Monday, 29 June 2015

Round the Island

Drifter made it Round the Island!

Martin entered the race this year with a couple of rugby friends, and they had a fabulous time. The weather was almost perfect, sunshine and wind, and they held their own well against the rest of their class, coming in 23rd of 55 registered in 8A, amongst 1600 total entrants.

The team set of on Friday morning and spent the night in Cowes, with Drifter all dressed up for the event with bunting, and sporting my dodgers, so I felt I was with them in spirit.
Vicks had organised some team shirts featuring a minion in King Alfred garb (representing WRFC) plus a banner, so they must have looked pretty smart too. I bet they couldn't stop smiling all day.
You'll have to ask Martin about the ins and outs of the race. I had fun tracking them on the RTI website, but only spoke to them once they were safely tied up once more after finishing in about 9 1/2 hours: tired but high on excitement and having had a fabulous day!
Crossing the finish line

Back at home Jenny called in with the children on their way to join Ally at Glastonbury, and Vicki was at the Magdalen Ball so hopefully we will have some more pictures to share soon.

Having the house to ourselves for the weekend, Max and I tootled off to enjoy the BBQ at Chilbolton fete (warm sunshine and beautiful gardens), then he had a LAN party in the barn and I took advantage of the peace to get a blog book sorted (for 2014, somewhat belated) and revise for this week's exam.

I was relieved to hear from the consultant this week that the MRI scans they took did not in fact show any evidence that my sore arms and hands are caused by MS (phew), though he did confirm that my operation last year for carpal tunnel had not stopped me still showing nerve delays.

He gave me steroid injections in both wrists  in the hope that this would help, but unfortunately neither these nor the tablets I am taking seem to have had any effect. So it seems they are at a loss to understand why throbbing, hot hands and painful arms continue to interrupt my sleep. Back to square one, but could have been worse. All in all a good week.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Fathers' Day

We are back to being a three-car family at last: being outnumbered by your vehicles is somewhat ridiculous. But we have sold Lil' Red to a friend for a knockdown price, in the hope it will get her daughter through her first year of driving.

So now we have a little more room in the garage and have started clearing out all the junk. Well, Max and I started clearing the junk and Martin is putting it all back. We'll see just how soon we need all those metal bars...

Martin and I took off on Friday afternoon for a lovely evening sail in Drifter, along to the Beaulieu River, where we anchored for G&Ts and dinner. It was warm with gentle winds and no rolling so very enjoyable.

We had a peaceful night, and set off back home around 9am, managing without the motor (save for manouevering) the whole time.

There was just time for me to shower and change before heading into Andover for the Harmonium Singers' rehearsal with Linden Baroque, the orchestra accompanying us for that night's concert. The choir sounded great in the big church and the old instruments sounded rich and gorgeous: we were on a step right behind an amazing long trumpet, double bass and bassoon.

The rehearsal finished bang on time and I rushed home to find Ron and Grace had arrived en route to Normandy. Martin had made some cheese scones so we enjoyed those before changing and heading back to St Mary's Church for the concert. Our choir pieces went well, all accompanied by the orchestra, and Vivaldi's Gloria for the second half was a treat. Happy faces all round. It was great fun to sing with the orchestra and pick out our notes from the various instruments, a really enjoyable evening.

Sadly I don't think I will be able to sing with them again in the autumn as it turns out I will miss nearly every Tuesday rehearsal in July, and then Christmas clashes with my other choir. But it was fun while it lasted and they have said I am welcome back any time, which is kind.

Sunday was Fathers' Day so the children were all on the phone to Martin and sent various gifts, and for once he was actually with his own father, a rare coincidence. I had a nice chat with Daddy and he was happy with the picture we girls had sent him:
Martin and his mum dug over our vegetable bed and have erected some fencing to deter rabbits from eating the few plants. Once they had left we enjoyed a BBQ and Max handed over the computer bearing lots of 'Game of Thrones' episodes, so that was Martin sorted for the evening!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Just a List

Forgive me for making no attempt to form a coherent narrative from the arbitrary experiences of this week. A list must suffice:
The garden is keeping the kitchen table stocked with beautiful, scented posies.
Martin spent a happy day and night volunteering aboard the John Laing (I dropped him in Portsmouth and he returned to Southampton).
I have made a start on sorting out the broken brickwork in the front flowerbeds, but bought the wrong type of mortar so now have to think it through a little more.
We visited Wherwell Fete to catch up with local friends, then Martin fixed my bike and we took part in a charity bike-ride from the Wilsons' house on a glorious Sunday morning, cycling through wafts of elderflower. (Also made a first batch of elderflower cordial, which is going down very nicely in the sunshine).
Dale brought together a scratch choir to practice and then sing Byrd's Mass for Four Voices in church on Sunday evening, giving me a chance to sing soprano (in fact they were in short supply so it worked out well), and giving us all a great experience.

Meanwhile I had an appointment with a dermatologist (sun damage and rosacea) and MRI scans (no idea yet), have been trying to learn some marketing terminology and get some quotes to fell a tree and repair the boundary wall it is pushing over.

Plus Vicki made it home safely last night from her 3 1/2 months in Argentina, looking lovely and fit and healthy despite a lengthy journey, and full of tales. Suffice to say I had a headache this morning from excessive alcohol last night. You'd think by now I would have learned.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Summer has Arrived!

Breakfast in the garden under clear blue skies, what bliss.

Martin went off sailing on Saturday morning with Ian and Bill, not returning until dinner-time on Sunday, and Max was fast asleep until well past breakfast time, so I rather enjoyed the peace and quiet and birdsong on my own.
Ben came home late Friday evening with lovely Fran, setting off at nine next morning in our car with camping gear to join a jam/festival in Northamptonshire. In perfect weather they enjoyed an evening's entertainment in a tin barn on a farm (Ben jamming along with several groups), a hog roast and a cooked breakfast next morning at a sailing club.

As if that weren't enough for one weekend, Fran was then introduced to Martin's parents, as she and Ben stopped there for (showers,) a tour of Grace Wood and lunch. It chuffs me to know that our 24-year old is happy to spend time with all four of his grandparents, and I am sure they feel the same.

So Max and I spent a quiet weekend fiddling online and getting jobs done. I had planned to get some materials to fix the broken brick flowerbeds, but just didn't fancy getting in the car. Instead I managed to fill several wheelbarrows with weeds, sort out the front garden and pick some gorgeously-scented flowers. Max helped me sort out the truculent power-washer and between us we coaxed it sufficiently to get the whole slippery patio and path clean.

Plus whilst armed with water on a hot day I found all sorts of other useful jobs to do: lots of brickwork is now free of moss, my car is clean of the swallow-droppings from the nest above it in the garage, and Martin's sailing gear even got a spray-clean before it went away.

By Sunday evening both men were back so we enjoyed dinner together, catching up with Ben's plan to start teaching ukelele in the hope of attracting more pupils, and Martin's tales of Force 7 winds and an excellent sail.
So a proper summer week begins.

Martin has arranged to go and help renovate the John Laing later this week as part of a new work scheme allowing employees to take a day off in a good cause. Rosie called to report that her dentist had praised her amazing teeth (I am jealous) and she had a great weekend with friends in Nottingham. Vicki didn't get the ferry to Uruguay in the end as she was too exhausted from a late night (hope she manages to renew her visa somehow), Max's boss at work has realised he is getting snowed under and re-directed some work to help him out, and I had an aqua session this morning in water that even I had to admit was too hot!

Friday, 29 May 2015


Rosie is almost a month into her Internship with the National Trust at Petworth House, which is proving somewhat difficult to reach by public transport.

So I volunteered to drive her back there after the weekend and am very glad I did: we had a lovely sunny and scenic drive through the South Downs National Park, all very straightforward and a delight, the lanes lined with bouffant cow parsley and trees in blossom everywhere.
I dropped Rosie at the park entrance but didn't go in as I thought Martin and I should try to take a trip over there in the next few months and share the discovery. But I did have an enjoyable wander around Petworth's shops and a delicious coffee and croissant.

Having researched Martin's medical insurers (for coverage of some consultancy appointments) I have just found out that they offer a voucher towards National Trust membership. Now there's an insurer who knows the therapeutic value of wandering around in beautiful surroundings. I shall be buying our membership as soon as the voucher arrives.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Three Generations Drifting

And what was Martin up to whilst I was singing in Somerset?
Sailing, of course.
Peaceful Lulworth Cove

Rosie came home from Petworth on Thursday and borrowed the car for Friday so that she could get home by early evening. Ron came down from Market Harborough and once Martin had finished work they set off for Hythe, sailing straight off and through the night.
Drifter seems to have behaved well, despite going inadvertently aground for half a day. I have yet to hear full details, but know that Rosie caught several mackerel (we have some for dinner tonight as she couldn't take them home) and they enjoyed a swim in the chilly Solent because they were so hot.

They all seem to have had a lovely time, and  came home with sun-reddened cheeks and cheery smiles. A good Bank Holiday for all!

PS: I was with them in spirit, as they were trialling the identification dodger which I had been prevailed upon to make in preparation for the Round the Island Race in June.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Return to Shapwick

Well, as if Cliveden wasn't enough, I spent the Bank Holiday weekend at another relaxing country house, with fine food and friends, and awash with music.
The Vocalium family has adopted Shapwick House in Somerset, now planning to return annually for a long weekend of rehearsals and entertainment. This year we felt we knew our way around, and after arriving in style with kind friends we were soon treating the house as our own, relaxing in its leather sofas and greeting the rest of the choir proprietorially as they arrived.
I had been allocated a huge room on the main staircase, to be shared with two other girls, but since only one came, and stayed just one night, I had the luxury of the best room in the house with three huge windows overlooking the front gardens, all to myself for most of the weekend.

This time around everyone had been allocated tasks, so that it felt acceptable to leave a job for someone else rather than pitch in every time. I still tidied up and did some breakfast sorting when I was up early, but left moving furniture etc to others, so felt much fresher by the evening!

Dale introduced us to more lovely music, including 'Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine' by Whitacre, telling a story through song. Luckily, our WS accompanist, Andrew, had agreed to come and play the piano for us on Saturday, allowing us to master (or at least attempt) a great deal in one day.

Saturday evening was Raj night, when the catering team cooked up a delicious Indian feast. Most of us dressed up to some degree, some buying outfits and jewellery especially, whilst I ended up with an ebay effort (having borrowed a sari and jewellery from Deborah but promptly donated it along with my own bags to a charity shop and been unable to track it down).
Sunday evening we prepared a roast dinner, including three kinds of joint and a vegetarian option, with loads of vegetables, starters and dessert. We were certainly well fed: everyone brought additional dishes and loads of alcohol, so that we enjoyed canapes and drinks each evening, wine with our meals and port and cheese afterwards. Definitely not a healthy weekend!

Sunday dinner prepped and ready to go
My view across the table at dinner
We had some beautiful sunshine, so enjoyed sitting in the grounds, with the sound of the piano wafting through open windows. In the evenings small groups would pipe up with songs or one of the many pianists would play or accompany  a soloist... so much wonderful music, enjoyed with a glass of wine and a full stomach. What a pleasure.