15th), We visited Rothwell again, Sue to look after the boys who were still ill and off school and I to accompany Charlotte on her doctor’s appointment. I was very keen to hear what the situation was regarding a diagnosis and also to push for an early MRI scan. I am not totally convinced that the problem is a (herniated) slipped disc and that the possibility of Spondylolisthesis has to be considered. The doctor understood my concerns and she increased the dosage of painkillers to a more effective level and promised to push for an early scan. By the afternoon a date had been received by Charlotte for 7th of April. I suggested that she rang the hospital and offered to take a cancellation if one became available, to shorten the wait. Fingers crossed.

The medical issues within the family just won’t go away! Sarah has an appointment to laser  some in-growing eyelashes that are causing severe irritation to her eyes. I have never heard of this before, but apparently it is not that uncommon, The lashes can suddenly decide to change the direction of their growth. To add to the Braunston’s woes, Lee (who never gets ill) has also come down with tonsillitis. It looks like for once that Mia is the healthiest one in the household.

On a less gloomy topic, Suraj and Sarah both have new jobs. Suraj remains within the NHS but is now working in the department that is responsible for IT security and Sarah has secured her present seconded post against stiff opposition at interview.

Jamie is enjoying riding his very noisy quad bike which he now keeps in our garage. Earlier in the month he had to charge the battery of his Aston Martin as he has ‘rested’ it for the winter. The security and engine management systems make a huge drain on its two batteries and he now knows they should be trickled charged. He and Ashton have booked a holiday to Rhodes in April. Last night, they invited us over for a meal, Jamie cooked minted lamb chops  with mash and kale. Very tasty.


Yesterday morning, Sarah dropped off Mia while she went to work in Northampton. Sue went to the cinema and then visited Charlotte. I took Mia for lunch at Bridge 61 at Foxton Locks. We called in to see Peter who had just returned from six months in New Zealand and he joined us after coffee and a natter. On the way back we stopped at the Coach and Horses for more refreshments, but as soon as we sat down Sarah rang to say she had finished work and wanted her little doggy back. She picked Mia up around ten minutes later.

Spring can’t be far off (please)!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2018 by David Palmer

After retiring from playing the noble game of rugby, I first flirted with coaching and then finally refereeing in order to prolong my involvement with the sport. It has provided me with such wonderful memories along with a large group of friends who I have shared many a changing room and muddy bath. Looking forward to a Saturday and Rugby has been a way of life since the age of 12, and it’s still the same today. Sadly, I am now limited to watching the game that has provided me so much pleasure. Having at first I stood on the touch-line along with friends, never short of an amusing comment directed at players and ref alike, wrapped up against the elements and immersed in the camaraderie of the crowd that only this game can provide in bucket loads, now, I and a dwindling number of friends prefer the comfort of a warm lounge, a large TV and proper ale. The Six Nations Tournament is something that we look forward to each year, surpassed only by a Lions Tour or perhaps a visit by the All Blacks (but only when we think we stand a chance of beating them). It’s the oldest Rugby Union competition in the world and began as the Home Nations Championship in 1883 with England winning, eventually becoming the Six Nations with the inclusion of Ireland, France and lastly Italy. It is one of the highlights of my year and it began in 2018 with Wales putting Scotland to the sword and Ireland producing a finish against the French that I think encapsulates the spirit of rugby perfectly, ‘it isn’t over ‘till the fat lady sings’. It’s why I love this game. England beat Italy quite comfortably. Can’t wait for the next round of matches.

Both Sue and I seem to be recovering nicely from our ills of a few weeks ago. Sue survived her first U3A ramble and I have been on my bike again frightening the heavily pregnant sheep in the fields of Leicestershire. The first week in February was very wet and ploughing through sodden fields on my bike was exhausting, but sorely needed to get back to some semblance of fitness. The second week saw nightly frosts and much easier cycling.

On the 4th Feb. Jamie took his first ride on his quad bike. Unfortunately, he ran out of petrol near Harborough train station and got a friend to help him out. I think he was too embarrassed to ring his dad for help, but I had already worked out what had happened when he returned the quad to the garage and he rather red-faced admitted his error. It happens I guess, but hopefully only once.


On the 6th Feb. I started decorating Jamie’s bedroom in his apartment while he and Ashton were working. It entailed stripping off the wallpaper, emulsioning the walls then gloss painting the skirting boards in white. It took three days to complete the task and I quite enjoyed it. I noticed that Jamie’s rabbit (Maddy) now has company in the shape of two guinea pigs that belong to Ashton. Maddy has free roam of the apartment but the guinea pigs are secured in a cage.

The following day we went to see ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’, the sad story of AA Milne’ son born of dysfunctional upper-class parents whose life was made even less tolerable through the publication of the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ stories. That evening Sue and I decided to get away from the British cold and booked flights to Cyprus to see Jim and Bridget who moved there before Christmas. It can’t come soon enough with an Arctic vortex forecast for the UK over the next few weeks!

Charlotte and Suraj have been busy in their loft converting the space into a usable room for Ellis to play with his train track and I guess also to be a den for the boys and Suraj to escape to. It took just over a week of work to complete the project and from the photographic evidence they have made a fine job of it. I think both Suraj and Charlotte enjoyed planning and constructing and they both acquired useful skills that I am sure will come in handy in the future.



Poor Mia had a trip to the vets. She had been sneezing violently and obviously something was not quite right. The vet suspected that there may be something stuck up her nose and that meant she had to have a little induced nap while a camera went up her nose. It was discovered that there was no blockage but a very inflamed nasal passage and throat. The doggy equivalent of what the rest of the family have been through since Christmas. She is now on antibiotics and Sarah and Lee are the recipients of a very hefty bill. Awhile back, Pepper (Charlotte’s cat) had a similar thing; sneezes, runny nose and lethargy, Charlotte accused him of passing the cat flu on to her, so it wasn’t a great surprise when Lee complained of something remarkably similar to Mia’s symptoms. They say things come in threes, so I am now expecting Maddy (Jamie’s rabbit) to develop flu symptoms and pass it on to Jamie.


Though there is little to do in the allotments during the winter months, there is always the pruning of the fruit bushes etc. to do while the plants are dormant. This year I decided to change the pruning regime on my vines. While on a road trip with Jamie in New Zealand last spring, I was intrigued by the stumpy pruning that the locals practise in their vineyards and determined to give it a go with my own. It meant drastically lopping the vine’s parallel side branches down to the main stem at a height of around 60cm. I am hoping that they will shoot vigorously from the cut so that I can train the new growth into a fan shape. I hope it works and that I haven’t just destroyed next year’s vintage. Fortunately the Council decided to deposit a huge pile of their shredded autumn leaves, gathered from the local parks by their grounds men, near to my allotment. As I had given my vines a huge shock I took advantage of this and mulched them with this manna from the council. I also gave the other fruit bushes the same treatment.


On the 9th Feb. it was Ashton’s 21st birthday. Jamie joined in with her family in a celebration birthday meal that evening at Frankie and Bennys in Northampton. Very early the following morning he and Ashton drove to Dalston Hall near Carlisle to continue the celebration. While he was there he took the opportunity to do a little PR. He met one of the new members to his Binary Destroyer family and very kindly gave him a training session on how to trade in Binary. He had also brought along a Binary Destroyer hoodie as a gift and bought lunch too.



The weather while they were there was not great, very chilly and plenty of snow, but their accommodation was quite special.



Prior to the start of their next adventure to discover the Far East, Philippa and Paul visited Uncle Stanley in the care home in Manchester. They didn’t find him in a good mood and it was a bit of an ordeal. He is quite frustrated by the situation that he finds himself in and I gauge through the phone calls I make to the Home that he is in a permanently grumpy state. I asked if they could provide a radio for him as he loves the news and especially politics, but they said no. I did speak to Selena and ask if she could fetch his radio from home and she promised that she would. It may make a difference, we shall see. Pip and Paul started their current saga with a two day visit to chilly Helsinki before travelling on to Changmai in Thailand. They are expecting to visit Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia,Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia, returning in May. They write a blog as they travel and no doubt we will be following their adventures with interest.

