Category Archives: Travel

Awaydays

A very good evening to you all from the Lifestyle Support Guru!
I am writing this whilst sitting in a drinking establishment in Coventry. Why Coventry, you may well ask. Why not, I may well answer. It seemed as good a place as any to visit for the night on the way back from Cambridge. Why Cambridge, you may well ask. Why not, I may well answer, but I shan’t, because that would be the wrong answer. One male sibling and I went there to visit oldest female sibling and her granddaughter, who are visiting their son and dad respectively while he lolls around Cambridge University inventing things to do with storage of heat and energy – I would explain this more fully, since I understand the process completely, but I don’t have enough time or space and I can assure you, Faithful Followers, that you would have no idea what I am on about, and I’m pretty sure that any explanation will not help you manoeuvre your way through the many miseries this life will throw at you.

The other female sibling in our Happy Family also joined us, making the Great Trek up through the Dreaded Dartford Tunnel (DDT), so we were a jolly band. If only Youngest Sibling had been able to hurry down from Hull (I am in an alliterative mood tonight), we should have been a complete family! The Hull family member said he was too busy sorting papers to make the journey, but I have a feeling this may have been a euphemism for ‘You must be joking! A family reunion! I’d rather stick pins in my eyes.’

We went to a lovely pub/restaurant on the river for lunch and ordered some food which, we were told, would take about 40 minutes because they were very busy. That seemed fine because conversation was taking a long time anyway – one or two of the group are a little hard of hearing, so everything had to be repeated at least twice, and throw in a Northern Ireland accent and you have the makings of an international conference without the benefit of an interpreter. (The food took an hour, by the way, so conversation was beginning to wane and we almost turned to the dreaded Brexit topic, but the triple-cooked chips arrived in the nick of time!)

John Collier (1850–1934)

Painted by John Collier (1850–1934)

I am now communicating with you ‘live’ from the ‘welcoming bar’ (booking.com description) of our Coventry hotel instead of from the Indian restaurant next door where we had hoped to end the evening. The restaurant, advertised as open until 23.59 (we arrived at 21.45), was, we were told, closing in 30 minutes – for good! However, the waiter recommended a five-minute walk to a ‘whole street’ of restaurants. Did I mention that it was pouring with rain?

We decided to cut our losses and finish the evening with a glass of wine and a packet of crisps in the hotel’s ‘welcoming’ bar. The barmaid took a little while to serve us because she needed to finish her cigarette outside first, and when a note was tendered to pay, the change was given in 10p pieces – three pounds’ worth of 10p pieces! Why would a bar have a till full of 10p pieces and not a single £1 coin?
Meanwhile, some of the clientele are seated in the ‘welcoming’ bar area ringing a takeaway restaurant to complain that they haven’t received enough chips with their kebabs. Apparently, ‘only’ 20 chips per kebab aren’t enough. First World problems, eh?

Anyway, that’s Coventry covered (unlike Lady Godiva), so there is no need to return to the place – unless I find that the 10p pieces can only be spent in Coventry!

Sleep well, Beloved Believers – I have a feeling I may not!

Lost in Translation

A very good evening, Beloved Believers! Tonight, I wish to talk about the difficulties of understanding others. Of course, I don’t mean ‘understanding’ in the sense of ‘empathising with’ – as I am the LSG, empathy is something I leave to ordinary mortals, who need to ‘feel your pain’ or ‘walk in your shoes’ (not for me, unless they’re Christian Louboutin’s, daaahlings … And NEVER Crocs!). No, this is about understanding people talking to you, even though you haven’t left these shores for foreign climes.
I have come to terms with understanding Scottish accents – as long as I can catch every third word, I’m fine – I make up the rest. Northern Irish is similar – ‘hyevva’, as pronounced by an NI BBC reporter is, in fact, ‘however’, so I can work from that. North Welsh still defeats me at times, especially since they have different words for the same things – for example, ‘girl’ in North Welsh is ‘hogan’ (both singular and plural), but ‘merch’ (merched, plural) in the South; ‘boy’ is ‘hogyn’ (both singular and plural) or ‘bachgen’ (bechgyn, plural). ‘Now’ is ‘nawr’ (South) and ‘rwan’ (North). How does that work, other than backwards??
Hyevva, the one that defeats me is the Black Country – Debbie, Rob, is there a phrase book that you haven’t told me about? The (male) siblings and I visited the Black Country Living Museum the other day and were flummoxed right from the start, although, agreeably, the initial lack of understanding led to us all being admitted at ‘Concessions’ price (even though only one of us qualified) simply because older sibling didn’t understand what he was being asked and just smiled and said ‘Yes’, while younger sibling and I stood behind him looking old.
We moved on to the main entrance where we were greeted by a gentleman – dressed as a 19th-century pit supervisor (I’m using my imagination here) – who asked us a question which none of us understood, so we said, ‘Pardon?’ and he repeated the question. The LSG, making the most of her linguistic abilities, understood the word ‘rent’, replied ‘Yes’, smiled, showed our tickets and we were allowed in. Thereafter, we made sure we engaged in no further conversation, even avoiding the 19th-century pub in case we were expected to converse and ended up with a pint of gin! (Actually, now I come to think of it …)
The visit was extremely enjoyable, and I would recommend it to all and sundry, but just don’t expect to hold lengthy conversations with anyone (unless they’re ‘proper’ foreign!).

