The snow came – 7 January 2022

When we woke, the land had been changed overnight.

Everywhere was blanketed in snow and there was even some more of the white stuff fluttering down from the clouds, but the sun was shining so it wasn’t all bad.

I put my boots on and went out early because the temperature was rising and there was water dripping from the tree in the garden. Not a second to waste if I was going to get the best snowy pictures today. The roads looked a bit slippery, so I decided I’d walk over to St Mo’s rather than driving much further. Surprisingly, with the schools still on holiday and a fair fall of snow on the ground, there were no sledges or sledgers to be seen. A sign of the times. In my day we couldn’t wait to get out there and freeze our extremities with sledging and snowball fights.

I didn’t have time for snowball fights. I was toting the A6000 with a macro lens and the A7 with an 18mm wide angle. One in each jacket pocket. First real target was a rosehip cluster on a bush just past the carpark. That got something worthwhile in the bag. Next was the lone tree in St Mo’s. Looking very elegant with a dusting of snow still clinging to its branches and a crow up near the top. I expected the bird to fly off as I got closer and closer, taking shots all the time. It never moved, almost daring me to come closer. I gave in eventually and let it win the standoff this time. Down on the boardwalk there were more photos to take of snowy footprints, but I was sure one of the tree shots would get PoD. I walked round the pond twice, taking pot shots all the time, but not really being satisfied with anything. Eventually I’d had enough and went home to get warm.

A cup of coffee soon warmed me up, and after lunch the postman came with some Christmas cards, delivered almost a month past their posting date. Also two letters for Scamp which apparently showed that the date for her op had been put back a day. That meant the op was now set for a Friday and we knew that the surgeon didn’t work on a Friday. She struggled through the maze of “Press 1 for blah. Press 2 for blah blah, etc. After waiting for about fifteen minutes, she finally got through to a human who told her that yes, the date on the letter was correct, but said she’d transfer her to the Eye Clinic, then cut her off. I found the phone number for the Eye Clinic and Scamp phoned it and spoke to someone who explained that the date on the letter was for a post-op check and that she was scheduled for the op on the Thursday with the surgeon we’d met back in December.

All was well, so to allow her to cool down, I went for a walk over to Condorrat to get some mince and potatoes for dinner. I also managed ten minutes in St Mo’s first. That’s where the real PoD came from. Happier with it than with any of the other shots.

Got instruction when I got back on how to build a mince pie the way my mum used to make it. It wasn’t nearly as good as my mum’s, and nowhere as good as Scamp’s, but it worked and surprisingly I don’t feel any reflux effects from it … so far.

Watched a film recommended by Hazy, ‘Judy’, about Judy Garland. If half of it was true, it must have been a terrifying childhood. You don’t realise just how lucky you are sometimes. After that we watched a Monty Don program about gardens in Venice. It was just like being there. Unfortunately, when we looked out the window afterwards, it wasn’t the Grand Canal we saw, but a garden with half melted snow that looked like it was beginning to freeze. Oh well!

Tomorrow looks like the thaw will start. Let’s hope it clears the snow away and we get out somewhere, anywhere.

The first step to a brighter day – 22 December 2021

Today the sun set ONE minute later than yesterday, but that minute was important.

I didn’t really notice much difference in the light, but Scamp was certain it was lighter this morning than it was yesterday. I’ll go with her answer.

There were presents to wrap this morning and after that, Scamp drove up to Tesco and I drove up to Costa for coffee and a panettone with Val. The panettone was his idea and with him being an Italian, I went along with it. Also he was paying today, but that’s by the way. We talked about many things, but all things tech really. Really enjoyed the conversation and actually enjoyed a toasted panettone dunked into coffee although Val says that the toasting of it isn’t very Italian. It was a cold day with rain turning to a hard sleet called Freezing Rain. It’s harder than sleet or hail and remains frozen when it lands on the ground. Dodgy stuff to walk on apparently. I offered Val a run home and for once he accepted. This wasn’t a day for going for a walk.

While I was out with Val I got a message to say that a parcel was going to arrive today in about fifteen minutes.  I phoned Scamp, but I needn’t have worried, she was at home by then and ready to receive the parcel.  Parcels have been whizzing around the country these last few days.  Thankfully I think most have now arrived at their recipients, although one more may still be on its way.

