Mrs Stodge and I had a wonderful cruise on the P&O ship Aurora and I compiled this (hopefully) not too boring weather report of our voyage based on my observations, the cruise log, charts and the daily bridge reports.
If the Mods think this should be elsewhere, feel free to move.Enjoy:Saturday October 12th: Southampton: left port at 4.30pm BST. Weather fine but chilly with a light ENEâ€™ly wind. Temperature 12c.Sunday October 13th: Western Approaches: a fine day under a ridge of High Pressure with initially very light or even calm conditions. Later in the afternoon, a SEâ€™ly wind developed with high cloud as a frontal system approached. Maximum temperature 16c.Monday October 14th: West of Biscay: Overcast with rain for much of the day. The wind strengthened veering Sâ€™ly overnight and touching Gale Force 8 with a 4.5m swell by the early hours. The ship was passing SE and then South of a major storm system in the North Atlantic. Maximum Temperature 15c.Tuesday October 15th: West of Spain: In the early hours, a sharp change to a Wâ€™ly wind as the cold front pushed through as a squall line. Showers for much of the day with the wind veering NWâ€™ly and showers dying out overnight. Maximum Temperature 16c early.Wednesday October 16th: Ponta Delgada, Azores: A fine and warm day with plenty of coastal sunshine but cloudier in the mountains. There had been heavy rain on the island but this had cleared. The ship departed in fine calm conditions at 3pm but by the evening the wind was strengthening and the swell was increasing. Maximum Temperature 21c.Thursday October 17th: Midatlantic: Captain reported at 10am major storm was 400 miles to the north of our position. The morning saw a strong Wâ€™ly wind with swell and occasional showers. By the afternoon, these had cleared and it was fine. Maximum Temperature 22c. By the evening, more cloud had developed in a light NWâ€™ly.Friday October 18th: Midatlantic: A light Nâ€™ly breeze but swell had almost faded. Position around 31 degrees North. Fine and increasingly sunny with a maximum temperature of 25c. Barometer at 1021MB and rising.Saturday October 19th: Western Atlantic: A light SEâ€™ly developed during the day. Pressure had fallen to 1019MB. Early cloud and a light shower followed by a fine afternoon with variable cloud. Maximum Temperature 27c. Later in the afternoon and into the evening, the SEâ€™ly breeze increased bringing more cloud and occasional light showers.Sunday October 20th: crossed the Tropic of Cancer at 4.20am: Warmer and much more humid day â€“ maximum temperature 28c. Moderate to fresh Sâ€™ly wind. Dry for the most part but hazy with variable cloud and some cloudier periods. Pressure 1016MB.Monday October 21st: St Johnâ€™s, Antigua: Fine and very watrm morning but cloud soon developed with a heavy shower at midday. Afternoon dry but cloudy. Maximum temperature 31c with an ESEâ€™ly wind becoming a fresh Eâ€™ly by departure (6pm). Captain advised of a â€œweak tropical wave approaching from the southâ€.Tuesday October 22nd: Castries, St Lucia: Fine and hot morning. Strengthening Eâ€™ly wind and developing cloud lead to a heavy shower midday with further showers and thunderstorms into the afternoon. Maximum temperature 32c. More cloud and storms into the evening delaying our departure by 4 hours to 10pm.Wednesday October 23rd: Bridgetown, Barbados: Early shower in a moderate Eâ€™ly breeze which faded later. Dry in the afternoon and becoming increasingly hot and humid. Maximum temperature 32c.Thursday October 24th: Roseau, Dominica: Cloudy with early showers in a moderate Eâ€™ly wind. Becoming fine from late morning into the afternoon and very hot. Cloudy late in te afternoon with heavy showers on departure (6pm). Temperature 32c.Friday October 25th: Phillipsburg, St Maarten: Fine, sunny and very hot. Moderate Eâ€™ly breeze veering SEâ€™ly by afternoon. Maximum temperature 34c. Captain advised return Atlantic crossing would be fair with NEâ€™ly trade winds and a fading tropical disturbance clearing to the North.Saturday October 26th: Subtropical Atlantic: Fine, very warm and mostly sunny with a moderate Eâ€™ly breeze. In late afternoon, cloudier and showers were observed on the horizon. Maximum temperature 29c.Sunday October 27th: Subtropical Atlantic: Re-crossed Tropic of Cancer at 2pm. Fine and very warm day with variable cloudand a moderate Eâ€™ly breeze. Maximum temperature 29c. Captain advised of â€œstable atmospheric conditions for the next few daysâ€ but cloud developed late pm with showers in the evening.Monday October 28th: Midatlantic: Showers early but soon becoming fine with a fresh Eâ€™ly breeze. Maximum temperature 29c with a barometer of 1023MB.Tuesday October 29th: Midatlantic: Fine, sunny and often clear day with a moderate Eâ€™ly breeze. Maximum temperature 28c and barometer 1025MB.Wednesday October 30th: Midatlantic: More cloud and a stronger Eâ€™ly breeze. Captain advised â€œwe are moving out of the influence of the Midatlantic High Pressureâ€ and expected a NWâ€™ly for our stop in Madeira on Friday. Maximum temperature 25c.Thursday October 31st: Eastern Atlantic: Fine, sunny day after a cloudy start. Eâ€™ly backing NEâ€™ly moderate to fresh wind suggesting we were moving round the southern end of the High Pressure cell. Barometer 1025MB. Maximum temperature 25c.Friday November 1st: Funchal, Madeira: Fine, sunny and very warm day â€“ maximum temperature 24c. Light Eâ€™ly breeze with a little cloud and mist over the mountains. Chart suggested secondary HP cell over Iberia so remaining in fine conditions. However, Captain warned of 4.5m swell in Biscay on Sunday.Saturday November 2nd: North of Madeira: Early cloud but soon fine and sunny. Light winds early but a NWâ€™ly developed pm veering Wâ€™ly with increasing swell by late evening. Maximum temperature 23c.Sunday November 3rd: Biscay: Cloudy and much cooler. Noticeable awell from early but an initial N wind and veered to a Wâ€™ly Force 6 by noon. Barometer 1022MB but falling rapidly by early pm. Temperature 18c at noon. Weather cleared into afternoon with some sunshing late afternoon but cloud returned early evening.By sunset (5.30pm), cloud thickening from N and W as we approached an LP storm tracking into the Western Approaches and up the Channel Sunday night into Monday morning. Rain started late evening.Woken at 3.30am with high seas and swell. Captain reported early Monday wind touched Force 10 at 4.30am with swell running in excess of 7m and heavy rain.Monday November 4th: off NW French coast and entering Channel: Barometer 997MB and rising as storm passed to the East. By morning wind had moderated significantly while swell faded during the day. Wâ€™ly force 5 at noon but backed Nâ€™ly later in the day. Early showers eased to leave dry but cool afternoon with temperatures of 13c.Tuesday November 5th: Southampton: Docked at 7am and disembarked at 10.15. Early rain had cleared to leave a cool, dry morning.
After the Hurricane Workshop in Miami, I met D at Heathrow & we rented a car & drove straight to Wales. It might have been more logical to stay on in the U.S. & have a holiday there, but I wasn't so familiar with getting around the U.S. & driving on the right side of the road; I'd lived a year in the UK & I wanted a holiday where I could really relax. I chose Wales because I'd already been around Scotland & England.
Some of the places we visited were Tenby, Aberystwyth, Landudno & Lake Vyrnwy. We drove through Pembrokeshire & Snowdonia National Park. Initially I thought of stopping at Carmartheon, which I think is where Merlin is supposed to have been born, but we didn't in the end.
I liked Aberystwyth where we stayed at a B&B right next to the seafront. We had an attic room all panelled with wood which made it look cosy, & if it hadn't been raining so much, we would have had a good view of sea. As it was, the weather was pretty bad & the waves were strong & we could hear them crashing down on the shore the entire time we were there. I spent the whole night just listening to them. It made me think of my childhood, when my family used to rent a chalet by sea - I used to listen to the waves on the shore at night, & it's a sound that I think I'll never get tired of.
We had look at the castle there & also the museum. D got bored in the museum & went outside to wait but I rather liked it. It looked old & a bit run-down, but there was a section on geology which was quite nice, & also some old furniture & ceramics to look at. Another interesting article on display was a set of love spoons, carved by some sailor. I actually copied down the information given :
The centuries old Welsh custom of giving love spoons meant that a would-be suitor gave a spoon as an indication that he desired to court a particular girl. A girl may therefore have received several spoons from as many suitors. The oldest surviving spoon, made in 1667, is in the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagan's Castle, Cardiff, although it is known that love spoons were made well before this date by the menfolk of Wales. Love spoons are symbolic, and have several meanings.
