Thursday, 29 August 2013

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Concert for Garstang Music & Arts Festival

Last Friday night saw us at the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite, Garstang, to give a concert as part of the annual Music & Arts Festival.

The last couple of years we have been rained off, whilst playing outside near the car park and this year we were invited to put on a night of entertainment in this lovely venue.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and we certainly did. Nice to see a few regular faces too. This was the first gig I played with a new guitar FX pedal after the old one went a bit quiet intermittently. A chip starting to go so I was told, as the problem only started once the pedal had been in use a couple of hours and was getting warm. Hopefully I won't have to keep kicking this new one...

Blackpool Air Show 2013 - The War Planes

Yesterday I featured the Red Arrows display from this year's air show here in Blackpool. Today I feature the aircraft from the Second World War. These are a Fairey Swordfish MkII, torpedo bomber, made in Sherburn-in-Elmet in 1943. This makes her a Fairey "Blackfish" as the Sherburn Swordfish are known, this being a play on words as the makers were Blackburn Aircraft. The other photos are of the famous Battle of Britain commemorative flight of a Hawker Hurricane, Spitfire and Lancaster bomber. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Red Arrows Display, Blackpool Air Show 2013

Not a lot of text to go with this as I'm sure I don't need to say a lot about the RAF's famous aerobatic team! The photos were taken on the second day of Blackpool's Air Show a couple of weeks ago, which this year was held over two days, Sunday and Monday. Miss Franny and I went down with daughter Gill and granddaughter, Grace, to meet David and Jeannie. We were moved off the steps to the beach - "There's going to be an Air Display you know..." Ye-es... we did know and I've never yet seen one come so close to the Promenade that we would be in any danger from standing two yards in front of it. And if anything went wrong and there was a disaster, we would be as safe there as we would be at home in Bispham...

Today's Britain is obsessed with Health & Safety, mostly thanks to the legal profession trying to argue that people should be allowed to go about with brains switched off and eyes shut and if anything happens to them it's someone's fault and they should be sued... If judges made sensible decisions the scams would dry up. Meanwhile those in authority think up ludicrous excuses for their rules.

Rant over - here's the Red Arrows!

I hope you like the photos - we'll have a look at the World War II war planes next time.

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Monday, 26 August 2013

Sailing Back to England

Friday 9 August 2013. We've done all our ports of call now on the Fjordland Wonders cruise and have said "Goodbye" to Norway. We are now on the North Sea again, the Danish coast just out of sight over the horizon.

Once again the North Sea is excelling itself to give us good weather, though it did turn a little overcast by the very end of the afternoon. There are a few demonstrations and bits of fun to watch on the Lido Deck to keep us amused as the afternoon wears on.

It starts with a bit of ice carving - a huge block of ice comes up from the galley. This would have been created from distilled water - ordinary water produces "white" ice as it contains lots of air bubbles as it freezes. This chap started hacking away at it and in a very short time...

...he created both a swan... and a mess on the deck which is being swept up in the background! The resulting carving was carefully loaded onto a trolley, popped back into the freezer and was on display in the restaurant that night.

A bit later the same chap was back but with a colleague and together they attacked bits of fruit and a cauliflower to great effect! Miss Franny thought I should pay attention so that I could whip something up for her next soiree...

The we settled back to listen to the vocal harmony group from the Horizons Bar. New Dimensions are Edgar on the left, Ronaldo and Cesar on the bass. They were on the Spirit on our last time onboard and remembered me as I walked in on the first night even though it was two years ago - I must be more troublesome than I thought, everyone seems to remember me!

As we went to our cabin to get ready for our evening meal we found that even the cabin stewardesses had been getting in on the act. Two bottle tops for eyes and a couple of towels and hey presto - a penguin!

Miss Franny with our two cabin stewardesses, Zhana and Tatyana. We have never had anything but perfect service on any of Thomson's ships. The staff work so hard.

And that brings this cruise to an end. On Saturday morning we wake up back at the berth in Harwich. We have to vacate the cabin by 7:30 in the morning as she is due to sail out again on a trip to the Baltic at 4:00pm and between now and then all the cabins must be cleaned, furnished with fresh linen and shown to their new temporary residents.

By a quarter past eight in the morning we are in the car and ready to set off for home. Sigh... too early to think about nipping into Clacton for that Wimpy I didn't have last week then...

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Later in the Day in Bergen

Thursday 8 August 2013. This is the second of two posts about our trip to Bergen - the first post dealt with the Bryggen UNESCO site and left us about to go looking for the famous fish market.

We crossed the road to the harbour and made our way round the edge of it. There are lots of distractions - every direction you look there are gorgeous buildings, lots of people, lots of activity and, for British tourists, the added complication of traffic being on the unfamiliar side of the road.

The first stall we came to was loaded with fruit. We quickly realise that the fish market is not just a fish market! The fish stalls are lined closest to the harbour and other food stalls, fruit, bread, fast food, woollen knitwear etc. as well as a number of cafeterias with tables set outside or under canvas cover can be found.

But there is certainly a fish market! Fish of all sizes and some strange shapes too. Some would definitely not win any beauty prizes - but that's probably not the aim... There are some formidable sizes of crab legs... Double this for two rows of legs and add a 12 inch diameter body between them!

