Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

"Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source - a Sower of Dreams - just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true." -- Sarah Ban Breathnach, author

We wish you a very happy and peaceful new year.

Marie & John xx

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Seasons greetings

Here's wishing you a very happy Christmas and a wonderful new year.

Marie & John xx

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger, without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

From No Man's Land by Eric Bogle

As the centenary of the great war gets under way you are going to see a lot of statistics thrown around. Not all will come from reputable sources. Far too many figures are of the “everybody knows” category.

But before I talk about that, I want to make one thing clear. I'm neither denigrating nor belittling the losses and the sacrifice. Harold Wilson once said that it doesn't matter how low unemployment is, if you don't have a job then unemployment is 100% to you. And likewise, if you lost a son, or husband or father, then the death toll was 100%

So what sort of figures are we talking about. Let's start with the “entire generation lost” types. According to Statistics of the military effort of the British Empire during the great war, published by the War Office in 1922, In truth the number of British soldiers killed was 702,410. It's a lot, but how many times have you heard far greater figures alluded to. Over eight million men were mobilised, and the death rate was 8.4% (for officers the figure was nearer 12%, and for junior officers who went to public schools, 20%).

Perhaps what made the figures seem worse was the idea of people joining up and serving together. We had the “Barnsley Pals” battalion, and the “Newcastle Railway Workers” and even the “Post Office Rifles”. A bad day would bring death to a very small community. Incidentally, the United States had suffered the same thing during their civil war and were determined never to have “local” regiments. American regiments are numbered and anonymous.

Then there is the saying that after the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, every street in Britain received a telegram telling of a death. On that day there were just under 20,000 deaths and another 40,000 injuries. Think about if, how many streets are there in Britain.

And then we have a well known musician and author who writes about raw recruits heading off to France in 1914. In 1914 Britain had to fight with the pitiably small regular army (248,000 strong and most of them serving overseas). The new men had only just signed up by the end of the year and didn't see action for nearly two years.

What I'm saying is don't let emotion and the writings personifying the anti-war sentiment of the late 20's and early 30's cloud your judgement. The facts are terrible, but the truth is worth looking for.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Journey's End

I've said before that the bigger the city, the worse the view. Today we're in Istanbul and the veranda view is of a part demolished building. Wonderful.

The view on the other side is of a very very busy waterway, and a nice park area.

And out neighbour, one of the Costa ships.

After blogging last night we went to dinner, which was eaten as we passed through the Dardanelles and Galipoli..Then on to the Abba show, where Marie sang ALL the words.

Just a short blog as today is our last full day and we're busy packing. No blog tomorrow as we'll be flying home. Sob sob sob.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fifteen Course Dinner !!

So we're back to Greece today. We're in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. Today’s veranda view shows the harbour entrance, with the morning ferry just arriving.

More about Mytilene in a moment, first we have to tell you about last night. We ate in a different restaurant. It was a smaller, more intimate place, and they served fifteen courses. Perhaps I should explain. There were really only five courses, but each contained three sub-courses, a bite or two big. It was an excellent meal, with great service, but the “entertainment” left a lot to be desired, Particularly the sound quality. After dinner we headed down to the show lounge (aka theatre) where we saw the “Crew Show”. Really, the crew put on a show one night per cruise, And some of them were really good.

Now back to today. It was hot, up in the high eighties, but we decided to be brave and venture out. The ship was at anchor, so we took the tender ashore,

The town was rather manic with lots of traffic, and hundreds of mopeds and scooters. Also, they have high kerbs and they don't do ramps or dropped kerbs so we stayed on the waterfront.

Tonight is a formal night, the farewell reception. It's held a day before the final night,because it's formal dress, and by tomorrow night everyone will have packed. After the reception will be dinner, then back to the show lounge for the Abba night. Really.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Turkey, but you wouldn't know it

Today we're in Kusadasi and the veranda view shows the causeway to the castle.

Kusadasi is in Turkey, though it's not obvious. The older part of the town is a sort of reasonably good quality coastal resort with boutique hotels and rental apartments. Get outside the old town and it's English Bars & Fish 'n' Chips.

The there is the cruise terminal. Today there were four ships in. Ours with 390 passengers, one from Louis with about 1000, then two from Carnival Lines with 3,500 and 4,000 respectively.

