May 2019

It has been a very tough month with my gorgeous dog DJ getting sick. At the beginning of April he started having diarrhea but by the time I went away on 6th he seemed better. I was only away a few days but the night before I came home my neighbour sent a text saying he was still unwell.

I took DJ straight to the vets on my return and they kept him in for a day so he could be put on a drip for dehydration and blood tests. It was a relief as he was hardly drinking any water although he was eating for England. I picked him up later that night armed with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory pills, sachets for his water filled with electrolytes and stuff to sprinkle on the special food he had to have.

Thankfully he started drinking water again. The weird thing was he wasn’t off his food at all, wasn’t sick, was the same within himself but the diarrhea continued. My neighbour Pauline came round with tubs of white rice and chicken and eventually he passed a motion that looked formed although soft. I was so elated but it was short-lived as at 3am in the morning he woke me to go out and it was pure liquid again. Anyone that has a pet will know how devastated I was but being Easter I persevered over the weekend.

Outwardly you would not have known anything was wrong. DJ was always a good eater and nothing changed in that respect. I kept hoping that things would turn round and once again he passed a motion that looked almost normal. Tuesday 22 April we got up and I let him out only to see diarrhea again and immediately took him into the vet. I was heartbroken as going to the vet always freaked DJ out and I hated to put him through anymore angst. The news wasn’t good. Apparently his blood tests were abnormal for the pancreas and the vet told me they thought DJ had pancreatitis, a very nasty illness, which means inflammation of the pancreas. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes that are normally inactive until they reach the small intestine become active in the pancreas instead—resulting in pain and swelling as the pancreas actually begins to digest itself. The vet was also concerned that he might have a tumour and being that DJ was nearly 15 the prognosis was not good. She was convinced DJ was in pain and felt that it was best to have him put down.

I rang Max and we agreed that I would take DJ home and in the interim he would drive down from London so we could discuss the options. The vet agreed but insisted he had an injection for the pain and further oils for the night. The medicine obviously knocked him out but actually gave him the symptoms that mirror pancreatitis in that he lost his appetite, and was lethargic and restless. His tongue fall out of the side of his mouth making it difficult for him to drink any water so I used a syringe to keep him hydrated.

Max and Justine arrived at 10pm and although we did talk we were all exhausted so went to bed before midnight. For the first time ever DJ wouldn’t come into my bedroom or sleep in his bed. He just lay outside my bedroom door on the tiled kitchen floor, it was very odd.

The following day the weather was kind and we all sat in the garden. We brought DJ’s bed out and he seemed back to normal although I admit to not giving him any more painkillers, as he didn’t seem to need them. Max cooked him a steak, which he gobbled up. It was his first real meal in weeks and it felt like the last supper. With heavy hearts we took DJ back at 1.30pm and Max asked the vet for a lifeline but the alternative was to hospitalize him for 5 or 6 days in which he would be hooked up to drips that would bypass the pancreas, scan him and see the outcome but she was not convinced. DJ would have been miserable in hospital and the vet could see no upside. I signed the consent forms and there followed the most heartbreaking hour in which DJ was sedated before the final injection was administered.

I am not convinced he had pancreatitis in which the most common symptoms are a loss of appetite, vomiting, gagging, lethargy and diarrhea. Being nearly 15 DJ was sleeping a lot but other than the diarrhea he seemed his normal self. The decision was made because the vet was positive DJ was in pain and none of us wanted him to suffer. I feel so guilty in that I wish I could have done more but suffice to say that having diarrhea for 21 straight days is not normal.

Max and Justine couldn’t bear to be back at the house as there was evidence of DJ everywhere and they had a 4-hour drive back. Although I was desperate for company I knew I wouldn’t relax until I knew they were safely home. Max’s final exams start in just under two weeks and I needed him to get back into revision mode. Being that he has a new flat that DJ had not been to, I thought it would be easier for him to be there than here.

The following days were rough. I cleared out all his beds, foods and outfits as I couldn’t bear to look at them and gave them to charity.  I had bought several months supply of food and treats because when I go away I like to give my neighbour Pat everything he might need in that time and there was stuff everywhere. In the days that followed I kept getting up to let him out or checked the time in case his dinner needed preparing. I was so used to talking to him that the house suddenly seemed so quiet and lonely. They say one only realsies the value of something when it is missing and that is so true. It didn’t help we lost DJ on the anniversary of my brother Mitchell’s passing.

