Thursday, 22 May 2014

Farewell to the Thomson Celebration

Well, farewell hopefully just until the next time! It's Friday 10 April 2014 and we have to be out of the cabins by 8:00am so that the crew have a chance to get them back to pristine order in time for today's embarking passengers.

Last night we had our final night in the Horizons Bar with Tomas and Maris. We have become good friends over the years since we first met them. I hope we get to meet up again.

We are out of the cabin a bit early and head up to the Lido Deck for a first mug of coffee before breakfast. It's not properly light yet and we seem to be pretty much the only ones out and about on the deck. The port lights of Tenerife's Santa Cruz are still burning, though it won't be long before they sky grows light enough for them to be turned out.

Behind our ship the Delphin is already disembarking passengers into a waiting coach and containers of provisions wait to be unloaded. A Fred Olsen Express catamaran ferry glides slowly into her berth.

We finish our coffee and head down to Deck 4 to the Meridian Restaurant for breakfast. Then before long it is time to head off the ship to find our luggage for the coach journey to the airport.

It's fully daylight by the time we leave the ship. We find it has been nosed in up to the end of the dock and this gives me the opportunity to take a photo of the Thomson Celebration as it would be seen by the hapless occupants of a soon-to-be-destroyed row boat...

One of our suitcases is patterned so as to be immediately found. Miss Franny takes a seat so as to better direct me on my search for the other... The trip back to Blighty is uneventful and on time and a long and happy (I hope!) retirement looms before me. Our next cruise will be on Thomson Majesty in a few months and we are planning a short break in South Devon once the English weather turns a bit warmer.

Colourful Coasts Cruise Index

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Leisure in Lanzarote

Thursday 10 April 2014. The last day of our cruise around the Canaries is a day on Lanzarote. We awake in the port of Arrecife and after breakfast we bounce down the gangway and onto a coach as we have an excursion booked.

This will be a morning tour and sets off with a trip to a shop... Just about every sort of souvenir you can think of and of course this includes fridge magnets. There's a free "glass of wine" that's a small plastic beaker with an eighth of an inch of liquid in it. At 9:30 in the morning it's still more wine than I want to drink...

The first real attraction is at the Mirador del Rio with a viewpoint that looks across the Straits of Rio to a small island, La Graciosa, on which an incident occurred that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's book Treasure Island.

The fall of the cliff face is spectacular, plunging down to the sea in a sweep of barren rock. The viewpoint itself is fairly spectacular as well, being burrowed into the cliff face.

Designed by the artist Cesar Manrique, it is a delight, with a whitewashed interior with almost no sharp edges anywhere and a feeling of light, space and peace about the place. No mean feat when several coach loads of eager tourists turn up at once...

Little artifact collections decorate the place. Stones, plants, earthenware pots. It's just a touch misty which makes the view across the straits a little subdued. Never mind, we're being herded back to the coach for the ride to our next stop.

This turns out to be an aloe vera plantation. That's not an aloe vera plant above, it's a cactus with a flower, the desert rose, about to blossom. This was one of those stops that seemed to be a half-desperate "please spend money here". There was an extremely boring talk about aloe vera. It may well be someone's idea of heaven to travel to far-flung places and learn about household products, but sadly it left me cold... Aloe vera is edible apparently and after using a huge knife to strip and divide small bars of the leaves for us to nibble on, the company owner and living partner of our coach guide passed them round. It was a bit like nibbling a small bar of hotel soap, though with a nastier aftertaste... and... spit!

Final stop is at Jameos del Agua, another natural feature enhanced by the skill and artistry of Cesar Manrique. In this case it's a tunnel formed by a lava flow that at this point blew out and formed a hole which we descend by way of steps.

We let the rest of the tour go ahead and stop for a drink in the bar. Before us is a short length of the lava tunnel which now holds a pond in which resides a species of small white blind crab, unique to this site. They like deeper water, so it's lucky the water in the pool is crystal clear. Even so, they are so far beneath the surface they could be white blobs of paint most of the time until all of a sudden you see through a relatively ripple-free bit of water and make out just for a second that they are actually crabs! Being blind, they don't wave back or react in anyway to the curious tourist. They just huddle together saying in crab talk, "I feel like I'm being watched..." "Watched? What's that?"

Drink finished, we make our way through the tunnel and come out to climb out the other side where we arrive in a landscaped garden complete with a blue pool. A choice of steps lead up from this second hole in the tunnel up to a terrace and shop.

