Here we go again!
January 01- February 17th
Probably the most uneventful month in a long time. I can't think of a single exciting thing to tell you. In fact, I can't remember anything to tell you! Age does that y'know. I've asked Arja if she can remember anything, but she's in the same boat!
February 18th - February 20th.
Our first weekend away of the new year and we picked Leicestershire. One reason for going there was a mass meet of three 'fashionable' hunts in Melton Mowbray. M.M. is the centre of foxhunting in England and the meet was organised to show defiance at the new law banning foxhunting. Whatever your feelings about foxhunting are, it was a great turnout that reflected the solidarity of those who are against a ban.We're glad we were there. Some pictures.
Our hosts, Tom and Raili Fraser. Another Finnglish couple.
As is usual for these jaunts, we stayed in a wonderful country house. This one used to be an old rectory. It's called, guess what.That's right, 'The Old Rectory', in the village of Hallaton. Hallaton is apparently famous for a 'sport' of bottle kicking. We missed it by a few weeks but by all accounts it's somewhere to stay away from unless you want to get embroiled in a massive scrum!
Anyway a terrific weekend that also contained one of the best meals we have had anywhere! A restaraunt called the Horse and Trumpet. There's no website or I would have put in a link. Yummy though. Nami nami.
March 12th - 19th
This time the energetic pair (us) when to Passo Tonale in Italy. For once the flight and transfers went without a hitch and we were deposited at our hotel, The Gardenia, without any hassle. This time you are spared photographs as skiing holiday pics look exactly the same wherever you are!..... I've just been informed that there will be pictures.:-( Passo Tonale is a rather uninspiring little town, in fact we called it a 'Cowboy kaupunki' straight away. The main runs are ranged along one side of the town and are basically 'up 'n' down' After a week we had exhausted them! There is one run on the other side that goes to the glacier. However, the only way down, apart from the gondola, is a hairy looking black run. We gave that a miss! The weather was fantastic...if you were on a sunshine holiday! Clear blue skies every day. This did mean the snow was being melted at an alarming rate and by 1:30pm it was turning slushy. This is beginning to sound as if our holiday wasn't up to scratch. Not so. We had a great time and I felt my skiing had improved tremendously.
I don't know how successful this will be but I've published some pictures via XPs 'publish to the web' feature. Please let me know if it's ok or a 'kipu'. Click HERE
April through to June
Lots of things!
(some boring, some not so boring)
Let's see, the most interesting thing to happen in April was for us to get a new garage door. Yes, I know, me getting a garage door shouldn't be a news item but...............It came about because I made a monumental cock-up with a customers door. I'd mis-measured it and didn't check the size before ripping the old one out! Too late to send it back I had to simply buy another one.Like a barman that has to drink his mistakes, I had to install mine in our own house. Nice though. Fortunately the door was a classy item from Hörmann, one of those sectional doors. So it turned out fine.
One evening, beginning of May sometime, we were sitting watching TV and Arja said "We could have another bathroom down here" pointing to the end of the garden room. "Mmm yes" I said, not really thinking it would go very far. Hah! There then ensued something of a dizzy round of builders, architechs and bathroom showrooms. In the course of my work I met two builders that I could trust, one of whom recommended an architech. I phoned him and a week later he came round. A ten minute survey turned into a three hour marathon because the guy stammered alarmingly. Now we didn't hold that against him but nine weeks later I could have cheerfully throttled him! Interim plans were made and that's a far as it got. He was a champion 'faffer' that is to say, nothing he did was done when he said he's do it. We gave up in disgust. Still, it gave us something to exercise our brains on. Shame, it would have been nice. Maybe at a later date. Good thing is there are no pictures!
June 9th - 13th
10th of June, as most of the world knows, is Arja's birthday. It the birthday that has no number but it begins with a 6 and ends with a 0. I shall say no more. To celebrate this momentous occasion we besided on another trip to Ireland. This time we went to Cork for 2 days and Waterford for 2 days.
Good old Ryanair as usual. We stayed in a B&B in Kinsale which is a pretty port/marina type place. I guess it used to be a fishing village until the E.U. stepped in and made all the Irish into hotelliers and restaurateurs. Anyway, I made a reservation at one of, if not the, best places in Kinsale. Man Friday The website looked good, the menu looked good and everyone we talked to said it was good. Sad to say we were a little disappointed. I won't bore you with the details but I think we've learnt (at long last) not to expect too much. I think they must have fallen prey to the idea that tourists are a necessary evil. Hey ho!
Blarney Castle. Yep, we did. We kissed the Blarney stone! That turned out to be a helluva day. I'll just stick a couple of shots here and get it over with.
First off, the Castle is set in very beautiful parkland and we got the picture on the left by first Arja taking a shot of me and then, using the same positions, me taking a shot of Arja. Photoshop did the rest.
The Blarney stone itself is on the inside of.................Ah, it's too complicated! Bloody tough old climb to get to it though! Having performed the ceremony, we made our way back to terra firma, only to be waylayed by the guy on the right.
As we were walking by he said "Excuse me sor, do you speak English?" "Oh o." I thought. "Yes, I do" I said, like a lamb to the slaughter. "My name is Charles Kidney and I'm a poet" he said. "That's nice" I said. His eyes twinkled and he beamed me a smile. "Let me read one of my poems" he said. Knowing I'm about to be suckered I said "Go on then" He then produced a piece of parchmenty looking A4 paper with gaelic type writing on it and proceeded to read in a soft, lilting Irish brogue:
A blast of Celtic music,
A sound fossil from the past,
Carried from a distant space,
To ear, through mouth,
Through millenium of time,
Tied his soul to a billion men,
Of the same tribe,
Of the same spirit,
By some intangible thread.
