Saturday 31 December 2022

Back home after a Christmas break

Two days ago, Sue and I returned from a Christmas cruise aboard P&O's MV Arcadia. We were supposed to visit Copenhagen (Denmark), Oslo (Norway), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), and Zeebrugge (Belgium), but as my forthcoming blog post about our cruise will tell, things did not quite turn out as planned!

Arcadia was not originally intended to be part of P&O's fleet. When she was ordered from the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri in 2000, it was intended that she would sail under the Holland America Line flag as their fifth Vista-class vessel. In 2003 she was then reallocated to Cunard Line to become the MV Queen Victoria, but shortly before she was launched on 24th June 2004, she was transferred to P&O Cruises as the Arcadia. As a result of these changes, the ship does not have a similar funnel to that on P&O's purpose-built MV Aurora and has a similar foremast to that on Cunard's RMS Queen Mary 2.

From the news reports that I have read, it was just as well that we did not opt to sail on P&O's latest ship, the MV Arvia, which entered service just before she undertook a Christmas cruise. We have been on a cruise on her sistership, MV Iona, but is sounds as if the Christmas cruise aboard Arvia was a bit of a disaster! Complaints included:

  • Horrendous queues at mealtimes (One passenger is reported to have said that queues to get into one of the restaurants on Christmas Day for dinner stretched for three-quarters of the ship's length along two decks and another said that the meal they ate was still being served at 11.00pm!)
  • Problems with Christmas dinner reservations (Some passengers' dinner reservations were cancelled without notice by the booking system and others found themselves allocated to tables that were double-booked)
  • A lack of internet access (As the 'My Holiday' app used aboard P&O ships for passengers to book meals, places at shows and other entertainment, spa treatments, room service etc., as well as keep track of their onboard spending requires internet access, having unreliable internet connectivity caused major problems for passengers)

I understand that P&O have apologised profusely for the problems that occurred and assured passengers that solutions have now been put in place, but there seem to be a lot of very angry passengers out there who want some form of compensation for their ruined Christmas holidays ... and that – as yet – does not seem to be forthcoming. It makes some of the problems that we had on our cruise seem rather insignificant!

Tuesday 27 December 2022

What next for 2023?

Whenever a book gets finished and published, there is a period of euphoria for the author, followed by a serious scrutiny of the initial sales figures to see if the effort was worthwhile ... and then one begins to ask oneself the question 'Well, what next?'

Having had a chat with David Crook, I know that he is already thinking about what book he wants to write next and that I will be involved in that project, but what will my next writing projects be?

I have two in mind.

Firstly, a second PORTABLE WARGAME COMPENDIUM looks like it might be a very feasible project, and I already have several things that I would like to include in it.

Secondly, I'd like to revisit my PORTABLE WORLD WAR II WARGAME rules, specifically with the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War in mind. I already have a campaign map and system in place, and a working set of rules that need a bit of tweaking. What I need to do is to bring them together in a more coherent way than they are at present.

I would like to pursue these two writing projects whilst finishing off my Belle Époque and Franco-Prussian War of 1810 projects, both of which I have rather ignored of late due to my need to concentrate on getting THE PORTABLE IRONCLADS WARGAME published and dealing with my ongoing cancer treatment.

These are pretty ambitious goals to try to achieve over the next twelve months, but I'd rather set goals to work towards than just bumbling along flitting from unfinished project to unfinished project.

Sunday 25 December 2022

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all my friends and fellow bloggers a Merry Christmas!

Friday 23 December 2022

Taking a break over Christmas

Christmas is a very busy period for lots of people, and I have decided to take a short break from blogging so that I can concentrate on other things ... like keeping warm and eating far too much!

I will be uploading my usual Christmas greetings to my loyal regular blog readers and fellow bloggers, but other than that don't expect to hear much from me until the end of the month. In the meantime, I hope that you all keep safe and keep well.

PS. My wife tells me that my attitude to Christmas is very Scrooge-like, possibly because I have been known to say 'Bah! Humbug!' during the runup to the festivities. This is nothing to do with the actual celebrations but the fact that stuff began appearing on the shelves of shops months beforehand, and that the whole thing has – in my opinion – become far too commercialised.

As to Scrooge ... well, I think that he has had a bit of a bad press over the years ...

Scrooge the wargamer dreaming of wargames past, wargames present, and wargames yet to come!

That Dickens chap (with whom I share a birthday and certain facial characteristics i.e. scruffy hair, silly beard, bags under the eyes) has a lot to answer for!

Wednesday 21 December 2022

My additional terrain squares are finished

Earlier this month, I mentioned that I was making some sand coloured 10cm terrain square. This has taken me slightly longer that I expected, but they are now complete.

The additional terrain squares include:

  • 27 plain sand squares
  • 5 sand squares with straight rivers
  • 2 sand squares with 90-degree curved rivers
  • 8 sand squares with straight roads
  • 2 sand squares with crossroads
  • 2 sand squares with T-junctions
  • 2 sand squares with 90-degree curved roads
  • 1 sand square with a straight road crossing a straight river

I am rather pleased with the way these terrain squares have turned out, and I look forward to using them in due course.

A 5 x 5 grid made up of various 10cm hill, river, and road terrain squares.

Monday 19 December 2022

Flower-class corvettes in Kriegsmarine service

The recent publication of the latest book in Antoine Vanner's DAWLISH CHRONICLES series reminded me that back in 2020 I wrote a guest blog post on his blog about warships that had been captured by the German during World War Two and incorporated into the Kriegsmarine. As a follow up to this, I briefly wrote about the British-designed Flower-class corvettes that served in the Kriegsmarine, and by sheer chance, a couple of days ago, I found some photographs of these vessels on the Internet. I did a bit more research and the following was the result.


The French Navy had planned to acquire eighteen build Flower-class corvettes, six of which were intended to be built in French dockyards. These six were all named after old weapons, namely, Arquebuse (Arquebus), Hallebarde (Halberd), Sabre (Sabre), Poignard (Poignard), Tromblon (Blunderbuss), and Javeline (Javelin). The first three were completed to a slightly modified design, but the latter three were never fully completed, although the hull of the incomplete Poignard was launched and later used as a blockship at Nantes in 1944.

One of the Flower-class corvettes in service with the Kriegsmarine. The aft bulwark has been cut down so that the ship's minesweeping gear can be deployed.

The first three were completed by the Germans and commissioned as patrol boats PA 1, PA 2, and PA 3. (PA stood for Patrouillenboot Ausland or captured patrol boat.) The ships looked similar to their Royal Navy sisters but were far more heavily armed. Their armament included:

  • 1 × 10.5cm (4.1-inch) SK C/32 gun (1 x 1)
  • 4 × 3.7cm SK C/30 AA anti-aircraft guns (2 x 2)
  • 10 × 2cm C/30 AA anti-aircraft guns (2 x 4 & 2 x 1)
  • 2 × Mk.II depth charge throwers
  • 2 × depth charge rails with 40 depth charges
This Flower-class corvette has not yet to been completed. Her 4.1-inch SK C/32 gun is already installed in its zariba, but the quadruple 2cm C/30 anti-aircraft gun has yet to be fitted in its position atop the ship's bridge.

They were also fitted with minesweeping gear.

A sideview drawing of the Flower-class corvettes as they would have appeared in service with the Kriegsmarine.

The ships formed part of the 15th Vorpostenflottille, which was based in Le Havre on coastal escort duty until it was forced to leave on 28th June 1944 due to the Allied advance in Normandy.

PA 1 was commissioned on 15th April 1944 and is thought to have been damaged during a bombing raid by 325 Lancaster bombers on Le Havre at the night of 14th/15th June 1944. She seems to have been decommissioned on 24th August 1944.

PA 2 was commissioned in early September 1943 and was sunk in Le Havre during the bombing raid of 14th/15th June 1944.

PA 3 was in commission by 16th November 1943, and after fairly active service in the English Channel, she was also damaged during the bombing raid on Le Havre on 14th/15th June 1944. She was not repaired and was decommissioned two days later.

This is thought to be the incomplete Poignard. Had she been completed and commissioned, she would have become the PA 4.

It is interesting to note that the Germans used these vessels for coastal escort duties, the role that was originally intended for them. It was the need for deep sea convoy escorts that forced the Royal Navy to use them in much heavier seas than they were designed for ... which is why they gained a reputation for being very 'wet' boats to serve aboard.

Saturday 17 December 2022

At long last, I’ve managed to unpack the figures that Ian Dury sent me

Yesterday, I finally managed to unpack the 15mm figures that Ian Dury sent me some time ago. He gave them to me to help me expand my Belle Époque collection to include several additional ‘European’ imagi-nations, and his gift included both painted and unpainted figures. The former were mainly Austrians-Hungarian figures and are all based. (I think that the cavalry is Romanian, but I am not absolutely sure.)

The were also a number of Zubian-style figures, some of which were not based.

The unpainted figures included the following:

  • 24 x Austrian Infantry
  • 8 x Austrian Jagers
  • 12 x Austrian Gunners
  • 7 x Austrian Artillery Officers
  • 7 x Austrian Drummers
  • 5 x Mounted Austrian Generals
  • 18 x Russian Infantry
  • 14 x Russian Hussars
  • 18 x Romanian Infantry
  • 3 x Romanian Hussars

This was a very generous gift and should form the basis of at least two more armies for my collection.

Friday 16 December 2022

Nugget 349 Colour Supplement

I have just uploaded the latest issue of THE NUGGET Colour Supplement to the Wargame Developments website, and members can now read this issue online.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this issue of the Colour Supplement accompanies the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2022-2023 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.

Tuesday 13 December 2022

The latest Portable Wargame book is now on sale!

