Friday, October 21, 2016

Once in a Lifetime - Part 1

Those who know me well will be aware I am very supportive of animal charities, both home and abroad - and this is what partly led me 7,000km away from home to have my holiday.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan is, in essence, a sanctuary for orphan Bornean orangutans preparing them for life back in the jungle. As the jungle is being decimated daily, first for logging then for palm oil, whether or not they will have a home is still under debate around the world.
But I digress, this is all about the animals, not the politics (Monkey World Director Dr Alison Cronin has taught me well).

I hasten to add, Sepilok is not the ONLY rehabilitation centre in Borneo, there are others such as those supported by International Animal Rescue and Centre for Orangutan Protection in the southern states. Those are not open to the public and they do a lot of wonderful unsung work there - my adopted orangutan rescue Gito is with International Animal Rescue in Ketapang. I will never meet or see Gito in the flesh (or fur) but I know he is well and thriving and has a safe home with IAR.

So, back to Sepilok; after a 3.30am alarm call and a hairy drive through the remnants of a tropical storm, I boarded the flight for Sandakan. After a timely flight and prompt pickup by my SDN driver I was whisked off to Sepilok, abuzz with nervous tension and anticipation.
The way trips are organised here is madness, so many tour operators using the same resources, so drivers are picking up and dropping off tourists all over the place. I was collected with a couple from another flight, but when we got to Sepilok we had to wait for the rest of our party who were being delivered by another driver....

Oh, you want to see Orangutans - not read my boring journal?...ok :-)

First the babies in the nursery - very young orphan orangutans, learning to fly and dangle, what is good to eat and what is not...

And then the juvenile feeding, as they grow orangutans become darker and their faces change shape, depending on their gender.

And finally, after all the excitement of the centre, while we were having lunch - we spotted a WILD orangutan with her juvenile in the canopy, hoorah!! We played spot the ginger for a while, she was very good at staying hidden...

Next - Sun Bears

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Time Flies

The days on this trip are melting away, but I have made some observations over the week...

This trip has been a mixture of success and failure. I failed to complete the Jungle Walk because it was too steep at the beginning. I felt pathetic and worthless following that little problem but, as we say in re-enactment, suck it up princess. I struggled for a bit, but with support from home (god bless the internet and Facebook!) I picked up again.
I have some photos,which have no specific category but things that have caught my attention over the last few days...

This gentleman is the resident musician and he also does a mean doorbell impression - whenever there is a new arrival (or he is bored) he cranks out a tune on the bonang...I remember a kids TV show that had, when the doorbell rang, this annoying refrain of 'There's somebody at the door, there's somebody at the door...etc' - and I now find myself singing this every time I hear the bonang chime...

An impulse buy before setting off was my first pair of jelly shoes for swimming and sea paddling. They are very practical and meet the requirement, especially as the hot sun heats the ground and sand to a blistering temperature - and are a pretty purple...

The man who pays the piper calls the tune...and these two members of staff must have drawn the short's 33C in the shade and they are dressed as bunnies to give away ice creams around the pool. I was thrilled, initially, to receive a purple lolly - only to discover I do not like yam flavoured ice cream...!

When one's gardeners have to tend the palm trees, they need a bigger scythe - say hello to their leetle friend! I watched, fascinated, as these gardeners carefully manoeuvred this extremely long palm scythe around the pool and into the garden...

We are not the only country with this new Monopoly money made of plastic - Borneo also has new notes, complete with see through bit. While the new notes are shiny and clever, as at home I have a deep seated preference for the old notes....but then I still miss the green pound note ;-)

Even the moths are big here; this is, I think, a sphinx moth I found while talking to the excursions clerk. She trilled 'take a picture, take a picture!' - so I did...fricken huge thing about two inches long...
Postscript to this bit, when coming 'home' last night my neck itched and when I scratched at it something huge and papery flew into my hand and then veered off, crashed into the ceiling of my room and ended up on the ledge out of fluttered and rustled periodically and very spookily last night until I fell asleep. I think it perished as it has been silent since...

So that brings us to day seven and the main reason I came to Borneo...more tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Day Three - gone but not forgotten

What happened to day three I hear you ask....well, so do I! Being in paradise does not mean I left my Black Dog at home and he came along for the trip. Yesterday he tried whispering in my ear again and I listened - for a while.

