Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200606 England Med Cruise

THURSDAY 1 JUNE 2006 – The kids wake just before 9am and it’s raining.  Watch a few DVD’s until the rain stops at which point we head off for a long swimming session.  After lunch we have visits from Andy & Chris then John & Maureen.  The kids get their second swim along with Laura and Steph and her grandparents Phil & Barbara.  Natasha goes bug hunting in the evening with Laura and Steph whilst Daniel watches TV.



FRIDAY 2 JUNE – Wake to a lovely morning with the sun shining.  We need to use the Internet and Daniel joins us whilst Natasha stays behind to play with Steph.  At the library we use the computer whilst Daniel makes and colours a football character.  The kids have to wait until afternoon for their swimming fix after which Nat plays with Steph and Daniel stays in the van, such different characters.  In the evening we are invited to Andy & Chris’s for a BBQ and Steve and Donna also arrive.  Natasha and Daniel’s eyes pop out of their heads when they see more than 40 sausages cooking.  They eat so many that they don’t have room for anything else.  Andy has a wooden car that he uses for collecting firewood.  Natasha sits on it whilst Daniel tows her around and they have great fun.  Another late night for us all. 



SATURDAY 3 JUNE – I begin waking everyone up at 8am.  By the time I have got round to Steve, Daniel has fallen asleep again!  Manage to get out by 9am to go back to the library where we conclude negotiations and pay a deposit on a motorhome in South Africa.  We are buying it based on pictures sent to us but it’s from a dealer in Pietermaritzburg who is offering it with a road worthy certificate and guarantee that all the campervan parts are working.  It’s still a bit of a risk but having done a lot of research in the past we know that motorhomes are scarce in South Africa and it’s also cheaper than others we have seen. It’s a very hot day so we return to make the most of it with a long swimming session in the afternoon.  Natasha is whacked and falls asleep late afternoon and has to be woken for tea.  Steve is feeling really under the weather with sore throat and cold so we give the club house as miss and all stay in to watch the “x” factor”.



SUNDAY 4 JUNE – We are all up relatively early and pack up the car, clean the caravan then pay the bill.  It’s only £17 a night (£87 week) but frustrating not to be able to stay for another 2 nights for the extra £2!  Drive over to Haworth the drop the kids off and have a bit of lunch.  Next stop is Blackpool where Steve is banished to the “Wendy house” to avoid giving Auntie Barbara any of his germs.  After tea we drive back to Market Drayton, unpack and quickly get the washing machine on as we are off again tomorrow night on the cruise. 



MONDAY 5 JUNE – It’s a lovely day and Steve joins me for the walk up town.  He wants to buy some trousers with a part elasticated waist in anticipation of the weight we will gain on the cruise.  We have a very productive shopping spree and get almost everything we want.  In the afternoon we take Mum and Netty with us to Newport.  Steve buys a pair of Reebok walker/trainer type shoes thus enabling him to back pack in the future with one less item of footwear.  Give Bobby and lift back from school and take Netty up to the shops before returning to Mums to pack.  Unusually for us we are throwing caution and baggage weight to the wind.  It’s a relaxed and casual cruise but to avoid too much washing I have borrowed a few extra clothes from Mum & Netty (luckily we are all about the same size) whilst Steve is taking almost everything he owns.  Find it much harder packing up more than 3 of everything and actually abandon a few of the things I had planned to take.  Steve takes a rest in the evening ready for our midnight departure.



