Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Another post on the lines of sartorial elegance?

Poor Golly was looking rather out of sorts. He had been looking out of sorts for some time.

'Hello Golly,' I said. 'You have been eating too much. Your trousers have split.'

Golly didn't answer. Just rolled his eyes and continued to look sad.

He sits at the dining room table with us. We have three chairs. One for me, one for Partner, and Golly sits at the other one.

The reason we have three chairs is because they were my parents' kitchen table chairs. Most people have two, or four, but no, my parents bought exactly three for the occupants of the house. Them and me.

They clearly weren't planning on entertaining. Actually when they did entertain it was the full dining room job with lots of chairs and a huge table.

So back to the kitchen. When I was at school, aged relatives were invited to lunch, and there were still enough chairs to go round, ie two chairs for parents and my chair for aged relative. Bit of a problem if it was school holidays though. Then my mother ended up sitting martyrishly on the folding stool from the old 60s caravan.

Anyway, that's why there are us and Golly gathered around the dining room table.

Now fired up with my enthusiasm for patching and mending - it's only taken me 50 years to work out how to do it, despite being a whizz at rustling up Vogue Designer patterns in my younger years - I looked at Golly's holes.

I decided to patch him up with some bright red linen. I looked again. There were more holes than you could poke a stick at.

A new plan was needed. I would be patching for ever. Making trousers is pretty simple, I have made lots of them. Golly's were even simpler. A front and a back. But the back of his lovely striped trousers were still perfect, so I decided to make a new front set, and sew them into the existing seams.

'Won't that decrease the value?' asked Partner.

What value, I thought. Poor dear is ripped to bits. And anyway he's not for sale.

I cut the trousers out, and left him while I thought about it.

One night, inspiration struck. I would bandage up his tears and rips with interfacing. I love interfacing.

And, regrettably, Partner was right. I think I will make a whole set of new trousers and pop them over the top. For next time though.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Sartorial elegance

I had a rather elegant friend at university who sported a nice black jacket. Not so much a blazer as a winter sort of thing.

It was barathea, he told me. I took myself off to the local posh school outfitters and bought myself a boys barathea jacket to go with my jeans. So sophisticated I thought. Good value for money too, top class jacket.

I come from a tailoring family and when one of my great uncles died - there was a load of pure wool fabric to be made into a suit. I went to a men's tailor and insisted on a three piece suit, slim skirt, waistcoat, and a men's single breasted style jacket.

The skirt and the jacket are long gone, but I still have the waistcoat.

After that, I discovered Vogue Designer Patterns and the world of chic suits became my oyster as I made one designer suit after another.

These days, I don't need suits. I need shorts and short trousers. My sewing machine is in very sad need of repair. I don't want pretty flimsy shorts with flowers embroidered on them. I really want nice tough cotton shorts with decent pockets.

Last year, my partner bought some shorts from Zara. In the sale, I hasten to add. I eyed them up and wondered if they would be ok for me. Exactly what I wanted. So I tried some on in a small size. Well, hell, I don't know how Spanish men are built (fortunately) but there was sure as hell an awful lot of space out the front. Too much, so back on the rack they went.

This week, Partner bought some shorts from Next. I eyed them greedily. In fact, at home, I tried a pair on and thought if they were smaller they would work.

Today I went down the town determined to buy men's shorts. The style he had bought wasn't in my 'size'. But the camo pair was. Thick fabric, loads of secure pockets, and not even made in China.

I bought them.

Twenty or even ten years ago, I wouldn't have had a hope in hell of them fitting me. I was far too slim. But these days my middle aged figure means I can buy decent shorts. Something to be said for getting older and differently figured.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Parthenon

My degree may have been in Ancient and Medieval History and Archaeology - but it didn't include Greek history. Or at least the options I chose didn't. Mostly we gazed endlessly at relics of the Roman Empire.

Regardless of that, one of the monuments I was most looking forward to visiting on my world trip was the Parthenon in Athens (Greece).

Built on the Acropolis, it dominates the modern day city of Athens with an aura of serenity, untouchability, and thousands of years of history.

We decided to hike up there one morning in December, and after getting lost loads of times around the bottom of the hill, we eventually found the long and tiring road up to the top.

It is always a disappointment to look forward to something so much - and then - it isn't what you expect. This wasn't one of those occasions though and the memory still remains one of the highlights of my world trip.

The Parthenon more than lived up to my expectations, even though it was partly covered in scaffolding. Probably a permanent state of affairs judging by the on-going restoration programme that seems to have kicked off in the early 80s.

If you like piles of old stones and haven't visited it - do go. And preferably make sure you see the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum too. Two pieces of the jigsaw thousands of miles apart.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Our neighbour

A sunny day in Spain.

What else do you do but sit on your path with your elderly neighbour, and hold an umbrella over her to make sure she is sheltered from the heat of the sun?

We'd repaired and fixed up the outside of the house, hence all the rendered stonework and gleaming white paint.

Next doors gave us the gate and we had the finca gateposts to fix them to. Next doors gave us the black railings on top of the wall too to stop Prince the GSD jumping over.

But Spanish life must have been starting to take its toll as I notice Partner is already starting to go grey. Those curly locks underneath the Tilley hat are those of a middle-aged man and not the youthful 40-something-year old who set off for Spain a couple of years previously.

I'm fond of Adelina. She was in her lateish 70s in this pic and she's turned 80 now. She can't read or write, and was brought up to work in the fields instead of going to school. Such was the life under Franco for people who lived in Andalucia on the land. Her father was killed in the north of Spain during the Franco regime, in a prison in Oviedo. Not surprisingly she doesn't like chivas. (Spies not whisky).

In spite of that, she will always share a joke with us, find something to laugh about, and has an acid sense of humour. Her eyesight is amazing. Her distance vision at 80+ is better than mine ever was. She borrows her husband's glasses for sewing although I have no idea if she needs them or not. Her hearing is as acute as her vision.

And she taught me how to cook all the local food - gazpacho, ajo blanco, ensalada de Axarquia, lentejas, garbanzos, alubias, habas, chicharros, pimientos asados, berenjenas fritas, and - My Money!! This last one is a soup that is basically whatever you have left to use up - tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil, and some herbs. It's cheap and it saves you throwing stuff out. Hence the name - and they really do call it 'My Money.'

Like virtually all our neighbours she doesn't speak English (why would she, she lives in Spain). And like the rest of them, she has been incredibly patient with our initially faltering Spanish, explained things to us simply, and waited for us to understand.

The umbrella in the pic came from Lisbon. Apparently they have bigger umbrellas in Portugal than they do in Spain. When Adelina's husband - José - first saw it, he immediately said - Portuguese.

