The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

On the Road Again

Posted by Exile on May 25, 2018

Thumper is repaired!

He’s been out of action for about nine months. My fault really because I am a bit of a duffer as far as electrics go. Thumper simply died on me and realising it was electrical, I had to involve myself in wire chasing and connections and possible short circuits. The wires and the connections are not that much of a problem, but a short circuit could be anywhere and generally where you least expect it. I dallied. Reluctant to get started on such a mission. I dallied for about nine months. Like being pregnant…
Two days ago, I got going on the problem.

The battery was showing 12 volts on my multimeter. So that should be OK. I had no power to the headstock though.. so one might think the main fuse was broken. So I changed that. No result.
I chased all my wiring up to the headstock No breaks, no shorts, no loose connections.
I looked for things that lie after that point. Into the headlamp, where all the main wiring is routed through a veritable birds nest of tangled wiring. No result.
And so it went on. Hopeless.

Finally, hairless and confused, I consulted a forum on the internet. Praise for my efforts but little help. Then a smart old fellah who knows Royal Enfields inside out suggested that it might be the battery after all. I was very sceptical of all of this because, as I said, the battery was showing me 12 volts.
I connected a battery charger to the system and tried the ignition. Suddenly, there was power all through the system. Lights, horn, indicators, everything seemed to work.

Scratching my head now, I could not understand this but I decided a new battery may well be the answer to all of this. I still don’t know why.

I bought a new battery. I hooked it all up yesterday. I let it charge for an hour to be sure the thing was fully charged. They seldom are ‘as bought’. Then I removed the charger and tentatively put the ignition key in.
The starting routine for a Royal Enfield Bullet 500 is as follows:
Ignition on, fuel on, set the engine to run on the cut-out switch and open the start helper on the carburettor. Decompress the engine with the valve lifter and kick the machine over two or three times. This gets fuel into the cylinder. Close the decompressor making sure the piston is just past top dead centre and then give it a kick over with the kick starter. I follow this ritual slavishly. It usually works.

And, JOY OF JOYS, he started right up. One kick!

I ran around my shed with my arms in the air, whooping with glee while Thumper barked his thunder within the confines of the iShed. My good lady heard the noise and stuck her head out of the back door to join me in my celebration dance. Well, not really, she just laughed at me… So did the dogs. They had that “Dad’s gone mad” look on their little canine faces.

I took Thumper out in glorious sunshine for a quick run around the neighbourhood. All is well again. And seeing that the weather is particularly good right now, I’m off to the coast before long.

You know you’re a happy biker when you have dead flies on your teeth…



Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Once, Twice, Three Times Unlucky

Posted by Exile on March 10, 2018

They say bad luck comes in threes. So let’s hope it’s all over now.

This month hasn’t been good to me. In fact, it’s been positively cruel. The misery started about ten days ago on the motorway. In absolutely appalling weather, I was driving home after visiting my aged mother-in-law and had a bad puncture. The tyre deflated almost instantaneously and I had to pull over into a snow filled hard shoulder. Oh well, I thought, on with the spare. Shouldn’t take long.
But no. Not that easy. My spare is held in a frame under the rear of the car. It was rusted solid. Despite my best efforts, it would not free itself. I rang the recovery chappie. Yes, they could help, but there’s a two hour wait at the moment. (Best estimate!) And so the long cold wait began. Evenually he turned up and with a bit of help from a jack and a crowbar, we got the spare out. Minutes later I was on my way home but was late getting back. And cold.

