Our trip to hell and back! Really? Back? 

Hi everyone, sorry it has been so long since I last wrote but what started as a dream vacation two months ago, turned into a nightmare. A nightmare that has not yet finished.

It will take me more than one post to let you know what happened. For now, I’ll just give you a brief summary. More details will be given in further posts in the next few weeks.

It all started about a week before my wife Lisa and I were due to leave. We could smell gasoline in our car when it was idling, so we took it into our local repair shop. Two days later, the bad news arrived. The car needed a new engine.

We are on first name terms with the boss, so when he suggested our car be scrapped – that is exactly what we did. Then, and now, there’s not enough money in our bank to replace it. We are stuck at home. We are in the country, nearly a mile from the main road but even there, there is no bus service. And our nearest town is a good 20€ taxi ride away. A car of our own is essential.

Holiday dream shattered

Anyway, back to our vacation.

We had already pre-booked a ride to the airport. He was an hour late, great start.

Flight one, no problem, but flight two was delayed. This meant missing our connection and having to take a replacement flight the next day.

Flight three went without a hitch. Phew, we were in Los Angeles.

We stayed in LA for almost a week, but we didn’t visit anywhere or take a tour, as we gad planned, for reasons I’ll explain in another post.

That Sunday, we flew to San Diego and boarded our cruise ship, the Carnival Miracle. That turned out to be the worst cruise of our lives! Watch here to discover why.

Back in San Diego after the 7-day trip, we had a one-night stay in a hotel. The next morning, I was rushed to hospital by ambulance. Instead of going home, I was set for five days in hospital – and, not having travel insurance, now face a bill of nearly $40,000 .

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To help me meet the costs of a wheelchair accessible vehicle and the hospital care, I have started a Go Fund Me page. Please help by making a donation, however small, HERE.

Thank you

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Search and Rescue dogs have key role worldwide

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There seems to be a sizeable portion of the readers of this blog who take more than a passing interest in the lifesaving activities of mountain rescue teams and another group of people who love to read about dogs and other animals.

Well, today’s blog should satisfy them all as it is all about search and rescue dogs.

These are known throughout the world for their work in finding missing people or those buried by masses of avalanche snow or rubble from collapsed buildings. They always seem to be at the heart of post-earthquake searches and were an important part of the search operation at Ground Zero, in the wake of the 9/11 Twin Towers disaster in New York.

This year, 13 years after that terrible time, golden retriever Bretagne, the last surviving rescue dog who searched Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, revisited the scene.

In September, aged nearly 16 and enjoying her retirement, Bretagne returned to the Manhattan site for the first time since 2001, accompanied by Denise Corliss, her longtime handler and owner. They live now, as then, in Texas.

Nearer to my home, if a search dog is needed then police or rescue teams call upon the services of members and dogs of SARDA, the Search and Rescue Dogs Association.

helencluanieSARDA Wales is a specialist Search Dog component of Mountain Rescue (England and Wales) and are permanently staffed by unpaid volunteer dog handlers and their dogs to provide a search and rescue service to the Police, Mountain Rescue & Coastguard.

Dogs are trained in specialist skills including air scenting and trailing dogs to search for missing people in mountain, rural and urban locations. The association has 80-90 call outs each year in North Wales including missing children, vulnerable adults, dementia patients as well as hill walkers and mountaineers. Handlers and dogs are on call 365 days per year in any weather.

There is no doubt that handlers love their dogs and are united by a willingness to go out in any weather at any time of day to search for missing people anywhere in North Wales and occasionally beyond. Many SARDA Wales handlers are also members of Mountain Rescue teams. The three nearest me, Llanberis, Ogwen Valley and Aberglaslyn teams, have SARDA handlers and dogs in their organisations.

It takes many hours of commitment to train a search dog and it’s a continual process throughout each dog’s working career with the dogs and handlers regularly being assessed to ensure that they maintain the higantmossh standards for which they have come to be well-known.

Every mountain dog handler is an accomplished climber and mountaineer in their own right in summer and winter conditions, as well as being a member of a Mountain Rescue Team. Mountain dog teams are assessed at lowland standard first and then go on to be assessed at mountain level. Skills include avalanche searches and every handler is equipped to be self-sufficient in all weathers and conditions. Handlers play key roles in their own rescue teams as well as being available as a dog team to every other rescue team in North Wales.

