Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Hum Dinger of a Storm!!!

I am determined one way or another to try and get tickets to see something in the Olympic next year, I have failed on the original allocation and I have failed in the second chance allocation, so now its down to trying to win some in a draw!!! Beth's School is bidding to be able to carry the Olympic Torch in the run up to the games, so they need people to bid for them, you can help them out by bidding for them HERE and at the same time have a chance of winning some tickets. Please support the school and give yourself a chance!!!!!!

This afternoon the storm promised for yesterday afternoon arrived in a very big way, I got caught outside and was soaked in a matter of seconds!! The air cooled immediately but we were treated to a huge electric storm which resulted in all the lights going out at work and a switch onto emergency generator. The lightening was amazing and the thunder was right over head. You can't beat a good summer electric storm!!
I have a few photos that I took at conference last week, the venue was fantastic. It was a converted Railway Station, huge and airy. You could see out of the top windows the roof of the Midland Hotel opposite.
The hotel is famous for being the place used by the Beckhams when they visit Manchester! It looked good, but walking by the kitchen on the way to conference was a bit off putting, somehow fried breakfast is never so appetising once you have eaten!

The restoration of the building was great staff said that this was the original clock from the station!
I think we are back to Bournemouth next year, I like the seaside!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ferry Across the Mersey!!!

Well it had to be done, while in the north west of the country we decided to take a trip to Liverpool. I had never been there before but I have childhood memories of what I think Liverpool is like.
The memories started when I was at Junior school long before computers were invented, when doing a project for school involved actively tracking down the information required by visiting library's and writing to people. So back then we were doing a project on ports so I decided to write to the port authority for Liverpool. They sent me back some brilliant information lots of photos which were expensive in those days!!

There was one of the Mauritania similar to this one and there was one taken from the Liver Building looking out at the docks similar to the one below.


I remember thinking that it was a place that I would like to visit one day. Since then Liverpool has been through a huge regeneration program. There were riots in Toxteth in the 1980's but things have turned around now and the Liverpool we arrived in was very impressive!
We made our way to the ferry terminal and waited for the boat to return, it had been a pretty miserable day weather wise, but once on board the sun came out and looking back towards Liverpool we could almost have been in New York it looked that impressive!


We sailed on the Royal Daffodil for the 30 minute round trip.


It was well worth the journey across to Liverpool in the heavy Manchester rush hour traffic just to say that we had taken a Ferry across the Mersey!!! (Simple pleasures eh?? another one off the 'to do' list!!)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Home Again

I am now home again after a very good conference, there was the usual combination of boring staff with loads of far more interesting stuff and only one card vote!! I do enjoy national conference, you see all sorts of people and learn all sorts of things!!
This year they had some great T shirts and Steph managed to bag a free one, it wasn't until we looked at it we realised it was small and not one of us is small sized, so we took it outside and decided to get a few shot of Mark holding it up against himself. Unfortunately, Steph was not in full control of her phone and instead of taking the shot she kept switching the phone off, this meant that we were there far longer than expected.
This is the shot that we were trying to get. What we didn't realise until around 10pm that night was that while we were faffing around ITV were filming us. We appeared briefly on the 10pm news review of the conference!!
Here we are trying to get the shot, Fame at last eh??? well around 5 seconds of fame!!!
Thanks to all of you who noticed us!!!
The week flew by and we have come away reinvigorated and full of ideas of what we need to do to try and get messages out there. The future looks bleak for all public service workers and I am sure our own members have no idea what is coming, we plan to change that in the near future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Good first day!!



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We took a walk down to the conference centre it's a spectacular building! It was my turn to go in first and it was the usual mixture of the business of the day plus the first few motions.
At lunch time I met with an old friend Skelly great to see her again!!!
Tonight we will be 'networking' !!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Where has summer gone????

