Category Archives: Travel

Is it a good time to call?

Back in the days before mobiles, texts and such like, nearly as far back as 2 channels and black and white TV, I was raised to believe that phoning someone after say 9pm or before about 8am was intrusive and rude. Worse, it typically signified bad news: the death of or critical injury to someone close.

I know that if I get a call out of those “normal” hours, I get quite anxious, fearing the worst.  It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it feels quite stressful until I answer the call.  


When staying in hotels, I’m always surprised when I hear phones going off in other rooms at all hours of the night. Does it mean that the participants are on different sides of the world? Or insomniacs? Or just need very little sleep?  The fact that I hear the phone ringing is enough to wake me and disturb my sleep, which is rude enough.

Whenever I’m away from home Dee and I talk regularly, but are very cognisant of the time difference. We speak and message just after we’re both awake, and just before we go to sleep, as well as at other times when we know we’re both awake. We have two clocks in the house, one showing UK time and one for the time zone wherever I am.  That way we can maintain as normal a conversation and dialogue as possible, without disrupting sleep.  It’s one way that we stay connected, that we maintain our close relationship, that we stay together.  Services like Skype and FaceTime also help with staying close, which has to be a good thing, right?  

Just because the world is an increasingly connected place, does that mean people should call whenever they feel like it, irrespective of time? Isn’t some down time, away from technology, a good thing, a desirable thing? If there was some way of setting your phone to not receive or make calls between certain hours, would that be a useful feature? 

I’m guilty of spending too much time with technology too sometimes, sitting with a really good book in one hand but distracted by the glowing screen of my phone in the other. I need to physically say to myself “put the phone down and read your book” but the temptations and distractions are huge. 

Maybe I’m getting older, and losing touch with how these barriers have shifted. If that’s the case, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to convince me that removing the social norm around phone calls is a good thing.  

Harland and Wolff’s Finest

Do any of you know what this is a picture of?  If you look very closely, etched into the ground on the left and the right is the outline of two ships, and in both there are circles marked where their four funnels were.  The ship on the right is less well known: it was christened the Olympic. Its sister ship on the left was Titanic.

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to have some spare time during a visit to Belfast, so I visited the Titanic Museum on the banks of the Lagan. It’s built at the head of the two slipways for these giant vessels, and was a really interesting tour.  Unfortunately my time was limited so I wasn’t able to read as much or linger as long as I’d have liked, but standing there looking out at those two outlines was quite something.  It was another of those moments when your hair stands on end, when there’s a palpable something in the air.  

The museum itself sheds light on the history of Belfast, on the importance of the linen trade and then shipbuilding.  There’s a short ride which gives some insight into life in the shipyards, and the cramped conditions the riveters had to work in.  The sheer scale of the endeavour is really brought home to you – those ships were massive. Seeing what the cabins would have looked like for the different classes of passengers, and taking a virtual tour up through the numerous decks was a real eye opener.  

I’d have liked to spend more time on the portion which talked about the discovery of the wreckage, and to have watched more of the eerie footage which has been shot there.  I have read that James Cameron, when pitching his idea for the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslett, had outlined his plans to have footage from the actual vessel as part of the opening scene, in part because he’d always wanted to go down to see the wreck for himself. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s some story if it is factual.

I mentioned the funnels earlier.  One thing I found out on the tour was that only three of them were “real”: the fourth was used for ventilation and to provide a more aesthetic look.  Is that a visual “alternative fact” perhaps?  It was hard to believe that under full steam the ship used 600 tons of coal a day.  I can’t really picture what that looks like, but I guess it gives some idea as to how big and heavy Titanic must have been when fully laden.  

Next time I’m in Belfast, I hope to have the opportunity to visit the site again.  There was so much more to see, and so much more to feel.  

Taking the plunge

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Many many years ago, when I was a teenager, I spent a summer working in Norway.  I had an understanding boss, and managed to arrange to have a lot of afternoon shifts, starting at 2 or 3 and finishing late in the evening.  This may not sound ideal, but it did mean that I could spend the morning and early afternoon hanging out at an outdoor pool nearby.

The pool was surrounded by a park, and was very popular with young and old alike.  As the weather was warm, it was great being able to jump in the pool to cool off, and this pool had something else – diving boards! Ranging from 1m to 10m high, and with no rules as to whether you could jump off or whatever, there was a lot of fun to be had.  Jump off the top board? Took me a while to build up to it, but no problem!

