Alis Grave Nil

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Madness!

Yesterday, 20 December, on our way to the outskirts of Hull via the A63, there was traffic queuing on the inside lane from the Humber Bridge to the next slip road and beyond. Do you know why?  They were queuing up to get to the Sainsbury's supermarket.  Can you believe people sit in their cars in a mile long queue waiting to get to a grocery shop?  Further along at another slip road, more queues, this time for a large Asda store.  What is this madness that takes over people at Christmas?  It's only one day of the year and the shops are all open again on Boxing Day. Nobody is going to starve.

I am quite sickened by all the greed and over consumption.  Usually I love the run up to Christmas and I normally have Michael Buble's Christmas CD playing on a loop in the house and in the car when I go out but this year I am a bit p***d off with it all.  Christmas stuff in the shops and being advertised on TV from October, disgusting Black Friday greed, hearing about people spending upwards of £300 each on small children who will not know what they have at the end of the day, or who gave it to them. I even heard about one young mother who is buying an ipad for a 5 year old because he decided to add it to his very long list at the last minute. The icing on the cake for me this year was seeing Cadbury's Crème Eggs being sold at the beginning of December.  Bloody Easter eggs!!

Don't get me wrong, I have always loved Christmas but on reaching the age I am at now, I'm just not sure I believe the Jesus story any more. 

Anyway, wishing you a very Happy Winter Solstice.  Let's welcome the sun back and look forward to spring.

Joyeux Noel!  See you on the flip side, as they say.
 
 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Kaledo Jewellery Sale

 
 
 
Just wanted to let you know that my very creative sister is having a big pre-Christmas sale in her Etsy jewellery shop - 50% off everything from Friday, 28 November until Monday, 1 December 2014. All the jewellery is designed and made with love by my sister, Kathryn.
 
The link to her Etsy shop is www.kaledo.etsy.com 
 
 
 

 
 

 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Duck Flu and Scare Mongering Media Nitwits

 

 
 
I am SO sick of London media nitwits when they immediately start the scare mongering stories as soon as something like bird flu hits a small town in East Yorkshire.  These people won't even know where East Yorkshire is.  The fact is that sometimes, like all living creatures,  birds get sick. When they are cooped up in pens in their thousands, the sickness will spread.  Humans cannot catch flu from a duck.  It is not the H5N1 virus which is a man-made virus, developed in a laboratory by scientists (that will never be announced on Sky or BBC News). 
 
I can see what's going to happen.  The media frenzy will blow it all out of proportion again and suddenly the Christmas turkey industry will collapse because everyone will be buying a hunk of beef for Christmas dinner. The sad thing is that the masses believe what the brainwashing media tell them.  Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 today made me particularly mad today in likening the bird flu outbreak to Ebola in Africa.  There's something wrong with that man.
 
I am watching it all from the sidelines and I really hope that the majority of people realise that the media is deliberately spreading fear.  Christ, I hope Kay Burley from Sky News doesn't turn up in East Yorkshire!!
 
 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Silent Night

This beautiful video made me cry. It speaks for itself.  I am just sorry it's an advert for Sainsbury's. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

New Ducks on the Block

Well, blow me rags!  First of all we couldn't get white ducks for love nor money and now we have eight.  We acquired two fully grown ducks a couple of weeks ago.  Their previous owners called them Donald & Daisy (I know, not very original).  They are fully grown and very, very spoiled.  Daisy seems to just sit on her duck's a*se all day eating and sleeping while Donald goes for a wee swim with the guys.  I am slightly worried about the fox because we have seen it in broad daylight a couple of times but the ducks seem to sense it and stay in the pond, just sitting there in silence.
 
Donald and Daisy Duck
Yesterday we had a 'phone call from a friend who knew someone who was selling six white ducklings, so naturally we jumped at the chance.  They are 12 weeks old and still have some downy feathers so we are keeping them in a shed for a week or two until they get a bit bigger and lose their downy feathers.  They are still a bit grubby and scrawny (think they were just kept in a yard) but as soon as they get into the pond, they will be pristine white again. I will have to teach them about the fox before I release them.  I lost several lovely white ducks to a fox about 4 years ago and I was heartbroken because we had reared them from tiny little balls of fluff. Anyway, here's a first picture of them in the old shed.
 
 
Don't stand in the drinking water, you plonker!
I will keep you updated with their progress.  They are still a little bit bewildered but they'll soon settle down.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Last Leg of our Cruise

Before I continue, I just wanted to mention something I saw on Sky News while we were in our cabin one morning.  Good old P&O, only two channels on the TV - Sky News and Sky Sports. What a great marketing ploy to keep your passengers out of their cabins and up on deck spending on the ship. Anyway, the presenters were discussing Brad Pitt's new World War II film, which I think is called Fury.  Apparently Brad employed the services of a 90-year-old war veteran to advise him throughout the film.  I bet the old boy thoroughly enjoyed doing that.  The elderly gentleman didn't have a clue who Brad Pitt was when he was first contacted and said something like, "If you're not Alex Guinness then I don't know who you are".  Brad took it all in good humour (he's a lovely lad is Brad - kind face).
 
FEMALE SKY NEWS REPORTER: "He didn't know who Brad Pitt was?  Where has he been? 
 
Who are these people?
 
I'll tell you who they are.  They are the kind of people who eat in Marco Pierre White's restaurant in London and rave about it to their media bubble friends. The same nitwit female reporter will order the consommé and then say, "this is to die for.  I must ask Marco for the recipe". 
 
"It's a Knorr stock cube with boiling water, love, and you've just paid £100 for yours".
 
