A Whole New World

Greetings fellow self isolators !  And also greetings to those who aren’t, I guess.  No point curtailing my possible readership !!

I’m 2 days into my 8th week of only leaving the house for my one allowed exercise walk as I’m kinda in the lesser vulnerable category for both my age and health issues. I started before the official lockdown rules were announced here in the UK as I’m nothing if not a semi professional hypochondriac so at the first hint that I might be in danger, I pulled up the drawbridge at “chez Mac” and become even more of a hermit than usual.

For the first few weeks my lovely neighbours, who always went supermarket shopping,  let me add a few basic items to their shopping lists….you know, bread, milk, eggs, butter, chocolate, Amaretto…..the usual necessities !  I felt guilty doing this, so last week I finally took the plunge and became a member of the online grocery shopping fraternity, something I’d resisted over the years as I actually enjoyed going to supermarkets, if only to meet and talk with complete strangers to perk up my social life.   Judging by the number of startled customers and staff I encountered,  I doubt this was always reciprocated.

Now you’ve more chance of hearing Donald Trump saying something intelligent than getting a home delivery slot these days so I plumped for the “click & collect” option instead and when my lovely neighbours did the same thing and agreed to pick up my order too, we were off and running,  Different days, but still, off and running.

So last week we all broke our virgin online ordering status, me on Tuesday and them on Wednesday and it worked a treat.  In case any reader is not familiar with the process, as, initially we were, let me explain.

I went onto the supermarket site of choice, in our case Tesco as it’s closest, and registered for online shopping. Simples. Then I picked the “click & collect” option and picked a time slot for collecting my order at the store. These are 2 hr slots throughout the day and there are usually plenty available, although sometimes it shows none are available for 3 weeks and when you check the next day, loads are.  Not sure how that happens but that’s been my experience so far.

After picking my time slot, it came up immediately as “BOOKED” for me and for the next 2 hrs I can generate my order which, as you’d expect, initially took a while to do as I had to search for lots of items. Subsequent orders will be easier as I’ll have favourites set up and can even recall previous order items.

So, now on the screen I saw my order building up and, frighteningly, the £££££ amount building up as well. By the end of the 2 hr “shopping” period I had to have completed my order and moved on to the confirmation and payment section or everything I’d done would have timed out and been lost.  Having remortgaged my house and sold a kidney to pay for the order, I was now golden and had been sent my order number and itemised order details via email and I could sit back and chill.

Now for the good part.

An order over £25 incurs no charge for this service and as you can imagine, that’s not a hard limit to achieve, even for a single person.

Any time up to almost midnight before the order date, I can go back in and update it with more items or delete any I’ve had second thoughts about. This is VERY useful on several levels, one being that sometimes when creating the initial order, a product may not be available. A day or so later, after checking, it can often become available and I can then add it to the order.

The price generated is only an estimate as items like fruit & veg need to be weighed at picking time in the store but if last week was anything to go by, it was only a few pence out and as you pay by credit card, the final cost at picking time is what you actually pay as they have the card image. A bit like your bill when you leave a hotel, having emptied the mini bar and (accidentally) watched one of THOSE movies at bed time !

Then, on the day and within the 2 hr slot I’d chosen, I would drive to the supermarket and in an area of the car park set aside for the facility, I’d show a member of staff my order number and it would arrive all bagged up from where it was stored a few hours earlier in the relevant ambient, chilled or frozen section of the store or warehouse.  I’m not sure where. It would get loaded into my car so no interaction takes place (not sure if this is only during the virus period) and off home I’d go.

Of course when I say I, I mean my lovely neighbour(s).

This week we’ve upped our game and got more organised. We’ve managed to get the same slot on the same day (Wed) and so both orders can be picked up together and should be easy to separate back here as they’ll be in different bags. The limit on the number of “click & collect” items is 80 which is more than enough for me but might be tight for a family. Of course I can take up any slack if my neighbours reach their 80 limit as after all, we’re all in this together, as the celebrities like to remind us, ad nauseam.

The fact they’re telling us this from their luxury Californian homes probably doesn’t go down too well if you’re hearing about it in a rented high rise flat in a dodgy inner city location.

But hey, bless them anyway, eh ?  Right, on to something different……..

We had a gloriously warm and sunny April here in God’s wet room, as the UK is usually termed most of the time. No rain at all and usually not a cloud in the clear blue sky.  This made being in lockdown particularly frustrating for most people and especially for those living in the aforementioned inner city high rise flats with no real access to even a garden. Hard to get much exercise in a balcony flower box and if on the 15th floor, a bit dangerous too !

Living as I do in my luxury North Leeds home, I’ve been able to stroll around my extensive Capability Brown designed garden and despite furloughing most of the staff, this lockdown hasn’t impacted me that much in terms of getting out and about whilst remaining within my property.

Ok I can’t even keep a straight face typing that !

But I was able to go out most days (we’re allowed one exercise walk per day as long as it’s local – no driving to a nice location miles away and then walking) when the weather was so good and racked up daily 3 or 4 mile walks at 3mph to keep up my Olympian levels of fitness.  Currently the weather has returned to normal, wet and cold, and so, as I’m fortunate enough to have a treadmill and static exercise bike at home (bought decades ago after my CABG surgery), I use them instead.

Again, looking at my personal and fortunate situation, I’ve been retired for 18 years and thankfully don’t have any job or income issues. Yes my savings have taken a huge hit and may take years, if ever, to recover but that’s hardly a worry compared to what many are going through.  I can’t even imagine the stress levels across the world right now and sometimes when I look at the statistics about total cases/deaths caused by the virus and compare them to cases/deaths from seasonal flu,  I wonder if it’s all been an over reaction.

This is from a flu article on the WHO web site………

Illnesses range from mild to severe and even death. Hospitalization and death occur mainly among high risk groups. Worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 290,000 to 650,000 respiratory deaths.

In industrialized countries most deaths associated with influenza occur among people age 65 or older. Epidemics can result in high levels of worker/school absenteeism and productivity losses. Clinics and hospitals can be overwhelmed during peak illness periods.

Sound familiar ?

Currently the worldwide statistics for the virus are 3.6 million cases and 249,000 deaths.

Remarkably similar and yet did many of us even know about the flu figures before this ?  I didn’t. Yes we can be inoculated against flu which may make us believe we are safe but it’s not guaranteed and it’s not available to everyone, worldwide.

Just something to think about, in a rare moment of seriousness for me.

Discuss.

Right, I think that’s enough for my first post for months and from when I said I’d like to post more going forward. Yeah that didn’t work out too well, did it ?

Time to get back to tv watching, surfing the internet, cleaning the house (yeah right), walking and, oh yes, adding some more chocolate to my Wednesday grocery order.

Remember, stay safe, obey your countries’ social distancing rules, eat lots of comfort foods and no pilates in your high rise flower boxes.

Oh and if you do want to take up some sport for exercise during these desperate times………

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My Dad – An Unremarkable Remarkable Man.

My dad would have been 108 today, a fine old age. Sadly he missed out by 34 years so he’s been gone a long time.

To be honest, I don’t think of him much anymore which is sad too.  I was 34 when he died and I remember him as a gentle, honest, hard working man who deeply loved my mother and his 2 kids and in turn was admired by family and community.

He worked as a painter and decorator in and around Ballymoney in N. Ireland and when his 9-5 job was done, he’d be working privately doing the same for a few hrs most evenings, charging little more than the materials. Like mum, he was deeply religious and was so proud of having a role in getting the local church and the priest ready for Mass. We’d joke that the only thing he didn’t do was actually perform the ceremony.  We’d be the first to arrive (to open the church) and the last to leave (to lock it up) and this wasn’t just on a Sunday.

