A Week in Menorca

Introduction

Just after noon on Friday 16th June 2017 Debbie and I arrived back at Cardiff airport having just spent a week in Menorca at the Los Delfines hotel, which is Catalan for “the Dolphins”.

It is also the name of the red coloured district around the hotel, which is marked as a ringed “>” in the street map below.

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It was our first visit to Menorca and also our first experience of “all inclusive” package holiday from Thomas Cook which cost us a very reasonable £400 each.

Day 1

We got up at 2am listening to the early general election results on radio.  Our daughter Emma had stayed up wanting to see us off before we left for our 6am flight from Cardiff airport.

After saying our goodbyes to Emma and drinking the coffees she’d made us we departed Llanfoist in the Galaxy just before 3am, stopping only once on the A465 at a deserted Brynmawr Asda cashpoint, when it started raining!

As we got to the A470 near the Abercynon turnoff, I had to turn election results off the radio to concentrate on driving through an immense downpour.  Fortunately it seemed to stop as we neared Barry but as we entered the airport car park just after 4am the heavens opened up again.

We’d prepaid the car park right next to the terminal building, but despite running as fast as we could with our two large red suitcases we still got drenched!  Fortunately the terminal was warm so we soon dried off and joined the short check-in queue full of excited holiday makers.

We got through security quickly and headed to the bar for a celebratory glass of wine and boarded MT1206 at 5.30am.  Compared to Heathrow, Cardiff airport is so quiet and relaxed…

We sat next to each other in seats 15B and 15C on the A320 plane, although Debbie took the window seat as soon as the doors shut as the flight wasn’t full and I shuffled across to join her.  Pushback was on time and we celebrated a perfect take off in the sunshine with some more wine before tucking into our pre-ordered James Martin cooked breakfast!

Two hours later we banked steeply to land in Menorca’s Mahonn airport and after a short taxi we were able to disembark via a ramp direct into the air conditioned terminal building.  After a short queue for passport control and collecting our luggage we were met by the local Thomas Cook airport rep who quickly allocated us to our coach a short walk away.

The coach driver started his engine and the air-con as we arrived and loaded our luggage while we boarded.  We couldn’t help but compare this stress free comfortable experience with the chaos at Rhodes airport we’d experienced the year before on our Pefkos holiday.

Bus 55 ready to depart…
First selfie!

As we made our way across the island Menorca seemed much greener and a lot more hilly than I’d expected with lots of small enclosed fields with dairy cows.  Just under an hour later at 11am we arrived at the hotel where we were greeted by Grace the Thomas Cook hotel rep with a glass of cava!


We had to pay a sustainable tourism tax of 23.10 euros to the hotel on arrival but no other extras for air-con, food or local soft or alcoholic drinks during our stay as we were on an all inclusive package.  We were asked to wear shiny blue wristbands to make sure we weren’t asked for payment during our stay.

As we’d arrived so early in the day, we had to wait 30 mins for our room to made ready, but our luggage was stored away at reception and we headed first to the restaurant which was open for mid morning snacks of hot dog, burgers and salad!  Since lunch was due at 12.30pm we decided to quickly head to the bar and had a choice of wines on tap, chilled cava, gin and tonic,  beers, coffees and ice creams all free of charge!

Me realising that going all inclusive whilst maintaining weight is an impossible dream!
Debbie looking pleased with the holiday so far in the outside dining area next to the restaurant!

Back inside after a quick snack and drink there was still a queue of people waiting to check-in but Grace spotted us hovering so she got our keycard for us without further waiting!  Our room 104 was in the main hotel as opposed to the outside apartments.

After taking a lift up to the first floor we discovered our room had the air-con turned up to the max, an ensuite bathroom with a power shower over a bath and toilet with a large sink area with a hair dryer.

The flat screen TV was attached to the wall in front of our bed and had both ITV and BBC English channels available from where we discovered the final general election result. There were loads of hanging space and shelves to put away our clothes .  We also had free wifi which allowed us to check on Molly and Hamish on their kennel’s Facebook page…

Easy-grass at the kennels too!

Result!  🙂

So we unpacked and changed into our swimming gear and headed out to large pool and secured two sun loungers nearby.  It was very hot by now so we plastered ourselves in sun tan lotion had two dips in the pool followed by two more wines from the poolside bar!

Eventually the temptation of lunch became too great and I piled on various local meats with salad drenched in olive oil and white wine vinegar, onions and pickles and cold filtered water to rehydrate, then back to our room for a restful short sleep.

Afterwards we made our way down to reception for the local street map where we tried to navigate our way to the main entertainment area called the “strip”.  Alas my map reading hasn’t improved since leaving the territorials so we walked the wrong way past a  local “Top Markets” supermarket before heading back to the hotel and going the right way.

We passed lots of bars and restaurants which made us realise just how much we were saving going down the all inclusive route but I still fancied some grilled prawns being an inveterate seafood lover!  Alas I only saw some on a rather confusing street menu that seems to go with a baked potato and looked rather expensive so I passed it by.  The sun by now was very hot so with sweat dripping we made our way back to the hotel to get showered & changed ready for the night’s entertainment after our evening meal.

Mealtimes were very well spread time-wise and varied each day

Much to my surprise and delight on offer for dinner was grilled prawns which were so delicious I went back and had a second fuller plate, this time without the superfluous salad accompaniment!

Plate no. 1 of grilled prawns, skipping the salad on the next…

We ate this delicious meal on the outside terrace adjacent to the restaurant overlooking the stage and entertainments.  For the young children aged between 3 and 4 they had a mini disco each night with usually three excellent young entertainers called Egon, Megan and Abbey for dancing and singing, along with a bear called “Bernie” and a giraffe called “Lollo” for cuddles…

Lollo cuddling the kids, Debbie & I preferred Bernie…

Some of the younger & older couples hadn’t realised that there’d be lots of young pre-school children on holiday with their parents and grandparents but we didn’t mind as all it did was whet our appetites for those long wished for grandchildren.  Hint hint! 🙂

There was also a quiz each night and Debbie won one round by guessing “feel like a woman” to qualify for ticket no. 23 to win a bottle of cava through a lucky dip.  We commiserated with each other by ordering 2 glasses of “free” cava from the bar when number 28 was chosen. 🙂


The act following the draw was great fun called “puppet mania” which was more like a pantomime with shrieks from the kids (and some adults) whenever a green caterpillar appeared along the top of the stage!

