Burying visual pollution

pylon2 Pic: National Grid/PA

Most people are opposed to pollution but, of those, the vast majority tend to think of it as illegal dumping of litter, chemical spills or escapes as well as noxious substances in the air. They are right that these are all forms of pollution but it by no means stops there.

Other types of pollution include: light through light trespass or over-illumination; noise from various sources from industrial, transport and even loud music; radiation; thermal; and water. And those are just a few examples.

There does exist, however, another form of pollution that many people find extremely offensive. This is known as ‘visual pollution’ and may be of various types but includes man-made objects such as wind turbines, pylons and overhead power cables in an otherwise mainly unspoilt natural landscape. Even windfarms placed offshore to protect rural landscapes are still criticised for marring seaside views.

With all that in mind, I am absolutely delighted that views across certain UK rural areas are to be improved following the National Grid’s decision to remove overhead power lines.

The move is part of £500m of funding from regulator Ofgem to transform four protected landscapes across Wales, including one in the Snowdonia National Park, and England by burying cables underground by 2021.

The stretch in Snowdonia runs from Portmeirion to Llyn Trawsfynydd while England’s New Forest, Peak District and Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are the other three areas which will see overhead power lines disappear.

The stakeholder group of conservation organisations, which advised National Grid on which transmission lines to prioritise, was chaired by environmentalist Chris Baines. He said that some “difficult decisions” had to be made.

“Reducing the visual impact of pylons and power lines in our most precious landscapes is highly desirable but it is also very expensive and technically complex so we have had to make some difficult decisions.

“Although four schemes have been prioritised, none of the locations on our original short list have been dropped and they will remain under consideration for future work to reduce the impact of National Grid’s transmission lines under the vision impact provision project,” he said.

For me, the news is a welcome step in the right direction. But it is just that, a step, a first step on a long journey. Even this step is set to cost £500m and is scheduled to take up to six years to complete.

When any power line is moved from overhead to being buried, there is a major benefit for customers too. In strong storms, the likelihood of power cuts is much reduced as the risk of fallen lines is eliminated.

Another visual pollution pet hate of mine is the wind turbine. Intrusive whether on land or off-shore, the wind farms are not only bad to see but also inefficient. A study* published at this time last year found that, on average, wind farms produce 80 per cent of their potential power output for less than one week annually – and they manage 90 per cent output for only 17 hours a year.

If you have ever looked at wind turbines, you will know that they are useless in low winds and that they are often stationary in high winds. And if you wonder why, I’ll tell you: They are turned off to prevent damage if the wind speed is too high.

As unpalatable as it may be, the truth is that wind turbine technology is one renewable source of power that we cannot afford.

 

* Wind Power Reassessed, Adam Smith Institute and the Scientific Alliance

Older eyes to learn new way to see

camera no camera yes Good tip: Hold mobile sideways to record video

There’s a potentially exciting opportunity for older people in the county of Conwy, in North Wales, to get more involved in community television. And they can do this learning to look at the world through the lenses of their mobile devices, taking their own videos and uploading them to their local television channel.

What? Take their own videos, edit them and upload? Just how will they do that? It’s not like they are children of today who are so well-versed in computers and modern technology. No, these are the older generation, senior citizens. It’ll never work, you can’t treat old dogs new tricks, doubters might well say.

That does not deter one local go-ahead organisation from being determined to do just that, though.

TVConwy, which is run completely by volunteers, has come up with a plan to make it work. What’s more, financial backing for the local community interest company to put the project into action, has come in the form of a lottery grant of £3,547 from the Grab-a-Grant scheme run by the Big Lottery Fund. The grant was gained by being one of the five winners, chosen by public vote through two sister local newspapers, the North Wales Chronicle and the North Wales Pioneer.

The project will take the form of group workshops and will provide training to older people so that they fully understand how to use mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, to take and edit photos and videos. Training will also include how to upload the product of their efforts to the tv channel’s website (www.tvconwy.net).

TVConwy director Debbie Braden is delighted that it has won the grant. She said: “I would like to thank everyone who voted for us. It means so much to everyone in our team and to those who will benefit from the training. Our ‘Through Older Eyes’ project will provide training so more older people can get involved in and be represented on the community TV channel by capturing community events they attend or promoting causes they are interested in and wish to publicise.”