 
...AND MOVING SWIFTLY ON - NEXT STOP, TOULON IN FRANCE
 
Toulon Harbour
 
There wasn't a great deal to Toulon and we were originally going to catch a train to Cannes but decided against it because the journey was an hour and a half and the trains were not that regular so we didn't want to be stranded as the Ventura set sail for Barcelona. We wandered round the streets of Toulon, through the market streets filled with the scent of wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables and herbs.  I could just have stood there and breathed it all in for hours.  It smelled as if all the fresh produce had been picked that morning, which it probably had. We stopped for a coffee and to my great delight, the French waiter was quite snotty...but not enough.  We should have stopped off at Nice the other day for some super-snottyness. The best snotty waiters are there.

We walked a bit further on and found an indoor shopping centre with a huge supermarket as well as other shops.  I turned round and saw Roberto dashing up the escalator and wondered what the fluff he was up to.  When I got to the top of the escalator, I realised what it was.  No, it wasn't a shop that sold special NASA baseball hats.  It was his old favourite shop, C&A.  Great joy! He used to love C&A in the UK because it was one of the only shops that didn't mess around with the sizes and their shirts always fitted him perfectly.  We found him three nice shirts and when I got to the checkout, the very nice French checkout lady told me there was 50% off two of the shirts - even greater joy!  We didn't do much more in Toulon as we were still quite tired from all the gadding about the day before so we just had a cold drink at the harbour and then went off to join the queue for the tender boat and went back to the ship.  

The next day was a welcome sea day and we just chilled out, sat in the sun, walked round the deck and just generally faffed around, as you do.

Sunday and we are in Barcelona.  It was incredibly busy with thousands of tourists.  There were also three other huge cruise liners docked up beside the Ventura.  We walked the length of the Ramblas and then came to a big shopping centre, which was closed.  It's not that we only went to shopping centres on our holiday, but I always find it interesting to see what the shops are like in other countries.  We found out that the big stores don't open at all on Sundays in Barcelona so I was a bit annoyed with P&O for that one because the Sunday docking was probably cheaper for them.  I loved the Spanish people though.  They are so patient and even if they didn't speak much English, they tried their best (I don't speak any Spanish) and the thing I liked most was when you were crossing a road at a crossing, they weren't revving up their engines like Formula 1 drivers, ready to run over your toes (like they do in France). 

Christopher Columbus statue (left), Barcelona
Our last stop on the cruise was Palma in Mallorca. I loved it!  I had only ever been to Mallorca  once when I was about 23 years old on a girly holiday and all we did was sunbathe and swim and go out at night, as you do when you are young.  I would love to go back to Mallorca for a proper holiday, hire a car and go exploring.  The weather was fantastic for October.  At midday it was about 28 degrees. Even more exciting for Roberto....we found another C&A shop - WHOOOPPPEEEEE!! It was funny because it had autumn and winter woollies in when it was so hot outside.  Maybe they were for the British tourists.  Anyway, we both bought a winter jumper each - no, not matching.  Roberto now wants to plan a driving tour of Europe, based on where the C&A shops are located.

The Cathedral in Mallorca
The harbour in Mallorca
Well, that was just about it mes amis.  We had one more sea day and then on arrival at Malaga, we were transported to the airport at 6am and homeward bound, arriving in a dull grey Manchester at around 12.30 and then getting stuck for two hours on the M62 because of an accident.  Never mind, we had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed our first cruise. We can't wait for the next one.  Better start saving.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Monaco & Antibes

During our recent cruise we had surprisingly good entertainment in the evenings. I was expecting typical cruise ship crooners (there were a few) but we had a really good Elton John tribute singer, a Kenny Rogers and a Phil Collins.  They were all very good.  Then one night in the theatre we had Tom O'Connor.  He is still going strong and is much funnier than some of the younger comedians you see on TV nowadays. There was a ventriloquist one night but that was just a step too far for us.  We gave that one a miss.
 
...and onwards to Monaco....
 
Early morning arrival in Monaco
We were out on the balcony again in our jimmy jams to see the ship's arrival in Monaco.  I don't think I've told you before chers amis but I lived in Nice for about a year when I was in my late twenties and had a job in Monaco as a secretary in a shipping agency (it's still there).  Please don't think it was all glamorous and exciting.  It was the most boring job I have ever had and the hours were long but it was a lovely place to work, and I didn't have to pay tax - result!  Anyway, because we knew Monaco quite well, we decided to take the train to Antibes for part of the day and then have a walk round Monaco when we came back.
 
I couldn't believe how much Monaco had changed.  We thought it would be easy going to the train station which wasn't anything special the last time we were there.  Now, it has  been completely modernised and extended and is all under cover.  We walked a mile along a moving walkway and followed directions for the ticket office.  The ticket office was closed.  Of course, it was still before 9am.  So we tried to suss out the ticket machine, which took a while but we managed in the end and then we had to try and work out which platform to wait on, which also was not obvious and there were no  screens on the platform to help.  Anyway, we eventually got our train and made our way to Antibes.  It is a lovely train ride along the coast in the bright sunshine.  I can't remember how long it took, maybe half an hour or 45 minutes.
 
Back street in Antibes
The harbour at Antibes
My boat's bigger than your boat!
The last time we had been in Antibes was quite a few years ago, maybe 15, and Roberto remembered going into a little café/restaurant and having the best chicken club sandwich ever, so we went in search of the Key West....and we found it!  He was over the moon, and the menu was still the same.  So if you are ever visiting Antibes, go to the Key West for your lunch. 
 
Key West Bar/Café in Antibes.  It isn't anything special
but their chicken club sandwiches are just fab.
I bought a big bag of herbes de Provence (a magic ingredient for my winter soups) and some lovely lavender soap from one of the little shops in Antibes and then we were off back to Monaco on the train.

It was hot, noisy and crowded in Monaco.  There is building work going on everywhere you go.  I was really tired by this time and I couldn't face the climb up the hill to Monte Carlo so we found the lifts that took you most of the way up.  There was a wedding going on in the Hotel de Paris. We didn't see who it was but you should have seen the cars parked outside!  There was quite a few million squid in cars alone. We just had a wander round and took a few photos. I was just about past myself by then so we wandered slowly back to the ship and had a look in a few shops on the way.

