Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!#MondayBlogs

Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It  brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the  Tai Chi Naturists.

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 They looked a fit couple in their seventies; Mr and Mrs Wilson from Wigan, (actually not a made up name but it’s so long ago they really wouldn’t remember their holiday here… would they?) when they sprang from their dilapidated Ford Anglia.

 ‘Would you mind if we practised our Tai Chi on the lawn?’ the wife asked right away.

 I sensed Husband’s tension and alarm. When I glanced at him I saw he was breathing rapidly and his eyes were bulging a bit. But his ears were still their usual pink; bright red is the ominous signal of him being overly upset.

‘Not at all,’ I said, intrigued. I’m a great people watcher and we’ve had some fascinating visitors over the years. Many have had picnics and parties on the lawn. Husband has accepted this… mainly. And we haven’t had any complaints from neighbours about noise; in fact some have joined in with the parties. We live off a small lane; there are only three more houses further along. A large bed filled with shrubs and a lilac tree and hedges all around the garden shelter the house from view. Which, sometimes has been a good thing!

We’d had many who’d stayed with us before and did various keep fit exercises on the front lawn. and even a couple who practised their judo . This latter was quite entertaining until the man did his back in (or should I say his wife did his back in for him with a particular enthusiastic throw). They’d had to leave early with the man lying across the lowered back seat with his feet pointing towards the boot and surrounded by suitcases.  ‘Good job it’s an estate car’ Husband said in a casual way turning back to tend to his lawn where the husband had made a large dent.

 I digress.

‘Tai Chi links deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. See… ‘ the wife explained, taking in one long breath that made her nostrils flare alarmingly as, at the same time, she stretched out both arms. She felled Mr Wilson with one blow. I remember thinking at the time when her husband was smacked on the nose, that he should have known better than to stand so close. After all, from the way her nose whistled when she was taking in all that air, he must have realised she was going to demonstrate. ‘It’s a health-promoting form of exercise,’ Mrs Wilson said, cheerfully, as we all helped her husband back on his feet. ‘Sorry, love.’ She dusted him down. ‘It’s like a form of meditation, you know, exercises the whole of you, not just your body. Helps you to stay calm and gives you peace of mind, like.’

‘You didn’t do it right,’ Mr Wilson muttered.

 She ignored him. ‘We only took it up a month or two back,’ she said to us.

Husband carried their two small suitcases into the apartment, his shoulders shaking.

I clamped my teeth together. When I spoke I knew my voice was a couple of pitches higher than normal but there was nothing I could do about that.  ‘Is that all you’ve brought?’ I peered into the boot of the car, hiding the grin.

‘Oh, yes, just the two bags. ‘Mrs Wilson linked her husband’s arm. ‘We travel light, don’t we Sidney?’

He nodded but said nothing.

There are two things I should mention at this point.

One, my mother was staying with us that week and her bedroom window looked out onto the front lawn.

 And two, we quickly discovered that this elderly couple were Naturists.

 On the second morning after they’d arrived I drew back the curtains of my mother’s bedroom to see the two of them on the lawn, practising their Tai Chi.  Despite their years their movements were graceful, there was no doubt about that. They moved forward in one continuous action, their hands held out in front of them.  But it wasn’t with admiration but in alarm that I watched them; both because they were completely naked, and because I was standing side by side with my mother. And Mum had a wicked sense of inappropriate humour and ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome. She’d be sure to offend them by one of her ‘funny’ jokes. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to keep her away Mr and Mrs Wilson for the next seven days.

 It was when he turned towards the house, bent his knees and squatted that my mother made a choking noise and fell back onto the bed. Laughing!

 Now I know this is totally out of context and misquoted (and I do apologise wholeheartedly to Shakespeare and Cleopatra) … but the words that sprang to mind when I gazed at him, were “Age cannot wither……”

Well it was a very warm morning.