Day 2

This morning’s breakfast consisted of sausages, bacon, scrambled egg, tomato, beans and buttered toast & was washed down with a glass of chilled cava…

After returning to our room we got changed into our swim-ware and digested the food by lounging on the sunbeds along with the occasional dip in the pool fortified with a number of librations from the pool bar.

Life is good!  Spot multiple empty plastic cups by my right foot…

At 10.30am we headed back inside for an interesting talk that Grace gave on Menorca and the various trips on offer and the local sights to see.  We thought the suggested walk to Pirate’s Cove beach at Cala en Blanes sounded interesting and even contemplated waking from there along the coastal path to Ciutadella!

Subtle approach to merchandising Bernie & Lollo at Grace’s talk on Menorca

Numerous trips to the pool bar afterwards and the odd plunge into the pool preceded lunch which we took outside again this time with rose wine.  Lots of meat and salad for me and pieces of fish, chicken and asparagus for Debs.

Afterwards some of the older kids got cuddles from Bernie and Lollo…

Bernie my friendly bear

Debbie being unfaithful on our holiday
Obligatory selfie of the big kids!

Back to our sun-beds Debbie started chatting with two Geordie couples in self catering apartments nearby whose husbands were both ex-infantry soldiers.  I remember one was called “Moans” by his wife for some strange reason…  Deb went inside one of their apartments which had very powerful air-con & were ice cool.

They were regular visitors to the hotel and told us that the air-con (and outside parasols) had only been installed   about three years ago, which made me wonder how people had coped with the heat previously.

Eventually they left to go out for a meal so we moved our things to the side of the pool and bathed for half an hour before returning to our room for a shower and change of clothes before dinner.

The England vs Scotland World Cup qualifying match was on TV in our room but we left for our Tex-Mex menu with tacos, avocado, asparagus, fish, chicken and my favourite pieces of very lightly cooked sushi of salmon and tuna with green wasabi mustard!

Feeling sated and relaxed we then decided to walk to Pirate’s Cove by turning right at Irish bar, through the blue archway and passing lots of local families eating out in shade of their gardens.

Alas it was very hot and Debbie’s feet hurt in her new shoes.  The beach at Cala en Blanes was rather small and we were a bit tired.

So ignoring the restaurant and bar, managed we were told by an absent dreadlocked Captain Jack Sparrow, we returned to hotel where I was persuaded to make a paper aeroplane in a competition to see who could fly it the furthest game from the stage.  Alas I didn’t win…

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One, two, three doh!

Next we watched a medley of 21st century pop songs from three of the Thomas Cook local entertainments team.  Megan (below right) and Abby were great singers but their male counterpart a very tall Egon (below left) sang a little flat as the songs chosen didn’t really suit his voice, but he made me laugh until my sides were splitting!  The kids and Debbie and I loved the three of them as they were so energetic and hard working and to be honest made the stay there a lot of fun.

Back to room late after lots of draught San Miguel beer we decided to go to Ciutidella tomorrow after breakfast and take a taxi there and back.  One last glimpse of Facebook at the dogs back in Wales showed that Hamish may be having a slight bit of bother with one of his friends…

Molly trying not to look…

Day 3

We awoke after a good nights sleep to have a leisurely breakfast and order a taxi from reception to take us to the town centre square in Ciutadella where it would be easy to find a taxi rank for the return journey.  After 5 minutes the large minivan taxi arrived and we were glad despite a single fare of 9 Euros that we’d declined the option of the coastal walk!

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The morning was really hot so we were amazed when the driver closed the front passenger window and I promptly opened the rear driver side window to maintain some ventilation!  After a ten minute drive we arrived in the beautiful surroundings of Ciutadella which historically was the capital of Menorca.

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Overlooking the marina with her eyes closed!
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What a huge erection!

After misreading the street map again and getting lost we accidentally decided to go down to the marina (we had intended visiting the cathedral) which was full of locals drinking hot coffee and gossiping.

ciutadella

In the evening I guessed (correctly) that these establishments would become seafood restaurants but that was not to be on this particular visit.

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Cleanly shaven now but still wearing a bum bag & Asda £2.50 white t-shirts!

After numerous wrong turnings and dashed hopes from a number of friendly locals we still hadn’t found the cathedral so we collapsed down on a shaded street cafe called Panaderia I Cafeteria.

We opted for a delicious glass of “capuccino leche”, quite unlike those we find at home in the UK, for only 1.50 Euros each.  Funnily enough the waitress was English from Essex and she explained her father had emigrated and set up the business years before and she’d followed him!

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Thank Christ my feet are killing me!
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OMG I have google maps!

After realising that Vodafone don’t charge extra anymore for European data roaming, my iPhone successfully navigated the two of us to the cathedral without any further problems, apart from unsuccessfully avoiding a clothes shop where Debbie decided to buy a dress for later in the week!

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Eventually we find the cathedral…
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…only to find that on Sunday it’s shut to non-worshipping visitors!

Eventually we made our way back to the taxi rank and we asked to be dropped off at the Irish bar frequented by our Geordie friends rather than go back to the hotel.

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I’m not wearing a head-dress in this photo!

At a nearby shop I decided to buy a new Menorca t-shirt with fashionable buttons to gain equality with SWMBO.  On the way back to the hotel we passed this Bart Simpson bouncy castle but we couldn’t wait to get back into our air-conned room!

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We were rewarded at dinner for our day out with incredible seafood, comprising of paella for Debbie and seared squid chunks for myself, yum!

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Unusually I had onion rings, leek and pork rib to accompany the squid
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By now I had switched to rose wine to cool down

After more entertainment we sloped back to our room to have a well deserved rest, but not before one last glimpse of our canine friends back home…

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When are you coming back?

