The cover up is always worse

Photo: One of the three guests was responsible for the travel arrangements to Amsterdam. For the record, it wasn’t our nephew.


In our recent post, The Long Goodbye we talked about leaving London and seeing off our American guests at 2 o’clock in the morning the day before we drove a thousand miles to Italy.

It was later we discovered what happened to them. On arrival at Stansted, with only hand luggage, they headed for security. They were pulled over to one side. “… you’re at the wrong airport mate”. Their flight was from Heathrow.

Instead of spending the day in Amsterdam they had to spend the day at Stansted airport waiting for an evening flight.

They say the reason they didn’t say anything (we found out from other sources) was that they were so embarrased as we’d paid for their bus tickets and got up at stupid o’clock to see them off.

The real reason is of course that they knew Colin would have taken the piss.

It’s good to know that the future of the USA is in such good hands. Still, at least uncle Alan is happy. His Eindhoven Error has now been upstaged by the Stansted Screw Up.



From first fall to hospital

Photo: So Tuscan. The view from our hotel bedroom in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa.

I was amazed, and delighted, when Jan said yes to an invite to join some Pansèr friends on a cycling weekend in Tuscany. It didn’t really go well for her. I do hope it hasn’t put her off for good. I have a feeling it might have.

Jan started with falling off the bike and ended up in hospital. The two events were unrelated and a week apart but all part of the story.

Jan was able to take part as a number of riders hired eBikes. The good news is that eBikes help with the climbs, the bad news is that they are significantly heavier than non eBikes.

Jan learnt this within the first few minutes. Having received an introduction to the bike by the touring company she started circulating the car park to get used to the bike before we set off.


As I was elsewhere putting our luggage in the van I was unaware that Jan had fallen off the original bike within three seconds of starting off. She told the guys the bike was too heavy for her but they insisted she try, so she did. I can imagine the quelling look of ‘I told you so’ she gave them. Falling off is a rite of passage for all cyclists. I had no idea Jan got hers out of the way within seconds.


Despite falling off, Jan managed a smile in the group photo before the ride.


We headed off through the traffic to the first climb of the day. Jan was struggling and falling behind already. After a hundred metres or so the instructor realised the battery wasn’t turned on. Jan was riding a very heavy bike on her first climb completeley unaided. Not a great start.

We did enjoy some stunning views across Florence as our reward.

PHOTO-2019-04-13-18-19-34IMG_3401 2PHOTO-2019-04-13-18-19-35

Then followed more climbing. We started to fall back again. Jan just couldn’t make the bike work for her. We discovered why later, much later.

The first descent of the day was quite steep for a beginner, but Jan managed it well using the brakes all the way down. The second descent was another story. It was a steep narrow lane with high walls either side. The road was appalling. One of the worst roads I have ever descended. We weren’t helped when a car came behind us and we had to stop, pinned against the wall, to let it pass. Jan decided not to remount and pushed the bike to the bottom. We later learnt that some of the experienced riders ahead of us did the same thing, so bad was the road surface it was quite dangerous. Not the best introduction for a novice rider.

The rest of the day was a struggle for Jan. The ride was only 40km but over 800m of climbing. That’s a high percentage. Jan’s legs were fine but her breathing was laboured. We did have some respite over lunch, though Jan refused a tipple. A sign that not all was well.


After lunch we descended at speed – Jan’s confidence and bike control increasing all the time. Then started a series of climbs that really took their toll. Poor Jan struggled  on them all. I even suggested to the group that they stop waiting for us and we’d see them at the hotel, but they insisted on waiting. We felt bad about that as the group had been so welcoming to her. Determined to finish, but really not enjoying it, she kept pedalling until we reached the hotel. Most of the other riders headed off for another 30km loop but Jan was done. After a shower at least she managed her version of a recovery drink.


The following day Jan sat in the van with a few others. She was too tired to ride again. We met up in the famous triangular piazza at Greve:


After a long lunch back in Florence we drove home. Not even the prospect of watching her beloved Liverpool on Match of the Day could keep her up. She went straight to bed. She stayed there for most of the week. A fever, coughing, headache, sensitive skin and feeling cold even though her skin was hot. Medicine from the pharmacy seemed to ease the symptoms a little but it persisted. On Saturday a friend, Patti, insisted on calling the Guardia Medica to book her in. We went and they recommended the hospital for a chest x-ray.

We went to the Pronto Soccorso (A&E) in Fano. They use a traffic light system for triage. Red for life threatening down to green. Jan’s condition wasn’t urgent so was classified as white, the fourth level of triage. We prepared ourselves for a long wait as, quite rightly, other people’s needs were far greater than Jan’s. Patti turned up at the hospital to help us which was very kind of her.

After an initial consulation with a doctor, Jan was put on oxygen before her x-ray.


