If it’s Friday, then it must be Ambleside and time to head out for an evening meal at the place we’d book a table for 8.30pm earlier in the day.
The walk from Wanslea to that establishment wasn’t as long as I thought it would be, so we arrived early and that’s where our problems started.
The person at the desk couldn’t comprehend that we’d arrived early or that we had a table booked for 8.30 in my name. After ten minutes of faffing about on the computer, the booking was found, and we were in – or so we thought.
The next person we spoke to couldn’t understand why we wanted to just leave our name and telephone number in line with the guidelines at the time and insisted that we scanned a QR code.
Eventually he relented when we pointed out that we’d already left a name and telephone number when we made the booking and that we’d never used a QR code ever for anything.
We were eventually shown to our table and given menus to peruse. What we hadn’t realised was that this particular establishment only offered vegetarian choices and I was looking forward to eating something a little meatier.
Given the palaver we’d already had, we left and went in search for another place to eat. The Michelin starred places didn’t appeal and the couple of nearby pubs were full, so we looked around and found The Priest Hole (thepriesthole.co.uk).
And it had a table – on a Friday night after 8.30!
Once in, names and numbers were taken and then we removed our face coverings and sat down, took a look at the drink’s menu, ordered and then examined the main menu. Both of our choices were easy to make – local lamb shank with all the trimmings and the fish special for Caroline.
After the mains were polished off, extra drinks, dessert & coffees were ordered, thoughts turned to booking in at The Priest Hole for the next night.
The small problem was that at that time, there wasn’t a table available for Saturday night, so my name and number was taken once more so I could be contacted during the day on Saturday should a table become available.
With that arrangement out of the way, it was time to head back to get some shut eye after our respective days out. Glasses of water were used to dilute the alcohol stream before turning in at a later than usual bedtime.
What we didn’t expect was the sound of car doors slamming outside at 1am and a few people congregating in front of the main door for a loud chin wag and ciggie consumption.
It was tempting to shout STFU out of the window, but I refrained because I just knew that that would not be a good idea, especially at breakfast time!
After Lockdown 1 and that first escape to Oxford in July 2020, our second escape took us back to very familiar territory – the Lake District.
As both of us have visited the area on many occasions, you might think that packing our bags for the trip would be an easy one, but there were complications thanks to the weather and the potential activities over the course of the four days we were there.
We’d taken a close look at the forecast and whilst there was a favourable outlook, Friday looked like it was going to be wet – and it was!
Whilst I was up for a walk or two, Caroline wanted to get an off-road ride in if she could hire a bike for at least a day (the new car’s a bit small to get her hybrid in the back and we weren’t sure that there would be secure storage at our B&B to keep the bike safe and sound).
There was also the little matter of being a bit smarter on an evening when searching for places to eat in and yes, there were post-lockdown rules to follow too… like mask wearing.
So for the day times it was a mix of smartish t-shirts plus practical trousers, a thin fleece and a choice of either a softshell jacket (all from Rohan) or waterproof (TNF for me, Berghaus for Caroline) that went into the bags for walks and mooches.
Shoe choices for the walks were simple – Oboz approach shoes or Clarks sports sandals for me and a pair of TNF Hedgehogs plus a pair of Ecco sandals for Caroline.
As a bike had already been booked for her Friday ride Caroline packed a Rohan tech t-shirt, a Cycology bike shirt, a pair of Altura leggings, an Endura waterproof plus her Salomon Gore-tex lined shoes – and boy, did she need some waterproof stuff…
Choice for the restaurants, pubs and cafes mostly came from Rohan (although we’d packed, a few items were added after visits to Rohan’s clearance floor at their Long Preston shop and their Ambleside store.
In my case it was jeans and travel linen polo shirts that made the cut along with a soft shell for the after-dark walk back to the B&B once meals had been downed and some fine ales quaffed afterwards (yes, even Caroline sampled the local beers rather than her usual ciders).
Did it all work? Yes.
