Why are we blogging?

We thoroughly enjoyed the blogs from those on the World Cruise 2010. They were so useful and some were also very entertaining and so we we started our own, late 2010, ready for the 2011 cruise(s).

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 67 - Relaxing in the sun - and smoke... July 30th

For our last day in Nottingham, we had a pleasant but odd sort of a day.  After a good night’s sleep (for a change!) but just before the first coffee of the day, I decided to walk to the tiny local post office to convert some currency, but when I arrived, there were about 12 people in the queue, presumably doing their car registrations, so I returned to a decent coffee instead. Part of our day was going to be at Stewart’s BBQ sometime between noon and 3pm.  The previous evening he had rung Dave for a wire brush to clean up the grille and sure enough, there was another call this morning, asking if he had any BBQ tools and a carving knife!
Before heading there, we visited the family grave at the local cemetery, as I couldn’t remember where the tiny headstone was. (We want to replace it.)  In typical OSH (Occupational Health & Safety) style, the powers that be had moved through the large cemetery identifying headstones deemed dangerous.  They presumably attach a measuring device to the headstone and if it fails the ‘wobble test’, they push it over, so it looked more like a scene from a lads drunken orgy of vandalism than a place of quiet respect. Right outside there is a council road sign set so low, that even someone of my modest height could quite easily gash their head on it if they were either visually impaired or not looking upwards.  The irony of the sign itself wasn’t lost either and I was tempted to change the “H” to a “B”.
Probably the worst thing about the city now is the proliferation of ‘speed bumps’ on so many roads.  Put quite simply, if the speed limit is 30mph (50kph), why do they put in so many obstacles that need you to almost come to a standstill?  Surely, the idea is to slow traffic to 30mph, not 5mph?  The excessive fuel consumption, traffic delay and suspension damage, not to mention discomfort to passengers and extra pollution doesn’t seem to make much sense at all.
We dived into a local store and emerged with a set of BBQ tools, a carving knife and a metal brush as useful gifts for Stewart.   On then to the BBQ.  I suppose we have all got so used to our gas fired BBQs, we have forgotten what it was like, fanning charcoal and smoking out the guests!  The somewhat difficult dynamics of ex wife/husband who do not speak, was dealt with, with just a small degree of tension, but Stewart and Manu wanted a ‘family photograph’ for Noah’s first birthday.
Sue cooked us a nice roast lamb dinner for our last night with them then Dave picked up my gift to him from Athens.  Seemed  like a good time to go for an hour’s walk afterwards,  enjoying the late evening sunshine, arriving back home about 9:30pm.  Our part of the City is the highest part of the county so an ideal spot for various towers, aerials and communications dishes.
Packing basically done and ready for the off to the Heathrow area tomorrow, after a meal with a very good friend from way back.  Meanwhile the cruisers have been to Bermuda and not disappeared into the triangle.  Thanks to Ros who found out that we are able to board 11am-12noon on Tuesday.  Needless to say, it will be nearer 11 than 12 for us...   Then we can probably get off again and enjoy Fort Lauderdale and look forward to catching up with everyone at dinner.  All we have to worry about now is the likely state of Paula’s arm after a 9 hour flight.
Next blog will be from the ship.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day's 64-66 The mayoral chain July 27 - 29

