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Welcome to the blog of the NeverTooLate Girl.

With the aim to try out, write about and rate the things that people say they'd like to do but haven't quite gotten around to, this website gives you the real and often humourous inside gen on whether it's really worth it.

Read about it,think about it, do it.

 The Top 20 Never Too Late List

  1. Learn to fly - RATED 4/5.
  2. Learn to shoot - RATED 4/5.
  3. Have a personal shopper day.
  4. Attend carols at Kings College Chapel on Christmas Eve - RATED 2.5/5.
  5. Have a date with a toy boy.
  6. Do a sky dive.
  7. Eat at The Ivy - RATED 4/5.
  8. Drive a Lamborgini.
  9. Climb a mountain - CURRENT CHALLENGE.
  10. Have a spa break - RATED 4.5/5.
  11. See the Northern Lights.
  12. Get a detox RATED 4/5.
  13. Read War & Peace - RATED 1/5.
  14. Go on a demonstration for something you believe in.
  15. Attend a Premier in Leicester Square.
  16. Go to Royal Ascot.
  17. Buy a Harley Davidson - RATED 5/5
  18. Study for a PhD - RATED 4/5.
  19. Visit Cuba - RATED 4/5.
  20. Be a medical volunteer overseas - RATED 3/5. 



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Entries in Bay of Pigs (3)


Standing in the Oval Office, Bay of Pigs from the other side, frock envy.

The Oval Office is surprisingly small.  At least that’s how it feels as I stand in the mocked-up version at the John F. Kennedy Museum ( at Columbia Point in the southern half of Boston.  It had been an easy journey from my hotel on Boylston by taking the red line from down-town crossing four stops south to JFK/UMass and then popping up about fifteen or twenty minutes later in what feels remarkably like south west London.  There are streets full of solid residential properties with well-kept gardens and avenues amply planted with trees and shrubbery.  It’s a little disconcerting when you know you are two thousand miles from home. At the bus-stop I find the bus to the museum is free and the ten-minute route runs along the edge of the bay and loops into the University of Massachusetts before dropping off passengers at the front of the JFK museum.  The University of Massachusetts must have one of the most enviable locations for a university in the whole of the United States.  It is nestled on the waterfront with long lawns leading down to the water’s edge and buildings which look modern and well-maintained.  On this Sunday morning there are groups of students, male and female, black and white, doing American Football drills.  It all feels very relaxed. 

The idea of a Presidential library began with President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his second term of office as a means to store and preserve the evidence of a presidency for future generations.  It began a traditional that endures to this day.  There is, amongst others, the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California; the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta, Georgia; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas and the William J. Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arizona (does it contain ‘that’ cigar, I wonder).  The libraries are really archives and museums, bringing together in one place the artefacts and documents of a President and his Administration and making them available to the public for study and discussion. They also bring together personal papers and correspondence of Presidential family members, associates and friends.  I am not sure there is anything quite like it in the United Kingdom.  The Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston is impressive both in terms of the breadth of information it makes available but also the depth, and the engaging ways it presents it.  There are journal and diary entries about key events not just from JFK himself but also from his wife Jackie Kennedy, from his brother Robert who was his campaign manager and who became Attorney General during his administration and also from JFK’s secretary.  A visit to the museum begins with a nineteen-minute film mostly of JFK talking about his early home life and containing much family film footage, and then progresses through a series of corridors and rooms displaying interesting documents and articles pertaining to his life and career.  One learns about the 1960 campaign trail; the famous Kennedy-Nixon debate runs on a TV loop (they were surprisingly gracious to each other, American politics appears to have gone downhill rapidly since then); there is a wall showing the results of the 1960 election which clearly shows how close the race for the presidency was and then stuff on Kennedy’s inauguration and the three years of his office before he was assassinated on November 22nd, 1963.  The handwritten notes, the official typed documents and the black and white films being run are generously supplemented by large glossy photographs on the walls of John and Jackie Kennedy meeting many famous political figures of the day and glass cases dotted here and there exhibit the many beautiful, valuable and sometimes strange gifts that they received along the way.  Two of the rooms deal with the US space programme which JFK was keen to see accelerated the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This latter room held particular interest for me as almost exactly a year before I had been standing in the warm and shallow waters of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba reading about and thinking about the invasion of Cuba from the Cuban’s point of view.  As I read the letters exchanged between JFK, Fidel Castro of Cuba and Nikita Khrushchev of Russia and mused on those thirteen days in October 1962 when the world seemed to be toppling towards nuclear war I wondered whether today, with communication so rapid and media coverage of events so expansive, three individuals, all with the need to maintain reputation and political position would be able to come to the arrangement they did.  JFK, so young and relatively new to the role seems to have shown remarkable wisdom and courage and a surprising lack of ego.  But before you think I am as dulI as dishwater in my interest in historical political and social events I would like to report that I also spent quite a long time admiring Jackie Kennedy’s frocks.

