Sweet Sixty Celebrations

Saturday, the tenth of February 2018 turned out to be a momentous date as we had decided to arrange a party as a celebration of my wife Debbie’s 60th birthday.

The day started well with Debbie having already received her free bus pass but this was capped by Owen Money reading out as his first dedication my tribute to her on his popular BBC Radio Wales show “Money For Nothing“!  He played Starship‘s single “Nothing’s gonna to stop us now” which seemed very apt although it was released in 1987!

We decided to arrange a “small” fancy dress party at “Get Together” in Abergavenny despite her real birthday being the following day.  Of course holding a party on a Saturday night always gives people time on Sunday to recover and get back home ready for Monday morning of the new week.

get together
Get Together’s ground floor is a coffee shop, while the first & second floors are usually reserved for private functions like parties & wine tasting!

We’d decided on a 1970’s theme fancy dress party way back in May last year which at the time seemed a long way off, but after Christmas our planning activity went into overdrive. This was fortunate as the previous manager had forgotten to pass on our original booking when she left her post!  Fortunately the new manager Tomos was very efficient and before too long we were back on track with venue, food & drink, cake, fancy dress and entertainments all sorted.

In the end we had approximately 45 people on the night attending, some who were staying with us at home in Llanfoist or in local hotels in the area, with some travelling back home afterwards thanks to either a designated driver, taxi or it being walkable!

family photobombed by jonathan
Alex, Emma, James, Dad, Mam, Simon, Emily – being photobombed by Jonathan…

Chez Shores

Deborah Shores
Peter Shores
Alex Palgrave-Davies
Emily Palgrave-Davies
James Davies
Emma Shores
Aleece Burgess
Helen Palgrave
Denis Palgrave

James Emma Aleece
Emma dressed in ABBA costume, Aleece’s hippy outfit & James I believe he said as Burt Reynolds in Smokey & the Bandit!
Helen & Denis impersonating Churchill…

Premier Inn

Bill Robertson
Pauline Smith
Gerald Williams
Sylvia Williams
Peter Ranwell
Anne Ranwell
Simon Berenyi

Pauline and Billy looking forward to their forthcoming trip to Australia – her first time in a plane!
Simon as Kojak – who loves ya baby?

King’s Head Hotel

Vanessa Shaw
Jean Cleaton
Dave Cleaton
Rosaire Conway
Jimmy Conway
Nicky Davies
Mary Davies
Philip Evans
Cath Evans
Jane Pleavin
Yvonne Owens
John Owens
Alan Williams

Vanessa – Debbie’s cousin
Dave & Jean
jean and john
Jean & John
Cath, Sylv, Jean & Yvonne


Cousin Nicky from Thame dressed as a Bay City Roller and maybe wishing he was an Osmond!
Jean Cleaton
Cath, Phil, Gerald and Sylv

King’s Arms Hotel

Jonathan Lawlor
Angela Lawlor
Val Hopkins
Glenn Hopkins

jonathan angela
Andy with Angela & Jonathan – note the matching moustaches!
val glenn sian alan
Sian, Val & Glenn in Alan’s selfie!

Great Western Hotel

Sian Smith
Alan Smith

Abergavenny Hotel

Julie Sheen
Terry Sheen

Terry and Julie
Julie & Terry – peace man!

Staying with family, walking, taxi or driving home

Lynne Greenaway
Steven Greenaway
Helen Drummond
Andy Drummond
Rosemary Smith
Paul Smith
Matt Lane (DJ) & Kerry (his assistant)

deb and friend
Debbie with Lynne

“Neighbours, everybody loves good neighbours” with Andy & Helen…


Rose and Debbie smiling for the camera!

We would have liked even more old & new friends and family to attend, but given our location in Wales coupled with my constrained post retirement funding position, we sadly had to cap the numbers.  I’m also not sure the venue could have coped with many more people either!

We decided to ask Tomos the Get Together manager to cater for a buffet dinner on the second floor along with a pop up bar manned by our full-time steward Lewis on the first floor.  Originally I put in a not inconsiderable float to cover the drinks bill for the evening, but I hadn’t reckoned on the great thirst many guests had post the Six Nations England vs. Wales rugby match earlier that afternoon!