At one point they had moved away from home and lived in Badajoz, which is near the border with Portugal, so I guess they must have learned about Portuguese umbrellas amongst other things.

But later they came back home. Because, Andalucians do. Bought two rooms off Adelina's sister and her husband, and slowly built up their own home. When I say built up, I literally mean built up, ie extended and expanded. It's a world apart from a British life with a mortgage around your neck for 40 years, or 50 or 60 or whatever it is now.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Grey Mare's Tail

Lotsa years ago one of the petrol companies (Shell I think) gave away vouchers for discounted weekends in hotels.

We had a flurry of staying in some excellent hotels in southern Scotland.

I can't even remember if this weekend was part of that deal, but we spent one weekend in and around Moffat.

We had our two black dogs, Ben the lab, and Paddy the cross setter/lab/spaniel/whatever.

We all set off on the walk up the Grey Mare's Tail, hiked up the hillside, and then to the lake at the top.

Ben and Paddy gamely climbed up the hill with us, they weren't particularly old at the time.

It was a nice warm day in summer and a beautiful walk.

On the way back down, Paddy decided he was fed up. At every possible opportunity he dived under a shady stone or an overhanging bush and lay down.

The scenery was spectacular, it was a gorgeous day out - but what I really remember was Paddy lying down wherever he could in the shade.

At the top of the climb with Paddy

Accident black spot - I must have had a better head for heights back then

Beautiful pool on the ascent

The long and windy and very uphill path

Monday, 25 July 2011


Apologies for the long gap on here. Scanning photos to one computer and then transferring them to the other - because, guess what? the Canon is not compatible with the Mac for scanning (although it is for printing) - left me totally without inspiration.

Normal service will resume. At some point.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

No excuse now

Wandering leisurely up to the shops one day I stopped short in my tracks. An outdoor gym had suddenly appeared.

I have never been a gym sort of person. I have never joined a private gym, not even for a trial. Once I looked around one, full of nasty ugly bulky sweaty, oh so sweaty, bodies - and thought no. I could imagine going a couple of times and wasting a year's membership.

The nearest I have got to anything like that was when I joined a rowing club. This was a very nice club. We would set off in the boats early on a Sunday morning and drift (aka row like hell) down the River Ouse. As this was York, you can imagine how beautiful it was.

The trouble was though, that to continue to be allowed to drift down the Ouse, you had to turn up to the twice-weekly training sessions. Circuit training. Star jumps. Exercise machines. I started to develop stomach muscles. And my shoulders thickened up.

Now skinny I may well have been, but I've always had broad shoulders. Luckily, in both senses of the meaning. Much more of this fitness stuff though and I would start to turn into the Incredible Hulkess.

And as for the stomach muscles - well although that doesn't actually sound bad, I thought it made my incredibly flat stomach start to look fat. The rowing club and I went our separate ways.

But while I may never have been a private gym person, I did use council sports centres and swimming pools. Apart from anything else, if you wanted a big pool, ie national or international size rather than some poky little paddling pool with a few potted palms, the council ones were the place to go. Actually one of the council ones somewhere near Notting Hill did have potted palms. It was one of the old style 'baths' with changing rooms around the side of the pool that had been restored. It was class.

The other good thing about council pools was that they often had offers. Sort of like a season ticket. Buy a month's ticket and swim as much as you want. In the very olden days I could show a UB40 (unemployment benefit card to non-Brits) and get in free. Who needs a private health club? Apart from people who don't want to use council sports services for whatever reason.

I figure if I am paying for the service through my rates/community charge, I may as well make use of local services, whether that is the library, the pool, parks and gardens or whatever. And if people don't support their local services, one day they may no longer be there. I guess I always suspect the private health club brigade of a certain degree of snobbery. And, apart from the rowing club, I'm not really a clubby person.

So whenever there was a pool near work, you would find me there a couple of times a week in my lunch hour. Before I started work, in my wonderful long holidays, I would walk two or three miles to the nearest pool, and be there for when it opened at 9am. Oh to be the first in the pool and break the water. Joy. I would swim up and down endlessly. One day one of the attendants asked how many lengths I had done - no idea how many now, but whatever it was - they told me to do a few more and I could have a mile badge. I don't think that's quite how it is supposed to work, but given they saw me almost every morning, swimming up and down, they must have figured I deserved something for my efforts.

I went to the nearest shiny new sports centre too. They had a pool as well, so I did a course in canoeing, and a swimming personal survival one. I signed up for fencing. And of course there were wonderful saunas.

There were free tennis courts in the local park so I would meet a school and university friend there in the afternoons for a couple of hours play.

Much much later, I was staying temporarily with my parents while moving house, and went to the local sports centre near them. Anything to get out of the house really. There was an aerobics class that included a free swim afterwards. It was worth the aerobics for the free swim.

If any of that gives the very mistaken impression that I was ever remotely sporty, then I need to say right now that I wasn't. I ran the 800 metres at school one sports day and thought it was never going to end. Unbelievable pain and agony. Well, I was out of breath and tired. I was quite good at high jump I suppose. But otherwise, me and sport were an occasional date. Not helped by dear Daddy, who seemed to think it was rather silly to do anything physical as it made you tired and positively deterred me from doing sporty things. (Deterred me from most things really but that's not for this post).

Luckily I live with someone who likes to force me out on a torture machine (bike), so some years ago I started cycling again. Not just round and round the garden, but shock! horror! on roads. For miles. Well kilometres actually. They sound better too as you do more of them. And as some of you know, I swim in the sea in summer in Spain.

But here in Gib, apart from a few walks part way up the Rock when we first came, I've done nothing.

So this free, open-air gym thing had me rather entranced. No membership fee. No sweaty bodies because it is outside. Seven minutes walk away. Not too busy. I decided to try it out.

I didn't tell Partner I planned to go. He would have laughed at me. I did show him the photos. 'Oh, yeah, I saw that the other day. Forgot to tell you.' I was most disappointed. I thought I was telling him something new.

I thought I would go the following day, but it was my turn to go to the shops. The next day I started a cleanathon. And the next day .... You get the idea. I never got there. It's now nearly a week since I saw the wretched free open-air gym.

As soon as he went to the shops this morning, I followed him quickly out of the door and up to the gym. The location is really nice. It's set on a promenade above what used to be the old sea walls, surrounded with shrubs, palm trees, and flowers. I figured I could walk up there, spend 15-20 minutes and get back before him.

I failed. When I walked in the door he was already unpacking the shopping and had dragged the bike and the shopping up the stairs on his own. Oooops. It's a two person job.

