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So, 06:45 Sunday Morning: His Podgeness rises from his pit to have an early breakfast before seeking out his trusty Colnago Geo Dream Bicycle  ready to venture out for his first ride a for a long time now.

At 09:00, His Podgeness makes his second cup of coffee (no milk, no sugar) and a cup of tea to take up to the slumbering Mrs Me.

At 09:45, His Podgeness makes a second cup of tea for Mrs Me as she still hasn’t arisen, only to find that she stirred after all and threatening to come downstairs to shatter the peace and solitude. Hmmm, thinks Podge, maybe I should wait and give her company over breakfast.

At 10:30, the decision is taken to go to Waitrose to get some BBQ provisions – the day is after all beautifully hot and sunny. So, His Podgeness puts his bike away and readies for shopping.

12:15, His Podgeness and Mrs Me return laden with food and wine, sits down and has a cup of tea. Podge gets his bike out again.

12:45, Master Matthew rises from his pit after a heavy night out on the tiles celebrating his birthday. No ride just yet, have to give Matt his pressies.

13:30, Master Nicholas arrives from his night out, no reason, just a night out.

14:00 discussions switch to grass cutting; His podgeness seeks out some appropriate attire for cycling while Mrs Me dress’s for mowing.

14:30, at the hint of grass cutting, Master Mathew and Mistress Alice (Matt’s superior half) slope off to the pub arranging to meet Master Nicholas at the local cinema.

The Momentous Moment Arrives

14:50, His Podgeness finally, sets of on his bike: there really should be a fanfare here at the moment but such temptations are to be resisted.

15:15, Master Nicholas helps Mrs Me out with the grass cutting by taking the mower round to the font garden for her (she’s already cut the rear garden), then he also slopes off.

15:40, His Podgeness returns. Sweating like he’d been on a trek through the Amazon Jungle and barely able to lift his leg over the saddle to dismount. “I did it” he announces, “I completed my first ride of the year”

Unauthorised use of this image is VERY naughty. @ Podgethepuffer

Unauthorised use of this image is VERY naughty. @ Podgethepuffer

That’s good said Mrs, I’ve cut the grass. Go and have a shower and then we can both sit down for a nice glass of wine. Perfick, just perfick.

Ride stats:

Distance: – 9.3 miles / Average Speed: – 10.6 mph / Average heart rate: – 156 bpm.

And so, there we have it, 8 hours after getting up, His Podgeness eventually went for ride.

Go Podge, Go

Yes, it’s that time again. The time when the countdown begins. The countdown to the next time I get on a Cruise Ship. It may only be for 4 nights but at least for a while I shall once more be sampling the delights of cruising: something I think I was born to do. So in the time honoured tradition, of mine at least, here goes.

All together now:

8 more sleeps to go;

8 more sleeps to cruising

8 more sleeps till this the big fat fella gets on that boat,

with his bird, and his [Mother-in-Law!]

8 more sleeps to cruising.

Yay.

This time, we’re going on the Azura with P&O, mainly because we haven’t been on her before (why are ships called her by the way?), we need to get the Azura Teddy and Alfie Boe is on the ship; and Mother-in-Law just loves Alfie Boe.

As the trip is just a short one, we’re clearly not going anywhere exotic such as Bora Bora or Tahiti or St Lucia or the Galapagos or The Philippines. No, we’re going to Bruges in Belgium (via Zeebrugge), often known as the Venice of the North but more importantly, Bruges has an abundance of Chocolate and Beer; though giving my dairy reduced diet, I somehow think Chocolate will be off the menu for me. Yeah, right. My one big concern however is that every time we’ve been to Bruges before, it’s rained – let’s hope that this time it doesn’t.