We had always planned to head off to Norfolk & Cambridgeshire to catch up with friends and our first call was an ex Prison Service work colleague from way back. When I was first posted to Ashford in Middlesex as a raw 21 year old Prison Officer, way back in 1967, I was on the same 10 week shift pattern as Robin and he acted very much as my mentor and older brother and  we have remained close friends ever since.  After his Prison service stint, Rob eventually moved onto the Metropolitan Police and graduated as a grade one driver, much to my amusement, as we regularly used to go to London from Middlesex for ‘business meetings’ when we were trying to sell Unit Trust policies.  (Prison Service pay really was appalling.) These weekly runs were either in my Mini Cooper or his MG Magnette, (similar to the one I am building) and we used to time ourselves on the quieter run home... I’ll say no more.
Anyway, Rob eventually retired from the police force to look after his wife who has MS and moved away from the smoke to rural Norfolk, where he eventually got involved with the local parish council, where he soon became chairman. This year though, he has moved on and is currently the Deputy Mayor of the Downham Market council.  So, we just couldn’t resist a photograph of a more relaxed kiwi version of how the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress might look.  Next year he is the Mayor, and we have been invited to the Mayor’s Reception, date to be arranged - if we can make it to the UK again!
Rob’s daughter Rebecca is the staff officer (Police Sergeant) to the Assistant Chief Constable and her hubby is a Police inspector at Kings Lynn, so we have to watch our driving around there.
Onwards to Paula’s ex-school friend (using the Tom-Tom thank goodness, travelling cross country) to make friends with the new Labrador pup named ‘Kiwi’ then a nice venison pot roast dinner, before heading to a Travel Lodge for the night.  This is a UK based no frills accommodation chain where all you get is a room and a bed, with TV set and bathroom.  Not exactly the luxury we are used to on the Dawn Princess, Center Parcs or Ganton Close, but at £42 for the night, what do you expect?  Had we been organised enough to have booked more than 21 days earlier, it might have cost a lot less, so for future travellers to the UK, not a bad option.  They are all over the country and usually on major roads and motorways, but the attached Little Chef eateries are usually best avoided unless you are desperate.
Day 65
I half expected to be woken early by the truck drivers heading off early, but we weren’t. On the road again and we stopped at a small Nottinghamshire village market for a wander and Paula couldn’t resist the almond lemon tarts. On then to our favourite supermarket cafe and I indulged in the fish, chips and mushy peas.  Well, why not?  (My favourite City Centre market ‘Hot Peas’ stall has closed.  Drat.)
For the evening Stewart and Manu took us into town for a Brazilian meal. Buffet salads and hot veg dishes, and the waiters come around with the meat on large skewers that have been cooked over open flames. The waiter simply carves you a slice or slices and you just peel it off and onto your plate with large tweezers.  You have a beer mat, green on one side and red on the other, that you turn over signifying you want more the next time a waiter passes, or no more.  Didn’t make any difference as they kept coming anyway. The meats included:  chicken thighs, belly pork, lamb, chicken wrapped in bacon, rump steak, rib eye, sirloin steak and even a skewer of chicken hearts. We had excellent service and no doubt, Manu communicating in Portuguese helped a lot. Pity that they used a very cheap sausage rather than the excellent sausages made locally though. 
A great meal and very filling.
Day 66
Another rough night with arm pain but on to the chiropractor for my last visit. Paula came in to look and learn and I came away with a gel based ice pack, tht may ell double as a means for keeping drinks cool if off the ship in armer climes. We then went over to pick up Stewart and Noah. Bearing in mind we have only been seeing young Noah for the last ten days, usually with several other people present, it was a very special moment when we arrived and his little face cracked into a massive smile and he crawled straight over.
As Paula was a little off colour, we dropped her off and headed across town to see Stewart’s Godfather, who hasn’t seen him since he was about three years of age.  I had forgotten that it was the first day of the cricket test against India at Trent Bridge, so we got  caught up in the traffic.  I just couldn’t believe how many people were walking to the ground either.  Paul is the only person I know of our age who is not on email, so I’ll have to send this blog address and a photo to his good friend Ken...
Yet another meal out at night and this was local Italian (excellent) and a thank you to Dave and Sue for looking after us so well.  Paula was back to normal.
Just one more day in Nottingham now and a BBQ at Stewarts' (my ex may well be there. Oh dear...) and we’ll start our journey back.  Exactly two thirds of our trip now over as I think our total is 99 days.
Much as we have enjoyed Nottingham and the UK, we are still looking forward to rejoining the ship, our nautical friends, the Wake Show, Alan & Alana, Lee and Barbara, and of course Watchara and Neil, who will no doubt be pleased that Emu (Birdie) will return, whilst young Mac stays in the UK.    
I think I am now up to date with the blogs, but I doubt that I’ll get much chance again for a few days.
No news from Princess about the Acapulco cancellation and searching through our paperwork, we have no idea what time we can board either...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Days 61 - 63 Forests, Families, Photographs & Fine Feathered Friends.


