thereadrovers

Our retirement adventures

CHANGE OF BLOG ADDRESS

World MapWe’ve moved again.

The latest adventures of Sally and I are on http://www.morereadtravels.wordpress.com. (More travels with the Reads)

We also have some blogs from the last two years (2015-2016) that can be found at: http://www.morereadrovers.wordpress.com.

Please follow us if you want to know what we are doing, where we have been and to hopefully inspire you to visit the places where we have been to!

Comments also very welcome

Richard & Sally Read

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I have a new blog published

My newest blog on Cape Otway & the Great Ocean Road can now be found on:- ¬†“www.morereadrovers.wordpress.com ”

Looking forward to your comments on my new blog site.

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My blog is on the move

I have run out of room on this blog, so for our further travels to Andorra, Australia, Jersey and other places, please follow me at

http://www.morereadrovers.wordpress.com

Hopefully you have enjoyed my “diary” so far and will enjoy the travels in the future!

Richard & Sally Read

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Our Australian adventure 2015 style – Melbourne and Phillip Island

Friday 6 February

Early start in Sydney with taxi to Airport and flight to Melbourne after leaving one suitcase each at the Holiday Inn containing items for our cruise later in the adventure.

Quest Gordon Place Melbourne

Quest Gordon Place Melbourne

It is very hot here in Melbourne, 34 degrees and after we pick up the car we manage to negotiate non toll roads into the city and check in at the Quest Gordon Place apartment.

Apartment large, dark with the 2nd room probably too small for a large double bed but we manage.

Internet access not explained properly so we have to have several attempts at getting logged on.

Washing done but tumble drier fails to operate so have to hang clothes all over the place.

Reception not particularly helpful over the issues and apartment has no “instructions” to follow.

It seemed to be due to the weight in the machine we later discovered!

Melbourne tram

Melbourne tram

Out for a walk in the heat and once bearings obtained, catch 35 Tram around top and west of city before getting off at Flinders for a coffee in Federation Square and a tram back to hotel.

Sine our visit last year, the Central trams in the CDB are all now free, not just the 35 route.

Saturday 7 February

Only two towels provided – it takes three attempts to get extra towels which delays our departure (walk and tram) to go to Queen Victoria Market.

Melbourne market

Melbourne market

This must be the biggest market in existence, with aisle upon aisle of fruit, veg, meat and fish.

The stall holders seem to go to different locations depending upon the day and on Sunday no food at all, so stalls set aside for tourist gifts with coach loads of tourists bussed in.

Today though, not only food, but also clothes are sold here with some very tacky items and some wonderful items such as leather goods and photographs.

Get taxi to hotel, attempt car park exit, machine faulty but manage to get discount parking for A$20 instead of A$25.

Negotiate roads out of city towards Penguin Parade at Phillip Island managing to avoid the tolls.

Wildlife at Australian  Garden

Wildlife at Australian Garden

Wildlife at Phillip Island

Wildlife at Phillip Island

Stop for a coffee at the Australian Garden, get stuck in a long delay near the bridge to Phillip Island and arrive well in time for the Penguin Parade which tonight is expected at 9:05 pm.

Manage to see a few wallabies and other wildlife before a meal, purchases at the gift shop, photo taken and then down to foreshore to wait for the little guys to arrive.

With the little penguins

With the little penguins

Considerably warmer than last year and no coats jumpers needed this time.

We have upgraded to the Penguin+ so are well placed to see the Penguins waddle up from the sea, stop in front of us for preening and then proceed up the hillside to their various burrows.

It is quite remarkable how this happens and as magical as last year.

Some Orientals ignore the ranger’s instructions and continue to try and take photos but fortunately without flash.

A young Australian father summed up the experience by saying to his kids (aged about 6) that they have to remember that it is not “our” home, it is the Penguins home.

After a coffee, a drive back to the apartment in Melbourne arriving just before 1am, exhausted, especially after finding all apartment lights fused – fortunately we found the trip switch which rectified the problem.

