Old Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family News

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

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

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

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

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







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