Back home I dumped the camera and we went to visit Margie. By then it was less cold than it had been, you couldn’t say it was warmer, that would give the wrong impression. We spent an interesting couple of hours talking to Margie and hearing her stories of the Larkhall folk who were in her ward at the hospital. She was shocked at the language they used, but said that they had hearts of gold. She was even more shocked when Scamp told her I was born and brought up in Larkhall. After coffee and Stollen (which she told us was meant to represent the baby Jesus lying in the manger) and with a few more stories told, we took our leave and drove home.

I didn’t have a photograph for today and couldn’t think what I would do for it. Eventually I settled on the Fairy at the top of the Christmas tree. Last week it was the turn of ’Fairy Nuff’ to shine. Tonight it was the fairy with the new white dress who shone, and she became PoD.

Later when we were watching Christmas University Challenge, a question was about a Christmas speciality which represents the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger and we laughed, knowing the answer was ‘Stollen’!!

Tomorrow Scamp would like to do some ‘light shopping’. I think that means we’re not going to buy the entire Tesco, just a selection from it.

Gardening, Mojave and Cannoli – 19 March 2021

Not quite in that order, but does the order matter? Not to me, it doesn’t.

Let’s start with Mojave. On this beautiful spring day I decided I’d back up the iMac and install Mojave. I’d downloaded it a few months ago. Said goodbye to Sierra and ran the installer. Oops. Got this message “This copy of the Install macOS Mojave application is damaged, and can‘t be used to install macOS.” Ok, no problem. I’ll just download another copy, except… Mojave is not listed in the Apple App Store. I finally found out how to download it. You first have to put the original installer in the bin then empty the bin. Next you have to restart the machine. Once it’s restarted, you must use Safari, Apples clumsy browser and then there is a path to the App Store that allows you to download the installer. Why this devious path to a free download?

It’s just a ploy by Apple. They want you to install the most up to date version of the operating system, currently Big Sur. It’s the only version available to download openly from the App Store on Firefox, Chrome or any browser except Safari. It seems that the reason they keep hiding older versions of the OS is to keep you moving on to a new OS every year or so until you can’t upgrade any more and a new computer is the only way to upgrade the OS. I’ve read this explanation many times today in different words, but all with the same theme. Apple was always seen as wearing the white hats, but like politicians, they’re all as bad as each other!

That was the morning. Later in the morning we were off to B&M to shop for a new pot for the Pieris that has been looking a bit sad since the end of last year. Also we needed new rechargeable batteries for the solar powered lights in the garden. Got both and both fitted in Scamp’s car. After lunch we were back out again in Blue this time to get ericaceous compost to pot up the plant and another bag of general purpose compost to top up the raised bed. Got both and some other incidentals.

Then the hard work began. We struggled to get that pieris out of its old pot, but it was jammed in solid. There was absolutely no give. Eventually I’d to use a hacksaw to cut the pot away. Then lifted it into the new pot and packed the ericaceous compost gently into the gaps. That should give it some growing space for a year or so. Scamp gave it a good watering, but it will need more tomorrow. I’ve rarely seen roots so packed into a pot.

We agreed that tonight we’d have fish ’n’ chips from the chippy in Condorrat, so I headed off just after 4pm. I saw the daffodils when I was leaving the house. They were shining well in the sun, so they made an easy PoD. While I was waiting at the chippy, I was eyeing up a couple of meringues in the window. Got my order in and while I was waiting I noticed a rack of cannoli, little Italian deep fried pastry shells with a sweet ricotta filling. Just to test them, I got two meringues and two cannoli. They were just as good as any we’ve had in Italy. Only surpassed by ones we bought in a cafe in Venice. The meringues were also delicious.

That was one busy day with a lot of hard work done. The pieris looks happier already. The lights are on in the garden. Hopefully tomorrow will be more relaxing.

Venice – Breakfast on the balcony – 12 August 2019

Today was Venice and it was Scamp’s idea that brought breakfast to the balcony.