TUESDAY 6 JUNE – Traffic is light and we make good time and arrive in the Gatwick area in just over 3 hours.  Relying heavily on the Internet for our on going travel plans I have booked car parking at Ross Hill Hall Hotel (£49 for 2 weeks).  The 3.30pm shuttle bus is leaving just as we arrive and we quickly complete the paperwork to enable us to catch it.  At Gatwick South terminal I soon locate the Thomson holiday desk to collect our flight tickets.  After checking our baggage in (the first time for many years) we move into the departure round and in true holiday style stock up on magazines and a few other goodies.  The 0705hrs flight is a little late leaving but still lands on time in Palma MAJORCA at 1000hrs local.  It’s almost 20 years since we visited Majorca and the airport has grown to a huge building and is quite complicated to navigate as you arrive in the departure area – luckily for once we do know whether we are coming or going!  Can’t believe how long you have to wait to retrieve your baggage and find it quite frustrating.  We make our way to the Island Escape rep where another couple are waiting to share a taxi with us to the ship.  They have just bought coffee so I make use of the time to draw some cash from the ATM.  The weather is glorious and it’s a nice drive along the Palma waterfront past the impressive cathedral.  The ship is huge, carrying 1,740 passengers, considerably bigger than the 120 passengers Odyssey we went on before.  Check in is similar to the airport and our credit card is swiped before we are issued with a ships charge card.  Boarding the ship we are escorted to our outside cabin on bronze deck 4.  It’s the standard cabin layout but reasonably spacious.  I begin unpacking and realise what a chore it is when you have lots of clothes.  There are 3 restaurants on board and the 24-hour Beachcomber is where we take a late lunch and eat our buffet style food sat out on the deck.  Before selecting your food you are requested to clean your hands with antiseptic gel from a dispenser, presumably following the recent spate of stomach problems on ships.  The food is OK but not outstanding, more like the sort of choice offered in a hotel than on a cruise ship, definitely aimed at quantity rather than quality.  We’re both shattered having had little sleep so return for a snooze and to find that as requested the twin beds have been made up into a double.  Drag ourselves out of bed for excursion presentation.  With the exception of Sardinia we have visited all the other places so won’t be doing any of the organised trips.  Return for another snooze but keep being disturbed by “Butlins” style announcements.  Captain David Bathgate explains that we will have our departure delayed until midnight due to the late arrival of the Manchester flight.  Visit the Island Restaurant for our evening meal; again buffet style and the same food as Beachcomber but nicer surroundings.  We were due to sail at 9pm but a Manchester flight has been delayed so our departure will not be until midnight.  In the Ocean theatre the evening show is a medley of all the acts on offer during their 2-week programme plus information on other activities aboard.  Steve is concerned that they only mention the England football matches being shown.  When I booked the cruise I made sure to check that they would be showing all the matches and in fact that was what made him agree to the trip.  We try to find out more about it.  There are 17 nationalities of staff on board and non at Guest Relations speak English as their first language.  They have difficulty understanding basic English.  “How much of the World Cup football will you be showing on TV?” is greeted with a shrug and offer of another daily programme schedule.  Eventually speak to a supervisor who says they still can’t confirm what matches they will be showing. 



WEDNESDAY 7 JUNE – Woken by an announcement about the compulsory safety drill.  After breakfast we collect our life jackets and meet in the Bounty Bar for instruction.  Call back at Guest Relations as we have a bad smell in our bathroom – even when neither of us has used the loo!  Have to laugh when the man in front of us asks if he can deal with someone British who understands and speaks proper English.  Considering this cruise is only sold to English speaking people this does not seem unreasonable.  Today is to be spent at sea and lots of events are on the activities programme so we kick off with the carpet boules and leave after 5 minutes when we see that there are about 12 participants and we are playing with one set of boules and along the hall carpet!  Retire to sunbathe on one of the upper decks.  The ship is not full but it’s still hard to find a vacant sun lounger.  People occupy all as any towels left to reserve them are removed to lost property – wonder how well that would go down with the Germans!  Lunch at the Beachcomber and another sunbathe before our afternoon siesta.  Take our evening meal in the a la carte Oasis restaurant where at least one dish in each course if free, others have a separate additional charge.  It’s a much nicer setting with full silver service and we really enjoy our meal.  Evening in the theatre Paul Eastwood the comedian is performing and he’s really funny.  As soon as that finished we go to another area for the ships game of “No Deal or Deal” – copyright means they have had to change the name.  The young girl next to us makes it as the main contestant but sadly blows it at the last minute and ends up with 50p. 