But still, the gym was good. How can I not go when it is so near, free, and quiet and peaceful if you go early enough?

Working hard, working out

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


As this isn't a recipe per se, I thought it might as well go on here.

Veggie kebabs - fairly obvious what it is, onion, bay leaves, pimiento, mushrooms, cherry toms, tofu. Sometimes I add courgette but I didn't have any when I made these. Depends what is to hand. Served with basmati rice and a sauce. The sauce recipe will get added later to Itchy Feet.

I didn't understand kebabs when I was small. They were foreign muck really so never entered our house.

As I grew older, friends used to talk about calling for a kebab after a night out. I was still none the wiser.

Then, on my world trip, in Greece - I discovered kebabs. Souvlaki to be honest. Tasty bits of meat on skewers with lots of accompanying bread bought on the street. A good cheap meal for travellers on a tight budget.

Later, in Sydney, domesticity had settled in and I was ensconced in a flat preparing meals for my partner to take to work.

He worked at the dockyard at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. And never a set of more precious Professional Painters could you ever want to meet. At tea break (smoko) and lunchtime - it was competition time.

PG Tips was out of the question. As was Lipton. Each painter had his own supply of Earl Grey, Darjeeling, or whatever was his particular taste. Partner started with Earl Grey and then we started buying China Black. I've never seen it outside of Sydney, it came in blue boxes and was quite delicious.

As for the meals, well!! At the time we were not yet vegetarian so either the food was the remains of the Sunday roast, or later in the week, we went around the corner to Mr Grumpy who had a deli with superb roasted meats for sale. Sometimes the Pro-Painters would swap the occasional sandwich to see who had brought the most wonderful food. Pity the guy who swapped his rare roast beef sandwich for a Kraft cheese slice one.

One day Partner came home with a new demand. It seemed someone - Roy I think, an ex-para and witness at our wedding - had brought in some very desirable kebabs and set Partner's mouth watering. Roy was a lovely guy and naturally offered one to Partner. 'I WANT to take kebabs too,' said Partner when he arrived home.

Your wish is my command sweetheart. Rising to the challenge, I duly went out the next day to buy some lamb for kebabs and prepared them in the evening so they would be ready for his ghastly early morning start. Partner would leave the flat in the dark, shoot down the steps to Woolloomooloo, and then up through the botanical gardens, to arrive at Circular Quay for the early morning ferry to the island.

The kebabs were a success, and featured on his weekly menu more than once. I don't know where I stood in the rankings of top scran provider though.

After leaving Sydney, I really don't remember eating them at all. Until we became vegetarian. From nowhere, I remembered the lamb kebabs, made a few adaptations, and there we were. Kebabs once more are a favourite meal. As a matter of interest, tofu takes little time to cook so is far easier than lamb, and these are a perfect meal for either vegetarians or vegans.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pipaluk - The Little One

When Pippa first found us on the streets of Spain, we had two other dogs - Paddy and Prince. Maybe that was the attraction for him, a nice pack with two well-cared for dogs.

But what to call him? A Spanish name as he was a Spanish dog? One beginning with P like the other two dogs? All we could think of was Pedro, Pepe or Paco, and he didn't look like any of those suited him.

Even back then he was bigger than the other two, and with such a pale creamy white face and chest. He looked like a big cuddly polar bear. Yeah I know polar bears aren't cuddly - unless they want to squeeze you to death I suppose.

I remembered the little polar bear cub that had been born at Regent's Park zoo, (London Zoo) in December 1967. Pipaluk, whose name was Eskimo (as was) meaning 'The Little One.'

Aw, a cute furry little creamy white bear, just like our new dog. Except that Pippa wasn't remotely little, but when Pipaluk grew up, he wouldn't exactly be little either. And I quite liked the irony of calling a large dog 'The Little One.'

So Pipaluk he became, and inevitably Pippa, or Pipps for short. Oddly, when the Spanish vet spells it, he writes it Pipa, which is probably a better abbreviation.

I don't remember seeing Pipaluk as a cute cub, but I must have done, because why else would I have the book? And I do have a photo of me at the zoo with my mother and my older cousin who lived in London at the time.

Sadly, the cute little bear whose birth spawned a book, lots of souvenirs, and cuddly toys, was ignominiously shipped off some 20 or so years later to Poland to die there. Forgotten about and no longer a superstar once his cuteness had expired.

Friday, 18 March 2011


We met Billy in Cooma. In the park as I remember, where I think we wandered to (no idea why) after getting off the bus. Or maybe the train, although I see that the railway line is now closed. I think it was the bus. We probably went to the park to eat a couple of sandwiches and work out what to do next.

Cooma, as you can see from the pic at the bottom, is something of a one horse town. Or was at the time. It may be a huge thriving metropolis by now but I doubt it. Its claims to fame? Well, it's near the Snowy Mountains and a huge hydro-electric power scheme. I didn't particularly know about the second but we had gone so that we could visit Mt Kosciusko (as was spelled at the time) which is the highest mountain in Aus. At 2,228 metres it is not very high, but hey, still worth a visit to say, been there, done that.

So there we were in the park, sitting at a table, and this tall, slim, good-looking, long dark-haired lad approached us.

Until I saw this photo I had forgotten we had even gone to the pub. What I do remember was being asked back to his house for a few beers, which his mates would be bringing round. Well that solved what to do next. So off we trotted. Trusting souls us eh?

Naturally his parents were away for the weekend ..... more beer followed .. as did take-away pizza. I doubt we paid for anything apart from a few beers in the pub.

We stayed the night of course. While my travelling companion had escaped and was tucked up in a comfy little bed, I was watching a boring film (and the clock) with my host. Wishing I too was tucked up in a comfy little bed. Alone.

Next day we went on our Kosciusko trip after having swapped addresses and all that stuff. Billy worked at the hydro-electric scheme - hence finally hearing about it - and he and a couple of mates were planning to chuck their jobs and do their world trip in 12 months or so.

Fast forward 12 months. I'm back at my parents, complete with new spouse in tow. I was going through the whole job application process to get back into the Protestant Work Ethic career mode thing again.

The 'phone rang. It was Billy. He was in the UK with his two mates and wanted to come and stay. 'Of course,' I said, rapidly thinking that me and spouse could squash into a single bed, there were two spare ones and a sofa which could accommodate his two mates, so everyone would be happy.

'I'll ring you tomorrow for directions,' he said. 'Great, looking forward to seeing you,' I said.

I told my parents. Perhaps I should have asked first. I doubt it would have made any difference. They said no. Not just no, but NO! I could not understand this at all. They were always generous with their hospitality and encouraged me to be the same. People had always been welcome to stay.