Sunday 8 February

We are off to see George & Barbara today whilst John & Deirdre spend time in the City with a visit to the Botanical gardens.

Purchase Myki cards and we are off, arriving at Seaford just after midday, being met by George and Barbara in their new car, a Mitsubishi AX, and taken to a restaurant in Frankston for lunch. Four substantial meals, three deserts for under $52 and we are full.

Frankston beach

Frankston beach

Stroll around the seafront, Barbara waiting for a 2nd hip op (wait list of 3 years) so walking not fast but she does well.

Then onto Mornington which is, according to George, surprisingly crowded.

Park up and have the first of many (on this holiday) iced coffees before heading back to George & Barbara’s and then back to the train for an hour’s journey back to the City.

We now have Myki cards valid for 4 years if anyone wants to use them they can – they have no money on them though!

IMG_5745Sal goes for a swim with Deirdre, we have a shared take away Pizza for dinner and try to get car parking sorted out.

Similar problems as yesterday so give up, will sort it out tomorrow.

Start packing, our new case has a hole in it, only bought at the end of November.ūüė£

Monday 9 February

Breakfast in adjacent cafe up hill, much better than adjacent one down hill. Difficulty with car park exit again. Car park say hotel using old stock of tickets, hotel say they are using up to date ones but upshot is we get out for A$40 instead of A$50 so over the three days we have saved $15.

We are off to Cape Otway.

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Our Australian adventure, 2015 style – Sydney in February

Tuesday 3 February

It’s a late flight this evening to Sydney from Hong Kong and it is full in Premium Economy, leaves 30 minutes late and it is gone 11pm HK time when dinner is served. Another hour passes before tables cleared away and desert served but despite this, do get a few hours sleep.

Wednesday 4 February

Iconic Sydney

Arrival in Sydney co-incides with a few other flights so lines for immigration relatively long. However, some helpful staff member points us in the right direction of a few “ATM style” automatic machines and we manage to by pass the queues and are out, with luggage within about 15 mins.

Take train to Circular Quay and walk to hotel. One room not quite ready but we leave Luggage in the one that is ready and go out for a bit of lunch. John & I then head off for THE Bridge climb at 4:15 with Deirdre and Sally off to get wet on the jet boat in the harbour.

The girls get absolutely soaked on their tour which turns out to be a double turn as it had to return because someone was sick.

Harbour Bridge climb

Harbour Bridge climb

John and I get to the reception area for the bridge walk and get kitted out in these very fetching (not) jump suits, harnesses and have everything clipped on to avoid them flying away. Even our hats are clipped on.

The first part is a walk along the base level of the bridge, above sea and shore road level to the first bridge support which we then walk through and up stairs to the main part. We clamber through a part between two lanes of fast moving traffic, squeeze through some of the supports and out onto the bridge.

Surprisingly, we are now over the worst of the climb as the part going up the curve of the bridge is relatively straightforward.

Our party is slowed down by a few less able people so we actually get more time on the bridge than others usually have. At least two parties catch us up although there is no pressure to speed up, no passing places and stops are frequently made for photos.

On top of Sydney Harbour Bridge

On top of Sydney Harbour Bridge

A by-plane passes over us and we just cross over to the other span to start our descent and the cruise ship that was in harbour starts it’s slow reversal to leave the harbour area.

The descent is quicker although one ladder is virtually vertical which does slow up our ageing party.

Off the bridge and disrobe, we are back in the hotel by about 7 and head out to Appetito for dinner. A good meal later and we flake out for a well earned rest.

What an experience, it actually isn’t as hard as it seems and the instructors make it so easy for everyone – an experience to be savoured.

Thursday 5 February

An early start after bought croissants for breakfast, saves the $25 cost per person in the hotel, and we are met on time by Steve for our tour of Sydney.

The tour was organised through Real Sydney Tours and was designed to let us see some of the parts we wouldn’t normally see as tourists.

Steve is a part time actor as well as tour guide and has appeared in Rake – the one with a nappy and a prostitute – so will need to look out for it when we get home.