This weekend has been a complete wash out, we have had heavy rain and then some more. Carl has been trying to get his tent dried out after the camp last weekend. It has been erected on the trampoline and although the outside is dry the inside had gallons of water trapped there. I have turned it over and I hope that can be packed away some time soon.
Mum seems to be settling in well at the new rehabilitation hospital. I feel much happier with her there, to start with the staff seem less rushed off their feet. There are Doctors available and the place is modern and bright. Mum has been taken out to have her meals in a dining room and the two ladies in her bay seem fine. Today Dad drove over for the first time and took Keith and Nicky. She seems to be happy and keen to make progress, so I am hoping that she keeps that thought!!
Today is Fathers day so I called around to see Dad this morning and gave him his presents and card.His garden is looking good, he has a load of tomatoes on the go in the green house and some are even quite large still have a way to go before the will be edible!
He has a fantastic display of roses today you could smell the fragrance on the wind.
My favourite colour for roses in the whole world is orange, you just can't beat a vibrant orange rose. My friend Madeline always manages to find me gorgeous orange roses for my birthday !!!
 This little bush is smothered in buds, the flowers are beautiful when in bud, but once they fully open up they are no where near as pretty.
Dad is particularly pleased with his sweet peas they are all purple and a bargain. They cost him a pound for a ropey looking pot full of seedlings which he has nurtured and grown in to great display!
This week I am away at conference again, it will be nice to check out the sites and delights of Manchester. I just need to confirm which hotel  am in and I will be set !!
Have a great week.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A busy start to the weekend.

Yesterday I had an interesting day at work, we went to Chelmsford and ended up in an interview with a solicitor for around 6 hours!! It poured with rain and the return journey by satnav took us to all sorts of places that I had never heard of before. It should have been a simple journey but we ended up in country lanes and it took an age to get home.
After work I went around to see Laura and help her sort out her flat. She has been on the waiting list to move into a one bedroom flat, but its not happening at the moment every one she applies for is taken by someone with a higher level of need. She had started to pack, so now she has loads of boxes everywhere and things had got out of hand. So I helped to sort things out and clean up. It took until 8.30pm just to get that sorted, I hope she keeps things nice now.
Mum has now transferred to the rehabilitation place in Bishops Stortford. We haven't visited as yet but she has spoken to us all on the phone and sounds very positive. She has been out of bed in a wheelchair so she has a bit more freedom. She will start physio proper on Monday. We plan to visit her this afternoon.
Both Tom and I have not had a good night I have been up a couple of hours and its only 5.30 now!!!

 We received sad news yesterday about the loss of Toms cousin Liz. She was in her early fifties.She had called us before we went on holiday to say that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and she had been told that it was terminal. She was going into hospital the week we were away for them to carry out radiation therapy to see if that would help. She sounded her usual self, upbeat and still very proud of never having had a day off sick in her life. The day we left she passed away quite unexpectedly. Because we were away we were out of contact so we continued to try and call her for the past two weeks on her mobile phone. Finally yesterday we were able to speak to my sister in law who told us what had happened. They had tried to call us and give us the date for the funeral but there hadn't been anyone in. Liz's mum is Toms sister and she is quite elderly and has alzheimers she doesn't understand what has happened.

I think we may have to try and catch a few hours later on today.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

And Breathe......

I have had a very pleasant couple of days away at a conference in the not so sunny town of Reading. It rained and then it rained some more, but it didn't matter. I had a day of speakers and and workshops yesterday followed by pre dinner drinks (with a dress code of smart!!!) followed by a nice dinner with more wine and then after dinner drinks!! I had a very nice time!!
Today was more of the same with fringe meetings that were very informative. It certainly explained a few things to me!!
I was lucky enough to be able to travel back with a colleague which made the trip go faster.
I will be going to Manchester next week for a week long conference, Its simply that time of year!!!
Tonight Mum has been moved from the QE2 hospital to The Herts and Essex Hospital in Bishops Stortford, this hospital has a rehabilitation department and we are hoping that Mum will get back on her feet and get back home before the summer is over. She was keen to move and we will support that decision even though its over 20 miles away which will make visiting difficult.,
Laura is still pretty sore, but getting better, she is having the dressing changed everyday at the doctors and will have to have the district nurse in over the weekend. She is getting better .

We spotted this bird in Stavenger, what is it ?? It was quite big is it a crow??

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Will I Ever Get a Spare Five Minutes????

