Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Chilling on the Carousel

3 March 2004. We had joined the Carousel as she set off for a cruise around the Canary Islands. This being our first day on a ship, we decided to ignore the delights of Lanzarote and stay on the ship.

Here the ship is coming into the port in Lanzarote. This is as much notice as we took. Sorry Lanzarote - we'll have another proper look at you next year in 2005!

There was a lot to experience on board the ship in fact. Breakfast, which we took on deck al fresco. Buffet style and lots of choice. Scrummy. Following which we explored the ship.

This is the Promenade Deck - an unbroken full circuit of the ship. Walking 5 times around it meant you had walked a mile. We did. We were on our own...

11:00 am. Elevenses were being served. Freshly made biscuits and coffee. Then a chance to sit on the deck, soak up a bit of sun and read. I was reading Bernard Cornwell's Heretic.

Lunch time. We stuck to a light lunch - salad and fruit. No sense in scoffing everything in sight! Besides at 4:00 pm it was Afternoon Tea. Sandwiches with the crusts cut off and (ooh!) bananas and custard!!!

During the afternoon there was lots to laugh at as the entertainments team made up lots of competitions between passengers and crew and there was some sort of demonstration each afternoon - ice carving, fruit carving, towel and napkin origami, cocktail juggling...

There was a formal dinner and we dressed up to meet the ship's Captain.

We had a photo taken in front of a screen backdrop of the staircase from the Titanic... er... hang on... why would a ship want to remind its passengers of one of the worst maritime disasters? Answer: because to most people it's a film, not a tragedy and therefore it's Leonardo's great romance with Kate Winslet rather than all those frozen floating bodies.

Evening meals on such a small ship were with the same table of people every night. It made for a jolly time as we got to know each other during the week.

Tomorrow we arrive in Africa - Morocco to be more precise and the port of Agadir to be specific. Until then, there's a Midnight Snack...

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Riding the Carousel on the Atlantic

2 March 2004. We fly from Manchester to Santa Cruz, on Tenerife to join the cruise ship MS Carousel.

Having been up all night we weren't totally with it at this stage... Which is why this photo of the ship was taken later in the week. Sharp eyed readers may have recognised that the photo was taken in Agadir, Morocco, rather than Tenerife!

So here starts the story of our first cruise, taken to celebrate my 50th birthday. The Carousel was the smallest of the cruise ships we have subsequently travelled on and therefore was the one on which we felt most seasick... Fran missed her food on the first night through not feeling well. Others ate theirs and then I spent the rest of the evening trying to ensure they missed me...

Our cabin was low down - if this had been Titannic then we were behind that locked grill door...! We were on B Deck - the lowest row of portholes seen on the ship in the photo above.

Open air was reached by the time you climbed to Deck 7, which was where the pool was. So quite a small ship. But to us at the time, being our first experience of cruising, it was large and exciting and we couldn't wait to get going!

One of our favourite spots on the pool deck with a sea view yet sheltered from the wind. Great for reading and spotting the sea life.

"Seals!" yelled the excited announcer on the mic during our full day at sea. "Seals down the starboard side!" Everyone dashed over to have a look but couldn't find anything. "Can you not see them?" he asked... "Round every window! Window seals!"

We did spot dolphins a few times on this cruise though, with one excellent sighting being two large pods of 30 or more dolphins swimming alongside the ship, one near, one a hundred yards away, leaping out of the water in graceful curves as they kept pace with the ship for a while.

Hold tight for further entries - we are to visit Morocco, Madeira, La Palma and Gran Canaria. Neither Sun Cruises nor the MS Carousel are still operating.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Telly Watching

Almost halfway through the year and time for a list entry. 15 of the things I've watched on TV so far this year: -

I'm a sucker for the BBC's documentaries. Anyone who knocks the BBC or begrudges the license fee obviously don't watch their documentaries. Far better than the boring talking heads and endlessly repeated 3 action shots of their rivals, the photography is stunning (especially in HD) and the commentaries well presented.

Pixar do it again with this one borrowing a little from Conan Doyle's The Lost World and making a hero of a crotchetty old man.

Another BBC documentary series, stunning - will watch the repeats when they come round!

A super hero movie but just a touch dark this one. There's some seriously disturbed characters in this team and for me it showed the difference again between Marvel and DC comics. This one, based on DC leaves you wondering what special powers some of them had and why and how in particular one character's mask shifts and changes, yet once unmasked his face is perfectly normal... details, folks, details...

