Archive for January, 2014

QE-5

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2014 by David Palmer

After what has been the most restful night of the voyage, the only incident being where we ran over a very large whale, briefly rousing me from my slumber, I was surprised to learn that Sue had slept fitfully. On stepping onto the balcony I could see why. I scanned a scene of heaving and crashing waves that I with my veteran sea-legs and old salt demeanour had slept through, yarrrrrrr!

We chose the Brittania restaurant for breakfast on the basis that as I wouldn’t be choosing the portions size, it would be much healthier for my waistline which has already increased by one notch of the belt. On arrival at the Brittania we were seated at a table of six next to the aft window. Our fellow passengers were all single travellers, two American, one anglicised German and a muggle. From our cabin on the 8th Deck the waves had looked big, down here on Deck 2 they were mountainous!!!! It was awesome observing their power and the turbulence created by the propellers as we cut through them. Several times the ship lurched violently and caused concern as food items were momentarily out of control. Sue professed to feeling queasy but stoically British she completed the meal, talked about non-sea matters and then accompanied me back to the cabin where she felt much better.
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The first activity of the morning was a walk to the Golden Lion pub and a Trivia Quiz. We had passed the pub many times when these competitions had been on and they had seemed very popular. Yesterday, we had attempted to find a seat to join but were out of luck. Today we arrived early and had a choice of seats. It was a general knowledge quiz and we were also-rans in the prize stakes. However, when the answers were given out, we realised hat we used to know the correct answer before we forgot.

We moved onto one of the front lounges to read our books, but after 20 minutes a lecture on healthy eating titled ‘Eating more to lose weight’ started up. It felt like being back in school so we moved on.

After a trot down to the other end of the ship we sat through a lecture on ‘Human Interaction and Dolphins’. It was mildly interesting with the only fact I could remember being that dolphin meat is black in colour, tastes like beef liver and isn’t good for you as the species is at the top of the food chain and contains quite a lot of mercury. So Kurt Van Dannigen must be correct when he claimed that Dolphins may have come from space.! (Think about it)
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Lunch beckoned so that solved what to do next. I stuffed myself full of the recommended foods from the dietary lecture, but afterwards not an inch receded from my waist or did I feel any the lighter. To console myself I consumed three large jugs of ice-cream, and for that I did feel better.

During the afternoon we went to the theatre and watched the film ‘Wolverine’. Absolute rubbish. Sue left 20 minutes before the end, but I am made of sterner stuff and saw it out. I met her again back in the cabin. Mr Pillow had been neglected so I gave him an hour or so of comfort while Sue read.

The dress for the evening meal was optional but I put on a suit and Sue put on her new dress. Ou regular dinner partners were not present but the ones that had been missing, turned up. They are a couple of Westham supporters, he owns a string of garages and she is a chef. We got on well and as is always the case they have been on millions of cruises.

The entertainment for the evening was a the singer from Indiana that had performed a couple of nights previous. We both enjoyed his choice of songs and he had an easy-going manner that warmed you to his act. I sat next to a pilot from Indiana who had been chatting to the singer earlier in the day, he was hold a seat for a lady from NY who was going to show him the sights when he docked (oh yeah) and Sue sat next to a Dutch woman who lived on the Caribbean Island of St. Barts. They owned a yacht but she refused to sail on it with her husband so had used the QE to travel Europe and back to visit relatives back in Holland over Christmas. Being on a cruise is like being in Yorkshire, you can’t stand at a bus stop for more than a few minutes without every one knowing your ancestry back to the Ark!

After the performance we strolled to a restaurant at the front of the ship and had hot cocoa before retiring for the evening. annoyingly the clocks go back again tonight and it plays havoc with you body clock and mealtimes.

QE-4

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14, 2014 by David Palmer

After another night of rock and roll, which we both surprisingly managed to survive with a fair bit of sleep, I woke early. Not intentionally, but unlike Sue who paid fastidious attention to all shipboard announcements I hadn’t re-set my watch back yet another hour. To compound this I ventured onto the balcony at the same time that the bow broke through what must have been a rather big wave and a spray of cold mid Atlantic mist washed away any lasting residue of sleep. brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Now refreshed and soon after warmed by our internal shower we both dressed and decided on one of the self-service restaurants for breakfast. The one we have been frequenting has been waiter serviced and it has the advantage that the portion size have been determined by someone other than myself. Today I fell into the trap of over indulgence, and didn’t feel better for it! Over coffee we chatted to a couple who had links with education, so you can guess what the conversation was about.

