The Runway with a Pedestrian Crossing

The Runway with a Pedestrian Crossing

 If you’ve never flown to Gibraltar, it’s almost worth it for the airport alone. We initially arrived by car, from Spain, and were very surprised when we had to stop and wait for a plane to land. The road, and path, go right across the runway, and all traffic and pedestrians are stopped before the planes can land. Football matches in the nearby stadium also have to be paused, just in case a ball should escape and roll into the pathway of an incoming plane.

It is both bizarre, and rather wonderful. We weren’t there long enough to walk across it (my family were keener to see the wild monkeys) but it’s on my ‘one day’ list.

When we left Gibraltar, we managed to experience the little airport from the inside. I checked the Google ratings before we left, as I wanted to see if there were cafes. I was interested by the one-star ratings (they’re always the most interesting reviews to read, and often tell you more about the person writing it than the establishment being reviewed). Most of the one-star reviewers for Gibraltar airport were Spanish and based their rating on the belief that the airport was on land stolen from Spain, so shouldn’t exist anyway. (Not getting into the politics here, but am tempted to whisper the names of the cities in Morocco owned by Spain even though they are clearly within a different country.)

There was also however, an interesting review by someone who admitted that they had never actually landed in Gibraltar—as every time her flight had been diverted to Malaga. We investigated further, and discovered that unless the pilot can clearly see both ends of the runway, they will abort the landing and fly to Malaga. Which means of course that the aeroplane is then in the wrong place for the departing passengers and they all have to be bused to Spain. This caused a little consternation for Husband who tends to arrive at the airport 16 hours before the flight (just in case) as the family (all strangely strong-minded given their submissive parentage) were not easily persuaded to travel hours before the flight to a little airport which we could walk to in twenty minutes.

All was fine though. We arrived at the airport a couple of hours before the flight, and the check-in desk was actually open (a rare novelty for my family). There was then an excited few minutes when the boys spotted the price of the alcohol in the duty-free shop (I didn’t know it was even possible to buy Vodka in bottles that big!)

We walked from the airport to the plane. I was lucky enough to be sitting between chatty daughter and chatty husband, so it was quite difficult to finish reading my book. Daughter then looked at her holiday photos, and spent a happy hour deleting all the selfies that the boys had taken when she left her phone unlocked for a few minutes.

Final checks were done, the crew took their seats, and I concentrated hard on my book as we hurtled down the runway, trying to not think about all those cars and people who had been crossing a few minutes earlier, or about the length of the runway and the deep blue sea that was waiting at the end. Then we were up, Gibraltar was falling away behind us, and our holiday was finished. Thank you for sharing it with me.

 

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Porto, Portugal: Family Holiday Diary 2018

Porto – Sunday

Woke 7am. Weather is cloudy—hope no one notices.

Metro into Porto. Wandered down to the river, which is very pretty. Crossed the bridge to Gaia after lunch. Eating here is very difficult, as all the restaurants seem to be fully booked or closed. Which then makes you wonder why the ones with vacancies have vacancies.

On the bridge a young man was standing on the balustrade, wearing swimwear, waiting to jump. Gradually, a crowd gathered, waiting to watch. Would he plummet to his death? Be run down by one of the large pleasure boats passing beneath the bridge? Or dive spectacularly and emerge on the bank? I think none of the above. When a fairly large crowd had gathered, a group of his friends passed amongst them, asking for money. I never saw him jump and I think it was a scam. Later, a different young man was standing there, waiting to jump. Perhaps I should have pushed him in.

The Gaia side of the Douro river is the north side, so it gets less sun. It’s where all the port cellars are. We saw the signs for Taylor’s, Graham’s, Cockburn, and Calem’s. We had a tour of Calem’s. Tour guide was very witty. At the end, we sat and tasted three different ports ( a proper, small glass, of port, so a proper taste not just a mouthful). This was great fun, we each liked a different port, and one of us drank rather a lot by the time he’d finished off all the glasses that other people weren’t keen on.

