Morocco

Morocco – in today’s news is a story that south Morocco had its first snowfall in 50 years.  It didn’t snow while we were there but it was, as the British say, ‘chilly’, with frost on the ground for a couple of the mornings.

Unexpected [a.k.a. as ignorance] were the snowy mountains near Marrakech.  The Atlas Mountains stretch through Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.  Their snowy peaks provide a beautiful backdrop to Marrakech.

Near the top of our agenda was a visit to those mountains.

We hired a guide [Abdul] and left in the early morning.  It was reassuring that the two others with us on the hike were a heart surgeon and a heart specialist, both from Germany.  Had we understood the challenges of the hike we would have known why they were there.  A second guide also named Abdul met us and took us into the waterfalls – along a steep path.

A thoughtful considerate guide he was!

First was a drive with Abdul into the mountains.

The Majestic Atlas Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather’s shirt inadvertently is a reflection of the Morocco flag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A village along the way

 

 

A Berber shepherd tends sheep

 

 

 

 

Our wonderful guide Abdul, provides some help.

 

 

LUNCH

A walk up the mountain for lunch

Beyond this tiny village are many other villages, accessible only by donkey.

Up on the roof – time for a chat

 

Our hostess brings lunch atop the roof of her home.

 

 

Tagine

 

 

 

 

A rooftop lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Berber Girl – children are the same, whatever their place or culture.

 

Overall, a very rich day.

Let’s Give It a Go!

This is an expression I have heard numerous times in the U.K.  It reflects an openness to diving into a task or a new pursuit, regardless of experience.
I have picked up on this attitude and it’s encouraged me to try a drumming circle, an amateur choir and most recently a creative writing group.  For all three pursuits I have been welcomed to the group just as I am.
My choral group did five public performances in December, all of them far from perfect, but the contribution to community events is highly appreciated here.  We were made to feel like stars!

I recently experienced another example of how performances don’t have to be polished or professional in order to be valued and highly enjoyed.  We had the pleasure of attending a Panto (a type of musical comedy that’s very popular at this time of year).  It was called Dick Whittington, and it’s the story  of a wealthy merchant who later became Lord Mayor of London.  Highly cheesy and comedic, with lots of audience participation, our Panto experience was great fun.  Comprised of nearly forty amateur

A truly amateur photo.

performers ranging in age from 3 to 70, the performance, though far from perfect, was a great night out.

“Let’s give it a go” is a great British expression that encourages us all to pursue our own interests and artistic enrichment at any stage of life.

Next Stop – Ombudsman

We have been battling UK Immigration since our Residence Permits [BRP] were stolen in May 2017.

Whilst we got ‘the right’ answer from UK Immigration, i.e. our new BRP cards, that part was never in question and was a simple, or should have been, a simple process.  At issue is wrong information we were given by them on their fee-for-service phones.

We originally wrote a letter of complaint, for which they offered no apology and a less than generous offer of a small refund for part of their overall fees.  In the UK the department is actually operated for profit basis, something not allowed in Canada and fees are steep.

In September we requested a review of their initial decision.  Having heard nothing from them we then re-contacted them about the review process, and received a terse, don’t contact us again – you will be ignored.

We then contacted them again because they had simply referred us to their website which of course was simply incorrect, as they do have a complaints procedure.

This time we received an ambiguous answer, saying basically if a complaint fits the criteria upon which complaints can be based we will hear from them, if not we will not.  It is ambiguous because:

a.  they could have looked at the nature of the complaint and said it is ‘in process’

or,

b.  They could have said it is outside of the scope for complaints

The issue of ambiguity is that we are not complaining about the decision.  Rather we are complaining about wrong information we were given that caused us to embark on a costly process that was unnecessary.  They could say you can only complain about a decision.  Hence the ambiguity.

Given the ambiguity of their answer on this second reply, we decided it is simply not possible to deal with them effectively.  Their communication tends to be what I would call ‘sloppy’ in that it is apparent they did not look at the submission and look for the easiest way to get pieces of paper of their desks.

We will now proceed with lodging a complaint with the ombudsman.  So over the next two weeks I will put our case together for submission.