I’m only grateful that I join Celebrity Silhouette next week for the season. It will definitely help me being out of the house and I’m dying to go back to work. I have 4 new talks this year together with the other 10 so there is something for everyone. Instead of me bigging it up this is what Cruise Critic has to say.

More energetic and with more extra-fee attractions than its three Solstice-class predecessors, the 122,400-ton, 2,886-passenger Celebrity Silhouette debuted in July 2011 as the fourth of five ships in the now-iconic series. The Solstice signatures -- a stable of themed dining venues, a public hub that smells of waffles, a strikingly green and grass-covered deck space, the use of glass and marble throughout -- are all there. But Silhouette also reflects a handful of significant modifications to the blueprint.
The most visible are found on the Lawn Club, a half-acre of real grass that tops every Solstice-class ship's stern sun deck area. On Silhouette, the public park has become something of a gated village green, and the space is much more exclusive -- and expensive -- to use than those planted on Solstice, Eclipse and Equinox. Gone is the (free) Corning Glass Show, replaced by the breezy Lawn Club Grill, where participants pay for a combination meatfest and cooking class under open skies. The Porch, a for-fee casual lunch or dinner option modeled after a private deck in the Hamptons, has also been slotted into space previously free to occupy. But the most controversial additions to Silhouette's Lawn Club are the eight alcoves, private cabana rentals that occupy prime real estate in what was a common sunning area on previous lawns.

Silhouette's custom-collated multimillion-dollar art collection is also a key differentiator. Two installments that draw the most shouting, laughing and exuberant pointing: caged birds on video screens and the enchanted forest with piped-in chirps, positioned in a vestibule through which hundreds of passengers walk en route to the ship's specialty restaurant hub.

Still, despite these distinctions (or perhaps in spite of them, considering the Lawn Club changes), Silhouette is nothing if not quintessential Solstice Class. It's the most sophisticated experience you'll find on a nearly 3,000-passenger ship -- see the focus on wine, sleekly styled spaces and upscale dining -- without being overly stuffy. Celebrity does a commendable job of keeping the pretentiousness quota in check by inserting playful touches, like an ice-topped martini bar that features juggling bartenders, the aforementioned cook-your-own steakhouse and another restaurant, Qsine, where passengers are encouraged to play with their food. Solstice-class stalwarts won't miss a beat, and for first-timers, Silhouette will showcase why the series has become one of the most acclaimed in modern cruising.

The pros are its outstanding service, top-notch cuisine and well-thought out design. The cons are the specialty dining charges can run high but the bottom line is Celebrity Silhouette sets standards for an upscale big ship experience for service, ambience, dining and decors.

I am grateful and proud to work for such a great cruise line and am looking forward to meeting up with past passengers as well as making new friends. The Cruise Director is the unflappable, untiring and undisputed queen of the seas, Sue Denning and I’m thrilled that we will have a chance to catch up and re-visit our favourite restaurant in Warnemunde.

Talking of trips, I had the most fabulous 60th birthday this year. Not normally one to celebrate and usually working at sea, this year saw me home and although I had a lot of invites I couldn’t think of anything better than spending my special day with my family. If I’d stayed at home I would have got sidetracked with work, emails, phone calls and umpteen other things that life throws at you when you least expect it. So I booked us on the Euro Star and hotfooted it to Disney Paris.

I travelled down to London the night before and stayed at Diona and Gregs’, Justine’s parents and it was lovely. They had birthday banners everywhere and had got me a cake, candles and all. I certainly didn’t expect that at all and it was a lovely way to start off our adventure. We had three nights so I was slightly peeved that the train was delayed over an hour as it meant less time in the park. The last time I was there was for my 50th when I took mum and Max so it was nice to reminisce on special memories.

I booked Disney Express so that our luggage was sent straight to the hotel leaving us to go straight into the park. For those that have never been the train station is a spit away from Disney’s gates and much more convenient then flying as Charles de Gaulle is an hour away.

Disney Studios is much smaller than the main park so that is where we headed and I was quite surprised to see so much of it closed either for maintenance or seasonal. My brother has never been to Disney before and the first impressions were not good including the fact that he couldn’t buy a beer unless he was eating!

Max and Justine went off to do a couple of rides and we all met up to do the Back Lot Tour together. I’m pleased we got to do it as we’d tried earlier and it was closed because of mechanical issues.