THURSDAY 8 JUNE – We are up early to see our arrival at Olbia in SARDINIA.  Amongst the first off the ship just after 8.30am.  As an additional security measure the cards we swipe on departure also bring up our photograph.  We walk into town and soon find the bus station.  Catch the 9.30am bus to La Caletta, Euro4 (£2.80).  The road follows the coast and has many good viewing spots.  Motorhomes abound and most beaches have a few parked up free camping.  It takes 1 ½ hours to reach La Caletta where we find a pleasant beach to while away the afternoon.  Steve takes a stroll and chats to a German motorhome owner; he has seen no British vans on the island and mainly German and Italian ones.  Sounds like a good spot for us to visit when we finally return to European motorhoming.  The 2pm bus takes almost 2 hours to get us back and we have to make a fast walk to get back to the ship for the 4.30pm departure.  The bathroom in our cabin still smells so they move us to another and this takes about ½ hour as we have so much to pack.  An Egyptian bell boy and Indian cabin cleaner assist us.  Another excellent meal in the Oasis restaurant served by friendly waited Mikhail from Romania with a Brazilian girl serving the drinks.  Select the evening entertainment of a mock Price is Right mixed with Catch Phrase show followed by comedian Paul Eastwood – all very funny.  Our cabin is really cold, the heating system is not working and cold air blows continuously – definitely not a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire!  The fault cannot be attended to until tomorrow so we are given blankets in the interim.  This ship is quite old but recently refurbished but it still seems many things are not functioning as well as they should.



FRIDAY 9 JUNE – Arrive in Civitavecchia port (ITALY) where most people visit Rome but having done this before we will just visit the port town, very pleasant.  As always Italy seems cheap and Steve picks up an Adidas T shirt.  Return for lunch and an afternoon sunbathe on deck.  Evening buffet is Mexican style and we follow it with “The James Long Experience” magic show.  On many of the days the cabin towels are formed into intricate shapes and today we have had an elephant.



SATURDAY 10 JUNE – La Spezia, our first anchorage out at sea and we queue for the tender boat to take us ashore.  It’s a nice town and we explore on foot.  The modern round cathedral of Cristo Re is very impressive inside with all decoration created out of different coloured concrete.  End up at the bustling market where Steve can’t resist a cheap Adidas T-shirt.  Again return for lunch and for Steve to settle in the lounge for the first England football match versus Paraguay.  Hundreds of people gather in the Bounty lounge and most are kitted out in England shirts, funny wigs or hats.  I enjoy pottering around in the cabin and reading.  Todays towel creation is a cute rabbit.  Evening meal at the Oasis restaurant then off to the theatre to see comedian Barry Cheese. 



SUNDAY 11 JUNE – Wake up in Nice FRANCE and walk ashore after breakfast.  Stroll along the Promenade then take the “Noddy” train €6 (£4.20) 40-minute tour.  It’s really good and takes us down the narrow back streets of the old town then up to the old castle area where you can get off and rejoin later.  From the hill there are superb views and a beautiful natural waterfall to see.  Many of the paths and steps have pebble mosaics on them and it’s a great area to visit.  Having returned on the train we sit on the beach but only for a short time, it’s all pebbly and not at all comfortable and the sun loungers on the ship are much more inviting.  Again arrive back in time for lunch before sunbathing on deck.  Join in with a bingo session before taking our evening meal at the Beachcomber.  In the Bounty Lounge we watch Mr & Mrs and Battle of the Sexes before comedian Barry Cheese performs



MONDAY 12 JUNE – When we open our windows we are amazed to find ourselves directly opposite a block of apartments and so close we can see the people inside.  This no doubt means that they can also see us but luckily not all of us as we are hidden behind two small port hole type windows!  We’re in the old fishing town of Sete at the new port and anchored adjacent to a waterfront street.  Take a stroll around the attractive town where the Midi Canal cuts through the centre of town to finish in the Mediterranean Sea.  We’ve arranged to meet up with our friend Jo whom we first met whilst motorhoming in Greece way back in 1998.  She now lives in France and we’ve visited her before at her inland home but she also has a flat at the beach where she stays in the summer whilst renting out her other house.  We retire to a pavement café and have to talk quickly to up date each other on our news.  Walking back to the ship for lunch we appreciate just how big it is and notice how much attention it is attracting from sightseers.  Set sail early afternoon and it’s not long before we are blown off the sunbathing deck.  After eating in the Oasis Restaurant we watch “Play your cards right” then a show in the theatre.  Steve is happy when he picks up one of the World Cup football matches on the TV.