We then left, via their shop (not stupid the port-making people). The port was much cheaper than you can buy it in England, and came in nice gift boxes and bags, so we all bought some as gifts. I’m not sure that it all actually made it back to England with us, but I won’t say any more about that. It was an excellent afternoon.

Portugal is one of the main cork growing places in the world. They are trying to increase the popularity of cork by using it for products other than wine stoppers. So as we walked around, we saw lots of shops selling postcards made of cork. We all bought one for our mothers/partners who are back in England. We passed a postbox with a fun sculpture next to it, so took lots of photos and posted our cards. Then we worried that the postbox was just part of the sculpture, and not a proper postbox at all. Tried to retrieve cards, but it was impossible. All the post-offices in Portugal seem to be yellow–so why would there be a red English postbox? I fear we may never see those cards again.

Walked back to the metro and stopped for ice-creams. When the train arrived, there were lots of people, so I quickly jumped onto the train, the doors shut, and the train set off. I then realised I couldn’t see any of my family, and I had no idea of which station I needed to get off at, or how to get to the hotel from the station. Felt rather abandoned. (When the children were small, I had strategies for this sort of disaster—now they are all super-competent, they sometimes forget me.) R sent me a message, telling me which carriage they were in, and which station to get off at. Found them. Will keep a closer eye on the group in future.

I had a nap, while the males tried to book a restaurant for dinner. The males failed. It was raining (raining!) so we got taxis back to the cathedral. (The cathedral didn’t get a mention earlier, because I didn’t like it.) Walked to several fully-booked restaurants. Found one, next to the river, with okay(ish) food and okay(ish) service. No one got food poisoning, which is the main thing.

Walked back to the metro in the rain.

 

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Another instalment of our holiday in Portugal will be posted soon.

Thank you for reading. You can follow my blog at:
anneethompson.com
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in book shops and Amazon. Why not buy one today?
(I think the best one is CLARA – A Good Psychopath? which shows how someone very bad, can achieve something amazing…

Portugal

Family Holiday 2018—Portugal

We had planned a family holiday for the last two weeks of August. As the date grew nearer, the whole of Europe was gripped in a heatwave. We watched as temperatures in Portugal went over 40, and saw wild fires on the news. All rather a worry.

Saturday

We met R at the airport. J had been helpfully sending her updates on our progress (wrong airport, earlier flight, left already) but we managed to meet her at the bag drop.

All good with the flight. I sat next to M/factoid boy, and therefore knew lots of facts about Portugal by the time we arrived. Some of these were interesting, for example, did you know that the Romans called the region known as France and Spain ‘Gaul’ and we were going to the area that was the main port, hence ‘Port-o-Gaul’? Or that, an exploring nation, the Portuguese discovered Newfoundland? However, after trying to establish a colony there they left, saying there was ‘nothing there’—hence name ‘Ca nada’.

We collected a car (smaller than expected) and drove to Sheraton Hotel in Porto. The hotel has a glass lift. It was quite noisy when my family went up in it.

We walked to the metro. Buying tickets was slightly more complicated than we first thought, as ‘number of tickets’ means number of journeys on a single ticket, not number of tickets. Once we had sussed that, it was very easy, though I’m not sure my family was the fastest user of the automatic ticket machines. We caught a train to the old part of Porto.

We ate ice-creams in Freedom Square. Factoid Boy ate custard tart, as this is apparently a traditional food in Portugal. We then wandered around, taking in the atmosphere. There were lots of cool designs done in tiles, especially the railway station (Sao Bento Station). It was built in 1916 (most of Europe was too busy that year to build fancy stations with tiled patterns).

Family spent 6 hours looking on Trip Advisor for a nice restaurant for dinner. R didn’t feel the ‘Traditional Steakhouse’ that J recommended would necessarily cater well for vegetarians.

Finally ate at A Despensa—a lovely Italian restaurant. It had a great atmosphere, and we all like Italian food. The only problem was the washrooms, which were gender specific but only inside the door.

