Category Archives: Family

The Mara

We have returned from our holiday in Kenya. We went to see The Great Migration where 2 million (or thereabouts) wildebeest, 300,000 zebra, 400,000 Thomson gazelle and 12,000 eland cross from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It all takes place in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem which covers some 40,000 square kilometres. In reality, the migration is a never ending movement of herbivores in search of fresh pastures and fresh grass caused by the rains.

PIL and I have been to Kenya before. In fact, we got married there in 1992. Fort Jesus in Mombasa. Prior to the wedding though, we went on our honeymoon which was a safari in the Tsavo National Parks further to the East of Kenya. We did have a tendency to do things back to front! We always said we would go back and after much planning and saving of pennies, we did! The kids came too. We flew Emirates to Dubai on an Airbus A380. After a short stopover, we flew on an Emirates Boeing 777 to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. We stayed the night in an hotel next to the Nairobi national park. The following morning we went to Wilson Airfield on the outskirts of Nairobi and took an even smaller plane to an airstrip in the Maasai Mara.

Our luggage allowance was 15 kilos and hand luggage was 7 kilos. With the exception of one bag of 15 kilos which went in the hold, all of us carried hand luggage. Oh, plus PILs hand bag which weighed 19 tons. Fortunately, all of the places we stayed at offered a laundry service so it was possible to live with limited amounts of clothes. We couldn’t take hair dryers, hair straighteners or similar items as some of the places we stayed at were quite literally in the middle of nowhere and the generators couldn’t cope with the extra loads imposed by such items. Didn’t bother me because I’m bald and I don’t think anyone else was particularly concerned.

We arrived at Keekorok Airstrip.

We were met by Moses and Robert who were to be our driver/guide and spotter and taken to our safari base – Sala’s Camp on the banks of the Sand River and a few hundred metres from the Tanzanian border and just a few metres from one of the crossings used by the migrating wildebeest.

 

What a camp! It was just so staggeringly beautiful. We were staying in tents but what tents. Solid wood floors, windows, doors, bathrooms, a deck, a small pool and a view to die for.

There was a total of 7 tents and we had two of them. The girls stayed in one as us chaps needed our sleep and didn’t really wanted to be disturbed by the girls snoring, farting and belching in their sleep. There was also a “Mess tent” where we had our meals. The service and meals we had were first class and our thanks go out to Elliott and JayD, the managers, who ensured that everything was just spot on. George, Richard and Isaac took great care of us and quickly established what we preferred to drink when the sun went down (and sometimes, before).

 

 

During the night Askari guards patrolled around with their spears to keep the wildlife from coming into the tents. This was genuine bush country and during the night we heard hippos in the river which was 10 metres away from our tents. Lions, hyenas and elephants prowled the footpaths around the camp, again just a few metres from where we were sleeping.

Then, before the sun came up, we went on safari.

I am not going to go into detail here, I’ll let the photographs tell that particular story but Moses, our driver/guide (who is one of the nicest blokes I’ve met – mad as a box of frogs but by God he knew his business) and Robert, our spotter (who was a complete contrast to Moses but got on really well with Ed and Greg and called out different animals constantly) took us to some brilliant places and we saw masses of animals.

Moses took us within a couple of FEET of lions, cheetahs and leopard. Within a couple of metres of elephant, zebra and wildebeest. We kept well away from hippos and buffalo – they are bloody dangerous! We saw them all with the exception of Rhino and we witnessed (due in part to Moses’ skill) the horror, confusion and rapidity of 2 lionesses taking down and killing 2 wildebeest simultaneously about 30 metres apart.

We, with the exception of PIL who is not terribly fond of heights, went on a balloon safari which meant getting up at 0430 in the morning and travelling across the Mara in the pitch black so that advantage could be taken of the thermals at dawn.

We had breakfast in the middle of the Mara and it was sublime.

We visited a Maasai village and the boys joined in with the Maasai men for a dance and were taught how to start a fire while the girls joined in with the singing and dancing with the women.

Eventually and far to soon, it was time to go.

We hadn’t seen the massed herds crossing the Sand river nor had we seen the millions of grazing animals. Unfortunately, natural events don’t work to a strict timetable and the herds stayed in the Serengeti in Tanzania. There were a number of reasons given for this. The Tanzanians said that late rains had provided grazing for the herds who therefore didn’t need to move in search of fresh grass. However, the Kenyans had the hump with the Tanzanians who they claimed had deliberately set grass fires between the herds and the border.

Take your pick as to the reason. I do think that we possibly invaded Tanzania on a couple of occasions though! I guess we all felt slightly disappointed but we had all had an absolutely fantastic time. We had seen a gradual increase in the number of wildebeest, zebra, “Tommies” and topi but not the millions we had hoped for. We had seen numerous elephants, giraffe, warthogs (pumbas), lions, cheetahs and a leopard. We would have preferred to stay but no doubt we will return. Kenya has that effect.

Please be aware that some of the photographs that follow are pretty gruesome but demonstrate (I think) both the beauty and the brutality of the Mara. The first group tell a story all of their own. The previous day while PIL and Moses were driving to meet us at the balloon pick up, they came across a lion feasting on a wildebeest. It was probably 500 metres from Sala’s Camp. The following evening, we were returning from the afternoon safari when Moses decided to check out the kill site. We found 2 lionesses with 3 cubs. They were chilled and relaxed. We stayed awhile and then went to check on a small herd of wildebeest just up the road. Not much occurring there either so we returned to the lions. They were still sprawled out on the track when suddenly the 2 adults became very alert. The cubs moved to a place of safety while the lionesses went off and disappeared into the grass. We knew where they were but they were incredibly difficult to see. Then we saw the reason. A long line of wildebeest, probably a hundred or so, was approaching. When the lionesses attacked, it was devastatingly quick and totally confusing for the wildebeest and us. Cries of “Whoa! Over to the left” and “Whoa! Over to the right” left us swinging from side to side in the truck trying to see, watch and photograph. Very quickly the 2 wildebeest were overcome and we saw two male lions coming down the hillside to claim their part of the kill. We returned the following morning to find all the lions still there and still eating.

