Tall Ship Day

Lady M has been trying to drag me round the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Hartlepool for a couple of years now – and in particular to visit the HMS Trincomalee¬† which is berthed there following its restoration. Lady M’s sister had been among the Guide groups that had washed the decks during that work, so there’s a personal connection to a museum that is well regarded in the town.

As we had a few spare hours, today was the day to give in, so after breakfast she booked tickets online and we plodded round the marina to greet the ship who’d overlooked our breakfast view.

Its very good, recreating depictions of life on a fighting ship and portraying all sorts of aspects of port and naval life and their interdependencies.

Even with covid-related restrictions, we had free rein to wander and explore, while a well planned one way system on the Trincomalee itself ensured we visited more of the decks than we otherwise might have done.

So with all the good grace I can muster I’ll admit Lady M was right to pester me and this is well worth a visit – and good value for money too.

No, I’m not being paid by anyone, it really is that interesting.

We may have enquired about arranging a pirate-themed cosplay shoot there some day…

On The Road

Lady M and I are on our grand tour round the UK to drop off gifts and spend time with family. Like so many other people, we’re on the road in an escape from the day-to-day and Christmas podcasts are currently filling the car.

Our first leg was the longest, a six hour trip from London to Hartlepool. I handled the driving duties with a single break as Lady M was feeling a bit under the weather. Lady M’s sister lives in Hartlepool, and it’s where she grew up so it brought up a lot of memories.

Hartlepool Marina this morning

Hartlepool is receding behind us now as we head towards the West coast. We’ve been lucky so far in that yesterday’s traffic was heavy but generally moved along with only minor stopping and starting in the M1. This morning with Lady M driving seems so far to only be light traffic, so that’s a bonus.

There you go, boring journey updates logged. I suspect the next few days’ blog posts may be filtered through Christmas cheer.

Things the Cub Says: Will He Be Safe?

It’s very easy to forget that the cub is both eight years old, and quite young with it. He adopts language and mannerisms from YouTubers as a bolshy disguise, and can come across quite abrasively at times – but the real cub is closer to the surface than we remember sometimes.

One such reminder came last weekend while he and Lady S were staying with us. Reports came in of a man being murdered in a train not far from us, and the cub was distraught at the thought of it.

He’s generally quite wary of public transport anyway as a high-stimulus mode of transport to unfamiliar territory, and he knew that I would be travelling back from work by bus. He was, I’m told, very concerned that I would be okay – and the Ladies M and S spent a lot of time reassuring him.

Then he remembered that I’m due to visit Portsmouth shortly, and will be travelling by train. As Lady S tried to get him to settle to sleep, he remembered that we use the Glympse app to let each other know how our journeys and estimated arrival times are going.

So I have a specific request as I travel down, to use the app so that he and Lady S can see that I’m still moving and travelling. He has also been repeatedly reassured that I am careful as I travel and how and where I travel and so far he seems to be only slightly twitchy.

He’s too young to be reassured by statistics in the safety of travelling by trian, or by comparisons of the danger of crossing the road on the way to school. I’m certainly not opening the can of worms that some people may even see me as a danger while they travel: lone white male with shaven head and leather jacket? I do get looks.

So yes cub, I will be safe, and I will be there soon.

Heading Home

Back on the train home, with a slightly reduced suitcase (I’ve been able to zipper up the expansion panels now I’ve dropped off presents), and I’m rueing the separation caused by the distance currently between us. I love my partners deeply, and hate leaving either of them, even as I look forward to seeing each again.

I’m travelling by train today on an uncomplicated route, so I’m engaged in some idle people-watching in the quiet carriage. Some are solitary snoozers, others quietly chatty students. There’s an elderly mother with her adult daughter, both weighed down in what can only be Christmas shopping.

There’s been a quietly British professionalism to the guard and ticket inspector as they work down the carriages, handing out advice as needed about connections and alternate routes. It’s been reassuring in its familiarity of language and tone.

All in all, here’s to getting home and putting the kettle on

So Many Photos

We may have gone a bit mad on photos while we were away at Disney – and even trying to curate a small number for a slideshow here has been a challenge – so I may do some themed ones along the way.

We invested in a Photopass too, so that the various photographers around the parks, as well as the character meets and rides could all be easily collated and downloaded at our leisure.

So on top of the hundreds of photos taken between us there was another treasure trove of memories to recover – which include some truly amazing facial expressions as we were caught off guard. Disney magic covers a range of emotions, and these photos illustrate it well.

The two biggest extremes both come from Lady M. The first was in a character encounter with Kylo Ren – and she was rendered literally speechless. She looked terrified as we were ushered by Imperial operatives into his presence, and she was abruptly interrogated by the tall dark hooded character.

She said later that it had been unnerving, even knowing it was an actor, to come face to face with the mask, abrupt body language and tone of voice. As an evocation of the character it worked amazingly, and has left a lasting impression she gladly talks about – a true emotional thrill ride if you like.

The second came when we dined at Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom one evening. During the day, it is Belle who holds court there, but the evenings belong to the Master (Beast) – and so once we had eaten our main course, Lady M went to his study to meet him.

Now, Lady M’s maiden name was Potts, so the film and characters have a special resonance for her as they recall her mother. As she told the Master this, there was a jolt of surprise. He looked to the ex-Lady M for confirmation, and then spread his arms wide to gather her in an expansive hug.

