Wednesday 5 April
Only home at 10pm last night from my witness duties in court in London and we are off again, this time on the afternoon fast ferry to Liverpool.
Big traffic jam to get out of Liverpool as there is a Premiership mach tonight but eventually get through tunnel and off to Shrewsbury for our overnight.
Thursday 6 April
No problems on route to Portsmouth via Flic’s in Reading after helping her move some books from their garage.
Friday 7 April
A bit of retail therapy at a few nearby shops and dinner tonight at Pizza Express in Petersfield, a place I don’t think I had been to before although might have had a visit when, as a Scout, we camped at nearby South Harting.
Saturday 8 April
Foggy as we arrive at Portsmouth Harbour for our long crossing to Jersey for a long wait before we board – not a busy ferry despite it being the week before Easter but we are soon on our way past the Spinnaker and some interesting sights and ships as the fog clears quickly.
A very smooth crossing and again, probably another first, leaving Portsmouth in the morning.
Lots of reading time on the crossing to Guernsey and the town of St Peter Port is looking good in the sunshine on our stop for about an hour before we head off for Jersey.
Sunday 9 April
A bright and hot start which goes down hill rapidly with fog rolling in whilst we stand around and watch Harry in a taster cycle race at Les Quenevais.
Monday 10 to Thursday 13 April
Harry in Sports bugs at Le Rocquier School in the morning, so dropping him off at 8:30 and picking him up again at 12:00 each day.
A Monday visit to Social Security to talk about Jersey pensions, Tuesday morning breakfast at Colleen’s in Greve de Lecq and all afternoons spent entertaining him with Lego Builder – his toy of the moment – and a build your own rocket.
Friday 14 April
Good Friday, so Sarah and Ali are off all day.
Evening meal at Pizza Express in St Brelade’s Bay – possibly one of the best located Pizza Express restaurants around but very noisy as lots of groups are taking advantage of the Bank holiday.
Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 April
Some time to reacquaint ourselves with some of the delights of Jersey such as a walk around the Reservoir at Queen’s Valley picking daisies for a daisy chain and on Sunday evening a lovely meal with Laura & Jim at the Sommerville Hotel – plans hatched for holidays this year to Florida and next year to Alaska.
Monday 17 April
Easter Monday and whilst Elizabeth Castle was free to get in yesterday it would have been mobbed so we go today especially as the tides are right for the DUCK to go on the water which is on his “to do” list.
The interaction with the public inside the castle is wonderful including marching soldiers and rifle firing – the latter not being one of Harry’s favourite things though.
Now been to the castle more times than the 12 years we lived in Jersey – still fascinating though and Harry does like the freedom to run around.
However, a storm appears to be on the way meaning yachts are scurrying into the harbour for shelter.
Tuesday 18 April
Harry off school as it is an inservice day at his school – go off to buy some plant pots that match the ones at home, a sit on the beach at Gorey and a catch up with Sue Thorne at Holme Grown.
Sarah & Ali are interested in moving house so we are off to St Brelade’s for a viewing of a house that needs a lot of work doing to it. All dependent upon schools, mortgages, planning (bounderies) and a few other issues though, so nothing definite.
Wednesday 19 April
Take Harry (who is a bit reluctant) to school and off to Ransom’s for breakfast, pack up the car – leaving their present house for the last time as it pans out – and down to town to meet with Sarah and Ali for lunch at Costa before queuing for well over an hour before we get on the delayed Condor Ferries boat back to Poole which leaves an hour late.
A bit of a jigsaw as two boats arrive at the same time, one from Guernsey and Poole and the other from St Malo.
Cars from Guernsey and Poole going to St Malo have to switch ferries as do the cars from St Malo heading for Guernsey and Poole.
All this takes place in a very confined port area – it is amazing they all get to their correct destinations.
Thursday 20 April
After a night near Poole, we head back to Reading to check up on Flic followed by a very long (time wise) drive to Liverpool to head home.
So much traffic and a journey that normally takes about 3.5 hours took 5.5 hours and we only just made the ferry before they pulled up the ramp.
We are back to look after Flic very soon though.
If it is Monday and Tuesday in late March or early April then I must be in a Court. No, I haven’t committed a crime or two, nor am I a lawyer (albeit I know a bit about the law)but on two successive Monday’s and Tuesday’s I was in a Court which was an interesting experience.
Court Appearance No. 1.
I had received a summons for Jury Service locally in the Isle of Man which quite by chance had arrived just after I had returned from our 50 day cruise.
Had it been sent out just after our cruise had started, I am not sure what the Court service would have done in the absence of any response from me – probably arrested me.
