2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Happy New Year to you all and thank your for reading and commenting on this blog. There is more to come…!


1968: Norway: Day 15 – Black Prince – Hornchurch

Woke to a very calm, silky smooth sea. What a contrast to last night. Everyone very pleased and we went off to breakfast, having given Gareth his first. Lots of very cheerful looking people about, all glad the night was over! Had grapefruit all round, rolls (lovely),  Dutch butter and Dutch marmalade. Gareth gnawed the edge of the table in a rather embarrassing way – as if we had never fed him. Sea so calm it was more like a bus ride. Went to the lounge afterwards and had a talk with a girl and 14 month old baby. She turned out to be married to someone working for ICI – they’d been to Australia and know Shirley and Bill. Small world. They had been camping too, and very pleased with the way the baby had behaved.

After a while, put Gareth in the cabin for a rest, which he settled down to quite cheerfully. Returned to the lounge and heard some interesting facts: last night’s wind was force 6-7 and considered rough by the crew. The cars were sliding about down below and had to be roped down. The ship was on manual control as there was so much shipping about in the North Sea. We had made up fore leaving late and were doing 21 knots. Coast of England clearly visible – it had been too wet to see it on the way out of course – Lincolnshire at first, then down East Anglia. Andrew was very pleased to see it, and busily drawing pictures. We had some food to eat down in the cabin, and fortunately we were able to put things in the car in plenty of time before we had to leave. This made life much easier, and we were able to dispose of the extra parcels of booze etc. Watched the approach to Harwich, lots of ships about. Lightship Royal Sovereign being towed to the mooring, dredgers busily working, ‘Princess Beatrix’ en route to Hook of Holland and ‘Prince Hamlet’ and ‘Winston Churchill’ being loaded up. We backed in to Parkestone Quay, near the freight containers quay, drove off (4th) got promptly to the Customs, where all was very swift, and drove out first, stopping at a garage for petrol almost immediately. Drove to Brentwood, collected cats (swearing profusely, Pierre in a bass voice) and arrived home 3.0ish – house full of flowers (Shirley I suspect, bless her) all clean and tidy.

The holidays over – back to the washing!

Without wishing to be smug, we feel rather pleased with our calculations. Food was all exactly as needed, and nothing we felt lacking, except possibly some potatoes, which were scarce and expensive. We were glad to have taken basic commodities like milk, crispbread, cornflakes etc. otherwise Whit weekend night might have been difficult. Clothes were ok too – we coped with extremes of temp and humidity and quantities were adequate. All the first aid required were elastoplast (1) and seasick pills.

1968: Norway – Day 14 – Kristiansand – Black Prince

Lovely sunny morning, keep fit boys at it again early, closely watched by Andrew and Sarah (who didn’t try copying them however). After breakfast we took our things to the beach. Found a nice spot under the pier for Gareth, then Andrew and Sarah went down to the water in their swimming things but didn’t go in the water much as it was rather cold. Sun beautifully hot, cars rolling up steadily all the morning. Owing to the size and wooded nature of the beach, it didn’t seem too crowded though, and we weren’t uncomfortably close to anyone. Loads of kids about, tendency – wise we felt – to dress all members of a family in same colour costumes, made it easier to identify them anyway. Nearly everyone brought li-los with them to toast on and several had the kind you can fold into a seat. Lots of jelly fish about, so care needed by children were unscathed.

Came up for lunch 11.45 and after a quiet lunch packed up the car and drove into Kristiansand. Very few cars waiting for the ship, loads and loads driving off however, looked like a full load. As we could see what was going on, the waiting was not as frustrating as it had been at Harwich. The accessibility of everything was such a contrast to England where getting near any docks is impossible, they are so fenced off. Here everyone could have a good look at what was going on.

Once on board we found our cabin quickly and were far better organised than last time. Put Gareth for a sleep then went back on deck to watch the departure. Bit of excitement as they lost a ladder from a small boat with someone (the pilot?) boarding us very low down. Ladder later retrieved, man safely on board. Watched Norway receding – a low rocky coast, very pretty complete with striped lighthouse which pleased Andrew, just like his birthday cake.

Once out of the harbour, sea became much more choppy. Despite sunshine impossible to stay outside for much longer and everyone retreated within. Sight of stewards putting out little cardboard boxes rather sinister… went down to our cabin and soon everyone except David sick. Gareth managed to be sick over David which was rather a nuisance as he had no spare shirt in the case unfortunately. As it was his terylene lawn one it was easy to wash and dry by the morning. Thoughts of another meal at the cold table faded away rapidly – thought of any food faded pretty fast in fact. Spent a very quiet evening lying down (children went to bed in their clothes!) and listening to the slap of the waves against the porthole, quite terrifyingly loud sometimes. David went for an occasional stroll around and reported all very quiet, most people obviously lying low. Weather calmed down a bit during the evening, though still far from smooth.

