Monthly Archives: January 2011

Winter Sun 2011

Cruising the Canaries hoping to find some sun, but with only mixed results …

Thomson Spirit

Day 1 (Friday 21 January)

Departed Manchester on time at 10:45 after only just allowing enough time to get to the airport: 65 minutes from home to the Shuttle Park, which was longer than I expected, and just missing the bus, meant we were at check-in for 9:00.

Arrived Tenerife South on time at shortly after 3pm, and were on the transfer coach by about 4.15, and at the boat around 5pm. Efficiently booked in and escorted to out cabin. Spent quite a lot of time during the rest of the first day going up and down staircases and back an forth trying to get our bearings.

Reasonable evening meal, but I don’t think the catering is going to be a highlight of the holiday really. Very late to bed after sampling the entertainment in the show lounge and the rather nice top-deck bar, followed by a visit to the 24-hour buffet restaurant for late snack.

Day 2 (Saturday)

Gran Canaria

Walked into town (Las Palmas) hoping for coffee in some atmospheric local cafe, but everything seemed to be in the shade. Strolled along the beach then back to the harbour. Found a bar on the way and had a couple of beers in the sunshine.

Excursion in the afternoon with very chatty lady guide; around Las Palmas old town etc, including guided visit to “The Columbus House” museum.

Decided to invest in a “wine package” of five bottles for £73 – think it works out cheaper than buying separate bottle every night.

Again, acceptable evening meal, despite grumpy maitre-de type who wasn’t keen on me asking for a table-for-two.

Day 3 (Sunday)

La Palma

Not a good day! – up early for 9.00 start to our excursion. Weather not too bad at first, at least at sea level, but mountain tops ominously clouded.

Started out OK with visit to the Virgin-of-the-Snows church. But as soon as we began the climb to higher places we were in cloud and by the time we had crossed to the west side of the island we were in solid rain. Rest of the trip basically a washout; no view of the fabled Caldera or anything else! Informative video in the visitors’ centre replaced the planned walk and just served to underline what we had missed! Got pretty wet, having failed to take our wet-weather gear.

On return to boat, after lunch had a sleep in the cabin and woke to boat going up and down significantly; I felt light-headed and rather queasy, though not actually sick. Recovered after a meal and some alcohol!

Day 4 (Monday)

Madeira

Wet again first thing. Walked into town, and it had cleared up by the time we got to the centre. Coffee in pavement café; mooched round a small shopping centre hoping but failing to find a shop to buy a jumper (this wasn’t supposed to be a jumper holiday!); short stroll round the market – what a lot of fruit-and-veg, not to mention the fish!

Cable car up mountain for splendid views across the town; decided to walk back down – BIG MISTAKE! Lesley having trouble with her knee before we got half way and both pretty much knackered by the time we got back into town. Beer in a café then taxi back to the boat!

Evening meal in Sirroco a-la-carte restaurant: very nice. Tried to book again for Thursday, but already full up – shame.

Day 5 (Tuesday)

At sea all day.

Woke to grey sky and grey sea with white horses – another disappointing day in prospect!

By 11:30 the fog had descended reducing visibility to about 50 yards – not that there was much to see anyway. Somehow passed the day hanging around various parts of the boat – seats tended to be at a premium because no access to “outdoors”.

Captain’s Cocktail Reception at 7.30pm was pretty much of a non-event – queued for 10 or 15 minutes to shake hands with captain’s substitute (the master being fully engaged on the bridge coping with the weather) followed by a glass of warm bucks fizz and twiddling our thumbs while everybody else was processed; the actual captain appeared for five minutes to address us briefly and present his heads of department; finally allowed in for dinner.

Evening meal was good – the splitting into two sittings meant plenty of room, so we had a table to ourselves with no problem. Food nice.

Day 6 (Wednesday)

Agadir – cancelled!

Woke to sound of the bow thruster and expected to be tying up in Agadir port, but the captain came on the PA to say that sea conditions were such that “we are unable to come alongside in Agadir port” and so we must continue direct to Lanzarote.

So another day at sea. This was however moderately pleasant, since it was dry with sunshine; unfortunately, high winds and rough sea, but at least bearable.

Contrary to my expectations, we did not dock in Arrecife late that evening, however, but continued to toss around in the Atlantic – presumably because docking early would cost Thomson additional fees!

Day 7 (Thursday)

Lanzarote

Tied up in Arrecife 7.00-ish. Weather looks promising. Sea calm – hooray!

Shuttle bus into town and strolled around taking a few snaps. Coffee and beers in cafés by way of refreshment and back to boat for lunch.

Pleasant afternoon sunning ourselves on promenade deck

Final evening meal we were unable to have a table-for-two, but had nice company.

Day 8 (Friday)

Tenerife and home

Being chucked out of cabin am 8:00am was not really problematic, as it was a hot sunny morning. Lounged on prom deck until it was time to set off for home.

Airport chaotic! – just as well they shipped us there in good time.

