Monday, 19 September 2011

Shiver Me Timbers!

Location: Whitby
Friday 16th September
Arrived at Whitby Holiday Park, without too many run-ins with scary roads, and were pleasantly surprised to find that it’s set on top of a cliff which overlooks Saltwick Bay. It also had a stunning view of Whitby Abbey too – it was a perfect base. Pretty much as soon as we’d settled down with a bottle of wine, the heavens opened. The wind had by now picked up an awful lot too. Pink lightning lit up the entire sky out across the sea and thunder vibrated the ground low and rumbling. I imagined it was a night like that when Dracula washed up to shore.
Sat in darkness watching the lightning for a while, and then Will, Angela and the kids came round to our caravan. We watched The Lost Boys and chilled out.

Saturday 17th September
Whitby Pirate Day
Dressed up in our pirate outfits and strolled along the cliff top and then down into Whitby. Got stopped by numerous Japanese visitors along the way for photos, and my arm was aching by the time we got there, because I had to hold on tight to my hat to stop it from blowing away.
Had a look along to the bandstand near the pier to watch some of the bands, had a walk along the pier and had a general meander about Whitby.

There weren’t too many other pirates about, but it was definitely busier than last year. Had a few drinks in the usual watering holes – The Pier, The Jolly Sailor and The Dolphin – and also had the mandatory fish & chips sitting outside on the wall (well, Derek and Marvin did – I don’t like fish!)

By the time we walked back along the cliff top to the caravan, it was dark and eerie. We ordered pizza and, by the time we’d eaten it, we’d all crashed and burnt.

Sunday 18th September
Ouch, bad head. I’m never drinking again!
Home time L …until next year!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Jumping off at the steep end in Niederau

Location: Niederau, Austria

July 2007

“I want to do that,” Derek said.
We were sipping coffee in a tyrolian cafe watching brightly coloured paragliders float from the top of the mountain to the bottom like cartoon jellyfish. The sky was clean and the sun was hot, yet Derek’s words chilled me.
“Are you mad?” I gasped.
Next morning I found myself in a cable car next to Derek and two young Austrian paragliders, Michael and Karl. They reminded me of Bill and Ted because they laughed in an excitable way as we made the steady ascent to the top of the mountain. In their bright orange jumpsuits, I tried to imagine they were taking us on an excellent adventure.
“So, have you done this before?” Michael asked in his thick Austrian accent.
I shook my head and gulped, wondering whether I still had time to back out. Somewhere along the line, in a moment of foolish competitiveness, I’d talked myself into doing a tandem jump. If Derek could do it, why couldn’t I?
At the top of the mountain Karl harnessed me up, and we found a suitable slope from which to launch ourselves.

“When I say run,” he said, “I mean run. Don’t stop and don’t go slow, it could be very dangerous.”
Great, more pressure. It was bad enough the harness straps were sticking into places that would make walking difficult.
Derek and Michael took the leap first. As a synchronised team, they made it look effortless.

 Karl then tapped me on the shoulder. “Ok, now us. Are you ready?”
I nodded, clenching my teeth. My mouth was dry, my tongue felt too big and the square fields below looked too small.
I ran as fast as I physically could, hoping it was fast enough – and it must have been because soon my legs were scrabbling in the air. I sucked in deep and was astounded by the instantaneous peacefulness all around us. We billowed softly at first, until Karl yanked on the guide ropes making us spiral and plummet like airborne acrobats. He laughed as I squealed with delight. Slowing down once again, we drifted. Legs dangling, suspended in the air. I could smell the medicinal aroma of pine trees as we passed overhead, and I looked across the rich valleys to mountain peaks in the hazy distance.

When the field below us grew larger at a quickening pace my feeling of serenity was suddenly smashed. Was I to lift my legs in the air or land standing?
Tapping Karl’s hand, I yelled into the gushing wind, “What do I do with my legs?”
He shouted something unintelligible back at me, but it was too late, I stuck my legs out. We bounced to a stop and I lay back in the grass.
“Did you enjoy it?” Karl asked.
I nodded, with a grin, feeling triumphant and euphoric – and fortunate that my jarred legs weren’t broken.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo – Sun, Sea, Sand & Skinny-dipping!

April 2009
Location: Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo, North Ari Atoll, The Maldives
 Derek and I were glued to the seaplane window as we soared above the clusters of islands below – each of them looking like the markings on a peacock’s feather. 

Nestled in the North Ari Atoll, and just a twenty minute transfer from Male Airport, lies Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo. Upon approaching the island, the first thing we noticed was the concrete wall surrounding and protecting the delicate shoreline from the potentially damaging Indian Ocean. Although not the most pretty of features by Maldivian standards, the overall island did not disappoint or fail to deliver the little slice of paradise we’d come to expect from this part of the world (our third visit to the Maldives – we have a definite soft spot for the Indian Ocean). Customary turquoise sea, lemon coloured reef sharks, white sand and an abundance of coconut-bearing palm trees were all there to greet us...

Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo is arguably one of the best snorkelling/diving locations in the Maldives. Its house reef circles the entire island. From clown fish (yes, we found Nemo) to turtles, stingrays to angel fish – we saw them all. There was even a resident moray eel who popped his head out every day to say hello – or to warn us off, I wasn’t quite sure which. Derek would say the latter, but considering the eel never bit us I’d give him the benefit of the doubt – even though he did bare his teeth like a cat. And every day during early evening, a fever of rays would glide gracefully into the shallows for feeding time. The staff would throw in raw fish for them to eat, and it was fascinating to watch them up close and personal, especially as this all takes place right next to the bar – where we were plied with drinks aplenty and bowls of nibbles from our good friend Nalin.

After long days spent splashing around, lazing about and pampering ourselves, we’d kick back with an all-inclusive cocktail (or two) and numerous glasses of wine, searching for fruit bats swooping overhead, and watching tropical fish meander around our toes as we dipped our feet into the bath-warm sea. We even managed to wish upon a few falling stars as we stargazed under the clear night sky (the Maldives has hardly any light pollution, so the night sky is to die for). The 9 – 5 stresses that we’d brought with us quickly seeped into insignificance faster than we could say Ellaidhoo.

There isn’t much in the way of entertainment on the island, apart from a local band that serenades people in and around the bar every other night, and, of course, the odd spot of crab racing – but who needs entertainment? It’s not that kind of holiday.

We ventured out onto the Romeo & Juliet island excursion, where we were taken to a tiny uninhabited island and left to our own devices for the entire day. We felt like we were starring in Shipwrecked – only safe in the knowledge that a dhoni boat was coming back for us later. 

The day provided us with a unique opportunity to top up our tans without worrying about annoying tan-lines and to do a spot of skinny-dipping – the island is so remote other boats rarely pass by, so you can whip all your clothes off should you wish (although bearing in mind, it is illegal for any kind of nudity in a Muslim country, so if you do see the tiniest hint of a boat coming, then cover up – no matter how much of an exhibitionist you are). To assure our day was even more perfect, we were supplied with a large picnic hamper filled with fruit, salad, meat, fish, rice and potatoes, and a cooler full of water and soft drinks – even a few cans of lager were thrown in for good measure. It was absolute bliss. 

So, why do we love the Maldives so much? Just think back to the old Bounty adverts (the chocolate bars, not the kitchen towels!) and that about says it all. I can’t wait till we’re there again...

Monday, 15 August 2011

Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival

August 2011

Location: Kettlewell, North Yorkshire

Friday 12th:

Off we headed to our campsite in Grassington, a couple of miles away from Kettlewell.  In hindsight, we should have checked the route a little better beforehand rather than throwing ourselves to the mercy of sat nav, because towing a caravan on some of the roads it suggested was hair-raising to say the least. By the time we arrived at our intended destination, I think a combined 5 years had been shaved off our life expectancies. It was down to pure good luck that the traffic coming in the other direction had been few and far between – else that 5 year figure may have risen significantly. Needless to say, the first thing that we unpacked was the box of wine!

We relaxed for the rest of the night, listening to our neighbours playing a ukulele, and laughing as Marvin got all worked up about the bunny rabbits all around us. He was a hyper puppy for the duration of our stay, and had he been able to speak (in the words of Scrappy Doo), he’d have probably said, “Lemme at ‘em, lemme at ‘em!”

Saturday 13th:

Went into Kettlewell to see the annual scarecrow festival. Discovered that Marvin doesn’t particularly like scarecrows – and he spent most of the time barking at them (especially one that was made up to look like Woody from Toy Story). I think it was something to do with the hat.

 Had a good mosey about the village, and took plenty of photos:

Went back to Grassington and had a wander along to the nearest pub, The Gamekeeper’s Inn, and enjoyed a few well deserved pints out in the beer garden.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Magic Loungeabout – Together in Electric Dreams

July 2011

Location: Broughton Hall, North Yorkshire

Warm Up Friday - 29th July

Finally, Magic Loungeabout arrived once more. It had been 3 years since the last one, (which was also the first one), and after meeting Gary Numan at the last one, I couldn’t wait to go again!

With our four man pop-up tent and other camping essentials, Derek and I headed off to start our weekend of lounging about. When booking tickets we’d chosen the Quiet Corner to pitch our tents – but when we arrived, we realised this was the family area, and was actually far from quiet! Never mind, we weren’t too far away from the car which was handy for unloading our stuff...and we hardly spent any time at all around the tent anyway.

We were all pitched up and ready to commence partying by 4pm – but the main arena didn’t open till 6pm, so we opened some wine and kicked back in the sun, whilst watching other people struggle with their tents. 

Then as soon as 6pm arrived, we headed off round to the main arena. Tables decked with satin bedding, gigantic deckchairs and bales of hay wrapped in satin were all dotted about the place for the festival goers pleasure and comfort, and plates of cupcakes were dished out at the entrance.

