13 December 2020

Christmas News 2020

Christmas News 2020

Lost Christmas Cheer

Since I last wrote a Blog or email little to no adventure has taken place in my or the Bears lives! We are avoiding unnecessary contact und thus we hope the Covid-19 pandemic. So far so good! Our various guardian angels are working overtime to keep us safe and I wondered who, other than God, cares for our guardian angels? My Bears had the answer. (See above)

The second wave situation here in Germany as I write is getting serious if not dramatic. I find it sad that there are so many people who think it nothing more than a serious bought of flu. The long term repercussions are only slowly becoming apparent too. As I write they have registered more than 28000 new cases and almost 500 deaths due to Corona in the last 24 hours! And the tendency is up and not down. I know of two good friends that got infected, were quite poorly for awhile, but seem to have recovered somewhat now. As they are 90 and over 80 I pray that they do not have any lasting effects as others do. Well it seems that the German government are moving to declaring a general lockdown on Wednesday 15 December! I had intended to avoid all contact from Monday anyway in an effort to be able to spend at least two separate days of the Christmas period, one with each of my patchwork families!

I still bake cakes each Sunday and then distribute pieces to my neighbours and my patchwork family. My sourdough bread baking has become one of my passions and I am getting better with it all the time. Now that I slice up the loaves and freeze them as soon as they cool off, I manage to eat every last crumb for I only take out a slice at a time. Consequently I now need only to bake two loaves once a month.

The Bears and I wish you all, despite the current Covid situation, a blessed Christmas and a new year filled with good health and happiness.

Stay negative!


7 October 2020

A hospital visit in time of COVID-19!

Two weeks ago now our BBF had a show his face visit to our GP and he just mentioned in passing that his gallbladder had been giving him grief! Dr Aretz did an ultrasound scan and said it was time to remove it. Now you have to know that Dr Richard Aretz is also a sailor and has his own boat, so we get on well. He now rang a friend who just happened to be the Chief Surgeon in a hospital who was also a sailor! After a little discussion Dr Maciey agreed to see Alan that day! So off we went to the St Irmgadis Hospital in Süchteln, some 30 mins away by car. 

Alan was seen immediately and as sailors do they talked about sailing. After another ultrasound scan Dr Maciey confirmed that the gallbladder should be removed! How soon was the next question and our BBF answered as soon as you like would tomorrow be ok! Covid-19 reared it’s head now and Dr Maciey said a test had first to be done and so arrangements were made to have this and the pre-op check up and chat to be done on Friday 2 October! 

One is obliged to wear a mask and to disinfect one’s hands when entering the hospital and all staff moving about also wear masks! On 2 October Alan arrived early to first report to reception and get all the Medical Insurance stuff out of the way. Then after a bit of a wait Alan was seen by a surgeon called Mohammed, a Kurd from Iraq who discussed the detail and risks of the operation to remove the gallbladder. He took blood and took the throat and nose swabs for the Covid-19 test! Papers were signed and then Alan was passed over to a Polish anaesthetist who’s name we can’t spell who  discussed that side of the OP. Thereafter we were free to go.  

The OP was scheduled for Tuesday 7 October. Sigrid, Vincent’s grandma kindly agreed to take us to the hospital! Alan was told to ring up at 15:30hrs on Monday to find out the time to be in the hospital! He entered the details into his diary on the iPhone so that he would get reminded. On the day and time in question the clot was so busy ironing and watching TV that he forgot and didn’t make the call until 16:05hrs!! Now there was no answer, the secretarial staff had all gone home! After getting the number off the hospital’s internet webpage he rang the hospital switch board, who after a bit of faffing about connected him with the ward in which we would lie! Come at 07:00hrs, no better arrive at 06:45hrs! Memories of Army life flooded back where each person in the chain of command would subtract a minimum of 15mins from the true time to be on parade meaning you were woken at Sparrow fart for an 08:00hrs parade! 

Sigrid bless her didn’t bat an eye when told that we needed to leave at 06:15hrs, she promptly said she’d pick us up at 06:00hrs! Had she served too we wondered! 