Thinking they had forgotten the story I explained that Billy had beered us and fed us and provided a night's kip. Surely I should return the favour?

'Three boys?' they said horrified. 'Not a chance.'

I wondered if they thought I was going to dance around in the middle of the night to have group sex. A few years before, one of my friends had stayed for a couple of nights and my father had gone to great pains to point out that he set the burglar alarm every night and there were loads of creaking floorboards and .. and .. and .. leave my virginal daughter alone.

Billy rang back the next day. I was mortified. I had to say no. I never heard from him again. Sorry Billy. Got a great floor in Gib though if you ever pass this way.

Cooma, Main Street. Only street??

Sunday, 13 March 2011

My best friend

Moving swiftly back about 20 years from the last photo I posted to my very early days at school.

It's obviously spring, so I'm around four, or five, or say six at the most.

This is one of those rare photos where I look vaguely relaxed at having my pic taken - and the only ones where I ever look like that are with my best friend Tarquin.

We were much the same age, my parents got him about six months after I was born. He was of course, a pedigree boxer, as my parents were rather aspirational. In the absence of brothers and sisters or nearby schoolfriends, Tarquin, Wizard of Skelder, was always there for me to play with, to talk to, and console me when I was in trouble and had been a naughty girl.

He was the hero in my bedtime stories. Whenever my dad told me a story - Good Dog Tarquin would always come to the rescue.

When it was time for me to walk down the path at coming home time, he would be jumping on his chair to look for me out of the kitchen window. The chair had to be reupholstered more than once because of his claws digging holes in the fabric.

And yet, the day he died, I never even noticed he was missing. We must both have been into double figures by then, and I was full of school stuff, whether it was boys or homework or gossip I have no idea.

My parents eventually plucked up the courage to ask if I wondered where he was. Then they told me.

Still feel guilty to this day that I hadn't missed him.

Fashion details:
Navy blue (winter) school uniform, little knitted kilt thing and cardigan with light blue bands. Looks like I'd ripped the the shirt and tie off. Beige socks and Start-Rite shoes. I think they were my indoor ones. It was the sort of school where you had indoor and outdoor shoes and woe betide you when you forgot your shoebag on Monday morning.

Long, blonde and pony tail, no doubt with a navy blue ribbon.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Always a bridesmaid?

I don't think I liked being a bridesmaid. I seem to have a bit of a smell up my nose in this photo. This was the second - and fortunately the last - occasion on which I was dressed up in a particularly unflattering gown in an incredibly strong colour.

The bride and bridegroom were (and still are) my friends from university. The other two people in the photo are the bride's sister and the bridegroom's brother. We were all in our early to mid-twenties.

It was a winter wedding, New Year's Eve to be specific, held in the very cold north east of England, with the reception over the border in a Scottish hotel.

I dread to think how much planning went into it, but it was very well done, with absolutely nothing spared. Wedding breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on the day, taxis ferrying people to the hotel in the depths of the Scottish countryside, a pretty large reception - or so it felt when we were standing in line receiving the endless guests, and some lovely food. One of our other friends from university sang a solo in church. I thought that was a lovely idea by the bride and he sounded wonderful.

Our dresses were made by a posh dressmaker in London. The material for ours was a blue/green shot silk affair. There had been a choice of a bright pink/yellow fabric which I rather fancied, but the bride obviously decided that the final blue/green colour was slightly more tasteful. It probably was but it still looked a bit overpowering on blonde fair-skinned me. Nor is the style something I would have chosen. The other bridesmaid worked in the beauty business so she did our hair and make-up. I don't think my hair liked being styled in such a straight fashion, the fringe was already rebelling. But I suppose bridesmaids are meant to be ornamental sidepieces rather than the main attraction.

What else? Not much really. I had decided not to stay an extra night for whatever was happening in the evening, so got the train home, rang my parents from the station, found out a relative had died in the couple of days I had been away, and although it was NYE, I managed to get a taxi home.

And the next wedding I went to was my own. Glad I never had a wedding like that though. It's so not me.

Photo by Photo-Centre (D M Smith)


Here is an interesting perspective on being a bridesmaid.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Greensand Ridge Walk

I've always liked long distance walks. The idea of setting off to complete the miles, day after day, until finally, the journey ends with a huge sense of achievement, just so appealed to me, and I had to do one.

It seemed to me to be like youth-hostelling, but even better. What fun to follow the route and the little signs, and plan the route (hardly difficult) with the help of the official handbook thing. And buy all the OS maps and decide how far to go each day and where to stay at night.

Sadly my parents didn't seem inclined to undertake the Pennine Way as one of their holidays, so I had to wait a good few more years before I did my first walk.

Living in Bedfordshire at the time, the start of the Greensand Ridge Walk was literally a stone's throw away from our house, by the Grand Union Canal in Leighton Buzzard. It opened in 1986 so when we did it a year or so later it was still pretty new. It's a leisurely stroll across pretty Bedfordshire (and Bucks and Cambs) countryside of about 40 miles. Perfect for a weekend. I think we chose a Bank Hol weekend so that we would have a day off to recover.

The first morning we both drove to the far end of the walk to leave one of the vehicles, and came back in the other. Sorting round and packing seemed to take for ever, and our early morning start to the walk turned out to be after lunch. We must have covered a good eight miles or so in the afternoon because we reached Woburn Abbey early evening and camped somewhere on the other side of the estate. It was beautiful wandering through Woburn, seeing the herds of deer and just walking over the endless grassy parkland.

The next day, the weather was not good. In fact it chucked it down, and I was deciding that maybe long-distance walks weren't all they were cracked up to be. As we struggled along, totally and utterly soaking wet, I caved in, and said I would try the pub down the road and ask for a room for the night. So much for Ruffy Tuffy Me.

It was, back then, years before all-day drinking and the pub was shut. Well shut. I wanted a nice warm dry room and a bath. I went around the back and banged on the door and shouted and hollered. To no avail. Obviously the pub people did not want drenched scruffy walkers looking for rooms on a Sunday afternoon. No soft comfy bed. No bath. No drying out. No pub meal in the evening. Just more rain to look forward to.

I trudged sadly back to Partner and we made our dismal wet weary way onward. There wasn't exactly a lot of choice.

Then, I spotted the perfect discrete camping spot. There was, naturally, a sign saying 'Private.' It was some sort of a bird or nature reserve I think. I threw caution to the winds - and rains - and jumped over the fence. It was such crappy weather that the chances of wardens, or anyone else coming around were pretty low. And the tent went up so inconspicuously amidst the bushes and trees. Excellent.