Back at the hotel, shoes off, scoffing pillow chocolates and considering which cocktail to start with that evening I reflected once more on how at home I felt in Boston.  Tomorrow I would be going for a tour of Harvard Business School and wondered if I would feel just at home, there.

The US trip photographs are on the Gallery.


Cuba day 3, part 3 – An American Invasion, Is this Butlins? And Drifting Away.  

The water felt good as the tiny waves broke against my ankles and my toes sunk into the soft white sand.  I put up my hand to shield my eyes from the sun, it was just past midday, and all I could see was the far shore of the crescent that made up this bay, shimmering in the distance.  I’d been in the sun for maybe five minutes, perhaps less, but already I felt the prickle of heat on my skin and the sensation of burning starting to sweep over my back.  Taking my hand down from my brow I rested it on my right shoulder and knew I would suffer later.   

Playa Largos is one of the two beaches that played host to the American 'Bay of Pigs' invasion in 1961.  What started off as a low-key covert action against the Castro regime mushroomed, thanks to the CIA, into a full-scale invasion backed by a 1400-strong force of CIA-trained Cuban exiles and financed with a total military budget of US$13m.  It was an unmitigated disaster, many of the invading force were left stranded on the beach and gave themselves up in a blink of an eye (allegedly) and then were returned to the US a year later in exchange for US$53 million worth of food and medicine.  Needless to say, the Americans didn’t try it again. What it did do was consolidate Castro’s preference for a Soviet economic partner and the rest, as they say, is history.  ‘Socialism or death’ became Castro’s defiant motif.  

Today, though, all is tranquil, the sea is as warm as bathwater and so clear I can see I am playing host to a school of tiny fish weaving in and out between my feet.  As I turn and look back to the beach I notice the chef from the little pink stuccoed café is sitting at one of his own tables, his head thrown back into a loud laugh and for a moment it looks like his hat will fall off.  It is low-season here and so he sits, with his friends and passes the time.  Beyond him is the low level building where the changing rooms are and a veranda, empty but for our party and a waitress who has tried to sell us some drinks and food.  It’s a small resort, scattered with small brightly coloured cottages all with the same rocking chairs and two-person table on the small patio at their front.  It reminds me of Butlins, England, circa 1970.  A Cuban holiday destination, not really popular with tourists and today, almost empty.  No bodies stretched out on the sand slowly spit-roasting, nobody out on the windsurfers.  Just a small party of Brits enjoying the beach and the sun.