TUESDAY 13 JUNE – We’re back in Palma MAJORCA where we started out 1 week ago.  The majority of passengers are on a 1-week cruise and will either be returning to England or taking a week ashore in Majorca.  Steve would also prefer our second week in Majorca so he can watch the football in the bars.   We have lodged a complaint about being given wrong information regarding the matches and are waiting for a rep to come on board at lunch time to see if we can change our package.  Head off on the local bus to Palma, €1.20 (£85p) and visit the cathedral, €4 (£2.80) where our ticket also includes the museum and cloisters.  It’s very grand but more impressive from outside.  Walk back to the ship and after much waiting around we meet with the rep and eventually learn we can only change at our own expense.  The person at Cruise1st who sold us the cruise is away on holiday for 2 weeks and his manager whom I also talked to claims he cannot remember speaking to me at all, how very convenient.  Under the circumstance we feel the best option is to stay on board for the second week.  Steve gets a slight reprieve when he finds he can watch 2 of todays matches on a TV in the cruise check in area.  In fact he finds out that after we have eaten in the Beachcomber they are showing the second match on the cabin TV’s.  Our new skipper Captain Chris Dodds announces a delay in the arrival of the Dublin flight and says we will wait for them to arrive on board.  Steve says he will join me in the Bounty Lounge after the football but he never appears and I find him fast asleep when I return.



WEDNESDAY 14 JUNE – It’s an extremely windy day, force 6, and the sea is very choppy.  Fortunately with the stabilisers deployed there is little movement on board.  After lifeboat drill we find a fairly sheltered spot to sunbathe but have to withdraw when we feel ourselves burning.  Steve watches football on TV in the afternoon and we emerge for the evening quiz naming the presenters of TV shows.  We end up drawn in first place and Steve wins the mug by getting the tie breaker right.  In the theatre there is an excellent show by Nolan Dean and we round the evening off with the ships version of “Who wants to be a millionaire”.



THURSDAY 15 JUNE – Due to our late Palma departure it is late morning when we arrive in Messina SICILY.  We leave the ship and head for the cathedral to see the elaborate astronomical clock chime at 12.00.  Last time we visited it was being repaired.  Another couple tag along with us and by the time we get to the main square I am guiding a tour group of 8!  At noon the clock chimes, the lion roars and the cock crows before other gilt figures move around to the “Ave Maria” music.  It’s all over by 12.15pm and we head off towards the “Camposanto” (cemetery).  It’s a long walk and we stop to ask directions and end up with a free iced cappuccino from the stall holder.  Reach the cemetery and enter by a small side gate.  There’s quite a climb up the hill to the crumbling but impressive Pantheon where we get good views over the straits.  There are many impressive chapels and interesting tombs and we amble around at leisure.  Much of the area is overgrown and with buildings falling down.  A siren sounds at 1pm and we guess it is lunch break for a factory or something nearby.  We are already heading back down the hill and reach the gate just as a second siren sounds as the gates are being locked shut for the afternoon.  That was lucky, as we could have been locked in and unable to get back to the ship on time.  Walking the streets we notice some amazing parking with vehicles actually touching bumpers.  This probably explains why most of the cars have bumps on them.  In fact we start looking for ones that don’t have and see none at all.  Back on board we sunbathe until its time for Steve to watch the England v Trinidad & Tobago match.  I stay out on deck and watch the pilot jump off on to the smaller boat as we motor out at 20 knots.  Usually they ask the Captain to slow down but for some reason this pilot favours the fast transfer.  After eating we head to the Bounty Lounge and end up being contestants in a version of “The Weakest Link”.  I get voted off after being asked, “Who were the only British team to qualify for the 1994 world cup finals” and answer “Manchester United” – for those who have as much interest in football as I do then there was a clue in the question and the answer was Scotland.  Anyway Steve goes on to the head to head and wins us £30 of casino chips.  Race up on deck to catch glimpses of Stromboli erupting.  We see a couple of blasts but it’s nothing like as spectacular at this distance compared to when we once climbed it at night.



