Sunday, 15 December 2019

An idea worth pursuing?

Over recent months, I've had several requests for PDF versions of those of my books which are currently only available electronically in eBook format. These books are:
The downside of publishing these books as PDFs is that they will only be on sale via rather than via Amazon etc.

It would not be too difficult to produce PDF editions of these books and to sell them at the same price as the eBook editions, but there is no point in doing so unless there is sufficient demand. I am therefore asking regular readers to send a short comment listing which of the above books they would like me to publish in PDF format. I will not reply to these comments, but will make a note of them, and if a book gets five or more 'votes' by Christmas, I'll publish it in PDF format.

I did consider adding a poll to the sidebar of my blog to make answering this feedback request simple, but for some reason the old poll widget no longer exists, and trying to find an alternative proved tiresome ... hence the request for comments.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Going north ... and wargaming Freemasons (Part 2)

Thanks to appalling weather and traffic conditions, it took me over six hours to drive the 180 miles to Sheffield ... but it was well worth it in the end. I and my fellow visitors saw our old friend Installed as Worshipful Master of one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in England (and the oldest in Area 4 of the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding), after which we attended the Festive Board (what we Masons call the after meeting meal) in one of the dining rooms at Tapton Hall in Sheffield.

Tapton Hall, Sheffield.
We were all able to meet up with the newly installed Worshipful master for a hearty breakfast before returning home yesterday. Luckily the weather was somewhat better, and traffic was not as heavy until we reached London. As a result, the journey home was a bit quicker, and I was home by 4.30pm.

Over breakfast I was able to discuss the possibility of forming a Masonic Wargaming Group or Club with my companions ... and it looks as if I have at least three new recruits as well as the possibility of involving other wargaming Freemasons who are known to them.

All in all, it was great to visit Sheffield again, and I hope to return in the not too distant future.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Going north ... and wargaming Freemasons (Part 1)

I am off to Sheffield this morning to see an old friend and fellow wargamer installed as Worshipful Master of his Masonic Lodge. This will be a nice break for me, and as the two Masons who are visiting with me are also wargamers, I'll be able to combine two of my hobbies into one event!

Coincidentally, yesterday I received an email from a Leicestershire Mason about the possibility of setting up a Masonic Wargaming Group or Club. The idea is that we try to meet up every so often, have a wargame or two, and raise money for charity. The impetus behind this idea came about after a very senior Freemason (the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence) mentioned in an interview that was published earlier this year in Summer 2019 issue of FREEMASONRY TODAY that one of his hobbies was painting 28mm-scale wargame figures.

A letter to the editor in response to this article was published in the Autumn 2019 issue of the magazine, and since then several wargaming Masons – led by our Leicestershire Brother – have been in contact with each other with an eye to organising an informal group or club for wargaming Freemasons.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

My first batch of renovated 20mm-scale German artillery

After temporarily losing a bit of enthusiasm for renovating my collection of 20mm-scale Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War figures, I decided to tackle some of the artillery next. As I've been recently working on some of my German figures, I decided to renovate suitable artillery pieces, starting with the lighter guns that I had to hand.

They have been mounted on 3mm-thick MDF bases to make handling them easier, and the bases are large enough to fit the necessary crew figures on them.

Now that this batch is done, I'm looking at doing some German anti-tank guns next.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

A cruise that we are glad that we didn't go on!

When we booked our recent cruise to the Atlantic Islands (i.e. Madeira and the Canary Islands), we had a choice of two ... and chose to go from 17th to 29th November aboard P&O's MV Ventura ... and we are mighty glad that we did!

The ship set out to repeat the trip on 1st December, but two days ago, just after she had left Santa Cruz de Tenerife, she suffered a total loss of her main diesel-electric propulsion system. The ship began to drift towards the northeast of the island of Tenerife, and once it became obvious that the electric engines needed to be repaired in port, two tugs were summoned, and she was towed back into port ... backwards.

According to an announcement made by the ship’s captain that has been repeated on social media, the problem was caused by condensation which had got into the electrical system and which - in turn - had caused the electric part of the propulsion systems to fail. The ship was still able to manoeuvre using her thrusters, and the rest of the ship's systems (e.g. heating, lighting, air conditioning) were still able to function normally as the diesel engines and dynamos were unaffected.

From the news that has been released, the necessary repairs are ongoing, and for the moment Ventura is not likely to leave Santa Cruz for some time, although it is hoped that the repairs will be completed by tomorrow. When she does finally leave port, she will sail directly back to Southampton, where it is hoped that she will dock in a week's time ... four days later than planned.

P&O have had to cancel the ship's next cruise (a short, four-day cruise) and have offered to fly passengers home from Tenerife. They are also putting together a compensation package for the passengers who were on the cruise and for those whose cruise has been cancelled.

Had we been on this cruise, I think that we would have stayed aboard and enjoyed the four extra days of holiday ... but it would have disrupted our Christmas preparations somewhat, so we are glad that we weren't.

This is not the first time that Ventura has experienced a loss of propulsion.

At approximately 6.15pm on 25th October 2014, whilst off the southern end of Tenerife, the ship experienced a fault with two of its six diesel engines and lost power. (When at sea, the ships rarely have all their diesel engines running at the same time. They only run enough engines to supply the power necessary to meet the needs of the ship's systems, including the propulsion system.) After about forty minutes, the engines were re-started, and power was restored.