 

The big male lion has a huge hole in the top of his skull, showing that they may be the top predator in the Mara but they don’t always have it their own way. We suspect that he may have tangled with a buffalo.

We returned to Nairobi where we stayed in the very luxurious Giraffe Manor. Within the Manors grounds is a herd of endangered Rothschilds giraffes. Rothchilds have no markings from the knees down and are very distinctive because of this. They also like to join you for breakfast!

While there, we also visited an elephant orphanage. Baby elephants who are orphaned or become separated from their herd are brought here and after being cared for are then taken to another place on the Tsavo parks where they are assimilated with wild herds in the area. So far over 300 young elephants have been successfully returned to the wild. A brilliant achievement in my eyes.

Back at the manor we were joined for high tea by the giraffes.

 

Giraffes have incredibly long tongues and drool a lot!

 

After a couple of days enjoying wonderful food and being kept occupied by the giraffes we went back to the Wilson airfield and left on a small plane to go to the beach and do what we do best on holiday – slob.

We stayed in a beach house on Diani beach. Once again, the accommodation was first class. We even had a butler! The owner, Fabrizio, came each morning and discussed the days menu. Hand made ravioli, gnocchi, lobster, yellow fin tuna, prawns, soups, pizza. All fresh and prepared to perfection. The G&Ts were superb. The wines splendid. We walked along the beach and collected shells, saw pregnant starfish, crabs and fish in the rock pools. Wonderful. We messed about in the pool and we indulged in our favourite holiday pastime of not doing much at all.

All good things come to an end apparently and we flew back to Nairobi, We flew to Dubai for a few hours before continuing our journey home.

Once again we had the time of our life and that is primarily down to PILs planning and organisation ably supported by the staffs of all the places we stayed at and visited.

We were advised to take plenty of photographs and that we did. The main camera used was a Canon EOS 5D MkIV using a Canon EF 28-300mm lens. We took over 1500 photographs with this camera. None of them have been enhanced in any way.

We also took over 500 photographs using the iPhones that PIL, Ed, Greg and CJ had with them. My phone stayed at home.

Would we go again? Absolutely. It will take a few years of saving the pennies again but Kenya and the Mara in particular is a fantastic place. Safari is hard work. If you want to see the animals, you need to be up and out quite literally at the crack of dawn. Get back to camp for lunch and out again mid afternoon until the sun goes down. Then it’s meal time, a few sundowners and early to bed for another early start the next day. The tracks in the Mara are not maintained to any great extent so a game drive involves a great deal of bouncing around. It can be quite cold first thing in the morning despite being almost on the Equator. It’s rainy season now although we didn’t see much rain at all. By midday the temperature has risen to the 30s centigrade from 12 -15 in the early morning.

Now we’re home and the normality returns. I have to mow the lawn and get ready for work tomorrow. Bummer. Time to take up wildlife photography and learn the language of stops, aperture and speed settings. Looking forward to next years holiday already. I wonder where we’ll go.

Have a brilliant day.

More Dick soon.

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In The dog House. Again!

Ed, Greg and I are in the dog house with PIL. She’s not happy.

On Easter Sunday the two ‘boys’ went off to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea play Tottenham Hotspur. I couldn’t go as I was working and staying in London. They kind of wish they hadn’t now and not just because Chelsea lost. They met up with some guys that Ed had met when he went to Barcelona to watch Chelseas Champions League match (We lost that game too!) They all had a few beers before the game, a few more at half time and then went to a local pub with Eds new best friends for a few more beers. Then it was time to leave and get the train home. Late. On Easter Sunday. Essential maintenance on the whole rail network. They contacted PIL to arrange a pick up from the local station. PIL not amused.

“Get a cab home from the station” she told them.

PIL went to bed!

They contacted her again. Trains stopping at Ashford and going no further. A 20 minute drive away. Can she please pick them up from there? Even I heard the sigh as she agreed to pick them up from Ashford International Station.

“What time does it get in?”

“ERRRR. 23.50”

PIL duly arrived. Tired and ticked off. Train was late arriving.

They drove home in silence but quite quickly.

Moving onto Tuesday.

Ed going to be late home from work which has been manic for the last couple of weeks. I went to pick him up from the local station. PIL went to bed as she had an early start in the morning.

Ed hadn’t eaten so I said I’d knock something up quickly while he watched the highlights of Real Madrid vs Juventus, another Champions League match.

I chucked a couple of bangers and some oven chips in the oven. Joined Ed with a couple of beers for us to enjoy while the game was on. Forgot about his dinner. Rushed out to the kitchen when I remembered hoping it wasn’t burnt. Opened the oven door and 2.73 seconds later the smoke alarm went off!!! Our smoke alarm is VERY LOUD and there’s a repeater upstairs. I, somewhat ineffectually, waved a tea towel at the alarm while Ed came out with a cushion and waved that about for a while. The alarm also set the dog off! Bloody mayhem. Ed grinned at me and said,

“Now you’re in trouble with Mum!”

And I was. I apologised the next day and PIL said;

“For what? There’s a list.”