Snatched from the coach window as we drove back into Arrecife, this is the wreck of the Telamon, which started life in the UK in 1954 as the Temple Hall and was wrecked here in 1981, proving to be beyond salvage.

Colourful Coasts Cruise Index

Monday, 19 May 2014

Creeping Bentgrass at Witton Park, Blackburn

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at Witton Park, Blackburn, playing in the courtyard from the doorway of one of the stable units. The weather was kind to us this year but in the past we have found it necessary to have somewhere we can nip back into to shelter equipment from rain!

Slightly smaller audience than in past years. We weren't sure whether people hadn't heard about the event or whether it was that the cafe that used to occupy the corner building has now gone. Though others said it was quieter throughout the park than usual on that day.

The Glee Club over at the mobility scooter stable were in fine form though!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Eight Inch Record

Yesterday we had a run up to Lancaster to GB Antiques and I came across a couple of 78 rpm records to add to the collection.

These were a little unique to my collection as they were not the usual 10 inch record. Nor were they the longer-playing 12 inch record used for most classical music and some dance music.

They were eight inches in diameter. Labelled "Long Playing" because the centre label on the disc is much smaller than usual allowing the playing track to go closer to the middle of the record, the example pictured is on the Edison Bell record label and is a 1930 recording of The Plaza Band playing the popular tune The Cuckoo Waltz with the B side being Come On, Baby. And what a bonus! It had its original brown paper sleeve!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Birthday Party in Chapeltown

Last night Creeping Bentgrass played for a 70th birthday party at the Chetham Arms in Chapeltown.

We once wore red shirts to our first gig at this pub and they were the exact shade of the wallpaper. We just blended in and the audience were treated to two floating heads... We thought we might be safe with these shirts!

It was a good night and when we started a few of the pub's regulars were looking in at the door to the function room. I like to think they were impressed by the music rather than them going "What on Earth...?"

Driving through the Lancashire countryside late at night, I was dying for a bag of chips... No chippies open at that time of night and skinny ex-frozen french fries from an all-night papier mache burger bar just don't hold any attraction. Nipped out this morning for a walk along Fleetwood prom and had my supper for lunch! Result!!!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Wild Hairy Scots With Big Bent Swords

I spent a day up in Edinburgh this week, doing one of the occasional training session I still do for Jisc infoNet. I travelled up the night before and whilst walking up the Royal Mile I had a sudden flashback to a former life as a longbowman at the Battle of Bannockburn with a huge hairy Scot coming at me, waving a sword!

Then I realised it wasn't June 1314, but the last day of April 2014! I blinked. Again... No, there was definitely a huge hairy Scot waving a sword! Only one thing to do in fact.

Say hello, have a chat, take a selfie! Nice guy! Always gets a seat on the bus...

Foggy In Morocco

Wednesday 9th April 2014. 4:00am. Around two hours after we got to bed. The Thomson Celebration is on her way to the port of Agadir in Morocco. We have spent a day at sea and spent the night in the Horizons bar with Tomas and Maris providing the entertainment. After they finished we started nattering for a while and so it was a late night.

Now it's four o'clock in the morning. I know this because some huge monster just surfaced and roared at us! There it goes again!!! No... wait... and again... no it's the ship's hooter! It's pitch dark. I get out of bed and inch a curtain aside. The ship's lights show a blank wall of yellowy grey through the window. We've run into fog! A ship's hooter is not a quiet thing and - as ships' hooters go - that of the Thomson Celebration is an outstanding example! It goes off once a minute for several seconds. This lasts perhaps half an hour (or it might just have seemed like that...)

Once it stopped we managed to get back to sleep for a good ten minutes until it started again...

Again it didn't last all that long and we woke up refreshed and ... well we woke up... to find that Agadir was a bit grey and murky that morning! We weren't planning on leaving the ship anyway. I have an aversion to shopkeepers dragging me bodily into their shops and a finger in the eye often offends. Safer to stay on board. Once when we were here one shopkeeper told me I had a nice smile. For all their love of bartering he didn't seem inclined to want to enter into negotiations for me to produce it again...

So we spent the day reading and eating. I did consider running up to the gym to laugh at the people in there, but it seemed like too much effort. At lunchtime we looked through the restaurant window and saw the coast at the side of the ship quite clearly. But once back up on Deck 8 it was still foggy! There'll be more to write about tomorrow...!

Colourful Coasts Cruise Index