Wednesday, 25 November 2015
And so the adventure begins - with a slightly fraught journey by taxi to Heathrow at rush hour. Traffic was stationary for much of the time - never a good sign when trying to catch a plane. But we got to Heathrow on time to board our BA flight to Sydney via Singapore. And in time to buy some duty free.
The first leg to Singapore was fine. We had 90 minutes at Changi airport during which time we had to leave the plane taking our hand luggage with us so that they could clean the plane. On reboarding, Singapore Security confiscated all the duty free which was in bottles or jars of over 100ml - which was most of it. Deeply frustrating. The duty free shop at Heathrow, despite looking at our boarding card, had not told us that this would happen.
Anyway we tried to put this frustration behind us and managed to sleep pretty well on the final leg to Sydney.
Friday 13th November 2015:
The plane touched down at Sydney Airport at around 6.30 am. Security was okay. We bought an Opal card for our transport needs and caught the train to central Sydney. Timing was good. We had to collect the key to our apartment from Copydex store just as it was opening. So by 8.30 am we were in the apartment which would be out home in Sydney for the next four weeks.
We had, with a degree of trepidation, decided to use Airbnb to find an apartment is Sydney rather than stay in a hotel. We'd had a number of positive conversations in advance of our arrival, with Neil, the apartment owner. And the apartment was exactly as described; a modern two bedroom apartment on the edge of the Sydney Central Business District. It was more cluttered with Neil's stuff than we had expected. I had thought that Neil lived somewhere else and that this apartment was always rented out, but it is obviously his only residence and therefore contains all of his staff. Neil will be in Cape Town during our stay. But the apartment is clean, has all of the facilities we need and I am sure will be a good base for the next four weeks.
Saturday 14th November 2015:
Time to explore. We took a stroll around Sydney, through the main part of the City up to Circular Quay and the Opera House. I lived in Sydney for a year in 1979, so I could not help but reflect on my time there 36 years ago. of course it has changed, but not in a major way. The view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Opera House is a stunning as ever.
Sunday 15th November 2015:
It was a bit cool and cloudy, but we decided anyway to head for Sunday lunch at Watson's Bay. The view out to sea was amazing, the vista in the other direction towards the city was vast and beautiful. We just obtained a table at the famous Doyle's fish restaurant. Yes the meal was price, but surely one of the best fish and chips have ever eaten. Moist fresh Barrimundi. Wonderful.
Monday 16th November 2015:
It had been 36 years since I had a swim at Redleaf Pool. In fact it has been renamed the Murray Rose pool since then, but otherwise it has not changed at all. It is an inner city bay with a fence surrounding it to keep out sea creatures and also large waves. I loved it today as much as I loved it all those years ago. For someone whose swimming ability is not great, it is the perfect place to swim.
This evening we headed for a classical music concert in the Opera House. The final piece, Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is one of my favourites. We are still not quite over jet lag, so it was difficult to keep awake at the end, but it was a good concert and of course great to experience a concert in the iconic Opera House.
Tuesday 17th November:
We went to City Gym this morning and I had an afternoon walk to Mrs MacQarrie's chair, which is lovely spot on the edge of the botanical gardens. In the evening, we had an excellent Thai meal in Stanley Street.
Wednesday 18th November:
I have been considering whether or not to do the bridge climb. Of course it is listed as one of the things to do in Sydney, but I don't have a good head for heights and it does cost upwards of $300. So today we had a stroll to the Rocks and then walked over the bridge. Great views, and all for free. Not sure that the bridge climb would add a lot.
Thursday 19th November:
Back to the Opera House for a performance of Hamlet. Mind you our performance in getting there was a bit of a drama. We failed to get off the bus at the last stop before it headed over the Harbour Bridge. So we had to sit on the bus in heavy traffic as we went over the bridge and into the wrong half of Sydney. Then we had to come all the way back again on another bus. We still made it, just, to the theatre but a relaxing journey was rather more stressful than it should have been. The performance of Hamlet was a bit disappointing. Heavily overacted and not very original.