One of the nurses said it was good that Brexit had been delayed as otherwise we would have had to pay for the treatment. She asked why the British were so stupid to vote leave. The hospital in Fano was excellent. Jan was progressed through the system a lot quicker than we expected. Our Italian was good enough to cope with the process, only once did we not understand a question, but otherwise it was fine.

The diagnosis was inflamed lungs but not, fortunately, pneumonia. This explained her struggles on the bike a week before.

Treatment is a course of anti biotics, an inhaler session twice a day, 2 ltrs of water a day (a challenge for a lizard), no driving and no alcohol (an even tougher challenge).

Patti helped us even more by lending us an inhaler system for the week. We had our own guardian angel yesterday. Thank you Patti.

It’s now 13:00 on Easter Sunday. Most of Italy are starting their family Easter meal, which will go on for the rest of the afternoon. The roads are empty. Jan is in bed fast asleep. One of my duties today is to wake her up in time for the Liverpool game against Cardiff.

Jan’s first ride experience really didn’t work out well. Such a shame, especially as we had such a good time over the dinners and lunches. I have a feeling that if I broach the subject of having another go, I might get this response:



Get well soon my love.




Photo: ICC Italian Job caps on their way to Italy.

Our annual migration to Italy was a little earlier than usual. Our Brexit plan, CoJexit, was designed so that we’d be in Italy a week before Brexit, just in case. We stuck to our plan, the UK government, not having a plan, didn’t. By 23:00 GMT on the 30th March we’d been here, opened and cleaned the house and even had a meeting about our proposed garage. All this whilst carrying our International Driving Licences needed in case of a no deal Brexit.

The drive down was straightforward. A short detour to Ambonnay in Champagne to buy our supplies for the summer.



A stop over in Beaune to break the 1,600km journey. Escargot, Boeuf Bourguignon and a bottle of Pinot. The only problem was the Boeuf Bourguignon had to go back as it was so dry. How can a slow cooked Boeuf Bourguignon in Burgundy be dry? We later discovered the chef was Italian.


We were also carrying supplies for Colin’s cycling club mates, the Pansèrs. Each year we bring a different British beer for them to try. So far, they have sampled Meantime Pale Ale, London Pride, Spitfire and now:



The long goodbye

Photo: Making sure they made the bus

It’s 03:32 on Friday 22nd March. It’s dark outside. We’ve just said goodbye to three guests as they continue their tour of Europe.

To do this we had to break our own rule:

No guests the week before we leave for a season in the other house.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been saying goodbye to friends in London. Lunch with C&D, dinner with a different C&D, dinner with A&H, dinner with F&S, trips to family and a few drinks with friends at the Islington Cycling Club social.

How did we manage to leave us just one day after three guests have left to sort out all the laundry, clean, buy food, pack, load the car, shut down and secure the apartment? Family.

Our nephew, Cameron, asked us some time ago if he could stay here with one or two friends from Hamilton University in March. Sure, but we are leaving on the 23rd so before then. I didn’t really mean up to the day before we left, but we managed.

A walking tour of the City of London followed by a number of traditional British experiences.

Afternoon tea


Proper beer in Ye Olde Mitre


Fish and chips in a proper chippie


Curry night


The rest of the time they looked after themselves, visiting friends, bars, clubs and some entertaining shops in Camden. It was fun having them to stay but now we have to get ready for a 1,600km drive starting tomorrow morning.

Goodbye Cam, Cole and Jack. Goodbye friends and family. Goodbye London.


Happy Birthday JCR

Photo: Jan’s never been keen on having her photo taken

The plan for Jan’s birthday was a little up in the air. Literally.

Lunch at the Fenchurch Restaurant in the Sky Garden at 20, Fenchurch Street – more commonly known as the Walkie Talkie. A tropical garden 150m above the street with 360° views across London.




Looking as stunning as ever we enjoyed a lovely meal together.



Happy Birthday Jan (JCR)


The lost art of convalescing

Photo: Las Palmas Gran Canaria, not quite as hot and sunny as we hoped.

Jenni Russell recently declared in The Times that “We’ve forgotten the vital need to convalesce” and that “…. the Victorians were right about recovery time”.

The article lamented that our lives are so busy these days that we just don’t have time to recover properly from illness. We’re back at work, or whatever we do, so quickly we don’t recover properly.

Following the success of our winter sun training camp in Málaga last year, we booked a similar trip to Gran Canaria. Jan’s running would be back to normal after her monster 2018 challenge and Colin would be benefit from the climbing ready for the qualifying rides for Paris-Brest-Paris and the event itself.

It didn’t work out that way.

After our return from Arnhem, we both fell ill and didn’t fully recover, especially Jan, before our trip to the volcanic island. As Jan wouldn’t be running it seemed unfair for Colin to go off cycling so the bike stayed at home.

We decided to spend the week convalescing. Taking the air and getting some sleep.


