CATS – THE 2019 FILM

I was fortunate enough to attend the first UK screening of Tom Hooper’s Cats.  It has a big cast:  Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson and Taylor Swift.  They are the ones I recognised.  It also has some fantastic dancers including Steven McRae, principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, who played Skimbleshanks.  He was absolutely amazing, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen tap dancing like that.

I should probably declare right now that I didn’t particularly enjoy the stage version of Cats (although I love the music) but I was attracted to the film because of the cast. 

Despite a lot of the reviews that have been published now it’s been seen by the critics, I thought it was a good production, the dancing made it for me.  I love ballet and real cats do have something of a ballet dance in their movements.  It was a good choice.  

It goes without saying that Jennifer Hudson has an amazing voice.  The newcomer, Francesca Hayward was also very good.  There were some great special effects, particularly when Mr Mistoffelees was performing his magic.  

Idris Elba didn’t have to do too much dancing, which was a good thing, because the professional dancers really showed him up.  (Or maybe he just can’t dance.). Strange to see him with green eyes too.  Or perhaps it was more strange that so many of the cats had brown eyes since that’s not common in real cats.

What fascinated me most was the ears and the tails.  The cast were all dressed in cat costumes, and the ears and tails moved, in the same way that cats’ ears and tails move.  It was incredible.  No, I didn’t ever believe that they were real cats, but I was impressed at the way the professional dancers moved around when they weren’t dancing.  Very feline.  I found out later that they’d recorded real cats and used CGI to superimpose them on the humans.  Now it makes sense.  

© Susan Shirley 2019

SHILLINGSTONE RAILWAY

Shillinsgstone is a village in North Dorset, not far from my brother’s home.  He and li’l sis’ are still exploring the area, so when I visited recently, it featured a trip to Shillingstone Railway.

The S&DR was an amalgamation of two railway companies joining.  No trains ran between Blandford Forum and Templcombe, which was remedied by the new railway company.  Shillingstone was one of the stations on the new line.  And it was one of the many victims of the cuts by Dr Beeching, thus it closed in 1966.

Shillingstone is no longer a working station.  It was originally opened in 1863, pretty much in the height of the railways in this country, operated by The Somerset and Dorset Railway (S&DR).  Much the same as now, there were lots of different railway companies across the country at that time. 

Dr Beeching

As a child who grew up with a railway line at the back or our garden and who used to run up to the bridge to watch the trains going through, I was too young to understand about the ‘Beeching cuts’ that I heard my parents talking about.  

Beeching was, for a short time, chairman of British Railways.  (By this time, all those independent railway companies had been acquired by the government and nationalised in 1947, after a couple of earlier temporary nationalisations.)  

In the early 1960s, he wrote a report – The Reshaping of British Railways – commonly known as the Beeching Report.  To be fair, Beeching was under a lot of pressure to make the railways more efficient, which was the rationale behind his report.  Cutting a long story short, the report resulted in the removal of over 4,000 miles of track from our railways.  A further 2,000 were removed by the end of the 1960s.  It seems crazy knowing the effect it would have on people living in remote areas. And now we have our current concerns about climate change…

Facts about Shillingstone Station

  • It is the last remaining station that was built to a Dorset Central Railway design (DCR was one of the companies that amalgamated to become S&DR).  
  • Edward VII, while he was still the Prince of Wales, visited the station in October 1899.
  • The poet Rupert Brooke joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at the outbreak of WWI.  He and his unit marched to Shillingstone Station where they boarded the train that eventually took them off to Gallipoli and to meet his death.
  • As you will see from my photograph, the view from the station is fabulous.

What the future holds

The station is now owned by North Dorset Railway, who is restoring the station to the way it was back in the 1950s and 1960s.  They have already renovated some of the buildings to include a café, a museum and a shop.  