FRIDAY 16 JUNE – Steve has a bad night, coughing and trying to clear his nose.  He just about got over a cold when he started again and puts it down to the air conditioner and lack of fresh air in the cabin.  Anyway he gets up around 5am and watches as we arrive in Naples ITALY and dock by the old castle.  He returns and wakes me for breakfast after which we make an early escape from the ship, before 8am.  Armed with local information we buy a ticket at the newsagent for €3.50 (£2.50) enabling us to use all public transport until midnight.  Catch the No1 tram along the waterfront and stay on until it turns up the side street and drops us by the bus station.  Directly behind this is the train station and we board the “Circumvesuviana” line in the direction of Sorrento.  Steve has a panicky moment when he can’t tie in the station names on the map but we are OK as there are 2 lines to Sorrento and both pass Herculaneum (Ercolano) where we want to alight at the “Scavo” (ruins) stop.  Directly in front of the station is a sign directing you to a nearby café selling tickets for the shuttle bus to Vesuvius €10 (£7) return.  Just down the hill the very helpful man at the tourist office tells us the local bus is a little cheaper but the times do not suit us.  He asks us to return to his office after our visit and he will give us a free poster.  Return and book the mini bus and once there are enough passengers it sets off and winds it’s way up the steep hill.  Alighting in the car park we pay $6.50 (£4.50) park admission fee to enable us to climb to the summit.  It’s a long and fairly steep walk with outstanding views around the bay of Naples, seen in glimpses behind the smog.  A few strategically placed cafes offer refreshment along the way and the view inside the crater inspires us to do the walk around and to the far side where you would see Pompeii were it not so hazy today.  Return to Ercolano tourist office where we are given 4 posters, some postcards and loads of information including about some undersea mosaics recently found at Baia near Pozzuoli.  He shows us photos taken from the air clearly showing the mosaic through the clear water – a must for any future visit.  Retrace our steps and arrive back at the ship early afternoon in readiness for the 3.30pm departure.  We are still in port just after 4pm when the Captain announces that we are waiting for 1 passenger, a man who went ashore an hour ago for a stroll.  He next announces that the man can be seen walking slowly along the dock without a car in the world despite the ships horn blowing and all the passengers on deck waving him to hurry up – how embarrassing.  In the evening we enjoy a “Hollywood Cinema” based show in the theatre then the Escape versions of Generation Game and Call My Bluff.



SATURDAY 17 JUNE – Livorno is our anchorage today and we are virtually in the centre of town.  We are still fixing things up for our South Africa trip so walk to the library where Internet is free.  It’s in a park on the edge of town and there is an art display in tents in the garden.  Bought some medicine for Steve yesterday and it’s making him drowsy so we return to the ship.  Catch the early evening show, magician come comedian Andre has been flown out from the UK and he is very good, a bit like Tommy Cooper.  This leads us straight on to the “Blankety Blank” quiz game where Steve becomes part of the panel.  There’s just time for us to eat before going up to the pool area where there is a “1969 New Years Eve Deck Party”.  The highlight of the evening is a unique event for a cruise ship, the Captain and senior officers entertaining us with dance routines.  Traditional disco music rounds off the evening for poolside dancing.



SUNDAY 18 JUNE – We are back in FRANCE and dock in Toulon naval port around 9am.  We have had rain in the night and it’s quite a dull grey morning but with signs of improvement.  I walk ashore and find a place where our friend Anne can meet us.  Her husband Graham died last year and we haven’t seen her since.  Once she arrives I fetch Steve from the ship and we set out with Anne driving us up to Mont Faron.  There are superb views over the city and along the coast.  It’s very windy and the cable car is not running but at least the sun has come out.  Settle down in a café to do lots of catching up.  Once we have driven back down we drop Steve at the ship and set out for a wander around town with a stop for lunch.  Toulon old town area is very nice and extremely quiet.  Anne drops me back at the late afternoon and I find Steve asleep in the cabin where is happy to be woken up as it’s time for the Australia v Brazil football match on the TV.  Showtime is “Rocking all over the world” and very good.  Follow this up with the Bounty Bar showing of Mr & Mrs, Miss Island Escape and Andre the magician.