© Charles Kidney
My eyes were moist as he said to me "Now I'll sign this for you and you can give me what you think it's worth". I dug into my pocket and pulled out a €5 and a bunch of change. I offered him the fiver, which he took. He held his hand out, wriggled his fingers to say "come on, give me the rest" which, like an idiot, I did! The change amounted to about 8 or 9 euros! The great thing was, we laughed all the way through it.
Great fella, made our day.
Part Three (nearly done)
The last couple of days were spent in Waterford, or at least in a little village just outside called Woodstown. Our hosts were John and Jill Thomas. They are English hunting people who came to Ireland for the hunting and never went back! Well you wouldn't would you? Nice folk. Nice drop o' whiskey Master!
Arja doing her Japanese tourist impression while Jill looks on in amazement.
And that, as they say, is that!
| One last thing. We went to the Chelmsford Civic
theatre to see a 'Flamenco Spectacular'. We are great flamenco fans and
thought, 'Hey! This sounds good'. How wrong can you be?
The show comprised of the local flamenco dancing class and a group of five Spaniards. Now don't misunderstand me, we would love to be able to dance flamenco, if only to wipe the smile off Spanish faces when they drag hapless tourists on to the boards.
But these people were something else. There was one guy in a Spanish suit and hat, unfortunately he spoiled the effect by being tubby, short and bespectacled. Sort of ruined the image. Still, he gave it his best 'haughty Spaniard' impression. :-)
The real flamenco dancers had misjudged their audience and performed a rather esoteric series of songs and dances, which left the crowd looking for the exits! This is Chelmsford after all, not uptown Jerez!
For months Arja has been nagging me to update the blog. "Have you done the website, have you done the website?" "I'll do it, I'll do it for goodness sake woman!"
So, since the last instalment, we have been to see some Shakespeare at Ingatestone hall. We've been before and it was good. This time however it was a little disappointing because the seats were not as good. As it's an outdoor performance the accoustics were somewhat lacking. Never mind, can't win them all.
Next was a visit to The Globe theatre in London. As you probably know, it's a reproduction of the original Elizabethan theatre and sited almost on the same er.....site. You're not allowed to take photographs inside but your intrepid investagative reporter, with the help of highly secret equipment and the help of Arja as lookout, brings you these exciting piccies!
O.K; they weren't taken while the performance was on but it was very risky anyway.
All this culture was in July.
August saw another visit to Finland. We stayed overnight in Tampere and in the morning went to see Tuomas, Anu and Eerik. It was a nice visit and we were lucky enough to be able to sit through all 17,584 pictures of Eerik. Marvelous! :-) This is my favourite (notice the 'u' in favourite) although one of the earlier photographs, it's one that will haunt him well into his teenage years.
Another nice visit to Finland and one marked by seeing Tapani's new car. A limited edition BMW no less! A car the reflects his standing in the Sipoo community. At last he drives a car that is newer than Mia's!
EDIT: Arja tells me I've forgotten to mention that Mia and her went mushroom gathering. I don't think the world is ready for that kind of excitement but hey, what do I know?
It looks very tense as the girls are given last minute instructions by Mushroom Meister Tapani Alaterä. Those mushroons can be very dangerous when cornered!
Blenheim horse trials. 14 were found guilty, 27 were given conditional discharges and the remaining 12 were released into the wild.
A great weekend only tempered by the RAIN! Damn, did it rain? At one point I felt a trembling in my little rucksack! It turned out to be my mobile phone in it's death throes! It got soaked, as did we. But were we downhearted? Certainly not! Us horsey people are made of sterner stuff to be intimidated by a drop of water.
That was to be our last enjoyable weekend for quite a while.
September 24th 14:20hrs
Saturday morning we decided to go for a cycle ride. The weather was bright and sunny, temperature about 19-20 degrees. We set of towards Pleshey were we said we'd have lunch. We rode through country lanes and bridleways till we got to The Leather Bottle pub. There we had a ploughman's lunch with orange and lemonade. Very nice.
Off we set to continue the homeward leg. We were having a good time and of course were oblivious of what would unfold. We came to the point where we have to cross the A130, a busyish 'bypass' type of road, single carriageway but very wide. We stopped, looked left (you could see a long way to the left) looked right, (you couldn't see very far right so you listened carefully too) then made the decision to cross. At this point let me explain that we've crossed here many, many times so we don't mess about, we GO! I made it to the centre of the road and Arja was directly behind me. At that moment I heard the scream of a motorcycle at full revs, I looked to my right and saw him. Similtaneously he saw me/us and instead of continuing his line he straightened up. Momentarily I was 'looking down the barrel' of a Yamaha R6! But because we were still pedalling across the road, I went out of his path and Arja came into it...
Motorists that stopped were great. Amazingly 2 doctors, a paramedic and a trained first aider were at her side almost immediately. Ambulances and police were quickly on the scene. Arja was taken to Broomfield hospital where she was given first class treatment. Later that night, 3am actually, she was transferred to Oldchurch hospital's neurological ICU to monitor her brain damage. These were a very tense few days!
She was then transferred back to Broomfield where she spent a further four weeks. She was finally allowed home on the 25th October.
So, although she's home, she still has a way to go before she's fully recovered. This of course isn't good enough for her and she's not happy that it's taking so long. But we'll be back with more exciting weekends and holidays to tell you about. (whoopee, can't wait, I hear you say)