Sunday, 30 August 2009

In Which There is Beer. And a Big Clock

A little while ago, Jess mentioned that she & the Mr would be in the UK visiting family, and it seemed a good idea to try to meet up, so on Friday I took a day off work and drove down to Cambridge, where we met in the delightful surroundings of the Madingley Road Park & Ride car park, in the drizzling rain.

Happily, the weather quickly improved. We had a proper pub lunch (they were serving pies, fish & chips, bangers & mash, and so forth) then we wandered into town, as the sun came out.

We went to see the new Corpus Christi clock, complete with 'Chronophage' grasshopper - it was difficult to get a photo (although if you look at the one on the right, you may be able to see Jess & Paul's reflections...

We also went for a wander around the city - it is nice - many beautiful buildings, (and many, many tourists).

We resisted the attempts of the punt-touts to get us to hire a punt and take a river tour, walked through the park & meadows and went to look at the Mathematicial Bridge at Queens' College.

We also visited a bookshop because, ...well..... books.

The plan was then to go to the Peterborough Beer Festival in the evening, so we headed back to Peterborough thorugh some heavy traffic, enlivened by seeing two cars retrofitted to look like 'Thunderbird 2' and 'Thunderbird 4' complete with plywood-and-ribbon 'jets', although unfortunately created by people with a very limited budget for paint, as sadly the colours were not quite right... But it made for a more-interesting-than-usual traffic jam.

Jess & I wandered around Peterborough, where they have a rather nice cathedral, with (on a damp friday evening) very few visitors. Behind the cathedral, as well as bits of cloisters, there are some stray bits of archway, and a house with random grotesque heads in the walls. I liked it.

We then had a very nice Thai meal on a barge on the river, before heading to the Beer Festival where we met up with Paul, and his family. it seems to me, however, that the problem with a beer fesitval is that there are several hundred different kinds of beer, yet with the best will in the world, one can only sample a select few.... (3, in my case).

Although they were all very nice!

Friday, 21 August 2009

I Winge

Sigh. I have a cold, and scratchy sore throat, and achy chest. I am, therefore, grumpy.

On the plus side, as I wasn't able to make it to Edinburgh for Neil Gaiman and Ian Rankin's Book Festival appearance and Amanda Palmer's gig I am at least grumpy and full of a cold in the comfort of my own home, and not in a youth hostel or guest house in Edinburgh.

I am determined that this will be just a summer cold (even if an unecessarily vindictive one). I don't have time to have flu.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

In Which There is More Sailing, and Sunshine

Newtown River turned out to be a very peaceful place to spend the night. We had a wonderfully relaxed evening - we cooked roast chicken, spent some time sitting out in the cockpit looking for any left-over shooting stars from the Persiad Shower earlier in the week. We didn't see any, but we did see 2 satellites, a very bright planet (Venus, perhaps?) it was clearly visible as a disk, using binoculars. And 100,000's of stars - there is something to be said for being out in the middle of the river, miles away from any artificial light (we could see the light haze over Newport, and the riding lights of other boats, but otherwise wonderfully dark.

I had to go home on Sunday, so once we were up and more-or-less decent, and I had fulfilled my obligation as a member of the crew by making cups of tea, we headed back towards Lymington.

It was a beautifully sunny day, with a reasonable amount of wind - enough to make it feel we were going pretty fast, but not enough to induce sea-sickness.

This time, we were extravagant and put both sails up. (there's probably a technical term for this) and we had the wind behind us, the sun was out, and there were lots of other boats out making a pleasing backdrop to my photos.

After arriving at Lymington (and passing the railway station - it would have been possible to moor up and scramble up the pier onto the station, but it was too early, and anyway I don't think that the powers that be would approve.

We moored to some more bouys, and went ashore to find lunch, in which we were 100% sucessful - we went to Lymington Town Sailing Club which has a terrace overlooking the marina, where we sat to have very fresh whitebait, and beer.
We finished the day with an amble around the town. It's a very pretty little town, with a small, cobbled, pedestrianised area full of ice-cream and fudge shops, and places selling buckets and spades. We also found a Chandlery. I haven't been in one before. Fascinating. All sorts of interesting stuff, for the discerning sailor, or any passer-by who might suddenly need a life-jacket, or several hundred feet of rope in assorted sizes, shapes and colours.

I was sorry to have to leave, and take the trains back home. I must start planning my next visit. . . . .

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

In Which We Mess About in Boats

We had just clambered on board when we noticed the approach of a helicopter – it appeared that the RNLI was doing a display – close formation between the helicopter & the lifeboat and demonstrating winching people on and of the boat. Most interesting.