So in the end to avoid being a party pooper I decided to boost funds at the end to settle up, but I think it was worth it, judging by Debbie’s reaction both during and after the event!

Opposite our private bar in the left hand alcove was DJ Matt Lane of AM Discos.  He set up in the right hand side corner at 5pm but had to finish due to licensing restrictions at 11pm.  The last song chosen by my dear wife which everybody sang to raucously at the end was  “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and seemed like an excellent finale!

Debbie’s birthday cake was made by a local specialty baker called Sophie Bensley.  It comprised 2 round tiers of 6 and 8 inches diameter, with 4 layers of Victoria sponge on the bottom and the same of chocolate sponge on top.

It had a disco 70s theme with silver glittered ‘HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY DEBBIE’ on the base, while around the upper tier was white icing with black silhouettes of people dancing in 70s style with flares!  The bottom tier had orange 70s stripes while on the top of the cake it had mini Donny Osmond vinyls sticking out of the cake along with a few stars as well…

Sophie delivered this unique cake at 5.15pm on the day of the party, along with candles and enough triangular boxes to allow people to take away their slices at the end of the party!



Debbie and I decided to purchase early on our fancy dress from a local store in Cwmbran with her deciding on an ABBA look and me opting for what can only be described as a John Travolta look without the quiff or duck’s arse but thankfully she didn’t seem to mind.

We’d also arranged with Olivia from the sister company of Get Together (called Get Noticed) to enlarge old photos of Debbie through the decades, culminating in a lovely large one of our marriage with Debbie’s parents Cliff and Glenys either side of us.


These posters prompted a lot of remembrance and discussion amongst our Welsh friends who remembered them living in Merthyr Vale where Debbie was brought up.  We also had numerous helium balloons and banners celebrating Debbie’s sixtieth that Paul from “from the heart” our favourite card shop in town delivered for us at 3pm which was no mean feat but a great help to us both!

debs party 1
The happy hosts!

James and Emma decided to hire their costumes at a local Abergavenny shop!.Emma’s old schoolfriend Aleece from when we lived in Feltham travelled up from Putney that morning via National Express bus to Newport and then by train to Abergavenny where we picked her up.

At around 9pm we managed eventually to get everyone upstairs away from the music and bar to the second floor ready to feed them but first I gave a brief speech about how Debbie and I met & where. I also awarded the best fancy dress trophy to Terry Sheen.  How he kept that wig on most of the night I’ll never know, however the same can’t be said of his moustache which seemed to come off leaving him with a “King Tut” type lower goatee later in the evening!

Then the disco got going as we danced to “Oops up side your head” on the dance floor!

opps subside your head
With help from Peter Ranwell standing in front of us we managed get through it!

Sadly later on in the party I found Debbie standing wistfully next to an old love of hers from the 70’s, personally I found him a little stiff and two dimensional, what do you think?

deb donny
Debbie and some unknown gatecrashing ex-Merthyr boy she used to fancy…

Apologies for those for whom we couldn’t find photographs, but Debbie and I for once put away our smartphones and relied on an old instant technology Polaroid camera lent by Alex and Emily. Alas these are a little tricky to share on this blog, but look great in our photo album that they gave us!  As a result we’ve taken full advantage of shared/stolen photos and videos from friends’ Facebook accounts to do our best!

Lastly I know Debbie would like to thank you all for the many cards, gifts and good wishes from everyone they were very thoughtful!

Sweet Sixty Celebrations

After The Earthquake…

… came the “Beast from the East” and with it freezing temperatures and a lot more snow!

Global warming in Abergavenny seems to agree more with POTUS Trump rather than the global climate change scientists as when we moved here the accepted wisdom that it only ever snowed on the tops of the surrounding mountains.  Needless to say that has been proved wrong twice this year…


Nevertheless we are so much better prepared than the first time being clad in Mountain Warehouses base layers & jackets to march across to our Waitrose next door this morning, which I’m glad to say was open promptly at 8.30am for the “first of the few” brave souls venturing out to get much needed emergency supplies.  Tonight and tomorrow are forecast to be the worst of the weather so we thought this was wise.