It’s now Thursday and that couple of sentences along with a huge number of sighs has been the extent of our conversation. I’m enjoying the peace and quiet!

Oh. Plus a comment about leaving the toilet seat up.

Have a brilliant day.

 

More Dick soon.

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A New Language or Two

 

I know people who would look at this photograph and think:

“Wet.”

“Cold.”

“Horrid”

Whereas I look at it and think:

“Excitement.”

“Fun.”

“Women in wet tee shirts!”

So what has this to do with a new language?

Well, I am going to learn to sail but before I do, I have to learn the language that sailors use. I will call this language “Nautical”. It’s English Jim but not as we know it.

For instance, the pointy bit at the front is called the “Bow” (as in what a gentleman does when he meets Her Queenliness)

 

The rear end of a boat is “the stern”.

Left is “port” and right is “starboard”. The floor is “the deck” while a wall is called “a bulkhead”. The driver is called “the helmsman”. “Abreast” is not what you see when a woman is wearing a wet tee shirt unfortunately, it means side by side or by the side of. The “beam” is the widest part of a ship or boat. Downstairs is “below” and upstairs is “atop”. A  room is called a “cabin”, the kitchen is “the galley” and the speed of the boat is given in “knots”! Why this should be is beyond me.

Then there’s “athwartship”! (Really? You have got to be kidding me). It means at right angles to the centre line of the boat/ship.

Then you have words where all the vowels have deliberately been removed:

F’r’c’stl’. What’s that then? How do you pronounce it?

M”ns”l. Not a clue.

See? It’s not as easy as you first think. I’m getting there though and once I’ve got it sorted and can speak like an old sea dog, I’ll get on with learning a new foreign language. Probably French.

We have all been to France several times and we murder the French language whenever we can. Recently, on a fairly regular basis, magazines dedicated to French property have started making an appearance.

Then, the other day, PIL asked if we still had the Peter Mayle books, A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence. I said I’d look in amongst the million or so books we have banging about but to no avail. So I went to Waterstones in Canterbury and bought A Year in Provence and, because they didn’t have Toujours, I also bought My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh. I’ll get Toujours some other time. I wrapped the books up, I wrote “Happy Wednesday” on a sticker and presented it to PIL when she got home. They remain unread! Except by me.

I am in no particular rush. By the time CJ finishes school and Uni’ I’ll be getting on a bit so there’s plenty of time.

Then, one day, I will be fluent in Nautical and in French and PIL will suddenly decided it’s time to up sticks, grab our zimmer frames and move to bloody Spain!

Have a brilliant day.

More Dick soon.

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Sailing

A little while ago I wrote some fiction regarding a conversation I had with Mr. Death. You can read it here.

It is a work of fiction but, as with many things, it had elements of true life in it – some of my real life experiences. One of the true items in that story is my desire to learn a new language – French (probably) and to learn how to sail.

Recently, we went on holiday. We went to Antigua. It was bloody brilliant. We flew out via Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (the posh class!) That was an eye opener. I’m not sure how PIL managed it. I think she got the geeks at work to hack into Virgin Atlantic and get us an up grade. Or it might have been her using the gazillion air miles we had accumulated over the years. We arrived at Gatwick, checked in and went to the Virgin lounge. We were offered champagne! It was 6am! Of course we accepted – it was free! We had all kinds of nibbles offered. More champagne was consumed. Our flight was announced and, slightly the worse for wear we staggered off and got on the plane. The leg room! Unfuckingbelievable!

We arrived in Antigua after a wonderful flight, being waited on hand and foot, totally refreshed and ready to go.

It was lovely. Smashing sandy beaches. Plentiful bars and restaurants. Pools dotted around. Absolute bliss. I noted a number of small sailing boats. Catamarans. I thought to myself, I can get started here. A problem arose though. We are a family that goes on holiday and we SLOB! We lie in the sun. We eat. We drink and that was the problem. Greg and I crept off to the gym at 6.30 each morning. We got back, we all showered and went for breakfast. By 9am we were sprawled out by the pool. At 10, when the bars opened we were getting a bit hot so we’d go get a drink. The intention was always to get a soft drink, 10am being a bit too early to hit the hard stuff but the bar man would point out;

“It’s midday somewhere man.”

So we had rum as well. And with no concept of portion control, they were heavy on the alcohol. After a hearty lunch I was probably too pissed to go sailing, let alone learn anything so I didn’t go.

As a great believer in not doing things by half, I decided my first experience of learning to sail would not be on board an eight foot dinghy but on a proper 50 foot sailing yacht! And that’s what we did. We chartered a yacht for the day. It was called Jabberwocky and it was owned by Nick and Kaye, who are two of the nicest people you could wish to meet.

We got a cab from the resort to where Jabberwocky was parked at a place called Jolly Harbour. Antigua is full of places with lovely names like that. We set sail. We had a choice. Snorkelling or beach. We’re slobs so we chose beach and we headed off to a place called Deep Bay. It was on our way here that I carried out my first ever sailing task:

I set the genoa!

I have no idea what that is or what I was doing except it involved some hard physical labour and I think I set the sail in front of the mast. I felt inordinately pleased with myself.

We arrived. The anchor was dropped and we took the little RIB to shore. It was just as you would imagine a desert island to be. Warm seas lapping on a soft sandy beach. There were a couple of other people there but it was heavenly. There was a small fort, Fort Barrington, on the hillside. Greg, CJ and I went off for a wander while PIL and Ed sat on the beach and swam in the sea.

