Wednesday 31 March 2010

Cruise - St. Vincent #13..

St. Vincent is an island of steep-sided mountains, lush rainforest, gushing waterfalls and the place where parts of 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' movies were filmed.

Named by Columbus after the saint's day on which he sailed past it in 1498, the island of St. Vincent is off the beaten track and retains a lot of it's idyllic charm. With fertile volcanic soil - the 4,000ft La Soufriere volcano last erupted in the 1970's.   St. Vincent is packed with tropical flowers and fruit plantations. There's even a breadfruit tree descended from one first brought to the island by Captain Bligh of 'Mutiny On The Bounty' fame.

We docked in Kingstown and, after breakfast, went ashore to explore on foot, as we hadn't booked a trip for this last stop. As we passed through the terminal there was a local steel band playing so we stopped to take their photograph and leave a tip.

Our first stop was the police station where the policeman on duty at the front of the station happily posed for a photo with me.

Further up the street we found the prison!

I don't know who lived in this house but it was a house and not a government building.

Exploring further we found St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral and St. George's Anglican Cathedral facing each other across a narrow street.

Entering St. George's we were welcomed by the verger who introduced himself as Mr. Ulric Doyle. Mr. Doyle was very informative and urged us to walk round the cathedral and take photographs, so of course we did.

We bade farewell to Mr. Doyle, after putting a donation in the restoration fund box, and thanked him for letting us look round before crossing the street to survey St. Mary's.

As we walked round this architecturally unusual building we were aware of the sound of children as St. Mary's also houses a school.

The courtyards were absoutely lovely and so interesting.

Then we went inside where it was just as beautiful.

MWM and I had been feeling a little melancholy when we set off exploring because it was our last day of the cruise and we had to pack that evening. After visiting both churches we felt so much better and made our way back to the berth intending to go back on board for some lunch and make a start on the packing. As we passed through the terminal the steel band were still playing and we decided to sit at one of the cafes and have a final rum punch. As we had a few dollars left, which we really didn't want to take home with us, the final rum punch turned into four each and the few people who were sitting listening to the band got in the party mood and were were all singing along - we even bought a copy of the band's CD. I have to say it didn't sound as good when we played it at home!

There was a couple sitting nearby and conspiratorally the male whispered to us that is was his wife's 64th birthday today and he was 84! Nonchalontly MWM cruised over to the band and asked if they would sing and play Happy Birthday to Lily (the man's wife). A few minutes later the singer with the band asked "Where's Lily?" Of course Lily was shocked but stammered "Here". Then the band began to play Happy Birthday and everyone joined in. Lily was thrilled. When the song had finished one of the shop owners went to Lily and said "Thankyou for spending your birthday in St. Vincent". How lovely was that?

Dollars spent it was time to go back on board. By this time we were pleasantly pissed happy and ready for some lunch before tackling the packing.  Packing to come home never takes as long as packing to go away does it? Why is that? Anyway after leaving out what we needed for that evening and the following morning for our journey home we fastened the cases and sprawled out on the balcony with our books for a snooze read.

That evening we had our photograph taken in the square whilst having a glass of champagne before dinner.

After dinner we watched the variety show in the Marquee, then waited for the BIG DRAW. We had filled in a questionnaire which went into a draw that evening after the show. Whoever won the draw would have their bar bill for the entire cruise wiped clean - as you might guess we had our fingers crossed, as our drinks bill was substantial. Unfortunately we didn't win the draw - the person that won only had a drinks bill of £150! Not fair is it?

Retiring early (for us) we stood on the balcony for one last look at the starry sky and the inky blackness before setting our alarm clock; we had to be out of our cabin by 8.30 a.m the following morning, though we weren't due to leave the boat until 2 p.m.  The following morning after breakfast we sat on deck taking in the rays reading our books until it was time for lunch, after which we were expertly organised onto coaches to take us to the airport for the journey home.  The flight home was uneventful and we even managed to catch a few zzzzzzzzzzzzz, arriving  at Manchester Airport at 6 a.m., we were happy we'd booked premium seats as the extra room made all the difference.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about our cruise. If you are considering a cruise then I would say BOOK IT! It's a wonderful experience waking up each morning in a different place - a fabulous way to see lots of different places without the hassle of getting on and off planes, buses or trains.