She explained that training will include learning the basics of mobile device photography and capturing video as well as simple editing and uploading of the results. People will also be encouraged to share information, creativity and opinion.

Speaking about ‘Through Older Eyes’ TVConwy’s Mark Ramsden said: “The resounding feedback that we’ve received from older people is that many lack the knowledge to use mobile devices to take photos and videos and older eyesupload images to share them.

“Learning these skills as part of a group workshop will enhance people’s confidence, build community spirit and reduce feelings of isolation.

“Hopefully, they will also feel more confident about sharing content with friends and family as well as our community TV channel.”

The other four organisations that also gained grants are: Parkinson’s UK Llandudno and District Support Group, Holyhead and Anglesey Amateur Boxing Club; Plas Road Allotment Association and Hope Restored.

  • Interest declaration: Multiple Sclerosis prevents the writer from being an active member of TVConwy but he does act as admin of its Community Forum on Facebook and has run a journalism workshop for the channel’s volunteers.

 

 

Housing plan threatens heritage landscape

sychnant

Maybe I am missing something. It is possible, after all no-one is perfect but just where is the logic in deciding that an area is worthy of being designated as a special landscape only for the same body of people now to be asked to consider giving a developer permission to build 93 houses there?

If you can see any logic, please do tell! It just seems so ridiculous.

The august body that decided to give it Special Landscape Area status, as shown the local development plan, and is now considering giving outline planning permission is none other than Conwy County Borough Council.

The site in contention is in Sychnant, high above Conwy town, near to Pinewood Stables and the building that in my childhood was Pinewood Towers Hotel.

Local people are incensed by the plan to build houses in such a beautiful area that borders the Snowdonia National Park which will, if the developers get their way, be visually blighted no matter how sensitive the developers say they are going to be.

After all, it is not just the houses. Really, it is 93 houses, numerous roads and probably 150 cars, with buses connecting the new properties with the town.

The planning application has been submitted by Beech Developments and it has been out for public consultation. Opposition is being led by members of the Parc, Llys and Sychnant Residents Group.

The group says: “We oppose these plans to build in such a beautiful and unique area. Not only are they but metres away from the Snowdonia National Park but the fields are a Special Landscape Area. It would be completely inappropriate to build such a large development here. The land ought to be protected and remain agricultural and wildlife friendly.”

Such a large development? Any development would be wrong. Our landscape is an important part of our heritage, let’s keep it that way.

According to the council, there is a shortage of housing in Conwy and I have every sympathy with efforts to create more but not at the expense of such a beautiful area. They should find other areas in which to build; areas that are not so environmentally sensitive.

The residents’ group has sent a letter to the council, saying: “We are requesting that you refuse planning permission for this development because of the area’s sensitivity and natural beauty. The field borders the Snowdonia National Park and therefore ought to be protected. The development is highly unsuitable for this historic landscape.” The group has also presented the council with a petition of nearly 500 people opposed to the plans.

Independent Conwy ward councillor Joan Vaughan said: “It is bordering on Snowdonia Park, so it is a shame to lose a green space. The main issue is coming down into Conwy. It’s extremely busy and, with all the extra traffic, I truly suspect the road will not be able to take it. Unless the council does something about the road, it will be a nightmare.”

Mike Roberts is land and planning director at Beech Developments. He said: “Whilst the layout (as shown in the application) is only indicative it does show that an attractive and high quality development can be achieved. Affordable houses will be provided for local people who wish to rent or purchase their first home.

“We have had discussions with the relevant statutory authorities regarding drainage, access and highways and other technical issues and their comments have been taken on board.

“It is always regrettable some greenfield sites have to be developed but we live in an area where brownfield sites are in short supply and there is a substantial unmet demand for housing locally.”

Public consultation has now ended, so the application will soon be considered by the planning committee.

Let’s hope than sanity prevails and that Sychnant remains unspoilt and blight-free.