Late on Saturday night we headed out to find a restaurant. No luck initially, all fully booked. Saturday night and Carnival fortnight. We hadn’t accounted for Carnival. Eventually we found a street café that didn’t look much but was brilliant. We shared a made to order paella which was excellent, as was the wine recommendation. The staff and owner were really friendly. When Jan started coughing they offered her water and advice on which pharmacy would still be open this late. Our meal ended with some local liquor. No idea what it was, but it could have done with some alcohol in it to make it less of a cordial and more of a liquor.

Having said that, if you are ever in Las Palmas, we can recommend Tasca La Lonja



Our first full day on the island. We only saw the afternoon. An exploratory walk along the promenade of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria then food shopping in El Corte Inglés. We have friends, P&T, who we exchange photos of entertaining things we see around the world. When we say entertaining, we mean entertaining to 12 year old boys. We sent them this:


In return, P sent us this from Shanghai:


All very childish, but good fun.


Monday – Thursday

We spent the week walking, eating, sleeping and the occasional snifter. Some nights eating out, others eating in. We prefer renting an apartment so that we can go to the local markets to buy food to cook that evening.

One walk was a 13km round trip to the old town of Veguete:


Another was a walk around the marina, followed by a snifter. Not quite the sunshine we had hoped for.


There are some interesting sculptures around the city.



Last day

Having exhausted all the points of the compass on our walks in Las Palmas we rented a car for the day to explore the island.

Driving the twisting roads along the Western coast we could see why all the tourist development was on the South and East coast. No room as the Atlantic battered the coastline from the West.

We drove into Puerto de Mogán, one of the places we had considered staying. We were glad we hadn’t booked an apartment there. We saw what it was like and drove straight out again. Lots of coach tours. Not our thing. We later learnt that Friday was the worst day to visit as it gets packed for the tourist market. We can confirm that.

Further along the coast we decided to head inland. We picked a village in the foothills at random for lunch. What a lovely little place it was, Agüimes.


Having recently used the word caldera in the Times crossword, we thought we’d go and see one. This volcano rim formed around a flat floor that was so fertile it was being cultivated.


A final climb to the summit of Pico de las Nieves at 1,949m to look across the island above the clouds.



Last night dinner

We booked what we thought was a really good restaurant for our last night. Not a star, but featuring in the Michelin guide, it looked the poshest one we could find. Dressing up the waiters in the full black bow tie ensemble doesn’t guarantee the food or service.

Enjoying our glasses of Cava an amuse bouche arrived. Of all the things to serve as an amuse bouche, cabbage soup with a tiny spoon doesn’t spring to mind. Then a waiter appeared with a bottle of red to open at our table. He spoke no English, so using our Italian we explained we hadn’t ordered it. In fact we hadn’t ordered anything.

We’d been “Fishered”. “Fishered” is a verb we use to describe when things go wrong in a restaurant. It seems to happen to us a lot. As there are no national statistics on being “Fishered” then we can’t be certain we suffer disproportionately, but we have a hunch we do.

Jan went with her northern roots and opted for the morcilla for her starter. Seven rounds of black pudding and rice arrived. “Good luck with that” said Colin as he waited and waited for his starter to arrive. More “Fishering”.


Having waited quite some time Colin speculated “If have one of your morcillas my starter is bound to arrive”. Guess what, it arrived just as I started my first mouthful.

After our starters were cleared away another waiter appeared with our amuse bouches all over again. To have cabbage soup once was bad enough but to be mistakingly served it again made us wonder if there is something about us that causes the Fishering phenomena.

The rest of the meal past without incident except for the house liquor. We like limoncello but the Gran Canarian version looked like two miniature specimen bottles that had just been filled. Strictly speaking not a “Fishering” but enough to make us laugh so much we forget to take a photo.

With lots of walking in between, our week started and finished with local liquors.

We returned feeling much better.


Coughing and spluttering

Since returning from the Netherlands we’ve not been well. It could have been a virus, or it might have been the pork we bought in France on our way home.

Either way we spent two days in bed and over a week coughing and spluttering. We weren’t sure if we should go to the theatre tonight. Recently Sam Quek was asked to watch the rest of the performance at the Vienna State Opera from a ‘detention’ room with a TV in it for coughing. As far as we know The Hampstead Theatre doesn’t have a detention room so we had to be as quiet as possible.

We dosed up with lozenges. We were doing ok until Colin really had a problem. Supressing the coughs as much as possible it got worse. I  thought I would have to leave the performance. It was painful supressing the need to cough. I was tearful, not from the performance on stage but my own convulsions. I just about managed to recover.

From then on I restricted my coughing to the scene changes. Fortunately there were a few of them.

Having managed to get through the performance trying not to disturb others the lady in front of us showed no such constraint. She let out four very loud sneezes, enough to cause laughter in the auditorium. Thanks for that.

We did enjoy the play. Recommended.