Metro back to the hotel. Rather tense discussion about what time we would meet for breakfast. Went to bed, slept well. Holiday going well so far.

 

Thank you for reading. I’ll post another instalment of our family holiday diary soon. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

anneethompson.com

Thank you for reading. You can follow my blog at:
anneethompson.com
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in book shops and Amazon. Why not buy one today?
(I think the best one is CLARA – A Good Psychopath? which shows how someone very bad, can achieve something amazing…

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Have you visited the Summer Exhibition this year? There are worse things you could do. The annual exhibition at The Royal Academy of Art is always an eclectic mix, as it has an open submission, so the great and famous are displayed next to Aunty Mabel—assuming Aunty Mabel has caught the eye of whoever is this year’s coordinator. This year, Grayson Perry was in charge (he’s the man who resembles a pantomime dame) and, like his dress sense, the exhibition is flamboyant and unexpected. With over a thousand works of art on show, it’s impossible to even notice them individually, never mind trying to assess each one. They range from the completely brilliant, to the absolute rubbish (in my opinion). But overall, the impression is one of colour and fun and strong political statement. This year’s show feels very contemporary, and I for one enjoyed it.

Much of the art, I really do not understand. When I got home, I tried to find online reviews of individual pieces, or at least explanations, but there weren’t any. Perhaps there are too many for the critics to cope with. I will therefore share with you my own highlights and lowlights of the exhibition. I am not an artist, so I expect I missed the point on some of them. However, as art is subjective, I will go ahead and give you my brutally honest review.

 When you first arrive, you’re greeted by this stupendous piece of haberdashery. It is huge, and for anyone who has ever sewn anything and agonised over straight seams, it epitomises skill. It is knitted and sewn and embroidered. I have absolutely no idea what it is meant to signify, or what will happen to it after the exhibition (it will be a nightmare to dust) but I loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

 The next gallery is painted bright yellow. This made the room very exciting, even if you didn’t like the art. In fact, I would say that this year, all the galleries could be viewed as a whole—you walked in, and thought “brilliant” or “terrible”, without needing to examine the individual works. Some were displayed so high that you couldn’t see them anyway (unless you happen to have a stepladder in your handbag).

This particular photograph made me laugh. I assume the model is the artist’s mother. No one else would be prepared to dress up as a compost heap. She doesn’t look especially pleased. Hopefully she’s proud of him now.

 

 This gallery also had a picture by Banksy, with the ‘Vote Leave’ slogan changed by a heart shaped balloon to ‘Vote Love’. It was for sale at the price of £350 million (bit sarcy).

There was also a large portrait of Nigel Farage. Above it was a portrait of a man being sick. Which I’m sure was a coincidence.

The picture on the left was simply a nice picture—one of the few on display that you might actually choose to hang in your own house. It was wonderfully chocolate-box, and little children could write whole stories about it.

 

 Talking of stories, this should definitely be used for the cover of a book.It had some wonderfully clever imagery, with people of different heights, and all sorts of political messages.

 

 

 

 

 

 Here’s one for my Aunty Margaret. Not sure she’s ever knitted/crocheted anything quite like this. Something to aspire to perhaps. Or perhaps not. It wasn’t something you really wanted to look at for long.

 

 

 

 

 This one was by Harry Hill, who apparently used to be a medic. I didn’t like it. But I guess someone did. It reminded me of the game: ‘Operation’ which we used to play when I was a child. (I didn’t like that much, either.)

 

 

 

 

 

 I have no idea why anyone thought this head was worth displaying. If it had been in a primary school art room, it might have been considered good. But not here. And not at that price. 

 

 

 

 This was brilliant. Completely brilliant. It is made from broken egg shells. Wow. Glad I wasn’t responsible for transporting it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The carpet bear was another favourite. Though again, I imagine the artist’s mother was somewhat cross when she came home and saw what he’d done to her best rug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 On the topic of broken things and mothers, next time you break a tea-cup, here’s what you should do with it. A brilliant way to avert anger. It wasn’t until I spotted the handle that I realised it had once been a cup.