James had left for Morrisons this morning on foot at around 7.30am for his shift as the roads on the estate were just too icy and with thick snow forecast for later meaning he may not get back home at all if he drove.  Again another blessing about where we now life as pretty much everything we need is walkable and it keeps you fit!  I can’t remember what it used to be like were even the shortest journey I picked up my car keys…

On our return from Scott’s Hut (sorry Waitrose) we let the hounds out for a run around the garden but it was so cold they came in fairly promptly for a gravy bone.


Rather ironically this latest weather is called Storm Emma, presumably after my daughter and one of her best friends, who just happens to be called “Snow”!  Without wanting to panic anyone I shall be dusting off my DVD of “The Day After Tomorrow” to contemplate my next steps, although given today is St. David’s Day here in Wales (& elsewhere) maybe it should be called “The Dai After Tomorrow”…

Speaking of Molly she has been a little tinker recently digging up the corner of our Easigrass looking for stones to play with behind the drainpipe.  Yesterday Chris Carpenter had been due to fix this and give the Easigrass its annual maintenance but because of the snow we’ve had to delay this to later next week.


As usual in recent weeks I’ve been adopting my Victor Meldrew persona much to Debbie’s annoyance with complaints logged with Sky for their impending price increase as our discount comes to an end.  Given we only use Sky really for recording and scheduling now given Amazon Prime Video and Netflix being available at home with smart TV’s, BluRay players and Amazon Fire Sticks giving access to catch up apps like BBC iPlayer etc. I’m really not convinced they will survive longer term, a little like the sad but rather inevitable news about Toys “R” Us and Maplin Electronics this week going into administration.

“I don’t believe it” extended to my interactions with Vodafone too when I found out they were offering monthly contracts for £6 which included unlimited calls and texts and 500MB data through a package called Vodafone Basics!  As Debbie and my phones with Vodafone current cost £9 pcm discounted, this seemed a good “standard” deal which I wanted to move to.

Alas after numerous instant messages, calls to about six centres within their customer services and launching two formal complaints it became apparent that these deals only available via Carphone Warehouse and USwitch through redirected internet links to Vodafone are only available to new customers.  Sod the concept of customer loyalty (I’m paraphrasing) the complaints manager said, we just playing commercial hardball…

Sadly for me this blog has under fifty regular followers, so I don’t wield the power and influence of various better known bloggers, however I pretended that I had a “friend” who did so they gave me a workaround much to my surprise.

Basically exactly 30 days before our discounted contracts are due to expire (no earlier and no later much to my annoyance on the former) ask for the contracts to be switched to Pay As You Go and order the two new SIM only Vodafone Basics contracts.  Once they arrive use the “Keep My Number” feature on the Vodafone website to then transfer our existing numbers to the new contracts and Bob’s your uncle a workaround is found.

How annoying and wasteful of my time and theirs, however one thing I do have as a retired person snowed in like Captain Scott is time on my hands, so for a saving of £6 a month and a better bundled deal (albeit limited only to the UK) I shall follow the process and see if it works!

On the David Wilson new home customer care front, we continue to get excellent support on the few niggles that remain half way through our five year guarantee.

After them fixing & replacing a fair amount of guttering during that last heavy snow fall (which was very wet and heavy unlike the powder snow we’re experiencing today) they have returned gently to fix our ensuite toilet where the siphon valve needed replacing and have replaced a plastic cap on the towel rail that was missing.

In the same location our shower rail at the bottom of the doors was also missing caps and the hinges had become loose so they have order brand new fittings to be fixed hopefully along with a small leak of a few drops per hour in the cold water intake pipe of our centre heating cylinder.

Oh and we’ve also had a carpenter round to sort out the door to the den cupboard that was sticking, the guest bedroom and our own bedroom ensuite where the door locks were very stiff to close which were all done so quickly I couldn’t believe it.

I really have to say the way they fix these is really excellent although I am glad we bought our house in Llanfoist when they still offered five year guarantees rather than the two years on offer for new home purchases today…

So all in all I’m kept very busy in my retirement, following up customer issues and complaints as if I’d almost reverted back to my old role as VP Service Delivery – as I think it was called – only in reverse! 🙂

Now before I wrap up this post, what else has been going on in the “Escape to Llanfoist” world recently?  Well without going into too much detail we’ve celebrated the arrival of Debbie’s free bus pass as she reached the incredible age of sixty last month and a more detailed account of her party is the topic of my next blog.