I sometimes wonder what is going on and how I come in for all sorts of problems. This week has seen my daughter end up in hospital with an emergency operation. On the plus side it was dealt with quickly and efficiently. She had a pain in her back, which turned out to be an abscess, she had been put on heavy duty anti biotics, but these didn't have much of an effect. She ended up going to Accident and Emergency and they whisked her straight off to surgery. She was very brave and had the procedure under epidural. She is now feeling much better, but is facing a little time to have the matter heal up. 
On the same evening that we were visiting her, Mum had a funny turn, she had a pain in her chest and she ended up being put on drugs and oxygen and the Doctors carried out an ECG. We have seen her tonight and they have ruled out another heart attack, (they carried out blood tests) she is feeling very fed up and sorry for herself. 
I hope we are moving towards a resolution with her, generally she is doing much much better and I am hopeful that she is close to being moved to rehab. 
Tomorrow I have some time away at a conference in Reading and next week I am away at National conference in Manchester. It will be nice to have a break!!!


I can hardly believe that we are nearly two weeks on from our holiday where we were treated to views like these from the deck. I am going to go back there sometime soon and the next time I am ordering bright sunny weather so that we can see all the scenery in all its glory!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Strange weekend.

This weekend has been frustrating to say the very least. Last Thursday we started to have problems with our Internet connection. It was off more than it was on and it was annoying beyond belief!!! I called their status line and they said they had a problem in our area and they were anticipating repair 'soon'. Here we are four days on and its still more off than on. Virgin have promised a rebate but not having it has had a huge impact on our weekend.
Beth has been unable to do her homework research so I will have to write her a note. It was homework that could only be done online so she has been stuck.
I wanted to look up some bits and pieces for projects I have on the go. That didn't happen. I wanted to share some photos with my friend Madeline and that was difficult. Its amazing how much you rely on the Internet and just how much you miss it when its not there.
Just when you think things could get no worse, the Sky box in the living room gave up the ghost. Poor Tom faced with a TV with nothing to watch. It seems he will have to watch back to back 'New Tricks' until they can install a new box on Friday next week.
We have been in to see Mum and tonight she was in fine form, she is very pleased with herself as she has been out of bed and had a shower and hair wash, this is the first hair wash in six months!!! I hope the drains were ready for the onslaught!!! She is very positive at the moment and she was very happy tonight.
Dad is feeling better after his surprise couple of nights in hospital last week. He is recovering well.

I still have photos to sort out and I have spent a little bit of time scrapping this weekend which has been nice. I have had the latest lot printed so will be tackling them soon. We took this photo in Stavenger  Tom so wanted it to say SluttSlag!!! It was nearly there!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Leaving Flam...

video
I took this little video when we were leaving Flam, Its a place that I would like to return to one day.
The scenery all around the village was beautiful.
It reminded me of some of the scenes from the old film, Jason and the Argonauts!!
The water was so still and the reflections of the mountains were stunning.
Just look at those snow capped mountains in the background, those little houses are so remote from the world! The vessel we were travelling on was a ferry they stop off along the fjord when passengers want to get on and signal them with a light. Norway is a developed country with such remote spots.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Fabulous Flam!!

The next stop was Flam, beautiful Flam. This tiny little village right at the end of the Sonngefjord. It is a wonderful place even in the pouring rain. We arrived in the early morning, we had booked a trip from the ship excursion desk, the trip didn't leave until the afternoon, so we braved the rain and headed out to the village. It was so pretty with tiny brightly coloured houses dotted around. The village consisted of a few shops and houses.
There were plenty of trolls on display. The Troll is on the left in this picture!!!
In the afternoon we took a coach ride up into the mountains, there we saw snow, rain and very low clouds.
It was very pretty. Once at the top of the mountain we had to come down by a windy road that had 13 hairpin bends, its was scary!!!

By the time we arrived in Flam we were as far north as we were going to get on this trip. We experienced the phenomenon known as the midnight sun. It was fantastic to be able to go out on deck and for it to be light enough to read at midnight!! The sun got down as far as the horizon, but it just stayed there before slowly heading back up again.

I have some more Flam Fjord photos for tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Life On Board

A big part of the life on board a cruise ship is the food. There are restaurants and buffets and lots of different food to tempt you. The chefs make a huge effort to present the food in fun and interesting ways!!
On the top deck there was a pizza bar and there were all sorts of bread based decorations.
This is a very passable seal with Olives for eyes.
One of the afternoons we were at sea there was a demonstration by a chef who is employed purely to carve fruit and veg! He was a very talented man.


The chef is still in training but he produced some fantastic creations! The watermelon in the photo above was incredible. We watched him make it and I am still amazed by the skill he has. The artistic 'fruit' decorated all of the buffet areas.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Second Stop - Bergen.

