Exactly one year ago tomorrow Boofuls and me set off onto our Big Adventure. I say ‘our’ but I really mean ‘my’ big adventure. Boofuls, bless him would no more have chosen to come here than fly to the moon ( actually, he’d probably love that) but being the man he is he willingly went along with my dream of travelling inside the Arctic circle in the hope of seeing the northern lights.
We got off the plane and stepped into a magical land. Where dawn and dusk merged for a couple of hours into a dreamscape of blues, pinks and purples and where the night sky danced and twisted in shades of green and purple.
On the coach journey to our hotel, right on the border between Sweden and Finland, I stared out of the window transfixed as I saw what looked like strange and mythical creatures lining our route. Dragons, gremlins, weird and wonderful shapes of the trees bent over and carrying a heavy coat of snow fuelled my imagination. I really felt like I’d stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia.
This is where I experienced one of the most terrifying events of my entire life; husky sledding in the pitch black. The only light being from the torch attached to the driver of the sled shining onto the reflective strip on the suit of the driver in front. I loved it!
I didn’t love it quite so much when it was my turn to drive. Those dogs are fast! I may have sworn once or twice while I clung on for grim death as the huskies galloped at breakneck speed down what looked and felt like a bobsleigh run, slowing down occasionally to fight with each other. I was convinced we were going to die. Luckily we didn’t so we repeated the exercise again a couple of days later.
There are so many highlights of this trip that a post about it would be the size of War and Peace. I’ll let the photographs give you a feel for what it was like. You get a gazillion brownie points if you can tell me what is special about the church.
Still in holiday mood, I thought I’d post a few more photos of the second part of our holiday. The mayhem and madness that was the family holiday.
The dogs made me laugh. Their approach to a day at the beach was so very different.
Douggie was in the sea like shit off a shovel, as soon as he caught a whiff of the sea his eyes would light up and he’d wiggly walk as fast as I’d allow him to, whining all the way in his eagerness to go for a dip. He’d bound in and out of the waves, running up and down with a big stupid grin on his face like a big gallumphing idiot, enticing me to throw stones in for him to retrieve. Well, he is a retriever, I suppose.
Little Ted, on the other hand, couldn’t bear it. He’d back away from the waves with a flick of his little French head, exclaiming to all who’d listen, “Zut alors, I must not get my leetle French paws wet. And my ‘air! My beautiful ‘air. I will not be able to do a sing wiz eet. Eet will go all frizzay. Oh! Frizzay/ frise. Zat must be zee answer! Ah must ‘ave zis nem because my ancesteeeers went in ze sea and got zair ‘air wet. Silly French ancesteeeers. We are so ‘andsome wiz our pouffy ‘air. Only common dogs like ‘im *nods head towards Douggie who is having to much of a good time to notice* get wet. Look at ‘Im, ze silly fool. Tek me to a warm and dry place immediately!”
If I hear the word ‘Christmas’ one more time I may have to punch someone. Ho ho effing ho.
Seriously, I’m a big fan of the festive season. Probably the biggest fan of the festive season but puh-lease can we just wait a few more weeks before uttering the ‘C’ word?
Mind you, the feeding frenzy that is Christmas has already started in the shops. Cards have been on display for weeks along with selection boxes and ‘Brut for men’ gift packs. Its hard not to think that you’re on the last minute when you’re being bombarded with: ‘BUY NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!’
Jeez………….*lightbulb moment* Actually, now I come to think of it, yes. I almost forgot it was all about him. I bet his Dad didn’t realise how commercialised and distorted the whole story was going to get when he put his masterplan into action.
Anyway, back to the plot…
I haven’t even had my summer holiday yet, I’m not even entertaining the idea of Christmas till I’ve been back at least a day.
The holidays this year will be er…….interesting. We’re going to Spain with some friends to see a friend, one long overdue for a massive cuddle. I’m dying to see her. Who’d have thought when we met at school we’d still be friends10 20 30
40 odd years later. There I’ve said it. Bloody hell! Now I feel as old as Methuselah – but how nice it is to still have friends from my childhood.
We get back from that holiday, spend four days washing clothes and deleting millions of emails and then we go away again to Torquay to see Boofuls’ brother. This time we’re going with Lashes, Len, all the grandchildren and both dogs. Dangerous seems to think she’s going to the Caribbean rather than south Devon. Apparently she’s taking her swimming cossie so she can swim in the sea and play on the beach. At the end of October? Bbbbbrrrrrr.