On the health front I’ve continued with my vegetarianism while Emma has become vegan, alas this has been accompanied by toothache which given my fear of dentists resulted in too much ibuprofen and co-codamol which wasn’t very clever and resulted in acute constipation, however I am relieved to announced that this discomfort has now passed (pun intended) and I’m feeling 100% fitter and only 7.25 lbs away from my 12 stone weight target!

Lastly to note, somewhat mystifyingly, my right big toe is finally showing signs of getting over a recent gout attack thanks to a squirrelled away supply of old Naproxen tablets.  Sadly this is incomprehensible to my very near teetotal, rich food avoider & vegetarian self thank God I’m not a hypochondriac!




After The Earthquake…


After the celebrations of Debbie’s 60th birthday party I thought it might be a good idea to have a short break away in Ceredigion in West Wales with Emma and Molly, leaving James and Hamish behind.  As James secured his new job in Morrisons he had to attend new hire training in their Cwmbran store so he couldn’t go with us unfortunately.

To be honest it was an experiment with Molly as she’d never been away with us on holiday, we’d always put her and Hamish into the Royvon kennels together and had done so in the days just before and after the party.  Being brutally honest though we felt the need to have a brief rest from the mad Scotsman and his bark and he’s very close to James anyway so we didn’t feel too bad leaving them both behind.

So last Tuesday we left Llanfoist in the Galaxy with a bemused Molly in the rear in her basket surrounded by suitcases, Emma in the rear seat surrounded by shopping bags and Debbie and I in the front.  We left as late as possible mid afternoon so as to minimise the time Hamish had to spend in his crate awaiting James’ return from Cwmbran.  My sat nav predicted a two hour journey without stopping which proved accurate as we headed past Brecon on the A40 and onto various twisty A & B roads towards our destination.

The cottage I’d chosen was called Cartref Bach which is Welsh for “Small Home” in the small hamlet of Llanrhystud.  It was a little Tardis like downstairs at least as the living room was quite large as was the adjoining kitchen diner and utility room, leading out to large gardens.

When searching for a suitable place to stay I’d looked for an enclosed rear garden for molly so she could wander outside freely to explore and do her ablutions, had a log fire in the living room to snuggle up by, be close to the coastline for walking and a pub for refreshments.  Cartref Bach ticked all those boxes along with off road parking on Church Road and a local small supermarket combined with a sub post office so we were very well served.

We arrived with it still being daylight after an uneventful and uninterrupted journey and for once the sat nav took us straight to where we were going and I pulled the Galaxy into the narrow entrance to the cottage.

Llanrhystud has hills separating the village from the sea as you can see to the rear

The instructions which I had to admit to having not read properly before arriving told us entry was not before 4pm to allow time for handover and cleaning which was fine, although finding the key safe through the wooden doors to the right of the cottage and attached to the door frame of the adjacent tool house was more challenging although the code was very easy to remember!  I won’t mention it here in case they don’t change in regularly…

Keys secured we made our way inside and immediately Emma bagged the front bedroom with the attached bath and shower, something I didn’t realise until we left as our rear facing bedroom overlooking a field full of sheep and a large hill obscuring the sea just had a curtained off toilet/shower area attached!

Still it was very cosy especially when Debbie got the log fire going and I read about there being further supplies in the shed located in the large rear orchard to the rear of the property on the right.  The weather though was pretty wild with strong winds and rain making the outside rather cold but that only contrasted with the snug warmth inside.

Don’t take my photo in my PJ’s!

Settled in we watched TV and some episodes of TV Burp 3 on DVD before eventually retiring for a good night’s sleep with Molly in her basket next to our bed in the rear…

Where’s Hamish and James?

The following days we spent relaxing, popping into the local shop where I was given a ginger cake free of charge that was going out of date the following day which definitely generated goodwill with yours truly as I purloined newspapers, wine, bread, baking potatoes, tomato sauce, yogurts, chicken curry and rice with mango chutney etc. to add to the emergency vegan shop in Waitrose we’d done prior to leaving!

This patio is all mine!

Molly seems to love exploring out the back although very skittish in terms of noises from the local sheep and bird population.

The orchard too!  Extra logs are in here Dad…

With the two human ladies of the party staying behind in comfort Molly and I ventured out twice during our four day stay, both times following the same route to the pebble beach closest to the property.  The first time however Molly turned back just before getting to our intended destination due to the blustery conditions of the strong wind coming off the shoreline.