All SARDA air scenting dog teams train as lowland search teams. They are trained and assessed to cover open areas, buildings, woodland, sand dunes and caravan parks and this type of work forms the majority of call outs. Lowland areas can be extremely complex to search and require a great deal of skill from both dog and handler. There are often many distractions and the dog will often be working out of sight in complex ground.

The trailing dogs can follow a scent of a specific person from the point that they were last seen. They can work in almost any area from urban to mountain and are trained to ignore other scents to find only the person for whom they are looking.

Running SARDA and its training and assessment operations is not cheap. As I have said, they are all volunteers, all unpaid, and they rely entirely on donations to fund the association.

salspinTo give you an idea of the costs involved, here is a summary of its main expenditure items: Assessment Weekend – Cost £2000; Training Weekend with accommodation and catering – £750; Equip a new dog team – £2000; Search Managers Lap Top with software – £1000; Re-equip an existing dog team with new waterproofs – £500; Cover a dog teams motor expenses for a year – £300; and cover a search dogs annual pet insurance – £300.

In total, SARDA Wales’s annual running costs average about £20,000 and its only income is from public donations.

If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so online by following this link or use your mobile phone (cellphone)  to text SDOG01 £5 to 70070 to donate (of course, you can change the amount)

Practical support is also welcome. Volunteers are needed as ‘Dogsbodies’ and to help with catering at training/assessment weekends.

Dogsbodies are vital as without bodies to find the dogs cannot train. Volunteer Dogsbodies will get a friendly welcome, free food and accommodation in North Wales for the weekend and join the team as a valued member.

Some important qualities are: You must like dogs and be happy to get wet and slobbered on! Must have a sense of humour and be prepared to hide in obscure places in all weathers. Lastly, you must be happy to take instructions.

Anyone interested should email info@sardawales.org.uk for further details.

 

Pictures, from top:

Bretagne, 9/11 search dog, now retired

Helen with Cluanie, Llanberis MRT

Antony with Moss, Aberglaslyn MRT

Sally with Spin, Ogwen Valley MRT

Nobody puts Baby in the corner

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Baby (Jessie Hart) and Johnny Houseman (Lewis Kirk) danced their way to success in the roles made famous 28 years ago by Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze.

 

A stupendous production with fantastic scenery and stunning visual effects brought a well-deserved standing ovation from a packed theatre when, last night, Lisa and I saw Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage. It was live on stage at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, as part of its UK national tour.

Meanwhile, the same producers have other performing companies on tour in the USA and Australia with more countries lined up to make it a real worldwide enterprise.

Of course, I can only speak of the UK show but if the others are anything like the performance we saw last night, all I can say is: if it comes to a theatre near you, don’t hesitate, buy your tickets immediately.

Moreover, it is on at Venue Cymru until Saturday 17th October, so if you are anywhere near North Wales make the effort to go and see it. You won’t regret it – but don’t delay as tickets are selling really fast.

I doubt many people have not seen the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing that starred Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey; that was a rip-roaring box office hit and I just have to say that this stage show captured everyone’s favourite parts of the film to perfection.

Lewis Kirk excelled as Johnny Castle while Jessie Hart danced her way into our hearts as Frances Houseman, better known as ‘Baby’.

So let’s take you back. It’s the summer of 1963, and 17 year- old ‘Baby’ is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing.

Baby’s life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off with breathtaking consequences.

But it is not just Johnny and Baby that were great, there is the rest of the energetic cast that wrapped up the whole audience in a totally authentic stage version of the movie.

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage features hit songs including ‘Hungry Eyes’, ‘Hey! Baby’, ‘Do you love me?’ and the heart-stopping ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life’.

Many favourite original masters are featured within this stage sensation blending the movie soundtrack seamlessly with live performances by the cast. Some of these classic tracks include ‘Cry To Me’ by the larger-than-life rhythm & blues singer, Solomon Burke, the no.1 hit single ‘Hey! Baby’ by Bruce Channel and ‘These arms of mine’, Otis Redding’s first solo record.

Of course, the very last and highly emotional scene (yes there were some tears in the audience) is when Johnny says the famous line “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” and then they go into the I’ve Had the Time of my Life dance that culminates in Castle’s lift of Baby as she seems to fly in his arms.

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The author’s years of experience in journalism includes being a theatrical columnist and critic.

Free rugby at theatre

theatr 1

Rugby Union fans around the globe are avidly following the fortunes of the various nations in the Rugby World Cup, especially if one of the teams is from their own country.

The group stages end this coming weekend, then the last eight teams go into the knockout stages.