After Bruges we’re going to St. Peter Port in Guernsey. We’ve been there a couple of times (once on the QE2 don’t you know) before but were unable to land as the sea was too choppity for the tenders to be used to take us ashore safely. So, and given that I hate tenders, if there the slightest hint of a wave, I’m staying on board and relaxing by the bar. And for those concerned we might be missing the delights of Guernsey, don’t worry, we have managed to get ashore once before and on that occasion, Mrs Me did manage to find a shop that sells shiny sparkly things so staying on board does have its attractions.

This time next week, we’ll be packing and lecturing the boys about not having parties while we’re away and today, I may, just may, get one of my Bicycles out  and go for a little bike ride. If I do, and I hope I do, I shall report back on how I got on, assuming of course I can still [get on]. We shall see.

Until then:

Go Podge, Go.

I’m mindful that I promised myself that I would post an update at least once a week. Now obviously, when I’m sailing the Seven Seas, on a cruise ship I have much to write about; in fact, I could post almost daily – network connectivity permitting of course.  Anybody who’s read about some of my recent cruising adventures will know that connectivity from the middle of the ocean isn’t that great. In fact for my last cruise, unbeknown to Mrs Me, I spent £300 on WiFi and all I managed to post was six updates after which I gave up. And now, here I am,in the middle of a cruise famine, I find myself struggling to come up with something to write about.

As, I sit on a First Great Western HST taking me from Paddington to home (Hungerford), I’m bashing away at the key pad and seeing all these words come on my screen and still I don’t know what to write about. I suppose I could write about my daily adventures on the rail network trying to get from home to my office by London Bridge. If everything fits together, it can be done one hour and forty minutes. In the real world of course and taking door to door into account, it takes around two hours and thirty minutes and most days, that’s how it goes. On the odd occasion however, i.e., at least once a week, something goes wrong: An underground line is suspended; Person on the line; overrunning rail works; early morning driver fails to turn up; train faults, etc.: The list goes on. The best issue to date however is when the train had to crawl almost at walking pace because the speedo didn’t work and it had to make its way to Reading (from Paddington) where the train could turn back to front so that the back became the front where there was a working speedo and the train could then do what a high speed train is supposed to, whiz along at high speed. There was of course the occasion when a train got stuck because it had run out of ‘air': Yet all the passengers seemed to be breathing just fine. It turned out that the train need air (compressed) for the brakes. This week however , it was a broken underground train on the Bakerloo Line. This meant me getting a slow overground train – I could explain why, but I won’t – to Reading where I could catch a connecting train to Hungerford, only to see such train pulling away as I dashed towards it. This left me with a 24 minute wait for the next train which actually overtook the train I missed. Ironically, I had to change and catch said missed train for the last two station leg. On that occasion, my journey took just under four hours. But, do I really want to write about my train adventures? Probably not, so I won’t write about them. So what what do I write about?

 The Next Day, and -

I still don’t know what to write about. I did think of writing about somebody who passed me a piece of work a couple of days ago while telling me that it’s quite urgent as a customer is seeking a speedy response. When looking through the ‘piece of work’ I noted that it had been sitting in somebody’s tray since the middle of April. Had the work come to me then, it would by now have been completed, the customer would be happy and there would have been no fretting about it’s now urgent nature. Once again, somebody’s lack of forethought and planning constituted my crisis. But then I thought, no, nobody wants to read about that so I won’t write about it.

So, just what do I write?

Then it struck me: I’m sitting here at the kitchen table, looking out of the window seeing great expanses of blue sky with just a few fluffy clouds and the sun just sitting there like a big yellow duster with just the gentlest of breeze teasing the tree tops and I start planning todays cycle ride. Today, I shall cycle a 30 (ish) mile loop taking me up onto the Chute Downs from where I can gaze down and look at the wonders of nature with the oh so english fields of rape reflecting the suns rays, the sheep and their young, bouncing around and no sight nor sound of a single car. That has to be one of the nicest places to cycle to, cycle along, and reluctantly, cycle from.

