‘Posh frock’ bought

Whenever we are getting close to going on a cruise, George always tries to get me to by a new dress for the formal nights.  I already have several, and don’t see the need to buy for the sake of buying.

As someone who loathes shopping for clothes, I occasionally have to be dragged screaming and kicking through the shop doors.

Well, this morning we had a look round Debenhams, I tried on three full-length numbers, and actually bought one!

It’s pale pink with a narrow silver stripe running through it, it has spaghetti straps and a v-neck, and is cut on the bias so it falls nicely.

And THAT’S IT  for the next year, as far as me and dress shopping goes!

What has happened to the weather?

A week ago we were just beginning to enjoy some warm weather. I had spent a couple of days laying on a sun lounger in the back garden giving my white body a bit of colour before we go on holiday.

The garden was just about tidy with the grass cut and vegetable plot full. Our flower borders were virtually weed-free (temporarily anyway) and the flowers were bursting open and saying hello to us.

For a moment Deb and I thought that summer had come at last.

On Tuesday of this week I was relaxing in the sunshine after achieving all the little jobs that had to be done in the garden before we go on our cruise.

Yesterday I got up, still in a summer mood, but as I ventured into the garden to have a chat with the vegetables I felt distinctly cold. As the day went on the temperature dropped and by late afternoon even inside the house was uncomfortably cool.

Agh!….the central heating switched on.

This was the first time it has clicked into life since the beginning of the month.

Beginning to panic, the log fire, that had been cleaned and deemed unnecessary for the summer, was now made up in case we needed to light it again later.

Well, after getting home from our ballroom dance lessons, I admitted defeat and lit the fire. It was only there for a bit of gentle background warmth but it felt so wrong to have a fire at this time of the year.

Today it is not so cold but certainly not as warm as it has been. The forecasters suggest it will warm up again by the weekend so perhaps this was just a temporary blip and summer is actually here….

….I do hope so!!

Into Wales…

We drove across the border on Monday (well, it is only about six miles from here!) to visit Raglan Castle.  It’s a great place, although it’s not run by English Heritage, but by the Welsh version, Cadw, so things were slightly different.  There was no audio guide, and we were surprised at how much we missed having one.  and there was no tearoom/cafe, just a place about half a mile away that didn’t particularly inspire us.

But the castle was lovely, or what’s left of it!  It must have been pretty spectacular in it’s Tudor heyday, what with formal and informal gardens, a bowling green, and even a lake that had little islands and canals on it.

Worth the visit, even worth getting lost in the one-way dual carriageway system on the way home!

Then yesterday we were off out again, but this time just into Hereford where we called into the City Hall to collect our postal voting papers for the EU referendum.  They are already completed and in the post, so job done, and now can all politicians STOP trying to persuade us one way or the other.  Am totally fed up with all the lying and scaremongering.

Hopefully we’ll escape the worst of it when we’re at sea!

Boring, boring…

What a boring day.  Too wet to barely set foot out the front door, and nothing urgent to do indoors.

I’ve been reduced to investigating photo-sharing websites.

And the icing on the boring cake?  Frigging football on the telly, and still tipping it down so I can’t retreat to the summerhouse without getting soaked.

Time for wine….

“Heritage Tuesday!”

Tuesdays have recently become our day for visiting somewhere different, and we’ve been making use of our English Heritage membership to explore and learn about the sites we go to.

Yesterday we went to Goodrich Castle, a few miles south of Ross-on-Wye.  The weather was good (shorts and tshirts for both of us), and as usual the free audio tour guide was excellent.

There was quite a lot to see, even though the castle was wrecked by Cromwell’s forces in the Civil War, and of course the setting – in the heart of the Wye Valley – was glorious.

We were only there for a couple of hours or so, but it was worth the trip.

So now I think we’ve exhausted the EH sites within a 40-minute or so drive from home, so we’ll need to look a bit further for next week!  Or maybe take our passports and venture into Wales…..

Planning a World Cruise – Part 7

What about the house while you are away?

My topic this time, is for those people who are leaving their house empty during a world cruise. I assume a lot of you will have family remaining at the house, but some of you will not, so your home will be deserted for a part, or all of the winter.

Let’s start with a very important message:

Don’t advertise the fact that you are going away and leaving an empty house.

It is amazing how clever some crooks are, and there are sure to be some that scan cruising forums to find suitable targets.