Mrs Macquarie's chair

Mrs Macquarie’s chair

We are first taken to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair in the Botanical gardens, where we hadn’t gone last time. Then out to the suburbs, hugging the coastline towards the end of the harbour, past many a fabulous house. Seafront houses of course command a premium and some of these will cost about A$10m.

Parsley Bay rock structure

Parsley Bay rock structure

Stop for a drink and biscuits at Parsley Bay, a virtually deserted lovely little cove with some interesting sandstone rock formations.

Get bitten by a few sand flies so anyone reading this, beware. On to other bays including a stop at Bondi Beach, crowded, lots of surf but a bit shabby, and to Watson’s Bay, where sadly CCTV is in evidence to try and prevent suicide jumps as it appears to be the area where most people try suicide.

Some exercises being conducted by rescue services, particularly abseiling. See some black swans in Centennial Park.

Hobby shop in QVB

Hobby shop in QVB

Lunch back in Sydney at a pub near Darling Harbour – large portions – and a drop off back at the hotel in time for a train ride to the Town Hall and a walk around the QVB with particular attention to the hobby shop.

Dinner not really required but room for a chocolate fix in the hotel’s nearby Gruyeren chocolate shop.

Hand over Claire’s computer to Simone and pack ready for tomorrow’s flight to Melbourne.

Watch this space for the next part of our adventure.

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Hong Kong

27 January

Now here’s a first. We have to leave a day early for our next adventure due to forecast boat cancellation (or at least disruption) for bad weather on our scheduled departure day.

Ferry changed, hotels for two nights booked ( just as well we hadn’t already booked the first night!) in about 10 minutes and a mad rush around to complete the packing in 6 hours instead of 29! Hope we have everything!

Tidal conditions at Heysham mean we arrive 75 minutes later than scheduled but drive to Holiday Inn Express Preston uneventful and we have a good night’s sleep. Drive following day to Shrewsbury for another overnight in a slightly less comfortable bed stopping off for a lunch at Tootsies just south of Preston, a place to be recommended.

Tootsies

Tootsies

A lazy morning for a change the following day, and we head off South only to be hit with a snowstorm on the M5 SW of Birmingham with traffic crawling along at under 5mph.

Poor cold car

Poor cold car

60 miles away in Reading we understand it is sunny – how weird is Britain’s weather.

By the time we get to Reading, the snow starts and a fair smattering settles on our car.

Final adjustments to luggage and we drive to Heathrow hotel for an overnight pre flight to Hong Kong.

Excited? You bet !

Hong Kong

Another new country which we¬†arrive in¬†at about 7:30am. Long queue to pass immigration but it moves quickly and we are soon through, collect baggage and make our way out. John, Deirdre and Alex are there to meet us which is a nice surprise and we are soon on our way to Alex’s flat to meet up with Natasha & Ben. After breakfast and a shower we sightsee for a few hours, first following the escalators down hill and then the Star Ferry to Kowloon, cost, only about 25p each way.

Shame the weather is misty but we get the general lay of the land.

Hong Kong high risers

Hong Kong high risers

So many high rise buildings many looking like overgrown “stickle bricks”.

The Central‚ÄďMid-Levels escalator and walkway system in Hong Kong is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The entire system covers over 800 metres (2,600 ft) in distance and elevates over 135 metres (443 ft) from bottom to top. It was constructed in 1993 to provide a better commute by linking areas within the Central and Western District on Hong Kong Island, goes downhill in the morning but is reversed by 10am which is good news for those who don’t like climbing hills.

It was escalator up time and as we were going down, our legs, and especially knees, suffered in the long walk down. No doubt the locals get used to it. We never did get to ride the escalators.

College graduation?

College graduation?

A Confucius festival on the Kowloon side is definitely aimed at locals, not an English word in site.

Some lovely costumes worn by, mainly, girls but we head back to Alex’s for lunch and a taxi ride to our hotel, the Marco Polo.