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Cruise Control

Another gem from Alan Roberts, student of one of my creative writing classes. His last post here: http://bit.ly/20Gvbh6 where he battles with the self service supermarket check-out

  Cruise Control

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We’d booked on MSC Lirica to cruise for almost a month from Dubai to Japan.  We embarked the ship at Dubai port on 5th April and that afternoon set sail for India and the beautiful coast of Goa.  That first day we explored the fairly large ship and spied a nice Café bar on Deck 6.  The second day was spent sunning ourselves on the upper deck before deciding, in the late afternoon, to make for the Café area.  The Indonesian man in charge of the bar we thought we recognised from a previous voyage with MSC and remarkably he appeared to recognise us.  He waved and smiled a welcome before despatching a waiter to take our order.  Betty ordered her usual latte whilst I, having weaned myself off cow’s milk some months previous, blithely ordered a soya milk hot chocolate.  Order taken, cruise card proffered, we sat back to await delivery.

Several minutes elapsed whilst behind the café’s counter there appeared to be some debate taking place.  Moments later the waiter and the Indonesian bar manager approached our seating area with the waiter holding only Betty’s cup of latte which he ceremoniously placed on its MSC inscribed coaster.  The Indonesian manager became most apologetic saying that he could not provide my hot chocolate as none of the café bars were provided with soya milk.  However, he had a possible remedy.  He sat alongside, nicely patting my arm.

“They (I assumed he referred to the Catering Section management) do not supply the café’s with soya so,” he hesitated for a short moment, “if you go to the restaurant you can ask the Maître’d to give you a carton of soya and then bring it back and I will make you the hot chocolate you want.”

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He nodded and smiled as he concluded his prepared speech.  I rose and took the stairs down to deck 5 and made my way to the restaurant at the rear of the ship.  Apart from two waiters who were preparing the evening dinner tables, the restaurant was empty.  I asked one of the waiters if the Maître’d was about.  He shook his head and simply said,

“Five o’clock,” before moving to another table.

I followed and asked, “May I speak with the Maître’d?”

He didn’t lift his head but merely said, once again, “Five o’clock”.

I tried vainly to explain why I was there but his grasp of the English language was even worse than mine of whatever his native tongue was.  He just repeated,

“Five o’clock,” before moving further away.

As it was just after four I had no inclination to wait for the Maitre’d to arrive by which time Betty would have finished her latte, given up waiting for me and gone elsewhere.

I had a thought (always dangerous in such circumstances) to go to the buffet on deck 11 and ask there for a carton of soya; so off I set taking the lift to the upper deck area.  One side of the buffet area was full of passengers having more than their fair share of the afternoon tea selection.  The waiters were fully occupied and so I moved to the other side where just a few people were sat.  I approached one of the waiters and explained why I was there and what I wanted.  He looked blankly at me before walking off.  I tried the second waiter, this time with a little more success.  He said he was unable to give me a carton of soya but I should ask a supervisor who, he said, were the waiters who had sleeves on their white jackets and he pointed in the direction of a young Chinese girl.  I thanked him and approached the supervisor.  I carefully explained to her why I was there and what I wanted.  She seemed to listen intently but then brusquely replied,

“No carton!”

I took her response to indicate the buffet didn’t have soya and so asked where I might get soya milk.

“Here”, she almost shouted.

Somewhat confused, I carefully asked, “Might I have one to take to the café bar on deck 6?”  She looked at me as though I had just walked through a garden of dog shit.

“No carton, only cup”, she almost wailed.

I then tried to explain that it would prove difficult to walk with a cup of soya from the buffet on deck 11, down either the lift or the stairs to reach the café on deck 6 without spilling some of the contents on my way.  She frowned incomprehension.  I tried to demonstrate walking with an imaginary cup full of soya milk and wobbling a bit and pretending some of it spilt onto the floor.  She now looked at me as though I was completely mad.  I asked again, very nicely I thought,

“Do you have cartons of soya there?” pointing into the buffet kitchen area.  She nodded.  I tried further, “Can I take one to the café bar on deck 6?”

Instantly her browed furrowed and now seemed to consider me completely thick.  She barked,

“No carton, only cup”.

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Having learnt over the years that when defeat stares you in the face you should give up gracefully and go along with whatever is being offered, so I said,

“May I have a cup of soya?”

