February 2018

Firstly a belated Happy New Year. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and saw 2018 in with great style. I myself did my usual, an early night into bed watching some mindless program on the television. I’ve done my share of celebrating it in style in my youth including going into London to see the Big Ben countdown. Because so many of the areas were cordoned off it meant a walk of five miles to the nearest train station that was operational. I now leave it to the youth of today and you old romantics.

As you may have read I left Telford on 10th December and headed for Gatwick but it nearly never happened. Several days before my departure date, heavy snows and freezing temperatures hit the North of England. I live in a private community of just three bungalows, on the peak of a hill, and the whole estate was seven inches deep in the stuff we dream of to give us a white Christmas. Although it looked like a winter wonderland the reality was the car was wedged in on icy ground and the electronic gates wouldn’t open, as they had been frozen shut. It was so dangerous underfoot I couldn’t even get my suitcases to the car let alone drive to more the damn thing.

Brian, my neighbour who doubles as a superhero in his spare time came to my rescue. Hours before I was due to leave he started digging my car out and making a trench to the gate. It took him nearly two hours and it was hard going. He then came to get my car keys so the engine could warm and start defrosting the ice of the windows and when that was under control he dug a path to my front door so I could safely reach my vehicle. He wouldn’t take a break and was determined that I would leave at 10.30am as planned. Just before the magic number he came and loaded my cases in the car. What an amazing guy. I really struck lucky when I moved house, and it isn’t just him, his life partner Pat is equally fabulous and coming to kiss me goodbye she handed me sandwiches for the journey, always my favourite, cheese and onion on white.

It was worth moving just to have their friendship and they are probably the kindest and most thoughtful people I know. Living alone I don’t tend to cook for myself very often but often at 6.oopm, the doorbell goes and there stands Brian carrying my hot dinner that Pat has dispatched in my direction. Working at sea, whatever the cruise line, roast dinner is never the same as a home cooked meal and every Sunday that I’m in England she rings me up to tell me what time she is serving and there is always a place for me at their table.

At 10.30am, under the guidance of Brian, I inched the car forward and started what felt like the mile’s drive to the gates. Finally I was free and honking the horn I turned right towards the motorway. The problem was that the road we live alongside is very steep and because of the adverse climate it had not been used much for the last two days. It probably took me 20 minutes to drive the ¼ mile to the roundabout. The car was skidding all ways and I was grateful I didn’t encounter anything else coming my way. The usual drive to the M54 takes about 10 minutes but it took nearly thirty but I figured that once there the roads would be fine because of sheer weight of traffic. Wrong. The M54 wasn’t thawed and once again I edged along slowly wondering if I was actually going to make the journey to the Gatwick Hotel. The three-hour journey that it should have taken took nearly five and I was relieved that I’d had the foresight to book a night at the airport the day before the flight.

I could have cried when I turned into the hotel’s car park and every part of me was screaming in pain from holding my body so tensely on the journey. On the way down the radio had kept me abreast of the conditions in the country and in the last few hours both Birmingham and Stanstead Airport had been closed. I had everything crossed that my flight the next day would leave as planned as I just couldn’t miss my brother’s wedding.

I’m glad Matt and Chandrika had flown out two days previously otherwise my brother would have been in a flap himself. There were eight of us in total and we were all flying on different days due to commitments, and I was hoping that the weather would have eased by the time Max and Justine were flying in two days time.

After checking in and before I got too comfortable I got the concierge to get a young man to take me and my luggage over to the BA check-in counter. That is one of the prime reasons I’ve always stayed at the Gatwick Hilton in the past. It is actually connected to the airport and they do a deal on parking if you book accommodation.

Matt and Chandrika had booked me a Business Class ticket so I could lie down for the flight’s duration. One of the problems with the M.S is that if I’m stuck in one place my body seizes up and I didn’t want medical assistance at either end of the process. The desk was open from 5.00pm and I was literally the first and only person there so I was checked in, in a matter of minutes. It is such a luxury being able to offload the luggage the night before so now all I had to worry about was getting myself onto the plane the next day.

By the time I had rung the world to let them know I was safely there, I was completely finished, mentally and physically, and after taking a long bath to ease my aches and pains I climbed into bed to watch a film. I don’t even remember the name of the movie and I certainly never saw it. I must have been asleep within minutes because the next thing I knew it was 6.15am the following morning.

Don’t ask me what I spent the morning doing but before I knew it, the clock had inched towards midday and my wheelchair arrived to journey me across to the Club Lounge. It is amazing the difference in attitude with a Business Class ticket. Interestingly the fight did not have a First Class section and I haven’t flown in that long that maybe it is across the board but people were fawning all over me. I was able to plug my hone in at my seat while I said a final goodbye to my boy.

Before I boarded the aircraft I took my magic pill in the hope that as soon as we’d taken off I would be in the land of nod and it didn’t disappoint. Once the seat belt sign had been released my chair was made into a bed and I woke up with the announcement we were landing. Now that’s how to cope with a 10-hour flight.

Unusually I was collected from my seat first, whereas normally wheelchair cases come last but I wasn’t complaining. I hadn’t been to the Dominican Republic before and at 5.00pm local time the climate was inching towards 80 degrees. I was in heaven after leaving the frozen shores of England and couldn’t wait to take my thermal underwear off!!

Matt had laid on a transfer from the airport to the hotel and having loaded a new game onto my IPad I was so engrossed that I didn’t even register the hour that the journey took. The mini van drove up to Dreams Punta Cana and there was Matt and Chandrika waiting at the entrance waving frantically. In the time it took to hug them both my luggage had already been sent ahead to my room. I was duly impressed at just by the service but by the lavish open air entrance of this 5 star resort.

Perfectly located on the east coast of the island, secluded in a lush tropical paradise where the flora kisses the ocean, lies Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa. The pristine golden beach in Uvero Alto, the nearby coral reef, and beautiful topical surroundings immerse guests in a world of fantasy. Go beyond the all-inclusive experience, where nearly everything is included, this resort has one of the largest free-form swimming pools in the Dominican Republic, stretching from the lobby all the ay down to the beach, complete with a swim-up bar and venues throughout.

Matt had booked everyone swim up rooms and as he walked me around the grounds I was amazed at the sheer scale of the place. In fact I realized just how much walking was involved and immediately went about the task of renting a mobility scooter for the nine days, which the hotel arranged and it was delivered within an hour. Very impressive. Chandnika had gone back to their room, The Honeymoon Suite, which the hotel had upgraded them to, as she’d been suffering from a migraine all day. It was probably the thought of me arriving and ruining their peace, lol   In the meantime Matt walked me around the resort so I could visualize the route of the wedding party and how the set-up would work on the beach. I’d been liaising with the wedding co-coordinator for the last three months so I could ensure Matt and Chandrika would have the wedding of their dreams and so far the vista didn’t disappoint. Walking back the way we’d come Matt pointed out the pink flamingoes, which live in one of the ponds on site, it was all so stunning.

My room in building 5 was across from the immaculate wedding gazebo where most couples had their ceremony but I’d arranged a beautiful ceremony on the beach. The Resort avoids the cookie-cutter wedding and encourages couples to send in magazines articles or pictures and pin boards to help turn your vision into a reality. Content that everything was going to work out perfectly I was happy to go to bed and let the strain over the last few days dissolve away from my body.

A daily program had been slipped under my door in the night, similar to the ship’s paper informing each guest what entertainment was happening throughout the resort. I took leave of my room and rode my scooter down to the beach bar, which was the only place to have full size tables and I set myself up there for the day. It was only 7.15am and shortly after Matt and Chandrika came down to meet me before they went into breakfast. Last night I was running on pure adrenalin but on the ride to the beach bar earlier I realized just how vast this resort was. I would estimate that from reception to the beach bar it was a good half-mile so I was relived I had my trusted scooter for the long journeys back and forth. I’d brought down a load of the surprises I brought from England with me so I could give them to the wedding couple. I left them the option of using a tradition ring pillow for the ceremony of a heart shaped china dish for tying the rings to. They loved everything but the choice was an easy one, especially when Matt pointed out that the dish said “Mr & Mr”. I hadn’t even noticed my mistake; thank goodness it was spotted before the wedding. I’d also bought wedding bubbles, a cake topper with “Mr & Mrs Monro’ printed on it, individual fans for the guests and the most beautiful laser cut wooden Guest Book, which had their names cut into the wood as well as their wedding date, 19 December 2017. I also ordered laser cut heart crystal sprinkles for the table, which also had their name together with Love Heart sweets for the guests. It is really fantastic what you ca buy these days without leaving the comfort of your own home. I’d also had make matching flip flops and on the sole was the embossed words ‘Just Married’ which was left displayed in the sand when they walked on it but they were wrapped up together with my wedding present, crystal cut champagne flutes, which also had their name and date of their big day. There were several other sillies that I’d crammed into the cases, it’s a good thing I was allowed two cases and most of them contained stuff for the wedding as well as birthday fare for Chandrika’s 50th, which was on the 16th.

Later in the day we had a meeting with the wedding co-coordinator and I left an hour later knowing all was in hand. Matt and Chandrika had already had a long meeting with the girl on arrival and now it was just a matter of waiting for the event itself in six days time. I left the couple to give them some alone time and at 5,00pm Chandrka’s niece Bunty arrived having flown from Japan. Poor thing, the journey had taken more than 26 hours and she literally went straight to bed. As with all these things all the months of planning suddenly boils down to less than a week and time stands still for nobody. The time was shooting by.

The next day I was on tenterhooks as Matt and Justine were flying over, together with Sanjay and Hannah, Chandrika’s son and girlfriend, although they didn’t know each other and only met in the transportation from the Dominican Republic Airport to the hotel. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief that now everyone was safely here despite the continuing bad weather back home.

Matt and I had arranged for everyone to go zip lining. With the resort so large and Matt eager for everyone to do their own thing, we thought it would be nice to do a group event and we made it compulsory as it was also Chandrika’s birthday. Matt is scared of heights but he manned up as he wasn’t going to let the girls put him to shame. We all had a blast and with 12 platforms to contend with, we were ready for action. Matt and Max had to help me up to the starting point and once I was hooked onto the line off I went. I even got talked into doing a small bungee jump, a 175 yard high leap of faith and because my brother and son had done it I felt immense pressure to keep up with the boys. If I’d know that everyone else was going to back out I might have done the same. It was one where you just step off into air and fall to the ground. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again. I landed on the air mattress on my back and Max and Matt were in stitches as they tried to get me in an upright position again.

Although the boys had been helping me at each platform but then it was quite a long steep upward trek to Number 10 and it took me an age. We then arrived at the base of the tower, a five-storey high wooden structure and I knew I wasn’t going to make it regardless of how much help was on hand. My legs were already burning and I was feeling the effects of the last 40 minutes. My body knew it was time to call it a day. Not only was it the highest jump but also the longest and Matt admitted afterwards that he’d had second thoughts himself.

I walked slowly back to base to grab a well earned cola and stayed in my kit while waiting for the others, as I wanted a group shot. I was surprised none of the staff had offered it before we set out although they did take picture en-route. Back at the hotel we headed to the pool bar for hotdogs before all taking a nap. Matt had reserved a private room for Chandrika’s special dinner in The Cellar and it was a lovely setting. I’d brought banners with me, which the staff had lettered around the room together with balloons and a lovely time was had by us all.

Two days before the wedding high winds had been with us and it was quite unpleasant sitting by the beach bar as everything kept flying away. I was worried that a tropical storm was looming. Looking at the forecast online didn’t help as every site gave different information. The day before the wedding Max, Justine, Matt Chandrika and I booked to go quad biking. Sanjay, Hannah and Bunty bowed out. Sanjay and Hannah were studying for Uni exams and poor Bunty was still trying to get over her jet lag. We’d chosen a back-to-basics ATV experience which told us in no uncertain terms to expect to get dirty. I’d bought a cheap pair of wraparound glasses in the hotel shop as I didn’t want to ruin my good sunglasses but they wouldn’t have kept the dust out, as it would have come in from the sides. We all bought bandanas to put over our nose and mouth and all geared up we met our guide Chuchu.

With only an accelerator and brake to contend with, we were all fairly confident we could handle these huge beasts. With the ignition started we set out to rip up the Dominican Republic roads. From the secluded ranch we tore through remote farmland, down narrow country roads and created a lot of dust, which we were quickly covered in. This first stage was the longest stretch of driving over the tour arriving at La Cueva Taina, a picturesque cave replete with a subterranean river perfect for swimming in. From the dirt track we walked past huts selling the  usual tourist wares, with names like Walmart and JC Penny. At least the locals have a great sense of humour. There were around 30 steps carved into the rock face to negotiate and along route I found myself face to face with a wonderful iguana named Romeo and after the obligatory picture taking we headed down to the pool. We had our own photographer with us who was snapping away to the very end. Very handy for group shots.

At the base of the cave Chuchu explained the rock pool was 25 feet deep so not to get in if you couldn’t swim, sound advice. Matt took the plunge first and when I say plunge I do mean a huge jump into the air. Next Chandrika and then the kids. The water wasn’t too cold and I would have loved to have gone in but I knew I wouldn’t be able to get out again easily. It would have taken me an age to get undressed and standing on uneven ground made me nervous about falling anyway. I was content to snap away at the antics of the others. We had a fabulous time and apart from us there were only three other people there. It would have been awful arriving there 50 strong with the other party. It was definitely worth the extra money to do a private tour.

The first leg had been very physical with deep gorges in the rock but the next leg was much better for me as it was a flat dirt road and if I thought the first bit was dusty, I hadn’t seen anything yet. Twenty minutes later bought us to a sleepy country plantation for an introduction on the island’s most sought after produce, cacao, coffee, tobacco and mama Juana (a local aphrodisiac elixir). There were only the five of us there and the staff clearly outnumbered us. After the presentation the were busy buying samples to take home while I took the opportunity of some photography and a visit to the very basic bathrooms.

Back on the rocky trail but we had to stop twice as Matt’s ATV was playing up. Our last stop was Macao Beach, one of the last resort-free coastal stretches of Punta Cana. Macao is the idealistic Caribbean shore with amber sands, rows of coconut palms and azure waters.  Matt and Chandrika were stripped off and in the sea within minutes while Max and Justine bought a coconut and I had an appointment with a monkey called Rambo. The sea was amazing as you could walk in for ages and still only be waist deep. The only way to describe the wedding couple’s antics were they frolicked in the waves for a good 20 minutes holding hands and perfectly loved-up. Everywhere you go on the island there are stalls with locals desperate to sell you something cheap and tacky but it was nearly 5.00pm so a lot of them had packed up for the day.

Speaking to Chuchu he explained that the last leg was rough terrain again and I asked for another option which aw us bombing down the perfectly flat main roads. The physicality of the earlier leg had got to me and my back was hurting madly. Matt’s vehicle started but wouldn’t move and despite one of the team coming over and tinkering with it, he wasn’t going any further on it, so they did a swap over to a buggy that the other guy had been driving. It had only one gear and Matt said it was like driving a car. The journey back to the ranch only took 20 minutes and by the time we arrived and got off our quads we were covered in thick layers of dust. The back of Chandrika’s thick black hair looked pale grey.

While Matt settled up with Chuchu I went to look at the 189 shots our photographer had taken and checking that the disc worked I bought copies for us. The safari truck was waiting to take us back to the hotel but the guy drove like a madman so I was glad it was only a 15-minute journey.  We were all quite tired but after a shower we all met in the Japanese restaurant. I didn’t eat but wanted to join in for the dessert, as it was the most amazing toffee bananas. And so another perfect day came to an end. I fell asleep watching back-to-back episodes of Criminal Minds and feel asleep easily but was woken at 3.30am in the morning because of the immense noise from the tropical storm that had threatened for days. It was nonstop for over two hours and I was praying it would hold off until after the wedding that day.

The morning came and so did overcast skies. The wedding co-coordinator asked to see us and tried to convince Matt to change wedding venues to one that was inside as rain was predicted. Matt wasn’t having any of it. Their hearts were set on a beach ceremony and he said he would leave it to fate. He was a bag of nerves all morning while Chandrika was booked into the spa all day for the full pampering event finishing with make-up and hair.

I left Matt at 11.40am so I could collect the ring cushion from the office and to chase Matt’s suit down, which hadn’t come back from the laundry. He’d bought a beautiful Hugo Boss suit in the palest mauve but Chandrika had no idea. I’d brought it in my case together with his shoes and tie and as he was changing in my room there was no chance she might see it by accident. The hotel package had included a wedding pressing service and after a phone call it was delivered to my room.

I had popped into the spa so I could have my hair put into a plait. The winds were still with us and I didn’t want my hair blowing all over the place during the service. I saw Chandrika in the hairdresser and although excited she was very nervous, more so by the weather. The men’s buttonholes and my corsage were delivered to my room. At 2,00pm the heavens opened but thankfully it was a typical tropical shower and didn’t last too long but Matt was having kittens. I sent him a text telling him as typical in the Caribbean this was short and sweet and I was confident there wouldn’t be any more. I wasn’t but I wasn’t going to let him know that.

At 2,57pm a knock on the door saw me open it in my underwear thinking it was Matt but alas it was Juan Carlo, the photographer. At least I’d already put my face on as I realized my room was about to be taken over. Matt arrived on the hour and the photos started. At one point I was getting dressed on the patio so I was out of the way. Matt started getting flustered as on putting on his shirt one of the buttons fell off. Max, being Best Man, was at the ready and ran over to the Honeymoon Suite to get another shirt and he picked up the rings so they could be tied to the cushion.

Chandrika had given Max his uncle’s tie to bring back to the room as she thought he’d forgotten it but in fact he had the new one already to go. With the other shirt on complete with all its buttons the photographer was ready to start again but he had to stop again as Matt realized he’d left his cufflinks in his room. Max was dispatched again and I did feel for him because it was quite a distance from where I was. While Max was gone Matt asked me to help him with his buttonhole but he didn’t like the rose, as it was far too big. Even when I’d pared it down by taking off some of the petals he wasn’t happy and decided on a handkerchief instead.

At last all the photos were taken in my room and Juan Carlo went over to take the Bride’s photographs. The weather was warm but the clouds were still evident but I thought we’d be okay for the ceremony, the dinner I wasn’t sure about. The three of us were joined by Justine and we made our way to the beach. The boys took the short cut over the bridge but I had to go the long way round because of the scooter. I felt like the bag lady, as I had to take the ceremony music, which I’d put on my IPad, my cameras, the ceremony reading that I’d written and the wedding presents. To say I was over laden was an understatement. En-route I saw a Spanish-looking man in a suit walking to the beach with a briefcase in tow. I stopped and asked him if he was the Judge and he nodded, you can spot them a mile away.

Paola, the wedding co-coordinator had understood my brief perfectly and the whole setting was fabulous and while Matt and gang went to the bar I went to give Paola the wedding music and take some pre-wedding pictures. Ten minutes later everyone else joined me on the beach and took their seats. Matt had resorted to getting a large Scotch to calm his nerves and I knew he was praying that the rain stayed off at least another hour.

The Judge took centre stage and now all that was left to do was wait for the most important person, the Bride-to-be. Having spotted Chandrika and Sanjay, who was giving her away, in the distance heading in our direction I shouted across to Matt that they were coming but he didn’t dare turn around as he was trying to hold back the tears. I’m so pleased Max was standing next to him helping him through those final minutes.

I’d ordered a Hula dressed in white silks and purple exotic flowers and from the front of that archway was a white aisle runner with scattered rose petals all the ay to the ceremony table. Our chairs were on either side and at the end of each row was a lantern hanging with purple flowers cascading down. It looked like a scene out of a fairy tale.

Sanjay looked very smart as he proudly walked his mum over to the steps leading down to the beach, where they paused for photos. At the given moment the dulcet tones of Roberta Flack was the sign for them to take the long walk to the aisle runner. Chandrika looked amazing, an absolute vision and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief that we’d made it without anymore rain to dampen the day (excuse the pun)

As soon as Sanjay had handed his mum over to Matt for safekeeping, the service started. The Judge didn’t speak a word of English so Paola acted as translator but it didn’t detract from the beauty of the moment. Paola invited me up and I delivered the reading I’d written for them. I was petrified, not of doing the reading but the winds were so fierce I was worried the papers would blow away. At one point the Judge helped me by holding onto one side of the sheet. Paola followed me with a poem entitled ‘Hands’, which was lovely, and as soon as the couple were pronounced man and wife, Matt grabbed his new bride and kissed her so hard that it knocked the stuffing out of her. The Judge didn’t even have time to deliver the directive but Matt wasn’t waiting another second. The couple walked up the aisle to the sound of dad singing ‘Till the End of Time’. Okay round one done, now Juan Carlo took charge, barking orders to who should stand where. Because the ceremony wasn’t until 5.00pm the light was fading fast but Juan Carlo was on a mission and I suspect he took more than 1000 shots.

While all this was going on Paola took charge with dismantling the ceremony set-up and replacing it with the one round table for the dinner we’d booked. The Hupa stayed and around the table they placed six Tiki torches and a three-foot high neon sign that said ‘LOVE’. A private bar was set up for us and the Caribbean Trio were in full swing. We were left to attach the canapés until the photographer had finished with the exhausted wedding couple.

At 7.00pm they rejoined us and the trio struck up the sounds of John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’ for the couples first dance. I wouldn’t describe the moment as dancing, more like grabbing on for dear life to each other. Dinner wasn’t due to start until 7.50pm so Chandrika and Matt took the opportunity of popping back to their room to change. Chandrika had found a dress very similar n style and material to her wedding gown but only shorter. At least she could relax now.

Sitting down for dinner, what should have followed was the starters after the short speeches with the Bes Man kicking off proceedings. Next came Sanjay, his was very emotional touching on their plight and struggle over the years when his father left and seeing his mother so unhappy really hurt him. I’m not even sure what he was feeling inside as he walked his mum down the aisle but he put on a brave face. Poor Bunty, she only managed one line and was reduced to a sobbing wreck. I don’t mean tears, I mean heart-wrenching sobs so much so that Sanjay took her phone and read the rest of the message for her while keeping his other arm around his aunt. Hannah was also emotional and had difficulty getting her words out. Justine had written a poem for the couple and I thought it lovely that everyone had a chance to speak and it was my turn before the Bride thanked everyone and Matt took the final bow. Because the Tiki torches kept blowing out because of the wind the photographer was going round the table lending everyone is flashlight so we could see what we’d written. I wish I’d have thought of writing it on my phone as the pages were always in threat of blowing away.

Poor Paola was anxiously waiting discreetly on the sidelines wondering when she could give the order for the first course to be served. Matt had told he it would be about 10 minutes but the reality was nearly 45! The meal was lovely but Matt and I ate very little. We were just relieved that the day had gone without a hitch. The Trio came back for their second set and they were excellent. Then came the cake cutting but it was too dark for my camera to capture the moment as my flash had broken.

Our evening was set to finish at 10.30pm and with the time fast approaching I handed over the few presents I’d bought. They loved them all especially the mammoth sign I’d had made that said “A True Love Story Never Ends’. The angst and stress of the last few days had taken its toll on all of us. When the dinner ended all of us decided to go to bed rather than carrying on in a different venue. Well I’d flown half way across the world to witness my brother’s wedding. Was it worth it? ………
You bet your arse.

The day after the night before started by Matt shouting to me from his balcony while I was en-route to the bar, as he wanted me to see what the hotel had done. There was a “Just Married’ sign over their door and they had scattered rose petals all over their sheets which draped onto the floor. They also filled the Jacuzzi on the balcony but neither of them actually used it but it was a lovely thought. We spent the morning around the beach bar before waving Bunty off. She has to first fly to New York and then has an 11-hour wait for her next flight. It was something like a 32-hour journey; I just couldn’t have done it. I spent the rest of the day editing the wedding pictures I’d taken on my phone so that they are ready to send to Matt once I get back. Matt will see the professional shots on Friday and I was gutted as I was going to miss seeing them but I was hoping he’d send them to me before leaving on 7th January. The day went so quickly and I was genuinely sad to leave the next day as it would be the first Christmas without Matt but they were staying on for a few Honeymoon days and coming back on the 27th.

Landing back at Gatwick after an overnight flight was a bit of a shock to the system as it was freezing but at least the snows had gone. I didn’t get home until 3.00pm because of an accident on the motorway in which an articulated lorry had burst into flames and the whole stretch of motorway had a tailback of three miles. Five fire engines attended along with seven police cars and even though it was on the opposite side of the road it caused our side to come to a standstill. I’m sure its because people stop and look. Thank goodness my neighbour had done a shop for me, as there wasn’t much to be had late afternoon at Sainsbury three days before Christmas. We celebrate on the 24th and the kids were arriving at lunchtime the next day. It was madness trying to wrap presents, lay the table and prepare things for the roast. I have always laid on a buffet for our Christmas so we always have a roast dinner with all the trimmings the night before.

