Note Number 20…A Glimpse of Madeira and the High Life…

The Hotel Taken from the pool and Reid’s Tea Terrace 

We have just returned from an amazing ten-day holiday at Reid’s Hotel in Funchal Madeira. It was a holiday of a lifetime, (apologies for the cliché).
We should have been travelling to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, but after a busy 2016 I just couldn’t face the lengthy flights, but, we wanted a little bit of winter sun so ended up in Madeira, spending about the same money as a two-month vacation in the Southern Hemisphere! However, I’m not sorry.

The hotel did not disappoint and the room with a promised view of the sea, was spacious, with a desk and two armchairs as well as an enormous bed. A luxury marble bathroom and separate WC. I loved it! Reid’s has been around for 125 years and the atmosphere is unique. Photographs of rich and famous people who have visited in the past are kept in glass cases in a large walk-through lounge which joins the old hotel to the new bit (you can’t tell the difference between the two).

Room with a View…and early morning sun…

The gardens at Reid’s are tropical and lush with paths and seating areas throughout. I cannot emphasise the beauty of the place enough. The staff at the hotel were friendly and rushed about attending to our every need and appeared to enjoy their job. I don’t generally like being waited on, but they made me feel as though it was no trouble at all and that they genuinely wanted to help make our holiday the best it could be. On the tables by the pool there were little buzzers that you could use to call a waiter.

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The Buzzer or Call Button…

It took me about half an hour to pluck up the courage to ring it one morning, as it seemed such a decadent thing to do, but when the smiley waitress arrived, happy to serve me with a cocktail and a sandwich all my concerns vanished. Other guests were similar to us. I had expected a lot of stuck up toffs but on the whole they were ordinary people enjoying spending their well-earned money. There were of course a few whose opinions and demands could be heard above all others. But, as one waiter told us, ‘We learn to be just friendly enough and we respond to how we are treated, if the person doesn’t smile or speak well to us, then we serve them but we don’t make good conversation. We leave them alone and give them the bare minimum.’ Most of the older staff have been with Reid’s for many years, over twenty at least, which has to be a good sign. Although the hotel was originally family owned, it is now in the hands of Belmond (new branding for Orient Express) but, essentially, the atmosphere remains that of a family run business. That is probably the secret of its success. A grand hotel which feels like home from home.

A little slide show for you….

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We didn’t manage to take a basket sledge because by the time we had reached the top of the hill on the cable car it was too late…another time perhaps.

The breakfast was the best spread I have ever seen in a hotel, there was literally everything you can imagine, the choice was unlimited…fresh fruit, cereals, bread, croissants, pastries, cheese, ham, smoked salmon and other fish, plus bacon, eggs, vodka and champagne, etc., there was literally everything you could wish for.

Amazing Breakfast…and…

Amazing Desserts…and…

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Amazing Tea on Reid’s Tea Terrace… (oh and we also had scones).  By the way, the little round brown cake at the back with an almond on the top I believe is a Madeira Cake…they don’t have anything like the pale lemon flavoured cake that we know as Madeira…how about that? 

I have been thoroughly spoilt and The Man was responsible. We did attend the fitness centre (him everyday and me for seven out of the ten) and tried only to eat breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner never the three. On two occasions we ate breakfast and then a Reid’s tea. We walked from the hotel to Câmara De Lobos, about 7.5k…we got a taxi back then I went swimming and The Man went to the gym. Câmara De Lobos, was a place often visited by Churchill where he sat and painted the little fishing village. He also stayed regularly at Reid’s with Clementine, I believe.

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Câmara De Lobos – Churchill’s Favourite Village on Madeira (so we’re led to believe…)

Random Snippets about Madeira…

It’s an island in the Atlantic approximately 1000k South of Portugal and close to 600k from the North African coast.

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Over the Sea and Far Away…Madeira sits in the Atlantic…

 It has several micro climates so you cannot easily predict the weather but it is warm most of the time. We experienced between 13 and 23 degrees for our ten-day stay. Rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon or vice versa. Five of our days were sunshine all the way.
Bananas grow everywhere.

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Bananas – taken through the mini bus window…hence the reflection

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Sugar Cane also grows in Madeira

Espada (pronounced ESHPAADA)is the local fish and it is not pretty . Apparently it looks a bit like an ugly eel. We were told that it is line fished from more than 2000 metres deep in the sea around Madeira and that when it is pulled up the pressure causes the fish to burst so that all the innards come out negating the requirement to gut and clean the thing…sounds disgusting doesn’t it? You eat it pan-fried with banana, if you want to have it in the traditional way.

