Sunday, 19 June 2016

Give Me The Wide Vast Spaces

First up, Happy Father's Day to all the dads reading this - I trust you're all being thoroughly spoiled right now!

Sadly my own dad died of cancer on June 16th 1986.  The last time I ever saw him was on Fathers Day and, as I was born on Fathers Day, it was technically the first time I ever saw him too - but I don't really remember that much about it.  30 years is a long time and although I still wish he was around, or had least been around longer when I was growing up, the memories I have of him are happy memories, usually involving family holidays, Christmas and jokes, really bad jokes.

I was only 18 when he died so I hadn't really gotten to know him and although relatives have told me over the years that "you're just like your dad you are" I can only take their word for it.  He was a Methodist lay preacher, a stand up comedian, a gifted actor heavily involved in amateur dramatics and a keen walker.  I have an older brother and sister and it's funny how all three of us have taken after him in some way - big sister is a fabulous actress and addicted to holidays on the Scottish Islands, big brother is a Methodist Minister with a delightfully warped sense of humour and I'm the crazy hiker of the family (we all got stuff from mum too - but hey, this *is* Fathers Day!)

What I hadn't really known about dad until recently was that he also wrote.  A few months ago my sister was sorting through some old books and found a copy of a poem my dad wrote in 1950.  I absolutely love it as it echoes our shared love for the outdoors and books and hints at my writing heritage (my big sister used to write too - remember all those plays Ruth?  Everyone always loved them - you really should do more and Paul - your sermons are never boring!)

Anyway, here it is - the poem is called Happiness so please don't read it and be sad.  The message is about taking pleasure in the simple things so whether you're spending Fathers Day in the "wide vast spaces" or cosy warm pubs, just be sure to make some happy memories.


Give me the wide vast spaces
Give me the open Sky
Let me wander alone at will
With a rivulet running by
Give me the sun in its heaven
Let the birds sweetly trill
Leave me alone on a mountain at dawn
While my soul drinks its fill
Give me the smell of the grass after rain
The freshness of dewy dawn
Give me the sea breeze that clears the brain
The crispy winters morn
Give me all these and I’m satisfied
Give me a love that’s free
Give me a book that I may read
And happy I shall be.

Reg Saunders

June 1950

Dad never got to see that I turned into an author - I like to think he would have been proud.  I almost didn't add a wee advert for our books here but then I thought that dad would *definitely* have wanted me to, so here they are.  If you buy direct from us we'll be very happy to personally sign them for you.

Click here for more info & to buy direct from us

Friday, 17 June 2016

Monty's Blog

This is a very short but very sad blog. Back in July 2010 when we started this blog it lived on another site and was called Monty's Blog after our cat.  We'd set off on a 6 week adventure in our camper van and were bringing Monty along with us.  I couldn't be bothered to keep emailing our families with what we were up to so started the blog and told them they could all look there if they wanted to keep tabs on our adventures..

Our very first post is here and we had no idea then where it would lead us.  (There are earlier posts now on this site but they were posts I've copied across from a forum I used to be part of).  Since then Monty accompanied us on trips from Lands End to John O'Groats and all points in between - some of our best memories are when the 3 of us were living together on the van for three months in Jan/ Feb March 2011 when we first moved up here.  He even went off "on safari" for 2 weeks when we finally moved into our new home.  He really was a very well travelled cat.

Sadly, this week he was hit by a car along Windermere Road and died.  We are, of course, utterly heartbroken as I'm sure any pet owner will understand and, as this blog was originally started in his name, I couldn't let his passing go unmentioned.  He was an absolute character - we loved him dearly and will miss him greatly but I'm sure once the tears have dried there will be plenty of smiles as we recall his many adventures.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Not right in the head

I'm really not one for taking it easy but, since my almighty crack on the head, I'm having to slow down somewhat.  My broken arm is well on the mend, though far from sorted, but the bang on the bonce is proving rather more irksome.  At the moment I have pretty much zero desire for, or tolerance of, alcohol (unheard of!), I've gained a sweet tooth I never had before plus I've also developed a couple of strange allergies (including liquorice which I love) and I still get tired a lot more easily than I should.  All par for the course apparently and just requires a little patience before I'm back to full strength.  Ha - yeah, I'm SO good at patience!

Anyway, we decided to head to Gozo (next to Malta) for a spot of sunshine for a week to try and get me back on my feet again.  This was an excellent plan apart from two minor flaws - firstly I don't really like hot weather and secondly I am absolutely terrified of flying.  (Yeah, yeah I know it's the safest form of travel, but logic doesn't enter into it when you're terrified.  Let's say you have a fear of big fat hairy spiders but you have to hold a tarantula in your hand for 3 hours 15 mins - there's very little chance it will bite you and, even if it does, you're most likely to survive.  Does that wee spot of logic make you less scared?  Thought not.  That's how it is with me and flying - 3 hours and 15 mins of pure, unadulterated, terror.)