Being there for 3 nights I decided that each couple has a choice of where to eat and my brother chose Planet Hollywood. The kids had presented me with a birthday hat full of candles and a massive badge, which I had to wear all day so people were continuously wishing me a great day, which was lovely. I love to take photos as they present me with the best memories in later years and I was first in when a photographer came round to the table. Smile please!

We stayed at Vienna House Magic Circus, which is on the perimeter of the park and takes about 9 minutes. It’s very handy and costs far less than a Disney hotel plus the fact there are not as many screaming kids running around. Mickie, Max and I have stayed there at least half a dozen times before although it was under different ownership then but it was perfectly adequate for our needs, which at that moment in time was bed.

The next day we went to the main park and memories flooded back of us pin trading, mind you we were big collectors and went trading in Orlando once a year for 6 years running. Disney then ruined everything by stopping the traders from coming into Downtown Disney as a few had been caught selling and instead of throwing them off the property they spoilt it for everyone. I think they were cheesed off because the secondary market was huge. Max and I were left with several thousand pins we couldn’t sell of trade anymore. Disney Paris still has traders but we didn’t bother taking any but we did bump into Nadia, the Disney pin representative and it was a wonderful surprise to see her.

Max and Justine went off to do the big rides while I found a place to sit and people watch. I didn’t want a wheelchair and I was quite happy waiting for everyone to reconvene in between rides. We went to Casey’s for lunch and ate hot dogs in the courtyard, something we used to do with mum and by 8pm we hobbled u to Disney Village (well I did) for Max and Justine’s dinner choice Vapiano, a pasta and pizza bar.

My brother and wife opted out of going back to the park for the fireworks but they missed out big time as they are always fabulous but this time they have incorporated a light show as well. We all stood fairly near the exit so as soon as they had ended we were one of the first out of the park and on our shuttle bus within 10 minutes. Let’s put it this was the fireworks were at 10pm and we were back in the hotel by 10.40pm. I was knackered and the kids must have been more so as they had chosen to swim before breakfast each morning. Brave souls.

Day 3 was a surprise. Everyone knew we were going to Paris but I hadn’t told them what we were doing. We caught the shuttle back to the train station and made the 45-minute journey to Charles de Gaulle/Etoile station, the exit of which brings you out at the Arc du Triomphe on the Champ Elysees. Our ride was waiting, a six-seater Tuk Tuk. It was a fabulous way to see the city although we were lucky in that we had great weather, it wouldn’t have been much fun in the rain. Our driver/tour guide Bryce was amazing, knew everything and took us to some very cool places. It was a hoot being able to go places where cars weren’t allowed. I won’t bore you with all the things we saw but we started at Montmartre, a large hill in Paris's 18th arrondissement. It is 130 m (430 ft) high and gives its name to the surrounding district, part of the Right Bank in the northern section of the city. Montmartre is primarily known for its artistic history, the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur on its summit, and as a nightclub district. We stopped outside the church and from this viewpoint you could see right over Paris, it was a stunning backdrop and then we went for coffee while wandering around all the artists set up for the day.

Bryce dropped us off at the Eiffel Tower at 12.30pm. I’d bought tickets to the top and had reservations at 58 their restaurant for lunch. What I didn’t know was that the queue for the lifts took nearly 40 minutes but that only took us to the second floor. You had to walk around the corner and get in line for another left to take you to the top and that was another 50-minute wait. Unfortunately we couldn’t do it time wise as our reservation for lunch was at 1.30pm. Lunch was a set time so I was surprised to find that we had to queue for our table and we weren’t seated until 1.50pm. That gave me another problem as I’d booked a private tour of the Louvre at 3.30pm so I gave the gang the choice of either doing the top of the Eiffel or the Louvre, as it was impossible to do both. Being that we’d been out to the second floor viewpoint they all decided to go to the Louvre. Tip number two, order a taxi rather than take a street side one as they charged me 30 euro but beggars can’t be choosers and being tight for time we jumped into another Tuk Tuk.

I’d booked a private 90-minute tour of the museum so the guide already had the tickets in hand and off everyone went while I took refuge at the café shop on site to rest my body. Max had always wanted to visit the Louvre and although short, the tour took him to the infamous Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, the Raft of the Medusa, an oil painting that measure 16 feet by 23.5 feet, making it almost as large as life (the raft itself was 23 feet by 66 feet) and his favourite the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a marble statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory).

