Tag Archives: istanbul

Keep taking the tablets…

I haven’t updated this blog in nearly a month, so it’s about time that I did.

Lots of routine stuff has happened, of course.

Once again the car has been serviced. This I time, I had to pay for it myself, as the “service pack” that I bought with the car, which gives the first 60,000 miles servicing at a discount, has expired. The car has now done more than 70,000 miles and, incredibly… , this is a major, serious service. All the filters need to be changed again and I was pleased to receive a text from the garage telling me that the front brake pads and disks all need replacing too. To have got 70,000 miles out of them is very good, but when you turn up to collect the car and are given a bill for £1,060, it’s a bit of a leveller. Even the service agent at the garage raised her eyebrows a bit as she told me how much it would be.

The rear brakes are also in need of replacement in 10,000 miles. I have had these done before, back in June, so I will question that when the time comes round. They really shouldn’t be wearing out so fast. I suspect that there is a faulty reader, or something.

I have also been considering what my next car should be, but it’s difficult to decide with having the house on the market. (No joy on that front, I’m afraid). I really don’t want to be hiring a car for 40,000 miles again in the Spring, and then moving closer to the office so that high rate isn’t necessary. That would partly defeat the object of the move, if it ever takes place. I will make a decision in the New Year, and probably change after Easter.

The Istanbul Challenge voting has been and gone and, incredibly, my shot came fourth. I really wasn’t expecting that, so maybe I must still be doing something right. A decision was taken while in Istanbul that 2015 should see us go to Vienna. Hotel already booked! Flights are a bit of an issue, though… guess which airline offers the cheapest flights to the city… It’s not Austrian Airlines.

And a couple of not really routine things to report too.

Firstly, I have stopped taking the statin tablets prescribed to me before we went away. I have had high cholesterol for as long as I can remember, certainly all of my adult life. When I first found this out, maybe 25 years ago, I went on an extreme low-fat diet and ate at least 60 grams of oatbran every day and managed to get it down to something “acceptable”. However, one cannot live one’s life like that, so the regime quickly fell by the wayside. At a routine blood test at my GP, the results came back high as usual and he recommended that I take a statin. This is an “every night for the rest of your life” deal.

Within the first week or so, I had had two nightmares, something that I haven’t had since I was a child. Disturbed sleep is one of the side effects that can occur, and fortunately, the nightmares only occurred a couple of times. However, since then, I found that I would take a very long time to get to sleep and wake several times during the night. I even installed an App on my phone which monitors your sleep pattern, scoring a most impressive 61% average quality of sleep. Getting fed up with this, I consulted the GP and have been advised to stop taking the tablets for a couple of weeks and see if this helps. So I have, and so far it think it has.

I think I’d rather live with the higher risk of stroke and heart attack than not sleep properly for the rest of my life. That can’t be good for you either. Maybe there is an alternative drug that they can give me that won’t affect me like this, so we will see.

Monday brings the CT scan I have written about in the past and have been waiting for. I don’t not look forward to these, if that makes sense. I know that they aren’t good for you in a basic physiological way, given that they are about as strong as 400 x-rays, but the information that they generate is far more important than that. I see my consultant again in 10 days time for the regular 4 monthly check up and the results of the scan, so that will be interesting. With a bit of luck, he still won’t be able to see anything, but as time goes by, and being 4 1/2 years into my remission, I am staring to feel like I am on borrowed time with this. But, let’s not jump the gun and see what happens in only a few days.

Christmas is coming around all too fast once again. A time to count one’s blessings, appreciate once again the support from family and friends that help us get through the days and weeks and make sure that they know that they are appreciated and loved. I couldn’t do this on my own and my heart goes out to those that do not have the support and love that I enjoy.

No presents for us this year. We have booked to go to San Francisco for a week in March, so that will be a big enough gift. We are flying with Virgin…. Maybe I will hire a car over there for a day and give the booking form as a gift. But now the secret is out… I’m sure that there will have to be a little something under the tree.

I’m not a very good tourist really.

Been back at work a couple of weeks now. As always, the holiday is a now distant memory but I have been going through photographs this evening, partly to see what is worth sharing or printing and partly to find an entry for the Challenge. Entries have to be with the organiser (me) by the end of tomorrow, so I have found the best of a bad bunch to include.

As you will have seen, the holiday was pretty busy – not relaxing at all, really. It’s rare to have a relaxing holiday since we always try to do too much. Far too much.

I have this thing about it probably being the last time I will ever pass that way again, so have to cram as much into the visit as possible. Alternatively, a thing about seeing as much as possible on a first visit to a place (particularly on foreign jaunts) so that on a return visit a more relaxing time can be had. Only, it never works out that way. We never go back – there is always somewhere else to see, where you haven’t been before – and the whole charade starts again. No half measures of just taking a part of a place in.

I’m not a very good tourist really.

So, on reflection, what were the highlights of this holiday?

