Christmas past. . . .1962

Ellenga

BI vessel S.S Ellenga

As a first trip cadet – I’d been at sea for about three months – it was Christmas at sea – we left Mina el Ahamadi in Kuwait at 3.00 am on Friday 21st December – it would be Christmas at sea for the five day voyage to Little Aden in what is now Yemen.

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We were not all that sorry to leave, because I doubt that an oil refinery in Kuwait would be on many people’s ‘bucket list’, particularly at Christmas time.

Even though it was Christmas at sea the watching keeping officers and crew still had to work on Christmas Day.

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Christmas breakfast menu,  on board the Ellenga in 1962.

The one thing we didn’t worry about was being hungry – couldn’t fault the British India Steam Nav. Co for the standard of food.

Certain cruise ship today think that they invented breakfast menus  . . .

For those of us who didn’t have to work on Christmas Day,
after a beer or two we all had lunch.

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A quiet afternoon for the cadets and at 7.00 pm it was time to eat again . . .

It was Christmas dinner!

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Cover of the Christmas dinner menu – signed by the officers.

All the time were ‘eating’ we were steaming down the Persian Gulf towards the Straits of Hormuz

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Coast of Little Aden, Yemen shot from Al Burayqah

The view of our destination – Little Aden- of course we were not allowed ashore. If for some reason we had to visit Aden, it was about a 45 minute road trip, and HOT!
The above is from the internet and thanks to Taff Davies in the UK.

Aden and Little Aden were still Aden colony in 1962 – the British having captured the area  in 1839 to secure the route to India, control the entrance to the Red Sea.and to dissuade pirates.
Until 1937 Aden was governed from India, but in 1937 it became a Crown Colony.
Its location is equidistant from Bombay (now Mumbai), Zanzibar & the Suez Canal, so it was a very important strategic location.

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We now jump forward four years to 1966, when I experienced another Christmas at sea.

I’d passed my 2nd Mates ticket and had been appointed 3rd Officer in the Bankura.

Bankura

BI ship M.S Bankura 6,793 gt, launched in 1959.

We sailed from Chalna in East Pakistan (the name changed after liberation to Bangladesh in 1971), after loading in the Rupsha River from floating warehouse type barges – the photograph below will give you and idea. We used our own derricks / cranes to load the cargo, After we completed loading we sailed for Colombo in Ceylon.

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I was once again at sea for Christmas, but only have the dinner menu as a souvenir.
This time I was third mate in a cargo ship running between Calcutta to the Australian & New Zealand coast. The round trip would take us about three months, unless we were lucky and became strike bound in Australia . . . . for the dockers in Australia this was their main hobby in the 60’s.

Although I was ‘at sea’, we were not sailing the oceans at Christmas, but anchored in Colombo harbour in Ceylon, (now called Sri Lanka). We arrived on the 20th December and worked cargo until Christmas Day, which was a holiday, not just for us, but Colombo as well. While we at the buoys another of the  Company’s vessels arrived and moored at a buoy close to us. She was the Carpentaria.
I think we were left at buoys because it would have been cheaper than going alongside due to the downtime, because of Christmas.

Carpentaria

 Carpentaria 7268 gt Launched 1949

We had company and a change of faces, and the ability to swap books. The Carpentaria carried eleven passengers so their Christmas was going to be ‘posher’ than ours, not that we had any complaints. The menu for our Christmas dinner is below

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Cover

Front cover of the menu – once again signed by the officers.

I have a letter that I sent to Maureen detailing the high jinks that took place between the Bankura & the Carpentaria officers – but that is another story.

 

 

Transplanted Christmas

A friend of mine commented on an old post, (which I posted in 2015), about cooking a Christmas turkey that doesn’t dry out, so I thought I’d post the recipe again, because Christmas is only a few weeks away.

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Christmas comes but once and year, & this is the only time my wife and I eat turkey.
Over the years we have experienced different ways of cooking the bird so that it doesn’t dry out.

The ‘must have Christmas turkey’ is a hangover from our time in the UK, before we emigrated.
Our Australian friends favour pork, ham or shellfish – prawns, oysters etc.
This coming Christmas will be our 38th Christmas in Australia, which for me, is three years longer than my UK Christmas’s.

The only ‘Pommy’ things that we have transplanted from our life in the UK is turkey at Christmas Mince pies and home made mince pies, from Maureen’s mum’s recipe.

