Friday, 30 September 2016

At Loggerheads on Kefalonia

Thursday 15 September 2016. It's another tender boat day today for our last day before flying back to England. We have breakfast and head up to the Medusa Lounge to pick up tickets for the tender boats.

We are in Kefalonia. Thomson Dream is moored in a lagoon and being ferried by tender boat to Argostoli. A steep zig-zag road with hairpin bends climbs the mountain on the opposite side of the lagoon.

Once again we have forsaken the organised tours for getting off and hoofing it. Though one of tours was intriguing as it visited an underground lake at Melissani.

However Argostoli had its own surprise in store for us as we walk alongside the moored boats and find a huge loggerhead turtle swimming happily towards us!

He wasn't on his own. All the way along the side of the lagoon groups of people are stopping to watch and take photos of the turtles. In 2013 a scientific study counted 27 individual turtles. Nothing keeps them here, they are here because they want to be.

Carrying on down the edge of the lagoon we come to a massive market stall loaded down with fresh vegetables and fruit.

Ah... and I'll just check up on my flower shop... Anyone who knows me will know I can't tell a tulip from a sunflower...

I am a bit too late to get a decent shot of the road train passing out of sight, but the church makes a lovely sight on its own.

The bridge across the lagoon, splitting it into two. The half that Thomson Dream is moored in leads out to the Aegean Sea and the side to our right in this photo leads to the Ionian Sea.

Cafe bars stretch along the water's edge, smiling staff asking if it's time for a coffee or drink. I'm standing on the bridge taking this photo when out of the corner of my eye I see something thrown into the water and an instant commotion around it.

A shoal of fish is excited at the unexpected snack!

Walking down I had said a casual "Maybe later..." to a young lady at one cafe. Walking back she said "Is it later now?" and ... why not? Our lagoon-side table is visited by a passing turtle!

Miss Franny points him out as he makes another pass.

Refreshed and feet rested, we turn away from the lagoon to have a look around the town. A short narrow street leads to a marble-paved modern shopping street. It is a long street, but kept traffic free and we wander along the entire length and back again.

Down a little square off the street is a 1964 Ford Taunus, the equivalent to the UK's Ford Cortina MkII.

The back end reminds me very much of Dad's Ford Zephyr 6 Mk IV, which was this very same colour!

It's 25 minutes to twelve and 29 degrees centigrade. Warm, but not too warm. We decide to have lunch off the boat to give us more time to look around. We buy some postcards and magnets to weight the fridge down - so annoying when it floats off... and Miss Franny buys some sandals.

We head back to the same cafe bar we had a drink at and have some lunch, but the waiters are making mistakes and the owner is in a bit of a mood, shouting at them, so it takes the edge off it a bit. There are the same groups of turtle watchers along the side of the lagoon.

The fish too are still swimming up and down, hopeful of a few treats being thrown in.

Palm nuts, growing on one of a row of trees planted alongside the lagoon.

There is a queue for the tenders and we walk past to see what there might be along the lagoon if we walk the other way. There isn't a lot... A small car ferry sets off with a small number of cars that have reversed on, so they can just drive off without any manoeuvring. Looking back it looks like the queue for the tender boats has shrunk considerably and we set off back and wait to board a boat back to the ship.

We had eaten every night in the Orion Restaurant on Deck 4, which gave us waiter service. We had stuck with the same waitering team that we started with last Friday and since the Monday evening our Assistant Waiter, Jayson, was waiting by the door as the restaurant opened to take Miss Franny's arm and lead her towards our table. Many nights we would find Pauline and Brian seated on the next table and with just a small partition between us we were soon chatting to them as our meals progressed from course to course.

And it's our last night aboard for this time, so time to scoot up to the Waters' Edge Bar and listen to 2 Intense, Tomas and Maris.

With Ben playing we have not been able to chat to them between their sets unless we lost our seats and went somewhere else. Tonight after their last set we head off to the Lido Restaurant which is very quiet by now (it's gone midnight).

We spend another hour with them then regretfully have to finish the last bits of packing in order to leave our cases outside the cabin by 1:30 am, from where they will be taken off the ship when it docks at Corfu in the morning and arranged so we can just find them and put them onto a coach for the airport in the morning.

We'll meet again...

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Loving Chania

Wednesday 14 September 2016. We are in Crete today, in the wonderful town of Chania (the locals pronounce it as though the 'C' is not there).