He was a quiet man who never raised his voice, never drank alcohol and although he did smoke when it was common to do so, he just decided one day to stop and did so cold turkey.  He and mum worked really hard at multiple jobs so we boys were able to go to boarding school but I only found out later in life that even that wasn’t enough for the school fees and that family had helped.

What with his long working hours, my 7 years at boarding school and then leaving home at 17 to come over to England to study and then live, I didn’t get to spend as much time with my parents as I now wish I had. They were good, simple folk who never journeyed beyond the UK and loved to be at home with close family ties, a big extended family at that as mum was one of 12.

They lived in a council house all their married lives and after his death, mum stayed in the same house until she could no longer do so and moved into a lovely nearby residential home a short time before she too passed away “to be with dad” as we always said at the time. She herself never thought she’d live 17 years after dad died as the two of them were the quintessential lifelong partners and she was lost when he died.

Mum was a frequent writer and in February 1986, she sent me a letter and in the news she told me that dad was out busy rebuilding the low wall at the front of the garden by the pavement and she mentioned that she hoped he wasn’t overdoing it.

When he did come in, he said he wasn’t feeling well and collapsed in his chair. He was taken to hospital and although my memory of the exact details is a bit hazy, after being initially diagnosed with a stroke, that was followed by a massive heart attack.  My brother and I had both rushed home to be with him and mum and so were there a few days later when we got the call that we needed to return quickly to the hospital but dad passed before we got there.

After the funeral and once we knew mum was being well looked after by family, we returned to our respective homes and in the small pile of letters on the front porch floor was THAT letter from my mum and when I read it and realised it had been posted when dad was alive and she was unknowingly telling me what was responsible for his death, I lost it. To think that the letter was in transit between his life and death was too much for me at the time and as I have kept it since that day, any time I read it again, it revives those feelings although not just as raw as in 1986.

I think I’ve inherited more traits from my mum than my dad but he did instill in me a basic belief in truth, honesty and in the overall goodness of most people but along with a sensible approach to being cautious. One of the very few times I did something that upset my parents, my punishment was to know that I’d let them down. When my dad said that to me, it was more long lasting than anything else he could’ve done. The fact I still remember it says it all.

Because we never had much financially, I could easily be classed now as miserly and Scrooge-like but my parents never had much in the way of savings and like many people, had more to live on once they became pensioners.

I am much more comfortably off but I still can’t bring myself to spend much, certainly on myself. I love a deal and have just returned from a Toby Carvery mostly as I had a 40% discount !  Ironically I’m in the strongest financial state of my life but have no parents to visit and share it with. Mum died in 2003.

Not that they’d have taken anything from me anyway. Every time I’d leave after a visit, mum would try and slip some money into my hand or into a suitcase or a jacket pocket. I always knew to look for it and would give it back before driving away but often it became a slightly farcical to and fro as I’d try and get away without the handout.

How could I possibly take anything from a couple of pensioners who had worked hard to give me a solid start in life, denying themselves in the process. As should be the case, I paid their larger bills over the years and they knew they’d never have to worry financially – but they lived simple lives and I know that most of the money I ever sent them went to the many charities they both supported.

Dad & Mum

I don’t have many photos of my dad and it’s not surprising that any I do have, always included mum. They did come over to stay with me in Leeds a couple of times and I could never stop dad from doing some painting and decorating around the place when he was here. I often wish I’d watched him more and learned his skills. He was brilliant.

I got my first camcorder a year after his death when they became available to the public so I’ve no video footage of him. That’s a huge regret to me. This photo was taken on one of the few occasions they both came over to my house as I bought it in ’82 and he died in ’86.

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And this one was taken in their back garden in Ballymoney where they lived together all their married lives.  This is one of my favourites as they are so clearly a couple deep in love.

Mum & Dad

I’ve never done a post like this before and it may have come from a feeling of guilt that I don’t think of either of them more.

Dad had no “my dad used to say” phrases to call upon, did nothing really special and in many ways was an unremarkable man. But he lived a good, honest life and never hurt a soul. No one had a bad word to say about him and he was head of a family that adored him and wished he’d been around many more years to enjoy retirement being with a wife he loved so much.

I think that’s an epitaph we’d all be happy to have said about us.

 

“He Is Spartacus” Said The Kitten

I’m writing this from the glorious Dales town of Skipton, or Skippy-ton as we call it most times as we’re wacky, devil-may-care people.

I’m here because it’s Friday.

Most Fridays for the last hmmm years, I visited my friends D&S who lived near me in North Leeds and we’d have a takeaway and watch a movie and then I’d return home.

Then last October they upped sticks and moved to Skippy-ton which is 26 miles from my home so a tad further away !  As the drive involves going on the notoriously busy A65 up into the Yorkshire Dales, it can take 45-55 mins depending on the time of year, school holidays and the number of bloody cyclists, women drivers and sheep are on the road.  As you can imagine, female bike riding sheep are the worst.

So once it was decided we’d still keep our Friday routine sacred, it made more sense for me to stay the night and return home on the Saturday in time for the first televised footy match at 12:30.

Priorities, y’know.

This week things have been different as D was off work on Thursday so I came for 2 nights at this most excellent B&B (not official and other real B&Bs are available in the area).  D&S keep putting off their retirement and I’m starting to suspect this might be due to the panic of me staying for longer !

The Leeds-Liverpool canal runs about 2 mins walk from the house here so we walked along the tow path into the town this morning and had lunch at the delightful Dales Country Cafe & Grill and I had a chicken curry and D had some sort of cheese, leek and potato concoction which were both homemade and delicious.  Well mine was anyway. I can’t really answer for hers but she said it was delicious too. I wouldn’t touch anything containing cheese with a canal boat pole, just so you know.

Right, with that load of (too much) information out of the way and continuing on from the last blog post, I’ll get back to my Spanish road trip from last June/July. When we left our intrepid hero, me, I’d just driven 1,307 miles down through the scenic parts of France, crossed the Pyrenees and arrived in the very picturesque coastal town of Peniscola.

No titters please.

I’d booked a villa for 3 nights via Airbnb and I was initially dismayed to find it was a 25 minute trek down into town via a steep, unpaved path to the main road and then along this pavement free busy road. However, I decided after the first hair raising walk that Peniscola was still a place that required more investigation so I booked the villa for another week “off the books” so to speak. In other words I did a deal with the owner, Spartacus, away from the prying eyes and fees of Airbnb.

Yes his name really was Spartacus although I initially though it was just an Airbnb moniker.

As well as the villa, Spartacus also owned and ran a bar a few miles up the coast at Benicarlo which opened early and closed late so I basically had the place to myself; well me and the kitten, Squeaky, a stray he’d found a few days earlier. Being a cat lover, I’d no problem with this, although after only a few minutes playing with the kitten, I thought Scratchy would be a more accurate name than Squeaky.

My arms, legs and face agreed !

Sadly, or maybe not for you, I have to leave this post here as my photos (on an external hard drive) and notebook (on my coffee table) from the trip are back at home so I can go no further without them. I wasn’t planning on doing a blog post from here you see.

So as they say….to be continued……..

A few days have passed and I’m ready to continue. I donno how people find the time to blog daily but then again, maybe most posts are just word dumps whereas mine tend to contain loads of valuable information and stunning photographs which take time to collect and check for accuracy.

Well if I don’t say it, nobody else will.

