Thursday, 21 July 2022

old compost

At the bottom of my garden is an old, disused, wooden compost bin. Over the last couple of weeks, Jack's taken to sleeping in it during the day. It's in a quiet, shady spot between the shed and the back wall that never really catches the sun, and with a bedding of soft loam, I suspect it's one of the coolest spots in the house or garden at the moment. 

It's also a really handy place for him to find a little respite from the puppy when he needed to catch a break for a while.

Or, at least, it was.


There was no wind to speak of. A promise broken. Was lovely to be afloat, however. As always. And neither did it rain. Aside from a very brief, light spatter.

And the sunset was pretty.

Nikki's passport turned up today. I wasn't sure it was going to arrive in time. But it did, and so in a few weeks we'll be jetting off to Croatia with Dad to join a friend of ours for a couple of weeks sailing with him aboard the yacht "Amore", a Hanse 415.

It occurs to me that this is the first time in my adult life that both I and the love of my life (that would be Nikki, just to clarify any doubt!) have both owned a passport. Do you "own" a passport? Perhaps "held" then? We both hold passports.

I feel the sudden urge to escape.

Take your comfort where you can. I mean that in reference to where I started this entry, being afloat and treated to a pretty sunset. But read into that what you will. 

I don't think you'd be far wrong.

My daughter gets married in just under two weeks. Tomorrow afternoon I go shopping for something for me and her youngest brother to wear for the occasion. Her other brother is a teacher, and probably more of a responsible, fully grown up adult than his Dad will ever be (or aspire to be, for that matter), so I'm sure he can sort himself out.

I truly dislike shopping. I've been putting this off, but can't any longer. Sam and I are taking his Mum to supervise us. I'm not sure that isn't a mistake. 

Sometimes you just have to bow to the inevitable.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022


July marches on. The last couple of days have been deliciously warm, or dangerously hot, depending upon your preference. I love the heat, but feel for anybody that doesn't, as it's been pretty intense. Nikki doesn't like it, and the dogs are far from keen. I also appreciate it's not a good thing for the planet, so for my part, it's something of a guilty pleasure.

Accidentally booked a gig last Sunday, so couldn't go sailing. Which is annoying, because it would've been perfect conditions for the long awaited relaunch of the Albacore. Blue skies, warm breeze, temperatures sub-tropical.

I say "accidentally booked"; when the last minute request came in late Thursday by way of a message on my phone, I didn't have my reading glasses to hand and, I'll admit, had indulged in a night-cap or two before intending to retire for the night.

So I read the date as lunchtime, Saturday 17th and duly rearranged a busy day of running around for Nik who is in the midst of sorting out "wedding stuff" so that I could bug off and play guitar for strangers. Then, some time Friday night, I re-read the message and realised that "Saturday" actually read "Sunday" and in agreeing, I'd harpooned any chance I'd had of sailing over the weekend.

It was fun though. A half-hour solo spot on an outdoor stage in the centre of Cinderford. I haven't played Cinderford for about 20 years, and the last time we were there was one of the very, very few times a gig has ever ended in violence. Sunday's audience was lovely however, and despite losing a gorgeous day's sailing for it, I really enjoyed myself.

Today, the temperature has dropped into the low 20's and we've been told to expect showers. Which haven't arrived yet, but when they do, I have the feeling they're going to arrive in the form of big, lumpy raindrops.

As long as they bring a bit of wind, I don't mind. I'm intending to slope off down to the Club this evening to race the Laser, so making up for missing out last Sunday.

Lottie remains deliciously gorgeous, and continues to grow like a weed. When she sits, which she now does eagerly on request, especially if you back it up with a treat, I no longer have to lean down to scratch the top of her head. She came out to the pub with Nikki and I for an open mic night last Friday and behaved impeccably.

Thursday, 7 July 2022


The forecast delivered as promised yesterday evening. The direction, from the north west, was pretty horrid, but there was plenty of it to play with. The Race Officer clearly had a sense of humour, giving us a running start down through the gap to a starboard rounding at the never used, until last night that is, number 8 mark.

I made the best of it that I could, got clear of the pack and was second around the mark. There was some minor carnage amongst the pile of boats that followed me around a few moments later as another Laser lost control in a gust as they tried to harden up from running by the lee and ploughed into a couple of the other boats that he was supposed to allow room for.

No damage done though, except to the man's pride, and nobody hurt. 

Despite then pulling out ahead of the pack on the beat that followed and staying ahead for the rest of the race, I struggled in some of the heavier guts and didn't manage to break clear enough. I finished with a 5th (out of 14 boats) which is arguably my worst result in the Laser in quite a while. 

Which would be disappointing, except the first and second places were taken by a couple of youngsters in a Topper and a Laser 4.7 respectively, and I love to see the kids at the club doing well. Reckon if I'd rigged the Radial though instead of my full Standard rig, I could've beaten them.