You get so used to the ridiculously expensive ‘opportunities’ from P&O, but not solely from them, others do it too. A couple of times we’ve had cards through the cabin door, or waiting on the bed telling us that we can have champagne breakfast delivered to our cabin for only £25 pp. They just become part of the background ‘noise’, simply ignored. Then you realise that you’re on your holidays and simple luxuries are there to be had at no extra cost. So it was that, on Scamp suggestion, we order a ‘normal’ breakfast to be delivered to our cabin for the sail in to Venice. Surely one of the great arrivals of the trip. We sat in comfort watching Venice slide past while we enjoyed our orange juice, cereal and pastry!

We’ve joined the crowd on deck on a couple of occasions watching the sail in and listening to the commentary, but it’s no fun trying to see over the heads of the three layers of people who were probably up at 5am staking their claim to an area of the ships rail. So much better to be sitting on your own balcony and watching without having to crowd with the great unwashed! The sail in took about an hour and a half and was orchestrated by two tugs at the front and one tug at the back of the ship just to make sure that no boats got crushed this time. It seems that this might be one of the last times a cruise ship will be allowed to sail past St Mark’s Square. Plans are afoot for a cruise terminal outside the city.

After our al fresco breakfast and the chance to watch this city slide past our balcony we joined the queue on the dockside for the water bus to take us to St Mark’s Square and Venice proper. The ten minute journey took us to just outside the square and dropped us in the University area. A short walk and there we were with the rest of the tourists. After a few wrong turns we found the canal side cafe that has become a traditional morning coffee and cannoli stopping point for us. Since we had only had a rudimentary breakfast we added a small pizza each to the menu and I had a Salt Beer which was very good. More like ‘heavy’ than lager.

Wandered around some more and Scamp got a bead for her Pandora bracelet. I saw some cute little goldfish bowls complete with goldfish, made entirely from glass. They were in varying prices, ranging from €30 to €10 the further you went from St Mark’s. Didn’t get one though. Saw a selection of bow ties too on the Rialto, but decided I could probably make one for a fraction of the price. Scamp liked a set of giraffes and I would have chosen two glass cats in a posh shop in the square, but there were no prices displayed! I think my favourite was a silk shirt for a ‘Special Price’ of €340 with a matching tie €50. I got neither, of course.

Got the water taxi back to the ship just as it was beginning to rain, another tradition in Venice. Due to sail at 5.30, but waited for over an hour to get clearance from the port authority and for the tugs to arrive so we could leave Venice for Split. Because we were so late leaving, the sail out wasn’t as dramatic as the sail in, but we sat there and watched it all flow past anyway.

PoD is a shot of a man collecting shellfish from the sandbanks at the start of the sail in. Just imagine as you go to work tomorrow that this bloke probably does this every day. Beautiful scenery, but backbreaking work.

Tomorrow it’s Split in Croatia. The last port on the cruise before Valletta in Malta.

Civitavecchia – 25 June 2018

P1050163- blogDespite all our plans and research, we decided not to go to Rome today.  Instead we’d go round Civitavecchia again.

This was definitely a bus into town day.  It’s a long walk to the town from where the ship was berthed.

As usual there was an enormous queue when we first looked, but we weren’t in a hurry.  Went for a swim in the inside/outside pool.  Finally decided to go about 11.30.  Queue by that time was minimal and we got on the bus which was just arriving.  My main task today was to get some watercolour paint.  Burnt Umber if you must know.  I had a bit left in the pan in the paintbox, but a tube bought in a holiday place always brings reminders of it on dark winter days. I remembered chancing upon a stationers shop that sold art materials the last time we were in the town and I was sure I could find it again. I did eventually find the shop, but they didn’t have any watercolour paint.  Acrylic and Oils, even some pastels and marker pens, but no watercolour.  Well, at least the shop was still there, almost where I remembered it to be.

Scamp was looking for a pizza restaurant where she remembered us having a pizza and using their WiFi the last time we were here.  Despite looking in all the places it remained elusive.  We had a beer each in a little street cafe instead and that was good enough for me.  The place hadn’t changed much, but we did find a street we hadn’t been on before and while we investigated it, I noticed the clouds were drifting in.  Scamp said she thought she’d hear a clap of distant thunder too.  Not good.  As we walked down the street, I came across an artist’s shop!  It stocked W&N paints too, but it was closed, probably for lunch.  It didn’t matter, those clouds were definitely getting blacker and closer and the thunder was coming closer too.   It was time to go back on the ship.  If I got a chance I’d come back and get the paint.  If not, then maybe tomorrow.

Just got the bus back to the ship and were inside when the rain came on, and it stayed on all afternoon.  Spent the rest of the day in the inside/outside pool swimming and soaking in the hot tubs.  I didn’t get back in to town for that paint, although the rain disappeared just before we left the port.

Dinner was in the sit down restaurant.  We had two young(ish) boys at our table.  About 18/19 years old.  Scamp and I reckoned they ‘were an item’.  It certainly seemed like it, but they were good company and didn’t seem at all fazed by talking to all these ‘oldies.’

A glass of beer and a G&T sent us off to bed.

Tomorrow it’s Alghero in Sardinia.

Memories of Civitavecchia were the thunderstorm and the new bus parking area next to the castle and the water feature that’s under construction there.  Impressive.  We didn’t even have time for a walk along the prom!

Napoli – 24 June 2018

P1050113- blogNaples today.  28c predicted and achieved.

Yes, it was Naples today, but we weren’t in a rush.  We chose to spend most of the morning in and around the pool.  It was quietly relaxing with all the maddies off on tours round Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and Vesuvius.  Us, we were going looking for a pizza shop.  In Naples.  It has a few pizza shops!

We never did find that pizza shop, although I was sure I knew exactly where it was … a few times.  I knew it was on a side street to the main road that was up a hill.  Scamp knew it was to the right when you left the ship.  It turned out both of us were wrong.  We wandered round some of the seediest parts of Naples and that’s where I got today’s PoD.  Some really dodgy areas near the docks.  A bit like Carbrain.  Ok to walk through in daytime, not worth risking at night.  I’d hate to have a new car in Naples.  Every one we saw today had bashes and scrapes.  Some were missing windows, nearly all had broken lights or cracks in the windscreen.  It’s when you see the traffic and when you try to cross the street, you realise how they get into that state. 

We eventually gave up on our search for the ultimate pizza shop (that’s twice in two days!) and settled for a busy pizzeria near the port.  It was all going well until I tipped over my beer and soaked the table.  It was all sorted quickly.  Table was cleared and we were moved to another one.  A fresh pint was brought at no charge and we both had our pizzas.  Mine was a bit underdone, but it wasn’t until I started to eat it that I realised it had no sugo (tomato sauce).  Another silly mistake.  Had an extra glass of wine just to be sociable and paid about half the price we’d have paid at home, so left a good tip for the entertainment and good humour of the waiters.

Going through security today was much more laid back.  I triggered the alarm going through the scanner.  The Italian polis looked at me.  I said “Shit.  Forgot my watch.” he shrugged and said “OK.”  That’s how it should be done!

Back on the ship we both decided we’d have a light dinner at Smash & Grab, and that’s what we did.  Went to a really awful Tropical Party on the pool deck which consisted of drunk punters shouting a lot.  Not my idea of fun, nor Scamp’s.  Ended up going to the posh, quiet downstairs bar for a Long Island Iced Tea for Scamp and a Jolly Olly IPA for me. 

Early bed again and more of the same tomorrow in Civitavecchia, but without the beer waterfall, hopefully.

The auld alliance, Venice – 17 July 2017

18 JulyToday was Venice. That meant an early start to watch the sail in. It was almost as good as it was two years ago. Then we had a running commentary. This time we had nothing. I’m getting used to ‘nothing’ with Thomson. Cheap and nasty.   However, Venice is always a great port to visit.  Multinational, multicultural and a great place to get wedding photos taken if you’re from China, Japan or Korea, apparently.

We got the ‘cooncil’ water taxi from just along from the ship to St Mark’s Square for half the price that Thomson were asking.  Walked into the square and were amazed by the crowds.  Just as amazed as we were the last time, and the time before that.  The queue was starting to build for the Doge’s Palace, but Scamp noticed that there was virtually no queue to get to the top of the Campanile (bell tower).  We’d never been up it before, so today it seemed the thing to do.

First Surprise.  You access the top of the bell tower by lift, not stairs.  I’m guessing it’s possible to climb to the top if you are of that frame of mind, but we were happy to just let the lift take the strain.  The lift was really smooth going up and the view from the top was amazing.  It’s not really the top, it’s the viewing gallery at the top of the square tower,  There is a tight little spiral staircase in a wrought iron cage that probably goes right up past the bells and into the pyramidal space at the very top, but unfortunately, the gate to the staircase was locked so we couldn’t go up.  That’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it.  As you can imagine, we both took lots of photos of Venice from the top of the Campanile.  Well, more photos of Venetian roofs than of Venice itself, but it was a great sight with views to the north, south, east and west.
Second Surprise.  The Bell Tower’s bells are there and intact.  All greased and ready for action.  I became a bit nervous as the big hand on my watch crept towards the 12, but it passed without a bell being struck.  Scamp guessed that the bells don’t ring because of H&S.  Too many people would be suing the city for bell induced deafness if they rang out in that confined space.
All too soon it was time to go back down to earth.  The lift was just as swift going down as it was going up, although Scamp noticed that the lift operator looked as if he was offering up a prayer!  Maybe he was just hoping time would pass quickly until his lunch.
Remember I mentioned the Oriental Weddings?  When we got out of the lift there was a bride and groom getting in.  Bride all decked out in her white wedding dress and groom in tails.  What a strange place to get your wedding photos done, in a bell tower.

With our unexpected visit past, I tried a sketch of the Campanile, but if you sit anywhere in the square, you’re expected to pay an exorbitant fee, so I had to stand and I couldn’t get the perspective right, so I scrapped it and decided to try again when we came back.  Scamp was on a mission to find a special cafe that sold Cannoli which are little pastry tubes filled with cream.  We’d had them the last time we were there and Scamp was sure she could find the cafe.  Like a bloodhound on the scent, she led us almost straight to the shop!  Amazing!  It was beside the Grand Canal, just down from the Rialto bridge.  We both had Cannoli and cappuccino.  A bloke sitting in the cafe looked over longingly and rubbed his belly and raised his eyebrows in a question.  I smiled and just nodded.

From the cafe we crossed the Rialto and followed our noses for a while.  I was half looking for an art shop I’d been to the last time we were in Venice and I was hoping to get another sketch book there.  Not that I really needed a sketch book, it was more the idea than anything.  We didn’t find it, but we did find a square with a Leonardo exhibition.  I wasn’t really interested in going in, but I spotted another campanile near by and managed a reasonable sketch of it.  The sun was hot, but I found some shade under a tree to get the sketch done.  However, I thought it was time we were heading back.  On the way back we passed a wee pizza shop and, after some arguing about whether we should stop or go on, sat ourselves down at the only free table, ordered a pizza each and a carafe of red wine.  I don’t know who spoke first, the bloke sitting next to me or me, but when I turned round, I realised that here was the man from the Cannoli cafe.  I tried to explain and suddenly the penny dropped with him too.  “Oh yes, the little pastry!”.  It turned out he was French (Note capitalization = Nice Couple.  We had earlier had a short conversation with a nice, quietly spoken American [same capitalization rule applies]).  It turned out they were French but had a son who lived and worked in Glasgow “Good beer!  Good whisky – Not Johnny Walker.”  Our conversation was a bit stilted.  He had little english and I had no French, but we got by.  He asked what about Brexit and I told him I wasn’t in favour.  Should Scotland break from england?  Oh yes, we were both in agreement with that. Finally it was time for them to leave so we shook hands and Scamp offered “Bon Chance”.  A reaffirming of the Auld Alliance.

With the bill paid and a chance encounter under our belt, we headed back to St Mark’s and only had about 5mins to wait for the water taxi back to the boat.  Got there and we both went for a snooze ready for the sailaway to begin at 6pm.  Oh, the entertainment officer was almost wetting his pants with excitement, it was going to be a wonderful sailaway, one we’d remember for ever.  Six o’clock came and went and still we were firmly connected to Venice by our pedestrian access umbilical.  Also, there was no sign of the port workers who would undo the great ropes tying the ship to the bollards. Half past six and we were still waiting.  Finally after sitting in the hot sun for forty five minutes without any message from the captain or anyone else, one bloke with a black bag appeared sauntering on board and the umbilical was removed, the port staff arrived and departure began. Thomson, you need to start a conversation with your passengers.  You need to explain what’s going on, even if it’s bad news.  Thomson, you’re going the same way as P&O.  You have your ‘fanboys’, but thinking passengers like us will just take our money elsewhere.

Dinner tonight was in Smash ‘n’ Grab again.  It was Curry Night and it was lovely again.  Smash ‘n’ Grab might be a bit antisocial, but the food is better than in the waiter service restaurant IMO.  Danced to a couple of songs by Strumjam, then coffee and ‘white tea’ before bed.

Zadar tomorrow.

This blog and the previous two were brought to you by Free Zadar WiFi.

Windy Civitavecchia – 16 June 2016

16 June

Our second and last day in Italy dawned dull and cloudy, but with a 26knot wind.  Civitavecchia was going to be busy today.  We were the second cruise ship to dock.  The Queen Victoria of an unknown to Scamp line was first.  No sooner had we docked than the enormous Harmony (monster) of the Seas.  It really is ginormous with a capacity of around 8000 punters.  It looks like a block of flats that’s fallen into the sea and floated away.  I was going to photograph it, but I didn’t have a wide enough angled lens.  Just joking, of course I had a wide enough lens in my arsenal, but you get the meaning.  I don’t like slabs of steel like this, pretending they are ships.  This one we are on is big enough, in fact it’s probably too big.  One step down would be fine for me.  Big enough to give you the space you need, but not so big that you spend the first week of your holiday trying to find your way around.  Possibly the worst design feature of this behemoth is the inside balconies. Really, I ask you what use is a balcony that gives you a view other balconies across the middle of the ship?  Is this a feature for those who live in flats at home and WANT to look into other people’s lives rather than the ports and scenery passing by?  Not for me.  As I write this, one of the Azamara fleet is sailing past our window.  It’s a bit smaller than our home for the fortnight, but it looks quite elegant, and even more important, it looks like a ship, not a floating block of flats.

We took the bus in to Civitavecchia today (Isn’t copy and paste wonderful?  You can copy‘Civitavecchia’ from anywhere in your text and simply paste ‘Civitavecchia’ back again where you need it!).  You could walk out of the harbour, but it takes you 20 minutes or so.  I remember doing it a couple of years ago when it was calm, but walking into a 25mph wind is not my idea of fun, especially when the bus is free.  We were going to have coffee at the cafe we used last year for our WiFi, but alas it was closed and shuttered.  Gone.  We walked up the main street of the town and I bought a wide flat paintbrush and a smaller one too.  We visited a wee market and liked the fact that the local trees had been allowed to grow and the roof of the shed that held the market had been built around them.  We had a pizza and a beer each at a wee restaurant where the service was very slow and so was the WiFi, but it met the specification of being free, the WiFi, not the beer and pizza.  We had a short walk along the prom, but it wasn’t much fun with the wind roaring in off the sea, so we went back to the ship.  Security is tight in Italy.  Armed soldiers at the bus station and yesterday there was an armoured car and soldiers at the ship.  It makes you realise just how dangerous life is these days.

Back on the ship, Scamp went for a swim while I put the second load of washing in the machine, then joined her at the solarium pool where, despite the cloudy sky, the roof was rolled back and the water in the pool was lovely and warm.  Came back to take the washing out of the tumble dryer and had quick G&T to prepare us for dinner.

It should have been a tropical themed night, but there was little evidence of it on this dull ship.  Apart from the waiters all dressed in colourful shirts, there was no tropical atmosphere.  One dire singer who was apparently Kenny Rogers singing songs for the geriatrics, the entertainment was worse than usual.  They appear to be catering for a much older demographic than the one we are living in.  One of the table guests at dinner knew everything about everything and expounded on it at great length.  The only thing he didn’t know was how to shut up.  The rest were fine.

Dead beat after dinner and went to bed early.  This cruising is tiring. 

This upload is brought to you courtesy of JMM in Ajaccio.  Dear beer, but tastes better than the ship’s Carling.

Livorno, Terrapins and Pigs – 15 June 2016

15 June1It’s Livorno today and yes, the sea was a bit rough again last night.  I don’t think it was as rough as the night before, but maybe we were just really tired and fell asleep more easily.  Anyway, as I said, it’s Livorno today.  Livorno is an old friend.  It’s the port for Pisa or Pizza as the great unwashed call it.  It’s also the port for Florence (who was the cow in Magic Roundabout, strangely there isn’t a town called Zebidee, at least not in Italy).