I’d arrived at the villa South of Peniscola at 14:30 (Day 5) so had plenty of time to dump my stuff in the bedroom and head down into the town.  This was when I realised that despite the views, the 25 minute walk wasn’t going to be pleasant. The temperature was also climbing beyond 35c so I knew the return would be ever worse.

This was the view at the bottom of the unpaved path down from the villa and almost at the main road.

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And this is on the road, literally, as there were no footpaths at all. It curved several times to get around to the old town with the castle plonked on top, shown in the middle of the photo.

I just thought I’d include a couple of other walkers for scale…..honest, officer !

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When the road came to a roundabout down at the beach, the turn to the left was to the new town and straight on led alongside the beach to the castle…a beach that was remarkably empty.

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At this stage I was only expecting to be there another 2 days so I decided to explore the castle in case I wouldn’t get another chance.

As if the walk from the villa wasn’t tiring enough, the climb up the very narrow, steep streets and numerous steps to the castle entrance (210 feet) just about did me in.  This wasn’t the entrance but just the start of the inside of the outer walls.

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The view from almost ground level with the old town and castle behind me.

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Still not inside but climbing up to the lighthouse.

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Above the lighthouse with great views across the Med.

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From the same position, the view looking at the coastline North towards Barcelona.

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The castle (Castillo de Peñíscola) timeline is pretty complex so it’s hard to date the place. 11th or 13th century, take your pick. Parts seem to have been constantly rebuilt until the 16th century and the stonework looked even more modern…..almost 20th century I’d have said.

It could have been a Hollywood set.

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But in any case, the views from the top were spectacular. This is again looking North.

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And looking South, the view was over the rooftops of the old town towards “my” villa.

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After spending several hours inside and around the castle, I had a meal at one of the MANY eating places still inside the outer walls and then explored the hundreds of shops that lined every inch of the streets. These were all tourist/souvenir shops and as most were selling the same tat, it’s hard to know how so many could exist next to each other.

I think they were also trying to cash in on Game Of Thrones but maybe such items were simply reflecting the history of the area.

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It had been a long day and I’d had enough. By now I’d decided to stay longer than the planned 3 days in Peniscola so I was ready to return to the villa as all those steep streets had tested my angina and the heat had worn me out. AND I knew I had that “lovely” walk back to look forward to.

The weather forecast for the rest of the week and beyond was more of the same…..blue skies, no sniff of rain and temps in the high 30’s. Given the lay of the land and especially everywhere inside the castle walls where I knew I’d be spending most of my time, I had to pace myself and that started from the next morning, Day 6.

Sunday………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane, Spain But No Rain

You know when you look for a product on Amazon or check out a location on Google Maps or look up a friend on Facebook or read a hotel review on TripAdvisor and then those people, places and products pop up all over your browsing for weeks to come no matter where on the Interweb you are ?

I think we all get it; I know I do but then I guess I surf a teeny bit more than most people. I’m actually thinking of getting a lanyard so I can carry my tablet around with me wherever I go and still be able to do the dishes (very carefully) or make the bed !

I need to be connected.

And that brings me nicely to Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts and by association,  Jane McDonald-Cruising.

For UK readers, that’s not Jane‘s real surname and this will be explained later.

For non UK readers, you’ve no idea who she is anyway so don’t worry about it.

Adele Roberts was one of the celebrities (ha !  No, I’d never heard of most of them either) on the last series of “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” which is a reality show where 12 or so C-list celebs are plonked in a camp in a “jungle environment” in Australia and try to avoid getting themselves burned to death.  No seriously, no burning was involved which was a minor miracle in itself, given current conditions there.

So these celebs (cough) are allowed to bring one luxury/personal item with them and, much to the amusement of her camp mates and much to the bewilderment of the British viewing public, Adele brought a framed photo of Jane McDonald !

It’ll save time if readers who don’t know who she is just Google her; it’ll save me trying to describe her.

This ensured Jane got lots of mentions and air time on this very popular show for the following 3 weeks and now what do I find……repeat episodes of her cruising tv series are appearing all over the place and she even popped up with her own New Years Eve entertainment show on Tuesday. I’m not sure if it was a repeat from the last century as the line up of guests included Chesney Hawkes, Tony Christie and The Lighthouse Family. I was expecting the end credits to still have the production date in Roman numerals.

But I DO like watching her cruising shows if the locations interest me. Yes this means I have to put up with her non stop cheerfulness, her frequent references to being from Wakefield (who admits this ?), her non stop laughing at everything SHE says and of course the way she ends each show by singing us a location relevant song.

Last night I watched an episode where she cruised down the Dalmatian Coast and hard as I looked, I never saw a single Dalmatian !  But I did see stunning locations and with thoughts at this time of year turning to warm summer holidays, I thought…..road trip 2020 ???

Well that was until I spent a few minutes on Google Maps. I entered Dunkirk to Split, the 2nd largest city in Croatia and it brought up 1,120 miles !  Add in 270 miles from my house to the Dover ferry terminal and that’s 1,390 one way.  Hmmm.  Maybe a fly/drive would be better but I do love driving across different countries.

So speaking of road trips……

Back in June 2019, after 983 miles driving down through England to Dover, getting the 2pm ferry to Dunkirk and then on down through France, I crossed the border into Spain on Day 3 of my road trip. I was now well up in the Pyrenees so although it was only 40 miles to the town of Pont de Suert where, a few feet after crossing the border I’d rung ahead to book a hotel room, it took nearly 2 hrs to get there due to the switchback mountain roads and frequent stoppages to take photos of the stunning scenery.

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Despite being late June, the altitude meant it was still pretty chilly and low clouds would either spoil photography or add to it, depending on your view of such things.

After all that driving, I wanted to rest and also to see more of the area so I booked another night and on the 4th day of the trip, I drove 1.7 miles back up N-230 and turned right onto the L-500 towards the Boi Valley and boi was that a good idea.

Sorry.

This is an area of outstanding natural beauty (obviously including the fella below) and after a lovely drive up the valley with the Pyrenees on both sides and with the usual frequent stops for photos and video, the L-500 came to a dead end at the very base of that dam behind me which created a magnificently picturesque reservoir…….

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You’ll notice the showerproof jacket I was wearing. It wasn’t raining as such but every so often low clouds would sweep by and a fine mist would envelope me so thankfully I’d the foresight to keep this jacket in the glove compartment.

Next morning, Day 5, it was time to leave Pont de Suert and this was the view almost from the hotel entrance. I was only charged €84 for the 2 nights and 2 breakfasts which was a bargain. Even with the overcast sky, it was still a pretty place, snowbound in the winter of course.

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I love it when I leave a place and within a mile, I come across stunning views. The weather had improved and suddenly I had the almost clear blue skies that makes driving so much more pleasurable.

These are views of the massive Escales Reservoir and the road, still the N-230, wends its way along the edge of it for miles and goes back and forth between the Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia. I was within walking distance of the hotel I’d just left !

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You can see the N-230 stretching back to Pont de Suert just above my left ear.

It was a relatively short 200 mile drive to my destination, Peniscola and as I drove down the Eastern side of Spain towards the coast, the scenery, and the temperature, changed dramatically.  I got there at 14:35 and via Airbnb I had booked just one night at a villa overlooking the town but after that one night and after seeing what the town had to offer, I had a word with the villa owner, Spartacus (honestly….and yes, we did do the repetitive “I am Spartacus thing when we met) and we sorted out a non Airbnb deal and I stayed for another week.

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I’d gone 1,307 miles from Leeds (hmm maybe a round trip to Split this year would be “doable” after all) in just 5 days of easy driving including the unscheduled trip to that dam which took up a full day. It was not my original intention to drive anywhere further south in Spain despite once thinking I’d like to go all the way to Gibraltar. Then I realised that would be another 560 or so miles and of course the same back again.