Mincemeat

and it has to be Roberton’s

The best turkey recipe that we have found was sent to me a few years ago by a HMS Conway friend, who is half Dutch and half English, and now lives in the UK.

The process is quite simple – cover the turkey in streaky bacon, and then foil.

Set the oven to switch on at 1.30 am Christmas morning, at a temperature of 70 degrees ‘c’ and set the timer for seven hours.

At 8.30 am increase the temperature to 180 degrees ‘c’ for three hours. This allows us to attend the 9.00 am service at church.

At 10.30 am remove the foil from the turkey – leaving the oven at 180 c – depending on your needs, the removal of the foil can be between 30 to 60 minutes, before the end of the three hour period.

At 11.30 am remove the bird from the oven and wrap it in plenty of towels (or you can use a small blanket), which locks in the heat, but doesn’t dry out the bird . The turkey will stay warm for hours, leaving the oven free for other food to be cooked.

Lunch can be served any time after the vegetables are ready – it all depends on your timetable.

We sat down for lunch at 2.00 pm and the meat was moist, tasty and very appetising – dry turkey is a thing of the past.

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It takes time to get used to Christmas in Australia,

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In Praise of Something Smaller

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Maureen & I have completed ten cruises over the years, mainly with Princess Cruises, but the one that we use to judge all of the others is Azamara Cruises.
Azamara Quest 30,277 GT, the smallest ship in which we have sailed, launched in 2000, with a passenger capacity of 686 and a crew of 408.

 

Majestic Princess cruise ship

The largest vessel in which we have sailed was Majestic Princess at 144,000 GT, launched in 2017, and she has a passenger capacity of 3,560 and a crew of 1,346 and I must admit that we never felt crowded.

As a comparison Majestic Princess offers 1 crew member for 2.64 passengers and Azamara Quest offers 1 crew member for  1.68 passengers.

The larger vessels offer climbing castles, multiple swimming pools, some with wave makers, wind tunnels, promenades that hang over the water, whereas smaller vessels offer the opportunity of seeing smaller accessible ports that the large vessel can’t enter.

It all depends on what the customer wants, so I thought I’d post a few photographs of the Azamara Quest as a comparison.

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The buffet area where one can have any meal, but we used it mainly for breakfast & lunch.

DSC06105rThe passenger doesn’t help himself, all food is covered and a crew member serves you so there is tight control for health reasons, not portion control – you can have as much as you require.

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Waiter service at lunch time if you want a glass of wine or beer.

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I’ve never experienced the buffet to be rushed, or noisy, and we never had to wait for a table, obviously the sitting area is larger than the area shown in the photograph.

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Swimming or sunbathing on a sea day.

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For those who don’t swim, there is always some where to sit – and before you ask I don’t have any idea who the guy is behind Maureen. During our cruise we had a good choice of beers, which were complimentary, as were all the soft drinks.

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The pool is also used in the evening for ‘White Night’ – people dress in white (which is not compulsory) and there is a buffet of hot food, all cooked to order, of dishes from around the world, and of course various wines.

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Towards the end of the evening there is the ‘march of the flags’ representing the international mix of the crew. As you see the Isle of Man, or Manx flag, was also represented as part of the flag march, because I think the ship’s Master was a Manxman.

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A favourite of mine is always the library, which is in the Drawing Room.

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Quiet, with picture windows overlooking the sea, board games available for those who like chess, scrabble, cards etc, plus desk top computers if you wish to go on line.

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The Living Room.

A large room that overlooks the bow – with picture windows to watch the world pass you by, while you sit in hammock seats suspended from the deck-head, or just in comfortable armchairs – your choice.

The above was taken in the early morning, but around 4.30 pm it becomes popular because the piano player arrives or other musicians (music is never too loud), stewards serving pre-dinner drinks, and it is a place to meet fellow travelers, without being too shy or uncomfortable.

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The bar area in the living room.

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Port side of the Living Room for a quiet read.

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Come 5.00 pm and the hors d’oeuvres have arrived – complimentary of course – they never seem to run out.

 

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From the Living Room over looking the bow as we left Bombay.

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Sunsets over the Indian Ocean as we head for Muscat in Oman.

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Around 6 to 6.30 pm we made our way to the dinning room – choice of tables for small groups, or just for two, we were happy to sit with people we didn’t know, but on such a small ship it wasn’t long before your ‘knew’ everyone.
Each day the complimentary wine changed (one red, one white) from different parts of the world, this always made for a very happy friendly evening meal.1058-DiscoveriesRestaurant

I copied the above from the Azamara Pursuit site – all the other photographs are mine from our cruise in the Quest.

