Wednesday, 31 October 2012

One night in Bangkok..

Well, the first of three actually, but there's no song in that!

It's warm, muggy, and a bit wet, but we are here, away, gone, so what are we doing? Well reading the paper and writing the blog obviously!

We left the UK finally on Monday, after a lovely day at my Brother and S-in-L with the kids, Charles and Caroline, Charles knocked the door, marched in and opened the curtains at 07.20, and we knew it was going to be the start of a long day, so after Caroline joined us, we watched a bit of TV (we were sleeping in the lounge after all) before getting up, having a choice of breakfast and heading off to the woods. 
Caroline, Charles and Jackie try to remember all the things the old lady swallowed.....

It was a lovely chilled day after the hectic rush of the last week, emptying, cleaning - I left the house on my hands and knees on Thursday, walked round to the bin to deposit the bowl and floor cloth and walked away. Home to Mothers, and thought - only packing to go!
Friday we sold the car, saw the tenants moving in, set Mum up on skype (perhaps we may try that later!) final flying visit from B's sister to collect their grandmothers peach brandy (don't ask, but they are the most sentimental family ever!) and went out for a last yummy curry at Diwans with Helen and Ian and Crystal and a late arriving Manu, few beers and home to bed.
Saturday, finally packed, I still fear we have the wrong things/too much, up to the max weight limit for hold and hand baggage, so only 30kg for a year (including climbing gear) but we still have to carry it! Flying visit from Dani and the kids to collect printer/scanner and off to the Climbing club annual dinner (thanks to Rob and Alex for chauffering us!) where a great time was had by all!
odd the clothes you have to leave out right to the last minute....
 So anyway, my Dad arrived to take us off to Heathrow, where everything went swimmingly, we even managed 5 or 6 hours sleep on the 10 hour flight so can't be bad.

Arrived at the hotel which was just as promised - in a quiet street, just off the busy (slightly tawdry) Sukhumvit road, very Art Deco, right down to the music, slightly tired, but what can you expect for the money we are paying (though a warm shower would have been nice), but best of all the cat was just as promised!
Well what else would you use the telephone desk for nowadays?
We slept hideously late, have had breakfast (it's now 13.45) and are considering drifting out as it appears to have stopped raining.

Monday, 22 October 2012

He's Gone

So my little kitty Cat has gone to his new home, Hilda and Keith in Atherstone where I'm sure he'll have a fab life. Hilda is a dream, and he seemed really chilled, he wasn't happy with the 35 min journey, but once we got there he was as good as gold, wandering around, exploring, seeming really inquisitive. He really did seem quite happy, waved us off from the landing half way up the stairs, looking very comfortable. I was fine as we left, he looked so at home, it was just when we got home, and he wasn't here, and we had supper, and he wasn't looking in case there was anything for him. Even sitting on the sofa is strange, as the blanket for our legs went with him, as it was more his than ours anyway!
Hopefully he's happier just now than I am, he probably hasn't even noticed we've gone! Tomorrow I'll be fine as we won't be in the house any longer ourselves either, so just one night of strangeness, and I do know he'll have a lovely life.

Jasper AKA Tiddles
Brian: Anyway, perhaps we can now focus on the final bits of packing and, tomorrow we move out temporarily into Jackie's mum's. Carpet, kitchen and window cleaning, some garden maintenance and we're done (sounds easy!), ready for our lodgers to move in on Friday.

Car also goes on Friday as we've decided to sell it, so we'll really feel like gypsies!

He forgot to mention the packing, that's going to be the biggest problem, but it's one of those things that will expand to fill all the time available, so best ignoring it for the time being!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Stress, but the end is in sight!

