Showing posts from 2008

'Twas the Night Before Christmas....

I fear this post is going to be a spewy stream of consciousness flecked with half-digested carrots and hardened bits of chicken (what is it with vomit and the omnipresent diced carrot, by the way? They're there even when you haven't eaten them, and when L was sick the other day, albeit having eaten them nearly 3 hours earlier, there they were, all present and orange and correct and apparently completely untouched - I could have scraped them up off the carpet and chucked them in a casserole. I didn't, I hasten to add. I'm not that bad a cook. Or quite that mean. But I'm still flummoxed that it was possible).

Moving swiftly on, here I am in an internet cafe in Buxton eating a sesame seed bagel slavered in butter (which will sit rancidly around my mouth for the rest of the day, wafting up at unexpected moments, despite my best efforts to wash it all off - and I don't even have a beard. Well, not a full one, just a few bristles every now and then which I have to kee…

The Dambusters

Time has slipped by and this is now going to seem a little out of sync given we’re hurtling down the cresta run towards Christmas and all those Remembrance Day thoughts are eclipsed by tinsel and faulty fairy lights. But this is what I wanted to say:….

The solid old stone house that I am fortunate enough to live in has great history; not in a flashy sort of way, but in a quiet, knowing sort of way. It has stood on this land, with this view, for over four centuries. Much life, and some death, has played out within its walls. It feels a fundamentally happy house. I could not live here if it did not (and I have lived somewhere that was unhappy, so I know). I think the energies were stirred up, as they so often are, when we first moved in. There was a constant unexplained tapping sometime after midnight for the first few months which used to wake me up and make me wonder. Eventually it stopped and has not been heard in the last five years. I spend huge amounts of time here by myself and I…

Remember, Remember

‘Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy, but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.’ Sir Winston Churchill

Remember, remember the 11th November…

From the fun and fireworks of the Guy Fawkes bonfire to the poignant and fragile symbolism of the Flanders Poppy, the market place is the historic heart of our small town and the site where these two key dates in our history are remembered.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That marks our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands …

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

‘Remember, remember the 5th of December, gunpower, treason and plot’ – so sang my silly songbird six year old as we left school in the gloaming. ‘I think you mean ‘November’’ I said, helpfully, squeezing her warm little hand. Then, less helpfully, I completely couldn’t remember the rest of the ditty, and neither could she. Oh well, nice try. Got us in the spirit, at least, and took me back to my childhood Bonfire Nights….

How exciting they seemed then. Full of drama and horror when I was little: the doom-laden voice of the school teacher warning us of the dangers of fireworks ringing in my ears as, nervously, I watched my father stomp round the garden lighting the blue touch paper and sort of standing back; then going forward again because it hadn’t lit, my eyes widening at the impending tragedy of my father losing an arm or an eye as the wretched little firework suddenly decided to take off in the damp November air and he leapt back in the nick of time with a curse. Ah yes, those we…

Life on the Ocean Wave – The Final Chapter

There was a lingering heaviness in my heart on that last morning. I went to the very smart (as you would expect in Sotogrande) Heads to take my final boaty shower, still mulling over what the guys on the other yacht had said the night before. We’d wandered past on our way back from supper and they’d all been out in the cockpit drinking, smoking and laughing and having the sort of time that strangers do when thrown together in new experiences. The night was still and the boats swayed very gently side to side on the inky water, that familiar chink chink of the halyards filling the quieter moments. I was reminded of the PR trips I used to go on all those years ago – a gaggle of journos thrown together in some foreign land. It was either a blast or plain bloody awful. This little gathering definitely fell into the former category and I couldn’t wait to climb into the cockpit and join the fun. People tell stories and reveal so much more of themselves in these circumstances than in the cold…

Hockey Mom

Can anyone explain how someone as seemingly vacuous as Sarah Palin could be on the brink of being Vice President of one of the most powerful and (sometimes unfortunately) influential nations in the world? Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not remotely against hockey moms, let alone working hockey moms (if that’s not an oxymoron?) and, boy, she’s one helluva working hockey mom but….Let’s just say she doesn’t seem quite ready for the job.

Talking of Hockey Moms, I found myself a Running Mom yesterday afternoon, and a very proud one at that. G was competing in her first cross country race at school (she’s not currently in the afterschool running club because it’s on Brownies night – don’t get N on THAT subject) having got selected out of games lessons. N, a bit handy in his youth at the old cross country (Muggins here obviously didn’t go to the right schools as I never even got the CHANCE to prove my no doubt prodigious skills in track and field, ahem), had offered up worldy wise tips of how t…

Life on the Ocean Wave – Part 5

N and I got up and wandered over to the Heads together. Together. Yes, really, TOGETHER. There is not much in our busy home lives that we do Together. He does the caveman provider stuff, I do the cavewoman keep-the-home-fires burning stuff. He leaves early and comes home late. We have supper together and watch a bit of telly. We’re usually both too tired to talk much. He sometimes slopes off to his computer to go through another 300 emails before bed or read over accounts an inch thick (yawn) and I seem to spend forever getting stuff ready for the following day – school bags, PE bags, snacks, swimming bags, homework diaries to sign, notes to write, forms to fill in, cheques to write. The tireder I am, the longer it takes. You might ask why I don’t do this during the day when I’m less tired. I do. But there is always more to do and which has to be achieved before dawn breaks and we rush to catch the school bus.