When I got back home, I remember going to a local indoor pool.  It had diving boards, but these stopped at 5m.  And you could only dive.  So I was standing there, trying to build courage, because jumping is easy, when a little lad who must have been half my age came up onto the board.  He looked at me and said “Yir feart, urnt ye?” [translation from Scottish – “you’re scared, aren’t you?”]

Of course, I had to reply “No”.

And (also of course) he then had to say “Go on then, dive”.

So I did.  And it was epic.  A proper Tarzan swallow dive. Which I nailed!  No belly flop for me, no sir!  And at that time, it was one of the most sublime things I’d ever done or felt.

After that first dive, the fear was gone and you couldn’t stop me: not sure how I’d fare now though!

The image at the beginning of this story reminded me of that episode, hence I thought I’d share it.

Deciding where to next…

Do you know what I tend to struggle with?  Having decided to go away for a night or more, and after we’ve worked out where we want to go, the biggest issue is – where should we stay?  I have to say I’ve done quite well in the past, but that just adds pressure to continue to do so.  I thought I’d share a couple of tips (and websites) which many of you will already know about, but just in case…

So, first port of call is booking,com.  Dee and I find that it has a good range of hotels and guest houses at all sorts of price points.  The descriptions on there are always accurate, and we found (by accident) that after several bookings we qualified for extra discount – I won’t complain about that!

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As we’re looking at the various properties, we look at Trip Advisor to see what other people have thought of the place. Again, the reviews tend to be pretty accurate, though you do need to be a little wary.  Some people seem to like to complain about the smallest things, but those people are easy to spot in the reviews.

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The last thing I do is – after we’ve been away – generally I’ll add a review on Trip Advisor myself.  I try to focus on the good things, and even try to report on the positives if something isn’t quite right.  I’ve only left one bad review – with photos to back it up – but on the whole we’ve had nothing but good experiences.

Apologies if you knew all this already, but if you didn’t, I hope you’ve found it helpful!

All aboard! Image #139

I’ve been away at a conference over the past few days, and am just catching up on life, including my “daily” posts.  Apologies that these have fallen by the wayside somewhat in recent weeks, but I reckon a new job and moving house are a reasonable excuse!

Anyhow, I went out for dinner in a pizza restaurant for a well known chain here in the UK (no, I don’t know why I’ve not just named them either) and noticed some rather fetching art, which included this:

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In case I’ve not mentioned it, Liverpool FC are my favourite football team, and the conference happened to be in Liverpool. Given my Scandinavian heritage, Dee has called me “the Viking” for several years.  The image for today therefore seemed incredibly apt.

Is there any artwork that “speaks” to you in a similar way?  If so – what and how?

A blast from the … Future? – Image #138

On my way back home today I stopped at the motorway services for a comfort break.  As I was leaving, I noticed not one but THREE Deloreans all parked next to each other, all with both doors and bonnet wide open.  Unfortunately, I was driving and had no passenger with me so couldn’t get a photo, so you’ll have to make do with this.

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Had I just missed Marty and Doc filming episode 4? I don’t think so!

It all seemed a bit unreal to be honest.  The closest I can think of to anything remotely as unusual was a few weeks back when Dee’s son and I were driving into town and we saw someone pushing a full size Dalek along the pavement, heading in the opposite direction to us.  To this day I’ve no idea what that was all about!  Have you had any similarly surreal experiences?

A month of firsts – Image #134

As the title suggests, this has been a month of firsts for me.

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At at the beginning of the month, Dee and I had our first holiday abroad together, to Prague, which neither of us had been to before.

A few days after that, I started my first new job since 1995, and as a result of that I have added a new first today: I’ve set foot in the USA for the first time ever!

To cut a short story even shorter (because I’ve been up for over 21 hours today) I walked into the office yesterday, my boss asked what I was doing the rest of the week and asked if I’d come here for a meeting. So I’m here!

The flight was great, really comfortable though a bit turbulent coming down past Maine. Passport control was quick and easy at both ends of the trip, and I got straight into a cab with no wait when I left the airport. The place was in darkness when I landed, so I’ve not seen much: looking forward to taking in my surroundings tomorrow.

Oh, and next week I get to represent my company on a trade stand, something I’ve never done before either!