Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Swanning to Swanage

...well, more like beating, but we got there!

Ruth had told us they were off to their flat in Swanage for two weeks' break, and I unwisely suggested that we might 'pop over' at the weekend.

We left home shortly after 8 and were well on our way by 9.30am, in cold winds and sunshine. Or rather, I was in cold winds, Martin remained in shorts and t-shirt for most of the day, whilst you can see why it was just my nose that caught the sun.
This was Martin's first chance to hoist the new sails, our latest investment. Who knows whether they are faster, but he was pleased with the look.
The grand unfolding
We did a lot of tacking using new jibsheets, which unfortunately led to one of the main winches falling apart into the water. So now we have an urgent (and rather expensive) repair to accomplish before we take Mum and Dad out at the weekend!

Still, we made it out past the Needles and across to Swanage by the evening, waved in by Ruth and Ian from ashore.
They came aboard with excellent fish and chips and chilled wine, the very best of guests. Which is very brave of them both, as you can see neither was too sure about being afloat!
They were generous enough also to offer us breakfast at their flat next morning, which was a lovely excuse to pootle off in the dinghy and walk along the harbourside, up the hill for a few minutes and then enjoy a proper breakfast in relaxing surroundings.
We left around 11 and had a relatively quick sail back, mostly in sun and with the wind at our backs, though the peace gave Martin a little too long in his dress-up box:

London with Rosie

Rosie's 24th birthday fell on a Friday, and at the last minute she wasn't needed at work so I took the chance to go up and join her for the day.

We met at Waterloo and wandered to find some cool drinks, then off past Covent Garden and Seven Dials, where we stopped for fancy ice creams in the sunshine. We arrived at Carnaby Street at lunchtime to find everywhere busy, so carried on walking and found a dim sung restaurant where we had a delicious meal outside, including beautiful hand-bound flowering teas.
Ben called to wish Rosie a Happy Birthday, and told us too that he has just got a part-time job writing content, which should fit in very well with his teaching and playing, so there were congratulations all round.

After plenty of lunch and catching up with Rosie's plans (she was cooking for friends that evening and having a party the following night) we trotted off to see the Wallace Collection, where Rosie was place-dropping ("oh, we have some of those at the Palace") and opened presents over another cup of tea in the courtyard.

Such a lovely day, and I was home within barely an hour of boarding a train. Birthdays are fun!

Monday, 11 July 2016


Last weekend Martin and his brave crew, Ian and Vicks, joined other mad boats in the Round the Island Race. 994 finished out of 1533 and Drifter did it with a creditable finishing position (I must get Martin to confirm details).
More importantly, they made it round in one piece. The weather was much worse this year, with the smaller boat classes cancelled due to fears of the wind and seas rounding the Needles. In fact one of the early boats capsized near the Needles, featuring in race reports around the time Drifter was starting, and Martin said he has rarely heard so many Mayday and PanPan calls.
Unfortunately they ended up both nights on a buoy outside the new breakwater at Cowes, with little access to the water taxi due to the seas, so missed out on the post-race cameraderie (as well as some much-needed showers).

Nevertheless I was relieved to hear they had finished, particularly after an un-nerving tracking hiatus after the Needles, and watching footage of the Commodore's boat sinking as he hosted the race. Clever Martin.

Saturday, 9 July 2016


We also managed a trip to Normandy at the end of June, to coincide with Rosie's only week of holiday from Queenie.

Mum and Dad have been wanting to visit Christian Dior's garden at Granville, so booked to stay at the farmhouse before us. They ended up coming and staying with us for the weekend, so they could enjoy our choir Summer Concert (which went very well, thank you) then a Fathers' Day brunch (to which Jon and family were surprise guests) on the Sunday morning before they left for the ferry.
Rosie whizzed back from London and  Martin got back from Germany just in time to catch the ferry with us, an easy trip and we arrived in beautiful sunshine to the first of many meals outside. 

Mum and Dad returned in time for dinner and we shared a fun couple of days with them, including attempting to catch razor clams at the beach and eating delicious fresh-cooked crab. 
When the clams didn't co-operate we resorted to competitive giraffe-drawing on the beach.
...then opted for a bought-seafood dinner at home.
Mum and Dad left the day after the Brexit vote which threw Britain into chaos over the following week: the pound plummeting, UK losing its AAA credit rating; PM Cameron resigning; Boris being betrayed by his campaign manager Gove; the Labour party being sent into disarray wanting Corbyn to leave; and Farage resigning from UKIP (but gallingly keeping his well-paid job as a Euro MP), his work done.

At least we were able to forget all about that for a few days. Lazy mornings with croissants in the sun, ditto lunch with baguette, cheeses and pate and some roaming on foot and by bike. La Manche was preparing to host the Tour de France the following week, so there were bicycle displays and bunting everywhere, and lots of the roads seemed to have been tidied up or re-surfaced.
We saw adverts for a gymkhana one day so cycled to sit and enjoy that for a while, and also watched a 'national' competition at the motocross which was very loud and exciting! I must make sure I keep an eye when that is coming up so that at least we can warn guests of the early 8.30am start on a Sunday morning.


Martin is effectively working in two different roles at the moment, so was unable to join us during the weekdays, but we made sure he was fed and watered, and he was able to spend the weekend relaxing with us.

Unfortunately for Rosie, she picked up some kind of bug, so our second try trip to dig up razor clams and eat moules frites was abandoned. Nevertheless we were able to cut back the hedge, re-paint one of the doors, fix the VMC, and even repair a hole in the dishwasher caused by a naughty mouse.

To crown a lovely week, we dined in the BBQ shack on our final night, eating as the sun dipped beyond the trees, and managing several rounds of Pit before the darkness fell completely.

A lovely holiday.

Friday, 8 July 2016


Well, I don't really know where to start.

Britain voted in a referendum last week that we should leave the EU. Nobody seems really to have believed this would happen: polls showed a marginal vote to remain, a huge majority of business leaders, politicians and commentators urged that whilst plenty is wrong with Europe, the risks of leaving were too high to contemplate, and everybody acknowledged that Boris's Battle Bus slogan was a blatant misrepresentation.
Yet we awoke on Friday morning stunned to hear that the tackily-named 'Brexit' campaign had won. Stock markets and the pound plummeted. Nigel Farage received blanket media coverage, David Cameron resigned and Nicola Sturgeon suggested that since Scotland had actually voted to remain, it might abandon the UK in favour of the EU.

So Britain no longer looks so Great, now that even our geographically conjoined sibling nations can see the benefits of staying friendly with a region they actually must pass over us to reach.

I am surprised at how gutted I feel about this. I know that political elections result in probably half the population feeling aggrieved at any point. But there is never more than another four years to wait, and there is usually something in any party's manifesto that gives a smidgen of reassurance that good will be done, progress will be made.

But this time it felt terminal. Turning our backs on Europe seems mean and shortsighted. Whatever problems the world faces we should surely work them out together? 

I love Britain, we moved half a world away and then came back again to enjoy it afresh. But now I see prejudice and xenophobia sprouting all around me.

We are very lucky to have been born in such a beautiful country, with freedom and rights and democracy. I understand that we feel the need to preserve this. But I also understand the fears of those who are fleeing their own, cherished countries, their lives in peril through no fault of their own.

We need to sort out migration globally, not restricting our vision to our own small shores. We need to address the inadequate resources in the NHS, schools and communities which leave the ill queuing too long for treatment, children forced to travel far from their local school and towns forced to cut back on road-surfacing, waste-recycling and community support in the name of austerity.

I am finding it hard to explain to the next generation, my 20-something family, how their elders have landed them not only with enormous university debt and a housing crisis that mean they will barely be able to afford their own homes, but have also soured relations with their European friends currently studying or working here; limited their prospects of freely travelling and working in Europe; dumped on them financial instability which will damage their country internationally for at least the next decade; and stirred a nasty pool of stagnant prejudice to bubble up and spit in our faces.

Europeans feel spurned. Foreigners working here feel rejected. No-one in political power wants actually to take the initiative and get on with solving the issues and bringing us together. The young feel their future has been plucked away. The old are at risk of being disenfranchised in future by the generations who will actually live to face the consequences of their vote.

The state of the nation? Frankly, I have no idea.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Family Conference

The same weekend that we went to visit Vicki in Oxford, Martin had to leave early for a week in Germany, whilst I headed off early next morning to Northampton to spend my first ever two days at a conference.

The event was organised by a group for development professionals in education, and Jenny had suggested I go as she had found it helpful the previous year. So at my interview for the current job I told them I thought I should go, and I was duly booked along with Emma my colleague who is a former army girl and great fun.

We were able to stay at the hotel where the conference was held, which made it very easy to get to breakfast and to bed, whilst it also had a lovely spa with swimming pool and sauna where we could take a break. The food was really good, plenty of coffee breaks for networking, some interesting talks and really helpful ideas... and of course Jenny and I were able to get together!
Jenny bumped into Emma and I whilst waiting for a keynote speech, so I had to introduce them, my cover now blown. But we also ended up chatting before dinner
...and after dinner ended up in the bar trying to persuade everyone we were sisters, which turned out to be very funny! Added to which, we ended up whizzing back along corridors to sort out Jenny's key, much to the amusement of the receptionist who had been watching us on cctv. Fun times, and all in a good cause too.

Thursday, 16 June 2016


Meanwhile, back at home..

Max was put to work in the garden last weekend, sawing big branches off the tree at the bottom of the garden to allow some sunlight to reach the hens and dry out the woodpile.
Martin spent ages fixing the gate, long since damaged by rot, meaning that it is now a joy to go down to the hens and shut them in at night.
Ben and Fran came down for a long weekend and to borrow the car, going down to visit a relative in Portsmouth and take in the historic dockyards one day, and spending a further day at Legoland (now £50 a ticket!). It was super to see them, and Fran bravely agreed to come sailing with us on the Saturday, managing to cope with a dearth of wind and homemade pasties at anchor for lunch.
We managed to fit in a choir rehearsal on a sunny Saturday morning, including a visit by a friendly local photographer who took some professional shots for use on our website and in publicity.
It was a good job we timed it so well...the last week has been chilly and rainy, not at all the right weather for summer.