Anyway, being a small island, only a small number of people (21) are summonsed, well in excess of the number of jurors required, who all meet at the first day of the trial, watch a short introductory video and are led into Court.
A ballot ensues and although the last time I was not called, this time, my name is the 2nd one out of the box and nobody objected to me so there I am sitting at the head of the jury benches (the first person called was objected to) watching the others being selected out of the ballot box.
Once the 7 jurors had been selected – many persons whose names had been read out were already excused and some were objected to for various reasons so the whole process took about 10-15 minutes – we were sworn in and had the case presented to us by the prosecution before witnesses were called and the defence had the opportunity to present the defence.
To cut a long story short, the jurors are then asked to deliberate on the evidence and return a guilty or not guilty verdict.
This case lasted into a 2nd day and of course we were not allowed to discuss the case with anyone until after the case had been completed.
The defendant’s livelihood is at stake here and we as jurors must get the verdict right which I hope we did before we went our separate ways.
Court appearance No. 2
I left working for an employer nearly 5 years ago but had the thought at the back of my mind that one day, a particular case might still need my input and I was not wrong.
Before we embarked on our January cruise, I had received notification that I would be required to give evidence at a trial in London of some individuals who I had dealt with whilst working for this particular employer so the letter awaiting me on my return was not unexpected.
Flights, train travel and a hotel were organised to enable me to attend Southwark Crown Court and I must say that the organisers were very accommodating with my other travel plans, fitting in my court appearance to suit me as well as them.
What I was not expecting though was to be on the witness stand (actually I was able to sit) for two whole days and even then they were not able to finish with my evidence, this had to be completed (at my suggestion) by way of a video link back home three weeks later which thankfully only lasted about 30 minutes..
The court room was not only filled with the usual people (including 20 or so lawyers in robes) but unlike my experience the previous week, many monitors were in place scattered around the court room all of which were used by the court to refer certain people in court to particular documents or witness statements as directed by the judge and implemented by a technical team.
The 12 jurors had been chosen from a short list after the presiding judge had reviewed a sort of CV each prospective juror (I believe over 90) had been asked to complete. Even then, one chosen juror was very honest and early on in the trial had asked to be excused as he or she said they “did not have the mental ability to understand the case”.
I must say I have a lot of admiration for the jurors in this case bearing in mind the content of the case and the projected length of time the case is likely to last – some of them have jobs to go back to!
Obviously I cannot go into too much detail about the case but the above does represent some of the views I can share.
Having to answer questions continuously for two days on something that happened well over 5 years previously was somewhat taxing to say the least so I was grateful of the lunch breaks and comfort breaks afforded during the proceedings and I must say the area around the Court House including Hays Wharf was modern, lively and considerably more photogenic than the actual courthouse itself which looks like something from the old USSR in design.
The hotel I stayed at had a good morning view of the city once the mist had cleared although by the time I returned in the evening, it just wasn’t quite the same. It was an area I was not all that familiar with so an interesting two lunchtimes were spent exploring.
By the time I got home on the 2nd day, it was time to pack for our next adventure – the following day – in our new car, to Jersey.
No more port days, only two more sea days until we get off and it is back to long trousers for day wear. Yes, the musical director,
Dane is being pressed into service for the classical concert this afternoon, so it was the French pianist who missed the ship and we later understand Matthieu took a local taxi to go up Mt Teide but the taxi driver abandoned him, so Matthieu started to walk back only to be mugged and lost his bag.
Nothing on this morning but Crows Nest is crowded as it is cold and windy outside so there is nowhere for the sun worshipers to go.
John & Deirdre a having difficulty finding room in their cases, have packed their “Black Tie” wear as tomorrow is a casual night only to see that the Horizon says tomorrow’s dinner and Captain ‘s cocktail invitation is a Black Tie event.😠
Evening entertainment is firstly from Jenny Williams with more singing, partly from the musicals, and the Blue Jays who I think we have seen before with their 1950s Rock and Roll songs.
The lady beside me obviously was just going there for something to do as she didn’t clap once despite it being one of the liveliest shows we have seen.
Still very rough, doubt we will get much sleep although I did manage an hour late morning.
Yes, not a lot of sleep last night but today we manage to stay awake for an interview with John Lyons the actor who can be seen on stage later in the year in Dial M for Murder and Father Brown.
He related the story that when he was 13 he was helped by Reggie Kray when he was seriously attacked in an E London Road by another gang and even taken to A & E by Reggie.
A back-down by P & O who realise that in error they advised in earlier information that tonight was a casual night but Horizon newspaper said Black Tie. Tonight’s dress code is therefore “optional”.
