South Petherton 1996-98

1996-98 in South Petherton


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Bath Rugby reached a peak during this decade. Having been league champions for four years in a row from 1991, second in 1995 and champions again in 1996. Then in 1998 Barf reached the final of the Heineken European Cup by beating Cardiff in the quarter final and Pau in the semi. Brive were our opposition in the Bordeaux final who were the current champions and who nobody thought Barf had any hope of beating.

We had some pretty famous names playing that day. Andy Nicol was captain then there was Jeremy Guscott, Jonathon Callard, Matt Perry, Adedayo Adebayo, Victor Obugu, Phil de Glanville and Mike Catt to mention just a few. But Barf were having a torrid time at the Rec having been demolished by Sarries with coach Andy Robinson jeered by the fans.

With the score 15-6 in Brive's favour at half time and 32,000 Frogs screaming abuse it looked as though Brive had it sewn up. With the score still on 15-6 the Barf American international No 8 Dan Lyle set off from a scrum on their 22 in a storming run, passed to Guscott who unselfishly offloaded to Callard who scored the try which he duly converted to bring them within two points 15-13.

Barf win the European Cup

Penalty goals were then exchanged before Adebayo was taken out off the ball and Callard calmly put Barf ahead 18-19 amid the usual disrespectful Froggie whistles for the first time in the game. Somehow or other they held on with Brive missing a penalty and drop goal attempt to win a famous victory and become the first UK club to win the cup.
They went steadily downhill after that, almost relegated from the premiership in 2002 and 2003 with the only silverware won since being the European Challenge Cup in 2008. Barf have become the team who almost win but the faithful continue to live in hope of a return to the glory days.


This was I think the second extended holiday we did with the Hockeys. We purchased tickets of a Thompson charter flight which flew via Orlando then down to Puerto Vallarta on Mexico's Pacific coast.
The flight was half empty and the weather on the flight down the US East coast was really clear with Manhattan clearly visible.

I had booked a hire car for 10 days and an hotel just south of Puerto Vallarta beside the ocean. It was at this hotel that I first tasted Huevos Rancheros (Rancher's Eggs) which were eaten al fresco beside the sea. It was slightly spoiled by the sight of raw sewage floating past!. The dish consists of fried eggs served with a spicy hot tomato salsa sometimes with a tortilla and refried beans. I have had numerous imitations elsewhere but none has yet reproduced those Mexican ones.

Breakfast in Mexico

We set off South down the coast the next morning doing our best to avoid the very large iguanas in the road that seemed to have a death wish. At Cuyutlán we turned inland up to Colima where Sue complained of a stomach ache. We found a pharmacist who diagnosed indigestion and gave her some tablets which he discounted saying how honoured he was to serve such a pretty lady with such a perfect English accent and she could be assured of a discount an anything else she might purchase from him! Obviously an anglophile who had no idea of a New Zealand accent.

We were staying in a motel a little way out of town and took a taxi into the centre to a very good restaurant that night. Chris paid the fare on our return and in his ignorance of the currency gave the driver ten times the proper fare. The driver immediately pointed out his mistake with honesty we did not anticipate. We were still unused to how cheap Mexico was.

Colima Volcano

Back on the road the next day we had some spectacular views of the Colima Volcano smoking away. The Volcán de Colima is 3,820 m (12,533 ft) high and is one of the most active in Mexico.

At Guadalajara I had pre-booked an hotel. I was navigating and became disoriented but not before Chris lost his patience with me and slammed on the brakes in the middle of a busy three lane highway. When we all recovered our composure we found our hotel and checked in.

Guadalajara is a city of 1.5 million people but over 5 million live in the metropolitan area, the largest concentration in Latin America and Mexico's second largest city. It was founded in 1542 by the Spanish conquistadors and is a financial and cultural centre.

Guadalajara Cathedral

In the evening we were all sat in the Plaza de Armas, a leafy square right opposite the impressive Cathedral when I struck up a conversation with a Mexican bloke who spoke good English. He said he had a good friend who lived in Manchester in England and did I know him? He then took me by the hand and led me to the ornate bandstand in the middle of the square where he pointed out the name of the foundry in Paris on part of the cast iron construction.