Did I tell you we've booked our big next holiday? Two weeks in Goa, India, in November for my birthday! Oh and we have three (up to now) small trips in England in the meantime.  Of course I'll report on all our trips so you don't miss out.

Monday 29 March 2010

Back From The Dead.....

The Friday before my MIL had the fall we were together with other family members and friends to see my 92 year old FIL collect his War Medals, 65 years after he had been discharged from the army.  Official records stated that he was killed during the conflict, in which he suffered shrapnel injuries to his leg and was shot in the arm!

He had attended the Remembrance service at the town’s Cenotaph in November and was asked by various veterans why he wasn’t wearing his medals to which he replied that he had never received them, so he decided to apply for them. Here’s what the report in the paper said.

A Second World War Two hero who cheated death trying to save the life of a fellow soldier has received his war medals - after convincing the Army he is still alive.
     Official records stated that 92 year old Edward Jones was killed during the conflict, in which he suffered shrapnel injuries to his leg and was shot in the arm.
     But Mr Jones is actually alive and well and in good spirits with his wife Jean on Pine Street and has now received his four medals, 65 years after the end of the war.
   Jean, 79, said "It was quite funny really, Eddie decided to apply for his medals so we filled in a form and I got a letter asking me to send a copy of 'the late Mr. Jones' death certificate', when he was sitting in the same room as me, large as life at the time.  So, with the help of the Lancashire Veterans Association, we got everything straightened out and Eddie now has his medals."
    Mr. Jones was born in Barrow-in-Furness, but moved to Rochdale as a child and has lived in Heywood since he was 15.
    He signed up at the age of 21, as soon as the war broke out, and served throughout the conflict in countries including Britain, France, Germany and The Netherlands.
    He was first injured during what he describes as a 'skirmish' with German forces in France in July 1944, shortly after he took part in the Normandy Landings.   Three months later, he was shot at the 'Arnhem Drop' on the Dutch-German border, one of the bloodiest scenes of the war, which claimed the lives of many British soldiers.
     Mr. Jones, who served as platoon Sergeant, said 'One of my corporals had got into difficulty after he landed on a mine, so I started to alert everyone and call for an ambulance.
     Just as I called for an ambulance, I noticed a sniper was watching me and I managed to turn just in time, so he shot me in the arm rather than my chest.  I could easily have been killed.  I never found out what happened to the other soldier because I was immediately flown back to England."
     Mr. Jones then faced a recovery period of almost two years in different hospitals.  He was in constant fear that he would lose his arm and had monthly examinations to check it was healing properly.
     "It was terrifying really" he said.   "Back then, they never told you anything.  You would be lying in the hospital bed and they would put a barrier up so you couldn't see what they were doing.  Then if your wound wasn't healing properly, you could wake up and your arm or leg would be gone.  It happened to a lot of soldiers in the hospital."
     Unsurprisingly, the war had a lasting effect on Mr Jones, who continued to suffer nightmares about his experiences until recently.
     When he was released from hospital, Mr Jones returned to Heywood, where he took on a number of jobs, including running his own DIY store on Wham Bar.
     Mr. Jones said “At first I wasn’t all that bothered about getting my war medals, but I go to the Cenotaph every Remembrance Sunday and it does seem a bit wrong for all the other soldiers to have their medals and me to have none. This year, I’ll be proud to turn up wearing my medals.”

     Harry Mills, chairman of the Lancashire Veteran’s Association, helped to secure the 1939 to 1945 Star, Defence Medal, France and Germany Medal and British War Medal for Mr. Jones.
     He said “Mr Jones is undoubtedly one of the oldest remaining soldiers form the Manchester Regment and we are happy that he has finally received his medals. Soldiers like Mr. Jones deserve to have their stories told and their service recognised. He really is a war hero.”

The most amazing thing about this story is that in November, last year, just after Eddie had attended the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, he was so poorly the doctors gave him just two weeks to live!  Just goes to show what determination can do doesn't it?

We are all very proud of Eddie.


Friday 26 March 2010

A flying visit........

just to say thankyou for all your good wishes and to tell you that my MIL has come home from hospital today.

Thankfully she didn't need an operation, the hairline fracture will heal itself apparently.

I'll be back posting next week with something that happened last Friday but got put on the backburner after my MIL's accident.

See you soon. xx

Wednesday 24 March 2010


I may not be around for a while, we have a family crisis.

80 year old MIL has fallen and fractured her hip, leaving us to look after 92 year old FIL (with many health problems).

See you when I see you.

Monday 22 March 2010

Cruise - Isla Margarita #12...

Just 25 miles off the Venezuelan coast, Isla Margarita is an intoxicating blend of Latin American spirit and laid-back Caribbean charm.  Known as 'the island of pearls' due to its numerous oyster beds, Isla Margarita is the largest of Venuzuela's 72 islands in the Caribbean.   It is actually two islands joined by a very narrow sandbar - most towns and villages are to the east, while the western side is largely undeveloped and has been protected as a national park, La Restinga National Park, which covers 26,000 acres.   We had booked a trip to Restinga to take a speedboat through the beautiful lagoons and mangroves.

We met our fellow travellers for the forty minute journey to Restinga National Park and once there, after donning a life jacket,  we boarded a small speedboat for our trip.

There were only six passengers per boat plus the boat man,

who pointed out things of interest during the hour long trip round the mangroves, like this pelican

and even fished an oyster and a starfish out of the water to show us - of course he put them back once we'd taken a photograph.

The views on the open stretch of water we crossed to get to the mangroves were magnificent.

Then we got the to intricate part where the boatman had to manoeuvre his boat through the canals and passages.

The whole place was just beautiful and huge, I'm sure we could have travelled round for days and still not seen everything!  Unfortunately we had to leave on the next leg of the journey, which took us to a beautiful secluded beach about 25 minutes away, where we had about 90 minutes to relax and take some refreshments - i.e. beer and rum punch.

I just had to get in that crystal clear turquoise sea.

whilst MWM sat watching me from a safe distance, you remember he doesn't swim.

There was a small restaurant on the beach which had it's very own parrots and a monkey.

MWM and I walked along the beach collecting shells, of which there was a great variety, and then got a nice lady to take our photograph in the sunshine before it was time to head back to the boat.

We packed up our belongings to board the coach but not before two enterprising local children grabbed our feet (as though they were shoeing a horse) as we climbed the steps to the coach to brush sand off our shoes with a handbrush for a small fee!

Once back at the boat there was just time for our usual ritual of something to eat before we relaxed on our balcony with a cold drink, and of course we had to have a nap before getting showered and changed for dinner.  After dinner we watched the show and a new comedian in Connexions before retiring to dream of lagoons, mangroves and pelicans.

The following day we would visit St. Vincent, the last island on our cruise, so I hope you'll join me.

Friday 19 March 2010

Friday 55 Flash Fiction #111 - The Trial....

It felt strange knowing he was being watched.

He wasn't sure he'd be able to sleep
knowing the camera would be recording his every move.

He'd volunteered for the trial,
hopefully it would help keep his marriage together.

"Your wife was right,

you do snore very loudly!"
said the director of the sleep disorder clinic.

Friday 55 Flash Fiction is brought to you by G-man (Mr Knowitall). The idea is you write a story in exactly 55 words. If you want to take part pop over and let G-man know when you've posted your 55.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Rest room........

Ladies has this ever happened to you?

When you have to visit a public toilet, you usually find a line of women, so you smile politely and take your place.. Once it's your turn, you check for feet under the cubicle doors. Every cubicle is occupied.

Finally, a door opens and you dash in, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the cubicle. You get in to find the door won't latch.. It doesn't matter, the wait has been so long you are about to wet your pants!

The dispenser for the modern 'seat covers' (invented by someone's Mum, no doubt) is handy, but empty. You would hang your bag on the door hook, if there was one, so you carefully, but quickly drape it around your neck, (Mum would turn over in her grave if you put it on the FLOOR !) down with your pants and assume 'The Stance'.

In this position, your aging, toneless, thigh muscles begin to shake. You'd love to sit down, but having not taken time to wipe the seat or to lay toilet paper on it, you hold 'The Stance.'

To take your mind off your trembling thighs, you reach for what you discover to be the empty toilet paper dispenser.

In your mind, you can hear your mother's voice saying, 'Dear, if you had tried to clean the seat, you would have KNOWN there was no toilet paper!' Your thighs shake more.

You remember the tiny tissue that you blew your nose on yesterday - the one that's still in your bag (the bag around your neck, that now you have to hold up trying not to strangle yourself at the same time). That would have to do, so you crumple it in the puffiest way possible. It's still smaller than your thumbnail.

