Our retirement adventures

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 € 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 €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



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.


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.

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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.


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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.

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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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