Monday, 31 December 2012

Old Year / New Year

It is that time again.  A time for looking back and a time for looking forward.

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

The lakes

My favourite place in this part of Andalucia is the area around the lakes, north of El Chorro and just east of Ardales.  We went up there on Christmas Eve and the scenery was spectacular - especially since the lakes were full and the surface was like a mirror with hardly a ripple.   I took these photos.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Spain again

We are spending Christmas and New Year in our new house at Lauro Golf near Alhaurin El Grande.  It is one of the houses in the middle distance on this photo.   The weather has been great and we have enjoyed settling into the new house.  We've made a couple of trips to IKEA and it is finally becoming our place.  The neighbours have been really friendly.  I have played a couple of rounds of golf.  In fact I love it here.   I only wish I could spend more time here.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

My Dad

I have just returned from Scotland in order to settle my 96 year-old father into a care home.   He had another fall, was in hospital for a couple of weeks and now cannot return to his cottage.  He needs 24 hour care.   But his mind is as active as ever, so life in a care home with its lack of mental stimulation will be difficult for him.   I will do my best to help, but from 600 miles away I cannot really alleviate his boredom.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Cruise

The Cruise was good.   Not great, not fabulous, not life-changing.   But good. I am still not entirely sold on cruising.   Everything is superficial; shore visits are hurried and just scratch the surface of a place;  I hates the endless dressing up for dinner.  But I was determined to enjoy it and I did.   We saw places I wouldn't have normally seem;  the Queen Elizabeth was elegant and classy; I met a good crowd of fellow passengers;  I was able to relax totally;  it was good.

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.

Going with a gay group from 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.

Flooding in Spanish apartment

We were actually in the Ukraine (of which more later) when the email came in. From the administrator of the block in Malaga in which we own our ground floor apartment. The one we are proposing to sell. Water has apparently been pouring out of our front door as a result of recent rain. Well there was little we could do until we got back to the UK. Then I did an emergency visit to Spain. By the time I arrived, the floor was dry - but caked in dirt and mud. There certainly had been a flood. So I cleaned it up as best I could and returned to the UK. A week later we received another email. More dirty water was pouring out of the flat. This time Andrew went over. This time there was indeed dirty water all over the floor. It obviously had not been the rain but in fact was a leak from a pipe hidden behind our bedroom wall. We suspect that it is a pipe from the kitchen above and that the flooding occurs when they use their washing machine. Andrew has returned after leaving a key with the administrator. She has confirmed that their insurance policy will cover this and that she will get in a plumber to fix the leak. But the flat will at best need redecorating. The bed and carpets are ruined. It will be some time before it is sorted and some time before we can sell the flat. Frustrating.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Summer is slipping by

It has been a long time since I delivered a post.   During that time summer briefly arrived and then went.   And I have been busy.  Somehow the time has slipped by.

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

Birthday resolutions

And so that's it.   I have turned 60.   Time to look back;   time to look forward.   And what are my immediate thoughts?   Well here are five.

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


We spent last week at Plas Talgarth near Machynlleth in mid- Wales.  It was a quiet, relaxing week. The weather was atrocious - cold and wet, which rather restricted our ability to get outside into the open air.  Still we got to the top of Snowdon (the easy way), visited Caernarfon Castle, went to Aberdyfi, Aberaeron, Llanberis and Corris. We had good food, some self-cooked, some in restaurants, chilled out and had a reasonable week.  Here are a couple of photos from the week.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Regrets of the Dying

This is the final month before I hit another decade.    So I have started to muse, reminisce, ponder and worry.   Today my thoughts were about regrets and an attempt not to have any.      I dug out an article, written by a palliative nurse, about the biggest regrets people had as they approached death.    I hope I am not at that stage, but I do want to ensure that I don't have these regrets when that moment arrives.   The list is as follows:

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

Icelandic Weekend

It was a great weekend. Relaxing and enjoyable. No we didn't see the Northern Lights but it hardly mattered.

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


This afternoon we are heading to Iceland for the weekend. No I don't mean the shop - the checkout queues are not that long! We fly to Reykjavik this evening for a weekend in the Icelandic capital.

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

Thirteen five and five nine

There have been a number of articles in the press recently about the rise in diabetes type 2 in the UK and the fact that thousands of people have this but don't know it.

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.