Limpet Rice served with Espada and Banana…

The poncha drink is local rum, honey and lemon… (It tasted a bit medicinal I think)
Tea at Reid’s hotel is a must for any tourist.

img_3245Poncha…as drunk by me…

Madeira has the highest cliff in Europe and you can stand at the top of it and look down through a glass platform.

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It’s a Long Way Down…

There are Levada (irrigation channnels) walks that can be taken but we didn’t go on this occasion, but if you want to see more look here

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Somewhere in this photo is a Levada Walk…I know because our guide Christina said so…

A replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria is moored in Funchal and does daily trips out to sea…not sure it’s entirely propelled by sails now though….

Painted Doors in Old Funchal Town….

There was so much to see and do in Madeira, we merely covered a few of them. A day trip out took us to the North side of the island and the weather was very changeable from wild, windy, misty and wet…to sunny and bright, although the sea remained monstrous.

Changeable on the North Coast…these photos were taken less than ten minutes apart.

One of very few places on the list for a return visit…Have you been?

Note Number 19…Valentine’s Day…

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So Many Hearts in the World…

I’m sure that millions of couples are celebrating their love today and that’s all fine, but, spare a thought for those who are alone either because they’ve lost the person closest to them for any number of reasons… or there isn’t anyone special right now. The Man and I don’t celebrate St. Valentine’s day because we think it’s all commercial garbage and we reaffirm our feelings all through the year, not just on February 14th. That’s how it should be, we think. I didn’t know the origins of Valentine’s Day so I ‘googled’ and found this and this and a whole lot more but it’s all a bit confused and quite unromantic to say the least. Take a look for yourselves.

Enjoy your day and maybe knock on the neighbours door if they’re alone and need a cheery greeting…but don’t buy your red roses until tomorrow….when they’ll be at least half the price!

Let’s send our love to those on their own
And blow them a kiss and a light.
To shine like a pearl and give strength
In their hearts all through today and tonight

Let’s send good feelings to those who are lost
And give them our friendship to share
Take more than a minute today, to be sure,
That those less fortunate than you, know you care

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Sending all the above via balloon…

Note Number 18…Facebook Status Asks…’What’s on Your Mind?’..

 

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I’ll tell you what’s on my mind. My children and my grandchildren. I’m worried about their future. I know that history tells us there has always been something for us to worry about, but we NEVER learn from history. I now have some idea of what it must have been like for my parents and grandparents when WW1 and WW2 were looming. I am genuinely afraid that something awful is going to happen within the next five years.

I don’t know what I can do about today’s situation re Brexit and Trump. I’m worried about both of these things and worrying about it doesn’t help the situation. I haven’t marched on any demonstrations and I haven’t shared many political opinion posts on FB. I’m a bit rubbish at standing up for what I believe in I suppose, but I think more than 75% of us are probably the same. I feel threatened by what’s happening but have a cowardly approach towards doing anything constructive about it. I think it’s my age but then I see plenty of people older than me marching and ranting. I am, in short, a wimp. I dread turning on my iPad in the morning to read the news. Who is hating who? What has Trump done now? What’s Putin up to? How many men, women and children have died during my night?…and I am appalled at what I see…Climate Change…there’s another problem. The world is in a tempestuous state and I don’t like it.

I know that the media has become good at selling us dubious news, but Donald Trump IS A FACT and the stuff he’s churning out is terrifying. I have been lucky. Born in 1950 I have had the best of peacetime in the 20th and 21st centuries (so far), in the United Kingdom. I do know that while there has been no, ‘war’ going on here, on our soil, we have been involved in them overseas. I am ignorant of the facts however. I am also ignorant about the real issues behind Brexit. I voted to REMAIN…because I want a united Europe and I believe that the EU was the best way to keep Europe united. I know that the EU has many problems but I think we should have stayed in and sorted them from within. I think that LEAVING…is going to cost us a great deal both economically and socially. I don’t profess to have a political understanding about any of this, but then do many of us? Probably not…but we still voted.

I have a naïve attitude, I want all the people in the world to love each other and to live in peace together. Isn’t that what every normal person wants? But of course, this can never be because there is always, GREED, POWER and RELIGION…In my humble opinion these, three little words cause all the problems. I don’t think I’m greedy, I don’t want power over anybody or anything, and although I don’t have a particular religion that I believe in I’m quite happy for anyone to follow one of their own choosing. Why can’t all mankind think like this?