Thus, it was quite a novelty, and really rather nice, in a gentle, unexciti…

Life on the Ocean Wave – Part 4

There is something very cosy about the cabin on a yacht, especially the fore cabin where we were tucked up. Curling into the nose of the boat, a little skylight above you, loads of well-designed cupboards and cubby holes in which to put your stuff (too much in my case, of course), all in shiny wood and with natty little metal push button catches; all so carefully thought out for life on the ocean wave. We were mercifully next to the Head (boaty speak for loo), too, so night time needs were easily met without crashing through the cabin and worrying about waking others up as you pumped furiously and noisily to keep things flushed and ship-shape.

Breakfasts were a pleasure too. Keith would lay out what was available (cereal, toast, jam) and we’d help ourselves and eat wherever took our fancy, inside or out. As the sun was shining on Smir, I decided to potter out into the cockpit to eat and sip my coffee. Coming from the rain-soaked High Peak, every minute of UV light is essential to my v…


Hello World!

Bloody hell, I do seem to be having my fare share of problems with the internet at the moment. It took me 3 months to sort out what was wrong in the UK - uh, new router was all it required in the end (bastard thing kept pretending to work but wasn't actually communicating with my computer properly at all) - and now here I am in La Belle France and it's taken me nearly 3 weeks to try and connect here too. It's 1.15am and I've finally made it back into cyberspace on an ever so quaint old-fashioned dial-up (time to cook 3 course meal while it connects)system. I have a storming migraine and was going to have a bath and an early night until I thought I'd have one last try at trying to crack the French internet nut which has been slowly driving me even further insane than I was before.

I am painfully aware that I haven't even finished my tedious sailing tales yet (just one more part to go and then you're all off the hook on that one), and I haven'…

Life on the Ocean Wave – Part 3

After the tidal swells of the straits of Gibraltar we came round Punta Almina (Spanish territory but on the African continent) and were suddenly becalmed. It was a welcome break from wrestling the helm and a good place to have sandwiches had we not consumed them on the straits (me having made myself queasy knocking up ham, cheese and Branston butties in the heavily rolling galley). This is what out sister boat did, we later found out. Us, well, we just admired the view and took in the glassy water, peering to bow every now and then to see where the line of rougher water began, signalling where we would pick up the wind again as it funnelled down between a valley on the mainland.

And so we arrived in Marina Smir some time in the afternoon after three or four hours of exhilirating sailing. As we negotiated the narrow channel, exotic scents wafting on the warm air, there was no mistaking we were on a different continent. This is a relatively new marina on a stretch of the Mediterranean co…

Going Back

Tuesday 1st July

I have just got back today from 24 hours in London where I left behind 26 degrees and beautiful blue skies, the streets thronged with people sitting outside at cafes, bars and restaurants in the summer sunshine; I’m looking out of my windows now in the High Peak and it’s like something from a bad movie where there’s some bloke with a wind machine set to ‘gale force’ throwing buckets of water at the glass to recreate a winter storm. It might as well be December out there. N is in Nigeria (under armed guard apparently – for his safety rather than others’, I hasten to add, lest you believe he’s turned in desperation to drug running and gun crime) and I’m, frankly, feeling ‘a bit funny’. This could have something to do with being tired from walking miles with a pull along suitcase amongst crowds and hard pavements with arthritic aching feet in shoes that are meant to be comfortable (they’re Ugg for God’s sake); it could be something to do with being jaded after a shed full…

Life on the Ocean Wave – Part 2

The wonder of travel is that it opens your mind. Once out of whatever rut you have struggled to escape from to make your journey you literally enter a new world of people, places and possibilities. At times it is hard even to imagine yourself back in the rut you left behind - that familiar place which builds up so much importance in your mind and heart when you are there living it, but which recedes with remarkable swiftness once the break has been made. I have travelled most of my life, yet this simple fact, however many times I experience it, still surprises me every time.

So, now back in the High Peak with my familiar routines of family and home, it is hard to believe that Nol, the Dutch-Swiss man, is still out in Gibraltar bobbing about on a boat with our instructor. If he has done what he has set out to achieve he should be a qualified Coastal Skipper by the end of the week. Whether he manages this or not is probably something I shall never know. Some of his shipmates, in the wee…

Life on the Ocean Wave – Part 1

He suddenly appeared, out of the darkness, in luminous orange trousers and white shirt, clambering across our boat as if it was his own. When challenged as to his activity, his response, in a thick German accent, was ‘I’m looking for a nice young girl to rape’. And why not.

So this was my early introduction to Nol, a polite dutch (they like orange trousers) ICT teacher. He had flowing grey hair, kind and knowing greenish eyes and a smooth tanned face for his 57 years. The Dutch do age well too. Must be the blond hair and hippy genes; and he lives in Switzerland, which is very civilised. Takes the strain out of life. His rape comment really was a little out of keeping, I came to realise, and I banished all thoughts of Austrian cellars from my mind…

No, Nol had a kindness and sensitivity to him which I really appreciated as the days went by. He was divorced for reasons I could quite understand: his wife insisted on her sister living with them most of the time, which isn’t ideal, is it? (…

Walking to School

It’s national walk to school week this week, apparently. Or that, at least, is the line they’ve been feeding us at the village school. This is all very well, but it’s a time-consuming exercise. You can’t just whizz down in your car, drop and run. Oh no, suddenly I’m hob-nobbing with every Tom, Dick and Harry in the village.

Take yesterday. First, since I was passing, I popped my head into the barn where the village mechanic does his thing amongst the chickens. This is very handy, I might add – having a man what does cars at the end of my lane. Certainly much cheaper and more convenient than schlepping over to the swanky Audi concession in Macclesfield where they stitch you up royally with the invoice and you have to hang around finding things to do in the industrial estate for hours on end. There’s always the bowling alley I suppose….anyway, I digress. I’m umming and aahing about whether or not to get my timing belt done. The car’s, I mean, not mine. Mind you, my timing belt’s in need…