The beach at Deep Bay with Jabberwocky in the background

Time for lunch back on Jabberwocky. PIL, Greg and CJ took the RIB back. Ed and I swam back. I decided on back stroke but because I’m useless, without noticing, I started to swim back to shore. The others found this immensely funny. I just got tired!

Jabberwocky at anchor in Deep Bay

Lunch was lovely. Afterwards, we set sail again heading back to Jolly Harbour.

Jabberwocky setting sail back to Jolly Harbour

Once we got out of Deep Bay, I set the genoa again and joy of joy, I took the helm and steered the yacht on it’s way back to its home port.

Me at the helm of Jabberwocky

I was in heaven. It’s a lot harder that it seems and I’m sure my course was more than a bit ziggy zaggy but I was having a great time. The rest of the family were up at the pointy bit at the front and then they started to sing!

Having an absolutely brilliant time.

 

Over the sound of the waves and the wind in the sails I couldn’t make out the words but the tune was just about audible. One of them them was singing “Sailing”, the Rod Stewart song. Despite my surprise at one of my children actually knowing this song, I felt a huge sense of well being and happiness well up inside me. We were having a great time. My family up at the front burst in to laughter and they all started singing. As they did, the wind carried the words to my position at the helm. This is what they sang:

All together now.

We are sinking

We are sinking

To the bottom

Of the sea

Dad was steering

Hit an island

Didn’t see it

Blind old git

 

Hit the island

Of Antigua

How did Daddy

Manage that?

We have sunk now

And we’re swimming

All because our

Dad’s a prat!

Charming!

Despite this, I will learn to sail and soon I will be visiting a local sailing club and begin lessons. I may just stick to smaller dinghies or catamarans but, who knows, I may go onto larger boats. We shall see and I will keep you informed about my progress.

Of course, let’s not forget that I also want to learn a new language but since trying my hand at sailing, that will now be TWO new languages to learn. The reasons why will follow soon.

Have a lovely day.

More Dick soon.

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Holiday. Pt2

Have you ever noticed how when you’re having the time of your life, time just gallops by? So much for that Einstein bloke and his theories.

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We were having a great time. Le Telfair had everything we needed, swimming pools, a beautiful beach, lovely sea,

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cold beer, gorgeous food, fantastic rooms and amazing views. So much so that we had no real desire to go off exploring. We did take one trip out on a sailing boat to visit a “paradise” island. It wasn’t called Paradise Island and I’m not entirely convinced it was an island. We were taken to the East coast in a minibus. The locals drive on the right side, which is the left. In keeping with their French origins, they do like to drive in the middle of the road whenever possible though. And sometimes, they drive there even when it isn’t possible. We went aboard a beautiful catamaran. There was us lot plus about half a dozen other people. We set sail by starting the outboard motors and headed off into the Indian Ocean.

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We slobbed out at the pointy end at the front and drank beer.

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The crew was very pleasant even if they did look like pirates. After a while the crew chucked the anchor over the side and some of the passengers went snorkelling. We didn’t. There are sharks in the Indian Ocean and we didn’t fancy becoming a meal. The crew cooked up a barbecue and we had a lovely meal of freshly caught barbecued fish and more beer. It was sublime! It was on this little voyage that I discovered exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to do nothing more than sit on the little seat at the front of a catamaran, drinking beer, sailing around the Ocean and saying nautical things like;

“Avast behind!”

or

“Shiver me timbers”

or even,

“Arrr. Jim lad.”

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Eventually, we arrived at the paradise island. We took a small boat to look at a waterfall, which was very nice.

CJ and Ed as we headed off to the waterfall.

CJ and Ed as we headed off to the waterfall.

Then we went ashore to spend a couple of hours poking about. I have to say that it was just like you imagine a Paradise Island to be with white, sandy beaches, cool seas, palm trees and a Swiss family called Robinson strolling along the beach.

This really is the island we visited.

This really is the island we visited.

That is, if you took the 3027 other people who were also visiting off the island and dumped them far out to sea. Bit of a disappointment that. We set sail again only this time we did set sail and cruised away and the incredible sense of happiness and well-being returned to us once more.

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We returned to Le Telfair just as the sun began to set.

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I don’t think I have seen us all quite so relaxed, happy and contented.

The boys decided to play another round of golf. PIL and CJ went with them after promising not to be abusive about the standard of play they were about to witness. I must say now that while Ed and Greg will never be pro golfers, they play a damned sight better than any of us could.

I decided not to go and instead sit by the pool, catch some rays, go pinker and read one of my books. I grabbed a book and made like a German and laid out towels over several sun loungers. I settled down and started to read, but not for long. The book I was reading was by a well-respected military historian named Antony Beevor and was entitled “ARDENNES 1944. HITLERS LAST GAMBLE” and it was about the Nazis attack more commonly called “The Battle of the Bulge”. After reading about 2 pages, I realised that very much like the US 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne during this campaign, I was surrounded by Germans!

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Probably not the best choice of reading material under the circumstances. I returned to my room to find another book. I had one written by the author, poet, comedian and general raving lunatic, the late Spike Milligan. He is reputed to have engraved on his gravestone “I told you I was ill”. My kind of bloke. Anyway, the book of his I had with me was entitled “ADOLF HITLER. MY PART IN HIS DOWNFALL.” Hmmmm. Probably not.

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In the end I took a book by Clarkson and had a jolly good browse through that while I singed around the edges. Everyone else eventually returned. Out of the 12 balls they took with them, they had 2 left but they had all had a bloody good time.

There was also a gym on site so from time to time we all took a wander down there and had a workout

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but generally all we did was chill out and relax. We walked along the beach. We indulged in good conversation. Sometimes we did both at the same time.