Day 4

I woke first to the unwelcome news on my iPhone that Prime Minister May has become so desperate to cling onto power she has brought back “traitor” Gove to her cabinet.  She has now sunk even lower in my estimation and the last vestiges of sympathy for her have evaporated!

I decided to relax reading “Code of the Wooster’s” by PG Wodehouse which I’d borrowed from the hotel library the night before, a perfect antidote to the ghastly news from Blighty!  Debbie was still asleep next to me as she was tired after her exploits the evening before being women’s leader in the dancing game!

Breakfast finally beckoned then after changing again we made our way back to usual sunbathing spot.  It was so hot that after one dip in pool I had to shelter under the parasol reading as I was starting to burn.

At 12.30pm the hunger pangs returned and lunch comprised of an octopus paella starter with grilled sea bass main washed down with rose wine.  Sigh it’s a hard life!

A quiz beckoned at 2.30pm but not before Debbie sampled a delicious looking  coconut slice…

My head or more accurately my scalp fealt rather sore even when dipping in the pool so manfully I decided to go to the local supermarket and buy a rather natty looking hat!

Drinking while reading while shaded from the sun, who says men can’t multitask?

All this chilling by the pool only increased our appetite for the Italian themed dinner
and ominously for my waistline I had 2 servings of beef carpaccio drizzled in olive oil and parmesan with a delicious side salad for my starter…

I’ve started, so I’ll finish…

A main of pulled pork in clear gravy followed along with a special treat of ice cream  scattered with hundreds and thousands and covered with cherry sauce, with a slice of watermelon and garnish of strawberries to finish!

The evening entertainment was provided by the hotel and were an absolutely brilliant Motown Three Degrees tribute band.

Seats in the front reserved for little kids!

After they finished I asked them if I could take a picture with them next to Debbie at the outside bar adjacent to the stage.

Debbie is second from the left 🙂

Feeling happy but tired we returned for a good night sleep just looking at pictures of the hounds on Facebook before we nodded off…

Day 5

Having stayed up for the first time past midnight listening to the Three Degrees act we got up rather late at 9.20 am.  By this time we discounted another cove trip as it was too hot and we were feeling too lazy so with my new hat for protection I decided to read a quality newspaper on sale for only 2.50 Euros…

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The “all inclusive” battle of the waistline

 

This hat enables me to sit by pool in full sun sipping two gin and tonics with ice and lemon and then stay in pool a long time just relaxing.  One thing that struck me though was the fact that Debbie and I were quite a rare breed, not so much due to our age or not travelling with kids, but because neither of us had a tattoo, something which on our return we will have a careful think about rectifying!

Debs loves the Geordie accent and so do I although there’s quite a lot of Welsh, Scottish and Manchester accents to be heard with the odd sprinkle of French.  The staff here are so hard working and cheerful, they keep with place spotless and always serve you with a smile.

I reflected this place is great for kids, parents & grandparents, even couples and we must come consider coming back one day.  Some of the kids are handicapped and I’m in awe of the dedication of parents and grandparents looking after them, I remember that it made me feel quite humble to be honest and that I should never complain again about trivial things that occasionally annoy me.

Debbie’s new dress bought in Ciutadella!
I think Debbie was happy with her choice of dress!

After dinner we got dressed up for the evening entertainments which consisted initially of a series of games between two “volunteers” from the audience called Natalie and Michael, in a series of 1 minute challenges, with ten points awarded to the winner of each challenge.

The first challenge was to build the highest tower made of paper plates and plastic cups – Nathalie was the winner.

The second challenge was who could attach the most pegs to their face which was won by Michael.

The third challenge was who could amass the most kisses of cheeks in the audience and much to my relief it was Nathalie doing the pecking on your truly and she won by a mile…

The fourth challenge was keeping an ice cube in mouth for a minute and who would have the biggest chunk remaining at the end which Nathalie won again!

The fifth challenge was a series of Dermot O’Leary X-Factor walk-on spins and on this occasion Michael managed the most although I was primarily relieved that neither contestant fell of the stage!

The interim score was thus Nathalie 30 Michael 20, then each had to lead a conga dance through the audience and up to the stage where a series of dance moves and simulated loudest barking challenges eventually ended with Nathalie’s team being declared the winner!

Feeling rather proud of being part of the winning team we then sat down to listen to some 1980s singing by the entertainments team before retiring exhausted but happy to our room.

Day 6

We awoke to some disturbing news about a tower block fire in London that was very upsetting.  Back in the early 1980’s I’d shared a flat on the 27th floor with a nurse in London near Bromley by Bow, it had spectacular views of the London skyline but it never felt safe to me.

I remember always feeling anxious about the single stairwell that acted as an emergency exit and how when the lifts were regularly vandalised I had to slowly climb up them and descend to get in and out.  I remember sunbathing in the gardens surrounding the tower when some idiot threw a ripe beef tomato from high up which landed close by and exploded all over me…

It was a huge relief when I managed to move out to a low rise “hard to let” flat near Canning town shared with Jeff Howard a fellow part-time MSc student!

Back to happier thoughts it was another beautiful morning here in Menorca, surrounded by happy young families enjoying the pool and it was even hotter at 32C with a forecast to be 35c tomorrow.

Lunch today was spectacular comprising of delicious slices of fried salmon in olive oil with the skin cooked to a crisp, with a squid ink octopus paella, chips and sweet potato wash down with rose wine.  OMG!

Probably Debbie’s favourite dish of the holiday if you ignore the sprouts…

The Brussels sprouts were not too hot (frozen) but we went back for seconds (and thirds) of the rest, until tucking into the usual ice cream with cherry sauce and lots of sprinkles of 100’s and 1000’s…

Welsh Baywatch – shame we had no surfboard!
View of the poolside bar, the concrete floor was so hot you couldn’t go barefoot without blisters

In the evening Debbie and I were co-opted into the kids mini disco to dance to Lollo and Bernie’s song which endeared us to the entertainments staff. 😅

This was followed by a music quiz which we scored 9/10, robbed by naming the artist Michael Jackson not the Jacksons (or Jacksons 5) which robbed us of a superstar certificate!

