Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Big Banana

The other week we prepared the two banana plants for the winter by cutting the stalks right down and removing the leaves. Just in time as today the temperature has gone down to minus 8 degrees. Brrr! This is a view outside in the country today.

Our Canadian holiday seems like a long ago dream but now back in England we celebrated my birthday with yet another event. The Mundy family had organised a family lunch at The Little Angel in Remenham on Sunday. All 20 came, together with my young friend, who helped Louisa, my niece, organise it. The only one not there was young Christopher - son of Neil and Stephanie - who is currently on a 6 month round the world adventure. And by the look of his Facebook photographs from Thailand, Australia and currently New Zealand, he's having a ball.
When we got to the restaurant and sat down a great big box was plonked next to me with instructions not to use a sharp point when opening it. As it weighed next to nothing I guessed it might be a hat. But when I opened the box a big red, helium-filled Virgin balloon snaked its way up to the ceiling. On the end of the string was a red envelope containing my birthday present from the family - a hot air balloon trip for two. What a treat! Neil even gave me a pair of balloon-themed socks to wear when we go on the trip.

By coincidence I photographed the Virgin balloon just the day before as it hovered over my neighbour's garden.

Kate, my young 10 year old great niece had designed and written this birthday card.

Here are a few of the many photographs taken that day.

And the cake.

After lunch, Stephanie (my eldest nephew, Neil's wife) read a long 16 verse poem she had written to mark the event. I can't show it all here but these are the first two verses:

We are gathered now to celebrate
The Years that you have lived,
So through our memories and archives
We have gently sieved

To mark the different stages
Of your rich and varied life,
We hope this poem brings pleasure
And does not bring you strife!

It goes on (skipping a few verses) :

And as your nation called you,
Sapper Mundy 23260247,
You requested Singapore for service,
Which turned out to be your heaven.

Not Long after National Service
You returned to this special place,
As an advertising executive
Surrounded by beauty and by grace.

The family came to visit
Your 'Island in the sun',
And were spoilt by your hospitality,
Each and every one.

It goes on a bit later:

Your artistic days continued,
And miniatures remained your bent
As tiny painted images
Across the world you've sent.

Your glamorous connections
Play an important part,
With celebrities and Royals
Featuring strongly in your art.

And the poem concludes with this final verse:

We want you to know you're special
And that we're glad to share the day,
When Uncle Bill, you turn 80,
Hip, hip, hip hurray!

Wasn't that lovely? Brought a few tears to my eyes. So I took the balloons home.

Christmas is fast approaching. I've made all my Christmas cards - all 300 of them - and posted the overseas ones. Even wrapped quite a lot of presents.

But I haven't been idle lately. This is another river painting I've just completed. I call it 'Autumn Breeze' and it depicts, in the foreground, John Bridge and his wife. (John built the boat) and on the opposite riverbank, a whole line of Dunkirk Little Ships.

Talking of boats I've just bought a new (second hand) one. It's an Interboat, and I'll transfer the name from my previous boat - Marsh Mundy - to it. My young friend and I went on a test drive last Saturday afternoon and can't wait till April 1st when we take delivery. It's 19ft long. This is it

Three weeks ago I had another session with the doctor about the osteoarthritis on my knee, as the pain is pretty constant now. I asked for another Cortisone injection (not that it helped much when I had one just before we went to Canada) but she said it was too soon to have a repeat. So I'm hoping to see a specialist as soon as possible. I thought she was going to arrange a consultation but when I phoned yesterday it seems it was up to me to arrange one! As I don't know any knee specialists how was I supposed to arrange a consultation. So maybe now something will happen.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Canada in the Fall

Before we left Niagara we braved the Hornblower boat trip right up to the Horseshoe Falls. All togged up in the red ponchos they dished out we made our way on to the boat. Boats going up to the Horseshoe Falls from the American side use the Maid of the Mist boats while Horblower is the name from the Canadian side. Here are some of our fellow passengers against a background of our hotel and the Rainbow Bridge leading to the USA.

And the view as we approach the Falls.

It became very wet as the spray finally hit us. The ponchos helped but being short sleeved and only knee length we got soaked.

But well worth it.
So with one last look at our view, we left Niagara Falls on our way to Niagara's Butterfly Conservatory.

This magnificent conservatory breeds thousands of butterflies. We spent a couple of hours there wandering around. Often butterflies would alight on us and we had to look where we walked in case we accidentally stepped on one. Here they are having a nice feed.

Next day Carol drove us to her cottage by a lake. 'Cottage' to me sounds more like a tiny little dwelling, but Carol's boasts two basements and is large enough to sleep over twenty of her large family. Here she is in the garden leading down to the boathouse.

Talking of boats we saw her ski boat. When they drive it into the boathouse a large pair of strong canvas straps hoist it up out of the water by a mere touch of a button. Especially useful when the lake ices over in the winter. I could do with that sort of device at home in Henley

Next day we took a bus ride to Toronto. (Here the buses and trains depart from the same station).