The next day dawned slightly drier and we set off for the last leg. Luckily not on our last legs. Picked up the car, and home we drove. My first walk ticked off. And in retrospect, I was glad the pub didn't want scruffy walkers. It would have diminished the sense of achievement if we'd wimped out and spent a night indoors.

Woburn Abbey

Chatting to cows near the end of the walk

Fashion details: Helly Hansen waterproof, Karrimor rucksack, King Gee shorts, and Hawkins Cairngorm walking boots.

Yes, I know I said one pic one post, but rules are made to be broken and I thought the three together added more value.

Links below to 1) Greensand Ridge and 2) a forum which details the sad closure of Hawkins.

Greensand Ridge Walk official site

Hawkins discussion

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Queen of Hearts

I have never liked fancy dress.

Dressing up in your mum's clothes, putting plastic jewellery on your train, and pretending to be the queen at her coronation or wedding in the privacy of your own home is one thing, but dressing up for the outside world? No, thank you very much.

But sadly the children's party at my father's masonic lodge involved - dressing up.

And while my mother's skills at crochet, embroidery, knitting, mending, darning, were unsurpassable, for some reason she drew the line at dressmaking.

So a dressmaker was hired to make me a beautiful white frock with lovely red velvet hearts on it. And a red velvet cloak, trimmed gaudily with some gilt stuff and lined with white satin. The crown was hired from a fancy dress shop. My mother baked some tarts. Oh, I was to go as the Queen of Hearts, in case you hadn't realised.

I cringed. I felt so totally overdressed. And I am wearing a watch!! Is anyone else? Did the Queen of Hearts wear a watch?

I didn't win of course. I have no idea what the criteria were, but I suspect hiring a dressmaker and a crown were not included. Possibly being the child of the right parents was a good start. Mine were clearly not the right ones. I seem to recollect the fairy won something. Maybe first prize, maybe not, but at least she got a prize.

I remember feeling rejected. She had a short frilly frock, a tiara and a shiny stick. I had a beautiful gown, a cape, a crown, and a home-made tray of tarts. So much for show.

And as a separate point, this post is really for Dina - hairstyles from the past. Not sure my hair-do as QoH is any different to now!!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


In case anyone thinks this is a travel blog from the past, I thought I would confuse you and add a current post.

It's linked to one on my other blog, a Thai curry recipe, but merits a tale in itself. And it means the other post isn't too long.

The first time I decided to make the Thai green curry I dutifully bought all my ingredients from the supermarket, knowing, apart from anything else that they sold limes and cilantro (fresh coriander). I bought one of those little pot things of cilantro that costs nearly a quid. The alternative is the cling-film wrapped stuff in a plastic tray that provides slightly more and costs nearly two quid.

But the next time I had decided I was going to cook it, there was no cilantro in the sm. I was devastated. I had bought all the ingredients but lacked the essential cilantro. I couldn't possibly change what I was going to cook as I had set my mind (and tastebuds and stomach) on Thai green curry for tea. It's easy and tasty.

I decided to try the market. Nope. In fact they hardly had anything. It was nearly ten o'clock and they were still unloading the veg boxes. I find this very hard to cope with as I worked on the market for years, and we were invariably ready to serve before 8am.

So I rejoined Partner who was waiting for me outside the paint shop where he had been pricing some stuff.

Inspiration hit me. Of course! The Moroccan veg shop a few doors up. I went inside and spotted the hugest box of the freshest greenest cilantro ever. Excellent.

'Pon me cilantro,' I said imperiously, in a very Spanish fashion and despite the fact that I was standing right next to the box.

How much did I want? I didn't know, that was why I asked him to pick it for me. I didn't know how much your average person bought, or how they sold it, or how much it cost etc etc.

So he picked up a huge bunch, and I said 'Basta!' In fact, it was more than enough. And how much was it? - 70p. Less than the price of a measly growing herb pot thing from the sm.

It did me for loads of meals, two Thai curries and other stuff as well. So the other day when I wanted some, off I tripped to the Moroccan shop. No joy. It was coming in the next day. The next day I went - but far too early. It was coming in later. I decided to give him a bit of space, so skipped a day and went yesterday. 'All gone,' he said.

Damn and blast!! I bet it never came in at all. How can a huge box of cilantro go in one day? When was it coming in again? Today? Tomorrow? He shrugged. No, it had come in on Monday and that seemed to be the end of it.

But I am not easily defeated. Off I went on an expedition to check out all the other Moroccan shops in Gibraltar. I WOULD find some cilantro.

There was none in the first shop I tried. I came back on myself in a loop and went to the one I had avoided because they usually rip me off in there. Yes, he had some. 'One pound.' For a bunch half the size of the one that had cost me 70p a couple of weeks ago. 'That's far too much,' I said snootily, and walked out.

Off to another shop which I used to use quite regularly at one point. But always best to change your shops because people seem to take you for granted and think you spend too much money.

'Cilantro tiene?' I asked yet again. Yes, he had some too. 'One pound fifty.' At this rate, the next shop will be charging me two quid. Perhaps I could get the price up to a fiver if I found enough Moroccan shops.

I said that was really far too much (in both cost and amount of cilantro, although clearly if it had been cheap enough I would have taken the lot) and could I please have less.

He gave me a small bunch. 'Perfecto. Cuanto vale?'

'Chin,' he said. Chin, I thought. Chin, what on earth does he mean? We aren't toasting each other chin-chin here.

I got it. It must be short for cincuenta, ie 50p. Well, that was the cheapest so far, even though it wasn't a huge bunch.

I counted out two twenties and a ten.

'CHIN! CHIN!' he shouted at me. I gazed at him like the tonta guiri I was.

He patiently took the two twenties and gave them back to me.

'No entiende chin? ' or 'You no know chin?' don't remember which language it was in at this point.

It was clearly a local or Moroccan colloquialism for a coin. He pointed to it. Perhaps it was to do with the picture of the queen's chin?

He pointed to the figure ten. 'Chin,' he said again proudly. 'Chin p'.

I finally got it. Ten p.

Not bad value though.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Pattaya, Thailand

It must be Pattaya because it says so on the back of the photograph, although I don't remember the boats and the landing.

But wait, right in the bottom left hand corner, surely that is Buni's little speedo thingy? No, not his swimming trunks, one of those zappy things to travel out into the sea.

My memories of Pattaya are few. The first one, is of the endless street of sex shops as the bus came into town. Girls asking for sex. When I say girls, I mean girls. Not young women, or teenagers. Girls. Under age sex, aka rape/paedophilia.