Today’s experience was somewhat different. I decided to go along to the city library, which has moved from the beautiful, old Central Library building to the refurbished Council House – beautiful on the outside, rather clashingly modern on the inside – to borrow a book I didn’t want to buy on Kindle (i.e. too expensive!). The conversation went like this:
Helper: Hello, can I help you?
Me: Yes, it’s my first visit here. Where will I find books by Victoria Hislop?
H: ‘Hislop’. Does that begin with an ‘E’?
Stunned silence on my part.
Me: No, ‘aitch’.
H: Ah, ‘haitch’.
I maintained a dignified silence. The book (The Return) wasn’t in stock. I will have to go through this again next week…

I am dedicating this to CJ Jones, who died suddenly today – she was one of the LSG’s most dedicated supporters and she would have loved this, especially the Welsh bits! Sleep well, CJ.

A Tourist Guide to Cyprus, Part 2

A convivial ‘kalenikta’ (or perhaps that should be ‘Ay oop, me duck’ now that I have returned to more familiar shores) from the Lifestyle Support Guru to all Devoted Devotees (which is what ‘devotees’ should be – devoted) out there this evening. I know there will be many of you waiting with bated breath to hear more about the LSG’s adventures on the beautiful island of Cyprus. However, before I do that, I should like to say a little bit about the Greek language. Many believe that Greek is a difficult language with an incomprehensible alphabet, but the LSG hopes to demystify the whole issue with this handy guide – please feel free to cut it out and keep in your wallet/purse ready for any excursions to Greek-speaking areas of the world such as Athens, Rhodes, Cyprus and Melbourne (Australia, not Derbyshire, although there may be a large Greek-speaking community in Melbourne, Derbyshire, for all I know). All you need to remember is:
b=v; p=r; Λ= l; x= th; Π=p; H=I; and so on – Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy, or ‘Εασυ ρεασυ, λεμον σκυεεσυ’, as the Greeks might say.
Anyway, now that you have a working knowledge of the Greek language, I shall continue with my tourist guide to Cyprus. A coach trip to the north of the island is worth the effort, especially if the coach ‘population’ is split between British and Russians – the English-speaking guide was VERY discreet, pointing out RAF Akrotiri, but with no mention of the RAF taking off from there to be part of a recent bombing raid on Syria. However, I have no idea what the Russian-speaking co-guide said – she may have been insulting the rest of us and exhorting the Russians to persuade Putin to press the red button, for all I know!
My main disappointment was finding that my newly-acquired knowledge of Greek served no purpose in the north because it’s Turkish-occupied and, therefore, Turkish-speaking! However, it’s quite exciting going through the UN Buffer Zone and finding yourself in a country which doesn’t officially exist!

Quad and buggy rides offer another means of entertainment, especially if the day out includes an (unplanned and unexpected) off-road visit to Adonis’s Baths and Waterfalls (a sort of Ancient Greek equivalent of a power shower) – all I can say is that, if Adonis had to go all that way to have a bath, and Aphrodite’s Baths were several miles away the other way, I’m surprised they got together at all!

