“I don’t just wish you rain, beloved – I wish you the beauty of storms.”

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Marhaba!

The thing about living in the desert, or what was once the desert but is now a collection of high-rise apartments and shopping malls, is that one expects glorious sunshine every day. Before we got here, there were stories of it not having rained for some four years however, since then, it seems the rainy weather has become more and more frequent. Goodness! Barely a week goes by now without some rain, which can be drizzle or a deluge causing flash floods, incredible lightning storms and thunder, high winds, dust storms or very cloudy/overcast days. The temperature drops to the mid-twenties Celsius and we don’t mind admitting it, it feels a tad chilly at times.

Another storm rolling in

Another storm rolling in

Here you have the Grand Mosque and we live a little way behind it.

We wonder, is it a sign?

Are we being told to up sticks and move on?

We kinda think so…

First seek ye the kingdom of pure practical intelligence

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Deep inside the Arctic Circle, approximately 160 miles north of the Arctic line, we stepped off the airplane and into the natural freezer compartment that is Finish Lapland. Blimey! It was jolly cold and you could literally feel the heat dissipating from your body while the adverse effects of exposure quickly set in. From one extreme to another, leaving behind plus 29 degrees Celsius to arrive in minus 20 degrees Celsius, we were on our winter wonderland adventure to see the portly chap himself and partake of all things Christmassy.

This is where the Northern Lights can be seen at their best, the Aurora Borealis, the planet’s natural firework show – but, unfortunately, we slept through that one on our first night so, the less said the better!

The snow was perfect with none of the slushy brown stuff that makes a British winter so miserable; the air was dry and although cold, we were toasty warm inside our several layers and onesy thermal suits.

Icicles as nicecles as these

Icicles as nicecles as these

We made the best of the weather with sledding and snowball fights, sucking on icicles and generally doing the sort of things we always dream about but never quite have the weather to do so.

We took a Husky drawn sled ride, rode in a landau pulled by a Reindeer, went crazy on snowmobiles, played ice-hockey, walked across the frozen river to Sweden (against all advice and our better judgement), saw the church from the Coke advertisement, ate, drank and generally made merry, walked back to Sweden again (across the bridge this time), took photos and made some amusing video footage of our sledging fun:

Snuggly-Buggly

Snuggly-Buggly – MUSH, MUSH!

All of which can be now be told in pictorial form for you to enjoy, just as if you were there yourself…

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

Crossing the divide to enter Sweden

Crossing the divide to enter Sweden

Then back to Finland

Then back to Finland

As seen in some Coca Cola ad we are told.Swedish Church to us.

As seen in some Coca Cola ad we are told.Swedish Church to us.

The Santa Express

The Santa Express

And a couple of Santa's Elves whom, I might \add, I wouldn't mind finding in my Xmas stocking!

And a couple of Santa’s Elves whom, I might add, I wouldn’t mind finding in my Xmas stocking!

Once Business Class, one can never go back to Economy (cattle class)!

Once Business Class, one can never go back to Economy (cattle class)!

Suffice to say, it was all great fun and ticked several of those ‘things to do before you get too old’ off the list But what next?

2016 was warmly welcomed in traditional style, by going to bed early with a hangover from the previous night, but we believe this New Year will bring many surprises as we prepare to relocate. The upheaval has already begun and as we anticipate pastures new in search of more travel and adventure, where surprises come thick and fast,  we endeavour to remain on holiday – Forever!

Coming up, a link to some sledging madness!

“Never trust anyone who has not bought this book!”

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Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk                                         Amazon.com

AT LAST!

You can now buy the much acclaimed, highly praised, rollocking good read that is ‘Slugs, Snails and Casino Tales.’ Buy the paperback or download it to your Kindle, iPhone or other reading device. Watch out for the movie in 2017. Surely a contender for The Booker Man Prize. Trend it, be the first to tweet it, say you were the one that made it a hit (just like we all did with One Direction – or was it just me that phoned in?).