 

 

 

 

 This was a great picture that was spoilt by the terrible lighting in the gallery. I’m not sure why we needed lights on anyway, as the sun was bright enough. Several works were very hard to see. Maybe the exhibition is best visited after dark. Or on cloudy days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This one would be impossible to spoil. It was an upturned television and a block of concrete. Why? No idea. My best guess is that it was put out for the bin men and someone took it to the academy by mistake. It said nothing to me, and was ugly. (Sorry if it was your child who created it.)

 

 

 

 

 This was a display of carved soap. There wasn’t a scent (it just smelt of the pine display rack). Very clever. The soap is prison soap. We had trouble stopping the man next to us from touching it, but I did know what he meant. There was something about it that made you want to touch it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This was a chair, with the seat the wrong way up. All I can think is that someone ordered something from IKEA, lost the assembly instructions, and then was too embarrassed to admit they’d messed it up, so entered it to the academy instead. Not something I needed to see.

 

 

 

 

 I don’t even know what to write about this one. It was sort of hidden behind a display cabinet. Were the workmen having a laugh? Really?

 

 

 

 

 

 This was my favourite. Unicorns, galloping through a forest, all made from twisted wires. It was beautiful, a whole story.

 

 

 

 

 

 You have to see this one in real life really, as the details are too small. It was very contemporary, with lots of references to politicians and modern life. There was so much to see, it was very skilful, very intelligent, a visual feast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 As an author, I had to include this one. A finely balanced work of art, which said that we need books to be balanced (at least, that’s what it said to me!) Excellent.

 

 

Thank you for looking at the art with me. Try to find time to pop to London to see the exhibition for yourself. It’s there until the end of August.

 

Have a good week, and don’t melt.

Love,
Anne x

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A Quick Pop to Cowdray

Cowdray Ruins

Well, I have had a nice few days – always good when a few positive things happen.

We had a lovely weekend, meeting with different friends. One couple (the ones we went to Brazil with) live near Cowdray, so we met them there. Have you been? It’s one of those little English villages that you drive through and say, “Ooh, that looks interesting, we must come back one day.” And then you never do. We, however, did.

We did a quick Google search first, and found that the ruins are closed for repair. Husband made a few sarcy comments about the owner should be careful about repairing ruins, as their brokenness is sort of the point, but we ignored him. We could in fact, walk very near to the ruins, so had a good look around despite the fences and ‘keep out’ signs. There is a board which gives you some information, so we learned that the ruins were built in 1542, and the original house would have resembled Hampton Court. It was a place where Henry VIII stayed, and the information told us to “imagine Queen Elizabeth I arriving, galloping towards the mansion with her train following behind…” (More sarcy comments about looking for the railway.)

In 1793, the house burned down, while it was being refurbished for Viscount Montague’s wedding. This is the sort of thing you dread when planning a wedding. I seem to remember that some windows were smashed in the church just before our own wedding – which doesn’t really compare.

In the walled garden.

There was a walled garden, which was lovely, as it had tables placed around the garden, and you could order tea. We didn’t want tea, which was lucky, as there didn’t appear to be anyone serving, even though there were other customers sitting having tea. I suggested they might be ghosts of customers past – it was that sort of place.

There was also a small house on stilts. I have no idea why, but have included a photo for your interest.

Cowdray also has a farm shop, and Polo Club. Last time we drove through, we saw people playing polo, which was rather fun. This time they were playing cricket – on a different field, obviously. Rather less fun to watch.

Should you want a venue for your wedding today, and have less to spend than Viscount Montague, you may be interested in Cowdray House, which is also on the estate, and can be hired for functions. I found it online, though we didn’t visit. It all looks lovely, and I whiled away a few minutes, choosing which of the 22 bedrooms I would like to stay in. The website was rather coy about listing prices though.