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Entertainment is not as extravagant or as spectacular as the shows on the larger vessels, but more like a night club where you are closer to the acts. The above was a local dance troop during our visit to Goa in India. They didn’t sail with us, but came on board just for the show .

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You still have the all dancing and all singing acts. . .

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The difference with the smaller ship shows, is that you get to talk to the entertainers because they are all involved with the daily running of the ship – they run the trivia quizzes,  teach ballroom dancing or just chat about their life at sea as an entertainer.

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This guy was ‘DIFFERENT’

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The balloon appeared to be a standard balloon when he began.

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You can see how close he is to his audience.
He was a ‘magic act and did more than climb in to a balloon, he was very funny.

A day ashore in Muscat,

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The local Souk or market – air conditioned . . . .of course.

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and on our return – the Quest had remembered Maureen’s birthday,
and her gluten free cake.

azamara-pursuitAzamara Pursuit
There are only three ships in the Azamara Group – Azamara Quest, Journey & now the Pursuit, they are all sister ships.
The Pursuit was launched in 2001,  30,211 GT and has just completed (August 2018) a substantial refit in Belfast, UK, to bring her up to the standard of her two sisters.

Maureen & I are booked to sail in her in 2019 – I do hope the experience will be as good as the Quest.

We may consider that sailing in a ship of ‘only’ 30,000 GT is small today, but having sailed in cargo ships, such as the British India ship Pundua, launched 1945, at 7,200 GT Azamara Quest, to some of us is quite large.

PunduaI was 3rd Mate in the Pundua in 1966.

 

 

 

 

 

Oбед = lunch

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Lunch on our second day, was at our own expense, but the guide made sure that the restaurant that we visited was able to cope with 12 of us dropping in for a meal.

I asked the guide for a traditional Russian light lunch, not borscht or beef stroganoff. She’d chosen a restaurant that offered a type of wrap – it’s advertised in the above picture.

We all sat at different tables in blocks of four, which was the layout of the restaurant.

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We had a chat with the waitress, who was very pleasant and tried her best to understand us, but her English was very limited and our Russian was nil. I was trying to ask for a gluten free dish for Maureen, and we didn’t get anywhere until I called the guide over to help with the ordering.

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Our first priority were the drinks – I wanted Russian beer and the waitress kept pushing German beer, which was not much different in price, but when in a country I like to try their own beer.

The Russian beer, based on the menu card, was fine, but I was a little concerned because of the beer mats. The above beer mat is for Krusovice, which is a Czech brewery named after the village where it originated.

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 The crown shown, is not Russian, but Austrian, so as the beer I drank was draft beer, I am not sure if it was Russian or  Czech or even German.

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Regardless it was a pleasant drop that hit the thirst spot.

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Maureen’s gluten free meal – it looked attractive and from memory Maureen enjoyed it.

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I ordered the above, which was filled with a Chinese type vegetables, with chili sauce on the side. I’d only seen pictures and worked out that you could have two for a certain price or one for a cheaper price. I wasn’t sure if they meant double fillings or two full wraps, so just picked one, which was a specialty of the house. I thought that if they were small, and I was still hungry, I could always order another. As you see one was enough. Puff pastry filled with stir fried vegetables – it was OK, but I didn’t think this was particularly Russian – but I might be wrong.

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The experience was entertaining, the food OK, and beer cold, and we were on holiday so, can’t complain. The meal & drinks for both of us, cost less than USD $15.

Are You Free, Captain Peacock??

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Elisseeff Emporium on Nevsky Prospekt.

Elisseeff Emporium reminded me of a visit to Fortnum & Mason’s in London. Elisseeff Emporium food hall was part of retail and entertainment complex, which was built in 1902/03.

Before this new building was constructed in 1881, there used to be a restaurant on the corner, which anti-tsarists used to dig a tunnel from the restaurant under the side road that can be seen from Nevisky Prospekt, in an effort to plant a bomb to kill Czar Alexander II. Everything was ready, but the Czar didn’t pass that way on that date. The Czar was assassinated later.

After the new building was completed it was under the control of the Elisseeff Brothers who were merchants.

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The shop in 1904 – found the picture on the internet.