It is worth a mention about the hygiene regulations on board. The inaugural speech from the captain welcoming us on board was mostly focused on personal hygiene, pointing out the necessity of hand washing and the touching of surfaces in passing on germs etc. He spent a great deal of his speech on this subject, much to the unease of those passengers around us, particularly when he discussed the prevalence and unpleasantness of Nora-virus. Besides there being electric hand wash machines at the doorways to each section of the ship, directly situated behind each one are two crew
members with sprays to squirt a blob of alcohol onto the hands of those that failed to spot them. They take no prisoners. On a circumnavigation of the ship your hands are quite likely to become intoxicated and prone to pick up random food items. I fear that when I return home I shall have to book mine into re-hab and place the rest of myself on a carb’ free diet.
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After breakfast Sue and I sat in the lounge at the front of the ship and watched huge waves smash themselves on to the deck. Very spectacular. Fingers crossed, we hope the bow continues to win its battle against the elements, but after watching the film in Southampton, I am not quite so sure!
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Up to lunch time we were very busy. We took in first a seminar on the sights of New York, than after coffee we attended an excellent lecture by Ellen Baker ‘Working and living in Space’, who was three times an astronaut on the now retired Space Shuttle. We followed this by another coffee and a further lecture on ‘New York and the American Civil War’. Sue then visited the market in the Queens Room on deck 10.

We met up again in time for lunch. We chose one of the buffet restaurants and shared a table with a couple from Bridlington celebrating their Silver wedding Anniversary. After finishing this section of the cruise in NY they then board another one to the Bahamas (very nice). She was suffering from sea-sickness and had spent the last couple of days confined to their cabin.

After lunch we watched the film ‘Paranoia’. I thought it was fairly good, but Sue fell asleep halfway through so I guess it didn’t hold her interest sufficient enough to stay awake. We attempted to attend a lecture on, ‘A Journey through Time’ the subject of which was the history of clocks. I say attempted, as the lecturer needed the attention of one of the ship’s IT technicians. First he had difficulty in cloning the laptop onto the projector, then he didn’t seem to understand the Macafee was blocking the file he wanted, when he eventually worked that out and brought up the PowerPoint presentation, he had no idea how to start it. I could have chipped in and pointed out a few obvious errors he was making, but British reserve prevented me from doing so. Having watched these shenanigans (he was an Irishman called Breenan Sheeney) for half an hour and then witness him starting to boot up the system again we called it a day and left, before I lost the will to live. You could say it was a waste of time. A refreshing drink of fruit juices followed with a return to our cabin and a read of our books until dinner, was our next and more successful activity.
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Dinner was informal, but it still meant jacket, shirt and tie. The meal as usual was lovely, and so far I have finished off each meal with a substantial cheese course, though this time Sue seems to have acquired her sea-legs and she made it to the cheeses with me. We ate with our usual table partners and afterwards watched the show in the theatre. The act was a pianist from Manchester. She had a wicked sense of humour, quite glamorous and of course played the piano rather well. She played a lot of Gershwin, who is not my cup of tea though I did enjoy a certain song from Casablanca.

We finished off the evening with coffee and further reading of our books. In my case that is Biggles.

QE-3

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2014 by David Palmer

Well, what a night! I am glad we are on such a huge ship and the decision by the Captain to deviate some 250 miles south of our intended route to avoid a Force 10 storm. Even so, the rock and roll of the ship with random thuds made for a restless night. Around 1am I ventured onto the balcony to have a look at the storm. Mistake, whether is was the rain or the spume from the crashing waves that was whipping across the deck was irrelevant, compared with the bitter buffeting of the wind. I beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of my pillow. Sue, curious as to my little balcony escapade inquired as to what I could see and mischievously I replied from the warmth and comfort of my bolster of heaven, “It’s great, have a look.” Like a fish to the hook she bit. After a cry of “Whoooooa,” she too rapidly retreated to the bathroom (to repair what the wind had left of her hair). Some 10 minutes later I heard a faint cry. Sue couldn’t find the door handle or the light switch to exit our en-suite. Heroically, I left my linen comfort and switched the light on. The rest of the night proved equally difficult to sleep as the changing tilt of the boat gave our bodies the urge to roll to the right and roll to left, with our left leg in, then our left leg out, we played the hokey-cokey all night long.
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At 8am prompt (from a very deep sleep) I heard Sue open the balcony door again. Still rocking and rolling, but not so violently, we both dressed and made our way to breakfast. Not surprisingly, not many other souls were present. We sat at a table with 3 gentlemen from the north-east and chatted about the weather. Our table was next to the window at the rear of the ship, and though much calmer now we could see that the waves were mountainous.

