Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, without a hitch and were pleased to see friends and neighbours from last year. Our arrival coincided with one of the twice weekly happy hours at the Stella Marina Bar so we met old and new friends that night.
Some days later, the Porto Turistico hosted the All-Italy Laser Championships. The first challenge was negotiating out from between the pontoons, heading for open sea.
Since arriving back, we have been full-on busy with boat jobs; fixing, replacing, renewing, cleaning, servicing, removing, repairing and storing.
We have had visits from Alice, Ian and Jon. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to sail anywhere (even if the weather had been suitable) because the sails had already gone off to be repaired.
However, we were able to explore more of Sicily. Touring around to Syracuse, Modica, Scicli, Palazzallo Acredie and Ragusa Ibla – beautiful cities with stunning baroque churches and buildings.
We also drove out to Agrigento to the Valley of Temples and were suitably impressed by the stunning Greek Temples there, which are some of the best preserved in the Med.
We joined a walking group and enjoyed a couple of noisy walks in the surrounding area with forty chattering Sicilians.
I also went olive picking again and have my own bottle of freshly pressed oil from my olives, ready to open in the spring.
Ian welcomed back his road bike with open arms (thanks once again to Nick and Paul) and has been out on it a few times. He reports that it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier each time.
We also enjoyed a few days in Rome, with my old friend Sheena and her family. We walked all round Rome and saw all the main sights and some little hidden gems with our super guide Sheena, who has lived in Rome for 30 years.
Then, it was back to the boat for a few last minute preparations before heading back to the UK for a couple of months where, for the first time in a while, all four of us Mouldings are to be in the same country at Christmas.
So, yes, we are going to be living back in Yorkshire. Staying in a cottage – 26 Linton Falls until the 12th February 2018.
We hope to catch up with as many friends and family as we can. Do pop in if you’re passing.
In the meantime, we wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy new year.
Erin, Ian and I set off for Prevesa. Our aim was to complete the necessary Greek paperwork and to do some laundry. Both necessary evils! We had a wonderful sail up the west coast of Levkas so avoiding the channel and the apparently temperamental swing bridge. We arrived in Prevesa in time for the Saturday night perambulations – known as La Passegiata in Italian, and La Volta in Greek. Perfect people watching.
Ian showed incredible persistence to finally acquire our DEPKA form. He presented a letter from the Coast Guard office in Argostoli saying that they had run out of forms and that we had tried to register. There were also no forms in Prevesa either, although apparently, five were due to arrive…would Ian kindly return tomorrow morning? This he duly did and we were in luck.
The form was given to us, stamped and chocked. All our passports and papers were photocopied. Ian then had to go to the tax office to be given an invoice for 29 euros. From there he was directed to the National Bank to pay the invoice, from where he would take his receipt back to the Coastguard in order to have the paperwork finalised.
By this time the washing had been done and dried. We set off for Paxos to meet our great friend Sue Lowrey.
We moored on the north quay, away from the town centre in the most dramatic of settings yet. An island protects the channel from the open sea and winds. It is the most wonderful anchorage. Understandably busy. We set about tidying up the boat and preparing drinks and nibbles. Sue and Margaret arrived and we enjoyed giving them the guided tour.
After a delicious pasta dinner and yet more wine, we staggered back to the boat and slept soundly..
Next day, Sue picked us up and gave us a tour of the island of Paxos by car. We spend a pleasant afternoon sunning ourselves on the beach and then went back to Margaret’s beautiful hillside home for a delicious dinner.
We had a jobs day on the Thursday and then welcomed Sue and Margaret for breakfast and coffee, after their morning swim, before saying a fond farewell and sailing off to Sivota-Mourtos.
We anchored in Middle Bay since the weather was quite settled and enjoyed some nice swimming around the boat. I tried fishing again but with no luck at all. We shot out in the dinghy to do some beach combing. We were about to go ashore on to the biggest of the islands when we noticed a herd of rather shaggy goats with large horns on the beach. We stayed off some distance and admired them from afar.
Next stop was Corfu. We anchored stern to in the incredibly smelly East Basin. Compensated by the fact that you are right next to the Old Town and tucked under the fort and it’s free! We wandered through the streets to the cricket field and showed Erin the colonnaded Venetian style streets.
The next day, Ian and Alice Daggett arrived and we promptly set off to our anchorage further north where we had a quiet and smell free night. The next afternoon we had to dropped Erin off at the airport. She was returning to the UK to work for six weeks to save money for her up-coming ski season in Tignes.