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All good things come to an end eventually and unfortunately, so did our holiday in Mauritius. We had an absolutely blinding time there. We loved every second of our stay. Would we go again? Absolutely. Have to save up for a while though so not anytime soon. On that note, the Rio Olympics are on TV now so I’m off to watch that. Team GB are doing well so far and we won Gold and Silver in the slalom event which was good. CJ is glued to the swimming and the Womens hockey. She wants to know why ladies netball isn’t an Olympic event especially as the mens version is.

Have a great day.

More Dick soon.

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Holiday

We have been away on our holidays. We flew out on Friday 15th July and got back to the UK on Wednesday 27th. Our first task on the day we left was to take Dexter to the kennels for his holiday. He went to the same place as last year to kennels in Blean. It had taken him a few days to settle down last year but this year, he settled in straight away apparently.

Dexter in the back of the car, ready to go to the kennels for his holiday

Dexter in the back of the car, ready to go to the kennels for his holiday

After dropping Dexter off, our next task was to finish packing. All we took was summer clothing, forgetting we were going South of the Equator where it is now Winter! Doh! We left early as we were flying from Heathrow, which meant travelling some distance on the M25 which can be an absolute bastard of a road.

The M25. On it's day, it can be a nightmare

The M25. On its day, it can be a nightmare

Fortunately, on this particular day it wasn’t and we arrived in plenty of time. Checked in and cleared security. We boarded the aircraft, an Airbus A340 which is not exactly the biggest of aircraft, and settled down in a packed aircraft for our 11 hour flight. We flew South East over France, along the west coast of Italy, crossed the Med, continued over Egypt and headed off over the Indian Ocean. I know this because it showed our route on the little TV screen in front of me. It was the only thing I could get to work on the somewhat antiquated In Flight Entertainment system and it was all in French. We didn’t actually see anything for 2 reasons. First, none of us had window seats. Secondly, it was dark outside and thirdly we were flying at an altitude of 9,375 metres. Eventually, we arrived at our destination – the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport and I have to say it’s the first time I have arrived at an airport that has a name bigger than the airport itself! Thankfully, the locals have abbreviated the name and call it “The Airport” because in our befuddled state of mind, we simply couldn’t handle that number of syllables. We were met by the Virgin Holidays rep and took a transfer coach to our final destination which was an hour away. We slept most of the way there. We got to our final destination, the Heritage Le Telfair, a 5 Star Golf and Spa resort and it was absolutely gorgeous. We had two suites with views across the Indian Ocean. The suites were enormous and we had one on the ground floor with its own patio area and another one directly above with a balcony. There was a brief discussion as to who went where as some members of the family didn’t want to share with others because they “snored, farted and belched”! This was quickly resolved and PIL and CJ were banished upstairs where they could fart, snore and belch to their heart’s content and us blokes could have some peace and quiet!

The view from our suite

The view from our suite

A brief history now follows. You can skip this part if you want.  The island was visited by the Arabs and Portuguese during the Middle Ages. It was uninhabited until the Dutch bumped into it and established a small colony. After eating most of the dodos living there, the Dutch cleared off. The French then settled there, stuck corks up the bums of the remaining dodos and scoffed the lot. They also used it as a base to capture British merchant ships returning from India with valuable cargos of spices and other stuff the Brits nicked from the Indian sub continent. This pissed the Brits off big time so they invaded and as usual, beat the French. It became the Empires main sugar-producing colony. It became an independent nation in 1968 and a republic in 1992. The official language is English but everyone speaks either French or Creole and English only when necessary. It is a fantastic place although we saw very little of it.

Le Telfair is absolutely wonderful. The staff, whether they be waiters, house keeping, gardeners or whatever, were fantastic. Warm and friendly and nothing ever seemed to be too much bother. IMG-20160802-WA0038

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We settled down in our rooms and unpacked and then we went for a walk along the beach and a general explore of the resort. The kids also searched for more Pokemon on their phones!IMG-20160802-WA0000

We jumped into one of the pools dotted around. IMG-20160802-WA0034

We behaved like tourists on holiday and we were having a great time.IMG-20160802-WA0033

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I cannot properly describe how absolutely idyllic the place is. Within a very short time, the beach bar staff knew our usual order (3 beers, a Sprite and a diet Coke in case you’re wondering). Every evening we went for an evening meal and we had food we never dreamt we would eat. We had squid, octopus, every colour of snapper fish there is, goats cheese and every meal was fantastic.IMG-20160802-WA0018

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We had wine with our meals and the wine waiter would take the time out to explain all the different varieties of wine they had on offer (a lot), the grapes used for each type, where it came from, how special varieties were grown according to the climatic and soil conditions in each country. It was a delightful education eating and drinking here.IMG-20160802-WA0009

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On our second day, Ed and Greg went off to play a round of golf. PIL, CJ and yours truly went with them. Bear in mind that neither of them had played since our last holiday 12 months ago and they were rubbish then! Greg, however, was wearing his golf shoes and claimed he would be brilliant. Despite this claim, PIL got 9 second-hand golf balls just in case. As we arrived, the heavens opened and it poured with rain. Greg teed off at the first hole and the ball shot off into the distance. A fantastic shot if he hadn’t sliced it. The ball went off at 45 degrees to the intended direction and despite a search by us all, remains undiscovered.

Greg about to tee off. We all took cover.

Greg about to tee off. We all took cover.