At the time of our visit, they were laying tracks and they are undertaking other restoration work, so hopefully we will soon see a service running.  A range of events are regularly run at the station.  For more information, check out the website:

https://www.northdorsetrailway.co.uk/newevents.php

It seems a shame that, even with so many small companies restoring railways like this, including my favourite Bluebell Railway, that it is unlikely that they will ever become the national network that they once were.  Still, who knows what might happen….

© Susan Shirley 2019

SICK CATS

I’ve been a cat owner for around 20 years, and although I have learned a lot about these wonderful creatures, every day, I learn something new.

My cats are now all over 10 years old (somewhere between 56 and 76 in human years).  If they were humans, they would probably be full of aches and pains, but not my girls.  They still act like youngsters.  I admire them for that.  

We (they) have twice yearly check ups with the vet. I’m happy with that because if there is something wrong, I want to know early, to be able to deal with it early.  I couldn’t stop my parents from suffering in their late life.  I can do something for my girls.  

Oceana and Telesto had check ups at the end of September.  

“How long has that tooth been like that?” said the vet, looking at Oceana’s damaged canine.

This young woman clearly doesn’t realise that, while they may permit a vet to open their mouths, most cats would really rather not just bite, but amputate, the hand that feeds them rather than allow any intrusion into their mouths.  I am very fond of my fingers, and have absolutely no intention of having them removed by an angry cat.  I digress.

I was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights, but as soon as I got a grip of myself, I realised the tooth wasn’t like that when we had the last check up, so it was within the last six months.  The thing about cats is that most of them have a very high pain tolerance.  One of my previous vets told me a story of a cat who had been walking around on a broken leg.  Imagine a human doing that?  My little Oceana had shown no sign of being in any pain.  

“Er, I think it’s quite recent,” said I to the vet.

“She will need surgery to remove it.  And there is one at the back that looks as though it needs to come out too.  We need to do blood tests, of course, to see whether she can withstand the anaesthetic.”

“Right. Yes.  Of course.  Do whatever is necessary.”

My hesitation stemmed from fear.  Oceana is one of the older ones, now 15, so around 76 in human years.  

They took the blood for the test and promised to ring me on the following Monday.  The blood tests came back absolutely fine.  I doubt many humans of that age could say the same thing, which speaks volumes about what we put into our bodies.   

Then it was Telesto’s turn for a check up.  She too had dental problems and needs surgery.  Her blood tests were also perfect, and for both of them, I had the full range done, not just the basics.  If there is a problem, I want to know asap.   It transpires that poor little Telesto may lose all her teeth, but I won’t know until later today, she has had her surgery.

When cats have teeth removed, they have to go under general anaesthetic.  It makes sense, can you imagine trying to remove a tooth if they weren’t ‘out.’  My vet uses local as well, to reduce the amount of general, which brings another set of risks, although he assured me that the many risks he told me about were fewer than the risk of leaving the girls as they were.  Something about bone growing into the teeth, which sounded very unpleasant. 

Oceana recovered fairly quickly and is doing well.  Telesto has her surgery today.  I took Oceana for her second check just over a week ago.  Laurence, the regular vet, was very happy.  I’m not going to lie, she was very grumpy for a couple of days after her surgery.  I was not on her Christmas card list for a while, although she loves me again now.

“Cats don’t let you open their mouths if they are in pain,” Laurence said.  

They don’t let me open their mouths at all, I thought.  But I guess vets have far more power, although the one that saw Telesto today had a bit of a problem with her.  

No doubt she will come home and be grumpy, and then, when she realises I did it all for her own good, she will love me again too.

© Susan Shirley 2019

EDINBURGH

Edinburgh is a beautiful city with lots of buildings made from local sandstone.  Edinburgh is actually built on a number (seven) of small hills (you’ll notice that as you walk around) and an extinct volcano – which is very noticeable up at Arthur’s Seat (which just happens to be one of the earliest places inhabited in the area.  Always a sensible move, building a settlement on a hill top).

I didn’t realise until this trip that the Romans did make it across the border, up to Lothian, which is not a million miles from what is now Edinburgh.  The area was already settled and I’m not sure what the Scots made of their visitors.  I can’t find any evidence that the Romans conquered them.  However, in 638 the King of Northumbria besieged the area and it came under his rule.  Not quite the start of a beautiful friendship.