The sand in getting to the sea made us hop and holler and we are pleased to make the water’s edge and plunge in.  The sun has bleached the view into shades of white and palest blue and sets the air over the water dancing.  Some seabirds squark loudly and we all turn around, trying to see what has spooked them. Spread in a line, we slowly walk out from the shore first ten meters and stop, then twenty an stop, then fifty and the sea is still only up to our thighs.  It feels strange to be so far from the shore and yet still not in deep enough water for swimming.  I remember that sharks can swim in only three feet of water and though its an illogical thought it sends a nervous shot of adrenaline up my spine and sparking around my brain.  But I want to swim and so I keep walking until my feet naturally lift from the sand and I strike out, with gentle strokes.  After a while I rotate until I am facing the sky and my arms and legs open out into the shape of a star.  I lay suspended, floating, with my eyes closed, and feel the rise and fall of the water and listen to the breaking of the waves not far away.  My closed eyelids are scarlet red in the harsh sunlight and I taste salt in the corners of my mouth.  I know I am drifting a little but I feel comfortable and safe in the embrace of the water around me. Then I open my eyes and slowly turn over.  The rest of the group seem quite far away so I kick my legs and head back to join them.  Back on the minibus we watch a Channel 4 video documentary film about the life of Fidel Castro.  I try to stay awake but feel myself drawn into sleep, my eyes dry and gritty.    

We stop for a short while at Cienfuegos, which sits in an enviable waterside setting just a little bit further around the natural bay.  The original French colonizers arrived in the early eighteen hundreds and set about making this a little bit of France and this can be seen in its neoclassical styling and colonnaded buildings which seem to sit confidently and serenely around its central plaza.  It was named a Unesco World Heritage site in 2005.  We have time for a stroll to admire the statue of José Martí, the Italian-influenced theatre on the north size of the plaza (sadly closed today) and the quality of the handmade ice-cream which we discover at a small ice-cream counter hidden behind a narrow door in an otherwise un-notable expanse of wall.  Inside, seated on plastic chairs pushed against peeling paint and lino floor, locals make satisfied noises as they dip into their treat.  They watch us with interested eyes, but nobody speaks.  The ice-cream is so good, so cold, so welcome in the heat of the day, we don’t talk either as we walk back to the bus. We just enjoy.

The drive to our hotel takes too long.  We are all tired now and the rolling hills and dramatic landscape gets hardly a comment.  As soon as we leave the town we start to climb and there are mountains cutting into the sky line in the distance.  The road winds and there is little other traffic. The view begins to open up and turning around I crane my neck and can just see Cienfuegos behind us, the sun beginning to slowly drop though the light on the sea is still dazzling.  I lean my head against the window despite the vibration but don’t really see the passing fields and small settlements of houses but I do notice a small child and a pig playing together in a garden.  Its six fifteen in the evening, my eyes are sore from swimming and my hair feel hard and tangled from the salt water. The light outside is starting to fade and the clouds behind the mountains in the middle –distance have the grey tint of rain.   I start to feel a little travel sick.


Cuba day 3, part 2 - toilet seat thieves, a Mafia night out and losing three hundred million dollars

We stop for 15 minutes at a small roadside café for coffee and notice now the roads ahead are very wet and the clouds are dark and low on the horizon. We get back into the coach grateful for having had the chance to stretch our legs and visit the loo and for the first time we are driving into rain.

Oh the toilets, you need to know about the toilets in Cuba before you go.  Firstly, there must be a nationwide toilet seat shortage or else there are some kleptomaniacs in the country with very questionable fetishes.  Because, other than at the best restaurants and hotels there is never a seat to be found on the toilet.  There probably used to be one because the fittings are still there. But….   no…. seats.  After a while you get a bit fed up of this particularly because you almost invariably have to navigate past a formidable woman who is installed at a small table with her foot across the door and who asks for your money. Next to her, on the table, is a carefully guarded pile of sheets of loo roll which is heavily rationed.  When you have paid her the entrance fee which usually ends up being one CUC (about 60p) because that is the only change you have, one is presented with four, maybe five sheets of two-ply paper which is so thin as to be transparent.  If she likes the look of you, she might extend it to eight sheets.  But those are very rare occasions.  A CUC every time you go to the loo builds up over the week and, to add insult to injury, the toilets are usually grubby, loo seats almost don't exist and often there is no lock on the door either.  So you are left to assume that most complicated of positions that involves you hovering over the rim of the loo at which you chose not to peer too closely, you have one of your feet hooked under the door to stop it swinging open and leaving you in full view of the restaurant or bar and concurrently balancing your rucksack mid-air because you dare not put it down on the wetness that is the floor.  In fact the toilets are so bad when you find a good one you have to go two or three times during the course of your visit to whichever establishment just to build up some kind of lavatorial credit in your memory in order to block out the visits you need to forget.  By the middle of the week my own revolutionary zeal was on the rise and I presented at the toilet-toll-gate my own roll of loo paper and marched stalwartly passed the sentry ignoring the cries of protest.     

