Sunday, 30 December 2012

And how was it for you?

How was your Christmas? I'm trying to catch up with all the Christmas blog posts, those of my "friends" and some new ones. I know it's not over yet but I always think the few days between Christmas and New Year are the ones I enjoy most. The run up to Christmas always seems so hectic, especially this year as school seemed to finish so close to Christmas and I managed to develop a sore throat and sniffle just in time for the big day itself! The sore throat seems to have been brought on by my incessant talking to a friend one night (someone I hadn't managed to meet up with for over 3 years). We chatted A LOT, over the noise of a live band and by the following morning I had completely lost my voice. Not everyone saw that as a bad thing of course!

The builder continued to DIY his way around the house leaving a trail of mess & dust right up until Christmas Eve when we at last completed the shopping.

For the last few years we've created a new tradition of the 5 of us going up to Holt in north Norfolk, for Christmas Eve afternoon and early evening. It's a really pretty market town and is always decorated beautifully for Christmas. We stop at a posh coffee shop for a snack and then admire the lights before coming home.

Then we drove home via a friend's house where we needed
 to do a present swap.
We arrived just in time to be whisked down
 the road to her brother-in-law's
where a little champagne get together was happening.
Now the house in question I've mentioned
 before here when we went to the Easter Egg hunt. 
They are all very eccentric and when visiting you never know whether to wear a ballgown or a pair of old, ill-fitting, trousers! Luckily I'm usually dressed in the latter and fitted in very well this time.
I chatted to a few vaguely familiar (slightly mad) people and at one point mentioned how difficult it was to find little Christmas stocking fillers for a 16 year old boy - one lady in the group suggested (in all seriousness) condoms!! I was a little taken aback to say the least, but they do live in a very different world to mine. She later went on to say they were spending Christmas Day with some friends in Sandringham - I was bursting to ask if it was the Queen!

Anyway home we came to prepare for the big day, just the 5 of us being unsociable and inviting no one to join us. The magic reindeer food was sprinkled in the driveway and the carrot and biscuit were left for the man himself (usually a mince pie but I haven't managed to make any yet!). The builder and I didn't make it to bed until 2am as none of the wrapping had been done
& I was still feeling under the weather.
Due to my Father Christmas's tiredness some of the gift tags were on the wrong things but no one seemed to worry! I do remember one Christmas Eve when we just had 2 little boys and had to assemble a climbing frame before the morning. Boys went to bed early and we thought we'd have a little time in front of the fire & tv, eating cheese & drinking port (I love port). Well we started to assemble the frame in the kitchen - picture the scene, fluffy dressing gown (me not husband), slippers, slightly (very) tipsy and a tool box. We didn't do too badly until we realised it wouldn't fit through the door - climbing frame dismantled and re assembled on the patio - port glass still in hand and still in dressing gown & slippers!! Lots of giggling that night!

But Father Christmas came and did his magic......
The gymnastic crash mat requested by Little Miss seemed to be a hit,
 and was mis-used by the kids all day, it's now the wrestling mat!
Little Miss beating up her brother who still has the price tags on his Christmas trousers!
 The presents were noticably smaller this year, we struggled to find things as all of their lists were basically sweets & "suprise me"!
Anyway we had a good day with lots of food and a little sparkly wine.
 No one else has been ill & I wasn't really too bad.
Just a few Christmas photos....

Daddy really wanted his face painted!
Happy New Year to all the bloggers I have already met (virtually) and those I look forward to "meeting" in 2013 - Have a great one!
With Love

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Merry Christmas Roundup

This will be my last post before Christmas, things are a bit hectic here; or do I mean fraught?! We've had a busy week when as usual best laid plans have gone up in a cloud of smoke!

Number 2 son finished school a week before the other 2 and his last day ends with a house music competition which is good fun to attend. As it was the night of my Book Group dinner I thought I'd be very organised and do hair & make up before the music competition - cue smug look at the other book group/school mum who hadn't been that organised! I knew I'd be tight for time so was all ready, that was until the torrential downpour as we left the school to walk 10 minutes to the carpark!! I had so much "product" (as the hairdresser would say - I don't really know what it means) in my hair that it was plastered to my face and then set solid!! A quick dampen down and blast with a dryer was all I had time for - at the end of the evening I noticed that it had gone very pouffey but it was too late by then and it may have been the wine affecting my eyesight! I'm afraid I took a lot of photos but none of myself - I'm not getting the hang of this blogging malarky yet am I?