Now, this is the nearest port to the ruins of Ephesus, which is where just about everyone wanted to go. We decided to give it a miss, and instead took a walk along the front and along the causeway to the castle, which is now a night club. It's a very nice place, but there's nothing Turkish about it. It could be the front in Palma, or Mahon or a dozen other places. Not that we're complaining. Just being here is more than enough for us. There's more than enough on the ship to keep us happy. And speaking of the ship, here's a better view.

Another new port tomorrow. Wait and see.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hot in Turkey

A new day and a new country, Turkey. We're in Mamaris, which is in truth for the most part a typical Mediterranean seaside resort. Today’s veranda view shows part of the harbour, which is made of of private yachts, charter boats, and two cruise ships, ours and one belonging to Thompson.

The waterfront is well appointed and very clean. We walked along past all the charter boats, offering anything from a three day charter to a two hour booze cruise. The market is another matter. We were told by the local rep that the market was “not as aggressive as Istanbul”. So we won't be going to the one in Istanbul. Most of the shops were selling leather or jewellery, and most were fakes. Some even advertised “Genuine Fake Goods”. And you had to avoid eye contact, because a moments weakness meant you were instantly under pressure to buy. Not a nice place.

We were back on the ship shortly after mid-day, and not long after that it was time for lunch.

So what did we learn today :

Turkey is hot.
Outside of the market Turkish people are very friendly.
The traffic is chaotic.
Petrol costs about 60p per litre.
Germans are not very good at queuing to get on a bus.

More tomorrow,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Greek Tragedy

Another day, another country. Today we're in Santorini, which is in Greece. Today's veranda view shows whitewashed buildings at the top if a vertical cliff. Which just about sums up most of the island.

Very beautiful, but also frustratingly inaccessible.

First of all the local “Boatmen Union Of Santorini” insist that you have to use their local tenders to get ashore. These are of a much lower quality than the ship's own tenders, and access is not very good for anyone using crutches and a wheelchair.

They take you to the “Old Port” and then getting up to cliff is a bit of a problem too.

There are three ways. A funicular railway with no wheelchair access, a donkey ride (donkeys are not noted for having wheelchair ramps and step-free access) or climbing an enormous set of steps. And to make matters worse, we weren't the only cruise ship in town.

Ours is small, but this one is enormous, so there were huge crowds everywhere. We heard that yesterday was even worse with five ships anchored and 9,000 people going ashore. To put this is perspective, the population of Santorini is only 7,000.

So we stayed on board. The pool deck was quiet all morning, and only began to fill up as people returned from their shore excursions, telling horror stories about the experience. So a lazy day, drinking Pimms by the pool, followed by lunch, then back to our suite for a couple of hours before cocktails in the bar and then dinner. It's a hard life ...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

All At Sea

Today is a day at sea so today's veranda view isn't terribly exciting.

We're in the Ionian Sea, about 100 miles south of the mainland of Greece. It's warm, about 80f and there's nowhere to go so the pool deck is crammed. So we're sitting in the panorama lounge, looking out over the stern of the ship where it's cool and quiet.

This morning we had some of those “only on a cruise ship” events. First of all there was an edition of “Ready Steady Cook” between the Cruise Director (in charge of entertainment) and the Restaurant Manager. Then we went to the bar for a talk on the history of the martini, complete with demonstrations, and of course, tastings.

Tonight we have a cocktail reception to attend, followed by dinner with one of the ships officers, then off to the show lounge for a Night At The Opera.

Busy, Busy, Busy. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Volcanic !!!

It's Friday, which means we are in Messina, which is in northern Sicily. We were up and about before the ship docked today, so the Veranda View is of the Straits of Messina. Italy to the left, Sicily to the right and just a 3km gap between.

So what did we do today ?

We visited Mount Etna. Now, some of you may think it a little foolish to go visiting a live volcano (Which last erupted in 11991) on Friday the 13th, but we survived. We were looking into the crater of one of the earlier eruptions when there was a huge clap of thunder. “Don't worry” said the guide, “It's not the volcano”.

It really is an amazing sight. Long runs of old lave flows. Sometimes the road has been built through them. And some end up in the villages further down the mountain. Well worth the effort.

