Our retirement adventures

Christmas 2013

Christmas in Clearwell again is now a bit of an institution but of course we are all subject to what the weather can throw at us and this year is no different.

Unload car and hope for a nice relaxing evening on our own before everyone arrives, but….. heating not working!  Very fortunately, we have an excellent heating engineer and he arrives the following morning which is good news. Lunch at the Butcher’s Arms with John & Dierdre who are down for the day, excellent food and service as usual and of course excellent company.

Now for the next problem, we have a flood in the bathroom and we are 5 days before Christmas.  However we are off to Bristol so just mop it up to attack problem later.  Get to IKEA which is quite empty, obviously not many IKEA Christmas presents this year, instead some helpful staff who seem to be pleased to be doing something, then off to see Only Men Aloud.

If you like harmony in your music then get to see these guys. They won a BBC amateur choir competition back in 2008 and have performed with style whenever they can since then.  Some absences from the original line up but this doesn’t detract from an entertaining evening with Jack Topping and a local Salvation Army Band making guest appearances.

By now, the rains have started and the brisk walk up the hill from the Colston Hall is not a comfortable experience although I pass many Friday night pre Christmas party goers wearing clothes more suited to Summer.

Only need SatNav to get me out of Bristol but it gives us directions as if we were 20 minutes ahead of our time, very weird.

Sarah & Harry changed their ferry so as to arrive from Jersey a day early as poor weather expected and boat tomorrow would probably be (it was) cancelled, it is good to see them although Harry asleep when we get home.

21 December 

Happy Harry and Mum

Happy Harry and Mum

Harry wants to Skype us when he wakes up – he’s not quite got used to the fact we are in the next door room but he remembers our names which is good. He has a fantastic laugh which is infectious.

Drive to Port Talbot to see John who is doing well after Joan’s death last June. Good meal in local hotel. Sarah & Harry stay in Clearwell. 

22 December

Off to see Phillip & Sylvia with Sarah & Harry after Sarah manages to fuse the wall sockets by switching on the garage light. Lunch out in local pub and Harry does well, transfixed by the Gruffalo DVD. Return to Clearwell just as ASDA delivery arrives for Sarah.

23 December

Yet even more rain and complete change of clothing required after going food shopping in Coleford. Ali P arrives with Toby and Ava who is doing well at 3 months old after her heart scare and operation. They try to go with Sarah & Harry to Clearwell caves but queue too long in the rain.

Our weekend at the hotel with J & D just after New Year is now to be at the Dormy House Hotel as the one we booked is only to be occupied by us, so we have been moved and upgraded at the same cost.

For about an hour while I drive to Birmingham Airport to collect Mel It stops raining but back to normal on way back.

24 December

Absolute chaos at Gatwick North terminal with a flooded sub station cutting all power to N Terminal. Ali’s booked BA to N Terminal with trains to Reading and Bristol to follow so it is not looking good. Eventually, Ali books a flight to Bristol and Sarah picks him up there. He arrives at about 7 although his scheduled BA flight eventually arrives at Gatwick at about 23:30, some 9 hours late.

Xmas day

Harry with presents

Harry with presents

Harry didn’t really enjoy last Christmas as he was very unwell but this year is different and he is his normal cheeky bubbly self.  He thinks his stocking is a Welly boot but he gradually gets the idea that there might be toys in some of the things wrapped up. Christmas is about the magic for children and Harry is not yet two, so the next couple of Christmases will be even better. 

Lunch of chicken is followed by Christmas pud, delicious, not much on the TV though. Nick and his two boys, Peter and Paul arrive and set up camp for the night in our living room.

Only Flic was missing from today but she arrives the following day with Gary so we now have a house of 11 including Harry.

Harry's "welly boot"

Harry’s “welly boot”

Dinner is a Buffett before Nick and the boys go back to Cambridge and after even more presents are exchanged although Sarah and Ali keep some back for Harry’s birthday. 

Friday 27 December 

Enlist help of Gary, Sarah & her van to take old big TV, old carpet and a few other things to local dump in even more rain.

The first time we have been able to get away for an hour or so, as the others go to IKEA at Bristol, whilst we go to Monmouth dodging the raindrops. The Wye is getting full, not as it was last year but maybe that will come as it is still raining.

Jon Newton had suggested we visit Robin just outside USK this afternoon as we had a book to return to Robin after last year’s MGP. We hadn’t anticipated a wonderful spread for a late lunch put on by Robin and his wife so by he time it got to 5pm we were stuffed and needed to be back at Clearwell to make dinner for Stewart and Lyn, down in Monmouth for 2 days.