Later in Sydney, I met a Canadian who eventually confessed that he couldn't have sex at the time (er not with me I hasten to add very hurriedly) because he was recovering from an STD contracted in - Pattaya.

The next memory is of pineapples. Huge, juicy, cheap pineapples sold by the street vendors. So huge that by the time you had got half way down you were sick of the sweet/acid taste it left on your tongue. We took it back to our tidy, basic, and cheap room. I can't remember if we ever finished it.

Mostly I remember the beach though. And Buni of course.

When Travelling Companion and I were planning our trip, sometimes talking about it at work in the newspaper office, one of the other reporters thought the idea of lying on a tropical beach sounded rather nice.

And when we were finally lying there, on the fine golden sand, in the glorious sunshine, we sent him our virtual best wishes. In the days before the virtual world existed of course.

It was very hot. I suspected I was getting sunburned. We started chatting to some Thai boys who obviously spoke English. As they do.

Buni offered to rub some oil into my back. A free Thai massage? How could I resist? I didn't. And it was very good, I must say.

Then he seemed to think it was a good idea for us to go gallivanting off on his little speed thingummy. The local beach lads made a living out of taking tourists out to sea on these things. This offer was for free though. To a nearby island.

I decided I had taken enough freebies for one day, and gracefully declined that one. It was still a great massage though, thanks pal.

Sydney Opera House

Impossible to do a post about Sydney Harbour Bridge and not add one about Sydney's other world-famous landmark, and here they are together on this photo.

Sydney Opera House was designed by a Danish architect, and as I vaguely recall, there was quite some controversy and a few changes to the original design. But if you want to read about all that, there is plenty of stuff out there on the net.

Being in Sydney, I decided that listening to opera at Sydney Opera House was a Must Do, on the world trip tick-box list.

The tickets however, seemed rather pricey to me. Maybe 20 bucks at the time? Can't remember.

As the whole world knows, journalists are a scammy breed and always managing to scrounge something for nothing on the back of a press card (NUJ union card actually). While I hate to shatter such a popular myth, to that day I had never had anything for free apart from obviously, tickets for work where I had to do a review. Eg, a concert by the utterly boring Glen Cambell. I would probably have paid someone else to go in my place to get out of that one.

Even in those days, to get into something that was popular (and expensive) you invariably needed to be separately accredited.

But in Sydney on a budget, and with NUJ card in pocket, I decided to put this myth to the test and marched down to the Opera House. It seemed they didn't dish out tickets to random journalists who popped in from the other side of the world, but they did direct me to an office in the city centre.

Off I traipsed. Arriving at the office, I gave them my plausible and actually, genuine, story. I was a freelance journalist, and I was intending to do a series of reviews for the Illustrated London News (I thought a nice glossy like this might accept my submissions as they sometimes included non-UK stuff if it was prestigious enough). Blow me down, not only did they give me three tickets for the next three (different) performances, they gave me an extra one for each night for a guest.

I was very pleased. And not a little excited, because, not only was I going to listen to opera at SOH, but the very first of the three performances was Joan Sutherland. Singing Lucia di Lammermoor. This, for those of you who are not opera fans, was the opera that shot her to fame when she performed the famous Mad Scene.

Now, I should say, that JS was never one of my favourite sopranos, nor, was Maria Callas. Maybe it was an age thing, but I loved the voices of Lucia Popp, Frederica von Stade, and Victoria de los Angeles. Still, JS doing her mad stuff at SOH was not to be sniffed at, and my mother (a huge JS fan) would be so excited.

Anyway, she cancelled. There I was sitting expectantly in my seat, when an announcement came over the public address system. She had a sore throat, or something like that. According to the Sydney Morning Herald the following day, it was the first time she had cancelled in her career. Fine sense of timing.

I managed to acquire a guest for the other two performances. One was a pastoral thing, but as for the other, no idea. We wandered around the outside on a lovely evening drinking our glasses of Australian fizz, but after being deprived of Dame Joan performing her most famous role in her home town, they were just another couple of free operas.

No, I never did write any of it up for the Illustrated London News. Couldn't think of anything to say really apart from ranting about Joan Sutherland choosing the night I was waiting to hear her, only for her to make the first cancellation of her career due to ill-health.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

At one point, we lived in a flat with a view of the harbour bridge. In King's Cross. In 1985.

For those of you who don't know, King's Cross is/was the main area where travellers from all over the world congregate to stay in the cheap hostels. It's also, like its namesake in London, an area of brothels, prostitutes, drugs etc. Unless this has all changed in the last 20+ years of course.

I had moved in with someone I had met a couple of months previously. We had moved out of hostels and into a sort of apartment that wasn't. We had a bedroom, a kitchen-sitting room and a shower. The toilet was out the back :(

Our friends - I use the term amazingly loosely there - Tom and Didi, announced their intention to travel up to the Northern Territory. Tom was from Newcastle, UK, and had worked in Long Benton at the DHSS (as was). He was on the dole in Aus having managed to scam getting onto it somewhere out in the bush, and could never sign off. He had no legit ID so could never have signed on again, especially in Sydney. He had a lovely GSD called Khasah (?). Didi was much older than the rest of us, in his 40s, and Danish.

They wanted to keep their HUGE flat while on their travels, but needed a bit of income to help supplement funds - were we interested in renting a room in their absence? Huge flat to ourselves. Mmmm, very nice. Tempting.

Didi, sensing our interest, added another lure. Would we like to take over the lease, and when they came back they would pay us their share of the rent? Er, no. We were not that stupid in those days, and trusting those two to pay their share of anything would have been lower than the chances of winning the Aussie lotto.

So we moved in, left the lease in their names, and paid the rent every month. Or for one month, however long we were there for, which wasn't long.

I remember my 26th birthday in that flat so well. There was a shelf above the bed, and we always took a bottle of Perrier water to bed. For whatever reason, it fell and hit me on the head. (New theme to this blog - things hitting me on the head in the night).

Then, I left for New Zealand. We had discussed getting married and I thought a bit of time out gadding around on my own would be good. I told him to sort us a flat of our own. Figured that if he did that he was worth marrying. If he didn't .....

So that is the tale of the brief time we spent in a flat with a view of SHB. We saw Didi some time much later at a cashpoint machine. He too had got married. C'est la vie huh? Because that's what most people do in Australia in order to stay there. Gotta get that residency.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Hola Lanzarote

Rather Jackie Kennedy here I think. Large glasses and smell up nose.

That's probably about the nearest I will get to her, I suspect she wouldn't have looked quite so casually put together, nor would she have been carrying a daypack.

Just for you fashionistas out there, the shirt was some exceedingly fine yellow cotton I made up to a Donna Karan Vogue Designer Pattern. It was a painter's shirt or something. But perfect for warm/hot climes. Suffice to say I still have it now.