I am pleased to announce that the latest PORTABLE WARGAME book has been published! It is THE PORTABLE IRONCLADS WARGAME and was written by David Crook and edited by me.

The book is 96 pages long and is available in four formats at prices to suit the pockets of all wargamers.

The book is described as follows on its back cover:

This book builds on the earlier Portable Wargame rules for fighting battles during the so-called ‘ironclad’ era of naval warfare that were included in ‘The Gridded Naval Wargame’. In this book, the author has created a set of rules that are mainly aimed at the American Civil War, a war that saw both sides embrace the new concept of armouring warships to make them less vulnerable to the more powerful guns that were being manufactured. The fact that both sides were capable of building or extemporising such warships – sometimes in a very short time and in very difficult and trying circumstances – is testament to their ingenuity and skill, and to the pioneer spirit exhibited by so many Americans in those days.

The Americans were not – however – unique in having the capacity to both build and operate ironclad warships, and as the book shows, the French and British were more than capable of building sea-going ironclads – and the guns with which to arm them – in large numbers in a relatively short time. They soon became the suppliers of ironclad warships to the world, and many of the warships that took part in the other naval conflicts of this era were launched in British or French shipyards. The rules in this book can be used to recreate these other battles, and it is hoped to produce appropriate supplements at a later date.

The book's contents look like this:

  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgements
  • A short history of the development of the early ironclads
  • Wars in which ironclads saw action
    • American Civil War
    • The Second Schleswig War
    • The Chincha Islands War
    • The Third Italian War of Independence/Seven Weeks War
    • The War of the Triple Alliance/The Paraguayan War
    • The Boshin War
    • The Russo-Turkish War
    • The Peruvian Civil War
    • The War of the Pacific
  • Designer’s Notes – How I got to Where I got to and Why!
  • The Fundamental Rules of Wargaming
    • The First Rule of Wargaming
    • The Spirit of the Wargame
    • If in doubt ...
  • The Rules
    • Sequence of Play
    • Combat Resolution Overview
    • The Rule of 1 and 6 – Gunnery or Ramming Attacks
    • Firing
    • Movement
    • Ram Attacks
    • Mines and Spar Torpedoes
    • Damage and Sinking
    • Forts, Shore Batteries, and Offshore Defences
    • Ship Specifications
  • Examples of Ship Specifications: The American Civil War
    • Union Ships
    • Confederate Ships
    • Generic Vessels
  • Examples of the rules in action
    • Firing Arcs and Firing
    • Ramming
  • The Rules in Action – More Trouble along the Missenhitti
    • Introduction
    • Six months later …
    • Setting the Scene
    • Dramatis Naves
    • Blueberry Bend, at the Confluence of the Missenhitti and Yahoo Rivers … November 1863
    • In conclusion
  • Modelling the warships of the American Civil War
  • A Review of the Fleets
    • The Union Fleet
    • The Confederate Fleet
  • Final Thoughts, Further Thoughts, Errors, and Omissions
  • Bibliography and sources of information

This is a great addition to the PORTABLE WARGAME series of books and will hopefully not be David's only contribution.

Sunday 11 December 2022

My new storage trays have finally arrived

Some time ago, Ian Dury sent me some painted and based figures to add to my Belle Époque collection. Once they had been delivered, I decided to order some additional plastic storage trays from the manufacturer and wait until they were delivered before unwrapping the well-packed figures.

I was notified by email that the trays were on their way to me and eagerly anticipated their arrival. I waited … and waited … and waited. Finally, I got in contact with manufacturer to find out when my trays were … and was told that they had been delivered by courier a couple of days after the email had been sent to me. I told them that they hadn’t, so they investigated, and sent me a photograph of the box containing my trays on a doorstep. The problem was it wasn’t our doorstep!

Emails went back and forward between me and manufacturer, including a picture of our front doorstep to show that it wasn’t the same as the one in the courier’s photograph. The manufacturer finally agreed to supply me with some replacement trays for the ones that had been lost … and then there was a knock on our front door. Standing there was a man I’d never seen before, holding a box containing the missing tray!

It turned out that the courier had delivered the box containing the trays to a house some streets away. The house had the same number as ours, but not the same street name or postcode. The homeowner had contacted the courier about the wrong delivery, and they had agreed to collect the box … but hadn’t. In the end, the homeowner decided to deliver it to the correct address themselves, for which I am mightily thankful.

I can now begin to unpack the figures, and I will feature them on a blog post sometime very soon.

Saturday 10 December 2022

Britannia’s Rule: The latest book in the Dawlish Chronicles series.

The latest book in the Dawlish Chronicles series - BRITANNIA’s RULE - was published on Wednesday, and I am looking forward to reading it.

The published story line reads as follows:

1886: Captain Nicholas Dawlish, commanding a flotilla of the Royal Navy’s latest warships, is at Trinidad when news arrives of a volcanic eruption on a West Indian island. The situation is worsening and only decisive action can avert massive loss of life. He races there with his ships to render help. His enemy will be an angry mountain, vast in its malevolent power, a challenge that no naval officer has faced before.

But Dawlish’s contest with the volcano is just the prelude to a longer association with the island. Its sovereignty is split – a British Crown Colony in the west, and in the east an independent republic established seven decades earlier by self-emancipated slaves. When wrenched from France through war, both seemed glittering economic prizes. Now they are impoverished backwaters where resentment seethes and old grudges fester.

For many, in Roscal the existence of a ‘black republic' on its doorstep is resented, an affront to be excised. In France, a man of limitless ambition, backed by powerful interests, sees the turmoil as an opportunity that could bring him to absolute power. And, if he succeeds, perhaps trigger war in Europe on a scale unseen since the fall of Napoleon.

Through this maelstrom Nicholas Dawlish must navigate a skilful course. Political concerns complicate challenges that can only be resolved by ruthless guile and calculated use of force. Lacking direct support from the Royal Navy, Dawlish must fight some of the most vicious battles of his career with inadequate resources and unlikely – and unreliable – allies.

Looks like it’s going to be yet another rip-roaring adventure, and will no doubt give me lots of enjoyment when I read it over Christmas.

Friday 9 December 2022

It's a coming! More news!

Amongst all the other things that I have been trying to do over recent weeks, I have been putting the finishing touches (I hope!) to the latest book in the PORTABLE WARGAME series (THE PORTABLE IRONCLADS WARGAME), and I hope to get it published in the week before Christmas. The time schedule is very dependent upon things like the Royal Mail delivering proof copies in time, and as they are currently staging a number of strikes, there might be a delay.

As a tantaliser, here is a draft copy of the book's cover design:

The book is biased towards the American Civil War (mainly because that is the most well-known conflict in which ironclads took part), but there is some coverage of the other wars that took place up to 1880 that involved ironclads. It is hoped that they will be covered in more detail in later supplements.

At present we do not know how much the selling price might be, but we (David Crook and I) hope to produce it in three editions – hardback, softback, and PDF – with prices to suit the pockets of most wargamers.

Thursday 8 December 2022

Wanted, lots of ideas!

One of my regular blog readers is Ken Hanning, and like me he is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. At present his treatment involves chemotherapy, as a result of which he has to spend quite a lot of time each day sitting in a treatment chair. Like most wargamers, being inactive is almost an impossibility, and he has been using his enforced immobility to think about his next wargames project, to which end he contacted by email me on Wednesday.

The following is an extract from that email:

'If you were planning an early 1920’s mythical campaign using Late WW1 figures and equipment which rules would be most fun and engaging for participants?

A question for the whole class. I’m planning a foolish 12’ x 6’ table divided into four quadrants of 6’ x 3’ each. Divided by rivers or mountains with a castle and small town in each quadrant! I’m going to call it 'A very crown princely land grab'. A sort of Bob. Cordery or Henry Hyde style 'imagi-nations' approach. My late and dearly missed Wargames chum Steve Sykes and I did a version of this using two imagi-nations (People’s Republic of Brost and the Veritanian Principality!) using mini figs WW1 Russians and Germans.

So the first thought is rules?

The second thought is figures and scales. I have four Airfix forts or castles, which are treasured and it's time to use them. They include Sherwood Castle, Fort Sahara, Fort Laramie and the Roman Wall Gate Fort.

I wondered about the HAT hard plastic WW1 figures and equipment, but I’ve never used them, and my painting talent has eroded after years of Dupuytrens disease and carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands.!! (Don’t get me started on my eyesight!)

But I’m keen to press on with the planning as it’s a brilliant distraction from the ongoing chemo unpleasantness.'

He also included a sketch of his projected campaign map:

My reply included the following:

I enjoyed reading about your ideas for a four-way campaign set during the post-WW1 period. Assuming that you don’t want to use my PW rules (sorry for the plug but …), I’d suggest looking at something fast and simple. Morschauser’s rules fit the bill, as do Donald Featherstone’s. I was thinking of the rules he wrote for low-level warfare and for fighting actions on the NW Frontier. My personal preference for figures would be to go with 15mm, mainly because of the range of stuff that is available, although if you really want to go retro – and have the time to paint them – Jacklex do some interesting 20mm metal figures, as do several other manufacturers.

My latest painting attempts have all been 15mm, but when I was faced with painting a large number of Russian soldiers some time back, I opted for a very simple painting method that produced results that were good enough to pass the 3-foot rule. I undercoated them using a mid-grey colour, the painted them with earth brown paint. Once that was dry, I dry brushed them with sand coloured paint. All that was left to do was to paint in any smaller detail (hands, faces, boots, weapons, packs, belts) and then, once that had dried, I used a nut-brown ink wash. This enhanced the shadowing and tended to obscure any minor flaws in my painting. The figures were then varnished and based. I’ve used a similar system to paint German figures, the exception being that I used different main and dry brushed colours. My painting skill and eyesight a both pretty bad, but they were good enough for me, and that is what counts!

