2015 has been an interesting year. Every time we decide to travel somewhere there is either a terrorist incident or riots. Fortunately, neither the terrorists or the riots could wait long enough for us to get there so we avoided any actual involvement but if the police looked at the relationship between our planned movement and civil unrest we would no doubt be arrested as suspects. I recommend not going anywhere we plan to go in 2016.
The year started with Glenise (Adrian’s mum) writing and putting on a Pantomime for the Elders Forum at The Bonington Theatre. There were interviews by TV personalities and an appearance on TV yet again. But the real story for Adrian was how his mother could write and perform in a Pantomime when she claims she has only ever read one book in her life 35 years ago. The Pantomime was excellent and Adrian compiled the music and did what was necessary on the day.
Our first holiday, Portugal in February, didn’t provoke riots but didn’t pass without incident. Glenise got to the Airport without her passport. She didn’t make it back to the airport with her passport on time so Dennis flew with some friends and Glenise managed to get a flight out with us, who were following a few days later, so it worked out reasonably well. Adrian and Sue were due to leave a few days earlier than the others. Sue flew back to Dusseldorf early on the Monday morning as planned. Adrian was unwell in the night and due to fly back to East Midlands Airport later on. Adrian had enjoyed a local dish in a local restaurant. Diarrhoea all night long was making a good trip home look dangerous and embarrassing. Fortunately, Adrian was not well enough to get out of bed to make the flight, and had to stay on a few more days. Sue managed to book him into the hotel which is just as well because Adrian didn’t move out of the bed for three days and he didn’t fancy sharing the room with total strangers. And she managed to book him onto a new flight home, the same flight as the others, and just as well as it turns out. Going through security, Adrian’s mother lost her passport and had to stay in Faro. Adrian flew home with Dennis leaving Glenise between passport control and security. Adrian gave the porter €400 to take back to Glenise which he fortunately did. I guess you have to trust people in these situations. Adrian was left with a dilemma, whether to stay with his mother, or go to make sure Dennis got home safely. Everyone was saying they didn’t know how he could leave his mother in a foreign country on her own, but they don’t know her. We knew she would have an adventure, as long as she had some money. On the plane Adrian said to Dennis, “I know where her passport is!” “Where?” “It’s in your pocket.” And it was. The “helper” pushing Dennis through security had handed it to him thinking it was his and he had put it in his pocket.
Back home, we made sure Glenise was OK and had a hotel, though we couldn’t contact her. She had done as we expected. She had found a market and done some shopping, and had dinner in a rooftop restaurant. And she was in a very nice hotel in the centre of the town. Pretty much as expected.
We announced we were going to Copenhagen in April for a long weekend ahead a conference Sue had in Malmo. Malmo is a short train journey from Copenhagen but the hotels are much cheaper. Sure enough, as soon as we booked a terrorist opened fire in the Krudttoenden Cafe and later at a Synagogue in Copenhagen. It didn’t spoil our enjoyment and everything was as normal of course. A nice place to visit although Adrian left his credit cards and debit card in a Cafe, and Sue left her scarf there. Fortunately we cancelled one and Adrian went to the Cafe on the way to the Airport to pick up the credit card and we even, after some discussion, managed to retrieve Sue’s scarf. Surely this bad form can’t continue.
In June we went to Amsterdam. A trip to the Ijsselmeer to travel along the dam, and a day in Amsterdam. We fooled the terrorists this time, we were intending to go elsewhere and made a last minute change. Anne Frank’s house was attacked by protesters shortly before we got there. But the interesting thing about that visit was that we were walking down the street in Amsterdam just around the corner from Anne Frank’s house and Sue disappeared. Adrian looked back and saw Sue talking to a couple. They looked very friendly. Sue had spotted a friend from work who is also Claire’s friend’s mother walking down the street. She was there with her husband for a conference. So we spend a few hours in the nearest bar with them for some lunch. You never seem to be far from someone you know. What a coincidence.
Shortly after returning from Germany Claire decided to go away for the weekend. “Tunisia is cheap” she says. There’s one here in Sousse. “Someone recommended Sousse to me at a party but I wouldn’t go there now” said Adrian. “Too dangerous.” “Well what about Istanbul then?” said Claire. “Looks beautiful.” “Erm, same problem. Not good for a single girt on her own. And still a bit too close to the danger zone.” “Well what about Paris?” “What about taking the car over to France to get used to driving abroad I said?” Phew! That’s what we decided to do. Claire and Adrian went to Bruges by car when Sue went to the USA again for another ‘Embodied Leadership’ course.” Meanwhile, 31 tourists were massacred on the beach in Sousse. Things were getting a bit too close for comfort.