The town is a four mile (6km) bus ride from the port and this costs Euro 1.70 each way per person. We fell in love with this place on our last visit with David and Jeannie in 2015. This time on the bus from the port someone asks if anyone has ever been here before. We say yes and when asked, we tell them how to get to the harbour but once we get off the bus they follow everyone else instead and on the way back we hear people saying "I thought there was a harbour...?"

The harbour is a few streets' walk from the bus drop-off but is well worth finding. It has a large three-sided basin, with a further basin off to one side and this is where we are sitting as I take this photograph. The fisherman has a couple of lines out and catches the occasional fish. I'd have called them tiddlers really - he'd need a big plate of chips if he was to have a decent dinner from them...

Opposite us is the deserted harbour wall or mole, with a lighthouse built in 1824-1832 on the base of a previous Venetian lighthouse. The region was under the rule of Venice from 1252 more or less continuously until the Ottomans took over in 1645. Chania has deeper roots than these however, as a Minoan city is buried beneath it. This was called Kydonia and lasted roughly 1000 years until the Romans came in 69 BC.

We sat for a while and I got out the sketch pad. The sun beat down and we were a little exposed where we were - there were no trees or other shade and we got extremely warm!

As we sat, two groups of riders on the ship's mountain bikes came past us. The easy tour, free-wheeling and taking their time. The more athletic group whizzing through in a blur of pedals and sweat and determination...

We were in dire need of a drink after sitting in the direct sun for an hour and my Coke came complete with its own mini-bar equipment and accessories! As we sat cooling down and enjoying our drinks a couple of familiar faces from the ship came past. Alan and Pat, both in their 80s, a lovely couple who never failed to get up and dance to Tomas and Maris each night in the Water's Edge bar.

"Did I see you drawing?" he asked as he passed. I showed him the sketch and we talked about it for a few minutes before they moved on.

Fran wanted to buy some sandals for both herself and for Miss Jeannie, back home. Sizes seemed to be a problem. As a consequence we spent more time in the shopping streets than we did on the harbour, but it was a pleasant day and we found once again how the shopkeepers were willing to search cheerfully high and low for exactly the item required.

At one shop a very attractive lady had just started to talk to us when another girl came in and slapped her on the shoulder before passing into the shop without a word. Almost staggering, she laughed at my surprise and said "My Bestie!" "Do all your friends hit you?" I asked, tapping her lightly on the arm. "Ooh! Thank you!" she said. "Ask if she's got these in a size 6..." came a tolerantly amused voice on my other side...

Singer/guitarist Ben Moss who took turn and turn about sets with Tomas and Maris each night. We remembered him as a shy 18-year-old on the Thomson Celebration four years ago. He's maturing into a great and confident artist.

Though once again tonight someone else is up on stage... Everybody does The Shadows for a guitar instrumental, but I like to be a bit different and play a Bert Weedon track which lets me talk about Bert's book Play In A Day. It gave so many famous guitarists a kick start to playing. I almost got it right too... I followed it with an audience participation sing-along - Billy Fury's Halfway To Paradise.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Music I Love - 'D'

Welcome to the fourth letter of the alphabet! Right, let's find a few singers or groups to talk about...

I know they were retro and I know just about all the songs had been done before, but there was something about Darts that (a) provided good music and (b) was lots of fun. Singer Den Hagarty, totally OTT - I remember him walking from the stage on the upheld hands of the audience in the Grand Theatre in Blackpool until he reached the Royal Box which he climbed into and returned to the stage via the corridors... The break-out hit was Daddy Cool/The Girl Can't Help It and the B-side was a song called Shotgun which the band performed on TV in a beer advert at the time (1977/78). There were nine of them in the band - how did they ever make any money??? They had five Top 10 hits and a further 7 chart appearances.

I have to be honest - most of my records of Harold Davidson and his Orchestra are on 12" 78 rpm and are all of the Old-Tyme dancing genre. This 10" 33⅓ rpm LP is the only album I have of his. His records were mostly imprinted as ear-worms during several years working as a DJ as a teenager because my daytime job was so appallingly low-paid.

Doris Day also is represented only in my 78 rpm collection. But there are quite a lot of them! All the main ones are there: The Deadwood Stage, Secret Love, Que Sera Sera, Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered... I always wondered really why she was so popular. I always thought of her as pretty rather than beautiful and despite a slim figure I never - even in those desperate teenage years when almost anyone wearing a skirt up to a certain age seemed sexy (including somewhat disturbingly Bugs Bunny when he dressed as a girl - was that just me???) Anyway, moving right along...