With so much floating around – the ambience, music, location, thoughts of her mum – Lady M cried, and the Beast held her, and wouldn’t let her go until she was recovered. It was totally off-script, and apparently confused the helpers who hadn’t heard the exchange – but this too has been a lasting memory that she will always cherish.

Disney magic, caught on camera.

Home At Last

It’s been a bizarre journey home over the last 24-36 hours – mostly from a combination of heavy head cold, a turbulent flight, and weird cabin temperatures.

We had people collapsing with cabin stuffiness; someone had a seizure, and more pettily, the headset socket in my seat wasn’t working properly so I had to either hold the coax connector carefully, or give up and listen to an Audible book on my phone (Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross). Sleeping, although attempted, was not on the agenda.

At least we’d arranged to have the car valeted and waiting for us as we left the terminal, so that was one less drama. The road journey was relatively clear so we soon dropped the ex-Lady M and the Charleesi home so that we could get back and unpack – and quietly collapse with lemsip and warm blankets…

Off to Disney

The day is finally here – an evening of pizza and prosecco last night has turned into an early morning drive to Gatwick and the trials of automated bag drops and clearing security.

We’re currently sat in the Weatherspoons eating breakfast, and the initial giggliness from the girls has subsided into serious refuelling and checking of Facebook.

Lady M, Charleesi, and I have done this journey before, but it’s been some 20+ years for the ex-Lady M so she has been fascinated by the processes and procedures that now accompany the whole flight experience.

While I was being patted down (because of course my belt buckle set off alarms), I was asked where I was off to. “Florida” I replied, to which he said “Of course,” smiled at my Tigger hoodie and, “I should have known, have a wonderful time.” The tinsel on his belt sparkled, and behind him a security officer in an elf hat and ears grinned too.

I still haven’t got my head round this while being on holiday at Christmas, but I’m sure I’ll adapt with all these little kindnesses and flourishes.

Travels and Trust

Oh, yeah, I have a blog – so hi there anyone who’s still hanging around… It’s a bit of a busy time of year for everyone, and we’re no exception having realised that this weekend was our main chance to try and get presents out to far-flung family members before we flit away on holiday.

So Friday saw me doing a full day at the library before going to counselling, and then driving up to Hartlepool straight after. With the closures of several sections of the M1 this meant that we got to our room at 3.46 am on Saturday morning.

A quick handful of hours’ sleep later and we dropped presents in to Lady M’s sister before popping over the Pennines to catch up with my parents and do likewise with them. This led to a gentle evening of gin, food, wine, and board games and then a relatively early night to try and make a dent in the sleep debt.

Cue a restless night, because my brain wasn’t cooperating.

And now we’re driving home again. Or rather, Lady M is doing the driving and I’m forcing myself to relax and ignore the part of me that is uncomfortable as a passenger.

I know it’s purely a control thing, especially with the weather being so wet and windy, so it’s a good exercise in trusting Lady M and her extensive driving experience – and forcing my jittery brain to just let go.

It’s been good to step outside of normal routine and comfort zones. That’s the positive here, alongside knowing that a good proportion of Christmas presents are now where they need to be…

Home Again

After the rains of Heligan, we were blessed with sun for our final day in Newquay, so we took advantage of the time before our train home in walking over the headlands and exploring the beaches in the area.

It was, without any doubt, the best weather of our short stay – and we spent a lot of it on or near Fistral beach, watching surfers and enjoying the hospitality of the beach bar when we needed a break.

For our return, we took the overnight train back – and that was an adventure: starting with the local train to Par in which we were the only passengers and none of the stations were lit up. The driver/conductor told us our journey overnight would be quiet as long as there weren’t any oddballs in our carriage. We hadn’t the heart to tell him just how odd we are…

Then we had a gentle forty minutes on the deserted platforms at Par until the night train glided out of the darkness with surprising quietness.

Reserved seating awaited us because the price of berths had been too rich for our budgets – and so my expertise of sleeping in chairs came to the fore for an extravaganza of catnaps, surreptitious leg stretches, and trying not to accidentally kick the elderly couple opposite us.

Getting home once we were in London was smooth enough, thankfully, especially given the chaos of the Waterloo engineering works recently. We burrowed into bed as soon as possible to catch up on sleep – and that was… Saturday…

Newquay Break

I’ve definitely needed this break. My heartrate falling from 86bpm to 73bpm while we’ve been here is proof alone of that. We’ve been walking or using public transport exclusively while we’re down here too, so it has forced a change of, if you’ll excuse the phrasing, pace.

The flat where we are staying overlooks Newquay harbour – as in we are maybe a minute’s amble to the steps leading down to the beach, skirting the decking of a hotel offering very nice morning coffee. Ten minute’s walk in the other direction and we’re at Fistral Beach, beloved by surfers around the world.

Our local is the Red Lion, which I can highly recommend for the food, beer, and unwavering welcome from the staff. Seek it out in favour of the more touristy bars and pubs in town, and they’ll see you right.

Today we braved the buses and rain to explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan near St Austell – if the return journey hadn’t been so fragmented when it came to threading bus times together we’d have stayed longer, but as it was we got a substantial amount seen, and a clear idea of what we’d like to go back to later.

Lady M faced her fears and braved the Burma Rope Bridge across the Jungle valley while we were there too – taking no nonsense from vertigo along the way.

We’ll be home soon. A sleeper train tomorrow night will ferry us back to London so we can fit more exploration in to our last day, and maximise our weekend at the same time. I wish we had longer away, but there’s still the end of the year to look forward to.

I’d forgotten how lovely this area is – we won’t leave it as long next time