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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nadolig Llawen

The day started well when I recorded into my Fitbit app my latest weight – which after at least a month of hovering just over 13 stone – finally dipped down to 12 stone 13 3/4 lbs!

Now I haven’t been in the 12’s so to speak since the late 1980’s and I stopped cooking for myself… All I can say is that a combination of healthy vegetarian eating, little or no alcohol and regular exercise is really paying dividends.

Of course with Christmas coming up this might prove challenging but we’ll see and in any event I won’t become a Grinch for sure and in that spirit Debbie, Emma and I went into town this evening to pay a quick visit to James in the Blue Cross and then head off to the town hall for the mayor to switch on the Abergavenny Christmas lights.

It was a very chilly evening but somehow that reinforced the festive spirit and the streets were packed with young kids and their parents jostling to get a good view of the dignitaries and what looked like a family of Father Christmases on bikes joining them!

Lights on was scheduled for 4.30pm which meant it was still quite light as dusk slowly took over and the countdown started. Now unlike Brecon’s switch on there was no celebrity present but it was still a great atmosphere and the lights were probably a lot more impressive if I’m honest.


As the crowd dispersed we headed back down the High Street towards a Welsh language” happy Christmas” sign which reminded me that one day I plan to learn a smidgeon out of respect for this beautiful country I’m lucky enough to call home.

Just to prove that the Christmas spirit extended to the thin blue line I took this rather amusing snap with the full cooperation of the local rozzers!

Book (’em Danno) early!

As we left town we decided to head up the A465 to Brynmawr Asda and complete the Xmas gnome family with the missing elf to complete the two of Mr and Mrs Christmas that will be unveiled on the 1st December when we put the tree(s) up!

The gnome is the one dressed in green in the trolley…
Nadolig Llawen

A Glaswegian Foray

Wow – have Debbie and I been busy this month or what?

Here’s a quick recap before I forget,  it started with dropping Emma off at Newport railway station on the 2nd September and picking her up on the 10th after arriving back from her latest visit to boyfriend Josh who lives in Saxmundham in Suffolk.

In the meantime I dropped James off at Newport National Express stop on the 9th September, picking him up a few days later on his return from visiting Alex & Emily on the 11th.  Now you understand my new role as unpaid taxi driver…

On Monday the 12th Debbie, Emma & myself took the short one hour Flybe flight from Cardiff airport to Glasgow with Debbie & I acting as luggage “mules” for Emma who was starting her Masters research degree in Victorian Literature at Glasgow University.

We almost didn’t make the airport in time as I’d underestimated how long it would take to get there on a Monday rush hour morning, plus lots of confusion about where Long Term Car Park 1 in relation to the departures terminal didn’t help.  For the record there are no shuttle buses & you have to walk to the terminal from the car park with no luggage trolleys!  We shouldn’t have worried though as the flight was nearly an hour late…

After a quick bite to eat and a chance to calm my nerves we boarded the plane which for me was the first time in well over 18 months I’d flown.  How times change and a rather turbulent approach landing in Glasgow reminded me how much my new life has changed for the better in retirement!

After a rather worrying taxi ride to Emma’s new accommodation right next to the University, the driver didn’t know where the address was so was constantly looking at his mobile on the move, we met Kirsty at reception only to find that the lift to Emma’s new fourth floor flat was unfortunately out of order.

Emma’s flat is down the street on the right hand side just before the park, you can see the main University building looking like Hogwarts just above the tree line

Feeling like a rather reluctant & unpaid Sherpa, we climbed the stairs with Emma’s three large checked in suitcases & various hand luggage to her rather swish new abode, where we slowly unpacked.

Very light & airy with an integral kitchen too!

Next Debbie & I made our way to the Devoncove hotel where we were staying for two nights while helping Emma settle into postgraduate life in Scotland.  Fortunately the lift to the second floor this time was working, although on examination of room 204 it became apparent why it only cost £60 a night including full cooked breakfast, but to be honest we didn’t care being located so close to Emma.

After a quick shower and change we decided to go for a quick drink nearby in a rather nice bar called the Ben Nevis specialising in malt whiskey, although Debbie had her normal tipple of dry white wine and I went for a delicious pint of Shetland Gold pale ale.  The main people tasting a “wee dram” appeared to be American tourists saying how the weaker pound was making their holiday so much cheaper!


Thus fortified we then walked  to pick up Emma from her flat & took her for dinner for some delicious tapas at the Rioja restaurant nearby.  The food & atmosphere was so good that the following night we went again and although my memory is starting to fade, I do remember Emma showing a liking for large gin and tonics with me  ordering a Crema Catalana in memory of all my visits to Barcelona and Tarragona for Pfizer with Joan Baiget!


The next day after a hearty breakfast we made our way back to Emma’s again and decided to explore the city via an open top bus tour.  This is something that Debs and I have done many times before and it’s a great way to quickly learn about a place’s sights and history.  So far we’ve done London, Edinburgh, Bath and Norwich & now Glasgow.


After dropping off outside the University at the end of the tour, we all went to registration to pick up Emma’s new University ID card.

Strangely we saw no witches nor wizards…

The whole area was milling with freshers students, but we had more onerous tasks ahead with numerous appointments with shops to equip Emma’s new flat.  This for me was the nadir of the visit, although I suspect Mrs & Ms Shores secretly enjoyed watching me getting grumpier & grumpier, as I was increasingly laden down with toasters, kettles, knives, towels, bedding, although by signing Debs up for an Uber account, we got a free ride back to Emma’s flat which sweetened the bitter pill a tad!