From there, it’s a series of climbs and descents, up past the gliding club where once again I shall stop and watch the gliders being coaxed into the air by a winch, or sometimes, a small plane; When at an optimum hight, the glider is released and it soars silently  checking out the clouds, competing for air space with Red Kites and Buzzards before making it’s way slowly and gently back to the ground. Again, notwithstanding the small plane, all is silent and nature is at peace with all. After that, it’s a gentle undulating route back past The Swan Inn – a great place to stop if you’re out cycling / walking (shall I [again] be tempted to sample their wares?) before eventually arriving home feeling refreshed having blown the cobwebs away and taken in all that Mother Nature had to offer. But I can’t write about that. I can’t write about that because it’s blowing a hooley outside with dark angry clouds and rain to match. Also of course, the idea of me getting on my bike just now is still an aspiration rather than reality (COPD has seen to that :-( ). So, I can’t write about that either.

So, I still don’t know what to write about.

There is of course the fabulous weekend, just past, that I spent with the lovely Mrs Me at the Millstream in Bosham near Chichester. We like to spend as much time as we can in and around Chichester and Bosham. The town, the village and the surrounding countryside is just so beautiful Check out the You Tube video by Patrick Macnee to get a feel for the area. Having had an almost complete makeover inside we felt we should go back to see how it looked. It looked LUVERLY. And with the beautiful weather as our constant companion we sat out in the gardens enjoying a lovely glass of Rioja (Me) and Rosé (Mrs Me) before wondering down to the harbour to see if the Bosham Car Wash was in action Watch the video, it is hilarious). Unfortunately it wasn’t, though this did mean that with the tide out, we could make our way round to the Yacht  Club, sit, and watch the sail boats drifting in and out before wondering back through the village wondering at the Wisteria, which seems to be doing extremely well everywhere this season though I have no idea why.

Now, Mrs Me being Mrs Me: No trip to Chichester is possible with a visit to Russell & Bromley, purveyor of fine shoes and handbags: No trip to Russell and Bromley is possible without a purchase and it was with some rightly placed trepidation that I entered the establishment, dutifully following Mrs Me. We looked at boots; we looked at flat shoes; we looked at wedges; we looked at loafers; we looked at same rather high stiletto feel shoes; we even looked at some kinky boots; we looked at large handbags; we looked at small handbags: Briefly, we looked at mens shoes before returning back to ladies shoes. Eventually with great determination, she found a pair she liked. “I’m sorry Madam” said the shop assistant, “we don’t have these in your size” (oh no I thought, my weekend is going to be awful), “But” he said, “I’m sure they are available in one of the other stores: Let me check”. Yep, they did and even better, they would deliver them to home so it was with great joy that we were able to make a purchase and continue shopping. But, I felt there was still some sadness in Mrs Me. Then the penny dropped, we had come to Chichester, bought a pair of shoes but still she had nothing to show for it. But, his Podgeness is sometimes too clever for his own good. He espied a jewellers that did some rather attractive and reasonably priced bracelets, and having pointed them out to Mrs Me, we went in, tried them on (yes, she needed two), purchased them and Mrs Me was once more a happy bunny and with that, we returned to The Millstream for more much needed wine. But, does anybody want to know about all of this? I doubt it, so I won’t write about it. So:

What can I write about?

I don’t know: I haven’t a clue, so for this week I’m afraid I’m going to have to fail my objective and not write anything. Next week, I will try better. I promise. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll include better pictures. But don’t worry, I won’t be in any of them.

I’m not going to say too much this week, mainly because I haven’t got much to write about. This is possibly a good reason to seek out another adventure, most likely on a cruise ship. There is however a couple of news worthy items (in Podge’s world they’re news worthy anyway) I will mention.

1) My breathing has improved, though there is a twist :-(

2) WheelsForRotary – Ride to Remember in July is Cancelled, though all is not lost.