“Hot?” she asked.

I nodded.  She disappeared into the kitchen and a moment later reappeared behind the serving counter, leaned down and took a carton from what I assumed to be a fridge.

“Is that a carton of soya?” I gently asked.

She nodded.

“May I take that back to deck 6?”

“No, no carton, only cup I tol’ you”, said with an emphasis between each part of the sentence.

She poured the soya into an MSC mug, replaced the soya packet into the fridge and again disappeared into the kitchen.  Within a moment she reappeared without the cup to ask,

“With chocolate?”

Totally defeated, I meekly nodded and she disappeared back into the kitchen before re-emerging with a cup of hot soya chocolate which, with a very false smile, she slid across the counter.

“Thanks,” I mumbled and walked off to find deck 6.  An hour had passed since I’d left Betty and there was a great deal of mirth as I walked towards the café bar with the steaming mug of soya chocolate and then related what had happened.

The cafe bars never did receive any soya milk and for the remainder of the cruise the Chinese supervisor was simply referred to as, “Only cup!”

©  Alan A Roberts   May 2016.

Our Holiday in Ciovo, Croatia – and ‘I Like Your Writing.’

All the world appears to mill around Gatwick. The stress is obvious, the security a necessity, the patience of everyone varied, the wait tedious.

It’s with great relief we settle into our seats on the plane knowing that, on our arrival in Split, we will be met by Mr V, the taxi driver, kindly arranged for us by the owners of  the apartment where we will be staying in Okrug Gornji: https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p443630

We are met there by Bozena, the owner’s representative who, despite having to wait for us to arrive over an hour late, due to the delay of the flight (it is past eleven at night), greets us with a wide smile, picks up my suitcase and almost runs up the thirty-two stairs to our pent house apartment. A quick tour around, helpfully explaining the air conditioning, shutters and lights and off she goes. We go out onto the balcony and wonder at the vast expanse of lights reflecting on the sea below us.

 - Night view

 

The sun, pouring through the window, wakes me at 5.30am.

I pull up the shutters in the living area and go out onto the balcony. Below, the red roofs of the houses contrast with the stark white walls. The clumps of trees that intersperse them, soften the lines of the whole village.The sun lights up the sea, revealing the shifts, the currents,  in the expanse of  water. In the distance I can see the mainland and the various blue-grey hills of the islands around us with the stretches of dark trees and pale shingle-edged inlets. Too much beauty not to share. I wake my husband.

 - Main balcony with 3 seater swing and sun lounger

 - Light airy lounge with satellite TV/DVD/CD player

 - View from bedroom balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our holiday begins with a stroll down through the narrow streets to the Mali Raj restaurant for a  tasty and  nutritious  breakfast  (this is a restaurant recommended many times in the apartments’ visitors book and we are to have most meals here throughout the week. None disappoint.)

Then a short stroll down to the harbour and a walk along the beach path. people smile, greet us, are friendly.

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A lazy day that ends with a glass of wine and a glorious sunset.

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On the second day we walk to Trogir; a walk along a busy road but with interesting sights to see; the buildings, the wild flowers, the gardens, the houses. It takes us thirty minutes and we’re glad to be walking on the long bridge over the water to the town to search out a refreshing drink in a cafe on the wide promenade.

Trogir is set within medieval walls.. The cobbled streets are fascinating; narrow, old buildings with Romanesque and Renaissance architecture  including a magnificent cathedral and castle.

Since 1997 Trogir has had World Heritage status.

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Later, before setting off on our walk back to  Okrug Gornji, we sit and enjoy a local beer at a bar by the water and near the busy, fascinating market.

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But before leaving, we stand and admire the yachts … and dream of winning the Lottery!
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The next day we go on a route march to Dango

The photos speak for themselves

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And we have a wonderful lunch at the Konoba Duga restaurant there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At night the heavens open… we have a glorious storm that lasts until the following morning

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The rain stops and we’re off walking again.