We zig-zagged across the channel to stay in Plataria and then Pagania. We had some good sailing. The anchorage at Pagania half a mile from the Albanian border was amazing. Once we had driven past numerous large and ugly fish farms we turned the dog leg to discover a completely enclosed anchorage. No tavern, no bars, no body and no signal!
So, back to Corfu Town and another fond farewell to Mr and Mrs D. We had had a wonderful few days with them.
As strong southerly winds were expected over the next few days we decided to head north to Kassiopi on the Northern tip of Corfu. We had a few happy days there meeting up with Andy and Denise Hurley on Comet whom we had first met in Mallorca back in April/May.
Our next visit was from old friend and fellow sailor, William Dear. We had a boozy night with him in Corfu Town celebrating the sale of his boat. As you may know, the happiest days of any sailor’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it! )
Due to wifi access challenges I have been seriously delayed in posting details about our travels! ‘Phew’, you’d be forgiven for thinking. So, apologies for dumping posts in a row.
We enjoyed our stay in Favignana, the largest of the Egadi Islands, despite me falling and smacking/scraping my leg (the previously broken one) against a dirty marble step in the Tuna Canning Museum. Subsequently, it became rather badly infected and definitely put a bit of a dampener on touring activities.
Luckily, I was able to continue the visit to the fascinating tuna factory canning museum after my fall despite a huge swelling on my ankle.
The beautifully restored building
was surprising enough, but the installations within were jaw-dropping. We were particularly impressed with the life-sized screenings of actual workers from the factory describing what their daily life at work involved; plus, wonderful old black and white footage of the canning process, from start to finish. (A process invented in by the factory owner and multi-millionaire.)
What tough lives those people had. Working in incredible heat, heaving the enormous tuna out of the nets with huge boat hooks, gutting, cutting, carting the meat across to the ovens, cooking and boiling it over rows of huge charcoal braziers, (oh, how it must have stunk!) placing the fish into tins by hand and completing the canning process by adding olive oil and a lid which was then sealed in a special machine. I bet the workers never wanted to eat tuna, that’s for sure!
The final exhibit was the Death Room which gave a chilling insight into the last few hours of the tunas’ lives as they became ensnared and entrapped in the series of ‘rooms’ made from nets, until reaching the ultimate ‘room’ from whence they were simultaneously killed and hoiked out. Amazing.
After Favignana, we headed south to Mazarra Dal Vella which is a crumbling and chaotic town with incredible charm; plenty of palazzi, piazzas and preposterously opulent churches. One of the most amazing buildings was a tiny wooden opera house seating only 90 people, rather like a miniature Globe Theatre in construction.
All the wood around the auditorium was decorated and prettily painted and embellished with gold leaf. We walked all around the area known as the Kasbah which was fascinating.
After a couple of lovely days here where we were anchored happily in the bay outside the harbour, we were unceremoniously asked to move by the coast guard who hovered beside us in his boat until we did as he requested.
On to Licata, where we anchored outside the rather pongy fishing harbour and then finally to Ragusa where we were to leave the boat during a quick visit back home for Ian’s Dad’s 80th birthday doo.
We had a wonderful time catching up with lovely friends in the Shire, picking up Erin who had come home from Thailand after 2 years on Koh Tao, and meeting up with all the Moulding family
Lugging a huge bike bag and our, albeit, compact hand luggage backpacks along the sheltered quay to the bus stop at 10am in full sun is not the recommended start to the day! Luckily, the bus was air conditioned so I managed to regain my thermostatic equilibrium.
We swooped down into Palma’s gleaming underground bus station and we’re delighted to find that it was just a quick ride up in the lift to ground level and the bus to the airport.
We emerged, disoriented in the day light and scurried for shade like lizards. We boarded the No 1 Airport bus, Ian having to get on at the back door because of his bike bag being too large to fit in the front. After a little way we decided to check that this was indeed going to the airport. Ah! No! Wrong direction! So we had to lumber off the bus and stagger back to the beginning. To add salt to the wounds, we had to pay again for the airport bus that was going in the right direction. Plus, Ian received a right ear wiggling for boarding at the wrong door.
The rest of the journey was uneventful for us, although we did arrive a little late and had to wait until the very end of the baggage reclaim to pick up the bike. Amelia kindly volunteered to come and pick me and the bike up whilst Ian and Keira went to fetch the tiny hire car we had ordered (which embarrassingly turned out to be not so tiny after all!!!!) Many thanks, Meels!