No, I really liked Peniscola after just a first brief afternoon exploration. I wanted to base myself there, relax and enjoy the town, its castle, beaches and of course the glorious weather as temps were due to be in the mid 30’s for the whole week and beyond.

And that’s where I’ll leave things for this post. There are plenty of future stories to tell about Peniscola including my interactions with Spartacus and the tales of his living room CCTV camera and what happened to the stray kitten he found.

Ohh the suspense………

 

Episode IV – A New Beginning

So, it’s been 15 months since I last logged onto this blog; I’m 15 months older and even more grumpy and finding lots more things that grind my gears, as Peter Griffin would say.

I’ve survived 2 Christmases and New Years which is quite easy when you just let them pass by without noticing them. Bah humbug and all that. But now that we’ve entered a new decade, I thought I’d put “pen” to “paper” once again and see what occurs.

When checking on the date of my last blog (6th Sept 2018), I found the post had been about trips to both English coasts when I did a lot of walking.  In fact on the 5th I had walked 8.16 miles along the promenade at Morecambe and felt fine afterwards. But a few days later when I went out for a walk locally, I got chest pains on the first small incline. I had to stop and thankfully after a few seconds, it passed. I set off again and being still on the incline, the tightness returned.

I knew immediately what it was…..angina.

Now those who have followed this blog will know I’ve had 2 heart attacks – one in 1992 which required a quintuple bypass and the other in 2005 when I just needed my meds changed.  On neither occasion had I suffered angina so this new event was a bit of a worry to me. I thought I might need surgery again to clear my tubes but the doc said upping my meds could sort me out long before “we’d” have to consider surgery.

I happily agreed and so far so good; mind you, by “so good” I mean I can live with my angina……I hope. .

I still have it of course so I have to start any walk slowly for about 5-10 mins, trying to stay on the flat.  After that I can get up to my normal 3mph but anything other than a slight incline has to be treated as a challenge; a challenge to be taken slowly, in stages.

Oh well, thankfully I live a fairly stress free retired life although watching the last 5 minutes of most Leeds United games still manages to bring on the same chest tightness as walking up Ben Nevis. Not that I’ve ever walked up Ben Nevis you understand….and never will.

Right, that’s got the health update out of the way so moving right along, what road trips did I do while I was “off blog” ?  Well apart from some minor UK trips, I really only had one big 3 week road trip last June which was to Spain again.  My ultimate destination was supposed to be Peniscola on the Eastern coast, between Barcelona and Valencia, as I’d read an article about it and it looked really pretty and picturesque. The article also stated that it was still quite unknown to British tourists.

As I discovered, it was WELL known to tourists from just about every other European country as well as most of the far East !

That route should have involved a round trip of about 2,400 miles (and a return ferry crossing of course) but I guess I added a few extra miles by spending a day in Valencia and various other excursions from Peniscola and so in the end, I clocked up 3,158 miles in total. Driving in my “new” car with a/c and cruise control for the first time was a dream and also being able to use my UK phone plan allowances was such a blessing as I could use my GPS app (Waze) and also phone ahead to book Airbnb’s each day along the route.  Deep joy.

Anyway more about that trip in future posts. I’m taking small steps so that doing regular updates on the blog won’t become as time consuming as it was many times before.

But to end I will include a photo just to check that my space allowance limit hasn’t been taken away as they said it would. You see I got to 100% several posts ago in 2018 and as I didn’t want to delete old photos just to get back some space, I paid WordPress to get more. I hadn’t known that this cost would be annual and that if I didn’t pay up, my space increase would be removed !  Sacré bleu.

But It seems to still be in place (53% it says) and if this photo makes it, things should be ok going forward.

And the photo ?  Well it was taken on a bridge over the River Ger at Soueich, one of the many pretty little French towns/villages I drove through on my way to the Spanish border.

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Right, I’m off. Good to be back and hopefully I’ve still got some lovely readers, new and old, who will come with me on this renewed blogging journey.

Onwards and slowly upwards………..

 

 

Coast to Coast

For the last couple of weeks, my next door neighbour’s have had the builders in and due to the noise and materials that have spread over onto my driveway during each working day, I have been taking myself off on a few trips on good weather days.

One of the many benefits of living in the middle of the country, in North Leeds, is that it’s so easy to get to the East or West coasts as they are only 60-70 miles away. Last week I went East to Whitley Bay and yesterday I went West to Morecambe, a new destination for me. But first up…….

Whitley Bay.

My first visit there was back in the early 80’s just before I bought my own house and was lodging with a family in Leeds. They’d booked a week in the Whitley Bay Holiday Park on the outskirts of the town, close to St. Mary’s lighthouse, and as they had no transport, I drove them there and back.  As such I didn’t see much of the place but I have been back a few times since those days, most recently in March 2013 when I was on my way up to Scotland on the road trip that would eventually take me to the Scottish Highlands and John O’Groats.

So last Thursday I tootled 100 miles up the A1 through Newcastle to the pretty seaside town. My route took me across the famous Tyne Bridge, a smaller version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, both constructed by the same company around the same time, in the 1920’s.

The first of these 3 photos was taken on my 2013 visit as it shows the bridge in situ. Not quite as picturesque as the one in Sydney !  The others were as I crossed it yesterday and as you can see, the weather was much nicer !

Just don’t ask how I took them !!

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On arrival in Whitley Bay, I parked at the Waves Sports Centre along the promenade. The lovely long promenade is dominated at one end by the lighthouse and at the other end, close to the town, is an area called Spanish City.

Erected as a smaller version of Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, Spanish City opened in 1910 as a concert hall, restaurant, roof garden and tearoom. A ballroom was added in 1920 and later a permanent funfair. By the late 1990s the building and the area had fallen into disrepair, and in the early 2000s it was closed to the public.  A regeneration project was announced in 2011 and the building re-opened as a dining-and-leisure centre at the end of July 2018.

When I stopped off in 2013, it was in a sorry state so last week it was good to see the whole area was a vibrant tourist spot again and there was even a local radio station broadcasting in front of the rejuvenated domed building.

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Not a great photo but it was taken looking into the sun and at that time, the overcast sky didn’t help with the view.

Needing to walk off a traditional fish and chip lunch, I set off along the promenade towards St. Mary’s lighthouse. When the tide is in, the lighthouse, the small number of houses around it and the causeway out to it, are all cut off from the mainland.

As I wanted to climb it, I timed my visit so that the tide would be out !

It’s a 2 mile walk along the promenade and half way along I decided to leave it and go down onto the beach. Can’t be at the seaside and not go onto the beach !

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It was lovely to see so many kids with their little nets exploring the numerous rock pools around the lighthouse, mostly looking for crabs.

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Finally I arrived at the causeway out to the lighthouse and was glad that there weren’t too many people going my way. I assumed that the steps up to the top would be narrow, with little room for passing, and so it would be a case of waiting in line if people were coming down.

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Once inside, I was quite surprised to see I was on my own. It seemed that visitors were happy to get TO the lighthouse but no one wanted to climb the 137 steps to the top.

Great !

I paid the very reasonable fee (senior £1.70) and started up the steps. There were a few “passing places” but it was mostly a case of up or down but not both at the same time. The final few steps were the killers as the slope became extreme, almost vertical, and there was a very low headroom to negotiate.

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Once at the top, it was a little underwhelming. This was mostly due to not being able to get outside because of health and safety and so the views had to be enjoyed through thick, and quite unclean, glass. These views were pretty unspectacular although on the view out to sea we could spot a dozen seals basking, and sometimes fighting, on the rocks.