Monaco harbour with our ship the Ventura docked up.
 
Sun setting over Monaco as we sail away

Update on Roberto's lost hat.  No we haven't suddenly found it but he's still chuntering on about it, saying that some old b***d is wearing his special NASA hat on the way to the Caribbean on the next leg of Ventura's cruise. I might just go online and see if I can still order one from the NASA website and pretend that the old b***d felt guilty and sent it in the post. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Arrivederci Roma et Bonjour Ajaccio

Ajaccio from the top of our tour bus

If felt a bit strange arriving in a different country each day, but it was a nice kind of strange.  We looked forward each morning to exploring the new place we had just arrived at. I forgot to mention that every time we disembarked, the P&O photographers were waiting for us like paparazzi.  They took a photo of disembarking passengers at every stop and then later on you could go to the photo gallery and find your photo and pay...wait for it...£11.80.  They also took photos of you at the black tie evenings (if you wanted a special portrait) and those photos cost £17.95.  The special album to collect all your photos cost £21.00, so if you were daft enough to buy every photo and an album, you would be out of pocket to the tune of about £200 squid or more.
 
Anyway, we made our way out of the port in Ajaccio and found an open top double decker tour bus and decided to do the little tour.  Quite a few of the other passengers came along as well and it was a lovely tour round the coastal road and then back through the town.  For some strange reason, we didn't take a lot of photos in Ajaccio so I can't show you much of it.  Again, it was a lovely old town with a market in the square and lots of interesting little shops. After the bus tour, we went to a café to have a cappuccino and decide what to do next.  I saw this couple from our cruise ship sitting at the end table in the same café.  I don't like to speak ill of my fellow British passengers but they were both very large and round and I'm sure I heard the woman asking the French waiter if they did English breakfast.  I wasn't sure if I heard it right because there is no way those two would have missed breakfast on board the ship, but sure enough, the waiter brought them a menu. Later on when we were back on board the ship, we went up to the buffet restaurant for afternoon tea - how lovely is that? They did little dainty sandwiches, cakes and toasted tea cakes and it was all very British.  I came upon the round couple again, plates piled high with the little sandwiches and cakes.  I don't like to judge people but I couldn't believe how much they ate.  Maybe food is an addiction for some people. To the Rolling Room with them!
 
A week into our cruise and we arrive back in Italy, this time in Genoa.  For most of the stops, we had done our own research into what we wanted to see, train timetables etc because the P&O organised excursions were quite expensive.  However, we noticed there was a trip to Portofino and there is no way we could have found our own way there so we splashed the cash and booked the trip and we were very glad we did. 

The coach took us to a little fishing village called Camogli to catch the boat to Portofino.  We had an hour in Camogli to go for a coffee and explore a bit.  It was really lovely, with all the high flats painted different colours.  The tour guide explained that this was for the fishermen years ago.  After they had been at sea for days they would look out for their own apartment by the colour and it would cheer them up and make them feel as if they were nearly home.

Camogli, Italy
 

Arriving in Portofino

 Portofino is not that big but it is absolutely beautiful.  After having a walk round we stopped at a café for a gelato.  They were expensive but we thought we would treat ourselves.  We thought they would be big and fancy with bells on.  In fact, when they arrived, it was 3 scoops of ice cream in a small silver dish.  Never mind, at least we can say we had a gelato in Portofino. We would like to have stayed for longer but the tour guide told us all to meet up at a certain time to get the boat back for the coach.  We didn't go back to Camogli, however.  This time we went onwards and were dropped off at Santa Margarita which was also a lovely town but we didn't have time to see it properly as we were marched to the coach to go back to Genoa.
 
 
Portofino


Portofino
Right, onwards and upwards.  Monaco and Antibes in a day next....think I need a rest. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

First Stop Kotor, Montenegro

Early morning arrival in the Bay of Kotor
I had never heard of Kotor before our trip.  Its neighbours are Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. We got up early to see the beautiful bay surrounded by mountains.  It was like sailing through a fjord.  It was cool and misty and very quiet and peaceful. We stood on the balcony in our jimmy jams and enjoyed the beautiful views and the calmness of it all.

Then after breakfast we jumped into the tender boat with some other passengers and off we went to explore another new place. It is only a small town but it dates back to Ancient Roman times.  On disembarking the tender boat, we were instantly bombarded by touts trying to sell tours and taxi rides, which was a bit disconcerting to say the least.  We hurried through the crowd and went our own way, immediately finding the entrance to the old town.

The old town of Kotor
We wandered around looking in all the little shops and then found our way to the top of the town where there was an old stone path you could walk up to an ancient fortress. Malheureusement, we didn't make it to the fortress, chers amis. It was like climbing a mountain.  The path was all cobbled stones and there were rough steps at the side which were easier to walk up but it was so steep to climb up and we were gasping for breath after each section.  Can I just point out that we were not the only unfit people on the climb.  There were plenty of other tourists wheezing and gasping on their way up. Anyway, this is the photo we took when we got to the part where we couldn't take another step.

Kotor, Montenegro
Then it was downhill to a lovely café in the square for a cappuccino.


CORFU AND THE LOST HAT

The next day we arrived at Corfu.  We woke up early again, eager to get out and explore some more. Now Roberto had brought a special baseball cap with him.  He had bought it on holiday in America many moons ago in the Kennedy Space Centre.  It was a 40th anniversary of NASA hat and he had been saving it for a special occasion (I think that must be a man thing). Anyway, somehow or other between walking from our cabin to the shuttle bus, he lost said hat.  I don't know how he did it (no, he wasn't wearing it at the time!) but I didn't hear the end of it. He bought another one in Corfu because it was really hot there but it just wasn't as special as his NASA one.  He kept complaining that some old b***d on the ship would be wearing it by now and when we got back to the ship, he was looking menacingly at all the people with beige baseball caps on, ready to pounce. 


