Tag: Bob Derham

Further travels with Natalie

Natalie returns with her second travel installment.

Almost a month ago, the 18th March to be exact, I introduced Natalie Derham-Weston:

Those who take a close interest in this place (you poor, lost souls!) will have noticed from time to time me posting items that have been sent to me by Bob Derham. He and I first met when we were both based in Larnaca, Cyprus in the late 80’s/early 90’s and we have remained good and close friends ever since.

Natalie is Bob’s beautiful daughter and recently contacted me to ask if she might offer a guest post on her traveling experiences. Natalie has ambitions to be a travel writer and, as you are about to see, would make an excellent one.

On that day Natalie presented the first installment of her travel blog. It was very well received by you good people. Many of you left great comments.

Thus it is with great pleasure that I present Natalie’s next travel  installment.

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Travel Blog: Installment 2: Laos

After having set the standard so high in Thailand, there was a lot riding on our following section of the journey. However before moving on to Laos, the logical next step and easiest route to take, we had a few metaphorical “bridges” to cross. Looking back, the process seems an enormous chore but at the time we didn’t question the operation. Although tiredness did sometimes set in heavily, Hannah and I had to mentally overcome this and remind ourselves how this beat office day jobs hands down.
Our last evening in Thailand was spent in Chang Mai. After some deliberation and consulting of maps and Google facilities, we booked a slow boat trip down to Mekong to take us into Laos. The evening was then free to be spent at our leisure. Pre-travelling I was naïve, and perhaps still am. Though even I had heard tell of the Thai “lady boys” and we had the greatest pleasure of spending an afternoon in their company after having looked lost and forlorn at a cross roads and took up their offer of a pool side beer. They spoke openly about their choice to change gender and what they had to undergo. This meeting was purely circumstantial but very memorable all the same. After this curious incident we caught up in town with a friend I had been to school with in South Africa. Carmen was in Thailand teaching English and had an evening to spare, which was such a lovely chance to assemble and to chew the fat as some may say.
On our wander back to our hostel we happened to bump into Nadine, a girl we had met previously on an overnight train. This is one of my most favourite parts of travelling, crossing paths with friends, having had no plans and no inkling of the others location.
The following morning consisted of some organising, dollars had to be sourced for the Laos border and check out was an early evacuation, drying our towels on the outside of our bags and heaving them downstairs to be left for the later pickup. In the meantime, we bought up some supplies to support us through the epic bus journey that we had to embark upon that afternoon. Fortunately, these snacks barely amounted to anything, and certainly made a welcome change to our expensive sandwiches and bottles of water back in the UK!
Our bus was a 7 hour journey, taking us through minute villages and stopping at temples along the way. One in particular stood out, which was pure white. The only colour was a singular red nail on a hand protruding from a statue of swarming limbs surrounding the building.
That night was our first sighting of the vast Mekong, a fast flowing murky, brown mass of water with grassy banks and elephants grazing alongside. Children were running down to the shore to bathe and play and generally splash around as much as was possible.
Our accommodation had been part of the ticket and so was basic to say the least. Dinner went untouched due to the extensive family of flies feasting on it. In the morning, the pre stated time of 8:30 got blown out the window and there was a quick panic to depart at 8. After yet more busses, there was a process in place at the border for visa stamps and signing of papers. The long queues were hot and felt much longer than they probably were.

At another stop we convened with a load of other tourists. At this point it dawned on us that neither Hannah nor I had any local currency, which was apparently an issue. So the solution to this was for me to jump on the back of a bike belonging to a tour guide within the group and find the nearest ATM and hope for the best. I sauntered back with 500,000 kip, the equivalent of about £50, and felt very wealthy! 12 of us were stuffed into an open tuktuk, with our bags precariously perched on top and sent down a steep slope to a load of boats tied up, surrounded by pigs in baskets, goats running lose and a huge swarm of blue butterflies milling around the general vicinity.