Turn right outside Cartref Bach and you pass this Church dedicated to Saint Rhystud

With our second attempt though we passed through a deserted caravan park and made it to the bleak shoreline without a trace of human or canine company where Molly looked rather bemused at the expanse of sea water.  Being more of a freshwater River Usk lady, she came, she saw and conquered & returned to the cottage fairly promptly much to my relief.


The cottage was well equipped with DVD’s and games which we all enjoyed and it’s warmth and comfort led to only two short expeditions outside by car during our short break.

The first was a rather brief seven mile journey south towards the picturesque fishing village of Aberaeron which according to our local guide book in the cottage could only be described as a Welsh “Tobermory” however sadly on this occasion it was not to be due to the fact that as soon as I parked up Molly threw up in the rear of the galaxy and started shaking so we beat a hasty retreat back to the cottage.

Having decided that Golden retrievers, like Molly’s predecessor Tom, travel on light stomachs it was decided prudently to dispatch me alone towards Aberystwyth which 40 years previously had been on my UCCA interview list of potential University places to study planetary and space physics!

Sadly visiting on my own seemed even less attractive than back in 1978 so when I spied Morrisons on the outskirts I gratefully pulled in to do some emergency shopping of tofu stir fry for Emma and I along with some requested treats for Debbie back at Cartef Bach.

Before we knew it the days passed and it was time to leave our cottage and head home, fingers crossed with no further stomach troubles from Molly, although we minimised the risks by refusing her breakfast until we were safely back home…


Mind you as I napped in our bedroom after a two hour journey back to Llanfoist I suddenly awoke to a rumble where the bed and whole room shook for about five seconds as magnitude 4.4 earthquake shook Wales as a true welcome home surprise! 🙂


SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch


Well the astrophysicist in me is excited as I am watching the SpaceX live YouTube feed of the potential launch of their Falcon Heavy triple rocket configuration.

i think there’s a wind shear problem at Kennedy Space Centre that’s pushed out the countdown towards the end of its three hour launch window but the real time feed has just come on the TV and it looks like the first ever test flight may be going ahead – fingers crossed!

The excitement is palpable at the SpaceX HQ’s and I must admit I share their enthusiasm.  If it works and that’s a big if, it could if man rated in future cost only 10% of NASA’s Space Launch System that they are still to launch to replace the retired Space Shuttle.

T minus 17 minutes with no hold at the moment, filling the second stage LOX tanks at the moment…


Update will be posted after launch or after abort as there is no slack in the launch window…

Debbie and I just watched the launch and landings of the two side rockets and low earth orbit of the payload Elon Musk’s roadster and “starman” driver to the sound of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”.

Just amazing!

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch

Change Is Hard

Most people that know me will not be surprised that reading business books was never high on my agenda!  Jack Welch of GE fame was almost as unknown to me as “Jack Welsh” of Llanfoist notoriety…  Only kidding the latter doesn’t exist as far as I know!

However there was one such book called “Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard” by Chip & Dan Heath, used extensively by senior executives of my last employer before my retirement, which introduced metaphors like the “rider and the elephant” which rung true to my rather limited mind and it goes something like this…


rider elephant

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book, “The Happiness Hypothesis” developed a mental model, stemming from behavioural psychology, where he argued that humans have two sides to their psyche.

According to this model, the rider is rational and can plan ahead, while the elephant is irrational and driven by emotion and instinct.  To successfully navigate effective change you have to find the balance between the two and get the elephant and the rider moving together as one.

“Switch” argued a third aspect to this model, that success requires an understanding of the direction, situation and environment, or the path the elephant/rider combo is following.

“Changes often fail because the Rider simply can’t keep the Elephant on the road long enough to reach the destination.  The Elephant’s hunger for instant gratification is the opposite of the Rider’s strength, which is the ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment (all those things that your pet can’t do.) …

To make progress toward a goal, whether it’s noble or crass, requires the energy and drive of the Elephant.  And this strength is the mirror image of the Rider’s great weakness: spinning his wheels.  The Rider tends to overanalyze and over think things. …

A reluctant Elephant and a wheel-spinning Rider can both ensure nothing changes.  But when Elephants and Riders move together, change can come easily.”