Friday was as wet as the forecast promised and whilst I had the luxury of driving around in the car hoping for breaks in the weather in order to get some good photos, Caroline was a bit wet when she arrived in Hawkshead and joined me in Minstrel’s Gallery Tea Rooms.
By the time she got back to Ambleside and returned the bike to the hire shop, she was both wet and muddy…
“Looks like you had a good ride!’ was the comment from a passing American lady – to which Caroline replied, “Oh yes!!!”.
But it took two washes to get the mud out of her cycling clothes…
It’s not often that I can say that I know precisely what I was doing on 30th November in a given year, but in the case of 30th November 2004, I know exactly where I was – in intensive care at Airedale Hospital on the morning and in the Stroke Unit at the same hospital in the afternoon.
I was one of the most mobile on the Stroke Unit in that I was allowed out of a wheelchair after the first day or so. The care I received over the period I was in hospital was great, but the food was a bit Meh…
Sixteen years on and there’s still respect for the NHS, especially in the way it has had to cope with the additional pressures this year due to Covid-19.
I still get check-ups, but things like warfarin levels are done on home visits rather than at my GP’s surgery at this moment in time. Yes, my flu jab was done at the surgery, but in a very, very secure way.
Will I be getting the vaccine when it becomes available? Yes, but when I’m called in for it according to my place in the queue. Why? Because it seems to be a good idea to get rid of any Covid-19 threat and because I want to travel!
As ever, it’s many thanks to those from Airedale Hospital and to my partner Caroline too – she had just started a new nursing job on the day everything went bang and got one hell of surprise when she found out…
Here’s looking at you kid!
Just a few of this year’s guidebook purchases…
Yes, I have the technology to browse ebooks via Kindle on my iPad, but when it comes to planning sessions or usage on a trip, nothing beats a book.
Pages of interest can be marked by the use of sticky notes whilst places of interest can be highlighted using fluorescent pens.
The book itself can be stashed away in a pocket or day bag and consulted over coffee, lunch or beer or left in the bag when you decide to follow your nose and find things out for yourself.
Series of choice for years was Lonely Planet, but examination of their Portugal guide a few years ago led me to buy the equivalent Rough Guide as it was easier to use, had a better layout and was more user friendly.
Yes, buying two guidebooks was a more expensive way of doing things, but I did notice that there were other variations – different attractions were mentioned, different places to stay and eateries too.
Since then I’ve sneaked looks at several different guidebooks to get a quick idea of what they can offer whilst planning a trip.
Books from the Bradt, Insight and Marco Polo brands have gone into the mix as has Rick Steves Italy 2020.
Now this only arrived on Saturday, but first impressions are good ones.
Yes, there are plugs for his shop and other media resources, but the info is in there – travel by trains or buses, accommodation and food suggestions to suit most budgets along with packing suggestions & timescales for visiting.
Will it be used for planning? Oh yes, but in conjunction with other guides to Italy plus some addition ideas thrown in for good measure.
Such a those from Italy Top To Toe that BBC4 are currently repeating along with one or two from Great Continental Railway Journeys and maybe a couple of ideas from The Hairy Bikers, Rick Stein and Anthony Bourdain.
It’s over a month since Caroline and I returned from Sicily, but it seems longer, largely because things became rather hectic when we got home following a phone call whilst we were away.
There’s been quite a lot to think about since then – my boss Rob had been taken ill and passed away aged 34 just after a holiday with his family.
The news hit everyone that worked or knew him or were customers at the shop and many have paid their respects to him and offered condolences.
One thing is for certain though – with this and other news we’ve had recently concerning family and acquaintances, we’re going to keep on keeping on and enjoy life to the full!
Life really can be too short sometimes…
I’d never been to Aldeburgh fifteen years ago.
There has been a lot in the UK media about the National Health Service for a while now, but with that election less than a fortnight away, it’s being discussed left, right and centre by voters, politicians and media outlets.
It’s fifteen years to the day since I had a close shave by having a stroke, but I’m very glad to have been looked after by those working in the A&E, intensive care, stroke unit, MRI unit and physios at Airedale Hospital.
