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!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Employment

My camera is still out of action (I need to replace it) and making do with my mobile just doesn't work. So sorry, no pictures this time.

But we did enjoy seeing the children's cousins yesterday: Mum and Dad have had them for a week and they called in on the way back to Kent. We enjoyed a couple of games of croquet on the (crunchy!) lawn,with a light lunch in between, and caught up a little with them all.

The Grants are now off on holiday to Tuscany, calling at our cousin Kirsty's en route, so are bound to have a wonderful time.

Our project this week has been to help Max sort his life out! He has been through his wardrobe and taken bags of outgrown clothes to the charity shop, so we made a list of the gaps then managed to cross quite a lot of it off on one shopping trip (rugby boots, blades, mouth guards, canvas shoes, shirts, casual trousers, waterproof). More to come but he should soon have appropriate clothing for interviews, and rugby wear that is not full of holes.

Max has been looking into opportunities for travel too. Not remembering anything of America (he was just two when we came home) he has always wanted to visit, so he has been looking into a possible Camp America trip next summer. A lot to think about but it looks like a good choice.

And if he does that, he will not need to get a 'forever' job, just one that will keep him in honest employment (and maybe help him in some bigger decisions) for the intervening year. So he has started looking online for jobs, writing a cv, working out how to answer questions calling for him to explain his experiences to date, oh all the joys of trying to persuade someone through the ether that you are the precise person they are looking for.

It's not easy, especially when you might not believe you really ARE that person, nor that this is the job you absolutely crave. But it is all good practice and we are keeping our fingers crossed.

Meanwhile I am off to buy paint tomorrow so that some more of our jobs at home can be done before paid employment sucks away his time. The exterior wood on the barn is cracking up from neglect, and now that the barn loo has dried out that whole interior needs sprucing up.

Speaking of damp, I have also had the plumber back this week. Despite weeks of sunshine I noticed a rather leaky-looking mess on the brickwork outside our kitchen:


Sure enough, when we opened up the back of the sink the joint was running with water, and must have been for some considerable time. So the plumber has been back (free of charge) and we now have the dehumidifier working overtime, open doors and air doing their very best to get rid of the weeks of wet.

Maybe I could persuade Max to take up plumbing?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Holiday Days

Martin's parents popped in overnight last week on their return from France, bringing supplies of delicious Normandy butter, fresh market vegetables and all their news. Mandy was here for singing practise, with a haul of fresh cucumbers, so we were well provisioned!

We spent Saturday morning doing jobs then Phillipa kindly offered the use of her pool for the afternoon, so Max, Martin and I cycled over and spent a most refreshing hour or so in the pool with friends.

Then it was off to the annual WS BBQ, held once again in Stephen's riverside home in Wherwell. The choir has been much more cohesive this year, so the AGM was over quickly and we were able to enjoy the food and drink...and a game of croquet which Anna and I won!

Martin is looking at new cars, so borrowed one this week to try it out, bravely letting Max sit in the driver's seat and press buttons

Ben has booked his first gig with the newly-formed White Noise Radio so is delighted to finally be on his way with his own band (though unfortunately it looks as though they need to replace the drummer already as he has moved to London). Here's hoping it is the start of something big.

Meanwhile I took a train into London yesterday to claim my Christmas present: a trip to a museum accompanied by my personal guide, Rosie.

We met at the V&A as the sun came out. I haven't been there for ages and it was such a pleasure to discover it afresh with Rosie. Airy, restful rooms alive with statues, richly-gilded frames competing for our attention, and the crowded Cast Courts dominated by Trajan's Column, which my guide was able to explain to me much more interestingly than any brochure.

Rosie treated me to coffee and brownie from the courtyard cafe, which was so beautifully done we could have stayed for lunch: attractive V&A designs on trays and cups, plenty of chairs and tables on the grass, and a shallow pool with low fountains in which we were able to cool our toes. We sat for ages in the sunshine delighted to see little children paddling, a genteel and convivial atmosphere and such a pleasure to see this grand old museum opening its doors and gardens so freely to all.

By mid-afternoon we were peckish so walked along to find a sushi restaurant, ending up at an itsu serving dishes from a conveyor belt.
After a chatty lunch we wandered along Knightsbridge window-shopping and eventually stopped for tea and cake in Harvey Nick's, followed by a cycle around Hyde Park on some Boris Bikes before catching our respective tubes home around 7.30pm.

Thank you Rosie for a lovely day, we must certainly do it again soon.


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.