We were all keyed up if not quite with bright eyes and bushy tails on the morning in question! Our gallant BBF promptly forgot something when he was about to get in the car so rushed back to get it. He gave Sigrid a half loaf of his recently baked loaf of sourdough bread. It would be a shame to waste it while he was three days away in hospital! The humans both wore masks for the journey, though we do think it illegal for drivers to wear masks while driving because the police want to catch your smile on the speed camera.
Now Autumn is here it was our first early morning out in the dark and rain. The journey was uneventful, though both humans expressed surprise at the level of traffic out and about so early. 

It was as we thought a hurry up and wait morning. We were shown to a bed in a room with a patient who would be discharged later that morning! We never found out the name of the nice young man who was leaving! He had been operated on his left leg and had to wear a brace on it as if it was broken! The two humans discussed football as the nameless patient was a keen almost professional fan of Borussia Mönchengladbach! He then kindly gave Alan a set of earphones with which to watch and hear TV! 

Our human now had to don hospital attire. A cold gown which ties at the back, a pair of net mesh underpants, a green hair covering and a cool pair of white stockings with a hole in each toe! A pretty nurse then came and shaved Alan’s tummy! She also put an armband round his right wrist telling him it was an “all inclusive “ armband! A first for us for we have never traveled all inclusive! 

Shortly after 10:00hrs they came for Alan and wheeled him off to the operating theatre. Outside his room he was, as all other staff moving about, required to wear a mask! Up in a lift and down a short corridor we stopped by a large serving hatch. It was our human that was to be served through the hatch! The bed was hoisted up to its full height and a conveyor belt came out and slid him through the hatch and onto the operating table! Here he was met by a nice friendly chap, we think was called Dr Winter! He was wheeled into a room to wait some more! 

Lying flat on his back looking up at the ceiling a pretty face with dark eyes and large spectacles filled his vision and promptly pulled down his mask and with the most beautiful of smiles said I’m Dr Henn and shall be putting you to sleep! 

Shortly thereafter she disappeared and he was wheeled into the operating theatre where they spread out his arms and promptly stuck needles into him. He said that it felt a little like being placed into a medieval torture chamber. The lovely Dr Henn then said he would begin to feel drowsy and that Alan should think of something nice. He replied that he would like to wake up again beside her in bed! A little nonplussed she said it would cost extra. As the oxygen and other gasses mask was placed gently over his mouth and nose Dr Henn gently stroked his face until he was well under. Now after the event Alan realises how much he has missed the TLC of physical contact with another human! 

Our BBF eventually woke up in the recovery room where Dr Winter and a Dr Achmed from Aleppo watched over one. Even in his slightly befuddled and dreamy self Alan discussed Syria and how much he liked it and how heart broken he was at the destruction! 

With Dr Winter he discussed caravanning as Dr Winter had just bought an English one and was well into travels with his van. Sadly he had noted that the increase in motor homes  had greatly reduced the space for campers and that the Covid-19 pandemic had made matters worse! 

Alan was later collected and taken back to his Ward. On the way the Nurse Thorsten said that if he wanted they could put him in a room with an en-suite bathroom as the old room only had a wash basin! Needless to say Alan thanked him and said yes please. He then had to explain to Thorsten where the key to the safe was kept. Alan had given it to Jamie to look after and it was wrapped into his Pilgrim neckachief! 

Once the move had been completed and Thorsten had helped Alan put on his pyjamas our BBF dozed the afternoon away as the effects of the anaesthetic gradually diminished. Someone said at some stage that there would be nothing to eat today but that the next day would be soup only. Then a Dr must have taken pity on him as Thorsten came with a cup of peppermint tea, (something Alan always associates with being old or ill in Germany) and one slice of white bread, butter and cheese. 

Much to our pleasure we held a Whatsapp video call with our Worms Family, and then we slept some more! Shortly after our video call Thorsten came and hooked Alan up to a drip. This was a pain killer he was told. As it was only a small drip it was removed later in the evening! 

We watched TV now until about 22:00hrs when we turned the lights out and went to sleep! 
 Our second day in hospital was uneventful! The morning circus of nurses and doctors coming in and taking, blood, temperature etc started at around 07:30hrs followed by a light breakfast! 

