Too many holidays
It’s been over a year since I last blogged, the “gap in transmission” being due to two factors,- being away a lot this last year on holiday and also having to deal with illnesses. Prompted by realising that the youngest of our grandchildren were both now aged five and going full time to school and therefore our days of child-minding were coming to an end, we decided that this past year could be Our Year for Travelling. Such a self-indulgent, not to say selfish, instinct to “get away” seems to occur to humans of our age (70+) – an instinct perhaps to see as much of the world as possible before the real limitations of aging kick in. Our first “jolly” was a package holiday to Crete in March, consisting of a coach tour around the island, stopping at monasteries and culminating in the city palace of Knossos. In truth the human interest of our fellow veteran coach party-goers – many eccentric – rather overwhelmed my interest in the other ancient ruins, ’though half a day spent in the museum of Minoan culture with its lovely fresh paintings and pottery was memorable (having disobeyed instructions and finally got away from our guide). Next we went off to southern France in our campervan for a wonderful three weeks; la belle France seemed even more generously “belle” than usual,- those wide landscapes blessed by a comparative lack of traffic, every village proud of its little tricolour-flying “mairie”, many small towns beautifully gardened, some picturesquely semi-decrepit. We were followed by the spring burgeoning of bird song. One evening we must have heard twenty or more nightingales singing in the little copses around our camper van. The further south we went the more we heard the lovely chuckling song of the golden oriole. But, like the first disquieting notes of a counter-theme, it was in the midst of such loveliness that we became aware of the muscular twinges that were to develop into a full-blown attack of “polymyalgia rheumatica” for my wife, Vic. Next came two weekends in Vienna interrupted by a five days’ walking holiday in the Austrian Alps, a visit which fulfilled all my pre-conceived chocolate box clichés about the Alps – flowery meadows, snowy peaks and drifting clouds of dingle-dongle bell-wearing sheep. The family run hotel where we stayed even served up our sausage-heavy meals dressed in traditional lederhosen and bosom-y dresses, more apron than skirt. All very “Sound of Music”. Vic, despite her developing but as yet undiagnosed myalgia, forced herself up several mountains including one excursion (in our sandals!) up above the snow-line. Skipping over further walking group holidays along the coasts of Dorset and Sussex and then up to the wilder terrains of Loch Torridon in Scotland (have I made you jealous of our year-long series of holidays yet?) we went on to campervan down through the Outer Hebrides, being particularly struck by the melancholy moorland beauty of Lewis, with its plethora of prehistoric monuments and plangent music, and then by the contrasting mountain-ness of Harris, where we saw several golden and sea eagles at close quarters. Even before going up to Scotland poor Vic, having been finally diagnosed and then beginning steroid treatment for her myalgia, suddenly developed an unrelated ailment called “drop foot” caused by a pinched spinal nerve…Again so much beauty marred by painful reminders of human frailty. Finally (gasp for breath) we have just come back from a fortnight in Jordan – a wonderful medley of the usual tourist sights, Petra et al, together with glimpses of heart breaking poverty, especially among the “real Bedouin” of the plastic littered desert, and, particularly in areas adjacent to the West Bank, an overwhelming sense of political dejection. It was in Jordan that almost everyone in our Ramblers party, developed violent “d & v”, – illness that seemed to counterpoint the luxury of our touristic voyeurism, literally bringing us down to a level of common gut-heaving humanity. Meanwhile Vic continued bravely to walk up to 14 miles a day.
My real reason for starting to re-blog is to advertise a little pamphlet,“A Ballad for Kitty Cockroach”, which I have just brought out via Fair Acre Press, from whom it is available for £5. Thematically, it is “bang on trend”, being about how Cockroaches try to save a planet which has been despoiled by Humankind.