The bad news is the Ombudsman has so many complaints it will take more than year to receive a response from them.  The good news is that they uphold about 75% – 80% of complaints filed against UK Immigration.  A sad commentary on the state of UK Immigration and how they manage the application of the law.

By the way — ‘Ombudsman’…of course should be ‘Ombudsperson’…but in the UK they have not yet made their terminology gender neutral .

We will post our submission.

 

The South West Coast Path – Swanage Heading West

This was our third hike on the South West Coast Path, this time setting out west of Swanage.  It was a dry cloudy day with panoramic views of the rugged ocean and rolling agricultural lands.
The Purbeck area contained many quarries, some very small.  The quarried rock was used in London for buildings such as the Houses of Parliament and St. Paul’s Cathedral.   Some of the stone came back from London, used as ballast on barges, and some was then used for the front of the town hall building in Swanage.  The centre of the town hall facade was designed by a student of Christopher Wren.
Built in 1882, with the frontage originally from a building built  in 1670 was transported from London.
 On to the trail.
At the beginning of our hike, we came upon a group of volunteers who were dismantling a dry masonry examination site moving it to a new site for testing new stone fence builders.
 
 Some of the oldest stone fences in Scotland date back 3,500 years.
Button the dog was overseeing the move but paused briefly to say hello.
A January path can be muddy – but worth it.
For the MacDonalds, lighthouses have a special meaning.  Heather’s grandfather was a lighthouse keeper in Cape Breton, and her father also spent some time as a lighthouse keeper.

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The South West Coast Path – Poole to Swanage

Garry and I thoroughly enjoyed our four hour inaugural 2018 hike on the South West Coast Path.  The path stretches 630 miles from Minehead to Poole.  Poole is the next town over from us, and we did our first hike this week to Swanage.

Breathtaking panoramic views were plentiful with numerous historical markers.  We are hoping to accomplish several more legs of this trail while we are here, and we are already contemplating a return trip to another part of Southwestern England to further chip away at it.

This area of Studland, near Old Harry Rocks, served as a practice beach for the invasion of Normandy in the Second World War because of its similarity to Normandy’s beach.  It was there that Canadian engineers built large cement defensive structures specifically to protect the VIP’s who watched the rehearsal – Churchill, King George VI, Eisenhower and Montgomery.

I have put my notice in for my job, which has been a great experience, for January 20th.  Soon after we will resume our longer term travels with a trip to Morocco.  After that we have a one week journey to Ireland scheduled for mid-February.

We will be fitting in as many day trips and longer term journeys as we can before our return to Canada in June……we are feeling our time getting shorter as we move into the New Year.

Old Harry Rocks

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After some warm +13° weather – a winter storm is on the way with ferries cancelled

WEATHER WARNING FOR UK INCLUDING THE SOUTH COAST

Chief Forecaster’s assessment

A deepening area of low pressure, now named Storm Eleanor, will track east across the centre of the UK. This will bring gales and severe gales to Northern Ireland and northern England late on Tuesday and overnight, clearing eastern England during Wednesday morning. The strong winds may clip southern Scotland, with continued uncertainty in the northern extent. Further south, severe gales affect western and southern coasts this evening and overnight, with a very squally feature bringing a short spell of intense rainfall and very strong gusts to some inland localities. Wednesday daytime sees a very blustery day, with squally gusts accompanying showers in many areas. Throughout this period, gusts of 60-70 mph are likely along exposed coasts, with the more exposed locations seeing gusts close to 80 mph. Inland gusts exceeding 60 mph are possible.

Happy New Year – 2018

We joined 100,000 ticket holders to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks on the banks of the River Thames in London.  What a fabulous way to usher in 2018, and such a delight for the senses.
People were well behaved at the event and the crowd control by London City Police, including working horses, was truly impressive.
We enjoyed the three hour wait up to midnight with two new friends from Cologne, Anne and Stephan.  Great conversation, and they shared their toe warmers and their Baileys.  (We gave them a sample of our hot toddy but they weren’t impressed).
The soundtrack that accompanied the fireworks was comprised
primarily of contemporary female artists to mark the centenary of the female vote.

Showers of Light

 

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