Fast forward to 1603 when James VI of Scotland was asked to take the throne of England as James I.  The two countries did not unite at this point in time, it was what was known as the Union of the Crowns.  It wasn’t until the Acts of Union were passed in both the Scottish and English legislature in the 18th century that the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed, on 1 May 1707. 

From being described as one of Europe’s most densely populated, overcrowded and unsanitary towns in the first half of the 18th century, Edinburgh morphed into the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment in the second half, when it was nicknamed the Athens of the North. 

Various industries grew in Edinburgh: brewing, distilling, and later, rubber works and engineering.  Like all towns and cities, Edinburgh went through changes of fortune and areas changed.  By the 1990s, there was a financial district, the second largest in the UK, and a business park known as Edinburgh Park. 

Sights

Edinburgh is on the south side of the Firth of Forth.  There are great views from Arthur’s Seat, one of the extinct volcanos.  It’s a lovely city to walk around, with the Castle way on the top of that hill – actually a part of extinct volcano, the Old Town, Calton Hill and the Royal Mile.  There are over 4,500 listed buildings in Edinburgh, which is pretty impressive. 

Holyrood Palace

Dinner was at Howies, Waterloo Place, which is at the bottom of Calton Hill.  If you visit, try the Cullen Skink, a Scottish soup made from haddock, potatoes and onions.  It’s delicious.  Well, all the food is delicious, but I’m particularly enamoured of the Cullen Skink.  (I’ve found a recipe and will try making it.)

We stayed at Point A Hotel, a newly opened hotel, close to where we were working, in the Haymarket area.  Very modern and high tec, beautifully clean.  I congratulated myself on working out how to use the TV in my room without any mishaps (I have some history with TVs, and not in a good way).  I’m sure it was because I staying that they had an event on that involved free drinks….  And we got back from dinner in time to join in. 

I suppose all that remains is to say we flew with Flybe on a Dash 8, which made my brother very jealous.

I’m going to go back to Edinburgh for something other than work soon.  Watch this space.

© Susan Shirley 2019

WHY CATS LOVE A BOX

A couple of months ago, I happened to put an empty paper bag on my bed.  Within seconds, my little Rhea has ensconced herself in it.  She slept in the bag all night, but, unfortunately, the bag only survived a couple of days before it split.  I think she might have carried on though…

Rhea in a bag

Last week, during a sort out, I put a shoe box on the bed, and she duly slept in that all night. And has been going back to it ever since.  There is a large box (it had a case of wine in it), with only one entrance and exit in the living room, which most of them use interchangeably, especially when there has been a bit of a ruck going on.  It’s been there for years now, and I suppose I’ve grown so accustomed to it, I take it for granted.  

And then there is Titan’s House.  (Titan was my first cat, a rescue, and there is a long story to be told, all in the book that will be published in due course.)  I bought him a house and scratching post.  He wasn’t interested in the scratching post, but loved the house. Now, it’s only Oceana who is allowed to use it, and then, generally only when she is fed up with the rest of us.

Rhea 2013

I have known dogs seek out enclosed spaces, but only when they are scared so what is it that makes boxes so enticing to cats?  According the American Society for Cruelty to Animals, boxes make them feel safe.  They feel that nothing can sneak up on them (which is true in the case of the big box in the living room) and they can’t be seen until the other animal is within their field of vision.  A bit like humans in a cave, I suppose.  

She looks like a she-devil but she’s not

They are also well insulated – the space inside is free from draughts, and comfortable for cats to sleep. As they sleep for anything between 16 and 20 hours a day, it might as well be cosy.

Rhea in a box

Another thing is that cats love the texture of cardboard boxes.  (I wonder whether I should have left that tissue lining in there for longer than the first night?)  They love to have a chew and to bite it (better than my fingers, I suppose) so let’s see how long Rhea’s new box lasts.