And the knitwear is spectacular. I'd have loved one of these jumpers, but I'm a hot person (you know this, don't you, ladies...) I can't cope with jumpers in the UK, I'm instantly cooking and they have to come off (you know this, don't you, ladies...) even in years that don't have mini heat waves. Knitwear, as with reindeer skins and trolls, is one of Norway's cultural offerings. I'd never wear one of these jumpers, but they are tempting! Miss Franny offered me a hat with strings to tie under my chin... Er... thanks for the thought but...

Other bits of the city were tempting us too. It's a nice looking city is Bergen! We had to explore a bit and were in the mood for a mooch around anyway. The old buildings of the Bryggen had lifted our spirits and we were not yet ready to return to the ship.

We found cobbled streets with timbered buildings in the shopping areas too. We hadn't got as far as the city centre - which may well have been a bit more modern I don't know.

I sometimes feel that large global concerns are turning every part of the world the same anyway. You see the same shops, the same names, cars tend to be the same everywhere you go as well. We almost applauded when we saw a MacDonalds that had obviously not been allowed to have bright red plastic on the front of the shop. We avoided it none-the-less...

We saw this building at the top of a long straight street a few photos back. It's the Floibanen, a funicular railway station and there were queues of people extending out of the front door, standing in line to buy tickets to a place called Floyen which is 1000 feet above Bergen and there are spectacular views of the harbour from it.

The queues are seen from the hill at the side of the station building here, looking back down the street and across the corner to the Central Church.

We retraced our steps back down and had another look around the Bryggen area, finding a second alleyway that we had missed where the buildings on both sides were joined by staircases and walkways from the first and second storeys. We loved Bergen. We will go back someday and ride that funicular!

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Friday, 23 August 2013

A Day in Bergen

8 August 2013. Our last port of call on the Fjordland Wonders cruise is Bergen.

The ship berths close to the city centre and it is an easy walk from the port into the heart of things. We walk past the castle and come to the Bryggen Harbour.

Facing the harbour is a row of timber-built shops and amongst them are tiny alleyways leading towards the rear. This is the old part of town and is known as The Bryggen. The castle can be seen on the left of the photo in the background.

The Bryggen is a delight. The buildings are very close together. It's a wonder they survived, as a fire would spread easily - and did... The city was founded in the 11th century and the merchant guilds of the Hanseatic League established a presence here after 1350. Of several fires, that of 1702 destroyed everything and the oldest of the buildings date from the rebuilding after that. About three quarters of them are not that old, a third of buildings being destroyed in another fire more recently in 1955. Thankfully though, they were generally reconstructed according to traditional age-old plans, so the area still reflects what it may have looked like 900 years ago.

Today this is a UNESCO World Heritage site and visited by over 800 thousand people a year. The shops are a mixture, but hand crafts, art and souvenir shops predominate.

Scary fish sculpture! We came across this in the Bryggen - a huge fish or eel (it's very long!) with a ferocious set of gnashers! It looks like it could do with a good coat of Cuprinol... (other wood preservatives are available...)

Another fun item was this moose head (or whatever the elk it was...) People were sitting on the chair to have their photos taken with it. One chap stood up from the chair and banged his head on its chin... His friends thought this hilarious!

We spent quite a bit of time in the Bryggen as there is plenty to see and lots of shops and artists' galleries to go round. But now it's time to have a look at what else Bergen has to offer. Join us again for the next instalment!

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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Leaving Geiranger

Wednesday 7 August 2013. We arrive safely down the mountainside and end up by the fjord in Geiranger. The fjord is called Geirangerfjord - makes it nice and easy to remember!

It was a nice sunny day, but here by the fjord the mountains are shading us from the sunshine! We catch the tender boat back to the ship and, after climbing up to the Promenade Deck, we see the last tender boat depart from the jetty and return to the ship to be winched aboard.

There's time for a nice cup of coffee on the Lido Deck before the ship is ready to sail. As the three loud blasts on the ship's horn sound, we drink up and climb up one deck to the Promenade Deck again.

We are just in time to see the last of the Vikings leave to plunder western Europe. They may face more resistance than their counterparts of 1000 years ago, but they have the advantage of a diesel engine...

The sides of the deck - the waist - have a few people taking their ease to watch the fjord go by but we join the crowd at the bow. This affords a view to either side but is a far more windy place to be! We don't realise in a car behind that windscreen, but once you move forward you press against the air in front of you which feels like a wind. At sea when the ship is going at its normal speed that wind can make you bend over double to walk towards it and makes you walk away from it faster than you mean to!

A ferry comes past us heading towards Geiranger. A few brave people in one-man kayaks look like small dots against the cliff that dwarfs not just them but our ship also.

The first turn in the fjord comes into view ahead and our first view of one the the two waterfalls that Geiranger is famous for.

On our port side is The Friar, falling from the very top of the mountain in stages. We can see a few of them and the the bottom two are shown here. This waterfall is also known as The Suitor.

This is because it is said to be wooing the waterfalls that tumble down the opposite side of the fjord. They are collectively known as The Seven Sisters. We watch them go by on either side and then hastily beat a retreat into the cabin to clean up for dinner. It's blowing a gale out there! Once again there are so many miles of fjord to negotiate before we reach the North Sea that we will be tucked up in bed by the time we get there. We will know when though, because the ship starts to rock gently from side to side - you slide down the bunk and then as it tips the other way, you feel the pillow pressing harder against your head!

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