A “special” tea in the Peninsular restaurant for P & O’s 180th year but it didn’t seem overly special other than the extra calories it gave us!
Probably a 70% / 30% in favour of those dressing up tonight although perhaps this is slightly generous to those wishing to dress up. Entertainment tonight is the comedian, James Martin with more of the same type of comedy – not as good as two days ago and made even worse by the cackling of the two couples behind us.
Our last full day and we are now crossing the Bay of Biscay en route to Southampton with Sarah, Ali and Harry being passed in way off Andorra. Another calmish crossing (Force 4) of Bay of Biscay.
An early morning talk by last night’s comedian, John Martin, who talked with a great deal of authority on the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 during WWII – fascinating story with a film, Operation Anthropoid that could be worth watching.
Packing for our departure tomorrow, where is the present we have bought for Flic’s baby? It is getting cold, down to below 60F so we opt for lunch in the Peninsular Restaurant.
Talk to Brenda at some length and Captain Box passes and joins in – he says he has to be more careful with what he says to the crew of his personal boat than the P & O ships!
Some wonderful paintings on show from the art class held throughout the cruise and a good display of craft work including some cards, necklaces and sewing.
Entertainment tonight, another helping of the Blue Jays, a drink in the Crows Nest with John & Deirdre, Brenda & Mick and their friends Wendy and Colin.
Docking at about 06:00 after extra engine noise from about 5:00. Breakfast in the Oriental restaurant and good bye to John & Deirdre who are getting off earlier than us, hiring a car to drive back to Bromham – let us hope it goes well as John’s mobile phone stopped working before the 2nd US port so many weeks ago.
Our departure time is 10:10, and hopefully Flic has had a bit of rest at IKEA waiting for us whilst we spend time watching supplies arrive for the next cruise – up North to Norway to watch the Northern Lights.
And now for the journey home but no sooner than we have got into Flic’s car, we are told of a problem at Clearwell with a burst oil tank so that is going to be expensive and need resolving quickly.
Now for the 2nd piece of bad news, because of Storm Doris, tomorrow’s ferry home across the Irish Sea has been cancelled.
We have an enforced extra day in the UK – our ferry is now 14:15 on 24 February – so book a hotel and go after an Ikea visit with Flic & her friend Laura go off to our hotel at Tamworth where we were able to extend our stay for an extra night.
Storm Doris has arrived with a vengeance and our visit to a local shopping centre to stock up on a few emergency provisions resulted in us parking well away from the building – there have already been reports of roofs being lifted in the vicinity.
Find our way to Sally’s cousin, Alan who lives nearby. No Debbie, she is at work, but a few dogs to play with before we set out for lunch.
Our drive to the lunch venue – the Littleton Arms Hotel at Penkridge – is thwarted on three routes by fallen trees but eventually we reach the pub for a lovely meal.
By now the trees aren’t bending so much in the wind, the rain isn’t quite as bad as it was expected to be and after more cuddles with Louis we retire to our hotel.
Uneventful drive to Heysham for a surprisingly calm crossing home to Douglas and mountains of post including a Jury Summons but more about that later.
Our cruise is over – and what an adventure sailing up the Amazon for 1000 miles as well as all the other ports of calls en route.
Our last port of call, Tenerife; a place we went to once before, in 1997. Ironically, we arrived then on Oriana ( but on that occasion, left on Concorde! ).
Temperature is a good 20C which is good for our last port of call, especially as we have some clear blue sky to start with.
A somewhat later start to our tour of some of the Island’s Gardens, perhaps the other two ships docked in the port today had bagged the earlier slots and somewhat surprisingly, we left without two passengers who failed to turn up.
The coach takes us out of the cruise terminal, turning back on itself at least 3 times before we head over the tram lines and out of the town towards the north of the island on the motorway, climbing steadily to about 2000ft above sea level before dropping down the other side to Puerto de la Cruz.
A stop to photograph Mt Teide from above a modern estate, with it’s snow topping and we then descend to our first garden, Jardin de Aclimatacion de La Orotava, a tranquil walled area built in 1791-1795 following a Royal Order issued by King Charles III in August 1788. (€2 entrance)
Lots of interesting plants and trees including some Spanish Moss although some of the lower foliage which was in flower appeared not to be named.
Sadly, we had to go too quickly, perhaps another 30 minutes would have sufficed.
Onwards to the Jardin Sitio Litre which derives it’s name from a transaction back in 1774 when it was acquired by Mr Archibald Little (thereby the name Little’s place, in Spanish SITIO LITRE).