© Susan Shirley 2019

CAMBRIDGE

A few weeks ago, my friend Kate and I went to Cambridge for a long weekend.  We were staying in a hotel about 20 minutes walk from the City Centre. 

Anyone who knows me will know that I had researched everything to nth degree: where the best Indian restaurant was, where we could go for Sunday lunch, and what we could do when we were there, etc.

We arranged to arrive within about half an hour of each other, and to have lunch near the station. It just so happens that there is a hostelry just outside the station, The Station Tavern.  Like so many pubs in Cambridge, it’s a Young’s pub, in case you are interested in the ale.

We had a good lunch, complete with a couple of bottles of wine, then got a taxi to the hotel.  One of the best things about Cambridge station, if you ever travel there, is that there is a large taxi rank, probably because the station sits outside the main town.  Walking would be fine if you didn’t have suitcases in tow.  

Obviously, our first job was to settle ourselves into the hotel. Like most people, I like a bit of local knowledge when I go somewhere new, so I asked the receptionist about the Indian restaurant.  Fortunately, she agreed with my own research…

I won’t bore you with all the details of the next few hours, just rest assured that our first evening was spent catching up and checking that the Prosecco sold in Cambridge was of the same quality as elsewhere. J

Saturday was a different matter.  We had pre-booked a walking tour and a punt tour.  I have never punted before and thank the good Lord that I decided not to try it on this trip, but I am getting ahead of myself.

We was ‘ere

We walked into the City, which was very pleasant, except for the number of bicycles.  I feel it would be rather undignified to die having been run over by a cyclist.  We had plenty of time, so had a mooch around for a while, before finding a little bar in the market square where we had drinks before our tours.  It just so happened it was graduation day for a large number of students, and it was lovely to see them all dressed up.  I remember the feeling well and was inwardly celebrating with them. 

Our tours were run by the same company, Cambridge Alumni Tours, the meeting point was outside of King’s College, in Kings Parade.  Our walking guide, Maria, walked us around the streets of Cambridge, the tour having a university-theme.  Cambridge itself, or at least, a settlement in that location, has been around since the Bronze Age.  It was given city-status in 1951.  

King’s College

Cambridge, as well as being the home of the university, is the county town of Cambridgeshire.  There has been a settlement of sorts here since the Romans and before, although it seems it may have been completely abandoned after the Romans left.  Not for long though, the Vikings saw to that and when William the Conqueror had established himself, he built himself a castle in Cambridge.  

The University was founded in 1209.  Oxford had an older university, but there was some trouble between the people of the town and the students, resulting in some deaths of students.  Not a happy situation and some of the Uni academics left and went to Cambridge, and set up store there.

Another charming fact about Cambridge is the Black Death (or the Great Plague) that hit the town in 1349. The town north of the river was almost completely wiped out.  In common with many towns along the east coast, Cambridge was heavily involved with the RAF during the Second World War and became its regional headquarters. Fortunately, the town survived without serious damage and relatively few deaths.  In 1944, Trinity College was home to a [then secret] meeting of military heads which started planning the Allied invasion of Europe.  Cambridge was eventually granted city status in 1951 – normally, there has to be a cathedral in order to become a city, and Cambridge doesn’t have one.   

Back to the present…. There are different colleges in Cambridge: King’s, Queen’s, Magellan, and more. Some beautiful building and wonderful stories about their history.  The whole uni set up is quite complicated and I don’t intend to go into detail here, there are other places that can do it far more justice than I can. 

After a short break, we went on the punt, which travelled a short distance along the Cam.  In that part of the river, it is not deep, maybe two feet.  Our punt driver (?) and guide was Tim, a lovely young man who was very informative and huge fun.  He was also extremely attractive, but since I am old enough to be his grandmother, I won’t labour that point.

The Bridge of Sighs

That evening was curry night, yay.  We walked to the Pipasha, which was about 20 minutes from out hotel.  It was a lovely little restaurant, very friendly waiters with a great sense of humour and good food.  Kate had Chichen Rezalla and I had Chicken Vindaloo, as well as some sides. I would definitely go there again if I were in the area.