The old town of Corfu.  I loved all the little shops,
especially the leather bag shops.
 
ROBBERS AT THE GATES OF THE VATICAN

We had another sea day and then we arrived in Civitivecchia, Italy. We had checked out the train timetables to Rome before we went on the cruise.  We bought a return BIRG ticket for 12 Euros each, which was extremely cheap considering it was an hour's train journey to Rome and we could also use the ticket on the Metro and bus systems.  On arriving at Roma Ostiense station, we found the Metro and went two stops to Il Colosseo.
 


Photos taken and then it was back onto the Metro to San Pietro and the Vatican.  We didn't go into the Vatican because we didn't have time to wait for 3 hours, and to be honest, I wouldn't have waited for 3 hours anyway.  The queue must have been a mile long, if not longer.  It was as if people were waiting to see Jesus. I would like to have seen the Sistine Chapel but we  had less than a day to visit Rome and see as much as we could.
 
We had a walk round St Peter's Square because Roberto wanted to find the clues between the paving stones and solve the mystery of the Da Vinci code.  There were thousands of people there.  I mentioned the robbers at the gates because we had a look at the Vatican related souvenir tat on the stalls and shops and couldn't believe the prices.  If you wanted to buy rosary beads, they were 35 Euros on some stalls.  I would want diamond ones for that price. We also enquired in a shop about an SD card for Roberto's camera.  The price was 50 Euros, for the same one he bought in the UK for about £12. It disgusted me really because on all the streets we passed there were poor beggars lying there with limbs missing.  It was just awful and everyone was just walking past them - all those Christians. Jesus (if he really did exist) would definitely not have liked it. My early catholic brainwashing  came in handy as I was reminded of the story of Jesus in the temple:
 
"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."   Matthew 21:12-13

Just for the record, I did have to look the quote up.  The brainwashing wasn't that effective. I'm not sure whether I was  having an off day but I just didn't like Rome.  Whether it was just the heat and the number of people but I wanted to run for the hills. Never mind, at least I can say I've seen some of it. The Italian trains were great - double deckers with very comfortable seats.  I thought we had made a mistake and gone into a first class carriage.  They were also slap bang on time in both directions.  We have a lot to learn from the Europeans about train travel.

Arrivederci Roma
 
 

 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Still Cruisin'

Don't worry, chers amis, I won't bore you with every day of our cruise but a few funny things did happen on our first sea day.  We went exploring on the ship on the first day, finding out where everything was.  Everyone is allocated a restaurant with waiter service, although you can go to the buffet restaurant any time you want.  We wanted to find ours so that we could go on the first formal night when you put on your posh clobber. Our restaurant was called Cinnamon and when we found it we noticed that there was a Marco Pierre White menu displayed outside.  We heard another passenger saying that it was just an advert for his White Room restaurant which was also on board (one that you had to pay through the nose for).  Anyway, we skipped off and continued exploring.
 
In the afternoon, we were just sitting relaxing in the bar/pool area, enjoying the sunshine and having a cold drink.  I saw someone pointing upwards and followed his gaze.  Standing in the open air restaurant above us, hair blowing in the breeze was......none other than Rob Brydon.


Rob Brydon, P&O Cruise Ship Ventura
9 October 2014
Just one more take, guys, and then it'll be a wrap.

We think he was making an advert for P&O.  They did the same take about ten times.  It got a bit boring in the end. Anyway, that was a bit of excitement on a sunny afternoon on the Adriatic.

Now to the formal evening.  There were a lot of seasoned cruisers in dinner suits and bow ties and ladies in long evening dresses. Ladies could also wear short cocktail dresses or smart trouser suits and the gents could wear a normal dark suit with tie. Roberto and I got dressed up and ready for our first meal in the Cinnamon restaurant.  We were looking forward to our meal but when we arrived and were seated, we discovered that the menu was in fact a Marco Pierre White menu.  I ordered the soup as a starter and Roberto ordered smoked salmon (once we had translated the menu from gobbledegook).  Well, the soup turned out to be consommé and I'm sure it was made from his so-called secret ingredient, i.e. Knorr stock cubes. We did have a laugh about that actually. Roberto's smoked salmon arrived.  He had one small piece of transparent smoked salmon with little bits of decoration around the plate and a small piece of lemon tied up in a muslin bag.  All very decorative but we were hungry!! The next course was also little bits of food decorating the plate so we decided to skip the dessert and raced upstairs to the buffet restaurant for some real food.  'Twas very disappointing.  I can't understand people paying hundreds of pounds for food like that and then raving about how brilliant it is.  Londoners, you can keep your celebrity chefs.  I did notice during the holiday that a really attractive girl was sent round to try and get bookings for the White Room every day.  I didn't see one person making a booking with her. In fact, she looked as if she was past herself most days.



Right, next stop Kotor.  Where the fluff is that?


 

Friday, 24 October 2014

If it's Wednesday, it must be Venice

 
P&O Cruise Ship Ventura docked in Venice
 
 
Captain's Log, star date October 8 in the year 2014. Our first cruising adventure begins as we wake up before the larks to get ourselves to Manchester Airport three hours before take off.  We are herded through the security zone and come out at the other end weary and hungry and then have the most expensive breakfast we've ever had in the airport feeding area.
 
Our flight was on time and it was lovely and sunny and warm when we arrived in Venice Marco Polo Airport.  I can't praise P&O enough for the extremely smooth transition between airport and cruise ship.  We didn't have to collect our bags in the usual carousel scrum but just went straight through passport control where a bored official just gave our passports a cursory glance and off we went straight to the comfortable coach and onwards to the ship. Our suitcases arrived later and were delivered to our cabin.
 