With breakfast finished, we made our way back to the cabin and read todays programme of events to decide on how to fill the day. First idea was to take a bracing walk along the deck. The decks had been roped off as unsafe. We stepped over the flimsy tape barring our way. If the crew had been really serious about preventing our passage onto deck they would have done better than that. Oh, it was bitter and windy up there. After a few photographs, a major adjustment to Sue’s hairdo and loss of feeling to extremities we forced our way back into the warmth and haven of the inner decks.
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After a warming coffee and feeling chuffed that I had resisted the temptation of the piles of food that surrounded us we had a look at the photographs that had been taken of us while on board. After purchasing one with both of us smiling and having it framed, I bought a new dickie-bow as my extended neck-girth had snapped my favourite one.

Our first activity was to attend a lecture on the Dutch influence on Manhattan. Surprisingly interesting and after another warming coffee we attended another one which was a sequel to yesterdays ‘Whales and dolphins’. Again, very interesting and particularly so as we had been one of the few people to witness yesterdays sighting of dolphins.

Lunch was taken in the Golden Lion Pub. Sue had fish and chips and I had steak and ale pie washed down with ‘Speckled Hen’ that I reckon was Lager. I watched Man. City v Newcastle on the screen in the bar and Sue went to watch ‘Whitehouse Down’, which I had seen last week and wasn’t interested in witnessing the President saving the civilized world again! After wards I retired to our cabin to keep my pillow company.
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around 3.30pm I trotted down to the theatre to catch Sue so that we could have coffee together, but as luck would have it, she had shot off to another gemstone seminar and I missed her. Not knowing this I assumed she had made her way to the Lido for tea and cake (a favourite pastime of hers) so went to surprise her. She wasn’t there so I made myself a coffee which because Sue was absent, turned into a plate of pasties and quite a few side dishes that guilt prevents me from itemising. Fully satisfied I made my way back to the cabin to find her there. The film was rubbish but the seminar was wonderful (her very words). With that established, I accompanied her for coffee and we searched for whales and dolphins among the ever-increasing waves and watched the sky darken.

On return to the cabin we watched BBC News 24 then changed into formal gear in readiness for dinner. The sea became increasingly rougher to the extent that I haven’t staggered so much, this side of half a dozen pints of strong beer.

During the evening meal we chatted again to our fellow table partners, but it soon became evident that Sue was feeling the worse for wear. She managed a soup starter and part of her main course but had to return to the cabin to lie down before matters became worse. I joined her soon after the cheese course. By then the waiters were beginning to struggle and the other passengers were attempting to look dignified, dressed as penguins and waddling from side to side bouncing off corridor walls. As last night I was glad we were not on the 9.30pm sitting for dinner.
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The evening performance of ‘Vanity Fair’ had been cancelled in favour of a stand-up comedian, oh yeah? The Entertainment Director obviously has a sense of humour.

Sue felt well enough to rise from her bucking bronco of a bed and join me in an equally amusing and wizard pinball walk to the theatre. The comedian was excellent, despite the violent lurching of the ship he managed to continue with his impromptu repertoire of English style jokes, in other words he playfully sent up the other nationalities in the audience. By the time the show ended, the erratic motion of the ship ensured that rails and banisters were gripped firmly by all leaving the theatre. We spurned the idea of another coffee and other delights as the restaurants were situated at the other end of the ship and Sue wasn’t sure she could hold onto what she already had on board on the perilous journey there. We made it back to our cabin and sanctuary.

I do believe my pillow was pleased to see me. The clocks go back again tonight and tomorrow we have been promised to pass the Azores and turn right (so the Captain says).