Bruges was great. We walked 6 miles every day, including the days of arrival and departure. We saw the whole of Bruges from Claire’s guidebook, on the ground, from the air, and by boat. We saw everywhere in the guidebook. We climbed the tallest tower, followed by a boat trip, and shortly afterwards by the third tallest tower, which was, fortunately, a brewery. We stopped to test every beer they made, well, every type of beer though I must admit it felt like we tried every bit of beer in the brewery bar at the end of the tour. The single is 6%, the double 7.5%, the triple 9% and the quadruple was 12%. Can you still call that beer? And we walked back next day to bring samples of every beer home with us. The beer was made and served in the building and the first time the beer left the building was inside us. Glad I’m a human and not a beer. That’s not a good life.
And coincidence…well, I know my vocal chords might have been lubricated and my inhibitory instinct somewhat dulled, but when we sat down in the restaurant around the corner, it turns out the people on the next table are relatives. We share common ancestors, John Jackson Esquire, Lord of the Manor for Stapleford. I offered to show her the family crest which I inherited. Well, the world really is getting smaller. I used to marvel at Sue when we walked down the street in Arnold and she pointed out all her relatives. Now it seems you can’t go anywhere in Europe to hide; there’s always someone who knows you or is related to you. I decided to be on my best behaviour all the time from now on.
Driving back from Bruges we encountered dozens of migrants standing in the middle of the motorway. Was I supposed to stop for them? I didn’t. And decided it might not be wise to go to Europe from Calais until “The Jungle” is tamed. I didn’t go in the car after that. I decided that flying was probably safer where I am only harassed by crying babies, or smelly travellers who fall asleep on your shoulder, or security staff who have to pull me out for being a white male who, by all accounts, always looks suicidal when travelling. I wonder why?
The July trip was to Munich and Bavaria. We cancelled that because the house we are buying with Craig may have come through at any time. It didn’t of course but we had riots in Munich involving the neo-Nazi marchers and their left wing rivals. We would have encountered that had we gone. Is it me? Or is there just terrorism or riots everywhere?
August we stayed at home, expecting the house purchase to come through. It never did of course. We’re sitting with money in our account waiting to hand it over. No chain, no complications, just solicitors. Craig moved back in with us in April and was itching to get into his new home. Travelling along the Nottingham Ring Road is no fun. Adrian is frantically trying to get the front drive prepared for renewal. The contractor shifted 17 tonnes of earth and stones from the drive with a digger. Adrian shifted 3 tonnes of Bulwell stone and 7 tonnes of earth with a wheel barrow. We made the mistake of deciding to preserve the old brick driveway to the workshop which was laid by Italian prisoners of war. “To tell the story of the house” Adrian said. Now instead of having a complete new driveway we have an almost complete and beautiful driveway with a mess at the end which needs relaying. It didn’t look too bad when the driveway was a mess, but now the contrast is obvious. No wonder the previous owners covered it in stones. We might do that again too. And we didn’t even get a discount for having less work done. And to top it all, Adrian dislocated his finger removing the 6 inch nails from the oak fence posts which had stood outside for the last 55 years. They were well rusted in and took all his strength to remove them. And there were 37 posts! And 37 fence panels to remove before the drive could be laid. After dislocating his finger and putting it back in place himself (well, he couldn’t drive like that anyway could he?) Adrian continued his work with a crowbar, hammer and pincers. An hour later he crushed his finger under about a tonne of weight with the crowbar and decided it was time to end work for the day. Craig came home and insisted he went to A&E, which is sensible. They X-rayed it, strapped it up and gave their prescription not to use it and booked physiotherapy appointments. “No, no, I’ll take care of it.” But of course the fence posts had to be processed, shifted and 10 tonnes of earth and stone shifted next week. The physio was horrified when I asked her if it was OK to go sailing. I thought I had better not mention the driveway.