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I took a photo of the last few steps on the way back down to try and give some impression of both their narrowness and their steepness. I was really glad to have the handrails !

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Back on dry land, I had a rest on one of the many benches at the base of the lighthouse and then walking around the back, I came upon a seal/bird watching shelter which had several chained binoculars available for visitors to use. It was a bit upsetting to see kids trying to have a look but being unable to get to grips with focusing the binoculars and their parents not bothering to help them.

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Crossing over the causeway I took one last photo before joining the promenade and making my way back to the car at the sports centre and setting off back home.

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As a funny aside, I forgot to stop the MapMyWalk app on my return to the car and so it recorded my drive home, giving me a VERY impressive walk report when I did finally stop it. Just take 100 miles off the distance and I did a 5.6 mile walk.

Gotta love that steps count though !!

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It had been a grand day out although I didn’t actually go into the town itself as it’s like most other seaside towns and as such, the lighthouse and Spanish City are the only worthwhile locations to visit.

I did like that the promenade has no built up amusement type arcades along it which I absolutely hate about most UK seaside towns and this was also the case with the even better promenade I walked along yesterday………….at…………..

Morecambe.

There are several routes from Leeds across to the West coast seaside town of Morecambe but I decided not to take the faster motorway route and went on the A65 instead. Leaving at 9:30am to miss the rush time traffic, I had a lovely drive up into the Yorkshire Dales with no hold ups at all.

It had been overcast when I left but as I approached Ilkley, the skies cleared and for the rest of the day, I had almost clear blue skies and 17c temps (63f) – not bad here for 5th September.  Of course in the constant sunshine it was much warmer and so, although bringing it in the car, I had no need for my fleece and a polo shirt was all that was needed.

As I mentioned at the start, I’d never been to Morecambe before and knowing there was a statue of its most famous son, the much loved comedian Eric Morecambe, along the sea front, I put that into the Waze phone app and arrived there at 11:20.

After cruising along Marine Road to find a parking place, I spotted a Gala Bingo venue with a large car park that was, given the time of day, almost empty.

Sorted.

Across Marine Road, I was immediately at the start of the awesome promenade which runs for 3.3 miles South towards the ferry port at Heysham.

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I’ve never been on a UK promenade like it as it was so wide, so well maintained (100% litter free) and so uncrowded that it was a joy to be on.  I did speak with a resident at one point and was told it had only recently been updated and what a superb job they made of it. The main traffic on it yesterday were cyclists (it must have been wonderful to ride on such a flat, smooth surface), a few pedestrians like myself and loads of mobility scooters.

I assume that with the school holidays over, the elderly residents of Morecambe were reclaiming their promenade and good luck to them.

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One point to make about Morecambe, and indeed that whole part of the West Coast, is that when the tide goes out, it goes OUT.  In the top photo above, it looks like the water’s edge is shown on the left but that’s just where the water would come to if the tide was in.

The bottom photo shows just how far out tide goes and as a result, how much beach you get for your money !

And the middle photo shows the promenade and just how empty it was yesterday, how clean it was and how the main road, Marine Road, is kept separate from it with that wall on the right.

Less than half a mile from the Bingo Hall car park, I arrived at Eric’s statue and was pleased that it was mostly free of tourists like myself who wanted to take photos of it and selfies with it.

I had a free time to take several of both.

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For the non Brits, Eric Morecambe and his partner, Ernie Wise (best known as Eric and Ernie) were the most popular entertainers of their time and regularly top polls to this day. Their trademark end of show “dance” was to turn to the back of the stage and skip off, as captured perfectly by the statue.

It was great to see people keeping that “sign off” alive by being photographed doing it alongside the statue, as in the bottom photo. Eric would have loved that.

One of Eric’s other famous mannerisms was to wiggle his glasses up and down when saying something mildly suggestive to Ernie and with my selfie, I tried to recreate that but having to hold the phone didn’t help and anyway, it was a motion and not really capable of being replicated in a still photo.

Another half mile or so along the promenade, a 250m jetty jut out into the bay.

Stone Jetty was built in 1853 to serve as a railway terminus for Irish and Scottish ferries. In 1990, with its original function no longer needed,  it was updated and now seamlessly leads off from the promenade and the station near the end is now a lovely cafe.

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Back on the main promenade, I kept going although I was a bit worried that I’d have the 3.3 miles to walk back to the car at a time when my legs would be aching.

I finally got to the end, literally a dead end, at the ferry town of Heysham and climbed up some steps to explore the town. It didn’t take long as there isn’t much to the town, indeed village, but what there was, was quite interesting with many pretty houses, pubs and cafes.

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A local suggested I visit St. Peter’s Church and beyond that the ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel and its stone coffins.

I was intrigued.

First up, St. Peter’s Church and what a lovely location for a church and its associated graveyard, overlooking the bay. Even with the tide being well out, it was still a great view.

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There was a church on the site in the 7th or 8th century and then a Saxon church was built in 1080. Parts of this church still exist in the current Anglican version and the dates on many of the grave’s headstones bear testimony to this history.

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On up the hill lay the ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel, now maintained by the National Trust. There isn’t much left of the chapel but nearby were the  11th century stone coffins which were truly underwhelming.

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Those of us who were there discussed how it was very unlikely that any bodies could’ve fitted into the narrow stone graves (when they still had their stone lids fitted, I guess the name stone coffins applied more than now) but then someone found an info panel that explained that it’s thought that the graves held “disarticulated bones” rather than complete skeletons, possibly of saints and other important Christians, perhaps even those of St. Patrick himself. The chapel would therefore have been a place of pilgrimage.

Just a few metres on up the hill I came upon a bizarre landscape as shown in these photos………..

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From a distance I just thought it was a small camp site but as I got closer I noticed that the people weren’t campers but visitors like myself and the tents weren’t tents at all.

The three 4 sided reflective structures were supplemented by several cut out figures, also reflective but it was all a mystery as to what they represented and why were they there.

So as my blog is nothing if not informative, I’ve just contacted the National Trust (who own the land) and spoken with a lovely young man from N. Ireland who told me all about it.

It seems it’s a temporary display (for 9 days ending this Sunday) by the artist Rob Mulholland and put on by the Morecambe Bay Partnership. It’s supposed to represent an Anglo Saxon settlement in a modern way but it all appeared to be a bit hippy dippy to me.   As the web site says……

Inspired by early Anglo-Saxon designs, three mirrored dwellings aim to encourage viewers to consider the influence of people of the past on Morecambe Bay. Six mirrored human-shaped figures complete the idea of the structures and sites as places as human settlement, reminding the viewer of the people working the land and the sea in centuries gone by. By using mirrored surfaces Mulholland brings literal reflection into being, making the viewer and a distorted landscape and sky integral parts of the work. By catching glimpses of themselves, viewers see an image not only in the present, but a hint of those who may have walked in the same landscape in the past.

Yeah, like I said……hippy dippy !

Anyway with at least a 3.3 mile walk back to the car ahead of me, I felt it time to leave and by the time I reached the Bingo Hall car park, I was whipped.

As this screenshot shows, I’d walked 8.16 miles and although, given all my stops to take photos etc, it wasn’t a fast pace, it was still 8.16 miles and my body knew it.  That’s why I’ve taken the time today to do this post and apologies for it being a bit on the long side.

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And that’s it……till probably next week if next door’s builders are still here !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Senior Moment Close Shave

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a hair and beard trim which I do myself as I’ve precious little of both.

I set the trimmer guide to a No.2 for my beard and then a No.1 for my hair and afterwards, I removed the guide and cleaned the trimmer ready for the next time.