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Over the next three days  we explore the area in the daytime. At night we sit together on the swinging hammock on the balcony, reading and enjoying a glass (or two)  of wine until the light goes

It’s our last night. We enjoy the final sunset of our holiday

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Then:

‘I like your writing.’ he says.

We’ve known one another for almost fifty years, been married for forty-six.  But he’s looking at me as though he’s never seen me before.

He’s just finished the last book of my trilogy, Living in the Shadows. He sits back and says it again. ‘I do, I like your writing.’

I want to ask why but I know he thinks he’s said enough. And it is. He’s read all three books over the last week. I’ve not known him do that before, he’s a man who barely sits still, who loves being outdoors, loves walking. But we’re on holiday and we’ve walked during the day. In the evenings we sit and read on the balcony of this lovely apartment.

I hadn’t realise he’d brought the books with him; they’re the ones I’ve used when I give talks and readings and the first, Pattern of Shadows, is, after five years, looking distinctly tatty. I’ve said nothing about it even though it’s been hard not to watch him while he’s read; tried to figure out his expressions.

Pondering on his words later I realize why I didn’t ask him why he liked the books.  It’s enough he told me. There are times when we’ve been walking, or watching a programme on the television when he’s said,’you’ve gone again… you’re thinking.’ And he’s been right; I was writing in my head. And times when I have actually sat in front of the computer writing and before I’ve known it hours have passed. I’ve dragged myself away to make a meal, to see if he wants a coffee, to flick a duster around the rooms to salve my conscience. And I see him watching me as though puzzled.

The expression on his face makes me feel guilty sometimes. But not often. I wrote in secret for years. Sometimes for long stretches of time – but mostly – when life takes over ( work, moving houses, illness, the family, other commitments) – sporadically.

I’ve loved our life together. There have been many ups and downs, celebrations, disappointments, exciting times. There are not many things I would have changed – perhaps the petty arguments, the struggles in our early years when we fought to find our places in this thing we call our marriage. But those times passed and we made this ‘thing’ our own, learning from mistakes ( or making the same ones over and over again until they became a family joke/tradition/ something to be sighed over in resignation).

I know this man I met so many years ago. We were both hesitant in commitment, both lacking in confidence, both coming from parents whose marriages were acrimonious, where quarrels were never resolved.

I’ve seen him grow into the man he is and I know – I’ve always assumed – he knows me. We finish sentences for one another, I can be thinking, planning something we should do, and the next moment he says the words. We share the same sense of humour, laugh often. We make love – okay, not as often as thirty years ago but it’s not a bad record. (I’m hoping he never reads this post, by the way!). We hold hands when we walk, when we sit together. We know each other’s needs: a touch of empathy, comfort, sympathy, reassurance.We know one another better than we know anyone else in this world.

Yet, never before having read anything I’ve written, he’s now looking at me  as though he’s just had the answer to a question  that’s been hovering in his mind forever.

I like your writing ,’ he says again. He leans towards me and we kiss.

It’s enough. I know he understands why I need to write.

 

Links:

Amazon. co.uk

Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1OpM6TI

Changing Patterns: http://amzn.to/1PPmzki

Living in the Shadows:  http://amzn.to/1PWBLiV

Amazon.com:

Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1QyPHN6

Changing Patterns: http://amzn.to/1JOTMxc

Living in the Shadows: http://amzn.to/1PGK108

 

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!

Well, yes it is worth it – we love it, despite the unexpected. Having a holiday apartment attached to our house has brought us many friends; visitors who return year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We love seeing them again. And we are fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there have been downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the Hippies.

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One of the first lot of visitors in our first year (nearly our last!) I’d almost forgotten about them until Husband dug up a string of bells in one of the flower beds the other day. Here I must hasten to add that, no, we didn’t do away with one of them and bury  the body in the garden. In fact I’ve no idea how the bells got there and so can offer no explanation. Which is all besides the point.

