Stir Up Sunday
23 November 2021
Traditionally this is the day to make your Christmas pudding. It is rooted in both the church calendar and Victorian custom and it falls on the last Sunday before Advent. The Book Of Common Prayer for this Sunday begins with the words, “Stir up, we beseech Thee, o Lord, the wills of they faithful people, that they will bring forth the fruit of good works”. However by Victorian time, it referred to the custom of stirring the pudding mixture from east to west, to signify the journey of the Three Kings. Each member of the family would take it in turn to give all the ingredients a good mix and help tick off the first task of the festive season. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall now refers to it as the day for completing the “Angel Trilogy” of Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mincemeat.
We did not make puddings (devil food) but we made our Christmas cake and 20 jars of organic mincemeat. The kitchen has been filled all weekend with the intoxicating scent of spices, citrus and brandy.... and of course stir up Sunday would not be complete without Christmas carols and the grand opening of the Sherry bottle. I hate Sherry at any other time of the year, but Christmas is not complete in our house without a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. I don’t use sugar, so we make our cake using Heather honey from the moors and local windfall apples. We also completed our Rumtopf, a deliciously unusual way to use up fruit. It is both a compote and alcoholic drink, mixed together in a big ceramic pot and left to stew for a while. The pot will be opened before Christmas when we will have German pancakes, lashings of cream and fruit compote, whilst swigging the rum liqueur.
We have had a very relaxing few weeks since seeing my oncologist, when I had emergency scans and upsetting results. We are holding onto the positive and enjoying every day. I have been overwhelmed by the messages from so many friends, as well as flowers, books, cards, hampers and sewing gifts. Thank you to everyone. We are trying not to think about the next lot of tests in eight weeks, but are living in the moment, and looking forward to advent and all the festivities. We have loved walking at the coast. Scarborough is so quiet at this time of year, and a lovely new outdoor cafe has opened on the beach. The dogs run for miles with their ball, and this morning Patch went for a swim. We have discovered new market towns, and have found little cafes which have been safe for me for sit inside for a drink. Tomorrow night we are having a night out at a country pub. The owner has a little private room which he is allowing us to use. I have also been enjoying the local auctions, and went to a live auction as there were only a handful of people there. I still can not believe I got a walnut Art Deco unit for £10! I feel it was a real bargain, but given the fact we have the floor up and are moving a radiator to fit it in, Jules is thinking it rather expensive! Despite his moaning he likes the York auction as it is next to the livestock market where they apparently do the best bacon and black pudding sandwiches ever!!!
Back with friends
22 October 2021
We have been back in Yorkshire for two weeks now. We put the boat to bed in Dartmouth for the winter but we are already planning next year’s voyage. Jules is looking into which European countries are offering visas to extend the 90 day rule. We are back on her this weekend, as we overlooked booking out October half term, and have guests in our house! It is a bit of a pain, but we have laughed about it, and are looking forward to using the boat as a caravan and exploring the English Riviera by car.
The best thing about being back is socialising (in a Covid safe way) with friends and seeing so much kindness in people. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia doesn’t respond well to the vaccine but I am one of the lucky ones as I have some antibodies. I only have about 27% of the level of an average person, so have to be extremely careful, but when friends take lateral flow tests before meeting up, it gives me more confidence.
We rented a car to get back from the boat and made the seven hour journey back home. My friend Jo was spending her last night in a holiday home in our village and at 9pm Jules unpacked the car whilst I rushed round to see her. After 20 months of not seeing my Midlands friends, it was wonderful, and we celebrated with a Jo sized G&T. We have had tea in the garden with our friends Sue and David who were in Whitby in their campervan, caught up with Phil and had a great walk and lunch with Jill and Ian, who were staying in Swaledale. They did a great platter of local Yorkshire cheeses and hearty soup which was much needed after a sunny but cold walk. Sadly another friend Tre was in Harrogate but logistics meant we missed her.
The neighbours have given us their usual friendly welcome, with plenty of cups of tea and the odd glass of wine. Stan and Carol had done an amazing job looking after the house, Mick had made our garden look like paradise and the dogs were very keen to walk with their best friend Jazzy, whilst Kate filled us in with the street gossip. The dogs have had morning walks with their Uncle Paul and have enjoyed sausages from the local cafe. We met up with our old gardener Dave and his wife Paula. Dave would do anything for anyone. I first met him when I was staying with my sister four years ago, awaiting treatment. He was her new gardener at the time and thought I was her. I explained who I was, and why I was staying with her, and within minutes he had arranged for me to stay in his Shepherd’s hut for a relaxing weekend and wouldn’t take a penny. This time within seconds of hearing we had been stupid enough to have a half term booking, he was trying to persuade us to use his B&B for the week without charge. We are truly blessed with such amazing friends and neighbours.