QE-2

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2014 by David Palmer

After snuggly warm and comfortable nights sleep (I am going to take this bed home with me) we woke quite early as ships time had been put back one hour during the night. Just before 8am we were one of the first in the queue for breakfast in the Britannia. We could have had a buffet breakfast in any of several around the ship, but we didn’t think and picked the one that was just down the corridor and one deck up. The next people in the line were our dinner couple of the previous night. We opted to sit together again. It was waiter service so individual items had to be selected, still suffering from a brain that had fallen in love with a pillow and couldn’t contemplate anything complicated as another part on my body I asked if the waiter knew what a full English breakfast was and the reply was, “How full do you want it?” Of course my stomach kicked in and responded with, “As full as it gets.”
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Disappointingly there was no black pudding, but as a substitute there was two eggs and some how my coffee cup never seemed to empty. I will keep a closer eye on it tomorrow to see how it is done.

We had a brisk walk around a sunny deck, a long conversation with a lady from Sheffield and then a look around the shops (again), discovering that the dollars we had brought on board were of no use as everything went onto account. Afterwards we strolled through the art gallery commenting on the exhibits as if we were seasoned collectors, dropping the odd comment the $13 500 was a reasonable price for such an effective piece of art and where would we put it as we are so quickly running out of space.
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Sue went to a lecture on Tanzanite jewellery which sounded fascinating, but luckily not enough to purchase any. I watched a fencing class for a while and then listened to a few quiz questions in the Golden Lion pub, before deciding that lunch beckoned.

We chose one of the restaurants with a nice window table and squeezed a few more calories in. Unfortunately for Sue as she was getting her dessert I spotted (along with the lady o the next table) a couple of dolphins swimming along side the ship. Of course they had disappeared by the time Sue returned.
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During the afternoon we both attended a lecture on Whales and Dolphins. It is the first of a series and we are looking forward to the rest. After the obligatory coffee and sandwiches, Sue went to watch ‘The Great Gatsby’ and I started the crossword in the ship’s newspaper in our cabin with Skysports on the TV. It was my intention to relocate to the Golden Lion for a pint and watch the Man. Utd v Swansea match, but I made the mistake of leaning against my most favourite pillow in the world and it worked its magic.

On Sue’s return we relocated to a restaurant for afternoon coffee and I had some nice finger sandwiches, which I guess are designed to keep your hands from starving.

That evenings meal was formal. Being not as trim as I would like to be my DJ is no longer a bespoke fit, though the jacket passed muster the trousers gave me an insight into the tortures that Victorian women suffered when they stuffed their voluptuous waists into tight herringbone girdles. I substituted an old pair of black school trousers in their place and felt much the more comfortable for it. A shame Sue wouldn’t let me take my pillow with me to further increase my sense of comfort and security!

Sue dressed in a very fetching black dress accompanied me into dinner where we once again sat with our new friends from Northumberland. Earlier on that afternoon the Captain had announced that during the night we were due to sail into a storm, and as our meal progressed the ship began to increasingly rock and roll. By the time the main course arrived Sue announced that she wasn’t feeling well and retired gracefully to lie down in the cabin. I joined her after the cheese course.
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Sue felt well enough (though the ship was lurching randomly) to attempt the evening show in the main theatre. The act was a singer guitarist from Indiana. He sang a medley of popular songs from the 50’s to the 70’s, Sue loved it, though I must confess it wasn’t my cup of tea. By the time the performance had finished there was quite roll on the boat and our compere for the voyage informed us ominously that tomorrows performance of ‘Vanity Fair’ may not go ahead due to sea conditions. Afterwards, rather than risk any unpleasant accidents in the Grand Ball (as planned) we decided to retire to our stateroom while we were both still in a fit state to do so. With heads resting on Cunard pillows we knew all would be safe with the world. We shall see tomorrow.
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QE-1

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2014 by David Palmer

The following morning (Friday) we woke early and after showering walked a few hundred yards to a Macdonald’s for a strong cup of coffee/tea. A brief visit to a very large and impressive IKEA store followed before our return to the hotel and check out. We had booked a taxi for a noon pick-up and took our seats in the hotel foyer along with an increasing number of fellow cruisers.
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When the cats are away, see what the mice get up to!