Then I made the mistake of doing something else before glancing at the bathroom mirror and noticed I’d somehow missed a few hairs on my chinny chin chin. I picked up the trimmer to complete the job and, due to it not having a guide on it anymore, I left a lovely bald track along the ridge of my chin !

Initially I thought I might get away with it and when that didn’t seem like an option, I played with various beard styles in order to incorporate the bald strip into a desired hirsute statement.

Not wanting to look like a Mexican bandit and seeing that I was too old, fat and talentless to be a George Michael lookalike, I resigned myself to having to shave the lot off and start again.

As there was no need to go the whole wet shave route, I settled on a No.1 and hoped the bald strip would merge in as the rest of the beard grew back and I’m happy to report that it has. After almost 2 weeks all is well and my bare face is no longer being shared with the outside world.

To try and ensure that this stressful catastrophe never happens again, my policy will be to always replace the No.2 guide on the trimmer after cleaning it.

Senior moments are often mentioned when we oldies do things like that….although I’d argue that it could happen to anyone.  Well anyone who has a beard I guess. I’m not quite at the stage where I stand in the kitchen wondering why I’m there but it’ll happen soon enough.

Talking about kitchens, I did screw up again last evening, the 2nd time this month in fact. You see, I prefer to heat peas slowly in a small saucepan on the hob rather than blasting them in the microwave and tend to put them on the burner about 5 minutes before the rest of the meal is ready to plate. I use a low flame and after a few minutes, once I see the first traces of bubbling, I turn it down to the minimum to just keep things warm for the last couple of minutes.

Then last evening I made my mistake.

I started to plate everything and finally lifted the pan off the hob and used a plastic holed serving spoon to scoop the peas out of the juice and onto the plate. I then poured the juice down the sink and filled the pan with water to make for easier washing up later.

Now you might think – at what point did I turn off the burner ?  Well last evening it came over 4 hours later when I stopped watching tv and took my empty plate into the kitchen before going to bed !!  As the kitchen was initially dark, the flame around the burner was pretty obvious and I was left to berate myself once again for my senior moment and having to pay a financial penalty for it in terms of my next gas bill.

Having done this once before a few weeks ago, I decided something had to be done – so I’ve now got a post-it note on the hob to remind me to check all burners are off before leaving the kitchen to eat my meal.

I fear that more notes may litter my home as I get more experience in forgetting things.

Whilst not exactly in the senior moment category, I do often watch a whole movie and then wonder why I stuck with it but although that is certainly not age related, it does seem to happen more frequently the older I get. So much for wisdom increasing with age and experience.  If that was true, I’d never watch ANY movie starring Adam Sandler, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell or Melissa McCarthy.

( actually that particular wisdom came to me a LONG time ago ! )

I watch a lot of movies and although I have my personal preferences bar set quite high, I still get the occasional rotten tomato and yet I’ll sit through it in the usually forlorn hope that “it’ll maybe get better”.

On such occasions they only got better when the end credits rolled.

But I’m getting better and that may be down to not having as much time left to be wasting any of it watching a crap movie and so I’ll stop before my brain starts hurting. That’s what happened recently with Black Panther, a classic case of superb special effects failing to overcome a dreadful script and even worse dialogue.

But I digress.  I’m a pensioner.  It’s what we do.

In a way I’m looking forward to many more senior moments as that’ll mean I’m still alive to have them, just as long as I don’t harm myself or others.

Which reminds me – I’d better get a smoke detector for the kitchen !!

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Fashion…A Cut Above The Norm ?

With the record temps this week melting roads, buckling railway lines and making lots of people just nasty to stand next to, I decided to buy a new pair of shorts.

Now I have several pairs of shorts but only one pair has fitted me for the last couple of years as my waistline has expanded somewhat.  The others I keep, in the mostly forlorn hope that one day I may be able to “climb into” them and get the top button to actually go into the top hole……or come anywhere close to it.

This fitting pair work for me as they have an elasticated waistband, a boon to those of us with the accepted medical condition known as obesity !  The problem recently has been that, as with most of my clothing, I’ve had them years and have worn them almost daily since the start of the month. A few days ago I discovered that the material on each side of my precious bits has worn away and I risk being done for exposure if I wear them outside again.

Personally I’d just call them “designer ventilated” but I doubt that the police, fashion or otherwise, would agree.

So much as I hate shopping for clothes (I know, who’d have thunk it !), I went to buy a new pair earlier this week. I just wanted a similar kind, you know, the ones you see spectators wearing at golf matches (not in the US though, oh dear me no).

Like these……..

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Now I admit I probably shouldn’t have gone to Tesco but it was nearby and I felt had a good range of clothing.

Just not for my age or size as it turned out.

They had NO shorts of the type above and so not wanting to go elsewhere, I lowered my expectations and just looked for any shorts that wouldn’t cause me to end up in the magistrate’s court.

At this point I have to say that despite having spent a lot of time in the US of A where oldies like me can wear just about anything and not be stared at or carted off to a rest home, we just aren’t like that here in the UK.

Or probably anywhere else for that matter.

So no shorts that were light blue, bright yellow, green, pink…..you get the picture, for this senior citizen.

Somewhat out of desperation and feeling slightly intimidated by being close to so many new items of clothing, I plumped for a pair that looked like sweat pants that had been cut off just above the knee. The label didn’t mention waist size and checking others of the same type on the rack, they only came in S,M and L.

As my days of being S or M ending in my twenties, I chose L and they seemed baggy enough for me. Stretchy too. They also came with a draw string method of tightening which I took to be a good omen.

Not bothering to try them on, I fairly scampered to the self checkouts and left the store with slightly raised blood pressure and a tightness in my chest.

I HATE CLOTHES SHOPPING.

Fast forward to a few hours later when I decided to try them on in the privacy of my bedroom. With only one leg in the shorts, I already suspected that I’d made a mistake. With the other leg in the shorts, suspicion gave way to certainty.

With movements akin to a trainee limbo dancer I managed to get them over my hips, at which point I noticed the ends of the draw string rapidly disappearing into the waistband material. I also felt the blood flow being constricted in my thighs so I stopped and despite knowing what I’d see, I checked myself in the mirror and, well lets just say if I did manage to get them a bit higher, my lack of Jewish ancestry would be clearly evident !

As there hadn’t been a choice of XL, 2XL, 3XL etc, I’d assumed L (with the draw string remember) would fit my fuller figure effortlessly.

Ha ! Big mistake. Big.  L mistake in fact.

And so it was that I found myself at the Tesco Customer Service desk the next day and after explaining to the lady that I’d no intention of taking part in the Tour de France in those shorts, I got my refund and went up to the clothing floor to try again.

As the forecast was for the hottest day of the year, if not of all time, I now was looking at shorts that I’d discarded the previous day as being unsuitable for my age group and without too much deliberation, I went for a pair that I believe are classed as “distressed” in modern fashion parlance but this time I also picked another pair, a size bigger and trotted off to the changing room to try them on.

Fool me once…and so on.

The first pair (again elasticated) fitted nicely and with no zip or buttons to mess with, just pulled on like swim shorts. I liked them.

But in the interests of comfort and increased air flow, I then tried on the larger pair and therein lay the conundrum. With the elasticated waistband and draw string, they were the dogs bollocks, as Gok Wan was never heard to say. Although they permitted a free flow of movement, albeit a bit too much freedom, I just couldn’t bear to accept the fact I’d be getting shorts that big.

No, no, no. I’m at the start of a diet and exercise program to reduce my HbA1C level to below that which currently labels me as being type 11 diabetic so I’m determined to reduce my waistline.