It’s going to be eventful, I think. I’m already hatching plans to keep three lively kids amused in a ‘closed for the winter’ seaside resort.
You’ll never guess what I did today.
What a dope ( me, not you).
As normal I checked my diary. Shoot at 11.00 a.m. Nothing else for the rest of the day. Ooh lovely, I though, I’ll go for a nice long walk with Douggie the Doggie – and so I did, it was lovely.
I landed back at work after our walk to stern faces and “Why don’t you take your phone?” I’d only been and gone and missed an appointment!
Clients turned up to view their photos and I’m halfway up the bloody moors! Much grovelling on my part when I got back.
It’s there very clearly in black and white in my diary and I didn’t even see it. Definitely time for a holiday.
Right, I promise I’m not going to keep banging on about our brilliant Big Adventure (much) in Finland for much longer.
That was probably a big fat lie. It was one of the best trips of our lives and I want to relive every minute of it as much as possible. Even the bits that irritated me at the time – like waiting for Boofuls to get his act together so we could get outside as fast as possible have now taken on a rose tinted glow since we got home. I discovered that one can only wear so many layers of clothing before it becomes a physical impossibility to move. Our walk took on an pronounced and ungainly roly poly gait while we were there Oi! Cheeky! Because of the layers of clothing, not because of the pies! Rude!
Generally, I was so keen to get togged up and outside that I got ready far faster than Boofuls and then I’d stand there ridiculously hot and struggling to breath while he poodled about taking his tablets, getting a drink, brushing his teeth etc. etc. etc. It’s very difficult to dance around from foot to foot like an impatient two year old when you’re dying of heat exhaustion and bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Michelin man. After a couple of days we developed a routine where I’d get dressed and then wait outside for him.
So, just in case you’re curious, or even if you’re not. This is what the well dressed traveller wears during a Finnish winter (we’ll take the grundies part of the dressing process as a given and not in need of comment).
1 pair liner socks
2 pairs thermal socks
1 pair long johns. Silk if the temperature was above -15 and fleece if it was below
1 pair padded walking trousers
1 long sleeved base layer wool or silk vest
1 light woollen polo neck jumper
1 warm jumper
1 pair liner gloves
1 pair thermal mittens
1 all in one babygro style thermal suit
1 hoodie ‘Buff’ hat with face bandit style face cover for robbing banks or for keeping your face warm if there were no banks to rob
1 Buff for keeping the neck warm and doubling up as another hat
1 hood on thermal suit (if it was particularly cold )
1 pair heavy thermal lined boots
As you can imagine, wearing that little lot indoors wasn’t the most pleasant experience. It was a relief to get outside and get on with the serious task of gazing around me like a fool and exclaiming every 10 seconds, “It’s just so beautiful.”
The days sailed by delightfully slowly. Usually a holiday feels like it ‘s gone in a flash but on this one time seemed to slow down and I was glad because I was enjoying every minute of it.
Maybe not every single minute. I didn’t enjoy it much in Lisbon when I was overcome by the heat and had to take refuge in a cafe, pale faced, shaking and near to tears. Even that turned out ok though as we had a brilliant meal of the freshest grilled fish and salad while we sat in the cool airconditioned, characterful surroundings regaining our (my ) equilibrium.
Where did we go then?
Vigo first. What a pretty place. Boofuls was thrilled to see segways for hire at the dock and wasted no time at all in securing us a couple to go and see the sights on. I was so glad he did, all the stuff we wanted to see was at the top of a stupidly large hill!
We had a laugh with one of the ships photographers and gave him a photo shoot to relieve the tedium of endless mug shots.
We loved it, I think it shows us as we really are, elegant and sophisticated. It’ll pop up on the slide show in a minute, what do you think?
We made loads of new friends on the ship. People we wouldn’t engage with in real life became bezzie mates. The young couple dressed in head to toe Gucci with the Armani sunglasses that never left their heads be it day or night, sunny or cloudy turned out to be really good company. They were begging us to go clubbing with them one night. Clubbing. Dear God, it’s been a while since we did that!