MONDAY 19 JUNE – Dock in Barcelona SPAIN by 7am but have a lie in and don’t go ashore until nearly 10am.  Steve is still feeling rather weak and weary so we take the tourist option and hop on an open top bus that links 3 circuits with all day use for €18 (£12).  It’s very well organised with a booklet telling you about the attractions at each of the stops.  We both love quirky architecture especially Gaudi creations so hop off along the Passeig de Gracia to see some superb examples.  Sagrada Familia is the only cathedral in the world still under construction.  Gaudi’s dream was begun in 1926 and is optimistically scheduled for completion in 2026.  I’ve been inside previously so explore the outside at leisure whilst Steve enters the cathedral, €7 (£4.90) using the discount voucher from the bus.  He says it was impressive but just too busy to see much.  Outside seems to be the best part at the moment and it really is magnificent.  Back on the bus we dare not get off anywhere as the traffic is making the journey very slow and we have to be back on board by 4.30pm.  However we do get to see most of the points of interest and actually end up back just after 3.30pm.  The new Queen Mary is docked near us and looks quite impressive.  We’re away by 5pm and nap before the evening entertainment session.  Take our last meal in the Oasis and share a table with Margaret and Jim from Shrewsbury.  Learn that the Island Escape was the feature of the TV documentary “The Cruise”.  The bingo jackpot has not been won all week and stands at over £1000 so we buy a ticket and finish just one number off winning.  Retire to our room having put our bags out for collection and checked our bill.



TUESDAY 20 JUNE – Anchor early in Palma MAJORCA where you must vacate your cabin by 8am.  Take a leisurely breakfast in the Island Restaurant before being called for our coach to the airport at 8.45am.  It’s a very dull and cloudy day making it much easier to head back to England.  Looking back on things we have enjoyed the cruise, in spite of the football problem in the first week, but would have liked much longer in the ports to enable us to venture further.  The ship is certainly very friendly and informal although we may have enjoyed something a little more formal and certainly much smaller. Many booked a future cruise whilst on board as they were offering a free upgrade to all inclusive but that would have cost £999 for the 2 weeks as opposed to the £599 we got as a late deal.  Reckon you wouldn’t see much of the ports if you had gone all out to drink over £400 of booze in the 2 weeks!  Depart just a little late and land in ENGLAND Gatwick just in time to miss the hourly shuttle to the airport parking!   Unfortunately this means we hit the Birmingham rush hour traffic but make it to Mum’s by 6.30pm.   She’s very pleased to see us and Steve does a quick catch up on news before heading to the pub to watch England draw 2-2 against Sweden.  Mum tells me how fantastic the weather has been whilst we were away, hard to believe as it is now dull, cool and raining.



WEDNESDAY 21 JUNE – Having been used to getting up before 8am on the cruise (7am UK time) I find it hard to lie in – and disappointing to open the curtains and not see a new port!   Fit in a brief visit up town then crack on with the mountain of washing and helping Mum with paperwork.  Steve revels in watching lots of football on TV.



THURSDAY 22 JUNE – I’m just about on top of the jobs and paperwork so join Mum for a drive out to Hall Green nuclear bunker where she intends taking Bev & Norm when they visit next month.  It’s very easy getting there but trying to find a different way back is a different story with none of the T-junctions having signposts.  Pop to Netty’s late afternoon to cook the lads some tea as she is working a late shift.  Steve is happy when she is delayed at work as he is watching Australia do really well to draw against Croatia in the world cup.



FRIDAY 23 JUNE – Pop round to neighbour John’s to chat about our lifestyle, as they want to do similar.  Unfortunately he gets called out to work and leaves us with his wife.  Mum drives out to lunch with a friend and I begin packing for our visit to Yorkshire.  It will be so nice to get back into our own motorhome and not be living out of a suitcase as we have for the last 3 months!  



SATURDAY 24 JUNE – Drive up to Manchester where it’s easy to spot David’s house festooned with England flags.  They are all OK except that David has a nasty lump in his mouth and will have surgery to remove it in August.  Continue to cousin Karen’s in Wakefield and arrive in time for Steve to watch the football on TV.  Karen & Chris are in the property market and we have lots to chat about.  Sarah goes off to work as a waitress whilst James and his girlfriend Emma cook tea on the BBQ.  Their spaniel “Sophie” gets into bother for drinking all the fat from the BBQ grease bowl and we await the consequences!  Auntie Pamela pops round in the evening and we chat about the distant relatives we have in Africa whom we hope to meet up with.  Late evening we head to their gym to wallow in the hot tub and sit in the sauna setting us up for a good night’s sleep.