On the 15th the washing machine broke, I checked the water filter and drive belt but both were fine. The internet suggested that the culprit could be the brushes on the motor, now in the far and distant past when bottles were made of glass and you got 6p for returning them to the retailer and everything electrical or mechanical went to the repair shop before being reluctantly discarded, I would have whipped out the motor, looked at it and changed the brushes if necessary. However, those times have long since gone. On the 16th we purchased a new one, resisting the temptation to save a few pennies through the internet we went local in Harborough and it was delivered and fitted that afternoon. We replaced it with its more modern Bosch equivalent and much to Sue’s annoyance, EEC legislation has decreed that these machines will no longer support a 50 degree wash cycle on the grounds of energy efficiency. It just happens to be the one wash cycle she used the most. I just hope that it doesn’t turn out to be like one of the other German made environmentally friendly machines the Volkswagen Diesel and in the future we discover that I paid an awful lot more for a contraption that tells lies when you test it and is anything but environmentally friendly. However, I can’t complain as the the previous model had given us good service for so long that neither Sue or I could remember when we bought it! If this hi-tech replacement puts in a similar longevity, I for one will forgive it for the lack of a particular temperature, but I am not sure that Sue will.

The following day Sarah was working out of Northampton so I had Mia for the day. Charlotte had the boys on half-term and was keen to occupy them with a walk, so despite it being a cold and miserable day they travelled to Harborough. Sue was having coffee and cake with Lynne Keane in the town when we set off at 11am on what I considered to be a short walk to Great Bowden, then back along the canal. We had a little rain on route, but mostly we accomplished the walk under leaden skies and through waterlogged fields. Unfortunately, halfway through our trudge, Lucas had a little mishap when he slipped in a particularly muddy patch and covered one half of himself in an excellent coating of Leicestershire sludge. It didn’t seem to matter much as we were well and truly splattered already. Mia was enjoying it. A couple of hours and 6 miles later we returned to Willow Bank for hot drinks and pancakes (well, it was Shrove Tuesday).




On the evening of the 8th Feb. Sue and I were sitting in the lounge listening to the wind howling outside and a spluttering wood burner, trying desperately to throw out enough heat to to keep us interested in feeding more wood into its rapidly emptying belly, the temperature outside had just tipped into the negative and I had a thought. “Shall we go and find some sunshine?” At that very moment Bridget popped up on Messenger. “Shall we go to see Bridget and Jim?”, I asked Sue (silly question) and after a couple of exchanges on the social medium and a bit of navigation through Ryanair’s website I had booked two return tickets to Paphos in Cyprus for the following Thursday.

It was an early start for a 9.45am flight and the journey down to Stansted was relatively quiet, though the queue for the transfer bus from the Long Stay Carpark was long and we had to wait for a second bus to arrive, before we could get on board. The flight left on time and 4 hours later, rather overdressed we made our way through security. Jim and Bridget were both waiting for us in Arrivals. They had acquired a Honda 4X4 CRV (Cyprus Retirement Vehicle) since they had relocated to Argaka on the northern Cypriot coast and that was soon whisking us along the steep, windy and rather illogically speed regulated roads towards our accommodation for the week.



Jim and Bridget have a lovely house, gorgeously situated above the beach in Argaka, affording splendid panoramic views on three sides and there is a pool too. Oh, and the temperature was somewhere in the low twenties and we were feeling better already. After being greeted enthusiastically by their dogs, Harby and Shoby we unpacked in our en-suite bedroom before being given a tour of the house and grounds. They had already installed a wood pellet burner in the lounge and made quite a few alterations to the outside foliage. Jim was in the middle of replacing large sections of wood chip with white stone chips, a much better option when you have two dogs.





Apart from a spectacular thunderstorm on one evening we had excellent weather during our week of R&R and managed to see quite a bit of the locality, with Jim chauffeuring us to some of the nearby tourist hotspots.

We visited Aphrodite’s Bath. Sue and I had been there many years ago when Charlotte was young and indeed I had visited it less than a year ago when Jim and I came to look at properties suitable for their new life. However, on this occasion we were to have a bit of excitement. On our way back from the small pool that seems to attract so many tourists looking for a bit of Greek mythology, Sue spotted a handbag draped on a wooden bench alongside the path. Checking the contents it contained a purse and personal belongings. It belonged to an English woman and she had a dog, it conained several doggy poop bags. Her bank card indicated that she was living in Cyprus, so we attempted to pass the bag onto them by visiting a branch in Polis, but they weren’ t interested. Next we went to the police station and had better luck. After a short wait at their reception a couple of officers turned up and took down the details. I left my mobile number as a contact. Around an hour later the owner of the hand bag rang to thank us. So Cypriot police are honest, if not a little too keen to catch speeding drivers with their unreasonable and illogical speed limits.

On the Tuesday I had my chance to take the wheel of the Honda and drove Bridget and Sue to Paphos Town. The aim was to pick-up a display cabinet that they had bought, but we also managed to fit in a spot of tourism with a visit to the Harbour Fort before finishing out trip with a splendid lunch overlooking the pretty little boats in the Harbour. Jim had stoically remained behind and opted to spread 2 tonne of the the white stone chips around the pool while we undertook our more cerebral activity.


Though we ate all but two of our meals out series of excellent and often scenic restaurants, the highlight was Sunday lunch at the ‘Farmyard’ restaurant, set up high on one of the surrounding mountains in the village of Kathikas. A fabulous carvery that ensured we all rolled back to the car pleasantly sated. All Cypriot restaurants do excellent salads, but when it comes to a meat dish, they pile it on in bucket loads. Completing most traditional Greek meat dishes is a bit of a challenge, one that we managed to rise to, just! Though Jim and Bridget have been living there for a very short time, each restaurant and bar we visited (and there was a lot) they would be greeted enthusiastically by either local Cypriots or other ex-pats who they had met before and would engage them for a while in familiar banter. I guess they are well suited to their new life.

We took Hoby and Shoby for several walks during the week and even Sue grew very fond of them. They are lovely dogs, obedient and greatly enjoy regular cuddles and ear fondling from anyone. Nowadays, Hoby is getting very much to look like the older statesman and doesn’t bounce around anymore, he leaves that to the younger Shoby. They were both managing to cope with the February temperatures but I think they may well struggle when June and July arrive, particularly Hoby who seems unlike Shoby to have an aversion to water of any depth.





On the day before we flew back to the freezer, Bridget drove us to the Akamas Peninsular to join her walking group. There was around 20 or so members who met at a picnic site at the end of a narrow windy track somewhere on the peninsular. How they all managed to find the remote starting point is a bit of a mystery, but they did. It was a lovely ramble, quite steep in parts but the views were quite special. We inspected some ancient magnesium mine tunnels at the half way point, stopping for a brief rest before returning to the cars on our circular route. Most were then moving on for lunch at a nearby restaurant but we returned to Argaka for ours as we were going out that night for a special meal as it was Bridget’s and Jim’s wedding anniversary. Jim again was the hero as he had remained behind to complete his gravel moving task. As the day before, he looked shattered when we arrived back at the house for a light salad lunch.

The anniversary meal took place at the the Santa Barbara restaurant just a 100m down the road alongside the beach. We gave it the full works, but as we had to leave at 3am the following morning to catch our flight, it meant we ate at 5.30pm and were snug in bed by 9pm. None-the-less we we marked the event with full stomachs and cocktails.