House Insurance

The next important thing is to check that your house insurance company is willing to cover your home while it is empty. Many companies state a maximum period that the house can be empty but you might find they are prepared to extend the cover for longer periods. You have nothing to lose by asking them.

If they refuse point blank then you will have to look for a new insurer, or some form of top-up cover while you are away.

So my message here is check the house insurance position as soon as you can, so there is time to sort out an alternative if necessary.

Let’s look at the position we were in when we were away in 2012.

Our house insurance company is ‘Privilege’. They offer cover for a maximum of 60 continuous days.

I rang them and asked if it would be possible to extend the cover and they agreed as long as we did certain things:

  • Someone had to visit and inspect the property at least once a week
  • There had to be the minimum standard of security locks on doors and windows
  • The water had to be turned off
  • The electricity had to be turned off
  • The gas had to be turned off
  • The house had to be heated to a minimum temperature of 10°C.

At this point I saw a major snag that we needed electricity to supply our boiler, and gas to run it.

The company were ready for this and there is a clause which says electricity and gas can be maintained to supply the heating system.

Hence you have to isolate electricity, and gas within the house as much as possible, but leave the boiler running with a low temperature setting.

The amazing thing was that our insurance company didn’t require any premium increase.

Friend or family visits

We organised a friend, who lived close by, to pop in regularly, take a look around the inside and outside, and water our houseplants. He kept a log of when he visited as proof that the house had been checked. Our son who lived a little further away also came in from time to time to check the post. We told him to open everything to make sure there were no unexpected bills or unusual letters that needed attention.

I imagine there are very few of you who can’t find a friend or neighbour to make regular checks for you. Of course you might have to offer an incentive of some sort.

The only thing we discovered was that a house with just minimal heating will show up any cold areas and there might be some unexpected damp spots. After a few weeks the heating was turned up a little higher and that solved the problem.

Also be prepared to lose a few houseplants to unusual watering regimes. Strangers (in all good faith) may forget to water them, or over-water them with irreversible results.

In order to avoid unnecessary problems, be sure to get boilers serviced and check for obvious things like loose or broken roof tiles, blocked gutters, and other such damage that could be present.

It is probably a good idea to organise a plumber who is willing to take instructions from whoever is visiting.

No nearby friends, family or suitable neighbours

OK let’s move on to the rare situation where you just can’t find a suitable person to come and visit your home.

Your options are:

  1. Top-up insurance for unoccupied house
  2. House sitter
  3. Short term let

 

  1. There are many insurance companies that offer insurance for unoccupied houses for any duration. I have not investigated prices of such insurance but a quick visit to a broker, or search online will get you a solution.
  2. House sitting is a very common occupation for people who want to make money from having a holiday in someone else’s house. Long duration house sitters are expensive with agencies asking £10 a day plus food and travel costs. I have also found agencies online that have lists of people who house sit for free, and many looking for long duration opportunities.
  3. The third option of a short term let is a growing trend, and you actually get paid. It does however depend on your location as these people are usually professionals wanting inexpensive accommodation near their workplace.

Summary

Hopefully I have triggered a few ideas for those people wanting to sort out an empty house while sailing around the world. There is no reason to give up the chance of seeing the world because of an unoccupied house.

Just remember to plan ahead as early as possible:

  • Check your house insurance company
  • Ask friends and family who might check the house while you are away
  • If necessary check out insurance top-up or house sitting options
  • Get boilers serviced and check house for obvious problems that could become disasters in the winter months while you are away
  • AND….don’t advertise the fact that you will be away

 

I will speak to you again soon.

 

Remember that if you have suggestions, or perhaps a problem or issue I haven’t covered yet, please send me a comment via the link.

I will publish all suitable suggestions and try and find an answer for your issues.

In or out of the EU?

The people of Britain are about to have a vote to decide if we should stay in, or to leave the European Union. It is truly the most remarkable opportunity to have our say, but the problem is that the arguments being put forward by the IN and OUT teams are virtually all based on ‘Ifs’ ‘buts’ ‘could’ and ‘possibly’.

There are very few hard and fast facts on offer, and much of the rhetoric is based on the fear of staying or going.

So how does a typical member of the British population make up their mind where to put their cross on June 23rd?

I have a deep concern that most people will go the way of the press and television channels are biased towards. Yes I said they were biased as it is obvious that they have stuck a wet finger in the air and checked which way the wind is blowing. They are in the dark just as much as the rest of us are.

So other than the undecided tossing a coin, what else can we use to make our minds up?