Note Number 17…January’s Over…(warning post not suitable for vegetarians or vegans…)

Today the snowdrops are showing their pretty white heads in the garden, it’s such a lovely sight…Spring is on its way and it’s only about seven and a half weeks before the clocks change…

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January 2017 is over – it was a dry January for some but for me only demi-sec, I did have some Prosecco, a gin and tonic or two and a few glasses of red, few glasses of white, but overall, I was good.  The weight is staying off and if I can lose another half-stone, then I will indeed be a happy bunny. I’ve been walking as much as possible and the first part of January was pretty dry but the end of it and the first two days of February have been mega wet and windy and more to come over the weekend for those of us in the southwest.

Wet days walking in the fields, dog with her hi-vis jacket on…

As we live in the countryside, country things happen and during January I was given a brace of pheasants.  I gladly accepted, it would have been rude had I declined. I didn’t shoot them, not do I wish to, but in my opinion, they’ve had a better life than the chicken I buy, even an organic free range one. The problem with the pheasant is they don’t come plucked, gutted and oven ready.  We hung them just for a couple of days and then I had to face the music and roll up my sleeves. I’d done it before but a long time ago so I googled it and youtube showed me how. Except, it was to skin them and not pluck them. Well, I have to say, it was pretty easy although a bit gory and taking off the feathers along with the skin was just like taking its coat off. Very weird. Vegetarians and vegans, turn away now….I’ve left out the really gory photos out…

A Brace of Pheasant Hanging outside the Front Door …then in preparation. 

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I know, I know… I look like a big game hunter but honestly I didn’t shoot them…Also, had my gilet on under my apron so look over large…can’t see that half-stone I’ve lost. 

In January, thoughts turn to holidays and sunshine. My next postings will be from Madeira,  I’m looking forward to it as I’ve not visited it previously. Before I booked our ten days away, I tried to find out where the good weather would be within a short distance from the UK, also we wanted to fly from Bristol and not any of the London airports. One website came up with the five best places being, Sicily, Malta, The Canary Islands, Cyprus and Madeira and we chose the last one. I’ve looked at the forecast as it does seem we might have some rain but the temperatures are up in the late teens, so I’ll be content with that…there’s always a glass of madeira to sup!

See you in Madeira folks.

Note 16…Dog Names…

Jpeg in Dorset January 2017 – 8 years old this March (or thereabouts) 

‘What’s your dog’s name?’ asks a stranger.
‘Jpeg,’ I reply.
‘What? Like the file name?’
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘How did she come to be called that?’ they ask, with a laugh and sometimes a scoff.

If I have time I tell them…

In 2009, our second summer in Italy, we were preparing a float for the Festa Delle Cove – the festival of corn (like harvest festival) read more here. We were sitting, with friends on a load of straw and picnicking outside our uninhabited and unrestored farmhouse. Along the road, and in through the open gate came three dogs, a brown one, a black and white one and a little sandy coloured puppy. They hung around for a while, ate a few titbits (yes titbits, not tidbits, that’s American apparently, although equally correct). When full, they wandered off into the afternoon sun the same way they’d arrived. A few hours later, the puppy returned alone and was determined to stay. We think the other two dogs might have been her parents and recognised a couple of suckers so sent her back in the hope she would be adopted and no longer be their responsibility.

At the end of the day, we packed up and left to go back up to town and the puppy was still there. ‘If she’s still here tomorrow I’ll think about keeping her. She is so sweet.’ I said. I should add here that I had mentioned, several times over the previous couple of years that I would NEVER have another dog.
Next morning, she was gone, and I was relieved until I saw her sitting on the doorstep of the house at the top of the road. I spoke to our Italian neighbours, ‘Oh, she’s yours? I’m so pleased, I thought she was lost.’
‘No, she’s not ours, I’m taking her to the Comune later today. She’s a stray.’
‘Oh, what will they do with her?’
The neighbour indicated his answer by making a slicing movement with his hand across his throat.
‘No! That’s awful. Please don’t do that. Give me until tomorrow morning to think about it, I didn’t want another dog, but…let me think please…I just have to speak to my other half.’
The neighbour shrugged and agreed, but only for one day, he had to get rid of her the next day.

We went to the bar that night and sat around outside drinking wine and talking, as you do and I told one of our English friends about the little lost puppy.
‘You must keep her Ninette, there’s no question about it. What does she look like?’ This lady was a confirmed dog lover as were most of the people around the table but they weren’t rushing to offer the stray puppy a home you’ll note.
‘Wait a minute, I took some photos today, I’ll go and get one,’ I said and ran home, printed off a photo and scooted back down to the café. (I can’t believe that in 2009 I was still taking all my photos with a camera not a phone…?)

‘Here she is,’ I said and presented the paper to the table and they handed it round with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.
‘Oh look,’ says The Man, ‘It’s Jpeg, see? It says so at the bottom of the page.’
I took the print and yes, that’s what it said under her lovely photo.
JPEG1000236 (see below)

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We kept the puppy, obviously, and the name stuck, she suits it and we like it. I don’t like dogs with ‘people’ names although some are okay. Jpeg is perfect…well, her name is anyway! You can see from the photo her skin was in a terrible condition, she had tics, fleas and goodness know what else. She was very quiet and listless most of the time, really sweet, but she soon perked up and became a bundle of energy needing lots of running and attention! There are a few stories to tell about Jpeg, but I’ll save them for another time.

Tell us how your dog or cat got their name…

Italy September 2009 – skin looking better… Ahh, she was so cute…

Note Number 15…Logs…Targets and Totals…

I have been trying to walk further with the dog, Jpeg (note number 16 will tell you why she’s called that) and The Man introduced me to Strava. It’s an App you can get on your phone and it’s really for people who run, cycle or swim but, he kept on at me, (as men do) because he uses it for cycling and he was convinced it would get me walking more. So I downloaded it to my smart phone. Strava logs your activity for you, making a little map, it gives you information such as the time you take to cover a kilometre or mile, how far you’ve travelled, etc., etc., Then you load it from your phone onto the Strava website and everyone can see what you’ve done. You get a little ‘personal best’ cup if you walk the same bit of road in a faster time and you can follow people and they can follow you, it’s a kind of Facebook for athletes. I feel a bit stupid on it really because I’m just walking the dog and others are swimming the channel, running 10k and cycling a 100k – sometimes all three in the same day! BUT, it has worked to a certain extent as I now think about how far I’m walking each week and trying out different places to go. So thumbs up to Strava…oh and other people can give you kudos so you feel good about yourself, which is always good for the self-esteem.

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Please note the Running shoe on the Icon…I am invariably in wellies or walking boots. See below.

welliesI don’t think Jpeg cares about targets except how many birds she can chase

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One of the many, muddy hills I struggle up, fighting against the strava clock ….phew!

I have also been trying to lose weight and get fit after Christmas, along with The Man, who is wanting to do lots of long cycle rides in 2017, some of which will take him over the Alps so he has to be ‘superfit’. Making a note of how much you lose every other day, and writing down what you eat is so helpful. Checking calories – it’s amazing how they add up, 50 here 50 there, soon become 200 or 300.  I haven’t got an App for this but I know there are plenty around.  But, the diet is going well, I’m 6 pounds down and The Man is 11 pounds down, going on a stone…so happy bunnies all round.

Things we’re not eating right now…

 

Things we are eating right now…note, no grapes The Man says, “They are sugar bombs!”

My other aim is to finish this novel ‘Oh, we’ve heard all that before!’ I hear you cry. But, honestly, I am getting down to it, aided by a programme that I have for writing called Scrivener. I love it and I can set my word target for the whole novel and a word count for each session that I type and watch it going up. I have it set for 2000 words a day, and when I’ve completed that number a message pings up on the screen – You have reached your target – which is a great feeling. Of course, half of what I’ve written is probably rubbish but, nevertheless I’m writing!

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Whoops! Look at that…not a singe word yet today…and my deadline for 85,000 words is the end of March. Now you ALL know about it,  I will have to get on with it!

Note Number 14…14th January…a Significant Date…

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Today, six years ago in 2011 our family dynamics changed forever. We lost Tosh at the age of 27. He was a son, a brother, a boyfriend, a cousin, and an uncle, all our lives were affected in different ways. Every day that goes by I think of him and a couple of months ago I wrote this poem, trying to capture some of the emotions I felt and still feel and I’m sharing it with you on this post.

Tosh

It is not right
It should not be
That he has left, ahead of me.

He was not done
Nor finished all
Before he took that tragic fall

There’ll never be a wedding now
Or children in whose face I catch
Some semblance of the boy I’ve lost
I wish him back no matter cost

I know

It’s better not to think this way
Of things he’ll never do or say
But just recall the good times had
Don’t dwell on minor things of bad

But then, I make him like a saint
This youth who loved to live and paint
On urban trains and midnight walls.
He didn’t heed friends’ warning calls
Or sirens from the boys in blue
He didn’t think their hearts were true

To him there was no wrong in graff
Sprawling images of this and that
Slashing authority’s senseless laws,
Fighting all the small man’s wars
Against the corporation greed
Upon whose profits politicians feed

He left behind some works of art
On streets, at home, and, in my heart
I know it was his destiny
To leave this world ahead of me.

Thomas Hartley November 30th 1983 – January 14th 2011