Naturally, the rest of us found this incredibly funny. Greg did not though. At the second hole, his ball travelled about 60 feet from the tee. Even funnier! However, Greg now had the serious hump and despite telling him that he’d made a rod for his own back, we agreed not to laugh at him again. At the third hole, he took his tee shot and I gazed off into the distance to see where it went. I couldn’t see it so called out, “Did you see where it went mate?” Whereupon, everyone fell about laughing again because I hadn’t noticed his ball had travelled 17 feet six and three-quarter inches! Ed was equally as good! PIL, CJ and I decided then to go back to the club house so that we wouldn’t be tempted to laugh at the pair of them but also because it was chucking it down with rain. We left the two of them to it, went to the club house and had something to eat and drink.

Ed striking a golfing pose

Ed striking a golfing pose

Every now and again we would see them flailing about in the distance. IMG-20160802-WA0003IMG-20160802-WA0002

The rain continued. The half point brought them back to the club house where they rushed over to ask for some more balls! They had two left. So PIL got another 18. Just in case and off they went to do something called “The Back Nine”.

Greg. Note the shoes which were supposed to turn him into a golf ace.

Greg. Note the shoes which were supposed to turn him into a golf ace.

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They both seemed to play much better without the unkind remarks and laughter and they did have a good time.IMG-20160802-WA0007

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Eventually, we saw them again playing the 18th and last hole. A Par 5 apparently. They were some distance away but we knew it was them because we could see one broad-shouldered figure and one very tall figure. Plus, who else but the English play golf in the pissing rain wearing only shorts and polo shirts? We decided to go out by the final hole and keep our eyes peeled for their balls as they approached. We kind of hid behind a bunker so as not to put them off. When Ed and Greg finally arrived they blamed us for having to take 6 shots to get to the green as all they could see were our three heads popping up from behind the bunker. They said we looked like a trio of “bloody meerkats”! They didn’t mention loosing another 8 balls until much later!

 

PIL, CJ and me watching Ed and Greg playing golf. Not a pretty sight!

PIL, CJ and me watching Ed and Greg playing golf. Not a pretty sight!

After that, PIL went to the Spa and had a massage and facial. The rest of us went for a massage the following day. It was bliss.

The next installment of our holiday adventures follows soon.

Have a great day.

More Dick soon.auto

 

Guilt

I’m sitting at home feeling guilty. The soaps are on TV so PIL is destroying several million brain cells watching them. She enjoys mindless TV apparently and Morgan Freeman help anyone who speaks while they’re on.

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So why do I feel guilt?

I have been away for a couple of weeks working.

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I disappeared on the 13th May to start on a task on the 14th. It was scheduled to finish on the 29th. It didn’t. By 11am on the 28th we had finished and after a horrendous journey on the M25, I had returned home to my family by 4pm. This meant that I was able to watch the Play off final between Hull and Sheffield Wednesday and then swop channels to watch the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid while still being paid. I also spent Sunday the 29th poking around in the garden, the local garden centre, walking the dog, spending time with my family (except Greg who was at his girlfriends “revising”) and getting paid while I did so. Is this why I feel guilt? No chance!

No. I feel guilty because on the 16th the builders appeared to start work replacing the family bathroom, the en-suite and the downstairs loo and poor PIL had to deal with it all. It did not get off to a good start. Within 30 seconds of arriving, one of the builders had smashed a vase. It did not improve at all over the next couple of weeks. There were no major disasters, just a series of minor problems that started driving PIL nuts.

The builder sent an email stating:

“Get any shower you like for the bathrooms.”

assuming that we remembered a brief conversation we had many weeks previously where he said that the main bathroom needed an electric shower. We didn’t so PIL got the wrong showers which in turn meant there wasn’t any shower in the house for 2 days as a pump had to purchased and it had to be installed and because of that delay, the radiators haven’t been fitted. Not having a shower for two days is a major disaster in our house!20160530_150927

Then they installed the toilet for the main bathroom in the downstairs loo. Why? They didn’t ask and just installed the toilet closest to hand. Another morning lost. Each of the sinks is having a cabinet fitted underneath. The one in the downstairs toilet was going to be full length. So that’s what PIL got. Then it turned out that due to some issues with pipes, it needed to be a wall hung unit. So PIL ordered one. The following day she noticed they were installing the full length cabinet. So she had to cancel the wall hung unit but it had already been despatched and so on and so forth………..

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Work has commenced in the en-suite and has been more involved than at first thought but at the same time, the tiling in the main bathroom hasn’t been completed. Why? No idea.20160530_150833

I explained to the guy that we have absolutely no issue with the workmen or the standard of workmanship but there has been a distinct lack of communication and he has made a very dangerous assumption that we understand what he is talking about. Neither of us is thick and we are very good at every aspect of our professional lives but we know absolutely nothing about building, plumbing or tiling middle-age-man-tools-18781280

so he needs to treat us like a couple of morons and use simple words of one syllable or less and not assume that we will remember a short conversation about showers that took place some weeks previously.

“In future mate, put on your emails; ‘any shower you like but remember the main bathroom needs an electric one’!”

The builders are back today and I have told their Boss to be here later today so we can thrash out all these niggling issues once and for all. The plan is that the bathrooms should be finished this week. We shall see. Until then I will continue to feel guilty about leaving PIL to deal with all this nonsense although I have to say she has done a bloody marvellous job dealing with the builders and a never ending series of hiccups while at the same time selecting all the units and tiles and showers and baths and bogs and basins. It’s looking good.

I think our new bathrooms may be the subject of another post real soon. Until then have a bloody excellent day.

More Dick soon.

