and so…on we go!

Well, it has been very busy since returning from Miami. Julie didn’t make it back here, being diverted to Cornwall to be with her Mum as she made the last stage of the journey of life, following her leukaemia diagnosis 3 years ago. She passed away on Friday 1st April. Having had a few visitors here, good friends are always welcome, I shall be going to the Uk to attend the funeral next week. And then back to prepare for a return to Miami and a cruise on the Regent Navigator, through the Panama Canal to finish in San Francisco. Julie and I will be ‘at home’ for a couple of weeks and then off again! Yes I know….but….it’s Rome and then back to Greenwich via some lovely ports of call – Lisbon, Bordeaux and so on….and I’ve been asked to stay on for the next cruise to Scotland, Norway and Sweden, finishing in Copenhagen…..we’ll have a few days in the UK and then back to Spain for a while.
In between all of that is the next concert by ‘Los Fresones’, on the 20th May, when Blue and I will be performing a wide range of songs in the Plaza del Castillo in our home town. Of course, with deference to Blue, we will do a lengthy Bee Gees set!! (Tight trousers required!)

Running in Morocco

And so back in Spain, with a mixture of relief – at being out of Tangier Port with its hordes of people looking for any way to encourage you to part with money for the smallest service rendered or offered and a feeling of reluctance to leave with our ‘job’ although completed, in terms of the time agreement made, but incomplete as Doctor Andrew Murray still had four days to run on his epic trip across the countries of Scotland, England, France, Spain and finally towards the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco. Andrew was, and is, running at a pace of 34 miles each and every day for 85 days to complete the journey from John O’Groats to the Desert to raise sponsorship for a children’s charity in Mongolia. It has been a real pleasure and privilege to serve his (and his running partner Donnie who joined him for the final few days) needs as they ran across this interesting, varied, spectacular and friendly country that lies just to the south of us here in Andalucia. The ferry from Tarifa to Tangier was good and we met with the runners and took over the support baton from Andrew’s parents, Mary and Scott, and after a brief nights sleep at 4.45am headed south in the small campervan for 250 miles to be at the jump-off point that had been the finish line the previous day.  And so for the next 5 days we followed the timetable and procedure set by the two runners of being there at 10 kilometre intervals to provide the refuelling food and water to allow them to continue for the next stage. The terrain changed as we headed south through the small villages, hamlets and larger ‘market’ towns, over the Middle Atlas Mountains, the plains and deserts and finally over the High Atlas with its rugged terracotta slopes and cliffs, through the snow fields and over the freezing snowmelt streams and stony wastes. Every corner gave a view of interest and many of pure majesty and wherever we set up the van and flew the Saltire (the blue and white cross of St.Andrew) as a beacon to allow our two intrepid adventurers to hone in to our location we found that we were not as isolated as we believed. It seemed that in the spirit of ‘Star Wars’, (and the locations we were in could have been taken from the films), the ‘sand-people’ would emerge as if out of the very ground itself. The majority were very friendly and inquisitive, disbelieving the activities of our runners, but prepared to be impressed when they hove into sight and arrived sweaty and tired for the essential supplies we had secreted from the prying eyes of our spectators – particularly the small groups of children who begged for sweets, clothes and money! We had been joined by the filming team who were preparing for a hour long documentary due for showing on BBC Scotland in March. They stopped and filmed all of us and interviews were given before they retreated to luxury hotels they had booked in advance. At the end of each day, after the necessary 34 miles or more had been completed we looked for somewhere to stay. The night time temperatures advocated against camping out and our experiences were varied to say the least. Most of the Auberge\hotel accommodations were devoid of heating, and some found it hard to produce even hot water and one had only half the already limited menu on offer. We shivered our way through the nights, relieved to be up and out to wait for the warmth of the sun to creep over the mountains to revive our enthusiasm and energy. Continue reading “Running in Morocco”