I bought the little red shorts dirt cheap in Puerto del Carmen (sorry Jean) and I reluctantly had to chuck those recently, owing to the fact that I couldn't even get my legs in, let alone do up the zip.

Oh, the photo. Well, we were at Teguise looking at the César Manrique House.

Lanzarote was the second of our package holidays. Partner had gone out and booked it, for not a bad price, only to be bawled out of house and home because he had us flying out of Newcastle and .... back into Middlesborough.

I did not live 20 or 30 mins by metro from Newcastle airport - or 10 mins by low-flying taxi or lift from a mate - to expect to fly back into Middlesborough. Bloody miles away.

Partner was given his orders to go back and GET A RETURN FLIGHT TO NEWCASTLE.

He did. The decently priced holiday suddenly became indecent. But notwithstanding, it was an excellent hol. The superb scenery, the beautiful Manrique influence, the great weather - even in November, combined for a wonderful week. It was my first trip to Spain incidentally. Maybe that explains a lot.

We tried to visit most of the Manrique works. The first trip was to Mirador del Rio at the far end of the island. We got off the bus and traipsed miles uphill to get there. Much to our amazement and total delight - there was a bar. Two San Miguels were never more rapidly demolished.

Then we walked back to the nearest town before getting the bus back to Arrecife. We skipped the bar/restaurants in the first pueblo, they all had bull-fighting on the television.

At the next town, we found a fine place, it had opened early, and we enjoyed our meal. But when we finished it was dark and we had to find directions for the bus stop.

We rushed up the street. Not a bus stop in sight. We kept on going out of the village wondering if we had missed it. Natch, it was the last one back to Arrecife. Missing it would be costly, ie night's accommodation or taxi back.

Out of the Atlantic darkness appeared - a bus!! But where the hell was the bus stop?? Absolutely without shame, Partner waved his arms around and shouted 'Hola!' The bus stopped. Thank goodness.

Perhaps I should rename this blog the bus blog? Because there are even more bus tales .....


Segovia. The fairy tale castle. I think that skinny blonde in red posing next to the parapet is me. These days, I am neither blonde, nor quite so skinny, and certainly can't imagine posing near parapets anywhere.

I never learned to pose for photographs. Sadly it wasn't deemed part of the essential education earmarked out for me by my parents.

We had flown to Madrid via Amsterdam from the UK for a wedding anniversary long weekend. In August. The height of summer and I was dreading the heat. The rucksacks were not part of this trip and nor was the tent.

In fact we had bought some special hand luggage for the flight so that we didn't have to hang around at baggage reclaim with all the other passengers who seemed to want to make a day of arriving at an airport and missing their luggage every time it came around on the conveyor.

I bought some nice new flat shoes too. I was going to be city chic and smart for once. And - we even stayed in a hotel. Quite a decently priced one on Calle Gran Via. Near to Plaza de España and a few minutes walk from the brothels around the back.

One day we decided to go to Segovia, so we found out the correct bus station and made our way there. We bought our return tickets and had a while to wait so found a fine bar which did excellent pimientos asados (roast peppers) tapas included with our beer.

Segovia is primarily famous for three things. The famous castle - Alcazar, the superb Roman aqueduct, and the cathedral. Possibly in that order, although I was most interested in the aqueduct.

We made our way up to the castle, which was worth a visit. The first mention of it was back in the 12th century, but as it was set alight in 1862, the current building is a relatively recent rebuild. Still, it is pretty enough.

One of the legends, is that a nurse looking after a royal babe dropped it out of the window, so fearing the wrath of her employers and certain death, she jumped out to follow the heir to all the Spains. It was a very long way down.

And the other main story about the castle is that it was the inspiration for Walt Disney's fairy tale castle in Disneyland. I had no idea about that at the time I visited however, nor would it have interested me.

When we got back to the bus station, I gazed at my little bus tickets puzzling what to do with them. Spanish bus companies mostly sell tickets at offices in the bus station that you often buy in advance. Occasionally you can also pay on the bus, but rarely on long distance ones. Segovia is nearly 100kms so we had a posh little folder with our tickets inside.

On the way out we had duly taken our allocated seats. But the ticket for the return had no seat number. This was the source of my puzzlement. If we jumped in a seat on the bus, although we had paid for a ticket, we might be sitting in someone else's seat. And as the occupancy of the bus is done by computer, the bus might even be full.

There had to be a way round this. Now, like most people, I hate making an arse of myself in public, especially in a foreign language, but I certainly didn't want to be chucked off the bus because I didn't have a specific seat.

I plucked up the courage and toddled over to the long queue at the ticket office which still seemed pretty stupid to me as I had already got a ticket. I prepared myself for much Spanish amusement, or just as bad, total incomprehension at what I was attempting to ask.

Neither. The ticket cashier calmly took my proferred return tickets, understood that I wanted the next bus to Madrid, and get this, issued some new tickets after keying a load of stuff into the computer - AND - they had the magic seat numbers.

There are some things that really make a day out successful. I have to say that swapping the tickets and getting ones with seat numbers was a serious highlight of the day. I sat in my seat for the whole return trip feeling smug and very pleased with my little self. I still feel pleased when I think back to it now.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Watch out for the guys

This is not the most brill pic due to the sun on it, but I am trying to show two things.

One is the beautiful grassy location at the top of an idyllic Hebridean beach on Barra where we were wild camping. I think it was Barra, although it could have been Benbecula. Probably Barra.

The second is the fact that the tent is somewhat disformed, poor thing. You can see that if you look carefully. The top is not smooth and taut, and the entrance door is totally skewed. Here is the story.

This was our trip to the Western Isles of Scotland, the Inner and Outer Hebrides and any other island or peninsula en route that we could use our CalMac pass on.

Caledonian MacBrayne is the Scottish ferry company that services the islands and the western coast. It is not cheap. I think we paid around £200 for our ticket at the time, it was an Island Rover ticket where you get to go all over the islands which isn't bad value if you can cram as much as poss into the necessary time, 15 days or so.

Arran was one of our early stops, in fact I think it was the very first night. As we approached the harbour/port of Brodick, the cloud lifted, and there was blue sky, sunshine, and a lovely view of Arran. We'd been given gloomy tales of endless rain while on the ferry across from Ardrossan, but it was all looking pretty promising as we cruised into the harbour.

We drove not too far down the road and found a camp site. After pitching the tent, we went out to look at the island and buy provisions for tea. Being early birds, we soon went to bed.