Nobody seemed able to direct us to the correct boat so after half an hour of debating and questioning, we finally got some sense out of someone and all started to engross ourselves into a comfortable fashion on a long boat. The seats had previously been in a minibus by the looks of them but made for a relatively pleasant crossing. We exhausted every possible game we could think of, including eye spy and cards and took to gazing out the open windows at the scenery, with our legs dangled over the side, dozing in the sun.
Late afternoon time saw us arriving at our overnight spot, a very small village, running solely on the likes of us, temporary tourists. Our newly made friends were mainly from Europe and we stuck together choosing a hostel on the hillside and later all enjoyed a joint dinner out. I remember this being 79,000 kip = £6.50 and what I thought was fantastic value! The shower back at the hostel was nonexistent so I made do with crouching underneath an outside tap arrangement. As it was Easter Sunday, I took some time to have a phone call back home and caught up on the news of England.
The next day entailed an 8 hour boat journey further down the Mekong into the town of Luang Prabang. Still in our group, we found a local bus into the main high street and found our hostel. We ended up in a mixed dorm with a Japanese man we had shared a bus with a few days prior, who made us endless origami frogs, two Dutch girls we had met in Pai and some others from the boat.
We had a quick nap and were out again that evening to try out the local foods and to witness the night market. I added to my collection of foreign art work with a bright Buddha head painting and some more elephant trousers. These really are the way forward, they are light, don’t crease, are breezy and make long journeys far more pleasurable. The food stalls were a sight to behold, full of black eggs, chicken intestines, heads and feet so I opted for some fresh looking fruit. Later we sat as a huge group at a popular bar called Utopia and as happens when travelling, skipped the polite introductions and befriended each other quickly. This is another part of the whole “travel” life that I appreciate. Nobody judges on mundane things that don’t matter, people just seem to mould more easily and quicker.
In the next couple of days we visited waterfalls and woke up at 5 am to witness the “Giving of Alms”. This is a procession of monks who come to receive gifts of food. We found bookshops and read on recliners overlooking the Mekong. It felt like a world away from parents and friends back home.

Collectively, our group made the decision to bus to Vang Vieng shortly after. The main attraction of this town is “tubing”, an activity for the brave and resilient. An all day drinking marathon down the river in rubber rings. I can’t deny, it was fun. The weather was glorious, and everybody was in good spirits. At each stop down the river, we were pulled in by event staff and were given bracelets (this became an obsession with some of us over our travelling time. Some sort of victorious achievement was to have as many travel bracelets as possible.)
The quick interlude in this popular backpacker location included much watching of ‘Friends’, a tradition even cited in the Lonely Planet books. Although after a couple of days, we craved some more brain stirring activities and more cultural action. So again, we took a bus to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, holding up the piles of bags in the back of the bus and awaited our next mode of transport into our next country…

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Please, all of you, wherever you are, have a wonderful weekend.

Travels with Natalie

Huge pleasure in me introducing Natalie Derham-Weston

Those who take a close interest in this place (you poor, lost souls!) will have noticed from time to time me posting items that have been sent to me by Bob Derham. He and I first met when we were both based in Larnaca, Cyprus in the late 80’s/early 90’s and we have remained good and close friends ever since.

Natalie is Bob’s beautiful daughter and recently contacted me to ask if she might offer a guest post on her traveling experiences. Natalie has ambitions to be a travel writer and, as you are about to see, would make an excellent one.

So, that’s more than enough from me. Over to Natalie.

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Travel Blog: Instalment 1: The Introduction

After having spent much time over the last few years travelling, I have arrived home and really feel at a slight loss. I miss so many aspects of the backpacking lifestyle and writing about it brings it all back so vividly. I have never blogged or publicly documented anything before. However, here goes…

I have always been extremely privileged in the department of exploring, having grown up with a pilot as my father. By 9 months old I was perched on his lap in the flight deck of a BAC 1-11 drinking milk and probably mumbling loudly, on my way to Spain.
Since then, things have only picked up. We have taken family holidays across Europe, America, the UAE and latterly I have completed some independent travel through South East Asia, India, Nepal, South America and Indonesia. I even spent time being schooled in South Africa in my early teens and despite the gruelling slog of their strict education system, we had a blast on a farm at the weekends in the Karoo, racing around on quad bikes and roaming the many acres of raw land they had there.

My mother was an air hostess and my step mum a tours manager on the ocean liners. So I would presume this travelling bug I seem to have caught so ferociously has been somewhat inherited.

As part of my Dads job, he and my Mother used to live in Kenya for some time and I have grown up hearing stories of their escapades and have always been very open to the idea of other cultures and ways of life.

After 17 years of constant education and not confidently knowing which direction to take with my life, I decided backpacking around South East Asia would be a good stop gap. So this plan started to take shape, along with Hannah, my best friend from University. We began as most people do nowadays with some tentative Google searches and tried to create a clearer picture of where we should go and why. This is very difficult to gauge through a screen and since then I have taken this information with a generous pinch of salt. I do peruse the Lonely Planet books and like to have them as reference.

Regardless, we began to tally up costs, buy creams, tablets and lotions to cover every disease known to man and pay through the nose for a concoction of injections promised to keep us safe and which seemed to appease my Mother! I have to say both my parents have been exceedingly supportive every time I spring on them that I am fleeing the country and any responsibilities.

So, struggling under a bag almost as big as me, I met Hannah at Gatwick in March 2015, waved goodbye to Ma and Pa and we pranced off through security, eager to make a start.