Harry and friend

Harry and friend

Arrived just before them in the end. 

Harry adores Lyn’s guide dog, Jannie which is comforting. 

Saturday 28 December 

Ali has managed to fix the bathroom leak and put some mastic around the bath whilst Sarah packs the van for their early departure tomorrow at about half five in the morning. Thankfully no repetition of last year when Sarah and Harry were stranded for five days with Ali flying back to Jersey from Liverpool on his own. 

Sunday 29 December 

Only slightly hear the early departures but up early ourselves as we are off to Fleet to meet up with VIV. First we stop and buy new bedding for Clearwell and Mel goes with Flic for an afternoon’s shop in Reading. 

More reminiscences about NZ with VIV and then back to pick up Mel and her extra suitcase that she got back to the UK from Florida but couldn’t get back to the IOM from Gatwick.

Monday 30 December 

Still more rain and our journey even to Monmouth encounters a very swollen River Wye as well as pockets of standing water all over he place.

Jim & Laura’s flight from Jersey is 3 hours late arriving so they miss lunch which we have with Elizabeth at a canal-side pub near Solihull.

Only a very brief hallo and goodbye to Jim & Laura for Mel who we drop off at BhX for her flight back home and we depart for Clearwell via Cheltenham with Laura & Jim.

Wye in full flow at Skenfrith New Years Day

Wye in full flow at Skenfrith New Years Day


New Year’s Eve

Still wet, so not a lot of point walking too far although we manage a stroll around Monmouth and then a brief drive to Tintern and Chepstow, just to show Jim & Laura the area.   

Evening meal at the Butchers Arms was excellent value for money with welcome drink and midnight champagne included in the price. Not a full restaurant but a very lively evening. 

New Year’s Day 

Rainbow at Symonds Yat

Rainbow at Symonds Yat

More incessant rain and a visit out before lunch totally out of the question, when will the rain stop? Lunch booked at the Bell in Skenfrith but our journey there is delayed by an impassable road between Newland and Redbrook and slowed by several floods from Monmouth onwards.   

A few people had called off so atmosphere in Bell not brilliant, but food OK.
Possibly the chef was one of those not able to get in as the menu a tad limited?

Although at an adjacent table, a woman protested about the food and really made herself look very silly, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the food, strange. Richard suffering from sore throat and can’t swallow well making meal slower than normal. 

River Wye under bridge outside hotel exceptionally high and drive back very slow through more flooded areas. 

2 January 

Laura, Jim & Sal at Symonds Yat

Laura, Jim & Sal at Symonds Yat

A very brown Wye at Symonds Yat

A very brown Wye at Symonds Yat

A clear day at last!

Go up to Symonds Yat with good views and a rainbow in view for a brief while.

Many logs floating down a very brown and flooded Wye river and a few twitchers around but nothing really to see in the way of birds – they were complaining of the cold! 

Off to Labels in Ross for some retail therapy and lunch, passing so many flooded fields. Those around Ross-on-Wye were not flooded when we went to collect Jim & Laura from Birmingham Airport but you now cannot see the join between Wye and fields.

Holiday cottages regional rep rings and we now have an inspection next Tuesday so the purchase of new bedding a few days ago timely.

Brief visit to Sainsbury’s again for some “free from” items for Morag that she can’t get in Jersey.

3 January

Chimney Sweep arrives to clean chimney – no issues here fortunately although a fire brick probably needs replacing soon. 
Take Laura & Jim back to BHX, and off to Dunhelm Mill for more bedding.

Begin to clear up at Clearwell, our home for the last three weeks; this is the longest continuous time we have stayed in Clearwell since we bought the house.

4 January 

Tidy up and off to Dormy House Hotel for a weekend with John & Dierdre. Surprise, surprise, it is still raining and by now also very windy.   

The hotel has just gone through an £10m refit although the spa is only opening mid February. Photographs cannot do it justice, just visit their website:

Doormen at front door, seats by reception to sit down at, guided tour around hotel before being taken to room which has a tablet for info, a clock radio that doubles up with an iPod charger, fruit, biscuits, coffee machine, tea in pyramid bags, wonderfully comfy bedding and proper milk on demand rather than those ubiquitous UHT pots.

The staff are so well trained, they are friendly (it is as though they are showing you around their own homes), take a pride in their work and the public areas have real fires that are topped up regularly.

Is it that all the staff are locals?

Dinner in the Michelin * restaurant, The Garden Room, very good value for money at £40pp. No venturing out from this fantastic hotel tonight, weather awful. 