On arrival at the Ventura, we were told that the cabins were not quite ready and would we proceed to the 15th floor (or should I say deck?) where we could get tea and coffee.  Managed to find the lifts and got ourselves up to Deck 15...and my God, the British had arrived!  It was packed with lunchtime passengers who had joined the cruise earlier, as well as all us newbies.  There was not one free table in this huge buffet restaurant.  We were shattered by this time, having been awake since 2am and we just wanted to sit down and have a nice cup of tea.  Roberto was past himself (quaint old Yorkshire expression for being extremely tired and p***d off), and announced that he was going home.  I led him gently to an outside bar area where I had noticed people smoking, sat him down on a bar stool with an ashtray nearby and told him to light up (I don't advocate smoking but he was past himself).  I then went and found the tea and coffee machines and got us a nice strong cup of tea and we started to feel a bit more human.  By the time we had something to eat from the buffet (the food was lovely), there was an announcement that the cabins were ready so we ran like two excited children to find the lifts to get to our cabin. 

Our luggage hadn't arrived yet but we were really happy with our lovely cabin and balcony. So after a quick skip around the cabin, we set off for Venice.  P&O had provided a water bus for passengers who wanted to go into the centre of Venice. 
 
 
Venice - photo taken from the Water Bus

 
View from the Rialto Bridge


We would love to have had more time to explore Venice but we enjoyed what we saw and hopefully one day we will go back and explore some more.


COMING SOON!

Marco Pierre White's menu in our restaurant (yuk!) and celebrity spotting onboard the Ventura. 



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?





I don't know if you will be interested in this chers amis but I watched this BBC programme the other night and found it so interesting,  not least because it was about my ancestors as well.  Billy Connolly's grandmother, Flora, and my grandmother, Mary Cusick (nee McGowan), were sisters.  Flora was my great-aunt. Although I don't remember seeing her that much when I was young, I can always remember her calling into my grandma's house and giving us a square of her Fry's Crème bar before she left. She always made us laugh when she was leaving because she shouted "Cheery Bye!"  When we were young, we thought that was hilarious for some reason.
 
We also knew Billy's mother, Mame but we didn't know about him for years because it was all a great family secret/scandal.  The fact that a young married woman had left her kids and run away with a married man and started a whole new family in Dunoon, just wasn't talked about to children.  Although our staunch catholic family would have been appalled by what she had done, for some reason, they stood by Mame and I'm glad they did.  She was the funniest person I ever met. When we were about 8 or 9, my brother and I were taken to visit Mame in Dunoon by my aunt. Well, the two ladies were desperate for a gossip sans enfants so Mame handed us both an orange from the fruit bowl and left us in the capable hands of her husband, who was also left with two other very small grand-children. I was terrified of dogs when I was young and as soon as the bloody dog saw the orange in my hand, it thought it was a ball and started chasing me round the coffee table - I was screaming but I didn't think to let go of the orange.  Eventually Mame came back in and dragged the dog into the kitchen where it promptly chewed my aunt's expensive leather handbag handle.
 
Once we were at a family funeral and the same aunt was taking my sisters, brother and myself in her old Mini (i.e. like the ones from the original Italian Job) back to my grandma's house.  There must have been three of us in the back seat and we called Mame over to give her a lift.  Well, she clambered in backwards and promptly sat on the floor.  That started us laughing and then she shouts "Did you lot move that seat back deliberately?" Maybe it was the stress of a funeral but we all laughed until we cried and then some more.  I knew Mame before I knew her back story so I knew her without judging her and I liked her for who she was.  Maybe I would have thought she was a terrible person for leaving her two children if I had known but I am glad I didn't have the chance to judge her, and I was also glad when Billy said he didn't bear her any malice for what she had done.
 
Anyway, I've never met Billy Connolly but I was always secretly proud to be related to him.  We were not allowed to have his early concert LPs because my mother thought they were too rude (which they probably were) so we used to stand outside this older boy's house and listen to him playing the record at full blast in his bedroom with the window open. No instant downloads in those days eh?  
 
I will be on radio silence for two weeks from mercredi, mes amis.  See you on the flip side, as they say.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Cameron's War

I have no interest in politics and I hardly watch the News now but I believe we are getting involved in a war with something called IS (Islamic State).  Is this another new made up expression designed to make us frightened enough to back yet another war in the Middle East that has fluff all to do with the UK?  We are not in danger of "psychotic terrorist" attacks in the UK, in the same way we were not in any danger of Sadam Hussain pressing a button and launching a weapon of mass destruction which Tony Bliar told us would arrive in the UK in 45 minutes.  The only psychotic terrorists we know of are sitting in a big building in Westminster giving the go-ahead for another bloody war.
 
I can't bring myself to post a photo of David Cameron because it just makes me want to slap his big round shiny face.
 
Right, got that off my chest. I'm off on my holidays soon in approximately une semaine so I don't really care about any of it.  Not my circus, not my monkeys (quaint old Polish expression).
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Biomass Baloney

I am not an expert on global warming...oops, strike that...climate change (apparently the globe hasn't actually warmed up that much in 20 years or more), but there was something on our local news the other night that caught my attention.  Apparently Drax Power Station near Selby, North Yorkshire is planning on being  biomass fuelled, instead of being coal fuelled.  Now this all sounds very ecologically friendly but the biomass material is made mainly from trees (from sustainable forests, so they say).  So for a huge power station burning fuel 24 hours a day, thousands of trees would have to be destroyed to fill up one 50,000 ton tanker with biomass pellets. Oh, did I mention that the biomass is shipped in from USA?  Is it just me or does this not make sense to you either?  The irony of it is that we used to have a good supply of coal from down the road in Doncaster.  I understand about Drax wanting to reduce their carbon footprint, whatever that actually means, but to destroy nature in the process just seems a bit strange to me.
 