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A Splendid Dry White

It was a dark and stormy night. So PIL and I got sloshed. It was MarchApril, Springtime last year and we were discussing kitchens. As you do. Ours was now getting dated and to be honest, a bit grubby. It needed to be replaced and we were browsing through masses of catalogues extolling the virtues of countless kitchens. The combination of 2,538 different kitchens and the several bottles of a splendid dry white confused us and we decided to wait until after our holiday before going back to the subject. At least, that’s what I think we decided. The dry white really was very splendid and very moreish.

Come the autumn  we restarted our thoughts about the kitchen and utility room and what to put on the floors. We researched and we looked. We went to the DIY warehouses, we looked at bespoke kitchens (and passed out when we were told the price). We wanted something that was modern, looked good and was easy to keep clean. We’re both busy people and cleaning the kitchen with three urchins for children was not on our “To Do’ list. We found what we were looking for and were just about to sign the papers when PIL had a change of mind. She wasn’t entirely happy so we continued our search. In the end PIL found what she was looking for, placed the order and every thing was set for the start in the new year. The only thing we kept was the Butler sink in the utility. We already had a new washing machine and tumble dryer in there, we were getting a new dishwasher, one of those big American fridge freezer things and a new Aga Rangemaster cooking range. We would have more cupboards and new floors right through the hall, kitchen and utility. Smashing. The only drawback was that the new cooker was made to order. The company supplying all the units got it for us as they were £300 cheaper than we could find it. It was due, apparently, on 25th January.

So on the 11th January Jason and his team turned up and ripped out our old kitchen. We would live on take aways and microwave meals for a few weeks but I could manage a change to my chicken and pasta or pasta and chicken diet.

As soon as the old units were gone, our new kitchen started to arrive.

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I have to say Jason was brilliant. He organised the plasterer, the electrician and the tilers and they did a grand job. We forgot to sort out the tiles we wanted but fortunately remembered two days before the tilers were due and we found exactly what we wanted almost straight away and they were in stock. Result!

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One afternoon half way through the refit, Jason was working in the garage cutting up something or other and he said to me;

“Might be a problem mate. I went into the kitchen place to find out when the new cooker is being delivered as I need to organise the electrician and plumber to install it and they told me it’s now not due until 25th February! I don’t think PIL is gonna be too happy with that.”

“Mate not being happy is an understatement. She’s going to be really pissed.” I replied.

“Really pissed about what?” said a voice next to me.

It was PIL and she was home! I told her.

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“Right. Someone is going to suffer.” she said.

The loud noise heard in Kent during January wasn’t a small nuclear device detonating. It was PIL on the phone to the kitchen guys. Bloody hell was she ticked off or what?

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The excuse they gave was that when they ordered it they were told it would be delivered on the 25th. They assumed January. Sounded weird to me. They owned up to the error and offered a refund. So another month of bloody take aways lay ahead of us.20160119_181548

That evening PIL received a text from Aga Rangemaster thanking her for her order, giving a reference number and saying they would be in contact soon to arrange delivery. She showed it to me and said;

“What do you think of this?”

“Looks to me like they’ve only just received the order.” I said.

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The following morning PIL rang Aga and asked when the order had been placed. The chap at the other end said he couldn’t tell us as we weren’t the client, only the destination but he could say that the text is sent out on the day the order is placed. Without fail.

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We got a bigger refund.

Then the fridge freezer arrived. We had ordered that. We left it for a day to settle down and then discovered one of the adjustable legs was jammed so it couldn’t be levelled and the internal gasket on the freezer door was perished.

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We were supplied with another one.

In the meantime, PIL had got a couple of sample pots of the two colours she was thinking of painting the walls. So we painted a part of the wall and in the interests of democracy, we asked the children which one they preferred. They chose the one we didn’t like and so we ignored their choice and decided on the other one.

Where our new cooker was supposed to be.

Where our new cooker was supposed to be.

Eventually, on the 1st March our new cooker arrived and was installed, completing our new kitchen. It really is the dogs danglies.

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Now all we have to do is remember which bloody cupboard everything is in. It takes an age to cook dinner as we can’t remember where the saucepans are, where we put the flour, where the vegetables are in the ginormous fridge or what we did with the plates. Knives and forks? They’re in there somewhere.

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In the end though, it has all been worthwhile and I have to say PIL made some brilliant decisions. Next on the list is the bathrooms. Bugger!

Have a great evening.

More Dick soon.

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My Family

I often forget what it says at the top of my blog thingy. “Life, The Universe and Everything That Matters to Me” and rabbit on about something trivial, so now to write about the most important thing in my life. Family. Obviously all the opinions stated are hugely biased and why not? They’re my opinions so I’m allowed to be biased.

Dick.

Terribly boring. Hasn’t got a clue about most things that involve any technology more sophisticated than clock work and has issues with that as well. Spends most of his time attempting to avoid carrying out the tasks that PIL, the love of his life asks him to do and wonders why she gets the hump with him. Boring job that pays the bills (just). Rough men stand ready and all that.

Taken a split second before face slapping the snow. Again!

Taken a split second before face slapping the snow. Again!

PIL.

Drop dead gorgeous and totally unaware of it. When she walks it looks like she’s chewing a toffee with her butt. Smashing! Has a really cool job up in London working for this huge multi national company that apparently searches for engines. I believe they search for all kinds of engines such as automobile engines, aero engines, motor cycle engines, marine engines and probably more. I think PIL specialises in marine engines for fishing fleets as she’s always on about “trawling the net” and stuff like that. Dress code seems to be pretty casual and I have to say she fills a pair of skinny jeans admirably.

It's a hard life

It’s a hard life

Ed.