I replaced the larger sized shorts (you may have noticed I’m not mentioning any sizes here – I’m fat, not stupid !) and left the store with a spring in my step as I’d bought clothing and survived the experience.

So….distressed.  What’s that all about ?  Why the need to buy something new that looks like something old ?  Given time and wear, they’ll be old soon enough.

God knows I know THAT feeling.

But as well as being blotchy, these shorts have multiple built in creases around the precious area that give the impression that I’ve slept in them for a month or more.

Again…….that would happen naturally over time so why introduce it when new ?

Oh it’s fashion you’ll say.  It’s bollocks I say.  I want my new clothes to look new. At least to look new till the first wash.

I saw a photo of multi millionaire F1 driver Louis Hamilton this week and he was wearing white shorts, somewhat in the style of the photo I added earlier.

But they were slashed like he’d come second best in a fight with Neil “Razor” Ruddock and the hems were more frayed than my nerves when clothes shopping.

This is fashion ?

Oh well, with my new distressed and pre creased shorts, I can go walking knowing that I’m almost on the edge of being fashionable….and decent.

If I want to go full Gok Wan, I’ll need a pair of scissors and that’s not happening. There may be one or two differences between me and Louis Hamilton but I’m happy that MY shorts don’t look like they were on the outside of his F1 car doing over 200mph.

By the way, if you’re wondering about my use of the word “precious” when referring to my old (very old) family jewels, it comes from an episode of Gogglebox I watched this week. The families and friends were watching a show about lifelike human models with artificial intelligence that, if the show’s facts were to be believed, will soon be all the rage.  Clearly at this stage in their development, these models were being bought by, lets call them, lonely men with needs (and women, as there were male models too) !

Yes, lets leave it at that.

Anyway, being anatomically correct, the (male) creator showed us how, when he used his fingers in a certain place on the (female) model, it would make realistic sounds of pleasure or whatever.

One of the 3 elderly Caribbean ladies who were watching the show said “oh he’s touching her precious” which, despite putting a completely different slant on my enjoyment of Lord Of The Rings, I thought was a rather lovely way to describe that area, male or female.

Or in my case, semi precious I suppose !

A Walk From Burnsall To Grassington

On June 29th I had my long term illness review (or LTC as it’s called now – Long Term Care) which I’m supposed to have annually, if not more frequently.

The fact that it’s not always annually is down to me as I tend to ignore the appointment letters as over the years I’ve found it’s a bit of a waste of time. When it started I was seen by a doctor but as the years have passed, it’s been “downgraded” to a nurse and this time I was seen by a young healthcare assistant.

Next time I fully expect to be seen by one of the receptionists.

These days, during the review, I’m asked questions from a checklist and the healthcare assistant was straight in with “do you ever find yourself sad or depressed ?”

You mean apart from right now“, I felt like replying.

So she took my bp, weighed me and took my height……all things I could do myself at home. Then she took my blood which, fair enough, I’m not great at doing myself at home unless I’m running with scissors, which I try to avoid.

Looking at the results online a few days later (I’m jumping a bit ahead here so will get back on track asap), I could see all my answers to the questions. So I was a bit surprised to see “Does not complain of erectile dysfunction” !!

I was surprised because I was never asked about it and I assumed this was due to the healthcare assistant being a young girl who was too embarrassed to ask. Maybe next time she’ll have had more experience and be ready with the tape measure.

Right, back on track.

I won’t go into the other disturbing aspects of the review and go straight to the results. I was never told them. I went online a few days later and found them on my medical records and was horrified to see my Haemoglobin A1c level had gone from 47 mmol/mol to 69 mmol/mol.

As a level of 48 and over is classed as being type 2 diabetic rather than the borderline diabetic I was before, I was naturally concerned to say the least.

So I made an appointment to see the specialist nurse to discuss these results and also complain about not being told about them (to be fair that had NEVER happened before) and what a wonderful 65 minute session I had. I told her I’d been walking 3-7 miles a day since seeing the results and eating a bit healthier (come on……I’m only human) and after some discussion, she recommended I go onto Metformin to help with reducing the 69 score way back below 48 as quickly as possible considering my heart disease history.

The meds were delivered today and I took the first one after breakfast.

I really hope I can discontinue taking them and I’m encouraged by a snapshot reading taken last Friday with my friend’s blood glucose meter which showed a level of 6.1mmol/L which equates to 36mmol/mol.

Much better than 69 so I seem to be on the right path.

Anyway all this medical stuff is to explain why, yesterday, I took myself off to Burnsall for my favourite walk along the banks of the River Wharfe. I planned on a gentle walk to Grassington and back which I reckoned could end up being 6-7 miles on yet another lovely summer’s day.

It’s a stunning 1 hr drive from my house to Burnsall and I got there at 11:30. My first port of call was to the village cafe for some fuel for my walk and so at 12:11, after putting on my bluetooth headphones and lining up some tunes and starting the MapMyWalk app, I was off.

I’d parked on the road by the bridge and this was the view back to the cafe which you can see between the 2 biggest trees and behind that blue car. A delightful location and a highly recommended cafe which is under new ownership.

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I only had my phone with me as I’ve taken many photos of the walk already and didn’t want to bring my heavy main Lumix bridge camera.

And yes, don’t let the name fool you….it doesn’t only take photos of bridges !

It was soon obvious that the continuing heatwave we’re experiencing in the UK had given the landscape a huge contrast between public grass which only gets watered by nature and grass in private hands, so to speak.

This was a typical view looking back the way I’d come……..

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….compared to a view across the river to a house with a well watered garden.

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After a couple of miles I was delighted to come upon Linton Falls from a different direction than on previous walks as I’d really only ever seen the turbine building and the weir that still powers it.

I’d never seen the falls themselves and actually thought the weir WAS the falls by another name !

Despite not quite being on a par with Angel, Victoria or Niagara Falls, Linton Falls is still a pretty location despite the low water levels as a result of the aforementioned heatwave.

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Then it was on to Grassington which was as busy a Dales town as you can get. To add insult to injury, the last 1/4 mile to the town involves a very steep road to climb followed by an even steeper main street once you’ve got there.

Right at the top is a quirky shop called Ashton House selling hand carved furniture and all things crafty. I needed a rest after the climbs so spent some time exploring the shop and admiring the many items on display outside.

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The shops and houses in Grassington are very pleasing to the eye and obviously play their part in making the town a very popular stopping point for Dales walkers, cyclists and general looky lookers like me.

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My less than speedy walking and the numerous stops to enjoy the views and take the occasional photo meant that despite completing almost 4 miles, I’d taken nearly 2.5hrs to do it.  It was time to return to Burnsall.

Having already seen the falls, I approached Linton the way I always did before and that meant going through the graveyard of St. Michael & All Angels parish church.

Now if, after death, you’re going to be buried, and I’m not, it would be hard to find a prettier location for your earthly remains. I did come across a stunning one in Ireland when on my Wild Atlantic Way road trip a few years ago as it bordered a lake which helps any graveyard, but this one near Linton was still a nice place to rest your weary bones.

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And speaking of weary bones, as I was, my living bones were starting to realise I’d walked 5 miles already with the prospect of another 3 to go to get back to the car !

Ay caramba !!

It had been a bit overcast to this point but suddenly the skies brightened and the sun broke through, making me even more sweaty.

The up side was that with partly blue skies, the scenery went up a few notches and I took a lot more piccies on the return trip.

Here are a few……..

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I particularly like the last two as one shows how the path is so close to the river edge and the other one is just a nice composition, if I do say so myself.

Still on the path and approaching the road bridge at Burnsall, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of it from a location that has become a favourite of mine over the years. The colours change with the time of year but the view itself is timeless.

It was my final photo of the day.

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As I approached the end of the path by the bridge, I took my phone out of my pocket to check how far I had walked and how close I was to 8 miles and it showed 7.88 miles. Looking up along the bridge I could see the top of my car and though that if I wanted to be a saddo and walk exactly 8 miles, I might have to walk past the car and come back to it.

At the start of the bridge it was 7.92 miles and I couldn’t believe it when it ticked over to 8 miles as I got to the car boot. Walking around the front to get out of the way of passing cars registered another 0.1 miles before I stopped it recording and saved the route and stats for my records.

 

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So it had been another great, if leisurely, walk along the River Wharfe in the glorious Yorkshire Dales and best of all, it should help towards lowering my blood/glucose level so that I can come off these damn Metformin pills asap.

And then when I have my next review, the receptionist won’t have to ask me about any  erectile dysfunction issues !

Win/win.

Golf Is A Good Walk Spoiled.

Yesterday I played golf for the first time since 2012 when I was in Florida.

6 years is a long time when you’re in your 60’s and your body is fading like a £5 note in a Scotman’s pocket.

The weather WAS Floridian but that was the only comparison with my previous outing. I was using a trolley rather than a cart to carry my clubs, I had no companions to urge me on and worst of all, the course was ex-farming land that was just missing a few cows to still BE farming land.

Putting was a lottery although I did get excited when the ball dropped in for a 4 on the first hole – till I realised it was a par 3.

Then I 4 putted on the 2nd to make 7 and that was when I decided to class anything around 1-2 ft from the hole as being IN the hole. I know this sounds a bit cheat-y (although not on the same level as a Colombian player at the World Cup) but my reasoning was that the greens, being more patchy than my front garden, would cause me to score well over 100 if I tried to putt out on every hole.

Brandon Golf Course near Shadwell, Leeds is an 18 hole pay and play course which was created out of local fields with very little done to them since. Well not quite, but you’re constantly aware you’re not on a “proper golf course” like Augusta National.

Not even close, but then, where is ?

Any time I’d hit a decent straight drive, it would invariably land in a ditch or roll into a clump of trees in the middle of the fairway. With the blistering temps we’ve had over the last 2 weeks and the greens not having any sprinklers, any ball landing ON the green would roll into the next postcode before stopping.

Still, using my scoring system and a few kick outs from the extreme rough (a local rule I believe !) I went round in 88 and more importantly, due to the heat, I lost 2lbs as well as 2 balls.

Oh behave…..I mean golf balls.

I also found 3 balls which made me inordinately happy as they were better quality than the ones I was using !

Unlike my last game, I didn’t have to worry about gators or snakes or even geriatric cart drivers so those were pluses.

But the main difference was that that last game was when I was a few months shy of my 60th birthday and yesterday I was 9 days past 66. By the time I stumbled off the 18th green,  I was more than ready for a cool shower and a rub down from a Thai masseuse.

I had to settle for just the cool shower as the Thai masseuse didn’t work on a Wednesday.

Losing the 2lbs was important as I’m trying to lose (a lot of) weight as the results of my annual critical illness checkup last Friday showed that I’m definitely a type 2 diabetic now.  Seems the top “score” is 48 above which you’re no longer borderline. I’m now so far over that border (at 69) that I could be classed as an illegal immigrant !

I’m hoping that diet and exercise changes will bring that down as I don’t want to add even more pills to my daily regimen but I may not have a choice.

I’ve been out walking 4-5 miles every day for the last 2 weeks or so as the great weather has encouraged me to do that instead of using the treadmill. As a result I’ve lost 4lbs in that time so I’m off to a good start.

On a totally unrelated subject, I’m currently watching a Netflix series called La Casa De Papel which literally translates to The Paper House but in their wisdom, Netflix has called it Money Heist.  Maybe Google Translate was having an off day but actually, Money Heist is quite appropriate as the series is about a heist on the Spanish Mint.

But the point is that I have a choice of audio tracks to listen to – the original Spanish with subtitles or an English dubbed option. I usually watch it at night when I’m too tired to read subtitles so I pick the dubbed version and it’s just not working for me. It’s bad enough that words coming out of lips aren’t in sync, obviously, but the “actors” saying the dubbed lines are clearly phoning it in.

I’ve heard more enthusiasm in a Shackleton’s advert. Even in the dramatic scenes with loads of shouting between the police and the heisters (I may have made up that word) it’s like the dubbers are just reading from the script while reclining at home on their laz-y-boys.

I’m only 4 episodes in but I think I’ll switch to the Spanish audio and make do with the subtitles.

Or I could just learn Spanish I suppose !

On the subject of tv, when I returned from Florida in 2012, I treated myself to a new tv and made it a 3D tv as I thought that was the future.

Hmmmm.  Seems not.

The great British public didn’t think so and after a small uptake in tv shows being broadcast in 3D, it died a death and for the last few years, you haven’t even been able to buy a 3D tv.

So it’s a minor miracle, and a good one for me, that many movies and documentaries etc are still produced in 3D.  I have about 80 in my collection and really love watching them from time to time.

Facebook memories reminded me that I published a post on this day in 2013 that the BBC had broadcast the Wimbledon men’s semi final in 3D.   I wasn’t a fan. This was because the angle they showed was on a level with the net rather than from above so that once the ball went over the net, I’d no idea where it landed. I had to do my own “hawk-eye” tracking to try to work out where it had gone based on where it had crossed the net !

I also missed out on ever seeing a football match in 3D as Sky Sports had that sewn up and didn’t grant Virgin Media access to the broadcasts.

I was and am a Virgin Media customer so boo hiss to Sky.

I think I’d have enjoyed footy in 3D as long as the cameras weren’t at pitch level.

As for movies, I love animated ones in 3D.

Favs are Frozen, Despicable Me, Ice Age, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo……oh any animation really. The first 3D movie I saw at home was Hugo which at the time was rated as the best 3D movie going but the one that really blew me away was Rise Of The Guardians, especially the opening scenes.

It’s such a shame to me that home 3D never took off.

Moving on, it’s been a while since my mini road trip to Wales and with the end of the World Cup on the horizon, thoughts, my thoughts at least, are turning to a proper road trip before these old bones give out.

Yes I know a road trip is by car but one still has a lot of walking to do at each location and I’m not as sprightly as I used to be. Not quite ready for a zimmer frame and on the level I can, and do, walk for miles. But the world is not flat, no matter what some people would have us believe and I do love exploring continental hill towns.

My current thinking is either 3-4 weeks around Spain as I’ve never been below Barcelona which leaves a lot of country to explore or a shorter time in Ireland, especially Co. Donegal as despite coming from N. Ireland, I’ve rarely been to Co. Donegal.

If I do that, I’ll also complete the Wild Atlantic Way as when on it in 2016, I stopped at Bundoran which was just a mile or so into Co. Donegal and after that I went across to N. Ireland and so I still have a couple of hundred miles to go to say I’ve done it all.

If you aren’t aware of the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s a 1600 mile coastal route around the western (Atlantic) side of Ireland starting in Kinsale near Cork and ending in Derry in N. Ireland. From there you have the equally stunning, if not more so, Causeway Coast route down to Belfast. I blogged about it all as part of my Ireland road trip back then and the Wild Atlantic Way part starts with Day 8.  

The next few weeks should firm up my plans and who knows, maybe do both.

I love being retired !

By the way, the title of this post, popularly attributed to him, was not in fact uttered (or written) by Mark Twain. Just so you know.