In other news, I got to the club yesterday to discover that my Albacore had been delivered back to her berth, with her mast step repaired. Which is what Paul had said he'd do, but in a world of delays and excuses, it's always a nice surprise to see somebody deliver what they've promised.

The Albacore has been out of commission since 24th April, so it's really nice to have her back. The repairs look good, so I'll put the mast back up this coming Sunday. Her relaunch might have to wait however, as Amanda's come down with Covid this week, so I'll wait until she's fit enough to crew the boat with me before launching her again.

the water bowl

Sometimes, she's cute and cuddly.

And sometimes she just goes her own way.

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Jack & Lottie

It struck me that it's been at least 48 hours since I last posted a puppy photo. 

So I thought I ought to redress the oversight.


Early days yet; as flash as they've become, I find weather forecasts are rarely much use for anything more than the probable pattern beyond about three days. However, tomorrow is promising 12 knots gusting to 19 in South Cerney, which has the potential to be terrific fun with the Laser. 

Sunday, by comparison, is presently only suggesting 6 to 8 knots NNE, which is a horrid direction. With 40 to 60% low cloud cover and 26°C I'm guessing it's likely to be a good day for gliders, so very shifty for those of us at lake level as the thermals feed the cumulus. 

On the other hand, the warmth should make for a lovely drift around the lake in shorts and tee-shirt with Amanda for company, and the light wind should mean putting the mast back up before we sail will be a simple job.

The Albacore repairs should be finished and the boat delivered back to the lake this week. Hopefully, I'll have confirmation of that today or tomorrow.

Monday, 4 July 2022

a gig, a grading and a pub lunch

There was no time to go sailing this weekend, although I did spend Saturday night at the Club; they had an event running over the weekend and they'd booked my band for the evening's entertainment. It was a fun gig, a slightly smaller crowd than we're used to perhaps, but just as enthusiastic as any we've played for.

Because Bean, our usual drummer, was off enjoying Nibley Festival with his other band, we had a stand-in for the night. It's the first time we've played with Richie, though I've known him for a few years now as he owns the music shop where I buy my strings and the occasional guitar when my wife's not looking. It's always a bit nerve wracking when you have another musician join you for the first time. 

It would, perhaps, be less so if we ever had time to rehearse, but that's not the way life works these days. I knew Richie would be okay, we've talked a lot over the years, I knew his background and experience and he'd seen videos of the set we were going to play. But even so . . .

Needless to say, he was fantastic. A superb drummer and, perhaps more to the point, a lovely guy to work with. We're playing with him again at the end of August, and I find I really can't wait. Saturday was a great night.

On Sunday morning I had a grading for my 2nd dan. With only two other black belts grading with me, we were actually out numbered by the panel of four examiners, which I found quietly amusing, although I kept that to myself.

It's been six years since my last grading. We'd actually hoped to grade back in 2020 but, well, we all know how that went. So once we all got our liberty back and were able to start training again, everything was fixated on getting back to a point where we were ready for yesterday. The last six months in particular have felt pretty intense.

I have to admit, I actually really enjoyed it, to the point that I was almost disappointed once it was all over. The exam itself went well, one or two minor mistakes, but I felt at the time I'd got away with them. And despite getting knocked onto my backside during the kumite (free sparing) that concluded the exam, which, I should add, almost never happens, I still passed. As did my friends who were grading alongside me, Kathy gaining her 3rd dan and Lisa, like me, her 2nd.

In addition to the three of us, one of the panel members, Gene, was asked to join us in line and presented his 4th dan. In our style of karate, only the first three dan are graded by examination, any grades beyond 3rd dan are only presented on merit, in recognition of achievement, dedication and service to the art. Gene, who is also an occasional sailor, has been training since the mid 80's and teaching at his own club over in Lydney for, I suspect, as long as I've been training myself. It was very well deserved.

With all the work of the weekend done, on Sunday afternoon took Lottie and Nik out to The Old Restoration for a late lunch. It was Lottie's first trip to the pub and I think we can safely say she enjoyed it. She met some new people, and another puppy, a little bit older but, of course, much smaller, that she had a mad five minutes playing with just before we left.

In other news, the repairs to the Albacore should be finished and the boat delivered back to the club this week. With luck, Amanda and I will race her again on Sunday. It feels like it's been an absolute age. Meanwhile, however, I'm planning to race the Laser Wednesday evening, as usual.

At some point, Dad and I really need to get back out with Calstar. I feel like we've been neglecting her of late. There is a weekend free of gigs in the middle of July that I have my eye on, if wife and weather permit. Fingers crossed for both.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

butter wouldn't melt

Eleven weeks old as of yesterday. And by way of correction to my last post, I've just realised that it's the 29th June today, not the 29th July, so we're actually a month short of the 1226th anniversary of King Offa's demise.

