12. Sep, 2021


SUNDAY 12-09-21

At last we seem to have found some warmth, though The Chef tells me we should make the most of it as the weather is due to turn. Last night we slept comfortably as it was a cool night, and with both roof vents open, the one above our heads, fully, we were able to control the temperature, although I did need to pull the duvet over me later in the night when it got a bit too cool for my liking.

This morning we woke to the news that our new young tennis star, Emma Raducanu had won her championship final in the US Open competition. That was great news and the world is now her oyster, or lobster as Del Boy would say.

So a bit about Ponferrada:

Ponferrada is a city in north-western Spain. It’s a major stop on the French Way Catholic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Los Templarios Castle has a moat and drawbridge, and houses the Knights Templar’s Library. El Bierzo Museum traces local history, with exhibits including Paleolithic and medieval artefacts. The Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Encina is a Renaissance church with a 17th-century bell tower.

A medieval bridge reinforced with iron (pons ferrata), erected for the benefit of pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella, gave this town its name. Today, prosperous from both iron and coal deposits, Ponferrada has expanded into a sizeable town. Most of the attractions are confined to the small old quarter.

The only task we had today was to have a wander round and visit the castle, so we didn't need to rush about, but it would be an advantage to beat the masses to the site should it be popular. Our Camperstop is ideally located for the town and we were soon stood outside the entrance to the castle. It was six euro's each to look around and having come all this way we just had to do it. Fortunately even with face masks on we must have looked old, as the young lady in the kiosk gave us cheap tickets so in all it was just eight euro's.

The Knights Templar arrived here in 1178 to protect the Camino de Santiago and its route across the iron bridge (Pons Ferrata). They remained for a century, extending their power to the Castle of Cornatel.

As part of their task they reinforce the exterior wall of the castle and build different sections for their needs: a templar convent, pallozas (traditional round dwellings in northwest Spain), wineries, bread stores and vegetable gardens, of which there are scarcely any remains.

With the dissolution of the Order in 1312, the Knights abandoned the Castle. During the 15th century, Pedro Alvarez Osorio, first Conde (Count) of Lemos takes possession and carries out its most significant construction works. Then there was several centuries of abandonment before the castle begins its recovery. In 1924 it is declared a National  Monument.

We had to follow a prescribed route due to social distancing or at least an honest attempt at maintaining it. It's something we've noticed here and back in Lugo - the much stricter compliance to wear face masks. You hardly see anybody without one on.

I'm not sure how long the tour took us. It wasn't a mind blowing experience, but pleasant enough, and at least on this occasion we didn't have to work around props from Harrison Ford's new film 'Indiana Jones & the Care Home of Gloom'.

On the way back home we came across a bread shop, which we hadn't expected to see open, this being a Sunday, but it was, and so The Chef was soon in and out armed with a nice crusty loaf.

This afternoon has been spent lazing around in the sunshine and shade, depending on how we felt. It's been over 30°C today, too hot for us really, but so much better than the rain and damp.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York. Almost exactly a year to the day earlier The Chef and I were on holiday there and I have video footage taken on the observation deck at the very top of the Twin Towers.

Today, that is, the day after 9/11, I have my own anniversary. Twenty years ago today I was the operational manager responsible for Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire. There were four of us 'Area Officer's' to cover the county with a patch each and our line manager was the County Commander. We were issued with marked cars with a boot full of kit and would be sent to incidents either as solo responders to deal with the '999', or 'Red' call, or we'd be deployed to support crews at a large incident. My car was the only two or two point two litre Vauxhall Vectra saloon in the fleet, the rest being 1.8's and it went like sh*t off a shovel. Just like a shepherd has his dog by his side we had our cars and they stayed with us 24/7, and we were often turned out to answer outstanding emergency calls in our own time, though we did get paid a minimum of two hours pay for each call-out. Many's the time I've had a call at home from the Ambulance Controller to tell me they had no cover at all anywhere in Cambridgeshire and could I help them if required. I never said no, unless I'd had a drink, though I would not sit around waiting for the phone to ring otherwise our home became a crewroom, so I'd go upstairs change in to my green uniform or slip a jump suit on and make my way out to the car telling The Chef I'd hopefully be back soon. Then I'd take the car up to the local Tesco's car park often for a couple of hours, just until they got back on their feet again. Things were very different back then. It was more than just a job - they were OUR public, and we did all we could to protect them. So there you have it, hopefully I have painted you a picture of somebody who is used to having the car all to himself and able to concentrate on what he's doing.

So twenty years ago today I was required to attend a meeting in Norwich and was taking a member of our non-emergency staff who was a staff representative. On the way back we were in deep discussion about the possible ramifications of the 9/11 attack which had happened only the day before. I'm on a dual carriageway section of the A11 near Attleborough in the outside lane, slowly, and I mean slowly, overtaking a Renault Espace with one occupant. I then pulled in to the nearside lane in front of him, so all I could now see in my rear view mirror was that Renault Espace. Within no time at all I had a police car pull in behind me with blues and two's on and requiring me to pull in to the garage forecourt down the road.

There they played good guy bad guy having informed me I had been travelling at 107mph. Eventually I got away and had to await the paperwork coming through informing me of my conviction. In the end I was done for 100mph, got five points on my license and a £250 fine. I did find out afterwards that the Norfolk cops had been giving the gypsies warning to the Norwich Rapid Response vehicle drivers who had been driving like loons and jumping red lights at speed etc. They hadn't heeded the warnings, so I guess the cops decided to make an example of somebody - step forward yours truly. When it was all over I did inform our Ambulance Control that should they give me a 'Red' call in Norfolk (the vehicles are tracked) I would not claim any exemptions under the Road Traffic Act and would therefore make progress to the incident at normal road speed obeying all signs. I never did get any calls.

So not all speed is good, and that day was such an occasion.

Wind the clock backwards a few years (from the 1980's to mid 90's) however, and I was an operational member of staff on frontline ambulances, and loving the job. One of our tasks was to transfer very sick newborn babies from the Rosie Maternity Hospital, on the Addenbrookes Hospital complex outside Cambridge, and rush them to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. I, like many, could do the journey in just under an hour door-to-door, and it was nice to tell the baby's mum that she should check her watch when we left and imagine her baby arriving at Great Ormond Street Hospital just one hour later. The limiting factor were the ambulances we were driving. Ford Transits, but much worse still, Bedford CF's. They were just so underpowered. By the time you reached London you had a hot spot on the sole of your right foot where you'd had it pressed on to the accelerator pedal and firmly on to the floor.