 
 

Monday, 22 September 2014

From Darkness to Light

After all the hoo ha and angry bellowing from the shallow end of the gene pool in Glasgow the other night, I read about something wonderful that happened the next day.  Apparently a spontaneous outburst of generosity occurred during a peace rally in George Square.  Peace campaigners were talking about a food bank that they ran and soon after,  bags of food started arriving, donated by passers by. By the end of Saturday there were hundreds of bags of food and on Sunday there were even more.  The generosity of Glasgow people never fails to amaze me. This is the Glasgow that I know and love and the people, whose sarcasm could cut you to the quick and leave you lying in a quivering heap, but whose hearts are made of pure gold.
 
 
 
Bags of food delivered by generous passers-by in Glasgow's George Square
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Dark Side of Glasgow

Clashes in George Square in Glasgow last night

I know my last post was entitled "I Predict a Riot" but I didn't really mean it.  Last night there were violent clashes between the NO and YES voters.  Well, actually the angry mob were shouting sectarian chants and insults and some were doing the Nazi saluting thing.  Some were so young that they wouldn't even know what any of it meant.  I have been away from Glasgow for too long.  I had almost forgotten about that deep rooted religious nonsense that made Glasgow a microcosm of Northern Ireland. It made people who supported one football team attack and beat up someone who supported another football team just because they were wearing the wrong colours (wrong colours = wrong religion). I hated all the Catholic/Protestant stuff when I was young and I have been reminded of it again now and I hate it even more. 
 
So sad to see the dark side of Glasgow being broadcast to the world.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

I Predict a Riot

Apologies in advance for any sweary words but I think they are an important part of the post and are not intended to cause offence.

Mollykins


ALEX SALMOND:  Whit!  They voted YES?  Jesus Christ! WTF are we going to do now Nicola? You're my right hand man, you think of something.

NICOLA STURGEON: How the fluff should I know what to do, you great fat chubber.  I've been telling the fooking media that we can keep the fooking pound.  I've said it that many times, I even convinced myself.  How do we explain to the Scottish people that we have to invent our own currency?  Their savings and pensions will become groats...or worse...Euros, for fluff sake.  
 
ALEX SALMOND: (head in hands).  That pillock, Cameron will turn the money taps off now and we'll be doomed.  I honestly thought they'd vote NO and we'd get more money sent up from England, like those three clowns promised.  I had planned on giving people on benefits a pay rise on the strength of that. Christ, I even had my "magnanimous in defeat" speech ready. 
 
NICOLA STURGEON: F***wit!
 
ALEX SALMOND: Anyway, Nicola, we have to go out there and face the media now so stop greetin' and tidy up yer face for the cameras.
 
NICOLA STURGEON: I am NOT greeting Alex, I've just got something in my eye.  You sort out your own fat face.
 
A lackey enters the room: It's time for the Press Conference now. 
 
ALEX SALMOND:  Aye, we're ready. Let's go and face the Press Nicola. Happy face on now.
 
As they enter the Press Conference, there are loud cheers all round.  A smiling Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon wave and shake hands with the supporters and eventually it quietens down, ready for the speeches. Alex Salmond shakes his jowls and begins....
 
ALEX SALMOND: What a magnificent day for Scotland!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Yes or No? Do we Really Care?

...and tell our enemies that they may take our lives
but they will never take our FREEEEEEDOM!!
 

I happened to be earwigging overhear a conversation in our local Morrison's supermarket the other day.  The lady at the checkout had asked an elderly Scottish gentleman what he thought about Scottish Independence.  Big mistake!  Huge mistake!  The old b****d went off on one, complaining that he didn't get to vote because he lived in England and he had written to our local MP, David Davis, to ask him to do something about it.  The poor wee checkout lady looked a bit flummoxed by his outburst.  It transpired (I was still earwigging at this point) that this elderly Scottish gentleman was in his 70s and had lived in East Yorkshire since 1965.....almost 50 years.  I'll just leave that one with you.

The UK Government, in its wisdom, decided on a last ditch appeal to the "YES" voters.  What do you think they did?  Well, of course, they sent in the clowns, in the shape of Cameron, Cleggy and Miliband.  How to get the whole Scottish nation to vote YES in one easy lesson. F***wits!  Sorry, I have to swear sometimes.

When people hear my Scottish accent, they sometimes ask me what I think about Scottish Independence and I say to them "Quite frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."  Not my circus, not my monkeys (old Polish saying). I have lived in East Yorkshire for over 20 years and have been very happy here. I don't think I would want to move back to Scotland just because of the climate alone.  'Tis always very cold and wet in Glasgow.   I have never been into the Scottish-ness thing (I only know the first verse of Flower of Scotland - oh, shock horror!) and I hate all the "we hate the English" rabble of Scottish nationalists who have probably never been outside of Scotland, apart from their yearly holiday to Benidorm with a plane load of...well, other Scottish people.  In all the years I have lived in England, I have never ever come across any Scottish-hating English people.

So, we shall see what happens after the vote next week.  I suspect that if it is a YES vote, the conversation will go something like this:-

ALEX SALMOND: "Oh Shit, Nicola.  What the fluff do we do now?"
 
 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Lancaster Bombers

Today we were lucky enough to witness the last two remaining Lancaster bombers flying past our area.  Yesterday we went over to Kirmington in Lincolnshire as they were due to fly over the airport there at lunchtime.  Unfortunately, due to bad weather at RAF Coningsby, they were unable to take off.  Apologies for the quality of the photos.  We only had a matter of a few minutes to take them and my zoom is not very zoomy.
 
The late great Beatrice Printemps (Roberto's mother) used to sit at her bedroom window when she was a wee lass and count the Lancasters as they went out on their missions.  She told us that she once counted 600 in one night.
 