Speaking of cold. The weather turned Siberian two weeks ago. It is still cold. Our house is kept warm by a wood burning stove. It has served us well for about 18 years. Now it decided to fall apart internally and the plate in the top of the stove simply broke and collapsed. A replacement was absolutely necessary. That isn’t difficult. They are readily available here and one was quickly found and bought. Getting them delivered in the winter weather isn’t quite that simple, apparently, and the whole project was delayed by three days. At least the driver helped me get it up the steps and into the house.
Pulling the old one out wasn’t that easy either. It weighed 80 Kg. That’s nearly as heavy as me. A lot of grunting and sweating went into that little job. I unpacked the new one, which weighs only slightly more than the old one and the grunting and sweating continued for quite some time.
The stove pipe had to be shortened too. The new stove being 8 cm taller than the old one. Off to the shed then and get busy with the hacksaw. That’s a half hour I will never get back. My arm still aches. But I succeeded and managed to install the whole thing in the run of an afternoon. It was a pleasure to fire the thing up and warm my aching body. The dogs seemed to appreciate the source of comfort too and promptly settled in directly in front of the thing.

Finally (I hope) I had a bit of an accident this morning. I should have been at an archery tournament. I was up in good time, had breakfast, made tea, sent the dogs out for a morning pee and was dressed and ready to go by 9:00 am.
I got in the car and drove off, confident that I would arrive in good time for the practice round before the serious archery got under way.
But no. Again. After 100 meters of motoring there was an almighty bang under the car and the steering went haywire. The coiled spring on the drivers side had shattered, pushing on the wheel and turning me to the left. The spring had a good solid contact with the tyre. Luckily, it wasn’t on the motorway. There was no way to drive the car further.
I have tools at home but no electrical supply in the car. I went to the nearest house and asked if I could ‘borrow’ some electricity to power an angle grinder. Yep, no problem. So, walk home, grab the grinder and a huge extension lead and walk back to the injured car. I had to remove the wheel and cut the spring. That didn’t take long and within minutes I had the wheel back on and limped the car home on the shock absorber. I can’t help but wonder what the repair will cost. But that will have to wait until monday. Right now I’m sitting in my warm house and I’m determined not to leave it unless absolutely necessary.

We’ll see how that goes….

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Hunting for Trolls..

Posted by Exile on November 20, 2017

This is not an internet exercise.

It was my first archery event. The Troll Hunt.

About 50 of us were entered and the competition was held indoors on a variable range. The targets were a mixture of animal figures and “trolls”. The trolls have to be either hit or avoided according to the rules and restrictions that are placed on the range. Distances to targets vary considerably from around ten to thirty five meters. There are ten targets per round and one shoots three rounds. Two arrows per target. Sixty six arrows in total including six for bonus targets. Targets are repositioned after each round. One target did not move. At the extreme end of the hall at maximum range, a bear figure and a troll bearing three post-it stickers. The idea was to put two arrows into the bear and then hit a yellow post-it on the troll. A post-it sticker measures about six by six centimeters. At thirty odd metres there is not much to aim at. I did hit one… for a bonus of 25 points.
Lucky punch? I don’t know. I took aim and hoped for the best.
Scoring is easy. There is a “kill zone” marked on the animal figures. Hit the heart area, 10 points. There is a very small inner ring in this area. Hit that and you get 11 points. Outside the heart area is the lung area. Hit that for 8 points. Hitting the animal outside that brings 5 points. Hitting a troll gives either plus or minus as designated by the range officer.
Obstacles included christmas trees, hanging camouflage nets and animal figures and other devices that simply get in the way of a clean shot at a designated target. Hitting an obstacle is akin to a miss. I hit one of them and it broke one of my arrows. Double punishment.

One is thrown in with a mixed group of combatants. Different ages, class of contestant, nationalities and, obviously, both sexes. I was entered in the mens senior longbow class. This was a mistake. I should have been in the mens longbow master bracket because of my advancing years. Had I been in that class, I would have come home with a first place.
There are also classes for bare bow and compound bows.

Note: Bare bows are anything but bare as they have all sorts of sighting arrangements, balancing bars and other crap attached to the bow. Compound bows are a work of engineering akin to a crane with a spring and telescopic sights. Hard to miss with such a contraption.

Despite the fact that one is in competition with everybody else, there was no lack of support or encourgement from others in my group. A very gentlemanly affair. Sympathy for the inevitable miss, congratulations on a well placed arrow.

