Let's see what this year brings!
New years day came and went without too much hassle, so it gave us no inkling of the traumas to come!
We had several days off and filled them by...............Mmm, can't remember! Anyway, whilst browsing the internet one evening, Arja found a deal with Ryanair for a stupid amount of money. £2:50 to Tampere and £9:99 back! Plus airport taxes etc. "Book it!" I said. Which she did. We sat back and grinned at each other. Well, you would, wouldn't you?
Hello, is that a fly I see in our ointment? You betcha! Unfortunately there was a slip of the mouse and we had booked flights for two Arja Attwoods. Not to worry, I'll sort it out in the morning. Hah!
I duly telephoned Ryanair customer services (what a misnomer) who, for the cost of £15 changed my name without too much fuss. Arja's was a little more complicated. Because her passport still says Scott and the booking was for Attwood they insisted on seeing a marriage certificate! They would only accept a fax and the machine in Arja's office couldn't get through no matter how many times she tried. She tried for three days solid!
Eventually I got it through via another machine. Called Ryanair to tell them it had been sent. No, can't find it, they said, not our fax number they said. I'm now yelling down the phone "It must be your number, you gave it to me" She hung up! I now understand Edvard Munch's 'The scream". I took deep breaths and composed myself. I dialled the number, a recorded voice welcomed me, I pressed 2 unasked, I'd been here before many times! A lady calling herself Ann or it might have been Anne, listened to my story patiently. Tap tap tap of a keyboard, then she says "Oh yes Mr Attwood I have your marriage certificate and I can now change the name for the flight going on the 27th March and returning on the 6th April. The only thing is Arja will have a seperate reference number" "Don't tell me" I said, "she's got to go in July" Hysteria had set in and Ann/Anne had to tell me to pull myself together.
Time has passed and the pain doesn't seem so bad. But several lessons have been learnt.
1. NEVER press the 'OK to proceed' button unless you have checked everything 3/4 times!
2. NEVER lose your temper with Ryanair staff, they just hang up on you.
3. With very few exceptions Ryanair staff seem to leave they're common sense and initiative at the door when they clock in.(Ann/Anne smuggled her's into the office)
That's got that off my chest. Sorry to have bored you with it. We now look forward to going to Italy (La Thuile) for a spot of skiing. Be assured you will hear all about.
Not one of our best days. We took Coke (one of the cats) to the vets today because she had a swollen tummy and was not eating. They did a blood test and told us, more or less, what we had suspected, that she had liver disease and the only option was euthanasia. Even though she was 15 years old, it's still very sad. She will be missed.
Thanks to Christine for the picture. I never did manage to get a good one of her.
23rd January-26th March
Nothing too exciting has happened since late January, well, we went for a weekend to Lottie and Jim's place in St. Neots in Cambridgeshire. We had Eric, Rose and Helen, our neighbours, in for dinner and very tasty they were too! Having said that, Eric was a bit tough! Helen had just had a hip replaced so she couldn't join in playing Twister. Next we had Pete and Clare round for dinner. They had just returned from getting married in Sweden. They stayed in the Ice Hotel and great fun it looked! Now if Pete can get his ***t together and send me some piccies I would include those as well. Having seen the wedding pictures I can tell you Clare looked absolutely stunning in a long red dress. Pete was very attractive too, in a manly way of course.
Our spring holiday
27th March-6th April
The main event was our spring holiday in Finland. Regular readers will remember the hassle we had getting tickets!(see top of page) That was the only hassle we had, the plane took off on time and arrived 1/2 hour early. The car was waiting and we made our way to Jämsä about 90 kilometres from Tampere. We stayed in Jämsä's finest hostelry and went skiing in Himos just a few clicks up the road. Believe it or not, the weather was just like on the website. Big disappointment and disbelief was the fact that the hotel's bar OR restaurant was not open on Sunday evening so we had to eat in the filling station café. We each had a coffee and a thing called a 'Lihapiirakka' which tasted strongly of heart attack! We'll not bore you too much so just a few Himos snaps.
After a pleasant weekend we packed up and headed south to Kerava where we stayed at our favourite country hotel. Hotel Talma, run by a lovely couple Mia and Tapani Alaterä.
This trip was taken with the intention of checking out property to buy. Arja wanted to see what you get for your buck and to investigate the methodology of buying houses or flats in Finland. We duly went to an estate agent who showed us one or two likely looking flats. Encouraged by this we set of to see some offered by a different agent. To cut a medium sized story short, on Thursday we saw a flat that took Arja's fancy. The next morning she woke to announce that she was going to buy it! All I can say is that British estate agents could learn a lot from the Finns! The sale was COMPLETED by the following Wednesday! If it hadn't had been for the weekend it would have been sooner. Very, very impressive.
After all that excitement we took it easy and went to Hyvinkää to see Arja's old friend Seija, They've known each other and kept in touch from since their au pair days. Which is nice. Of course we met up with Immu, because a visit to Finland wouldn't be the same without seeing her, in Hemingway's. (a pub in Kerava) I'll let the pictures say the rest.