To begin with, they suggest that a suitor can help the one he loves - to food - for which they were originally designed. Later, they became quite ornamental, with long handles and the means by which to hang them on a wall. The designs on the spoon are also symbolic. For instance, a heart means, "my heart is yours". Spoons with cages in which run spheres indicate the number of children the suitor would like to have. Double spoons denote togetherness. A key indicates the key to one's heart.
I thought it rather nice because it's an old tradition & because of the symbolism. I saw quite a number of love spoons in the souvenir shops later, but they were expensive, 6 pounds just for a teaspoon-sized one, 12 pounds for a larger. In the end I bought one for my parents, since their wedding anniversary was just around the corner.
At Tenby, I wanted to visit Caldey Island because there is a monastery there, but unfortunately it wasn't the season for visiting. We attended mass at the Church of the Holyrood & St Teilo. I noticed one curious thing about the stained glass - all the windows were plain except for one with what looked like a Great Tit on it. To this day I'm still wondering why - was there some story behind it, or did the stained glass supplier just do it for a joke? I regret not asking the priest there about it.
Another nice place we stayed at was a B&B which had a view of Cader Idris. I'd heard about this mountain from Susan Cooper's The Grey King - it is supposed to mean "The Seat of Arthur". Our room had a good view (whatever could be seen through the rain) of the mountain, plus Lake Tal-y-Llyn, and sheep grazing in a pasture. The low clouds made the mountain look rather forbidding, which in a way was more interesting than if it had been a fair day. The landlady there told us she'd lived in Singapore four years before the British moved out. This was the second person to tell us such a thing - in Tenby, the landlord told us that he'd lived in Seletar before.
We also took a detour to visit a reservoir called Nant-y-moch. This was really isolated and the road was extremely narrow. Being from Singapore, it was quite an experience to be in the middle of nowhere with not a soul for miles except for sheep. When we got to the reservoir, the wind was really strong. There was a small monument to Owain Glyndwr (a Welsh hero) there. I wanted to get out of the car to read the inscription, but the wind almost blew me away when I opened the door.
We also visited Lake Vyrnwy, which was lovely because it really seemed unspoiled. There were very few buildings there - one hotel, one farm, & some small shops, including an RSPB store. The weather had cleared by this time & when we arrived in the evening, the sunset over the lake made a good picture. The B&B, not surprisingly, was already taken, so there was no place to stay except the hotel which was pretty expensive. There were some bird-viewing huts scattered along the lake, & the following morning we spent a few hours sitting inside one of them, watching the birds. I could only recognise the common ones, like the tits. A squirrel also came along to check out the food, and there were some robins. I have a fondness for robins. :lol:
We also stopped at a craft shop along the way, & the first thing I saw when I entered the door was a stone carving of a little mole sitting on the floor, laughing up at me. He was just so incredibly cute. I was a bit doubtful about buying him, though, because he was heavy, but D chivalrously volunteered to carry him in his hand luggage aboard the plane. In the end I also bought another smaller mole, reclining on its side.
Wales was cold & it rained half the time we were there. Later, when I'd mentioned this to a friend who works in the UKMO, he joked that I'd chosen a good time to visit - April 2000 had been a record-breaking month for rainfall in many areas, almost three times the national average.
Being in the civil service, we are able to book Cluny Lodge, a bungalow owned by the Singapore government. D often suggested we stay there, but I kept putting it off because I liked Strawberry Park & am usually lazy to try anything new. Our colleague C the Toothbrush Man brought his family there to stay once, though, & after hearing about it from him I decided to give it a try.
Lane leading to Cluny Lodge, lined by firs supposedly planted by Lee Kuan Yew; Cluny Lodge in morning sunlight
In the end I was very glad we went. It is a little stone bungalow, & it turned out to be much nicer than staying in a hotel because it was more homelike. There were large windows everywhere with views of the surrounding hills and the garden, which was well-tended and full of flowers. Since it was off-peak season we had the entire bungalow & garden to ourselves.