Fortunately, our taxi arrived on time and we were blessed with an inciteful driver. Many of our fellow travellers were close to panic as the taxis they had booked had failed to turn up because of the horrendous traffic conditions in the city. The roads department had deemed fit to begin some extensive road upgrades around the port areas and today there were 5 Cruiser Liners in that were due to depart. The roads around our cluster of hotels were grid locked from the time we had woken up. Our driver refused all other offers and insisted on picking up his booked passengers, the Palmers. He then pointed out that because of the traffic he was taking a different route to the port, and as true as his word we wove our way along side streets and at intersecting traffic lights cut across the ribbons of stationary traffic on our journey to the dock. In less than 15 minutes the gentleman had earned himself a $5 tip and we were placing our suitcases on porter’s trolleys. By 1pm we had processed our way through immigration and were sitting in our cabin looking at a bottle of champagne. Resisting the temptation of the fizz we opted to stand on our balcony and marvel at the splendid view across the Solent.
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A little later we found one of the restaurants and settled down for a light lunch. Upon discovering the ice-cream bar I regressed into the bad habit picked up on previous trips and scoffed as much as I could comfortably fit into my stomach.

After returning to the cabin to unpack there followed the necessary walk along the decks to erode some of the calories that so recently been taken on. Not as glitzy a ship as the Favalosa, more refined, tasteful, English. Also the majority of guests are British 1200 of the 1900 passengers.

The evening meal was informal. On Cunard that meant that jackets could be worn without ties. After dressing appropriately, Sue and I queued at our designated restaurant with those other passengers who had been allocated the Britannia. On booking I had opted for a table of six so that we could meet a few other guests and have some conversation. A couple from the north-east joined us but the other two seats remained empty. We got on well and pleasantly swapped stories of family and holidays until the meal was complete and we went our separate ways in search of the rest of the evening’s entertainment.
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Just before 8pm we returned to our cabin and Sue put on her raincoat (wish I had) and made our way onto Deck 10. It was the Queen Mary 2’s 10th birthday and she was berthed behind us. To celebrate this occasion and the start of the Queen Elizabeth’s world cruise there was to be a fireworks display. It wasn’t raining when we got on deck but 5 minutes before the display began it tipped it down. I lasted until I started to dissolve then made my way back to the cabin to dry out. On reaching the cabin I discovered that the best view of the fireworks was from the balconies on our side of the ship, so out came the camera again (after drying the lens) and from the shelter of our private box I watched what must have been a 15 minute spectacular to patriotic music. By the time Sue joined me in the cabin I had changed and was keen to discover the rest of the ship.
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Sue and I wandered through the shops. We sat briefly to watch some ballroom dancing then found our seats in the main theatre for that nights show. It turned out to be a review of what was going to be on during the coming evenings. As this is a 4 month world cruise, I guess we will not be seeing much of it as we shall be disembarking in New York.

After the show we found our way to our cabin and opened the champagne. Then we discovered what can simply be described as the best pillows in the world. Warm, soft, comfortable and sleep inducing zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

The Aftermath

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2014 by David Palmer

With Christmas and New Year festivities all done and dusted, routine has set in once again.

However, after a change to Family Curry Night where Jamie and Charlotte instead presented a rather good couple of Mexican dishes, the following evening Sue and I visited the Cinnamon Lounge to dine with 6 other friends for an authentic Indian meal. Earlier that afternoon I was watching Tigers on the TV (at the Angel) when Jim Crawford suggested we join him and Kate for a curry and it snowballed from there to Jim and Brigitte, Sean and Paul. An enjoyable time was had by all.

Lucas and Ellis returned to school and Jamie sold his yellow car to some one from Weston Supermare (good luck to them). At present, until he purchases another one, I have lent him mine to drive to and from work.

As part of my Christmas present to Nan I had booked an afternoon tea at Sedgebrooke Hall with Charlotte. It happened to be the same day that Ellis started swimming classes and I played a round of golf at course nwear Rugby to celebrate a friends 60th birthday. The previous day had been horrendously wet and miserable, but the clouds had parted and we were treated to a lovely day. Nan enjoyed her tea (with the usual reservations), Ellis did brilliantly in the water (like a veritable duck) and I managed to get 18 holes in without embarrassing myself on any of them.
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I made a visit to the doctors to check up on a spasmodic and short-lived pain in the arm that was getting to be painful (though didn’t affect my golf). The surprise was that the Doc gave me a prescription for some painkillers, and it was free! There is at last a benefit for being 60. Both Sue and I visited the dentist. I got a good clean bill of health and an appointment for another check-up in 6 months. Sue was advised to replace a crown that I gather is going to cost the same as a very good set of quality golf clubs!!!!