Next Megan came on as a cabaret singer and very good she was too until a strange bubble show act come on which was mainly aimed at the younger audience still it was nice to relax and watch and carry on sipping as the evening progressed!

Not sure molly and Hamish like the pool so much…

Day 7

As this was our last full day in Menorca we decided to venture out on foot after breakfast and explore.  On the way to Cala en Format cove we passed a three door Freelander 1 which I posted on my Anglo Freelanders Group on Facebook to make them jealous and I was rewarded almost immediately with their comments!

After a couple of wrong turns using the street map given to me by the hotel we finally found ourselves at the top of some steps leading down to the sea which was overlooked by a huge hotel on the right.

We found it at last!

Walking down to the cove we realised how beautiful it was and the sandy part of the beach was teaming with small fish.

No costumes on so we just went for a relaxing paddle
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Cala en Forcat
Farewell selfie before leaving feeling hot and thirsty!

Retracing our steps and turning left past the hotel we headed down the strip anxious to visit at least one bar in town before we went home.  We’d looked at the Facebook group for Los Delfines and Jimmy Hill’s bar was highly recommended so turning right at the dolphin roundabout we made our way with increasing thirst and tiredness to the “big chin”!

Jimmy Hill’s has a picture of the large chinned man himself in caricature!

We ordered a refreshing drink of ice-cold Guinness pour moi and a huge Campari and Sprite lemonade for Debs and sat down in very comfortable chairs to relax.  To be honest  these imported drinks made a refreshing change from the all-inclusive local alcohol we’d been drinking in the hotel and frankly it tasted so much better despite having to pay…

Sadly while we were enjoying ourself the paper was full of the tower fire disaster

We found the bar so relaxing we didn’t want to leave so to extend our stay we ordered a single portion of chicken kebab skewers with chips and salad, when they arrived we were so pleased as they were delicious!

Sadly after buying a second round of drinks we had to leave, settling the bill of only 23.80 Euros and headed back to the hotel to change, but not before exploring one final beach cove at Cales Piques on the way back.

Hannibal Lector on his way to the beach…
…with his unsuspecting victim!

On arrival the beach was wider than Cala en Forcat although the sand had quite sharp pebbles that really needed underwater flip flops but Debbie was so hot by then she just rushed in leaving me, wearing no swimming costume alas just to dangle my feet in from the rocks to the right.

Chillaxing!

After about half an hour there we decided to head back finally to the hotel for one last dip in the pool before heading back out to the strip for one special farewell dinner.

At the pool we spent a lot of time splashing around and for me the first time in days without my hat swigging a bracing gin & tonic for Debs and a rum & coke for me before  we retired to the room for a quick sleep and to pack our bags ready for the journey back home tomorrow.

Once finished I posted an enquiry on the Los Delfines Facebook group about which restaurant people would recommend for the best T bone steak and the answer of “Es Replec” was pretty much unanimous!  Even better google maps navigated us there without mishap!

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Debbie’s mum Glenys favourite flower which grew in the garden of 44 Brynteg

After toasting Debbie with a Spanish red (Beamonte tinto) we ordered the speciality of the house a huge 1.2 kg  T bone steak lightly grilled, then sliced and served with a metal hotplate to cook to perfection in its own fat and a separate jug of pepper sauce.

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Let battle commence!
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OMG I’m drooling as I write this caption!

By this time passers by had seen what we were eating, smelling too as the windows were completely open and the place rapidly became packed!  Demolishing the 50 Euro steak took quite some time and a second bottle of tinto so we plumped for a crema Catalan for myself and a coconut ice-cream for SWMBO. 🙂

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My Crema Catalan was different from those in Tarragona

Feeling rather full and polishing off a small grappa (I think) to round of the evening we headed off back feeling like super heroes and on the way back this was confirmed when Batman asked for a selfie…

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I’m the chap on the right…

Not wanting the holiday to end we retraced our steps back to Cales Piques cove where it was getting dark for a romantic last paddle and with a glorious sunset we headed back past Es Replace to the hotel.

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I’m not sure what time we got back but it was fairly late as the evening’s entertainment was just finishing but feeling very happy we made our way back to the room, a last peek at Hamish & Molly, then off to sleep with the alarm set for 5.30am, as the pickup by coach number 76 the following morning was due at 6.55am.

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Day 8

We got up on time and made coffee for the first time in our room and ate some buns I’d pinched from the restaurant the day before.  We were glad the night before to cut off our blue plastic wristbands but much to our surprise the restaurant was open for early breakfast although we were still pretty full and gave it a miss.

The Thomas Cook rep cam early and made sure everyone was getting on the right bus which arrived bang on time and we headed off to the airport just over an hour away.  Checkin was fairly smooth although as usual I chose the line with the trainee learning her craft (slowly) but we sailed through security and had plenty of time for a refreshing drink and some shopping before the 10.15am flight.

 

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Third and final selfie at Mahon airport

We were allocated seats 1C & 1D right at the front of the plane.  Flight MT1207 pushed back & landed on time and we were first off and through passport control before our luggage had been unloaded.  After a short walk to car and we drove home well in time for the dogs being delivered at 4pm by the Royvon pet taxi.

So here are my final conclusions about this great holiday we’ve just been on for those few of you determined to make it to the end of this lengthy post!

All inclusive at Sunconnect Los Delfines is fantastic value for money and in this instance good quality largely throughout, however it is quite restrictive in that you feel obliged mainly to stay in the hotel for eating and drinking as anything outside costs extra.

As a result apart from our early trip to Ciutadella we tended to stay put only venturing out on the last day and thoroughly enjoying the 2 coves and 2 restaurants we visited.  The local beers, spirits and wines seemed a little diluted compared to those in the UK as on no occasion did I have a hangover, mind you that’s no bad thing!

Los Defines is largely geared to those with young families so couples beware unless like us you are a child at heart and enjoy their company.  The three pools are fantastic, there seemed enough sunbeams and parasols to us and the cleanliness of the facilities and friendliness of the hardworking staff was beyond reproach.