It’s suffice to say that the two days went by in a flash with us trying to fit in the things we usually spread over four. I have always over-shopped and over-cooked just in case an extra six people turn up on the day but Max had told me in no uncertain terms that I had to cut down as I was leaving the country in a few days and I’d end up throwing a lot away. I did as I was told and at 11.00am on Christmas Day the kids left en-route to see Justine’s family in London. I always find it difficult to say goodbye because although we’ve adapted by celebrating a day early the reality is that I’m on my own on the big day.

I had started to dismantle the table of Christmas decorations when the door went. I assumed it was Brian from next door but as I opened the door I nearly jumped out of my skin. Matt and Chandrika were standing there and all I could do was burst into tears. They’d apparently seen Max’s car get on the M54 but they hadn’t told him, as they didn’t want to ruin the surprise. Chandrika had missed seeing my scooter at the bar the day after I’d left and asked Matt if he’d mind flying home early as she didn’t want me sitting on my own. I just didn’t know what to say especially as I had very little food in the house!!!! Unbelievably they’d packed everything up and checked out of the hotel three days early, caught the flight on Christmas Eve and landed on Christmas Day at 9.00am followed by a three-hour drive to me. What a way to spend your Honeymoon. I’m so lucky to have a family that love me that much.

We were all so excited, especially when it came to looking at the wedding photos. We ate remnants out of the fridge and stayed up talking until the small hours. At least the shops are open on Boxing Day as well as the restaurants so we headed down to Telford Centre and had the most wonderful pizzas.

As is always the case when you’re having a great time the time for the visit came to a close and as they headed to London I reveled in the magic of that Christmas. A few days later the decorations were down and I was packing for my new adventure. Well it should have been …… I’d booked a 50 might cruise on P&O courtesy of the court case I’d won. I don’t even know why P&O fought it as they couldn’t possibly win but I was happy to be having a holiday on them visiting several ports I’d never been to (a rarity for me) including New Orleans, Charleston, Key West and Bermuda and the all included overnight stays. Three weeks prior the company had cancelled the cruise saying Oriana had to go into dry dock for urgent repairs. I was gutted as this was my third attempt to get to New Orleans and on each occasion the trip has had to be cancelled. Max is certain someone is trying to tell me something. Not wanting to say at home in the bitter cold I chose the cheapest thing I could find that would guarantee tropical weather so the 7th January saw me driving to Tilbury to re-visit the Amazon for the fourth time.


Cruise Dates 2018

5 January – 18 February – CMV Magellan
7 May – 19 May – Celebrity Silhouette
19 May-26 May – Celebrity Silhouette
26 May 9 June – Celebrity Silhouette
9 June 23 June – Celebrity Silhouette
23 June 7 July – Celebrity Silhouette
7 July – 21 July – Celebrity Silhouette
21 July – 4 August – Celebrity Silhouette
4 August – 18 August – Celebrity Silhouette

 I’ve been writing a travel blog like I did in 2012 and have uploaded some pictures and video footage onto my Facebook page every time I’m in port with an Internet connection.

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them. This month we look in on the ever-popular Joan Baez

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to’, which is available towards the bottom of the Homepage. If you don’t know how to access certain areas of the site or in fact are unaware of new areas, this guide will explain how easy this website is to get around, once you know how.

There is also another information box “How to Use the Forum’. I know a lot of people have been tempted to join in on some of our conversations but are slightly nervous of doing so. For that reason I have printed step-by-step instructions of how to access it. It really does only take a few minutes.

Whatever the coming year holds, suffice to say that I shall be plugging Matt Monro’s music at every opportunity.  That is the wonderful thing about working the ships, it gives me a brand new audience each time and if then, a small percentage go home a fan, then it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the Bay of Biscay!!!!

Until next month take care of yourselves and don’t forget to check my travel blog out at See you all again in March.

Warmest to you and yours


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  - Press this link to see the Amazon Listing for The Singers Singer by Michele Monro


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