We were bowled over by the greenery of the scenery. Particularly of Threshfield, the Wharfe and Linton. Just lovely.
After a proper cup of Yorkshire tea, made with Yorkshire water, and by Yorkshire folk we were fully revived and raring to go to the weekly quiz night in Grassington.
Can’t say that I did much actual quizzing but thoroughly enjoyed catching up with everyone from the gang.
On Thursday, Keira and I walked over to Linton to go home and retrieve a few items of clothing for our day at the graduation. It was lovely to see how the garden had come on and to see how well Jon is looking after the house. Items found; we met up with Ian in the Fountaine, approved its new outdoor livery and had a nice chat with Chris and Nat and had a quick bite to eat then headed back to the Vyvyans to say a fond farewell.
We had a major debacle with the postal voting forms for the referendum. They had all arrived in Oxford after Keira left to go to Spain so we were unable to complete them! We were very upset not to be able to exercise our hard earned right to vote but there was nothing we could do.
We drove on to Longridge to stay with Ian’s parents for a night before driving down to Oxford.
We were woken to cries of dismay from Keira early on Friday morning when she heard the news about the outcome of the referendum. The people had spoken and we will have to get on with it and live with the consequences but she has just completed a degree in French so one can sympathise wiey ho!!!
We had a quiet night in Oxford on the Friday and then were up early Saturday as we were advised to arrive two hours before the start of the graduation ceremony. So plenty of time to collect gowns, meet some of Keira’s friends and take lots of photographs. Good fun despite the rain.
The ceremony itself was just over a hour long. There were speeches from the head of the Governing body, and from the vice chancellor, then the presentations were made. All topped off by an amusing speech from Paul Mayhue – who has scripts for The Vicar of Dibley and Mrs Brown’s Boys among his credits.
Apologies for what might seem like crowing, but it’s not often your daughter is awarded a first class joint honours degree in English and French Studies. She also won the prize for achieving the highest marks in English Literature. (She was well chuffed with the £50 cheque that came with the prize.)
She has worked conscientiously and with great determination. Of course, we are thoroughly proud of her achievements and are still glowing at thoughts of how much she has grown in confidence and capability over the years.
(Proud parent moment over a thanks for your indulgence!)
Next day, after another round of emotional goodbyes we flew back to Mallorca.
We left Linton, on the 15th January 2016 and set off via Oxford to drop off a load of Keira’s stuff, but not Keira, on our way to France. We were looking forward to staying with Nick and Claire at their place in the Alps for a little skiing, cavorting, consuming of the vins and generally eating too much cheese! A cheesy plug as it’s known in our house – although technically we haven’t got one anymore! A house, I mean, not a cheesy plug.)
A fantastic week was had! Thank you N and C!
Then a wonderful weekend with old friends from Bangkok and a straightforward drive back to the Shire. thank you A, P and J.
No messing – we are immediately off to do an RYA Diesel Engine Course so we can fix minor ailments to our engine when at sea.
Then we set too cleaning and redecorating a rental house which we manage to turn around in four days. A record we think! (House available to let)All the while, staying with relaxed and hospitable hosts in Threshfield. Thank you P and L.
On the 1st February we drove to the airport, pulling in at We Want Any Car.Com who do actually, car was sold and for more than they originally offered! (That’s quite a few extra mojitos, as you rightly point out, Amelia,) and then into a cab and onto the airport. Smooth.
And suddenly, unbelievably, delightedly, after a very hectic few weeks, we are heading to Thailand to liaise with our youngest daughter, Erin, who is living on Koh Tao at the moment.
The smell of 2 stroke engine exhaust and diesel fumes hits us like an olfactory blast as we step out of the air conditioned bubble that is Suvarnabhumi, the new airport in Bangkok. Memories associated with that smell flood back into our consciousness. Happy times spent with the girls when they were young, from 1992 – 1996 living and learning about Thailand and expat life some twenty odd years ago.
Can it really be so long?!
We head for the taxi queue. There is no problem finding a taxi these days. In the old days, the only way to find a taxi was to go to the departures level of the airport and grab a cab that was dropping someone off! We select a taxi ticket number and immediately step forward into our allocated bay to hand our bags, (incredibly heavy bags) to the welcoming arms of the friendly taxi driver.