  • Ian Franks is an experienced award-winning journalist and one of his specialities is the countryside. He spent some years as Rural Affairs Editor of weekly newspapers covering the Caernarfon and Anglesey areas – and was named as Welsh Farming Journalist of the Year in 1999. He is reknowned for not being afraid to voice his forthright opinions and his campaigning style of writing. He currently lives in Colwyn Bay.

Rescuers’ story stirs up web interest

oggie rescue 

Ogwen Valley team members prepare to rescue trapped climbers

Oh wow. What a fantastic three days since this blog on Saturday featured the work of the UK’s volunteer mountain rescue teams.

It has been tweeted, retweeted, appeared on other social media and has generated a wonderful reaction. I just hope it helps the Llanberis team to raise enough extra cash to pay for the essential repairs to their three vehicles. Why does anyone intentionally damage what are three essentially emergency service ambulances/rescue team transporters? Such mindless acts are beyond my level of understanding.

One of the tweets received was from the mountain rescuers. They thanked me for what they described as my ‘kind’ words. Well, ok the blog post was certainly not unkind but ‘kind’, no. The words used were carefully chosen, they were accurate and truthful. Such people are largely unsung heroes who face each challenge with courage and determination.

Of course, although the post only mentioned the two teams who operate nearest to my home, there are so many other teams around the country whose members are as equally dedicated, brave and committed to keeping alive anyone who runs into trouble on their ‘patch’.

Then there are similar volunteers who belong to cave rescue organisations. These people, all experienced and highly trained potholers, descend into the depths of the earth to find and rescue anyone who is having difficulty returning to the surface.

I have only tried exploring a cave system once – and that was as an adult leader with the Scouts while under the care of a professional guide. The cave was not difficult because the Scouts could be as young as 11 but trying to squeeze through narrow gaps while crawling snakelike on my stomach was not a pleasant experience. There may have been no fear showing externally but, oh boy, to get outside again was just heavenly. Never again, that was the private and silent vow made.

• Towards the end of last week, police were concerned over the safety of Stephen Longfellow, an experienced walker who was missing. They had found his car by Tryfan, one of Snowdonia’s most impressive mountains. It is a challenge to reach the summit, something I did years ago, but there are many places of danger on the mountain and in the surrounding area.missing man

Tryfan is slap bang in the middle of Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue team’s patch and so their members were asked by the police to look for the missing man. Searches were mounted in the midst of other rescue call-outs.

Now, there is a difference between searching for someone who is known to be alive or who has not been      Stephen Longfellow                                                        lost and maybe injured for long as against someone who has been missing for days. In the latter case, they hope to find and rescue whoever it is but they realise it may be a search and recover operation instead of a rescue. 

This time, unfortunately, the Oggie team members had to recover a man’s lifeless body after they found it on Sunday. The body was then taken for formal identification. The team’s Chris Lloyd told the BBC that he believed the man had fallen “quite some distance”.

As you can see, not all search and rescue operations have joyous endings.

Hero volunteers need support

Llanberis MR team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team using stretcher to remove casualty to safety.

Everybody has their own ideas about what makes someone a hero and, of course I have tremendous respect for everyone doing difficult and often dangerous jobs in the armed forces and the main emergency services – police, firefighters, ambulance crews and coastguards.

They key word there, though, is ‘job’; they are being paid to do that, although that makes it no less dangerous and often they go above and beyond what duty demands.

Similarly, I am not wishing to underplay the importance of once in a lifetime acts of heroism by anybody faced with a difficult situation and attempting to save the day. Each such act, though, is very much a one-off.

The people who I admire and feel deserve greater recognition for their dedication, commitment and heroic actions in all sorts of often atrocious weather conditions are the members of our mountain rescue teams as well as the crews of the lifeboats that dot the shores of the UK.

These people are all volunteers. Climbers who have decided to help others and seafaring folk who have chosen to put other peoples’ lives first at sea.

Fairly close to where I currently live, there are two superbly run teams of mountain rescuers: Llanberis and Ogwen Valley. There are plenty more but I got to know some of the members of these over the last 20-plus years. In fact, so long has it been that the ones I knew have probably all retired by now.