Free wifi is ubiquitous and we had full Vodafone signal reception and the air-conditioning works!  It is possible to go self catering at the hotel and we met two couples who do that each year but they were definitely in the minority.

The beaches or coves in the area are rather small and rocky so if you like wide extensive beaches within walking distance of the hotel go elsewhere.

Lastly the afternoon & evening entertainment laid on by the Thomas Cook staff and by the hotel itself was huge fun.

We definitely had a brilliant time in Menorca, so would Debbie & I go back?

The answer is definitely yes, but probably only with our future grandchildren (and possibly their parents) as and when they materialise!  Menorca is so easy to get to from the UK and Thomas Cook made the travel experience seamless and the hotel’s facilities and all inclusive tariff is a saviour for families that otherwise would spend a fortune.

For us to return as a couple I think the answer would be no, unless our funds became very tight in future.  I think we’d prefer the variety and choice of leaving the hotel each day as long as we could afford it going forward!

Roll on our next holidays with a return to Pefkos and next year Kefalonia!

🙂

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Debbie and I back home in Llanfoist the following Sunday heading to a Father’s day Indian restaurant at the foot on the Blorenge with Emma (& James) taking the photo behind us!

 

A Week in Menorca

No, Prime Minister

I’m afraid before I write my blog on the Menorca holiday Debbie and I have just come back from, I must make a comment on the current political environment here in the UK.

Yes, this post’s title is a parody of Yes, Prime Minister, where Jim Hacker is always trying his best to overcome gaffes and errors made, only in real life the consequences are not so funny.


I’ve written before about Prime Minister Theresa May in a tongue in cheek fashion about her husband looking like Arthur Askey, but this last month’s catalogue of woe is breathtaking in comparison with the aforementioned “Hacker“.

Just look at the following list of her recent leadership decisions that’s ruined her credibility:

  • Calling a snap election despite saying she wouldn’t and then reducing her majority just before Brexit negotiations undermining the whole rationale for the U turn
  • Creating a Conservative Party manifesto that alienated core supporters in the electorate angry about the dementia tax, winter fuel payments and pensions
  • Presiding over two terrorist attacks in London & Manchester when as Home Secretary she reduced police numbers
  • Reappointing the dishonourable Michael Gove back into the Cabinet as minister for the environment despite his appalling track record for purely political expediency
  • Appointing Gavin Barwell as her Chief of Staff the ex-minster for housing who sat on a fire safety report on updating building regulations
  • Showing a lack of empathy and a delayed response to the tragedy of the Grenfell tower inferno, with echoes of President Bush’s delayed response to Hurricane Katrina

The latest disaster is a truly shocking indictment about Conservative politicians putting the interests of the few before the needs of the many to pinch Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party strap line.

Reading about individual firms exploiting the social housing needs of some of the poorest in UK society by installing the cheapest flammable cladding to Grenfell & refusing to install sprinklers has made me ashamed to be British.

The fact that greedy people can be allowed to profit from other people’s misery and avoid paying tax or unsecured creditors is shaming for our democracy.  No wonder the Tories are clinging to power in any way they can at the moment and are even supporting her leadership – at least in the short term.

No, Prime Minster – you must go now to allow the people of this once great nation a leader they deserve and give us a fresh start…

No, Prime Minister

Peter Shores’ School Days

You may have read the book “Tom Brown’s School Days” by Thomas Hughes about Rugby School, well this post is “Peter Shores’ School Days” about my experiences of Bridlington Grammar school!

I have many happy memories of my time at “Brid school” from 1971 when I was 11 years old, all the way to 1978 when I turned 18 when I left home to go university in London.

To gain admission to grammar school I had to pass the “eleven-plus” entrance exam, but I don’t remember any pressure or revising for it while a student at Hildethrope Junior school in Bridlington.  I do remember though one rather strange exam question (was it multiple choice?) asking – what noise do cows make?  I pretty sure I answered “low“…

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Sadly I lost my best friend Graham Green as a result of this selective education as he went to Headlands secondary modern school and as I made new friends we didn’t keep in touch.  I believe he became a fisherman operating out of Bridlington harbour later but I’ve not been able to trace him and see how things turned out for him.

I do remember Graham’s father drove a very distinctive black Ford Zephyr 6 which seemed huge with large wings at the rear and that his mother used to buy salmon bones and trimmings to boil and then pick out the flesh as it was such an expensive delicacy in those days.

“Vitai Lampada Tradunt” was the school motto which means “They Hand on the Torch of Life”.  I am also a paid up member of the Old Bridlingtonian Club, but alas have only made two annual reunions in December over the past 39 years which I regret.

The old main school building looked a little like Harry Potter’s “Hogwarts” and the teachers also wore hats and capes when I first started!  New pupils were allocated into vertical houses, two of which were exclusively for boarders who largely came stemmed from service families as the school fees were largely covered by the allowance.  Living at 4 George Street Bridlington I of course was a day pupil.

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There was a lot of focus on sports (cricket and rugby but not football) but I was a dead loss at rugby so focused on cross-country running instead, training in “Franks field” part of the extensive school grounds, I even represented East Yorkshire at a run over Beverley Westwood during my time coming somewhere in the middle of the line-up at the end.

There was also a .22 rifle range on site and a very popular Combined Cadet Force, who’s army section wore WW2 type khaki battledress with .303 Lee Enfield rifles stored in the armoury for drill!

In 1971 as a new intake pupil I was allocated to a relatively youthful master called Mr Bradshaw, or “Benj” for his nickname, who’s subject speciality was Classics including  teaching Latin.

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First year form photo with Mr. Bradshaw, I’m second from the left front row

I can remember conjugating the Latin verb to love as “amo, amas, amat” and the noun of table as “mensa, mensae” etc.  Not very useful and I couldn’t wait to drop the subject!

Alas “Benj” despite being a very well qualified subject matter expert, found it impossible to keep control of nearly 30 unruly 11 year olds, and the classroom chaos he engendered made it look more like a male version of St. Trinian’s!