I like the idea that you are going to use stuff that you’ve had around for some time. Might I suggest that the style of castle might set the tone for each of the forces you raise. My suggestions are:

  • Sherwood Castle: Obviously a very Ruritanian country, with a bit of a German/Middle European feel. Uniforms would be somewhat like those worn by the Syldavians in Tintin’s KING OTTOKAR’S SCEPTRE; practical, but with a bit of colour to enliven the look of each regiment.
  • Fort Sahara: This could be the base for an army based upon the French Foreign Legion and their North African allies. Mainly dressed in light sand-coloured uniforms, but with a bit of colour when it comes to headdress.
  • Fort Laramie: This brought a sort of Boer/US army to mind, something along the lines of the mobile army described in John Buchan’s COURTS OF THE MORNING. Lots of mounted infantry supported by light armour/tankettes.
  • Roman Wall Fort: My immediate reactions was that this would be an ideal base for an army that was a mixture of French/Italian/Spanish-style troops. A bit showy but a bit out-of-date as well.

These are the idea that I came up with, but I am sure that there are plenty of my regular blog readers who could add to my suggestions. If you can, please leave a comment or send me an email and I will collate them and make them into a follow-up blog post that Ken can read whilst undergoing he chemotherapy.

One final word, just to reassure any of my regular blog readers who might be concerned that I have shared a personal email with other people, I did ask Ken's permission first!

Monday 5 December 2022

A busy week ahead

This week looks as if it is going to be a busy one.

On Monday I will be going to my second Masonic meeting in three days! This will be a meeting of my Mother Lodge (The Grove Park Lodge No.2732) ...

... and will be taking place in Halsey Hall, the Masonic centre in Cheshunt.

The meeting is going to be an Initiation (again, my second in three days) and as I don't have an active roll, I can just sit and enjoy the ceremony and the quiet companionship of the Lodge. The meeting is being preceded by the dedication of a newly-installed organ in the lodge room or temple that we use. The organ was donated by the widow of the recently deceased Brother who Seconded my application to join The Craft, and it will not doubt be both a sorrowful and a joyous event.

On Tuesday I have an appointment with my GP to review my cancer treatment and to arrange for treatment for my underactive thyroid. Hopefully this will all go without a hitch, and I will leave with a prescription for the medication that I need.

This will be followed by another visit to the local GP's surgery, this time for yet another blood test. I am having these at such regular intervals that I am beginning to feel like the late Tony Hancock! *

I am also hoping that work on the latest book in the PORTABLE WARGAME series (THE PORTABLE IRONCLADS WARGAME) will be approaching the stage when we (David Crook and I) can draw a line under it and get it published.

So much to do, and so little time to do it!

*This refers to a famous comedy sketch entitled 'The Blood Donor' when Hancock is told that they are going to take a pint of his blood and he replies, 'That's very nearly an armful!'

Sunday 4 December 2022

More terrain squares

Some time ago I made a number of 10cm square terrain squares. These were mostly made from green felt that was glued to squares of plywood, and I made a total of forty-nine squares. These comprise:

  • 19 plain green squares
  • 5 green squares with straight rivers
  • 2 green squares with 90-degree curved rivers
  • 8 green squares with straight roads
  • 2 green squares with crossroads
  • 2 green squares with T-junctions
  • 2 green squares with 90-degree curved roads
  • 1 green square with a straight road crossing a straight river
  • 4 light green squares (to represent wooded areas)
  • 2 rounded hills (brown felt)
  • 2 rough hills (brown felt)

Over the past week, I’ve begun to make some more of these terrain squares, but this time I’ve used sand rather than green felt.

The intention is that the two sets of terrain squares will be compatible, and I hope to get them finished by next weekend ... if I am lucky!

Saturday 3 December 2022

A visit to Loughton, Essex

Later this morning I will be travelling to Loughton in Essex to attend Saturday daytime Masonic Lodge meeting.

Most Masonic Lodges meet late in the afternoon/early in the evening, but a number meet during the day or on a Saturday. The Lodge I am visiting (Brooke Lodge No.2005 in the Province of Essex) meets at 11.00am on a Saturday, which is very unusual, but from what I gather, this has made it a very attractive Lodge to join for people who find meeting on a weekday afternoon or evening.

I will be attending the meeting as a guest of the Worshipful Master, who I helped to Initiate into Freemasonry … and today I will be watching him Initiate a new Freemason for the first time. There is a nice symmetry to this … and that is one of the reasons I’m particularly looking forward to this meeting.

Friday 2 December 2022

It’s a coming’!

Yesterday I finished the layout of the forthcoming THE PORTABLE IRONCLADS WARGAME book that has been written by David Crook. I’ve written a couple of appendices for the book as well as editing it … and we hope to publish it in time for Christmas.

We intend it to be available in three formats:

  • Coloured hardback
  • Coloured softback
  • Coloured PDF

We don’t yet know the price of each format, but we hope to keep them as low as possible.

Thursday 1 December 2022

‘So he marched them up to the top of the hill, and he marched them down again’

Well, if the Grand Old Duke of York lived near me, this would have been the only way to get anywhere!

On Monday, Thames Water closed the road I live on to replace part of the water main. They didn’t warn us about this; they just arrived and started digging. The fact that having dug a deep trench halfway across the road, they’ve done no further work is frustrating enough, but since then there the only bus service that serves the top of Shooters Hill - which is one of the highest points around London - has been diverted so that locals are left with a choice; stay put or walk up and down a very steep hill.

The latter option only works if you are fit and healthy … so if you are an old age pensioner, infirm, or have mobility problems you are effectively restricted to the top of the hill. (Luckily, we do have a small grocers shop and a pub on the hill, otherwise getting something to eat or drink would be very difficult.)

I checked with the relevant websites (Thames Water, TfL, Royal Greenwich Council) and discovered the work had all the proper permissions … but no one thought that was worth telling the locals. As a result, none of us got any prior notice of the road closure and could plan accordingly. I therefore tweeted about this, making sure that I included @thameswater, @TfL, @Royal_Greenwich, @BBCNews, @CliveEfford (our local MP), @NewsShopper (our local newspaper), @DanLThorpe, and @iviswill. (The latter two or our local councillors.) Interestingly, Dan Thorpe got back to me almost at once, offering to find out what was going on. Our other councillor has also now taken an interest … but to date, I’ve heard nothing from Thames Water, TfL, or the local council.

I did get a response from a local journalist who works for MyLondon, and yesterday morning he interviewed me and my next-door neighbours next to the roadworks. As a result, I appeared in a news item on MyLondon yesterday afternoon.

I have no idea if and when Thames Water will get around to sorting out the hole or when we will get our much-needed bus service back … but yesterday I saw a sign warning motorists that the road our road connects to - and which also forms part of the bus route - will be shut from 5th to 23rd December!

It looks as if I’ll have to rely on my car to get anywhere from now until Christmas.

Thank you for your Christmas present, Thames Water!

PS. Since I began to write this blog post, I have now discovered that the story has made it onto the front page of the local news paper's website (the News Shopper), and that the local Council has got involved. (I suspect that this is down to the interest shown by the two councillors for our Ward!)

According to the News Shopper:

A Greenwich Council spokesperson said:

'Thames Water made us aware of their planned work, and we were assured that a letter was sent to all residents to inform them. We’re sorry to hear that this update may not have reached everyone.

We have called Thames Water to ask them to complete the works as quickly as possible and asked for the road closure to be removed and replaced with a two-way lights system to manage traffic.'

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Poundland castle

Whenever I visit a branch of 'Poundland' I'm always on the lookout for something that I can use for wargaming ... and yesterday's visit yielded a whole castle for the princely sum of £1.00!

It is designed to be a Christmas decoration, but with a coat of grey paint it will make an ideal addition to my collection of buildings. As can be seen from the 15mm figures I have put next to it, the castle works very well with that scale of figure. Methinks that it will make an ideal barracks for soldiers from my Belle Époque collection ... or even act as the centrepiece of a large fortification for battles set in an earlier period.

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Red Devils: the trailblazers of the Parachute Regiment in World War Two

First, a caveat. My father was not a paratrooper, but he was a member of 6th Airborne Division (he served in 53rd (Worcester Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, the division's artillery regiment) from 1944 until the end of the war in Europe. As a result, I have read quite a large number books about airborne forces (including the 6th Airborne Division's war diary at the National Archives) and any new book on the subject has got to be good if it is going to hold my attention to the end.

Mark Urban’s latest book – RED DEVILS: THE TRAILBLAZERS OF THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR TWO: AN AUTHORIZED HISTORY – certainly kept me engrossed, and I read it over the course of a few days whilst I was on my recent cruise.

So, what makes Mark’s book so good that I am going to buy a printed edition to put on my bookshelf to supplement my Kindle edition? The answer is very simple; it deals with the stories of the sort of men who became the first paratroops.

Almost all the other books I have read about the British airborne forces during World War Two have covered the training, organisation, and operations of the paratroops in great detail, but little about the men who became airborne soldiers. Mark’s book fills that gap and puts meat on the bones of my previous reading, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Mark does this by concentrating – but not exclusively – on the stories of men who joined the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in its earliest days. He includes the stories of:

  • John Frost, who led the troops involved in the Bruneval raid and who commanded 2nd Parachute Battalion during the North African, Sicily, and Italian campaigns as well as at Arnhem.
  • Geoffrey Pine-Coffin, who was second-in-command of 3rd Parachute Battalion during the North African campaign before returning to England to command 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion during D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and the drive across Germany.
  • Mike Lewis, who trained as a paratrooper before joining the Army Film Unit. He helped to film event at Arnhem as well as the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

I thoroughly recommend this book, which is written in a style that was easy to read whilst not exhibiting any dumbing down. It is certainly not one of the numerous pot-boilers that purport to tell the story of the Parachute Regiment, and for that I am extremely grateful and felt that I got my money's worth.