Monday, 9 December 2019

The latest Erast Fandorin book has been published

As many of my regular blog readers will know, I am a great fan of Boris Akunin’s Erast Fandorin books. The most recent one to be published in English became available just before we went on our recent cruise, and I took delivery of a copy yesterday.

NOT SAYING GOODBYE follows on from the previous volume, BLACK CITY. Despite being shot in the head, Fandorin survived in a coma, looked after by his faithful Japanese companion, Masa. He remained in this state until after the Russian revolution, and thus missed Russia’s involvement in the Great War.

I won’t expand any further on the plot, but needless to say, it deals with events in Moscow between the dismissal of the Kerensky government and the Communist seizure of power.

NOT SAYING GOODBYE is the thirteenth book in the series to be published in English. In each book, Boris Akunin has tried to write the story in a particular fictional genre or style. The books are:
  • THE WINTER QUEEN (2003): A conspiracy mystery
  • THE TURKISH GAMBIT (2005): A spy novel
  • MURDER ON THE LEVIATHAN (2004): Agatha Christie-type mystery
  • THE DEATH OF ACHILLES (2005): a hired killer mystery
  • SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS (two novellas published together) (2007)
    • THE JACK OF SPADES: A novella about confidence men
    • THE DECORATOR: A novella about a maniac
  • THE STATE COUNSELLOR (2009): A political mystery
  • THE CORONATION (2009): A high society mystery
  • SHE LOVER OF DEATH (2009): A decadent mystery
  • HE LOVER OF DEATH (2010): A Dickensian mystery
  • THE DIAMOND CHARIOT (2011): An ethnographic mystery
  • ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE (2017): A theatrical mystery
  • BLACK CITY (2018): A political/thriller mystery
  • NOT SAYING GOODBYE (2019): A historical mystery

NOT SAYING GOODBYE was written by Boris Akunin, translated into English by Andrew Bromfield, and published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2019 (ISBN 978 1 474 61098 8).

Sunday, 8 December 2019

My latest book sales figures

For some reason I have not looked at the sales figures for my books for two months.

Back at the beginning of October, they looked like this:

The past two months – October and November – has seen sales continue to grow somewhat slower than they had been growing for the previous two months:

As I predicted the last time I wrote about my sales figures, it looks as if they will eventually reach six thousand at some point in the next six months ... or possibly even earlier.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Realising that one is in danger of painting oneself into a corner

During our recent cruise, I spent quite some time trying to write a set of wargame rules that would meld the best elements of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules with those of RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES. I had almost completed them by the end of the cruise, but have not had a chance to look at them until today.

I had a bit of a shock when I did.

Almost from the start two things were very obvious. Firstly, that they would work. Secondly, that they were a hybrid monster of the worst kind.

I knew that the rules would work because I had adopted existing mechanisms that were well tried and tested. I even played through a few moves whilst aboard using a hand-drawn grid, some simple playing pieces made from paper, and a number of D6s that I had to hand. (I never go away on a cruise without a small selection of D6s, just for such an eventuality.)

It was only when I began to read my draft that I realised that I had tried to be a bit too clever, and what was supposed to be a simple, quick-play set of rules for fighting Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War battles was cumbersome and not as good as either of the original sets of rules. In creating this hybrid, I had created a monster that involved umpteen dice throws to achieve even relatively simple results. To put it bluntly, it was boring to read, and no doubt would have been tedious to use.

So how does that leave me now? Well, I know that I need to start again, but from a different starting point. I also know some of the pitfalls that I need to avoid ... and will try to ensure that I don't fall into them again.

This could have been very disheartening, but I've had a lot of experience writing wargame rules and have come to realise that I learn more from my failures than I do from my successes. This setback will – I hope – be a temporary one, and will eventually lead to me writing a set of rules that will match my design criteria. They may even be good enough to publish at some time in the future ... and if they are, my regular blog readers will soon know about it!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Nugget 322

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET from the printer yesterday, and I hope to post it out to members of Wargame Developments either later today or at some point tomorrow. As a result, it should be with them by the middle of next week.

I have already uploaded the PDF version of this issue to the Wargame Developments website, and it can be opened using the password that was sent out to all members when they re-subscribed.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2019-2020 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

I have been to ... Madeira, the Canary Islands, and Portugal ... and Spain!

Sunday 17th November: Southampton
Sue and I were both awake by 7.00, and by 8.50am our luggage had been loaded in the car and we were on our way to Southampton. As it was a Sunday, the roads were relatively empty, and we had reached the M3 junction with the M25 by approximately 10.00am.

We stopped at Winchester Services for breakfast at just before 10.35am and were on our way again by 11.00am. We reached to outskirts of Southampton a little after 11.20am, and despite having to take a detour due to roadworks at Dock Gate 10 – the usual entrance point for the Mayflower Cruise Terminal – we had unloaded our luggage and booked the car in the valet parking service before midday.

On entering the terminal building, Sue and I were immediately sent to one of the check-in desks, and within fifteen minutes we had passed through the security checkpoint and were aboard P&O's MV Ventura. Once aboard we were directed to the Saffron Restaurant (Deck 7 Midships) where we were given a drink and were able to eat a snack lunch.

We got chatting to the people on the table next to us, and it turned out that the husband had – during his youth – designed a number of computer games, including several wargames. As a result, we did not leave the restaurant until 1.30pm, when we made our way up to our suite, which was located on Lido Deck (Deck 15 Forward). Our luggage was already there, and we began unpacking almost immediately. Over the next hour we got a lot of it done, although we had to stop twice when our butler and cabin steward each paid us a visit to introduce themselves.