 

DO IT NOW, TELL YOUR FRIENDS. IT’S A DARN GOOD READ!

BE WARNED – ADULTS ONLY

“What you see is what you get. The island is imaginative enough.”

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‘Didn’t we have a lovely time, the day went to Masirah, a beautiful day, we had fun on the way and …only had to queue for five hours or more!’

A good four and a half hour drive away, almost halfway to the other end of the country, sits an island in the Arabian Sea where, it is rumoured, many a skeleton can be found with a little beachcombing. Our neighbour at home has been there many times and he has some amazing skulls (dolphins, turtles, rays, shells, etc.) dotted around his garden as trophies, so we thought we would head down that way for our long weekend, courtesy of the National Day holidays and bag us a trophy or two.

Unfortunately, as has been previously mentioned in these blogs, the discipline associated with driving is sadly lacking here. So, as we waited in line for the new, catamaran ferry, we were not surprised to see vehicles overtaking us in order to queue on the only exit road leading away from the port. Of course, to board the ferry one must first wait for the vehicles already on that ferry to get off and drive away. That proved impossible as the road was now completely blocked with miles of tailbacks where undisciplined drivers could not see the bigger picture, drivers who thought they would queue on the exit road to gain an advantage. Gridlocked ensued and we waited. We waited and waited but all was not lost; we had a very nice view of the brand new ferry that we would, eventually, get to sail on.

Nice, new ferry

Having consumed half a tank of petrol, just idling to keep the a/c going, there began some serious cajoling and shuffling of cars by an over-awed police chap and a gap slowly appeared which was just large enough to squeeze through, so boarding commenced. This being our first time on this particular adventure, we didn’t realise that pre-booking, on what is essentially the same as a ‘bank holiday weekend,’ was required and as we didn’t have a ticket for the luxury ferry, we sat and watched it sail off into the sunset without us. Never mind, we would get the local ferry; what could possibly go wrong? As we should have expected, the local ferry was, shall we say, not quite as luxurious as the new one but we cared not at this stage, we were on an adventure and about to experience real life, just as a local might do.

An oldie but a goodie…we hope!

We reversed our car onboard, directed by the screaming and shouting of a number of deck-hands, and considered just what might happen if the whole thing capsized which, under the circumstances, was highly likely. Crammed in so tight we were unable to open our car doors so we wound down the windows in order to assist a hasty exit should the worst case scenario present itself

Trapped!

Honestly! What were we worried about? Safe and sound, lungs filled to capacity with diesel fumes, we headed off to the other side of the island, in the dark, to find our hotel; – an interesting arrangement that was seemingly run by Indians, for Indians and not being Indian, we were obvious specks of white in a sea of brown.

At first light we headed out to circumnavigate the island, stopping along the way to visit such famous places as ‘Shell Beach’ and ‘Whale Bone Beach’ as well as the place where a ‘lost ship’ can be found. About half way round the island we realised that we had forgotten to refuel, having lost most of our fuel through idling the engine at the mainland port, so we quickly made for the only filling station – which was back at the island port. It mattered not as we took in many a delight on the way; beautiful beaches, incredible coastlines and lots of birds which the ‘twitcher’ amongst us was delighted by. We saw flamingoes, so there! In the town that hosted the remains of many a Land Rover mark I and II, most of which were still being used, we refueled and set out to find the ‘lost ship’ being an old Dhow that had run aground some time ago. The picture on the map looked exciting so we dreamed of exploring the boat below decks, its wheelhouse and upper platforms. Sadly, the ‘lost ship’ was…well, lost – we couldn’t find it anywhere. We thought it would be visible from the road as we drove around the coastline but alas, it was…well and truly, lost.