5 January 

A drive to Broadway and a look around the shops, pretty deserted, presumably no one has any money left after Christmas or just can’t be bothered to go out in view of the really bad weather as by the time we leave and head for Stow-on-the-wold, the rain is starting again. Steam Packet ring to say tomorrow’s sailing almost certainly cancelled due to bad weather so we opt for Tuesday afternnon’s sailing instead. Dinner in the Potting Shed tonight.

Weather even worse tonight and a bit fearful about trees falling on cars in car park. 

6 January 

Get a very welcome “party bag” on departure of water and what probably are home baked biscuits before heading up M5 & M6 to Alan & Debbie’s.

Never been here before but sat nav does it’s job eventually and we find Rose Cottage after driving through flooded single lane roads.


Indian meal with the Read's, the Wall's and Holly Lewis

Indian meal with the Read’s, the Wall’s and Holly Lewis

Although small, it is wonderfully decorated and appointed with a lovely roaring fire.

Time flies when you are catching up after an absence of a number of years and it is soon time for dinner in Stafford at an Indian where we can take our own food.

Sam and his girlfriend, Holly Lewis, join us and we discover that one of Holly’s friends is the girlfriend of the grandson of one of Sally’s former colleagues.

7 January 

Set off at half ten for drive to Heysham. Join M6 at J14 but no sooner are we on motorway, matrix boards advise of an accident. Crawl to a halt just after J16 @ 11am and remain stationary for about two hours.

M6 queue at a standstill

M6 queue at a standstill

A lorry has overturned we eventually discover from traffic reports, hit another and shed it’s load.

The Air Ambulance had been required and all lanes closed.

It took us 3 hours to cover the distance from J16 to Keele services (about 3 miles) so we won’t be getting home today as ferry due to leave at 2:15pm and we are at least 2 hours away when we clear the crash at about 2pm.

Phone Steam Packet who are aware of delays on Motorway and transfer us to sailing tomorrow afternoon as tonight’s already full. An enforced night in Holiday Inn Lancaster with a visit to Sainsbury’s and Matalan before a very smooth crossing back the following day.   

Whilst we will be glad to be back home we did have a wonderful Christmas, seeing 11 sets of friends and relatives (apart from Sarah, Flic & Mel) in such a short space of time and driving just under 1700 miles.

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Christmas 2012

Thursday 20 December

The drive from Heysham to Clearwell somewhat stressful due to torrential rain. Sal had not been well the previous night, had a doctor’s visit so we were glad we were able to travel.

Friday 21 December

A clear day and shopping in Cheltenham for food, last minute presents and a Dongle for Internet access. Whoever came up with the name Dongle? Internet access very slow at Clearwell so not sure Dongle was worth it.

Saturday 22 December

Not such a good day but better than they had in Cornwall with floods. Sarah, Ali & Harry arrive after an overnight ferry from Jersey and a visit to Yeovil. Manage to fuse lights as outside garage lights not good.

Sunday 23 December

Hardly any rain but Wye starting to swell on road to Monmouth. No Cauliflowers in shops. Sarah, Ali and Harry off to Hereford to see Ali P and Craig. Flic and Mel arrive.

Monday 24 December

Wye really full after overnight rain and crowded. Internet access good in Cafe Nero whilst girls shopped in Monmouth. Sarah, Ali and Harry back from Hereford but no swimming as pool closed at Ross. Lots of flooding at Ross. Harry very tired.

Tuesday 25 December

What a day for your first Christmas, Harrison, spending virtually the whole day curled up on your mum or dad with a temperature of abut 40, no energy, no smiles and sickness. Let us hope you are better tomorrow and that it is not contagious. Well at least I got some presents this year but Mel managed to get two slow cookers – so much for the Secret Santa list!

Harry & Sarah Xmas 2012

Harry & Sarah Xmas 2012

No walks today as Harry not well which is a shame as weather bright and only a little drizzle, unlike parts of the country.

Wednesday 26 December

Harry a bit better but didn’t sleep much, not surprising as he slept most of Christmas day. He did manage to open some presents though. Nick, Peter and Paul arrive and Gary came to see Flic after work in the early morning.

Harry opening Xmas presents with Flic

Harry opening Xmas presents with Flic

Ali & Harry @ Clearwell

Ali & Harry @ Clearwell

Sarah and Ali’s ferry home cancelled due to bad weather. Sarah not able to book anything until 2013 so Ali has to fly back on 28 December

Xmas @ Clearwell

Xmas @ Clearwell


Thursday 27 December

Stuart and Lynn (Ali’s dad and step mum) visit but only manage to do small walks as weather not brilliant. Harry now beginning to get better. Re-arrange ferry back to IoM for 31 December for a quiet NY eve.