We're at sea all day tomorrow,and back at a new destination on Sunday.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Floating Around

Yes, we're still in Sorrento. We leave at 6pm tonight on route to … wait until tomorrows blog to find out.

Today has been another day of exploring the ship, and being lazy. First there was breakfast, then sitting out watching the tenders shuttling back and forth.

Then there was lunch. Then a little bit of work. We visited the launderette to iron stuff for the formal evening tonight. It's the captains welcome reception, so it's posh frocks and black ties.

Currently Marie is sitting out on the veranda sewing, and I'm sitting at the desk blogging.

Must away as there's a beer in the fridge calling me. So I'll leave you with a few pictures of our home for the next few days.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

We've Arrived !!

Well, it's Wednesday, and we're in SORRENTO. We're actually at anchor in the Bay of Naples, and this is today's Veranda View.

Actually I'm getting a little ahead of the story as when you last heard, we were still at Newcastle airport. Our flight to London was uneventful, if a little delayed. A lot of people missed connections as a result. Fortunately we were flying out to Rome the following day, so apart from having to be up before 5am on Tuesday, we were fine. The flight to Rome was fine, and business class travel is much more relaxing. So is the food. We had the choice of a cooked or continental breakfast. The people in pleb class got a croissant and a drink.

So we got to Rome and wonder of wonders, all three suitcases made it intact. Even Wizzy, Marie's wheelchair was delivered right to the aircraft door. Well done BA, you're getting better. Then there was a slight hitch. When there are a lot of people joining a cruise, a minibus is provided, and when there are a few, a “van” as SilverSea call it, is used. This is a sort of people carrier, usually a boxy Mercedes one. Unfortunately, Marie has difficulty getting in to them, and last time resulted in much pain and loss of dignity. So we had arranged for a proper car, a large one at that. However, unlike the Vauxhall estate used by Station Taxis at the start of our journey, the Mercedes used in Rome couldn't accommodate two people, one Wizzy and three cases. After much trying, the cases were unloaded and out on the bus, and we were driven to the port, a journey of about thirty miles.

Now like most big cities, the port isn't the prettiest place, as you can see.

And as you might expect we arrived well ahead of our luggage. In the end it arrived, and here's one of our cases being loaded on to the ship.

Once we were settled in, everything was just perfect. We had cocktails on the pool deck last night while meeting the entertainment staff, then dinner in the restaurant. Marie had a manicure this morning, and then we had lunch by the pool.

We're staying overnight at Sorrento, so I'll tell you all about the ship next time.


Monday, June 09, 2014

BOGOF's aweigh

Well, here we are again. It's that time of year, the time when the BOGOF household take off an their holiday cruise. I'm writing this in the wonderful oasis of quiet that is the BA Executive lounge at Newcastle airport. We're off to Heathrow tonight, then on to Rome tomorrow to meet the ship. If you want to know where we go from there, keep checking back and follow our adventures !!

Of course this is my first holiday where I didn't have to take time off work as I'm now a retired person. That meant a whole week to get everything ready, instead of cramming all the preparations into two days. That's a definite plus, as is plenty of time to unwind when we get home.

All in all, this retirement business has lots to recommend it. If you were to ask me what it's like, I would find it hard to explain, having no point of reference. I can say it's WAY better than working for a living. I don't miss that one little bit. And of course if either I or Marie has a doctors appointment, or we need to go shopping, or anything else, we can go whenever we like or whenever we can. On the down side, sometimes it's hard to remember what day of the week it is, but other that that, it's great.      

Friday, April 11, 2014

The big day has ARRIVED !!!!!

I don't know who is the most excited - me or John - regarding his retirement from work.

I've got loads of jobs lined up (imagine a list as long as several loo rolls.....) to keep him out of mischief.

Don't worry I won't work John too hard. I've promised he can have bank holidays off, though we're still negotiating weekends......


Friday, April 04, 2014

One week !!!

Only ONE week till the big day !!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Counting down

Only 30 days till the big day.....

Friday, February 21, 2014

Seven weeks

Seven weeks, seven weeks, seven weeks - seven weeks, seven weeks, seven weeks - seven weeks, seven weeks - seven weeks, seven weeks, seven weeks....

Till John retires !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year

We wish you a wonderful 2014.

Marie & John xx

PS It's exactly 100 days till John retires. YIPPEE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!