Monday, 21 July 2014

More Drifting

It was a weekend of parties! Max helped me pick huge punnets of strawberries and raspberries on Friday so that I could cook up some cakes for Claire's garden party at lunchtime (in celebration of her daughter's engagement), and a dessert for Dale's garden party in the evening.

Despite huge thunderstorms this week, and more predicted for Saturday, the weather remained warm and mostly sunny, so we spent the whole day drinking and eating in country gardens surrounded by friends. Max had kindly offered his chauffeur services, leading us to drink and eat much more than was healthy. But all in a good cause!

Martin had arranged to take a couple of rugby friends sailing on Sunday, so he roused me early and we collected them en route. Neither Mark nor Graham had been sailing before so it was fun to introduce them to the boat, though we spent a rather long time fighting the current at one point: despite sailing we merely danced backwards and  sideways for an hour or so around a cardinal buoy.
The sun shone enough to give us ruddy cheeks, and we enjoyed our pasties and chocolate whilst at anchor outside Beaulieu, getting home by 8pm happy to put our feet up and have an early night.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Happy Birthday Rosie!

We were lucky enough to see Rosie on her birthday this week, as she didn't need to get back to London from holidays until early evening.

So after a salmon breakfast Rosie, Vicki and I took a trip to Highclere Castle and spent the morning wandering around the grounds in the sunshine, down into the cellars to see the Egyptian Exhibition, and finally around the house to appreciate the beautiful rooms.

A very genteel cup of tea at the Castle, a huge salad once we got home, then Rosie was off back to Southfields with the hope that everything will have gone well in her absence.

She really is a proper grown-up now!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Rosie managed to get a week's holiday from her new job, and Max made it successfully back from Blissfields, so we took our chance and set off for a few days in France last week whilst Vicki stayed and entertained Lili and Troy at home.

Calm seas in both directions and some great weather made it a very relaxing break. We took the sand yacht to the beach and set up a timed course, having a great time getting round markers and back upwind... and I even won the last race (despite getting soaked as the sea drew in). Thanks for the tips Rosie!

Max bought a watermelon, giving hours of entertainment:
 We lazed down by the river in the sunshine, though the water was too cold for all but mad Martin

The house was looking super, roses and fuchsia dripping off the front, and the buddleia blooming at the back.

Rosie and I went hunting in Depot-Ventes for a new bed, lock-up cupboard and TV stand, only finding a small cupboard (and a beautiful hanging oil lamp that sadly would not fit anywhere) which is rather too good for the laundry but serves its purpose.

We also had a delicious BBQ with Mark and Amanda at their longere, though they had moved out to the shed for the summer to profit from guest bookings!

Portbail market in the sunshine was as busy as ever. Rosie nearly bought a super yellow coat but they didn't have her size so we shall have to look again. Max bought and shared some delicious cherries and we sat by the even-more-wrecked boat to enjoy these, fresh baguettes and apple juice from a local farmer.
A trip to a (cancelled) vide greniers at St Pierre Eglise led us to a sweet bistro for refreshments, after which Max and I sauntered over to the church where a wedding and two Golden Weddings were taking place that afternoon and Max was reminded of his filial duties
Meanwhile Rosie and Martin had found an automatic pizza  dispenser! So we ordered a 'cannibale' which turned up through the chute three minutes later. So very un-French but amazing!

We took it to the beach and munched away happily.

Granma and Grampy had meanwhile arrived at their house so we had them over for a BBQ: Martin cooked for the entire week so we ate very well indeed!

Another windy day saw Martin take the windsurfer out on the beach, though it turned out the waves were too big and Rosie in the surf kayak gave him a helpful tow. Still, some games of rock-boules and moules-frites supper at a beach cafe meant we were plenty tired by evening (the only casualty being Max's coat, which we think blew out of the trailer on the way back).

Apart from relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, we also did somemoving-around of rooms. The playroom has now been turned into a bedroom (as it has access to a bathroom), whilst the middle room upstairs is now to be used as a suite, with adjoining spare room for small children or relaxing. No proper pictures but I grabbed some before we left:

I also managed to sew together four curtains from a car boot sale to replace the heavy stripes in the kitchen. They are a bit too good a match for the walls, but despite being a bit bedroom-y they do make the room feel fresher. Some proper tie-backs and they will do fine.