More adventures to come in 2011

Well being back home from the extended cruise…on to St.Helena and thence Rio meant less time to prepare for Christmas, but we survived and had a very pleasant few days with daughter Nikki and son-in-law Ed….but now it is nose to the grindstone to get ready for the next trip(s). I am booked to fly, with Julie,  to Manaus in Brazil, via Sao Paulo, on the 27th Jan to join the Saga Pearl II for a cruise down the Amazon and up to Barbados. Then with a few days spread between Barbados and Miami, we join the Oceania Nautica for 4 weeks to do back-to-back cruises around the Caribbean – the first doing the land ports, the second takes in more islands….and on the 20th February – my 60th – we will be in Guatemala!! Should be memorable. But that all entails the preparation of a few lectures, so it is more computer work over the New Year…..but before the cruises…..more adventure!

Andrew Murray, the Doctor on the Al-Andalus Ultra Trail race that we help with here in Spain during July is running from Scotland to Morocco….some 2,600 miles – and with no-one chasing him! And I am going over to Morocco on the 15th Jan, with Toby from Surrey, to help with the driving of the campervan and general support duties (telling jokes, singing a few songs, opening a few bottles of wine etc) to help him along the way. We are not sure on all the arrangements – sleeping, eating etc, but it sounds like a good wheeze! And we get to watch Andy doing all the running….try looking on ….there will be more news later…..and it could be quite interesting…..

Further cruises planned include – Miami to San Francisco (via Panama Canal in April), and then Rome to Greenwich in May/June, and then the big one from November through to 2012…from Athens to Dubai to Cape Town and then Singapore……..

What do you do at sea?

This is a question I’ve been asked many times! The simple answer is that like a Troubadour of old, I tell stories, and sometimes sing some songs. I do not tell the passengers about the places they going to visit, as there are people already employed to do just that – and if they take a trip ashore then the local guides earn their crust by doing the same thing….so I tell stories about the areas we pass by, the countries we visit and the people that may have lived, or indeed did live there and what they did. So as we leave Venice on Sunday night, assuming I am programmed to give a ‘talk’, or ‘lecture’ as the Americans like to call it, I will be telling the story of Julius Caesar, his life and death and what he did for the Roman Empire – with a little help from William Shakespeare!! As we sail around the Eastern Med I will be recounting the tales of the Greek Heroes, Alexander the Great and the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World…..finishing with the sad tale of the abortive invasion of Turkey at Gallipoli in the First World War…. – not a lot of laughs in that one! Across the Med I will talk about Napoleon in Malta and Egypt, Hannibal and Carthage, The re-conquest of Andalucia by the Catholic Kings and their sponsorship of  Chris Columbus, and the Battle of Trafalgar as seen through the eyes of one who was there – with a lot of songs. and on down the west coast of Africa with stories about Slavery, the Boer War, the Zulus, Napoleon in St. Helena and the First World War in Africa…..and then maybe a few cabaret shows thrown in to keep me busy! So maybe that answers the questions about what I do on these cruise liners! Well someone has to do it!!

Off to Sea!

The suitcase lies open on the floor waiting to be filled and the guitar is polished and ready to go. So it’s off to sea once more, first to Venice and then on to Istanbul and Tenerife and finally Cape Town in early December. The 19 or so lectures are primed in the net book and the notes are filed. I have dates, names and tunes whirling in my head as I await the timetable of my ‘duties’. It is always good to go, but also difficult to leave this beautiful place called home here in Andalucia. Yesterday, with a good friend I was in the mountains on the trails and footpaths where we gasped and stumbled up the slopes to take in the clear air and mind-blowing scenery of the Sierra de Tejeda and the Maroma peak, in glorious autumnal sunshine. The tired legs and bruised feet are a small price to pay for the inner satisfaction of being able to view such sights and still be able to make the climbs…..and then descend to the village carrying the vision of the large glass of ‘amber nectar’ waiting in Miguels bar! Another walk in the hills tonmorrow and then it must be some serious packing of that open suitcase….