Then there was the mother and daughter combo. What a laugh they were. The driest humour ever, just how I like it. What these four people had in common was that they all thought I must be related to Fern Britten as I apparently look and act just like her. What do you think?
Ok, so I don’t know the words – and to be be honest, after all the alcohol I’ve imbibed in the last week I’m surprised I can even remember my own name.
Did we have a good time then? Oh, deary me, yes indeedy.
The good times started the moment we closed our front door and set off on our journey to Southampton to jump on a ship. But I’ m getting ahead of myself.
Since we were both exhausted from our mad work schedule of the previous few weeks we’d decided to take the scenic route to Southampton and stop overnight in The City of Dreaming Spires, otherwise known as Oxford.
I’ve never been to Oxford before, it was part of Boofuls’ old stamping ground before he moved north. I can’t believe he’s never wanted to go back, it’s beeeyoootiful!!!
We hopped onto a tourist bus with the American and Japanese people and enjoyed a ride round the city before stopping of for the obligatory afternoon cream tea at a local establishment.
I kept seeing ladies dressed like the quintessential English lady in flowered tea dresses and straw hats bedecked with ribbons and posies. ‘Oh, how quaint’, I thought. ‘It’s like the 1940’s in Oxford’ It was only when these quintessentially English ladies opened their mouths that I realised they were all American tourists. The real English ladies dressed quite normally for the 21st century.
These Americans have some funny ideas about how we live over here. I bet they all think we dress for dinner every night!
Mind you, the students were a sight for sore eyes. We’d got there on the day of what I’m assuming was the end of term party. I have to tell you that no matter what the occasion, students in our town never look like this:
He didn’t really have a white face and walk round looking like the phantom of the opera, I did that to protect his privacy.
They didn’t all look him though.
We also saw this chap:
Don’t ask me what it was he was carrying, it looked a bit like a time machine.
We finished off our day in Oxford with visit to the Oxford Playhouse to see a play by Alan Bennett, ‘The Lady with the Van.’ If you haven’t seen it you must, it’s hysterical.
So, other than the crap meal we had, that was Oxford. I think I may have to visit there again.
Next time we’ll find a different hotel though. The one we stayed in this time was ok except that the bed was hand built by midgets for midgets. Cosy in the extreme, I spent half the night hanging on to the edge like a bat. I’d like to say while Boofuls spread himself out luxuriously but that’s just not true. He had to hang on to the other side like a bat just to try and stay in the thing, it was so small.
We’d just about got ourselves settled and asleep when the fire alarm went off.
We both leapt out of bed wearing nothing but our birthday suits. I was scrabbling around trying to find my clothes. Boofuls however went about things a different way. He decided that the best course of action would be to put all the lights on and then throw the curtains wide open – so everyone in the vicinity copped an eyeful of me in in my bare scud.
Thanks for that, Boofuls.
All in all not the best nights sleep I’ve ever had.
I’ll fill you in on more later. It’s very difficult typing while the desk and room seems to be moving. I’ll be back when my ‘sea legs’ have worn off a bit.
Considering we didn’t do a great deal over Christmas, the holiday seems to have whizzed past. I took the tree and all the decorations down yesterday.
As beautiful as the tree started off, it ended up just looking a bit bedraggled and droopy and when that happens all the decorations that looked so beautiful previously just look untidy and irritate me, so it had to go. Then it’s quite a short step to getting rid of the rest of the decorations as they seem a bit pointless with no tree. So now my house is back to normal, doesn’t it look huge and bare when everything’s gone?
We went for a jaunt to Blackpool Tower with Littlesis while she was here. It appears to be in a state of flux at the moment with scaffolding everywhere and no one really knowing what’s what. Boofuls and me flashed our ‘frequent visitor’ gold card to be told they no longer accept them. They think. Not really sure. Um. She gave us the discount anyway.
Two men stood in front of us buying their tickets at the reduced price of £14 instead of the usual £17 were informed that everything was closed except the ballroom and the circus. “So that’s all we can do, go in the ballroom or the circus? We’ll not bother, thanks.” Can’t say I blame them. Littlesis and partner only paid the full fee because she really wanted to dance in the world famous ballroom.
It didn’t disappoint, either.