I found myself allocated to the top rated set or stream within the year which was pleasing, however I was always pretty much at the bottom of class.  This was largely due to the fact my short-sightedness had not been diagnosed.   I found it next to impossible to read the blackboard unless I was sat at the front row of desks or screwed my eyes up and tried to copy notes of my neighbours further back.

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I do remember when I finally got prescription spectacles the shock of seeing individual leaves on trees took my breath away.  My scores in tests started to improve too and I eventually became an academic exam machine.

I gained 10 “O” levels in all, seven in the fifth form – English language, English literature, maths, physics, geography, French, German;  two in the lower sixth – geology & biology.  I took 4 “A” levels in maths, physics, biology & art in the sixth form although I was only awarded an “O” level in art “A” level in my final year!

Most of the teachers had nicknames used by the pupils and generally known to the teachers themselves.  The ones I remember the most were:

The headmaster Mr Charles (Blinker) Coomber was very important to my eventual academic success.  He had a habit of blinking his eyes frequently as he talked which led to his nickname, but he was highly respected.  Although he retired in 1975 he was involved in my father’s concern about me bunking off school to play with my “Flying Scotsman“.  I still have his letter to my father assuring him it was a passing phase and highly likely to me a temporary reaction to my parents divorce.

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Eddy H. Desmond (Bopper) Charlton.  Bopper was in charge of the CCF which I joined in order to get my battledress uniform and shoot rifles, but as I found out later when I joined the TA I was terrible at square bashing which lead to a premature & rather dishonourable but swift voluntary exit.

John Hargreaves was another master indelibly linked to the CCF and had served in WW2 as a radio operator I believe, he looked like Jack Hargreaves from the TV program “How” I seem to remember when he smoked his pipe.

Mr John (Chippy) Wood was the PE master and a strict disciplinarian.  He used to punish anyone misbehaving with “50 lines, 9 in the morning” shouter at the poor unfortunate.  I can’t remember what the lines said, but i do know he terrified me.  Amazingly when I met him at a later school reunion in the 8o’s I couldn’t believe how short he was!

William (Snorker) Brown was my French teacher and we had a language lab set up with individual sound proof booths and reel to reel tape recorders with headphones.  Despite having learned decent conversational French at junior school and learning a lot from French exchange trip too I found it very difficult to learn from his rote learning style as I have such a poor memory.

As punishment he made me come to his form class one morning each week after register and try to regurgitate “aller, arriver, monter, venir, entrer, rester, retourner, sortir” & more irregular verbs in front of him.  He had garlic breath which put me off and I have to admit to feeling rather bullied at the time.  Although I do recollect that when I called on his home during “bob-a-job” week as a cub scout he gave me half a crown to clean his car, which was quite generous at the time as that was five shillings or five bob!

Things looked up somewhat when the first female teacher called Susan Richards I had ever seen at school joined the school to teach French.  Sadly my corrected vision meant that I wolf whistled when she came into class and I was told to stand in a corner with my head bowed over a waste paper basket in punishment!  She later married my physics master (see later) and became Mrs Shilladay! 🙂

Why I decided to study German O level I have no idea, Frank (?) Watson was the master who delighted giving me an end of year score of “negative infinity” which would have wiped me out from the form rankings had it not been disregarded.  Once when he was in a more generous mood he awarded me “negative umpteen” which unnerved me as my oral exam approached and the examiner asked me (in German) “which books do you read?” to which I answered monosyllabically “Biggles”!

At the time you had to decide which O levels you’d specialise in at third form which meant that I dropped history and chemistry which in retrospect was a shame.  I enjoyed learning about ancient Rome and the Egyptians but what I really was interested in was WWI and WW2 which weren’t offered.  The rational for dropping Chemistry was due to fear of John (Bugsy) Blythe who used a long ruler for corporal punishment and practiced a “late cut” cricket shot on the rears of miscreants as well as chucking blackboard rubbers.  Discipline was never a problem in his class…

DP (Dippy) Davison & WJ (Bill) Shipley both attempted to teach me Maths which I found easy at O level but really hard at A level.  My first choice university had actually been Edinburgh but I got one grade lower in Maths than their offer of BB so QMC which was my reserve with a double EE offer led me to the East End of London instead!  I had to work hard at my maths in my first year doing my BSc, others didn’t and as a result half the years intake had to leave their degree studies…

Mr (Ken) Burkitt or “Chin” was one of the elder statesman on staff and head of biology, however I was taught by Mr (John) Dibb who was one of the new younger breed of schoolmasters who dressed in a much more relaxed modern style with long bushy hair.  He had a great sense of humour and probably explains why I decided to study Biology relatively late in the sixth form.

Mr Blackburn taught music and  although not an academic subject was enjoyable listening to LP records of classical music like the “Carnival of the Animals” by Saint-Saëns.  He had a rather swept back blond hairstyle and had as a result a nickname of “Billy Whiz”.  I heard at one lesson that people wanting to learn the recorder should volunteer and I was so uneducated about musical instruments that when I realised it was of the wind instrument variety as opposed to a “tape” recorder I stooped the extra lessons after learning only “pease pudding hot“..

Mr (Lawrie) Greenwood  taught me art at A level in the sixth form  however I only got an O level grade due to my preponderance to try and draw girlfriends past and present using a ruler!  Alas I hadn’t picked up the obvious talent my architect trained father possessed.  I think he also taught woodwork in my early years at school and my only attempt at making a tent peg was a complete disaster.  It resulted in my decision to opt out of most practical subjects and concentrate on science.

Chris Shilladay who taught physics was probably the most influential schoolmaster during my time there.  He looked a little bit like a clean shaven Professor Calculus from Tintin, but his enthusiasm & knowledge for the subject inspired me to take my A levels in science and go on to university.

There was also an older physics & chemistry master namely Frank (Blowers) Thompson who taught me some lessons & I remember put on my school report that “Peter needs to concentrate on the basic laws of physics like Boyle’s law, not just the glamorous topics like relativity that interest him”.  His nickname came as a result of his habit huffing and puffing as he moved his rather portly frame about rushing around the school and he was a very kind master with a twinkle in his eyes & a smile hidden under a large moustache.