We took a break at 3.30pm, when we went up to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant (Deck 15 Midships) for a drink. This was followed by the compulsory safety drill, which was conducted in our Muster Station, the Arena Theatre (Decks 6 and 7 Forward). This took about thirty minutes, after which we spent a short time on the Promenade Deck (Deck 7) before returning to our suite to finish unpacking.

Once we had finished unpacking, we spent the time resting (it had seemed like a long day by then!) until it was time to get ready for dinner. Sue and I had a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar (Deck 7 Midships) before making our way aft to the Bay Tree Restaurant (Deck 6 Aft) at 8.30pm. We ate a leisurely dinner, and had finished by just before 10.00pm. We then took a stroll along the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite to sleep.

Monday 18th November: At sea
After a very sound night’s sleep, Sue and I woke up at 8.00am. Overnight, the Ventura had sailed down the English Channel and was well on her way to Ushant.

After eating breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant (Deck 17 Aft), Sue and I paid a short visit to the ship’s atrium, where we picked up a copy of the ship’s daily bulletin, HORIZON. We then went up to the Promenade Deck for a short walk before returning to our suite.

The suite comprised a bedroom area …

… and a lounge ...

… as well as a separate bathroom.

The balcony was situated overlooking the ship’s starboard bridge wing (Deck 14 Forward) …

… and part of the forward Observation Deck (Deck 16 Forward).

At 11.00am Sue and I went to the Arena Theatre to listen to a talk entitled ‘Body Overboard?’. It was delivered by Paul Stickler – a former police officer – and dealt with the facts behind the death of Gay Gibson in 1947 as she travelled from South Africa to the UK aboard the Durban Castle. Her body was never found, and a First-Class steward was convicted of murdering her. (He claimed that she had died whilst they were having sex, and he had pushed her body out of her cabin porthole.) Although he was sentenced to death, he was reprieved and given a life sentence.

After this very interesting talk, Sue and I had a drink in the Glass House Bar before going for a walk along the Promenade Deck. We then returned to our suite, where we stayed reading until 2.20pm, when we went to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for a snack lunch.

Once we had finished eating, Sue and I went for a walk around the main public areas of the ship before going out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air. It looked very sunny, but the wind meant that it was actually quite cold, and we only stayed outside for about ten minutes. We then returned to our suite, and other than a short break for tea in the Waterside Self Service Restaurant, we remained there until it was time to go for a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar.

We had hope to eat dinner in the Epicurean Restaurant, but had been told that it was fully booked so we ended up eating in the Bay Tree Restaurant. The restaurant was rather emptier than usual, and Sue and I had finished eating and were walking along the Promenade Deck by just before 10.00pm. After our brief spell in the open air, we returned to our suite to read for a while before going to sleep.

Tuesday 19th November: At sea
Overnight Ventura continued to sail across the Bay of Biscay, and by 8.00am she was approaching the westernmost part of north-west Spain, Cap Finisterre.

Because the weather had worsened overnight, Sue and I had a rather poor night’s sleep, and took our time getting ready to go for breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant. Once breakfast was over, we went to collect a copy of HORIZON from the Reception Desk (Deck 6 Midships) before going out onto the Promenade Deck for a short walk.

We then spent some time in our suite reading, and at 11.00am we went down to the Arena Theatre to hear the second of Paul Stickler’s talks. This one was entitled ‘The murder of Lord Erroll’ and dealt with the circumstances up to and including the death of Lord Erroll in Kenya’s ‘Happy Valley’ in January 1941.

After the talk, Sue and I had a drink in the Glass House Bar. We then had a walk along the Promenade Deck before going to the Loyalty & Cruise Sales Desk (Deck 5 Midships) to pick up a copy of the P&O cruise brochure that covers November 2019 to April 2022. We then returned to our suite, where we stayed until we went to lunch at 2.00pm.

Lunch in the Waterside Self Service Restaurant was followed by a spell on the open deck near the Terrace Bar (Deck 15 Aft), where we spent some time talking to some other passengers. Sue and I then returned to our suite to read and to rest until it was time to get ready for the first formal event of the cruise, the ‘Welcome Aboard’ cocktail party. This was held in the ship’s atrium (Decks5, 6, and 7 Midships) and started at 8.00pm. The ship’s captain – Captain Willard – made a short speech of welcome and then introduced the ship’s senior management team.

Rather than fight our way through the passengers crowding the route along the inside of the ship, Sue and I walked along the Promenade Deck from midships to aft in order to reach our restaurant. We returned to the forward part of the ship by the same route after dinner, and then used the forward lifts to go up to our suite on Deck 15. Once inside our suite, Sue and I spent time catching up with news via the in-cabin TV system before getting ready for bed.

Wednesday 20th November: At sea
During the night Ventura encountered some bad weather, and Sue and I were both woken up several times by loud bangs of the type produced when a ship hits a particularly big wave. This did not -however – seem to slow down her progress towards Madeira, and at 8.00am the ship was sailing on a south-westerly course and was the west of the south-western coast of Portugal.

Despite the movement caused by the weather, Sue and I were able to follow our usual morning routine. After breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant and a quick visit to the Reception Desk to collect a copy of HORIZON, were ventured out on deck for a very short time.