Despite the bar charging £4 a pint, we still managed to get rather drunk in the Loungeabout Bar listening to some tunes from DJ Tristan Da Cunha. 

And I vaguely remember paying £6 for a burger on the way back to the tent (yes, £6!!!)...alas, I can’t even remember what it tasted like!

It was a cloudless night, and it was absolutely bloody freezing in the tent. Hardly any sleep was had at all – which was partly down to the cold, partly down to the person in the tent behind who snored like a warthog, and partly down to the airbed (two singles zipped together in the middle) which kept sucking me into the dip in the middle.

Electronic Saturday – 30th July

Hungover and feeling absolutely manky with a sore throat and stuffy nose. Took some Piriteze, hoping it was the effects of hayfever and not cold, then slapped some suncream on because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was already rather hot by 9am. 

Headed round to the main arena and had bacon sarnies and a cup of tea to try and perk us up a bit. 

Then found a good spot on the field and laid out our picnic blanket and sunbathed whilst waiting for the bands to begin. 

The first band of the weekend was Friends Electric, which we enjoyed a lot (in fact, apart from The Human League, we preferred them to the other Saturday bands).  During the interlude between bands, we watched as the adults’ entertainers nearby started dragging people over to partake in really silly games, including wrestling in fat suits, wrestling in a paddling pool of jelly, and a massive water slide...none of which we got involved in ourselves, for the most part they all looked way too messy so we were happy to just observe.

Florrie was the second band on, and again they were really good (if you like that kind of thing). By the time their set was finished, we moved our picnic blanket underneath a big tree – which blessed us with some shade, because we were absolutely frazzled in the sun. 

We stayed there while we watched the subsequent line up of bands: Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, Crazy P, Fenech Soler and New Young Pony Club – then we went back to the tent to dress more appropriately for the cold night we anticipated. 

I was still feeling decidedly rubbish by this point, my throat felt like it had been rubbed down with sandpaper, and so I stayed absolutely stone cold sober all day and night. Even when The Human League came on at 9:30pm, I still didn’t have a pint in my hand – criminal!

However, The Human League were brilliant – sounded just like they do on the radio, and Phil Oakey was looking really good for his age!

Another lousy night’s sleep was had. Drunk people stumbling around the place until about 3am (I was just jealous), then a couple walking past woke us up at around 4am.

            Woman: It’ll be alright when we get back to the tent.
            Man: What tent?
            Woman: What do you mean? Our tent.
            Man: That’s the thing, Jan, we don’t have a tent. It’s not here! It’s a bloody mystery. Where the hell is it?

...I presumed they were in the wrong camping area.

Acoustic Sunday – 31st July

Popped round to the main arena for some breakfast to set us up for the day, was still feeling worse for wear, and beginning to think I had a head cold. It was boiling hot again, so I covered up – not wanting to burn any more than I already had done.

As we eat our breakfast and sipped our cups of tea, a young lass called Evie Plumb (Katie Melua style singer) set up at Buskers Bale nearby. So we stayed and listened to her whole set, which was very impressive – hers is definitely a name worth watching out for, she’ll make it big one day, without a doubt!

After that we headed round to the Food For Thought tent to see Robin Ince give a comedy rundown of the newspaper headlines – but he hadn’t been able to make it, so journalist/poet Kate Fox had taken his place. She performed some of her poetry and went through the headlines from the morning newspapers. Apart from having a numb bum from sitting on the floor for so long, we really enjoyed her set and I bought a copy of her book afterwards and got her to sign it. 

By this time I was well and truly fed up of feeling lousy – so we went back to the tent and put together a picnic basket of wine. Then we lazed around on the field in front of the stage all afternoon drinking it. 

The bands were very chilled out today: Henry Johnson, Misty Miller, Steve Mason and Ed Sheeran. And as we watched Steve Mason on stage, Derek pointed out a man wearing a knitted hat.

“Rach, isn’t that Badly Drawn Boy?”
“Erm, oh yeah. I think it might be.”

He could have been my celebrity photograph opportunity (like Gary Numan had been in 2008)....if only I could have been bothered to get up. But I couldn’t, so we just watched as he sauntered into the beer tent with his parents. If it had been Phil Oakey, I’m sure that would have motivated me. 

Enjoyed a glass or two of champagne in the Food For Thought tent, Derek on the Guinness, whilst listening to chill out tunes from Mixmaster Morris – I was well and truly acquiring a taste for the booze again (it had a strange soothing effect on my sore throat). 

Then we popped back outside to eat pizza and watch Badly Drawn Boy – the last act of the weekend.

Ended up back in the Food For Thought tent afterwards, drinking more champers whilst curled up on beanbags on the floor – until we were both falling asleep. Mixmaster Morris had done his job – we were well and truly chilled out!

So that was it, Magic Loungeabout 2011...can’t wait to see what the line up is for next year!

And just for the record – Echo Falls merlot completely cured my sore throat ha ha.