 
Lancaster Bombers flying over Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, East Yorkshire
7 September 2014 at 9.23am
 






 
 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy

 
Great excitement chez nous.  After a lot of faffing, dithering, pondering and Libra weighing up (Roberto), we have finally booked a 14 day Mediterranean cruise for October this year.  I'm so excited I am dancing non-stop to the Happy Song. Come on, dance with me. I'll tell you when to stop. Whooopppeeeeeee!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Glasgow

I am pleased that people around the world are seeing Glasgow as it really is, because of the Commonwealth Games coverage, and not how they perceive it from TV programmes such as Taggart where most of the population are murrrrdered on a daily basis in dull grey housing schemes and high rise flats in the Gorbals. This is not the Glasgow that I know and love.
 
Perception is a funny thing.  When I first hitched up with Roberto many moons ago, his mother asked me if there was a Marks & Spencers in Glasgow yet.  I found this a bit strange, as if the perception of Scotland/Glasgow was that of a backward nation.  I replied "Yes, and we even have electricity, Beatrice" (can you tell I was a little bit miffed?).  I had been going to the M&S in Argyle Street in Glasgow almost since I could walk. All our school uniforms were bought there and my grandmother and wee auntie used to put on their best hats and coats on a Saturday afternoon and get the bus into town, with the express desire of shopping in M&S and buying some lovely treats in the food department (choccy ginger nuts were my favourites).
 
Because of the recent coverage, people around the world have been able to witness for themselves the real friendliness of Glasgow people.  I remember having an English boss who told me he visited Glasgow and was quite taken aback when people actually spoke to him when he was just standing waiting to cross a road at the traffic lights. People working in shops talk to you as if they are your best friends and that famous Glasgow sense of humour is never far away.

Tonight is the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games and I will be glued to the screen looking out for my friend, Doreen, who is taking part in the final show.  It's all top secret but I am hoping desperately that she will be one of Kylie's backing dancers.  Doreen and I used to love a good bop at the best Glasgow nightspots at the time, the most hilarious laughs of the night being in the queue at Pizza Corolla at 2am with all the starving (and tired and emotional) night clubbing Glasgow people.

So to anyone who hasn't been to Glasgow, give it a try.  You may be very pleasantly surprised. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Starsky & Hutch at the Commonwealth Games

Although I'm still getting over the trauma of a small child thinking I was his Grandma the other day, I wanted to keep you all updated on goings on at ground level at the Commonwealth Games in Parkhead, Glasgow.
 
According to my brother, Vasily, the whole area of Parkhead now looks like Northern Ireland during the troubles.  There are concrete barriers down all the main roads, checkpoints for cars going in and out of the area, hundreds of security guards.  Vasily was taking photos of it all when a policeman approached him and told him to stop.  He replied "I can take photos of what I want, I live on this street".  The policeman replied "Oh aye?  What number?" in a threatening manner.
 
Checkpoint Charlie, Parkhead, Glasgow July 2014
 
 
One of the main roads in Parkhead, Glasgow July 2014


 
 
There are CCTV cameras on every other lamp post and set of traffic lights, busy main roads have been closed and the locals are tearing their hair out at the major disruption.
 
There are unmarked police cars (which stick out like a sore thumb and everybody knows they are police cars) riding around doing their pre-large event practice, driving up to bus stops and jumping out like Starsky & Hutch and taking bemused old ladies' names and addresses. 
 
It amuses me the way they trail the Commonwealth baton round the world.  I just don't get that.  The news reporters take it all so seriously and I just think it is hilarious.  I saw a BBC reporter asking a young girl some questions about carrying the baton.

BBC NEWS REPORTER: "Was there any special training before you carried the baton?"

YOUNG GIRL: "Eh...no."

BBC NEWS REPORTER: "Was it difficult to carry?"

YOUNG GIRL: "Eh...no."

BBC NEWS REPORTER: "Right, moving on then..."


I will keep you updated if I can, mes amis.  My friend, Doreen, is taking part in the final ceremony so I will try and point her out if possible, when the time comes. 

.

Monday, 14 July 2014

On Getting Older

You just know you are getting older when a very small child in the supermarket runs towards you shouting in a very loud voice..."Gwanma, gwanma!"

ME: "Small child, I believe you have mistaken me for someone else".

Right then, I'm just off to touch up my roots.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Commonwealth Nonsense

Well, for someone who doesn't do sport, I have been blogging about it somewhat haven't I? The latest bit of nonsense has been brought to my attention by my sister, Katia.  She was on her way to Tesco in Parkhead, where she lives (why Katia, why?) and was stopped on the way by an official security man to have her documents checked.  Let me just explain.  The Commonwealth Games will take place in Parkhead, Glasgow shortly and the whole area has been made totally secure with roads closed off and hundreds of security guards guarding....well..empty car parks and roads. These security people are taking their jobs ever so seriously and Katia was stopped for a spot check yesterday on the road to Hell Tesco.  
 
Every householder in the area has a permit that has to be displayed on the dashboard of their cars and unfortunately for Katia, she forgot hers that day - bummer!  The 12 year old security man would not let her go any further and made her turn around.  I'm afraid she got rather angry and had a rant at him and then told him to poke the permit up his bottom.
 
My brother, Vasily, who also lives in the area (why Vasily, why?) told me that these checkpoint Charlies also stopped an ambulance and fire engine from getting through to render crucial assistance to the local residents.

More Scottish nonsense later, mes amis.

 
 
 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

It's all a Load of Tennis Balls

Am I the only one in this country to think that Andy Murray doesn't want to play tennis?  Honestly, he wasn't a bit bothered about getting a damn good thrashing by Gregor Dimitrov earlier today.  Murray is always angry but is probably too scared to tell his mum that he wants to give up tennis.  Admit it, guys, he's only mediocre, not brilliant like Federer or Nadal. Enough said.  I'm glad he's out now.  He's bloody miserable.
 