On the Thursday Sue and I caught the 12.13pm train to Southampton. I drove to the station with Sue and Sarah, and Sarah took the car back home for us. We caught a direct train to London so we were soon at St. Pancras Station and catching the underground to Waterloo for our connection to Southampton. Apart from a couple of mishaps where Sue managed to get her case caught in the barriers (her reactions are not as quick as they used to be) he journey went smoothly. The Ibis hotel I had booked was a 5 minute walk from the station and we were soon checked in and exploring the locality. We were close to the centre of the city and on the West Quay. We were impressed by the shops and city walls.
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That evening we went to the cinema and watched ‘All is Lost’, an unfortunate film to watch prior to a cruise. The plot is based around the sinking of a yacht in the middle of the Indian ocean and the harrowing incidents afterwards. Ooooooops I thought, lesson to be learnt, don’t stray far from my life jacket. After recovering from the film we walked into town and had a nice meal at the ‘Slug and Lettuce’. On return to the hotel it was off to bed for comfortable nights sleep.

Christmas 2013

Posted in Uncategorized on January 4, 2014 by David Palmer

Late afternoon of Christmas Eve saw all the Palmers sat in the dining room of Willow Bank enjoying what was the first of many meals before the festivities would be over. The decorations were up, the tree twinkling with lights and the logs blazing away in the wood-burner. Despite savouring the delights of freshly made chestnut soup that I had so enthusiastically made that afternoon as a starter, Charlotte, Jamie and Sarah decided to overdose and roasted even more throughout the evening (all digestive consequences spurned). Later, Jamie walked into town to meet up with some friends, and no doubt took advantage of the chestnut effect to clear his passage through what I gather was a pretty packed Harborough.
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After playing a game of Beetle and watching a bit of TV, Lucas and Ellis were surprisingly in bed for 10pm and fast asleep. The ‘grown-ups’ let things settle down until 11pm before giving Santa a helping hand in distributing the presents around the tree then made their way into their own sacks. Overnight, Jamie appeared in his bed in the study and the ‘young uns’ slept on in dreamland until 7.30am!
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Tradition dictates that stockings are opened first (in bed) and the contents then shown excitedly to all (also in bed). A trip is then made to see the tree and what may lay underneath. After much moving, lifting and rattling of those presents on the periphery of the avalanche by excited little hands and after many subsequent cautionary warnings, breakfast is made, consumed, washed up and put away in double quick time. After the other adults had found a comfortable seat I gathered my two elves together and one after another I read the labels and tags and them passed them on for delivery. When the piles of discarded wrapping paper became too hazardous for little feet to thread their way without accidentally stepping onto already opened delights, we broke for festive drinks and a clear up. Back to the serious business of picking, transferring and opening of packages of all sizes (Sue’s bike and Suraj’s table proved a problem for the elves) more mounds of discarded festive wrappings appeared alongside an ever increasing pile of contents. Incidentally, I couldn’t help notice that the height of the piles of presents was the inverse of the height of the recipients. By midday, wrapping paper was safely in boxes and bin liners in the garage, presents and been sorted into rational piles and some removed to bedrooms. Batteries were being sought, and other electronic devices cannibalised for them. Even a trip to the Spar was made in search of fresh supplies.
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The smell of Christmas dinner began to emanate from the kitchen. This year Jamie had provided us with a Turkey crown that looked truly magnificent, Sue had been worried that it would not fit in the oven, but she squeezed it in. Afterwards, feeling rather satisfied and full we all agreed that Christmas dinner is the only meal that surpasses that of a traditional English Sunday roast for perfection on a plate. Well done Sue! After washing up, it was down to the serious business of trying on clothes, building structures, putting together bits of machinery, flying helicopters, racing cars and of course, charging batteries. Some even found space to scoff some delights.
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All too soon Christmas tea was upon us and another table laden with salad , meats, cheeses and chutneys was laid bare. Again, cutlery and crockery were cleared away, washed and placed back on shelves in readiness for the evenings entertainment: DOCTOR WHO. The projector and screen came out for the occasion and those still young in heart settled down for an hours viewing of hopefully the best of the BBC. Unlike last year, which turned out to be a bitter disappointment and utter nonsense, this was better. At least the storyline could be bought into and the characters didn’t overplay the humour. The rest of the evening was spent consuming a variety of drinks and flitting in and out of playing with technology (even Nan on her new mobile), watching TV or careering around the house in hide and seek (Ellis & Lucas).
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Boxing Day saw Sarah and I rise early. Her boyfriend Lee, had opted for a most awkward birth date and as today he was 21 yrs old she was keen to join him in Cottgrave for a surprise family celebration. On a very foggy morning I drove her to Melton Mowbray where Lee was to pick her up and transport her onwards. He wasn’t at the rendezvous when we arrived, but as time was tight I left her there waiting in the drizzle and gloom and crossed my fingers. He turned up shortly afterwards. On return to Harborough I took on new passengers, Sue, Jamie and Harley and with the Rothwells and Nan in the 4X4 set off to Peterborough for a days dog racing.
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After queueing for 15 minutes or so to get into the stadium we found a couple of tables in our desired location, Sue and I ordered the meals and Suraj got the drinks from the bar. Like a well oiled machine, the Palmer Team were the first to be tucking into food, which left us sufficient time to peruse the form and select our potentially winning woofers. This year there was 14 races, and tradition has it that we stake £1 per race (give or take from the winning pot). I guess that watching 6 dogs race around a track at regular intervals can have the same effect as watching sheep jump over a fence. Well it did on Nan as for around 15 minutes she decided to have a nap. This year I opted to stick to a TRIO bet for all races, that is picking the first three dogs in the correct order. The odds are against you, but if you do win, it will be big (in theory).The TRIO winnings on most of the races was between £390-£890. I did win one race. £18.60!!!!!! We all broke more or less even on the day, except Harley who walked away with a profit of £38.
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The following day Suraj went to look at some laptops that he was considering buying, Nan decided that she wanted a day of rest and we returned her to her apartment. The rest of us drove into Leicester and visited the Newark Houses Museum.

