Friday, 16 March 2018

A guitar story

There have been many influences in my life that have led me, musically, to where I am now. For better or worse.

James was a classmate of mine in my very early teens, and was one of three people that essentially gave me the guitar. Mum and another school friend of around the same time called Damien were the other two.

Mum taught me some very basic notes when I was very young, and her own interest in the instrument meant there was never one out of reach whilst I was growing up.

One day some years later, James brought his guitar into class and let me have a go. He explained what a capo did (for the uninitiated, it's a mechanical bar that locks across the fret-board and so changes the key of the instrument, a kind of cheat-mode), and showed be a very simple, exceptionally versatile chord shape. That re-ignited the interest Mum had originally kindled.

He even gave me one of his old capos. I'm pretty sure I still have it in a box somewhere. And I really don't have an awful lot else from back then.

Then a little while later, Damien explained to me, quite possibly by accident, why a guitar was so cool. The tips of the fingers of my left hand have been irredeemably callused ever since about then, and a guitar has never been very far from reach. In fact, two hang on my office wall at work.

Not that I've ever got particularly good at playing them. But they speak for me, as no other instrument really does, except my voice.

All that is a complete aside. I just really wanted to share this recent video clip of James playing at a recent gig in Bristol. His gigs are very different to mine. I really hope to catch one of his one day.

Friday, 9 March 2018


One of the first notes in the prelude to spring is the blossoming of the snowdrops. On the road into work, I climb over a single hill before descending into the Stroud valleys and then on to our office. On the top of this hill is the village of Edge, and nestled in to a fork in the road is the village church.

Pretty enough a building of its own accord, but in the dying stages of winter every year the grounds of its surrounding churchyard are wreathed with a thick, luscious carpet of these flowers. I see them as I drive past, and every year they make me smile because they're the first whisper that winter is finally coming to a close. Every year I promise myself I'll stop on the way into work for a couple of minutes and take a photo. There's never enough light left at this time of year on the way home.

And every year I invariably fail to do so.

This year was no exception, except this year the promise of the snowdrops seemed to have been cut brutally short. One moment the churchyard was wreathed with their fresh white gleam, and then we had a late, hard snow.

More snow around these parts than I think we've had since the 80's.

Driving home early from work last Thursday afternoon to avoid getting trapped in it, I saw the churchyard and pulled over to the side of the road. The snowdrops were smothered in thick snow; smothered, frozen and quite gone. I took the photo I'd been promising myself anyway, wryly reflecting that I'd missed my moment yet again.

The dogs enjoyed the snow. I worked from home on Friday and was a bit fed up of it all by the time we got to the weekend, and so was quite relieved that by Sunday the cold snap was passed. Most of the snow was gone and the temperature was nursing its way back towards double figures. And, as I'm sure you can imagine, I was equally relieved to find that by Sunday the lake was clear enough to race on.

Although it is the first time I've ever had to dodge icebergs whilst sailing at Frampton, albeit none of them would've been too big to have floated in a washing-up bowl.

The weekend over, I was driving back into work on Monday morning. and as usual climbed the hill to drive through the village of Edge. The snow was gone, except for a dirty scattering of stubborn drifts still swathed across various hillside paddocks and fields.

But the snowdrops had returned. I finally got that photo.

Calstar: beached

She's out the water and being worked on. Rewiring the mast, replacing anodes and renewing the anti-foul. This time in two weeks time she'll be on the back of a truck and halfway down the motorway to her new home in Plymouth.

Really can't wait to get her back in the water again. But if the year so far is anything to go by, those two weeks are going to fly by quick enough.

Calstar may be beached, but I'm not completely. Plan to race Buffy again at Frampton this coming Sunday. It's become something of a regular event the last few weeks.

photo: ken elsey
For most of the weekends I've had the pleasure of Amanda crewing for me, but last Sunday she had work commitments so abandoned me to sail the second race on my own. A far from impossible task, but there are moments when single-handing an Enterprise that you wish you had five arms.

photo: ken elsey
But still, a 4th and a 2nd place respectively, so not a bad couple of results. Amanda and I are definitely beginning to sail better together. The same is not so true of Buffy. We had a lot of water in the hull after the first race. Mopped her out in the interval before the second and was very careful not to bring a bucket load in with my boots when I relaunched, but still ended up with a lot of water by the end, despite it only being me sailing.

It means we're leaking again. Not sure where from. I can only hope it's something simple like the bailers and not the repaired centreboard case failing again.

This coming Sunday Amanda's got safety boat duty, so I'll be single-handed for both races unless I find somebody at short notice to sail with me. May well not ask around though. It will give me a good chance to locate the leak. Must remember to find myself a sponge to mop the bilges out with though.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Not used up yet

Just listened to Webb Chiles' acceptance speech on YouTube, recorded this weekend at the New York Yacht Club where he was awarded the Cruising Club of America's Blue Water Medal, and wanted to share it. For a man that has spent so much time alone in the middle of various oceans, he has a gift for public speaking.

And it was an award richly deserved.

If you didn't already know, his ongoing journal can be found here:

Saturday, 3 March 2018

The courage of laughter

May you always have it.

Just read of the death of a fellow dog lover and columnist of the Guardian. Who, I confess, I couldn't always follow the thinking of, but always enjoyed when I managed it.

“Her philosophy was that in this life you either have to blub or laugh. Well, she had the courage of laughter. I can hear her voice now being acutely uncomfortable with these compliments." - Fielding

I love that tribute. From somebody she wrote about often.