RED DEVILS: THE TRAILBLAZERS OF THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR TWO: AN AUTHORIZED HISTORY was written by Mark Urban and published in 2022 by Penguin Books Ltd. (ISBN: 978 0241 55817 1).

Monday 28 November 2022

Nugget 349

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET on Saturday and I will post it out to members later today. In the meantime, members can read this issue online.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2022-2023 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.

Sunday 27 November 2022

Wargames Live at the Imperial War Museum

I was so what surprised to discover this morning that yesterday the Imperial War Museum hosted a ‘festival of war video games’.

It was described as:

Bringing together leading designers, podcasters, journalists, musicians and gaming enthusiasts, this unique event will feature live performances, talks and gaming interactives with visitors granted after-hours access to the War Games exhibition and retro game zone.

What concerns me is the message that this sort of event gives to the public. Anyone seeing this would get the impression that video wargames are the only form of wargame out there, when everyone involved in hobby and professional wargames knows that it is a far broader ‘church’ than that. Mind you, I shouldn’t be that surprised as the event was sponsored by World of Tanks.

I know that I am sounding very curmudgeonly and that I am being a right grognard … but it would have been nice if, rather than stage what seems to me to be wholy commercial event, the Imperial War Museum had staged an event and exhibition that covered wargaming in a much wider sense. After all, it is one of the UK’s National Museums and is therefore funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) of the United Kingdom government.

Saturday 26 November 2022

Even more additions to my Axis & Allies Miniatures collection

EBay has yielded further reinforcements for my growing collection of Axis & Allies Miniatures.

When I bought them, I thought that the large number of machine gun teams were Russians, but they turned out to be Hungarians! This means that my Hungarian army has more machine gunners than any other type of figure. Luckily, if I follow the three-foot rule (i.e., what do they look like from three feet away?), the figures could be almost any soldier in a helmet … and I will treat them as such.

Friday 25 November 2022

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ) Issue 184: Boer War Special Issue

The Autumn 2022 issue of the Victorian Military Society's SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen) arrived in the post a week ago, and as it is a special double issue, it has taken me longer than usual to read it. It follows on from the Boer War seminar that was held last May by the Society at the National Army Museum, Chelsea, and contains contributions from two of the people who made presentations to the seminar.

The articles included in this issue are:

  • Echoes from Elandslaagte: Leadership, Tactics and Historical Integrity in the South African War by Dr Harold E Raugh, Jr
  • Douglas Haig and the Boer War by Dr Keith Surridge
  • A Missing Victoria Cross: Lawrence Oates before Antarctica by Dr Andrew Winrow
  • Kitchener: A Hero with Clay Feet by Dr Anne Samson
  • Freddy Scholfield's South African Adventure by John Sly
  • The Ladysmith Diaries: The Siege 2 November 1899 to 1 March 1900 by Dr Roger E Salmon
  • Book Reviews by Dr Roger T Stearn and Dan Allen
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society

SOTQ is always a good read, and there was plenty in this special issue that was of interest to me. I was particularly interested in Dr Salmon's article about Kitchener and Dr Surridge's study of Douglas Haig, and anyone who wants to restage the Siege of Ladysmith would do well to read Dr Salmon's article.

The cost of membership of the Victorian Military Society (UK: £25.00 and Overseas: £30.00) is well worth it.

Thursday 24 November 2022

Dead beat and dead chuffed

I didn’t get home from my Tuesday meeting until 10.45pm, and even later than that after the Wednesday one. The latter took place in Bulls Green, Datchwood, which is near Knebworth in north Hertfordshire, and it took me nearly two hours to drive home. As a result, I felt deadbeat last night and only just registered the fact that a parcel had been delivered whilst I was out. In fact, I was so tired that I had an uninterrupted sleep that lasted just over eight hours … something that I haven’t done for quite sometime!

This morning I had a few domestic chores to do (shopping, tidying up the garden, and clearing the leaves from our hard standing and front pathway) and I’ve only just got around to opening the parcel … and discovered a present from Ian Dury, a larger number of painted 15mm figures for my Belle Époque project!

For the time being I’ve left all of them in the packaging they arrived in as I want to spend some time slowly unpacking them. When I have done, I’ll share a photo or two of my ‘new’ figures on my blog.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

The iPad app of Guy Debord's Kriegsspiel

As I mentioned back in early October, Guy Debord's Kriegsspiel game had recently been released as an app for the iPhone and iPad. I understand that this app has been created by Andrew Galloway, and I must admit that he has done a very nice job of it.

During my recent cruise, I was able to fight several battles on my iPad using this app. Because the cost of an Internet connection from the ship is – in my mind – very expensive, I used the AI opponent rather than an online one, and it proved to be an excellent way to learn the rules of the game.

The standard starting positions for the two sides, North and South. The supply lines are indicated by different coloured dotted lines, and units must be in contact with ta friendly supply line (or in contiguous contact with another unit that is in contact with a friendly supply line) in order to move. The arsenals are fixed, but the supply depots can move along the supply lines from the arsenals in order to give other units mobility.

Overall, I thought that this was an excellent wargame, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who – like me – is travelling or does not have easy access to an opponent. Like chess, you must think several moves ahead otherwise you can end up stringing your forces out all over the place, unable to sustain them because they are not connected to the lines of supply. (Yes, logistics – or rather keeping one's access to the lines of supply open – is a vital element of this game! Bu**er up your logistics, and you lose. Cut your opponent’s supply lines, and you win!)

This game app certainly gave me thing to think about, and although the terrain is fixed, there are a number of different starting positions players can choose and this give you lots of variety. Certainly, this wargamer – who is no great lover of computer wargames – found it challenging and enjoyable, and I suspect that quite a few of my regular readers will find the same.

Tuesday 22 November 2022

Nugget 349

The editor of THE NUGGET sent me the latest issue on Monday, and I will send it to the printer tomorrow morning. I am hoping that it will be ready to be posted out to members by the beginning of next week … if not earlier.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2022-2023 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.

Monday 21 November 2022

Delving deeply at the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre (Revised)

Sue and I have visited the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre twice before, a year ago and last September.

On this occasion, we were invited to attend a special ‘Delve Deeper’ after-hours tour of the Centre that concentrated on the National Maritime Museum’s massive model ship collection and their conservation. We arrived at the Centre in time to have some refreshments and to have a chat with other visitors before the tour started. I had a chance to meet Simon Stephens, the Curator of the Ship Model and Boat Collections. My fame (or should that be infamy?) preceded me, and I was introduced to him as ‘Bob the Blog’!

The was a good turnout, with some visitors coming from as far away as Barnet and Southampton. In fact, there were so many of us that we were split into two groups. Sue and I were allocated to the first group, and we followed Simon from the visitor’s room into the storage building that held examples of the museum’s model ship collection.

There he showed us the following models.

  • The Grille, which served as a despatch boat and yacht during her service with the Kriegsmarine. After the Second World War, the Grille was sold off and used for a variety of roles. She was eventually scrapped in New York.
  • A two-funnelled steam-powered warship from the so-called 'transition' era.
  • A model ship made of bone that was probably made by American prisoners of war during the War of 1812.
  • SMS Regensburg, which served in the Imperial German Navy during the Great War. She was then handed over to the French Navy, who renamed her Strasbourg. Her hulk was scuttled at Lorient in 1944.
  • Brunel's SS Great Britain. The ship is preserved in a drydock in Bristol.
  • HMS Powerful. She was a very large, protected cruiser, whose crew took part in the Boer War as part of the Naval Brigade. She was out of service by 1914 and used as a training hulk but was not scrapped until 1929.
  • An Iron Duke-class superdreadnought.
  • HMS Queen Mary, one of Beatty's battlecruisers, she was sunk at the Battle of Jutland. This ship and her half-sisterships (Princess Royal and Lion) were generally referred to as the 'big cats'.
  • The latest addition to the collection, a model of the Grimaldi Line's new hybrid RORO ferry.
  • SS Kenwood.
  • HMS Dreadnought, the UK's first nuclear-powered submarine.
  • The Brazilian battleship Minas Gerais. She and her sister ship (Sao Paulo) were designed and built by Vickers Armstrong.
  • An oil rig.
  • The Spanish cruiser Infanta Maria Teresa. She and her two sister ships (Vizcaya and Almirante Oquendo) were sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba on 3rd July 1898.
  • SS Dumra, which was built in 1946 for the British India Steam Navigation Company for service between India and the Persian Gulf. She had three sisterships and after being transferred to the P&O fleet, she was eventually sold in 1975 and renamed Daman. She was scrapped in 1979.
  • HMS Captain, Cowper Cole's ill-fated attempt to build a turreted battleship that could also be powered by sail and steam. She sank five months after coming into service, and all but 27 of her crew were lost.
  • RMS (later HMS) Almaznora.
  • A half-hull model of a merchant ship.
  • A model of part of Felixstowe Docks in Suffolk.

When we returned to the visitor’s room, Simon handed us over to Object Conservation Manager Karen Jensen, who took us up to the area on the first floor of the main building where model conservation takes place.

The first model she showed us was actually a diorama made for a Pirates exhibition held some years ago. It featured a model of the Hispaniola from Robert Louis Stevenson's book, TREASURE ISLAND.

The most common part of a sailing ship model that needs to be renovated is its rigging, and the conservators have their own colour chart that they use to get the exact shade of rigging right.