In the short time we have been back, we have tried to find a NHS dentist up here, as we are still registered at our old address and I have some problems after 9 years worth of chemotherapy. After ringing 74 dentists I was in tears and made a formal complaint to NHS England as no one was taking new patients, and the best I could do was get on 5 waiting lists of between 2-5 years. There are some amazing people in this world, and one dentist rang me back the next day. She said she had not slept all night, worried about my condition and needing access to a local dentist. Despite being full, she added me as an extra patient to her already overflowing work load. I also wrote to my MP and it was heartwarming, to see him addressing Savid Javid in the House of Commons about my issue on the TV. I have also had my bloods taken and Prem (my Oncologist) emailed within 5 minutes of receiving the results from me to say she was happy with them. She is always so brilliant in responding so quickly when I am worried about things. I have a few niggles so am seeing her soon. We just hope she puts my mind at rest and the results are as good as the bloods were. We have booked our first ever Airbnb for the few days prior to seeing Prem and hope that with lateral flow tests we will be able to catch up with even more friends.
“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light” - Helen Keller.
05 October 2021
We had planned to be home at the beginning of October but Mother Nature has decided otherwise. The last week has been a mixture of bright sunny or very wet days. The only consistent thing has been the strong winds and high seas. We tucked ourselves on the far end of Salcombe town quay to ride them out. Even in port Leslie Frank, who is a heavy old boat was tossing and pitching on the pontoon night after night. Salcombe has a really rocky entrance and a shallow bank, which means it is too dangerous to get in or out in bad weather. The entrance becomes a huge wall of water descending on any one that tries to escape, and you risk being dragged onto the rocks or sand bank. A few boats tried it, and turned back after a few minutes. Boats were tied up and left and many crews returned home, especially the wives!
We enjoyed the sunny days, walking the dogs along the coastal paths to look out at the white peaks of waves at sea. We sat in beautiful beach hotel terraces, praising our decision to remain in port. One morning we decided to take the ferry boat back. A tractor with landing platform drove us out to sea, where we crossed to the ferry. The waves seemed higher than the boat, and although we had a great ride the boat went very quiet and we were grateful that people managed to hold on to the contents of their stomachs. It was a small open ferry and we got soaked through but loved every minute. Bertie, was a boy on a mission to stay dry and managed to secure himself a place in the wheel house!
Yesterday we took a small weather window and escaped. When there are breaking waves in the harbour you know it is going to be a rough ride. We got out in the dark to make sure we had wind and tide together and turned for Dartmouth. We had very big seas from behind, which always seem to tower over the boat. I can only describe it as like being in a washing machine on a very long spin! As we got round Prawle Point we got into the Lee of the land and it became much calmer. We had a superb blast with dolphins at the bow all the way into port. It was a real ‘Yee Ha’ sail, where we could have carried on forever. However the wind was due to build all day, so we did the prudent thing and put in for the night. Our weather window for today disappeared overnight and we are stuck in port once again. At this rate my new baby nephew will be in long trousers before we get to see him!
Bertie the Red Head ( by Bertie)
29 September 2021
We spent a week on a floating pontoon up the River Yealm. I never wanted to leave, it was so magical. Five other boats were on the pontoon, and they all had dogs, so we had a lads week away. There was Patch and me, Angus, Super Ted, Boris and Tink. We ran up and down the pontoon without being told off. There was no social distancing as we licked each other’s faces and bottoms. Angus’s mom said that the trouble with boy dogs is that we like to cock our legs up cleats, fenders, ropes and anything else on the pontoon, and she was always running round with a bucket of sea water and apologising.... but as we were all doing it there was no need to worry. She made mom laugh when she described several incidents where people had moaned when casting off that there ropes were crispy and smelt funny, and she had to reply “that’s odd, I wonder if ours are the same”. Up until this point I have never been able to jump off the boat with my little legs, but Angus showed me how to do it safely, and on one occasion I ended up jumping on his back. He never seemed to mind what I did, and was always willing to roll over and have his tummy licked. We jumped in and out of each other’s dinghies and had a wonderful time.
There were some lovely walks around the river, and we walked them all. One way led to a very nice beach, where we would sit whilst Mom and Dad had a hot drink and Patch and I shared a hot sausage roll. One morning Mom watched some little children from the local school being educated on the beach. They looked really bored, and kept being told off for playing in the sand and not listening. Mom said she would have been bored too. No wonder the five year olds preferred digging holes. Why didn’t they just let the children start the rock pooling and explain as they went along. She also noticed a group of Earth mothers with their children having a great time. One lady came over and had a chat with mom (she was invited to their evening socials) and she explained it was their first day back home educating the children. In the past Mom would have said it looked more like the first day of their summer holiday and tut tutted, but she has changed a lot and felt that they were having a much more fun approach to learning- and what better way than telling kids who live in the northern hemisphere to enjoy the sun and absorb as much vit D as possible!