Some considerable time later, and in that instantaneous moment when something shocking wakes you up I didn't even know whether I was awake or asleep, I received a huge whack on the head. I have to say that, when you are soundly asleep in your comfy sleeping bag in your cosy tent, some drunken prat falling on top of you is not the best thing to happen in the middle of the night. He'd presumably tripped over the guy line.

I was pretty dazed, but as I'd taken the brunt of the falling drunken prat, Partner got out of the tent and asked what the fuck he was doing. Or something like that.

Drunken prat started to get aggressive, and pointed out he had a gun in his tent. Well, was I ever freaking out at this point. My imagination shot into overdrive and I immediately wrote the front page story, complete with gory headline, of my own death on a campsite in Arran, shot through the head.

Partner was having none of that though, and to my fear and horror he told DP to shut up and clear off or he would kick the shit out of him.

We went off to report it to the camp site managers/owners. They weren't interested and told us we needn't bother going to the police. They probably didn't like being woken up well after midnight either. We moved the tent to a different spot (just in case DP found his gun after all or decided to fall over the guy lines and onto us yet again) and cleared off early the next morning.

But what to do with the tent? The poles at one end were severely bent and buckled, but luckily the flysheet and inner tent hadn't ripped. Still, we had a planned two weeks in an area of high rainfall - and we didn't know if we would be able to even put up the tent the next night. And if it rained ..... The determining factor may have been that we had paid for our CalMac pass, so we decided to give it a go, and off we went to the next ferry journey and the next destination. We did discuss sleeping in the car. A Renault 19 two door hatchback. The dogs normally slept in it.

Partner straightened up the poles as best he could. It's a good thing they were strong, made of some sort of alloy framing that they use in aircraft. Flimsier ones would have snapped under the weight of DP. The next night, we finally managed to put up the tent after Partner had made a few adaptations with a tent peg between the poles to make things work. It was somewhat askew at one end, and not its normal perfect streamlined self, then eventually we went to sleep in a much quieter and far less eventful campsite.

And that was the worst thing that happened to us on that holiday. A bad start, but absolutely perfect weather for the whole of the two to three weeks, beautiful scenery, wild camping, lots of interesting historical sites to visit, whiskies to try - one of our best holidays ever. When we sadly returned home, everyone thought we had been to the southern Mediterranean we were so brown.

I loved the Hebrides.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Mycenae - Gateway of the Lion

Well, this old photo from my world trip says on the back, 'Gateway of the Lion, very famous apparently'.

It's in Mycenae. Greece, near Athens. Can't remember what the hell we were doing there though. Didn't even know about it, shame on me for someone with a degree in Ancient and Medieval History and Archaeology.

We'd got dropped off on the bus from Athens (or maybe we had taken the train??) and gone down the road to the youth hostel, and then, when I discovered there was a famous archaeological site up the road, we were off to find it. Rucksacks dumped, sleeping bags spread out to claim our bunks, and we were back up the hill in the not very cold Greek winter to find this famous site.

I think there was meant to be orange picking around there too. We didn't find any work. At least I have a pic of a very famous site. Similar to the one on Wiki :D

Edited to add:

I forgot when writing about Mycenae to mention my trip to Delphi, of which I don't have a pic. For some reason I don't remember, my travel companion didn't accompany me on that one, so off I went on my own with a tiny overnight bag as I figured I would need to find somewhere to stay. For another reason I don't remember there was no direct bus, but the tourist people told me it was easy enough to change at whatever village in the middle of nowhere and pick up the Delphi bus. And no, I didn't want to fork out lots of drachmas for an organised tour. I wanted to organise my own tour. Which I spectacularly failed to do. After wandering around said village in the middle of nowhere for around an hour trying to find anyone who could even understand remotely what I was asking about where to get the bus to Delphi, I gave up, and got the bus back to Athens. So that's why there is no pic of Delphi. And just as well I have this one of Mycenae.

Packing - in La Gomera

Playa de Santiago. I think. A small fishing village in the south of La Gomera. One of the Canaries.

This, as everyone knows, is a typical photo of an ambitious, well-paid, career woman in her 30s, on holiday.

One who buys a cheap flight to Tenerife, and takes her back-packing gear, including camping stuff, and gets the local bus around the place.

The camp site in Tenerife wasn't far from the airport, somewhere amidst banana plantations and an ambitious resort development that hadn't quite happened.

It was strange. Pretty quiet (well, it was winter), and the only other campers were a group of laid-back Spaniards who played the guitar at night, drank beer, and probably smoked dope for all I know. Who cares? Not me. They were pleasant and friendly whenever we met.

One day a British couple arrived and put up their tent next to us. They weren't impressed with the musical easy-going laid-back Spaniards 50 or 100 yards away.

'SHUT THE FUCK UP!!' shouted the Brit. The camp site fell silent.

We decided to leave. People enjoying themselves, with some noise is one thing, aggression is another.

Off to Los Cristianos and the boat to La Gomera - why not manage two Canaries in one holiday? From San Sebastian by bus (public, which all arrived to meet the ferry, but hurry because they leave quickly) and onto Playa de Santiago.

Where, we hiked out of the village, over the cliffs, past the rather exclusive Jardin Tecina, down the first bay, up the cliffs, down to the second one, etc etc until I think we finally decided to camp on the beach of the third bay.

But we didn't want to leave the tent insecure during the day, so every morning, we packed it up and made the hike back into Playa de Santiago. And then, in the evening, back we went to our lonely beach to re-pitch the tent where no-one else visited. Until one day, a woman came and told us the police were moving people on. In retrospect - doubt it. Never saw any. Police or other campers.

What else from this pic? Oh yes, meeting the local insurance agent and his wife who were staying at Jardin Tecina and so admired our adventurous spirit. And one of my medical work colleagues some years later, who had also stayed there and was busy showing off about the exclusive place she had stayed at to her other medical colleague who was due to fly out and stay there and do medical middle-class things. They both looked slightly put out when I said I'd been there and recited my camping adventures. Scruffy wild campers within a few hundred yards of Jardin Tecina?

Maybe ambitious, well-paid, career women in their 30s don't take the same holidays as me after all.

Different blog, different theme

There are some posts that really do not fit within any of my current blogs, so here is yet another blog. Based on the idea of every picture tells a story.

Yes, it's not an original idea, and yes, there are lotsissimo blogs out there with that very title.

This will not be a picture blog per se. Oh, no. I do not agree with the fact that just posting a picture is remotely helpful. Yes it can be an excellent photo (these won't be as they will be mainly scanned), but would you really expect a journalist not to at least include a caption?

In fact you will get more than that, the story behind the picture. The picture from the past.

Perhaps I should retitle it.