It was cold and wet on the Promenade Deck, and we only stayed there for about ten minutes before we returned to our suite to read until it was time to get ready for the midday Peninsular Club Lunch in the Cinnamon Restaurant (Deck 5 Midships).

The Peninsular Club Lunch is a special lunch for regular cruiser passengers, and forms part of the reward package for loyal customers. As usual, each table was hosted by a senior member of the ship’s staff, and on this occasion our host was the ship’s Safety Officer, the third most important of the ship’s deck officers.

The menu was specially created by the ship’s Executive Chef, and we ate the following:
Crispy Fried Goat Cheese & Prosciutto, with Honey Figs, Vinicotto, and Spiced Whole Almonds (Sue)
Chicken and Chickpea Soup, with Brioche Croûtons (Me)
Raspberry Sorbet
Main Course
Poached Loch Duarte Salmon Supreme, with English Peas, Chorizo and Tomato Dressing, and Crushed New Potatoes (Sue)
Roasted New Zealand Rack of Lamb, with Crispy Bacon and Onion Potato Cake, Glazed Parsnips, and Lamb Jus (Me)
Cheeseboard, with a selection of Regional, British, and Continental Cheese with Biscuits (Sue)
Kaffir Lime Panna Cotta, with Pineapple Compote (Me)

After lunch, Sue and I then went for a short walk on the Promenade Deck to get some fresh air, and despite the relatively high wind, the air temperature made it quite pleasant to be on deck.

We then went to the onboard branch of Dixon’s, where I bought a new iPad to replace my old one. The price was discounted, and although it was not the newest model, it was much better than my existing one as it had a faster chip, newer operating system, and twice the memory. They were able to transfer my existing applications etc., from my old iPad to my new one, and this saved me a considerable amount of time and effort.

Sue and I spent most of the rest of the afternoon in our suite, although we did venture down to the Promenade Deck for a short time at about 5.00pm. We had a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar, followed by dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant. Neither of us was particularly hungry after the large lunch we had eaten, and we both ate less than normal.

Although it was quite windy outside, the air temperature was quite warm, so Sue and I took a walk along the Promenade Deck before turning in for the night.

Thursday 21st November: Funchal, Madeira
The overnight weather was slightly rougher than it had been during the day, and both Sue and I was woken up at 5.30am by a sudden change in the ship’s movement. This particularly rough patch of weather did not last very long, and we were soon back asleep.

The Ventura moored alongside the dock in Funchal just before 7.00am.

The weather forecast was for 19°C air temperatures and an overcast sky … but it was somewhat incorrect. The predicted air temperature was right, but the sky was not just overcast, it was full of rainclouds and almost as soon as the ship had docked, the rain began to fall very heavily.

It was still raining when Sue and I went to breakfast, and it had only begun to ease off by the time we had finished eating, visited the Reception Desk to collect a spare copy of HORIZON, and gone out onto the Promenade Deck.

There were two other cruise liners in Madeira, the MSC Poseia

… and the sail-powered Wind Star.

The rain finally stopped just after 10.15am, and by 11.00am Sue and I had travelled by shuttlebus from the ship to the western end of the main street through the centre of Funchal, the Avenida Arraga.

We took a leisurely stroll towards the local cathedral …

… and then along the Rua do Aljube, where the Christmas decorations were already in place.

We then crossed the bridge over the local river, which was already filling up with dirty brown water as a result of the recent rains.

We finally reached the local market at 11.45am …

… where we bought a few items to take home before visiting the fish market.

Sue and I then walked along some of the narrow local streets back toward the seafront, and near the Praça da Autonomia we came across a local archaeological site.

These were accidentally revealed during a major flood in 2010, and have been identified as being the remains to the São Filipe (Saint Philip) or Forte Novo (New Fort) Fortress. This was built in the sixteenth century, and was part of the town’s defences.

Sue and I then resumed our walk back to the ship along the Avenida do Mar e Comunicaces

…which runs along the seafront.

The area contains many old buildings and small picturesque squares.

By midday, both Sue and I were feeling very thirsty, so we made our way slightly inland, and stopped for a drink at the Restaurante da Sé.

Having looked at the menu, we decided to have lunch there as well, and ordered two toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and a plate of fries. This proved to be an excellent choice and was the sort of snack lunch we like to eat when out and about.

Almost opposite the restaurant was the Rua dos Marcas, which was a narrow, shaded street …

… that led to the Avenida Zarco, the location of the local military headquarters, a small military museum (which we had visited previously), and the home of the central government’s representative on Madeira.

The building is an old fortress, and is named after Saint Laurence (São Lourenco). It was built during the seventeenth century, and as its plan shows, it is a typical of the period.

The building has an early twentieth century artillery piece as its gate guardian …

It was a short walk from the São Lourenco Palace and Fortress to the shuttle-bus pick-up point, and by just after 2.00pm Sue and I were back aboard Ventura. We had intended just to drop off our bags and go for a cold drink, but the humidity and heat proved too much for us, and we both fell asleep! We finally woke up just after 3.30pm, and went along to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for some tea.

We were back in our suite by the time the ship set sail at 4.30pm, and it was very pleasant standing on the balcony as the ship moved out of Funchal harbour and towards the open sea. We then sat and read until it was time to get ready for dinner.

After our usual pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar, Sue and I ate our dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant. We had finished by 9.45pm, and then spent some time on the Promenade Deck before going back to our suite to read for a time before getting ready for bed.

Friday 22nd November: Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
The voyage from Madeira to Las Palmas was uneventful, although the weather was not very good when we docked at 7.30am.

