A pair of crocs

Yesterday, we registered with our local GP. It’s not as close as the ones we used in Chessington, being a bus ride away, but according to the reviews, it’s much better than the one just round the corner.

In the afternoon, we went to the Savoy Cinema in Heaton Moor to watch Ocean’s Eight. This is the first time we’d been to a cinema in a couple of years, maybe more. The ticket was my birthday present from Jenny and Liam, so thank you!

We opted to sit on a sofa which was very comfortable and although we thought we might be too far back from the screen, it was perfect, the screen was at our eye level.

We’d forgotten how many adverts you have to sit through before a film. Lots and lots and lots. But the film itself was good, not too challenging, we enjoyed it, even if the gang of eight females did have to enlist the help of a couple of men to carry out their heist! Rihanna was delightful but at first, I didn’t recognise her: she kept her clothes on.

But I’m sure we will revisit The Savoy Cinema at some point.

This morning, we had no dial tone on our phone. I tried both phones and both sockets in the flat. Nothing. Strangely, the broadband connection was still up and running. I called the supplier whose tests all indicated that there was nothing wrong with the line. But they’ll look into it further.

When we returned, several hours later, we had a dial tone. Which is great, of course, but it would be nice to know whether we’d been affected by a larger issue or if our local problem had been resolved.

More time was wasted today on hold trying to tell organisations our new address. Another reason not to move house too often!

Following on from the crocodile seen from the boat on Tuesday, there seems to be a theme in today’s Martha section.

William has finally, after being so close for so long, learnt how to crawl forwards, on his belly. Martha said, “William’s walking like a crocdile”. Very perceptive.

And as we left today, I said, “See you later, alligator.” Martha replied, “In a while, crocodile.” And I felt so proud 🙂 I’ve been trying to teach her that for ages!

And better late than never, here are pictures of William and Martha swimming under water a couple of days ago. A marvellous thing is Auntie Helen’s GoPro camera.

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London is the place to be

London this lovely city.

This calypso was going through my mind as we set off for London this morning. Little did I know that later in the day, we would hear Lord Kitchener’s performance on a Pathé newsreel. But that is getting ahead of ourselves.

Today was the day of the annual Hook Scouts fair on King Edward’s field, off Hook Road. You know, the field where the travelling community set up camp for a few days before the Epsom Derby. Liesel’s WI Group, the Hook and Chessington Branch, had a stall there. We went down with the chocolate brownies Liesel had baked for them to sell. We tried to help erect the tent, but the poles didn’t seem to be from the same set. So, reluctantly, we caught a bus towards Surbiton. While we’d been waiting for the other WI women to arrive, I’d walked around the field one final time. I gazed upon the playground where a young Jenny and a young Helen spent many happy hours.

I realised: today would be a day of reminiscence, of nostalgia, of remembrance. We’d been so caught up recently with all the packing and stacking, the boxing and coxing, that I hadn’t really thought about the enormity of the move we’re about to make.

In Surbiton, I suggested one final coffee at The Press Room: probably the nicest coffee around, and a nice place with nice staff. We’ve sometimes paid a coffee ahead, so that a homeless person can claim it later on. There’s a bell by the door which you can ring if you like the coffee. I’ve been too much of a coward to give it a go, but today, I applied a very light tinkle, there was a guy right next to it and I didn’t want to give him a heart attack.

This would be our final day in London before we move to Northenden. Lots of things to do, it was hard to choose. There was a march in support of the NHS. My favourite walk is probably along the South Bank. There was a food fair at Parsons Green. Then Liesel remembered there’s a temporary work of art in the Serpentine. Yes: In the Serpentine. I passed a lot of time in Hyde Park when I lived nearby in the 1970s, so I was more than happy to revisit one more time.

There seems to be a lot of finality here, today. I know we’ll be back as visitors, but it’s a strange feeling knowing that, after this weekend, London won’t be our home city.

We caught the District Line train at Wimbledon and got off at High Street Kensington, which is on Kensington High Street. By this convention, the next station along should be called Gate Notting Hill, but it isn’t, something that has baffled me since I first lived there in 1973.