After the revolution in 1917 the shop was operated by a State company and called Gastronom No. 1, and so called until the 1990’s, when it was operated as “Eliseevsky shop” (a public listed company) in 1995, but the enterprise never really got off the ground, and there were various attempts to open businesses including opening as a perfume shop.

After a long period of restoration the shop eventually opened in 2012. The operator retained the old feel and the food hall now offers the traditional seven different food areas.DSC03454c

I took this as we entered, and later had to crop out certain 21st century signage – they just didn’t fit.

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It is a popular tourist spot – in the centre under the large pineapple, people were enjoying cups of coffee or tea.

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Piano music – classical tea time music that one would expect, was played by the invisible man. The keys were computer controlled, as you can see two keys have been played – it was quite relaxing.
The Australian readers would liken it to the live pianist in the David Jones Department store in Sydney.

DSC03457c The price of the middle white item is 120r, I think this means grams, so on the right it states 240 PY6 / RUB, so I assume it is 240 rubbles.
As far as I can make out 240 rub = USD $3.50 (approx) for 120 grams (just over 4 oz) of the cake.
The PY6 is a symbol for the Kopeks & it seems the Rubble, and there are one hundred kopeks in the rubble.

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They had individual stands dotted around, as well as traditional counters. The lady in red on the right is sitting for tea & cakes and just above her you can see a waitress.

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Fish counter all well presented.

DSC03459r Lightly salted salmon & trout & the eel was smoked cured.
Trout is 100 grams for 320 PY6 about USD $4.70
Eel 100 grams = 800 rubles about USD $11.75 (About USD $53.30 / Ib)

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Turkish delight and other sweet dishes.

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Hampers & dry displays – had a feeling of Christmas – but it was July . . .

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Decadent cakes for the proletariat.

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My favourite counter – glorious cheeses –
Swiss Briee – 100 gram (3.5 oz) 690 PY6 about USD$10.13

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Hard cheeses – young goat milk cheese – 800 (USD$11.75) for 100 grams.

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Special occasion cakes

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All items are made with chocolate – except for the tea set . . .
Chocolate shoe 240 grams = USD $22.00 (1500 rubles)

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They also sold foreign delicacies -couldn’t make out the price in the photograph for the British item.

They also sold wine and Champagne. Quite an interesting thirty minutes.

 

Onwards to the Sceptred Isle

 

DSC03891rPicture taken of the Cross of St George the English flag, above Bargate, Southampton.

DSC02055rBargate – Southampton . . .
but before we reached the Sceptered Isle, we had to leave Singapore
DSC02010rWe walked out of our hotel in to a very quiet terminus at 6.00 am, to check-in for our flight to London.

Emigration & security didn’t open until 6.30 am so we had time to find our check-in counter. Flying business class did not require us to do self check-in and self labeling of our bags, a growing cancer of modern day flying and self checkout at super markets.
Remember me, I used to be called the customer, not the DIY wizard to save you money.
jetstar-self-check-in-1When was the last time that you saw empty self-check-in machines?
Changi-Airport-Kiosks                  Photographs must have been taken during the night – nicely posed.

Whinge over, we’ve been checked in by a real person, and we’ve been invited to the lounge.
DSC02012rA light breakfast perhaps – not too much as to ruin the appetite for brunch on the plane .
DSC02013rThe lounge was not all that far from the boarding area so we had plenty of time for breakfast and to watch the airport traffic.
DSC02018rOne must admit that Singapore airport authority have created a relaxing environment for those travelling in tubes of metal across the world. The above is an advert with a fountain (the white circle), which didn’t come out as planned. More fountains below
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DSC02026rAs we sped down the runway the Singapore Airlines planes were everywhere, so is it any wonder that in the near future they will be flying an ultra long range aircraft A350-900ULR none stop to New York. It’ll take nineteen hours, and only carry business and premium economy seats. Our flight from Singapore to London would take us about thirteen hours, which is long enough for me.

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All my yesterdays – ships at anchor off Singapore, but I have a feeling that they are not waiting to go alongside or to work cargo from junks, but to die on a beach in India or Bangladesh.

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Nothing new – in 1838 HMS Temeraire, immortalised in William Turner’s painting as she was towed to the breakers. Sold by the Admiralty for scrap for £5,530, her copper reclaimed and sold back to the Admiralty, and her timbers sold for housebuilding and hand carved furniture – where there’s muck there’s money.