The aftercare is still ongoing through my local medical centre a mile away who keep an eye on the meds I take everyday, sometimes at weekly intervals or three monthly intervals depending on test results.
Whilst there have been a few changes in lifestyle since that day in 2004, things that haven’t changed include a very healthy respect for the NHS and a shared enthusiasm for travel.
Caroline and I been to places that we’d never even thought of visiting fifteen years ago both in the UK and Europe.
Yes, there are places I’d like to go that are quite a distance away from home, but with work and holiday time still a major factor to think about, we’re still heading around the UK and Europe for the time being.
For our next few trips we have four new options plus four return visits to think about in Europe, a big rail based trip here in the UK, one or two ideas about rail trips in Canada and quite a few potential destinations that are also in the UK, we aren’t short of ideas regarding places to go.
Our new mantra as it were is “Keep on keeping on!” and the reasons for that my well be revealed next Monday…
In the meantime, Caroline and I are having a grand day out – a day of shopping in Manchester, not Milton Keynes!
Or is it?
As one deadline passes and one, two or more rear their heads, we still don’t know what’s happening with regards to Brexit!
With that in mind, I give you a list of tunes to ponder on as the powers that be here in the UK discuss things…
The Final Countdown – Europe
Road To Nowhere – Talking Heads
Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now – The Clash
Making Plans For Nigel – XTC
Madness – Madness
In Between Days – The Cure
State Of Mind – Fish
51st State – New Model Army
Mama Weer All Crazee Now – Slade
Slip Sliding Away – Paul Simon
On a different note, it’s a good job I checked the exchange rates on Monday when getting some Euros for next week.
Our local supermarket was offering a better deal than where I’d ordered from.
Mentioned this to our supplier who proceeded to check the supermarket’s rate and match it.
Result was an extra €15 or so to take away with us – a couple of local train trips for two at our destination or a larger light lunch!
Yes, it’s Laxey Wheel – again!
This was taken on a very fine day on Isle of Man, but it was the only one…
The packing for our visit was a last minute affair. I’d been tracking the 10 day forecast for Douglas and surrounding area and as the departure date loomed, so did the prospect of rain (and plenty of it!).
Things looked good for the first three days of the break, so we had to balance the packing between clothes for sunny days, clothes for overcast days and for days when there was the potential for heavy rain.
We’d also caught the tail end of a TV programme on Isle of Man and had seen Julia Bradbury sheltering besides the trig point on the summit of Snaefell and trying to do a piece to camera about the weather conditions being experienced.
Words weren’t needed, because the visuals provided evidence of what Julia and the television crew were experiencing!
Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if we were pointing the car towards Liverpool or Heysham for the ferry to Douglas, but we weren’t.
We’d booked rail tickets to Liverpool, seats on the Manannan sea cat to Douglas and were going to traipse around the island using a mix of a five day Heritage Travel Card and feet.
We were also using a hotel/guest house mix of accommodation and were eating out, so there was a need to take some smarter clothes as well of those that could be used as a layering system during the more inclement weather conditions.
There was also one more thing to consider – after reading up on the reviews of the guest house we were using as our base in Douglas, the potential for washing and wearing was going to be restricted to undies rather than shirts, t-shirts or fleeces.
The main bags were our usual weapons of choice – 2013 vintage Osprey Farpoint 40 travel packs, but as these were packed to capacity, second bags were brought into play.
In Caroline’s case the second bag was her handbag for the trip, a brightly coloured small size Healthy Back Bag. In my case, it was my Rohan Stowaway 20, a packable day sack that normally is packed into the Osprey and brought into play as and when it’s needed.
We did get creative with our choice of clothing and footwear for the trip and whilst we would have busted any size and weight restrictions on a budget airline for instance, we took a good look at our clothing and kit and put together a mix that covered all eventualities.
Both my jacket and my windproof fleece gilet came from The North Face. The jacket is a longer length HyVent waterproof with a hood that goes into the collar, has pit zips for ventilation and the kind of pockets that will take guidebooks, bus timetables, camera, iPad Mini and my reading specs.