Max and Justine loved every minute but they quite literally were trotting round and my brother and Chandrika found it hard to keep up. In the meantime having enjoyed a 90 minute rest I meet up with Joao, a private photographer who I had hire from -8pm. He walked us to some very cool places including Les Deux Plateaux, also known as Colonnes de Buren. It’s a contemporary art installation by Daniel Buren that was finished in 1986. It covers 3,000 square meters (32,292 square feet), filling an inner courtyard of the 17th-century Palais Royal, near the palace gardens and Ministry of Culture. The creation consists of 260 black-and-white vertically striped low columns of different heights that emerge from the courtyard's floor. It was stunning with its black and white columns making a striking background for photographs.

En route to the park we stopped at Patisserie Stohrer, one of the two oldest patisseries in Paris. Opened in 1735 by Nicholas Stohrer, this iconic pastry shop is a national treasure. Situated on Rue Montorgueil, amongst a road filled with typical French food shops, this is a temptation one should not even think of resisting, even HM Queen Elizabeth has visited. The Baba au Rhum (Rum Baba) was supposedly invented here by the founder and in its contemporary version it is often served chilled, accompanied with Chantilly cream and a medley of fresh red berries.

Next for our photo shoot was Jardin des Tuileries. Just when you feel you are completely overwhelmed by the sites and sounds of Paris this garden of green comes to your rescue. Located aptly right beside the Louvre museum complex this is the perfect place to get away from the thronging crowds and winding queues of the museums. Access to the garden is of course free. Walk along the gravel paths between the tall trees and high hedges for a perfect breather. Note as you walk away from the Louvre the Seine will be to your left and the garden has numerous exit points for you to cross over to the riverside. Beautiful statuary abounds and there's a lovely backdrop towards the Champs Elysses and the Eiffel in the distance as well as the Arc De Triomphe. Joao took some great shots along the tree-lined avenue of the park leading to the Louvre Palace.

Even though I had warned everyone that there was a lot of walking in Paris Chandrika chose to wear heels and she suddenly decided she couldn’t walk a step further and went to sit down. Joao took some shots of me by myself and led us towards the main concourse where we used Uber to take us to the Crazy Horse to see their revue. This used to be a legendary French cabaret show, which was glamorous, chic and sassy, well it was when I took mum 30 years ago. Because the Moulin Rouge is overly touristy I wanted something more authentic. As one person put on TripAdvisor. “This is a lazy show with a little more nudity relying on its name and past. Some of the routines were good but the filler between acts was terrible and kept the energy and interest very low. The production value of the show is very low. The champagne they serve is obviously not real champagne but it was the worst I've ever tasted. Well over $300 for two for a 90 minute sub-par show and ghastly alcohol.”

The 90-minute show had a selection of girls who couldn’t dance very well and lip-synced to a terrible selection of music. The girls might have been pretty but that is not enough to carry a show and the drinks were seriously over-priced. My coca cola cost 10 Euros and it was out of a siphon. I sat there and cringed knowing that my family would also hate it. What upset e even more was that I’d found out the day before that Cirque du Soleil were in Paris for a two week show and I would have grabbed tickets in a heartbeat but I booked everything up 3 months in advance to ensure availability. I didn’t buy one of the champagne packages so we were seated in the last row on very uncomfortable seats. It wasn’t the way I’d hoped would finish a perfect day.

By the time we got back to our hotel it was near midnight and I was glad we didn’t have to check out until 11am the next day. After breakfast we handed our cases over to Disney Express and caught a taxi to Val d’ Europe, a shopping mall just 10 minutes from the hotel with 190 shops, and 30 restaurants covering over 1,000,000 square feet since its recent expansion. T is open 7 days a week apart from 1 May, Christmas Day and New Years Day from 10am -9pm so for anyone into shopping this is the place to go.

We had been so lucky with the weather but 30 minutes after getting back from Paris the night before the heavens opened and it was still raining at 11am. Unbelievably, just before our taxi arrived it stopped and that was so appreciated as a lot of the shopping mall is outside. There is virtually every major brand you can think of with prices to match but it was a great place to buy cheap snacks for the train and grab a few drinks before going onto Locked Up.