DSC02037rOn a happier note it was time for brunch.

DSC02038rThe lighting had been dulled a little for those who wished to sleep, hence the coloured reflection. Prawns and scallops, and of course a glass of white wine, it was 5.00 pm somewhere in the world!

DSC02040rMore fish – Maureen was proud of me considering fish is my least favourite food.
DSC02041rI think this was called a Tarrufo Limoncello – what ever it was called it was very nice.
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DSC02043rand of course cheese to finish – this meal was a very pleasant way of spending an hour or so . . . .
DSC02046rEngland below – the picture is not as clear as I’d hoped, and as we descended, I was hoping that we would pass near Windsor Castle for a photograph – we didn’t. If we did I didn’t see the castle.

Once through customs and immigration we were met by a driver to take us to Southampton – the traffic was nose to tail most of the way and took us two hours.

We arrived at the Premier Inn, Cumberland Place in time for a quick shower and down for a drink before dinner. The hotel is not a ‘flash’ hotel but new (opened February 2018), clean, with friendly efficient staff. We’d booked in for three nights before joining the cruise ship.

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Small bar area, which was part of the dinning room.

DSC02051rDining room.

They served the best ‘Continental’ breakfast that I’ve had in a long time – choice of juices, cereals, fruit, various breads and as much coffee as you could drink. A hot breakfast was about £3.00 extra, but after the ‘Continental’ I couldn’t face bacon & eggs.

Early to bed as our inner clocks where out of wack with the local time . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Silhouette to the Baltic

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The last time I visited the Baltic area was in 1965 when I was a cadet in the BI ship Dunera, which at the time was a school ship. This time Leningrad was no more, and St Petersburg had been resurrected.

We considered flying with Garuda International, who had just gained a five star rating, but after various checks in to the logistics of the trip we decided to fly with Singapore Airlines. A little more expensive, but their reputation for service trumped the extra cost, plus in a few months time we will be celebrating our Golden Wedding – try this version in Sydney.

For those who prefer the original by Woody Herman, which was recorded in 1941, Oh! those drums.

I booked us to fly 03rd July from Sydney to Singapore, daylight flight, stay overnight at an airport hotel and fly daylight to London. The ship would sail from Southampton.

The booking was for business class, after all at our age our holidays may come to a halt due to our health, because various bits are already failing.

We checked-in and within a short time we were in the business class lounge.

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DSC01954rThe flight had a schedule departure of 11.00am, which required Maureen and I to be at the airport at 8.00 am, which meant that we had to be picked up from home at 7.00 am, and up and about around 5.00 am. I was tired out before the holiday had started.

We knew that the lounge would be in breakfast mode, so along with a small glass of  Champagne and a bowl of muesli (for health reasons of course) our holiday began.

DSC01956rWe had a window seat in the lounge, which allowed us to watch the early morning airport landings and take-offs.

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DSC01959r  In the maintenance area we’d spotted an SQ A380 and thought that this might be our aircraft – we were correct as an hour and a half before departure we watched it being towed to the passenger area.

DSC01966rWe were fortunate that the 11.00 am departure aircraft had all the new seats that SQ had designed and were slowly installing in all of their aircraft. Heaps of room, entertainment system was very easy to use – easier than the next leg, which had the older seating.

DSC01973r.jpgWe left on time and queued with others for the runway.

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As we raced down the runway the air, as it rushed over the wing, could be seen. I’m sure someone will send me an explanation of what is happening – please make it simple . .

DSC01987rGoodbye Sydney – not a very good shot, but the best I could get without it blurring.

DSC01990rWe both like window seats, and as they are single seats I sat behind Maureen.

DSC01991rThe centre seats have the ability pull up a ‘wall’ so that both passengers can have privacy. You can just see the top of one ‘wall’ behind the seat on the right. The ‘wall’ can be dropped if you are travelling with a spouse or friend.

DSC01992rBrunch began – first course, I enjoyed the delicate light taste.

DSC01994rMain course – beef in Thai red curry, not as good as I expected.

DSC01995rHokey Pokey ice cream

DSC01996rEnd the meal with a glass of red and a little cheese – I was glad that I hadn’t pigged out in the lounge.

DSC01997rA light snack and a glass of wine a couple of hours before landing in Singapore.

DSC02005rComing in to land at Singapore – and the crest of air is back . . .
at least it wasn’t On a Wing and a Prayer.