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Mikado & Harry

Sunday 7 October

Back to “home life”, whatever that is!  Missed a number of Mikado rehearsals over the last few months so must go now to as many as I can but of course all the moves have changed so in that respect I haven’t missed anything. No rabies tablets available on the island so we will have to stay well clear of animals on our SE Asia adventures.  All other medication sorted including Malaria @ £100 each.

Tuesday 9 October

Get text from Sarah to say that Harry won the photo competition we took him to whilst we were in Jersey.  Harry is now the Face of Boots Jersey for age 0 – 1!!  Well done Harry and thoroughly deserved the little beauty. Friday 12 October

Sal off to Birmingham then train to Reading to meet up with the family and whilst Flybe Birmingham’s flight is on time for a change, train to Reading breaks down and Sal arrives an hour late.  Sal watches Flic’s performance as Piti-sing in Reading G & S’s Mikado, shame I can’t get there but rehearsals beckon.

Somewhat amazing that both Mel and Flic are Piti-Sing in two G & S society’s productions of Mikado put on at the same time!

Saturday 13 October

Redeye to Gatwick and have used Flybe points for an upgrade so as to bring luggage back – lounge at Ronaldsway much improved from the last time I was in there.  An hour an a half at Flic’s with Sarah, Ali & Harry before we head for Marlow and our 40th wedding anniversary weekend with Phillip & Sylvia (their 45th on the same day).  Phillip drives us to London and we dive down to an NCP near Centre Point at a cost of £32 for the day which bearing in mind there are four of us wasn’t too bad. Saturday afternoon Matinee of Singing in the Rain and we are in Stalls Row B so, yes, we get very wet at the end of each half!!!!  Well performed by the energetic cast but I hope it isn’t raining when we get outside! Browse Foyles and then a Chinese meal at Hakkans, a very popular restaurant tucked away behind Tottenham Court Road Tube Station.

Sunday 14th October

Exactly the same type of weather as we had on our wedding day, clear blue skies and lovely autumn colours.  We are staying at the Compleat Angler in Marlowe just across from the church which looked lovely in the blue sky. Waddesdon Manor for the day beckons and the drive there is littered with autumn colours – fantastic show this year.  Last time I was at Waddesdon Manor was when I was about 8 or 9 with my Mum & Dad so don’t remember much about it.  Fantasticly preserved house with lots of interesting artefacts etc.  Hire an electronic guide (like an i-phone only a bit bigger) which was well worth it.  Lots of Rollers in the grounds and even one from Jersey.   Exhibition of modern art was interesting, not always my cup of tea but these ones were good

Appropriate wording for 40th

Waddesdon Manor 14.10.12

Sal & Phillip @ Waddesdon Manor 14.10.12

Monday 15 October

Back to Flic’s to look after her after her op.  It will take about a week to 10 days but we can only stay until Wednesday so hope she is OK.

Tuesday 16 October

Lunch with Viv in Fleet

Wednesday 17 October

Put Sal on train to Solihull as she is going to Berlin tonight with Elizabeth and I drive back to Gatwick in glorious sunshine.  Arrive back in IoM in howling gale and having just missed torrential rain all day.

Friday 19 October

Lunch with “les girls” which is, as always, a pleasure ruined only by the fact they have to go back to work.

Tuesday 23 October

Sal back from Berlin where she had wonderful weather and a good time.  Sal has phone call to offer her a few days “locum” work at Finch Hill which is exciting. First night of Mikado, not too many mistakes; let us hope it stays that way all week but I have to put on lipstick!!!

The very thought of it.

Thursday 25 October

We are doing the G & S buffet on Saturday so start collecting the food.  Our 2nd visit to Tesco the following day was aborted as there were no car parking spaces – unheard of.

Saturday 27 October

Last night of Mikado, sad as it went well and I had almost learnt all of the words!  Simon Fletcher was amazing and rightly received an award.  After show party well received and I even won the first prize in the raffle (albeit that I chose the prize that was supposed to be given to Sal for the excellent buffet!)

Home by 1:50 and in bed by 1:20  (clocks went back)!

Wednesday 31 October

Freezing cold at Mel’s whilst workmen fit new windows and I wait for Sky man (again, as last week’s aborted).  Again they can’t install it and it may have to go on front wall which means a planning application.  Go out there following day as well but hail storm late afternoon precludes fitting today – better try Monday.

Friday 2 November

Another buffet (for Trident’s quiz night) to prepare which appears to be well received although Sal goes off to her old work for another function.