Britain pays around £13 billion to Europe annually, or about £35 million a day. Putting it another way each member of the population pays around £200 a year.

OK, Britain actually gets around £5 billion back in subsidies, help for deprived areas, and investments into research. Most of that money goes to the farmers. They get more than £3.5 billion a year.

Yes we must support our poor farmers….mustn’t we?

Firstly, if we come out of the EU we could still pay subsidies to our farmers. But also we could take away the rules and regulations that the EU have created that force our farmers to grow certain crops and avoid others. In other words we would have the freedom to decide the best ways of producing crops, meat and dairy products to match our needs as much as possible.

Going out on our own might also lead Britain to decide just how many farms and farmers we need, and sadly it might show that we have too many. Let’s be honest, no matter who, is subsidising the farmers, we shouldn’t be paying people who are not necessary.

Thinking in a similar way, the money that we get from the EU to invest into research or helping the less well-off areas of Britain could still be available from the money we are no longer contributing.

And that still leaves £8 billion available.

Now, the economic argument has been the major thrust of the ‘IN’ campaign. They threaten us that we will all be worse off, that prices will rise, that more people will be out of work and nobody in Europe will ever trade with Britain again.

This might be true…but no one actually knows until the decision is made.

Even if the predictions are roughly correct, they might just be temporary effects and we could soon have an economic boost as the dust settles. The difference would be that Britain would be making its own decisions about what it does.

Strangely when David Cameron was busy sorting the EU out a few weeks ago, one of the major thrusts of the changes demanded was about immigration. So far the ‘IN’ campaign has not raised the issue of immigration, and the ‘amazingly successful changes’ that Mr Cameron negotiated have not been used.

To balance my thoughts, the ‘OUT’ campaign has similarly avoided facts about what we might gain by leaving the EU. They are also using the ‘might happen’, and ‘poo pooing’ the economic Armageddon threatened by their adversaries.

What the ‘OUT’ side is very clear about is that Britain would have the power to decide so much more than it does at present. We would have more freedom to make and implement laws. We would return to being the nation of Britain rather than an annoying neighbour on the edge of the European club.

Finally I have a suspicion that many politicians, and business organisation would prefer to stay in the EU because it would be easier to continue the quiet easy life that they have now. If we leave the EU these people are going to be forced to make plans, make decisions, and make investments again to make Britain work. They may not like everything that Europe tells us to do, but it does make their lives simpler while they sit back and enjoy their fantastic salaries while the EU does all the hard work.

I seriously doubt if Britain will sink if we leave the EU.

I cannot believe that all the countries in Europe will refuse to sell us what they produce, and even buy the occasional Land Rover, Jaguar, or some of the amazing engineering products that Britain creates.

Of course one of the major benefits of leaving the EU might be that we could stop taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest. We already know the rest of Europe hates our music and this could be the moment the BBC saves a significant amount of their budget.

Oh dear, now I am suggesting a ‘might’ and ‘could’ in my arguments.

Good luck voters, and don’t believe everything the press and politicians tell you.

Mum’s funeral

We found time today to call in briefly at the pub for the monthly community coffee morning.  Spoke to Hilary, our vicar, about the funeral, and she said “God bless” and wished us well.

Andrew and Lynsey arrived almost together, albeit he’d come from Staffordshire and she’d come from Somerset.  We had lunch (home-made pasties, of course!) before setting off for the crematorium in Hereford.

There were around two dozen mourners, mostly family naturally enough, some of whom had travelled from Essex, which is a long way to come.  But there were also two of the senior carers and the owner of Mum’s care home there, which was nice to see.

Mum had a wicker coffin and a humanist ceremony, and it was lovely.  We’d chosen three pieces of music by some of her favourite singers (Matt Monro, the Bee Gees and Nat King Cole), all of which seemed appropriate to the occasion.

My brother gave a little tribute to Mum, not so much her life story but more about her sometimes quirky personality.  Nicely done.

And our daughter read out a poem she’d written, which she’s happy for me to post on here:

Remember me for who I was, the person who you used to know.

I am not frail and never old, so share the smile I show.

Do not miss me, for I have not gone, I’m just waiting out of sight.

And there I’ll wait to meet again, once the time is right.

Do not visit me, for I am not there, headstones are just lifeless, cold.

Instead I dance among the stars, together with friends of old.

Do not mourn me, for I am not dead, tonight I sleep beneath the sea.

And tomorrow I wake in a distant land where together we shall be.

Do not weep; I want not your tears, please think of me and smile.