There were just the two of them when they arrived in a small battered car, decorated with brightly coloured swirly shapes. Having always yearned to be ‘one of the beautiful people’ , and knowing I’d no chance, I thought they both looked wonderful in their colourful clothes and long flowing locks ( him and her). Our three children were very young at the time and were mesmerised, especially when, before even unpacking, the man sat cross-legged on the front lawn playing his guitar and she sat alongside banging on a tambourine. Being a conventional type of chap Husband was wary. ‘Hope they don’t stay in every day making that racket.’ (obviously seeing his quiet weekend and evenings pottering in the garden quickly disappearing). ‘Oh, live and let live,’ said I, wistfully.

 Words I needed to remember later that day.

Thinking discretion was the better part of valour I persuaded Husband to take us to the beach; giving the couple a chance to settle in.

Five hours later we piled three weary kids into the car and went home.

We could hear the noise as we drove up the lane to our house. ‘What the …! Husband, looking forward to a quiet beer after his strenuous Family Day of playing football, keeping three kids from drowning in the sea and being being buried in the sand, stared at me with horror.  It was extremely loud. ‘It’s actually music,’I said. ‘It’s coming from our garden and it’s actually too bloody loud,’ said he.

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As we turned onto the drive we were faced by a large camper van. We parked the car next to it and got out. There were half a dozen dancers on the lawn. One of them waved to us. I half raised my hand in reply before I heard Husband’s sigh. (I think I should add here that when we moved into the house the acre of land around it was a field and it had taken three years to get it anything like a garden. He’d worked hard on transforming it and it’s the only thing he’s precious about )  Two of the women were holding small bunches of flowers; Dianthus, I realised (and hoped Husband didn’t)  from around the edges of the garden. No such luck; I watched with interest as his face turned puce. ‘Oh dear,’ I said, suddenly aware that I was tapping my feet to the beat.  The kids, ecstatic, joined in with the dancing. One woman picked up our daughter and twirled her around. Seeing Husband looking at his churned-up grass, and seeing our original woman holiday-maker amongst the others, I thought I should say something.  ‘They’ve got visitor… our visitors.’ ‘We’ve got trouble,’ he growled, pointing to the back of the van where  a pile of rucksacks and sleeping bags lay on the ground

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Just then four men appeared from around the corner of the house and gathered up the bags. They walked away from us. For the second time Husband said,’what the …’. And followed them. I followed him. I wasn’t too worried, after all their van had ‘Peace’ written along the side. We knocked on the door of the apartment. The man who answered wasn’t our visitor. He looked to be around forty-five; an original hippie. ‘Hey, man,’ he said, holding up a hand. He actually said ‘Hey, man,’ like someone out of a third rate film.

‘Who are you? ‘ said Husband. I noticed his ears were bright red, a sure sign of an impending explosion. (oh, dear, I always make him to be so angry in these posts)

‘Friends are staying here,’ the man said. ‘We’re going to kip down for a couple of days with them.’ The other men looked on from inside the kitchen, bottles of beer in their hands. There was no sign of ‘our’ visitor.

‘Just going to stay a couple of days,’ said one of the others.

‘Got a problem with that?’ said another.

‘You got a problem?’ The first man again..

 I felt the first tremor of trepidation. ‘Should I call the police?’ I whispered, poking Husband in the back.

He didn’t answer. What he did say to them was, ‘No,I’ve not got a problem. Because what you’re going to do is…you’re going to leave.’There was a long silence, then some mutterings. The men bunched up behind the older man. I was really worried by this time, Husband was no match for them.

Then one said,’ we come in peace.’ He did! He really did say that!

‘Then… in peace, you’ll leave,’ said Husband. I had the urge to giggle; I think it was nerves. ‘From my count,’ continued Husband, ‘there are ten of you. Eight too many. Eight have to leave.’ 

‘No way, we’re doing no harm.’

 It was a stand-off. We all stared at one another. Then Husband said,’okay, then that’ll be fifty pounds each.’ I knew he didn’t mean it; we’re only insured to take two people in the apartment and he’s not one for  flouting the law. It was a gamble.

 I’ve never seen people move so fast! They last we saw of them was the billowing of smoke from the exhaust of the camper van.

 Until, that is, Husband dug up the string of bells the other day