The early morning drive to the the airport was undertaken under a brilliant starlight sky with lightning flickering randomly over a not too distant Turkey. It was either the natural phenomena or possibly (tongue in cheek) a few strikes by the Turkish Air Force. We met few other vehicles on our bombing run and after saying our goodbyes outside Departures we began our journey back to Blighty.



The weather forecast for next week is for a return to Arctic temperatures, but luckily, next week, on the 1st of March we fly to Thessaloniki in Greece for a week. Fingers crossed, the cold temperatures won’t reach that far south.

Other News: At the weekend Charlotte, Suraj, Sarah, Lee and Jamie are spending the weekend in Grantham at a Murder Mystery weekend dinner. Ashton has been ill all week (off work) and sadly won’t be joining them.

While we have been away Stanley caught a chest infection, but he was given antibiotics by the doctor and today is much better. Even better news is that he has been persuaded to get out of bed and he has started to sit in the lounge.

Charlotte has started her gardening work and has a full diary of work.

Jamie has released his new website for the Binary Destroyer and his new automatic trading platform (T.A.D.) is up and running as well.

I broke a tooth whilst away in Cyprus and like a hero suffered until I returned to the UK before having a new filling.

Slowly does it!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2018 by David Palmer

The other day I read that germs can live up to 2 days or more when sneezed, coughed or wiped onto a surface and lay there patiently waiting to be passed on. Door handles, bannisters switches etc. etc. are the chief culprits in this illicit liaison and which until recently I had given very little thought. Of course I knew that the usual method that these little packets of evil enter your body is through the mouth, via food or respiration and  to a lesser extent, an open sore or wound. Now you would think that would be enough methods of entry, but I also discovered that by simply rubbing your eyes opens up yet another route through which they can create bodily havoc.

Perhaps it is a coincidence, but a couple of days before my bout of Christmas ill health, I had an eye infection in both eyes that I treated with drops. As the eyes cleared, I began to feel unwell. It makes you wonder.

Neither Sue or I have yet to fully recover from our New Year nightmare, improvement has been slow. Our systems took a heavy and prolonged knock and getting back to normal is proving to have its setbacks. We both easily get exhausted with any physical task, tiredness seems to be a way of life. Charlotte’s recovery also seems to be following the same path and this week Jamie and Suraj have both taken to their beds with aches and pains (possibly the terrible man-flu, a much more serious condition than the female version).

Roll on the spring, I think the Palmers need a good dose of prolonged sunshine!

We recently had a phone call from an Indian call centre purporting to be from BT. The lady explained that as we had been valued customers for such a long time we had been selected to receive a 25% discount off our bill for the next 12 months. She knew our address, name of bank and the first 4 digits of my bank account. Could be genuine I thought, until she asked to take me through security and requested the remaining digits of my bank card. Alarm bells rang! I told her to ring me back in one hour while I checked the legitimacy of this call,  she replied that this was a limited offer and only available now. I put the phone down. I used the chat facility on the BT website as the quickest way to check the call and they confirmed that they had not contacted me. Next, I rang First Direct to inform them and pointed out that she knew the first 4 digits of my bank card. They assured me that all was ok with the account and that the first 4 digits of a bank card are the same for all customers of that bank (I didn’t know that), they would monitor my account closely and check with me if there were any unusual transactions before processing them.  An hour later we had a surprise. A gorgeous bouquet of flowers and vase was delivered to our door. The enclosed card said, “Thinking of you both. Kindest regards, first direct.” Wow, what a lovely thing to do, and from a bank too! Of course it had nothing to do with the attempted scam, but we guess they had worked out from the transactions in our account that we had been ill and had to cancel our holiday. No wonder that they top all the satisfied customer surveys. I rang and thanked them.


The weather  in Leicestershire has fluctuated randomly between days when the temperature has not been much above freezing to brief spells where we have had 15 degrees or more! Rain has never been far away and the ground is waterlogged. On the 16th Sarah was working in Northampton so we had Mia for the day. I took her for a walk along the canal to Bridge 61 at Foxton Locks, stopping for lunch and returning through soggy fields and the Coach and Horses in Lubenham for further refreshments. Having such short legs little Mia looked like a ball of mud by the time we got back to Willow Bank and was only too pleased to have a warm shower in the downstairs bathroom.

Unlike any other dog I have had experience of, Mia appears to love her showers. After each walk she gladly jumps into the bath and waits patiently for the shower to be detached and warmed. There is no squirming or attempts to escape, she patiently stands there waiting until all traces of dirt have been sucked down the drain. Then, after a vigorous rub down with a towel she exits the bath to rush into the kitchen to noisily flick her empty metal food bowl as a reminder that she now deserves a treat for being so good.

The following day Sue and I went to the cinema in Kettering. In the  morning we watched an excellent film called Wind River, a true story based on a murder at an Indian Reservation. Afterwards we drove the short distance to visit Charlotte for an hour before returning to the cinema to catch the film Breathe. An inspiring true story of Robin Cavendish and his pioneering attempt to transform the lives of Polio sufferers.

Friday the 19th saw nearly a full compliment of the family for Curry Night with only Ashton missing as she was visiting her parents in Daventry. I made lamb koftas with rice and spicy sauce, with Sue providing lamb spring rolls.  There wasn’t much left for Mia to finish off! Ironically, that morning I had been chatting to Bridget in Cyprus via messenger while I had been preparing the meal, I was making a typical Greek dish and they were going to have some typical British fayre, fish and chips.

Lee and Sarah stayed the night as they were catching a 7.50am flight from Luton Airport to Berlin for a five day break. We were looking after Mia while they enjoyed a wintry German capital.


On Tuesday, after a night of heavy rain, Mia and I walked to Braybrooke to see Roger Woolnough. It was a horrible walk through sodden fields wearing boots that gradually acquired layers of energy sapping sticky mud. Poor Mia certainly found it a hard slog. We were too muddy to have a much needed rest and coffee at Roger’s, so we chatted awhile on the doorstep before heading back to Harborough. On return, we were two very tired and grubby bunnies. After cleaning up, we both had a nap on the sofa.


That evening Sue and I went to a Nepalese restaurant called Avatar in Harborough. On this date last year we were in Nepal so it was quite appropriate that this Christmas present from Sue gave us the opportunity to sample the delights of their cuisine again. Mia was reluctantly ‘stored’ in her cage in the kitchen until we returned.

On the 27th I was fortunate to be invited to Leicester Tigers as a corporate guest to see them play Cardiff Blues. As on the previous visit the food and refreshments were plentiful and excellent, though the playing squads were depleted through International call-ups, the match was a good one and Tigers managed a rare win.

Charlotte and Sarah along with Mia joined an under 40’s walking group on the 28th to tramp around Yelvertoft. It was a lovely morning and they appeared to thoroughly enjoy a rather long and strenuous ramble.


Around a year ago Jamie started his own business called Binary Destroyer. I can’t say I understand much about binary trading, but his venture into the money markets seems to be quite successful and he has grown the business through developing a ‘Family’ ethos of mutual trust and support within its members. Over the last month or so he has developed and is currently trialling among the members a new initiative called T.A.D. (The Auto Destroyer). It is software that takes away the complexities of binary trading, making the process suitable for those wishing to trade yet don’t have the time and up to date knowledge of the market to keep on top of their accounts. Results so far have been very positive with consistent profits being made. If all continues to go well I believe he is releasing the platform sometime in February. His sisters seem to be keen to acquire this new software, it should make future family Curry Nights interesting.

On the 29th Jamie succumbed to the Flu and took to his bed again. At the same time I made yet another visit to the doctors and came away with a prescription for reflux. Fingers crossed, this will be the last visit in a long while. With Jamie being poorly, he couldn’t accompany me that evening to Brockleby’s Bakery in Melton Mowbray to learn how to make one of their famous Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. It was his Christmas present to me and he was planning on going, however Sue was a good substitute and together along with 22 others we had a fun couple of hours squidging and moulding our pies.