Never mind, we would head for shell beach where, the map said, beautiful shells could be found scattered all over the beach – amazing tropical shells that would grace anyone’s home or garden. ‘Shell Beach,’ it transpired, had been named solely for the tourists as the real name of the place was ‘Beach Bay’ and it was here that we found a small section covered in unrecognisable, smashed and ground shells, none of which were any bigger than a child’s thumbnail. What we did discover was that said pieces of shell, once inside your beach shoes, were a devil to walk on. By now, the child was eagerly hoping to find a souvenir, a skeletal head, a super-shell, anything that was trophy like, brightly coloured or had the whiff of expiration about it.

picturesque

She was not appeased by our ‘green’ mantra of, ‘take nothing and leave nothing but your footprints.’ She wanted a souvenir and it was Dad’s job to provide it. NOW!  Wrongly, it was believed that she would forget such wanton desires after a little snorkeling. In crystal clear waters we spied on fish going about their business in amongst the coral and we considered better of skinny-dipping even though this beach was deserted.

deserted and serene

deserted and serene

Pristine and pure - as is the beach!

Pristine and pure – as is the beach!

After a full day of fun-filled sun, sea and sand, we retired to our hotel where we ate a  dubious curry which, as we should have expected, caused nasty bout of the ‘earthas’ the following day. Wet wipes always at the ready, we headed out to trawl the coastline looking for a ‘lost boat’ and any oceanic skeletons that would look great carefully positioned about our front garden. Our slower pace and the refueling worry negated, it allowed for our full concentration on the job at hand and after a while we eventually found the ‘not so, lost boat.’ Just like a McDonald’s or Burger King burger, it didn’t look anything like the picture and how we laughed as all energy was expended to try and raise the hidden treasure chest from beneath the sand.  But there was no treasure chest!! We think…

Heave ho, me hearty

Heave ho, me hearty

Obviously, the boat had deteriorated somewhat, nevertheless we felt satisfied that we had found its final resting place and as a bonus, we discovered a dead porpoise on the beach. The trophy hunter thought a dolphin’s tooth would make a nice necklace so, like some macabre dentist, a tooth was extracted but this produced the most appalling, obnoxious stench; the reek of death and decomposition and permeated into our clothes, our skin and our very souls. No amount of washing, hand cleanser, wet wipes or moaning could get rid of the disgusting odour. A job well done, tooth safely secured in an air tight water-bottle, we headed out to find something more substantial to adorn our mantelpiece. In the distance we saw it, the prize, the trophy we had come for – she wanted a turtle skull and nothing would deter me from claiming it for the princess (the little one from having what she wants). Leatherman in hand, we approached the carcass and observed that the turtle had not quite rotted nor had its skull been bleached white by the sun, as yet.

Off with its head!

Off with its head!

It mattered not. The child will have what the child wants and the turtle was promptly decapitated (come on! It’s dead already). We would let the sun do its job on the outside windowsill at home.

The beaches of white sand were incredible and many a nook and cranny was scrambled into to eject the nasty hotel meal from the previous night. We wandered along endless shores, watched some birds wading and doing bird stuff, paddled, strolled and meandered aimlessly, before deciding to make an early start for the ferry home, so as to avoid the queue, of course. By the time we reached the port, the queue was enormous but we really didn’t care – we had our trophies and we were suitably sunburnt. A team of locals drove up and down our queue handing out cold drinks and we thought how fortunate we are to be here, to experience all of this, to be on holiday, forever!

One more for the album…

On holiday, forever!

On holiday, forever!

And, just in case you were wondering…

We are off again, later this week, heading North,160 miles above the Arctic Circle; Finland to be precise with, maybe, a jog through the snow to Sweden. It’s expected to be -40 degrees or thereabouts son, it’s winter woollies at the ready and best foot forward as we march into uncharted territory. If and when we return, you can read all about it.