Anyway, to cut a long story down a bit, Llanberis Mountain Rescue team, whose patch includes Snowdon itself, have just dealt with the busiest month in their long history. They were called out an amazing 34 times in August, with the most hectic day being Wednesday 12th. This involved responding to seven call-outs in just five hours. And as most rescues can take a few hours, they often had to have more than one rescue team out at the same time.

Chairman of the Llanberis team is Rob Johnson said: “More than half of the 34 incidents that we were called to in August were as a result of people being lost on the mountain. With a little preparation this is not necessary.

“People often treat Snowdon as a tourist destination, rather than a mountain, and this leads people into being poorly equipped for the conditions the mountain often presents. Having a map and a compass and the knowledge of how to use them costs very little but will massively add to the enjoyment of a mountain day and will take a great strain off volunteer rescue services.”

The problem seems to be that Snowdon has a railway linking Llanberis with the summit where, during the summer tourist season, the building is open and houses a café, bar, gift shop and other facilities. It is easy to see how people do get the ‘tourist attraction’ impression.

Actually, I must share this true story with you. Before I was diagnosed with MS and at a time I could still get around easily, I loved to go mountain walking. Well, this day I had walked up to the top of Snowdon and after getting my fill of great views in all directions (not possible when the clouds roll in), I decided to enjoy a cuppa before starting the descent. No sooner had I sat down in the café than a trainload of tourists arrived. One woman spotted a dog and said if she had known dogs were allowed, she’d have brought her beloved pet with her.

I am afraid that I could not help myself. “Madam,” I said,sarda dog “That is a Search and Rescue dog.”

She was surprised and said, “Do people get lost up here then?” She had no idea how dangerous Snowdon and the other mountains are. “Madam, people die up here,” I replied.

                                       Search and Rescue Dog ready for action.

 

♦ Finally, I am sad to report that all three of the Llanberis team vehicles were disabled during an attempted theft of their doors. The would-be thieves also cut through wiring in an attempt to disable the alarms.

Llanberis MR team vandalised

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team vehicles with doors removed and wiring cut.

 

Police are investigating and the team is having to rely on neighbouring teams for vehicles as Llanberis team has been left unable to deploy team members or equipment.

Since posting about their loss on Facebook, the team has received a great level of support with many people asking how they can donate. If you would like to help these brave volunteers get back on the road, you can donate by visiting the donation page of the team’s website here: http://www.llanberismountainrescue.co.uk/donate

You can also donate via text, by sending a message to 70070 and writing: “LMRT14” followed by the amount you’d like to donate e.g. “£5” or “£10”. I know they would be thankful for any donation, however small.

Accurate forecasting is cold and wet

weather signs

It is usually good to be proved right but sometimes you really want to be wrong.

Back in 2001 when I was rural affairs editor for a newspaper in North Wales, UK, I went out on a limb.  It was the time of foot and mouth disease and by tracking all the reported cases in that outbreak against the previous one in the 1960s, I predicted the date that the final case that year would be confirmed. Although no scientist, my prediction – made weeks earlier – was just ONE day out.

So, it meant that the British government at the time, headed by prime minister Tony Blair, wasted masses of money and caused so much heartache by killing tens of thousands of animals unnecessarily. Why was it unnecessary? Because no such drastic mass slaughter took place in the 1960s yet that outbreak lasted only one day longer.

Soon after starting this blog at the beginning of August, I criticised weather forecasters and others who kept talking about driest and hottest summer since records began. From my own observations, I could not believe it and asked ‘where is the sun?’ This was one time that I would love to have been wrong.

Well, although trying really hard not to appear to be superior (ok, ok, not too superior), an almost smug ‘I told you so’ smile has just crossed my face – because, although disappointed by the weather, my analysis was right.

Temperatures may have hit a record high in some parts of the UK, though not where we live, in July but a wet and windy August made this summer the country’s coldest in the past three years.

The average temperature for summer was only 13.9C (57F) – and this was despite London Heathrow Airport recording a high of 36.7C (98F) on one sweltering day in July.