Back on the bus we learn that the population is about 65% white, 30% black or mixed and 30% Chinese, the last fact surprising me because I hardly recollect seeing any Orientals at all.  When I check this figure in one of my own reference books it tells me only 1% of the population are Chinese.  In the noise of the bus and with handwritten notes, I may well have just written the number down wrongly.  We are told that there is no discrimination against anyone, that 51% of Parliament is women and that unlike other nations there is no religious discrimination of any kind.  We go on to hear that there are high levels of literacy, free education for all and that everybody has access to the internet.   It’s at this point I stop writing and look up. There are no homeless people, no starving people, it’s a fair society we are told. I stop write again because I sense just a little bit of propaganda creeping in.  Now, there is a lot about the socialist model that I admire and respect and certainly under the pre-revolution Batista regime there was huge inequality and corruption.  In fact in December 1946 the Mafia convened the biggest-ever get together of North American mobsters in Havana’s Hotel Nacional, under the pretence that they were going to see a Frank Sinatra concert.  Not really the kind of tourist you want to cultivate. And Castro did pass some very good laws in the first few years of his presidency including one which abolished racial discrimination.  But the reality of the human condition is such that discrimination is impossible to eradicate, unfortunately, even in Cuba.

When it comes to the internet my research suggests that though it might be ‘available’ it is still mostly restricted to the privileged few that work in government ministries or business offices.   Cuba has, I understand, a lower internet usage than Haiti and when you can get access it's interminably slow.  I tried a couple of times myself and gave up and trying to write this blog there would have been hopeless.  On the upside the government has recently passed new resolutions establishing a standard rate for internet connections but at 6CUC an hour (about £5) it’s a price that is beyond all but the most well paid Cubans or for those tourists that just can’t do without their email.  From what I can tell, Cuba is generally considered to be internet-gagged, there seems to be censorship police and the authorities are notoriously prickly when it comes to the voice of dissent.  See the Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, , who is a rare voice of dissent on-line and who once wrote to and got a reply from President Obama.  She has been a fairly vociferous critic of the Cuban government and this has attracted their less than friendly attentions at times, I understand.  There still remains, and this is also repeated by someone else I meet later in the week, a concern about the late-night-knock-on-the-door scenario.  Cuba today is showing tentative signs of change, but some of its population still seem to be struggling to shake off the belief that they have to be careful about what they say and what they do.      

I had the impression that Cuba had been struggling every day since the revolution.  But, the guide tells us, in the 1970s and ‘80s the people were by all accounts quite happy.  The economy was being propped up by the Russians following a ‘beauty parade’ of possible allies post regime change and this continued for thirty years.  There was plenty of food in the shops and enough national income to fund the free education and medical care mentioned earlier.  The US, less than happy with these ideological bed mates used various retaliatory tactics to bring Castro to heel.  All of them failed including the notoriously botched Bay of Pigs invasion and 600-plus assassination attempts.  The bubble burst in 1989-1991 with the fall of the Soviet Bloc when Cuba lost the one million dollars of aid a day that the Russians were supplying.  When you think that means the country lost $365m a year in income and has to contend with the longest economic blockade in modern history you begin to see how things might start looking a bit shabby after a while.  There followed what Castro called the Special Period. But I don’t suppose it felt very special to most of the population as the country became increasingly insolvent and politically isolated.

But that’s enough about politics and history; let’s get back to the holiday.

See the Cuba photographs on the gallery.