Friday 20th November:
Today was Sydney's hottest November day since 1982. 42C. And certainly it was hot. So we went to the Andrew (Boy) Charlton pool during the afternoon. We sat on the shady side and had frequent dips in the pool. Very relaxing.
Saturday 21st November:
Weird weather. 42C Thursday. 20C today. We went to Bondi and did the walk around the headland to Tamarama. Locally known as glamarama - but not on a cold day like today.
Sunday 22nd November:
We took advantage of the Sunday travel discounts. Bus to Parammatta and boat back. Excellent Pizza lunch in Paramatta. Not a scenic journey outwards, but Paramatta was nice, especially down by the river. Sauntered over to the Opera House afterwards for an indigenous music and dance performance. Had a Prosecco overlooking the harbour and the sunset.
Wednesday, 18 November 2015
We were married on 6th November 2015 and on 11the November we boarded a cab in Hertford and headed off to Heathrow.
Some 24 hours later, we landed in Sydney, Australia. We are tired and somewhat jet-lagged, but also very excited. We will be away from the UK for 11 weeks in total.
I have been neglecting this blog in recent years, but will try to update it over the next 11 weeks, mainly so that in future years I can look back and remember the adventure more vividly as the memory fades.
Sunday, 8 November 2015
We have been together for over 18 years, but of course marriage has only recently become available to a same-sex couple in the UK.
The day was amazing. We had a small ceremony at the Registry Office in front of three witnesses. Then we had a wedding luncheon at the Sun Hotel in Hitchin with 52 friends. We are grateful to those friends for coming along to help us celebrate our big day. The whole day went very well. We really enjoyed the day and out guests have told us that they did as well.
This has been a major milestone in my life. I am looking forward to the future.
Friday, 24 April 2015
I know a number of regular churchgoers who are capable of some unfriendly acts. On a Sunday, they go to church, confess their sins (silently) and obtain full forgiveness. From Monday to Saturday they can be selfish, unkind and dishonest, but the following Sunday they again confess their sins and obtain forgiveness. And so the cycle goes on.
I do my best every day to be humanitarian, kind and helpful. Sometimes, it is true, I fall short. I have nowhere to go to get forgiveness.
Who is the better person?
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
Sunday, 15 February 2015
Friday, 3 January 2014
My first thought is to look backwards - 100 years in fact. Did those who welcomed in 1914 have any idea what was about to be unleashed upon the world? Did they thing that something that happened in Sarajevo would embroil the world in a four-year war? I doubt it.
Yes at the start of 2014, we have escalating conflict in so many part of the world. Whether it be Africa, Asia or Indo-china, there are tensions that could easily and quickly spill over into full out war. In the meantime, a small proportion of the world is getting richer and a large proportion is getting poorer. Millions are obese - yet millions go hungry. We are killing our wildlife and warming our planet. It is not a good scenario.
Anything I decide about my life sounds somehow trivial after that. I do not have a raft of resolutions. The main one is to be more productive with my life and be much more disciplined with my time. Less of letting time slip by and more filing time with useful and enjoyable things. No major change, just minor tweaks. Live every day rather than live one day many times.
And remember - 'As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are; otherwise you may miss most of your life'.
Tuesday, 31 December 2013
I have some what neglected this blog but hopefully I will return to it in 2014.
We are currently over in Spain and heading out to celebrate New Year in Alhaurin El Grande with friends and neighbours.
I need to make some resolutions for 2014, of which more later. In the meantime, I wish all friends and family a very Happy New Year.
Friday, 28 June 2013
In the meantime we are enjoying the sunshine, conversation with our new friends and exploring new towns and new restaurants. Last week we spent a few days near Tarifa and had an enjoyable day at Cape Trafalgar, where the famous battle took place.
Back now in the House near Alhaurin El Grande.
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
In February, just after I had taken the decision to retire but when I was still snowed under with work, I got a call from Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin to say that my Dad had been admitted and was in a serious condition. He was in a 'do not resuscitate' regime.
I flew straight up to Aberdeen and was at his bedside late that day. He was perfectly lucid and pleased to see me. But he was also very frail. I stayed with him for the next 48 hours as he slowly slipped away and on Monday February 18th he died. He was 96 years old and had had a good life. The last few months were challenging for him, and he was ready to go.