Also on show were two boxes of 1:1250th-scale ship models that had been donated to the museum, and which were in the process of being placed into specially made storage boxes. One contained a collection of post-war Royal Navy warships and the other included merchant ships from 1900 onwards.

Finally, she showed us examples of wooden framed and planked hull models, including the oldest in the museum's collection, which was made during the period just after the English Civil War. The actual ship that the oldest model is based on has yet to be identified, but research is currently underway to rectify this.

The next ‘Delve Deeper’ tour will take place on 9th February and will look at the clocks and chronometers held and conserved in the Centre. It will be hosted by the wonderfully Whovian-named Curator of Time!

A busy Masonic week ahead

For the first time in a very long time, I have two Masonic events taking place this week.

On Tuesday I will be attending a meeting of Herts Masters Lodge No.4090 at the Halsey Hall Masonic Centre, Cheshunt. The main event of the evening will be a delivery of this year’s Prestonian Lecture … and I have been asked to assist the speaker. (The annual Prestonian Lecture is the only lecture authorised by the United Grand Lodge of England. It is named after William Preston (1742 to 1818), who is regarded as the foremost Masonic educator of his time. He left a legacy to provide for an Annual Lectureship, and this year's lecturer is Dr John W Hawkins, whose lecture is entitled THE ROYAL FAMILY AND FREEMASONRY.)

The following day I will be attending a meeting of the Provincial Active Officers at a pub in Datchwood. We will be discussing and setting short and medium-term goals for the team to try to achieve … which all sounds a lot like the sort of thing that I did before I retired. (We’ve been told to prepare SMART targets. (i.e. they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-limited.)

Saturday 19 November 2022

Nugget 348 Colour Supplement

I have just uploaded the latest issue of THE NUGGET Colour Supplement to the Wargame Developments website, and members can now read this issue online.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this issue of the Colour Supplement accompanies the third issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2022-2023 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.

Friday 18 November 2022

A plethora of things to blog about

Sue and I have been back from our latest cruise for six days … and neither of us seems to have had a chance to relax very much since then!

The upside of this is the fact that I have a backlog of things that I want to blog about, but as yet I don’t seem to have had the time to do much blogging … and if my diary for the rest of the month is anything to go by, this situation is unlikely to improve much.

I’d rather be in this position than having nothing to blog about, and although I will not be trying to blog every day, I hope to get back into the rhythm of writing regularly again.

Thursday 17 November 2022

I have been to … Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, and Morocco aboard MV Ventura

Until very recently, Sue and I were unsure if the treatment I would need to undertake to deal with my prostate cancer would make it impossible for us to go on a cruise, but the recent news that the Erleada that I have been taking for three months has reduced my antigen level to less than 0.1 meant that we could … so rather than cancel this cruise – which had been booked last year – we decided to give it a go!

Saturday 29th October: Southampton

We set the alarm for 6.00am, and by 8.50am we were on our way to Southampton. There was far less traffic than we had expected, and by 10.35am we had driven around the M25 and along the M3 as far as Winchester Services. We stopped there for a comfort break and a snack breakfast and reached Dock Gate 20 of Southampton Docks by 11.30am. We had to queue for a short time before our car could be processed and handed over to the valet parking service, at which point we were allowed to unload our luggage and take it to the relevant baggage handling collection point for our deck.

Once that had been done, Sue and I entered the cruise terminal and began the process of being booked in. After reaffirming the questions we had already answered online as part of our Health Declaration, we were allowed to go to the registration desk for our passports to be checked, our photographs taken, and our boarding cards stamped ‘Priority’ and ‘Safe to Board’.

Normally, we have to wait to pass through the security checks, but on this occasion Sue and I were directed to go straight there, and by 1.00pm we were aboard Ventura, had registered with the crew at our muster station (the Havana Show Lounge Deck 7 Aft), and had dropped our hand luggage off in our suite and I had a quick look at the docks …

… and our position on the ship’s navigation channel.

We then went for lunch in the Cinnamon Restaurant (Deck 5 Midships). Sue and I shared a table with two other couples who – like us – had travelled on many P&O cruises. We had a very enjoyable time chatting whilst we ate and did not finish eating until after 2.00pm. When we parted company, Sue and I went up to our suite (the Oceana Suite) on Deck 8 Aft via the Promenade Deck (Deck 7).

Not long after we returned to our suite, our cabin steward – Ryan – and our butler – Sam – arrived at the door of our suite and introduced themselves. Not long afterward, Ryan returned with our luggage and Sue, and I were able to unpack.

We had finished unpacking some time before the ship set sail and went for a much-needed drink in the Red Bar (Deck 7 Midships). We then returned to our suite, and I was able to go out onto our balcony and take photographs of the other vessels that were in Southampton as we sailed downriver towards the Isle of Wight.

We had booked a table in the Epicurean Restaurant (Deck 17 Aft) for 8.30pm and had a pre-dinner drink in the Metropolis Bar (Deck 18 Aft). We finished our meal just before 10.00pm, and we then went down to the Promenade Deck for a breath of fresh air. Sue and I then returned to our suite to get ready for bed.

Sunday 30th October: At sea

Overnight the weather was quite calm for the time of year, and when we got up at 8.00am, Ventura was sailing at 15 knots down the English Channel and towards Ushant.

After eating breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I paid a visit to Explorers – the shore excursions desk (Deck 7 Midships) – where we booked a guided coach trip for the day Ventura was going to visit Tangier. We then went for a walk around the ship’s shops and had a stroll along the Promenade Deck before going to the ship’s theatre – the Arena Theatre (Decks 6 and 7 Forward) – to listen to a talk by the guest speaker.

According to the ship’s daily ‘what’s on’ newssheet ‘Horizon’, the speaker should have been Don Wales, but for some reason a last-minute substitute had been arranged. He was called Geoff Peters, and he was a former member of the Royal Australian Navy.

He gave a very interesting talk about the lost Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage and during the other sea days, he was due to deliver further talks about his naval heroes.

The talk finished just after midday, so Sue and I went to get a drink in the Glass House Bar (Deck 7 Midships). Once we had finished our drink, we returned to our suite to read and rest for a while. At about 2.30am we went up to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant (Deck 15 Aft), where we ate a snack lunch. We then went down to Deck 7 and out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air, but we only stayed out there for ten minutes as it was colder than we had expected.

Sue and I returned to our suite and remained there until it was time to go to the first formal dinner of the cruise. We had a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar before going down to the Bay Tree Restaurant (Deck 6 Aft) for dinner. After dinner we went out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air before returning to our suite to get ready for bed.

Monday 31st October: Coruna, Spain

Overnight Ventura continued to cross the Bay of Biscay, and when we woke up at 8.00am she was coming alongside in Coruna.

Sue and I ate breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant and then went down to the Promenade Deck. It was quite cold and wet up there, and black clouds were scudding across the sky. We decided to wait until the weather looked as if it was going to improved, so we went back to our suite so that could do so in comfort.

We finally decided to risk it at 10.30am, and by just before 10.50am we had walked from the ship to the Arenas bookshop, which we have visited on previous cruises.

I bought a copy of LA GUERRA CIVIL ESPANOLA 1936 – 1939 by Carlos J Medina, after which Sue and I went and sat in the small park on the opposite side of the road.

We walked through the park and past the old and new casinos. We then crossed back across the road and made our way along the pedestrianised Calle Real. Sue and I did a bit of window shopping, paid a short visit to a pharmacy to buy something that I had forgotten to pack, and finally reached one of the city’s main squares.

We continued to walk towards the gardens where Sir John Moore is buried, and at one point we stopped for a rest on a part of the seafront that gave us a view of the ship.

We had only been sitting there for a few minutes when it began to rain very heavily. Luckily, we were able to shelter in the entrance of an underground car park until it stopped.

The gates to the garden were locked, so we were not able to stop at Sir John Moore’s grave, but as the local military museum is on the opposite side of the road, our walk had not been wasted!

The museum is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and had been reorganised since our last visit. We spent a very interesting hour there before we began our walk back to the ship. Along the way, we stopped at one of the many seafront cafés – the Café Gasthof – where we ate a light lunch and had a drink.

Sue and I were back aboard Ventura by just after 2.30pm, and other than making a short visit to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for tea and cake at 4.30pm, we stayed there until it was time to go for a pre-dinner drink.

We had a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar before taking a stroll along the Promenade Deck. At 8.30pm we went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner, after which we returned to our suite for the night. There was a card on our bed that reminded us that we had to reset our clocks and watches to local time as we were going to Portugal on the following day.

(Due to the fact that we had left the UK on the day before the end of British Summer Time, the ship had not set its clocks back by one hour on Sunday as our first port-of-call – Coruna – was in Spain, which is in a time zone that is one hour ahead of the UK’s. As we were now going to be visiting Porto in Portugal – which is in the same time zone as the UK – were had to reset our clocks and watches a day later than we would have done so at home.)

Tuesday 1st November: Porto, Portugal

During the night Ventura had rounded Cape Finisterre in northern Spain and sailed southwards along the coast of Portugal, and when we woke up just before 8.00am, she was turning towards the port that serves the city of Porto, Leixões in the part of the Porto area that is known as Matosinhos.

As usual, we had breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, followed by a brief spell on the Promenade Deck, where we were able to watch the comings and goings of those passengers who were going ashore on organised tours. After a short visit to our suite to pick up our coats, bags, and cameras, Sue and I went ashore just before 10.30am.

As it was All Saints Day, we expected that many shops and other attractions would be shut, so rather than take the shuttle bus all the way into Porto, we took one to the dock gates of the port and went for a walk around the seaside part of Leixões. We started our walk by going left through the small park that adjoins the dock gates …

… and out onto the main road running through that part of the town.