Not only was August cold but, to make matters worse, more rain fell than average for the month that ended with a wet bank holiday weekend. The Meteorological Office has now said that the counties of Dorset and Hampshire as well as the Channel Island of Guernsey had the wettest end to any summer in the last 50 years. At the same time, Cornwall and the south coast had to put up with rainfall approaching three times the monthly average for August.

slingo Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office chief scientist

The Met Office’s chief scientist Prof Dame Julia Slingo said: “No-one can deny that we have had a pretty disappointing summer with a lot of unsettled weather and only a few warm spells, especially through July and August.”

Disappointing! She got that right. Disappointing weather after what turned out to be disappointingly inaccurate forecasts of better things.

She admitted early predictions that temperatures and rainfall would be near normal had proved to be wrong. No kidding! It seems like the BBC has made the right decision to give its weather forecasting business to someone else – even though that decision was made on the grounds of costs not accuracy.

Bearing all this in mind, Lisa and I are really pleased to be moving to Spain in two months’ time. There we will be assured of long hot summers with just occasional rain. We really cannot wait.

Bank holiday chaos in more ways than one

John Lubbock

John Lubbock MP, later created the first Baron Avebury, the man behind the Bank Holidays Act 1871.

Traffic chaos including a 30 mile traffic jam on a major motorway characterised the final weekend in August in the UK as families hit the road. This was their last chance to enjoy a last summer long weekend away before the children go back to school in early September.

I say ‘long weekend’ because here the last Monday in August is a bank holiday. But, the interesting question is just when is a bank holiday not a bank holiday? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is when it has been observed so long that it is covered by common law, not by an Act of Parliament.

Different countries have various public holidays, even in the UK, so I shall keep my comments to those in England and Wales. In both those countries there are just six official bank holidays.

Only six, I hear you say, that’s not right, we have eight. Well, that may be just a little confusing because, technically, we don’t.

The other two days that are not statutory bank holidays are, get ready for this second example of chaos, Good Friday and Christmas Day. That’s right, those two days are not given by any Act of Parliament but are regarded as public holidays under common law.

One government website gives the following explanation: ‘Bank holidays are holidays when banks and many other businesses are closed for the day. Public holidays are holidays which have been observed through custom and practice.’

The banks are still closed though!

Why do we have these welcome days away from our places of work? Well, it was Liberal MP John Lubbock who got the ball rolling. A banker by profession, he introduced a Bill that was to become the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, aiming to ease the pressure on workers with an extra four days off. At that point only Easter Monday, the first Monday in August, Whit Monday, and Boxing Day. As an aside here, Lisa tells me that Good Friday, Easter Monday and Boxing Day are not holidays in the USA but they have plenty of others.

Anyway, John Lubbock later became the first Baron Avebury and years later as a teenager I was fortunate enough to get to know his grandson Eric Lubbock, now the 4th Baron, who became the Liberal MP for the town in which I grew up – Orpington, then in Kent but since 1965 part of the London Borough of Bromley.

eric lubbock

The fourth Baron Avebury, formerly Eric Lubbock MP, grandson of John Lubbock MP.

John Lubbock had four main political agendas, one of which was securing additional holidays and shorter working hours for the working classes and, predictably, the new law was very popular.

A lot has happened since then, the holiday in August was changed from the first Monday to the last, and Whit Monday was been changed to the Spring bank holiday on the last Monday in May, instead of the Monday following the Christian religious festival of Whitsun that, like Easter, moved around a bit.

We have now accounted for the four bank holidays covered by the 1871 Act plus the two common law public holidays. Two days remain.

The newest bank holidays (yes, real ones) are New Year’s Day which was added to the list 1974 and the early May one, the first Monday in May not the first day of the month, in 1978.

Do you gamble? Generally, I don’t but…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have to admit that I do occasionally buy a lottery ticket but not very often these days. Years ago I had three lines that I bought every Saturday then when they added another draw on Wednesday, I only bought those if there was a rollover.

Of course, I got the occasional minor win but nothing much and over the weeks, months and years those £1 tickets cost far more than I ever won. But having three set lines always meant they had to be bought as the week they weren’t could be the week they would have won.

