Sunday, 31 August 2014

Summer's End

Glass of wine in hand, dinner keeping warm in the oven, chatting with friends on facebook (sounds sad but we know we are not disturbing each other) and all the family busy.

Martin has just taken Max to a party so we will be able to have a fine candlelit supper a deux upon his return. Both he and Max went to the Rugby Club Fun Day today so have had some fresh air and not-so-fresh food and drink, and I have just cut Max's hair again for him (he insists!) before he went off looking most mature and gorgeous. A fine young man - and he seems still to be growing, even overtaking Ben, it seemed, when he was here this week.

So Max has survived his first week at work at a local farm - and been reminded he needs a tetanus booster! He has been counting seeds and collating weather reports so far, hoping something more stimulating will come up soon.

Meanwhile we had Ben here for the week. It was really lovely to have the boys together, though unfortunately no-one was around for most of the week as Max was at work and Martin in Cambridge for several days. I enjoyed his company though, and he managed a trip into Winchester with friends and a trip back to Guildford, so has caught up and wound down in equal measure.

Vicki has been at "In the Woods" festival in Kent, best seen in pictures here. She has been helping Olivia put on a play, helping with casting, costume and make-up, and probably taking pictures too (see her photo credit here last year).
From Direct-H website here

As for me I have been busy having a tooth extracted, paying heavy dental bills, sorting paperwork to try to reclaim some before Martin closes his business, cleaning barn kitchen and arranging for some replacement vinyl flooring (the original is damaged by damp, which we have hopefully now solved), updating the choir website ready for the new term and generally providing admin. support for the family!

The house vine is just beginning to turn red as Autumn draws nigh: the garden smells of summer's end and the hedgerows are full of blackberries. I have just stewed up the first blackberry and apple mix for breakfast, whilst wearing slippers... the evenings are definitely turning chilly.

This year we have no children needing school shoes, student kettles or stationery. No little treasures flying the nest, though Rosie is still un-settled and Max will at some stage take the plunge once he has adjusted to a working life. Yet anxiety is never far away: Vicki is due to fly out to Argentina in a matter of days but the firm she was to volunteer for appears to have folded so she is stuck with finding herself something to do once she arrives as well as somewhere to stay.

It is true what they say: you never stop fretting about your children!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Proud Mum

Having survived the slings and arrows of wayward and emigrating musicians, White Noise Radio is officially now a band!

They searched for ages for a singer, to no avail, and having decided to make the best of their own voices they played their first gig this month, only to be deserted (for a job abroad) by their drummer. It looked a sorry state of affairs.

But Ben has come back for some home R&R this week to report that the perfect drummer has come forward, and they are already taking bookings for gigs in Bristol and beyond.

I had been listening to their latest release, "All the Right Reasons" without appreciating that Ben, always shy of singing, was in fact leading vocals. Proper singing, great guitar, original work from the heart.

Boy, I am proud!

White Noise Radio: All the Right Reasons

A Wet Bank Holiday

Rosie and her friends are trying to find a flat to share in London from 1 September, but are having great difficulties since anything that appears to be on offer has gone by the time you contact them, or the contacts don't reply; and when you are looking for a 4 bed in a specific area and with low budget your choice is already limited.

So I offered to help and spent several hours at the weekend trawling agents' websites, Gumtree and other sites, contacting anyone who might have anything of interest and sending back reports to Rosie.

From all this, and her previous searching, we found a single suitable house on offer and available to view, largely because I just happened to be on Gumtree as the advert was placed and the landlord agreed in consequence to let us look first.

Ben has just come back for some holiday time, so he and I popped on the train to London yesterday and spent the day touring the area around Vauxhall and the Oval with Rosie. All in the pouring rain.

We found the house and Rosie was keen (good location, good house, good bedrooms, tiny kitchen and no communal areas) and since other potential tenants were being shown around after us (and one before, who offered an increased rent if she could take it immediately) Rosie and her friends felt somewhat pressured.

Luckily both Rosie and Harriet wanted the house and the landlord honoured his promise to let them have first refusal despite the continuous stream of eager tenants. The girls decided to take the plunge and withdrew a big chunk of cash to hand over by way of deposit, but not before we had all stood in the rain for about an hour waiting for another friend to finally agree they should go ahead! Somewhat traumatic for Rosie, but they got the right result in the end.

Ben and I were home in time for dinner, absolutely soaked through but feeling we had helped out in a difficult situation. Fingers crossed it all goes through with no more stress, and they can move in at the end of the month.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tyntesfield

Rosie came home at the weekend for a quick visit and took me to see Tyntesfield House in Somerset.

We had a lovely drive down in sunshine, and found ourselves on a fascinating volunteer tour of the grounds as soon as we arrived. The house is Victorian but with multiple additions, many in Gothic style, and from early photos it is hard to discern any of the current features.

It was super to spend the day with Rosie, and since we were close by we called in on Mum and Dad too, so were able to enjoy a tasty supper and chat there before wending our way home and zipping Rosie onto the train in time for work next morning.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wedding Anniversary

We have never spent our wedding anniversary quite like that.

I managed to lose two teeth.

And spent part of the day feeling queasy.

But we ate a very fresh mackerel, drank generous toasts (both to ourselves and to Drifter, who also celebrated her birthday), watched a firework display across Studland Bay and slept to the gentle rocking of the tide.

Back to where it all began: we finally left home on Sunday evening, dined at a restaurant in Hythe and slept peacefully on our berth. Martin's new washboards are great, allow loads of light in but mirrored on the outside so discreet. Clever boy.
Next morning we sailed across to Cowes, mooring at Sheperds' marina (just inside on the right) and enjoyed the afternoon wandering the streets and watching the town heave a sigh of relief after the end of Cowes Week.