We landed in Bangkok and convinced we would be living as cheaply as possible, which included transport, headed for some public transport system. Having vaguely fathomed the measure of the currency, Baht, we found a train to take us further into the depths of the area.

Our destination was Khao San Road, the tourist tapered high street. Our journey was broken into parts and we ended up on a street where we were accosted by a tuk tuk driver. Naively we accepted a lift. I have now learnt to agree on a fee before entering the vehicle!

Anyway, after repeating the address of our hostel more times than I would like to recount, we rocked up outside. Our room was totally terrifying to two novice travellers. Again, another thing I’ve learnt not to be too fussy about. It was a luminescent green, although this was barely visible through the crude graffiti, it was bug ridden and the sheets looked like they had been used to clean the floors. We swiftly requested a change of rooms, which wasn’t much of an improvement and led to Hannah sleeping on her important belongings. In turn, leading to a broken phone. However, this did not dampen our enthusiasm and we immediately immersed ourselves in the heaving road, trying the fresh phad thai, for about 40p made by street vendors and tried our hand at haggling. We finished the day with some local ‘Tiger’ beer.

Over the next few days we ticked off some tourist spots in Bangkok, drinking our weight in water to compensate for the insane temperatures and removing our shoes 80% of the day, an Asian custom.

We had deliberately left our time very free but had one pre planned event in Chang Mai. This was an elephant sanctuary where we would have the chance to feed, wash and ride them. As two animal lovers, we had checked the ethos of the organisation and had found the elephants were ridden bareback to avoid aggravating them with cages and ropes.

However, we had to first make our way there and made our first overnight train journey, a surprisingly comfy affair. We ended up in a cheap hotel in Chang Mai. We checked in and headed upstairs to shower and generally relax. Hannah went in the bathroom first and I was just rifling through some paperwork when I heard a loud crash followed by some mild expletives. Hannah fell out the door looking a little sheepish. I glanced past her and saw the remains of what had been the basin, now strewn all over the floor in bits.

Unluckily, the thing must have been loose before and when Hannah had been brushing her teeth, it had chosen that moment to fall off. We went immediately down to reception to explain the situation and they waved it away as nothing and re-homed us across the corridor. We were very grateful and had a good night’s sleep.

Going downstairs early the next morning ready for the pick-up vehicle to the sanctuary, the reception began laying into us and demanded we pay for the damage. The police were threatened and this was when Hannah became overwhelmed, burst into tears and ran out! I was left to smooth the argument and try to rationally explain there may have been some lapse in due care of their maintenance. We finally escaped unscathed and both look back at this as another of our funny incidences.

The experience of caring for the elephants was extremely special. They had a one year old baby there who was so cheeky and constantly stole bananas. The first day we spent in a group of about 20 but we were the only ones to stay overnight. We both were invited to the nearby camp of the Burmese mahout (elephant guardians) and spent the evening drinking their homemade whisky, playing music with cups and pans and bottles and playing with their children.

The next day the two of us, one mahout and two elephants walked into the jungle. We made a camp fire, and whittled cups and chopsticks from bamboo we cut down and cooked our lunch. It was so raw and adventurous and I loved it.

Next, we made our way to Pai, a secluded place tucked away behind some mountains North West of Chang Mai that some fellow travellers had recommended to us. This was one of my favourite stops and life here was spent at a very relaxed pace. We hired mopeds to be independent and discovered natural hot springs, forest parties, waterfalls and otherwise spent time in hammocks on the veranda of our private hut overlooking the incredible landscape.

This really concludes our first couple of weeks and I look back on this with very fond memories. More to follow…

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I know you, as with me, will look forward to Natalie’s second installment.

Picture Parade One Hundred and Eighty-Six

Stay Happy Good People!

With enormous thanks to ‘Captain Bob’ who sent these to me.

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Another set of these wonderful antidotes to grumpiness in a week’s time.

Many thanks, Bob!

P.S. Don’t forget the clocks go forward in many US States in two hours time!

Summer and Millie

Now to the second of this week’s guest posts.

Bob Derham and his wife, Julie, are long-term friends back in the UK.

They recently lost their two dogs.

Bob sent me this:

Millie and Summer both had a fun life.

They were cross breed dogs, partly Springer Spaniel and part Collie. They were born in Wales, but as there are quite a lot of similar dogs there, the owner advertised in a local paper, and brought them up to Dorset one weekend 13 years ago.

Initially we had been looking for only one dog, but it seemed such a shame to separate the two puppies so we decided to take both. Most people were of the opinion that two girls from the same litter was not a good idea, but nevertheless we trained them, and the two animals were always together.
Family holidays, walking the children to the school bus, visiting friends, etc., always included Millie and Summer.