Monday 5 November

Sky guys ring at 4:10pm which is stupidly late to go up and fix the dish on the chimney.  I couldn’t get there for another 25 minutes which leaves them no time to go up in daylight.  Their office fails to communicate with me on what they want me to do so there’s another day without Sky for Mel.

Tuesday 6 November

Windows and Sky finished for Mel!!!!

Thursday 8 November

Pack and off for our SE Asia adventure.  Another update follows when we get back but ferry an hour + late leaving so that is not a good start.

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Retirement weekend

15 June

My last day at work except that it is only a half day!  Not sure what to expect really although I did retire for 9 days once before (from RBS/Coutts/NatWest) in 2002 this is definitely more permanent.

Signed loads and loads of directorship resignation letters – Yippee.  Not sure who is going to get my directorships but some will definitely go to Marion.

Spoke to one client who said he would contact me after a while “when I was free”.  I’m not getting a divorce I think – not that I know of anyway!

Sad to not be speaking to some of the clients again, glad not to be dealing with others.  Will miss the companionship of colleagues although no doubt will bump into many of them on occasions on the island.

Hadn’t rehearsed any speech at all for a presentation as mind on other things.  Lovely card and comments from colleagues and a nice contribution to my new lens for camera.  No tears though unlike at Sally’s doctor’s surgery at the lunch for her – and those were from those still there.

Trust me to choose a day to hold a retirement meal when England are playing in Euro 12. They don’t stand a chance in the competition anyway and as this is only a group stage there will be others.  Here’s hoping they win though.

Didn’t quite get soaked on way to Views for final meal but not far from it.  Good meal and spoke to most people.  Home at 11pm to unwind for the next “Journey”.

16 June

The first day of retirement for both of us and what do we have to do? Alarm set and out of house by 9:20 to get medication from Chemist and off to Peel to see a man about a TV ariel @ Mel’s house!  Difficult to avoid puddles on way with rain continuing – was it really Thursday evening when it last wasn’t raining?

Now off to diabetes centre for visit to Dr K.  At least he explained it in layman’s terms.

Another Views visit tonight – this time for Sal’s retirement do.  What a good idea the disposable cameras was with lots of photos taken for someone to put into a little book.  No tears this time , just lots of hugs and kisses with the most popular words being  “we’ll miss you” & “have a fantastic time, I’m jealous”.  Just as well we packed our cases earlier as just too tired to do anything other than sleep afterwards.

17 June

This is it.  Off on the Ben to Heysham and the long slog down the UK’s motorways to Heathrow.  Sometimes the motorways seem just like car-parks moving at a gentile 50mph.  No rain which makes a change form the last few days.  A bit of luxury at Heathrow as we opted for a stay and park at the Sofitel @ T5 before we fly off tomorrow.

Ripped off at a Restaurant at T5 who shall remain nameless only because I can’t find the receipt.  I mean to say, £9 for a large glass of red whine (sic).

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Pre Retirement

7 June

Visit to Nurse @ Doctor’s surgery – I have Diabetes Type 2!!!!  That would hopefully explain the pain in my stomach /side and the thirstiness since the new year.  Nurse talked and talked and quite frankly not much of it went in.

The alternative diagnosis doesn’t bear thinking about.

Took bikers out to Promenade shirts area and then phoned Sal.  Big box of tablets now in my possession. (Added later: she didn’t tell me about the side effects).

We have holidays booked to visit (apart from the UK) 13 countries between now and 2013 with many planned for 2013 – this is too much to take in!!!

Spoke to Aviva but could only get specialist appointment on 16 June after I leave Trident, so not covered!!!  Must make sure Trident pay me for the 5.5 days they owe me after 15 June.

8 June (Friday and Senior Race Day)

Well, another soggy day with no racing.

Still trying to come to terms with yesterday’s visit to Doctor – told Sarah, Flic & Mel now.  Bikers went out to try to watch racing but no chance of racing today – dull, wet and foggy on hills

9 June

Is the TT really finished?  Our Homestay bikers left the house at about 9:30 to watch the racing.  ‘Tis now nearly 6pm and the racing has only just started.  Will they be bored with they get back?

10 June (Sunday)

Why couldn`t they have done the racing today – lovely weather.

11 June

My last week at work!!!  Lovely to have the (Homestay) bikers still here.  Dinner at La Piazza followed by drinks at Sir Normans.

12 June

An absolutely fantastic evening with “les girls”.

Thank you so much Marion, Jaime & Tove for your lovely present  and wonderful company that has made my last few months at work much more civilised.  Will miss your company and the banter! x

13 June

Had morning off  work – only three more days left

14 June

My last bus ride to work with Trevor – we never did put the world to rights!

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