Amongst other things we found a helpful chandlers, eventually deciding upon new life-jackets (with harness, light and spray-hood) which were comfortable and which Martin has therefore agreed to sport, in a gesture of reassurance. He knows I am scared we will come to grief should anything happen to him, and has wisely decided it is easier to take precautions.

So having spent all our money we decided to cook for ourselves aboard. G&T, nibbles and a tasty pasta and salad meal left us well satisfied.

Next morning we set off in winds that were due to moderate but in fact blew more gustily as the day went on. The waves were high, and fun to navigate, though I did end up thoroughly wrapped up against the weather, and chewing mints to avoid any hint of queasiness. We were aiming for Lymington, which became something of a struggle for the last hour or so, so it was with great relief that we tied up at Berthon Marina, home of excellent shower facilities.

Sporting harness and old life jacket, pretty bulky!

The town was full of holidaymakers, with plenty of shops and pubs and a chippie, allowing us to bring home fish n' chips for dinner.

Then onwards next day back East to the tip of the island to run ashore at Bembridge Harbour, which was absolutely teeming with children learning to sail. I was very impressed that Martin managed to manoeuvre Drifter so expertly onto a spot that would dry out well overnight, without causing any harm!
Very crusty propellor

After she had dried out we went ashore for loos and a pub meal, followed by a wander along the headland, where we met lines of tourists streaming back along the shore after having visited one of the forts.

A noisy night at anchor was followed by a morning wander around town, where we discovered some pretty backstreets, a second-hand bookshop (my Nook had run out of power and would not recharge), and most importantly some excellent croissants in the bakery, so it was back to Drifter for some quality coffee (courtesy of Ben), croissants and the newspapers.

Once afloat we sailed west again, pootling up the Beaulieu River to enjoy a delicious meal in the restaurant at Buckler's Hard (we knew we would not be ashore on our wedding anniversary next day so thought it acceptable to indulge) on a sunny evening.

With new integrated harness and life jacket

Then for our last night we sailed West again through the North Passage past the Needles and on to anchor in idyllic Studland Bay. Unfortunately, en route I chewed another Mento and crunched down to find a tooth had come out. Oh the joy of bad teeth. Fortunately it didn't hurt (having previously been root filled) but the shard remaining meant that it was hard to eat. Also fortunately, one does not require teeth for the consumption of alcohol.

The sun came out as we drank a toast to our 27 years. Martin had put the fishing line over the side during our trip and caught a wee mackerel, so he cooked it for our starter and it was excellent! Drifter's first catch, a good birthday celebration for her (we found out that she was 'launched' on our first wedding anniversary, so is now 26 years old).
A firework display on the other side of the cove lit up the sky after the sun set on the chalky cliffs and we bobbed gently with a dozen boats. It was a super evening...until I bit into a piece of chocolate with my coffee and lost another tooth (a bridge). So now I have nasty gaps on both sides and am sucking food.
We put the bright coaster up on the way back home, sailing in sunshine all morning (with little wind) and I spent some time soaking up the warmth sitting at the bow. By midday it was cold again, and having set off early we were in need of some warmth. Martin switched on the music (using his phone to feed the music player below) and I had a mini aerobic work-out as he made a cuppa.

Max's birthday package had included some exotic pot noodles so we had a taste test for lunch, deciding that this is indeed an appropriate form of sustenance when you are chilled and have tooth trouble, though I can't say I was very good at steering whilst thus engaged.

We had to motor some of the way back, but after turning into Southampton Water enjoyed an energetic sail back to Hythe, reaching home just in time to see Max before his friends arrived for a party at 7pm, and to collect Rosie from the station for a flying visit home.

Between the gusts and gyrations, Martin had managed to hook another five mackerel during the day, providing the perfect meal once we had unpacked. It was great to have our first long break on the boat, and in spite of some sea sickiness and the dental drama we are looking forward to enjoying many more such days.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Celebration Week

We are supposed to be breezing along the Solent right now... but the arrival of ex-hurricane Bertha on the Solent shores has delayed us for a day or so, giving the children time to make Daddy a celebration breakfast (Max's mega-bagels) and give their gifts on the day.

Decent lounge pants from Vicki (replacing some cringe-making ones) and snacks for the boat, portable real coffee from Ben and more boat supplies from Max, so we have a feast (of sorts) to take with us.

Yesterday the weather was good enough to get some jobs done, principally rubbing down and painting the dried-out wood on the side of the barn dormers. So Max was sent up a ladder whilst Martin looked on
Well, it is his birthday!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Cotswolds

Martin and I drove over to Cheltenham this weekend to visit Scottie and Lumpy.

As it turned out, several members of the old Grey College 'Turf' were there with their wives and families, some of whom we knew and others not. Tom turned up looking the same as ever, just about to leave KPMG and become Chief Exec of an enormous company, whilst Lumpy and family are on a flying visit frm Washington DC, where they now live.

Scottie has a beautiful Georgian house just a short walk from the centre of town, pool and gorgeous garden and room enough to sit all 21 of us down for an excellent meal which he had cooked himself. We got through oodles of wine and had a great time reminiscing about college days, whilst trying to avoid giving the next generation any bad ideas.

We were able to walk back to our hotel under starry skies, enjoyed a delicious breakfast next morning at the hotel, then set off home via Bourton-on-the-Water (which was dreadfully busy) and a quieter garden pub in Upper Slaughter.


It feels rather like the start of a new era now we can go away for weekends without making scores of arrangements for lifts or childcare. Life is becoming simpler!