Rising at 5:30am in the peace of Sherwood Forest is quite a pleasant experience, when everyone else rose a bit later, though I did manage a short bike ride at 8am with brother Malc before he headed off for an extended ride. Since he had both knees replaced, he has maintained a very positive exercise regime mainly on his bike and as I hadn’t had my morning coffee, I headed back to the unit!  (That was my excuse...)  Straight after, Paula and I went out again on bikes to the park’s village square and had a another coffee!   On our return, we were all prepared to cook brunch, but Dave and Malc had gone out again on their bikes, (testing out the ‘helmet cam’ that Dave had bought for Malc) and they didn’t return until about 1:15, by which time we were well and truly hungry and I was engrossed in the German GP, having missed all the others since the end of May.
Noah was introduced to Mac & Birdie (Emu) for the first time and also as expected, they both sampled the bird feeder.  Meanwhile Malc kept up his other regime of a cup of tea every hour, on the hour.
Stewart & Manu then took Noah to the water centre and Paula and I followed.  When you are over six feet tall, spending an hour in a children’s paddling pool is a rather strange experience, but it was baby-sitting time whilst Stew & Manu swam the rapids.
Monday July 25th
Back to normal again as we all packed our gear, ready to vacate by 10am.  Fortunately Paula managed to pack up much of the baby gear as Manu was running well behind schedule.  Once we had dumped the cars outside again, we headed for the Pancake House, as we had been promising ourselves a treat and never managed it before. Phew! A substantial breakfast pancake was enough to keep us going for a while, before heading home. (Well, temporary home anyway.)
A meal out at night with the older section of the group was a pleasant end to the (long) weekend.  Dave is a keen energy conservation proponent (it is his business...) and is known for minimum lighting at home, much to the amusement of the rest of us, so whilst he was talking to a neighbour, Malc switched all the lounge lights on full and waited for the inevitable response when Dave returned...
Tuesday July 26th – The birthday boy.
Caught up with the updated blogs of the cruisers and love the silly hats from Bergen, Scotland and Ireland! Although we would have loved to have been there, it was in fact a little bit warmer in the UK.  Not a lot maybe, but not too bad.  We realise that compromises always have to be made when travelling, but family time is somewhat scarce when you are 12,000 miles away from your son and heirs.  We went with Malc to our senior cousin (she is 78) before heading back into town, but this time we used the park & ride caught the tram.
When we returned home there was a notice pinned to the door addressed to all ‘residents’:
Due to recent unprecedented high levels of energy consumption, certain restrictions have had to be imposed.
Our MALC (maximum allowed lighting consumption) targets have been lowered, consequently, lighting levels must be kept at their absolute minimum at all times. Switch ‘off’ if not required!
In addition, during peak hours (6am to 11:30pm), heating appliances i.e. electric showers, hair dryers etc. can only be used on their ‘cold’ settings.
As a further measure in controlling our energy consumption, tokens will need to be purchased for the use of laptop computers and other ‘hi-tec’ electrical equipment.
We are sorry to have to implement these conditions but hope our guests will understand.
Thank you for your co-operation.
(Since showing this to friends with grown up children, they asked for a copy...)
Noah’s first birthday today and Stew & Manu brought him around and we had quite a photo-shoot, as it is rare that we three brothers are together, so it was a bonus to have all the male Greens together.   Pre-Dover cruisers will be pleased to hear that Noah chose Mac the Macaw out of the two possibilities (probably because it makes a noise!).
The evening was rounded off with a catch up with my oldest and dearest pal who was unable to make my 65th so another meal out...  Am I complaining? Not at all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 60 - Two thirds through five sixths of a World Cruise - July 23rd