We parked in a multi-story car-park nearby and walked to the museum, as the sales were on, the roads were very busy, not surprising the Museum itself only had a few visitors and we nearly had the place to ourselves. They (we) had recently spent over £1 million on its exhibits and it was much changed from when Sue visited many years ago when she took her class. It was my first visit and now I wish I had discovered it whilst I was teaching, I would have made it an annual event linked with the New Walk Museum. Ah, too late now. There was a stimulating mix of eras and attractions that kept your interest, without considering the history of the building itself. The day itself was cold damp and miserable, but it didn’t prevent us from exploring the Tardis like walled gardens and exploiting quite a few photo opportunities. I had hoped to do a bit of window shopping in the town, and Sue had hoped to visit a park in Oadby, but dusk was rapidly approaching and we settled for a quiet journey home. Suraj wasn’t impressed with the laptops on offer and rejected them.
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Sarah arrived back home by train the following morning. Jamie had been requested to work but managed to negotiate the day off. We were off to the Pantomime that afternoon. Sarah had invited a friend, Abi’ and her son from Uni’. They arrived at lunch time and had a meal with us before driving to the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering to see Snow White. The main star was Russell Grant (astrologer). It was a much more professional production than the usual Pantomimes we see in Corby, and because of this the inclusion of the talentless Russell didn’t detract from our enjoyment of it. Ellis and Lucas had flashing light sabres bought for them by Nan and luckily Sue and I sat two rows back on the other side of the theatre. A highlight was when Suraj was spotted by Muddles, playing with a sabre and was referred to as Mr Grumpy throughout the rest of the performance.
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That evening we got out the Wii Family Trainer that Sue had bought me for Christmas. Sarah managed to work out how it was used, and she, Ellis, Ellis and I had a go at the various activities. Suffice it to say that I quickly got exhausted. We played for an hour and then packed it away. I slept well that night.