They then introduce three surprises which can be helpful in communicating the need for change:

  1. What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity.  Don’t say eat healthier.  Say eat more dark leafy greens.
  2. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.  Change is hard…acknowledge it.
  3. What looks like a people problem is often a situational problem.  Make sure to think about their environment and support system.

Well, having now retired from the corporate world for a few years now, leading successful change management of others is a thing of the past for me now but it’s still relevant to successfully changing my own behaviour!

So, always assuming you’ve read this far and haven’t already stated dozing, nodding off or clicked elsewhere, I now turn from theory to practice!

My daughter Emma has recently adopted a vegan diet for three main reasons.  The first is ethical and the way we treat other sentiment beings, who just happen not to be human, the second is a result of caring for the environment and lastly desiring to improve her own health.

Now I too have been on a vegetarian journey, with only a couple of hiccups over Christmas week (organic turkey and crumbed ham) since writing my Eating Fewer Animals post three months ago.  This was the result of me reading a book of the same name that Emma lent me…

Now this morning Debbie and I were blissfully watching another Peter Davidson “Doctor Who” DVD – Caves of the Androzani for those readers of a curious nature – when Emma asked if we could watch together on Netflix a documentary called “What the Health” which I imagine subsequently is a take on the words “What the Hell”.

Although not balanced in terms of the arguments for and against changing one’s diet to plant based only, it does make the case quite powerfully for at least considering it with obesity, diabetes, cancer and other diseases being so prevalent in today’s “advanced” society.

Now my reasons for becoming vegetarian were largely the same as my daughter’s for turning vegan, however I put personal health above the environment.  This is due to me being a rather shallow, selfish 58 year old and sadly less imbued with what’s right and wrong vs. being selfish.  That said, my main driver was the same as Emma, namely a result of my decision to no longer blank out in my consciousness what goes on in factory farming.

I think that has been reinforced by “adopting” Molly, our rescue golden retriever, who really has brought a huge amount of happiness into our family.  How the people involved in puppy farms in Ireland can live with the reality of what they put these dogs through is beyond me ,but what it’s made me realise is that if we as consumers refused to “buy” dogs from this evil supply chain and only took on rescue animals, we could collectively very soon stop this evil trade.

Now living in rural Monmouthshire we are surrounded by farms and moorland filled with cattle, sheep and the occasional pig farm, quite unlike my Egham based experience where the closest I got to these beings was shrink wrapped in supermarket packs.  What I’ve realised walking Molly and Hamish through the countryside with Debbie is how alive, curious and often friendly (and often scared) these farm animals are to our transient presence.

This eased my decision to become vegetarian considerably and I have to say it’s remarkable how easy it’s been given the variety products easily available in all the local supermarkets.  I just haven’t missed meat to the extent where I would ever revert back to my previous eating habits.

Becoming vegetarian though seems a long way at first sight to going vegan and doing without dairy in the forms of cow’s milk, cheese and eggs.

This is where the “What the Health” show kicked in and reminded me about the consequences to male born calves and chickens of the milk and egg industry.  Of course I’ve known about the culling of such new born males, but recessed it to the outer corners of my memory, the same of course with the separation of new born female calves and chicks from their mothers.

When you’re busy earning a living 24×7 it’s easy to shut this out of your mind, less so when you’re retired and you have time to think wider and be in the position to make rational decisions.

So the upshot of it is that this particular “rider” is guiding my “elephant” along the path of transitioning to oat and soya milk rather than cow’s, with eggs to follow a similar exit further down the track when I can work through the alternatives.

Will I keep it up or complete the journey?  All I can say is I hope so, but change is hard, however the rewards to me and particularly those animals spared in future will be great and so I have great hopes.

Two previous corporate bosses that I highly respected, both American as it happens, but with very different personalities, typically ended their conversations with me over the years with “take it easy” and “be well”.

Farewell salutations that now I share with you all too dear readers!






Change Is Hard



Now I don’t write about supermarket chains very often in this blog and Morrisons in Abergavenny has a controversial history, however our younger son James got some great news yesterday when he found out that the new store opening on the old cattle market site is going to offer him a permanent job!

This was great news all round and a fantastic reward for all his hard work as unpaid volunteer, as well as an occasional paid relief manager, at the local Blue Cross charity shop.