This was lined with cafés and restaurants that were preparing to open for the lunchtime trade. Almost every one of them had a big barbeque that had just been lit, and their menus almost universally advertised that sardines were the main dish that was going to be served.

Sue and I returned the way that we had come and within less than ten minutes we had reached the seafront and beach. Before continuing our walk, we stopped for a café latte and pastéis de nata each in a very busy seafront café.

(The pastéis de nata is probably Portugal’s best-known pastry. It is a baked custard tart that is served in puff pastry case. The top of the custard has had fine sugar sprinkled on it before is caramelised under a grill or with a blowtorch)

Sue and I then strolled along the wide esplanade …

… and watched people enjoying themselves on the beach in the autumn sunshine.

Sue and I then decided to return to the ship. Along the way we passed a monument to the 1947 disaster that struck the local area on 1st and 2nd December.

A tempest struck the area of sea off Leixões, and as a result, 152 local fishermen were drowned, leaving a total of 74 widows and 152 fatherless children. The monument was erected in 2005 and was sculpted by José João Brito, who based it on a painting – ‘Tragédia no Mar’/’Tragedy at sea’ – by Augusto Gomes. Gomes was a famous Portuguese artist who came from Matosinhos.

By this time it was well past midday, and Sue and I returned to the ship. After a very brief stop at our cabin to drop off our coast etc., we went up to Breakers Bar (Deck 16 Forward) for a drink and a chance to sit in the sun. We remained there until it was time for lunch, which we got from the Poolside Grill (Deck 15 forward). Sue and I were back in our suite by 2.30pm, where we rested until it was time for a pre-dinner drink.

For a change, we had a stroll along the Promenade Deck before our pre-dinner drink in the Blue Bar … and another after it. We were in the Bay Tree Restaurant by 8.30pm and finished dinner by 10.00pm. Sue and I then had yet another stroll on the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite to go to sleep. Before we did so, we had to reset our clocks and watches to local time (i.e. GMT+1) as our next port-of-call is Cadiz, Spain, whose time zone is one hour ahead of the UK’s.

Wednesday 2nd November: At sea

During the night Ventura sailed southward down the coast of Portugal, and by 8.00an she was off the coast to the west of Lisbon.

Sue and I had breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, after which we went for a short stroll along the Promenade Deck. At 9.45am, we made our way to the Arena Theatre to listen to Geoff Peters deliver his second talk of the cruise. This was entitled ‘Forgotten Heroes’, which covered two topics, the life story of Sir Thomas Cochrane and the loss of the Penlee lifeboat.

His talk was very interesting, and after it ended at 10.55am I made my way up to the Ivory Suite (Deck 16 Forward) to take part in a Masonic get together. In total there were seven of us at the meeting, and we spent an hour chatting about various general topics of interest. The meeting ended at midday, and we agreed to meet again on one of the sea days of our returned journey.

Whilst I had been to my Masonic meeting, Sue spent her time looking at what the ship’s shops had for sale before returning to our suite. I joined her at just after midday and heard loud banging coming from the next-door cabin. I could hear someone shouting for help and went out onto the balcony to see if I could be of assistance. It transpired that the couple in the next cabin had both gone out onto their balcony some time before … and the door had slammed shut, automatically locking them on the balcony. I went and found our cabin steward, and he was able to open their cabin door then their balcony door. They were very obviously upset by their ordeal and thanked me for coming to their aid.

Sue and I were both feeling rather thirsty and went up to Breakers Bar for a cooling drink. The sun was shining, and it was very pleasant being able to sit in the open air in November and not have to wear a coat whilst doing so. We remained there until 1.30pm, at which point we went down to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for lunch.

After lunch, Sue and I went for a short walk along the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite. We remained there for most of the afternoon, reading and resting.

At about 7.45pm, we went down to the Promenade Deck for a short stroll before having a pre-dinner dink in the Red Bar. Sue and I then went to the Bay Tree Restaurant for the second formal dinner of the cruise. The menu had been specially devised by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White and comprised several of his signature dishes. After dinner we returned to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air before returning to our suite.

Thursday 3rd November: Cadiz, Spain

Ventura reached Cadiz well before 7.00am, and both Sue and I were woken by the sound and vibration of the thrusters that were used to turn her through 180° before pushing her alongside.

Neither of us was able to get back to sleep, and so we saw the sun gradually rise and illuminate the view of the city from our balcony.

After eating a light breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I went down to the Promenade Deck, where we were able to watch members of the crew practicing the launching and recovery of one of the ship’s tenders.

We were also able to watch one of the ship’s crash boats exercising in the dock next to the ship.

Whilst they were doing so, one of the local pilot boats (or practicos as they are known) passed Ventura and moored just behind her.

At 10.00am, the officer-of-the-watch announced that at 10.30am the ship would be turning around so that some its safety equipment could be tested, and that for at least an hour passengers and crew would be unable to leave or board Ventura. We had been expecting this, although we had thought that the exercise was not going to take place until 11.00am. Sue and I therefore returned to our suite, picked up the stuff we needed to take ashore with us, and by 10.20am we were walking towards the centre of the city.

Along the way we stopped off for a short while in a small seafront park. We sat near to a statue dedicated to the memory of Blas de Lezo, a local hero who defended Cartagena from a British attack during the 1770s.

Having rested ourselves, we resumed our walk. This took us past the town hall (ayuntamiento) …

… and through the narrow pedestrianised streets to the cathedral.

In a nearby jewellery shop that we had visited during our last visit to Cadiz, Sue bought some silver earrings. We continued our walk until we reached the local market …

… which is modelled on the sort of market found in Roman towns.

Having walked around the market, we turned inland with the intention of visiting one of Cadiz’s two games shops, but once we reached it we found nothing that I wanted to buy. By this time we had been walking around for over an hour and were beginning to feel tired and thirsty. Sue and I therefore stopped at a local café – Abuela Elfrides – for a café con leche.

We could see the main road that runs past the dock where the ship was moored from the café, and on our we came across a bookshop named Librería Jamie. Sue and I went in … and I was able to buy a copy of the Spanish-language edition of KING OTTOKAR’S SCEPTRE (EL CETRO DE OTTOKAR). Some of the noticeable differences are that Snowy is called Milú (as in the original French books … and supposedly named after Herge’s first and somewhat well-endowed girlfriend) and the detectives are known as Hernández and Fernández.

It was after 1.00pm by the time we had returned to Ventura. As the officer-of-the-watch had informed us, she had turned through 180°whilst we had been ashore, and the view from our balcony was very different from the one we had when we had docked.

Sue and I decided to have a drink in Breakers Bar before going for lunch in the Waterside Self Service Restaurant.

It was relatively empty there, and we were able to sit in the sun and enjoy our drinks as the air temperature hovered just above the 22°C level.

Once we had eaten lunch, Sue and returned to our suite to have a much-needed rest, and other than taking a short visit to the Promenade Deck, we stayed there until it was time to go for our pre-dinner drink.

We went to the Red Bar for our pre-dinner drink, having first had a short stroll along the Promenade Deck. At 8.30pm Sue and I went up to the Epicurean Restaurant for dinner, which lasted until 10.15pm. We then returned to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air before going back to our suite to get ready for bed.

Friday 4th November: Gibraltar

Unlike our visit to Gibraltar in November 2021, when the Ventura managed to get alongside but could not securely tie up due to the very high wind, this time we arrived in good weather and the ship was moored alongside by 8.00am.

The Ventura was followed into harbour by a large motor yacht, the Lady E, which moored on the opposite side of the quay from Ventura.

I also saw two Royal Navy warships in the harbour. They were HMS Scott

… the Royal Navy’s largest survey ship (She is scheduled to be withdrawn from service during 2022) and a River-class patrol ship, HMS Trent.

Sue and I ate breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, and by 10.30am we were sitting on the Promenade Deck waiting for the number of people streaming ashore to diminish. By 11.00am the initial rush was over, and we went ashore.

We took the shuttle bus to the centre of the town (Casemates Square) …

… which we reached by 11.30am. Sue and I then walked up Main Street and by just after midday we had arrived at the Angry Friar public house, where we had a much-needed drink and a sit down.

The pub is just across the road from the Governor’s residence (The Old Convent) …

… and next to the present Guardhouse.

By 1.00pm, Sue and I had begun to slowly walk back down Main Street, indulging in some retail therapy along the way. We reached Casemates Square by 1.45pm, and then had a rather leisurely lunch in Latino’s one of the numerous restaurants in the square.

We then returned up Main Street, and eventually arrived at the Gibraltar Heritage Centre, which is situated near the parliament building. It is housed in the former Grand Guard House, …

… and amongst other things it has a shop, where I was able to buy a copy of WELLINGTON’S PENINSULAR ARMY which was written by Lieutenant Colonel James Lawford (of CHARGE fame) and illustrated by Michael Roffe. The was originally published by Osprey Publishing in 1973, and mine was a 4th impression of the book.

Sue and I then returned to Casemates Squares and took the shuttle bus back to Ventura. The queue for this service was quite long, and we had to wait some time before it was our turn to get on one of the eight-seater shuttle buses. We eventually got back aboard just after 3.30pm, and went straight to Breakers Bar for a long, cool drink. Suitably refreshed, Sue and I returned to our suite to take a much-needed rest before getting ready for dinner.

The outside air temperature was still over 22°C when we went for a stroll along the Promenade Deck at 7.45pm on our way to the Red Bar for a pre-dinner drink. As it was such a pleasant evening, Sue and I returned to the Promenade Deck and walked back along it until we reached the doors leading to the stairs down to the Bay Tree Restaurant.