Someone pushes your door open because the latch doesn't work.

The door hits your bag, which is hanging around your neck in front of your chest and you and your bag topple backward against the tank of the toilet.

'Occupied!' you scream, as you reach for the door, dropping your precious, tiny, crumpled tissue in a puddle on the floor, while losing your footing altogether and sliding down directly onto the TOILET SEAT. It is wet of course. You bolt up, knowing all too well that it's too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with every imaginable germ and life form on the uncovered seat because YOU never laid down toilet paper - not that there was any, even if you had taken time to try.

You know that your mother would be utterly appalled if she knew, because you're certain her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, dear, 'You just don't KNOW what kind of diseases you could get'.

By this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, propelling a stream of water like a fire hose against the inside of the bowl and spraying a fine mist of water that covers your bottom and runs down your legs and into your shoes.

The flush somehow sucks everything down with such force and you grab onto the empty toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged in too.

At this point, you give up. You're soaked by the spewing water and the wet toilet seat. You're exhausted. You try to wipe with a sweet wrapper you found in your pocket and then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks..

You can't figure out how to operate the taps with the automatic sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past the line of women still waiting.

You are no longer able to smile politely to them. A kind soul at the very end of the line points out a piece of toilet paper trailing from your shoe.. (Where was that when you NEEDED it?)

You yank the paper from your shoe, plonk it in the woman's hand and tell her warmly, 'Here, you just might need this.

As you exit, you spot your hubby, who has long since entered, used and left the men's toilet.. Annoyed, he asks, 'What took you so long and why is your bag hanging around your neck?

This is dedicated to women everywhere who deal with any public rest rooms/toilets (rest??? You've GOT to be kidding!!). It finally explains to the men what really does take us so long. It also answers that other commonly asked question about why women go to the toilets in pairs. It's so the other girl can hold the door, hang onto your bag and hand you Kleenex under the door.

This HAD to be written by a woman! No one else could describe it so accurately.

Monday 15 March 2010

Cruise - Grenada #11....

Once again we had to use tenders to visit our next stop - the spice island of Grenada.   Just 20 miles long and 12 miles wide, this charming island is a real feast for the senses, full of lush green rainforests and packed with more spice per square mile than anywhere else in the world.  The capital, St. George, has an attractive harbour lined with 19th century pastel coloured buildings rising up in to the green hillsides.

As we didn't have a trip booked for Grenada, once ashore we set off to explore the steep narrow streets and pastel coloured houses.

We found something we weren't expecting and very British

a red telephone box!

Being Sunday the shops were closed but there were two young men on the quayside selling fragrant necklaces made of spices such as nutmeg and cloves.   The first man offered me three for $10 and the second one offered me two for $10.   When I pointed out to the second man that I could get three for the same price he offered me four for $10 so I bought them.   I gave one each to my MIL and two DILs and kept one for myself which is hanging in my bedroom.    Two months on it is still fragrant and reminds me of our cruise each time I smell it.

Lots of the buildings were festooned with bunting in preparation for Grenada's Independence Celebrations in early February.  

We stopped at a restaurant/bar on the quayside for a much needed drink and struck up a conversation with a charming Canadian family, who kindly offered to take our photograph before they moved on.

The waitress brought our beers and asked for $12!  Beers $6 each, which were by far the most expensive beers we'd had on the entire holiday.  I think that's why I look so pissed off glum on the next photograph! 

Rested and refreshed we made our way back to the tender and back to the boat to get something to eat and do some sunbathing on deck. 

MWM snapped the beautiful sunset before we showered and changed for another evening of fine dining at The Bistro.   This time we had the following:

MWM: Smoked chicken with beetroot salad and horseradish dressing / Grilled fillet steak with rocket pesto and pommes Pont Neuf / White chocolate and whisky croissant pudding.

ME: Tiger prawn cocktail with Marie Rose sauce / Trio of Duck confit leg, pan-fried breast and roasted thigh in a red wine jus / Iced white chocolate, banana and popcorn terrine with toffee and chocolate sauce.

Mmmmmmm Yummy!

After dinner we enjoyed the comedian in Connexions before retiring for the night after another beautiful day in the Caribbean.   Next time we visit Isla Margarita, I hope you'll join me.