Apparently, the whole house is for sale, if you have a spare £25 million, as Viscount Cowdray would like to sell it. He wants to hold on to the park and polo fields, so I’m afraid you can only buy the house, which it says in the advert he is selling “so it isn’t a burden on funds for his son and grandson,” which I felt was not a very good marketing strategy as it rather deters one from bothering to get a surveyors report done, doesn’t it?

Thank you for reading. Have a good week.

Love,
Anne x

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Anne E. Thompson is an author of several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and on Amazon.
Thank you for reading.
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Mini Review of Camber Sands

Well, our holiday at Camber has finished, and we both survived. We had a nice routine, with me working (inefficiently) for the morning, then meeting for lunch. We then ‘did our own thing’ until 4pm, when we went to the beach, followed by tea, then Netflix until bedtime. All very civilised and relaxing. It was also nice to spend time with just Mum, to properly listen to her stories about the past, without having to rush off to do things. Camber Sands, out of season, is ideal for this.

We stayed in a holiday cottage on the White Sands estate, and this was ideal. Mum called it ‘Toy Town’ and with all the little houses, I know what she meant. We walked around, guessing which ones were rental homes and which ones were lived in. I’m assuming that most people don’t, by choice, have ornaments of sea-gulls and anchors in their normal homes. Many of the gardens were full of lavender, and it’s all very pretty.

There are a few places to eat in Camber, even out of season, though some were closed until July or working limited hours. So the fish and chip shop was only open in the evenings (though you can get very good fish and chips from the friendly man with a ponytail, in the cafe on the grass carpark, near beach C). We ate a couple of times in Dunes Bar (5* hygiene rating and friendly staff) and sometimes drove to The King’s Head in Playden (which has the above plus the best food, I think).

I prefer Camber in the winter, when you can walk the dog along the whole beach, but it’s cold. Even in the summer, it always seems to be windy.

We had very good weather. It was always windy, but it was dry, and warm in the sand dunes. On Friday, the main road was quite busy, which gave a taste of how it must be in high season, when I imagine it would be fairly difficult to cross the road if you’re a slow walker (which one of us was).

The beach is flat and sandy – so great for kids wanting to build sandcastles or old ladies who like to paddle, or dogs who want to dig and bounce through waves. The east end of the beach is where all the water sports enthusiasts are allowed, and when the wind is right, you can see lots of coloured kites with mad people attached. (I did offer to pay for Mum to rent one, but she made lots of excuses.) The carparks all seem to have toilets, and there are plenty of bins to put your bags of dog mess (so no excuses for cleaning up after them people!)

However, the tide comes in unevenly, so you have to watch out so you don’t get cut-off. This can be dangerous for non-swimmers. And there are rip tides, which are dangerous for swimmers. They now have life-guards on duty (which I’ve never seen before) and signs telling you the tide times and where is safe to swim. One day there were jellyfish in the water, but I have come to Camber many times, and never seen them before, so perhaps we were just unlucky. Another hazard is towards the Rye end of the beach, where at low tide some of the sand is oily. It is the wet sand, and your feet sink into the sand and then come out black, which is very unpleasant, and bit of a worry with the dog, who was most unhelpful about being taken into the sea to be washed. I still maintain that wellies are the best footwear for a beach (see last week’s post).

The marshes around Camber are beautiful, and there are paths and cycle routes through them. You can hire bikes in Rye and Camber (ebike-hire.com 07960 587482). While we were there, the fields were full of poppies and chubby lambs and water birds.

So that’s it, a quick review of Camber Sands. If you would like to also borrow my mother to take for company, I’m sure that can be arranged.

Have a good week.
Take care,

Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading. You can follow my blog at:
anneethompson.com
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in book shops and Amazon. Why not buy one today?
(I think the best one is CLARA – A Good Psychopath? which shows how someone very bad, can achieve something amazing…

Camber continues…

Well, you’ll be pleased to know I have managed to not murder my mother, so far… In fact, we’re having a rather nice time, here at Camber Sands. The little cottage we’ve rented is turning out very well, everything works, and there are a few novelties. I am enjoying the Nespresso machine, Mum was unexpectedly taken by the spy-hole in the front door. I haven’t liked to ask how often she stands there spying on the neighbours. Even the dog is happy, as she simply adores the beach.