As part of our Christmas get together we all take a mystery book and then choose one (hopefully not the one you put in) out of a lucky dip bag - lots of moans (pardon the pun!) when 50 shades of grey was unwrapped by one member (oops another unintentional pun!)!

During the course of the dinner I was waiting for the call from number 1 son about his cricket county trial - to be announced after 10pm we'd been told. As it turned out they decided to notify eveyone by email so the wait continued.

Well book dinner over I shopped and planned to clean the house and bake this week - best laid plans etc...etc  The builder decided he really could get the extension finished and we should buy a new sofa. I tried to explain that a houseful of dust was not part of my schedule but he assured me it would be fine - obviously it wasn't! Dust is everywhere and nothing has been cooked yet - and the work goes on.....

As for the sofa I assured him that these things had to be ordered nowadays but he knew better and has managed to purchase a job lot of furniture - ex display and delivered within 3 days! So the old 17 year old sofa - jumped on by three kids, regularly covered in puke and worse by three babies, slept on by various adults and stray cricketers had to go. I wouldn't fit through any doorways so was sawn up in the living room and carried out in bits - oh no, no mess involved in that!

And we had a series of Christmas events at Little Miss's primary school this week - "you won't miss any will you?" her sad little face asked - knowing I have a habit of forgetting everything these days. The Christmas production was, as usual, inspired! A fabulous version of Scrooge with the ghost of Christmas yet to come entering stage right (with his entourage) dancing gangnam style. It was superb; and Little Miss was wearing a slightly amended Victorian costume to the one I'd sent into school - the teacher thought she could improve on it apparently! I didn't think stapling the costume to her vest to keep it up was a bad idea.

Little Miss when she found out I'd left our raffle tickets at home!!

And number 2 son won £44 on the lucky square board - so a fish and chip tea followed.

Then on Tuesday the dreaded email arrived, sent accidently to an ancient email address and only found by luck - no, number 1 son was not successful this year and would not be playing County cricket in 2013. To say we were all gutted is an understatement. He's trialled since he was 10, and improved year on year, never quite good enough to make it though. This year he was down to the final 19 fighting for 14 squad places; and according to better qualified eyes than mine he was good enough. There are lots of politics involved though (and sometimes money!) and once we heard which 2 coaches had the final decision on who was in and who was not we knew it would not be us! He was the most upset he's ever been, mainly because he knew this year he had done enough to make the elite squad he wants to be a part of so much. He can have 2 more tries as the next year group is under 19's and he can have 2 shots at that. But the next 2 years involve A levels, university applications and then a possible move out of the County for Uni - so this really should have been his year. Thank you to those who kept their fingers crossed for him, your good wishes were very much appreciated.

Nevermind, as we have been reminded recently, if this is the worst thing that ever happens to him we will be forever grateful.

Now the last day at school/college for the other 2 children has been and gone; no cleaning has been done yet, no presents wrapped or delivered. The BIG food shop has yet to happen and I need to wash, iron, bake and do about 500 other things, but hey there's still plenty of time isn't there?? Please tell me there is!

We'll be spending Christmas Eve in the market town of Holt which is always decorated beautifully at Christmas time. Then we'll spend Christmas Day, just the 5 of us, at home.

Well it's my first Christmas as a blogger, I've loved getting to know lots of new friends - albeit all virtual friends and I'm lookimg forward to hearing about everyone's exploits in 2013.

Lots of love for a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2013, from our house to yours.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

A little Christmas sparkle!