My Dad was born in Plymouth on 1 July 1916 - the first day of the battle of the Somme. He came up to Scotland in 1947 and stayed there ever since. We had the funeral service in Keith and I was pleased by how many people came along, even though most of his friends had died over recent years.
His passing marks the end of an era - the end of a generation in my family.
This week I have been going through old photographs trying to put them in some sort of order and into albums. But of course this has not been easy; each photo captures a moment in his life and each photo cased me to reflect on that life.
Rest in Peace, Dad. I am grateful to you for so much.
Saturday, 8 June 2013
On the first day of retirement, I played 6 sets of tennis for Hertford and, after hurting my leg early on, can now hardly walk. Not a great start.
I have then had a few days of administration stuff - clearing rubbish out of the flat, getting paperwork in order, filing old photos (of which more later) etc.
And lots of time to reflect. Trying not to be guilty about lost opportunities in the past or worried about uncertainty in the future. I think this reflection has been necessary before moving on. Which I am ready to do.
Saturday, 1 June 2013
It is probably not appropriate to list the work-related ones here. Suffice to say that I was under great stress, feeling under-supported and came to the conclusion that resigning was the only option. I was asked to stay on until the end of May, which I have done.
The personal reasons are also many and varied. A couple of close friends have recently died; that concentrated the mind. On the positive side, we bought a house in Spain and I want to be able to spend more time in it. I am also keen to start to do more creative things with my life but didn't have the time.
Yes I have retired earlier than I had intended. Yes that means that finances will be tight. But I hope I still have the energy and the mental ability to move on to new experiences. I'd like to take a few months to chill out then make positive decisions about the future. I hope that future includes travel, new friends, new accomplishments, time in Spain and generally a new control over my life. And I hope I can share some of them here.
Monday, 31 December 2012
2012 was a mixed year. Work was constantly stressful; I had a number of minor but frustrating physical injuries; there was a feeling of not being entirely in charge of my destiny. However there were good times. I loved the Olympics. We went to Iceland, Spain (many times), Italy, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine and Bulgaria. And of course we bought a house in Spain. I enjoyed games of golf and tennis. We had some good theatre and concert visits. And Andrew kept me sane.
2013 has the potential to be a difficult year. And also the potential to be a life-changing year in a positive way. I guess that all depends on whether I can take big decisions or whether I delay those decisions. Do I take the risks inherent in making those decisions, or take the safer way forward? I probably need to decide that within the first month of the year.
As for resolutions, most of those need to be ones I can reasonably achieve. And they are all based round my health and fitness. Less eating, less alcohol and more exercise. It sounds simple to say but it harder to actually do.
But I think if I can improve my health and well-being, I can then have the energy and drive to make the necessary decisions and to do so for my own sake rather than for the sake of others. I am not suggesting that I need to be selfish or self-centred but I do need to be self-reliant and more instinctive.
So lets confront issues and solve them. Onwards and upwards.
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Monday, 24 December 2012
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Friday, 9 November 2012
We boarded the Queen Elizabeth in Venice after a fascinating couple of days in the city. We then visited Mykonos, Olympia, Istanbul, Odessa, Yalta, Nessabur, Izmir and Santorini. Some I had been to before, some were new to me. Andrew and I were quite adventurous and took local transport rather than organised shore excursions. That worked well and got us away from the endless series of coaches and away from the crowds. We had coffees and beers in local cafes, and spoke to locals. Odessa and Yalta were much nicer than I had expected. The weather throughout was great. And we had a good couple of days in Athens before flying back to to the UK.
Pied Piper Travel gave us a ready-made crown of like-minded friends. Not having to pack and unpack was wonderful. Our cabin was spacious and had a balcony. So yes I would go on a cruise again. I certainly came back feeling refreshed and invigorated.
Sunday, 26 August 2012
Work is getting busier and more stressful. I try to use my time off properly but find myself increasingly tired and just needing to relax quietly.