Embarrassingly for this time’s host nation England, its team has become the first in the competition’s history not to qualify for those knockout stages. Yes, with one group game still to play, England knows it cannot reach the quarter-finals. It will be playing Uruguay purely for the honour of winning.

The England team’s fate was decided by losing successive matches to Wales and Australia, both at England’s home ground of Twickenham, over the last week.

It means that Wales face Australia this Saturday to decide the winner and runner-up of group A. This is important as the winner will face the runner-up of group B, likely to be Scotland, while the runner-up will play the winner of group B, almost certainly South Africa.

So, it is great to see that North Wales rugby fans are being given to watch this key match live at Theatr Colwyn. And when I say ‘given’ I mean just that. There will be no charge. It is a tremendous community benefit provided by theatre management.

It is an example of extremely forward thinking by a really progressive management team that deserves to see its theatre packed out.

Actually, Theatre Colwyn is getting used to capacity audiences. As well as live theatrical performances, its progamme includes films as well as live screenings of major live performances elsewhere.

For example, the National Theatre’s production of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch. This has proved to be in so much demand that the live screening is sold out and the theatre has now announced that it will be having what it calls an ‘encore’ screening on another evening. This is its term for showing of a recording made in Theatr Colwyn of the live performance.

And it is made possible by the installation of a hi-tech, state of the art, digital projector a couple of years, or so, ago.

So, rugby fans will be able to see all the action on Saturday evening on a cinema-sized screen, presented using digital equipment for the very best in both visual and sound quality. That will be a real treat for anyone unable to travel to see the match itself.

Theatr Colwyn, alongside its bigger ‘sister’ Venue Cymru, is owned by the local authority – Conwy County Borough Council. However, to the credit of the councillors, it does not seem to have its ambitions curtailed by excessive amounts of red tape.

As well as being a theatre and cinema, it is also the home of Oriel Colwyn, a gallery that has a continuous variety of exhibitions of art and photography. It is a delightful place to see and often welcomes visitors from around the world. So, wherever in the world you live, if you find yourself in the seaside town of Colwyn Bay do drop in. You will be assured of a warm welcome by manager Philip and his team.

Showing we care

world animal day_edited

Not quite sure why but World Animal Day crept up on me; maybe it was the careful stealth of its approach – like a cat stalking its prey.

Anyway, here it is. Today, 4th October, is World Animal Day, chosen because it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. Perhaps we should remember, too, that the Pope chose Francis as his name in honour of St Francis.

So, why do we have a world day for animals? In short, to get people involved in getting a better future for animals.

The lives of animals are profoundly affected by the actions of individuals, businesses, and nations.  It’s therefore essential that, as sentient beings, their rightful status as recipients of social justice is established and translated into effective animal protection.

And it is at this point that I feel it is necessary to state my utter distaste for the recent comments made by Princess Michael of Kent when she said that animals do not have “rights” because they cannot pay taxes.

WAD-horse-2_editedSpeaking at a literary festival in the UK, she said: “We’re always hearing about animal rights. Well, I’m a great animal lover, and involved in a lot of conservation, but animals don’t have rights. They don’t have bank accounts, they don’t vote.

“We have an obligation to animals but to say they have rights? You only have rights if you pay your taxes. You earn your rights.”

As a self-professed animal lover who once hand-reared a cheetah, Princess Michael seems to have missed the point. She is saying that as animals cannot do certain human things, they cannot enjoy the same rights as we do. But they surely do have animal rights; they are sentient creatures and they need to be cared for with kindness and fairness as well as being provided with all they need.

World Animal Day organisers say: “Through increased awareness and education, we can help develop a compassionate culture which feeds into legal reform and social progress to make this world a fairer place for all living creatures.  A world where animals are recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.

Hopefully, increased awareness linked with better education, for both adults and children, will gradually but steadily WAD-fox-2_editedinfluence attitudes of people towards treating animals in the humane and compassionate way in which they deserve and to which they have a right.

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*As writer of this blog, it is necessary to make it clear that I am in favour of the humane treatment of all animals but am not a vegetarian. I have years of experience in agricultural journalism and believe that animal farming for the provision of meat can be carried out with compassion and kind treatment. I am, however, opposed to the killing of any animals for their skins, furs or any other parts. Similarly, I reject the need for the use of animals in laboratory testing of cosmetics or any other product developed for mankind. There may be justification for limited animal use in the field of medicinal research.

Burlesque to be weekend of fun for all

burlesque 2burlesque 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures from the 2016 festival and, below, organiser and performer Kimberley Edmunds (Foxee Stole).