It WAS nice to go back to Bordeaux and visit Leoville Barton again. Organising it for first thing on a Monday morning, when staying 60 odd miles away on the other side of the city was a huge schoolboy error, but we got there in time and had a fantastic tour courtesy of the charming Alexandra. Our timing couldn’t have been better – the first grapes had been brought in from the vines on the Saturday and we were the first people to taste the grape juice from 2014, just starting its fermentation in the oak vessels. What a privilege.

vessels Juice

A couple of days later, while having a tour of the Chateau where we were staying (Chateau de Mole), I asked the owner about Petrus, the world’s “best” red wine. It’s only about 10 miles away from there. Apparently, until fairly recently, the property at Petrus was little more than an old farmhouse and some outbuildings. Only in the last few years has the owner built a “chateau” of any size or quality. It’s a bit of a shame, really.

PetrusAs with many luxury goods, it’s the handmade and traditional methods that cost the money. Doing it properly all through the process. Plus the rarity, small production and quality of the vines and terroir of course. It’s a bit like paying £160k for a Ferrari 458, when a Jaguar for £100k will go just as fast, be as exciting to drive and so on. But what it won’t have is a handmade body or engine. It’s a bit like buying a Leica…

Moving away from Bordeaux and the region, after making a mistake with a hotel in Ambialet, we came across the bridge. The Millau Viaduct.

An earlier post on that day actually has some of the better photographs of it, taken with the iPhone, but I still cannot get over how amazing coming across it through the fog was. A sight never to be forgotten.

Millau-Viaduct

Skipping past several days, I just need to write about Monaco / Monte Carlo.

What a weird place. I described driving into the principality from the autoroute as feeling like walking into a Bond Street jewellers. They know you can’t afford anything there; you know you can’t afford anything there. But they still let you in, just to have a look around, and it’s fine so long as you know your place, and leave.

We found that Monte Carlo had policemen on every other corner. Apparently, they have monitored CCTV on every street and microphones in every lift. No local police (all brought in from France) and the locals are not allowed in the casinos.

Walking the grand prix circuit was interesting and makes you appreciate the skill and sheer lunacy of the drivers.

Cannes was nice and we had a very good lunch with an old friend who lives there and Nice the next day was the sort of city that you could live in. If you were lucky enough to have to live on the south coast of France. A really brilliant market.

And to wrap the fortnight off, a trip to Istanbul.

We met some really nice people, in the hotel, restaurants and new friends at the Challenge.

People rave about the city and it does have some stunning architecture. But I never felt comfortable there, particularly outside of the tourist areas. The streets were absolutely packed with people. It was claustrophobic, especially around the spice market and the streets leading back up the hill.

Still, if you want to see the Blue Mosque, or the Aya Sophya, you have to go there. I’m not sure about this chandelier though…

SophyaThis is a failing on my part and one that I freely acknowledge. My lack of engagement with the city will be reflected in the Challenge entry and without a doubt, the scoring.

I’m not a very good tourist really.

Oh, and Asda cocked up the processing of my films…

Loss and found

It’s been a bit of an odd time since my last update at the end of October.

While we were in Germany, I was told that one of my only two Uncles (my Mum’s only brother) had died. He had been in hospital for a while, but had recently moved to a nursing home, so while the news of his death wasn’t entirely a surprise, it was obviously one of those sad occasions which put you in a reflective mood.

Then, no more than a week after we had returned to work, I had a phone call from my Dad to tell me that his only brother had also died a couple of days previously. Within the space of a fortnight, I had lost both of my Uncles.

Consequently, we have had two funerals to attend, both in the south of England. It has meant that I have caught up with my only cousins, whom I haven’t seen since my Grandfather’s funeral in 1987… 27 years ago. Can’t exactly claim to be a very close family, I’m afraid. But sitting there in the crematorium chapel on Friday, it struck me that my small family has just got a bit smaller.

But, what have I found?

I have found that winter tyres really are a good idea. Having experienced my car in the snow last March and the winter tyres on the German hire car, I have been umming and ahhing about having them fitted. They were delivered to the tyre shop in the week and were fitted yesterday. I’m glad I had them done. This morning I went to a stage of the Rally of Wales, where we were directed to a car park which was at the top of a muddy hill, at the end of  a long, single track, dead-end road. If I’d tried to get up the grass last week, I’d still be there. With the new tyres, however, despite the ESP system kicking in a little, the car just drove up the grass without any fuss. This bodes well for the winter – which looks as if it might be starting next week. We will see.

Incredibly, the normal tyres that I had taken off the car, and which are now in my garage, still have 5 – 6mm tread on them. After 33,700 miles. Thank you Mr Bridgestone…

I have also found that I am beginning to get to a stage where I am no longer thinking about being in remission. The news from the CT scan is starting to sink in – I was sort of unconvinced to start with, but I no longer worry too much about it. Which is good. I see the new consultant again in a month’s time, and I am hoping that he might propose that we leave it six months between visits from now on. Again, we will see.

The decision was taken to go to Istanbul for the Leica Forum Challenge next year. Not a city that was on my “list”, but I am looking forward to it now. We are having to combine it with our annual holiday this time, otherwise we would be away twice in two months – which is too much even for us. So, we will be flying there from France, where we will have been touring vineyards and gorges a couple of weeks before the weekend. It should be good.

The winner of this year’s Challenge has been decided – not me. I only got 3 points, but that’s fine. There’s always next year. The winning shot was very good, I thought.

And finally, my thoughts and love go to my Mum, who is in hospital tomorrow having an operation on her back. Get well soon Mum x