We found out when after visiting “Get Noticed” design shop to get some posters printed for Debbie’s up and coming 60th birthday and popped into Blue Cross on the way back to see him as usual.  Out of the blue James shared the news that he’d just been phoned up after his interview earlier that afternoon to confirm they were offering him a role and he was to start his induction training soon!

I don’t think anyone observing in such a busy charity shop has ever seen four people so excited, as Debbie, Emma and I took it in turns to repeatedly hug and congratulate James on his brilliant news!

To celebrate we bought ourselves a rare bottle of red wine and James a bottle of special lager for consumption at home and I have to say personally I savoured every sip, although I’m so unused to drinking I had a nap late afternoon in between glasses!

Judging by the exterior of the new store (artist’s impression above) its opening is probably going to be late February or early March, but despite some local opposition to the store in terms of its design or location, we shall definitely be changing our grocery shopping loyalty thanks to the 100 jobs they have brought to the area for sure!

It’s interesting when I look back on our time in Abergavenny just how must economic regeneration has occurred both there and in Llanfoist where we “escaped” to.  Firstly the whole town centre was repaved in time for the Eistedford, the famous Angel hotel front totally refurbished, the large grade II listed building next to the post office modernised and numerous run down shops closed and reopened as new in the High Street.

In Llanfoist itself of course two new housing estates have been completed including our own at Mountain View and just over the Heads of the Valley Road next to the other is the Premier Inn, Costa Coffee and good old McDonald’s and the adjoining Persimmon estate.  There was quite a lot of local opposition historically to all those in the past too despite the undoubted increase in prosperity that they deliver to the local economy.

Interestingly Mountain View itself was built on the old derelict Cooper’s factory site that closed down a number of years ago and as such qualifies as a “brownfield” development, whereas  the hotel and retail developments took place under a series of electricity distribution pylons which probably would have never been developed otherwise and left as rather unattractive waste land.

Understandable “not in my back yard” fears have to be balanced by a thoughtful response to ongoing economic development, which of course is never easy to get right. Recent plans to construct a footbridge over from Llanfoist to Abergavenny are a good example of safety improvements I’m sure by most, even if other developments are resisted by the vocal naysayers.

Still, on balance for my family at least, things don’t look half bad at this point in 2018! 😀


Super Blue Moon

Although my blog has been a bit quiet over the past week or so, yours truly has been not, so let me use today’s post as a typical example to “illuminate” you dear reader.

Before I do that though, just let me just explain the title of today’s ditty, which reflects the fact that I have just observed a “super blue moon” through my binoculars mounted on a carbon fibre tripod in the second floor guest room.

Just need to take the lens caps off, hold my iPhone to the eyepiece & hey presto!
OK so it’s not very good with a handheld camera phone, but looking through the binocular it was really spectacular!

Now back to more mundane matters and the main topic of today’s post, as per normal Deb and I awoke around 8am to the sound of Molly taking a run up to jump onto our king sized bed.

I can tell you it is a lottery on which of our torsos her 25kg of “love” she lands on, however today was my lucky day so I made it downstairs unscathed to continue my morning ritual.

This involves carrying down Molly’s bed into the living room where I draw the curtains, pulling up the Roman blinds there, in the snug and in the kitchen.

Molly usually follows me downstairs after enjoying repeated cuddles with my better half on hearing kibbles being poured into her food bowl.  However before she tucks in I normally let her out onto the pristine Easigrass outside in our small garden (the best £4K I have ever spent) for her ablutions first.

While she’s occupied I therefore put the kettle on for two mugs of decaf coffee and open a sachet of golden syrup flavour Oat So Simple which makes the most delicious porridge in the microwave in only 2 minutes!  I have to say that turning vegetarian seems to have increased my proclivity for sweet things whereas previously I always had a more savoury preference.

I’ve also become rather a porridge aficionado recently, ordering it on our regular jaunts to Caffe Nero in town with lashings of runny honey, instead of ordering my usual decaf Americano.

Enough of this culinary diversion, so the next stage of my typical day comes with the postman’s delivery of my next eBay acquisition which recently have included Captain Scarlet & Thunderbird figures, as well as Dinky die-cast vehicles from the same shows.  UFO is so old hat here in Llanfoist now!