 

An even bigger and better weekend of fun and laughter is promised at the second annual North Wales Burlesque Festival to which cabaret artistes have now been added. And it is to take off over Friday 29th to Sunday 31st January.

The weekend of entertainment is all set to take place at the Imperial Hotel in Llandudno. It is £26.50 for the whole weekend which includes access to all shows, all workshops, the dealers’ hall, a museum and the film Gypsy on the Sunday night.

Friday will see the Rising Star/Seren yn Codi competition in which acts who are new to performing (less than two years) can enter. It is not just burlesque but is open to any type of act such as dancers, musicians, singers, magicians and sideshow acts. All are welcome. The  semi-finals will start at 3pm and the finalists will compete at 7pm. The winner(s) will receive a place in the 2017 gala show.

That will be followed by the Sioe Pysgod a Sglodion (fish and chip show) which will feature acts who are Welsh or live in Wales. It will be hosted by Llandudno magician Jay Gatling and there are singers (including Welsh language), a hypnotist, comedy, belly dancing and burlesque striptease.

burlesque 3On Saturday there are workshops all day in beginners’ burlesque, vintage hair, contemporary dance, hooping, dance fitness, life drawing, fashion and the history of burlesque. The evening show stars some of the best names in burlesque and cabaret including jugglers, singers, musicians, striptease artists, sideshow performers and pole dancers. Following this there will be a jam session where people can play music and dance.

On Sunday two workshops will be led by world famous photographer Neil Kendall. He was responsible for all the images for one of Dita Von Teese’s tours and was recently voted Vintage Photographer of the year at the national Vintage Awards. Neil is leading one session for models and one for photographers.

After these there is a chance for everyone to put the workshops into practice at the Sunday shoot where they can take images which may be used for their portfolios. The event will be closed on Sunday evening with the ‘onesie wind down’ when Gypsy will be shown on the big screen, giving everyone a chance to relax.

Through the ages

When people think of burlesque they generally think of strippers. It conjures up images of seedy little venues, nipple tassels and poorly executed dance routines that have no purpose other than to drag out the amount of time it takes for the girl on stage to take her clothes off. It’s similar to the way magicians are stereotyped as being the guy in a tux and top hat producing doves and sawing a lady in half.

Burlesque hasn’t always been this way. Before the 1920s it was a thriving art form that was the alternative comedy of its day. These shows would satirise or ‘burlesque’ politicians, celebrities, the upper classes and royalty. They would be full of music, comedy and dancing but were definitely adult shows, often using sexual innuendo to deliver their messages but there were no strippers.

Stripping wasn’t added until the 1920s and the reason was that the old burlesque circuit had started to crumble and theatre owners needed a cheap way to get bums on seats. At the time strippers would work backrooms of pubs for tips alone and so were quite happy to take their act in to an actual theatre. Of course, their male audiences followed but burlesque is an art form that men and women should be able to enjoy together.

For this reason, the North Wales Burlesque Festival concentrates on variety including acts such as jugglers, magicians, belly dancers, pole dancers, musicians, comedians, sideshow performers and acrobats. Unlike most burlesque shows, the focus is not on the performers who are removing their clothes. There will be something for everyone.

The  North Wales Burlesque Festival started in 2015 and was organised by Kimberley Edmunds (Foxee Stole) and Russel Erwood (Erwyd – yes, Erwyd the Jester). In 2016, the festival will have built on the previous success and looks to be well worth attending.

To check out exactly what will be happening and when as well, who will be appearing and to book tickets, visit the festival’s website at www.northwalesburlesque.com

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Cute toddler’s first steps on artificial leg

Bravery seems to be a recurring subject in my blog in the last few weeks. Now, a little girl is being hailed as being brave, alongside the heroes I have talked about in mountain rescue teams and lifeboat crews.

The little girl in question, no more than a toddler, is the subject of a You Tube video posted by the Amputee Coalition of America. It shows her taking her very first steps with her new prosthetic leg.

She is clearly delighted, stopping to blow raspberries, before walking onwards. She falls over but picks herself up and walks on to her dad who is waiting with his hands outstretched. When she reaches him, he picks her up for a cuddle.

The video shows an inspiring moment in the little girl’s life. It is a moment that shows the child’s determination to not let her amputation control her life. And it is a determination that is shared by many people with disabilities but it is also a great example to those who think that their problem means that they cannot do anything; to those that seem to believe that the world owes them a living.