The Wurlitzer rose up out of the floor, the dancers whirled, twirled, stomped and curtseyed. Some were dressed in glittery, flowing gowns, some were in professional dance practice clothes and some looked like they’d just been for a hike in their boots and trainers. Little kids came in en route to the circus, watched for a moment before deciding it was all too boring and leaving. Old people danced the old time dances with stern faces and ramrod straight backs while, partnerless women danced together and beginners laughingly tried to join in, twisting their necks and stumbling in their efforts to watch the couple in front of them. And all the while the spectators sipped at their afternoon tea and nibbled on neat sandwhiches.
That’s what I like about it, there is always such a range of people, abilities and ages. Everyone, mostly, with one thing in common: a love of dance.
Me and Littlesis tried an occasional old time dance. Stumbled around like a couple of nutcases. Not very elegant but it made us laugh. Boofuls had no choice but to dance his little legs off during the ballroom and latin because he had both me and Littlesis to keep amused as her partner wasn’t really up for dancing much. In truth, I think he’d lost the will to live, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Blackpool Tower.
The place looked magnificent as always, a throwback to a different and more elegant era. Littlesis’s partner commented that you would be hard pressed to say which decade we were in. I know what he meant, that’s why I love it.
It’s afir to say that it’s been a proper bag of poo round here since we got back from our hols. I’ve been trying my best to hold on to my sense of optimism and holiday found joie de vivre but it’s finally given up the ghost and now I’m as pissed off as everyone else round here. Woopy sodding do.
There isn’t a single person I know who isn’t going through some kind of trauma at the moment. The trauma’s in question range from the mildly irritating through depressing right up to downright life threatening.
Jeez, I’m so fed up I could buy a round!
Just to cheer me up – here are a few of my favourite holiday photos.
This plateful of food sounded so exotic on the menu. When it arrived it was in fact fancy fish, chips and mushy peas!
You get no prize at all, but I will be impressed, if you know what the full title is for ‘gay rum’.
It was most certainly an interesting holiday. The ship was huuuuuuuuuuuuge.
The family were excited, the food was brilliant. I kept myself on an extremely tight reign though as I had a dress that I needed to fit into towards to end of the cruise. Boofuls however made it his mission to eat as many portions of cake and custard as it was possible to cram in on a two week cruise.
We were a bit concerned about doing the Atlantic crossing, thinking that we might be bored out of our brains. Well. Didn’t we get that wrong. There was so much to do that we couldn’t fit it all in, and not a napkin folding demonstration in sight!! My days started with the zumba class where I made a new friend.
There’s me on the left in the white top and black pants, hahaha.
I did miss one zumba class. Lying in our enormous queen size bed one morning considering whether or not to get up and do a couple of miles round the deck before my class, there came a knock at the door. I was a bit surprised as I’d put on the ‘do not disturb’ sign. ” Come back later, Edwin!!” I hollered to who I thought was the cabin steward.
‘ Knock, knock knock.’
I got up, popped on one of Boofuls’ shirts and stuck my head round the door.
An arrangement of lovely flowers was thrust at me.
“Oh. Er. Thanks.” Shuts door. A quick inspection of the flowers didn’t reveal any kind of message or clue as to who sent them.
“Boofuls, are these anything to do with you?”
“Bloody hell, we’ve got someone else’s flowers, better ring reception and tell them.” Boofuls rang reception.
‘Knock, knock, knock.’
Boofuls answered the door this time.
There was a huge trolley laden with all manner of foodstuffs along with champagne and chocolates
“It’s not for us, take it away, I’m not accepting it till I know why it’s here.” The bemused waiter took it away. ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOO’, I thought, ‘ don’t take away all that lovely food!!!!!’ My stomach grumbled it’s discontent at Boofuls’ decision.
Ring, ring ring. I answered the phone to: “Ah, um, er, can I speak with Mr P?”
It was like a bloody ‘Carry On’ film.
I handed the phone to Boofuls: “My wife ordered it?” I shook my head. “Do you mean Mrs L P?”
“No sir, it was Mrs C P.” OHHHHHHHH! I remembered that the ship had registered our MISS CP as MRS, it was all becoming clear.
The penny dropped. The kids had organised it!
Knock, knock, knock.’
It was the same waiter with the same trolley of food. “It is definitely for you, Sir, may I bring it in?”
“You certainly can!”