On our return to the bench, Sue and the Hockey's voiced doubts about my sexual persuasions having seen me walk off hand in hand with a nice young man!
The bandstand by the way was made of cast and wrought iron in Paris and was purchased by the former Mexican president Porfirio Diaz in 1910 to commemorate the centenary of independence. My new found Mexican friend seemed very proud of it.

Puerto Vallarta beach

Back in Puerto Vallarta we spent the rest of the holiday on the beach. It was hot and the others swam frequently but I only went in once after I surfaced next to a giant turd. I hope they have fixed the sewage system by now. We would arrive at the beach and select loungers and a sun shade then be waited on throughout the day with cold beers, tortillas and Burritos and it averaged about four quid for the four of us. How did they make a profit we wondered but then I discovered that a can of Corona in the local corner shop cost about 20p.

We were continually bothered by walking shops trying to sell us poncho's and blankets and were continually saying "no, gracias".

We discovered Cafe Oye, bought the polo shirts and ate there most of the time. Most things were cooked on a BBQ outside the restaurant and it was always busy. The waiters were not paid a wage but lived off the tips and actually paid the restaurant owners to work there.

Cafe Oye Puerto Vallarta

We bought loads of polo shirts which were of good quality and 10 years later I was still wearing them much to Sue's disgust. They were washed regularly but Sue was very fashion conscious and accused me of not caring about what I looked like which was mostly true. She secretly dumped them much to my chagrin.

We all enjoyed this first visit to Mexico and I would like to return and see more. We did explore the idea of doing a bit more when travelling to NZ by flying to Cancun on a charter and then hiring a car to drive across Mexico and up to LA but none of the hire car companies would let us do that. I suspect they would worry about security and theft in the USA border region.
Another plan just to hire a car and do a circular trip then get a charter flight up to LA needs investigation.

Jubilee Wedding

My Mother and Father celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1987 at their apartment in Minehead in Somerset.
Sue and I prepared a buffet lunch for everyone and all the children and grandchildren were present.

Mum & Dads 50th wedding anniversary


Another holiday with the Hockey's saw us flying in to Naples, Italy and hiring a car. We had booked an hotel on a hill above Sorrento with a view across the bay to Mount Vesuvius from our balcony, in fact Chris claimed he could sit on his toilet with the door open for the best view.

It was a short easy walk in daylight on a rough track downhill into the centre of Sorrento but it was more difficult on our return uphill in the dark with Sue's fear of rats. The Italian cuisine had a detrimental effect on Chris during the 'passeggiata' after dinner as we walked down the main street with thousands of Italians as he proceeded follow the advice; 'where 'ere you be let the wind blow free, in church or chapel let it rattle' and he certainly did.

Down at the nearby Marina we discovered Luigi from who we hired a dinghy and outboard motor. Luigi worked in the wintertime for UK company Argos operating a lift where he entertained the 'lovely Argos ladies' and we understood him to mean he spent most nights in the lift. He also told us that we would one day learn why Luigi was always to be found beside the rubbish bins at the Marina but we never did find out.
We would pack bread, cheese, charcuterie and a bottle of wine, sail around the coast to a deserted rocky beach and have a picnic with a view of Capri just across the water.

We learnt a few line of the song 'Come back to Sorrento' which we would sing to taxi drivers when we couldn't be bothered to struggle back up the hill to our hotel;

Vide 'o mare quant' è bello,
spira tantu sentimento,
Comme tu a chi tieni mente,
Ca scetato 'o fai sunnè.

After we had sung the first two lines the taxi driver would sing the rest and we never learnt any more. Sue always preferred to take a taxi as she was convinced that rats were lying in wait for her when we walked back.

Bay of Naples and Vesuvius from Monte Faito

I took our hire car one day and went walking in the mountains, eventually finding myself on the summit of Monte Faito from where you get an amazing view across the Bay of Naples. We all took the train to Pompeii on another day and discovered the mucky murals.