The garden is the oldest surviving garden in Tenerife, is now over 240 years old and has been owned continuously by British families since 1730 when the mansion it is attached to was built by Mr John Paisley, a wine merchant from Scotland. The British connection extends to a Croquet lawn in the gardens.
Apart from many of the usual plants and trees seen in Tropical Gardens, this does feature a fine assortment of Orchids as well as a Dragon Tree reputed to be over 600 years old. A sample of the local wine was included but it wasn’t of the best quality.
Back on the coach for an immediate left turn up a very steep narrow road to an aquatic garden in a private dwelling open to the public.
The northern area of Tenerife has suffered of late with holiday makers tending to stay on the south.
Some enterprising people have found alternative ways to make money and this is one.
Not really a lot of plants to see (€5 entrance) here although a turkey or black swan held court, a few turtles were sleeping and of course there was a water element.
A nearby waterfall was quite photogenic but a long walk up from the town and sea front below.
Sadly, before we had left the water garden, one woman travelling on her own, fell and badly hurt her knees but fortunately was able to walk back to the bus.
Our return drive to the ship was along the same roads that we arrived on.
Our guide today was very passionate about the north of the island but her English was probably not as good as those in the Brazillian Rainforest.
With the ship leaving at 4:30 there was no time to go out to get internet at the cruise terminal so we will have to wait until we are back in the UK on Wednesday or buy a day’s internet for £12.50.
Sail away party on deck, lots of flag waving and singing as we push away from the quayside but as we do a vehicle with “emergencies” comes rushing up and a very distraught person leaps out – he has missed the ship! Not only is this no doubt a disaster for him, it is not good for us as well – he is one of the Entertainers – Matthieu Esnult from The International Duo. That will make tomorrow’s afternoon concert interesting!
Entertainment tonight is a Liverpudlian comedian, James Martin who managed to have everyone in stitches and took the Mickey out of a lot of the front row. Not sure what was on his CD he was selling as he didn’t sing: possibly a load of jokes!
We have arrived in a sunny Cape Verde Islands and in particular the town of Mindelo on the island of St Vincent.
We were supposed to get in at 8am but what with the unscheduled stop in the Amazon for fuel which caused us at least an 8 hour delay, the head wind of about 25mph and the continual swell hitting us we were 90 minutes late arriving which was very good going which under the circumstances is pretty remarkable.
An early morning sprint on the port side, past the island of Santo Antao with its rugged coastline, barren tall mountainous appearance and the village of Porto Novo stuck by the coast.
Roads or more likely tracks wend their way up to the very sparsely populated mountainside, we are too far away to make anything out though.
A Shuttle bus is provided into town through the working dock area and we opt for a leisurely walk along the coast road past a few fishermen, a few guys playing cards, difficult in the wind, towards the sea museum in the Torre de Belem, and a craft square that didn’t really have anything in it.
The fish market nearby had the catches of the day being poured over by locals (with a well trained cat guarding the catch) then headed inland to the blue tiled market area.
The wooden souvenirs in the market were claimed to be made by the individual sellers but surprisingly, the same products were generally on sale around the square and later in some of the shops.
The women’s clothing on sale was very colourful and dramatic but we didn’t see much evidence of them being worn around town by the locals.
A few women were walking along with baskets balanced on their heads and some of the stall holders were hard at work on their sewing machines or chopping up some of the fruit but there were a few pockets of people standing around not doing anything. Not many though.
Back to the sea front and up some side streets past a few squares until we get to the Hotel Prassa 3, a modern hotel with an inside courtyard which was happy to provide us with tall capachinos and free wifi for €1.50 each.
As we had been without wi-fi for over a week, it took some time for the emails to download and I came away with at least a further 29 not yet downloaded from a week ago.
The town has some buildings that are very modern interspersed with some quite old buildings and some that need a lot of TLC.
From a distance, the houses are generally of the box sort seen in Africa with only a few that have sloping roofs.
Many bright colours have been used as outside wall paint, not everything was white which has given it a different look.
A few beggars were in evidence, all of them elderly as the population is generally quite young but they left you alone if you said “no”.
The island was reputed to be good at producing ukuleles but we saw no music shops and, leaving John & Deirdre to wander further, Sal and I take residence back on board in the shade past a lovely mural.
An interesting port of call which is being developed more as a tourist destination in recent years.
Entertainment tonight is Jimmy James (without his Vagabonds) and from my position standing at the back – in between doing a final wash – the sound quality was much better than at the front. Think he is not at his best now.