Well last night was my Big Christmas Night Out - an evening with the book club ladies. Our dress theme for this year was Hollywood Glamour, partly because of the hotel we had chosen this year, The Beechwood Hotel, has links to Agatha Christie. Hollywood being a bit of a tenuous link I know!
The hotel and it's staff were perfect, it's a very interesting hotel.
Anway I had put together an outfit, dress from ebay, fur cape from a friend along with long, black velvet gloves but I did treat myself to the perfect piece of jewellery.

 A new ring with a diamond cluster the size of a dinner plate!
The metal is silver coloured so I'm assuming it's platinum, the label didn't say. It's a little large so I had to wind an elastoplast around it to stop it slipping! The lady in the store was bemused when I asked if it could be made smaller so I guess the elastoplast stays.
Anyway it suited the outfit perfectly and a girl can never have too many diamonds.
And can you believe it cost just under £2 - gotta love Primark!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

That busy time of year!

We have at last begun our Christmas countdown in a flurry of confused busyness, as usual! I dream of a relaxing run-up to Christmas in the same way I dream of a coordinated Christmas, and I realise it's never going to happen!

We dashed out late on Sunday afternoon to a dig-your-own-tree place nearby and had an hour to position it before Sunday evening cricket practice for the boys. I am a bit precious about the tree as I explained in the last post and had asked everyone to leave it until I had it exactly right and the tub covered and the lights on; the lights must go on first. As I left the room I heard a flurry of tinsel and came back to find half the tree covered in 20 year old multi-coloured stuff (note to self, throw away the old tinsel!)

Anyway we all dashed out to cricket as while the boys had their 2 hour session the builder, little miss and I had arranged to have a quick meal at Prezzo (good old Tesco vouchers!) with 2 other parents. As we ran into the restaurant and sat at a table for 5 we felt something was amiss, then we had a phone call - the couple we were meeting were at the other Prezzo in Norwich - who knew there were two?? So we ran up the road and hastily ordered, bolted down a coffee & glass of prosecco (well it's Christmas) all at the same time, ate as fast as we could in the remaining hour and then collected the boys! What happened to leisurely meals and chatting to good friends without clock watching?

Anyway I decided I needed to have a thorough clean of the house before we finished the decorations - half way through doing so the builder decided to vigorously sweep the new floor, I think only about an inch of dust found it's way onto every surface in the house - cue a big row! We don't often argue but really! I just want to get ready for Christmas and all he wants to do is finish the extension - we've waited 7 years already, why the rush now??

In the midst of all this Little Miss reminded me she needed a Victorian pauper's outfit in time for Tuesday when they had a visit here - I'm not very good with a needle and cotton but we threw some things together out of the airing cupboard - I already had a mob cap and pinny of my own (don't ask!). I have been known to make nativity shepherds outfits from an old sheet and staple gun (my poor kids!). A good day was had by all and the outfit's are needed for the forthcoming school Christmas production. Apparently one of the teachers is going to look for a better costume for Little Miss (oh the shame!)

The Christmas productions at our tiny primary school are phenomenal, I can't wait to see this years - I'm rarely dry eyed - mainly due to laughter! The only snippet I know of this years take on Scrooge is that the three ghosts (past, present and future) enter the stage dancing "Gangnam style"! Sounds to be up to the usual standard - a brilliant effort for a school that has a total of just under 50 children.

But at last we have the tree up, some decorations remain untouched - we need a man with a tall ladder to put those up, smiling sweetly at the builder doesn't seem to have had any effect.
As I explained it the previous post I try to coordinate the tree - it's all red and silver - but can you spot the blue bauble and green boot on the bottom right - they think I haven't noticed yet!

The week ahead is just as busy, shopping to finish, wrapping (& hiding presents) to start. Deliveries to do and a fun dinner out with my reading club ladies. Always a great night and we theme it every year; this years theme is dress for Hollywood glamour, the wine is already paid for so usually by the end of the evening there is nothing glamorous about any of us - I'll try to photograph something!

And on the same night number 1 son has his final County cricket trial, and he'll be told if he's been selected on the night - I'll stay sober enough to take the phone call at around 10pm. I'm keeping everything crossed for him, I so want him to make it this time but it is unlikely. After trialling every year for so long he deserves it - but then I'm not picking the team.