From the Marvel stable comes this one - talking of unstable characters... The Punisher isn't one of my favourite Marvel comics and I really only know him from his appearance in the Spider-Man and other series, but Ray Stevenson gives him the same character as he gave Pullo in HBO's Rome - violence first and ... well, not a lot after to be honest...

The cinema isn't always to be trusted with history, but this was an enjoyable piece of fluff as long as you keep that in mind.

I enjoyed this series which played out over ten weeks on Sky. Gritty, realistic and based on the real-life exploits of American Marines in the Pacific during the Second World War.

I never cease to wonder at the Americans' willingness to portray themselves as morons, particularly those supposed to be leaders, but forget that - the effects are to be savoured here and if you can ignore the fact that huge chunks of rock float in the sky, but water on them falls over the sides as waterfalls, then it's a visual feast and a decent yarn!

Die Hard as a comedy! Better than The Punisher!

Anyone who lived during the mid to late 1960s must surely love this film for its soundtrack alone. But the antics of the DJs (most of whom you can immediately identify as a real DJ of the time) are wonderful and it's funny, witty and poignant all at the same time.

One of the US unfunny "comedies". But it does have a rear view of a naked Aniston which just about managed to wake me up for a few seconds...

Our answer to America's willingess to portray its leaders as morons... We have real ones! I started calling this "Britain's Got Morons" only about two weeks in and it proved it week after week... Whether they are all in the contestants or in the voting public who voted for precosious kids and dogs doing parlour tricks, or in Piers and Amanda who voted through some of the most appalling singers ever to (dis)grace a stage I'm not sure.

From the Dreamworks stable, this was good! A young woman gets hit by a meteorite and as a result grows to gigantic stature and finds herself impounded by the military along with other freaks and results of scientific experiment and saves the day when aliens threaten the Earth. Favourite bit was the blue blob doing the Steve McQueen bit with a ball in his pen!

This probably should have come further up the list to be in chronological order, but was a repeat anyway! The Top Gear team in a challenge that must seriously have been a challenge. A superb extended special, filled with good fun, boyish humour and the odd spot of real danger.

Whilst loving fantasy as a genre, I've always found Terry Pratchett books quite hard to get into. This TV adaptation though, was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it, all the improbable characters and situations added up to a brilliant romp through the Pratchett world.

Wonder what July - December will bring...?

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Nice End to a Not Nice Week

It's been one of those weeks. Started with the car screeching one of those metallic squeals at us. Stopped at the next services on the motorway to find the rear wheel radiating heat alarmingly.

Hang on... I paid £200 to have that problem on that wheel fixed not so long ago! Luckily the problem this time (only this time?) was the handbrake sticking on which required a new handbrake cable fitted. Huge relief until I went to pick it up and found another bill for £200 waiting for me. "It's a right job with them...!" For £200 for a handbrake cable I should bloody hope it's a right job...

Long term readers (er... you do exist, right?) may remember me having to have an operation on the nose a few years ago and whilst it went spiffingly, (ignoring the following infection which had me off work for three months and resulted in some spectacular bouts of nose bleeding) the nasal passages have been steadily shrinking since then and it's getting to crisis point again. Date for the specialist has been set, but for now I'm going through all the familiar side effects of the steroid spray with 2 or 3 (smaller) nosebleeds a day.

Plus my ear bunged up with wax and I've gone fairly deaf in one ear - makes David's singing a bit more palatable of course, but not good really (my hearing I mean, not David's singing which at times approaches ok...) and my ear feels as though I'm in a descending aeroplane and wouldn't I just love it to go "pop" and clear! Putting ear oil in has only softened the outside of the wax "plug" and eventually after a full week of not being able to shift it, I got the doc to have a look to make sure I wasn't trying to soften the remains of a spider that had curled up and died in there... His reaction was that it was unlikely to shift before another week goes by and that it will need syringing out even then. Great... If you ask me a question and I don't respond it's nothing personal, ok?

And then poor Mum got confirmation that she has cancer, though relief all round when it turned out to be contained and should hopefully be easily operated on. But that was obviously the big scare and health story of the week and I'm not even thinking of joking about that.