Because our flight was so early in the morning (a cunning ruse to spring it on me before I was awake enough to realise what was happening - like that was ever going to work), we headed to the airport the day before and booked into a nice hotel as a treat.  I'll be honest, I normally have a very sunny disposition, but this part of the holiday was one disappointment after another.

I'll skip over the 2 hour train delay, lack of any decent places to eat near the airport and confusing/ non-existent signage and reserve my wrath for Thomas Cook who, without a shadow of a doubt went out of their way to be the most difficult, money grabbing and disinterested in the customer company it has been my displeasure to encounter.

For a non seasoned air traveller it was a wake up call to read the small print and not expect any logic, common sense or decency.  We opted for the sundown bag drop to save time knowing that there was a £5 charge, but it turns out it's a charge per person not per bag, so despite the fact we'd checked in online and were only dropping off one bag we were charged £10 because the bag "belonged" to 2 people. I could rant for hours about the number of other ways they disappointed us but, at least they got us there in one piece.

Somewhere over Monaco - we were surprised to find there was no additional
charge for looking out the window...
Anyway, enough of my ranting and rambling - here's a quick guided tour of Gozo in case you ever fancy visiting.

Embracing the local food - basically beer, crisps and Parma ham

Ramla Bay - deep red sands and the occasional jellyfish

The harbour & hotel in Gozo - with strategically placed motorboat

Temples at Ggantija - the oldest freestanding manmade stricture in the world

Centuries old graffiti from the Old Prison in the Citadel
The Citadel in Rabat

The Blue Lagoon Comino  - beautiful but OH so very crowded
Escaping the crowds on Comino with a short walk around the island

Coastal walk at Xatt I-Ahmar
Ancient salt pans
Swim in the sea at Mgarr ix-Xini - location for the Brangelina film By the Sea

Festa in the local town for St Anthony, the
patron saint of lost & stolen articles - perhaps
he knows where Thomas Cook put their
customer service policy?
Qolla I-Bajda near Marsalforn

Tower at Dwerja - loads of towers on the island and TONS of
fascinating history - well worth a visit
Dwerja Bay, Fungus Rock & the Azure Window (far right 
Nope - no idea
Church at Xewkija - so many beautiful churches
2 hour "not too serious according to them" flight delay - perfect for the terrified
passenger to dream up 1001 doomsday scenarios!

And that's it.  It may be a while before I can write up any big hikes, which is a bit of a blow for an outdoors/ hiking blog, but fear not, I shall dream up a variety of other ways to keep myself entertained.  Life's too short to sit still for any longer than I absolutely have to so here's to leaping into things even when it's technically against doctors orders...

Xlendi Bay - our favourite spot

Friday, 3 June 2016

Chateauneuf Du Pape, Rodney

In honour of our recent trip to Gozo I thought I'd share with you my top 5 foreign language cock ups to prove why it's perhaps best that I stick to UK travel writing... (the Gozo blog will follow when I've sorted through all the pics!)

1.  Hello toenail!

When I got in the lift of the apartment block on my first trip to Spain a Spanish gentleman got in, smiled and said what I thought was "una" to me. I smiled & said "una" back then, not realising I'd actually misheard the word "ola", proceeded to greet every Spainiard with a bright and breezy "una", which is Spanish for "toenail". After a week of shouting "toenail" at bemused strangers, someone finally put me right.

2. One letter makes a big difference.

Same trip and on the return flight I consulted my trusty Spanish phrasebook (bought to avoid any more silly "toenail" gaffs), and confidently requested a seat next to a widow instead of a window...

3.  Divided by a common language.

To prove it's not only foreign languages that trip me up... At the tender age of 21 I made my first trip to the states with a friend's family. They'd previously lived there and were au fait with hotels, taxis and, most importantly, breakfasts. When the waitress came to take my breakfast order I asked for eggs on toast.

"How'dya like yer eggs?" She asked.  In my finest Hugh Grant bumbling English accent I replied "Gosh, poached would be lovely. " The family roared with laughter & the dad told her I'd take them "sunny side up!"

4. Absolutely Fabulous

I actually love foreign languages and spent 5 years learning Italian, but managed to make my best Italian gaff in an Italian café  in London.  As I was enjoying a lovely lunch I was conjugating the past tense and going over how to say "Thank you, that was lovely" in my best Italian. The moment came - as I left the café I called out to the waitress "Ero ottima, grazie, ciao!".  It wasn't until 10 mins after I'd left that I realised I'd got it wrong and what I'd actually said was "I was fabulous, thank you, goodbye!" Doh!

5. And finally...

When I met Steve I told him some of these stories and included another that happened in Spain. I told him how I'd gone to a beach bar and ordered 2 beers in Spanish but was given 2 cappuccinos. He laughed and thought nothing more of it.

Fast forward a few years and we're on holiday in Madeira. After a strenuous morning spent clambering up a very steep hill path we arrived at lunchtime at a nice café bar. I went in to get us a couple of beers using my finest Portuguese. Five minutes later I emerged with 2 cappuccinos. Steve looked at me. "Don't ask" I said "Just don't ask."