It was raining quite heavily, and Sue and I decided that as we were not going on an organised tour, we would not rush to get ready to go ashore. Just across the dock from Ventura was the Fred Olsen Line cruise ship Balmoral.

By the time we had eaten breakfast, the weather had begun to improve. It had stopped raining, and although there were some dark clouds in the sky, it looked as if it was clearing.

Las Palmas is the location of a major Spanish naval base, and as usual there were a number of patrol vessels moored alongside. These were all members of the Meteoro-class, including the Relámpago (P43), …

Meteoro (P41), …

Rayo (P42), …

… and Tornado (P44).

Also moored alongside was theFulmar, an offshore patrol vessel operated by the Agencia Tributaria, which is the Spanish Revenue Service.

Sue and I went ashore just after 10.00am, by which time the air temperature had begun to rise, as had the humidity. (The both reached a maximum of 23°C and 73% respectively.) We took our time walking from the dock area towards the centre of the city, and were pleased to see that we were actually in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria …

… and not La Palma as our original cruise itinerary had stated. (There had been a degree of confusion as to which we were going to first, as they had been swapped around by P&O prior to the cruise due to operational reasons … but the similarity in the names of the two places had still caused some confusion amongst those passengers who had not received P&O’s email about the change.)

Our route took us past the local Technology Museum, which is housed in a building that was formerly owned by the Elder Line …

… and into a small park, in the centre of which is a statue of Lolita Pluma (whose real name was Delores Rivero Hernández), …

… a local eccentric who was well known for her colourful dress sense, her support of local artists and tourism, and her love of cats. She was nominated to be the ‘Queen of Santa Catalina Park’ in 1984, three years before her death.

After having a short rest in the park, Sue and I set off inland.

Once we were away from the seafront, the humidity rose dramatically, and after walking around for about twenty minutes we turned around and made our way back towards the sea. We passed the local tourist office, which has been built to represent the local building style.

We took a slight detour to visit a recreation of a carrack, the sort of vessel that Columbus used during his voyages of discovery.

By this time Sue and I were both feeling very hot and in need of something to drink. We therefore made out way to the local shopping centre, which is known as Le Muelle.

The centre has numerous bars, and we managed to find seat in one of them …

… where we were able to have some much-needed refreshment.

After a walk around the shopping centre, we returned to Ventura, and were back in our cabin by just after 2.00pm. Once we had cooled down, we went to the Poolside Grill (Deck 15 Forward) for a snack, followed by a cold drink in Breakers Bar (Deck 16 Forward). We then returned to our suite, where we spent the rest of the afternoon reading, resting, and watching a recording of the talk that Peter Stickler had given some days earlier. (We had missed it because it clashed with the Peninsular Club Lunch.)

Because the weather was so pleasant, we were able to spend some time on our balcony. The humidity was negligible, and the gentle sea breeze ensured that we did not get too hot. The weather was so good that Sue and I went to Breakers Bar for our pre-dinner drink. Ventura was still in harbour (she was not scheduled to leave before 8.00pm) and we stayed there until just before 8.30pm, by which time she was manoeuvring her way out of the harbour.

After dinner, Sue and I spent some time on the Promenade Deck sitting and talking. We then returned to our suite, got ready for bed, and then sat and read until we turned the lights out at midnight before going to sleep.

Saturday 23rd November: Santa Cruz, La Palma
It was not raining when we arrived in Santa Cruz, and the sun was already up when we awoke at 8.00am.

After eating breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant and collecting a copy of HORIZON from the Reception Desk, Sue and I spent about twenty minutes on the Promenade Deck watching the other passengers stream ashore. We then decided to join them, and by 9.45am we had collected our stuff from our suite and were in the lift on our way to the disembarkation gangway on Deck 4 Forward.

A small cruise liner – the Ocean Majesty – was already moored alongside, and Sue and I had a look at her as we walked to the dock gates at just before 10.00am.

When you looked closely at her, it was obvious that she had been converted at some point in her career, and subsequent research revealed that she began life as a ferry named the Juan March. She had been sold several times, and eventually converted into a small cruise ship.

When we reached the dock gate, Sue and I crossed the road and began to walk up the main pedestrian street, the Calle O’Daly.

This is also known as the Calle Real, and it led us to the Plaza de España, on one side of which was the Iglesia Matrz de El Salvador (the main church of Santa Cruz de La Palma) …

… and on the other was the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento).

Once past the junction with the Avenida de El Puente, the Calle Real was no longer also known as the Calle O’Daly. Instead it was named the Calle Anselmo Pérez de Brito. It changed it name again a little further on, and became the Calle Dr Pérez Camacho!

Eventually we reached Plaza de La Alameda, where we stopped to have a cold drink of freshly squeezed oranges outside a small café.

From there we walked a little further, until we reached the Barco de la Virgen.

This is a replica of a typical late fifteenth century ship, and it is set on a plinth that contains the small, local maritime museum.

Sue and I then decided to return to the ship by walking along the Avenida Maritima

… which took us past the internationally famous group of balconied houses.

We finally arrived back aboard Ventura a little before 2.00am, and after dropping our stuff off in our suite, Sue and I went up to Breakers Bar for a long, cold drink. Although the air temperature was in the mid-twenties (my iPhone indicated that it was 26°C), a cooling breeze made it very comfortable to sit in the sun.

