17 December 2017 | Essential Ski Wear 2017
07 December 2017 | The Blue Mountains
03 December 2017 | Eliana Dave
14 November 2017 | Blackwattle Bay, Sydney
11 November 2017 | Bimbadgen Winery, Hunter Valley
06 November 2017 | Calm Before The Storm, Port Stephens
17 October 2017 | Slag heap horizons
17 December 2017 | Essential Ski Wear 2017
Now, when I were a lad, I went skiing in Long Johns, a pair of jeans, a couple of woolly jumpers and a jacket.
It seems things have moved on somewhat.
At coffee break in the mountain huts, if you can call places with electric sliding doors, triple glazed windows and elevators for those that can't manage the one flight of stairs to the plush, wifi enabled restaurant, a hut, it's been interesting, if not amusing to watch folk peel off their layers and, once refreshed get tooled up again.
It's a bit like watching a group of SAS or Delta Force get ready for "an Op".
First, on goes the full length foam, and no doubt Kevlar, back protector. Next is the cross chest harness but instead of a Colt 45, in goes an avalanche transponder, its red light blinking to say, "look guys, I'm a cool off piste, hard core powder hound". Jacket follows and on top of that goes a James Bond style avalanche air bag equipped rucksack. Finally, a Porsche styled helmet gets plonked on their nut complete with its bronzed, metallic flip down visor that wouldn't be out of place on a fighter jet.
In the end, off they go, clumping out the cafe looking like a cross between Bravo Two Zero, Ninja Warriors and Top Gun........and ski off down the blue run.
They were probably more at risk from catching a dose of my Man Flu while queuing for overpriced spaghetti than anything else.
Me? I'm all dolled up in the latest gear. Ian has a pal, Scott (www.ScottWebster.co.uk) who is a highly accomplished and experienced mountain guide. In fact, he is the youngest guide to be employed by the British Antarctic Survey, employed to keep the scientists from falling down big holes, "out in the white". In his spare time he's put up numerous first ascents in Antarctica. As a result, Scott gets his hands on all the latest gear, some of which I've been wearing, cutting a dash among the glitzy folk of Val d'Isere. The problem is, Scott's about two or three inches taller than me so I'm skiing with my legs looking like a skateboarding dude's baggy drawers and when I get off the chairlift, the seat of my pants follows about three seconds later. But my stunning style, both fashion and skiing weren't compromised. Mostly. Yesterday morning for our warm up first run we skied onto one of the chairlifts. Just as the chair swung around and scooped us up the attendant sticks his head out ze door and says, "Eeez only Black. OK?"
"Bit friggin' late" says I in my best Franglais, clutching my baggy drawers as we go up the hill, me crying like a baby.
Anyway, we survived, ski trip is over, back home and legs still like jelly and of course, a severe dose of Man Flu.
Bring on Christmas.
Vive La France
15 December 2017
Vive La France
You have to give it to the French. Who else could sell snails and bone marrow for dinner?
With a stunning bit of passage planning I booked a thirty three hour China Southern Scareways flight home landing just in time to fly out to la belle France. At least, that was the plan until an engine fell off on the runway at Sydney or something. An initial two hour delay turned into twelve so that put the ball on the slates.
In the end, I managed to change flights in china, rerouted via Heathrow and recovered enough hours to get a nights medicated sleep before heading out to Geneva or a fly in fly out ski sojourn.
So, mistake number one; flying around the world before going skiing. Mistake number two; thinking doing a few squats and a fifteen minute bike ride each morning for two weeks prior would get me in shape. Mistake number three; going with someone who makes a living as a personal trainer.
But we're here. I survived day one in some of the best snow they've had in December for many a long year and, the digs aren't too bad.
In fact, pretty high tech. Electric kettle, TV with remote and, best of all, the loo doesn't have a light switch. It has a "motion detector".
Now, how clever is that!
Wait a Minute
08 December 2017
....... at last. Guys are swimming. Guys are sailing.