We walked towards Hyde Park, and Liesel suggested walking up the road where all the embassies are, Kensington Green. I didn’t know if we’d be allowed to. I think in the 1970s, at the height of the IRA terrorsit campaign, we were probably too intimidated by the large numbers of police officers at the entrance to enter this road, so we never walked along it. Today though, a couple of armed officers, a barrier, several bollards and a sign telling us not to take photos did not deter us from walking up what turned out to be a nice, peaceful, quiet road, right in the heart of London. We tried to guess the embassies from the flags and we got most of them right: Israel, Russia, France, Norway, Finland, but we failed to recognise Kuwait and we don’t know whether the two crossed swords flag was Kenya or somewhere else.

But I was still too much of a coward to risk taking a photo.

We walked through Kensington Gardens, towards the Round Pond and we thought about visiting the Serpentine Gallery. The long queue put us off: no need to be standing around in the hot Sun when we could be walking around in the hot Sun! We crossed the road and had a quick look at the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain and lots of people were having lots of fun in it. One little boy splashed me and I was outraged. No, actually, I wanted him to do it again, but I didn’t say so!

Then we saw it. The London Mastaba. An almost pyramid-like structure weighing 600 tonnes constructed from specially made oil drums. And sitting right in the middle of the Serpentine. We considered getting a boat out so that we could get up close and personal but in the end, after lunch, we left the park and caught the bus.

On the way out, we passed the playground where I spent many a happy lunch hour watching the children play, when I worked in Knightsbridge. It was OK in those days to be a young, single, unaccompanied bloke in a children’s playground. Times, sadly, have changed.

Liesel was grateful for the bus ride, a chance to have a break from the walking. It was hot on the bus too, though, even though we sat at the back, on top, where we thought we’d benefit from maximum ventilation through the windows. It was hot ventilation. It was a hot day.

We disembarked at the British Library, a venue that we should have taken more advantage of over the years. There’s an exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the MS Empire Windrush.

Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land is on until October. It is fascinating, moving and in places makes you ashamed to be British. It’s not just the present Tory Government led by Theresa May that has created a hostile environment for migrants from the West Indies.

It was here that we heard Lord Kitchener singing his paean to London. It was one of many sound clips and films of poetry, interviews, reminiscence from and by the Windrush generation.

I looked around and noticed the wide range of people visiting the British Library, people from all over the world, some undoubtedly British, some visiting from overseas, but something you see all over London all the time. And my heart sank anew at the current state of western politics. Brexit and Trump are the dominating themes, both giving permission to the racists and fascists to be even more openly hateful than before. I can’t imagine anything worse than living and working in a place where everyone is just like me.

It was a bit cold in the room with all the sacred texts: old Bibles, Qu’rans, some books bigger than our suitcases, some of them really gorgeous, even if we can’t read the incredibly ornate writing, even when it’s apparently in English. Seeing works of art like this makes reading a book on a Kindle seem a bit underwhelming.

Another cup of coffee while Liesel spoke to her Mom then we caught another bus to Aldwych. We walked along the Strand, via Covent Garden, past Stanley Gibbons who sold some of my stamps a few years ago, and on to the Jubilee Bridge one more time. I had to take a picture of the view of course.

Waterloo Bridge. St Pauls Cathedral. The Shard. The Thames. The South Bank. London.

We caught a train to Kingston and dined at Stein’s, a German place. The vegan sausages and the vegetarian schnitzel were both off, so I had a cheese platter. It was nice, but there’s always too much cheese and not enough bread for me! It was filling though. And then we then caught the bus back home.

Altogether, according to the Fitbit, we walked over 9 miles today. This is much further than planned and indeed, much further than Liesel thought she’d manage with her piriformis injury. With exercise and physiotherapy, we’re hoping this problem will disappear over time, allowing us to walk much longer distances without discomfort.

Two more sleeps in sunny Chessington until we move away from the greatest city on Earth.

Compromises

With less than two weeks to go before the move, Mick and I have been working hard to pack the house, recycle stuff we don’t need or simply don’t have room for, and cleaning after each room is complete.  My expectation is that come move day, we will be relaxed and rested enough to make our four to five hour drive to Manchester bearable.