We'd planned to visit the CN Tower (formerly the tallest edifice in the world), the aquarium and maybe take a trip on the ferry, this being our last day in Canada. We managed the CN Tower

And the view from the top

While up there my young friend stood on the glass floor and looked down at the streets far below, but I suffer from vertigo so gave it a miss. Next we walked to the nearby aquarium where, because my arthritic knee was so painful, we acquired a wheelchair. (Which at one point got caught in the travelator when we went through the glass tunnel)). It is a beautifully designed aquarium and here's a few of the fish we saw there.

No time to have a trip on the ferry so we returned to Stouffville on a double-decker train. Next day, on our way to the airport, we took a look around the Black Creek Pioneer Village. All the buildings date from the early 19th century - some in the original sites where they were built. During our visit filming was going on which rather spoilt the atmosphere in parts, but these pictures will give you an idea of the village. Many of the buildings (for example the forge) were giving demonstrations of their trade by people dressed as they would have been in the period.

And so our week in Canada came to an end. Lovely memories and a great way to celebrate a big birthday.

Monday, 31 October 2016

The Big One

I've been prowling around Boatyards over the past few days with a view to buying a new boat before the spring. 'Marsh Mundy' gave me over 30 years of fun and frolic but lately has let me down too many times, so it's time for a change. In the meantime I've been busily painting yet another river scene. This one shows Henley at night. Fun, but tricky, to paint all the reflections of the Angel on the Bridge and Henley bridge itself.

I'll probably make the painting my Christmas card this year.

On Wednesday evening my young friend had arranged a dinner for two at my favourite restaurant - The French Horn at Sonning. When we arrived I spied two empty seats by the fire (the place I like best where you can watch the roast duck revolve around on a spit while you munch away at home made cheese straws and have a drink). But the maitre'd said we'd be better off in the larger room, where I'd noticed a group of people taking up most of the space. Suddenly I noticed Debbie McGee amongst the group. "What a coincidence to see you here, Debbie" I said (as it was only the previous Sunday I'd seen her and her sister when they came to dinner at my flat and I'd mentioned myf and I were having dinner at the French Horn on Wednesday). Just then everyone else turned round and chorused 'Happy Birthday Bill!' Myf had managed to arrange for all of my best friends to be there. I'd always said I'd wanted a surprise and had never had one. And there was Brian and Jane, cousin Paul and Em and Vince Hill. And what a lovely evening it was.

Next morning off we went to Heathrow to board a plane to Toronto. As my arthritis was still extremely painful, and probably too difficult to walk the distances in the terminals I'd reluctantly arranged for a wheelchair to be waiting for me. Never done it before but I was very impressed with the efficiency. But surprise number two was to come as the check-in girl told us we'd been upgraded to business class! Fantastic! We had great seats and a really delicious meal. And at the airport to meet us was my old friend Carol (wearing the Chinese coolie hat I'd bought her 40 years ago when she and her husband, Gary, came to Hong Kong). It's Fall in Canada right now. This is the entrance to her house where we'd be staying.

We picked up a car the next day and took a little drive around, later visiting Lake Scugog at Port Perry.

Today we drove to Balls Falls (could be an incident on Strictly Come Dancing tonight) on our way to Niagara Falls, where we parked the car.

Balls Falls is a lovely nature reserve. There was a wedding just about to take place in this church, colourfully surrounded by autumn tints.

And on to Niagara Falls. I'd booked The Sheraton on the Falls hotel so was delighted when this view of the Falls awaited us.

And now to celebrate my 80th birthday today (just can't believe it) we'll see what Niagara has to offer. Hope I don't fall in!

The day started with lots of cards to open and a nice early breakfast (still a bit of jet-lag) then the complimentary WeGo blue bus to the Skylon. The lift is on the outside of the building and swiftly took us to the top. Yet more views of the Falls (It's hard not to keep on taking photos as it's all so spectacular).

We'd prebooked a showing at the IMAX Theatre. It traced the legends and history of Niagara and the Falls and re-enacted some of the real and tragic events surrounding some of people who had attempted to go over the Falls in barrels of various types. The very first person to successfully survive the hazardous journey was this brave lady.

However a (nearly) namesake of mine - Dave Munday - survived the most attempts - and here are the original vessels he built for the purpose.

This afternoon myf treated us to a very relaxing time in the Sheraton's luxurious spa. Now as I write this I'm looking forward to a lovely dinner in this restaurant where we hope to see the Falls illuminations accompanied by fireworks at ten.

Having had a really juicy steak dinner it's now just gone ten and this shows part of the firework display with the American Falls illuminated on the left and the Horsehoe Falls under the fireworks. And so ends the celebration of my big birthday.