We were not going to Pisa or Florence or even Pizza.  We were just going to Livorno.  It’s got lots of places we like like the big town square that is actually a big long bridge over one of the canals.  It’s got a flea market much like The Barras, but Scamp doesn’t like it.  You can get a pair of jeans there for €2.  One careful owner, well at least one anyway.  You know all those charity bags that drop through your letter box?  Guess where a lot of that stuff ends up.  We walked round most of the places we’d seen before, but like we do on Skye, we were looking for new roads, new places we’d never been.  I thought I could see a park on the outskirts of the town along the road from the Town Square Bridge. This would be our new attraction for the day.  It was a strange place.  First there was an imposing sandstone building that looked like a courthouse or a council building of some sort, but it was boarded up and locked down securely.  Next was a dog park, well, that was what it looked like.  There were a couple of jakies  hanging about and a man walking a pair of serious looking dogs.  There was a sign about dogs and I took this to mean that it was it was a dog walking park.  Not the sort of park you’d take Vixen to JIC.  More a Carbrain style park, but without the knives!  Next was the park proper.  It looked like it had been a substantial park at one time with a mini-zoo and a boating pond, but it had fallen onto hard times and was in need of a fair bit of TLC and money thrown at it.  Such a shame.  There was a fountain, or at least what had been a fountain.  Now it was just a pit with a brick surround and some dirty green water in the middle.  There were dovecots without any doves.  There was a pond with ducks, geese, pigeons and terrapins.  There must have been at least twenty terrapins sitting on rocks warming themselves in the sun.  Over by the side of the dried out boating pond was what looked like a factory, also fallen into disrepair.  With the sun shining through the gaps in the roof and also in the round windows on the far side, there were textures galore to capture.  Really now it’s a roosting place for even more pigeons.

Once we left the park, we retraced our steps back into town to find some free WiFi.  The first place was ok, but I couldn’t get the laptop to connect.  A mixup with what I thought Scamp had ordered and what she actually wanted and also the fact that our waitress seemed more interested in keeping up with her Facebook and email conversations than in actually making our coffee, coupled to the fact that I’d got the password wrong, meant we left under a cloud.  Not a digital type cloud computing type cloud either.  We found another coffee shop quite easily and got connected easily there.  Also, Scamp was a bit more accurate in indicating exactly what pastry she wanted, so we all left happily.

Back at the ship, Scamp headed for some sun time, while I grabbed my drawing stuff and got the bus back into town.  Before I went, I tried out the free Port WiFi and got connected immediately with no password.  Just goes to show that we in the UK are lagging behind with the digital connections.  Glasgow apparently now has free WiFi in the city centre although since I’ve discovered the speed of 4G, I’ve never felt the need.  Wandered round the town again and got Hazy’s welcome text.  Actually, I really was thinking about texting you H, to see what the outcome was.  Really pleased for you.  Got the sox by the way!  After that I sat and sketched one of the buildings I liked in Livorno.  I’d photographed it last year and tried to paint it from the photograph.  This time I took my courage in both hands, sat down and drew it.  Unfortunately, the painting teacher was wandering around waiting for the bus back to the ship.  Also one of the African “Lookie Lookie Men” was hovering around trying to sell me a selfie stick.  He tapped me on the shoulder and said “Bueno!”  I think he thought if he praised me he’d get a sale.  Sorry mate, it doesn’t work like that.  Got the next bus back to the ship and found that Scamp was checking out the inside pool because the sun had gone in behind some clouds.  Found her and found that the sun had reappeared and the roof had been retracted.  Did a bit  of gentle swimming and jacuzzi lounging before heading for the cabin to prepare for dinner.