The sun still shines, the rain still falls, and I shall see you in a while.

Do not seek me, I am not lost, remember the me you used to know.

Hold those memories, but for now it’s time to let me go.

                                                                      (Written by Lynsey Wilson)

How she held it together as she read it I just do not know.  Very proud of her.

After the service most of us went to an inn nearby for the wake, where we had food, drink and much chat.  It was lovely to catch up with people.

Lynsey stayed overnight with us, and has now just left for home.  Time now to move on with our lives, but without Mum.

RIP Mum, much loved and missed xxx

 

 

Flora Day 2016 – Part 2

At about 11:30, Deb and I chose a spot at the lower end of Meneage Street to watch the Midday dance. We got a place at the edge of the pavement in front of an Estate Agent that used to be Boots the Chemist when I was a child. From here we would have a clear view of the dance, but it meant waiting for another half an hour.

It seemed as if for every minute that passed, another layer of people crowded onto the mass of eager watchers. Police and Flora Day officials constantly patrolled up and down the street to ensure the road stayed clear to allow the dancers to get through. More and more people were appearing from the direction of the car parks seeking a spot to stand, or simply to get to the lower part of the town. Eventually the officials called a halt to the endless queue of people, and stopped anyone else coming down towards the Guildhall. This caused a fair bit of verbal friction but with just minutes to go before the dance began, a clear pathway was needed.

Eventually tempers calmed and the wait was almost over.

Boom – tat – ta – ta – tat…..Boom – tat – ta – ta – tat!

The dance had started and once again the band began a four mile slow march around the town with several hundred dancer s behind them.

In this dance the men are dressed in morning suits with top hats. The ladies wear their choice of some absolutely stunning gowns of all designs and colours. These are the invited few who applied months ago to be in this dance. They come from the business men and women of the town plus dignitaries and returning Helstonians from all over the country and usually even from abroad. I have danced it myself on two occasions and will never forget the thrill and pride of being a part of this highlight event of the day.

Just as for the children’s dance it required two bands to give the majority a chance of hearing the tune. It took over 15 minutes for the dance to pass, and by then we could hear the band approaching again after the dance turned around at the top of the street and returned the way it came. This route taken by this dance goes in and out of some shops to really make it magical.

And all the time as we waited the crowds around us cheered and shouted their approval of the spectacle.

As the last of the dancers passed us again, the sound of the band grew gradually quieter as it moved away. The thousands of spectators quietened a little and began to move away to wherever they planned to go now. Some would take up another viewing point, and many would be walking to Lismore Gardens in Cross Street where the dance would stop for a rest. Here the men would take off their top hats and wipe away the sweat of effort, while the ladies straightened and checked their dresses for damage. It is a place to meet and chat with friends and relatives, and perhaps even have a glass of champagne before beginning the second half of the dance.

Deb and I were weary. We had seen so much and waved and chatted to so many old friends. We stood for a while until the crowds began to ease and then we walked up the street towards the car park. We would miss the end of the Midday dance and also the late afternoon finale with the same dancers as for the early morning dance rounding off the official festivities for the day.

Had we been younger with more supple joints and toned muscles I am sure we would have stayed longer and maybe even gone to the funfair at the bottom end of the town. Flora Day has so much for the visitors as well as the locals. The funfair used to be the biggest travelling show in Cornwall but I am not sure if that is still the case. There are stalls selling all kinds of food and crafts on the side of the streets and perhaps there are still the ‘Cheap Jack’ salesmen offering crockery, and pottery, and bedding that I remember from my childhood.

But we had done all we wanted to do, and rather than find somewhere in the town for some lunch, we drove the short distance to Sainsburys to have a long overdue sit down with a snack. Before we left there for our hotel we bought some saffron cake to take home to remind us of Cornwall for a few days.

That evening we ate on our own in the hotel restaurant while sipping a glass of prosecco. Then back in the bedroom we watched the television and drank a bottle of red wine using the tooth mugs as glasses.

After an early night we were up and out of the hotel a little after 8:00 for the drive back home.

It had been a lovely day.

“Bi for now Cornwall”!

If you would like to read more about Flora Day through the eyes of a child in the 1960s, then click on the link below. This will take you to a chapter describing Flora Day from my autobiographical book (called “See ‘e ‘gen Cornwall”) about growing up in Cornwall.

http://trewelm.co.uk/excerpt-page/

Flora Day 2016 – part 1

Last week in a moment of madness, Deb and I decided to go to Cornwall to watch the annual Flora Day celebrations in the town of Helston where I grew up.