We had ordered our meal when – at just after 8.45pm – Ventura began the process of undocking, and by 9.00pm she had turned and was making her way out of Gibraltar. We had finished eating by 10.15pm, and after yet another turn along the Promenade Deck, Sue and I returned to our suite to get ready for bed.

Saturday 5th November; At sea

When we woke up at 8.00am, Ventura was off the coast of southern Spain and sailing eastwards into the Mediterranean.

As the Peninsular Club lunch was taking place at midday, both Sue and I had a light breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant. This ended at 9.45am, at which point Sue went up to Breakers Bar and I went to the Ivory Suite for another Masonic get together. This was not as well attended as the previous meeting, mainly because it clashed with the guest speaker’s third talk of the cruise.

The meeting ended at 10.45am, and I returned to our suite, where Sue and I began to get ready for the lunch. By just after midday we were dressed and waiting in the queue outside the Bay Tree Restaurant, where we were greeted by the ship’s captain and the ship’s heads of department. We were seated at a table with three other couples, and after brief introductions the conversation flowed freely backwards and forwards across the table as we ate.

The menu was somewhat different from that at the last Peninsular Club lunch that we had attended, and included the following dishes:


Loch Fyne Smoked Salmon, with Deep Fried Nori, Crispy Capers, Citrus and Red Onion Salad. (Both of us)


Champagne Sorbet (Both of us)

Main Courses

Pine Nut-Crusted Fillet of Sea Bass, with Crushed New Potatoes, Toasted Parsnip Purée, and Samphire Shoots (Sue)

Porcini-Crusted Tournedos of Beef, with Pommes Anna, Creamed Celeriac, Courgette Ribbons, and Grain Mustard Jus (Me)


Cheeseboard, with a selection of Regional, British, and Continental Cheese with Biscuits (Sue)

Dark Chocolate Mousse, with Amarula Cherry Compote and Caramelised White Chocolate (Me)

Petit Four

Chocolate Truffle

The lunch ended at 2.00pm, and Sue and I left the restaurant feeling rather full. To stop ourselves just going back to our suite and falling asleep after such a wonderful meal, Sue and I went up to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air. Whilst we were there, we had a very pleasant chat with a lady who had also been at the lunch, and we were able to exchange fond and funny memories of cruises we had been on and places we had visited.

Sue and I were back in our suite by 2.45pm and we spent the rest of the afternoon in our suite or on our balcony – where it was over 22°C – reading and resting until it was time for the third formal dinner of the cruise.

Whilst we were getting ready for dinner of the cruise, the sun went down behind the ship, with the sky taking on the colours of the rainbow from red to indigo.

We spent the evening doing much the same as we have on the other evenings aboard Ventura. We had a pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar, followed by a short spell on the Promenade Deck, then dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant. We ended the evening with another spell on the open deck for some fresh air and we were back in our suite by 10.30pm, and asleep before midnight.

Sunday 6th November: Valencia, Spain

Both Sue and I were awoken by the vibration o the thrusters as Ventura manouevred alongside the dock in Valencia.

Soon afterwards, another cruise ship, the MV Spirit of Discovery, moored behind Ventura.

Sue and I had breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant as usual, and after a spell on the Promenade Deck watching other passengers stream ashore, we decided to join them. We boarded the shuttle bus at a little after 10.45am, and some twenty-five minutes we arrived at the bridge (the Pont de Serrans) …

… that leads to the Towers of Serrans (Torres de Serrans), one of the ancient entrances to the old city.

From there, Sue and I walked to the Plaza de la Virgen

… where a festival of local folk music and dancing was taking place.

We made our way behind the cathedral to a square (the Plaza de la Reine) that used to be filled with trees and grass, but which has now been covered over with paving slabs.

Close to the wall of the cathedral is a bronze model of the cathedral …

… which has Braille labels.

Our walk then took us down the street between the cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace, over which is a bridge so that clergy can move from one to the other without having to get wet.

A similar bridge connects the cathedral with the Real Basilica de Nostra Señora de Los Desamparados.

Our walk had gone around in complete circle, and we ended up back in the Plaza de la Virgen, near to the Turia fountain and reclining statue. Sue and I then made our way back to the shuttle bus pickup point, and after a thirty-minute drive, we were back at the dockside where the ship was moored.

After we had passed through the shoreside security checks and reboarded Ventura, Sue and I paid a quick visit to our suite before going to Breakers Bar for a long, cold drink. (It was much-needed as the air temperature had reached over 25°C during our time in the centre of Valencia.) We then ate lunch in the Waterside Self Service Restaurant before going back to our suite to rest.

At 3.30pm, I went to a third Masonic get together. This time it took place in the Metropolis Bar and three of us managed to meet up and have a chat. I got back to our suite just after 4.30pm, and Sue and I stayed there until it was time to go for our pre-dinner drink.

Our evening followed its normal routine; a stroll along the Promenade Deck, followed by a pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar, then another walk along the Promenade Deck, dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant, and ending in a final spell out on the Promenade Deck. Sue and I were back in our suite a little after 10.00pm, and after watching Sky and BBC World News for a while, we read for a time before going to bed.

Monday 7th November: Cartagena, Spain

Sue and I were awoken by the sounds and movement caused by the ship’s thrusters as she manoeuvred her way through the harbour entrance and alongside the quay in Cartagena.

Ventura moored behind another cruise ship – the Brilliance of the Seas – and across the harbour from the Norwegian Dawn.

As a result, the ship was much closer to the area where the local fishing fleet is moored and maintained and further away from the naval base than the place that she usually docks.

Once we had eaten breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I went down to the Promenade Deck. We spent some time on the starboard side (which was in the shade) before going over to the port side (which was in the sun). Part of the deck was closed off as members of the crew were testing one of the ship’s tenders …

… and a lifeboat.

Sue and I went ashore at about 10.45am, and as we walked towards the exit from the quay, we passed a rather unusual monument.

Rather than follow the route taken by most of the other passengers, who turned left and headed towards the main pedestrianised street leading inland, Sue and I went to the right and followed the road through a short tunnel that had been cut into the city’s Medieval walls.

From there is was a twenty-minute walk to Cartagena’s Military Museum (Museo Historico Militar) which is situated – along with the city’s archives – in the old artillery barracks.

We stayed in the museum until just after midday, by which time we were both feeling very hot and thirsty. We made our way back towards the seafront, stopping at the Café Cavite for a drink.

On our walk back along the pedestrianised main street, Sue and I bought some Cava and soft drinks in a small supermarket that was located in one of the side streets.

By the time we arrived at the walkway from the main promenade towards the quay where Ventura was moored, Sue and I were in need of another drink, and we decided to stop at the nearby Mare Nostrum Restaurant.

It looked rather crowded, and we sat in the shade outside the main entrance. One of the staff asked us if we would like to sit on the sun terrace, which was being vacated by a tour group from the Brilliance of the Seas. We accepted this kind offer … and in the end we decided to eat lunch there!

Sue ate Sea Bream that was served with a polenta cake and tomatoes, and I ordered lamb cutlets. Unfortunately, the chef had used up all the lamb he had in his pantry feeding the tour party, and I was offered an entrecote steak instead. I agreed … and it turned out to be enormous!

(A short aside: What is it about people who visit foreign countries and refuse to eat the local food? Whilst we were eating in the Mare Nostrum Restaurant, three groups of people – two American and one British – sat down at the table next to us and asked to see the menu. After some quite animated conversations that included statements like ‘They don’t do hamburgers’, ‘Why don’t they sell hotdogs?’, and ‘There aren’t any pizzas on the menu’, none of the groups stayed to eat. The food was what I would have termed international in nature, but with Spanish influences, hence my steak was locally sourced and served with grilled peppers and potatoes fried in olive oil … and was excellent!)

We finally finished our meal at 2.30pm and made our way slowly back to the ship. We were back in our suite by just before 3.00pm …and once inside, we spent the next hour and a half resting and cooling down.

Ventura set sail for her last port-of-call (Tangier) at just after 4.30pm. On her way out of harbour, she passed the Brilliance of the Seas

… and was followed by one of the local pilot (or practicos) boats.

It was still 22°C when we went for our usual pre-dinner stroll along the Promenade Deck at 7.45pm, and although the air temperature had dropped a little by the time we had had a drink in the Red Bar, taken another walk along the Promenade Deck and eaten dinner in the Epicurean Restaurant. In fact, it was stll over 20°C when we returned to our suite to sleep.

Tuesday 8th November: November: Tangier, Morocco

The Ventura had already sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean when Sue and I woke up at 7.30am.

As we were booked on a tour (‘Panoramic Tangier’) that was leaving at 10.30am and we had to be in the assembly point in the Arena Theatre by 10.00am, Sue and I had a somewhat earlier breakfast than normal in the Epicurean Restaurant.

Our tour left pretty well on the dot of 10.30am, and after driving along the Corniche and past several royal palaces, our first stop was the lighthouse at Cap Serat.

From there we drove to the English Church in Tangier. This was built to serve the needs of the small Church of England population of the city and was constructed in a rather eclectic style that betrays a mixture of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish influences.

Amongst the people buried or memorialised in the church are Squadron Leader Thomas Kirby Green, who was killed after taking part in the so-called ‘Great Escape’.

The church also contains the Roll of Honour that names all the Moroccan-born or residents who died during the Great War.

In the churchyard there are thirteen Commonwealth War Graves, …

… including four aircrew from one crash …

… and five from another.

Of the remaining four graves, three were also members of the Royal Air Force and one was a member of the Gibraltar Security Police.

We then walked the short distance to the Villa De France Hotel …

… where we were able to have some light refreshments (English tea, mint tea, Turkish coffee, orange juice, and various cakes) …

… and restore our personal comforts.