I have never done an escape room before but I knew Justine and Max had, which is just as well as I had to leave them to it. The guy told Max is was their hardest room and Max was gung ho, as he didn’t want it to be too easy. Blimey although I found quite a few clues I could not have worked them out, in fact I would have still been there but as a family thing it was perfect and a lovely way of spending time together. It was the perfect ending to a perfect (aside from Crazy Horse) trip. Our taxi delivered us back at the station and before I could blow my nose we were back on the Euro Star heading back to London. I did envy everyone when we got off at St Pancreas as they could be home within half an hour whereas I had another 3 hours and several train changes until I got back to Telford.

I was so grateful to Max and Justine who insisted on taking me from St Pancreas to Euston. It was a long walk (with luggage) and even Max made a mistake taking us to the Victoria Line. It didn’t help that to go back there wasn’t a lift or escalator and Max had to push me up the steps. For anyone that hasn’t travelled out of Euston, I have to admit to being thoroughly overwhelmed. I couldn’t even spot my train on the board, which spanned the length of the station. I’m not sure how many platforms there were but my train went from number 18!!! I didn’t even know you don’t buy a ticket anymore. Max scanned my debit card onto a machine and that was it, fancy that. When you scan it the other end it works out what to charge you. I didn’t like it as you don’t get a ticket, a receipt or know what you are being charged but then I am a technical dinosaur.

The platform supervisor was kind enough to let Max on the platform with me so he was able to carry my luggage and out it on the train for me. I have to admit to being sad as I left everyone behind as I knew it would be an age before `I saw them again. I changed at Wolverhampton and someone was looking down on me, as I didn’t even have to change platforms. Even though I had tried to pack light it somehow doesn’t work out and my son had bought several presents for me to go home with. Justine had made me a heart made out of words which all described me and they had given me a cut out of the numbers 60 and on the Euro Star they had all written their favourite memories down from out three days. How lovely.
Thank goodness for good friends as Andrew and Julie were waiting on the platform for me so they could take my luggage and drive me home. Can’t wait for my 70th, lol

So there you have it, I’ve decided that I’m not going to let ageing get me down, as it’s too hard to get up again. More importantly, and on a serious note, don’t regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.

One of the sights on our Paris itinerary was the Notre-Dame, a Cathedral of art and history. The “Treasures of the Cathedral” contained various objects of interest, mainly pieces of silverware, liturgical ornaments, ancient works, elements from the ancient treasure of the Holy Chapel and documents relating to the restoration in the 19th century.

The circuit of the tours of Notre-Dame made it possible to visit all the high parts of the western façade dating from the 13th century, to contemplate the gargoyles and the chimerical sculptures built by the 19th century and the bumblee of the 17th century.

The archeological crypt under the forecourt of Notre-Dame de Paris was set up to protect the vestiges discovered during the excavations carried out from 1965

On 15 April 2019, just before 6.30pm, a structure fire broke out beneath the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral. By the time it was extinguished the building's spire and most of its roof had been destroyed and its upper walls severely damaged; extensive damage to the interior was prevented by its stone vaulted ceiling, which largely contained the burning roof as it collapsed. Many works of art and religious relics were moved to safety early in the emergency, but many others were damaged or destroyed. The cathedral's two pipe organs, and its three 13th-century rose windows, suffered little to no damage.

I couldn’t believe the news when I turned the television on, we’d only been there six days before and the damage runs into billions, which could take 20 years to rebuild but thankfully only three people were injured. I am not especially affiliated with the French but I did feel sad that something so beautiful suffered so badly. Let’s wish it a speedy recovery.

In the meantime here’s my schedule for the year.

Cruise/ Work Dates 2019

7 May – 19 May – Celebrity Silhouette
19 May – 2 June - Celebrity Silhouette
2 June – 16 June - Celebrity Silhouette
16 June – 30 June - Celebrity Silhouette
11 August – 25 August - Celebrity Silhouette
25 August – 1 September - Celebrity Silhouette
1 September – 8 September - Celebrity Silhouette
8 September – 22 September - Celebrity Silhouette
22 September – 3 October - Celebrity Silhouette
3 October – 13 October - Celebrity Silhouette
13 October – 24 October - Celebrity Silhouette

Cruise/ Work Dates 2020

6 January – 24 March – Cruise & Maritime


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 Chuck Berry

Here’s hoping that your month is an eventful one, for the right reasons, and that the rest of the year brings you joy.

Much love to one and all. See you next month.


Michele xxxx

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