September is the month when it all came together of course. The driveway was started on 1st ;the house, after agreeing the sale in April, finally got to completion on the 4th, just as the drive was coming to completion. And both needed paying on the same day. Sue only saw the house the previous weekend. It’s the second time Adrian bought a house without her seeing it but at least Craig was paying for this one. A mega trip to IKEA to buy furniture and a couple of days to put it together in between physio trips “No of course I’m being careful.” She never found out I’d been building furniture and shifting earth. And when that was done, the same week, we went on our sailing trip to Menorca. Adrian was told not to go sailing, but Adrian and Claire had wanted this trip for the last ten years so there was no way it would be called off. Adrian’s experience of sailing in Glasgow while secretary of the British Steel sailing club, meant he knew what he was risking by going. And we know it was quite still and calm in Menorca. So we didn’t think there would be a problem. There wasn’t but they had rather strong winds that week, unusually strong, but at least there was no terrorism or riots in Menorca. Sue had time to herself in the afternoons as Adrian and Claire sailed in the bay. They were superb at the sailing club and we even got a day for free. And for the last day, we all went in Kayaking. It was harder than we thought and we were glad we’d only booked an hour. The wind and tide made it hard to get back.
On returning Sue went to a training course in the UK, in Berkshire. That provided her with a bit of relief from travelling by air but of course no one does your work when you are not there. September was a busy month, but lovely.
When Sue returned from Berkshire, Adrian got an opportunity to go there too. He asked his physio if it would be OK to use a staff (a big stick for fighting, little John had one in the Panto.) The physio was not very keen. In fact she was aghast that he would contemplate that with his finger strapped up. He did the exercises with his staff but ducked out of hitting the hay bales. At the last minute he got a sudden rush of common sense and remembered last year when he snapped his staff hitting the hay bales and ended up with a bit of wood stuck up his nose, which was a little bruised and bleeding. The other half of the staff went flying towards the others. Hmmm…that might put his finger out of joint again and it didn’t feel strong enough by then. Just to show that he can be sensible, if not always, he “baled out.”
The following week we were due in Budapest. Sue had another conference and we wanted to take the opportunity to have a weekend there first. Of course, if you heard the news in September or October you will recall the problem of migrants in Hungary. Budapest Railway Station had been occupied. We always thought the conference might be called off, but we had booked a hotel and flights anyway, so we were always planning to go. This time, they closed the borders as we were flying there. We didn’t encounter any problems as the hotel shuttle bus fetched us so we avoided the railway station and they were quite happy letting people out of Hungary. And Sue’s friend from work showed us around the next day. A bit like Bruges, from the ground, from the air and by water, except instead of a guide book we had a Hungarian and her son. It was a beautiful City and I’d recommend it for a weekend away. We never saw a migrant, except one old woman begging on a bridge. You realise that there were beautiful and incredible places all around Europe two hundred years ago, much nicer than in the UK.
Of course the break didn’t come without incident as Adrian became ill on the Sunday but he did manage to get home after being ill all night. He’s just now recovering.
We were due to travel to Berlin in November for Adrian’s birthday but he was too ill to book it, and Nellie (one eyed cat) was very ill too. Adrian got several nice bottles of drink for his birthday but none more stunning than the packet of Moviprep sent to him by the hospital to be taken on his birthday to clear his bowels ready for admission the next day. Somehow the Nando’s didn’t taste the same knowing it was to be flushed out of your system in a few hours. But we managed “Lady in a Van” at the Cinema before preparing Adrian’s birthday treat, the Moviprep, which came decorated with cakes and candles and balloons. The hospital had spotted it was his birthday when they booked him in. At least we had a good laugh with them. If you have ever had a birthday present you didn’t like, let us know if you think it is worse than Moviprep. That has to rate as the worst birthday present yet, though admittedly, one of the best wrapped.
Janice (Sue’s mum) went to America on a cruise and managed to fall off a launch and has hurt her leg and is still receiving treatment over a month later and back at home. She discovered something called Disney Rash, from walking unusually long distances around Florida Disney Land in very warm weather and lost her camera with all the pictures on it. She is becoming an expert at visiting hospitals in the USA and claiming on her travel insurance. Last time she went, she came back with a broken collar bone and Adrian fetched her from Manchester Airport. I’d rather have Moviprep.
On a sad note, Sue lost two Uncle Brian’s, and her Uncle Ted. We got fed up of meeting at funerals so Julie organised a “fuddle” where we all came together to have a nice afternoon without anyone having to die. I think we should do it more often. Adrian’s grandma and granddad used to host a party on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve where nearly everyone came together and we miss that.
Now here we are in December (if you have stayed the course, well done!) Sue is home for Christmas and until early January. Claire is fetching Sue’s mum and Adrian is getting a complex as he is getting a reputation for taking her back. If we haven’t visited you, you can see we haven’t been around much. If you’re local, drop by over Christmas or the New Year. We are probably going be in and resting. Or just give us a call. And better still, you can book your sofa in Essen for 2016 as Sue is staying for another year.