We all seemed to wake with the same comment – the bed quilts were too warm!  I was up early and whilst it was quiet, tried to catch up with the blogs as Wi-Fi is included in the rental. (Quite why Four Points Sheraton and most hotels we have stayed in recently, have to charge, I am not too sure.)  A coffee early on and a late shower, by which time youngest brother Malc arrived, having driven up from the South Coast (Bournemouth) that morning, setting off at 5:30am, with a just a five minute cuppa stop on the way. Needless to say, by the time I was out of the shower, he had a cup of tea in his hand. I am known as the one always looking for food, but with Malc, it is a case of a cuppa every hour, probably on the hour.
We went with Malc for a pleasant walk to the on-site Village Square, to sus out the store stock and just reacquaint ourselves with the layout and options.  The ten pin bowling alley is lit with a mix of attractive blue lighting and dayglo colours and from here, you can peek into the ‘tropical island paradise’ water centre, protected from the elements and with a 75 degrees (F) constant temperature.  This is one of the reasons the place is so popular as rain, shine or snow, you can go for a pleasant swim, including a run down the rapids that start outside, spa pools, wave pool, tubes and two or three kiddie pools.
On the way back we passed the artificial beach alongside the lake and debated whether or not we’d try the Pancake House.  Not this time...  The park is well known for encouraging and nurturing nature so it is quite normal to see rabbits and grey squirrels even though they could both be deemed pests!  We came across a swan family that may be a bit depleted as there was only the one youngster this time.  We also passed the new expensive to rent,  ‘tree houses’ (Kiwis and Australians take these for granted as pole houses - but we haven’t seen inside...).
Back at the unit, it was ‘Frisbee’ time, that reminded us that we must look up the origins.  When at scout camps many years ago, we used to play ‘plate golf’.  This consisted of using your tin dinner plates and aiming for tent pegs placed around the site.  Goldfinger’s ‘Oddjob’ might have done quite well, or maybe the Korean Scouts also played it?  Thinking back, it is  a wonder that a fair few scouts weren’t decapitated either.  Just to make it more interesting, we placed an outdoor chair on top of a table and aimed through either the legs or the back slots, hence the studies in concentration!
As our unit was close to the golf driving range, we wandered up (though the others turned their backs on the photographer...) and paid for two part buckets of balls (£1 for 20). We didn’t do well at times as we were a bit rusty.  Paula struggled with her arm. I don’t think I did mine too much good either.   
 BBQ time! Have you ever tried trying to make tasty BBQ food when you don’t have a full cupboard of ingredients to choose from?  We managed adequate food, though, cooked on the gas BBQ and a relaxing and rare full family evening meal.  With the complimentary bottle of wine opened, we toasted our late parents, as it was their legacy that paid for the accommodation.
Note to the ladies.  This part of the legacy was from the EBay proceeds of what most would consider junk, that Dad had accumulated, such as Morse keys, old computer games etc.!  Stewart wiped the floor with all comers at pool.  I think I got in about five shots and he cleared the table...  Early bed again.   

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 59 - Deep in the luxurious Sherwood Forest Friday July 22nd

For the second night I was up 12:45am for half an hour or so, still suffering with the shoulder. The 9:45 appointment with the Cairo Tractor as Dave calls him, was a positive half hour and he explained that the skeletal was now much better, but whilst working on the muscular aspects, stated that the last to repair is the nerve damage. One more appointment planned for next Friday so hopefully, that will sort me out.
Straight after, we shot over to the supermarket for more weekend supplies then down to pick up Manu and Noah.  We were supposed to get Stewart’s bike out of the garage but couldn’t unlock it with the keys we had...  As Stewart was at work – last day of the school term – guess where the decent keys were?  
We arrived at Center Parcs at 2.05pm, ready for an early admission as normal time is 3pm, but Dave had booked what could be called an executive unit.  Wow! Four double bedrooms – each with en-suite facilities and a TV set, a well equipped kitchen/lounge area (with complimentary wine, juice, water, jams...) and a separate games room, complete with pool table, large TV, and we presume X-box, judging by the controllers. There is a nice covered outdoor area, gas BBQ and even a sauna!   This is the very last unit in this particular area and views from all windows are of the forest, some of it freshly planted.
Vehicles are not allowed on site and once unloaded, they have to be returned to the massive car park. We did just that and Dave and I picked up the two complimentary push bikes allocated to our unit. Dave and Sue have their own; Stewart did manage to bring his – complete with two flat tyres, but Dave‘s needed a fair bit of TLC, as the last time he used it was in deep snow and the chain seems to have seized!  Half a can of WD 40 later, and Dave returned inside, opting to take building lessons from Noah who appears to have been suitably impressed by his pupil.
Dave also affixed a bird feeder outside, as this place has a fair bit of wild life, bird life and plant life.   Maybe the first customers of his feeder will be Birdie and Mac – but so far, they haven’t been introduced to Noah.  He has that dubious pleasure to come, probably when brother Malc arrives tomorrow or maybe even Sunday..
Manu's yoghurt cake