In fact we needed to pick up so much stuff that we had to go shopping again the next day after catching the Glasgow Subway into the centre of the city – I didn’t even know Glasgow had an underground!  In order to recharge our batteries we stopped off at the Chaophraya Glasgow a brilliant Thai restaurant for lunch, with a second helping of the brilliant Rioja tapas restaurant as mentioned before for dinner.

Sadly, the next morning we checked out of the hotel with only my mini rucksack for luggage and said goodbye to Emma before catching a taxi to the airport organised by Kirsty, who also helped print out our boarding cards and check in to the flight.  This time on arrival there were no delays to report on our flight back to Cardiff and no turbulence either and we made it back to Llanfoist safely, but exhausted!

Glasgow airport waiting to board


A Glaswegian Foray

Pros and Cons…..

OK, so after nearly three weeks in Wales I can hear you asking me dear readers, what are the pros and cons of living in Llanfoist, Abergavenny vs. living in Thorpe, Egham?

Llanfoist Pros

Brand new house which cost a lot less than the smaller older 1980’s house in Thorpe
5 bedroom house, three baths, three power showers and four toilets
5 year guarantee on all fixtures & fittings including gas central heating, draining etc.
Clean air, with beautiful scenery (surrounded by Blorenge, Sugar Loaf & Skirrid mountains)
Debbie no longer needs to take her inhalers each day to ward off her asthma
Soft water, no limescale deposits, shampoo foams
Waitrose supermarket within walking distance with free latte and newspapers
Friendly neighbours who seem glad to be living here
Old friends popping in to visit
No aircraft noise or pollution from Heathrow/M3 & M25
Being retired…

Llanfoist Cons

OK, if you press me, the Council tax band is H rather than F…
To be fair, we’re a lot further away from Alex & Emma living in London 😦

Thorpe Pros

Gee, let me think…
OK 5 minutes drive from the office (but I’m now retired so that doesn’t count!)
River Thames 3 minutes drive away, but I sold Nutbrown
Thorpe Park also 3 minutes drive away, but I never went on rides more scary than “tea cups” & they closed the farm..

Thorpe Cons

Debbie being lonely while I was at work, with no friends popping in
Needed a bit of updating e.g. roof tile slipping on porch, guttering leaking, shower leaking, carpets etc.
Slight risk of the Thames flooding…

I think you know the answer! 🙂

Pros and Cons…..

Max Boyce M.B.E.

Debbie’s Christmas 2014 present from Alex and James was a pair of tickets to see Max Boyce, the Welsh singer/comedian specialising in rugby & mining songs/stories.  Debbie has always been a big fan of his and we even have a Grogg of him clutching a giant leek and mouthing his catch phrase “Oggy, oggy, oggy!”.

The venue was the Borough theatre in Abergavenny just over the road where we stayed at the Angel hotel, it was way too far to go up and down in a day!  The date was Friday the 10th April 2015, so I took the day off work and arrived at the hotel about 1pm in the Focus.

There was no space left in the hotel car park so I parked in public car park nearby, only £4 for 24 hours! This is where the picture was taken below, with a rather portentious view of the Blorenge mountain behind me!

We ate a late lunch around 3.15pm in Luigi’s cafe just up the road from the hotel.  Debbie had a huge starter portion of prawn cocktail while I, following the diktats of my army training (you never know when it’s your last meal) had breaded plaice and chips with salad.  We ordered a chilled bottle of tap water and a pot of tea to drink, all in for circa £12, a bargain!

The room in the Angel was clean & comfortable, we even had breakfast in bed the following morning for no extra charge, free wifi, friendly staff, reasonable bar prices where they stocked Campari so Debbie was well chuffed.

Watching this humvee park in the street was amusing
Thank God we booked!
“Good looking wool” as Tom Hanks’ plumber would say in the Money Pit film…

Max put on a fantastic show, especially when you consider he’s 71 years old now and only last year he had a quadruple by-pass operation.  His warm up act was a young Welsh comedian called Rod Woodward who’d found fame on the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in front of William & Kate.  There was also a female singer in support called who’s name I can’t unfortunately recollect but she was also very good as well.  All in all great entertainment.

Wonder who he supports?


We had been concerned (quite rightly) that with the show ending after 10pm we might find it difficult to find a restaurant open but we asked the hotel bar man for advice and I’d phoned a booking through that afternoon at “Kong’s” and we eventually arrived at 10.20pm.   The food was oriental and we had a huge mixed starter of crispy seaweed, ribs, sesame prawn toast & chicken satay.  Mains was chilli soft shelled crab washed down with a some nice dry white wine and we weren’t rushed leaving about 11.30pm.

Blorenge in the background!

After breakfast we took the car towards Pencelli to look from the outside a house by the Brecon canal I’d been looking on for some time.  It looked great but obviously we hadn’t booked a viewing so made our way back down the A470 to the M4 and home to Thorpe.  Little did we know that shortly afterwards we’d be looking seriously at potential homes to move to, not just in the Brecon area but in Abergavenny’s surrounding villages too!

When we finally got back in the house we watched a DVD of Max Boyce:Down Under: 2004 which was actually filmed in Sydney opera house in 2003.  We were amazed, much of the concert we saw in Abergavenny was the same as on the DVD from over ten years before, but it didn’t spoil our enjoyment one bit!  🙂

Max Boyce M.B.E.