That bad habit was discarded at the same time my first marriage ended in divorce in 2011. After remarrying just eight weeks later, my lottery buying pattern changed to what it still is. Today, I just buy one £2 line, the price has increased, just once in a while – and only when it is a rollover. Even better if it is a double or triple rollover.

What’s more, I only ever buy a Lucky Dip ticket, so there is never any pressure to buy a ticket.

This week, though, I bought two Lucky Dip tickets: one for Tuesday’s Euromillions draw for a maximum prize of £22.3 million and another for Wednesday’s £4.3m rollover Lotto draw. These days, I buy tickets online and receive email notification of any win.

Imagine my surprise upon receiving such an email on Tuesday night. Yes, great news, I was a Euromillions winner. I had won….wait for it…the staggering amount of…drum roll please…£6.20! Yes, £6 and 20p. I’ll try not to spend it all at once.

What about the Wednesday Lotto draw? I can almost hear you ask. I am afraid no email, so no win, yet again – although I did win £25 in June.

As far as other gambling is concerned, my dad’s favourite was football pools in which he tried to predict eight score draws but seeing him struggle vainly every week made it certain that they would never interest me. Likewise nor have horse or dog racing although in 2007 I did attend an evening of trotting races in Canada and spent the princely sum of 10 dollars. I will also buy a sweepstake ticket if asked.

On our cruise holidays that Lisa and I enjoy, we do sometimes visit the casino on board. We keep clear of the various gaming tables with their croupiers, though, and just play the slot machines. And we decide in advance how much we are prepared to spend, we regard it as spending not losing, and always stop when that figure is reached. It is the only way.

Goods and chattels start journey to new life

ES-UK-US

One American, Lisa, and one Brit, Ian, will soon be enjoying their married life in the sun of southern Spain.

Another major step along the road of our move to Spain was taken yesterday. At lunchtime, right on time as promised, Paul arrived to collect what we want to have in our new home. We had found him through the Anyvan business so, although we had not met previously, we knew he would be reliable and provide a quality and professional service.

Paul makes fairly frequent trips to Europe, particularly to France and Spain to transport various people’s possessions to and from the continental mainland. Our goods make up just part of a van that will be fully loaded when he sets off on his journey.

He had driven all the way to North Wales from east London and was going back via Manchester to make a second pick-up that he only got confirmation about last night. We enjoyed a chat with him and agreed we would all meet up next summer as he and his wife have a holiday apartment in a town only a few miles away from our new Spanish home.

Anyway, he made short work of loading into his van our three packing cases, one large suitcase, one overnight bag, one briefcase, a dismantled table plus a bundle of walking sticks and shepherds crooks. Then Lisa paid him the balance of his fee and we waved him goodbye. When we arrive in Spain in mid-November, our possessions will be waiting for us.

Our garage is looking a lot clearer these days. So far it has been emptied of furniture and other items that have been sent to auction, books and clothing that has been recycled, general rubbish and today’s despatch of our property to Spain.

There’s still some items to go to another auction but they will be going with the furniture in our flat when we leave in October.

It is such a culture shock to see our garage so empty. It really is getting to the stage where I can get our car inside – and that would be for the first time since we moved in more than three years ago. Actually, this Thursday I will introduce the car to the garage. That is the day our gardener comes to cut the front lawn and, without the car to cause an obstruction, he will be able to get at the weeds that grow in the middle of our driveway. I had told Lisa that I would park the car out in the road but now I don’t need to do that.

Sending our goods and chattels on their way was a significant step for us. We actually leave our Colwyn Bay flat for the last time in eight weeks, eight weeks today. Time is marching on and our excitement is continuing to build.

It is not only the garage that is beginning to take on an empty look, so is the flat itself. The wardrobes are down to just a few items as most clothing is now either on its way to Spain or is already packed in suitcases for our holiday in America. The drawers in the bedroom are completely empty, the sideboard in the living room, like the kitchen cupboards, now only contain the basics. The hall cupboard is similarly also almost clear.

Lisa is closely monitoring food use and buying only enough to get us through until we leave. Our ideal would be to run out at that point but we know that it will not work out like that.