I received some disturbing news that clearly demonstrates that no matter how hard you try to shield and bring up your children properly, you have very little control of their futures when they ‘fly the nest’. I once taught a very bright child, his parents were very religious, indeed his father was a minister at the local Baptist church and his mother was a very respected town councillor. He had a brother and sister and they were a lovely family.  They moved away from Harborough but remained with the ministry when the children grew up and went to university. It was a shock to learn that the two brothers, along with a magician friend, had been arrested for the murder and defrauding of a part time university lecturer and also possibly an ex-headmistress who lived just a few doors away. If true, my thoughts are with the parents and sister who are  now no doubt enmeshed in a very public nightmare.  You can never tell what the future may hold, a quote attributed to John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” seems most appropriate to finish this paragraph.

On the 30th of Jan. Sue and I drove up to Salford. We were going to see Uncle Stanley in the Royal Hospital, Salford. It was a typical winter  journey in our over populated UK, the motorway was nose to tail traffic, the weather was atrocious, sleet showers all the way ensuring 100% concentration for 3.5 hours!

As Stanley had been in hospital for 5 weeks, first we decided to check on the house in Little Hulton. We arrived in a blizzard and were glad of the shelter that the house afforded. We had been told the the place had been cleaned but it was still in a poor condition. We hadn’t been there long before the next door neighbour (Zena) came around to see what we were doing there. Not sure that this would have happened in the south of the country, northerners are so much forthright with strangers. Not long after that, Selena’s mother arrived (a past neighbour). She had come to pick up a dressing gown for Stanley. We chatted for awhile before leaving in another blizzard. I think that we can safely  say that the house is well looked after (if not cleaned).

For our accommodation that night we had chosen the (Ivymount), it was s just a few minutes walk from the hospital and we stopped there briefly to park the car before proceeding on foot. The Royal appears to be a new hospital tacked on the end of its Victorian predecessor. Very busy.

We found Stanley awake, in very good mood and pleased to see us. Though he had lost quite a bit of weight, I think he looked better for it and the terrible chest wheeze he had when we last saw him seemed much better. Before leaving at the end of the afternoon visiting session we confirmed with his social worker Zainab that he would be moving out to Worsely Lodge Care Home the following day.

We returned to the Ivymount via Subway’s  complicated sandwich ordering system that demands far too many decisions from their starving customers. After checking in and being shown to our room we settled down to while away the time watching the TV, outside it was far too cold and miserable to go exploring.

We returned to the hospital for the evening visiting time. Selena and her daughter Shanie had already arrived and they had brought him some fish and chips, promised from the day before. We chatted awhile and Stanley was in an even better mood as they had also brought him a bottle of Newcastle Brown, which he was sipping through a straw out of a tumbler. His earlier visitors left after a short and we saw the rest of the evening session out. He was very tired and had fallen asleep sometime before we left.


We picked up some fish and chips and ate them back in our room watching TV, it seems  the rest of the UK was scanning the skies hoping for a glimpse of the Super Moon, we had snow clouds!

After an excellent breakfast we went to see Stanley again. The nurses had packed up all his belongings in and he was ready dressed to go out, but still laying in bed. He wasn’t in such a good mood, he seemed nervous about leaving and it soon became evident that he was annoyed that a bag of coins had gone missing. We checked his belongings without success, a nervous nurse that had packed his belongings came and explained that all his coins had been put into an envelope and this we found, but Stanley insisted there was another with £1 coins in and was refusing to leave without them.

On further investigation it was acknowledged that he had brought two bags of coins into the hospital with him. We found some further coins in one of his coats, when I told him this, he insisted on having  some time to think about it. Eventually, he told me to forget about it and let the situation go. We believe that he had given Selena the money to buy things for him such as the beer etc. and he had just remembered it.

With a much calmer Stanley, now willing to move to the care home, we chatted until the end of visiting. I had been asked by Zainab to find out if he had made a will (I could understand why she didn’t want to ask!), which I did just before we left. He hasn’t and I promised to sort that out after he had moved.

Saying our goodbyes, we left him waiting for his transportation. Selena was going to visit that evening in the care home and Philippa and Paul were planning to visit sometime in the next few days.

We returned to Harborough via Sheffield along the very picturesque Snake Pass. The previous evening this route had been closed because of snow, making our journey so much more pleasant than the mad rush among the caravan of juggernauts on the M6.

Hopefully, Stanley will improve further and make it beyond his present  96years to his birthday in July.

Other news: Lucas is growing up and now walks home from school on his own (Charlotte still worries).

Jamie’s quadbike has been repaired and is returning to Harborough soon. He and Ashton are busy decorating the apartment ready for putting it on the market. His snake has been sold and the rabbit (and Ashton) are much happier.

Sarah and Lee have booked to got to Chernobyl in the Ukraine. We are not sure why, but it will be an experience that can’t be on many people’s bucket lists.

Suraj has decided to refine his carpentry skills and is busy putting flooring down in the loft so that Ellis can lay out his train set there and play without having to dismantle it each time.

The Grinch came to stay!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2018 by David Palmer
Sunday 07/01/18 Tilbury
Monday 08/01/18 Amsterdam
Tuesday 09/01/18 – Wednesday 10/01/18 At Sea
Thursday 11/01/18 Lisbon
Friday 12/01/18 At Sea
Saturday 13/01/18 Funchal, Madeira
Sunday 14/01/18 – Monday 15/01/18 At Sea
Tuesday 16/01/18 Porto Grande, Mindelo
Wednesday 17/01/18 – Saturday 20/01/18 At Sea
Sunday 21/01/18 Fazendinha Pilot Station
Monday 22/01/18 Santarem Early AM PM
Tuesday 23/01/18 Boca da Valeria
Wednesday 24/01/18 Manaus, Amazonas
Thursday 25/01/18 Manaus, Amazonas
Friday 26/01/18 Parintins, Amazonas
Saturday 27/01/18 Alter do Chao, Para
Sunday 28/01/18 Cruising Amazon River
Monday 29/01/18 Icoaraci, for Belem, Para
Tuesday 30/01/18 At Sea
Wednesday 31/01/18 Ile du Salut
Thursday 01/02/18 At Sea
Friday 02/02/18 Scarborough, Tobago
Saturday 03/02/18 St Georges, Grenada
Sunday 04/02/18 Bridgetown, Barbados
Monday 05/02/18 Castries, St Lucia
Tuesday 06/02/18 St Johns, Antigua
Wednesday 07/02/18 -Thursday 08/02/18 At Sea
Friday 09/02/18 – Sunday 11/02/18 At Sea
Monday 12/02/18 Horta, Faial, Azores
Tuesday 13/02/18 Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores
Wednesday 14/02/18 – Saturday 17/02/18 At Sea
Sunday 18/02/18 Tilbury
The above listing was the itinerary of Susan’s Christmas present, but from the 28th December both Sue and I became very ill, eventually resulting with us cancelling the trip on the 3rd Of January when Sue’s GP advised against travelling. We had resigned ourselves to this decision several days prior, but needed confirmation and documentation to confirm our fears.
When the family left us on the 28th after completing our Christmas celebrations events took a steep downhill course. Sue’s pre-xmas pneumonia began to return and some annoying bowels twinges started to give me quite a bit of pain. Up to the 31st Dec. we both were either bedridden or couch ridden in growing discomfort. Though we were still taking in liquids, nothing had been eaten for a few days. By around midday on New Years Eve, I was struggling and I could see that Sue was in a much worse condition and slipping fast. The local radio was broadcasting that the ambulance service was only managing a 3-4 hour call-out so I rang for Charlotte to get her mum to hospital, it was beyond me. As they left, I curled up on the settee and slept.
The hospital was rammed, as relayed hourly on the news; ambulances were queuing for hours to discharge their very ill patients, corridors contained a procession of stretcher cases with ambulance crew and nurses in attendance and A&E was overwhelmed.
It was obvious how ill Sue was and she was soon placed on a drip with antibiotics and then followed a series of x-rays and tests to confirm that she once again had pneumonia.
With no beds available, she was prescribed stronger ‘specialised’ antibiotics, and was going to be discharged, however it was so late in the evening there were no pharmacists open, not even in the hospital! Besides, it would take two days to order the new medicine! A new prescription was written and the tablets taken from one of the wards. A very exhausted Charlotte and Sue arrived home around midnight and went to bed.
Charlotte woke we at 7am (New Years day) to take me to the walk-in centre in Corby. We arrived at opening time (8am) to join the end of a long queue. However, we were very quickly seen by a doctor as it must have been obvious to the check-in nurse that I was much worse than the revellers in the line. The cause was identified as Diverticulitis and suitable antibiotics administered. We returned home, Charlotte acquiring the pills from Harborough. After tucking us both up she returned home leaving us to sleep with our various medicines. They next few days were taken up with sleep and more sleep.
We kept the family away, fearing that they would catch one of our bug. I indeed contracted a shorter version of Sue’s bug to add a chesty cough, galloping runny nose  and splutter to the heat, chills and bowel pain. Not surprisingly, Charlotte has now come down with the flu and after two visits to the GP has been prescribed antibiotics. Unfortunately, it is a very pernicious  bug and poor little Lucas has also succumbed.
I saw my GP the day after we cancelled the Cruise and he informed me that prior test results indicated that I also had a water infection, he prescribed yet more antibiotics. These however, did immediately seem to make inroads against the marauding forces of evil and I started to perk up and eat. Sue seemed to remain the same, no worse but no better. A friend Doreen had been providing home-made soup for her, making it at home then quickly dropping a bag off at the front door, quickly scuttling off to avoid any contact with the plagued.
On a rare foray to Tesco for milk I discovered the ready-meal shelf. What a life-saver. Tasty, not too big and 5 minutes  in the microwave provided sustenance for both Sue and I, and it didn’t take me from my nice warm couch for too long. Long live the ready meal.
By the 10th Jan. I was beginning to feel my old self again, though very weak and delicate. Optimistically, I thought I had detected a slight improvement in Sue, but this was quickly dispelled when I received a phone call from her soon after dropping her off at the GP’s, I had to take her into Glenfield Hospital (Leicester) straight away. He could do no more for her and she needed more specialised help.
 As expected, parking was a big problem, but I eventually found a space and it soon became apparent on the long search for the CDU dept. that Sue was struggling. It was full to bursting when we eventually found it we knew it was going to be along wait. After checking-in, Sue managed to find a seat but the nearest I could get was outside the department and down the corridor. Every 10 minutes or so I would check back, but the queue for check-in and waiting never decreased in size. Sue was subjected to all the usual tests, but there was so many waiting to be seen that the doctors were in overload and the results had to take their turn before being passed in front of medical eyes. However, the patients were being fed with sandwiches and drinks at regular intervals and I am sure this helped those that still had an appetite.
When 2.30pm arrived and there was no sign of Sue being processed one way or the other I inquired at the desk as to how long she might be, as we had rushed in I had not brought my medicine and I was now over due to take my own antibiotics. This was not a place to be staying in without their protection. Unable to provide an answer I returned home with the direct number of the department and a promise to ring if there was any development.
It was 7.30pm before she returned home, courtesy of Lee who had earlier in the day  offered to pick her up. Handily, he and Sarah only live ten minutes away from the hospital. She now has chronic bronchitis on top of her pneumonia and has been given steroids to help combat this. I do believe she is now beginning to rattle when she moves!
On the bright side we have both since continued to improve. Today (12th), I saw the GP to get the results of a blood test earlier in the week and everything was fine, I even had to give a precautionary urine sample to check for infection and this displayed clear. No more appointments or prescriptions, until the next time! Sue’s chest is beginning to clear up and no longer seems so painful to cough up phlegm. FINGERS CROSSED.
Other Issues:
Uncle Stanley deteriorated while waiting to go into Respite Care and had eventually to agree to go into Salford Royal Hospital. Despite improving he is still there as his home is not fit for his return. He was expected to be  released last Monday, but that would have been to his home, when we complained, this was changed to a care home. However, his conditioned has deteriorated and he is going nowhere at present.
We had taken out insurance to cover our cancelled trip and are at present waiting on the invoice from the cruise company to confirm that we have cancelled the trip. The form from our GP (cost £50) was completed in double-quick time as was the other supporting documentation. This should be straight forward, we shall see.
Jamie and Ashton spent New Year’s Eve at a hotel in London. They had their evening meal at the rather select Oxford Tower, but unfortunately started the evenings celebrations far too early and missed the fireworks display on the river. They are going to try again next year and see if they can make all the way to midnight.
Mia now has a dog walker. Earlier this week she went out for the first time, accompanied by two new friends, a Beagle and an Alsatian. By the look of the photos and video that Sarah has sent on Messenger, she loves her new activity.

Christmas 2017

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2017 by David Palmer

I finished the previous blog on the evening of the 17th Dec. Sarah seemed to have got over the worst and Sue appeared to have turned a corner now that the antibiotics had started to do their magic. We had kept the rest of the family at bay to ensure that we didn’t swap any more bugs or make those that were already poorly, worse. It seemed to work.

We did permit Lee to drop Mia off for the day (on the assumption that canine bugs aren’t compatible), Jamie to drop off the Christmas meat and on our behalf Charlotte spent a hectic afternoon enduring the manic atmosphere of Harborough’s shops, tasked with doing the Christmas food shopping in readiness for the gathering of the clan. Conveniently, the male mind is incapable of coping with the complexities of festive preparations and my services were not called upon. It is a wonder how I managed to run the house and prepare all the meals over the past few days and still remain relatively fit and moderately sane.

On the  19th I returned the blood pressure monitor to the surgery, smug in the knowledge that despite the heavy burden of running the family home, the readings had remained unerringly normal over the previous 7 days. Later in the afternoon I took Sue for a chest x-ray to Harborough’s new hospital, St. Lukes.

After returning her safely home, I attended a ‘leaving do’ at Farndon Fields Primary School to celebrate a past colleague moving on to a new job in Cottingham. It was nice to see other retired colleagues present, they have seemingly aged very little over the ten years since I left, while the present new staff seemed far too young to be qualified to teach. I think my eye-sight may be deteriorating! I was treated to a tour of the school, which has already undergone major alterations and is presently due to go through £2.5M more of them. I work that out to be £12500 per child! The school already looks as secure as Fort Knox and there are several empty classrooms. I do wonder if the money could actually be spent more productively on the children, rather than the structure of the building.

On the 21st I attended our annual Pool Player’s Christmas meal. Unlike previous years where we have dined in one of the town’s hostelries, this year we opted to dine at our pool venue, the Catholic Club. The barmaid had volunteered to cook us up a meal suitable for the occasion and despite some reservation on my behalf, that is what she did. The food and drink (as in previous years) is paid for mostly by the unused 50p’s that are unspent on the table after our evening of games, this does amount to quite a largish amount over the year. It was excellent, four courses, finishing with a very extensive cheese-board. I was veritably stuffed!!!


The Clan arrived on Christmas Eve. Late in the afternoon, minus Sue, we set off into town to stretch our legs and soak up the Harborough atmosphere. As expected, it was busy with people grabbing those last essential items, care had to be taken crossing the roads as people were in a rush from finishing work early. After thoroughly investigating any shopping opportunities of our own, we attempted to visit ‘The Beer House’ for refreshments and to rest the little one’s now weary legs. However, though they had no issue with Mia the dog, the boys were under-age and contravened their licence, so like Mary and Joseph we moved on. We were to be disappointed again at our usual watering hole, The Admiral Nelson. Here, they accepted dogs and children, but the place was packed and again there was no room in the inn for our little tribe. As we headed back to Willow Bank, yes, I do believe there appeared to be a star illuminating our destination. Some pessimists might say it was just the security lighting sensing our approach, but I know what I believe.

For tea we feasted on tasty things (pizza), then played games until the little-ones couldn’t keep their eyes open anymore so we retired upstairs to our snug little nests, secure in the knowledge that NORAD had successfully plotted Santa’s sleigh somewhere over Russia and was expecting an ETA in Harborough within the next few hours.

He did indeed make a very silent appearance some time between midnight and 5am, leaving parcels of all sizes and shapes under the tree. He also left a special message for Ellis who had requested at the end of his list if Santa could get his toy scorpion off the roof of the school, as it had accidentally been thrown up there the previous week. Santa apologised, he had looked for it but it was too dark, so he had instructed his elves to make him a new one and he hoped that it would do. What a nice man Santa is.


Christmas Day was unseasonably warm and windy. The boys had quietly checked out the tree, now the centre of an island of glittering surprises at 5am, before sneaking back to their nests to open over-sized socks stuffed with goodies. I woke at 8am.

After breakfast it is customary to begin opening presents until all is done and the lounge is a sea of wrapping paper. This year there was to be a new postman. After enduring just under a decade of study and training, Suraj had officially obtained his licence to sort presents and distribute them by elf mail. As retired postman, I should say that he did the job admirably, no doubt he will continue to maintain the high standards set until inevitably, he too will gracefully give way to the next generation of posties.


The Christmas meal this year was prepared and cooked by Charlotte and Sarah with the peas being rustled-up by Jamie. Another success, calmly executed by the younger ones in the family, perhaps they have set a precedence? Bloated by good food and drink, the family settled back to play with recently acquired gadgets and thingies in the lounge. It appears that Santa has yet again seemed to satisfy everyone’s wishes, reassuring to know that none of the Palmer’s have ever appeared on his naughty list!

xmas dinner

Late in the afternoon we gathered together to accompany Mia on a damp and muddy walk along the Millennium Mile through Welland Park to aid the passage of an excellent but large Christmas dinner. It looked like during a delivery run Santa had dropped a soccer ball from his sleigh as he had passed over the park and it had fallen into the River Welland, being caught up in some reeds. Suraj and Lucas managed to liberate it and no doubt will give it a good home with the dozen or so other soccer balls in the garden.

That evening Lee and Sarah left us to travel to Nottinghamshire to spend Boxing Day with  Lee’s parents to celebrate his birthday. We played a variety of games interspersed with lots of seasonal drinks and nibbles. I would hate to guess the number of calories consumed to date!

It snowed heavily in the night.  Though there was the usual chaos on the roads of Britain, it didn’t stop us driving to Peterborough to enjoy the customary Christmas Greyhound Races. For the last few years we have reserved our booths in order to ensure that we all get seats, the benefit is that we do not have to arrive early and queue to grab the unreserved ones. This year we seemed to be more successful than on previous occasions. Jamie seemed to hit on a particularly profitable strategy.


Driving back while the snow and slush hardened on a frosty night was particularly tricky, but we all arrived safely, keen yet again to consume more calories (an excellent turkey curry created by Suraj) and play games for the rest of the evening.

The day after Boxing Day is the day we traditionally go to the Pantomime. This year it was ‘Snow White’ at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering. Jamie had to work that day and the Rothwell’s visited the sales in Harborough prior to us meeting up and driving along treacherous roads to Kettering. Also, this year we had invited Doreen to join us and she was picked up by the Rothwells. Sarah and Lee had returned from Nottinghamshire and they travelled with us, collecting Jamie on the way.


We all agreed that the performance was one of the better ones we had been to over the years. Very well acted and very funny. Lots of pyrotechnics, artificial snow falling in the auditorium and a thorough soaking of the audience by the pantomime dame and her/his side-kicks using super-soakers.

After returning to Willow Bank, Sarah and Lee left for home as did Jamie, as they have work the following day.

Today, 28th Dec. after lunch the Rothwell’s left to return home. Peace and calm once again descended on Willow Bank. Tonight Jamie and Ashton have volunteered to cook us a meal. A lovely gesture, but why does it makes me feel old?

Uncle Stanley: Throughout our Christmas celebrations we have been concerned about Stanley. On a recent visit to Lancashire we had become so worried about his health and circumstances that we thought it best to see if  he would be prepared for us to arrange for him to move down to Harborough. As expected he refused.

We were determined to keep close contact with him and attempt to persuade him to allow us to set up some support from Social Services in Salford. However, illness to Sarah followed by Sue getting pneumonia distracted us from this.

With Sue getting better, on the 21st I rang Stanley to discuss this with him, but the phone was picked up a lady called Selena saying that Stanley was fine and he would ring me back later, I could hear him coughing and wheezing in the background. I rang again later with no answer. Ringing on the subsequent days brought the same result. Knowing that Philippa had also tried to contact him increased our concern. When he didn’t pick up my call on Christmas Day, as we had no other telephone numbers to hand I rang Salford Social Services Out-of-hours emergency number and explained the circumstances.

A visit by social services that afternoon, discovered Stanley at home, not well and  refusing any help. The care worker advised that I should discuss the situation the following day. They rang the following day and I explained in detail Stanley’s circumstances, they had equal concerns about his welfare. A later visit by a doctor showed that he had pneumonia, he has been prescribed antibiotics and told that it would be best for him to be hospitalised. He refused this. However, further visits by care workers and doctors over the next few days and a natural deterioration in his condition seems to have persuaded him to accept a halfway solution to hospitalisation. He has agreed to be moved to a local care facility where it will be warm, his food will be supplied for him and there will 24hour help available. At present, he may be moved to tonight (if a bed becomes available) but certainly tomorrow. We await developments.




Is it the run-up or run-down to Christmas?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2017 by David Palmer

Why is it that the month before Christmas, bugs and infections coupled with NHS shortages and horror stories rear their ugly heads? This year it has been no different, though  I guess I have been guilty in kicking-off this seasons ‘infestivities‘ with a dose from my Italian ‘tic‘ list. The day before I travelled to Market Bosworth on a jolly with some rugby-minded friends, I was summoned to visit my doctor. After a thorough examination, I was pronounced ‘still-alive’ and in fairly good shape, as a precaution he set up a blood test and a blood pressure monitoring session in a few weeks time to ensure that I remain so.

The party accompanying me to the Bosworth Hall Hotel in Market Bosworth was: Jim Hankers, Jeremy Brown, Paul Bissell, Sean Perry and Robin Blades. In the past we have all been guilty of playing rather mediocre rugby but always seemed somehow to surpass ourselves when on tour. We met up in the hotel car park at around 10am on the Saturday morning and after coffee in the hotel bar we had a little meander around the rather pretty but petite centre of Market Bosworth. Window shopping completed we returned to the hotel, put on our rambling boots and set off on a pleasant  3.5 mile walk through the fields to the The Rising Sun Inn in Shackerston, for lunch and to watch the England v Australia game on the TV. Lunch was excellent and along with the many equally minded locals who had also turned up to watch the match, we sat and cheered another victory for the boys in white over those in yellow. A great atmosphere that I am sure we would have continued to enjoy if our pre-arranged taxi hadn’t turned up to transport us back to our hotel.

After checking in and after discovering our rooms (some quicker than others), we met up in the bar (for much-needed refreshments) before making our way back into town to visit an excellent Indian establishment called the Simla Peppers. Stomachs satisfied with good Asian fayre we rolled into town visiting a few hostelries on our circuitous route back to the hotel to arrive around midnight. We dallied awhile with other guests in the bar watching a boxing match on the TV, before retiring gracefully to our rooms.