A relaxing afternoon and evening with supermarket pizzas for dinner plus a slice of Manu’s yoghurt cake, good coffee and a few family tales told of a misspent youth - including tales of Malc of course, as he wasn’t there to defend himself. Noah had been retired by then of course, but was over-tired, so much so, that the anticipated splashing bath time was abandoned early.
Meanwhile, the Dawn Princess continues its trundle around the top of Great Britain and Ireland, with the ever efficient Ros keeping us informed of progress.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 58 - The times are a changing in the UK

Thursday was a fairly slow day, ready for the long weekend with nothing major planned for the day, so we called in on the neighbours at the old family home.  Enlightening and possibly a pointer as to the way things are going in parts of the UK, and why the Brits are getting a little uneasy. Apparently, the new residents of our old family home wanted to turn our old single garage into a Mosque!  You can probably imagine the outcry that caused locally.  It was always a nice, homely  but old, three storied family home, with three  bedrooms and a proper attic room. There are now about 13 people living there...
The area has changed over the last few years, with several apartment buildings on the old garage site, my old junior school site, the squash club etc.  Several grand houses on decent sized plots have been demolished and replaced by blocks of three or four dwellings, with further plans to build 700 more houses on formerly green agricultural land and the old coal mine site; they are even talking about 1200 houses on the golf course.  So sad.  Much of this housing appears to be required to house all the more recent immigrants to what is already a fairly small crowded country, with over 60 million people now, on an island the same size as NZ with just 4 million.
After a coffee we went in search of more shoes before heading for our supermarket big breakfast or brunch.  Unfortunately our timing wasn’t so good with a 30 minute wait for food so we headed for a pub offering a good carvery meal but settled for lovely fresh baguettes, Paula’s with fresh carved turkey with a side salad we hadn’t asked for, and mine with a traditional English filling - chicken tikka, accompanied by several roast potatoes that I hadn’t asked for.  Possibly a mixed order but nice anyway.  Pity the coffee was only filtered, otherwise, a nice lunch.
For the evening, my ex-sister-in-law and her husband took us out to celebrate our silver wedding, albeit 4 months early! Dick proudly showed me his latest toy – a BMW trike! They have also swapped the caravan for a Fiat based mobile home that was very impressive, but Dick is getting a little frustrated that his age is counting against him when getting vehicle insurance or even a driving licence.  Now he is 75, his truck licence is no longer automatically renewed and that affected their choice of mobile home.  An excellent Italian meal. 
Jackie would get on very well with Joanne (on the Dawn Princess) as she is also a keen quilter and was off this weekend to take part in a quilting workshop of some sort.
Chiropractor again tomorrow.  The neck is much better but the nerve pains in the shoulder still persist.
Not sure what the weather is like up north so the Dawn Princess passengers may be feeling the cold... Tomorrow, we head just 20 miles up the road to Sherwood Forest (yes, it does still exist) for a real family weekend in a new luxury 4 bedroomed unit in the Center Parcs holiday village.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

Days 55 - 57 - Nottingham a far better city than the crime figures would suggest!