It's all getting very close, and very stressful, and it's funny how little things mean so much - the house is nearly empty (we took six boxes of 'kitchen' round to Helen and Ian's loft this afternoon - only 3 or 4 and the microwave to go!), but still looks like a bomb site! Jasper the cat goes to his new home tomorrow (more about that after the event!) We spent about £5.5k in two days last week (camper van and car hire and internal flights) and packing, which really is like trying to fit a quart into a pint pot! A 90 litre bag, 23kg, 6kg of climbing gear and a year away - it's never going to work! I have been assured there are shops in NZ though! 
SO all in all tears have been very close to the surface for quite a lot of the last week. In a rather sad bid for reassurance, I hijacked the birthday wishes I sent to Kristan (my hero, with a brain the size of a planet, from work) yesterday and told him I hoped he wasn't missing me too much! Because he's a Sweetie, he came back with "The department's fallen apart, we're all arguing and the rota's a mess! (come back!)" He has no idea how much such a simple, (and probably slightly tongue in cheek) comment meant, I smiled, punched the air, and felt so much better! Thank you Kris, I love you to bits xx

We had a lovely day yesterday, round at Denise and Paul's (B's sister and BIL) with all the family - their children - Steph (and Sam her man) and Nick, and B's daughter Fi, her three girls Abbie, Becky and Jenny, and her new man Vince and his son Brody. We had two roasts and 9 veg, all home grown from the allotment! We even had Christmas pudding and sherry sauce, but that was the only nod to us all being together at last - Nick has been away travelling for the last two Christmas's! we played silly games - the box game, who can pick the box from the floor with their teeth, with no hands or knees on the floor - only feet, I'm proud to announce that Steph and I were the only two to pick up a flat piece of cardboard from the floor! Youth Pah! 
B did his best party trick and a good time was had by all

Thursday, 11 October 2012

An evening with the Prime Minister

Actually the title is a bit misleading, but David Cameron was in the same restaurant as us and sitting at the next table with his wife Samantha.

Our Monday drinking club met on Tuesday instead as Tim could make it to complete the traditional full membership. Bill, Mark, Tim and, since 2000, Jackie and I have met at The Crown (ne: Kings Arms) in Kings Heath on Monday nights for a couple of beers and to put the world to rights. Tim is now FD at a multi-billion pound company based in Derby so moved up there a couple of years ago, so we don't see him so often. This Tuesday he was in Birmingham on business so we changed the day to all meet up, firstly for a beer in the Old Moseley Arms and then onto Diwan's, our favourite Indian restaurant.

We hadn't even ordered our meal when in walked David and Samantha Cameron to a table just by us. The words 'that man is the image of David Cameron' were just coming out of my mouth when I realised it really was him. It was his 46th birthday and he was in Birmingham at the Conservative conference. They had a quiet meal in the corner, paid and left before we had finished our meal, saying it was the best balti he had ever had.

Jay, who runs the place and we know well came over to give us the rundown afterwards. He said he didn't laugh at his joke, but they ate everything and seemed to enjoy it.

Here's a picture of them leaving that appeared in Hello magazine (I hope they don't mind):

Monday, 8 October 2012

The long goodbyes

We're coming into the last few weeks before we go and its time to have our last meetings with people for a year. There's lots to talk about and I'm being told constantly to 'keep it brief', so I'll write very quickly!

This last weekend was at our Solihull Mountaineering Club hut, Bryn Golau, in Dinas Mawddwy in Wales for 'Jackie and Brian's farewell bash' organised by Alex and Rob. It's a great, but basic hut, set up on the hillside about a quarter of a mile from the village. It has running water from a mountain stream, no electricity, but battery powered lights from a wind turbine and solar panel and bottled gas, giving excellent hot water and superb shower. The village of Dinas has the Red Lion pub with great beer and food