SUNDAY 25 JUNE – Chris has collected a number of cars off E-bay and selects the beach buggy for our drive out to lunch.  It’s really quite fun sat in the back roaring through the streets.  Meet up with Auntie Pamela at the pub where Sarah works and enjoy a huge lunch.  Return to find that Sophie has left a number of presents!  Head off to Yeadon to Lisa and Mick’s.  Netty is over from Spain and staying with them and Claire and the kids have also arrived for the afternoon.  There’s a real festive atmosphere and lots of England shirts, hats and flags in sight in readiness for the match.  There’s a great atmosphere whilst they all watch England beat Ecuador 1-0 in the world cup.  We look at some old family photos and end up rolling around laughing with tears streaming down our faces.  I cook the BBQ whilst Steve & Mick watch the Grand Prix after which we all leave.  Drive to Bingley to stay at Mom and Dad’s for the night.  Unfortunately we don’t get much sleep on the airbeds in the lounge. 



MONDAY 26 JUNE – Make an early visit to the doctors to have the last of our travel injections.   Check on our house in Parkwood Street as the tenant has given notice.  Spot a lot of agent’s boards for other houses in the street that have recently been let.  Back at Mom’s we phone the Martin&Co for info and discover that our friend Richard John is their letting manager.  He calls round to bring us the info and have a chat.



TUESDAY 27 JUNE – We all get up early to go over to Lisa’s to see Netty before she flies back to Spain.  It’s a pleasant morning and we sit outside chatting until she has to leave for the airport. Unfortunately her flight is delayed so Mum & Dad return to pick us up and leave Lisa to catch the bus back.  We hear later that Netty nearly missed the flight having waited in the initial check in area where they didn’t update the “delayed” sign.  As she finally went through to the departure area she heard an announcement calling for missing passenger Annette Keen to board the plane! 



WEDNESDAY 28 JUNE – The peace is shattered with an alarm sound before 8am. With no reaction from Mom and Dad I end up knocking on the door to wake them up.  They think the fire alarm is being checked but when I pop outside to investigate I see thick smoke through the glass doors of the hallway opposite.  As I approach a little old man comes staggering out declaring that he has burnt the toast.  It looks rather like the episode of Fawlty Towers where Manuel emerges from the burning kitchen.  He’s OK but no one knows how to re set the alarm and Mom ends up phoning 999 to report it.  The fire engine arrives and they extract the smoke with a fan.  Mid morning I go for a walk around Bingley, Mum and Dad’s flat is perfectly located within a few minutes walk of all facilities and public transport.  At 12.00pm we meet the new letting agent Angela at Parkwood Street as we are changing managing agents.  Our tenant is due out in 3 weeks and it looks doubtful that she will return the property in the condition she received so we need to arrange for Angela to deal with the aftermath.  Drive up to Howarth to catch Claire on her lunch break then stay in the house using the Internet.  Pick the kids up from school then return at 5pm to take Natasha to “Rainbows”.  Once Claire has arrived home we go back to Keighley to stay at Richards for the night.  He is in the early stages of splitting up with Sharon and we are lucky to catch her and the kid’s there collecting some stuff.  Once she has left we complete the signing of the house letting contract with Richards acting as House Letting Manager before moving on to more personal things and consoling Richard along with a few drinks.



THURSDAY 29 JUNE – Richard cooks us a great English breakfast before leaving us the keys as he sets off to work.  I go to Keighley and take my time ambling round.  Return to Richards and watch a bit of TV before heading off to Wilsden.  Rod works from home and is there when we arrive.  Spend the rest of the afternoon on the phone sorting out a few “in house” problems.  Realise how out of practice I am when I give out a postcode with the letter N and to differentiate it from M say N for Norris, leaving Steve and Rod cracking up shouting out and M for Morris!   Nancy arrives home and we have a lovely roast dinner.  At ten-pin bowling Steve plays as a substitute and I flit from lane to lane catching up on the goss. 



FRIDAY 30 JUNE – Spend the morning distracting Rod from his work and leave after lunch.  Our friend Pete Crawley has flown back from Ibiza to have his 47th birthday party at the factory.  He’s given everyone the afternoon off work and is putting on a BBQ.  Have a good chat with him whilst almost getting high on the second hand marijuana smoke!  Call in at Mum & Dad’s en route to Sandra’s.  Along with Keith we go down to the Balti.  Make a good choice in sharing a mixed platter starter and a main course.  Spend ages chatting back at Sandra’s, as we haven’t seen them for 2 years.





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