We arrived in Bergen around 9am. The port was a bus ride from the town, so we queued up and got on the bus. Again it was pouring with rain and just a little bit chilly. Once we had been dropped off we were given a plan of the town and we wandered off to see what there was. Right in the middle was this lake and a fountain, very pretty with lots of little houses dotted on the hill behind.
We walked through the town and came across a very pretty little harbour complete with boats and lots of little market stalls on the quayside. The water was absolutely clear and you could see right down to the stones in the bottom. We found a stall selling traditional Norwegian knitwear, so we bought Laura and Carl a pair of thick hand knitted socks. Beth wanted a wolf knitted hat so we got her that!!

Its a very warm hat!!! Last Christmas I had all sorts of problems trying to track down a Panda hat for her, if only I had known they were 'big' in Norway!!!
This was the stall we made our woolly purchases at!!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Amsterdam.

We arrived in a very wet and blustery Amsterdam. I was quite shocked to realise that we had actually arrived right in the centre of Amsterdam, I was looking out of the window when I saw the building which I can only describe as looking like a ski slope, glide by. It was then I realised that we were going to be berthed behind the central railway station. We have been there several times before and I knew my way from there!
We got off and walked into the centre and as we looked back we realised just how big the ship was in comparison to the nearby buildings, the building to the right of the ship is a concert arena and was big in its own right!
The ship was however small in comparison to the huge Movenpick Hotel that stood right next door to the terminal. While we were in the city centre, more guests joined the ship. Amsterdam was buzzing and in a strange way felt quite 'undafe' It was a Saturday night and there were gangs of people. One group seemed to be wearing white and gold coloured clothes. We stopped for a drink in a bar and asked the waiter who said that they were supporting a local singer who wore those colours, he said every week it was something different. The bonus was that we came across my favourite shop Blokker - Its like a Dutch Pound Stretcher!!! We managed to find some great bargains there, Plus I will know where it is when we return in the summer.

When we came to leave it was getting dark and the rain had started again. We had a good day and we were starting to get excited about heading to the Fjords!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Our Holiday.

I can hardly believe that we have had our holiday, its been and gone and we really had a great time!! I was worried about going with MSC as they really have mixed reviews, but people who review them fall into two groups, those who really love them and those that really hate them. I went with an open mind and I wasn't disappointed. In fact they are a good value company that have great service and great staff.
There were a few draw backs but nothing that would make me think never again. When we arrived at Southampton we went to check in and were given a drink and biscuits while we queued to have out photos taken and have our payment method for on board spend verified. There was a worry that our ship, The MSC Opera , may not sail, she had a major electrical fault the previous week and the port authority had not given the go ahead to leave the port. We were due to leave at 5pm but in the end we didn't go until 8pm . We had no idea that there were any problems until we spoke to some other cruisers who told us that they heard an announcement on the local BBC news on the way to the port!!!
After dinner we had our 'Emergency Drill' where we had to read up on our muster point and listen out for the emergency signal and when we heard it we had to don our life jackets and head for the designated area! While the reason was serious it was a 'photo op' and the on ship photographers didn't miss a trick!! We took our own photos !!
There were quite a few things I liked about the way MSC organised themselves in comparison to last year on P and O. They made sure all children were issued with a band with their designated muster station in case they became separated from their parents. Which I think is a great idea.
The first night on board was comfortable although the weather was terrible and we had some rocky moments on the way to Amsterdam. Beth was disappointed that there wasn't any water in the swimming pools, although it was freezing cold. The hot tubs did have water and it was funny to see Beth and a few others in their costumes in the pool while others were walking by wearing coats and woolly hats!!!

Its funny how the kids just don't seem to feel the cold!
Beth spent ages in the water and came out like a prune. It was pretty chilly when she got out though.

On the third morning we were surprised to find that both of the pools had water in them and were usable, although very cold . We later found out that it was sea water that had been purified and pumped in over night. Beth made some friends and they were happy enough to play in there!!!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Arrived!!!

We have docked at southampton and the luggage is being unloaded we are now waiting for the go-ahead to get off, lots of hanging around . Carl has also landed and is making his way back to cockfosters for collection. Can't wait to get home and start all the washing !!!!