A sea day on the way up to Tenerife and Entertainment manager, Elaine Coles gives talk on primates of Cameroon, a passion of hers but we miss talk on ships by Ken Vard, and a talk on Atlantic Volcanoes by Ken MacTaggart. We do however get to the talk by John Lyons, the actor who played a detective, Jack, in A Touch of Frost. No notes, all off the cuff – very good for someone of his age.
There is a tug of war between various departments of the ship at the rear of the ship which usually means some of them getting wet, much to the amusement of the passengers but good news, the sun is out today so there are more bronzed bodies in evidence.
Entertainment tonight is by 3 West End leading ladies, The Patriot Girls who sang items from the Swing era, some modern versions (such as That Man by Caro Emerald) and Jenny Williams, a Stockport female singer with a mixture of classical, musicals and a couple of film songs, a very powerful voice with a bubbly personality.
Tonight is the last time the clocks change – we must be nearly home.
Another sea day and the entertainment is running out of steam, nothing his morning and only a variety show at 3:30 to keep us away from the cooling temperatures of the North Atlantic as we head towards Tenerife.
No decent entertainment this morning so it is book reading time, Sally finishing her 5th and me, well I have finished the book I got for Christmas 2015 – The Blackest Street by Sarah Wise.
This is about the area of Bethnal Green called the Nichol in the late 1800s with references to the Reverend Loveridge whose photo I found a few years back and who I think, was the vicar who married my Grandparents on my father’s side.
Afternoon entertainment was a variety show with some of the Headliners singers and The Patriot Girls and after a stupid film in the evening, “It had to be you”, we were entertained by the International Piano Duo with as well as some opera songs, performed some lively pieces and an exceptionally long solo by Matthieu Esnult.
Northwards to Tenerife.
We must have been seriously delayed as we have now left the Amazon delta having spent a night with little sleep as waves are crashing onto our ship which is now doing nearly 22 knots on our way to Cabo Verde.
A very grey day with the hardy sun bathers at a complete loss as to what to do other than sit out under the clouds.
A talk today on Devil’s Island, a former brutal penal island owned by French Guyana and on Cabo Verde with dinner in the Beach House, it saves dressing up again, and more singing of lesser known, but good, songs from the musicals sung by Gerard Bentall.
Another sea day and an audience with Captain Box, Oriana holds the Golden Cockerel as the fastest ship in the fleet – we are still doing 22.8 knots (about 27mph) which is pretty amazing for a conventional vessel.
A talk this afternoon on Tenerife and the old capital but a leisurely afternoon watching the flying fish.
We establish that the reason we had to go back into the Amazon for refuelling (bunkering) is that there wasn’t enough fuel to give us down the Amazon at Manaus.
Tonight’s entertainment is from the captivating flautist, the very talented Andrea Amat: so good we bought her CD.
11:30 pm we are informed there is a deep fat frier fire in the forward galley on deck 6 with First aid response required. An unusual request to be broadcast to the whole of the ship at this time of night!
Not that I had had much to drink but try saying “deep fat frier fire” after a few alcoholic drinks!
The final sea day before Cape Verde/Cabo Verde and it’s Valentine’s Day. A rose for Sal, but not from me or, John claims, not from him. Sal has a secret admirer on the ship but two days later he and Deirdre admit it was from them!
Still doing 22.5 knots, the ship has a top speed of 24 knots; are we trying to break the transatlantic speed record?
A final talk from Bernard Purrier on the type of dolphins or whales we could see around the migratory islands of Cape Verde and the flying fish which we have seen over the last few days whilst crossing the Atlantic.
As the clocks go forward an hour, we forgoe lunch, buy the first Costa Coffee on board and then listen to Martin P Lee’s talk on the similarities between Hitler and Putin. Scary.
The traditional chocoholics display for tea and I sit next to a guy from Wexford who also does a WordPress blog.
Tonight’s entertainment is the Headliners version of a tribute to Queen in the Pacific Lounge with it’s very poor seating but the ability to be up close and personal with the dancers and singers who, if you were in the front row, would be virtually on your lap.
A few older gentlemen were in danger of cardiac arrest with the very tight costumes the dance girls were wearing right in front of them. 40 minutes of energetic dance and singing routine and they make it look so easy.
James Michael Stewart provided the entertainment in the theatre and whilst his songs were good, his voice fantastic, the technical crew once again failed him as some of the videos / pictures were not shown and on at least two occasions he asked them to turn down the Mike or the backing sound, with them ignoring him on one occasion. Poor technical assistance.
Tomorrow, our last “new” country – the Cape Verde Islands (Cabo Verde). We are certainly on our way home now.