I hope you're all getting festive and I hope I'm not the only one charging
around like the proverbial fly!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Some unexpected guests!

There have been some strange goings on here lately, and after quite some time I had the dawning realisation that we may have an uninvited guest in the house!

My beautiful new kitchen has a cupboard of crisps - yes a cupboard full! When the kids, or at least my eldest, were small crisps were banned from the house; along with sweets, chocolate coated cereal and any junk food whatsoever. Fizzy drinks and coco pops were allowed for the Christmas holidays and on someone's birthday - no exceptions!

But over the years they have all turned into Hungry Horaces, and I've been worn down with the constant complaining and begging. In fact I have no fight left in me at all so the cereal cupboard is full of chocolate flavour cookies/rice pops/flakes - there is a box of Weetabix and I regularly wipe the dust off it!

But back to the crisp cupboard, I had grabbed a bag on a few occasions just lately and noticed a little hole in it. I didn't bother about it too much as sometimes in a huge multi pack there will be a burst bag. It was happening pretty frequently though..... That particular cupboard has no back on it as it's where the stopcock etc is.

And then a few weeks ago, when the weather was warmer and our french doors had been open all day, I sat on the sofa watching tv when out of the corner of my eye something moved! I shouted that a giant spider was in the room and stood on the sofa pointing at a spot near the tv. After they had all finished laughing at me a little brown mouse was spotted in the corner - I think he was laughing at me too! We all chased him around the room back in the direction of the outside door and then he disappeared, we thought he'd found his way out!

As it turns out he's been with us for a few weeks, and possibly he's moved his friends and family in too. We have had no option but to lay traps and poison - not ideal I know but sitting quietly in the dark waiting for him to appear and then trying to talk him into leaving just wasn't working.

As I sat in the sitting room with number 1 son this weekend we both watched, a bit stunned, as he walked in from the kitchen - yes walked not ran -  walked around number 1 son and then passed me and crawled into the other sofa. I'm sure he smiled at us both as he walked across the room.

At that point we both leapt up (yes we're both slow on the uptake!) and got a box to catch him in. It was the builders lunch box as that was near and handy but please don't tell him! Anyway the mouse had disappeared yet again, and from the looks of the underneath of the sofa he probably wasn't living there alone! The poison placed around the downstairs of our house has all gone so I don't think they're going to be about much longer.

So it looks like we have more than one around the house, comes with living in the country I suppose; that and leaving all the doors open in the summer. I'll blame the kids for making a mess on the floor with their food. It seems we have them in the kitchen, in the understairs cupboard and in the sofa!

And by the looks of my lovely, soft, Laura Ashley throw
 they've made themselves a very comfy home!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Everyone seems to be feeling very festive as decorations go up and outside lights are put on houses around us. I must admit I'm not feeling it yet, it still feels too early despite doing the rounds of Christmas Fairs to raise funds for primary school/high school/ ballet troupe! I've well and truly stocked up on rubbish.... well it's not really rubbish they are things I really liked but will be of absolutely no use to anyone - like the glass painted jam jar with a tea light inside; it is particularly beautiful as my 9 year old daughter made it, but what exactly do I do with it? And it cost £1!

 I alway dreamed of co-ordinated decorations (in fact I still dream of a co ordinated Christmas with matching wrapping paper etc), like everything in silver and blue; but then someone sneaks in some bright red and gold tinsel & puts it around the middle of the tree! I have always found it difficult to embrace the children's handmade decorations and now it has become a family joke (tradition?) that I decorate the tree myself and eveytime I leave the room someone (and it's not always the children) puts something very gaudy and clashy on the tree to see how long it takes me to spot it!