I should perhaps introduce Konnie. She is C’s boat (probably technically a yacht, but that sounds so plutocratic, and she isn’t.) She is a Westerly Konsort , some 29’ long. If you were holidaying for a weekend, she’d be pretty roomy. If you live permanently on board, as K&C currently do, you learn to be really good at packing stuff. (although there is an awful lot of space for storage, if you know where it is!) And K&C have been spending the last few weeks sailing, prior to going back to work at the start of September.

So. After watching the Lifeboat, and catching up, we turned in for the night. If you look at the pictures of an average Konsort , my berth was the one behind the chart table (6th pic down) which is handy, as it almost completely enclosed, and thus virtually impossible to fall out of. This is a good thing, as it turned out to be quite a bouncy night - partly because we were towards the outside of the harbour so not sheltered, and partly because of the wash from the ferries going in and out.

High water was around 10.30 a.m. so we got up in a fairly leisurely way and had breakfast before heading out into the Solent at, or just before, high water.

It appears that the Solent is quite busy, as bits-of-water-for-sailing-on go, and also it was fairly breezy, so we decided that it wasn’t the ideal time for me to practice my nascent steering skills.

We were able to get the sails up and the engine off as soon as we cleared the harbour, and had plain sailing (Ha! See what I did there?) to our destination, Newtown River. Even though we only used the little sail (the Genoa), we made excellent speed, and did a little bit of leaning over sideways, too!

As we sailed, C was giving me a little information about the rules - who has to give way to whom - as far as I can remember, boats under power give way to boats under sail, except when it is the othre way around because you give way to boats less able to take evasive action that you are, which is why we had to give way to the Isle of Wight ferry. Then there are all the rules depending on which tack you are on and whether you are in front or behind.

There were a lot of hired boats out all racing with one another, which made life a little interesting, as many of them seemed not to be paying much attention to where they were going or where any of the other boats were - we had to take evasive action to avoid being run in to by one of them, which was overtaking us (which apparently means it was their responsibility to steer clear of us, not the other way around.)

We arrived at Newtown river in time to moor, just before it started raining on us, and to have lunch, by which time it had stopped raining.

Newtown river, being a smallish river looked after (or adjacent to land looked after) by the National Trust, does not have frivolous luxuries like a water taxi, so, having moored up to a buoy, we had to inflate the dinghy in order to go ashore. (When I say ‘we’ I actually mean ‘C’, as despite my feminist principals, I have to confess that C did lots of energetic inflating of the dinghy, heaving it about and fitting the outboard, and K & I did the washing up & made a nice cup of tea.)

We skittered up the river (and let me tell you, the wash and waves from even quite little boats and gusts of wind seem quite big, when you are sitting in a tiny inflatable dinghy)

We saw lots of birds. The tide was out, so there was a lot of exposed tidal mud, and we saw Oyster-catchers, with bright red legs and beaks, some birds which we think were Bar-Tailed Godwits, and of course also ducks, Canada Geese and a couple of swans.

When we got ashore we walked into the nearest village, Shalfleet, where we found, not altogether unexpectedly, a very nice pub. We were a bit surprised at how near to the river it was – we had read up in advance and were expecting a 20-25 minute walk – instead, it was closer to 10 mins, which did cast a little doubt on whether we had actually earned our beer, but we decided to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt!. It was perfectly splendid beer, light, golden, hoppy, summery ale.

The walk to and from the village was nice, too. Most of it was along an unmetalled road, bordered with brambles loaded with just-ripe blackberries, with the occasional cottage set in beautifully kept gardens bursting with flowers. Even the pub had riotous hanging baskets and window boxes overflowing with flowers.

and the sun came out, too.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

In Which There are Trains, and Boats, and Beer

I spent the weekend with my sister, K and her partner C, sailing around in the Solent.

I had been hoping to finish early in court on Friday to be able to get a train as early as possible, and as I got back home after spending the morning in court I realised that it might just be possible to catch the train one hour earlier than originally planned – provided I could get back out of the house and down to the station within 20 minutes. Picture me (although maybe not in too much detail) galloping through the house, scattering clothes in all directions as I tried to change out of my work clothes (I am only a novice at this sailing malarkey, but I am fairly sure that a dress, suit jacket, heels and tights does not make the ideal sailing-wear), into casual clothes, feeding the cat, and all the other things you need to do before leaving the house. Fortunately I had remembered to pack everything the previous night.