Alan had a bit of a strip down flannel wash and then sat and read, while we Bears attempted to write it all down. Petra and Vincent had a short video call to make sure all was well, which was doubly nice. Alan used SMS to chat to the other half of his patchwork family during the day. Christopher has cocked up his iPhone by changing the password which he did not write down, or tell his mum what it was, and after three attempts can’t get in anymore! So no more whatsapp chats with him! Moni has not yet taken her iPhone into use and still uses a steam driven mobile! Hence SMS is the method of maintaining contact! 

Our human when he got bored with reading, paced up and down the room like a caged lion. He told us it was an attempt at keeping a modicum of fitness. He did this a few times during the day. He complained though that his stomach muscles ached and moving around in bed was not so easy anymore and he felt like he was now an ancient geriatric! We kept quite and didn’t remind him that he is already a 74 year old geriatric, as he might have thrown us teddies in the corner and sulked! 

The staff are kindness and patience itself. They came a  number of times during the day to ensure our human had all he needed. He was allowed lunch, which included soup, but also rice and meatballs! 

So the forewarned soup only diet was a myth of someone’s imagination! A lady came later in the afternoon to ask what Alan wanted to eat the next day and this confirmed that he would be eating what they call a light diet but included solid food and coffee for breakfast! Coffee though can only be had during the day, Germans just insist on pepper mint tea for old folks in the evening. Alan remarked to us, go with the flow don’t buck the system! 

In the afternoon after watching a cooking program we slept some until the evening meal was served. Then we watched TV for the rest of the evening. The events in America are alarming. If the whole of the administration come down with COVID-19 who is going to run the country! 

Just before turning the lights out we watch the Lanz talk show on ZDF and they had an American woman supporter of the Republican Party and Donald Trump who was floundering, but attempting to justify Trump and hi policies. She really floundered when she tried to explain that Trump saying that he could just kiss and grab women by their pussy,  was just locker room talk and meant nothing. The other all German panel members looked incredulously. We couldn’t take her poor attempt at argument and switched the TV off and went sleep! 

We were rudely awoken at 06:30hrs when a nurse came in with a new patient to occupy the next bed to ours. A Herr Zimmermann. Our human rolled over and did his best to ignore them. By 07:30hrs it was all over trying to feign sleep as the No 2 Surgeon came on his rounds. He explained that the muscle ache our human was feeling was normal. They after all pumped up his tummy with gas which stretched it wide. Some patients complained of shoulder ache as well. Alan replied that he had neck ache too, which he had attributed to the hard pillows! All normal the surgeon replied. He also confirmed that we would be released tomorrow morning after breakfast, providing the liver values were ok. More blood would be taken today to test that it was. Certain values were a little high, though he didn’t say which and departed before we could ask! 

After the Drs circus had left Herr Zimmermann was wheeled away for his op and we were served breakfast!

Ibuprofen was given to help with the pain and to reduce inflammation, four times a day! 

After our breakfast our human had the three S’s as one would say in the Army! The plasters all had to be replaced after that and so he was able to get dressed and escaped outside for an hours walk round the town. 

When he returned Herr Zimmermann was back from his op, but clearly befuddled still, so we left him alone. Mind you the nurses didn’t, they came to test his blood sugar etc. He is a little hard of hearing, so all discussion takes place in a high volume setting. 

Lunch was served! 

And eaten! 

Now it is a question of reading and waiting until tomorrow when we hope to be let out! 

We were rudely awoken at 06:20hrs on our last day by a cheery nurse wanting to measure our blood pressure and to take our temperature. Then came the first Dr, Mohammed, who took the sexy white stockings off of Alan and Herr Zimmermann amongst other things that Drs do to patients so early in the morning. He mentioned that Alan’s liver values were all ok and that we could leave after breakfast! 

At 07:30hrs Dr Querling came and did his rounds and confirmed that we could leave the hospital today. Alan’s GP would take the stitches out and he was not to do any heavy lifting for at least 10 days, but yes he is allowed to ride his bike! 

Sigrid was early and kindly gave our BBF a lovely bunch of flowers to welcome him home and wish him a speedy recovery! 

In his letter box he found a surprise gift from Anna and Oliver! 

Life is good when you have such good friends!  Stay negative folks. 
Jamie and Hanna Bear! 

