The cases are packed

Monday morning and we have packed our suitcases for the cruise beginning in two days time. In reality we have packed away enough clothes to keep a small village warm for a day, but our belief is, that if you have a wardrobe full of clothes that are regularly worn,  they might as well come with us.

Anyway, three of the suitcases are zipped up and ready for a zip ties while the final one will be left unsealed with bits we might need overnight tomorrow, and whatever gets remembered at the last minute.

Deb and I are also planning to go to Matalan in Southampton on Wednesday as I still need a new pair of tidy blue trousers, and Deb continues to struggle to find a summer jacket.

We are lucky that our cruise begins and ends in Southampton so the only limiting factor for what we take with us, is the space in the car to carry it.

There is a milestone for my knee tomorrow. I will be wearing the protective surgical stockings for the final time on the drive down to Southampton. I don’t think I will be sitting around too much during our holiday, and I most definitely don’t want to be seen walking around in my shorts in public with the delightful fashion statement of white knee length stockings.

I have finished everything I planned for the garden. The potatoes are poking their noses through the soil, the little broad bean plants grown from seed, have been given their final places in the vegetable plot, and I have also sown several rows of root vegetables in my newly constructed raised bed. Meanwhile Deb has a number of pots of bedding plants now allowed the fresh air of the cold frame and various other flowers plants are growing on racks outside of the greenhouse. Our warming greenhouse still has a few little seedlings of flowers and vegetables along with tomato plants that are in the inside patch of soil, alongside the onions that have been in there since last autumn.

I have loaded my iPod with a selection of music to keep me happy over the fortnight in the Mediterranean, and there are just a couple of electronic gadgets left to charge up.

Virtually just about ready for the journey tomorrow, I foresee a quiet afternoon with a chance to catch up on some of the recorded TV programmes that are waiting to be watched.

While we are away the pair of us intend to be writing reports of life on the ship, and reviews of the ports we will be visiting. As the plan is to have the on-board Wi-Fi package, we hope to be posting on a regular basis…..but it is our holiday, and our enjoyment will be the most important thing on our minds.

Oh, and it looks like warmer weather is on the cards for Britain while we are away, so hopefully those of you who have suffered a cold and damp Spring in Britain will be able to enjoy a bit of warmth as well.

Speak to you again soon.

What happened to the sunshine?

As we get very close to our summer holiday, there has been a lot of jobs that have needed doing before we abandon the British summer.

…did I really say summer??

Last week, when suddenly winter ended and there was a mini heatwave, Deb and I were in Cannock doing a bit of decorating at our son’s flat.

Yes we do the decorating while he is at work. If we didn’t do it, it wouldn’t have got done.

Anyway we arrived on the Wednesday afternoon when the sun was blazing down on the country. We were inside a very hot flat painting the living room ceiling, and rewiring his telephone line that was a trip hazard.

We left the flat and felt the heat of the late afternoon sunshine for a few minutes while we went to our hotel. The room was very hot, but we hoped the air conditioning would deal with that while we both had a shower.

Not a chance. We eventually changed room to one that was bearable.

The next morning it was straight to the flat to continue the decorating.

The sun was shining even hotter.

I now pulled up the carpet from the lounge, hall, and stairs, while Deb painted the walls. This would keep her occupied for the remainder of the day, while I made two trips taking the old carpet to the local recycling centre.

Hot, rather sweaty, and totally shattered by late afternoon, we returned to the hotel for another cool shower. We were too exhausted to go out to dinner, so we ate in the hotel. Then it was back to the room to relax.

…relaxation was abandoned when the shower suddenly decided to give a fountain of sewage smelling water from its plug hole.

…Yuk – in fact very yuk!

We moved room again.

At least the hotel staff were friendly and very helpful. We didn’t have to pay the meal bill.

Friday morning we were up early and ready for the carpet fitters by 8:30. It was still hot and sunny and we had a third day inside a very hot flat.