In Naples we found a little pizzeria which we had seen in a UK newspaper as being the best. There was just enough room inside for the wood fired oven and about three tables. It was the perfect authentic pizza and very inexpensive.

We used the hydrofoil service from Sorrento to Naples as we did when we visited Capri and Ischia. Returning to the Naples hydrofoil terminal one day we were walking across a pedestrian crossing when a police car narrowly missed us. Everything people say about Italian drivers is true!

Pasta in Cumpà Cosimo, Ravello

We all loved the drive along the Amalfi peninsula and learnt to keep looking ahead at each bend for oncoming motorbikes.
We learnt there was some sort of record to ride your motorbike from Positano to Sorrento of about 10 minutes which every motorcyclist tried to beat. Many did not survive the attempt and collided with oncoming vehicles or took an unscheduled dive into the sea, bike and all!

In Ravello we found the perfect pasta in a restaurant called Cumpà Cosimo located in Via Roma. If you are ever in Ravello do not miss it and give my regards to Mama.

We drove up the summit road of Vesuvius then walked the short distance to the crater rim. Its closeness to Naples makes a potential disaster inevitable if it were ever to erupt as it did once in the days of the Roman Empire when it destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum.

'Torna a Surriento' as the song says and we did.


Yet another holiday with the Hockey's which was their idea of a winter break to a 4 star beach hotel on the Gulf of Aqaba on the Sinai peninsula just South of Taba. We flew in on a charter flight to Taba airport and transferred by coach to the hotel which was an all inclusive deal for a silly price.

There was a catch though. The meals were all on a buffet and the hotel must have had a hygiene problem as Chris spent most of the holiday in bed with food poisoning and Carol also suffered for a couple of days. Sue and me stayed healthy as we tended to steer clear of the cold food.

I hired a car and we left Chris to suffer alone and headed South to the limited places of interest in this desert landscape.

We travelled inland to Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai which was founded from 548AD when Greek Orthodox monks were supposed to have found the remains of Saint Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai. It is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world.

It was knackers cold here and no wonder because it is at an altitude of 1500m (5000ft). The girls bought blankets which we still have and ours is known as our gyppo blanket.
Mount Sinai is 2,285 m (7,497 ft) so was not easily accessible in the time we had available or in the clothing we had.

On our return to Taba we filled the car with petrol and I argued with the attendant that he hadn't charged us enough as the bill was a fraction of the price we would pay in the UK. The only other place we visited was Nuweiba on the coast which was a bit of a dump and not worth visiting but Carol did take an excursion into Jordan to visit Petra which took all day and involved traversing through Eilat in Israel with all the security precautions taking a large chunk of the day.

Shortly after our return from Egypt one of the Taba hotels was blown up by terrorists and in my opinion the rest of the hotels should all be subjected to the same treatment!
Our hotel was of course full of Arabs and I could not get over the Muslim ladies swimming in the pool with all their black garb on including hijabs.

GSG Sutherland Caving Dinners

I featured the GSG Dinners on previous pages in Southern caving areas but most years they were held in the Inchnadamph Hotel (known as the 'Inch') in Sutherland but in 1996 that hotel was closed for renovation and it was held in the Altnacealgach Hotel at Ledmore.

A group of us decided to walk to Inchnadamph climbing Conival (987m) and Ben More Assynt (998m) on the way. I think we might have driven up the Oykel valley and then followed the stalkers path up to Conival. The weather stayed fine and we all climbed to the summit of Conival. Jill Manchip and Sue then decided to walk back the way we came and I was a bit concerned in case they got lost as they had 'previous' but I was persuaded they would find their way. Having 'knocked the bastard off' us blokes carried on along the ridge to the second munro and by the time we reached the summit of Ben More Assynt it was snowing. A bit of a white out made it difficult finding the route down to the Traligill valley which involved returning to Conival but we made it and so did the girls who were waiting for us with the car at Inchnadamph .

On the next page we welcome a new century..

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