I'm also fed up with Formula 1 Champion Whinger, Lewis Hamilton, but I'm looking forward to a good spat between him and Nico Rosberg and I'm SO looking forward to him having his ass kicked by Team Manager, Niki Lauda, who hardly whinged at all when he was severely burned in a serious crash in the '70s (when men were men and didn't whinge).
 
Anyway, that's my take on sport in the UK at the moment.  Not sure who won the World Cup.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Little Trip Down South (2)

Now, where were we?  Oh yes, Pear Tree Park & Ride in Oxford.  From there we headed south to The New Forest area, which we love. I love the wild horses in the New Forest.  After seeing them running free, I hate to see horses all trussed up and saddled up with a great fat bottom on top controlling where they go and what they do.  (Just saying how it is near us with the horsey people - quite a lot of Hugh Jarses).

New Forest Wild Horses

Before going to our hotel, we stopped off at Lyndhurst for lunch and for Roberto to drool over the Maseratis on display at the dealership which is right next to the Mailman's Arms pub. For a one street town, Lyndhurst is always busy and there's always something going on.  While we were there, a group of hot rods came through for the hot rod festival at Beaulieu, which we went to on the Sunday.



As soon as we arrived at the Beach House Hotel at Milford-on-Sea, I just loved it. It reminded me of Gull's Point from one of the Miss Marple stories, and funnily enough (some might say spookily) when I switched on the TV later on, that very same episode was on.  A lot of the original features in the Beach House have been kept, like the oak panelling throughout the hallways and dining rooms and a lot of the old squashy leather chairs and sofas.  Every room has recently been re-vamped and ours was absolutely lovely, not like a normal hotel room at all but like a very comfortable bedroom in a beautiful house.  From our room we heard an argument later on at night in the kitchen with the German manager,  and one of the chefs.  We heard a lot of clattering and banging around and then we heard her say, "You veel obey me!" Don't know what that was all about but it gave us a laugh anyway.
 
We went to the very popular Saturday market at Lymington.  It runs the whole length of the main street on both sides.  We discovered the old cobbled back streets that go towards the marina and we had a wander round.  I don't know who these people are in the photo but we must have been caught up in thousands of Japanese tourists' photos while we were down south. Can you imagine the folks back home?  "Who those people in photo?  Why they in evely photo?"
Lymington-sur-Mer
I will skip over Beaulieu Museum.  Although it is lovely to visit, we have been there three times and there's only so many times I can look at the James Bond/Formula 1 cars etc. I liked the hot rod festival though. 
 
 
 
On the Sunday night we stayed at a de Vere hotel in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.  They do a really good deal on Sunday nights - double room  for £39.  The rooms are quite small but very clean and modern and tastefully decorated.  We were a couple of stingypants and didn't want to pay £10 each for breakfast (I didn't want a big fried breakfast anyway) so we decided we would find a nice village in the Cotswolds on the way up and stop off. As it happened we passed a brand new American Diner called Cherry Pie Diner in Faringdon.  We were so pleased to find it. The waitresses were all dressed in 1950s style skirts with flat shoes and bobby socks and hair tied back in pony tails.  They music was the Everly Brothers on a loop.  It was like stepping onto the film set of Grease.  The breakfast was really good and the service was excellent.  It's nice when a plan comes together isn't it?
 
Next stop, Stratford Upon Avon Park & Ride. It was easier than finding a car park and the town was only a 5 minute ride from the bus stop. I'm not really that interested in Shakespeare and I must admit I only went to see The Merchant of Venice years ago at the theatre because Dustin Hoffman played Shylock in it. Actually, I quite enjoyed it. Anyway, we did a tour of the town and walked down to the river to watch the riverboats, bumping into a couple we know from our village along the way.  It was just a bit too busy for me and there were millions and millions and millions of Japanese tourists.
 
There are so many great places to visit in the UK. We're looking forward to planning our next little trip.
 
See you soon, mes amis.
 
 
 


 
 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

A Little Trip Down South

Funny things always happen to us when we go away for a few days.  In a lovely old pub in Burford in the Cotswolds,  Roberto was asked by an attractive young barmaid if he wanted a Full Brazilian.  Once we had stopped laughing, he ordered a pint of it.

There were hundreds of Japanese tourists in the area when we recently visited.  I knew they liked taking photos but I couldn't believe it when I saw several of them taking photos of the parking ticket machine in the car park in Bourton-on-the-Water ("Velly intellesting machine").  In another car park I saw a man taking a little powered mono-wheel thing out of his boot to use to scoot over to the parking ticket machine and then back to his car. If I had done that, I would have fallen on my a**e. Velly funny.

Then there was the odd newsagent.  We went into a newsagent shop to get Roberto his cigarettes.  It was one of those occasions when I got a bit freaked out and wanted to run.  Roberto asked for his usual brand and we noticed that there were no cigarettes behind the counter. In fact, the whole shop looked a bit bare. The owner turned round to a kind of metal cupboard that turned out to be a cigarette machine.  He told us that he had to take the money out of the till, put it in the machine, press some buttons and then when the cigarettes came out, he scanned them on the till and we paid the money.  I really wanted to run.  It was all a bit odd and velly strange.

On another day we got on the Park & Ride bus to go into Oxford.  We clambered up to the top deck and sat down.  We had visited last year as well.  There was a young woman already on the top deck, dressed in a black skirt and red blouse.  That same young woman had been there on the top deck the year before when we visited, wearing the same outfit, I swear to God. Anyway, she was on the phone, apparently to a locksmith, asking him to come and fix the lock on her back door.  She then proceeded to tell anyone who had ears to hear her name, address, post code, visa number etc etc.  Velly Silly.



The lovely Cotswold town of Burford. 


One final question before I go.  If England football players get paid up to £300,000 A WEEK  (yes, you heard that right - A WEEK),  why aren't they winning matches at the World Cup? Full Brazilians all round I think.


More soon.  We went to the New Forest as well.