A champagne breakfast fit for a king, well actually, several kings, followed.
And so on….you get the idea. The beautiful box of chocolates we put in the fridge for another day.
So, what was that about staying on a tight reign so I wouldn’t get fat (ter)? We tucked in like there was no tomorrow. After we’d finished eating and then slept it all off, we got up to find an envelope under the door containing vouchers for a massage each and a photograph. It turned out that the kids had all clubbed together to buy us the special occasion package. Fantastic!
First stop the day after was Tenerife. Meh.
Last time Boofuls and me were there, funnily enough, was 25 years ago just before we got married. Didn’t like it then. Don’t particularly like it now, let’s move on.
After another five days at sea we stopped at Tortola. The plan for Tortola was to go scuba diving. The taxi, driven by Sam,was due to meet us at the dock. Hhhmm, no sign of anyone waiting for us. Many enquiries later I was directed to a chap outside the port area. Are you Sam?
Are you meant to be picking up a group of ten people?
Ok then, you’re not the right Sam.
Don’t go away, let’s work this out.
After a phone call or two it turns out that it was the correct Sam but the dive centre hadn’t booked him to meet us. Good start.
Getting to the dive centre. Our excited little group of people all filled in the disclaimer forms that basically said, ‘ even if you die through our negligence you can’t sue us.’ Bit of a surprise, that.
An even bigger surprise was when the dive master came over to us and said, “I’m not taking you.” WHAT? “The engine has an intermittent fault, I’m not taking you.” After a few phone calls to try and get another boat, we had to admit defeat and we left in Sam’s taxi, everyone feeling very dejected and more than a bit annoyed. Here is a pic of the dock at the dive centre, ’nuff said.
Sam saved the day. “What about swimming with dolphins?” Everyone perked up instantly, I’ve never felt a mood change so fast! We stopped for lunch at a nearby beach before going off to see the dolphins.
The dolphins were amazing. C has revised her opinion that dolphins are nothing more than gay sharks and not worth bothering with. Everyone had a brilliant time, except big N who opted to go back to the ship, not prepared to waste his time on gay sharks.
All in all it turned out to be a great day, after a bad start.
The following day me, Boofuls and Batty went on a RIB high speed boat round St Maarten. WOW!!!!! It was ACE!
Batty has clearly picked up our love of speed, the boat couldn’t go fast enough for her, as it bounced over the waves, coming down with a crash, she was screaming with laughter. Clearly another adrenalin junkie, we’ll have her flying in no time! When we reached the ‘idyllic and peaceful beach’ (idyllic and peaceful my arse – it was heaving with people selling tourist tat), we had to swim to the shore.
Bit of a dilemma that as Batty can only swim with armbands and the waves were stonking great surfers waves. We lowered her into the water wearing a lifejacket and swam with her to the beach. She panicked a bit but didn’t make a fuss, she was very stoic about it all though she was clearly scared. About a minute after she got to the beach she demanded to go back in the sea because she wanted to snorkel!
That kid’s got some bottle!
Taking her out past the point where the huge waves were breaking, she swam and practiced floating with Boofuls until she got some confidence and then she set off snorkelling between us, after a minute or so she let go of our hands and swam independently. Much kudos. One of the chaps on the boat came over with a ‘floating bar’ basically a float with drinks balanced on it. Batty took a drink and happily drank it while treading water. She didn’t even spill a drop when a big wave lifted her and deposited her up by the beach!
On the return trip we sailed round by St Maarten airport which is reputedly the most dangerous airport in the world. here’s why:
The geeks on the boat – yup, that includes us- were thrilled to watch the planes flying in just a few feet above our heads and wanted to stay for longer. Other people weren’t so keen and one poor woman looked like she was about to part with her lunch. We reluctantly left after half a dozen planes came over. Pity we didn’t get to see a 747 come in, that would have been fab.
There’s loads more to tell you but I’ll save that till tomorrow. Tune in then for the next exciting installment.
Back in good old Blighty with a ton of stories to tell you.
First, though I have to get on with the fair sized mountain of washing and ironing that seems to have appeared in the utility room. That is, of course, in between the many naps we are taking to get over the jet lag.
I’m in the process of uploading the photos now so watch this space for all the holiday gossip.
Rants, raves and ramblings about whatever takes my fancy