I actually won the Thornton prize for physics as a leaving present in 1978 thanks to these two wonderful teachers of the subject, which comprised a book called “Black Holes the End of the Universe” by Professor John Taylor of King’s College London.

 

 

In September 1975 while I was starting the lower sixth the school went co-educational by merging with the High School for Girls.

Now up till then I had never found it a problem getting girl friends and was going out with the Head Girl of the High School Elaine Wood who eventually married one of my best friends Simon Carson who became a maths teacher.  Subsequently I dated Kathryn Horner who was the daughter of a wealthy farmer in Wetwang who ended up going to university to study medicine and became a GP.

Strangely after the two schools joined together though, I never managed to get a girlfriend again whilst at school, nor indeed at university, something I put down to the incredible strain of taking such a mathematics heavy subject like physics at “A” level.  Indeed half my first year intake at university actually failed the course due to the difficulty of mastering the maths.

In terms of schoolmates, my best friend was Timothy Shields, who’s mum Dorothy or Dot became my surrogate mum after my parents divorce when my father got custody of the three children.  Tim’s father, Peter, was a reserved fireman who tragically passed away I think in our first or second year at school and Dot had to bring up her four sons on her own with me making up an occasional fifth.  She was a lovely lady and passed away a few years ago.

Justin Craggs parents owned an electrical shop and they were amongst the first of my friends to source a colour TV where I remember watching Princess Anne’s wedding to Captain Mark Phillips.  There was a large overgrown yard at the back of the shop where we used to fire air guns at old light bulbs and let off fireworks too.  One one occasion I decided to extract the gunpowder from a number of roman candles to form a larger “bomb” which accidentally exploded and blew off my eyebrows.  They’ve been rather bush ever since…

At one stage I was elected chairman of the school chess club which met in the common room at lunchtimes.  When mum and dad reconciled and we moved to Hornsea about 15 miles south of Bridlington on the coast I continued at Bridlington catching a school bus each way, an hour each way as it stopped off at numerous villages on the way.  I became an expert whist card player as a result.

While still a boys only grammar school once a year at the end of the Christmas term there would be a “Master’s Concert” which had lots of humour, dressing up and songs including the whole school singing the school song called “Now No More” who’s first verse started as follows:

Now no more through Hall & Dormy
Rings the sound of clattering feet
Now no more the noises bore me
And I find the silence sweet.

It was a special place, a special time and the making of who I am today.  My thanks to all those teachers who had the patience and calling to do such a fantastic job, but special thanks to Chris Shilladay who was truly inspirational.

 

Peter Shores’ School Days

Glyndwr Vineyard Tour & Lunch 

After the awful terrorist attack news from London Bridge & Borough Market in London overnight, it was a welcome relief to visit Glyndwr Vineyard at Llanblethian near Cowbridge on Sunday.

We’d booked on a vineyard tour and lunch thanks to a fantastic Christmas present from the “kids”, they’d also included a £40 voucher to spend on their wine too!  🙂

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The event was scheduled to start at 12.30pm, but we arrived early just before noon, so after parking up in the vineyard car park we walked the short distance to the Cross Inn for a “snifter” to kill time.

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We looked to be amongst the first to arrive!
Good trip advisor feedback on the restaurant…
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Start as you mean to go on!

The barmaid was very complimentary about the food we could expect at the event and after a bit of banter from the locals we headed back to the vineyard past a now full car park and into the dining area in the detached barn overlooking rows of vines.

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Oak trees before the conifers planted with black truffles

We were served a glass of sparkling wine to start with and a warm welcome speech from one of the founder’s sons called Louis.  Following a lull in the rain coupled with the sun making an appearance for the first time we were thoughtfully given blue plastic overshoes for the walking tour as we’d forgotten our wellies!

The packed agenda!

Louis talked enthusiastically about his father’s idea in the 1970’s to start the first Welsh vineyard and how he and his brother had given up their “normal” jobs now their parents were in their seventies and gone full time as vintners.

We learnt why there are rose bushes at the end of each row (they have a lower threshold for disease so can act as an early warning system) and how as an organic vineyard they only added sulphur to prevent the spread of any disease like mildew.

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Not sure why Debbie’s eyes are shut!

There is a lot of manual work needed to pinch out excess leaves to aid air flow and improve light to the vine, any buds lower down have to be removed to concentrate growth on the higher horizontal branches.

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Miniature grapes on the way!

The vineyard has a flock of “short” sheep which are not tall enough to eat the grapes but are used to eat the grass and any weeds in the rows between the vines.  The sheep are a very small breed which are vulnerable to attack from wild animals such as foxes and the vineyard has three llamas that act as “protectors” to the flock following their natural instincts.

After an interesting walk round the two fields of vines totalling six acres, we headed back to the awaiting organically produced local food which was delicious and served with a small glass of rose and white wine, all made from their own grapes.

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Profiteroles, strawberries and ice cream!

At the end of the meal we eagerly part-exchanged our £40 voucher against a case of 2015 Glyndwr dry white wine by topping up £15 in cash and then we headed back to the car park, stopping for the following photo at a small bridge alongside a pond near the Norris family home.

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By this time the weather was lovely and hot!

It was a great day out so many thanks from both of us to Alex, Emily, James & Emma for one of our best Christmas presents ever and a perfect antidote to all the bad news coming out of London.

After getting back home we chilled the wine then sat down to watch the 23 year old Ariana Grande concert at the One Love Manchester event on TV.  We both agreed it was a fantastic uplifting response to the awful Arena bombing on the 22nd May.  Made even more poignant by the tragic events the night before in London.  😦

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Take That, Robbie Williams, Parrs Wood High School Choir, Little Mix, Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay, Liam Gallagher & a dancing policeman were excellent!
Glyndwr Vineyard Tour & Lunch 

Armchair Sportsman

I’m writing this blog dear readers in the garden at Llanfoist listening to Test Match Special on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra on my little Roberts Sports DAB radio where Sri Lanka are fielding against South Africa.