My friend Arthur says it's cold in Scotland. Anne confirms. 2c and snowing.
Here, the bad weather has passed and its situation normal. I even had to get up at the crack of dawn to varnish the floor before it got too hot.
I then gate crashed the local, card only bus to come up the coast a bit for lunch with Randivag. All local public transport operates cash free and apparently it's essential to possess an Opal card. However, kind Mr Macdonald, the driver let me ride for free as I was from out of town. As long as I promised to buy a card which I shall do shortly. Meanwhile, waiting for Sven and Lisa I will just watch the locals go about normal weekend activities.
So far that's been kayaking, surfing, cricket, tennis and Christmas shopping. Seems weird in the sunshine and heat.
07 December 2017 | The Blue Mountains
Well, that's me back on board, a bit over a thousand miles in seven days. Well, actually not on board right now. Outside Cammeray Remedial & Sports Massage shop to be exact, about to be rubbed and robbed.
In the last two days I went from under ten degrees and drizzle coming over the Snowy mountains to thirty six degrees across the Blue Mountains. I can tell you, that's a real challenge for the wardrobe, not to mention the deodorant.
Motorcycling is a risk sport and that I guess is part of the fun. In Australia, my two greatest fears were firstly, the Jumparoos and secondly Harley Davidson riders.
Jumparoos are like kangaroos except they have an exceptionally poor sense of timing.
My theory, is that when kangaroos have had enough of living in the bush and want to experience the bright lights of the big city they join the Jumparoos where they train on the skills required to get to the cities. As they can only bound along for a short distance and as the cities are hundreds of miles away, the Jumparoos practice leaping into passing vehicles. They lurk in the roadside bush and, as a car or motorbike approaches, they tense their powerful hind legs and, the intention is, at precisely the right moment, leap onto the passing truck or bike.
And this is where their poor sense of timing comes in. Judging by the carcasses lining the roads, most seem to get their timing wrong. You certainly don't see many Jumparoos in the city so I doubt many make it.
Fortunately I managed to avoid picking up or hitting one of them but it did keep things a bit stressful, always on the lookout for them, poised, ready to jump out the bush, hence the massage.
As for the other hazard, one reason I chose to rent a BMW is that it comes with a music system. Riding for long days it's jolly nice having your iPhone on shuffle, enjoying all your tunes many of which you haven't heard in a long time. The hazard is, stopped at the traffic lights, a group of hairy gorilla Harley riders pulls alongside, all leather waistcoats, chaps and tattoos.......and aaarrrgh.....your system shuffles onto Lady in Red.
Not very cool.
Circling The Drain
03 December 2017 | Eliana Dave
Australia. The hottest place on earth. Where sunburn is the greatest threat to health. Where the outdoor barbie rules.
So, how come it's tipping rain and a tad chilly?
And can you believe it - I've just come through an area where there's a bush fire. It's like it can't make up its mind.
Me? I'm like the kid in the Camp Granada song eagerly awaiting the bit when I can say, "Wait a minute. It's stopped raining. Guys are swimming, guys are sailing" Until then I'm following my weather strategy.
The big weather system, or, actually three systems, just like Perfect Storm, all had a get together over Victoria. That's bottom right for the non geographers and it's spinning its way, clockwise, up towards where I just came from.
The cunning plan therefore is to circle around the bottom of it and come back up on its western edge. Like circling a drain, with Melbourne as the plug hole.
And playing in the plug hole tomorrow night is Eliana Dave, starring at the Cruising Association, in Melbourne, talking about is solo round the world.
Almost as good as having a wee boat yersell.
A Little Bit of Europe
01 December 2017
Did I mention the Sailblog is really going to be a Landblog for a while? Time Bandit is parked up, moored fore and aft in a beautifully sheltered Willoughby Creek, just north of Sydney.
With Anne away, having had enough of varnishing for the moment, the mouse is out playing. Right up until yesterday afternoon the plan was to motor gently down to Melbourne to see Eliana Dave make his presentation on his solo circumnavigation. Well, solo until the last wee bit when he found out the delights of having Galley Slave Jean along aka, GS1. (Dave keeping his options open in case theres a GS2).