For the sake of brevity I will cut to the chase concerning my final placement in all of this. I scored a very respectable 430 points on the day. I recieved no prizes but I was definitely in the good end of the rankings. Not as good as some, but better than most. At the time of writing, the full results have not yet been published but of the five contestants from our club I came bang in the middle with a third place behind two of the club stars. I am well pleased with myself.

I will mention my friend, Ove. Of all the people in the competition, he was the only man to turn up with a home made longbow and shot his own home made arrows. I tip my hat to the man. He gave a good account of himself.

I will be doing this again next year. In the correct class, with a more powerful,  better built bow and a further year in which to practice, I’ll be hunting medals…

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

You Are What You Eat

Posted by Exile on October 17, 2017

I do so hope that isn’t true.

Generally, I enjoy my wife’s cooking. She is good at it. Better than me. Occasionally though, she decides to test my palate with some strange or exotic concoction drawn from the pages of unknown gastronomy and the book of kitchen fantasy. I don’t know why I have to be subjected to this but I do know when these seldom occasions are iminent because experience has taught me to recognise the signs of the oncoming assault on my digestion.
I get two or three days of really good old-fashioned man food with all the trimmings. No expense spared, no lack of effort, all lovingly prepared and presented. Steaks, chops, mashed spuds, brown gravy. You know. All the good stuff.

And then it happens.

Today was the day. Something ‘different’ arrived on the dinner table. I call this the strange food. Something conjured up in a moments madness. Probably because she read something in a magazine or had one of those conversations with her mates about food or found some wierd new sauce in the local supermarket.
I have no idea what I have eaten today.
It was wrapped in an egg based pancake decorated with what appeared to be grass cuttings. There was some sort of marinade on the meat. Which could have been ferret or weasel for all I know. There was some potato and I think I saw bits of onion in there too. The whole thing was covered in grated cheese. There was salad. I avoided that.

I know better than to complain. To do that would be ungrateful. But, for the love of god, when she can turn out the greatest meals a man ever had the good fortune to eat, why should this be necessary?

Some questions, it appears, are not to be asked. Hopefully, we’ll be back to normal service tomorrow.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Robin Who?

Posted by Exile on September 2, 2017

Inspiration can hit you when you least expect it. It did earlier on this year while camping with my grandson. He was thoroughly bored on the campsite as we were there in the early part of the season and there simply weren’t that many kids of his age to play with. Taking a walk in the woods with him. I found a hazel tree and thought it might be an idea to cut a stick and make a crude longbow and arrows for him to play with as I did as a child in rural South West England. It was a great success. It got me thinking. This could be a new hobby.

I haven’t used a bow since I was about twelve or thirteen. That’s a half century ago. Not sure how to start, I contacted a local archery club and went to try it out. Not as easy as I remembered it was, I had a bit of a hard time hitting a target but decided to give it a try. Some equipment is necessary. A bow, arrows, a quiver to hold said arrows, a wrist protector and a leather finger guard to prevent ones finger tips from being torn off by the bow string. I found all these things locally, close to the club, and so it was, that I enrolled in the club as a beginner.

Medieval English archerNot being the fit young man I once was, I elected to buy a longbow with a 30 pound draw. That’s about one fifth of an English warbow, but back in the days of longbow fame, i.e. the medieval era, men trained with the longbow from the age of seven years. They developed all the muscles necessary to use such a weapon. It even changed their skeletons. I don’t have those advantages. For now, my bow is powerful enough but I will need a more powerful bow at some later date as my muscles develop and my technique improves. The principles involved are, however, the same. Draw, aim, release.

With regard to improvement; this is a game one cannot win. Like golf. One can only improve. There is no ‘winning’ involved, unless one competes at tournament level against fellow archers. One strives to beat ones own high score at ever increasing distances from the target.
An old soldier, I am used to firing a rifle, wrapping my shoulders around it and holding it firmly into my right shoulder and leaning slightly forward to fire it accurately. The longbow is a different weapon. One stands erect, bow thrust forward and the right arm drawn back pulling on a string. Back straight and feet planted about a eighteen inches apart in the direction of fire. Weight evenly distributed. My ‘stance’ needed work from day one. It still isn’t perfect, but it is improving and with every arrow I send off I am becoming more adept and accurate.