Sunday was a bit more relaxed.  We strolled into Cambridge for Sunday lunch, back to King’s Parade, to the restaurant the chap at the Alumni Tours had recommended, which, again, just happened to be one of the places I’d already put on the list: The Cambridge Chop House.

Most of their meat is locally sourced, and they do deals with vineyards so they serve wine by the gallon rather than in bottles (only joking, but they do serve it in big, economically priced jugs).

A lovely lunch – I had the soup of the day, which was sweet potato and tomato,  That is an excellent combination, must try making it.  Kate had a quinoa salad with pomegranate and a lovely dressing of orange and fennel.  Mine was absolutely gorgeous and Kate loved hers.  We both had belly pork roast for the main, with roasties, cabbage with peas and onions.  It was very good and the restaurant deserves all the positive reviews it gets.

Very happy and very full, we returned to our hotel.  No snacks that evening, but more Prosecco and TV.

We left the next day, glad to have had a good weekend but sad to part.  And getting ready for the next time…

© Susan Shirley 2019

THINGS ABOUT THE MENOPAUSE THAT NO-ONE EVER TELLS YOU

The menopause.  That taboo subject that no-one ever talks about, at least until this week, when the BBC has decided to run a series of articles about it. And yet, roughly 50% of the population go through it at some time or other, one way or another.  And the other 50% is affected by it.  

If you do get to discuss it, usually in the hairdresser or somewhere similar, it’s all the bad news: hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, to name a few.  But that’s only part of it, there are other symptoms, good and bad…

You may have few or no symptoms, in fact, 30% of women fit into this category.

Seriously, this is a good news story.  I wondered whether I was getting was hot flushes and night sweats, but when other people described them, mine were not even on the same scale.  I was told they started at the feet and worked their way up.

That didn’t happen to me, and the year it was happening, it was a very hot summer, so it is possible that I was just sweating a lot in reaction to the heat.  Realistically, I do think I had five or six hot flushes, but that’s nothing in the scheme of things.

I’m rarely anxious and if I am, there is usually a reason for it.  Was I bad-tempered or grumpy?  Possibly, but there are those who would say I’m always bad-tempered and grumpy.  

Joking aside, I don’t remember any difference and no-one has actually told me that there is a noticeable difference in my temperament, so I’m saying no to that one too.

Taste, Red Wine in Particular

I’d heard that women’s tastes changed during and after the menopause.  The first time I noticed this was when I was out with some friends and offered some red wine.  It is true that I’ve always preferred white wine, but there was a time when I was very much red wine in the winter and white wine in the summer.  Then, one day, I just couldn’t drink red wine anymore. The smell put me off, it just wasn’t right.  And the taste…  Ugh! There was no red wine hangover behind this, and anyway, that had never put me off before, it was just…  red wine.  

I started to notice that other things weren’t as palatable either.  Nothing serious, nothing important and obviously not chocolate (life has its little compensations!) but there are definitely a few foods that are no longer up there on my last meal list.

There are some foods that I find more difficult to tolerate but that’s more to do with an older digestive system.  For example, chillies can upset my stomach more now.

Perfumes and smell

This is a strange one, and probably linked to taste…  I’ve noticed that some of the perfumes that I used to like just don’t smell right anymore when I wear them…  As in, ‘don’t bring them near me.’  If you’ve ever had that thing with Dior’s “Poison,” or the Agent Provocateur perfume (which frankly, to me, smells as though someone has vomited over sweaty socks. Apologies to anyone who likes it, fragrance is very personal) then you will know what I mean.  This is a very expensive, and distressing situation 

The worst thing is, and I am not the only woman to report this; a few of my friends report the same thing: some perfumes no longer last on my skin.  Now this may be related to ageing (ugh! Did I really say that about myself?) skin being drier, but it is definitely a thing.  