Weekend in Ireland
Once again Ryanair lured us onto one of it's aircraft by dangling cheap fares under our noses! Stansted to Knock in Co. Mayo for £50 each way. We have always wanted to go to Ireland but have been put off by the expensive airfares. Well no excuse now. Seeing as how we knew nothing of Ireland the choice of airport was academic apart from the fact that a 'cybermate' of mine, Mr. Browne aka Declan Lee, lives in Sligo and it would have been good to meet him. More of whom later.
Mr.Hertz lent us a car, a Toyota Yaris which as hire cars go was OK. We stayed in two places, Westport, Co.Mayo and Strandhill just outside the city of Sligo in..............er, Co.Sligo.
I think I'll let the pictures tell the rest.
During one of the strangest summers ever with downpours and gales and 6' of snow it was a miracle that the -=[dMw]=- barbeque took place at all. All week long the weather did not look at all promising but come Saturday morning----the sun shone! We took ourselves up to Milton Keynes to TeaLeaf's house to partake in outright gluttony. Wines, beers and spirits flowed like water and the food kept coming. The piece de resistance was a banana/chocolate/rum concoction that was grilled in foil and contained enough carbohydrates to make Dr. Atkins turn in his grave! Nice though. :-)
We took a room at the Hilton Hotel because driving home was not an option.She wont thank me for this but Arja had an unusual experience of the nocturnal kind. It seems she got up in the night to visit the loo and took the wrong door. She was horrified to hear the door click closed behind her as she found herself in the corridor STARK NAKED! I was woken by a frantic hammering on the door. "Who is it?" I mumbled, "Let me in!" she cried!..............I let her wait a bit.
There are no pictures this time ("Oh no!", I hear you cry) because the sight of fully grown people filling their faces with hamburgers is not a pretty one.
Off to Finland(again!)
I know this won't excite many/any of you but we made another trip to Finland courtesy cheap flights by Ryanair. Well, it's silly not to! This time the car was upgraded f.o.c to a Ford Focus C Max. Although not a great lover of Fords we couldn't help being impressed by this one. Maybe it was something to do with it being higher and thus easier to get in and out of!
First night was spent in Orivesi. Reasonable hotel with a 'Drinki Baari' in which we had a fair few drinkis! Jyväskylä next. Nice town, nice hotel and a very nice ravintola. Kissan Viikset (Cat's Whiskers to you!) provided what was probably one of the best dining experiences we have ever had in Finland.If you're ever in Jyväskylä it's a must!
After all that excitement came........Sysmä! The very name has become synonimus with boring! It's a very clean, open, one horse cowboy town without the horse or the cowboys.Seriously, Sysmä is is a summer holiday town where the majority of visitors have their own summer cottages scattered around the outlying areas. The countryside in this part of Finland is stunning. In fact the catchphrase for the week became "WOW!". Around almost every corner we came upon another beautiful scene. We began to suffer from 'beautiful scenery overload'
Afer spending a few days making our way down to Kerava we dumped ourselve on the long suffering Mia and Tapani. I'm not sure for how much longer will they put up with us turning up on their doorstep! Thanks guys! We really would be happy to use the kesämökki.
We went to a concert in Helsinki at the Finlandia Hall. Very impressive! An extremely good concert too. Some Russian orchestra played some really nice music.
And finally, a brand new baby with a brand new Iso Äiti (Grandma)
Mia and the son of Tuomas and Anu
Although not in November, it was close enough. dMw's LAN VI. This time a new venue in the same little town. More of the same, drinking, playing computer games and meeting up with old friends and getting to know some new ones. All in all a good weekend. Instead of yet another page of pictures, I'll leave you to take a look at the forum thread.
Dear God! Ryanair have got a lot to answer for. About three or four weeks ago Arja was sitting at her computer. She turned to me and said 'Valencia, 25p there and £2.99 back?' 'Book it' I said. Next she grabbed a hotel and I booked a car. Unbelievable price of £43.10p for three days, Ford Fiesta, all in. How bad's that? Carrentals.co.uk worth a look if you're in the market for a car.
Uneventful flight, no problem with the car other than when I asked at Budget desk where Auriga car hire was I was given a curt 'In the car park'. Oops! Sure enough, the Auriga office was a caravan! New car though so who cares.
The trip into the town centre was as fraught as per normal with a smattering of 'for god's sakes' and 'Damn! We should have gone down there!'s. Hotel ok, nothing to write home about but it was right in the city centre. Right opposite was a very nice Italian (yeah alright, we're in Spain.) restaurant which we ate in on two of the nights. In our search for something different we opted for a Chinese (yeah alright, we're in Spain.) restaurant. Mistake! Never mind, can't win 'em all.
All in all a very nice weekend. The new (still under construction) centre for science and art etc is well worth a visit. Having said that we only did the aquarium part. A sort of small Sea World but they have an amazing aquarium that you can walk through, so you can see fishes swim ABOVE you. Especially good were the sharks. That's about as close as I want to be to a set of teeth like that!