We decided to miss number 2 son's school Christmas Fair this year as I'm still trying to forget the embarrassment of last years! Number 2 son goes to a slightly "posher" school as he is on a sports scholarship so the fair looked to be a good one. It was described as a festive food fair, both of which are right up my street, particularly the food bit! And there was to be a mince pie competition. I consider myself not a bad cook, baking of cakes and pies a speciality (I thought) so I hastily mixed some pastry, used the homemade mincemeat - no one else will have done that I thought! They did look good I thought as I sprinkled them with icing sugar and arranged 3 or 4 on a plate. We arrived at the fair and I proudly handed them in for the competition. The smiling lady on that stall took them and whispered that I had a very good chance of winning the box of chocolates as mine was only the second entry.
I think smug would accurately sum up how I was feeling as we wandered around the fair - and then it was time to announce the winner. I edged towards the front ready to collect the prize.... and then she announced the winner - the other entrant!! I went very red and scuttled away, but I did hear a lot of sniggers coming from the direction of my family!! Never again!!
However the following day I came in from work to find a message on the answerphone, my hopes were raised when she said she was from the school and it was concerning the mince pie competition (obviously there had been a mistake and I had won). My hopes were dashed for a second time when she asked if I wanted my plate back!! Oh the shame!

But back to this year and we have not decorated the house yet - it's banned until the builder's birthday (December 1st), the shopping isn't done, we still have no idea what to buy the children! The cards aren't written because I'm sure there's still plenty of time......

I haven't baked a Christmas cake or made any chutney which I usually do (no one in this house likes either but I always feel I should make it). So really we are far from ready - I thought I'd Christmas shop today, but here I am catching up on blogs!

Anyway Little Miss has decorated the fireplace so if nothing else gets done we are still a little festive

 It's not entirely to my taste, painted jam jar on the right, cornet of fudge on the left, well I say cornet of fudge, more accurately cornet-which-used-to-contain-fudge! I ate it in the car on the way home from the fair- I LOVE fudge!
But at least someone has made a start!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Putting life in perspective

Sometimes things that you see or read really make you stop and take stock of life. I know that I often lose track of what really matters in life, it gets lost in the daily grind which consists of mainly shopping,cooking, cleaning, homework, my work etc etc
And then occasionally something happens to make you realise that we're very lucky to have money to shop with, food to cook, a house to clean and so on.

I haven't suddenly had an epiphany this week, just a series of reminders which did make me stop and think.

I mentioned in my last post that I'd organised a charity Christmas fair for last Saturday; it went really well but it was arranged in haste and I didn't have time to really think about what we were doing it for. It's a long story but some years ago, when we were still a family of 4 with 2 very young boys we booked a holiday to The Gambia in West Africa. We are reasonably adventurous and decided to go out and about and visit a couple of local villages and their schools. We're not naive people and were aware it was a third world country but we were very shocked by what we saw. The poverty and conditions people were living in were worse than we expected and something I was far more used to seeing on TV than finding myself in the middle of.

enjoying the hospitality of a local family
The people we met were so friendly and welcoming and we ate and spent time with a local family. We took a gift of rice and some pencils etc for the children.

After we came home the sights we'd seen stayed with us for a long time, I don't have many photos as I was embarrassed to be seen with a camera (this was the days before every mobile phone had a small discreet camera); in fact I was embarrassed that we were fully clothed and had shoes on.

I spent a good part of that holiday in tears, I wasn't the only one either although he'd probably deny it now! Anyway since our return home from that trip in 2002 we have steadily raised money from fairs, coffee mornings and raffles; all the money was sent to Gambia via a UK charity. Money goes a long way over there and in 2010 we had raised enough to build a 3 classroom nursery school - it cost around £9000.

Anyway the Christmas Fair came and went last week in a flurry of activity and the money we raised (just under £500) will be forwarded to the charity in due course. However my memories of the children in Gambia are not as sharp as they were and it's very easy to forget the reasons why we started to fundraise. Organising another fundraiser just sits on my "to-do" list and I deal with it along with other jobs, and sometimes it gets pushed to the bottom of the list.

But last week while reading a post by Mrs Woog I blog hopped over to this post by a lady called Eden Riley. And I stopped for a few minutes to properly read what she had written.

It has really made me stop and think, and take stock of what's really important. I'm going to try to stop worrying that our extension isn't quite ready and I had wanted to be sitting in it by Christmas (actually Christmas 2006 but that's a whole other story!), that I haven't got any idea what to get my kids for Christmas, that the few things I can think of aren't enough. That their friends will inevitably get more than they do. Actually if they never had another gadget/book/T-shirt in their lives they would still have so much more than some children.