Anyway, what have I been up to? On Wednesday (day two) I took the chance of the 'Cultural Evening' in the Tepi Laut restaurant. There I was, sitting on my lonesome with a plate of noodles and veg, miles away from the stage and a figure appeared at my side 'Would you like to join us? We've been given this huge table right by the stage...'but I jump ahead...
Back to Karen :-) 
I met Karen on my first day when wandering on the beach - she and daughter Addie were playing in the sand and we got chatting - how glad I was to meet Karen, as I found out over the coming days.
Day two I pretty much lived in the pool - I love it, so easy for me to get in with arthritis and WARM - and reclined in the shade. And who should say hello in the pool, but Karen - this time with son Jacob. We caught up and she kindly suggested adventures for me. Not wanting to appear the clingy Brit, I chatted then swam off with nice words in my head.
For lunch I decided to ditch the Brit and enjoyed veggie vermicelli and spring rolls (using chopsticks of course) - so delicious and filling without being filling, if you know what I mean (nods to girlfriends).
More lazing by the pool people-watching...Mostly oriental, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, and Antipodean (Aussie and Kiwi)...I have come to the conclusion I am the ONLY Brit here.
Day over, cue 'Cultural Evening' and feeling lonely at my little table for one with Black Dog already whispering,,,,and then a cheerful voice 'Would you like to join us? We've been given this huge table right by the stage...'
So I spent the evening with Karen, husband Nick and kiddies Addie and Jakey. The culture was fun - singing, dancing, blowpipes, and fire-eating,  and so much more entertaining for being with someone to talk to and kids playing. I know I usually manage fine on my own, but I think Karen was sent to ease me into Borneo more gently than I was trying.

Day Two dawned and I was in a bad place. I had been awake until past 3am worrying and slept right through breakfast waking nauseous and sore, smothered in sandfly bites and burnt. I was so careful too - but the Malay sun got to me. Not really sure what to do, after a brief swim I retired to my room, and slept, drank water and slept some more. Black Dog was in his element, whispering how I deserved this, how stupid I could be to think I could do this, I was covered in bruises, even my face, I was all alone 7,000km from home and it was all my fault, I should act my age and not expect so much from life. I slept and cried, and slept some more
So,,,,day four has dawned....I was up for breakfast, and as I was choosing my danish a familiar cheery voice said 'How are you doing today?' Karen was back and I explained about the bad day, bites, burns etc. She directed me to the pharmacy, and the shop and was incredibly strong for me. And Jakey told me all about the animals he had seen on the nocturnal walk, stirring those desires in me again - the main reason I was here, animals. Spurred on by a decent breakfast I got antihistamines for my bites, calamine lotion for my burns, and new sun cream. I sat in reception for a long while reading and looking out over the China Sea reminding myself how lucky I Black Dog slowly faded into the background again. I sorted my money, worked out local currency enough to give the right money in the shop and finally I stopped at the trips desk and booked my Jungle Walk and Nocturnal Walk (thanks Jacob x).
So now I sit here on room-rest - ordered by the pharmacist - and feeling much more positive about this adventure. The antihistamine is kicking in quickly, my a/c is on and my calamine lotion is already working...I sure don't look pretty but it is working!
And I have jungle time and animals to look forward to - tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Day One...

So...after a hellish flight and a decent night's sleep, yesterday was spent mostly mooching on the beach barefoot, picking up shells and feeling very 'Tenko' and then an afternoon nap.
Learning by experience, even in that short walk I burned...and shoes are definitely required on the paths!! Hot hot hot!
But oh so lovely, beautiful vistas across the beach and South China Sea.

Came back hot but contented, stopped off at the aid station for chilled drinking water - yep it is free from huge iced dispensers!
No lugging heavy bottles about... #5starbaby

I ended my first day with a meal in the hotel Italian restaurant, their minestrone was perfect and served traditionally, but the gnocchi was instantly forgettable...

I walked out of restaurant to find burning fountains and beautifully lit pools looking exotic and serene....

Couple more days unwinding in the hotel and I'll be ready for some trips....

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reincarnation for Utopia

So, another try at resurrecting my blog. Mainly because there is too much to say for Facebook...