Segway – what can I say? I took to it like a duck to water, of course. I wasn’t the one who had to be guided by the rather gorgeous Dmitri (who was actually from Hull), one hand steering his own Segway, his other on the guiding handle of the Segway of some large, wobbly woman who appeared incapable of balancing properly and seemed to think she was going to fall off at any moment; and when she did get off at the halfway point, she almost fell over because her toes and calf muscles were so tensed up with trying to keep her balance that they almost wouldn’t hold her up (the positive side was that Dmitri had to help her stand up properly). But IT WASN’T ME, of course – it was some other very silly woman!

And my final piece of advice? Try not to go to the same places as Kate Moss – by ‘places’, I mean methods of transport which require you to wear a seat belt – aeroplanes, coaches, quad buggies and suchlike. I find it SO bizarre that, whenever I have to use a seat belt, I always seem to be sitting in the same seat that Kate Moss or a travelling stick insect had occupied previously. But LIFE is full of such strange coincidences, isn’t it, Beloved Believers?

And on that thought, I shall leave you and wish you all a very good Σάββατο βράδυ.

The Traveller’s Guide to Cyprus

A very good evening to you all from Cyprus! Yes, the Lifestyle Support Guru has finally managed to get away on holiday – one can’t count recent visits to York, Huddersfield and Sheffield as ‘holidays’, since they are just classed as ‘moving around oop north for a day or two’, which are not really holidays at all.
This holiday started badly, I’m afraid – the alarm went off at 5.30am a couple of days ago! How can they even let that time exist? The day should always start at something like 8.30am and move sedately on to the evening, allowing for gentle pauses along the way for food and drink, or catching a plane. Nevertheless, younger siblings and I made it safely to the airport where next-sibling-down proceeded to consume a Belgian waffle with chocolate and cream at 7.30 in the morning. I managed a small cup of coffee. Youngest sibling went to the toilet.
But I am sure that you do not wish to read about such mundane happenings, even if they are part of the LSG’s fascinating life – I only tell you these things to make you realise that you, too, can be like the LSG: you may not have a sibling who will eat chocolate waffles at 7.30 in the morning, but you probably have a spouse, a better half, a rock, a soulmate, a child, a friend, a ‘hun, r u ok?’ – ANYONE! – who can fulfil this role. But I digress… having been here for three whole days, I am now an expert on how to blend seamlessly into Cypriot life so that you appear to be a native. So, here it is – the LSG’s Guide to Life as a Cypriot:
On the first morning, the siblings decide to walk down to the harbour but you decline because you have somehow forgotten to bring a small handbag for the evenings (those who know the LSG well will realise that this is an amazing oversight), so you say you will wander to a nearby shopping centre to see what they have to offer. The fact that the walk to the harbour would take up to an hour and the walk to the shops a mere ten minutes has NOTHING to do with this decision.
Imagine your surprise upon entering the shopping centre to find that the first shop is Marks and Spencer! (Actually, that’s a lie – the first shop was Holland and Barrett, but that isn’t classed as a SHOP as such, because how can one get pleasure out of buying vitamins?) You wander in (to M&S, of course, not H&B) – just out of curiosity, you understand – and ask an assistant if they have any small bags, at which point she looks sad and leads you to the ‘bag area’. She was right to look sad – there was a choice of TWO! In fact, two is not even a choice in my mind. She will try her best to sell you a beige bag, but your eye will have already been caught by a rather fetching lime green one. You can almost hear the assistant thinking, ‘We’ve been trying to sell those damn things all year.’ But the LSG is not one to follow the fashions and trends of ordinary people – oh no, if lime green takes her fancy, that is what she will get. AND a rather nice white t-shirt in the sale also happened to jump into the shopping bag – I will swear ON OATH that the same item wasn’t available in the Derby branch of M&S last week.
The next thing to do in your attempt to become a Greek Cypriot is to get a haircut – by a hairdresser from Bradford, of course. By now, no one will ever think you are anything other than a born-and-bred Cypriot, although you draw the line at joining the siblings in learning how to scuba dive…the LSG would not wish to cause any riots by appearing in public in a wetsuit.
A coach tour of the island is, of course, obligatory – especially one that mentions a visit to a winery. Unfortunately, we booked the wrong one and ended up on the tour that visited the church of the tomb of Saint Lazarus, he who was raised from the dead. I must admit to a little shiver down my spine when we went into the crypt and saw an open sarcophagus. I looked quickly around but could spot no obvious 2,000-year-old person loitering in the shadows looking like he’d just come back from the dead, although there are one or two at the hotel who could give a good impression of him.
We also passed the rock in the sea which is reputedly the birthplace of Aphrodite, the most beautiful woman ever known, although the LSG is giving her a good run for her money.
One good thing came out of the ‘raising the dead’ tour – a rather nice lemon hooded jacket jumped out at me in Larnaca (I like to think that Lazarus played a part here – I see him in lemon), just the thing for the evenings, which are still a little chilly – and a lovely contrast to the lime green bag. All that is needed now to make me look like a bowl of citrus fruit is a pair of orange trousers. There may have been some in Marks…
One final (sort of serious) point – Greek Cypriots are incredibly friendly and chatty, but if you say ‘kalimera/kalispera/efkharisto’ at some point, their faces light up with absolute joy!
The LSG is now fully immersed in Cypriot life and could be taken for a native.
The (Welsh) Brit Pack is here and living the dream! Kalenikta!