Which, funny enough, will therefore fall on my Dad's birthday; his 76th I think, although I'm not absolutely certain he isn't a little older. I can't remember if he was born in '46 or '44, although I suspect Grandad was a little bit busy elsewhere at the end of '43. 

And it's also the day before my daughter gets married.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Offa's Dyke

There was this chap called Offa who was king of Mercia from 757 AD through to his death on 29th July 796 AD. Which seems a very precise date, given that it was the middle of the dark ages, and will be exactly 1226 years ago tomorrow.

Given that it must've been a pre-requisite for royalty back then, it comes as no surprise to read that the guy was a bit of a bruiser. England wasn't yet a thing, but a collection of often warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. And, according to the wiki I'm reading right now, King Offa was generally considered to be one of the most powerful Anglo-Saxon kings to proceed Alfred the Great.

Whereas Alfred began what was to become the unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into England however, Offa was a different kind of character. Again, lifted directly from the wiki: in the words of historian Simon Keynes, "Offa was driven by a lust for power, not a vision of English unity; and what he left was a reputation, not a legacy."

Aside from topping off east Anglian kings and generally throwing his weight around amongst the neighbouring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the Mercians had a penchant for squabbling with the Welsh. Or maybe the Welsh just had a thing for squabbling with the Anglo-Saxons, and from the Welsh perspective, the whole of their land border with the Anglo-Saxons back then just happened to be Mercia.

In any case, in a feat of engineering that must've been impressive for it's time, Offa built a ditch and rampart along the border facing into Wales, called Offa's Dyke. The monk Asser, again lifted shamelessly from the wiki, wrote that "a certain vigorous king called Offa . . . had a great dyke built between Wales and Mercia from sea to sea" although in actual fact it seems the structure ran from Llanfynydd in Wrexham, some five miles short of the north coast, to Rushock Hill near Kington, some fifty miles short of the Bristol Channel.

Still, that's a ditch and a wall some 64 miles in length, which is still a pretty impressive undertaking for its time and place.

The National Trails are a set of long distance walks in the UK. There are, apparently,15 designated trails and 5 coastal paths, and one of them is the Offa's Dyke Path, which covers the probable route of the medieval rampart. Whether the wall was ever completed, built all at once, stretched from sea to sea, or even built by Offa at all is apparently disputed, but this was the dark ages after all, so some licence needs to be allowed.

In any case, the designated National Trail for Offa's Dyke runs for 177 miles from Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow, along the English Welsh border to the seaside town of Prestatyn on Wales' north coast.

My friend Cathy has a thing for walking. Last year she attempted Offa's Dyke, but the heat of the summer beat her, and she had to abandon the section between Chepstow and Monmouth. Last weekend, she decided to return to finish it.

Cathy and I grew up together out in Kuwait. We keep in touch but rarely get to see each other these days, life and geography being what it is. However, Monmouth being all but next door to where I live, it seemed rude not to meet up to accompany her for at least some of the last stretch.

I had training Saturday morning followed by a gig Saturday night, so I couldn't join her for the first leg out of Chepstow on Saturday but, courtesy of a lift from Dad, I met up with her in the village of Llandogo at 0830 Sunday morning, somewhat bleary eyed but willing, and we walked the last 15km of the Offa's Dyke Path into Monmouth together.

We were lucky with the weather, enjoying warm sun and a cooling breeze for the whole distance, and dodging the showers that had been forecast. Despite only having had about three hours sleep following the gig the night before, it was really lovely catching up with an old friend, and the walk was a reminder of what gorgeous countryside we have right on our doorstep.

Friday, 24 June 2022

FOSSC: back under the blue

Spent a very pleasant evening catching up with old friends at Frampton on Wednesday; my friend Geoff had asked me to crew for him in his Enterprise again.

photo: sam wells

Blue skies and blue sails, it was shorts and tee-shirt sailing weather. Actually, sailing might've been too optimistic a term, as the wind was exceptionally light so it was more of a controlled drift.

But the sun was shining and we were afloat, so I had no cause for complaint.

I find myself alone and unsupervised this weekend. Nik's away with our daughter Tasha. So I'm out with Dad to watch a friend's gig at a local pub, then have my own gig at another pub, just as local, tomorrow night. My youngest son Sam has puppy duty.

On Sunday I'm up early to meet another old friend in a little village called Llandogo, and walk with her the 7.5 statute miles to Monmouth. Cathy has, in stages, been walking the Offa's Dyke Trail and as this late stage of her route is somewhere close to my own home (sort of) I figured it would be rude not to join her for it. Sam, again, will have Sunday morning puppy duty.

It's been a while since I've (intentionally) walked that far. I'm sure I'll manage.