When we walked the other way, we ended up at a very nice pub called The Ship Inn. The owners had just reopened after taking 38 members of staff away on holiday to thank them for all their hard work in a Covid summer. Most were going off to University, but she wanted to thank them before they departed. Apparently the food was lovely, and Mom and Dad ate there a few times, and Dad had a lovely birthday meal. We sat on the terrace watching the gig racing on the river, and had a brilliant time.
Mom decided to try wild swimming so she put on her wetsuit and swam twice most days in the river. Dad was not as keen, but mom said it was very refreshing. Poor Patch would go wild on the pontoon, and Dad had to stop him jumping in after her. He has terrible separation anxiety and won’t let her out of his sight. It was much more fun when they went paddle boarding, as we could join in. Angus was very jealous of my balancing skills, as I whizzed up and down the river. In the evenings we used to go to the Yacht club, where we had scratchings whilst the adults had wine. It was in one of these occasions that I got nick named ‘red head’. Dad wasn’t looking where he was going, and he threw a whole glass of wine down mom and me. Mom’s top was covered and my head was stained red! It was lucky mom had a jumper in her bag, so she could still enjoy her evening, especially as she got a free large glass, whilst I was humiliated by people taking photos of my red head!
I think we would have stayed there forever, had mom not got the call to have her jab. So we left for Plymouth, where Mom and Dad got their third Covid jab.
Reflections on a wasteful world
11 September 2021
The weather in the Scillies changed quite suddenly, so we took advantage of a weather window and had a 12 hour sail back to Cornwall. We dropped anchor in St Mawes, happy in the knowledge that we had beaten the strong winds. The next morning we had a walk to the castle and had a cup of tea watching all the boats in Falmouth harbour and chatting to a lovely group of older ladies who were on an art holiday. There was also a very tame robin, who was happy to eat out of your hand, until he was spotted by the dogs! It was so hot that we swam off the back of the boat before moving up the water and took the last spot on the floating pontoon near Trelissick house on the River Fal. On route we managed to slip onto the ferry berth and filled our tanks with water. This meant I was able to have my first shower in over three weeks! A stripped wash, with a kettle full of water is okay, but a poor substitute for the real deal!
On a boat, you really have to make all your resources last and we had made our water tanks last for the whole time we were in the Scillies. Our crockery got swilled in sea water before washing in fresh water and as long as we had fresh underwear and tops, our sea crusted shorts had to suffice. It was therefore a delight to get the old twin tub on deck and do the washing. Even the harbour master offered me a bag of his to do! I was alarmed the other day to see a silly questionnaire on Facebook, asking people if they could name anyone who used to dry their washing outside. Ours dried in minutes on the outside of the boat, and had that crisp feel and wonderful fresh air smell about it. The only problem being that Bertie had found the clothes pegs and many of them were too chewed to be much use. At home we watch our water and electricity bills go through the roof with some of the guests we have in the house, and wonder what they manage to do with it all. Boat life makes you very mindful about what you use. We generate our own electricity, so lights get switched off when not in use, and phones and electronics only get charged when the sun is out. When you have to boil a kettle of water to wash up, it makes you really focus on how much you use.
Spending a few days up the river Fal was fantastic. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed relaxing at a place where we didn’t need to keep a constant eye on the weather forecast. We spotted some seals in the mussel farm close by and had some large cormorants for company. We tried to untangle a blue plastic mask from one of the birds, but he was too frightened to let us get close enough to help. It was wrapped round his foot, so we hope that it gets pulled off on a branch without hurting him, but it was yet another reminder of our throwaway society. It was good to see that the local news is now asking people to snap the elastic before they bin masks, as a lot of sea birds are getting entangled. We loved the woodland walks around the country estate, especially in the evening with the light filtering in through the trees, but again it was so sad to see the amount of trees that had died. The National Trust has done an excellent job of turning the tree trunks into calved sculptures or benches.