Once we had finished our drinks, we went down to the Poolside Pizzeria (Deck 15 Midships) where we both ate some slices of freshly cooked pizza. We then returned to our suite … where both of us almost immediately fell asleep! We were awake again by 3.30pm, and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the shade and reading.

Because we had booked a meal in the Epicurean Restaurant rather than eating in the Bay Tree Restaurant, we decided to have our pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar. The menu was very extensive, and in the end, we ate the following:
Cherry tomato stuffed with cream cheese
Duo of Cured Smoked Salmon: Aged 21-year-old Malt Whisky Loch Fyne Smoked Salmon and H Forman & Son’s London Cure Oak Smoked Salmon
Main Course
Whole Dover Sole á la Meunière, with Maître D’hôtel Butter Sauce (Sue)
Redman Limousin Irish Beef Fillet and Ox Cheek, with Smoke Potato Croquettes, Cabernet Sauvignon Glazed Grelot Onions, and Salt Baked Heriloom Carrots (Me)
Elements of Summer Trifle, with Blackberry Jelly, Tarragon Meringue, Raspberry Roulade, Clotted Cream, and Fried Custard (Sue)
Banana and Peanut Butter Cannelloni, with Muscovado Sugar Ice Cream, Rum Jelly, and Key Lime Gel (Me)
Tea, with Petit Fours

We began dinner at 8.30pm, and finished just under two hours later. By the time we left the restaurant, we were both feeling rather full, and went to the Promenade Deck for a much-needed breath of fresh air and a chance to sit in the cool.

We were back in our suite by 11.00pm, and after sitting and reading for a while, Sue and I were in bed and asleep by midnight.

Sunday 24th November: Arrecife, Lanzarote
Ventura arrived in Arrecife slightly ahead of schedule, and was moored alongside when Sue and I woke up at 7.30am.

The sun had already risen a short time beforehand.

Just across the dock from the cruise terminal we could see the Castillo de San José

… which currently the local Museum of Contemporary Art.

After breakfast and a short spell on the Promenade Deck, Sue and I went ashore just before 10.00am and caught the shuttlebus to the Calle Juan Quesada, which is about ten minutes’ walk from the centre of Arrecife.

The Calle Juan Quesada is almost next door to the Charco de San Ginés, …

… which is a lagoon that is separated from the sea by road and pedestrian of bridges.

Our walk along the seafront took us past the Castillo de San Gabriel

… which the home of the local History Museum.

Sue and I walked along the seafront esplanade …

… until we reached the Avenida Dr Rafael Gonzalez, at which point we decided to return along the seafront until we reached the Calle Leony Castillo, the main pedestrianised street that leads inland.

As we walked up the street, we discovered that most of the shops and bars were shut, even though they all had opening times on display that indicated that they usually opened on Sunday.

Sue and I walked to the end of the pedestrianised area before turning around and going back towards the seafront. Down one of the side streets we found a bar that was open (El Notario) …

… where we were able to get something to drink.

Suitably refreshed, Sue and I walked towards the nearby Iglesia de San Ginés de Clermont.

Next to the church we found a narrow street that led us back to the Charco de San Ginés, …

… which we walked around in order to return to the shuttle-bus pick-up point. By the time we were back aboard Ventura, it was 12.30pm, and Sue and I decided that it was time to have a drink in Breakers Bar …

… before going to the Poolside Pizzeria …

… for lunch.

After lunch we took part in a short ‘Name the tune and artist’ quiz that was being run by a member of the ship’s entertainment staff before returning to our suite to rest. At 4.00pm we went to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for tea, followed by a short spell on deck near the Terrace Bar.

Sue and I were back in our suite by the time Ventura set sail at 4.45pm, and we remained there until it was time to go to the Havana Show Lounge (Deck 7 Aft) at 7.45pm for the Peninsular Club Cocktail Party. As usual, the main part of the party was taken up by the drawing of a prize raffle for a photograph album or bottle of champagne – neither of which we won – and a speech by the ship’s captain about future developments. Th party lasted until 8.30pm, when we went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner.

After dinner Sue and I took a stroll along the Promenade Deck – where the air temperature was still 19°C – before retiring for the night. I watched the first half of the film ZULU – which I have stored on my iPad – before getting ready for bed

Monday 25th November: At sea
Overnight Ventura passed through some rough weather, and had only just cleared it by the time we awoke at 8.00am.

As it was a sea day, Sue and I did not need to rush to get ready to go ashore. I even had time to finish watching ZULU on my iPad.

We ate a leisurely breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, followed by our usual trip to the Reception Desk to collect a copy of HORIZON. We then went out onto the Promenade Deck, which was rather crowded because the sky had cleared, and the sun was shining. We stayed there until just before 10.30am, when we returned to our suite.

Sue and I remained there until just after midday, when we went down to the Glass House Bar for a drink. We then made our way to the Arena Theatre to listen to the fourth talk by Paul Stickler. His talks have proven to be so popular that in order to get a seat, passengers need to be in the theatre at least thirty minutes before the start of the talk!

Today’s talk was entitled ‘The murder of Sir Harry Oates’. He was bludgeoned to death in his home in the Bahamas during the Second World War, and his body was then (unsuccessfully) set on fire. At the behest of the Duke of Windsor – who was Governor of the Bahamas and a personal friend of the dead man – the murder was investigated by detectives from the Miami Police Department. The dead man’s son-in-law was arrested and charged with the murder, but the botched police investigation – which included obviously planted fingerprint evidence – led to an acquittal, and no other suspects were ever arrested.