The gilet is a ten year old TNF Windwall with a chest pocket for the phone and handwarmer pockets that will take the camera and specs case.
Tops came from a couple of sources. Crew neck fleeces and zip necks came from Rohan, as did a couple of Core Silver t-shirts, Stratum long sleeved polo shirts and a couple of merino wool based t-shirts.
These, coupled with a Peter Storm merino wool long sleeved zip neck formed the basis of the layering system employed on the trip to combat the expected bad weather.
A Rohan Stronghold shirt also came into play as a wind shirt and a secure place for my passport that may have been required for ID purposes.
Two out of the four pairs of trousers were the usual suspects – Rohan Goas– and these were complemented by a couple of pairs of Craghoppers Kiwi style cargo pants.
Socks and underwear were largely Rohan, but sock choices also included a couple of pairs of M&S trainer socks with a silver content and a couple of pairs of Bridgedale Light Hikers for the days when boots were needed rather than trainers.
And footwear? One pair of Merrell Mesa Ventilator shoes were packed whilst a five year old pair of Hi Tec casual/hiking boots were worn en-route and on various days out.
Whilst the mix of clothing and footwear was much more than I would normally pack fora trip, it worked and coped with all that was thrown at it – sunshine, wind, rain, squalls and downright filthy weather.
The wash kit and meds combo was the usual one with Lush shower gel, tea tree oil (good as a shaving oil IMHO), sample size toothpaste (courtesy of the help yourself boxes in my dentist’s) along with a disposable razor and my ViaSonic battery powered toothbrush.
With a Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant thrown in for good measure, all I needed to buy locally was a can of Lynx body spray and some baby wipes.
Not convinced about the need for the baby wipes? Trying eating a freshly cooked kipper bap from the kiosk down by the pier in Peel or a bacon buttie down by the beach in Port Erin and you will be convinced about how useful these things can be!
My main bag also had the paperwork – rail tickets, ferry tickets, hotel booking info, the paper only guidebook and travel insurance documents.
Why travel insurance documents for Isle of Man?
Although there’s an agreement regarding health care between the Isle of Man and mainland Britain, there’s no repatriation agreement between the two, so any repatriation after a medical emergency or an accident, has to be covered by travel insurance.
The other thing that needs to be taken into account is that the EHIC card isn’t valid on Isle of Man. Why? Because the Isle of Man isn’t in the EU…
But what about Caroline’s bag? By and large, the contents of her bag reflected my choices, even though we hadn’t really talked about what should be taken.
Her Nike Gore-tex came into play along with her TNF Windwall jacket, a recently purchased Rohan Trail hoodie, a zip neck fleece from the same brand and another zip neck fleece from Craghoppers.
A couple of Rohan Stria tops were also packed along with merino base layers, Ultra Silver camisoles, a few pairs of M&S socks, two pairs of Endura cycling socks, Rohan Trailblazer trousers and a pair of that brand’s travel jeans. Footwear? Merrell trainers and two pairs of Ecco Biom shoes.
Did everything work? Yes, is the answer to that one.
We both had more clothing than we would normally have on a break when we’re not using the car to get around, but that was down to the potential weather conditions we were due to face. Out of the six full days we had on the island, only two were rain free.
Was everything used? Just about…
I had one t-shirt that wasn’t worn and a bit of washing to do once we got home, but that was a thankfully minimal task given the properties of the items taken with us and the decision to stick with a couple of colour pallets in the clothing choices.
We did forget one thing though. Weighing those bags!
No sunloungers here! Thank goodness…
One of the main news stories here in the UK today is about a holiday company that is bringing in a £22 charge that allows you to reserve a sunlounger by the pool at selected hotels.
The story has been run on news websites and on TV news bulletins too.
We won’t be paying the charges though as the photos and news footage I’ve seen on said stories appear to be suggesting the type of holiday experience that Caroline and I would go out of our way to avoid.
There are a few suggestions in the melting pot for our trips in 2018 and none of them come even close to this kind of holiday venture!
Age is just one big state of mind…