Unfortunately the plan is falling apart with the arrival of a major weather event, an "unprecedented deluge" 300mm due to hit the Victorians over the weekend. That's the people of the normally fair state of Victoria, not somewhat elderly Australians.
The drive down was beautiful but took longer than planned. Australia is big and its roads, compared to Europe are fairly slow. In Europe you can fairly whiz along. Here it's all a bit less frantic. All day just to make 280k or 175 miles in old money. The slow pace was partly to do with speed limits but mostly stopping off to oooh and ahhh at the scenery and check out the various harbours we might use if we decide to try for Tasmania.
I also oooh'd and aaah'd at the level of industry. Steel making plants and coal exporting docks all with car parks full of shiny new cars all made me think what South Wales, Yorkshire and Scotland might have been today if dear old Maggie hadn't a hornet in her handbag about the miners and if Scargill hadn't dug in his heels deeper than a Yorkshire pit maybe we'd still have these industries instead of Retail Parks where people work in shops to buy stuff in other shops. I did take an economics class once and I'm not sure that model really works long term.
But wait!!!! I'm sounding like Victor Meldrew and shouldn't bother myself with such matters. People who know better are running things. Like the Scottish ministers who ordered all the steel for the new Forth Bridge from China, which ironically was all trucked right past Scotland's last remaining steelworks.
Anyway, Plan A is now on the slates as the heavens have just opened. Torrential rain is falling on Chalet Swisse, my hill top hotel, as far from any amenities as you can get. It has a sign at the driveway saying, "A Little Bit of Europe". If by that they mean tiny hotel rooms for a lot of money they're spot on and as I can't lie here any longer I'm going for a swim and a jacuzzi. Shame I never brought my swimmers.
Chalet Swisse patrons, hide your kids, if not your eyes. There's an authentic "Little Bit of Europe" heading your way.
Polar Blast Hits Sydney
27 November 2017
It's pretty cold in Scotland. Anne confirms that, struggling to acclimatise after 6 months under the tropical sun.
It was also freezing here in sunny Sydney on Sunday. (spell check just changed "sunny" to "dunny". I must have it set on Australian English).
At home, the smart money stays indoors to watch Scottish rugby on the tele these days. Only the brave and/or multi layered go to Murrayfield to watch the games live. Thermal simmits, long johns, wooly drawers, puffa jackets and insulated hats are the norm. And that's just the women.
Me, I was in my Sydney suit of shorts and T-shirt and flip-flops; or Thongs as the Aussies tantalisingly call them. I had a private room in the pub with a giant tele and thoroughly enjoyed watching Scotland thrash the Aussies. At some point my friendly inn keeper must have thought I was enjoying the spectacle a bit too much and would perhaps appreciate being more at one with the fans at Murrayfield and powered up the air con until, like the fans, I too was freezing my nuts off.
As soon as the match was won I took off to the great outdoors, found a piece of decorative marble surrounding a small shrubbery down in Darling Harbour and, like a Sydney dosser, lay down like a half frozen iguana, soaking up the heat from the stone, basking in the sun until my core temperature returned to normal. Passing mothers anxiously gathered their offspring and moved past quickly at a respectful distance. Some kind souls even looked for my cardboard sign and collection box.
Now there's a thought...........beats varnishing, and you get paid!
24 November 2017
Oh my aching back.
Much as I love my brightwork, that's varnished wood for non seafaring folk, or indeed, folk on boats with no varnish, two or three days of scraping, sanding and varnishing doesn't half go for my dodgy back.
Adding insult to injury, there's a significant risk of sunburn. Shear murder down here in Possum Land.
A long time ago, my dear old dad told me that to get a high gloss, mirror like finish it was essential to use a sanding block.
Next time I think I'll settle for using a sanding BLOKE and just pay him what I'm about to shell out for a remedial massage.