The talk finished at 2.45pm, and Sue and I went for a late lunch and a drink at the Poolside Pizzeria. We had returned to our cabin by not long after 3.30pm, and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and resting.

As it was the second formal dinner of the cruise, Sue and I began to get ready slightly earlier than usual, and by 7.45pm we were having a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar. We even had time to take a stroll along the Promenade Deck before dinner, which we ate in the Bay Tree Restaurant.

The food was excellent, and by just after 10.00pm Sue and I had left the restaurant and were back on the Promenade Deck. The air temperature was still high enough for this to be a pleasant place to sit, and we did not return to our suite until after 10.30pm. We then got ready for bed and read until it was almost midnight and time to go to sleep.

Tuesday 26th November: Lisbon
The weather prediction was for patches of rough weather as Ventura sailed northwards along the Portuguese coast towards Lisbon. This turned out to be slightly inaccurate as the sea was even rougher than expected. The poor weather did not delay the ship’s arrival in Lisbon, and she was moored alongside the cruise terminal at the Tobacco Dock well before 800am.

As Sue and I were getting ready for breakfast, it began to rain, and by the time we had eaten breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, the trickle had become a torrential downpour. As usual, we paid a short visit to the Reception Desk for a copy of HORIZON before going out onto the Promenade Deck. By this time, it had been raining heavily for some time, and the nearby buildings I had been able to see before breakfast …

… were all but invisible.

As we had no pressing need to go ashore, Sue and I decided to return to our suite until the weather improved. As the morning continued, the rain got worse, then better, then worse again … and in the end we decided to see if we could get to the cruise terminal without getting too wet.

We set out at 12.15pm, and the airbridge help to ensure that we kept dry for the first part of our journey to the terminal. Once off the airbridge, we had to walk along a covered walkway … which did little to protect us from the rain. It did enable us to see the Costa Cruise’s Costa Favolosa moored just ahead of Ventura.

By the time we reached the cruise terminal, we were both wet, and decided that rather than try to go any further, we would have a walk around the duty-free area for a bit. The rain seemed to get worse whilst we were there, and somewhat reluctantly we returned to the ship in the hope that the weather would improve.

We had lunch in the very crowded Waterside Self Service Restaurant, and then ventured out onto the Promenade Deck to see if the weather was getting better. It did seem to improve for a short while, and for about ten minutes the rain actually stopped. The rain then returned with a vengeance, and it was not until nearly 4.00pm that it finally stopped. By then it was too late to go ashore, and so we stayed in our suite until it was time to set sail.

At about 5.00pm, the Costa Favolosa unmoored, turned around, and sailed past Ventura towards the sea.

(We later discovered that the stern of the Costa Favolosa had almost hit the bows of Ventura as the former began to reverse prior to her turn away from the dockside. She missed by a matter of a few feet rather than yards.)

Ventura unmoored at a little after 5.30pm, and began to make her way down the River Tagus. She sailed under the famous ‘singing’ bridge – the 25 Abril Bridge – over the River Tagus and then past Belém before reaching the river’s estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.

Almost as soon as Ventura reached the open sea, the weather took a turn for the worse. The rain stopped … and was replaced by high winds and heavy seas. These caused the ship to roll quite considerably and to pitch violently every so often. This made moving about the ship ‘interesting’, and the appearance of motion disturbance bags in most public areas was an indication that this was going to last some time.

Sue and I had booked to eat dinner in the Epicurean Restaurant, and after a quick pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar, we went out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air before our meal. Surprisingly, it was not too unpleasant out on the open deck, although the rolling made it difficult to stand. The waves were considerably higher than the had been, and some were only just breaking below the level of the deck.

We arrived at the restaurant at 8.30pm, and we spent just under two hours there. We ate:
Frozen Virgin Bloody Mary Lollipop, with celery salt
Alaskan Snow Crab, Langoustine and Salmon Caviar Cocktail, with Pea and Chervil Custard, Parchment Bread and a Cucumber Mojito (Sue)
24 Hour Slow Cooked Ox Cheek in Bone Canoe, with Parsley Sponge and Beef Flavoured Mayonnaise (Me)
Main Course
Onley Grounds 14oz Beef Rib Eye Steak, with Madeira and Béarnaise Sauce, Triple-cooked Chips, Onion Rings, and Grilled Baby Tomatoes for two
Crêpes Suzette, with Vanilla Pod Ice Cream for two

After our meal, Sue and I returned to the Promenade Deck for a stroll in the fresh air. The weather was unchanged, and spray from the waves was made it feel as if it as raining. We only stayed outside for few minutes before returning to our suite. We took our time getting ready for bed, but by midnight we were both fast asleep.

Wednesday 27th November: At sea
As one would have expected, the weather overnight did not improve, and for most of the night the ship experienced considerable movement. It was difficult – but not impossible – to sleep, as the rolling was so severe at times that we almost fell out of bed!

Ventura had sailed quite some way northwards along the Portuguese coast by the time we got up at 8.00am, and she seemed to be heading towards it.

At 9.00am – just as Sue and I were about to go to breakfast – the captain announced that Ventura was going to divert to Vigo to offload a passenger whom had become ill. Soon afterwards, the coast of Galicia became visible from our suite balcony.

The local pilot was picked up whilst we were having breakfast, and by 10.00am the ship was well on her way to the harbour.