Unfortunately this collectors habit of mine has also extended recently to the imminent arrival of an old fashioned Police telephone box from the late 1950’s that heralds my new addiction to Doctor Who.  Almost every day now new DVD episodes of each Doctor arrive by the Amazon Prime courier service…

This of course triggers a natural request of mine to Debbie which goes along the lines as an example yesterday of “ fancy watching the Claws of Axos?” to which she normally accedes but ends up watching through half closed eyes, interspersed with the occasional snore…

Approximately 2 hours and 4 episodes later I will then announce to my long suffering wife that I should have a shower and get ready for the marathon that is taking the hounds from heaven (Molly) and hell (Hamish) for a walk.

Now Molly our rescue golden retriever is the most angelic dog we have ever owned, but if she suspects that a walk is imminent will leap up in the air, snorting with excitement and rushing all round stalking the two of us attempting to dress in warm clothing and putting on shoes for the short walk to the waiting Galaxy parked in our drive.

Hamish’s blue touch paper is also lit but he adds on a persistent ear shattering bark and occasional bite to encourage a speedy exit.  This has led Debbie and I to concoct a rather elaborate & some would say desperate strategy of getting ready in the rear garden to avoid upturned and damaged furniture on our ground floor.

To spare our long suffering neighbour’s eardrums we believe in the motto “haste over elegance” in our attempts to bundle them into the rear of our people carrier and conclude the desired fast exit.

The Galaxy has a rear compartment reserved for canine occupation with a bespoke rubber mat underneath, fortunately not eaten yet by Molly (unlike the sadly departed Freelander’s) and are prevented from access to the “people” reserved space at the front by an expertly fitted custom dog guard.

All secure we then head off the short distance to the normally crowded car park in Llanfoist that heralds the start and finish point of our typical canal walk which has three  optional routes.  Namely long, medium and short, which doubles to six options if you include the two alternative ways round.

My directional preference and as such frequently overruled by SWMBO, is to cross the main road next to the car park and walk uphill to the canal as if you intended to climb up the Blorenge.  The direction preferred by Debbie’s takes the four of us up along the old railway track which once went all the way to Merthyr, which is now a National cycle track on a steady climb up to Govilon.

The “long” option which takes us past Govilon wharf with its moored narrow boats, up and over a small bridge and back down the canal towpath towards Llanfoist, however this option comes with a terrible danger my preferred direction is overruled…

The reason is that we pass a rather long garden constantly patrolled by two rather aggressive sounding Collie dogs that delight in snarling through a small gap in their hedge and the furthest end.

If we come from the other direction quietly we can often surprise these Collies and by pushing Debbie and Hamish ahead of me and Molly hope this will distract Molly’s attention away from protecting me from their imagined bites!

In reality this danger is vastly overstated as the gap is reinforced with chicken wire so all that ends up happening is that my arm nearly gets pull out of its socket.

If that wasn’t enough angst, the torture Molly inflicts on me is compounded by her increasing hatred of Mallard ducks going about their business swimming in pairs on the canal.  I swear if I didn’t hold her back she would leap into the near stagnant water every time we come across these courting avian couples…

By the time I rejoin the car my posture is more like an exhausted walking orangutang with lacerated hands trailing in the mud churned up in the car park.  As a result the next daily ritual is that of my late afternoon bath to soak away the aches and pains of my dog walking.  Strangely Debbie who typically walks Hamish (who weighs at most 10kg and behaves impeccably on the walk) is bemused by my sad state and settles down to watch her daily intake of soaps.

This involves watching Coronation Street on TV “catch up”, both the current 2017 version where the script seems to involve multiple homicides and the late 1980’s which seems to concentrate on Northern folk getting on with life.  I know which I prefer – the non violent one – and for once SWMBO seems to agree!

Later after suppers are dispensed and Emma and James retreat to their respective “caves” we will settle down to watch Celebrity Big Brother and watch our favourites be evicted all because as poor pensioners we refuse to pay the 50p to save them by phoning in.  Ah well, all things come to an end and 2018 may be the last year this particular program will air, still there’s always “I’m a Celebrity get me Out of Here” or at the weekends “Dancing on Ice” (yawn), or “Strictly Come Dancing” (yeh) to enjoy…

Or even do an occasional bit of astronomy!


Super Blue Moon