Sometimes it's good to take a step back and look around us;
I for one have been reminded how lucky I am.

PS - I really must add that we've raised all the money with a lot of help from some very good friends, we wouldn't have managed anything without them

Monday, 12 November 2012

A little bit more of Cuba

I thought I really ought to say that despite sitting through a roaring catagory 2 hurricane, we had a good time. Cuba is a beautiful place, very green and picturesque. In between the showers the sun was lovely, before the storms the sea was the turquoise blue of the Caribbean, despite the fact we were on the Atlantic side of the island.  It quickly returned to this lovely colour a few days after the storm although it didn't completely calm down. We had lots of fun snorkeling off the beach and off a boat, there was more to see underwater then I expected. I loved to see Little Miss at only 9 years old, snorkeling in the sea for hours and diving down if anything on the sea bed took her eye - we were so proud of her. Me being of that Jaws generation still has to keep looking behind me every few strokes!
We went horse riding and fishing and did so much swimming, although one pool was still out of action when it was time to leave.
We played table tennis, and badminton (in a strong wind!!) and ate a lot, oh yes we ate huge quantities of everything - or maybe that was just me, I couldn't possibly confirm or deny that!

The builder managed to lose one of shoes on the day of arrival (must have fell out of our bags when we had to swap rooms). That doesn't sound too bad but bear in mind he only owns one pair being that he lives in trainers or work boots! So every night at dinner I had to stand in front so as to hide his feet - proper shoes were required for dinner, and sneak him into the restaurant! He enquired at reception everyday for the missing shoe (20 years old, black lace up?) - they had us earmarked as the slightly mad family as we queued at reception behind people asking when water would be restored, when their roof would be repaired, whether there was any more drinking water available - then us, "have you seen a left shoe similar to this one?"!

We had no water to the rooms for 3 days and every one had to take buckets to the swimming pool to bring back and flush the loo or wash with. Husband decided that was too much of a palaver and covered himself in shower gel early one morning and went for a swim - the trail of soap suds behind him was a little telling! We had no TV for days and the drinking water started to run out. However they kept the enormous buffet running so we were happy!

The boys managed quite a bit of this.......
number 1 son bowling

number 2 son batting
Not sure who sneaked the bat and ball into their suitcase!

Despite all of the above I will very much look forward to going to Cuba again one day. We didn't visit as many places as we'd have like to as roads were closed but we did spend lots of quality family time together - albeit some of it huddled together in the dark while a hurricane raged outside!
I failed miserably to get number 1 son to buy a T-shirt like this
which I wanted him to wear to his next A level politics class -
 if only to wind up his slightly right of centre tutor!
And even more disappointingly, after cleverly matching my nail polish to the exact colour of the sea, they changed the damn colour of the sea!
But it wasn't all bad, on the day before we flew home, guess what turned up? The builder's missing shoe! So he was correctly attired for at least 1 evening meal out of 14. I wasn't very happy about that in actual fact as it was all I could think of to buy him for his birthday & Christmas - 1 black shoe!

Well that is the last holiday post - life goes on and already we've been home for over a week.
The weekend just gone I hosted a charity Christmas fair (bad planning to have it 6 days after we got home!) so we were as busy as ever..... and the indoor cricket continues......

Friday, 9 November 2012

Holiday Fiasco 2012, part 2

Well after a restaurant meal on the resort where we were battered by wind and rain (open sided restaurant) which was very bizarre. I sat at the table in my thick fleecy fur-lined jacket with a little smirk on my face - I'd been ridiculed for taking a winter jacket by the whole family - I hate the cold and always take some sort of jacket or coat to wear on the journey home. However it was just the right attire for the evening! We had silver service to the table and  wine to taste before it was served - this was all a bit like a comedy film as the wind & rain whipped & drenched us; only on one side! The middle of the restaurant was slowly flooding too.

You can see which side of me faced the outside - that'll be the very wet side of my jacket (lovely warm jacket!) Sorry about the odd photo, we all had to pull funny faces!