My great mini-portable and rechargeable digital radio

Rather embarrassingly “de Kock” is at the batting crease and I’m rather glad watching cricket is no longer available on terrestrial TV…

Tuffers” has just come on the commentary and the poor batsman has just been caught out.  Earlier this morning Amazon Prime delivered an autobiography from a past TMS commentator called the Alderman by Brian Johnson, namely Don Mosey, which I’m really looking forward to reading.

Changing sporting activities for the moment Debbie and I are also looking forward to watching the UEFA Champions League football final tonight on YouTube for free, where Juventus is playing Real Madrid at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff!

We dropped off James in town this morning and took Molly for her regular Usk “swimathon” and Hamish his paddle while we looked on before heading to the Coffee Pot and our usual Americano coffees with tasty bacon sandwich on brown bread.

Hamish laughing at…
…his rather damp sister Molly!

Pausing for breath as a batsman is dropped I’ve decided to order a copy of Bill Frindall‘s autobiography for tomorrow who was the original TMS scorer.  Another £2 well spent IMHO.

Molly drying out at home!

Life is tough, or should that be Tuff?!  😅

Armchair Sportsman

British Airways: Lack of Power or Lack of Judgement?

In recent days what was once “the world’s favourite airlineBritish Airways has become a global laughing stock.  Not that there’s been too much laughing for the poor passengers and front line staff affected by the IT failure attributed to a “power supply” problem.

I read this article about the Delta airline glitch a few years ago in America and it looks like a similar public relations smokescreen was used to obscure the real truth.

As it happens I once briefly worked with the then future Chief Information Officer (CIO) of IAG who struck me as a very honourable and no-nonsense professional.  Eventually (as we all do) he departed the role and interestingly wasn’t replaced.  Even more illuminating to yours truly is the fact that IAG’s subsidiary BA also eliminated the CIO role and split it into two.

Look at the following glassdoor comments made by other individuals that worked at IAG, not from the aforementioned CIO I hasten to add!

So much for having technology leaders with board representation underpinning a global airline which invests strategically in technology focusing on revenue rather than cost.  By not putting customers first though building a long-term sustainable business strategy and focusing instead on driving short-term bonuses you reap what you sow!

The unions have attributed the shambles to outsourcing of key technology roles offshore to exploit short term wage arbitrage, something that rings true to this retired ex-CIO watcher I’m afraid.  Compensation would have been calculated based on cost savings in a far more explicit & weighted fashion far more than any customer service metrics I’m sure.

Lastly, the long term easy option of export of jobs from UK plc to overseas has got to stop and preferably reverse for the sake of future generations living in this country.  I wonder which of our politicians in the forthcoming election are brave enough to say so and act accordingly?

Let’s hope that IAG CEO Willie Walsh and BA CEO Alex Cruz, who both are evangelical about cost cutting and globalisation, now pay the price for this short term selfish thinking.  Alas I have my doubts…

British Airways: Lack of Power or Lack of Judgement?

A Herd of Hippos at Cosmeston Lakes

Those long time readers of this blog will remember no doubt my obsession with Land Rovers of all types, having owned a Series I & Series III, 110, Discovery I and two Range Rover P38’s before my latest acquisition the Freelander I.

About five years ago I persuaded Debbie to accompany me in the diesel P38 on the London to Brighton run organised by the South London and Surrey Land Rover club which was great fun mimicking the route taken by Genevieve in the film of the same name.

It was a great day out with lovely weather and a fantastic sight for the enthusiast watching various Forward Control 101’s belch out smoke and invariably break down en route.  My own journey started badly with the engine management system faulting the moment I started the ignition at the beginning!  Nonetheless we made it safely to Brighton and more importantly back home.  Sadly I discovered that due to falling attendance and increasing costs the event has been cancelled this year.

Now since moving to Wales I’d joined the South Wales Land Rover Club but meeting in a pub in Cardiff somehow never appealed and I wasn’t too impressed when they cashed my cheque but didn’t send me a membership card nor any information about any activities so I didn’t renew.

Fortunately on Facebook there are a number of Freelander specific clubs operating and one in particular seems to draw its membership from Wales so I joined the Anglo Freelander closed group for free and attended my first social event today which was a get together of ten like minded “Hippo” owners as the 4×4 is affectionately named.

The location chosen was Cosmeston Lakes Country Park (CF64 5UY) with the main organiser being Andi Jones.  Neither Debbie nor I had been to the park before despite it being next to Penarth where Quentin lives.  It took us about an hour to get there for the 11am start with just a quick stop at Waitrose garage for some diesel for the Hippo and sandwiches & water for us & Molly.  Sadly we decided to leave Hamish behind on account of the difficulty controlling two dogs in crowds of people.

The park was full of dogs and at the lakeside swamped by swans and ducks!

We were amongst the first to arrive and followed the two other Freelanders pulling into a specially opened grassy space to the left of the entrance.  Over the next fifteen minutes  about ten Freelander I’s of various vintage parked up along with a lone Discovery II and some kind of saloon car.

The first thing I noticed was that all were true believers although some partners looked slightly haunted by the lists of repairs recounted as well as the amounts spent on maintaining them.  Debbie, of course, was not one of them…

It was really great meeting like minded people and everyone complemented Molly as was to be expected.  We’re looking forward to the next event where we’ll try to be better organised!

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T reg diesel Freelander bought for £500 in the foreground. The owner had recently put ten litres of petrol in by accident but corrected it by filling to the brim with more diesel!

Debbie and Molly smiling in front of a Discovery II and a raised white Freelander commercial

I obviously need to add more spotlights to my hippo…

Molly proudly sitting in front of her master’s Hippo

Molly laughing at my suggestion to buy a 3 door matching Hippo for Debs

…or was she just hot?

These looked like stewards vehicles for off roading events

Parting shot as we began the trip home – obviously we’d expected being attacked by Red Indians!

A Herd of Hippos at Cosmeston Lakes