For reasons of privacy, the name and information about the little girl have not been shared online, nor has the reason why her leg has ben amputated, but the heartwarming video has captured the attention of many on both You Tube and Facebook. One Facebook user wrote: “Puts into perspective all the stupid things we complain about when we see the bravery of this little one.” Another added: “This cute angel will do amazing things one day! She is a fighter!”

Those comments both hit the nail right on the head. The video certainly does put other issues into perspective and she may well go on to bigger and better things. This is one girl who is not going to let her amputation get in the way of her life. She is already accepting her prosthetic leg as completely normal for her.

But, is she being brave? Well, her spirit is obviously enviable. In the video, she falls down but gets up easily and carries on. That is what life is all about – other children do that too.

Owing to living with multiple sclerosis, I have serious mobility and balance problems. In fact, when I am not using a wheelchair, falling is an all-too-frequent event. The floor is one of my closest friends!

The trick, however, is to get up and get on with life.

This little one is coping with her disability in the only way she knows. It is not a position of her choosing and as such, while I admire her fortitude, she should not be burdened with being described as ‘brave’ or labelled a ’hero’.  They are such high aspirations to have to attain and then maintain. Similarly, I am not being brave in coping with my disability; she and I are both just doing what we can to overcome our difficulties.

Long may she be happy and able to grow up without being negatively affected by artificial leg.

Support – a question of sport

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Nationality and patriotism are areas that can both stir up strong emotional feelings that are mostly for the good but sometimes not.

Of course, the most extreme forms of both are found in times of war or conflict between nations but, on a lesser scale, it flows across into the realms of sport.

When I moved from London to North Wales in 1992, despite being English by birth and parentage, I became loyal to my adopted country and its rugby union and football (soccer) teams – even when playing against England.

I learned to sing Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (the country’s anthem) in Welsh as well as to spell and say the name of its longest village: It is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (and, yes, I did type all 58 letters without looking it up and without any correction being needed). Additionally, the only two rugby shirts that I have owned have been the red of Wales and the black of the Ospreys team based in South Wales. Although never having a Welsh football shirt, I still followed the progress and fortunes of the team.

So, what does that all mean for my impending move to Spain?

Switching allegiances from one British team to another was no big deal but supporting Spanish teams would entail a much greater transfer. But isn’t that what I will be doing by living there? In a way, yes it is but, conversely, I shall be remaining a UK citizen and I will continue to vote in parliamentary elections in the constituency I which I now live. So, loyalties will be divided.

Spain is not a major rugby-playing nation, so in that sport I shall continue to support Wales. Football is another matter, though. The Spanish seem to treat ‘futbol’ as a way of life, they are fervent. And the national team is good too, having won the World Cup in 2010 and the Euro Championship in both 2008 and 2012. I don’t think Wales will rival that team or play against it very much. It seems likely that I’ll be able to support both.

At club level, Fulham has remained my UK football team since moving to Wales but now I’ll need a Spanish one as well. On purely geographic grounds, that looks set to be Almeria that plays in the La Liga second tier in which it currently lies 16th of the 22 clubs. So it looks like I will have to get used to supporting a team that plays in a red and white striped shirt.

Baseball is another sport that interests me and, as theirs is the only stadium I have visited, Toronto Blue Jays is the team for me. On the other hand, Lisa being American says that my support should be for a USA team not one in Canada. Fair enough, I suppose, but I’d have to see them play first!

As far as my last major team sport is concerned, there is no need to change anything. This is because cricket is not a feature of many nations and so I can rest easy supporting the England team that represents the England and Wales Cricket Board.

What we believe is true, or is it?

bible

This picture caught my attention on Facebook today. It fascinates me, not so much for what it says but the whole concept of different religions in today’s world.

Before starting, let me first of all make one thing clear. I am not an atheist and do indeed have a strong religious faith. However, my beliefs are not those of the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or any other organised religion.

A much older religion calls to me, one of the Mother Earth and nature, one that recognises both masculine and feminine aspects of our deities. We are taught to harm no-one and never seek to push our religion onto others. We do not seek converts, nor do we claim that our religion is the ‘only’ way. And we don’t believe in the existence of the devil.

Having been brought up as a Christian, attended church and been taught ‘religious education’ at school, it should come as little surprise that that faith and the Church of England formed an area of intense interest for me.

Indeed, my first wife completed a Bachelor of Theology degree in 1999, for which I typed all her essays and so learned a great deal. By the time she graduated, I realised that any Christian beliefs I had held had just been metaphorically shipwrecked.