To make some attempt to regain my dignity... This was one of a quite limited number of LPs to get played over and over again in my 6th Form common room. I had to get to like it really as a defence mechanism. I still have it but it's seldom I listen to anything other than Speed King these days or Black Night (which didn't appear on the original vinyl album but is included on the CD I currently have).

Sandy Denny's album Like An Old-Fashioned Waltz is a bit of a mixture. The title track is a haunting ballad with some lovely strings building up to a great finish and it has a very simple version of Whispering Grass which came out as a single around the same time as the Windsor Davies/Don Estelle version. The same jazz guitar solid rhythm is given with far greater effect to Until The Real Thing Comes Along which I can listen to again and again.

I never bought any Neil Diamond albums either. It's all the singles that I remember and loved so well. And with songs like Sweet Caroline, Cracklin' Rosie, I Am I Said, Love On The Rocks, etc. plus songs written for others like I'm A Believer for The Monkees he's a talent recognised by many.

Hands up if this was the first CD you ever bought. It was for a huge number of people. I bought the vinyl album first. There's hardly a track on it that isn't great. And how many hours had I already devoted to this band as a guitarist learning the riffs to Sultans of Swing...?

Not strictly an artist - well not of the musical sort anyway - but there are so many knockout Disney songs that I can't really not include him here. Just when I was starting to get over this strange compulsion, my granddaughter came along and I got to know them all over again... And more new ones too... Just Let It Go...

Singles time again. I'm not sure why I liked this band. Let's face it he comes across as obnoxiously smug about himself (given a short time as a member of Bucks Fizz he tried to lay claim to the group name!) and on one of their songs, Give Me Back My Heart, all the echo is taken off Thereza Bazar's voice at the end, revealing how much she owed to technology. But at the time they stood out amongst some of the dross that littered the 80s charts. And I still think Videotheque was an excellent single. Sorry...

This might have been a short-lived musical romance, but the album did have the magnificent Warwick Avenue on it.

Duran Duran (pauses for a moment to savour unintended memory flash of Jane Fonda floating with bits of clothing coming off and floating away...) came across my conciousness with their singles from the second album, starting with Hungry Like The Wolf. The videos produced by this band were of far greater quality than most of their rivals at the time. They were shot on 35mm cinema quality film rather than cheap videotape like most others. Exotic locations for videos like Rio etc. made sure they would be noticed. There are a good ten or eleven tracks on this album of greatest hits that I could happily listen to at any time.

Darude. I only know one tune - Sandstorm which I heard on a recorded show off either MTV or VH1 and liked it that much I made an mp3 of the track from the nicam stereo VHS tape. Ah - now if that isn't as esoteric as playing 78s I don't know what is. It's a long instrumental with a dog barking halfway through it. Whether that was just for the benefit of the video or whether it was on the record I've no idea.

Ready Or Not, Here I Come... The Delfonics had a sound all of their own and it was good to be reminded of their hits in the film Jackie Brown. Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time?

Not everything they did, obviously, but Xanadu, The Wreck of The Antoinette and especially Last Night In Soho - awesome. And he's still doing the rounds too in Sixties revivals.

My parents used to run a "record unit" as these things were known in the early 1950s before the phrase Mobile Disco was coined. They had (wait for it!) a twin turntable deck with 78 rpm turntables and a gizmo for sharpening fibre needles which wore out after playing a single side (track)! Anyway they had and now I have half a dozen 78s by the Danceland Ballroom Orchestra which wasn't an orchestra at all, but a collection or coming together of a different set of musicians who recorded copyright-free records for the exclusive use of Mecca dance halls. I'm not sure how my Mum and Dad came to be in possession of them. Playing on these recording sessions was enough to get a musician banned from the Musicians' Union as Mecca were able to play the records for free once the cost of having them made was taken into account, instead of hiring dance bands to play live at their many venues.

Of all those I have, most of these records - all, except this one in fact - are bland dross but played in impeccable time. This one (just the one side not the other) has an unnamed female vocalist who drips sensuality into this waltz much in the same way that actress Dorothy Lamour did in her recordings. Ooh... shiver!

And finally... Agh, no... I got you!!!

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