Finally in the ever-growing health row of dominoes that I've had for the past few years, the doc gave me some water tablets to tackle the size of my feet, which now require clowns' shoes, following my introduction to the pills for hypertension. (I'm busy - I need high blood pressure!)

A week on the first lot made little difference, so yesterday morning the doc, after freaking out a little when I asked him to check there wasn't a spider in my ear, upped the doseage of my water pills with the result that today has been extremely interesting during a day out to the Lake District, where we took Mum for her birthday. That half hour was the longest boat trip I've ever taken. I was thinking I might have to make a personal apology to the residents of Manchester (whose drinking water is pumped from Lake Windermere) but, luckily, I made it onto the pier (unfortunate term...) at Ambleside and they had some Gents...

I don't follow football that much but sheesh I wish I was paid several annual wages every week just for cocking things up. Most people get into trouble for doing a rotten job. Footballers apparently get into a strop at a demonstration of fans' disappointment...

Talking of the World Cup, Marlene - one of the Ladies-over-the-Water, sent news of a woman who had torn her windpipe through blowing one of those vuvuzela horns. She said "I'm not blowing one again - it wasn't much fun..."

Meanwhile, Amanda, another of the threesome that make up the Ladies-over-the-Water, sent me a photo at Christmas of a new wine decanter she was very proud of. She and her hubby Paul and her neighbours were gathered round it drinking the wine from straws... Not sure they quite got the concept of a decanter, but anyway, she's broken it and asked if I'd print a memorial here... It was probably a fight over the last drop...

And (because I just can't leave her out can I?) Evy has had some new decking done in her garden outside her back door. There's been a long standing joke about her house because she once confused me by describing her stairs - it sounded as though they end abruptly halfway up her wall. Anyway... they obviously match the rest of the house because the back door has a drop of three feet to the garden...

A Touch of the Festival Atmosphere at Larbreck Hall

After several years of playing inside the Great Barn at Larbreck Hall Caravan Park, our annual visit coincided with some good weather this year so we played on the green behind the farmhouse and car park.

Numbers weren't quite as high as at Glastonbury, but they spread themselves around a bit and there was certainly a great atmosphere and an enthusiastic response from the audience to every number. The Eagles' Lyin' Eyes got a first play last night too and (even if I do say so myself) sounded a bit spivish rare! We normally find that any song that sounds right from the very first playing (and at the start of the evening David hadn't even heard the backing arrangement!) then it will become a firm favourite for future gigs!

So we swapped the usual backdrop of spare caravans for a backdrop of cars and minibuses, but we had a great night and started off with the sun in our eyes, ending in the glare of our mobile spotlights as the temperature plummeted and only stopped when it got cold enough for the condensation to form on every surface and we decided there were too many electrics for that to be ignored!

RIP my mic stand too - the thread stripped and I had to use it as a straight-up instead of being able to use the boom arm. An interesting experience leaning over the guitar to sing and impossible to play the keyboards and lean far enough over to sing into the mic... A visit to the music store called for before our next gig!

A quick thanks to all the people who have bought the The Sunnyside of Creeping Bentgrass album and told us it's our best yet! We must start on the next one - though first we are planning to release a folk album as we have continually had to turn down requests for one. This will be a compilation of all the folk style songs from previous albums plus a number of new tracks. No telling when we'll have The Folk Side of Creeping Bentgrass ready at this stage but we are hoping to have it out by the end of 2010.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Myerscough College Open Day 2010

Sunday 6 June was the day of Myerscough College's Open Day. Creeping Bentgrass were in their usual spot near the greenhouses of the Plant Centre and after setting up the weather quickly made us retreat under our large gazebo.

It didn't rain hard and it certainly didn't stop the numbers attending, but for the second year it meant that the chairs set out for the audience were a bit too damp to entice people to sit down. Later in the day it got better and we had a good day with both troupes of dancing girls and a platoon of the Home Guard enlivening the day!

Heskin Hall 2010

On Saturday 5 June Creeping Bentgrass were back at Heskin Hall to play in the marquee during the annual steam fair.

It's usually a great night and this year was no exception with a couple of the traction engine owners being dressed complete with bowler hats and looking rather like Homepride Flour graders...

We ran through the whole range of styles from Country to Irish Folk through the 50s and 60s to Status Quo and Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds and we got some brilliant feedback after we had finished and were loading stuff back into the car for the following day at Myerscough College's Open Day.