I had not had time to have lunch so was planning to get a sandwich on the train and have a very late lunch. It turned out that they only had 2 sandwiches. One was prawn and the other egg mayonnaise – possibly the only two common sandwiches I cannot bear. (also, if you ask me, not the ideal choice for an un-refrigerated trolley on a train, in summer…) So I lunched on coffee and a flapjack, instead. It wasn’t the best lunch I’ve ever had.

The trip down involved 3 separate trains, and my mood improved as I travelled. The line between Southampton and Brockenhurst goes along through parts of the New Forest, so there are ponies and woodland and open moors to admire. And the final part of the journey, from Brockenhurst to Lymington was like going back in time.

I could hardly believe it when a train drew up – still sporting the old British Rail logo, and with slam doors, windows which open and (albeit only in the 1st Class carriage), compartments and a corridor!

As we trundled along I watched clouds of butterflies rising from the lilac along the side of the railway, disturbed, perhaps, by the sound of the train. The fields beyond were full of baby rabbits, and everything was drenched in sunshine.

Lymington Pier is perhaps one of the most attractive railway stations I have ever been to – it is the end of a single-track line, and (as the name suggests) really is a pier – half the platform is wooden planks above the water and you can wander off the train and straight on to the Isle of Wight ferry. Which I duly did.

I spent the crossing sitting up on the top, in the sunshine, watching the dozens of yachts and sailing dinghies and admiring the distant views of The Needles.

K & C met me on the quay in Yarmouth, which is a very attractive little town, and we were 100% successful in our subsequent quest for beer and food. We then caught the Harbour Taxi to get back out to the buoy on which Konni was moored., adding one extra form of transport to the days collection.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

A Long Week

This week seems to have been going on for a long time. And not in a good way.

Dentist appointments are never good of, like me, you have a deep-seated fear of dentists. I would call it a phobia, but I'm pretty sure those are irrational fears, and my fear of dentists is entirely rational. (You go there, they stick needles in your mouth and drill holes in you - it's surely irrational not to find them terrifying). Of course, my opinion is coloured by the unfortunate combination of having teeth made of something with the consitency of cheese, and a not-very-nice childhood dentist.

This time, however, was fine - check up, and no need for any work, and I don't need to go back for another 10 months. Which is a relief.

Add in an appointment with the Nurse for a pelvic exam and it all adds up to the perfect day...

It's also been hectic at work, it's holiday time, which is a busy time for me, and of course means staff are off, so there are fewer people to help out. All fun.

Hopefully this weekend will be refreshing - I'm due to go to visit my sister & her partner, and spend the weekend sailing. I do hope that the weather is good.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

West Wiltshire Show

I have been very remiss, and not blogged much for the past couple of weeks, and when I had my camera out today and was looking at the pictures on it, I realised I never mentioned the West Wilts Show, which I went to 2 weekends ago.

The show is held in the park in Trowbridge, and if not usually particularly exciting. Unlike many of the county shows, or shows such as the Bath & West, it is not a farm show so there are no animals, nor are there events such as showjumping, police dogs or the like.

The majority of the exhibitors are commercial – predominantly motor sales & sellers of hot-tubs so far as I could see. There are also a small number of stalls selling locally produced food, various people selling their own crafts, and stalls for a number of charities. So far, so so-so, for me.

However, each pf the local towns also has their own marquee – most of these were much as you’d expect – members of the local chambers of commerce, the local council trying to be cheery about council tax and refuse collections, stall from a couple of local businesses, and so on. Bradford-on-Avon, however, had decided to make their tent a little more interesting. They had taken as their theme the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings, and had created their own lunar module as a centre piece.

As well as being a lovingly crafted model, they had personalised it – a close looked revealed that it’s badges were marked as ‘BoASA’ not ‘NASA’ (Bradford-on-Avon Space Agency)

One of the exhibitors in the tent was a local comic shop (Automatic Comics of Corsham) – they had two Imperial Storm Troopers in full costume helping at the stall, although it wasn’t clear whether they had also been involved in designing and building the Lunar Module.

Much more interesting that the chamber of commerce…

Friday, 7 August 2009

A Busy Week

It's been a odd sort of week. One of my colleagues has been on holiday so I had some hearings to cover on her behalf, and with the typical cussedness of life, one blew up and took the best part of two days of my week. Not her fault, it wasn't something she could have forseen, but time consuming and rather stressful, all the same.

Have you ever tried to find an interpreter, for a not-overly common language, in a small rural town at short notice? MmmMm. Not the easiest thing.

It's been a long, wet week.

But now it is Friday. And this weekend, there is nothing which I have to do, and they say that the sun will shine.