Health – Having reported to my Vet (more correctly referred to as a Doctor :-) ), ready to extoll the virtues of a dairy free diet I noticed his preoccupation with my pulse and readings from my recent ECG and blood tests. With respect to my blood test, he informed me that my glucose reading was 8.3 which could be a cause for concern but he wanted a 2nd test (with no food for 12-hours beforehand) before we got excited over it. My heart however was racing too high for his liking and the ECG suggested an erratic nature. This meant my heart was  not very efficient and so not oxygenating my blood properly. So, next stop for me 1) Blood Test (Again) and 2) Cardiology. Boo. But on the up side, my breathing is improving. Yay.

WheelsForRotary – Clearly, I was over ambitious. Following the success of last years inaugural ride and raising over £5K for charity, my goal this was to repeat the event but on a grander scale and tweak the route so that we could visit the D-Day Beaches in recognition of this year being the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings. And, as it was the 70th Anniversary, I really wanted 70 riders to ride 70 miles a day for 7 days (70 days would have pushing it a bit). Well, I got a lot of good / positive feedback and positive responses from likely riders but I’m afraid the ride wasn’t to be. Confirmed riders just didn’t materialise – and so with such few riders, the event simply wasn’t viable.

There is however, an upside.

The ride has been rescheduled such that all we do is to ride [over a long weekend] from the town of Ligueil in France to  its twin town of Hungerford in the UK but still making a stop at Pegasus Bridge to recognise the D-Day event. And Asthma, COPD, Arrhythmia, Diabetes, whatever I’ve got will not stop from doing this ride and we’ll still raise funds for Warchild and Bruce Trust Barges.

So, it ain’t so bad after all. Yay.

Still means I’ve got to cycle 260 miles though. Boo.

So, with all this going on, Mrs Me and I feel the need of another cruise. Fortunately, we have a short cruise at the end of May when we join the Azura sailing to Bruges and St Peter Port with Alfie Boe. Not literally with him of course but he’ll be on board singing. I have ideas for next year (The Amazon) and even for the following year buy I need to turn them into reality. So for this long Bank Holiday Weekend, I will be perusing the Cruise Brochures and websites to see where I [need] to go.

I might also be getting my bikes back out of the garage to see if the wheels still go round, which I’m sure they., or, should I seek out a new one: Do I really need another one.

Mind you, Colnago have brought out the shiny new Colnago C60 for my 60th Year. Slurp.

And we were only there for two days and a night.

This is an epic: I make no apologies: Sydney is, after all an epic city.

After three days and nights at sea, it was good to make land, in fact we were ecstatic – God alone knows (and the world cruisers) how we would have been after 8 days and nights at sea – Better still, the land we made was Sydney: we’d waited so long for this day, although the preceding day of blue, blue skies and an unbelievably flat Tasman Sea made the wait so much more tolerable: yet we were here. We had actually arrived at Sydney, Australia; the other side of the world.

We awoke, yes unbelievably the ‘we’ stands for both Mrs Me as well as me, at 05:00 to watch us sail into Sydney Harbour and: seeing for our first time, Sydney Harbour Bridge & Sydney Opera House ‘in the flesh’ an emotional moment it surely was.

When we booked this trip so many moons ago, we immediately booked an excursion through P&O to see an Opera in the Opera House, even though we didn’t know which one it was going to be. As it turned out, the Opera was to be Carmen, an Opera we had seen & loved twice before; once in the Verona Arena (in Italian) and again in the the Royal Albert Hall in London (in English) so it was going to be interesting to see it again – in yet another iconic venue – and hear it in French.

Prior to our arrival in Sydney, the Captain explained that we could only park where we were going to park (opposite the Opera House) if we arrived very early or late so as to avoid the rush hour. The reason became apparent almost as soon as we’d parked and tied the boat to the side with all it’s strings. Immediately in front of us were the ferry piers with boats of all sizes coming to drop off its cargo of commuters and tourists and to collect the next batch. This went on all day with the mix of commuters and tourists adjusting according to the time of day. Some boats were small little water taxis carrying no more than a dozen passengers while others were huge great big buggers that looked like small ships. At any one time, there was on average 4 coming in and 4 going out, constantly, all day long. No wonder we had to come in early.