We had been given very little information about the approaching storm although the hotel advised that no alcohol would be served at the bar after 6pm (it was still served in the restaurants??) and that they would deliver breakfast to our room the following morning. Apparently the storm should make landfall outside our front door at 11pm. By 11.30 it was blowing a gale but no more that a bad English storm so we all went to bed. At 3am we were woken by the children running through to our room shouting that water was pouring through their ceiling; and it was, quite a lot! We hopped out of bed to go and look, well more accurately sploshed out of bed as what we couldn't see in the pitch dark was that we had around 4 inches of water on the floor!

Outside we could hear the storm although not see very much at that time; it was so noisy and quite scary. The electricity was out and the TV had been out since the evening before so we knew very little about what was happening anywhere other than in our room.

As time wore on a little daylight began to appear and we sat at the french doors looking out, trees bending at right angles, debris everywhere, and so much water. We could hear the sea roaring and we were the first line of villas after the beach. As we sat there with our noses pressed against the glass I received a text from a friend in the UK which said "I hope you're ok and still wearing your diamante bikini in the hurricane shelter - I guess you need to take cover and stay away from any windows"! What? Windows? Hurricane? Doh! Are we stupid or what??
just get a bit closer to that sheet of glass, it's only a hurricane!
Anyway as the sun came up the devastation was obvious all around, trees down, bits of the plastic cladding from the hotel strewn everywhere. And on top of what was happening outside we had to chase this little chap out of the room!
 As soon as we were able to leave the room, around 6.30am, we did.

The place was a mess, flooded everywhere and trees down all over the resort.
Lots of people (English in the main!) were starting to come out to explore and there was a very eerie feel to the place - we really felt like we were on a film set.
We went to look at the sea, we could hear it before we saw it. The beautiful turquoise blue water of the days before now resembled the North Sea on a blustery winter day.

Remember the massage hut from the previous post? This is it now

Can't see it? No neither could we!

And the lovely wedding pergola

More battered than it looks in this photo

 I felt sorry for all those who had hoped to hold their wedding ceremony here over the next few days,  it was half torn apart and clearly unsafe to use.

One of the a la carte restaurants had the roof torn off as did some of the hotel rooms!

We realised we'd been very lucky with our room!

The pool areas were such a mess,    sunbeds and trees were strewn about, and many in the pools.

The restaurant we'd eaten in the night before was a wreck....

Lots of water flooding the place and furniture strewn everywhere.
After a good explore we went back to our room for the promised delivery of breakfast - bearing in mind we'd just got used to the "all-you-can-eat-buffet" 4 times a day the soaking wet cheese roll (looking ever so much like a sponge), a flat banana (think it had been sat on) and bottle of water each delivered by a very brave member of staff on a golf buggy really didn't cut the mustard!
The staff at the hotel were amazing and worked so hard, most had been unable to get home and by now the roads were closed anyway. Several we heard had lost their homes but they worked tirelessly to get some normality back to the resort. Trees were cleared, the lobby was mopped and soon the lunchtime restaurant was back up and running - don't let it be said that a hurricane kept us away from the next meal!
Oh so typically English - shorts & flip flops just because we are on holiday!
Anyway I seem to be running on a bit - I think I'll do a part 3, or will that be too much? We did have a great time (between showers!) and Cuba is a very beautiful and very interesting country.
The aftermath of the storm was felt in the resort for some days, despite the fabulous efforts of the staff. I think you knew more in other parts of the world than we did in Cuba - we had no TV for days and the information we were given was limited to say the least!

I'll post a little about the good bits as soon as I can if that's ok?
Thanks for everybody's concern at the time, I did see a couple of comments when we eventually got some sort of connection and it was so cheering to know we were being thought about..


Monday, 5 November 2012

Holiday Fiasco 2012!

Well we made it back home safely, so hold that thought as you read about this years adventure. It may take 2 posts to bring you up to speed so here goes....