All this to do and what did Mick want to do yesterday?  Go into London to take part in the People’s Vote march against Brexit.  I wasn’t too keen to spend the day with over 100,000 people, walking slowly, potentially kettled by police, and no place to take a comfort break.  But then it occurred to me that if we were going into London for the march anyway we could stop by the sofa store and inspect the sofa I’ve been researching for months!  Ah ha, finally getting Mick into the store would be a feat.  Funny enough, he agreed, so I blister proofed my feet and off we went before breakfast.

We forgot it was Ascot and the scene at Waterloo Station was lovely.  A plethora of men in tails and top hats, ladies in heels, hats and dresses waiting for their train to take them to the races.  We watched them from the upper level of the station, and when their train was called they galloped for their platform. ‘They’re off’ I cried.  The spectacle over, we made our way to Tottenham Court Road.

Mick was a trooper providing his opinion on sofa stuffing and fabric, after he’d had breakfast and a latte of course.  Unfortunately, the cost ended up being  £200 more than I anticipated and we took a few minutes to discuss where we could make adjustments when it occurred to me that this was the first piece of furniture I’ve purchased in over 25 years, longer for Mick, and it may be the last.  Why should we settle for something that wasn’t exactly what we wanted for the sake of £200!  We bought exactly what we want and it should be delivered to the flat the day after we move it.

The People’s Vote march wasn’t difficult to find, almost everyone (but us) were dressed in blue and yellow.  These same people also brought packed lunches and water.  Why hadn’t we, because we’re often clueless in this respect.  We did get a couple of stickers to add to our lapels and spent the next two hours with people from Wales and Yorkshire, walking very, very, slowly.  The atmosphere was very positive and it was fantastic to see such a wide age spectrum represented.   Eventually we came to a standstill and our need for food, water, toilet and a place to sit down won, so we caught the first bus we could and ended up in Golders Green and the ‘Abbey Road’  which had a bunch of silly tourists standing in the middle of the road obstructing traffic.  .

It was a lovely day, we bought our first grown up sofa, and felt proud to be marching for Europe.  There is not a lot we can do to help with our grandchildren’s future, but we can protest their options being taken away from them, and we did.

Lofty Ambitions

The bottom line is, we still don’t know if we’re moving into a flat or into storage.

We are proceeding at a pace with the packing. So much stuff. There are at least five boxes of photos. Actual printed photos. It’s been on the to-do list for years, and I think it’s on everyone’s list: sort out the old photos.  We really feel that progress is being made, though. There is a nice pile of stuff to pass on to the children as soon as is convenient. (Don’t tell them.)

A removal man came along this afternoon to give us a quote.

It’s official: estate agents lie. This week, again, we tried to find out when our flat would be vacant. The agent said that because they’re moving into a newly built house that isn’t finished yet, they would never give a date.

But they gave us a date right at the start. They said May. Later revised to mid-June due to a spell of bad weather. But now they can’t give us a date because anything could go wrong. The agent couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see that they’d given us dates before so there can’t be hard and fast rules about getting dates from builders. Also, being told May, at the time, fitted in perfectly with our plans. If they’d said then that they had no idea when they’d be able to move out, I doubt that we would have put in an offer, regardless of how good the property is.

Our seller is under stress now, said the agent, as she tries to confirm with her solicitor that they can exchange this week and complete on 2nd July. I didn’t take the bait and tell that actually, we’re quite stressed out too. Yesterday, she regurgitated a conversation I’d had with her on 2nd March. I explained that the situation is totally different now.

Anyway, that’s where we are.

Freegle is a great resource: you can get total strangers to come to your house and take stuff away. I’ll miss the old 1990s stereo system that hasn’t worked properly for years. The record player was disposed of years ago. Buttons on the cassette player broke many moons ago. If you play a CD, it usually skips the first time, but is OK if you restart. Plus, one of the speakers only works intermittently. The FM aerial is meh. The AM aerial is meher. Other than that, it’s in perfect working order. I recorded may radio programmes on it in the olden days.stereo

It’s a lovely sunny day, we should be outside enjoying the weather, not inside packing and emptying the loft. Maybe we’ll go for an early evening stroll, after the man’s picked up his stereo system!