Gums

I was diagnosed with ‘aggressive gum disease’ a few years ago, and have lost a couple of teeth as a result.  It was quite a shock, I’ve always looked after my teeth (I started flossing when they first ‘invented’ floss.  I admit, I was slow on the uptake with interdental brushes, but only because I didn’t really understand: I tried the pink ones and they were as much use as a chocolate teapot and gave up), I only have a couple of fillings.  At the dental hospital, they asked me about genetics and they asked me about trauma – I qualified on both of those, both of my parents had false teeth and I admit to having had a couple of whacks to the face over the years.  No-one mentioned the menopause.

However, it was only at my recent visit to the hygienist that she told me that lots of women start having gum problems during the menopause.  I realised then that the time my gum problems manifested was at around that time.  Of course, the genetics don’t help.  Interestingly, lots of cats have similar problems, and when they spay cats, it is a total hysterectomy, so effectively inducing the menopause…  I wonder…

And finally…

There is one more thing. We stop menstruating.  Whoop, whoop, whoop.  (Come on, don’t tell me I’m the only one that hated that?  It may be natural but it’s not very nice, and for some of us, painful.)  

Ladies, it’s 2019. Don’t be afraid of the menopause. If you are having troublesome symptoms, see your GP, there are lots of things that can be done (lentils and chickpeas if you want to do it without meds, maybe I should write about that…). And maybe you will sail through it.

© Susan Shirley 2019  

SELF-CATERING CATS

I recently met my friend Dorothy for lunch.  Dorothy is the owner of a beautiful Russian Blue.  He was a tiny little thing when I first met him, scared of his own shadow. He now weighs 6kg.  6kg!!!!  Can you imagine it?  That is 6 times a normal bag of granulated sugar and twice the size of two my girls! But the boy is solid, this is not fat.

Dorothy’s affectionate name for her boy is ‘Tink the Stink’. He doesn’t stink but he is a stinker in the sense that he is ‘a bit of a lad.’  He rips the carpet apart, the soft furnishings and ties to swing from the curtains (easier and safer when he was smaller).  In fact, he rips anything that is vaguely rip-able.  Not so different from my girls really.

A very young Tinker

Of course, ‘the mummies’ started telling cat-war stories.  

            “Of course, he’s into self-catering,” said Dorothy.

    “Oh, you mean he’s started hunting his prey?” Said I.

            “Oh no.  He knows where the sachets of cat food are kept and he helps himself. Usually three or four packets at a time. He rips them apart, one by one, takes what he wants, which is usually only a couple of mouthfuls and then leaves the rest. Usually right where I want to walk.”

The vision of this adorable cat helping himself to sachets of cat food made me cry with laughter. Even my girls haven’t resorted to that, although if they’d thought about it, they probably could.

            “Mm, not sure whether that is better or worse than my little Oceana,” I said.  You will remember, Oceana is the Queen, and undoubtedly the smartest one of my bunch.

Dorothy looked at me, quizzically.  

            “A while back, I’d cooked some chicken, and put it on a plate in the ‘fridge’.  I went to bed and all was well.  When I came down in the morning, the ‘fridge’ door was wide open, plate upside down on floor, chicken gone.”  

Little Miss “Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth”

Of course, I had known straight away who the culprit had been.  I now have a child lock on my fridge door.  She hasn’t worked out how to open that… yet…  I, on the other hand, struggle from time to time.

And then there was the time, when I had the old storage container for the dry food….  I tend to buy my cat food in bulk, it’s just easier when I either have to collect it or have it delivered.  

My girls have three different types of food, to cater for a range of different things: dental, urinary tract, skin, and to give them variety.  The bags come in 3kg, 3.5kg and 10kg.  A few years back, I bought a storage container that stated it would hold 10kg of dried food.  That was a lie, it didn’t.  It was more like 9kg, so I’d pour as much of the 10kg bag into it as I could and leave the rest in the original bag.  This was no self-seal bag and  Telesto and Oceana didn’t much like the idea of waiting for their food…. 