After breakfast we set off through the town to the railway station to catch our train to Shenton on the Bosworth Battlefield Line. This is a steam train line run by enthusiasts, but today we had to make do with a diesel engine and very few other passengers. I guess not surprising for the time of year. On arrival at Shenton we climbed the hill to the Bosworth Battlefield Centre, here we perused the information boards, discussed  similar past battles, fought  on ‘our’ field of play with the ‘odd-shaped’ ball, before retiring undefeated against the chilly elements to the Centre café for hot chocolate. A three-mile amble back to the hotel and waiting cars preceded handshakes on another successful foray against some ‘foreigners’ and a drive back to the comfort and sobriety of Harborough.

On Friday the 24th of Nov. Sue and I more-or-less enjoyed a double bill of films at the Cinema Club at the Harborough Theatre. Watching back to back films takes some concentration and not all of our fellow cinema goers were up to it. ‘Jackie’, preceded the much better ‘Churchill’. Perhaps if they had shown them the other way round, more may have stayed?

Earlier that day I had received an invitation by Sean to watch the Tigers play Worcester on the Saturday, both the England men and women’s team were playing that day and I had planned to watch the matches at the Angel with some chums, but with some reluctance I opted to accompany Sean. What a good move!

Unknown to me, we were guests of Peter Howard who is a sponsor of Leicester Tigers and the match included lunch and prime seats. We picked Peter up from Marston Trussell Hall on the way to the ground and parked in a reserved bay outside the Tiger’s office in the main stand. I sat next to a friend of Peter’s called  Barry, who happened to live in  Great Bowden. A more miserable character you couldn’t hope to meet, but I had been warned and been placed next to him specially! Miserable yes, but none-the-less a very interesting character. He was a portrait artist, among his sitters have been President Mitterrand, most of the Royal family, all of the Prime Ministers since the 70’s etc. etc. His knowledge of the game and Tigers in particular was good, but always from a pessimistic stand point. He was right about the result, the Tigers did lose the game.

After a very good three course meal, we were entertained by a question and answer session with Manu Tuilagi and Luke Hamilton, both injured and thus not available for their International duties. Manu came over as being uninteresting and not very bright while Luke appeared exactly the opposite. One is a forward and the other a back, neither giving the impression I expected!

After a depressing  half-time, more food and drinks appeared and was taken advantage of. Then again, at full-time with even more plates of nosh we were joined by the management and teams of both sides who were obviously used to the ‘corporate thing’ and mixed and chatted with their supporters. It was generally felt that the Tiger’s could have won the game, but I had to confess that I didn’t think so. The better team on the day, to my mind, won the game and the management didn’t help continuity by changing so many players in critical positions at crucial points in the play. Hey, what do I know?

The following day Sue and I drove up to Manchester to see uncle Stan. It was an awful day, the closer to our destination we got, the heavier the rain came down. Stan was in equally morose mood. He was having his breakfast when we arrived and I suppose this may have contributed to his grumpiness. As soon as we arrived he wanted a word with Sue about his funeral. We stayed and attempted to chat amiably for around  3 hours, suffering through random bouts of impatience and rudeness. By the time we left he was in better spirits and apologised for his behaviour, which certainly was out of character, especially as we had brought him his Christmas presents. His eye-sight is now considerably worse and he has difficulty in seeing the most obvious of things, I guess this has led to a great deal of frustration, I do feel sorry for him. I did sadly learn that he has been taken advantage of by one of his neighbours and he has parted with a large sum of money, which I also guess contributed to his demeanour. I listened to a classic case of ‘grooming the elderly’ and couldn’t help feeling angry with the lady in question.

As when we arrived, it was raining heavily when we waved good-bye and made our sodden way to Gisburn near Clitheroe and the White Bull Inn, here we were to stay for the next two nights. The topic of conversation throughout the journey was principally centred on Stan’s situation and we came to the obvious solution of seeing if he would contemplate us arranging for him to move down to Harborough, he can  no longer look after himself and needs to accept support of some sort.

It was dark when we arrived at our accommodation, but we still managed to have a short walk up and down the village before settling into the bar and having what turned out to be a truly surprising and superb meal. The restaurant was full and I could see why. We watched a little bit of TV in our cosy room before pressing heads on soft pillows and  floating away to the land of nod. Outside the rain clouds had cleared and the stars were twinkling on what was going to be a very frost night.

Our room was in a row of cottages at the back of the pub and it was very tricky negotiating the ice on our slide into breakfast. We were greeted by a lovely fire and wake-up grub laid out in the bar. They have a diamond of a chef working here.

We had chosen to come here because of its proximity to Pendle Hill and the Pendle Witch Trail.  The start of the trail (by car) is at Barrowford and this is where we started. It was sleeting when we entered the museum situated in a medieval manor house next to the river and dedicated to the history of the area and of course the witches. We were the first visitors of the day and it was equally chilly inside as unpleasant outside. However, it was well worth the visit, packed full of interesting exhibits and information necessary to complete the rest of our day.

Our journey took us through the Trough of Bowland. A beautiful and for my part, unknown part of the UK. Despite the inclement weather, it was pure pleasure driving along the mostly deserted road that the unfortunate herbalists/witches had to walk on their way to Lancaster Prison to face trial and a hanging. The scenery and views were as good as anywhere I have been and I would love to do the route again in the summer, though I guess I wouldn’t have it all to myself as I did that day.

Next we came to Barley, like all the little villages we visited, very picturesque, but this one was different as it lies under the foreboding Pendle Hill itself, which today had a little cap of snow on top.  Our route took us through Newchurch , here we stopped to find the grave of one of the witches before moving on to  Downham, Chatburn then Clitheroe. We climbed Clitheroe Castle, gawked yet again at Pendle Hill, now on the horizon, before engaging in a little bit of shopping in the High Street. I think Clitheroe may be worth another visit one day.

Next came Waddington, Newton and Dunsop Bridge before reaching our final destination of Lancaster Prison in the dark. We were fortunate. Parking next to the castle in which the prison is now, we entered the ticket office at 3.15pm to be greeted by a sign indicating that the last tour of the day was indeed at 3.15pm. It was cold and raining and I don’t think they had many visitors that day, we may have been the first, but we were certainly the only ones for the last tour of the day!

Our tour guide was a part-time opera singer. When we first informed her that we were very interested in the Pendle Witch Trials she visibly baulked, professed to know little of it but said she would do her best. She was brilliant. As we were her only clients she treated us to parts of the castle/prison not usually visited by groups. We visited the cells where they would have been held and  also the actual room where the trial took place, this is now where the barristers change before entering the new courtrooms. Indeed, we also visited the civil and criminal courts, the latter being where a film of the  witch trial was shot. We also discovered the armoury.

Whilst in the cells, our guide locked us in, then turned off the light to give us what she though was a unique experience. However, when she released us I mentioned that we had ‘experienced’ such a thing before, in Sydney and also Derby Gaol whilst on ghost tours. This bit of information sparked her into relating a few ghostly experiences of her own. Once, whilst in the castle she caught sight of a figure climbing a spiral staircase in the room she was in, thinking it was her co-worker she was shocked to see him walk into the room a few moments later. Though they searched the room at the top of the staircase, there was no one to be found. On another occasion she was relating the tale of a ghostly child who was said to haunt the corridor that the group she was conducting were presently occupying. There was a gasp from one of the group, who then told her that her young daughter had only moments ago described a raggedly dressed young boy walk past them. Later, she quizzed the little girl about what she had seen and was bemused to learn that she could see two elderly women standing behind her who apparently always followed her when she came into the castle. Spooky.

It had stopped raining when we left nervously in the dark to locate our car. The drive back to Gisburn was awful, driving rain and spray all the way. On such a night I had chosen not to reverse our journey through the rather bleak Trough of Bowland and opted for rather busier roads.

That night was the chef’s night off so we made our way just a few hundred yards down the road to a very Italian, Italian restaurant called La Locanda. Luckily, having visited Joan and Phil in Marche recently we still had a bit of Roman residue about us and managed to order some appropriate dishes from a menu wreaking with authenticity. Wonderful food, just a shame that I had to wash it down with bira!

Returning, to the White Bull I cleansed my innards with some proper refreshment and I and Sue chatted to a few of the very friendly locals, one of which turned out to be the Su chef.

After breakfast we drove over to Pendle Hill. It was bright and sunny, but very chilly. We parked below the hill and with walking gear on, set off up this very steep hill. There was still snow on top and quite a few intrepid ramblers, but no one dallied up there, it was far too cold. It took a couple of hours to summit and return, well worth the effort. Afterwards, we took a short drive into the village of Barley and had refreshments and a snack next to a welcoming log fire in the pub. Around 1pm we continued on our leisurely drive back to Harborough, passing through the northern towns of Burnley, Rochdale, Oldham etc. etc. I expected to see Coronation Street, endlessly repeated, and in many parts that’s exactly what we did pass through, but now divided by developments of a much more modern nature. The main difference being there were no Hilda Ogdens, or Enid Sharples to be seen, shopping bag in hand and scuttling off to the corner shop with wrinkly tights in evidence, they appear to have been replaced by citizens of a much darker complexion, tightly wrapped in eastern clothing against the harsh northern weather. A bit of colour against such a drab background.

Taken with Lumia Selfie


We called in for an hour to see Sarah and Mia, taking advantage of a warming coffee before returning to a cold Willow Bank, chilled after three days of emptiness.

On the 30th Nov. we were due to have lunch with Joan and Phil. They were on their UK Christmas visit, but on this occasion they rented a car that decided it liked Sainsbury’s so much it refused to leave the car park until persuaded to do so by the RAC. We rescheduled for the following day and had coffee and biscuits at Willow Bank and their car behaved itself. It was lovely to see them again and catch up with news, though much of the discussion centred on medical issues. I think it must be an age thing. They flew back to a snowy Santa Vittoria the following day.

December kicked off with Late Night Shopping in Harborough on the 1st! For the first time in such a long while we had both Sarah (with Mia) and Charlotte (with boys) over. It was the busiest I have ever seen it in town, the crowd, entertainers and retail stalls  seemed to occupy every centimetre of road and pavement. Within minutes of being immersed in the throng I managed to get myself separated from the rest of the family. A phone call later and we were reunited. I remember Nan doing exactly the same thing a few years ago. Oh dear! The rest of the evening went without hitch and we managed to see most things and Mia didn’t get trodden on too often. Sarah Stayed the night as she and  Charlotte had organised tea together on the following day.

On the 4th, I took a phone call from Lee around 11.45pm. It was unusual for me to still be up as Sue had retired to bed several hours prior. She had been previously feeling unwell and when she began to constantly throw-up with a severe pain in her side, Lee took her into hospital. They suspected Sepsis and had sent for the Sepsis nurse, but at the time of the call they couldn’t find her. I asked to be contacted when the nurse turned up, but after half an hour I rang and requested that Lee see a nurse and get them to give antibiotics to Sarah intravenously. If it was Sepsis, then administering antibiotics early can be a life-saver. The staff should know that without having to fetch a specialised nurse.

I woke Sue and we drove into Leicester to see our daughter. She looked ill and in a lot of pain, but thankfully she was on a drip and was indeed taking antibiotics intravenously. Morphine was being administered for the pain. It was a very worrying time. Results from urine and blood samples had returned by 4.30am and it was decided that it was Gallstones and that she should be moved to the General Hospital across town where they have a special unit. We watched her leave in the ambulance, then I and Sue returned home while Lee followed Sarah to make sure which ward they were putting her. He rang an hour later to let us know.

Over the next few days we travelled to see our rather poorly Sarah. Anything she ate wouldn’t stay down. 1.2g of Amoxicillin was being given and the morphine didn’t seem to be taking the pain away.   Worryingly, an ultra-sound scan didn’t show Gallstones. An MRI scan the following day indicated an infected kidney.

As all this was taking place, Ellis too was scheduled to be in hospital. Nearly a year ago, he had a very nasty and large lump develop behind his knee after falling down at school. It was eventually decided to operate and remove the internal fluid and this went ahead on the 5th of December. He was a brave little soldier and didn’t seem to mind the rigmarole of surgery. He was soon up and running around, proudly showing off his bandaged knee. Young bodies heal quick.

Sarah, continued to be a worry. Not being able to keep anything down, still suffering pain despite large quantities of morphine. However, after a week the hospital allowed her home.

On the 8th I drove down to Stansted airport. Earlier in the year I had spent a week in Cyprus with Jim Hankers to look at properties that he and his wife were considering buying. Selling their own place and buying the one they liked proved to be quite a convoluted affair, but eventually everything fell into place. That morning I was transporting Brigitt and two large dog crates in a transit van, followed by Jim, both dogs and his daughter in her car. All told, to transport the two dogs was around £2000 and for Jim and Brigitt, just £140. They love their dogs. It was nearly disaster at the start of the trip, I had only been on the A14 for around a couple of miles when in the rear view mirror I spotted an unmarked police car rapidly catching me in the fast lane. I indicated to move over into the slow lane to allow him to pass. Halfway through executing the manoeuvre (I had just over-taken another transit van, so knew there was room to move over) when a Mercedes flashed past my inside, followed by the police vehicle on my outside with siren wailing and lights flashing. He was chasing what I guessed was a stolen vehicle. They disappeared so quickly I dread to think the speed they were travelling, I was doing 70mph. The rest of the journey was tame in contrast.  I left the Hankers outside the cargo terminal at Stansted, keen to get home in time to see the Tigers on the box. Their flight and further transport to a rented villa in Polis went without hitch, but the expected moving in date of three days later didn’t happen. The latest news is that everything should be in place for the 21st. Fingers crossed.

The 10th was Lucas’s birthday. The Rothwell’s came over that afternoon after celebrating his birthday with friends at home and of course having the usual party celebrations. Lucas had asked to finish his day off at Nan’s playing games in front of the log burner and having one of his mum’s chili’s. Lee brought Sarah over too, but she looked unwell and I am not sure it was a wise thing to do. They returned home before we began to eat as she still couldn’t tolerate the smell of food cooking.

Despite much of the country being covered in heavy snow a few days earlier, Sue met up with Philippa in Tenbury Wells to exchange Christmas presents. They stayed over night at Sheila’s, returning the following day in heavy rain.

On the 12th I was privileged to accompany Charlotte to Rothwell School for a surprise party for Ellis. As a reward for outstanding progress and being a thoroughly nice child the school were throwing a surprise party for him and others. Parents had been invitedbut it had to remain a secret from the children. Suraj had to work and Sue was in Tenbury. Charlotte was thrilled and could hardly contain herself when she heard. The look on Ellis’s face and the other children when they were escorted into the party room and saw the people assembled there,  was a picture! It was a lovely initiative by the school and one that the children involved would remember for a long time. I know the parents will. I wasn’t quite sure why the Head dressed up as an Elf for the occasion?

Sue has not been very well over the past couple of weeks, a sniffly nose turned into cold and then into the shivers and a hacking cough with chest pains. A visit to the doctors today  resulted in a diagnosis of pneumonia, two courses of antibiotics, an appointment for a chest x-ray and several fluid tests. She has spent the last two nights sleeping on the settee in the lounge as it is much the warmest place in the house. On this run-up to Christmas, there seems to be quite a few of the Palmer family feeling rather run-down!