We grin foolishly at each other! Glad to be back.
The taxi driver flicks on his meter (no persuasion necessary, no haggling, no bartering – how things have changed!) and heads off onto one of the many new highways that have crawled in all around Bangkok. Standing up on thick trunks of legs like massive flat-backed, grey caterpillars.
Tall glass-fronted buildings blink a morse welcome as we drive by in relatively free flowing traffic.
“Rot tit maak maak!” comments the driver. Lots of traffic!
And suddenly, on cue, we are being funnelled into a much smaller highway.
Six into two, won’t go!
We marvel at our driver’s ability to squeeze his vehicle into ever smaller spaces. We progress towards the centre of town and begin to recognise a few landmarks from the 90s.
“Oh, there’s Soi 1, where Ian’s office used to be. That’s where the Buddhist centre used to be. There’s Soi 3 where Miss Hong the dressmaker used to be. There’s Soi 5 where Foodland supermarket used to be! There’s Soi 11 where the Ambassador Hotel market and garden used to be. There’s Soi 13 where our apartment used to be!”
So much building has been going on we are using the past tense, a lot!
Finally, we turn into the Soi where we are to stay. So much activity, so many lights, people, taxis, tuk-tuks, noise, street vendors, motorbikes, and more people. sauntering down the middle of the road, as if it’s a pedestrian precinct.
The taxi ride was very reasonably priced 300Bt (About £6) including the toll fees, for the 12km ride from the airport. Amazing to think that the basic cost of a taxi ride had not gone up in twenty years. The meter taxis, which are government controlled and regulated, start at 35Bt and increase in those jumps every 3km or so. Fantastic value, and air-conditioned to boot.
We check in quickly and head out on to Soi 11 to explore relatively familiar territory. We take a stroll round the neighbourhood. It is evident that the sex trade, once reasonably discreet around what was a more residential part of town, has become much more overt. The number of tourists staying in hotels, room, hostels, and serviced apartments has increased. The small retailers and independent restaurants have gone and big buildings have been put on their footprint. Presumably, this nightlife has sprung up to entertain the tourists.
We spot Cheap Charlie’s Bar; a blast from the past. Not at all changed, thankfully. We order a couple of beers at the bar which is decorated with drift wood, an electric toy train on a weaving track, baskets, bamboo, bird cages, woven items of all kinds; and stand within the chain that runs in an arc along the ground around the bar, marking the boundary across which we are urged not to stand. We have just upped the average age, within the perimeter!
We wander off down the street and find a street restaurant and shuffle between tables to sit on a platform overlooking the street. So vibrant and busy even at this hour. We eat a delicious Thai meal, with beers, only about £20 in total.
Afterwards, we continue on to explore the surrounding Sois or alleyways around here, weaving between stalls, bodies and pillars. Gradually negotiating our way along the uneven surfaces that are typical of Bangkok’s pavements; Sky Train supports, paving stones and up-turned concrete slabs, like sneering lips. Trees, giving much needed oxygen, steps up to shop doorways, signs and poster frames, stalls and umbrellas all conspiring to trip and poke and hit you as you move gracelessly along.
Before long we are overwhelmed with tiredness. Hot and sweaty all over again, we head back to the sanctuary of our room, a cold shower, and blissful sleep!
Day one in the big city.
We have various errands to complete today. We set off up Sukhumvit road but all the shops are closed until 1030hrs. We duck into a MacDonald’s and order a coffee. (Expensive at 270Bt and we thought Mackie D’s was cheap!) Soon we head off to the Sky Train and buy an all-day pass for the princely sum of 180B. (About £3.)
New SIM card – check.
Train tickets purchased for trip to Koh Tao – check.
Chicken noodle soup purchased and consumed (50Bt) New spectactacles investigated for Sarah -check.
Hair cut and pedicure – check.
Visit our old friends Jo and Tim Cooke to celebrate Jo’s birthday – check.
Fabulous day, calloo callay!
Slept in ’til 1100 hrs, aaaargh!!!!!
Dashed to the Blitish Crub to meet old friend and colleague Don Smith. This gorgeous old building looks like something out of the Indian Raj. What a pleasure to sit in its spacious gardens and allow the memories to flood back.
Back in the 90’s, I joined a baby group called BAMBI based at the British Club situated between Silom and Surawongse Roads (Babies and Mothers Bangkok International). A weekly social gathering for mums and babies which was a real lifeline for me, as I wasn’t working and therefore had few ways of meeting people. We were allowed to use the facilities of the BC during the morning and it was through this that I came to know about the Neilson Hays Library which is right next door to the BC.