Dream the impossible dream…..but sometimes our dreams do come true

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Left: The beautiful Na Pali coast, Hawaii in December. Right, reindeer in Norway, in July.

Dream the impossible dream? Ok, ok, what’s he rambling on about now?

To tell you the truth, my dreams only really started to come true after I met Lisa. Let me explain.

I first married in 1977. It was on 26th February to be exact, I was 24 years old. Over time, the relationship deteriorated until we were finally divorced on 5th September 2011. Somehow it had managed to last nearly 34½ years. It should have ended years earlier but inertia kept it going.

It was not a life in which I was happy. Of course, there were good times but overall neither of us were enjoying the marriage.

My earliest dreams that I never, ever thought would come true were as a youngster. My mum (who would eventually become a top breeder, exhibitor and international judge of Pembroke Welsh Corgis) sold a couple of dogs to someone in Honolulu. It sounded so exotic but was so far away, so out of my reach.

Australia was another country on my dream list, also sparked by mum exporting dogs there.

Similarly, at high school there was a trip to the USA but it was expensive and I thought it was too much money to ask my parents to find. So I said that I didn’t want to go but, in reality, I would have loved it.

During my first marriage, I wanted to go on a cruise but that was not to be. In fact, I had dreamed of crossing the Atlantic on a liner since that form of travel caught my attention as a child watching television.

Then it all changed. I won’t bore you with exactly what happened and when; it is enough to say that Lisa and I met virtually at first, playing a computer game. That was in October 2009 and after two years, and two divorces, we married.

married2  Lisa and I on our wedding day at sunset.

Not any old marriage ceremony for us though. We married on a beach in south western Florida, where Lisa then lived. It was at sunset on 31st October 2011, it was attended by Lisa’s mom, sister, brother in law and two of our friends whom we had also met online. That was my very first trip to the USA. A dream wedding in a dream location, with dolphins playing just off the beach.

A cruise holiday was next on my list and that came true in 2013 after I received a £1,200 grant from the short break fund of the UK’s Multiple Sclerosis Society. It was great, two weeks on board with various shore visits in and around the Norwegian fjords. That was on Lisa’s dream list too as her dad’s family were from Norway, so she is half-Norwegian.

A second, week long cruise, followed a few months later. This time we few to Milan for a circular cruise around the Mediterranean. A day on Sicily ticked off a second dream on Lisa’s list as her mom’s family came from there, making her half Sicilian.

Last year, we enjoyed an absolutely magnificent holiday. In December, we flew to Honolulu (childhood dream) and enjoyed three full days there visiting a luau and Pearl Harbour– among other things. After that we boarded a ship for a seven day cruise around the Hawaiian islands, with shore excursions every day. The whole trip was warm and sunny, even in December.

We then flew to New York (high school dream) and spent three full days there. My ex had never wanted to go to NYC but Lisa was born and brought up there and so I was given my own personalised tour with a very special tour guide. Highlights were riding to the top of the Empire State Building, going to the famous Radio City Music Hall to see its Christmas Spectacular, Times Square, Central Park, the 9-11 Memorial which I found very moving, the Rockefeller Center and store windows all decorated for Christmas.

Added to that, we travelled a little outside the city to meet up with Lisa’s other sister and her husband, plus their children and grandchildren.

Needless to say that the weather in New York was more wintry than in Hawaii but we went prepared for both.

This year, we are in for quite a busy time this autumn. In October we are sailing on an eight-day Atlantic crossing (childhood dream) from Southampton to New Jersey, then spending nine days touring several north-eastern states. We fly back – and then we are moving to Spain. There we will be able to escape the rainy British climate and be able to soak up sunshine for much of the year. And that is fulfilling a dream that I only had early this year.

Do I have dreams left on my list? Oh yes, a cruise taking in Australia, an African safari (photos only, no shooting), a Caribbean cruise and a second trip to Hawaii are all high up there.

But my biggest dream has already come true and I live it everyday. I am talking about meeting and marrying Lisa. She is the one true love of my life, my soulmate, my lover, my best friend – my everything. We make each other so happy and so full of life that my illness, my multiple sclerosis, pales into insignificance. That’s what dreams are made of.