About 18 months ago I was inspired to consider holidaying in Malaysia as I had come into some extra funds and Borneo was the #1 choice destination because of the orangutans (I support several animal charities out there).
Long story short, I saved up the extra and spent six months planning my trip. 

The trip of a lifetime didn't have an auspicious start...

The plan was - fly to Singapore and then shuttle across to Kota Kinabalu...simples.

So I woke at 5am to travel to Heathrow...I always hate that there is a 5am...anyway, I digress. Me, one very heavy suitcase and one light backpack pitched up on time for the 13 hour flight and waited....and waited....and waited...
Finally, two hours late, my flight began to taxi and my holiday of a lifetime had technically started. However, as the connecting time was only 75 minutes at Singapore, I knew from the get go I was not going to make the local flight.
13 hours in an aeroplane flying economy, is a trial all of itself.With an elderly lady in front who insisted in having her seat reclined the whole time and a teenage girl behind me who was obviously a football fan, from the amount of kicking she did, it was not a restful flight. The policy on long haul flights is to feed you and then encourage you to sleep, that way you are less likely to cause trouble. Once dinner was finished and cleared away the lights were dimmed and we settled down. I think I finally managed about four hours sleep, interspersed with various movies from their wide collection.
Now, I know my maths is basic, but I was right - 120 minutes does not equate to 75 minutes and we were way late for the Kota Kinabalu flight - only problem, there is only one flight a day from Singapore. I threw myself on the mercy of the lovely girls on the Transfer Desk and imagine my surprise when they said they were flying me out via Brunei. I've never been to Brunei - actually unless you count the airport, I still haven't been to Brunei!! At this point I was wondering what would happen with my hotel transfer - I mean 5* is 5* but would they take into account my 6 hour delay?
To their credit, Royal Brunei were brilliant, shuttled me around Malaysia on time and with the most amazing politeness, although I was now wondering about my suitcase's final destination.
Finally, after 28 hours travelling, I was finally in Kota Kinabalu. I was exhausted but somewhat victorious. I had travelled 7,000 miles alone and, despite various hurdles, I had done it without incident. Even more amazing, as I walked off the little creaky A320 plane I noticed my lilac suitcase had also made it 7,000 miles with some detours and arrived at exactly the same time as I did....
So, somewhat inspired despite the fatigue, I made a short pitstop at the airport washroom. After carefully reading the notices ( I always read signs - it's the H&S officer in me) I tripped on the step they warned me about in the notices and fell face first onto the slate floor.
It was with a loose tooth and a bloodied and bruised face that I staggered out of Kota Kinabalu International Airport to find a local waiting for me with my name scribbled on a sheet of paper. I have never been so happy to see a little Malaysian man...I was so relieved I nearly cried. From then on I was not permitted to lift a finger. He manfully toted my case into the little old van and pootled me out through rush hour to the hotel.
At the Rasa Ria Hotel and Spa you are welcomed by the greeting gong, and when the gong sounds the local instruments are played, you are guided to a seat and a welcoming fruit drink is pressed into your hand (none of the old hoi polloi queuing at the reception desk) - so all in all, a unique arrival after an unusual trip.

**Oh, did I not mention the reason for the delay in the first place? One of the ground crew in Heathrow collided with our plane...yes, he didn't see the enormous double decker A380 and drove his vehicle into the plane...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Morimondo, Italy 2012

The Company of Chivalry have just returned from a trip to take part in an event at an abbey in Morimondo, the recreation of the battle of Casorate 1356. 
This event is huge, including several European nations, and hundreds of re-enactors, recreating the 14C campaign camp and life.

I don't do Italy every year, but this year I decided to go along. We travelled on Thursday, rest day Friday and then a 48 hour authentic event from 8pm Friday to 8pm Sunday.

This was the weirdest event I have ever attended....
We were putting up tents in sweltering heat and atrocious flies, which boded well for a hot weekend - which failed to materialise...
After a restful day on Friday eating Italian ice cream, watching the other groups arrive and lazing in the sun, I decided to raid my vodka store in the evening and managed to get stonking drunk. I don't do that very often and, combined with sunstroke, it resulted in me throwing up all night Friday and being very ill all day Saturday. It was 24 hours before I could keep anything down and I slept, on and off, for almost 30 hours...
Being ill meant I missed the last decent day, weather-wise, and the Saturday night battle.