Once we satisfied ourselves that we had parked correctly and was tied up nice and secure, Mrs Me and I went for breakfast where we (sorry, She) planned what we were going to do for the day. After much discussion, which consisted of Mrs Me discussing and me nodding my head, we agreed to just wander around the immediate vicinity, explore the area called the Rocks, find somewhere to drink, look for Australian Opals, find somewhere to eat, walk around Circular Quays, checkout the Opera House, find somewhere to drink, check ferry options for the next day, find somewhere to drink, watch the world go by then go back to the boat to get ready for the Opera. And, that’s exactly what we did. And having done it, we were hot and weary. So hot and weary in fact that we felt it necessary to return to our cabin early enough to allow us it sit and relax on our balcony, just watching Sydney’s hustle and bustle: we also felt it necessary to drink the bottle of champagne that had replaced the last one we drunk.
Point of information for P&O; if you keep putting champagne in our fridge, we’ll keep drinking it. :-)

Our next decision point was what do we wear for the Opera. A quick scan of the various paperwork suggested that open neck shirt, jacket & smart trousers would be just fine. For Mrs Me something nice (anything she wears make it something nice though).

The next challenge was going from the ship to the Opera House, about 500 metres, or a 10 minute gentle stroll. But no, we were to be transported there by coach. With boarding time – an age in itself – and the drive, seemingly, round Sydney, the whole thing took around 30 minutes. Naturally, we elected to walk back after the Opera.

At last, we were in the Sydney Opera House. We made our way up 120 steps, only to espy an escalator as we reached the top, before making our way to the pre-show bar looking out across the harbour. We genuinely felt so lucky/privileged just being there, let alone being lucky enough to have tickets to see the [sell out] show. In fact, we felt it necessary to drink 2 or 3 more glasses of fizzy pop before going into the theatre. Once inside, we found our seats and waited while the theatre filled, with people wearing the full range of outfits, from full dinner suites and evening dresses to sandals, jeans & T-shirts. And all sorts in between, some of which, and I’m talking about the female variety here, were more than a little pleasing on the eye. ouch, leave my ear alone: it hurts. Anyway, they were, very pleasing on the eye indeed.

The lights went down, the orchestra sounded off and the Opera was on. And as it started, the story once again came flooding back, with Carmen as ever looking voluptuous ( ouch, my ear hurts again). In a way, the fact that the story was so familiar was good as the effects of close to a bottle of champagne and the heat of the day started to take its toll. But, with all credit to the cast and orchestra, and of course all those that made it happen, I did manage to stay awake for the whole show and yes, I enjoyed every bit of it. I think I may have a bit of a crush on Carmen but given what happens, it probably wouldn’t be a long lasting crush. Now, as I mentioned, I had seen Carmen in Verona, and there, they brought horses onto the stage. They didn’t in London nor did I expect them in Sydney, but they did. Even for part of the curtain call where the horse bowed in appreciation of the thunderous applause. Applause that was well deserved for all involved. And so the show ended, the Opera House emptied and we made our way, on foot, back to the ship, back to our cabin, back to our balcony, back to just one more drink before bed time.

I recommend all to see Carmen at least once.

The next morning we had a slightly later breakfast before returning shoreside to catch a ferry from Circular Quay, going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to Darling Harbour. From here we planned to walk around, via Paddy’s Market & China Town into Hyde Park and the Royal Batonical Gardens back to Circular Quay where would have a late meal so that we could enjoy the 9pm sail away (normally, we would be at dinner between 8:30 & 10:00).