20 August 2020

The New Normal

 So how have you been since last we spoke? Here in Mönchengladbach I have swung like a sinus curve from extreme laziness and slovenliness to high industriousness and an attempt at cleanliness. The major reason for these swings is that I hate house work and would rather be doing something exciting and adventurous than vacuuming and dusting. My decluttering is still going on and I am making slow progress. Some days are more emotionally draining than others, because I find old love letters, some written by my father and others by a number of my ex'es! Then I need to go for a walk or bike ride to clear my head.

My new normal is that I no longer go shopping regularly. Those that know me well also know that I am a shopaholic. I love it and before this pandemic would go once a week to food shop and every other day window shopping in the centre of town. Thanks to the Internet it is no longer necessary. I now get my food and household stuff delivered every week. There are at least two good supermarket firms that deliver here. REWE and PICNIC. I have used the former and like their products, but they are more expensive than the latter, so I have stayed with PICNIC. Yesterday they sent me an email which said that they have delivered 10 times a total of 175 kilos of Victuals and that I have saved 20 hours of shopping time.

The Big Boys Toys are delivered by DHL, so I don't go without there either. Because I was not going out spending unnecessary amounts of money in coffee shops or on spontaneous purchases, I had cash available for toys. It started back in March with me using my loyalty points from a large supermarket to order a pair of nice bluetooth earphones. This led me to buy an iPod so that I could listen to even more music on my new earphones! I discovered too that the iPod Touch was as good as a Smart Phone as I could receive emails on it as well as listen to the BBC Radio. Then I decided I needed an Apple Watch! This led me to buy a new iPhone 11 Pro Max. I needed new hearing aids and have bought two really smart ones with which I can listen to the music on my iPhone, answer the telephone and listen to the TV. When listening to music or the radio I can adjust the volume or turn it off by using the little digital crown on my Apple Watch! The hearing aids Phonak Audeo M30-R have made my life more fun.  I can go anywhere and still listen to the radio or my music. When watching TV I can now go into the kitchen to do stuff and still listen to the dialogue and not miss anything. I have a need of a new computer and am thinking of now getting a Mac Book Pro, but I needed new spectacles, which I have now ordered and these are expensive so the Mac Book will have to wait a bit. Since I no longer use my car for shopping I hardly seem to use it, that I have thought of selling it, but I shall not jump to quick conclusions here as there are occasions when a motor car is useful. Especially as I shall not be getting on a train any time soon. 

I bake weekly at least a cake which I distribute to a couple of my neighbours and my patchwork family, and every so often a sourdough loaf. I am getting quite good at the bread baking now. I started a notebook in which I record my baking recipes, especially as I am experimenting with the types of flour I use. When my neighbour had her 102nd Birthday I baked her a cake. She was delighted and since then on occasions in return for my regular Sunday cake, drops off a bottle of white wine on my doorstep.

I have met with  my good friend George/Jürgen for a coffee, on a number of occasions maintaining social distance of course. On another occasion my Camino Brother Uwe happened to be in MG for a Mega March and so we met one evening for an ice. He has a sister that sews and embroiders, so I was presented with a nice Camino facemask! I have no idea how such meetings will take place once the colder weather comes since I shall not go inside a Cafe or Restaurant! 

I have been out cycling with my two grandchildren on occasions. With Christopher we combined it with Geocaching which was fun. With Vincent we combined it with a picnic.

My Anglican Church community has continued to have Zoom Services and we even started actual Services once a month. We no longer meet in the Church Hall for coffee and tea after, but go into the park opposite the Church and stand apart for a chat and a bite of my cake, baked as usual.

I have also had a Zoom chat with Brec and Sandy in Connecticut on the one day when Vodafone had a complete shut down in Mönchengladbach! I had to scrabble around until I found a friend that had a Telekom connection which was working. It was a bit hectic for awhile, but so good to see and chat with them.

I also had a less hectic Zoom Chat with Glenn and Gwen in Canada who live just outside Toronto, on a day when my Internet connection was working.

I now have cut my own hair three times in all. From the front it looks OK, it's just the back which is iffy!

2020 looks like being the first year since 1983 that I have not been sailing. Since 2009 I have been without a boat to call my own, but I have somehow always managed to get out on the water in some form of sailing vessel. When the pandemic is over I shall attempt to get the Baltic Four together for a sail on RAGNA R. 

The Baltic Four some time ago in the 80s.

There will be no annual get together of the Nienburg Crew either which is sad. We have met each year since 1992!

At the beginning of the year I introduced a Vice Commodore of the Ocean Cruising Club to member of the German equivalent, Trans-Ocean at the Düsseldorf BOOT and we discussed cooperation between the clubs and the possibility of the OCC having a stand at the BOOT 21. BOOT 21 will take place, but I have had to inform them all that I can no longer participate unless there is a safe vaccine for me! I shall help them if they decide to have a stand from my socially distanced laptop, but more I cannot do.

In another lifetime and when I was super fit and much much younger, I had a serious bout of viral pneumonia and it was touch and go then. After REHAB it still took over three months for me to regain the full capacity of my lungs! Consequently I am doubly cautious now.

It pains me to see the many people around the world who seem to deny the seriousness of COVID-19 or the need to wear masks in public places. One or two I know personally justify their actions by saying they are lateral thinkers, implying that they are the only ones with the right answer. COVID-19 is still so new and the medical and scientific community are still learning about how it is transmitted and what the true consequences are. Younger people are being adversely affected, even if they only have a mild form and recover they are showing long term medical problems and complications. 

I remarked in my last blog that what the world needed now was strong leadership for only if all countries pull together will we overcome this pandemic. I pray that the upcoming US election will bring a favourable result and that America can then take up its proper leadership role again.

My Eye Doctor when I was having my check up said to me that once upon a time all Psychiatric Hospitals used to be painted white. Now there is only one left and it is on Pennsylvania Avenue!!

Think about it, in the meantime stay negative!

14 April 2020

COVID 19 and What the World Needs Now!

Have you been in lockdown since 14th March like me? How are you coping? Are you beginning to get cabin fever? Or bored and looking for things to do?

What I can say is that being confined to my fourth floor flat is very much like sailing alone around the world. One is alone on board, and after essential work of setting sails, navigating, and doing minor repairs one is at liberty to sit and watch the world go by. Reading was the main activity for me. Now after essential work around the flat, cleaning and tidying up,  instead of reading I play computer games or chat on Social Media. I have regular contact to friends and family, not via radio schedules, but by Facetime or WhatsApp. The real major difference is that there is no motion (unless I've had one too many) and my bunk is not lying on its ear!

Petra as I indicated in my last blog is working hard to maintain her Patchwork Family and is very strict with us OAPs. She has her hands full with working from Home  and having to care for Vincent as the Kindergartens are closed. But she thinks ahead and orders for us online when she can, or receives the orders from the local Bio Bauer. (Farmer). Now though, we have felt safe enough to go and collect from her, saving just a little of her time.  As we have all been in Quarantine for the last four weeks, we were allowed to have a walk together on Easter Monday, wearing facemasks made by Sigrid and maintaining social distances!

I personally don't have a problem with being shut in my flat, as long as I can get out on my bike once per day I can cope. I've started to declutter my life. Going through old love letters and photos, takes time though and sometimes my mind will only cope with so much nostalgia. The size of the Paper Bin also determines how much I can shred at any one time. It is not as much as I would like, so I often have to wait a week to 10 days before I can resume. It means my flat is a bit untidy as I do not put it all away again, it sits there in various piles waiting for me to begin again with the trip down memory lane.

My main thoughts though are to the future and here I am fearful. I am fearful for the whole World, for it requires not a country by country solution, but a world solution. It is no good that China is on top of the problem now, when the USA and other countries are not. The only way we are going to get to defeat this pandemic is if we work together, sharing knowledge and resources.

Instead each country is competing for the limited resources of facemasks and other PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).

What the World needs now is a dynamic selfless leader to coordinate the effort to defeat the virus, and we don't have one. The Buffoon in the White House is not it. Boris and his BREXIT mentality is also not it, though perhaps if he changed his attitude he could apply his mind to it, but I doubt he will. Ursula von der Leyen is not it either, which is sad, nor is Angela Merkel, though she could be if she put her mind to it. It needs a super power to lead the way.

We do not need to look too far back in history to find examples of how it should be done.
When the EBOLA Virus spread out of the Guinea borders in 2014 President Obama activated the Emergency Operations Centre at the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta. The CDC was immediately deployed to West Africa to coordinate a response that included vector tracing, testing, education, logistics and communication.

President Obama worked with the UN and the World Health Organisation and rerouted all travellers heading from Africa to the USA to specific airports that were equipped to handle mass testing. In the USA more than 6500 people were trained through mock outbreaks of a pandemic, before a single case arrived on their shores.

Three months after Obama instigated this response a man travelled from West Africa to Dallas and slipped through the testing net. He was, however, immediately detected and isolated, but died a week later. The two nurses that cared for him contracted the disease, but thankfully recovered. All the protocols worked and Ebola was  contained.

Now before anyone knew about COVID 19 even in China, Trump disbanded the pandemic response team that Obama had put in place. He cut funding to the CDC and he cut the US contribution to the World Health Organisation. Trump fired the one person on the National Security Council in charge of stopping the spread of infectious diseases!

When the outbreak started in China, Trump assumed it was China's problem and sent no help of any kind. They were in a trade war, weren't they, so why should the egotist and isolationist (make America great again) help them.

I could go on listing the man's bluffing and blustering, but need not as the virus moves faster and now America and in particular New York is harder hit than anywhere else in the World.

The Spanish Flu pandemic lasted two full years from January 1918 to December 1920. It came more or less in three waves and finally died out in the summer of 1919.  More or less the same methods were tried then to control the spread, though not as successfully as now I would suggest. They didn't have the medicines to cope then, nor did they have a vaccine, just like now. 500 Million people were affected and 50 Million died world wide! This time we are or seem to be slowing its spread, but we have a long way to go before we can return to normal life. Consequently I feel the public need to be warned to dig in and not ease the lockdown or travel restrictions too soon. Countries will ease up because of economic pressures and history will show which countries were more successful than others at controlling the spread.

Stay safe, "for it's a jungle out there"!

16 March 2020

We Live in Interesting Times!

I think it rather prophetic that a Chinese Curse says, “May you live in interesting times”, especially as this COVID 19 pandemic originated in China. Most of my life has been in “interesting times” and right now I would wish for something less interesting.
This year I had hoped to finish the old Inner German Border walk that I had to give up on in 2016, but now since it would mean to get to the start I would have to travel by train right across Germany, I fear I will not be doing so in April as intended.
Last weekend I was due to take part in a Royal British Legion Management Seminar in Hannover. In fact I had travelled to Hameln, which is on the way, to visit with good friends, but in the light of School and University closures I decided not to and returned home. The course was not cancelled and I can only hope that those that did attend remain safe.
Many, many years ago and in a time when I was super fit, I had a bout of viral pneumonia! At the time I was well prepared to “give up the spoon” as the Germans would say. It took me over three months to regain the full capacity of my lungs. Now that I am over 70 I am sadly in the risk group and may not survive another such incident.
Consequently my little Patchwork Family are keeping away from me. It has created a huge hole in my life! Recently Petra came and merely placed some Chocolate Brownies in the lift for me. We never met at all! The chocolate brownies were welcome, but the love that flowed out of the lift when I collected them was deeply felt, and I knew I was not alone.
I have no idea when this pandemic will end and we can return to normal, but one think I can say is, that if I survive, as I fully intend to do, there will be some serious hugging of my family and friends that I miss so much at the moment.
Stay safe out there.

5 January 2020

Another Malta Holiday

Just before Christmas, friends of our BBF invited us to come and stay in their Senglea flat one last time before they sell it! There was no discussion, we all agreed and leapt at the chance to visit one more time. 

Alan was so keen to come, he had a momentary senior moment, and booked flights for a three week holiday, before realising that he had to be in Germany for Vincent’s fourth birthday! A moment of sheer panic gripped him, which lasted some 24 hours, until he sorted it all out and rebooked the flights for just two weeks! 

Jürgen kindly collected us the day after Boxing Day and took us to the airport. We were booked on a Lufthansa flight going first to Munich, where we stayed the night. The fun part was that the outward flights were all Business Class! Thus it was that we enjoyed meals at no extra cost in the Lufthansa Lounges in both Düsseldorf and Munich. 