Just over two years ago, Summer became diabetic.  Had this been only ten years ago, nothing could have been done for her, but we were able to inject her twice a day, and keep her healthy, apart from failing sight as a result of the insulin. It was not long after that Millie developed the same problem, so both dogs had the same routine.
Summer went to the vets on the right day for her, and was put to sleep peacefully, and two weeks later Millie needed the same choice to be made.

They enjoyed an almost identical lifespan, and we enjoyed them to the full.

Bob and Julie’s daughter Stephanie then made the following video in memory of their two beloved dogs.

Back to me.

Going to close today’s post with this poem by Rudyard Kipling.

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The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
But…you’ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long–
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Rudyard Kipling
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Dogs bring out so much beauty and love in us.

Yes, I’m a coward!

I just can’t publish the Dogs vs. Wives list!

It is, after all, the season of goodwill.

But there was more to my decision about not publishing the list; I didn’t want hundreds of you telling me to go and put this blog where the sun doesn’t shine!

Let me explain.

Bob Derham, a long-term friend for many years back in the ‘old country’, four days ago sent me an email that contained: Sixteen Logical Reasons Why Some Men Have Dogs And Not Wives:

Here’s an example:

derham
3. Dogs like it if you leave lots 
Of things on the floor.

You get the drift of the theme!

My email reply read: Will have to think very carefully as to how this one is presented. Probably blame you!! 😉

I thought carefully and decided not to publish!

I preferred to republish this recent article from Mother Nature Network.

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13 of the world’s most gentle dog breeds

By: Mary Jo DiLonardo on Dec. 21, 2016.

collie-retriever-wearing-flowers-jpg-638x0_q80_crop-smartSweet-natured personalities

Some dog breeds are spastic, while others are incredibly calm. Some breeds have reputations for playfulness, while more athletic types work on farms bossing around sheep or find their calling doing police work.

But there are plenty of dog breeds that are just generally sweet and loving and gentle. Kids can crawl all over them, take toys out of their mouth or even mess with them at mealtime, and these sweet pups don’t care.

Here’s a look at some of the most gentle dog breeds around.

golden-retriever-jpg-638x0_q80_crop-smartGolden retriever

Ageing brains.

A postscript to yesterday’s post.

There was a comment left on yesterday’s post that seemed a delightful reason to stay with the topic; more or less!  This was the comment left by Tony.

“at the age of 70, I am already noticing the creeping onset of reduced verbal IQ, cognitive decline, and worry about the onset of dementia….”

Paul, I am 75 and lost an aunt to Alzheimer’s and a mother to dementia. I consider myself to also be at risk. There seems no defense, yet, against Alzheimer’s, but cardiovascular exercise is absolutely one against dementia. Cardio sends oxygen molecules to the brain which actually create new neurotransmitters. Check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits).

Nine days ago, dear friend Bob Derham from my UK days, emailed me the following (in turn, it had been sent on to Bob):

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I’m only sending this to the brightest of my older friends

This test will keep that dreaded disease that effects your memory at bay!

New Senior’s Exam, you only need 4 correct out of 10 questions to pass.

1) How long did the Hundred Years’ War last?

2) Which country makes Panama hats?

3) From which animal do we get cat gut?

4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?

5) What is a camel’s hair brush made of?

6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?

7) What was King George VI’s first name?

8) What color is a purple finch?

9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from?

10) What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane?

Remember, you need only 4 correct answers to pass.

Check your answers below ….

Continue reading “Ageing brains.”

Another Saturday smile

Courtesy of Bob Derham.

A cabbie picks up a Nun.

She gets into the cab, and notices that the handsome cab driver won’t stop staring at her.

She asks him why he is staring.

He replies: “I have a question to ask you but I don’t want to offend you.”

She answers, “My son, you cannot offend me. When you’re as old as I am and have been a nun as long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about everything. I’m sure that there’s nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive.”

“Well, I’ve always had a fantasy to have a nun kiss me.”

She responds, “Well, let’s see what we can do about that: First, you have to be single, and second, you must be Catholic.”

The cab driver is very excited and says, “Yes, I’m single and Catholic!”

“OK,” the nun says. “Pull into the next alley.”

The nun fulfils his fantasy, with a kiss that would make a hooker blush.

But when they get back on the road, the cab driver starts crying.

“My dear child,” says the nun, “why are you crying?”

“Forgive me but I’ve sinned. I lied and I must confess, I’m married and I’m Jewish.”

The nun says, “That’s OK. My name is Kevin and I’m going to a Halloween party.”

(Apologies if some of you old hands have heard this before!)