We picked all three excited children up from their respective schools on Friday October 19th and set off for Manchester; the builder hates to set off so early (we were due to fly Saturday at 10.30am) but after years of problems, mistakes and me generally worrying so much I start to cry he has given in to my demands! The drive took an age, we're about 4 to 4 and a half hours away from Manchester and it was the busiest time of the week on the roads. We had chosen to fly from Manchester so we could get a full 2 weeks in without extra days off school, Little Miss and number 1 son already needed 5 days off for the holiday as it was. Number 1 son is in sixth form college and they wouldn't authorise a holiday so he's marked down on their records as having taken an "unauthorised absence"!

We stopped on the way for some food & drink at a motorway "welcome break" - not that welcoming as we seemed to need a bank loan for a small snack! Then on to the travelodge; well that has to be the darkest, dampest grimmest place I've ever had the displeasure to stay in - however it was a means to an end.

All the way from home until arrival at the airport the following day I checked, double checked, then checked again all the paperwork, passports, visa's etc. I had printed and brought with me every scrap of paper relating to the holiday, just to cover every eventuality. As I found out later in the holiday every eventuality can not be covered!

However the kind lady on the check in desk let us all through to the departure lounge, non of the bags were over weight and all was looking rosy. I did get pulled over at security as I had a hairspray in my bag but it was small enough to be allowed through (I'd double checked that!). And the flight was on time..... nothing could go wrong now.

After an uneventful flight we were in Cuba, yes they let us in! The tour company coach met us and did a fabulous en-route check in so that on arrival at the hotel we already had our room keys, restaurant reservations and all the necessary information we needed. We disembarked the coach and enjoyed the champagne we were handed. We were a little nervous of the very dark cloud hanging over the hotel and after exploring the resort a little the heavens opened. But it's just a tropical rainstorm, not unexpected, and Cuba is so green and lush, they must have a reasonable amount of rain.

The hotel had a beautiful pergola in the sea for weddings

And a massage hut with waves lapping around it's supports, I noted that for later in our stay!

The heavens opened more that evening and we saw a lot of this

This picture is taken from the reception/bar area which is open sided, the rain was the most torrential I have ever seen; and I live in England!
However the sun was shining on day 2 and we did a lot of swimming, the snorkeling out from the beach was better than we had expected and kept everyone entertained until the next meal.

Food on the resort was on tap 24/7 and I for one made the most of it!
           The 10lb's I'd lost before went is almost all back on!

The evening restaurants were the best we've ever had too 

Sorry it's a dreadful photo!
We went to a local market for shopping on the Tuesday as it was a little overcast, and had a taxi ride in one of the old American cars, a Chevrolet I think.

But when we got there the rain began again, so we dodged under a tarpaulin stretched between two trees to keep the sun off the stallholders; we never actually left that spot and the taxi arrived to take us back to the hotel 45 minutes later!

And then the next day strange things began to happen around the hotel. We were confused. The display of awards in the lobby area went from this
to this....

And all the lights and chandeliers hanging in the restaurant and lobby areas were discretely removed.

Then we noticed that the canoes, pedalos and sail boats had been moved from the beach and placed in the middle of the hotel garden! The beach sun loungers were carried into the gardens too and tied together....Whatever was going on?

There was a queue of people approaching the reception desk but we ignored them and headed out to enjoy the sun which later appeared from out of the clouds.

 Some while later we spotted a couple of notices which had been put up in reception for the guests, the children thought it was all very exciting, me? not so much!

 Apparently a storm was heading our way, information was very limited, a game of Chinese whispers went on amongst guests! Tropical Storm Sandy was on it's way to Cuba. We later found out that it turned into a "strong category 2" hurricane shortly before it made landfall in Cuba. (Landfall? I've picked up the hurricane lingo already!)
The maps above show where the path of the hurricane was due to go; where exactly were we staying? A place on the north coast called Guardalavaca - marked on this map - see Club Amigo (not where we stayed but I borrowed the photo from the internet. I am computer illiterate so don't know how to edit the photo of the hurricane path to show our resort!)

So yes we were directly in the path of the hurricane. Time to batten down the hatches and see what the evening brought. By this time I was more than a little alarmed!
I'll continue the tale on another post - this is far too long and probably not that interesting to anyone else.