Our eldest. An ambitious young man who has continuously set himself goals. For some years now, he has set his heart on working in the City of London and that’s exactly what he is doing now. It’s with a company that deals with all the Tier 1 banks (whatever they are) so he gets to see every aspect of the financial world and he’s loving every minute of it. The company he works for seems well structured with continuous training, a commitment to promoting from within plus well thought out expansion plans. The possibility of working in places like New York is strong which is another aspect he likes the sound of. He worked hard at school and at University to achieve his goals. Like his younger brother and sister, he not only worked hard but played hard too with a great deal of success on the playing fields at rugby, football, basketball and cricket. Crap at golf though. Ed isn’t the best when it comes to trains as we have often waited at our local station to pick him up only to get a call from him to say the train got lost and he is now twenty miles away and can we come and get him as he spent the cash he had for a cab down the pub!

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Greg.

Did well in his ‘A’ levels and won a place at Aberystwyth University to study Human Geography with Economics. Greg decided to have a gap year as he had been in the education system from the age of 3 and really fancied a break after 15 years. PIL and I were happy with this. Then, he discovered a course that really caught his imagination, International Relations. So, he changed his mind and went to college to take a further two A levels; World Development and Film Studies. The former because he had become fascinated by this subject and the latter because he had always been interested in movies. He has conditional offers to the Universities he has chosen. He now has to decide and accept an offer from the one he thinks will provide him with the best education and also the best sports facilities as Greg also played football, rugby, basketball and cricket for the school. He also ran cross-country. Like his older brother he is also crap at golf. A fascinating person with the ability to name the starting line ups for all the Premiership football teams, the defensive and offensive starting line ups for the NFL plus the starting line ups for all the NBA teams plus all the rugby teams in both hemispheres and yet cannot remember where the dish washer is, how to turn it on and where all the stuff goes when its finished and needs emptying!

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CJ.

Having only just become a teenager, CJ has a long school career ahead of her. Like her two brothers she loves school and all that it has to offer. That, to a great extent is down to the school. She is currently at the Junior school and plans to board at the senior school come September. She is currently studying for the Common Entrance exam that will allow her to do this. As well as being clever like her brothers, something they got from their mum rather than me, CJ is also like her brothers in being very sporty. In 2014 she took part in the schools cross-country race. She came second. Not, I hasten to add, second in the girls or her age group but second overall! Earlier this year she was asked to swim for the senior school in a major inter school competition. She rocked up expecting to swim for the under 14s and actually swam for the under 16s! She came third in the individual 50 metre backstroke and wiped the floor with the opposition in the backstroke leg of the 50 metre medley relay. She’s captain of the Netball team, plays hockey and was in the ‘A’ team a year early. She’s also House captain and it has to be said her school reports are brilliant. To top it all, she was awarded the David Gower Sports Scholarship to the senior school earlier this month against some really stiff competition. The future looks bright for her as well. Now all we can hope for is that as a boarder at the senior school, they will get her to clean her room up. Messy just doesn’t sum it up. She leaves a trail of discarded water bottles, Ben & Jerries ice cream containers, shin pads, hoodies, trainers and hockey sticks all over the house.

Getting ready for some sport or other

Getting ready for some sport or other

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PIL and I don’t really mind though, our kids are just bloody brilliant and we love them all to bits and we are so proud of everything they do. (Well almost everything. There have been one or twelve little episodes that we won’t go into here, the toe rags).

Dexter.

Of course Dexter is an integral part of our family. Every household should have a pet of some description, whether it be a dog or a cat or a gerbil or a budgie. A rat, a snake, a spider or lizard. Dexter is a lovely, stupid dog that we love to pieces. Except today when he decided to roll around in some pretty pungent badger crap! Bastard dog!

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Have a great day.

More Dick soon.

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Diet Update

It has to be said that I’m the sort of bloke who considers a working lunch should consist of a piece of meat wrapped up in bread. PIL has known this for years. So what has been in my lunch box this week? Bananas! A bunch of bananas! So now she thinks I’m a chimp! I remain extremely grateful to PIL for getting my lunch prepared each evening for the next day. I really do appreciate it but Bananas?  I’m trying to see if there’s a trait here or if she’s trying to tell me something.

 

 

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There are certain things I know she thinks about me:

 

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She thinks I’m a bit of a plank.

 

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She thinks I’m pretty useless at D.I.Y.. She’s not wrong

 

 

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She thinks I’m just a little bit pervy because I like to see her in her underwear but she actually quite likes that. (Yes chaps. This is what she wears. Who’s a lucky boy?)

 

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She thinks I’m a guinea pig because she gets me guinea pig food for breakfast and tells me it’s really something called Mews Lee. (Don’t forget she thinks I’m a plank).

 

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And sometimes the Mews Lee she gets is actually parrot food. For variety of course. (Plank again)

 

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Then there’s the stuff PIL calls “salad” and I call rabbit food. (Plank)

 

 

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And now she thinks I’m a chimp by only letting me have bananas for lunch. (Plank)

 

Just give me chocolate!

 

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Dear Father Christmas,

 

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I have been a very good boy all year. 

I have been quite good

Ok, I’ve been a bit of a bastard but it’s all this rabbit and guinea pig food I’m being fed. Now, it’s the chimp food.

Please, please, please can I have a chocolate fountain for Christmas?

 

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I promise not to dunk my head in it. Ok, maybe I will once or twice but no more.

Thank you very, very much you old bugger   old goat splendid chap.

Dick Dastardly.

Now it’s time for me to go get my lunch ready for tomorrow while PIL is wrapped up in watching soaps! Ha! I hope there’s some pig or cow that I can wrap up in bread smothered with butter.

Bollocks! No bread!

Curses! Foiled again!

Have a great evening.

More Dick soon.

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