The following day saw Jamie at work and Nan exhausted and happy to spend the day lounging on her settee, surfing the sports channels. The more intrepid of us set off to Shackerstone Station near Market Bosworth to Catch the Mince Pie Express to Shenton and back on the Battlefield Line. We hoped to catch the 11.15am train and by luck, we did. Despite the SatNav directing us to the wrong side of the track, the train was held for us when we were spotted by the eagle-eyed station master making our way along the lane. The 11.15am left at 11.30am, but the 26 other passengers didn’t seem to mind and the ticket collector (not possessing a transaction card reader) accepted what cash we could cobble together by making the boys disappear and Sarah an under 5. The mince pies, sherry and wine tasted all the sweeter for being such a bargain. It was a lovely journey through the Leicestershire countryside, much of what we saw, Sue and I had walked during our days away at the Bosworth Hall Hotel. During the 15 minute stop at Shenton, we photographed the turnaround of the engine and then boarded the carriage for the return journey. On return the ticket collector pointed out that our tickets qualified us to travel the line all day if we wished to do so. After a quick family conference it was decided to do the journey again, in kindness to the him and his colleagues. It was just as enjoyable the second time as the first. We must do it again in the summer. I wonder if the tickets are still good then?
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From Shackerstone we drove to the Bosworth Battlefielde Centre. After a wander around Ambion Hill and reading the information boards we stopped for a warming drink of hot chocolate in the cafe. The day was sunny but bitterly cold and now the sun was getting low in the sky. The return journey was uneventful and we arrived in darkness.
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The following day, the Rothwells packed up and left for home. Peace once again resided over Willow Bank and strangely, it seemed odd. And, when Sarah left to travel to Nottingham to see the New Year fireworks display with Lee, it made it even quieter. So quiet in fact, that when the New Year did arrive, Sue had been in bed for two hours and me for one. The usual detonations around Harborough at midnight woke me briefly, but I resisted the temptation to watch through the window and pulled the pillow over my head. Some would say sad, but at 7.30am the following day I was as fresh as a daisy and cycling through the fields of Leicestershire enjoying the peace and solitude, secure in the knowledge that all was well with the world, because I was looking at it!
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That lunchtime the clan gathered together again (less Sarah) and were treated to a New Years Day dinner that was in the words of a usual grumpy Nan as, “The best dinner she has ever had.” And I agree.

Thursday night is the night I play pool at the Catholic Club. There had been quite a few burglaries in Harborough over the Christmas period and David Tomlinson (one our band of players) had been the victim of such an event. His family had been robbed of cash and goods while they slept on Boxing Day night. As a co-incidence, I spent all Thursday morning testing out our alarm system and fixing the external siren that had stopped working.

This year I decided to give Charlotte, Jamie and Sarah money for Christmas and transferred the funds into their bank accounts on the 25th. Jamie has been having problems with his car and has had to do quite a bit of work on it recently, so he has decided to sell it and get another one (more reliable). Sue got a surprise when I gave her the tickets for a couple of days in New York, travelling there on the Queen Elizabeth. We journey to Southampton by train to catch the boat and fly back from JFK, after looking around what is at present a very cold and snowy NY. I tried my DJ on yesterday and though the jacket fits fine, I no longer have any chance of getting into the trousers. An over indulgent Christmas! I have arranged for Nan to have afternoon tea at the Sedgebrooke Hotel in Northamptonshire with Charlotte.

Jamie has been offering to be chef on previous Curry Nights and yesterday he was. He had arranged with Sarah to help him, but she was still in Cottgrave, suffering from the New Year celebrations or a stinking cold as she prefers to say. Charlotte agreed to step in and help, but she and the rest of the family were in Coventry visiting Suraj’s sister, so Sue and I were not all that sure that it would happen. However, the Rothwell’s arrived late in the afternoon and around half an hour later Jamie appeared with 2kg of lamb mince, and all the necessary ingredients for a Mexican Night! I briefly helped by chopping the onions and then left Jamie and Charlotte to it. Under instructions from Jamie, his elder sister did as she was told (that doesn’t often happen) and around 40 minutes later the bell was sounded for dinner. We made our own fajitas from the ingredients presented on the table and there was also a tangy, cheesy Taco side dish to tuck into. It was lovely. Luckily, Sue had advised using only 1kg of the mince as that was sufficient. We still had a quarter of a pot of fajita filling left over at the end, and though I did my best to help out I couldn’t fit anymore into my stomach. Any thoughts of being able to fit into my DJ have now truly evaporated. To cap a wonderful evening, everyone went home just in time for me to watch Saints beat Harlequins on BTSport!
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