I liked the dining area; the plates used were similar to those used in my grandmother's house when I was a child, & made me feel nostalgic. There were also vases of yellow roses & chrysanthemums set on the table, which I guessed were from the garden. Meals were provided & the food was really good, with soups, main dishes, dessert, plus coffee/tea/Chinese tea. It was like home-cooked food, with a choice of Chinese or western.
Dining room; plate; bedroom
Cluny Lodge is near Sri Menanti. D's grandfather has passed away, but Mr Lim, the caretaker at Cluny, remembers him well. In fact, D had a great time talking to Mr Lim & family (all in Cantonese, so I didn't follow much) about his grandfather & old times. On the last evening after dinner, he went off to the kitchen to settle the bill while I stayed in the bedroom & read my book; & he was gone so long that I knew they must be having another of those nostalgic sessions.
Front of Lodge; view from the front; rosy clouds at sunset
He finally came back, rather excited. Apparently Mr Lim said that Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore's first Prime Minister) was staying here (at Cluny) around the time of Separation from Malaysia. In fact, Mr Lim said Mr Lee was here when the writ of separation was delivered to him, & also that Mr Lee had planted quite a no. of the old fir trees around the Lodge.
Mr Lim says that the bungalow is historic, & that it's sort of modelled after a castle, because it's one of the few bungalows around which has a basement/cellar. Apparently Mr Lee must have liked the bungalow, because he arranged for it to be leased to the Singapore govt for a limited period. In another 25 years, it will go back to the Malaysian govt. Pity.
Steps leading down from the Lodge to a little playground; garden; rose in garden
We didn't trek around much this time, but we did go down to Tanah Rata so that I could make my usual visit to the ceramics shop. We also took an early morning walk to have a look at Sri Menanti, but there were guests there, so we decided not to disturb the caretaker. On the way back, we saw a huge millipede on the road. It looked like a fat sausage or a miniature minibus, trundling along. One little tap & it curled up into a perfect sphere. We rolled it into the grass, in case a car came along & crushed it.
D's hometown is in Ipoh, Malaysia & we normally visit every year around the Chinese New Year period. Ipoh is surrounded by limestone hills, & once you've passed Kuala Lumpur along the North-South Highway, the route becomes quite scenic. D grew up accustomed to seeing hills around & it is one thing he misses here in Singapore.
Limestone hills in Ipoh. View from the teashop.
During our stay we normally spend a few days in Cameron Highlands. The weather is cooler there, & it is a very quiet & pleasant place to stay & just relax & be near to nature.
For D, the Camerons are special because his grandfather used to work there as a chef at Sri Menanti, a holiday bungalow owned by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. He and his brothers used to visit as children, & he remembers the aroma of his grandfather's cooking wafting down to them as they climbed the hill to the bungalow. During his visits there he would often lie outside on the grassy slopes & watch rainclouds sweep in to cover the town of Brinchang below.
The attraction of the Camerons for me is that it features a lot in stories told to me in my childhood - my parents went there for their honeymoon, my mother went there in her uni days for retreats, one of my relatives used to own the bus company there, & my maternal grandmother was born in Tapah, a town at the base of the mountain. At that time, Singapore and Malaysia were still one.
View from our hotel window at dawn; later the same view was obscured by rain clouds.
The first time we drove up, we could hear cicadas singing loudly - and not like the usual cicada sounds I was familiar with either, they sounded like an alien invasion. On the way up we sometimes stopped at a little stall selling tea to look at the view. There are several hotels there & we usually stayed at Strawberry Park which I liked because of its black and white architecture.
Strawberry Park; view from the hotel restaurant; morning glory; Tenmoku pottery shop
I find the small towns there - Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang - rather depressing, dry, dusty & a lot of the houses having zinc roofs. However there is a shop in Tanah Rata which I faithfully visit every time because I like the Tenmoku pottery there. I seldom see an individual piece I'd like to buy, but I can spend ages just looking around, at the colours & textures, & vessels in all shapes and sizes.
The Smoke House
There is also a large Tudor style bungalow called The Smoke House which I fell in love with when we first drove by ... too expensive for us to stay at, but nice to admire from the outside. It may not be a big deal to someone from the UK, but it's nice to find a place like this in Malaysia.
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