I realise, at this stage, that I would not have been of much use at Crecy or Agincourt, but I find great inspiriation in history. Every time I hit the bullseye I count another dead Frenchie.

God for Harry, England and St. George….

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Things Have Not Changed…

Posted by Exile on May 15, 2016

Despite the passing of 36 years…

It was my pleasure to join a bunch of old soldier friends from 2 Div HQ & Sig. Regt. (1980’s crew) at our annual reunion this past weekend. I was especially looking forward to it because a good old mate from bygone days would be there. We’d been in a few scrapes together in our day and I haven’t seen Jim for 36 years. I finally found him in the bar at the pub where this reunion caper gets done. Joy! Hearty greetings. We had a lot of catching up to do. And we did get a lot of catching up done and we downed a few pints of the jolly juice along the way.. Perhaps a few too many.

The entire plan was simple enough. I had booked digs in a B&B very close to said pub. It was a double room, as these things so often are, and Jim and I would share the room for that one night. I got there first and had the keys to the house and Jim would join me at some point during the evening and I’d give him his set. At least, that was the deal with the landlady. And it worked. So far so good.

We’d both been shown how to come and go at the boarding house but that bit of the proceedings somehow got lost in the fog of war that followed a heavy night of beer and banter in the pub. After finally leaving the pub well after midnight we returned to the B&B. Keys out then, we went to the first door we saw and tried to let ourselves in. I say ‘tried’…

There was no way we could get the bloody key in the door. The keyhole simply would not accept the key. Any key. All the keys. We began to investigate closer. We looked at the keys, the door and the keyhole. We could not find any reason as to why the damn keys wouldn’t work. Never being the one to be beaten Jim suggested he drive home. No, I said, we’re in no condition to drive anywhere. Sleep in the car? No. We paid for a bed and we’re going to sleep in a bed. I was adamant about that bit.

I noticed a light on in the upper regions of the house. ‘I’ll knock on the window.’ I said. Easier said than done, the light was on the second floor. We found an old wooden folding garden chair and with Jim holding it steady I climbed up on to it and then on to a large container-like dustbin and could just about reach the window sill. I knocked. Several times. No joy. Bugger. I climbed down again. Later, we realised it was our window I was knocking on and we weren’t at home that night..

Jim figured there must be a key in the keyhole on the other side of the door blocking the keyhole and then he had a brilliant idea. You shine a light into the keyhole and I’ll try to see what’s going on, he said. Shine a light? What light? I haven’t got a light.. Your camera, said Jim. Use the camera.
Oh, right. So.. Jim gets his eye right up to the keyhole with his key at the ready and I fired up the Canon.. Ready? I asked. Yep, said Jim. Fire away. A brilliant flash of light right in his eyes. Jim staggered off, now blind as a bat from the effect of having a flash fired off right in his face at a range of approximately two inches… “That didn’t really help me.” he said. I caught him and steered the poor blind bugger back to the door and tried to suppress the laughter.

Then I had a brilliant idea. You have a phone Jim, ring the house up..  He did. I could hear the phone ringing inside the house. It went to voice mail. More bugger.. and a bit of damn too..

The Doorbell! Try the doorbell..!! We did. Several times. Still no joy.

We were at the point of giving up now when suddenly a light came on inside the house.. Our landlady appeared. We must have looked like two naughty little kids caught in the act of doing something awful.
We can’t get in, we said, we’ve tried everything. “Oh,” said our landlady in her dressing gown, “I’ll go round and let you in.”


And then we both realised, we’d been trying for half a drunken hour to get in through the wrong bloody door….

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

In the Doghouse

Posted by Exile on August 3, 2015

Well, not really. But dogs in the house.. again.