There was no shop nearby, so we made the most of our boat store cupboard and the hedge veg we had got in the Scillies. Jules does a mean omelette and salad and I can rustle up any soup from a few tins of tomatoes and beans, or a simple curry with a tin of chickpeas and freshly caught fish. With some polenta, nuts and a bit of honey and lemon, I can make a cake and as long as we have a store cupboard bottle of wine, we can live like kings. We did manage to find the estate tearooms, and enjoyed a cup tea and sausage roll for Jules and the dogs. We also took advantage of the National Trust bookstore, and I bought a bag full of second-hand books for a few pounds. Many of the books were brand new; I imagine unwanted presents, and it made me reflect once more on the wasteful society in which we live. It was also great to find a place to drop off books we had finished, as charity shops seem reluctant to take personal donations. I wonder how many books have gone to landfill as a result? As kids, whenever my brother or I moaned about a school book, my nan would always lecture us about how books were a luxury when she was growing up. I still have her School prize books, and they are so well read, being held together by tape. One even has wax on it, from when she read in bed by candlelight.
As we were walking back to the boat, with my bag of books, we bumped into a fellow dog walker. I thought I recognised her, and asked if she had ever been a teacher in Stourbridge (250 miles away), and she was indeed my old Primary teacher who I had not seen in 40 years. She inspired me to read. She used to hold a competition for the person who had read the most books each month, and it was rare that I wasn’t in the top five.
We ended this week in Falmouth in thick fog. We moved to the yacht haven, where we had electricity and a walk ashore rather than dinghy ride. For the first time in weeks, I enjoyed some shopping and finally got my hair cut. I found a wonderful craft shop and purchased several pairs of wooden knitting needles, and cotton and bamboo wool. Anyone that knows me, will be aware that my knitting usually results in gaping holes and obscene language. My friend Sue, however, sent me some wool, needles and a pattern to make environmentally friendly dish clothes, instead of using plastic scourers. Strangely enough, I loved making them and it has become a bit of an obsession. I now have several Christmas kits put together for some lucky people!!!
Today we will of course be reflecting on the terrible events of 911 20 years ago and the great harm caused that day, yet very rarely do we reflect upon the harm that each of us causes daily to the environment. This week has really focussed my mind, and when we get back to land based living, I hope that I will remember some of these important lessons learned from life afloat.
Isles of Scilly
04 September 2021
The Isles of Scilly are one of our favorite sailing destinations. We have been visiting for 15 years, and still have flutters of excitement as we sail into the islands, whose magic encourages people back year after year. The islands change shape and size as the huge tide flows in and out. At low water, whole islands and sand banks appear out of nowhere. Navigation is challenging and there are places where you can only move around at high water. The seas are crystal clear, with sandy beaches and palm trees. They have a very Caribbean feel to them - until you put your toes in the water! The islands would be perfect in an Edith Blyton novel, with places called Great Cheese, Little Cheese, Crab Ledge, Kettle Point and Rascal's Ledge. We moor on buoys or are at anchor and spend lots of time jumping in and out of the dinghy, or on the paddle boards going ashore to different beaches and different islands.
Much of the accommodation is booked out by the same families at the same time each year and each island has a different feel. Most don't have cars and they have a relaxed, timeless quality. It is the sort of place where people get up in the morning and wander barefoot to the bakery for croissants, and then spend the rest of the day reading or mucking about on the water. It is very family orientated with children running about in wetsuits; spotting seals, swimming or enjoying the latest craze of paddle boarding. We always arrive, and pray that the weather will hold, as it is not the sort of place to get caught in a storm. There is no safe harbour here. You have to move anchor each morning if the weather dictates to find shelter from the prevailing winds.
I think this has to be my favorite of the islands. It has a very natural feel, with more locals and less tourists. It has no shops, except the little grocery store and a gallery. There is a camp site, right next to the island pub, where fish and chips can be pre-ordered the night before. We love walking round the island with the dogs, and stopping at 'hedge veg' stalls, where we buy fresh tomatoes, lettuce and vegetables all grown in the local gardens. Some people sell their handicrafts and there is even a little fudge stall. The walks are stunning and take you from coastal paths, to moorland and on to sandy beaches. The whole island can be walked in just a few hours. Children build dens and hammocks out of old fishing nets and driftwood. We love going to the hotel at Hell Bay for a glass of wine at sunset. It is aptly named. When westerly winds roll in it looks like hell with the waves crashing on the jagged rocks. We sit at 'Sunset cove' on deckchairs watching the breakers with seagulls and herons scouring the shoreline for anything left by tourists. It is also home to our favorite artist Richard Pearce and we always walk to his little hut and purchase a few prints. The flowers on the island are abundant, especially the aggapanthus and we have loved sitting at the Island Fish Cafe, surrounded by their blooms. Here we have enjoyed lobster, slaw and fries for just £12. In fact we have gone through their entire menu; lobster and salad, lobster and slaw, lobster burger, whole crab, potted crab or crab sandwiches, and the best crab chowder you can imagine. Everyone wears shorts and flip flops and looks very wild and natural. In fact, with our sea crusted shorts and with white salt patches on our bums we look right at home.