Our coach tour then resumed, and we arrived back alongside the Ventura just before 1.30pm. We were greeted by a local drumming group, whose enthusiasm wasn’t diminished by the fact that it was at least 24°C in the shade!

Sue and I were so thirsty that rather than go back to our suite, we went straight up to Breakers Bar for a long, cold drink. We sat there chatting to another couple who had travelled from Darlington to Southampton to go on the cruise, a journey that was made more difficult by having to travel across Central London from King’s Cross to Waterloo with all their luggage!

After returning to our suite to drop off our bags and cameras, Sue and I went back to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for a light lunch. We then returned to our suite, where we stayed for the rest of the afternoon.

As Ventura wasn’t leaving Tangier until 10.00pm, Sue and I were able to have our pre-dinner walk along the Promenade Deck and have a drink in the Red Bar without the feel of the ship’s engines gently vibrating under our feet. In fact, the engines had not started until we had finished eating dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant and we were back out on the Promenade Deck.

We were able to watch the whole undocking process from our position on the Promenade Deck and did not return to our suite until the ship was moving towards the harbour entrance.

Wednesday 9th November: At sea

Overnight the Ventura sailed westward out into the Atlantic, and by the time we woke up at 8.00am, she was off the southern coast of Portugal.

The sea was not particularly rough, but there was a very distinct swell that – along with the wind that was hitting the ship from astern – was causing her to roll as well as pitch.

After having breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I went out onto the Promenade Deck for a walk before going to the Arena Theatre to hear the next talk by Geoff Peters. This was entitled ‘The World’s Greatest Living Adventurer’ …

… and was about the exploits of the Russian record-holding adventurer, explorer, climber, yachtsman, long-distance rower, balloonist, and priest, Fedor Konyukhov.

The talk lasted until just before 11.00am, and before going back to our suite, Sue and I paid a visit to the ship’s shops, followed by a spell on the Promenade Deck.

Whilst the sea was not as rough as it has been on previous voyages we have taken, the affect of the wind and the waves on the ship was more pronounced than one would have expected, and she was rolling from side to side as well as pitching up and down quite violently at times ... as the following photographs of the horizon, taken seconds apart, show.

We were back in our suite by 11.30am, and we stayed there until it was time for lunch. I spent my time doing some text editing, and Sue read. We went to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant at 1.20pm, and then went down to the Promenade Deck to sit in the sun. At 2.20pm we parted company, with Sue ging up to our suite whilst I attended another Masonic get together in the Metropolis Bar.

I returned to our suite at 3.40pm, and finished my editing whilst Sue wrote her daily cruise log. Our butler arrived with some canapés at 5.05pm, and after eating them Sue and I rested for a while before getting ready for our fourth dinner in the Epicurean Restaurant.

Our booking was for 8.45pm, so after a stroll along the Promenade Deck we went for a drink in the Red Bar. We then had another walk along the Promenade Deck before taking the lift up to Deck 17, the location of the restaurant.

Once our excellent meal was over, we returned to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air before going back to our suite to sleep.

Thursday 10th November: At sea

During the night the ship had continued to sail northwards, and when Sue and I woke up at 8.00am, Ventura was off the coast of northern Portugal/north-western Spain.

The captain obviously expected the ship to experience some bad weather, and the in-cabin TV system displayed the following message on the Navigation Channel:

After eating breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, we went straight to the Arena Theatre to listen to Geoff Peters’ last talk of the cruise. It was about La Perouse, the French naval officer and explorer.

The talk ended at 10.50am, and Sue and I decided to go back to our suite for a drink via the Promenade Deck. We sat there for a time and could see the coast of northwest Spain on the horizon.

At midday Ventura was off Cape Finisterre and just about to enter the Bay of Biscay. As we had booked afternoon tea in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I decided not to have lunch. We did, however, go for a drink in the Glass House Bar at 1.30pm before going out on the Promenade Deck to sit in the sun. (I must admit that I would not have expected to be able to sit outside in early November wearing a polo shirt and no coat or pullover, but it was 18°C out on deck at 2.00pm.)

It was quite pleasant sitting there, but at 2.45pm, Sue and I went up to the Epicurean Restaurant for our afternoon tea.

The restaurant opened its doors at 3.00pm, and we were allocated one of the tables near to the windows.

The menu for the tea was included:

Herb Lobster Roll, with Celery, Chives, and Dill in a Brown Butter Brioche

Corn-fed Paprika Chicken Ciabattina, with Heirloom Mushrooms

Beetroot and Vanilla Smoked Salmon Shortcrust Pastry Tart, with Dill and Caper Cream and a Beetroot Wafer

Pistachio Financiers, with Rose-scented Cream Cheese and Persian Rose Petals

Golden Chocolate Sphere, with Dark Chocolate Mousse, Framboise Macerated Raspberries, and Chocolate Genoese

Blueberry Yoghurt Cheesecake, with Blackcurrant Jam Centre and a Graham Cracker Base

Verrine Mont Blanc, with Crunchy Meringue, Blackcurrant Conserve, Dark Rum, and Sweet Crème de Marron

Raspberry and Raw Cacao Scones and Traditional Scones, with Cotted Cream and Jam

Sue and I managed to eat most of the food and were very full when we left the restaurant at 3.50pm. We went down to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air … only to see the MV Iona – another of the ships in P&O’s fleet – coming up on the Ventura’s starboard quarter.

Sue and I spent the rest of the afternoon resting, reading, and doing some preliminary sorting out prior to doing our packing on the following day. We then got ready for the last formal dinner of the cruise.

When we went out onto the Promenade Deck at 7.45pm, the moon was shining very brightly, and the lights of the Iona could be seen as she sailed ahead of Ventura.

Sue and I then went to the Red Bar for our pre-dinner drink …

… before going to the Bay Tree Restaurant to eat.

However, when we returned to the Promenade Deck after dinner, Iona was no longer visible as she surged ahead to get to Southampton first.

Friday 11th November: At sea

Despite the seas being somewhat rougher overnight, the ship made excellent progress across the Bay of Biscay.

Once Sue and I had eaten breakfast and had a post-breakfast walk along the Promenade Deck, we paid a visit to the ship’s shops to buy some small presents for the staff who had served us, especially those in the Epicurean Restaurant. (The other staff, such as our waiters in the Bay Tree Restaurant, our cabin steward, and our butler all generally receive tips.)

The shops are located on several of the decks (Decks 5, 6, and 7) of the ship’s atrium.

After our trip to the shops, Sue and I went out onto the Promenade Deck, where – despite it being early November – the air temperature was 18°C. We sat there until just before 10.30am, when we went back to our suite to begin the preparations to pack our luggage (i.e., sorting and folding clothes, selecting what could be packed now and what would be needed for the following day).

As it was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the whole ship fell silent for two minutes at 11.00am as a sign of respect for the fallen of both World Wars and all subsequent conflicts.

Once the two-minute silence was over, Sue and I resumed our preparations, and by 11.30am, we were in a position to beginning packing. By midday we had finished packing two suitcases and two large holdalls, and after the midday announcement from the bridge, we took a break and went for a drink in the Glass House Bar.

Once we had finished our drinks, Sue and I went out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air.

Sue and I were back in our suite by 1.00pm, and by 2.00pm we had done as much packing as was possible and decided that it was time for lunch. We went up to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant to eat …

… and afterwards went up to Breakers Bar to sit in the sun and have a drink.

By 4.00pm we were back in our suite and – as requested – left our three suitcases and two large holdalls outside our cabin for collection. We retained one large holdall, which we would put out just before we went to bed.

At 5.15pm, our butler – Sam – paid us his last visit of the cruise, and we had a chance to thank him for everything he has done for us. By 7.30pm, Sue and I were ready for our pre-dinner stroll along the Promenade Deck and a drink in the Red Bar. Just before the Bay Tree Restaurant opened at 8.30pm, we returned to the Promenade Deck … which was almost empty.

We ate a splendid last dinner, after which we thanked the two waiters and the wine waiter who had served us during our cruise. We had yet another stroll along the Promenade Deck before going back to our suite, which we reached just before 10.00pm. The Navigation Channel on our cabin TV showed that the ship was well on her way up the English Channel and was likely to get into Southampton on schedule.

Saturday 12th November: Southampton

The alarm went off at 6.30am, just as the Ventura was mooring alongside in Southampton.

By just after 7.20am, Sue and I were eating our last breakfast of the cruise in the Epicurean Restaurant. We were back in our suite by 7.45am, and at 8.00am we had reached the Red Bar, which was designated as the gathering point for those passengers who had Priority disembarkation. Within five minutes we were sent to the gangway, which was located on Deck 6.

By 8.10am Sue and I were in the baggage collection hall, and within couple of minutes we had found all of our luggage and were on our way to the exit. As we passed through the Customs checkpoint, a Border Force officer stopped us and asked us a number of questions. Once that he was satisfied that we were UK citizens and were not carrying any contraband, Sue and I were allowed to continue of our way.

Sue and I collected our car from the valet parking service, and after loading all our luggage into the boot and on the backseat, we set off for home.

We drove out of the car park at 8.45am, and other than a short stop at Winchester Services for a coffee, a comfort break, and to buy enough food to last us until we could go shopping next day, our journey home was pretty uneventful until we reached the M23 junction with the M25. A matrix sign indicated that the A2 – the link road we normally use to get to and from the M25 – was closed due to multiple accidents. As a result, we had to take a different route from the M25 that took us home via Sidcup, Blackfen, and Welling. Despite this, we were home before midday.

Our Autumn cruise to Iberia and North Africa was over … and our next cruise is already booked!