It’s been about three months since our little dog died. She was the last of two that we adopted some seven years ago and both dogs had heart problems. Sadly, they died too young but had a great life here with us. Grieving over, we have decided to take two more on board. That wasn’t the plan, but it is how it worked out. We intended to adopt only one, a dachshund again, but according to the rescue kennel, the chihuahua next door was her best friend. So we took him too. She’s 10½ years old. He is 6.  Fie and Zimba. An unlikely couple. They ain’t big, but they are cute. OK, the chihuahua thinks he’s big. Unfortunately, he has been badly fed in the past and has lost half his teeth, so he’s handicapped in a fight but definitely not afraid of bigger dogs. I have to clean his teeth for him too. That’s gonna be fun… She’s a miniature long haired dachshund and, apart from her age, there are no issues and she is very lively.

They sleep in our bed. We don’t notice them. They are small. Tiny in fact.

Early days yet, but they seem to be settling in well and we each have our own dog. Fie sticks to my wife like glue and the little Mexican fella is always at my heels. We’ll see how this develops.

IMG_0300 IMG_0299

Welcome home you two. Live long and well.

Posted in Dogs, General | 2 Comments »

Ask a Silly Question…

Posted by Exile on July 17, 2015

I was out for a day with my 4 year old grandson. We went swimming at the local pool. Well, local for him, a 40 mile drive for me. It’s been a while since I was there last. About 13 years when his mother was 12.

It was good seeing the old pool again. It hasn’t changed much. We splashed about for an hour or so in the warm pool, which is quite deep for him, he can’t touch the bottom and he spent most of the time swimming with his inflatable ‘wings’ on. All great fun, we played with every floatation toy we could find and I must have covered miles of swimming.
Finally, we were all wrinkly and had had enough water sport for one day.

Getting back to the changing rooms we got under the shower to get the chlorinated smell off. My grandson announced that he needed to pee and I went off to get dried and dressed. Nearly dressed, I realised that I hadn’t seen the lad for some time. It doesn’t take that long to pee, I thought, so where the hell is he and just what is he doing?
A quick search of the showers and toilet drew a blank. The only place he could be was in the sauna.

I opened the door to the said sauna. There were a lot of men in there. It’s a popular place for us old ‘uns. Sure enough, sitting right on the end of the lowest bench was the lad himself.

”What are you doing in here, young man?” I asked.

“Sweating.” came the prompt and succinct reply.

Every man in the sauna broke out in gales of laughter. I left him to it. Obviously the lad knows what he’s doing, even if I don’t.

Posted in General | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Oh Nuts…

Posted by Exile on July 14, 2015

I had a bit of a shock a couple of weeks ago. I woke up with a real sense of discomfort emanating from my right testicle. Which was disconcerting, to say the least, as the right one is my favourite. Under the shower I had a good feel around and discovered a lump below and behind the ball. That’s not good, I thought. A lump and pain. I rang the doctor and made an appointment to get my nuts looked at by a professional.
He took a peek and squeezed the offending nut. Pronouncing a verdict of ‘not sure’, he sent me to a clinic specialising in ultrasound examination. I had to wait for the exam as we were off on the cruise in two days. Cruise over, I met up at the clinic yesterday and had my balls looked at again. Scanning was quick and painless and, according to the pictures they received on the high definition screen, there is no tumor to be seen.

No tumor. Woohoo..

However, the extra little bit that grows beside the actual nut may be a little inflamed. That bit has a weird name. It’s called the epididymis. And it isn’t too serious. Just annoying and at times, painful. Like you’ve been kicked ever so gently in the nuts.

This, then, is treatable. I have to go back to my doctor and we’ll figure it out. It may have to be removed, but that isn’t serious either. One can live quite happily without one’s epididymis.

So, I’m a little bit wiser now. A little more aware of my body and its functions. And wiser in more ways than just that one.

I also know now, that is quite difficult to remain objective about anything when your balls are being fondled by a pretty young nurse…!!