Good flight home, landing MIA just before 9.00pm. Temperature -2 degrees!!! Car windscreen frozen inside and out!!

Home just after 11.00; electric blankets on and more-or-less straight to bed

General Impression

Worth doing it once, certainly; but would I cruise again? – probably not.

Not being of a gregarious / highly sociable nature, I guess it was always a bit doubtful that cruising would suit, but I always fancied trying it. Many things were enjoyable, and it was a good way to get a flavour of Las Islas Canarias. The rough weather was just bad luck (people on board had done the cruise or something close lots of times before without any such problem); never-the-less it did seem like a poor investment of so much cash, at times.

It’s Official – I’m Going to Be an OAP!

Received the official invitation from HMG a few days ago to claim my State Pension. Despite their kind offer to allow me not to claim it, I decided to go right ahead!

Somewhat amazed at the amount of information you are required to submit — would have thought my National Insurance number ought to be all they’d need, since every other detail of my life/earnings/contributions must be in a state computer database somewhere.

Anyway, I duly got together the “Information You May Need When You Make A Claim” …

  • your National Insurance number
  • your current address and postcode, plus your last two addresses
  • your tax reference number (you can find this on HM Revenue & Customs forms P45 or P60, or any letter you’ve had from them about tax)
  • if you’re married or in a civil partnership (or have been), we’ll need your husband’s, wife’s or civil partner’s details (this includes their National Insurance number and the date of your marriage or civil partnership)
  • if you’re divorced or widowed or your civil partnership has dissolved or you’re a surviving civil partner, we’ll need relevant dates as well
  • details of any social security benefits or entitlements that you or your husband, wife or civil partner are getting or waiting to hear about
  • the address of any employer you’ve worked for in the last two years, and the dates that you worked for them
  • if you’ve ever lived or worked outside the UK, we’ll need your social security number and relevant dates
  • our policy is to have all State Pensions paid direct into an account (we’ll need the number for the account you want your State Pension paid into)

I then headed for the government website, hoping to make a claim online. When I found my way to the appropriate function at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/eservice/ and got through the Government Gateway login process, it was somewhat surprising/annoying to discover you have to be on a Micros**t Windows system for the online claim to work —
The service is not currently available using Macs or other Unix based systems even though you may be able to input information.
— sounds a bit odd to me.

Never-the-less, didn’t want to risk screwing up my pension application, did I?! — so duly fired up the old Windows laptop and went through the process on that. Sure enough they insisted on having all that information, and I think some other stuff besides; but eventually got it done.

Now I just sit back and wait for a nice little (well, not so little actually!) hike in my income as of 5/5/2001. 🙂

 

An Unusual Visitor Returns

The return of the pheasant …

 

Couple of times in the last day or two, we’ve had a visit from a cock pheasant (or single visits from different ones?). The annoying thing is, the light is never any good, so I can’t get a decent shot of him/them; plus, whenever I point my camera in his direction, he walks away into the hedge.

Makes a nice change, though from the usual run of blue tits and spadgers.

 

 

 

 

By an odd coincidence, on Sunday night I had a phone call out of the blue from a guy in Devon who’s been trawling through the Lundy field logs and picked up the record of a woodchat shrike spotted there last May. Apparently it’s sufficient of a rarity that he wants to get it logged as an officially recognized sighting, and asked me to confirm some details.

Wonder if we’ll manage anything new to add to our limited bird-knowledge while we’re cruising the Canaries?  Mustn’t forget to pack the bin’s and idiot’s guide.

 

It’s All Over, Once Again

January 6th, Epiphany, Twelfth Night – call it what you will: the tree is gone, the dec’s are down, and the cards are bagged up for the recycling scheme at Sainsbury’s.

Was this any different from previous years’ festivities? Not a lot, really – apart from Anna being laid low by the flu, or whatever virus it was; that, and the record-low temperatures.

Mother-in-Law came to stay for a few days over the Xmas weekend; R&M stayed overnight Boxing Day and took her home on the “Monday Bank Holiday”. Then we had an overnight trip to Garstang for R&M’s soirée, which was a somewhat reduced affair, number-wise, due to a combination of misfortunes among The Cousins.

New Year was, as is normal of recent years, a quiet-night-in: just the two of us and a nice rump steak with a bottle of the Bootstrap Shiraz which was my best buy of the year. JL retired earlyish but I hung on until the witching hour to check out the neighbour’s fireworks.

Guess I enjoyed it more than might appear from the tone of the above, but perhaps not to the extent I used to — hey ho!

New Year – A Fresh Start(?)

So – two years ago (almost), I entered the world of blogging: the first eight months or so it went quite well; then it kind of petered out; and 2010 was pretty sporadic, consisting mostly of holiday records.

Now, it being a New Year, I feel perhaps a renewed effort is required, so I set up a weekly reminder in Thunderbird that will prompt me to “Blog Something” every Tuesday.

Well, I’ve done that now!
… maybe I should try a little harder – watch this space 🙂