On this day in 2014, we went to the British Museum to see The Vikings Exhibition. We went with Myra, Sarah’s Mum and found it a very interesting display. They certainly got around, those Vikings. We ate at a Turkish restaurant afterwards. I must have been suffering from my earlier fast though, as there are, unusually, no photos.

Yes, I fasted for 12 hours overnight prior to my free old farts’ health check with the GP. This is when the rot set in. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure but as I was training for a long bike ride, I chose not to start taking medication until after that event. So, in the following November, I started taking anti-hypertension medication. Wow: shortness of breath, no stamina, I felt horrible. Even after a change of drugs, I still felt ridiculously weak and feeble.

Once I stopped working for Royal Mail, the BP dropped to fairly normal and I stopped taking the medication. But here I am, two years on, still with nowhere near the stamina I once had. I don’t have dizzy spells as often as I did back then, but every now and then, if I stand up too quick, I feel all wobbly. I know there are risks with high blood pressure, but really, I was much better off before I knew I ever had high blood pressure!

But that’s all in the past. The really exciting news is that Liesel had been talking to a Travel agent about our travels. All very exciting but the bad news is, I forgot we had to pay for it. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but the schedule so far looks quite breathtaking, although subject to change: Vancouver, Anchorage, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Botswana. This will be much more fun to write about when the time comes than all this house-moving mallarkey.

 

The Roof Needs Mowing

Liesel visited the physiotherapist again today in Earlsfield so we took advantage of what might be the last decent day for a while and spent the rest of it in London.

It might be one of the last chances to do that in any case, as we’re suddenly making progress on the house-moving front. But more of that later.

Today involved using nine forms of transport which is always a joy: we hope moving around Manchester is just as easy once we’re there.

  • Walked from home to Chessington North station, caught a SWR train to Earlsfield, then
  • Caught a Southern train to Clapham Junction, then
  • Caught an Overground train to Denmark Hill, then
  • Caught a 185 bus to the Horniman Museum, then
  • Caught another 185 bus to Lewisham Station, then
  • Caught a DLR train to Greenwich Cutty Sark, then
  • Caught a Clipper boat to Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank, then
  • Walked to Waterloo Station and caught a SWR train to Berrylands station, then
  • Walked up the hill and caught a K2 bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • Walked home!

But what exciting things did we do in between? Liesel had physio, I left a bit later and met her in a coffee bar in Earlsfield. Chocolate and Coffee, it’s called, and it has very nice coffee and plenty of chocolate based confectionery, as the name suggests. Come out of Earlsfield Station, cross the road, turn left and it’s past the first turning on the right.

We’ve wanted to visit the Horniman Museum for a long time. I’ve only been once before, when Sarah, Jenny, Helen and I went, about 20+ years ago, to see live video footage of  a volcano erupting in Hawaii. This was exciting technology for the time and very interesting, well worth the tortuous drive there around the South Circular Road.

Anyway, today, Liesel and I went by public transport and as you can see, it’s not a straightforward journey. We debated whether to go via Penge (note 1) but in the end, catching a bus from Denmark Hill made more sense as it stopped right outside the museum.

The gardens were fantastic. There’s a Sundial walk although we only managed to find a few dials, numbers 2, 6, 7 and 8, all different models.

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20180606_1405589085956331979416553.jpgBeing on top of hill, we shouldn’t really have been surprised to see the London skyline, even the arch at Wembley Stadium. Planes flew over from London City Airport at regular intervals slightly spoiling what should have been a quiet, peaceful experience.

There were some animals there too, rabbits, sheep, goats, alpacas. Lots of plants from which we get different coloured dyes as well as other flowers. The Sun was out and so it was a beautiful day for a long walk outside.

The library building was interesting: the roof has wild grass growing on it. I wondered whether the weight would be too much, but I wasn’t going to volunteer to mow the roof.

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Thatched roof but the grass is still living

In the museum itself, which is free apart from the special exhibitions, we were stunned by the range of stuffed animals. There was even a walrus which breathed its last in 1890 or something. The dodo (note 2) was magnificent, bigger than I thought. As was the porcupine (note 3).