Posted in General, Strange. But True. | Leave a Comment »

The Cruise

Posted by Exile on July 13, 2015

clip_image002My wife’s idea. She thought we needed a break and booked a trip round the Baltic Sea. With all the trimmings and a get-anything-you-like-on-board-for-free card, we paid a bargain price because the ship had cabins left unbooked. Always had an eye for a bargain my missus, which is why I married her and she married me.

We packed all our best gear and duly boarded the MSC Sinfonia at 14.00 hrs. on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Copenhagen. We got aboard early to avoid the hordes and spent the afternoon exploring the floating hotel. I decided to avail myself of the freebie card in one of the bars. It worked. All the booze I can swallow for zero money. And food. Cakes. Ice cream. You name it. Whip out the card and sign a receipt for 0.00. Brilliant.

We had booked our evening meal for as late as possible, which was a good thing as we had to practice emergency mustering at the lifeboats at 19.15. We had to grab our lifejackets and muster at muster point G. Here, you put your lifejacket on and practice standing around under the lifeboat for a half hour.
I got bored by the standing around and thought I’d cheer the mustering guy up. ‘’My wife wants to know if these life jackets come in any other colours as this one doesn’t match her shoes.’’ He didn’t seem to find that funny. Nor did he seem to appreciate my running round the muster station shouting ‘’We’re doomed, we’re doomed. We’re all going to die.’’ One or two of the others at muster station G did though and conversation was attempted. No sooner started than finished, we had all passed the mustering test and we were dismissed to return to normal cruising activities. This meant dinner and more free booze. Surprisingly, after all the free food and beer I had consumed during my afternoon recce, I wasn’t too hungry but once I got started on the soup I decided to do my very best and ate a hearty four course dinner just to please the missus. Dinner done, we went off to try the cocktail bar and casino. Many free cocktails later, we called it a night and went off to bed.

During the night, the ship moved and we woke up in Germany.


clip_image004Having arrived in Northern Germany we disembarked into a popular seaside resort and glorious sunshine. In fact it got to be very hot and sticky so we didn’t stay ashore for more than a couple of hours. It was the local town festival week so the whole affair looked as if a circus had invaded and occupied the town. Being a Sunday, the local shops were mostly closed and those that had opened were tourist traps.
It was hot. We took a liquid lunch.

Back on board ship we took a tour round the bars and ended up in the pub. One can smoke in the pub. Only one minor incident to report. As I was explaining to the barman where we would be sitting, I stretched my arm out to my side and pointing with one finger, I accidentally poked a passing waitress right in the eye. She took it all with a teary smile and I was hard pressed to apologise enough to the poor girl. We drank our drinks and beat a hasty retreat to our cabin.

From there on, it was dinner and cocktails all evening and finally off to the land of Nod. As we sailed we encountered the worst thunder storm I have ever witnessed at sea and the good ship Sinfonia was hit by lightening at least 3 times during the night. The noise was ear shattering and the lightening was absolutely spectacular.

Day three is a sea day

 We are heading North towards Stockholm. I am presently trapped in a bar with free booze.. The weather is not good so the day gets broken up by breakfast, shopping, bar, lunch, bar, bar, nap, dinner and bar.


clip_image006All ashore and walk round in a gale punctuated by rain and sunshine. I’m sure Stockholm is a pleasant place to be in the summer sunshine but we didn’t experience that. My eyes were sandblasted and I found the wind cold and unpleasant. My dearest had to buy a jacket to keep warm. We shortened our shore leave and returned early to the boat and visited the bar.






On then, to Tallin.

clip_image008Again, the weather wasn’t good. The old town is beautiful and is the tourist trap one expects it to be. My watch strap broke and I found a watchmaker who effected repairs. Some of us went shopping again and I didn’t. I did enjoy being in Tallin though and may be tempted to return at some later date. 

Back on the boat, we went for dinner at eight p.m. I am not impressed by the Italian kitchen. I ordered the beef and expected a nice piece of meat, well cooked and with some trimmings. What I got amounted to three pieces of undercooked dead cow and some fancy vinegary, oily sauce lovingly prepared by a chimp.