1968: Norway – Day 13 – Kristiansand

Physical fitness boys busy doing exercises at what seemed like crack of dawn (about 7.30 in fact). We set off for the shops at 9.00 crossing the big suspension bridge into Kristiansand, very impressive. The town is beautifully situated on the slopes of the drowned hillside, houses dotted about among the trees and innumerable inlets of sea everywhere. Centre is new mostly, landing down to the quays, glimpses of big boats at the ends of the streets. Did various bits of shopping, including some food. Bought David’s cuff-links, and some very nice toys especially a wooden ferry boat and bought some Lego scooters and traffic police which we haven’t seen at home. Had coffee in a department store – loads of English sailors also there. Then back to the hut for lunch as it was a bit showery. Had mackerel and chips (they were frozen) and it was very nice. In the afternoon drove to Lillesand, an enchanting fishing village on a winding inlet, houses of white wood rather like Mandal. Loads of boats, children fascinated by two young men bailing and pumping water out of one. Did quite an efficient shop for presents, then drove on to Brekke(?), a smaller village where houses perched on the rocks and reached by a winding road through lush fields. This coast is really picturesque, with many inlets and islands and houses and cabins dotted everywhere. Very few people about, and the roads almost deserted despite the fact that it was a sunny Saturday.

Next stop was the zoo (Dyrepaike) the only one in Norway. Set in a hilly park, it was sweet, very small really but laid out with loving care. Animals had big huts with turf roofs and nice chunks of mountain to scramble on. The deer were particularly fortunate. Some well fenced off brown bears the wildest animals there. A children’s section – very nice with donkeys, rabbits, tortoises and guinea pigs, and a children’s playground. This had a sand pit with miniature diggers and Andrew soon got the hang of them and systematically excavated a large hole. They also liked the tyres that went round and round as long as we’d let them. For babies one can hire little wooden trucks to pull around – very attractive. A peacock was strutting around with his tail up, looking very please with himself – wonder what our cats would make of him.

Came back to the hut to pork chops and onions and frozen strawberries which were very tasty and very dark red, packed locally. After kids in bed we had a coffee in the cafe and a stroll around the beach and village.

1968: Norway – Day 12 – Byglandsfjord – Kristiansand

Set off after the usual tidy up – we are getting practised in shooting things in and out of that car now – and floor wash. Quick return to make sure electricity was off, then on to return the key and do some lunch shopping in Byglandsfjord. Got 1/2 kilo of some very nice ham and exceedingly fresh loaf, went on again on the road to Arendal, which is our old acquaintance No.9 mostly gravelly surface, going through very pretty wooded/farming country. Logs by roadside have coloured spots on them, we noticed for the first time today, denoting ownership presumably. Passed some heavily laden log lorries and several sawmills. Patches of quite reasonable land, growing some fodder crops and strawberries and grass, which chestnut brown cattle, never very many. Improved stretches of road through the villages, very irritating! but lots of work going on elsewhere, including some dynamiting. Spreading an oily grit in places, rather unpleasant. Road transport as we know it doesn’t seem to exist – except for tankers and very heavy stuff, like building materials and timber. Otherwise it’s done in single-decker bus-like vehicles, sometimes with a passenger section. Saw lots in Byglandsfjord. Picnicked by a lake, too chilly to hang around although a sunny day. Went on down to Arendal, very pretty, set on rocky slopes around a branching inlet, white and red houses. Followed the coast road – much more prosperous agriculture and saw several very pretty bays. Road is good and country pretty. Moisland site gorgeous – slide on the beach impressed Andrew and Sarah but not open and toilets being rebuilt which settled the matter. Pressed on to Hanresand, near Kristiansand, through some tunnels. This site enormous, pine woods down to the beach, huts high up on a sandy ridge. Very few people about, but secured a hut and settled in – quite elaborate huts, and roomy too.

Went down to the beach, very sandy and Andrew and Sarah soon got busy doing various construction jobs with pieces of timber. The airport is very near here and saw several planes take off, soaring off a large piece of moraine and over the water. The bed ( but not sleep) for Andrew and Sarah and supper for us, including a shrimp mayonnaise bought in Byglandsfjord and very tasty. Back to Heilmelk her incidentally.

1968: Norway – Day 11 – Rysstad – Byglandsfjord

The rain had eased off by morning thank goodness – we were very glad we were safely in a hut, listening to it pouring down yesterday evening. The by no means hot and dry, but sun was trying to shine. All slept well, all ate large breakfast, then packed up car and went into village. Crowds of women in traditional dress going to the church, very attractive. Dress of stiff black felt-like material, with bands of red and green around the hem, white blouses, red stockings, black shoes, red, green and black headdress. They were coming by bike in some cases, looking a bit strange. Did shopping at the supermarket – got various baby foods, disposable nappies, our lunch (cold meats and paté). Horrified at price of tomatoes – 6/- a lb roughly. Sold in ones and twos. Heilmelk [whole milk] for the milk. Visited the silversmiths and bought Muzz’s brooch – some enormous ones there to go with the traditional dress. Saw sheep with bells on, old heavy wooden haylofts with turf on roofs, washing hanging on high verandahs of Alpine style houses. Much more ornate than elsewhere we have seen, but still not as decorated as Swiss ones.