Our visit involved a total drive time of over five hours and 500 miles. The hotel room was stupidly expensive, and we were only there for one full day. We got out of bed just after 5:30am on the Saturday, and except for a brief 20 minute break for tea, we stood or walked for the next eight hours. We were shattered by the time we eventually left the crowded town, and it has taken a couple of days for my aching joints to recover.

Was it worth it?

Yes of course it was, and I would do it all again if the opportunity arises.

So to give you a flavour of the day, and why it is such a special day here is a brief description of what we experienced.

Flora Day is a custom that began in pre Christian days, and the current format has certainly been around since the late 1890s. It normally takes place on 8th May but if that falls on a Sunday or a Monday, then it is shifted to the preceding Saturday. The day celebrates that winter is over and summer is back. The shops and houses in the main streets of the town of Helston get decorated with beech branches, bluebells and golden gorse, and many of the roads are closed to traffic for the day.

Deb and I parked our car in the town’s football ground and walked to the centre and took our places in front of the beautiful granite fronted Guildhall. This is where the activities of the day would begin. It was just 6:30 when we arrived and there were already a hundred or more locals and visitors like us, but as the time ticked towards 7:00 the area was packed with hundreds more. The knowledgeable crowds also lined the streets nearby to get the best view of what was to happen.

At 7:00 as the Guildhall clock’s bell sounded the first ding, the bass drummer banged his drum and the rest of the town’s band struck up the delightful Flora Dance tune. As the band and marched away up Meneage Street the first couple of several hundred dancers came down the steps of the Guildhall and began the dance that would wind its way along a four mile route of the town.

The tune is simple, and the dance quite basic, but this moment is so special to the current and past people of Helston. For this early morning dance the young (or not so young) men dress in dark trousers and white shirts with the traditional Flora Day tie plus a sprig of Lily of the Valley pinned to their shirts. The ladies wear their choice of colourful summer dresses and the Lily of the Valley flowers will also be worn somewhere. Even a high number of the crowd wear a small posy of this flower for the day, although the poor Spring weather meant a shortage, so artificial flowers were quite noticeable this year.

Once we had seen the dance begin, we walked through very familiar streets, past the house where I was brought up in Penrose Road, to take up a position to watch the dance again. By now I had spotted and greeted a number of people from my past, and my head was full of so many memories of growing up in this town.

Once we had absorbed this first dance we decided it was a good moment for a drink. The town does not normally have an abundance of cafes but on this day each year, vast numbers of temporary venues open up to supply refreshments. We made our way to the Methodist Chapel for a cup of tea and a chance to sit down for 20 minutes.

From there we went to the St. Johns area of the town where the next act of the day would begin.

The ‘Hal an Tow’ is a really ancient song and dance that is performed at various locations around the town. The hundred or so strong group of performers dress up in costumes that reflect summer, or as the characters in the song. The performers arrive like a rabble of noisy football supporters shouting and waving small branches of beech tree as they bang drums, rattle tambourines or blow whistles. They sing the ”Oggy, Oggy, Oggy” chant every minute or so to whip up the atmosphere.

Then when settled at the correct spot, they begin the song of the Hal an Tow which celebrates the arrival of Summer. It also honours national heroes such as Robin Hood, Sir Francis Drake, St. George and the more local St. Michael. Each verse has a little act that is danced out by the characters and the chorus allows the watching crowd to join in. When the performance ends, the noisy group shout and crash their way to the next location.

Deb and I returned to the centre of the town to get some breakfast. We squeezed through a packed crowd outside of the Guildhall just as the early morning dance ended. Our destination now was Rowe’s the Bakery where we bought a pasty each.  Yes we had a Cornish pasty for breakfast and very nice they were too.

It was time for the next dance now, so we found a suitable spot on the edge of the pavement again. This was the dance for the children of the town. Reports suggest there were upwards of 2000 youngsters from the town all dressed in white. The children are in groups according to their schools distinguished by the boys’ ties or the head garlands worn by the girls. There are so many dancers that two bands are used and even then the tune is difficult to hear for those at the rear of the procession. A more modern feature is that disabled children are able to join in with their wheelchairs pushed by a helping teacher or parent.

This is a wonderful spectacle, and the favourite part of the day for many.

As that dance ended an hour and a half later, the town prepared for the official main event of the day…

…the Midday dance

In the next part I will describe the Midday Dance and sum up our day in Helston.