Picture the scene: Mummy comes home from a long day at work to find cat biscuits all over the kitchen floor…. They make a very crunchy mess when you walk on them, and if the floor is a bit slippery and you don’t pay attention, it’s easy to go flying… 

To be fair, they did have the good grace to eat what I didn’t manage to clear up and put back in the bag.  

Telesto ate a whole packet of Dreamies one day when I didn’t fully close the drawer…  

Telesto

I’ve bought a new bin for their dry food now, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they work out how to know the lid off…  Does someone want to remind me why I worry about them not having enough food?

© Susan Shirley 

MADEIRA

Cake, wine, those are what used to spring to my mind when someone said ‘Madeira.’  It was really only a few years ago, when my brother went to the island, that I gave the location any real thought.  And then I decided to visit for myself. 

I went with Hot Chocolate, the first time we’ve holidayed together.  It was a short break, only a week.  We met in Wetherspoons at Stansted, at 05.00, for our first glass of Prosecco.  Start as you mean to go on.

It’s a fairly short flight, around three and a half hours, so we arrived in time for a late lunch and time to sleep in the sun.  It was far hotter than I had expected – March is still their winter.  The pool at our hotel is a bit of a sun trap plus it shielded us from a lot of the wind making it was lovely for sunbathing. 

On our outward journey, the pilot pilot was preparing to land when, all of a sudden, (at least, that’s how it seemed to me, one of the uninformed) the thrusters were powered up and the aircraft pulled up.  I felt as though I was in a Harrison Ford film.  It turned out that the wind was too high for the pilot to land safely, so we flew around the island and then had to stack for a while before the second landing attempt.  The airport on Madeira originally had a short runway, although it has been extended a couple of times.  It is now 9124 feet long, extending out into the ocean on 180 columns that are each 230 feet high.  It is still considered to be one of the most dangerous airports in the world and pilots have to undergo additional training in order to fly here. 

On the Saturday, our first full day, we attended the welcome meeting with the tour rep.  It was very comprehensive, much better than others I’ve been to and gave us time to think about how we were going to spend our time.  Our hotel was about half an hour’s walk from Funchal, the capital city, so we decided to have a walk there.   The next day we walked the other way, but there was not as much to do that way. 

Funchal from the road just outside Reid’s Hotel

Of course, we did the tourist thing.  We visited Reid’s Palace Hotel for a glass or three of wine.  It was a beautiful view from where we sat.  The hotel itself is beautiful and there is quite a lot of history here, which is why we went – Sir Winston Churchill used to visit.  The founder, William Reid, was a Scot, who died before Reid’s was finished.  It opened in November 1891 as the New Hotel, and later changed its name to the New Palace Hotel and later to Reid’s, as it is usually known.  One of the things it is most famous for is afternoon tea, which is very reasonable at 36 euros per person (champagne is 18.50 euros a glass).

inside the hotel

https://www.belmond.com/hotels/europe/portugal/madeira/belmond-reids-palace/dining

We went on a coach trip to the North-west of the archipelago which is mountainous, and wetter than Funchal.  In fact, our tour guide said,

            “Welcome to Scotland,”

as it was wet and misty the day we went.  Our tour took us to Porto Moniz and Seixal, both lovely.  The church at Porto Moniz, Lady of Conception, built in the late seventeenth century, is particularly beautiful.

Lady of Conception, Porto Moniz

Later in the week, we took a trip on the cable car to Monte, which is north of Funchal.  Beautiful municipal gardens, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and church, it’s a definite must.  The cable car itself is something else, taking between 15 and 20 minutes and travelling 3200 metres, there are fantastic views across Funchal and Madeira.  We managed to get free return tickets by attending a holiday club meeting.

http://madeiracablecar.com/en/

Funchal from the cable car

From Monte, you can travel part way back down in a basket car.  I didn’t do it this time, Hot Chocolate wasn’t up for it, and trying to work out where to meet afterwards went into the too difficult tray.

Our trip away ended all too soon.  Until the next time.

© Susan Shirley 2019