Bryn Golau on a hillside by Dinas Mawddwy
We arrived on Friday night in time for a pint in the Red and dinner in the hut with the others. On Saturday morning we went into a disused slate mine halfway up the hill opposite the hut. Sam and Helen, our SMC hut warden and cottage booking people had done this before so acted as our guides. We left Alex in the hut to catch up on some work while Jackie and I, Rob, Jo, Sam and Helen headed off up the hill. The mine is a popular venue for outdoor clubs and there was a group there doing abseiling and caving so we were not alone! We changed into old clothes and wellies at the horizontal entrance, leaving Sam and Helen to go to the normal exit to enter via an abseil rope down a 45 degree hole of about 50m in length.
Sam, Rob, Helen, Jackie and Jo getting ready
We went into the first tunnel and out to a second tunnel, but found the water level too deep. An outdoor instructor told us the water level was waist deep and I didn't fancy getting cold and wet, so persuaded the others to exit at this point and enter via the abseil rope after Sam and Helen.
Jackie in the first tunnel
Looking into the second tunnel

There was a small stream running down the 'entrance' tunnel making the descent down the rope without harness or abseil device 'interesting'.
Jo descending using the rope
Safely down we met up with Sam and Helen and went exploring the many tunnels and abandoned mine machinery.
Jackie descending
Jackie and Jo 'in the dark'

Sam explaining the next stage
Some old mine machinery

Jo and Helen
Safely belayed out by Sam, we joined Alex at the Mill cafe for afternoon tea and, in my case scones, jam and cream (what a great day)! In the evening we were joined by Steve Jonas, Roger Fanner and Mike Reynolds (well done for solving the clue on the keysafe code to get into the hut after your run over the Arrans!) and said goodbye to Sam and Helen who were off to a Sunday wedding. Alex had bought a cake and some very relevant presents that made the evening a great success.
Alex's cake

Sunday was another sunny day and 4 of us (me, Jackie, Steve and Jo) went for a walk over a hill somewhere nearby. Without maps we headed back on the A458, through Foel and onto a minor road, where we found some footpaths through a wood where a 'fun ride' for horses was organised. They were all very friendly people and were quite happy for us to walk the route and join them for a BBQ afterwards. We did a 6 mile walk through rolling tree covered hillsides with occasional great views over the surrounding hillside, and were only nearly mown down by one stampeding horse!
Jo, Steve and Jackie
The BBQ looked nice, but I opted for the scones and cream (what a surprise), but even more of a surprise was the price - only 25p each! Unbelievable.

A great weekend, thoughtfully organised by Alex and Rob - well done and thank you very much. Also, many thanks to Jo, Sam, Helen, Roger, Steve, Mike for making the effort to 'see us off'.

We were back by mid afternoon in time for a curry with Pauline at our local Indian restaurant in Alvechurch.

Right, very quickly (I'm still writing fast!), we had a great weekend the previous weekend at Ian and Helen's in Moseley. Drinks in the Old Moseley Arms, home made Pizza and lots of drinks at their house on Saturday night and walks over their local parks of Cannon Hill and Highbury in bright sunshine on Sunday morning were fabulous! A bit of a late night on Saturday through (3:30am again!).

Our other goodbye was to Phil and Paula Minal, owners of Redpoint climbing wall in Birmingham who are off to Kalymnos again for another climbing holiday, meaning we won't see them before we go. We are now 'friends' with them on Facebook so will keep in touch while we are away.

A couple of 'hello's' we did were to Mike 'Spider' an Aussie guy we met at Redpoint, over here for the summer, but normally living about 50km south of Brisbane. We exchanged email addresses and he gave us a good run down of climbing and skiing in Australia, setting us up for our 3 months trip there starting in May next year.

We also met up with Clair and Martin Andrews, locals to us, who have started a ski business in Le Praz, part of the huge 'Three Valleys' ski resort in France. They got us really excited in doing a ski season there by giving us the run down on life in a ski resort. It sounds fabulous and is definitely on our 'wish list'. At the time of writing we are thinking of going straight off to the area at the end of our years trip. We are back at the end of October 2013, when it'll be grey and miserable and the ski season starts at the end of November.... Unless we really hate being away from home we'll be back for only a month before heading off for 5 months skiing! It all sounds great, but lets see how we get on on our first year away.... I promise we'll try and write more regularly, so the posts get shorter so please keep reading!