I did say when I posted the Dover to Nottingham blog that this post may come as a bit of a surprise to some.  It did to me! A classic case of looking at each City as a tourist and not a as a resident.
Monday and Tuesday were quiet days spent locally (by locally, that is with family, about two miles North East of Nottingham City centre), in the area in which I grew up. Some would say that I haven’t really grown up yet – and they’d probably be right.  Dave and Sue went off to their regular line dance class and we met them at a local shopping centre that contains our favourite supermarket, that in turn has one of our regular cafe haunts. Basic food maybe, but cheap and excellent quality.  A bit more wandering around the large shops then back.
Brother Dave generously presented me with a composite birthday and Christmas present (for several years), a “Kindle”.  For those not yet into the know, this is an electronic book or books.  You download the books from Amazon at prices from free upwards.  Yes, free!  It also stores PDF files from your computer and even music – though this is in the experimental stage.
Now you would think that down loading a book, would take forever, but surprisingly, most download in less than a minute as several of the full sized book files are only about 1660k! This means you can store loads of books on the very slim unit.  Needless to say, this new toy meant a bit of time on line searching the ‘Kindle Shop’ to see what they had and what it would cost. I downloaded the book written by “The Stig” from Top Gear for I think, £2.99.  Remember that figure...  However, for many of the free books, you had to be in the UK, so I changed  my location... Lots of amateur books too that can be discarded or retained. There is even a facility to store and play MP3 files.  Thanks Dave.  A real boon for travellers and I can see now why so many cruisers have them.
An excellent roast pork meal cooked by Sue and a quiet evening.  Looking forward to a visit to the chiropractor (or Cairo Tractor as Dave put it...) tomorrow, though I suspect it will take more than 1 visit.
July 19th – Walkies!
After our coffee and toast we walked to what used to be our local park (Woodthorpe) still on the outskirts of the city.  Walking as a tourist and with a camera in hand, as you would when on a cruise tour, you tend to notice monuments, buildings and the general scenery rather more than normal and I highly recommend it for residents of any city or town. The park is one I had been to all my life and although the 18 hole pitch and putt golf hasn’t changed much, nor the historic main house, the facilities such as kiddies playground are being updated (at last!) and a new cafe being built.  A wander past the old railway line/tunnel that used to go through the park has been celebrated by a plaque and a train sculpture. Onwards and upwards to our old strip shopping centre and an excellent coffee and baked potatoes from – “The Cheesecake Shop”.  Yes, they are here too...
A quick wash and off then to the chiropractor – but not before brother Dave had produced his large rubber mallet and offered to treat me for a reduced cost.  When as part of the assessment, the chiro produced a rubber hammer, you can understand why I burst out laughing.  This was of course just to test reflexes. An hour later I emerged, just £52 lighter and having had my neck worked over.  Hopefully, the second visit will help even more, but at least the neck has been put back in.
With Stewart to pick up young Noah from the child minder where he goes a couple of times  a week. He is not far from walking now (Noah, not Stewart...) and such a happy smiling child.  Obviouisly hereditary.
July 20th Nottingham City – Day 57 if you are still counting.
We heard via the blogs that the Dawn Princess was unable to get into Amsterdam, so Garry missed out on his window shopping and Philip along with several others had to make their way to Bergen in Norway to board.  No news from anyone yet regarding the engine rebuild either.  The ship made it to Bergen, that I do know, but they are as far behind with their blogs as I am!
For several years now, all I have seen in the international newspapers is that the murder and gun crime rate has topped the charts and yet this has never sat comfortably with me.  It has always been localised to a couple of state housing areas and the City centre itself is one I have always appreciated, from several viewpoints.
We headed down to the local shopping centre and parked the car And caught bus into town.  Dave of course has a bus pass and thought that this was a Park and Ride site – but it isn’t, so instead of £4 for a car load – return, it was £3.40 each return!
Since my last visit two years ago, cars have been further banished from roads around some parts of the centre, but there are so many buses that it is almost clogged with them at certain places!  Most seem to be from ‘every 7 or 8 minutes’ and our ‘link’ bus every 15 minutes.  Routes are coloured on the maps and correspond to the colours of the buses.  Unlike the major cities we have visited, rather than a hop-on hop-off bus, the inner link bus is free butr this is a very compact city centre.  The tram takes you from the southern part of the city to about ten miles north (there is only one line at the moment) and the very heart of the city is now 100% traffic free apart from those modern trams.
As the kids break up from school next week, the Old Market square is being converted to a Riviera beach, complete with imported sand, a funfair and what looks to be a boardwalk beach cafe!  Went to the cheap bookshop – Stig’s book?  £1.90...
A pleasant wander around and the impression I really gained that apart from the traffic free centre -  NO GRAFFITI!  If Nottingham can do it (they obviousy have had graffiti but have cleand it up), why can’t Athens, Barcelona, Rome, Naples etc? 
Oh, I managed to get a nest mate (or replacement) for Birdie - meet Mac!  It will depend on Noah's reaction as to which one returns to NZ.