So a really restful break, especially for Martin and Rosie who are both getting used to their new jobs, and a great chance for us to do some gentle sorting and fixing.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Real Summer

A proper summer's day!

Max has returned from his week in Kos exhausted, but having had a great time, hiring mopeds, swimming in the sea and pool, hanging out with friends and perhaps sipping a little alcohol?

Vicki joined me yesterday for a leisurely lunch in the garden with Auntie Sam, another beautifully sunny day and it was a great pleasure to meet our new niece, who was smiley and contented despite being manhandled by the pair of us.

And we have just returned from a strawberry-picking trip (for dessert) in more sunshine, before Max heads off to Blissfields tomorrow and Vicki has some summer job interviews in Winchester.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

How Many Today?

Vicki stayed an extra week up  at Magdalen to enjoy her last few days there for well over a year, but I finally picked her up on Saturday and she has gradually been moving all her belongings back into her bedroom. She has already popped into London (to help Olivia with some auditions) and I am hoping to meet up with her to pay a cousinly visit to Jemma tomorrow.

Meanwhile Rosie has been having a torrid week so came home for a bit of R&R on Saturday evening. She had spent a great weekend up in Nottingham last week, but was then called by the NHS to say a friend had been hospitalised with meningitis and she needed urgently to receive medication.

However, this turned out not to be as easy as you might think. She was called very late, and found that the nearest hospital involved a walk through a very unsavoury area to reach a suitable bus. For the next day it sounds as though she was juggling stressful work conditions (her boss is away and they are shorthanded, plus no-one has had the time to explain things properly to her, so she has been working far more hours than she ought) and trying to find a way of getting the urgent help she was told she needed.

Luckily Rosie had the good sense to try to assess her real level of risk, and took precautions to wake herself every hour through the night to check on her condition. She eventually managed to find a local GP who could give her the dose... but not until she had undergone a 'new patient medical' and it was impossible to do this until next week. Such a tale of incompetence from each person to whom she turned, it is  jolly lucky that she seems to have suffered no ill effects in the meantime.

So Rosie was pleased to have a quiet weekend at home. We took ourselves off to pick strawberries in pretty St Mary Bourne, and had a wander and coffee at the new premises in Stockbridge. Vicki meantime toured Winchester dropping off her cv in the hope of getting a job for the summer, and has a couple of interviews now lined up for waitressing jobs.

A quiet weekend, and a return to being outnumbered by women perhaps explains why Martin took himself down to Drifter to craft some more gadgets.

All By Myself

As it turned out, I spent a few days this week alone in the house.

Such a strange feeling... and a little un-nerving as the last time this happened (last summer) I received a call from the police in the middle of the night. Not so this time, just a peaceful few days in which to sleep, eat and plan my days entirely at whim.

Martin had a last-minute trip to California (he has secured his new job and therefore has a lot of new acquaintances to make) and Max flew off to Kos with a dozen lads. So on a sunny morning I decided to take myself off to visit Mum and Dad and fulfill my promise of a Mother's Day coffee.

We had a very pleasant afternoon together, including a walk along the beach and cream tea, and I was even able to clear our bedroom on my return in preparation for the new carpet being fitted next day.

When we arrived at this house 15 years ago our bedroom carpet was already moth-eaten and grubby, but we have just never got around to replacing it. After sorting out the bath and the cracked tiles on the 'step' we have taken the bull by the horns we are delighted: it is soft and cosy underfoot and feels so very clean!
Showing, too, Martin's beautiful replacement wooden step

Dragging out all the furniture and contents meant it took me a good day to sort through everything, clean away years of dust and forgotten clothes, then put it all back together. So, ideal that I had some spare bedrooms to use as interim storage and sorting stations. Huge bags have gone to charity shops and everywhere now feels a great deal fresher.