This island is owned by Prince Charles. Jules describes the island as 'centre parks for the wealthy'. Accommodation in the summer can reach £11,000 per week for a large cottage and they are all fully booked for the next two years in August! The kids all go to sailing schools and kayak clubs during the day and eat at the over priced restaurant in the evening with their parents. The latter have spent the day in the spa or on the beach having a private yoga session with someone called Esmee. The yummy mummies wear long floaty dresses in the day, and high heels and lots of makeup in the evening. The dads wear deck shoes and sailing sweaters. They all tend to rent bikes and shout things like, ' ahoy there old chap, bike turning to the right'. I don't know why, but it does make us laugh. We love the children's names - there are no Waynes, Dwaynes, Staceys or Traceys here!!! Little girls in pretty dresses sit and paint shells with glitter and nail varnish. Jules had to stop me pouring water over one of their Daddies who was explaining to them why female football should not be allowed on the TV. It reminds me of the days when girls learnt social etiquette and had a coming out ball! They describe everything as 'really cool'. We have spent many happy hours sitting at the 'Ruin beach cafe' watching the comings and goings of the likes of Valentino (I kid you not) and his friends! Most of them want to hug the dogs as they are not allowed one at home. The village store is stocked with very expensive wine, and has a cheese counter like no other. Once away from the hubub of the village, however, the walks are fantastic. We walked through the rich purple heather to Cromwell's castle and round the island. There is one particular bay where seals like to sunbathe and we can sit and watch them for hours. Despite the "poshness" of the place, we absolutely love it.
This is a very small uninhabited island, with a magnificent sandy beach at low water. We have taken the dinghy ashore a few times and let the dogs explore whilst we have scoffed breakfast cooked over our little camp stove on the sand dunes. There is another island close by, to which I have attempted to swim, but the sea is extremely cold and I have left it until low water when Patch and I have been able to wade across. Before we leave here, I always comb the beach for pretty shells, but have no idea what I will do with them once we are back home!
This has the most Caribbean feel about it, with crystal clear seas and golden beaches on every shore. It is also quite large, and we love rambling on the island, up to the red and white striped day mark or down to the old jetty. Little Arthur's cafe is right next to the small vineyard, and sells cream teas with homemade blackberry jam and thick clotted cream from their own herd of cows. The little bakery provides traditional lemonade and artisan bread and is sold out by 10am. The island also has its own flower shop, which delivers all over world. At this time of year they sell colourful carnations, and they put small bunches together for tourists. The 'Karma' hotel is a lovely place to sit outside under beach umbrellas having a pot of tea and watching the world go by. It made us smile the other day when a lady went inside to complain about her coffee tasting weak. The young Indian waiter chased her outside with the coffee cups insisting that as he had made it and there was nothing wrong with it. We loved this five star service! Pilot gig racing is a big deal in the islands and it was at St Martin's that we saw the beautiful gigs pulled up on the beach and enjoyed the excitement of seeing them race.
This is the largest and most fertile of the islands. It is the most populated, and where all the boats dock coming from the mainland on the Scillonian. It has a very shallow draft to glide through the shallow waters, and hence is very rock and rolly. Many people are sick on the boat, and it is aptly named 'the vomit comet' by all who have sailed on her. It is the only island with a high street, with at least 12 shops to explore. We stayed well away, but the Isles of Scilly sweater shop was doing a roaring trade, and everyone wants to go back to work with a Scilly Isles top on! We had a few days moored off the quay and explored the island via the coastal footpaths. You are never far from the small airport and it is a little unsettling to be walking along when a small plane takes off or lands just a short distance from you. The views are splendid and for ten gentle miles the paths wind past secluded coves, fine sandy beaches and ancient burial chambers. Star Castle and the garrison was built in 1593 and is now a hotel. We were very lucky to get inside to what was once used as the dungeons and is now a bar. I explained my situation and we were given a whole area to ourselves, and I had the best crab veloute I have ever eaten. We enjoyed dusty walking paths inland, and visited lots of gardens, which were completely free to go round, as long as you deadheaded a few plants whilst there. We found great little garden cafes and craft studios and enjoyed the wonderful views at sunset.
Two weeks later we are still here. Clean t-shirts are running low as is our water tank. We have some portable water bottles that we fill up each day on one of the quays and lug back in the dinghy. Washing is now limited to a stripped wash with a kettle full of water. We don't care. These are the days we shall remember in the long winter months ahead- 'these are the days of my life'.