Making an exhibition of myself

A very good evening to you all from the Lifestyle Support Guru! I hope you have all been coping well with the snow and biting winds – don’t you just love a British spring? I have some sound advice for you tonight about visiting exhibitions and how to get the most out of them. I have recently been to two very different exhibitions and I believe that I learned valuable lessons from both. The visits were made as a result of the male siblings’ interests, since one doesn’t come across many exhibitions about my own interests, specifically ‘A hundred ways to prepare a Pot Noodle’ and ‘Cork or screwtop? A wine drinker’s dilemma.’

Photo by Artiom Vallat on Unsplash

The first exhibition was to do with properties abroad, with a view to avoiding the British winter, although that becomes more and more difficult as the years go by because the British winter now seems to last from August to June. This was perhaps the most fun of the two because I simply stood next to youngest sibling and said nothing. (This was, in fact, quite difficult because, as the LSG, I feel it almost essential to offer my valuable advice whenever I think it necessary, which is most of the time. I think this may be the reason that next-youngest sibling always allows youngest sibling to sit in the front of the car when I’m driving, with the words, ‘I’d like some peace and quiet.’) Anyway, I digress. My silence clearly disconcerted the exhibitors because they kept trying to make eye contact with me and include me in their conversation; they are obviously not used to a woman standing saying nothing, just nodding occasionally. I smiled mysteriously at times and at one exhibitor’s stand I actually said, ‘I’m his minder.’ Strangely, they didn’t look surprised – more scared, if anything. We came away with several brochures and a cotton carrier bag which I shall use for dirty laundry when I go on holiday.

The second exhibition was a photography one, which is one of next-youngest sibling’s interests. Unfortunately, when he first said it was a camera exhibition, I misunderstood and thought he said a CAMRA exhibition and I had visions of quaffing lots of pleasant real ales. This was, sadly, not to be, but it was too late to change my mind because he’d already booked tickets. Once we arrived, I told next-youngest sibling to wander off on his own because I didn’t think ‘camera people’ would have the same approach to a silent, smiling bystander as ‘holiday people’ – they would be more likely to take a photo of me and enter it in some ‘Photo of the Year’ competition and win because of the compellingly distinguished features of the LSG.
I headed straight for the nearest coffee outlet since it was still very early in the morning (about 10.15) and I’d only had one coffee instead of my usual two. I then wandered around some of the stands, but could find none selling handbags or linen tops, both of which are high on my list of ‘things I love’, along with Pot Noodles, Pukka Pies, prosecco and frozen peas, so, losing interest, I went for another coffee. It was only on the way out of the exhibition that I spotted a stand that might have some interest for me – leather bags!
Sadly, they had a slightly strange design meant only to carry cameras and their accessories, not a mobile phone; a diary; a fat purse; a Kindle Fire; a little foldup stand for aforementioned Kindle; a little pouch which holds a mobile charger, a power lead, several different connectors, earphones and a USB lead; a Murray Mint; a little notebook; several pens; some money-off vouchers for Majestic Wines; a comb, and a couple of spare contact lenses. We came away with two carrier bags, neither of which will be suitable for dirty laundry and will simply sit in the house while I try to think of what to do with them.

So, there you have it, dear devotees – exhibitionism can enliven your life!