Scamp has wanted to sign up for Freedom DIning for some time.  What it means is that you don’t have a set time or a set table.  You just turn up and say you are happy to share the table with whoever is there.   Sometimes it works out fine, sometimes it’s a disaster.  The good thing about it is it’s only a disaster for a couple of hours, not the rest of the holiday.  Tonight was one of those disasters.  The couple at the table were fine.  Then two dobbers arrived.  The guy was ex-police and he started explaining where the French police had gone wrong in dealing with trouble at the Euro football thing.  He then went on to tell all and sundry what a clever guy he was.  Oh dear.  At school I had a friend called Arthur Cunningham although the name is irrelevant.  He was the first one I ever hear talking about ‘Pigs’.  I always thought of them as police or polis, never ‘pigs’.  Now I see where he was coming from.  This guy was a pig.  So was his wife.  She just wanted to inject herself into every conversation.  ‘She had done this, She had done that.  If she hadn’t done it, her grand daughter had done it.  Strangely, her son and daughter hadn’t done all that much. I pitied the other couple at the table.  They had done interesting things too and so had their sons and daughters and their grandsons and grand daughters, but the pigs didn’t allow them to talk about it.  Maybe Arthur was right after all, all those years ago.

Well, it’s nearly midnight.  Time for my beauty sleep and to face the port for Rome tomorrow.  Hope we have Welsh folk, not pigs at breakfast.


Today’s upload comes courtesy of La Classica Pizzeria in Civitavecchia.

Civitavecchia – 22 June 2015

We waited until all the shore parties had left before making our way out of the ship today.  Got down the gangway to be told that the shuttle had just left.  Had a conversation with a man who had a plummy accent and had worked in Glasgow.  He didn’t actually say what he did or had done for a living, but he “had a sales manager”, so I’m guessing he was quite high up the food chain.  We talked for a while until the shuttle bus came.  The busride into town was fast, bumpy and hair raising at times.  Of course it was, we were back in Italy.  We arrived at the bus stop and were immediately set upon by taxi drivers eager to take us to Rome.  I started out saying “No, we’re not going to Rome today”, but they didn’t seem to understand that, or they weren’t interested, so I started saying random things like “No thanks, we’ve already got one” and “Hey, I’ve got a hat like that!”.  What we really needed was Murd to say something in Gaelic to them, because the first thing they say is “hello”.  When you reply, they can quickly establish what nationality you are and start their speil in that language.  Murd’s Gaelic would puzzle them I’m sure, especially with a few sweary words thrown in for good measure.  Anyway, we quickly ran the taxi gauntlet and walked into the town.

Civitavecchia is a working, industrial town, not at all given over to tourism.  It’s a bit seedy in places and not very pretty.  We walked into the main shopping area and decided that it wasn’t really going to be very interesting, so headed back to the sea front where there turned out to be a decent promenade.  Scamp loves promenades and we walked a fair distance along it.  We watched two guy practising karate or tai kwon do.  I’m not being facetious here, meaning they were fighting, no, they looked like they were performing a kata on the promenade.  Strange.  Pretty as the prom was, we decided to walk back to the bus stop and go to the ship.  We passed a wee cafe offering free Wi-Fi and stopped for a coffee and a beer.  Britain could really learn from the Europeans about using free Wi-Fi to encourage punters in to cafes. I’ve only once paid for a wireless connection and that was €3 for 60 min.  Compare that to the ship’s extortionate £1 for 2 min which equates to £30 for 60 min!  How many places in Glasgow or Embra give you truly free Wi-Fi in a cafe?  Very, very few.  So, I got connected and uploaded two days of blog with pics attached this time.  Then we headed for the bus and then back on board. 

Had lunch and sunbathed for the rest of the day.  Went to the Headliners show in the theatre.  It was quite good, not excellent, just quite good.  Yes, I know, damned by faint praise, but that’s the way it is.  For me the singing is rough and strident but the dancing and choreography is great.  Couldn’t agree on what to do with the rest of the night, but as we were both yawning, it seemed that the best thing to do was to have an early night, so once this epistle is done I’m off to beddy bies.

I don’t think I’d rush back to Civitavecchia again.  It’s pretty rough around the edges, but it is what it is, just another industrial town.  To sum it up, in one shop window I saw some swiss army knives and wilderness camping gear.  Nothing unusual there I suppose although it’s getting rarer in the UK.  The next window had machetes, short hunting bows, crossbows and throwing knives.  Hmm, camping doesn’t get tougher than this.  Thought for a while I was back in Carbrain.

Oh, one last thing.  We got talking to a couple in the theatre last night and found out they came from Croy.  Then the guy let slip that they are both Rangers supporters.  In Croy?