Already moored alongside the dock near to the cruise terminal was the Spanish fisheries and training vessel Intermares (A41).

Part of her equipment was a small launch …

… which she was in the process of bringing onboard.

By 10.15am, Ventura was almost alongside the cruise terminal …

… and by 10.25 am she was moored and waiting for the gangway to be put into place. Once that was done, a local ambulance arrived …

… by 10.45am the casualty had been disembarked and was being loaded into the ambulance.

Once this operation had been completed, Ventura slipped her lines and began turning out towards the open sea again.

At 11.00am, Sue and I went to the Arena Theatre to watch the fifth talk by Paul Stickler. This was entitled ‘The murder of Julia Wallace’, and told the story of her murder in Liverpool in 1931 and the trial of her husband – William Herbert Wallace – for that murder. The evidence was almost non-existent, but he was found guilty and sentenced to hang. He was reprieved and freed when the Lord Chief Justice ruled that the evidence was totally insubstantial and did not support the verdict the jury had reached. The conviction was quashed, and the husband was released … only to be shunned by the people of Liverpool. He died within eighteen months, having lost his job as an insurance agent with the Prudential Insurance and been forced to move out of the city.

The talk finished at 12.10pm, and rather than fight our way through the crowds, we went out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air. It was very windy and wet – the latter due to heavy spray from the waves – and Sue and I decided to return to our suite from a drink and to read until it was time to go to lunch.

At 2.00pm we went down to the Glass House Bar, where we ate one of the lighter lunches that they serve. The bar was almost empty, and the service was leisurely. As a result, we did not finish eating until almost 3.00pm, when we went out onto the Promenade Deck for a few minutes. We would have stayed longer, but the spray was making in very wet and uncomfortable to be out there, so we returned inside and made our way back to our suite.

It was not until just after 5.00pm that the ship began to enter somewhat calmer waters. Sue and I were in our suite reading, and as Ventura began to turn around Cap Finisterre, the amount of movement began to diminish.

The evening meal was the last formal dinner of the cruise, and at 7.45pm, Sue and I were ready and having a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar. The Bay Tree Restaurant – which has never been full throughout the cruise – was even emptier than usual, but those of us who were there did our best to cheer and clap the galley brigade when they made their traditional parade through the restaurant during the meal.

Sue and I ventured outside onto the Promenade Deck both before and after dinner, and although the deck was wet due to spray, the air temperature was higher than we had expected, and it remained pleasant to be out there.

We had returned to our suite by 10.20pm, and watched the TV news for a time before getting ready for bed. As usual, we were both in bed well before midnight. By this time the ship was gently rolling, which helped us to go to sleep.

Thursday 28th November: At sea
The gentle rolling continued all night, and when we woke up at 8.00am, Ventura was already two-thirds of her way across the Bay of Biscay.

After breakfast and a visit to the Reception Desk, Sue and I bought a few small items in the ship’s shops before going to the Arena Theatre to get seats for ‘An interview with the Captain’. This was conducted by the Entertainment Manager, and proved to be an enlightening session.

We remained in the theatre until 11.15am, when Paul Stickler presented his last talk of the cruise, entitled ‘The A6 murder’. He covered the details of the murder in some depth, along with the subsequent investigation that led to the arrest, conviction, and subsequent execution of James Hanratty. He also looked at the posthumous campaign to clear Hanratty’s name, and the discovery of DNA evidence in 2001 that proved that Hanratty was the murderer and that the conviction was sound.

After the talk had ended, Sue and I went out onto the Promenade Deck for a short time before going back to our suite to begin the process of packing. We had managed to do three suitcases by 2.00pm, at which point we stopped for lunch. We ate in the Waterside Self Service Restaurant, and by 3.00pm we had begun to do the rest of our packing.

Sue and I finished packing two of our holdalls by 3. 50pm, and by 4.00pm they were piled up in the corridor awaiting collection. (The last was to be packed and left outside our suite for collection just before we went to bed.) We then spent the next couple of hours reading and resting.

At 7.45pm, having thanked our butler and cabin steward for everything that they had done for use during our cruise, Sue and I went for a final pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar. We then strolled along the Promenade Deck before going to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner. The food was excellent – as usual – and once the meal was over, we thanked our two waiters and our wine steward for their exemplary service. Sue and I then took a final stroll along the Promenade Deck before going back to our suite to pack our last bag and to get ready for bed.

Friday 29th November: Southampton
Sue and I woke up at 6.00am, just as Ventura was manoeuvring alongside the Ocean Cruise Terminal.

It was still dark but by the time we were ready to go to the Epicurean Restaurant for our last breakfast of the cruise, it was light enough to see across the docks.

We had eaten breakfast and collected our hand luggage by just after 8.00am, and by 8.15am we were waiting in the Red Bar (Deck 7 Midships) to be disembarked. This took place almost as soon as we got there, and by 8.30am we were in the baggage reclaim hall, loading all our bags onto a couple of trollies.

There were no Border Force personnel in the Customs area, and within thirty minutes of reaching the Red Bar, we had reclaimed our car, loaded our luggage into it, and were on our way toward the exit from the docks. Our drive home was uneventful, and other than a short break at Winchester Services to buy some food from M&S Simply Food, we did not stop until we drove onto the hardstanding outside our house at 11.30am.

During my cruise I did some reading, including:
  • THE REICH WITHOUT HITLER: BOOK 2: DEATHS ON THE NILE by Scott Plater with Mike Rohde & Markus Baur