Finally, for that very special Christmas gift; for that special man or woman in your life it doesn’t get any better than giving the gift of love and there is no better way to express that love than to buy them a copy of the fabulous, heart-wrenching, roller-coaster of a whirlwind ride, a laugh out loud, emotional odyssey, a darn good read and a great story beautifully written with lots of swear words, the masterpiece that is: Slugs, Snails and Casino Tales by Rowntree Travis. Available on Amazon as a download…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rowntree-Travis/e/B0190LN4FC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

or for a paperback copy…

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1519716958/sr=8-1/qid=1450005906/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&qid=1450005906&sr=8-1

Buy it, download it, read it, trend it and watch me sit back and get rich beyond my wildest dreams. Hey! Didn’t we all do that for One Direction? I voted for them and now they’re multi-millionaires. Treat me the same folks and I’ll be just as grateful as they are.

Wish us well,

Season’s Greetings to one and all.

“I simply remember my favourite things and then I don’t feeeeel, so bad…”

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Marhaba!

There are many things in life that cheer the soul: For one, watching a cracking storm, whilst tucked away safely on our doorstep, looking out into the darkness at zig-zag lines as they reach down their spindly fingers to try and touch us if they can. But we are too clever for them; we hide on the porch and merely record the event on our cell-phones.

That’s exactly what we did, except there was some lethargy when it came to splicing and editing the video for you to see. Instead, we present some picture stills. Should there ever be a spare five minutes in the hectic schedules that rule us these days, we may give you a youtube link where you can watch the storm in all its glory but for now, you’ll just have to settle for some second rate pictures:

Snapshot 30 (30-10-2015 15-43)Snapshot 26 (30-10-2015 15-37)Snapshot 24 (30-10-2015 15-35)Snapshot 19 (30-10-2015 15-29)Snapshot 14 (30-10-2015 15-25)Snapshot 13 (30-10-2015 15-24)Snapshot 10 (30-10-2015 15-23)

Goodness, it really was a display and a half and it was relentless for many hours. Better than any November 5th Guy Fawkes malarkey, I can tell you. And, it was FREE!

Scampi Delight!

Now, on to the other favourite things; continuing  the ocean theme and that which has been cooked and placed into the mouth for consumption:

‘Fish (and Seafood) I Have Mainly Eaten’

These five, enormous lads were delivered for a few loose coins of no significant value, such is their proliferation in these coastal parts. Good for me – not so good for them.

It can’t possibly get any better than that, can it! What a combination!

Scampi and Lightning.

Hurricane heading our way, details coming up – or maybe not… 

Cyclone Chapala Remains a Powerful Storm in the Arabian Sea; Rare Destructive Landfall Threat to Oman.Look who's coming to visit

Not wishing anyone ill, especially our good neighbourinoes down there in Yemen, but it looks like it’ll swing south and give us no more than a blustery day here – insha’Allah!

We’ll keep you posted.

“Go forth and mutilate fish.”

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Continuing the highly acclaimed series:

‘Fish I Have Mainly Eaten’

I submit for your delectation, the following chaps (Naizer and Hallam – types of fish) who made the ultimate sacrifice to appear… on my plate; I thank you…

Naizer

It almost seemed a shame to eat him, being colourful and all that, but he was dead anyway and if I didn’t cook him up to devour the soft, tasteless flesh, then somebody else would have so it was first come – first served with a wedge of lemon.

After a short interlude, whereby a number of other fish were sliced and diced including Tuna, Dover Sole, King Fish and half of a Norwegian Salmon, these two cheery chums made it to the limelight for their fifteen minutes of fame on this blog. Now, it was a toss up between filleting them with a pen knife or frying them whole and nibbling off the crispy flesh. Whatever was decided is of little consequence, suffice to say they sizzled in butter and presented themselves for consumption as one would expect in such circumstances.

Hallam

Hallam

As you can clearly see, for the purpose of a filling meal there was little hope however, for a sweet, succulent nibble, they were just the ticket.

Last week, whilst looking for interesting things to fry up and consume, I came across a number of Hammerhead Sharks lying on an icy slab. Can you eat Hammerheads? I suppose so as they were available. They were next to some regular sharks, baby ones by their size, and I was very tempted but thought better of it having remembered an unsavoury incident with a Dog-Fish a few years ago. Anyway, that’s for another time.

Until then,

Happy Chomping!