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Dodo
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Porcupine

OK, notes explained:

  1. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Did you ever have a Dream?’
  2. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Dodo’.
  3. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Cracked Actor’.

The mastodon tusk was a million years old. It’s funny how your sense of time changes: only a million years old, we just missed it. That’s a short period of time compared with the extinction of dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

We thought it would be nice to get a boat back to Waterloo, unless of course we could find one that went all the way back to Kingston. (There wasn’t one.) We sat at the back of the boat where we enjoyed the stench of diesel fumes.

But it always a joy to spend time on the Thames.

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We disembarked by the Globe Theatre and walked along the South Bank back to Waterloo, slowly, admiring the sand sculptures as usual and again thinking how wonderful it is that the Garden Bridge idea has been hit on the head.

The other day, I was walking around Chessington and I came across a nice, friendly wall. Well, friendly, optimistic graffiti, really:

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Opportunities for walking around Chessington, 10,000 steps or not, are becoming limited. After a few phone calls and a visit from Liesel to the estate agent, we feel that progress is being made on our house move.

I’ve signed (but not dated) both contracts, one for our sale and one for our purchase.

We have received all (or at least, a lot) of the reports on our flat, in which we learnt about the risk of flooding (small), the affect of the next phase of the high-speed railway, HS2 (at least 300 metres away and not scheduled for construction for a long, long time) and more. Nothing to worry about.

We have lots of rules imposed by the landlord, the leaseholder, but again, nothing too onerous, unexpected or unreasonable. Storage in the attic and storage of our bikes might be difficult, but we’ll try the informal approach.

It seems that our buyer’s solicitor is no good. He’s been sitting on paperwork that he should have passed on. Now that we’ve got our estate agent on the case, we have, at last, receieved from our buyer the list of furniture that she wants to keep. We’re happy to leave all those items for her but more importantly, we now know what we need to dispose of or to take with us when we move.

The agent spoke to her yesterday and today: she wants to move fast and is just as dismayed at the performance of her solicitor as we all are.

We can start packing things up, now: we have several crates but we’ll need lots of packing boxes too. Progress at last!

On this day 45 years ago, as I described here, I said goodbye to my appendix.

I also remember 6/6/66. Mr Price, my final and only male primary school teacher was great. He tried to explain the news to us 11-year olds, mostly about Nigeria, Biafra and Rhodesia I seem to remember. And of course, we were looking forward to the World Cup.

This day in 1945 was D-Day, the Normandy Landings. General Eisenhower planned the invasion from his headquarters in Bushy Park, a frequent destination for our walks and bike rides.

My worst ever June 6 experience, even worse than an emergency appendectomy, was in 2005. I took my Dad to the Royal County Hospital in Guildford for a series of tests. He was frail, weak, in a wheelchair and I pushed him from one department to another, follow the blue line, follow the green line, X-rays and other examinations. After taking him home, I really should have paused before driving up the A3 to my own home. It was a hard, very emotional day for me, and I was just the helper. Dad had many medical issues and he still thought he’d be able to look after himself.

It’s funny how certain days have a theme. My appendectomy, Dad’s long day having hospital tests, Liesel visiting the physio today. And last year, this was the day I had stitches out following surgery on my gum by my periodontist.

On the other hand, on this day in 1992, David Bowie, who I mentioned earlier, married Iman, so that’s lovely!

And today’s June 6 adventure in London was lovely too, thanks Liesel xx.

A Pain in the Abdomen and a Pain in the Bum

This time 45 years ago, I was in the middle of my A-level exams. I took Pure Maths, Physics and Chemistry. In the middle of one of the papers, I had to be accompanied to the toilets as I felt sick. I was sick. I couldn’t continue and went home in agony. I’d been to the GP a couple of times already and he’d diagnosed my abdomenal pains as ‘exam nerves’.

Later on this Wednesday afternoon, I returned to the GP, saw a different one who, after a more thorough, intimate examination, diagnosed appendicitis and told me I had to get into hospital straightaway.

