Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pretty City on the Hills

In the 1970s, Air Rhodesia included venerable  Dakota DC-3 aircraft in its fleet. Due to the way they flew in tropical heat, they were often called Vomit Comets.  This memory surfaced as we crossed the Bay of Biscay on Wednesday and Thursday. I wondered whether the ship was coming apart.  I tried to estimate the quickest way to the outside, while wearing my life belt and then did variations assuming the ship was on its side or upside down.

It was not a Pleasant Experience.

However, it was finite and today we pulled into Lisbon.

Thanks to a friend who is a BP, we had recommendations on where to go and shortly after breakfast off we went.  The hills are quite steep, so I was pleased when we got to a church.  I like photographing churches, especially when the alternative is climbing steep hills. However, this church was filled with self importance and had banned photography, so I had to walk again.

In due course we came across the Castle. The entry fee was a urorisingly modest €8.50 each so we coughed up and toddled in.  This place is well worth a visit, if only to give you an idea of the vertigo that people in the Medieval Ages must have had to endure.  Apparently it goes back even further than that, to 700 BC. A very pretty and interesting castle indeed.

Thereafter, the Dearly Beloved said she fancied a stroll to the Botanical Gardens so off we wandered. About two miles - let's say three kilometres - there we were.  Almost.  They were "closed for renovations".

It didn't matter. Lisbon is such a pretty city we had thoroughly enjoyed the walk, although it is a touch hilly. Little alleyways, parks and beautiful views everywhere.  I wish we were staying another day or two but time and the cruise ship wait for no man.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Life on the Ocean - wave!

Well, I thought, for a holiday why not get on a cruise ship around the Canary Islands?

Mrs H agreed with alacrity, which is always a warning sign.  I should have pulled back at that point but in my naive enthusiasm I went ahead and booked a tour which included flights to and from the Canaries and a couple of weeks cruising around the islands.  In February, that would make for bliss, getting away from soggy England and relatively warm climes.

What could go wrong?

Well, for one thing, the cruise company could go under.  No only could, but did.  Fortunately, in the UK we have this wonderful thing where if you've paid for something on credit card and it doesn't get delivered the credit card company gives you a full refund, which they promptly did.

So we had two weeks of Colleen's leave which had to be taken by the end of March or lost.

At that moment, another cruise company popped up and offered a 25% discount to people who had been let down by the first company.  We have signed up, and tomorrow we board a ship called the Balmoral at Southampton for a cruise to Lisbon, Agadir (Morocco), Casablanca (still Morocco), Gibraltar (UK), Cadiz, Malaga and other sundry ports.

All will be well.

Except, three weeks ago, a friend mentioned that getting there involves crossing in notorious Bay of Biscay.  A low pressure system is due there on Thursday, as we arrive.  I can't see us playing shuffleboard in that.  Or deck quoits.  Or happily sipping afternoon tea.  Playing bridge. Swimming in the pool.

If we survive this, I will engage in further correspondence.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Step away from the f-word ...

I was minding my own business this morning, grazing peacefully on a piece of toast and between bites sipping the one caffeinated coffee that I have every morning, when my wife Declared War.


"I was watching the news earlier", she said "and they were talking about how there are similarities between Donald Trump and Idi Amin."

Now I am far from being a fan of Donald Trump, but this utter hyperbole made me see red.

"What a load of bullshit!" I replied heatedly.  "Did he come to power in a military coup?"

I was about to list a dozen other major points of difference when my younger son (who was also present) felt he should butt in.

"The problem with these kinds of conversations is that they are toxic", he replied.  "One person calls Trump a fascist [today's f-word] and Trump's opponents start gleefully listing in their minds the similarities to Hitler while people who support Trump start making mental lists of why the claim is obviously wrong.  As a result, nothing that's actually worthwhile gets discussed."

Hm.  You know what?  Despite the fact that my younger son was lecturing his parents (especially the one male parent), he was right.  Civilised political discussion is fast disappearing from the world's democracies.  In the UK, Brexit has caused immense rifts between old friends and sometimes even within families; in the USA it seems to be the same with the 2016 elections.  In 2017, elections across Europe might do the same thing.

Looking ahead over the next few years and decades it's clear that western democracies will face enough challenges anyway, from government finances to global warming to ageing populations.  Do you think that for a while we could back off from the hyperbole, step away from the f-word and discuss the real issues?