In the single day we had together before he left, Martin and I called around some friends and managed to get ten together for an ad-hoc BBQ on Sunday. The sun shone and Martin made some delicious meat and veg and a lovely afternoon was had by all.

So, never one to under-cater for friends, this week I had masses of tasty leftovers to eat. Even when Mandy came over for some singing practice on Wednesday evening, we had plenty of colourful salads, meat and dessert to keep us happy.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

My Week with the BOSS

I am rather afeared of sailing alone with Martin, lest something untoward should occur and I be left hapless and in danger. So in the winter we agreed that I would take myself off to a Competent Crew course this summer to learn the basics.

After consulting my neighbour, Liz, who knows a lot about sailing (and indeed used to train on such courses) I agreed to sign up for a 'Ladies Only' course with the British Offshore Sailing School (BOSS), on the basis that there would be no male one-upmanship or showing off (and no snoring) plus if I was going to be seasick I would prefer it to be in female company.

So I was rather perturbed to be called on Wednesday evening to be told by BOSS that they had made an error, no Ladies courses were running and I was therefore due to attend a mixed course... as in fact the only lady.

Not a good start, so it was with some trepidation that I set off last Sunday for Hamble Point marina to join the crew.

But I need not have worried. The skipper Ruaraidh was a lovely lad little older than Ben, who had spent time teaching with Wildwind at Vassiliki (where we went en famille a couple of years ago for a watersports holiday) and was very good at keeping everyone happy.

A hippy American motorboat skipper from the BVI doing back-to-back courses to gain his full Yachtmaster certificate (courtesy of the owner of a new 120 ft yacht there who needed a skipper) called Angel; Charlie (Tour Manager for Lady Gaga, Eagles, oh everybody really and who had also managed the Queen's Jubilee Concert etc); Craig (South African corporate lawyer who brought his own olive oil, muesli and pepper grinder); and Ian (in marketing for a whisky company) made up the crew.

We were all at different  stages. Charlie and I were theoretically the beginners, there to get our Competent Crew, but Charlie had oodles of sailing experience on various friends' yachts, all clearly much larger and smarter than our little Sigma 39. But he was great fun and whilst streets ahead of the rest of us at trimming sails and even maneouvering the boat, wanted to go back to basics and get trained in everything before chartering boats with his family.

Craig and Angel were on their way to becoming Yachtmasters but making plenty of errors, so it was fun to see them rile each other (they didn't really get along and I think it helped that they had to 'behave' for the lady on board) - Angel in particular was pretty sexist but easy to fend off, given the presence of gentlemen and his own over-cocky attitude to his sailing prowess.
Rafted alongside Chris Parker's Firesong at Cowes

We went back to base before the end of the week to drop Ian off and pick up Judith, who had an international job in shipping but was off for diving and sailing holidays all over the world and wanted more experience (since it was the end of the week I was able to teach her some things, which made me feel I had learned something at least!)
 Rumour, a Sigma 39 and our home for the week
We had a great day sailing on the Monday, good winds and the boat was heeled over for most of the time, which meant I realised that this was safe, given that none of the others aboard was worried.

The rest of the week was less windy but we pottered around, going into different marinas and bays each night, poking our noses onto moorings and dropping anchors to practice, and picking up ropework and learning about markers and buoys in the lulls.

Posh showers at Lymington, 6 minute showers and a super meal with a view at The Folly, drinks in the old lightship at Gosport, and ferry-gliding at Cowes hang in my memory, along with sightings of some pretty special boats in the Solent as crews practised for the Round the Island Race this weekend, one in particular making a speedy detour around us whilst being filmed from two huge speedboats. We had the pleasure of close contact with a beautiful teak-decked yacht alongside whom we moored up river in Cowes, and were filmed by the owner who sent up a camera on a drone: the boys were entranced and all vowed to buy one as soon as they had the chance!

No rain and plenty of sun, my sailing gloves and hardy trousers were perfect and I munched through so many liquorice allsorts with Charlie that I must have put on a few pounds. But it was a great experience, and I now have bruises, rosy cheeks and my Competent Crew certificate to show for it.