This was my first ride in an ambulance but I was in too much pain to really appreciate it. Mum was with me but I have no idea who was looking after my sister Pauline. Dad was at the Epsom Derby and didn’t get back until much later.

In hospital, I don’t remember the anaesthetic but I do remember the dreams of a golden staircase that went on and on. I woke up without an appendix, which someone described as a blackened gherkin, and I’m sure they asked if I wanted to keep it. Nope.

While in hospital, I missed one paper but took a Chemistry exam in the presence of one of my teachers, Jenny Nelson.

That was the end of school for me, and I missed out on all the end-of-term activities.

Even while I was at school and at university, I never had anxiety dreams about exams. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning from an exam-related dream. Weird.

I was due to take a Chemistry exam but I couldn’t be bothered. I’d had enough. So I went to a coffee bar instead and ordered my default, latte and carrot cake. After a few minutes, I had a pang of guilt. Mum and Dad and teachers and everyone had such high expectations of me. I knew that if I ran fast, I would make it in time to take the exam: I knew they let people in up to half an hour late and I also knew that until now, I’d finished all my exams well before time was up. This also wasn’t an anxiety dream, just an alternative train of events that never really happened. In 1973, I’d never even heard of latte or carrot cake.

Appendicitis was my medical complaint from a long time ago. Liesel is currently suffering from a painful piriformis muscle which is literally a pain in the arse that sometimes radiates down her leg. Yesterday, in the torrential rain, we visited a physiotherapist in Earlsfield who examined Liesel, poked and prodded a bit and suggested some exercises that will hopefully alleviate the problem.

Did I say it was torrential? We’ve had thunderstorms on and off for a few days now, and thank goodness, we’ve mostly been able to sleep through them. There have been some pretty spectacular photos of the storms on Twitter.

Ireland PS

Liesel’s Ireland post-script:

It has been two months now since I stopped working.  I am amazed at how different I feel. I am:  sleeping through the night, awake on the weekends, eating less (not anxiety eating), losing weight, more energy, concentrating and reading ‘new’ books, and, my hair is growing back.  Bottom line, work really was harming me mentally and physically.   I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to figure out how to have a better work-life balance, spending time and seeing the world with my best friend, Mick.

So, if you’ve been reading our blog, you’ll know that Mick and I have completed our trip to Ireland.  What a spectacular country.  Highlights were: stunning scenery, walking empty beaches, great weather, and catching up with my friend Catherine and her family.

I’ve been rehashing our trip to Ireland for the last couple of days and thinking about what worked and what could have made our trip better.  Our intention had been to slow down really enjoy our surroundings, no to do list of places we had to see and things we had to do.  We did this but there were a couple of days when we didn’t get back until late and we’re really tired.  I think we can do better!

If I intend to keep up with Mick and my Alaska friends, I must remember to pack a tennis ball and stretch at the end of every day in order keep my piriformis muscle happy.  I had a really painful 8 mile hike up the Gap of Dunloe and paid for my pain the next day as well.

We now know that we can get by on a week’s worth of clothes (or less, in Mick’s case) and can successfully carry our packs for a comfortable 5 miles.

As you may have guessed, I cannot part with my hairdryer but wearing no makeup is working for me. Solid shampoo can work for us but we need to find a solution to getting it out of the tin.

We enjoyed a road trip holiday but need to scale back the miles of travel given the amount of time we have.  2000 km in 2 weeks was too much.

We must exercise every day we can.  We both feel better, sleep better and can eat without guilt.

We don’t have to do everything together, I need the occasional quiet day to read, cook and relax. Likewise, Mick enjoys a the occasional faster-paced, extra-long walk.

I now appreciate that big towns and cities are less interesting when you cannot shop due to space limitations in my luggage and our restrictive budget.   I have to prioritise what museum(s) I want to see the most and I won’t be able to afford all of them.

Can we stick to £100 a day including accommodation?  We can but there are compromises.  We ate big breakfasts (included with our accommodation price) and had a main meal at 4 or 5 p.m. and nothing else.  Now, I love my food, but not every meal has to be gourmet.  Mick needs at least one latte a day.   If we have to compromise on accommodation, we’d rather be in the countryside and have a bathroom to ourselves.