Monday, 29 August 2011

Boys and their toys

We're in the Isle of Wight, as we often are at August Bank Holiday, staying with our friends Ian and Janet Marsh.  Ian runs a company called Fighting 15's, which sells miniature wargames figures. Ian and I have been playing wargames for years. Our favourite period is the Napoleonic Wars, and last night, we played a game using Ian's rules called "Huzzah!", which have been in development on and off for about 10 years.  My French army won, simply because we managed to persuade Ian's Prussians to retreat before we did.

Here are a few photos of some of the miniature figures, showing off Ian's exquisite painting skills.

These are French troops , deployed to defend the village of Schlitz.

French infantry in 1806 uniforms. Ian bases his army on 40mm square bases, 4 figures each in two ranks of figures. You can see the superb quality of his painting. Each group of 4 bases represents one battalion (approximately 600-800 men).

Saxon Chevaulegers (light cavalry), still wearing 18th century -style uniforms in 1806. Ian's cavalry is based on 40mm square bases, two or three figures per base. A cavalry regiment typically has 6-8 bases.

Prussian Dragoons, supported by the Saxons.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Still cruising..

Thursday, 18th August.


We docked at Malaga at 0700. Ruth and I were booked on an excursion to see the Alhambra Palace at Granada. Our tour left at 8.05, so we had a very early start. After a two-hour drive into the Sierra Nevada mountains, we arrived at Granada.  Entry to the Alhambra is by timed entry via pre-booked ticket.  The Alhambra was a castle/palace fortress built by the Nasirid sultans of Granada, commencing in 1238. Granada was the last Moorish kingdom to be reconquered by Catholic Spain in 1492, and was the capital of Spain until Philip II moved the capital to Madrid half-way through the following century.

The Alhambra, and the neighbouring Generalife Gardens, are absolutely beautiful. Here are a few photos..


This is a reflecting pool leading to the Sultan’s meeting rooms at the far end. It is said to have been the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.



  Note the decorative tiles, the carved woodwork on the walls, the Moorish Arches and the gardens beyond.



A view of the Alhambra from the Generalife Gardens.




A courtyard in the Generalife Gardens, the Sultan’s pleasure garden.


Back at the ship, we continue to lead in the daily trivia quiz series which lasts until the end of the cruise.


Friday, 19th August.  Gibraltar.

The schedule for the day is a tour of the newly-opened (to the public) World War II Tunnels, followed by visiting various members of Ruth’s family who live in Gibraltar.



One of the apes on the upper rock took a shine to Ruth. [Ruth is the one in the glasses]




This is a 5.25” naval gun, originally from a British World War II battleship, placed in battery in Gibraltar in about 1950, but never fired.




Here is one of the apes looking towards our cruise ship.  Royal Caribbean’s tag line is  the nation of “why not”, and I am torn between titling this photo “Why not” and “Maybe next year”.


Ruth cousins treated us to dinner in the Kosher restaurant in Gibraltar – it was nice to eat meat again for the first time in nearly a week.




We’re now back on the ship. A day of rest tomorrow at sea, then we fly home on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Just cruising

We’re on holiday this week, cruising in the western Mediterranean.


We flew from Gatwick at 6am Sunday to Palma, in Majorca.  In the airport at Palma, the following poem came to me.


“The Traveller’s Prayer”

We hail you, airport baggage carousel.

We crowd around you and to you we pray.

“Deliver all our luggage safe and well,

And pref-erably some time soon, today.”



We had a tour of Palma before being taken to our ship The Grandeur of the Seas.



A view of Palma from Bellver Castle


Bellver Castle is very impressive. It is a circular castle, built by the Knights Templar in the early 14th Century, overlooking Palma.



Main entrance to Bellver Castle


It was originally built with one surrounding moat, then a second moat was added later to protect it from these new-fangled cannon things.


Here is a picture of the Cathedral of Palma. It has beautiful stained-glass windows which survived a major earthquake intact. It took about 300 years to build, and by the time they’d finished, the original Gothic style was now out of fashion so it was given a Baroque fascade.




On board ship, we were shown to our cabin, and then had to attend lifeboat muster drill.


Here is a poem I composed about that.

Lifeboat Drill

“It’s lifeboat drill, but no-one is flustered.

All hands are on deck, ‘cos we’re keen to be mustered.”


We arrived in Barcelona on Monday morning. It was Feast of the Assumption, so all the museums were closed, (boo!) , likewise most of the shops (hurray!).

We took a bus tour round the city, which took s past the Olympic Park from 1992, the Nou Camp stadium, the beaches, the Segrada de Familia Church designed by Gaudi but still unfinished when he died several decades ago [What is it about Spanish builders and Churches? It makes British road-building programmes look positively dynamic.], and we ended the trip by strolling down the famous pedestrian market La Rambla,


The Olympic Flame thingy

The Olympic Flame thingy.



A view from near the harbour.


Torre AGBAR  -Barcelona's version of the Gherkin


Torre AGBAR – Barcelona’s version of the Gherkin building. I’m not sure whether it’s pickled.


Front of la Segrada de la Familia


The front of la Segrada de la Familia






A street performer in La Rambla.

(This is what happens if you don’t use sun-screen).


Today (Tuesday), Ruth had a reflexology treatment, so both my wife and my son have an “ology”.   The ship docked in Ibiza and we walked around the old town for a while  Smile and did some shopping Sad smile.

Here are a few photos


Ibiza town




Ibiza at sunset


Tonight, there was a  party in the Windjammer cafe on the ship, where there was a late-night buffet, and various ice sculptures and food sculptures were on display.   I explained to Ruth that when the Captain announces “Take in the main course”,  he means “pull down one of the sails”, not “have another dinner”. 

Here are a few of them..

Fruit sculpture on the ship

A parrot made from a pineapple…


vegetable sculpture on the ship

What breed of dog? Clearly it’s a caulie..



Tomorrow, we’re at sea all day.