Sunday the rain came...and more...and more...Our little tents were battered by the inclement weather.
With the rain almost non-stop and the Sunday battle cancelled, groups started to pack up and leave - we had to stay due to contractual obligations and flight bookings.
This is me making my way through the camp in the miserable rain in kit.
There were bright moments, such as being annexed by the Danes and having our lovely cook Liz kidnapped! I am now a proud citizen of Dane-Gland!
We spent some time teaching our Swedish friend Patric the intricacies of Bristolian speech.

By Sunday night after the exodus, there was the Company of Chivalry and a handful of other tents.
We had also heard that there had been an earthquake in Italy in the early hours of Sunday, which was felt in the camp and made the Abbey shake. My first earthquake!
Sunday night was hell - the rain continued, the wind rose to a screaming gale and threatened all the tents. I was up twice in the night repegging our tent and helping with the other tents. The wind was just pulling the tents out of the ground.
 Even one of the portaloos shifted in the storm.
So on Monday it was a weary and very wet Company striking a soaking camp and loading the lorry for it's return to the UK.
Our sodden Company then made it's exhausted way to Malpensa airport to await our late flight home. 

It's amazing what you do when boredom gets the better of you. The girls decided to work on the Dane-Gland flag and we
 had our photos taken with the Danish flag.
Finally, at 10pm we staggered aboard our plane, still damp and exhausted to fly home to England.

Shall I do it again? Probably not, but never say never....

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Kick Up The Ego

The ego is a fragile beast.
Mine has had a small kick up the butt lately.

It's all very complicated but basically, as our jobs are under threat, my boss and I applied for Voluntary Early Redundancy to increase our options over the next couple of years and give us a fallback plan.
I was bullish and resilient during the application phase, but that all changed yesterday when the Personnel people wrote to us to say our applications were successful.

I didn't sleep much last night as the success of my application appeared to give me the sensation of 'not being wanted' after 26 years in the department, being rejected after giving them the best years of my life.

To add to the frustration I noticed they had scored me very highly for 'Timing' and it would appear that Personnel changed my preferred date from 2014 to 2012 to fit in with their plans for higher natural wastage this year.
And then we realised that with our dates being pulled forward we would have to decide much quicker than we were anticipating - instead of having two years to decide, we had one month.
Needless to say we agreed to decline the offer of redundancy with the limited compensation offered. As ever, my boss and I were as one in that decision - we were not going to be bullied into taking 'VERY' early redundancy.

Complex plans - unexpected outcomes....thanks to our lovely government.


Sunday, March 18, 2012


As the Crazie One is struggling with the new Blogger changes, she won't be posting for a while until the program sorts itself out.


Friday, March 02, 2012

March Madness

Those friends who know me, know I hate March.
While I yearn to embrace the first flush of Spring and wave farewell to the long nights and endless grey, my fragile mental state peaks at this time of year due to the dreaded Mother's Day.Every year this is lauded as a celebration of motherhood and great emphasis is placed upon it, with shops overloaded with flowers, gifts and gushy cards.

For those of us who cannot have children, this is merely a reminder of our failing to be able to carry out the most basic biological activity - to procreate. A reminder that others know the love and dependency of a child on the parent, and we will never truly know what that feels like. We can simulate this love with friends' children, but that innate love is never felt.

For years I looked after other people's children and I have now moved on to looking after babies before they are born, as I have become a bit of a Subject Matter Expert in pregnancy in the workplace. Women seek me out for help and advice during their pregnancy and Line Managers call on me for advice on the requirements for their pregnant staff. I enjoy helping these women and they are always grateful. I have pictures of babies I have helped protect and get thanks from new mothers and their management.But it still doesn't heal the hole in my heart, the cold shadow in my life.

Just to drive home how useless my body is, we recently had information on the first British female to male transgender to successfully bear a child.

So we irrationally now think MEN can have babies, but some women can't even do this simple thing..

Roll on April...


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Where's my Toy?

I'm tracking PostKat, the meerkat who is responsible for delivering my toy meerkat, got free with my car insurance.

I think he might actually work for Royal Mail, given his itinerary....Meerkovo, St Petersburg, Athens, Paris and Prague....but at least he is taking the scenic route :-)

This price comparison website have really pushed the boat out to make the effect real :-)