Drove on down valley, past several silversmiths, old barns, belled sheep. Very much better quality timber than we’d seen hitherto, very tall and straight, lots of it piled up by the road, and piles of planks also, about 1m long. Valley broadening out, river flowing more slowly and more meadows around – saw some belled cattle also. Byglandsfjord a long lake with conifers all round, numerous sawmills and rafts of timber on the water. Stopped for lunch by an old ferry, children had a lovely time playing near it. Now superseded by posh bridge. Nice man from Tourist Office gave us brochure about Setesdal. Set off for Aseral where there are waterfalls, via Evje – quite a big place, very good smooth road leading to it. Conifers everywhere and everyone had lines of washing out, including nappies galore. Road from Evje – No. 9 – quite appalling, pure gravel and stones, car rattling around. Took minor road off it, rather boring wooded country which improved when we hit water. Aseral a prosperous looking place – HEP  works near. Suddenly remembered we’d left our table at Byglandsfjord. Decided to go back for it, along minor road. Very bumpy and Sarah sick without warning. Then David got a minor shock from an electric fence, while clearing up Sarah. Blow upon blow! Shot back to Evje and on to Byglandsfjord, to our relief table was still there. Tourist Office man had keys for hut at Langenok, 12 km back, so took one (25k) and made for it. Another MA site, right by the water, with super huts, complete with heatingbliss! and little electric cooker. Very nice indeed. I was able to do lots of washing (owing to Sarah’s indisposition) and we all can dry out a bit. Drank the last of the sherry from the ship – despite notice saying alcohol forbidden in these huts. Felt we needed it!

Various other people mooching about the site, including a German quartet, but no one else staying. Facilities very good here, good washing rooms, iron and board etc. but all rather a trek from the huts. However it is a super site and the huts are so nice, especially with the heat! Andrew stayed awake a long time watching us with beady eyes – eating supper and then making jelly. Thought he’d never drop off.

1968: Norway – Day 10 – Kinsarvik – Rysstad

Woke to the ominous sound of rain pattering on the tent. Our weather has changed with a vengeance, but it did stop for us to pack the tent up, etc. (only just). Things went much better this time, and the car less stuffed in every corner. Nipped down to the shops and bought seals for S and G, some pewter buttons and links and some red braid – also fruit compotes and baby food. Set off in reasonable weather, which improved as far as Odda. David bought some super looking fish – halibut – here, also some mile and we set off for the snows. Through the long tunnels this time no tolls which is strange – perhaps it’s only up to June 1st. Then down a rather gravelly road to Roldall, where we went into the 13th century stone church. Very nice, all wood with painted interior and gallery. children fascinated by it all, and we had a good poke around and bought a guide book.

This valley was nearly cut off all the year up to the end of the 19th century, it must have been very lonely. Even now communications leave something to be desired. The road from Sanda snowy. Road directly south, snow ploughs all year – road to Odda much better with the tunnels and then road east appalling. We climbed up gravelly and pebbly surfaces into the clouds and snow. Prevailing colours grey, dark brown and white. Screes, frozen lakes, bare outcrops. Road in a tunnel or two and skirted one under construction – toll road, ok. Utter desolation and tundra-lie, with few cabins in or on the edge of frozen waters, occasional glacial looking stream frothing along. Raining hard, snow high on either side with patches of dirty snow where rocks had tumbled.

Children didn’t like it much – neither did we. Gave G his lunch and had our lunch in a bleak spot, then road dropped a bit, hight pastures, more trees. Steady fall to juncture with road to Setesdal, with camping huts here and there. Cafes and guest houses, presumably mainly for winter sports. Washing hanging out hopefully despite the rain. Road quite good, lots of Dutch cars. Road then climbed out of the valley, quite steeply in the woods up to high plateau. Bare granite outcrops, no trees, mosses and snows and jolly unfriendly. Then scrubby silver birch, still not in leaf, very stunted. I bet the winter rages here. Out onto mixed woods. Plenty of cabins about but very few settlements and those very small, largely ugly hotel at Horden. Logging activities evident, masses of timber brought down to road for transport. Road improvement evident too, with old loops cut off. River very wide, flowing over granite masses and conifers on either side, rather Canadian. Then abrupt changes to gorges, wooded and fast flowing streams. Houses have turf growing on the roofs, cattle are horned and everything a bit Alpine. Spectacular valley with massive granite on either side, water slithering down over it to the churning stream. Trees wherever they can gain foothold. Widens out now and again, river turns into lakes. String of settlements where valley widens again, Alpine looking with broad overhangs, balconies (with washing on) reindeer horns, etc. A dog pulled cart outside one shop. Found this camp site – right by river, craggy slopes around and pine trees and thankfully took a hut for the night. Had the halibut for tea – wonderful (we were starving of course) and children went off quite well in their bunks and I did some ironing with rather antique model. Sat in comfort listening to rain.