The beach is great, though we did have a near-disaster yesterday, as we hadn’t realised the tide was coming in, and we were walking along a sandbank, completely oblivious to the water rushing in between us and the beach. It wasn’t dangerous, just annoying, as I had to get my jeans wet wading across to the beach. Not helped by a particularly bouncy dog who thought it was great that I was finally joining her in the sea.

Today we had another disaster – not our fault – as we decided to go to Rye for the day. I hate driving, and find it particularly stressful driving through towns I don’t know, trying to find a carpark. And I know Rye has lots of one-way streets. There is a map in the cottage, but it doesn’t show the one-way streets AND it has South at the top. So it’s all backwards. (I find this completely irritating – who would draw a map with South at the top???)

Anyway, when Mum suggested that we could catch a bus into town, it seemed like an excellent plan. I took the dog for an early walk (ignoring her when she pulled desperately towards the beach path, as I didn’t want her to get wet, so she had to settle for the fields) and checked the timetable at the bus-stop. There are buses every hour, so we planned to catch the 11:13 bus, wander around Rye, have lunch, and catch a bus home early afternoon. Perfect – or so we thought.

We allowed plenty of time to walk to the bus-stop, so were there about 11:05. We stood at the shelter, and I worried they might not take notes or cards and I didn’t have enough change. At 11:13, there was no bus, but Mum, who catches a lot of buses, assured me they are often a few minutes late.

At 11:30, we made friends with the other lady waiting at the stop, who said the buses are often very late, and sometimes don’t arrive until about 50 minutes after their due time. She had been there before us, and had a very cute little dog, called Benjie. She said it was a new timetable, it began at the beginning of June, and previously there had been buses every 30 minutes rather than every hour. Mum then chatted to her (about the weather/her dog/what it’s like living in Camber/her political views/religion/her sex life, etc, you know what elderly ladies are like) and I moved slightly away and hid behind my sunglasses.

At 11:50 the bus arrived. Happy days. Chatty lady got on first, and was told: “You can’t bring the dog on, there are already 3 other dogs on, I’m not taking any more.”

Chatty lady said she’d been waiting nearly an hour, but the bus driver was adamant, he wasn’t taking any more dogs. Chatty lady got off the bus.

Mum and I stepped onto the bus. The driver said, “I can only take one of you.”

We stared at him. (I nearly asked which one – but decided it wouldn’t be polite.) Mum asked why. Driver said the bus was too full already (it was) and passengers weren’t allowed to stand beyond the blue line (a line – blue- painted on the floor). There were people standing almost up to it, though they could have all squashed back a bit. But Mum said she needed a seat, and I could see that there weren’t any, and I really couldn’t face the conversation with random strangers about which one was going to give up their seat for her, so we too got off. Bus then sped away, and we walked back to cottage. The dog was pleased to see us.

We ate in a pub in Camber instead, and had a nice time, and will take the dog on the beach later. But it was a bit of a shame, especially as until recently there had been more buses, so we’d have got a seat. It must be infuriating for chatty lady, who was local, to have the bus to Rye full of holiday-makers so she doesn’t fit on it. Perhaps the bus company will reconsider the cuts for the summer months. I hope so.

Thank you for reading.

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Travel with Clara from an English town to the slums of India, and see how someone bad can achieve something amazing.
An exciting, fast paced novel.
CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
by Anne E. Thompson.
Buy a copy today, and prepare to become engrossed in a whole new world.

Thank you for reading. You can follow my blog at:
anneethompson.com
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in book shops and Amazon. Why not buy one today?
(I think the best one is CLARA – A Good Psychopath? which shows how someone very bad, can achieve something amazing…