So, let’s look at the text in that picture.

“The King James version of the New Testament was completed in 1611 by 8 members of the Church of England.

“There were (and still are) no original texts to translate. The oldest manuscripts we have were written down hundreds of years after the last apostle died. There are over 8,000 of these old manuscripts, with no two alike.

“The King James translators used none of these, anyway. Instead. they edited previous translations to create a version their king and Parliament would approve.”

All those are true, according to research available online, so we can hardly take issue with the summary that says: “So, (what) 21st Century Christians believe (is) the “Word of God” is a book edited in the 17th Century from 16th Century translations of 8,000 contradictory copies of 4th Century scrolls that claim to be copies of lost letters written in the 1st Century.”

But the truth is much worse than that.

Absolutely none of the gospels were written at the time they purport to talk about. Word of mouth stories were written down a hundred years, or more, later. Many texts were ignored when putting the bible together.

Mistranslations took place and have not been corrected to this day.

For example, Isaiah’s prophecy as originally written states that the Messiah would be conceived by an ‘almah’ (young woman) but in the Greek translation Isaiah refers to a ‘parthenos’ (virgin). From this, it appears that Matthew’s gospel attempts to justify Jesus’s divine parentage by claiming fulfilment of a prophecy that was never actually made.

And, as far as the resurrection is concerned, why was Jesus’s body removed from the cross so soon after the crucifixion? It was uncommon for a crucified healthy adult to die in the time described by the Gospels; the Gospel of Mark reports that Jesus was crucified at nine in the morning and died at three in the afternoon, or six hours after the crucifixion. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus had died so soon (Mk 15:44). The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion was between two and four days.

It gives some strength to the argument that Jesus did not die on the cross and that, therefore, there was no resurrection. As Christianity is not my faith, I offer no comment on these beliefs or arguments except to say that everyone should be free to follow any faith of their choice or choose to not follow any at all.

One last point: something else on Facebook today was a negative comment about religious people saying they ‘know’ what happens after death. Another person wanted ‘proof ‘of the existence of an afterlife. To me, that is why it is called faith. There is no proof, no-one knows; there is only belief, only faith.

 

 

 

 

Steps towards Spain

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Bathroom fitments removed and stored in bedroom while wet-room is fitted.

Preparations for our great move to Spain continue apace with Tuesday witnessing another step, actually two steps, along the journey. Then, one more step was taken this morning.

First step: Pictures have arrived showing the work in progress to turn the dream home we found into one that is absolutely perfect and one in which I can live comfortably with my disability. Although I don’t need it now, Lisa and I made the important decision to buy a home in which, if needed in the future, I could use a wheelchair indoors.

In truth, if it ever happens, that should be several years away but as we are making a big move, really a lifestyle change, we decided to be ready for whatever Multiple Sclerosis may hold for me in the future. We don’t want to be forced to move again.

One of the key improvements being made as part of the package of conversion works is the provision of a wet-room. The bathroom fitments have been stripped out already and a full wet-room is about to be installed complete with a fully accessible level entry walk-in shower that will also be suitable for a special roll-in shower chair,

Step two we made without actually needing to do anything more ourselves as we had already done our part. It came in the form of an email from Paul, the driver/courier from Anyvan. He let us know that our possessions have arrived safely in Spain and have been delivered into our new home. Nothing more can be done with those until we get there in November.

I have to say that Lisa and I are both so impressed with Anyvan’s method of operation in which any of its couriers who want a particular job bid against each other to win the business. That way the client can get the best possible price. What’s more, the professionalism, courtesy and willingness to be as accommodating as possible – as clearly demonstrated by Paul – show all of the company’s associated drivers in the best possible light. They really do seem to know everything about giving top-rate service and superb customer relations. We would have no hesitation in using their services again and would highly recommend them to others.

Step three took the form of a visit to the vets this morning. Having given both Pooka and Prissy a health check-up, the vet scanned the microchips they had implanted before their trip here from Florida in March 2012 and gave them both their rabies vaccinations.

Tomorrow, we have to go back to the vets – just us, not the cats – to pick up their ‘pet passports’ that will allow both of them to enter Spain without going into quarantine.

Just one more thing to do today, this time because of our holiday before we leave for Spain, and that is to telephone the cattery to book the cats in for their stay while we are in the USA.

If you wonder why we have a holiday just before moving abroad, the holiday was booked before we decided to move; then the money came through from my former matrimonial home. It is all a bit of an almost runaway train but one of our own choosing and in which we are enjoying the ride.