A wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours
But they make it very clear
They’ve got no room for ravers
They stop me from groovin’, they bang on me wall
They doing me crust in, it’s no good at all – ah
Lazy Sunday afternoon
I’ve got no mind to worry
I close my eyes and drift away-a
Truthfully though, two years ago all I would do on a Sunday afternoon would think about my Monday work schedule and often try and make a dent in it in advance to catch up by working into the evening…
Today though I had no such thoughts! After getting up around eight-ish to feed Molly I rejoined the slumbering Debbie after our rather late night watching the Jacksons at Glastonbury on the box. Sadly without Michael the acoustics seemed a bit off, possibly due to advancing age but it was still enjoyable.
Eventually we both got up to take her out for her swim in the Usk as Hamish was still asleep upstairs with James who was having a day off from the Blue Cross and Emma was pottering around in her newly reconfigured bedroom. Note: just ordered her a new double bed to replace her current single so that she and Josh don’t have to change rooms when he comes up to stay.
Driving the “hippo” with her new Anglo Freelander Club sticker on the rear window over to the free car park at Castle Meadows right next to the entrance we let Molly off the lead and she hurtled towards her favourite place on earth namely the River Usk.
These two photos were taken the previous week during the heatwave inflicted on our return to the UK after Menorca, just when we were looking forward to a cooler clime!
On this occasion we took the tennis ball chucker to give her even more exercise and after around ten swims and an extended walk with her revelling in hiding in the extra long grass and having a breather.
The local fire brigade had three engines out with teams practicing a rescue of people from the river near Llanfoist bridge and after a quick peek we headed back up to the King’s Arms for a refreshing half pint of Moretti – purely to allow extra time for Molly to dry out and have a refreshing bowl of water provided by the helpful barman.
Rather than rush back home with all the windows open in the Freelander to expel the odour of damp dog we decided to go for a quick run to see if we could find where Jonathan and Angela are going to stay at Old Rectory Cottage in The Bryn, a few miles outside Abergavenny later in summer.
Alas we saw a sign first for strawberry PYO and after taking a few wrong turns passing the Chainbridge Inn (which looked like it was closed for refurbishment) on the way to Usk town, we stopped off at the farm shop just off the B4598 where we bought two punnet of strawberries, one of gooseberries and a small bag of potatoes and a large one of broad bean pods.
Loading up with fresh produce we headed past the Hardwick restaurant and saw the turning for The Bryn a little too late – we’ll explore it properly on another day. Arriving home to Amazon Logistics trying to deliver our order for Hamish’s food next door, we ate rather a lot of our newly acquired fruit.
Debbie reminded me that her father loved broad beans cooked with bacon, needing no further encouragement I placed my order, ate it and decided to leave Debbie with the two hounds while I did a quick shop in our local Aldi for dinner.
On my return home I proceeded upstairs to put on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra to listen to TMS and the England vs. South Africa T20 cricket match in the den where I’m writing this blog.
It’s now over two years since I retired from my job as Regional VP for UK & Ireland at Gartner Executive Programs (keep those cheers quiet all ex-colleagues please) but I still love dabbling in technology where the entry cost is minimal.
So I get a thrill each time I logon via my eldest son’s cast-off iPhone 6 via thumbprint recognition, which incidentally still worked when I cut it open (my thumb!) with an ill thought out attempt to open a tin can…
One of the last attempted and sadly abortive hires in the UK & Ireland team I managed was in the area of fintech, which my new Italian boss was very keen on acquiring into the team, for a very good reason. Financial services firms typically spend the most on IT with government coming a decent second, but my grasp on this sector was minimal at the time & despite offering to “name your price” the answer was “no”.
Now some time ago I read an article about “Mondo” bank which was a fintech 3rd generation start-up looking at revolutionising the UK current account which typically is rather a kludge with a mainframe type backend with a fancy “app” as a front end with many layers in-between which often cause technical “challenges”.
Now I’ve banked with the Nationwide for many years now and their app just gets better and better but the underlying legacy architecture is still apparent with real time updates of balances pretty much impossible and transactions often taking a couple of days to appear on the account, which on occasion has caught me out in a rather bad way, thinking I had more money than I had…
Mondo, renamed Monzo recently due to a clash with another trademarked business, has an all new architecture that permits real time pushes of transactions and automatic classification of the types of expense plus the ability to take photos of receipts for your records.
This intrigued me and although only a beta test of a pre-paid Maestro debit card it warranted further investigation so six months ago I applied online to join. Unfortunately there was a waiting list of many thousands ahead of me and I quickly lost interest and ignored an email to say that I was now eligible to send then a £100 top up and get my hands on a card.
That was until a few days ago when Martin Lewis from moneysavingexpert.com came on TV and Debbie suggested I listen to what he said about financial common sense when it comes to foreign holidays.
Much to my surprise he recommended the Monzo card as it was very cost effective to use abroad despite the waiting list time. Given our two trips to Greece we’ve booked in the next year I checked back with Monzo to find out that if I wanted still wanted their card I could without any further delay.
Getting the card was quite interesting as there were no forms to fill out but configuring the app required a photo scan of my driving licence and a short video selfie to be uploaded to their servers, to satisfy presumably money laundering regulations, then a transfer from my Nationwide current account of £100 to pump prime the card which arrived via first class post a few days later.
The app on my iPhone was initialised with the card’s details, which incidentally doesn’t have my name embossed on it but is contactless, operates real time and runs against the host application running on Amazon Web Services – at least according to a current Gartner analyst I’m Facebook friends with!
This is where the modern “push” architecture really shows, although “deja vu” hit me again when I discovered much to my chagrin that our eldest son Alex is already a Monzo user.
This is the same Alex who aged ten was interviewed by Jon Snow at the ITN studios for Channel 4’s “First Edition” in November 1994. The topic was on the information superhighway, as the internet was called then, which prompted me as the so-called global head of IT strategy to download a “Mosaic” browser and demo the world wide web to an incredulous Pfizer leadership team shortly after…
Anyway, to get back on topic today my card arrived and I proceeded to top it up with further funds, freeze and unfreeze it via the app, change the pin, withdraw cash and purchase a bottle of wine from Waitrose using contactless – all in the cause of fintech user acceptance testing naturally!
I have to say it’s all rather impressive and a foretaste of how current accounts are likely to be operated from a mobile perspective going forward. I think one of the big six current account providers are likely to buy the company at some stage to leap-frog their traditional competitors and catch up on such fintech upstarts.
Now I wish I’d got shares via the two previous crowdfunding rounds now they’ve obtained an unrestricted banking licence, ah well! For now I’m keeping my main financial capability with the Nationwide and I’m truly in beta test mode with Monzo but I have a feeling…
It is also the name of the red coloured district around the hotel, which is marked as a ringed “>” in the street map below.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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!
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…
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!
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.
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!
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…
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…
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…
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!
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.
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.
In the evening I guessed (correctly) that these establishments would become seafood restaurants but that was not to be on this particular visit.
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!
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!
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.
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!
We were rewarded at dinner for our day out with incredible seafood, comprising of paella for Debbie and seared squid chunks for myself, yum!
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…
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!
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…
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.
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.
Feeling happy but tired we returned for a good night sleep just looking at pictures of the hounds on Facebook before we nodded off…
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…
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.
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.
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!
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…
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!
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.
Walking down to the cove we realised how beautiful it was and the sandy part of the beach was teaming with small fish.
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”!
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. 🙂
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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…
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“…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😦
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.
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.
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.