However things have moved on in Spain. In June we were there for 10 days and looked at a few houses. One was a bank reposession and we decided to put in a low offer. It was accepted.
So last week we went back to Malaga to sign the legal deeds. We now own a house near Alhaurin De La Torre. Scary - but exciting.
It needs a full clean and some cosmetic work before we can move in. We will still be working in the UK for the next couple of years but hopefully we can spend gradually-increasing time in Spain, espcially in the winter. I am so looking forward to that.
Monday, 21 May 2012
In future I will try to do everything with a good grace. If I have to do something I don't want to do or something I am annoyed at being asked to do, that is no reason not to do it as well as I can with as much enthusiasm as I can. Others do not need to see my annoyance. Grumpiness is not helpful. A smile is.
I must make a new will. I want to try to protect my future and have enough to live on for many years. But if I have any assets remaining when I shuffle off this mortal coil, they should go to the person(s) or organisation(s) of my choosing.
Wasting time, when there is so little of it, is not clever.
I should never take the love of others for granted. I must ensure that I tell people when I love them and tell them when I am grateful for something they have done for me.
Age gives me an opportunity to be the person I am and not the person others want me to be. I need to take that opportunity.
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Thursday, 3 May 2012
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
That gives me something to work on during the next decade. I think I have already made a start to some of these. I hope I have.
Saturday, 25 February 2012
On the Saturday we went to Gulfoss Waterfall and the Geysirs, on Sunday we walked round Reykjavik before going to the Blue Lagoon and on Monday we did a trip to Snaefellsness. The scenery was amazing, the hot water pools were weird and wonderful and the weather was an interesting mixture of extreme cold, sunshine, snow and some rain.
Here are some of my photos.
The highlight? Not sure. The Blue Lagoon was relaxing and fun - swimming in driving rain was an interesting feeling. Stopping in Sneafulness and walking through a snow-covered lava field to a warm pool in which we soaked, despite the snow, was memorable. And the ethereal light over snow-covered mountains in the early evening was magical. I'd like to return.
Friday, 17 February 2012
We are on a 'Northern Lights' weekend. And the chances of seeing the northern lights appear to be quite good. That tour takes us outside Reykjavik tomorrow night. The weather forecast is for mainly clear skies and the aurora forecast states the following -
Auroral activity will be active. Weather permitting, active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Tromsø, Norway to as far south as Umea, Sweden and Trondheim, Norway, and visible low on the horizon in Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki.
So, fingers crossed.
Even if we don't see the northern lights, I am looking forward to the weekend. It will be a busy one. On Saturday during the day, we take a Golden Circle tour. Then we are meeting a friend of ours, Gudrun, before the Northern Lights tour.
On Sunday we are heading for a swim in the Blue Lagoon.
And on Monday, we take a GoEcco tour of Snaefellsness.
And during the weekend there is a LGBT festival in Reykjavik so we hope to find time to visit the gay bars, particularly Truno.
It should be fun and I am looking forward to it.
Then we return early Tuesday.
Friday, 3 February 2012
I have never had a diabetes test. However recently I have been experiencing some issues which are symptoms of diabetes, notably tiredness, bruising which is slow to heal, skin itches etc. Time, I reckoned, for a test.
On Thursday, a week ago, I firstly weighed myself. 13 stone 5 lbs. Not good.
Then I went off to Lloyds pharmacy for a diabetes test. Apparently a normal reading is between 4.2 and 4.5. A reading of 6.0 of above results in an immediate referral to a diabetes specialist. My reading was 5.9. Borderline. Defined as pre-diabetes. Scary.
I was asked to go back in a month and in the meantime improve my diet and increase my exercise levels. Not easy as in fact my diet is reasonably good. And I have a very sore left knee, so I cannot play tennis or go for a run at present.
But I will need to make some changes. Less wine. More vegetables. And, particularly, more fruit. I also had porridge for breakfast each day last week. And salads at lunchtime instead of sandwiches.
This morning my weight was down to 13 stone exactly. Which I guess is a good start. Now I need to work on reducing that still further. I will be really stressed if my diabetes reading has not gone down when I am tested again. Which I will have done towards the end of this month.