We made Paddy’s Market in good time and immediately decided that Paddy’s Market was not a place that we would spend too much time. It certainly wasn’t our cup of tea. There then followed 10 minutes map reading for my part and questioning on the part of Mrs Me who was convinced I had the map the wrong way round (proof that women can’t read maps) – leave my ear alone woman – before admitting I was right and continuing into China Town, where we stopped to get a coke and jelly beans for Mrs Me who was starting to feel shaky and in need of sugar – nothing of course to do with the excess of champagne the night before! for gods sake, will you stop flicking my ear. Fully rested and watered we continued on to Hyde Park to visit the Anzac Memorial and then onto the fountain of remembrance.

From Hyde Park, we crossed over to the Royal Botanical Gardens. By now, we were starting to flag as the day got hotter (even the tar underfoot felt a little soft) and the exertions and excess of the previous day took its toll. Luckily, we found a small cafe where we could take on proper food and rehydrate ourselves properly. Had we been sitting in London, we would by now be pestered by pigeons but here in Sydney we saw but one solitary pigeon but there were loads of large (duck size) birds with long beaks like curlews. I don’t know what they were, perhaps they were curlews, but they were friendly and cute despite having the back of their heads looking a bit like a vulture. While the temptation was there, we resisted and kept all the food to ourselves.

By the way, as I’m writing this bit, we’re sitting in the Crows Nest enjoying a Singapore Sling , listening to a gaggle of women nattering and the clicking of their ‘knitting needles’ as we sail the Bass Straight between Australia and Tasmania on our way to ‘The Bite’ (which is supposed to be a bit like the Bay of Biscay) and subsequently, Melbourne.

Once again rested, we headed into the gardens proper which were stunning. Pictures I’m afraid will have to wait until we get WiFi that’s a bit quicker and more reliable that satellite. Without a doubt, there was a tropical feel about the place. It was very hot and extremely humid. In fact, it was so bad that when we ‘chanced’ on another cafe, we again felt compelled to site down a replace lost fluids. This time though, with beer :-).

While enjoying our beer’s I took the opportunity to photograph some of the wildlife. As before we were joined by what I now know to be Ibis’s, crows, moorhens and other things that I’ll never know the names of. Then, there was an almighty roar from above. No, it wasn’t a lion! It was an aerobatic team doing their stuff over the harbour. Wow, what a treat that was. I managed to get quite a few pictures, most of which were rubbish so you’ll have to take it from me, they were really good. After that, it was the last push to get back to the ship. On the way however, we strayed upon a tree filled with parrot type birds. Their flash’s of colours darting around over our heads. Brilliant reds, blues and yellows. Only seeing them for real can they truly be appreciated.

At last, we made the ship tired, achy and very, very hot. So hot in fact that we decided to forego the planned meal at Circular Quay and settle for Fish & Chips :-) by the pool before retiring to our cabin for the sail away, scheduled for 9 o’clock or 21:00 as us sea farers know it.

Just as we finished our fish & chips however, the sky became very angry, preceded by sudden strong winds and then, the sky opened and down came the rain. Did we care. Not one bit, we were in a sheltered part, by the bar, and anyway, the rain was warm. The rain triggered the need to close the roof over the pool, which turned the area into a something akin to a Sauna. That was our cue to retire.

Back in our cabin, we sat down on sheltered balcony to watch the rain and was now developing into an electrical storm. The lightening arced across the whole sky and moving forever closer. We saw the night bridge walkers quickly retreating from the top before the lightening got too close. The gulls, our forever friends in port went for cover. Then the thunder arrived, which given the immensity of the lightening was rather pathetic, and then, spookily, the allotted time arrived for us to depart. But, nothing happened. In fact nothing happened for at least half an hour. Then it was time; time to let go the strings. All the strings were eventually released and still the ship didn’t move – do we really need all those strings? After what seemed half an hour but probably only a couple of minutes, we were away. We slipped quietly away from the harbour (making lots of noise with the ships horn probably wouldn’t be appreciated by the locals) turned back into the main waterway and sailed out past the Opera House, setting course for Melbourne. I watched, Mrs Me now electing for bed, as we sailed out to sea until we dropped off the pilot at 22:19. Then, it was time for my bed as well.

ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz