Monday, December 31, 2018

Excellent

There is something deeply satisfying, the Gorse Fox finds, in spending the last day of the year buried up to eye balls in spreadsheets. Now, many who worked for Starfleet will know how frantic it got at the end of the year, trying to seal and register that last deal. Not the Gorse Fox. He managed to avoid that ridiculous farce, so now when he spends the time buried in Excel it is because he wants to achieve something that has value for him. In this case the 2019 budget and accounts.

He extends his sympathies to those in Starfleet still trying to squeeze the last penny out of a contract because some faceless accountant (away on holiday somewhere) insists on setting a totally unachievable target.

We have Tinkerbell and Two Hats popping round for some bubbles this evening before we all traipse round to the Indian for a meal. It should be fun, but it's a shame that Old Bill is unwell and they can't join us.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Accounts

The Gorse Fox is a bit late this year. Usually he has the new year's spreadsheet for the family accounts tucked away and ready for action by now. Not so this year. Most of the day was spent refining last year's spreadsheet and readying it for 2019. Whilst the basic reporting structure looks the same, the internal workings are radically different and revolve around a  series of database categories built into the sheet. There's still work to do on it, but at the moment the Gorse Fox is pleased with the design and the progress.

Lady Penelope popped in. It appears that Old Bill has been unwell all throughout the Christmas period and as a result will not be coming out to play on New Year's Eve. We were upset to learn he had been ill, but understood the change in arrangements. The Sonning Crew will still go out for a curry, but the numbers will be depleted.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Sales

We decided to pop into Chichester. The Gorse Fox had a sweater that needed to be swapped for a different size, and the Silver Vixen had some vouchers for Crew Clothing that might prove useful in the Sales.

As usual now, we hopped on the bus and whizzed into town. The Gorse Fox headed for M&S and the Silver Vixen went on to House of Fraser. The Chichester branch of HoF is about to close down so there were some splendid bargains to be had. The Gorse Fox would catch her up once he had swapped his Christmas "medium" sweater for a "large".

The Silver Vixen picked up a couple of bargains - getting two tops for £25 that would have originally cost £84. Not bad! We then headed for Crew but though they had some nice stuff, there was nothing that shouted "buy me". We wandered next door to Harris & Hoole for a coffee and a snack then grabbed the bus home.

Cryptic

Good start to the day.

Orangery returned to normal after acting as dining room over Christmas; furniture moved, table collapsed down ready to be returned to garage. Floors washed throughout downstairs.

Still stuck on a cryptic clue for Ordnance Survey Puzzle.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Puzzles

G-Force were still on duty today. Ellie woke around seven-ish but came into bed with us for a while before waking up properly and starting to look for mischief.

Most of the day revolved around her and her Peppa Pig obsession. The Gorse Fox if becoming much too familiar with this cartoon series and finds himself providing a running breakdown of the storylines and the personality traits of the various characters.

In the odd quiet moments he has been working through the Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book that he received for Christmas. This combines his love of maps with some tricky little puzzles. He's doing pretty well so far (even if he can't yet track down the 12th museum on the Isle of Wight). It's so addictive that he has ordered a magnifying glass to help him see some of the more obscure details on the old black and white maps that feature here and there within the book.

Pistol Pete came along and collected Ellie after he finished work. Then we had our usual clear up and the Gorse Fox got on with supper. It was a very quiet evening!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

G-Force

G-Force have been in control today. This means, in practise, that Ellie has been in control and we have been monitoring, keeping safe, and managing.

The Gorse Fox has seen more of Peppa Pig than he ever thought necessary for an adult. He tried to switch over to King Fu Panda, but she was having nothing to do with such nonsense.

Some of the afternoon has been spent creating a British Indian Restaurant curry sauce. The kitchen smells wonderful and we will indulge in a home made lamb curry this evening. The rest of the curry sauce will be frozen for future use as a base gravy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Boxing Day

It was another busy family day. The Gorse Fox's sister and family were due, and Ellie would be back with us in the afternoon.

The morning was spent preparing lunch and working out the intricate timings for the various dishes being prepared. This should work like clockwork.

Well it should.

In practise, the Gorse Fox got chatting to the Mask and Trevor and lost track of time. That blew the intricate timings. The other problem was that he roasted the lamb in the top oven. He is not convinced  that this is quite as effective as the lower oven. The consequence was that the lamb wasn't quite as tender as he would have hoped.

Urban-Cub and Pistol Pete turned up with Ellie just as we were about to sit down for lunch. As Urban-Cub had just finished her shift at the airport, she was hungry, so she joined us for lunch. As usual is was a bit of a feast with plenty for everyone.

The rest of the day revolved around Ellie. While still a little under the weather, she was still her cheerful and inquisitive self.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas

Well Christmas didn't quite begin as planned. Soon after midnight the phone rang. It was Urban-Cub. She was awaiting the ambulance to take her and Ellie to the hospital. In the end, such was the demand for ambulances, that they agreed to take her themselves.

Ellie spent several hours at the hospital and the conclusion was that she had a viral infection and it was affecting her ear. Several bouts of medicine later she was comfortable and her temperature and heart rate were back under control and by 4 o'clock in the morning she was sent home.

The Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen got up early. Christmas dinner still had to be prepared even if we weren't quite sure at what time it would be needed. The ham (from yesterday) was sliced then all the vegetables prepared. The Gorse Fox was ready!

Eventually Urban-Cub, Pistol Pete, Jake, Amber, and Ellie arrived. The turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, parsnips, and sausage rolls were all put in to roast or bake. Everything was under control.

The Silver Vixen prepared a salmon, prawn, and salmon mousse cocktail. We had run out of Marie Rose sauce, so made our own with mayo and tomatoes ketchup. We were in the groove.

We paused to open Christmas presents and talk with Cousteau-Cub. Christmas wouldn't be complete without a chat with Cousteau-Cub and the Coventry Hobbit. Once we had bid them goodnight we got on with serving up. Lunch was a feast and nobody could claim they left the table hungry. Indeed the Gorse Fox did think of grabbing a trolley from the garage to help people move from their chairs.

Urban-Cub and the family have gone home now. She's on an early shift in the morning. The Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen will have a quiet evening.

Merry Christmas

The Gorse Fox wishes you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

He hopes that the worst times of your future are better than the best times of your past.

He urges you to respect and cherish your fellow man, even if you disagree with them.

There is value and goodness in everyone.

May your God be with you and watch over you.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Twas the night before Christmas

...and all through the house, the Gorse Fox was wondering how to make this rhyme.

He gave up.

Actually it was a nice day. First thing he retrieved the ham from the fridge and coated it in wholegrain mustard and maple syrup, then set aside to be cooked during the evening. Then, along with the Silver Vixen we got on with the wrapping. Perhaps not as extravagant as when our girls were small - and no treasure hunt involved, but we got it all done (despite some fairly odd shapes).

Urban-Cub called. She was in Tesco. "Mum asked me to pick up some crackers. Does she mean cheese crackers or Christmas crackers?" she asked. The Gorse Fox explained that she meant Christmas crackers, but then reflected on the fun, mess, and chaos we could have had breaking cheese crackers round the Christmas table tomorrow.... he wonders if it's too late to change his answer.

At lunchtime we met up with the Sonning Crew and headed in to Chichester. We had lunch booked at Cote Brasserie, but there was time for a swift pint first in Trents. There was a rich choice available in Cote Brasserie and the Gorse Fox selected dishes from different menus. He started with a bacon and lentil salad then moved on the bacon wrapped cod loin on a bed of spinach and lentils. (You may have noticed that the Gorse Fox likes lentils). All of the rest of the Crew went for steak or pork belly. We all enjoyed what we had selected, though perhaps a couple of starters weren't quite as good as last time.

Once we had finished we wandered back through the town and climbed aboard the bus home. As soon as we were in the Gorse Fox fired up the oven to roast the ham. The marinade was reapplied and rum was drizzled over the top. As the Gorse Fox writes this there's another hour to go, but it smells magnificent even now.

Talking of magnificent, the Silver Vixen is watching "The Magnificent Showman" at the moment. The Gorse Fox got a little bored with it and retreated to the kitchen.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Bedlam

The countdown is truly on. No panic. Just counting down.

First significant task of the morning was to clean the oven. This can be a filthy job, but for us it is quite easy. We just remove the racks and press the right button. The oven then goes into self-clean mode. Two hours later the Gorse Fox can just wipe a fine white ash out of the bottom of the oven. The racks still need cleaning, but a little hot soapy water and an aluminium scourer and they are sparkling in no time.

Cousteau-Cub phoned this morning. It was nice to hear from her and catch up on all her latest news and plans. Hopefully we'll see her in the Spring... but more about that in the fullness of time.

The last bit of shopping that the Gorse Fox needed to consider was the wine and other drinks for the festive period. He decided that today was the day. He assumed that most people would try to get in and out early, so deliberately left it until early afternoon.

He didn't leave it late enough!

Cars were queueing to get into (and out of) the car park and in an effort to get as close to the store as possible they were fighting their way down all of the nearby parking lanes. The Gorse Fox ignored this and went to the last but one lane, drove to the end (as it was full) and then turned back into the last lane. He parked immediately (3 cars away from the store), and smirked as he got out of the car and strode in.

Clearly it was very busy and the aisles were often overrun with trolleys and racks as the staff were trying to keep the shelves stocked. The Gorse Fox wove this way and that, collected his items and headed as far away from the entrance as possible. He walked straight to a check-out and started unloading immediately. He looked around. All the other checkouts were queued back. He felt another smirk flash across his face. As the goods were run through the register, he overheard another shopper saying that it was taking over an hour to get through the tills in Tesco (on the other side of the road). The Gorse Fox reloaded his trolley and paid the bill.

Clearly it is bedlam out there, but the Gorse Fox was leading a charmed existence.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Decs

Well today is the day.

The Gorse Fox climbed into the garage loft and retrieved the decorations. We are very much of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" meme... and as such the decorations do not go up until the weekend prior to Christmas, and they have to come down on or before the 6th of January.

The Gorse Fox has put up the lights and done whatever shifting may be required, but then has backed off to allow the Silver Vixen to do her annual decorative faff-fest. This will probably continue into tomorrow, but the Gorse Fox has to stay out of the way.

One of the tasks today was to submit the registration for the new washing machine. Not really worth mentioning other than the fact that the Gorse Fox went back to the John Lewis site in order to follow the click-through link. In doing so he noticed that the price of the machine had been reduced by £90 in the last few days. He opened an online chat with John Lewis and challenged them on their never knowingly undersold explaining that they were in fact competing with themselves. They didn't hesitate and refunded the £90 immediately. Result!

Much of the afternoon has been spent with Sketchup. The Gorse Fox decided he wanted to start on some design ideas of his own, rather than just rely on the architect. We'll see what comes of it... but to start with, he has all of the dimensions for the plot footprints.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A bit different

Well today was a bit different.

Ellie woke and got us up soon after 7 o'clock (but that was no problem). She was her usual bouncy self and we tag-teamed her care for the first few hours.

The phone rang. It was John Lewis. Their trailer had broken down en route to the Sussex depot. Our new washing machine, due during this morning, still hadn't arrived at the depot. They would call back once things were clearer. The Gorse Fox thanked them and wondered if it would turn up today or not.

An architect arrived. (To be fair, he was expected - it wasn't just a random house call). The Gorse Fox explained the conundrum and showed him the plot and the parameters. He had printed some requirements and design diagrams to help. When he was in the middle of explaining that Two Hats and Tinkerbell may also wish to do a similar extension, Two Hats walked out into their garden. The Gorse Fox stood on a chair and called him over. A while later we had both sorted out our vision and the architect had come up with several sensible suggestions. We have further people to see, but the Gorse Fox feels quite comfortable with this chap. We will have to wait and see what his price estimates are.

Mid-afternoon John Lewis turned up and installed the new washing machine. The Gorse Fox was very impressed with their installation service. Neat, tidy, informed and professional. Once they had gone, the Gorse Fox (with help from Two Hats) put the existing utility area back together. The Silver Vixen hasn't tried the new washing as yet, but the Gorse Fox is sure it will get a thorough workout tomorrow.

Last thing this afternoon we took Ellie back home. Her brother Jake will be taking care of her until Pistol Pete gets back from work.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Droning on

The incident at Gatwick regarding drone(s) encroaching into restricted space is having a knock-on effect not just for passengers and staff - even for the G-force. With Urban-Cub working at full stretch trying to keep people safe and secure, G-Force are looking after Ellie. Urban-Cub dropped her off this morning and we will take her home late tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile we have been considering how we might re-jiggle the house to provide a bit more accommodation. We have four bedrooms but only two are usable as the other two make up the Silver Vixen's sewing room and the Gorse Fox's study. Today the Gorse Fox has contacted a couple of architects to see if they can come up with any sensible solutions. The Gorse Fox has something in mind, but it does seem rather complex! Let's see what they might suggest.

Two Hats came round to help the Gorse Fox shift the tumble dryer. With the washing machine being replaced tomorrow, we needed to clear the space for John Lewis to do their installation. As the tumble dryer sits atop the washing machine, that was a fairly important thing to shift.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Last game

It was thrashing down with rain when the Gorse Fox got up. He had football scheduled, but was wondering whether to get a snorkel and mask to go with some fins rather than use the more conventional football kit.

The rain continued right up to his arrival at the sports centre - then it stopped and stayed clear until after the game. Today worked out as a 5-v-4 match on one of the smaller pitches. The Gorse Fox was on the 4-team playing in yellow. As always when playing in the cages, it was quick and relentless. The Gorse Fox got the first goal on the scoreboard and we went in 4-2 up at half time. The second half was hard, but our mobility and passing won the day and the Gorse Fox thinks that the final score was about 10-4 (with 3 from the Gorse Fox).

This was the last game for the year so the Gorse Fox checked his stats and found that he has played 88 times this year and score 87 goals. Note to self: must try harder.

The afternoon was a very domestic affair... we went and did the Christmas food shopping. The Gorse Fox was expecting bedlam, but must admit it was completely painless and trouble-free. Indeed we walked straight to an open till when we were finished. Goodness knows how she has done it, but somehow the Silver Vixen has managed to hide it all away until next week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Gone

Well that's a day of surprises. Jose Mourinho sacked by Man Utd. Methinks it was a long time coming. Maybe he'll come and manage our walking football team? As if we'd actually want him!

Talking of football, the Gorse Fox headed across to Worthing for today's game. We were hoping to get it in before the forecast rain hit. We more or less got away with it... a few sprinkles while we were playing but nothing too bad. The Gorse Fox was picked for the orange team today. It seemed like an excellent group. So much so that the organiser did think about changing the personnel. In the end we played as picked.

There was some lovely passing and interceptions, but we had nobody who could actually finish. So it was that we drew the first game 0-0. Then next game, again, featured some lovely football but no end result for us... in fact we lost 2-0. In our last game, we again lost 1-0. It just goes to show that a good defence or midfield needs some strikers... and vice versa. Our team, as good as it was, lacked balance.

The Silver Vixen has spent the afternoon in her sewing room. She's making some lovely new cushion covers for the living room. The first one is complete and now she's moving on to next. The Gorse Fox spent part of the afternoon watching a Sky Arts documentary on The Doors' "L.A. Woman" - one of his all time favourite albums. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Start Stop

The Silver Vixen's car was scheduled for some work at the garage. The Gorse Fox dropped the car off with further explanations of the fault that was to be fixed. They lent him a car and pottered off, back home.

Some time later the phone rang. It was the garage. The brakes had been replaced and the fault with the start/stop wasn't showing up. The Gorse Fox had a moment where his hackles rose. "What do you mean it doesn't show up. It has come up with an error message and failed to operate every day for the past year." he explained. "Well we ran our diagnostics and it says there is no fault. I'll send my driver out in it to check". The Gorse Fox is sure he harrumphed at that point.

Some time later the phone rang again. The car was ready. The Gorse Fox set off to examine and collect. Everything seemed in order. The car had also been washed. The start/stop function was working... and they claimed it had been all along. Pah! The Gorse Fox drove home. Start/stop was indeed working, but he noticed that the information light indicating its use had changed from white (which it was when we got the car) to green. The Gorse Fox suspects they applied a software update and that's what cleared the problem. We will be keeping a close eye on this.

The Gorse Fox also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to order some meds for Cousteau-Cub. The site from which he was ordering was not one that we had used before and, fortunately, he felt uneasy about it. On checking some online reviews, it was clear that they were not a site with whom one should do business. They seem to have been based in Ukraine and it appears that the drugs they send out may not contain the active ingredients that make them work in some cases. He found an alternate source but then had the problem we often find that they can't process the credit card. Long chat with Barclaycard was absolutely no help whatsoever... so he switched to Mastercard and it worked immediately.

Ellie had her fist "trial" day with the new child minder today. Apparently it all went very well.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Back of the net

It was very cold this morning and soon after the Gorse Fox came down, it started to sleet/rain. Fortunately it didn't last long but it was still cold when he headed out for today's football.

We had an uneven 6-v-5 turnout today. The Gorse Fox was on the yellow team (5 players). We had to work hard, but were 4-3 up by half time. In the second half, despite some lovely passing we slipped behind and eventually ended up the losing team by 9 goals to 8. The Gorse Fox can at least console himself that 2 of the goals were from him... keeping up his goal tally.

Back home we received a call from Cousteau-Cub, but it was just a "check-in" rather than a long chat. Hopefully we'll chat longer in the next day or so.

We spent a couple of hours over the road with the Sonning Crew. It was, ostensibly, afternoon tea but a fair bit of wine was involved. It was nice to catch up after their holiday... but clearly it hadn't been quite the success  that Jamaica had been.

Once home we had some supper and then settled down to watch the recorded last nights Strictly Come Dancing final. The Silver Vixen had managed to survive the day without knowing who had won, so was able to watch with a degree of suspense. (The Gorse Fox knew the result, but kept quiet).

Had a further chat with Cousteau-Cub during the afternoon. Lots of changes afoot - but more about that as things pan out.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Which?

It was a positively foul day. The rain was sheeting down, it was dark, and there was a strong and gusty wind. It was good that we had nothing scheduled for the morning.

The Gorse Fox called Old Bill. He subscribes to Which? magazine. With a decision needed regarding the washing machine, it seemed like a good cross-check to make. So it was that the Gorse Fox spent an hour or two reading through various reports and tables only to conclude that we had chosen well. Order was submitted and new machine is scheduled to be installed at the end of the week.

In the afternoon we did have to venture out. We were scheduled to visit the Silver Vixen's cousins in Brighton. We clambered into the car (life vests and distress flares were checked along with the muster points) and set off into the storm. It was a very nasty drive but we arrived without incident.

As we sat down for some tea, the Gorse Fox revealed that had remembered to bring his USB stick with Ubuntu. (This had been a bit of a joke as the last few times we had met up Rick Wakeman was meant to have brought his old laptop or the Gorse Fox was meant to have brought the stick). After a bit of discussion a complete overwrite/build was decided on. It was a fairly slow old machine, but 30 minutes or so later it was a slow old machine that had been completely resurrected with clean new operating system.

We had a table reserved at The Giggling Squid in Hove. We all piled back into our car and set off. The storm had not abated in any way. We managed to park opposite the Town Hall and then walk round the corner to the restaurant. It wasn't far, but those 50 yards or so were enough to soak us all to the skin. We dripped into the restaurant and quietly steamed in warmth as we selected our drinks and our food. This was the first time that the cousins and aunt had tried Thai food (properly) and the selection took a while, but in the end everyone seemed happy with their choices and thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

By the time we had finished the rain had stopped and the wind had dropped a bit. We returned for a coffee and chat before setting off home. It had been a very pleasant evening (even if the Silver Vixen did manage to leave her umbrella behind).

Friday, December 14, 2018

Logged

It's a chilly one today.

After breakfast we headed in to Chichester to examine the washing machines we had looked at online yesterday. It's important to get the measurements right but both seem suitable for our needs. We just need to decide when we wish to go ahead; fortunately there is no panic as the existing machine does still work. - even if it takes a bit of nursing.

The Silver Vixen had Xmas lunch scheduled with some girlfriends. The Gorse Fox drove her across to the restaurant - and it was a good job too! There was absolutely no parking anywhere nearby, but he was able to just drop her off and head back home.

He's spent the last hour playing with Google App Scripts for the spreadsheets. This is now achieving what the Gorse Fox had wanted and he can now easily track the latest modifications to any cell in the spreadsheet. Very satisfying.

He's also done a bit of reorganisation and this has allowed him to stow the big suitcases away, so he no longer has to worry about the space they were occupying in the Silver Vixen's sewing room. Now, if only we could get rid of the baby equipment that Ellie has outgrown.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Screen time

It was still dark when the alarm went off. The Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen were immediately awake. The Gorse Fox open the shutters to check whose house was splitting the early morning silence. It was Old Bill and Lady Penelope. They had arrived home early from their holiday and opened the door. The problem was the keypad that disarms the alarm didn't seem to be working. We have their alarm fob, so the Gorse Fox wandered out into the crips cold morning, in his pyjamas to hand over the fob and bring silence back to the Crescent.

That was it. He was awake. He was up.

Thursday has involved a lot of screen time. It wasn't planned that way, it's just the way things worked out.

It all started when the Gorse Fox was looking at Google Drive and noticed the "Last Modified" date on a file said yesterday and he knew he hadn't touched that file for several years. This got him Googling for answers and one answer set him off on an entirely different track. Could he write a script that would allow him to add a timestamp to a particular column if anything in the row was edited? Well, it seems that he could... but could he put it exactly where he wanted it? Well, it seems that answer (currently) is No! He can only place it in a position relative to the edited cell, not in an absolute cell of its own. More research is needed.

The Silver Vixen was having a few problems with the washing machine. This has served us well for 16 years, but is now getting rather temperamental. The next hour or so was spent looking at possible replacements. We've narrowed it down to a couple, for now, but need to go and take a look at them before we commit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Oops

Bright but definitely cold today. Again the Gorse Fox skipped football but the Silver Vixen went off to Pilates.

The Gorse Fox had a quiet morning tidying up some stuff on the computer and also part of his study. That really could do with a more concerted rationalisation in the near future. At least he can see some floor in there, unlike the Silver Vixen who's sewing room is currently stuffed with all sorts of items that we cannot find other homes for. This includes our two suitcases which, while big enough for our travels, are too big to squeeze into the loft.

During the afternoon the Gorse Fox had an appointment in Chichester so we hopped on the bus for the run through to town. Arriving a bit early we walked up to the Cross and then up North Street before splitting and going our separate ways. The Silver Vixen was distracted by a ceramicist from whom she has purchased items in the past and the Gorse Fox wandered back to East Street. As he passed the Whitewell Galleries he noticed a new painting in the window and had to go in to have a look.

Ooops.

The painting was the latest by Akiyama, and had only just been put on display. (It's almost as if it was meant to be!) A few minutes later, the Gorse Fox had parted with some coin of the realm and we had it secured. Now he would just have to discuss it with the Silver Vixen.

A while later, we met up again - the Silver Vixen had finished her shopping. The Gorse Fox was clasping new item of ceramic she had selected and we headed back. We stopped at the Galleries and the Silver Vixen was taken in to see the painting. She loved it. The Gorse Fox heaved a sigh of relief and explained he had placed a deposit on it - all we needed to work out was where on earth we's hand it! That, however, is a puzzle for another day.

We had to wait a while for the bus. They are meant to run every 10 minutes so we were confused by the departure bard saying the next one was in 18 minutes. Those 18 minutes were quite chilly, but once on the bus we were home quickly. A few minutes after we got in Pistol Pete turned up to collect some tablets for Urban-Cub. Her back is playing her up at present and normal pain killers weren't cutting the mustard.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Improving

The Gorse Fox is feeling a bit better today. The weather is bright, though cold and the Gorse Fox has decided that football will have to wait. He isn't going to make things worse by spending several hours running run in the cold.

As it happens Ellie is also a bit better, but not well enough to go to the child minder. We went along to collect her and she could spend the day with us. She was back to her usual chirpy self, though maybe not quite as active as usual. We managed to resist the call for Peppa Pig until late morning, but then the TV had to be switched to YouTube so she could have the requisite background noise.

The Gorse Fox managed to squeeze in a trip to Sainsbury's. Though the aisles were quiet the checkouts were very busy. He switched to the self-service till and was through in a trice... despite using Apple Pay and the online image of his Nectar card.

Urban-Cub finished her shift and went home for a couple of hours sleep before come along to collect Ellie. She's now got four days off... and clearly needs them!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Feeling naff

The Gorse Fox has one doozey of a cold. It's absolutely flooding to the point that the Gorse Fox isn't sure whether he should wander round the house or swim! It's not a pretty sight and he, at least, knows what's going on. Poor Ellie was in a similar situation yesterday, but for her she'd have no clue what was going on.

We've made the most of a quiet day indoors and have printed the Xmas card labels and gone through and written all the cards. It's all done now and ready for posting.

Nothing else to say today... now, where are the tissues?

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Not happy

Ellie has been full of cold and is clearly not a very happy bunny today. She just can't make up her mind what she wants to do, and it it usually ends up with cuddles with the Silver Vixen. Mid-morning the Gorse Fox was able to coax her out to the lake where we could feed the ducks, but even then she lost interest and wanted the Gorse Fox to carry her back. Hopefully she just needs to give it 24 hours and she'll be back to her usual self.

Not much else to report really as she has been the main focus of the day. The Gorse Fox has, however, become quite the expert on Peppa Pig which has been on the TV in the background.

As the Gorse Fox's throat gets dry and gravelly he is conscious that we only seem to be one cuddle away from our next cold.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

On Duty

Whilst it was a fairly relaxed start to the day, G-force were on duty later on. Amber had been looking after Ellie first thing, but we had agreed to go and collect her late morning. She has been with us for the rest of the day.

First thing, however, we did manage to get some Xmas shopping out of the way (thanks to Amazon and other online purveyors of various goods). The Gorse Fox knows this doesn't help the High Street, but hell's bells it makes shopping easy. Various items are now due to show up tomorrow or Monday.

As we were getting ready to go across for Ellie, The Gorse Fox's home rang. It was Cousteau-Cub and it was nice to have a fairly long chat with her as we locked up, got in the car, and drove across to LA. Hopefully, we'll chat to her again tomorrow.

The afternoon was a bit wet so we stayed indoors with Ellie and she watched "Frozen" and the recent "Moana" while playing and getting up to mischief.  As usual she was a joy and as the Gorse Fox writes this blog post, the Silver Vixen is busy getting soaked in the bathroom as Ellie enjoys her evening bath.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Thai Tapas

The rain fell in Biblical proportions. It was bleak, dark and absolutely soaking wet. It would be interesting to see how our plans payed out.

Betty and Barney Rubble were due to join us and we had planned to head into Chichester for lunch. The Gorse Fox had suggested they bring their bus passes and we could just hop on the bus as it stopped right outside the restaurant. The point was, would it actually be too wet, and would we end up using the car anyway?

By the time they arrived, the rain had eased. Not stopped. Just eased. We sat at home and chatted over coffee and biscuits and caught up on the family news. Eventually it was time to head out and make a decision on our method of transport. The rain had stopped by now, so we chose the bus. As usual this was timely and efficient and deposited right by the restaurant just as their was a further cloudburst.

We sat in the bar area and enjoyed a quiet drink before going to our table. The we each chose from the tapas menu. The Gorse Fox chose "Two Giggling Squid" which was a portion of tempura fried squid in chilli, a massaman curry, some jasmine rice, and some lime and chilli beef salad. The Gorse Fox wondered if this would be enough, but it turned out to be very satisfying and he didn't need to worry. This was our third visit to The Giggling Squid, and was just as good as the previous times. Betty and Barney Rubble had never tried it before (there is one near them in Farnham), but they enjoyed it too and commented they would have to visit Farnham.

After the meal we hopped back on the bus and, back home, settled down with a cup of tea and a slice of apple pie. We had a lovely afternoon, but all things must pass. The temperature was dropping and it was dark when our good friends packed up their things and headed back across country.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Domestic day

It's been a grey, dark, and occasionally wet day. It has, however, been quite mild.

There were no firm plans for the day as an appointment the Gorse Fox had arranged in Chichester had been rearranged yesterday afternoon. The morning was spent in expectation of the Ocado order (who says oldies can't have fun).

Once the shopping was stowed away the Gorse Fox got the Karcher hard floor cleaner out and went through to clean and wash the floors downstairs then wandered round with the Dyson to vacuum the carpets. (In this house, the fun never stops... he should have checked his heart rate to make sure he wasn't having too much fun).

After lunch the Gorse Fox volunteered to walk round to the doctor's to collect the Silver Vixen's prescription and have it filled at the pharmacy - taking the opportunity to pop in to the Post Office and get some cards and parcels in the mail. His timing was less than perfect. He had hardly turned the first corner before it started to rain. It was that fine, soaking, drizzly rain. It was horrid. His glasses were stowed into his pocket and the hood went up on his jacket. Bt=y the time he got to the surgery he was pretty wet.

His walk was made more interesting by the use, once again, of his bluetooth headset and the continuation of the book he is listening to on Audible. It's been a while since he's made use of Audible, and he had forgotten how good it is when you have time to listen. The Gorse Fox will have to ensure that the Silver Vixen listens to the current book as he's sure she'll enjoy it (even if it isn't as gruesome and gory as her usual fare).

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Switch back

The weather had been very wet overnight but the rain had stopped. The Silver Vixen was off first thing this morning. She had to stop off at Urban-Cub's with some stuff before going on to Pilates and then meeting up with a friend.

The Gorse Fox had his football on the schedule. Traffic was a little slow, possibly due to the weather, but more-likely it was the Christmas traffic for Haskins Garden Centre that was slowing and disrupting the normal flow.

The game today was a straightforward 5-a-side. The problem was that we had a youngster playing. He used to be very good and was scouted by several teams before his knee ended his career. This meant that Krakatoa Jack and the Gorse Fox decided we should counter-balance his influence by playing against him The sides were picked accordingly. The Gorse Fox was playing in Orange and we drew first blood when the Gorse Fox intercepted a pass and shot low and hard into the bottom left hand corner of the Yellow net. Unfortunately, by half time, we had conceded 2 but that seemed retrievable. The second half was hard. The youngster had found his shooting boots and was peppering our keeper. We hung on though, and in the end managed a creditable 4-3 defeat.

It's been a quiet afternoon and as the Gorse Fox writes this, a Bolognese ragu is bubbling in the pan and soon some spaghetti will be prepared. We need to eat early tonight as we are heading out to the John Lewis Christmas event in Chichester.

Oh yes, and we have now switched the Silver Vixen's phone back to its original number. All is well and she is in full communication again!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Back again

The decent weather was back again, It was cold at first but the skies were crystal clear and the sun shone brightly, low in the winter sky. It was gorgeous.

The Gorse Fox had football and the Silver Vixen was aiming to get some shopping out of the way - most importantly the Christmas Cards.

As a rule when the Gorse Fox arrives at football there is a spare pitch open for him to warm up. Not so today. He went up onto the running track and started to walk round at increasing speeds. Then once warm he started to sprint when on the straights, then walk round the bends. This was great, but now as he writes this he realises this was perhaps a little rash. His thighs are suffering this evening.

As for the football we had three games and our "yellow" team looked like the weakest of all. We lost the first game 1-0 and the Gorse Fox was sure that this was the start of a run. The second team we played looked like the strongest of the lot. That's when things started to sway towards us. We won that game 3-1, then won the last game 2-0. We ended up top of the heap with more points than any other.

Back home we had a quiet afternoon, though the Gorse Fox popped out to get his hair cut. He's surprised that he came back with a decent haircut as the woman who runs the shop (and did his hair) had just had a row with her landlady. She was clearly distracted. It turns out that she's planning to move, but meanwhile her contract has expired and there is some maintenance required that the landlady says is her responsibility. The Gorse Fox is glad that he escaped with both ears intact.

The new childcare spreadsheet is now complete and fully documented. The Gorse Fox is waiting to hear from Urban-Cub to check she's happy with it.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Switch

The Silver Vixen had plans for the day - she wanted to get on with some sewing projects (and manage the washing machine as an interesting distraction). The Gorse Fox had no solid plans - for him today would "evolve".

The first evolution was the realisation that we needed some fresh vegetables. Our recent run of home-made soups has decimated the vegetable drawer and we needed some reinforcements for lunch. Deciding to kill two birds with one metaphorical stone, the Gorse Fox walked round to Sainsbury's. This provided the fresh veg, and some exercise. To make the most of the walk the Gorse Fox flicked on his bluetooth headphones and listened to an "Audible" book as he marched. This made for a very pleasant hour and refreshed the tomatoes, and sweet potatoes in the larder.

Would it come as a surprise if the Gorse Fox said we had soup for lunch? Well some tomatoes, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot, and green pepper found their way into the Tefal soup maker and 23 minutes later we had a delicious and filling soup.

The Gorse Fox has also been distracted by new childcare spreadsheet for the new year. This has been a source of fun for a few hours as all the conditional formatting was applied and the formulae developed to provide the relevant summary sheets. It is now looking pretty good.

The Silver Vixen received an email from Vodafone with the "unlock" information. The Gorse Fox has spent the balance of the afternoon switching her phone over from Vodafone to BT. It's done now, but we still have to wait in order to get her old number re-assigned. Hopefully we can get that underway later. The Gorse Fox has sent Urban-Cub and Cousteau-Cub the temporary number, just in case.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Foul

It was pretty foul again today. A soaking mist and drizzle permeated everything throughout the morning. It was dar, grey and meteorologically horrible.

The Gorse Fox had football this morning, but in the lead up to the game he was distracted by background thoughts regarding the new childcare spreadsheet for Urban-Cub, her new Child Minder, and the schedule for 2019. Once he was changed and kicking the ball about he snapped into the right mindset. The Gorse Fox was playing for the Orange-bibs today and we had a good game. The final score was about 9 (or 10) to 6. Two of the goals came from the Gorse Fox and he provided assists for three or four more. It was a good stretch and good game.

(Talking of football, the Gorse Fox has scored 81 goals so far this year and run/walked about 530km).

The afternoon has been spent back on the spreadsheet. Now that his mind was fairly clear he was able to rattle through the coding and has released the first version to Urban-Cub for her to review.

Talking of spreadsheets, Excel (and Word) wouldn't start on the iMac (Condor). In the end the Gorse Fox downloaded the latest version of the autoupdated and reran the last updates. Everything is now working properly. The Gorse Fox has no idea why it had failed initially.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Wet

Gosh it's been wet today. In fact so wet that the Gorse Fox skipped his regular walk and spent the time on the treadmill in the Orangery instead. AT least he got some exercise without getting wet and cold.

The rest of the day has been moderately quiet. The Silver Vixen has been sorting out some of the old equipment that we bought for Ellie and which she has outgrown. All cleaned up we photographed it, checked the original prices and advertised it on the local Facebook page. We have no idea if it will sell, but it's worth a try!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Cancelled

What a gorgeous day. It's wall to wall blue sky today and despite the clear air, it's quite warm.

The Gorse Fox wasted a lot time this morning. He has mentioned before that you can only cancel your Vodafone contract by calling them on 191. They clearly hope that you'll just give up the will to cancel or die of old age as you wait, and wait, and wait, and wait to be put through to the cancellation and retention team. In fact the Gorse Fox was on hold for over an hour before "Gaz" condescended to answer the phone. We then got about 30 minutes of reasons why we should stay with Vodafone. The Gorse Fox thinks the bell finally rung when the conversation turned like this:

"You have 9 years of loyalty points. We can do you a really good deal" said Gaz. He then quoted some prices and some data allowances (which weren't actually as good as the deal he already has arranged with BT).

The Gorse Fox was getting a little narked by now. "Gaz, you don't seem to realise that loyalty works both ways. Yes we have been loyal to Vodafone, but you have consistently overcharged us - if you hadn't you could afford the deals you have just offered. Loyalty works both ways and you have just exploited us."

There was a lot of spluttering at the end of the phone, some apologies, and then Gaz conceded defeat. Contract is now in it's termination period. The Gorse Fox did wonder whether it was worth invoicing Vodafone for the 90 minutes of his life that he'll never recover.

Talking of termination periods, Urban-Cub interviewed a new child minder for Ellie this afternoon. She is just a few minutes down the road from their home and it all seemed to go very well. We're very  pleased as this takes the worry away from Urban-Cub and Pistol Pete (as the current child minder has given notice). The Gorse Fox will have to start a new childcare spreadsheet!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A quiet one

Thursday has been a quiet one. The Gorse Fox was up early and spent some time reading the news and catching up with some limited social media. He has learnt that social media is, in general, a vacuous, vitriolic source of information and has limited himself to Facebook only, now. Even there he skips many of the posts entirely knowing that they are just click-bait, or they are anti-science propaganda, or party political in nature. The problem with social media is that it has given every half-wit and moron a megaphone through which they can publicise their ignorance, their bigotry, and their utter stupidity. The problem with the democratisation of information is that we are now wading around, knee-deep in a cesspool of ignorance and it's very hard to find the nuggets of intelligence that occasionally surface. The irony that the Gorse Fox is making such a statement on, what is after all, a social media platform is not lost on him.

After our normal Thursday morning shopping delivery we hopped on the bus and went to Chichester. We didn't have a lot to do, but the Gorse Fox thought he'd take the opportunity to drop into Vodafone to terminate the Silver Vixen's current service. Needless to say that was only something that could be done on the phone, so we wandered away unfulfilled.

Back home we called Vodafone. We were transferred to their cancellations team - or at least that's what we were told. When the phone was answered it turned out to be the upgrades team. The Gorse Fox explained he wished to cancel and was told they are only taking queries right now because they are so busy. Phone back later or tomorrow. Strange how the upgrades department got the call. The Gorse Fox suspects that if he was upgrading it would have been handled immediately.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

All Aboard

Well that was fun. The Gorse Fox skipped football and the Silver Vixen skipped Pilates today. The weather absolutely foul, but we had an appointment in Southampton. We headed out into the mist and swirling rain and drove across the coast and found our way to Dock Gate 10 (almost opposite IKEA). We parked up and checked in to the Mayflower Cruise Terminal.

About 40 minutes later we were escorted, along with a hundred or more other visitors, onto the P&O ship Aurora. We were split into small tour groups. Our group had 8 people and we were led by an experienced cruise veteran. Each group was taken in a different zig-zag path round the ship so that we didn't clash too much.

We started with a view of some of the main public spaces - the atrium, the shops, the theatre, the cinema, the casino, the art gallery, the lounges and the bars. It was clearly a very luxurious ship and there was plenty of opportunity for a passenger to get some solitude if they wished.

We then looked at one or two of the restaurants (though one was kept back for our lunch) and then out onto the fantail to see one of the pool areas. The weather was too wet to have a good look round outside so we retreated into the warmth and headed for another of the pools. This was beneath a retractable glass roof in a central atrium. The Gorse Fox should think that even with the roof open (which they do as soon as ship hits warmer weather) it would be lovely and sheltered.

Next on the agenda was the accommodation. We were taken around the various cabins. Internal, external, balcony, deluxe balcony, mini-suite, suite, and penthouse. There was clearly a wide choice but to be practical the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen would not consider anything below a junior suite. This is because the bathrooms were so small and enclosed (the Silver Vixen doesn't like enclosed spaces) and also, given that the Gorse Fox gets up earlier than the Silver Vixen, there was nowhere for him to go and read, or to write his blog, or whatever.

Finally it was time to visit the last of the restaurants and to have a three course lunch. Well, the Gorse Fox must say that it was delightful. We sat at a table with our little tour group and were waited on by the normal waiting staff. Given that the ship was just in port for 12 hours and this was an extra shift in terms of these waiters, they were charming, attentive, and discreet. The Gorse Fox was impressed.

He thinks that a lot of his reservations regarding cruising have been addressed. Now, that doesn't mean that we're going to book a cruise, but it does mean that it's now an additional holiday option.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Boots

The alarm went off soon after seven. The Silver Vixen had a hair appointment in Chichester and though it wasn't until later, she was getting a lift in with Old Bill and Lady Penelope. The Gorse Fox was off to play football.

The forecast was for wet weather to set in around lunch time. As the Gorse Fox set off it was damp and foggy. By the time he had pulled on his boots and shin pads and was playing the last of the games today, it was raining steadily. The football wasn't as bad as he expected it to be. It's been a while since he's played, but he managed to play well, and scored the winning goal in our first game. Very satisfying to get back into it so quickly. In the end our yellow-bibs won the mini-league today.

Back home it was raining heavily. The Silver Vixen had planned to use her bus pass to get back, but the Gorse Fox sent a text offering to collect her as the weather was so bad. She leapt at the suggestion and as he writes this, the Gorse Fox is awaiting her summons,

Monday, November 26, 2018

Chi

We have had a lovely night out in Chichester to celebrate the Silver Vixen's birthday with the Crew. We caught the bus (making good use of her new bus pass) and hopped off near the Cattle Market. Though this was not the most efficient stop for our intended destination, it proved to be inspired as it meant that walked along East Street and saw all the Christmas illuminations. (These had been switched on Saturday).

We stopped off first at Trents where we had a pre-dinner drink, then continued on to Cote Brasserie. As usual the food there was excellent. The Gorse Fox enjoyed their charcuterie board to start with, then a cassoulet. The Silver Vixen ignored the starter and went for a fish pie. ~The evening was filled with banter and laughter and was an absolute pleasure.

We caught the 10:30 bus back home and walked in the door at about 10:55. Perfect.

Hanging on

Hanging on seems to be the theme for the day. The Gorse Fox had a dental appointment mid morning and had determined a) which bus to catch, and b) he had time to call BT and sort out a new SIM for the Silver Vixen. The problem was b)... What the Gorse Fox expected would be a 10 minute call ended up as 40 minutes, most of which was just hanging on. This meant that a) had been missed and he had to run for a+1. In the end he arrived in Chichester with about 10 minutes to spare.

The dentist gave the Gorse Fox a clean bill of health and told him to get an appointment with the hygienist. He was happy to do this, particularly when he got a cancellation for later this morning. This meant that c) he got the appointment for half price, and d) he had 90 minutes more of hanging around in Chichester.

The Gorse Fox made the most of the time by grabbing a coffee and then going for a walk round some of the parks round the town. Finally it was time to return to the dental practise. The hygienist was running late. More hanging around. Eventually he was seen and spent some time being water-boarded before being given a clean bill of health and told to continue with his current dental regime.

The bus whisked him home - in fact our stop was the first time the bus stopped on the route from Chichester. We plan to use the bus again later as we go out with the Sonning Crew to celebrate the Silver Vixen's birthday... particularly as she's all grown up now, with her own bus pass!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

It's Beef

A bit dryer today, but looked threatening inland. This was not a major issue as we only had one plan for the day. With Jasper's automatic feeder set, we headed off to LA to have lunch with Urban-Cub, Pistol Pete, and Ellie.

We had a lovely few hours with them as Urban-Cub prepared a lovely roast dinner, Ellie played, and Pistol Pete and the Gorse Fox tried to stay out of the way. The Gorse Fox explained to Pistol Pete all about the SIM-only mobile phone plan that he is on with BT (as they too are BT Broadband customers) and how it may be worth looking into when his current contract finishes. The Gorse Fox is about to switch the Silver Vixen to this as her contact finishes next week.

We heard all about their week (they have both had a week's annual leave) and obviously told them about ours. They commented how much they enjoyed the Winchester Christmas Market when they visited. The Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen may have to try and squeeze that in one day, if the weather allows.

We really did have a lovely day with them, but as the sun went down we had to head home. The Silver Vixen isn't keen on driving in the dark so we made a move before the sun was switched off for the night.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Down to earth

Well and truly back down to earth today. A miserable, wet day was clearly set for the duration. We headed off mid-morning to collect Jasper from his spa break at the cattery. He seemed very pleased to see us and was very vocal all the way home, giving us a blow by blow account of his week away.

A trip to Sainsbury's was next on the agenda. The cupboards were bare and we needed to top up and also exchange our residual mickey-mouse Euros for real money.

Alongside all  of this the Silver Vixen has been catching up on the week's washing... and the poor old Hotpoint hasn't stopped all day.

We popped round to see the neighbours and thank them for watching over the house in our absence. Unfortunately, Two Hats was suffering from a sore throat so we didn't go in. We then went on to see Old Bill and Lady Penelope and caught up on the week's news (and may have helped empty a bottle of wine).

Once home, we locked the doors and settled in for the evening.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Return

Well we had to get up and get going. Our taxi was due at 9:30 and we had to finish packing, have breakfast, and check-out. In the end it all went very smoothly and we had plenty of time to spare. Our taxi arrived on schedule (though it was a 12 seater minibus - just for the two of us) and whisked us across to the airport.

There were three gates open - 2 for priority check-in and one for the great unwashed like us. What was nice was to see the check-in lady telling people off for getting in the wrong queue and sending them to the back of our queue. Being English it brought a wry smile to the face.

Once checked in we wandered through security - the Silver Vixen was stopped yet again. (Obviously something dodgy about her). We then had some time in the shops before heading for the TAP Lounge. It's not very big, but was quite comfortable and must have one of the best views from any airport lounge in the world.

We sat there until our flight was called. We grabbed some water and some sandwiches for the flight, before leaving. BA, in their infinite wisdom, no longer provide free food or drinks on flights, so rather than pay the exorbitant fees they charge, we made the most of our lounge access and their facilities.

The flight boarded on time. We were bussed the 150ft from the terminal to the plane... which always seems daft. Once loaded up we settled down for the flight only to be told that the flight was likely to be delayed by 25 minutes because they were increasing the separation between landings at Gatwick due to poor visibility. The Captain had, however, sent the "ready to go" message so that we could take advantage of any earlier slot that became free. As if by magic a slot became free almost immediately and we actually took off earlier than our scheduled time.

We had an excellent and very quick flight, landing early at Gatwick. Our bags seemed to be the first off the plane and within minutes we were walking out to be met by our driver. Comfortably ensconced in the back seats of the S-Class Mercedes we were whisked back home, getting in around five o'clock.

Home delivery of a Chinese meal from our local rounded off the day as we settled down to catch up on some of the recorded TV.

However good a holiday is... it's nice to be home.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Bus Pass

It was still dark when the Gorse Fox got going this morning. Once he's awake he can't just lie there, he has to get up. There was an ominous cloud along the southern horizon as the sun came up and the forecast suggest a chance (40%) of rain.

We had a leisurely breakfast and then made some loose plans for the day. All plans had a weather-clause.

Now that somebody is old enough for a bus pass, the Gorse Fox thought it might be sensible to her used to bus travel. We walked down to the marina and booked on a couple of the tour buses. Everyone else was rushing for the top (open) deck. We decided that we see almost as much from the inside, we were protected if it rained, and it would be warmer. As it happens we didn't need to worry about the rain, but the Gorse Fox thinks the precaution were sensible as we stayed warm and could easily hear the commentary on the headphones.

The first tour took us around part of Funchal and then out to the quaint fishing village of Camara de Lobos. We could have got off there and then hopped on the next bus to get back, but we didn't bother. Think of it as a scouting expedition for our next visit! Just past Camara de Lobos is Cabo Girao (there is a further tour that will take you there). This is notable because it boast the highest sea cliff in Europe and the third highest in the world at 580m - 1900 feet. There a glass sky deck up there so may well be worth a visit in the future.

Back in town we stopped for a coffee and cake the climbed aboard the second tour of the day. This was a much more detailed tour of Funchal and its neighbourhood. It ended up northwest of the city at Pico dos Barcelos (one of the higest peak in the city). Again we chose to stay on the bus rather than stroll around on top of a mountain for 35 minutes while waiting for the next bus.

Now the Gorse Fox should point out that there was excellent WiFi on the tour bus. So much so that he was able to check-in for tomorrow's flight home as soon as check-in opened. Seats were chosen and boarding passes sent digitally - all while we were bumbling along the Estrada Monumental. We just need the bus to park near the hotel as the only complaint the Gorse Fox would have about the hotel is how slow the WiFi is.

The route taken by this tour led back down to the coast and along past our hotel. We briefly discussed this and decided to get off there rather that head back to town the walk back. Our choices paid off. We were no sooner back in our room than the rain started. It hammered down for a good half hour and had we been caught in it we would be looking like drowned rats.

(And no... the Gorse Fox hasn't forgotten the photos - he just didn't take many today).

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Special Day

Today is a special day. It's the Silver Vixen's Birthday. She's all grown up now. The Gorse Fox was up just before seven so that he could retrieve all of her cards from his case and lay them out ready for her to open when she woke. As usual, the plans for the day were a little fluid, but there was a nugget of an idea we had discussed last night.

The cards were opened and arranged on the table - this proved to be a good idea, but more about that later. We went down for breakfast then prepared for the day. At this point the Gorse Fox should point out that there was a lot of cloud about. The forecast had, for the first day since our arrival, said that there was no chance of rain until 1400, then only a 10% chance for about an hour. To clarify, all of the other days it has forecast 20, 40, 50 and 60% chance of rain and we have seen none. One look at this morning's sky instilled a degree of scepticism regarding the forecast. The Silver Vixen packed her umbrella and the Gorse Fox took a sweat shirt.

We headed into Funchal, along the marina, past the cable car terminus and on into the old town. It really was very picturesque and a study in charmed decay (the Gorse Fox means that in the nicest possible interpretation). We wandered through the streets and past the various restaurants, hotels, and churches. It was lovely.

We finally looped back stopping at the farmers' market(which also had a large fish market). It was a wonderful sight to see all of the fresh fruit and vegetables on display, almost hidden behind curtains of dried chillis and pimentos.

We went out on the roof terrace for a drink. No sooner had we settled down than it started to spit with rain. It never really came to anything, but the warning signs were there. Beware, they said. Ignore the forecast, they said.

We wandered back through the main shopping area, stopping here and there. We passed another set of gardens and went in for a look around. We  passed some street performers playing some excellent jazz with a trumpet, sax, tuba, drums and what can only be described as a thingmy-jig. The thingmy-jig was a series of hollow drums with no skins. They were played with paddles that created the noise by compressing the air in the 'drum' - but the bottom of the drum was a long flexible hollow pipe that amplified the sound and dictated the notes that were played. It was and excellent device and made some brilliant sounds.

We wandered back to the marina and up the hill to Reid's Corner, then round to the hotel. We settled on the patio for a tea (the Silver Vixen) and a beer (the Gorse Fox). While we were there Cousteau-cub called to wish the Silver Vixen a Happy Birthday and to have a chat.

We returned to our room. This is where the display of the Birthday cards had been a blessing. The person who tends the room had obviously noticed and called the hotel management. On the table was a card, a bottle of champagne, a chocolate cake, and some chocolates with birthday wishes form the hotel management. A nice touch.

Urban-cub did a Facetime call to the Silver Vixen. Clearly she has the remnants of a cold as does Ellie. Ellie found the whole Facetime experience a little confusing and whilst she watched avidly she didn't actually get round to interacting with us. Never mind, it is a bit magical really.

While this was going on the weather broke and the rain started in earnest. As the Gorse Fox writes, it absolutely thrashing down with rain. It's a good job we are not going out this evening - though we do have reservations in the Japanese restaurant downstairs. So much for weather forecasts!

Well the Japanese restaurant was a huge success. The food was exquisite. It was the first time that the Silver Vixen had tried sushi and, with careful selection, she thoroughly enjoyed it. The Gorse Fox was less selective and went for a mixed platter. This, again, was absolutely superb. Certainly it was as good as any sushi he has had before - even in California.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Relaxing Day

We have an all together more relaxing day today. Not idle, but not to strenuous either. After a good breakfast we returned to the room to decide on the day's activity. The Gorse Fox had noticed a promenade marked on the map, and it started not too far from the hotel.

We set off in a westerly direction and dropped down from the main road, passing some hotels to the coast (it can't really be called a beach). The promenade heads right along the coast (just like the promenade in Bognor) passing the seawater lido and various play areas, sports facilities, bars, and restaurants. It really is quite a nice walk.

The promenade loops round over a small headland then rises towards another. Then you walk down a long hill to a further lido and then up a steep hill round a headland towards the end of the paved route. The hills were good because they got the heart pumping and afforded some excellent views across the bays. We stopped and took in the view for a while then turned and headed back the way we had come.

Back at the hotel we decided on a quiet afternoon down in the Olive Garden. We had our swimming gear on, in case we felt like a swim. As it turns out our Kindles provided all the stimulation we needed for the afternoon as we both cracked on with our respective books. It was somewhat anachronistic to be sitting in the warm afternoon sun, reading, when all of a sudden the sounds of a choir practise breaks the silence. The Gorse Fox assumes this was their first practise as they sounded more like a football crowd than a polished choir. The Gorse Fox was, however, able to distinguish several of the Christmas carols they were murdering.

As the sun left the gardens we headed up to our room. Being on the tenth floor our balcony would remain in the sun for a further hour or two.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Totally Tropical

Sustained by a good breakfast we ordered a taxi for the trip up to the Monte Palace Gardens (referred to by our airport driver as the Tropical Gardens). It only took about 15 minutes as we wound our way up the hills, around the switchback roads and through the little hamlets. The driver dropped us  by the gates at the end of the cable car run. Conde Nast Traveler rates these as one of the thirteen most beautiful botanical gardens in the world. The Gorse Fox would not dispute this. He would rate them as the best he has ever seen.

We started with a coffee on the terrace looking down through the dense foliage. Here and there you could make out pathways, streams, bridges, and arches. This was going to be interesting. As we perused the map and discussed the route we realised that while the gardens occupied 70,000 sq m, there was a lot to see. That started with the ceramic pot just behind the SIlver Vixen. This must have been 8 feet high and was certainly large enough to house a family of four and their dog.

We started down through the glades. Waterfalls and streams tumbled and trickled down by the well maintained walkways. Oriental styled bridges and arches led to new viewpoints, stone Buddhas lined the paths and grinned from the undergrowth. Huge Japanese stone lanterns sat watchfully, lining the route. It was quite magical. Slowly we made our way down, zigging first this way and then zagging back the other. There was so much to see and every sight had multiple viewpoints.

Eventually the denser planting open out to a central lake. Water played across the surface from several fountains and a huge cascade. A few small islands were  accessible across causeways or bridges and a high-level path led round, overlooking the whole view. We took the high level route and wound our way past koi ponds to the very edge of the garden. Here we found the boundary road which is famous for the wicker toboggans that whisk people down the mountain side. We watched in amusement as people hurtled past - in some cases screaming. Would the Gorse Fox or Silver Vixen do this? Not on your nelly.

We stopped for a while near the bottom of the garden and just sat and took in the view over the Bay of Funchal. Behind us was a statue of a woman pulling a young girl. The caption immediately came to  mind 'No, Ellie, there's no more cheese!'

We moved on passing the Monte Palace itself. This had once been an hotel but closed when the owner died. The whole place was then bought by a businessmen who had made his money in minerals. He set about creating the whole venture as we see it today and donated it to a foundation, which he funded.

We looped back round past the lake and down into the southern Oriental garden. This was more Chinese in style (the upper garden being more Japanese). Koi grazed through the streams and water trickled everywhere. It really was quite magical. It was also time for a beer. We made our way to a terrace in the south eastern corner and grabbed a beer and a cake and just sat under the trees watching the world go by. Finally it was time to move and we looped back up through the eastern side of the garden. As we went we read the huge ceramic panels that illustrated the history of Portugal back through the ages.

Back near the top of the garden was museum. Two level showed Africa art - essentially stone carvings. Now the Gorse Fox knows what he likes and concludes that he is a Philistine. He though they (and there may have been close on a 1000 items) were ugly and wouldn't give them shelf space in an outside loo, let alone in a museum. The third level of the museum, however, was a collection of minerals. Again there were about 1000 exhibits but these were superb. Nearly all of them were from Brasil but illustrated the various crystalline structures lurking in the banks of the rivers there. It really was intriguing.

Finally, after three or four hours, we were done. The garden had filled us with joy and made our spirits soar. It was time to join them, so we climbed aboard the cable car and took off into thin air, dangling in a pod hanging from a cable strung between pylons that strode down the mountainside right down to the marina where we had been yesterday. The Silver Vixen had been nervous about it but decided she would face her fear. Half way down, the immortal words 'Are we nearly there yet?' indicated she was not enjoying it too much.

Back at the marina we decided that we would walk back to the hotel rather than get a taxi (which had been the original plan). What a day that had been.

Sleep

The Gorse Fox usually sleeps well but must say that he is sleeping even better than usual while here in Madeira; even the Silver Vixen is sleeping well.

The Gorse Fox was up soon after seven as usual. The sun was up soon after and put on an impressive display as it prepared to beet the day. Plans may change, but at the moment our plan is to visit the Tropical Gardens. (We have been warned the the famous Botanical Gardens are in a bit of a state at the moment and after some recent storms many of the paths have been washed away or are in a poor state of repair).

But first we have breakfast!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Lazy Sunday

A lazy start to the day as befits a Sunday morning. The Gorse Fox was up early and watched the sun come up in the east, then settled down with his book for some reading while he waited for the Silver Vixen to appear.

Breakfast was another tasty affair where we could graze our way through ranges of fruit, breads, cheeses, cured meats, salads, and of course cooked food. We didn't stint on our selection with the expectation that we wouldn't need to eat again until supper.

The sun was up and scattered clouds drifted aimlessly across the blue sky. We decided that we would take a walk towards the old town and have a look at the Santa Catarina park. It's only a couple of kilometres from the hotel so we walked in the morning sunshine.

The park isn't huge but it is very tranquil and very pretty. Obviously at this time of year the flowers aren't at their best, but there was a faded beauty that made the whole place quite inviting.

The park also afforded some wonderful views across Funchal, along the coast, and down to port and the marina.

We descended the steps at the side of the park to the level of the port. We crossed the road opposite the Christiano Ronaldo museum and then strolled along the promenade up to the marina.

There four cruise liners in port - The Black Watch, The Saga Sapphire, The World, and The Seabourn Odyssey. None of these was huge, but nevertheless they were very imposing.

Once we had passed the marina we turned back and headed back along the lower coastal road. Now you have recognise that Funchal is very hilly. This meant that while we had started on the level coastal road, we had to divert up a hill to get back at the right level for our hotel. Halfway up the hill we decided that a drink would be nice so dropped in to the Royal Savoy hotel and went to the poolside bar. We sat in Art Deco splendour and enjoyed a cold beer before return to our route and heading for the hotel.

Back at the hotel we have spent the afternoon sitting on our sun drenched, tenth floor balcony reading our books.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Retail Laps

Well the forecast turned out to be inaccurate. We have had a lovely day plenty of blue sky and a few clouds to break the monotony. As the Gorse Fox commented earlier, there was a big cruise ship in port. We decided this was a good excuse NOT to do any of the 'must do' sights.

We had a long leisurely breakfast... and for those that care (you know who you are) yes, champagne was available - but as you would expect, we didn't bother.

We decided that today we would explore on foot and head in a westerly direction. A mile or so up the road we found a big shopping centre, The Forum, so went in for some retail therapy and a coffee. Considering we didn't really plan to get anything we left after a couple of hours clutching an arm full of bags.

Back at the hotel we made the most of the sheltered patio to have a drink and a bite of lunch while deciding what we would do during the afternoon. We decided to stay put but have a look around the hotel gardens and swim.

The hotel has a selection of pools. There are three (or four) outdoor pools overlooking the sea. These are salt water pools and look particularly inviting. The Gorse Fox may try one of these later in the week. Today, the indoor pool seemed more inviting and certainly was the only one that tempted the Silver Vixen. In reality the pol was really quite warm and you could swim through an opening in the wall into an outdoor extension of the pool. This too was heated so the whole experience was quite delightful.

After the swim we went and dried off in the sun in one corner of the garden, sheltered by olive trees and palm trees. Finally as the sun dropped, we went back to the room for a quiet hour or so watching the sunset before we head down for supper. The Gorse Fox noticed the cruise liner left during the afternoon, but a second liner has arrived this evening.

Stormy

DInner, yesterday evening, was in the large Ocean Restaurant. This was essentially a buffet. It was busy but actually very good. The selection was varied and, in some cases, surprising. The Gorse Fox tried the brussel sprout salad, something he had never seen before. It was a mixture of halved, roasted sprouts in a dressing with blue cheese. It was quite delicious. For our main course we both selected the turkey. This was cooked in a gravy with cep mushrooms. It was deliciously moist and very tasty. Certainly nothing to complain about on the food front.

A storm was forecast overnight and boy did it hit. It crashed in about one o'clock in the morning with howling winds and very heavy rain. Having said that, though we heard it, it didn't really disturb either of us. This morning is bright and sunny and the clouds have blown away. There is still a forecast for some rain but we're ok for the moment.


It'll probably be busy in and around the town today as a cruise liner has just sailed past towards the harbour.

Friday, November 16, 2018

33000 Feet

We took a limo up to Gatwick last night, having checked our bags in, we then wandered across to the hotel. This was not as easy at it sounded. The Gorse Fox has a recollection that you used to be able straight across a walkway into the Hilton. Well you can't now. You have to walk across to the car park, go down a level and then join a walkway that takes you there. Once in the right place we picked up the key and dropped our hand baggage in the room. We then called Urban-Cub with a view to meeting her when we went down to dinner.

We went to the restaurant and opted for the buffet. Urban-Cub arrived and sat down for a chat. She didn't stay long but it was nice to see her before we left.

It was an early start this morning. We were walking through security (where we both got stopped in the body scanner) early enough that we had time to go to the lounge for breakfast before the flight. While walking through the terminal we saw two of our neighbours. We stopped for a chat. It turns out that they too were heading for Madeira and were on the same flight as us.

The plane is fairly full but managed to push back about ten minutes early and will, apparently, land about forty minutes early. Let's hope the driver in Funchal has checked the flight arrival times!

A few more minutes have passed and the cabin crew just arrived at our row with some champagne and a card for the Silver Vixen's upcoming birthday. It was a really lovely thought - and not one that the Gorse Fox had pre-arranged. I had just made a comment as we chatted on boarding that we were going away for her birthday. They took the initiative. Excellent. (The Gorse Fox will have to see who else he can tell while we're away).

The rest of the flight was uneventful as was our arrival in Madeira. Our driver was waiting for us and whisked us into Funchal. As she drove (and the Gorse Fox uses that term lightly) she made full use of the road from one armco barrier to the next without actually touching them. She talked the whole time about shoes, her grandmother, and her niece. There was also a last minute brain dump about Madeira and Funchal in particular.

Our hotel is excellent. A modern building comprising two towers containing several restaurants, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, squash and tennis courts, and exercise studio, and a gym. We were informed on our arrival that we had been upgraded and were shown to what would pass as a very acceptable apartment. We have a huge bedroom, a bathroom, and at the end of the corridor, a big lounge that opens onto a balcony. We are up at the top  of the building and have wonderful views out to sea and along the coast in both directions.

After unpacking, we went out to explore and found our way down to pools and one of the restaurants where we stopped for a snack. A breeze had picked up and though the sun was trying its best, clouds insisted on obscuring it. We returned to our room for a jumper and then went exploring some more. This time we ventured out along the main drag towards the old town. We'll venture further next time.

Back at the hotel we sat on the balcony and watched the sun go down. We are now getting ready to go down for dinner. It has been a good day and the Gorse Fox is delighted with the choice of hotel.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Busy day

Ellie was kind enough, despite a cough, to sleep through until nearly eight this morning. That was a nice bonus. It was a busy start to the day as the Silver Vixen and Gorse Fox tag-teamed Ellie while clearing the fridges of anything that won't last and trying to cram everything into the various bins for today's collection.

Jasper stayed well out of the way - he didn't want to get swept up! Little did he know. By mid morning he had been lulled into a false sense of security and the Gorse Fox took the opportunity to grab him and put him in his basket. Ellie and the Silver Vixen climbed into the car and Jasper was strapped in. He was off on his Spa Break at the cattery. Though he meowed the whole way there, Mark greeted him and he immediately settled.

We grabbed some lunch back home and then Ellie went down for a sleep. This meant that we had a little quiet time in which we could do our own packing and preparation. Despite all of the Gorse Fox's lists, he is sure he will have forgotten something.

Pistol Pete should be picking Ellie up in a few hours and then the taxi should arrive to take us to Gatwick where we can drop our bags and then meet up with Urban-Cub.

Talking of Urban-Cub, the Gorse Fox has heard from Cousteau-Cub. SHe's in Phuket, safe and sound. Her latest set of blood tests have come back and look very promising. Obviously a few weeks of TLC from mum helped a great deal!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Stuff

It looks like Cousteau-Cub has just landed in Doha. That's the first leg of the journey complete. Now she has a brief layover before getting the next flight from Doha to Phuket.

Meanwhile the Silver Vixen has been in to Chichester for a hair appointment and the Gorse Fox has been out for a walk and also round to M&S to pick up some new slacks that he had ordered online. Envelopes have also been stuffed with cash for the taxi to and from the airport and for Jasper's spa break at the cattery.

As the Gorse Fox writes this, Ellie is having an afternoon nap in the back bedroom, Jasper is having a nap in the Orangery, and the Silver Vixen has popped round to get her prescription filled. Supper is planned - we're having some UFOs along with whatever fresh vegetables we have left.

Gone girl

A four o'clock start today. There was a trip to Gatwick needed to get Cousteau-Cub off and away. The Silver Vixen got up to see us off, then we headed out into the darkness for the trip across the county. We arrived at 6 a.m. - right on the Gorse Fox's mental schedule.

Cousteau-Cub was fairly quickly checked-in and as Urban-Cub had warned that security might be busy at that time, the Gorse Fox paid for Cousteau-Cub to use the Premium service. We said our goodbyes and the Gorse Fox stifled the lump in his throat as she disappeared. It'll be many months before we see her again and we are already missing her dreadfully (and she only took-off an hour ago).

It's now time that the Silver Vixen and the Gorse Fox started to focus on our own trip.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Last Day

Today is Cousteau-Cub's last full day before returning to Thailand. The plan for the day was to spend as much time as possible together as a family. To that end, Urban-Cub and Ellie came over and we just chilled. Nothing startling. Nothing on the agenda. Just time together. Perfect.

As the day wore on the Gorse Fox took Ellie round to the lake to feed the ducks - but that was the main excitement for the day. Later we had to complete some admin... printing Cousteau-Cub's boarding passes and printing some more photos for her to take back with her.

The last 24 hours are always hard.