The carpets were completed by midday, and with the car crammed to the roof with bits and pieces – including the carpet offcuts- we were ready to go home.

Our son came home from work early to sort out his furniture and electronics…after he had inspected our work. I think he was satisfied.

On the way home we dropped off the final bits of carpet before a very hot three hour drive to Herefordshire. Thank goodness for air conditioning.

Of course that was the end of the heatwave.

Since then we have made the most of any dry and warm(ish) weather to do as much as we could in the garden before we go away next week.

It has become cool again, and even the heating turned on last night.

Hopefully it will be warm and sunny for some of our Mediterranean cruise next week.

Now, lets go back to my knee.

Last week I saw my surgeon and he reported that my knee does not need any surgery. In fact it is perfectly healthy. As I appeared confused because of the pain from the last 20 or so years, he said that he did find something while poking about inside my joint.

Apparently I had a membrane called a ‘Plica’ across one of the bones in the knee that was rubbing on it and causing inflammation. During the exploration, he had cut it, out and from his previous experience, believes I will notice an improvement in a few weeks’ time.

And, now nearly five weeks on from the arthroscopy, I do actually think it is less painful. Of course much of that could be due to the exercises I am doing, plus the physical aspects in the garden, but I am hopeful that my knee is going to be less of a pain soon, and I can possibly try out some dancing while away on the cruise.

On a personal high note, I discovered that I had three of my books in the top 50 of Amazon’s cruise book category. It is wonderful to know that so many people enjoy my writing, and especially as one of these books is now 8 years old, but still selling.

Thanks everyone.

That’s enough for now as I may have to go up into the attic to get the suitcases down soon.

Bi for now.

A comedy of errors in Cannock!

We own a first-floor flat in Cannock which our son rents from us.  It was overdue some TLC, so we arranged for new carpets to be laid in the hall, up the stairs, along the landing, and in the living room.

We decided to redecorate the living room before the new carpets went down (daft to do it afterwards!), so booked ourselves into a nearby Holiday Inn for Wednesday and Thursday night.

We checked in and were directed to a room on the 7th floor, which struck us as pretty hot as we went in, but that’s not unusual with hotel rooms AND we were having a mini-heatwave too.  So we whacked the air-con up to Full as we unpacked.

Two hours later, and the room was no cooler, so we headed down to Reception to see if there was another option.  The two girls there were really helpful and found us an alternative room on the 2nd floor.  One of them also found us a free-standing fan, and came up to our first room to help us move our stuff – her reaction when she realised how warm it was?  “Wow, I see what you mean!  will have to get onto the maintenance team about this!”

So now we were in a room on the 2nd floor, which was identical to the first room but a LOT cooler!  It was fine.

On Thursday we spent the day decorating at our flat, returning to the hotel by about 6.00pm, totally exhausted.  Too tired even to go out to eat, so after showering we just opted for a meal in the hotel restaurant, which was fine.

Back in our room (which was lovely and cool!) we sat and watched the TV when there was a strange gurgling noise coming from the bathroom.  George investigated and found smelly ‘brown’ water surging up through the shower drain.  It stank.

A quick phone call to Reception was followed by a visit from the Duty Manager, who held his nose, pulled a face, and told us they’d got us yet another room, this time on the 4th floor.

So we moved our stuff again, and another message was left for the maintenance bods.  And this room seemed to be okay – hooray!

The manager cleared the cost of our meal off of our bill.  He couldn’t give us a discount on the room-rate as we’d paid in full when we booked it, so this was the best he could do.  We were also offered free breakfasts on the Friday, but we had to refuse that as we needed to be back at the flat early to let the carpet fitters in.

So a two-night stay resulted in three different rooms!  That has to be a first – and hopefully it’ll be the last!  We do like the Holiday Inn chain, which suit us and they provide a really nice breakfast (not the Holiday Inn Express, though – that’s nowhere near as nice), and the staff on this occasion couldn’t have been more helpful.

All part of life’s rich tapestry!

Update on my Political thoughts

Well, the USA, Britain and France did bomb targets in Syria, and the world has survived.

I was wrong about the possible retaliation, although the war of words has certainly continued, and seems to be getting seriously worse.

Now, lets clarify my thoughts.

I personally believe that the attacks on Syria were justified to tell the regime that there is a line that must not be crossed, and some countries in the world are brave enough to punish those who sink to killing and maiming innocent people with chemical weapons.

My problem with what happened was that the decision could have been postponed until scientists had gone to that city and checked if the chemical weapons had really been deployed.

This would have given Parliament a chance to discuss and vote on the situation… and I think it would have been backed by our MPs.

Of course it appears that those scientists have now been refused entry to the affected city to gather the evidence.

This would have been yet further justification for the punishment attacks.

I still have just a tiny little concern that even if the scientists had got there, and confirmed a chemical weapon had been used, there was no way of really proving who had launched that weapon.

Yes it would have almost certainly been Syria.

It is a little bit like the chemical attack in Salisbury. To be logical about that situation, why would anybody but the Russians go to the trouble to find the horrible chemical, take it into a peaceful British city, and poison a spy living in Britain who is seen as a traitor to Russia.

But there is no absolute proof.

Hopefully over the next few days and months, the situation will become less volatile, and enemies will begin some form of less aggressive dialogue.

It is a sad thing to say, but I believe virtually every politician in he developed world seems to believe that it is easier to shout and threaten people if they have an opposing view from themselves.

Us, the general public from Britain, USA, Russia, China, get into arguments and situations and have to solve things by talking, or going to court for an independent way forward. When things get out of control and the small minority of the general public sink to violence, it just ends in injury or death.

In those tragic circumstances, politicians will announce that violence is never justified. And these same views are made by politicians in all countries around the world

So why do you politicians always seem to quickly threaten, and even use, violence before even trying to initiate discussions.

Life is a wonderful thing, but sadly far too short. More talking, and less violence would make our short mortal lives so much better.

This is a moment of serious concern

Sorry to become a little political, but the world appears to be in very serious trouble with the Syrian situation.

Yes someone appears to have overstepped the mark and used chemical weapons, and if proven, they need to be brought to justice, but it seems more likely that some countries are about to punish Syria without any real proof.

Sadly Britain is one of those countries.

Our track record is not that good when it comes to military action, and the attacks on Iraq based on those unfound weapons of mass destruction, will historically look like a major mistake, and possibly even war crimes.

Now President Trump is threatening to send missiles into Syria which will almost certainly provoke a military response from Russia who is one of Syria’s major allies.

That may well result in escalation.

Theresa May is suggesting supporting and even joining in with the US attacks. This could happen at any moment, and possibly without the agreement of the British parliament.

There is no UN mandate, there is no proof of a crime yet, and although Syria may well be a guilty party, the outcome could well result into a major conflict between the super powers.

So without the backing of the British parliament we might just be about to begin a world war that will almost certainly lead to nuclear conflict…

…and that will mean the destruction of most of the northern hemisphere, and probably the end of the world.

IS THIS REALLY THE WAY IT ALL ENDS!!!

I hope I am wrong, and sense will prevail and everybody sits around a table and discusses the situation like adults.

Demise of the popular ‘Crow’s Nest’ Website

Yesterday my wife let me know that a very popular cruise forum website had been hacked and was seriously affected. Later in the day the news came that the site and its content had been so badly damaged, that it would be closed.

The website – crowsnestonline.co.uk- had been launched and operated in 2003 by an enthusiastic person called Brad Tipping.

Deb has been following and adding her own thoughts to this forum for several years and took a look at the site multiple times a day.

Unlike some Facebook groups, Crow’s Nest was a friendly site where people could chat with like-minded lovers of maritime adventures, or to ask for advice about a ship or a destination they were considering. The site also had masses of reference areas with advice about masses of things that new cruisers ask about, reviews of cruises spanning several years, comparisons of different cruise lines or ships, or suggested tours at hundreds of ports worldwide.

Crow’s Nest was not about selling, or a place for trolls to be rude to total strangers. It was a friendly site for genuine people to ask for advice about cruising, or maybe to discuss the topic of the day or for sharing information.

Whoever the guilty hacker was, he or she has not made any money from this adventure. At a tap of a mouse, the website has been destroyed and a group of people have lost their access to a friendly and informative site…..

…. but hopefully only temporarily.

Brad plans to resurrect the forum and reference website. It will take some time to achieve this, but it will be with new software that should deter the menaces of the web. Members are using a Facebook group for now and are offering suggestions to Brad for what things to retain from the old format, or ideas for new things to consider.

The old website address is still operational, but just displays an opening page for the moment. When time allows new pages will be developed and launched, so for all the fans of Crow’s Nest, please be patient for now.

Hey, we’ve had two dry days!!!

Yes, what a surprise with two full days that were dry from dawn to dusk, and even some sunshine to warm the body.

I made the most of it, and got out into the garden.

Much of the time was spent trying to turn our rather rickety and rotting compost bins into something more acceptable… in case we have a visit from the Pope, or the Queen perhaps.

Actually I want to be able to look out over the garden without rushing my eyes passed the mish-mash of broken planks.

Anyway, after two days I now have a vastly more stable compost area that even has a bit of a roof. Sadly I still have a pile of wooden bits that was our old shed to sort through, cut into reasonable chunks, and take to the dump. Before that happens I want to use the best bits to create a new storage area at the back of our new shed, for those things that can stay outside, but be sheltered from the wind and worst of the weather.

I can’t do that until we have painted the new shed, and that needs more dry days…

…and today it is raining again.

Another first for the year was the initial cut of the front lawn. It was not the shortest of trims, and the lawn doesn’t actually look much different, but at least the grass has been reminded of the weekly routine that the summer will bring.

There has been a bit of a disaster with the new shed!

The door lock decided to give up securing the door and it spontaneously opened.

When I looked at the lock I realised there has been a poor fitting and it could only have had about two millimetres of bite between the lock components, and I assume the dry weather shrunk the wood slightly, and now has no way of securing the door.

I made a temporary fix until I can contact the company (that I praised so highly) and get them to come up with a solution.

Now with outdoor excitement covered, let’s go back to my health issues.

On Wednesday the doctor was quite happy to sign off my occasional missing heartbeats unless I get any new symptoms. She also had a report on the system from my knee surgeon outlining what he had done. He has not suggested any further treatment is necessary.

I am healthy again.

Perhaps I will still have a knee that aches and makes life difficult, but for now I accept that a replacement is not imminent.

On a very much more positive note, these bits of news mean I can get travel insurance again.

Early Thursday morning I cleared my current travel insurance of the knee issues, and signed up for another year with Saga. I had already checked the possible cost online, but after half an hour discussing things with the underwriter section I renewed the policy £20 cheaper than the online quote, and less than £5 more than last year.

Now I have to turn my attention to getting a policy to cover our longer cruise in January. Saga will not cover us on the multi-trip policy for a single trip over 45 days. I gave them a chance to quote for the January trip, but the price was ridiculous, and I know I can do better.

During Friday I obtained two more quotes that were both half the price of Saga, but still expensive. I won’t go into actual figures, but the cost of the single trip cover for 69 days, is coming out at around six times the price of the annual multi trip policy.

Anyway, with today (Saturday) being a rather soggy day in Hereford, there is plenty of time to check out a couple of other insurance companies.

It is not an easy task, as the online form requires a list of all the countries visited on our trip south to the Amazon and the Caribbean. There are 20 different countries involved, and some of the Caribbean Islands are distant parts of other bigger countries to make things more difficult.

That little process takes about ten to fifteen minutes for each company, and that is on top of a list of questions about our health issues. I know the rather tedious route through medical issues off by heart, as all the companies ask for the identical details.

I think it is time for a cup of coffee before I begin more online investigations.

Have a good weekend everyone.

 

The beginning of April

The evenings are getting lighter, especially as the clocks have gone forward to British Summer Time.

…sadly, the weather has not improved very much.

We continue to have the odd frosty morning, and we saw snow on a car a couple of mornings ago. Fortunately there has not been any more snow, but my goodness, it has rained.

The garden is a muddy mess, and the roads around us are interesting with their puddles. Nearly all the routes we use have pot-holes that make driving difficult, but now they are hidden under puddles (or small lakes) making it even more difficult to avoid rattling the suspension.

As I look at these pot-holes it is very obvious that the majority of them are where repairs to previous pot-holes have been made. This really shows how poor, and cost inefficient the repairs are. I have also noticed that a very high percentage of the damaged road surfaces are where a utility company has been working and patched up the surface. I think it is time these companies were monitored and made to pay for repairs for their shoddy workmanship.

Anyway, enough of the weather and the roads.

The shed was put up this morning, and I have to congratulate the company and its fitters. We knew they might be early, and I planned to be up, and alert, for them, but I was still caught out as they quietly drove down our lane at just before 7:35 am.

Deb had just got up, and greeted them as they began to take the supporting straps off their van’s load. Meanwhile I quickly dressed before nonchalantly strolling out to say good morning to them as the first sections of shed were being lifted off and brought into out garden.

The time was just about 7:40 as the bearers and floor were dropped into place.

I felt sorry for the two guys as the rain began to hammer down on them as side and end panels were quickly positioned and screwed together.

Just over 30 minutes later our 8 foot by 8 foot garden workshop was completed and they were ready to drive off to their next customer.

The UK Garden Buildings team (based in Staffordshire) have all done a marvellous job during the ordering, delivery and construction of our new shed.

Within an hour the rain had stopped and the pair of us set about clearing the garage of all the contents from the old shed and replacing it into the new one. By 2:00 in the afternoon I was satisfied with the first version of where everything was going to live and I changed out of my ‘scruffs’ and relaxed.

The garden has become a muddy quagmire in the areas we have been walking in, and the area of lawn worst affected will take some time to recover.

The sun had even come out to greet us by then, and Deb planted some bedding plants to make it really feel as if summer may be coming.

At the weekend I even planted a row of potatoes in the hopes that we will get some dry (and warmer) weather in the next few days and weeks.

How is your knee?” I hear you ask.

Well, it is coming along well, and my physiotherapy exercises are certainly making the swelling reduce, and are strengthening the muscles again.

I still have a dressing on one of the cuts from the operation, but it will be left uncovered in a couple of days. Of course I have to wear the beautiful white compression stockings for several weeks, but I hope the surgeon give me the all clear to leave them off when I see him in three weeks time.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) I am going back to see my doctor to discuss the ECG results from last week, and to see if she wants me to have any further tests.

Hopefully I will be told to ignore the missing heartbeats unless I get some other symptoms.

Ah yes, I forgot to mention that our daughter and our grandson came to visit us at the weekend. It was a lovely couple of days with many laughs… and several drinks.

Following a seasonal game of looking for little chocolate Easter eggs, before devouring them of course, Oliver played a similar game involving six plastic blocks. One of us would hide them, in reasonably findable positions, and he would run around the house shrieking his delight as he found them, or screamed in frustration when he couldn’t.

Then he would hide them for his mum (or us) to find.

The only slight problem was that he always told us where he had hidden the blocks, making the game slightly confusing.

We all laughed both at his enjoyment, and his slightly less than successful method of hiding things.

The house was very quiet again when Lynsey and Oliver left, although we did give a little sigh of relief as we relaxed into our settees again.

OK, I will hopefully post on here again with news of my visit to the doctor, so bi for now.