We got to Munich late at night and stayed in an airport hotel and were greeted by a giant of our tribe! 

Early the next morning we set off for the airport again without breakfast!

But one was served in the Business Class lounge. 

It was cold and frosty outside! 

They took the precaution of de-icing the plane before takeoff! A necessary evil which didn’t look very environmentally friendly!

We were served throughout with small eats all served with real metal cutlery! It made us wonder what the peasants back in cattle class were served! Alan thought a ham or cheese roll! 

Vince a very friendly chap collected us from Luqua airport and drove us to the flat in Senglea. 

The first thing Alan did on arrival was open the balcony doors wide and admire the view. Little it seemed had changed. 

Alan’s friends had ensured we had the basics of coffee, tea milk and sugar, as well as the makings of a breakfast. As we arrived on a Saturday the next thing we did was go out shopping to get the bits for evening meals etc. 

It is five years since last we were here and so now we noticed that things had changed a bit. At the end of Dockyard Creek for example the dockyard building had been turned into the American University of Malta! 

We live on a hill so there are many steps to go down and up to get anywhere. Our BBF will be a bit fitter when we get back and hopefully will have walked off his Christmas fat. 

There’s no TV so reading is the pass time of an evening which Alan feels is no real hardship and has read four novels in the first week! 

On our first Sunday we took the ferry into Valletta and were surprised by the number of people on the streets. There was no cruise ship in the harbour so where did all the tourists come from? 

The view from the Upper Barraka Gardens to the Three Cities and Dockyard Creek in the middle. 

Malta has been more Catholic than the Pope ever since St Paul’s visit in the first century AD. 

So one is not surprised to find a life size Crib dominating a small square. 

We made a mental note to return at night to see the lights. 

Alan has a comrade living here so one day we went to visit him. Terry and his partner Jill work on rich folks yachts. 

Terry’s yacht is a floating gin palace, but very well appointed and it is in good condition thanks to Terry’s hard work. Jill on the other hand manages a real sailing vessel, a Camper and Nicholson super yacht!

This too is in super condition thanks to Jill’s hard work. We much enjoyed being shown over these two vessels. 

On New Years Eve a Gregale was blowing so all ferries were cancelled which put paid to our intention of going into Valletta! Instead we watched the fireworks from the balcony!

On Wednesday Terry and Jill invited us to go for a hike along part of the Victoria lines. They met us off the ferry and took us to somewhere just outside Mosta.

Jill pointed out the plaque commemorating the building of this defence work, which largely goes unnoticed by the cars thundering bye on the road beneath it.

There are fine views over the island from here. 

The start of our walk was easy and along the wall. It actually runs from 30 miles coast to coast along an escarpment and is a natural defence position for an enemy that has landed on the only beaches of Malta, which all lay to the North of the island. 

There are Victorian Forts and even WWII pillboxes at various places along the wall. Our mad BBF actually climbed across a sheer cliff to get to this pillbox, while sensibly Terry and Jill followed a goat track into the valley.

The cliffs here are a favourite with rock climbers and a few were out enjoying the fine weather. 

After crossing under the main road into Mosta we continued up the valley into Mosta where we stopped for an isotonic drink!

Here you can see the continuation of the defences on the other side of Mosta!

The sun has shone on all our days so far, but more often than not a very cold and strong wind has been blowing. On one day it was too strong and caused a swell in the harbour so there was no ferry. On the days where it is calmer, needless to say it is also warmer and so Alan throws open the balcony doors and we can breakfast there. 

We went by bus to the Playmobil factory where our BBF complained that the motor provided with the pirate ship he had bought Vincent for Christmas only went backwards! 

The fun park here was full of families enjoying the activities! We had coffee and then with a new motor provided free of charge we got the bus back. We got off at a shopping centre on the way back where there was a Lidl and after a quick shop got on another bus for Valletta again. All allowed for on the one ticket as it was within two hours of purchase! The ticket costs €1,50! 

Generally we walk a lot. Our BBF reads a lot and so we are unwinding from the stress that Christmas brings with it, and meeting old friends that live here. Monday we are having lunch with Lorie and Martin in Qrendi and Tuesday we meet Hanna’s niece Sarah! 

2020 for us at least has got off to a good start!