I think I must have made an expensive booboo here as we have a large room, Club lounge access with afternoon tea, evening nibbles and lovely Australian red wine included. Oh well, spending the kids inheritance.

After a brief walk outside, hit bed at 8:30pm and really don’t get fully awake until about 7:00am the next day which is strange as 7:00am is 11pm UK time so maybe we have adjusted quicker than normal.

Sunday 1 February

Breakfast in the club lounge is all you could ask for, but without the view we had in Lucerne last year. A bit overcast but dry again today and following call from John, head over on the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and the Conrad Hotel which is near the British consulate before dropping down through the adjacent shops to the bus routes for a No. 6 bus to Stanley.

Colourful Star ferry

Colourful Star ferry

Very crowded and standing room only until virtually the whole of the top floor exit at one stop, perhaps to go walking.

The bus races along around tight curves, ever climbing as we catch glimpses of stickle brick like high rise apartments, a few sports grounds, the Happy Valley horse race track and some wonderful mansions.

Stanley isn’t at all what I expected but a bay area at the sea front with low rise buildings, lots of eateries, which being Sunday, were full. Ben not feeling 100% so it is just as well Alex & Natasha have a pushchair for him. Stroll along sea front and into market area that is not unlike a Moroccan Souk without the pressure from the vendors.

Stanley Bay

Stanley Bay

A few purchases made and find a spare table in a French Restaurant for lunch.

By now, area quite crowded and Ben rallies to play on the overcrowded play area before we head back to the bus stop. For those of you who have never been to Hong Kong and who don’t have their travel card – an Octopus Card, like London’s Oyster card – you need coins for the buses, notes are not accepted.

So whilst Deirdre gets on the bus waiting for us to follow, we search around for coins, and whilst doing so, the bus drives off. Deirdre has no phone with her, no money and is on a bus to Central HK not knowing where she is to get off to meet us.

What is worse, before the next bus we can catch arrives, we see her pass by on the bus which has gone up the road, turned round and come back on the other side of the road speeding off towards town. When will we see her again?

Decide to all catch next bus and wait at bus terminal in Central for her in the hope she will do same. Next bus is 6X, a slightly different route but this time we have the coins ready and the bus speeds off. This time we all have seats but still the bus goes fast round new, to us, bays and back into town.

Pass over bridge where below us, crowds of people are marching with yellow umbrellas. it is the pro democracy marchers with their trademark yellow umbrellas.

Hong Kong pro democracy marchers

Hong Kong pro democracy marchers

Arrive at bus station and, quite remarkably, Deirdre arrives a few minutes later. Phew, that was a relief.

Alex & Natasha take Ben home and we go to the 100th floor of the International Commerce Centre above Kowloon station for an observation on HK, tea and cakes, and a wait until sunset to watch the lights of HK followed by the 8pm laser show on the foreshore near our hotel.

Many lights on buildings turn on and off in time to music and the green laser lights cross the water in a free show that has brought in crowds but is probably fair to say, worth seeing only once.

A quick walk around hotel’s adjacent shops which, even at 8:30pm on a Sunday has a queue to be let into the Hermes shop. Chocolate from M & S bought!

Monday 2 February.

Less cloud today but Ben still not well enough to venture out so just the four of us for the Big Buddah visit. Although taxi all the way there for the 4 of us is more expensive than the train, it is probably quicker and we get to see a bit more of the outside world.

Cable car to Big Buddah

Cable car to Big Buddah

Queue for the cable car to get to The Big Buddah takes virtually an hour to negotiate but 20 minute trip worthwhile. ( we now have done cable car trips in Switzerland, Andorra and Hong Kong inside 4 months ) glass bottomed gondolas more popular but more expensive so we opt for traditional which involves less queues. At other end we find ourselves in a little village of souvenir shops and eateries including a Starbucks which for some strange reason attracts at least 3 people I see taking photos of – bizarre.

The whole place is very commercialised for a place of worship.

Big Buddah shops

Big Buddah shops

All but Sally climb the steps to the base of Buddah which for some strange reason has a Nazi emblem on it.

Take in temple of a thousand Buddahs which is much more ornate than anything we had seen in Thailand, Cambodia or Laos but is much younger.

Big Buddah and us!

Big Buddah and us!

Lots of incense sticks sold to be burnt. Retrace steps past the 12 generals guarding the big Buddah, lunch in Starbucks, cable car back and this time catch train to Kowloon at a cost of HK$19 each.

John & Deirdre head back to Alex & Natasha’s and we collapse for a kip after our afternoon tea before an evening snack with wine in the Club Lounge and a stroll out to see the laser show which is slightly better as there are less clouds.

Stroll for a bit past hotel looking at shops and people watching. Still queues waiting to be allowed into the Hermes shop at 8:30 pm!

Tuesday 3 February

Our last day in HK and weather is kind. Meet J & D at cable car station to go up Peak Mountain.

Hong Kong from the Peak

Hong Kong from the Peak

Efficient method of getting people into two car train but we have to stand which is not easy bearing in mind some of the journey is at 1:4.

Reach top, listen to as much as possible the commentary but appliances not particularly good and sun blocks out visability¬†on tablets anyway. After some time at top, not windy at all, retreat to Bubba Gump’s for coffee ( expensive) and the gift shop for a present for Lizzie.

Artist at work

Artist at work

Shop worker / owner drew dragon on card which he did so quickly I nearly missed the photo.

Down on cable car, less crowded than up, met Alex (Ben still unwell so Natasha at home) and walked to town park wig it’s artificial lake.

Lots of fish in the rather splendid oasis of green and water and in stark contrast to the concrete mass that is Central HK.

Hong Kong park

Hong Kong park

Picnic lunch and then taxi, Star Ferry back to hotel for last afternoon tea, pick up bags, shuttle to Kowloon, train to airport and flight to Sydney.

A very pleasant few days, perhaps we will return at some stage, there were a few things we didn’t get to see.

More pictures on Facebook.

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Andorra 2015

Our third year here although this time with the after effects of Mel’s shoulder operation she needs more help in looking after Harry.

Easyjet flight to Gatwick full and on time, Premier Inn, eventually, found is still the best value for a good night’s kip at Gatwick South Terminal.

Why is it that I invariably bump into someone I know at airports, tonight it is the turn of Stuart Divall and his son who were on the same plane from IoM but we didn’t see each other until we meet in Costa at Premier Inn.

Next morning’s Easyjet flight to Barcelona on time and full with one very smelly woman with a child sufficiently far away not to bother us. Pick up car at “Firefly” desk at airport and whilst car gets us to Andorra, it is probably the worst hire car I have ever had. No comfort factor, rear windows that only open at an angle. It just looks like a Postman Pat car and what’s more it is not bright red but a maroon red and scratched all over.

Stop off at hyper market just over border for provisions and reach apartment complex about 5:30 just after Sarah, Ali, Harry and Sarah’s friend Tracey Ingle. Settle in and an early night with Harry taken out onto the slopes the following morning.

View from appartment

View from appartment

Harry didn’t like his first go, came back with Ali and was quite contented playing with his toys. ¬†We had other plans though and took him back to the slopes where this time he loved it before tiredness set in and it was a trip back to the apartment for a two hour sleep followed by a snowball “fight” in the late afternoon.

Another day and now Harry likes skiing but was so overtired.

First skiing lesson of the year

First skiing lesson of the year

Can’t believe the big cafe at Grau Roig at just under 7000 ft is now closed. The hotel was, consequently, very crowded and the hot chocolate very thick and sickly – not too be recommended.

Having sorted PIN on pre paid ‚ā¨ card, catch cable car up from El Tarter to the cafe at 6800 ft. Breathing here difficult for those with breathing difficulties but lovely atmosphere, could sit here for hours watching the world wizz past on skis or boards.

Obligatory shopping for Sal & Mel in Andorra La Vella at Mango & Desigual. Mel does have a good eye for a bargain and an hour long swim for Harry, Mel & Richard in the public swimming pool. The hot chocolate served here is much better and cheaper at only ‚ā¨2 a cup.

Harry and best friend, Auntie Mel

Harry and best friend, Auntie Mel sharing an Orange

We leave on Friday, one day earlier than normal as there are no Easyjet flights back to the Island on Saturday and we want to be back early to pack for our next adventure. We do arrive at Barcelona a bit early but we didn’t want to miss flight. Manage to get to airport despite Sat Nav doing a dalek impersonation probably due to the poor connection that our Postman Pat car provided.

Home about 30 minutes late after a journey that took about 13 hours and involved us in stopping in 4 countries. Oh the joy of international travel.

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2014 highlights

High water at Skenfrith  Skenfrith

Snow in Andorra  Snow in Andorra

Sydney harbour  Sydney Harbour

Hobart  Hobart Waterfront

Gordon River, Strahan  Gordon River

Cradle Mountain TAS  Cradle Mountain

Wallabies at Launceston, TAS  Wallaby at Launceston

Rollers at Freycinet, TAS  Rollers at Freycinet

Cape Arthur, TAS  Cape Arthur

Melbourne  Melbourne

Puffing Billy  Puffing Billy

Cape Otway Conservation Centre  Cape Otway Conservation Centre

The Grampians Grampian Mountains

Penguin Island  Penguin Island

Adelaide  Adelaide

Brisbane  Brisbane

Byron Bay  Byron Bay

Newcastle  Newcastle

Last day in Sydney  Sydney

Greve de Lecq, Jersey  Greve de Lecq, Jersey

Calf of Man from Isle of Man  Calf of Man from Isle of Man

Steam trains at home on the Isle of Man  Steam Trains on the Isle of Man

Proposal & Graduation  Engaging Graduation

Edinburgh Commonwealth Games mens 100m  Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh

Dunbar, Scotland  Dunbar

Morges, Switzerland  Morges

Lucerne  Lucerne

Zurich  Zurich

Cornier Lighthouse, Jersey  La Corbiere Lighthouse, Jersey

Charringworth Manor  Charringworth Manor

London Poppies  London Poppies

Gardens in Marrakech  Gardens @ Marrakech

Essaouira Essaouira

Clearwell  Clearwell

Christmas Dinner  Christmas Dinner

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Panto

Panto blog For those of you not based in the UK, you may have never come across a Pantomime (Panto for short) so first of all, I thought a definition is called for. Wikipedia provides the following but that is only part of the story: “Pantomime (informally panto), is a type of musical comedy stage production, designed for family entertainment.

It was developed in England and is generally performed during the Christmas and New Year season.” Most pantos are based around a fairy tail, such as Cinderella or Puss in Boots and as Wikipedia says, is family entertainment although it does make it funnier if some of the leading female parts are played by men and of course the other way around as can be seen from the 2nd picture!

On our little island of 80,000 or so people, we are blessed with many good actors and singers some of whom can be seen on stage in the various Pantos that perform at this time of year.

The Peel Pantoloons is one such group and as their name suggests, is based in Peel on the West Coast of the Isle of Man.image The Panto this year was Cinderella and was very capably directed by my daughter, Mel Read.

OK, I am of course biased in that last statement but judging by the comments that she received both verbally and on the group’s Facebook page this was the best Panto they had put on and was a sell out for 4 of the 7 performances.

Hilarity reigned supreme in the performances especially by the two ugly sisters and Buttons who all more or less stuck to the story of Cinderella, albeit with many impromptu deviations.

A big sing-along that the audience can take part in and this year’s rendition of “The 12 days of Christmas” must rank as one of the funniest seen. image

As always, there was lots of audience contributions of “it’s behind you” or “oh no it isn’t” in response to “oh yes it is”.

Sadly, the two photos do not do the whole performance justice, I was helping front and backstage so really didn’t have time to take photos.

Obviously you need good actors, singers, set designers, music, lighting, costumes, props etc. but it is amazing what can be done with a cast of about 20, age ranged from 7 to c40 all of whom give their time free of charge.

The best comments this year were from someone who wondered how many of the cast were professionals imported from the UK for the show (answer: none) and a young lad on the way out after a performance who just said “that was seriously awesome”.

If you get a chance to see a Panto, do so, you – hopefully – won’t be disappointed!

Tickets for 2015 Peel Panto will go on sale sometime in early November but for now, scripts are being read so as to choose this year’s Panto.

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Operations, concerts and Christmas

6 November 2014. The day of daughter Mel’s shoulder operation after 18 months + of agony following a fall off a chair and we come down to a paid for op to hopefully get it right. However old or young your child is you still worry when they have an operation and Mel has been particularly unlucky with 7 operations excluding a 2nd attempt at a tonsillectomy.

Unlike her sister, Flic, who earlier in the year had to fast overnight and then had to wait until 6pm for her back operation, Mel was operated on by about 11am and out of surgery by about 2pm. “Out” is quite appropriate afterwards as she asked for a drink several times when she was coming around and with only a nurse to ask she got frustrated with words “I want a drink and I want it now”! – most unlike Mel.

image image

With a little help from friends she managed dinner, stayed in the night and came back to ours for a while. We had anticipated only a few weeks but in the end it lasted until Christmas although we did have a coupe of weekends away late November and early December that had been planned the previous year.

It was just like having a teenager in the house again as of course she couldn’t do anything much so meals in bed upstairs, help with dressing, bathing and all sorts of things including driving her to various things. Mel, of course, is the Peel Panto Director and whilst most of this year’s show had been set and cast before the operation, there were still things to finalise which had to be done there rather than from our house, so we acted as chauffeur.

We had good intentions of helping sort some of her house things out but as with all good intentions, these went by the wayside, especially as we were having our kitchen re-done, the living room lights replaced, planning for some time in Australia and Christmas preparations to attend to.

The surgeon is pleased with her progress and light duties at work are expected to start late January with full duties 3 weeks later.

image

image  image

Meanwhile, we have a “new” kitchen, new living room lights, have been to three concerts in the UK (War of the Worlds, John Bishop and Only Men Aloud) and survived Christmas which, like the last few years was held in Clearwell, Gloucestershire in a house designed to sleep 5 but which had, on Christmas night, 10 sleeping and at one time on Boxing Day, had 16 + guide dog in the house – standing room only! Stuart & Lynn had hired a cottage locally (Wainlete) so could join in most of the socialising and also helped with the meals, especially useful in view of some of us being under the weather.

Talking of weather, this year was, for the first time for many a year, dry and clear although a little frost on certain days – these two pictures being taken from our bedroom window within an hour of each other.

image  image

Of course Christmas and Boxing Day wouldn’t be the same without a big family meal and adults pretending to be children and playing with the newly acquired toys. ¬†image image image

All guests departed by early 28 December, in time for us to clean the house for Laura & Jim who arrived the following day for a stay over the New Year. A lovely drive around a few of the villages of the Cotswolds although we were unable to park in either Bourton on the Water or Stow on the Wold, ending up in Broadway for lunch. Much better weather than last year with clear skies and no rain.

Phillip & Sylvia join us for New Year’s Eve in the Butcher’s Arms – it was as good as last year and very reasonable for what you get at just under ¬£60 per head basic cost.

A New Year’s Day walk before Phillip & Sylvia left and a relaxing afternoon by the fire for the rest of us before a traditional game of Canasta in the evening. (Jim & Sally beating Laura & Richard). Lunchtime departure for Laura & Jim the following day and a brief but productive talk with a new Gardner for the house found by chatting up the locals at a local restaurant’s carols and mince pie evening on Christmas Eve.

Depart the following day for an overnight at Alan & Debbie’s near Stafford where I didn’t manage to break anything and we didn’t get held up in traffic the following day so caught our ferry home which was on time, surprisingly not crowded and quite smooth.

The gales started soon afterwards and between 5 January, the day after we got back and 15 January, the island lost at least 8 out of 21 sailings!

Another trip to Andorra beckons!

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