This neo-classical building completed in 1922, in which a huge collection of books is displayed and stored in gorgeous teak cabinets, is a jewel sadly overshadowed and utterly overlooked, by all the leggy high rises around it. The library was set up in the 1869 by a group of thirteen volunteers including the Danish wife of an American expat Doctor, Jennie Neilson Hays. It currently has a collection of some 20000 volumes. A haven of peace and serenity in the mad bustle that is Bangkok – City of Angels.
Back in the day, I was soon to join the committee of volunteers running the library and thoroughly enjoyed the experience it offered. Not only did I meet some delightful friends among the volunteers but I was fortunate enough to meet Iris Murdoch, (Not that she would remember, as, by then, she was firmly in the grip of Alzheimer’s, much to her companion, John Bailey’s, obvious irritation and slight despair.) when she came to give a key note speech at a literary convention in Bangkok, in 1995 or 96 and we snaffled her for a Q and A and book signing.
Back to lunch at the British club…We had a great catch up and chat with Don and soon it was time for hasty farewells. We grabbed a taxi to take us to Hua Lumpong train station – another beautiful building in Bangkok designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno, the same architect who designed the NHL.
Finding our train and platform proved to be a very straightforward task and we climbed aboard onto the first carriage conveniently situated at the end of the platform. Sitting down in the wide chairs on either side of the carriage. There are four chairs facing each other, divided by the aisle. Later in the evening the attendant will come and transform these seats into two parallel lower bunk beds and he will lower the upper bunks from their tucked away positions against the walls of the train. The air conditioned (freezing cold) sleeper compartment was positively chilly!
We attentively watched, from the relative seclusion of the carriage, the goings-on on the platforms around us; people waiting with mountains of luggage in boxes tied up with the ubiquitous red nylon string; backpackers staggering along under the weight of their enormous packs; hawkers selling every kind of goody and snack. (Everything except alcohol, since an unpleasant incident on one of the sleeper trains, the sale of alcohol, in stations or on board trains, has been banned.).
We saw the impressive transport policemen in their perfectly starched, pristine uniforms; complete with obligatory pips on their epaulettes and coloured ribbons, military style, on their top pockets.
Suddenly, Ian nudged me to look in the opposite direction and I was just in time to see, but not photograph, a trolley being towed upon which was precariously balanced an enormous sitting buddha, completely swathed in orange robes! Fantastic!!!
The lady in the ticket office had warned us, matter of factly, rather than apologetically, that the train would be late leaving and late arriving! However, it left bang on time and soon we were jogging along as if in a vehicle with one corner on every wheel, bumpetty bump, bumpetty bump! Through the centre of Bangkok and out to the suburbs.
We ordered our dinner from a chatty Thai lady from the dining car, and at 1930hrs toddled along to eat. We were the only people there. Fair game for being stared at whilst we ate! A pleasant enough meal. Then back to our seats where the train attendants had set up our top bunks, made up with crisp white sheets, pillow and starched case and comfy, brilliant white waffle blanket. Bliss.
And so to ablutions…Sinks, soap and mirrors were in the corridor. Not sparkling clean but perfectly serviceable for a lick and promise and teeth cleaning. The loo was a squat toilet which drained directly on to the tracks below. It had a hose for bottom washing (no loo paper here) flushing and washing any unintentional splashes! (Only to be expected when you’re balancing, yogic style, as you tonk along – clicketty clack!) Furthermore, to add to the luxury, I noticed that there was even a shower hose if you wanted to go the whole hog and have a complete dowsing down. Although, you’d have to be extra careful not to drop the soap, of course!
We ricochetted back down our carriage to our bunks and heaved ourselves up the ladders attached to the luggage racks, Up the hill to Bedlington. We snuggled in behind our coral coloured curtains and were gently rocked to sleep by the motion of the train by 2115hrs.
Up and at ’em by 0318hr when the train pulled into Chumporn Station.
We sat enjoying some serious people watching for a couple of hours and then took a quick bus transfer to the pier and thence on to the Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran to Koh Tao.
By 1015hrs we were ensconced having a top, healthy breakfast of muesli and yoghurt overlooking the sea eagerly awaiting the arrival of our welcoming committee in the form of Erin and Paul!