While I’m on the subject of food, breakfast leaves a lot to be desired. The continental is easy enough being a bun with meat, cheese, cereal and so on. The English breakfast is virtually unrecognisable. How hard can it be to open a can of beans and make some toast? There are beans. Not baked as we know them. No. These are some delicate foreign exotic beans, plucked from beneath the hooves of stampeding llamas and lovingly soaked in olive oil and prepared by an overpaid egoist chef who believes he is the world authority on beans. I have news. Heinz nailed it years ago. Give up and accept it. I am also convinced the sausages are made of goat meat and the bacon leaves a lot to be desired. An egg is, thankfully, still an egg. Hard to mess that up but that doesn’t stop them trying. The eggs get fried in olive oil.

This ship is populated by Italians. They are noisy in the extreme and equally as impolite. At the buffet, they behaved like pigs at a trough, pushing others away and snatching food from the plates as opposed to simply taking what ever one wants in a reasonable and orderly fashion. Their children display a complete lack of discipline and are given to loud violent tantrums.

‘’Hamburger Paradise’’ isn’t. It is purgatory. The buffet is free for all and is a ‘free for all’. Beware stampeding Italians.

I have checked my personal indexes. Beer down, cocktails up. Tea down. Chocolate and cake both critically low.

St. Petersburg. Or Leningrad, as I like to call it.

clip_image010I never thought I would set foot in Russia. The old adversary. I spent eleven years ready to visit violence upon this country. Today, I came in peace. Lucky for them.
Just to prove it, here I am outside the Winter Palace unarmed and not being extremely dangerous.

Surprisingly, a pleasant place to be. I saw the Winter Palace and took a lot of pictures. The place reminded me of Budapest or Prague. People looked well fed, affluent and well dressed for the most part. Gasprom owns the town and has seriously polluted the river Neva. Have I seen the cultural high point of Russia? No shopping here as we had no visa and were reliant on the pre-arranged ship tour. We were driven round the city and herded like sheep through a souvenir emporium. Free vodka. The sun shone briefly. One of the forty days of Sunshine this city gets each year..

Dinner on board with a nice German couple, Dieter and Christine. We’d met them in the cocktail bar earlier and had a bit of a cocktail and whisky party with them. Great fun.





Last day.

A day aboard as we sail, homeward bound, to Copenhagen. We are due to get there at about midday tomorrow but are not to be disembarked until about quarter past one tomorrow afternoon. The weather is awful. Cold and windy. Spent most of the day relaxing in our cabin. Packed most of our gear. Gala night in the restaurant tonight. I wonder how many tee-shirts I’ll see there. There is always a dress code. I have tried to respect it. Not all of my fellow travellers do. Uncouth commoners, they should be sent from the restaurant and told to dress accordingly.
Dinner was followed by more free cocktails and a late night. Which may have been a wrong move as we had to get up early the next day.

We slept soundly.

Finally, as we arrived in Danish waters the following morning, the sun came out. Welcome home.


So, what did we learn?

Apart from the uncontrollable weather, which wasn’t good to us, the whole experience was rather good. Most of what the restaurant dished up was very good and the wine selection was great. The crew and cabin staff, bar staff and everyone that ran about fulfilling our needs were cheerful and well trained. The restaurant service was tip-top.

Days on board ship can be a bit boring but if you can find a watering hole and a little entertainment for the afternoon, you’ll be OK.

Get a balcony cabin. Living in the belly of the ship would be claustrophobic after a few days.

Would I do it again? Yes. I might choose a different company to sail with but the whole idea of cruising is to travel to as many lands as is possible in the run of a comparatively short time with as little effort as possible. Travelling while you sleep is an excellent way to do just that. We may not have seen much of the countries we visited but one can get the idea that one isn’t done with the place. For example, I may just have to go back to Russia and Estonia at a later date. There is more to see.

If you like being pampered to any degree, then try a cruise.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »