Monday 28 April 2014

Homing again to the sea

A good part of my life was spent growing up in the shadow of Robinswood Hill, which I climbed with Lilly on Friday evening. The hill and its quarry are an indelible stamp upon the early mental imagery of my childhood. That led me to thinking of other particular sights that define this place I grew up.

The Cathedral is one. And one of my favourites, though less for its association with God and more its association with man; with all our rich folly and ambition, our by parts glorious and tragic history and dreams.

It's so much a part of us, and yet so stands apart.

Haresfield Beacon, which I'm sure I've written of here previously. And undoubtedly will again.

The Malverns marking our boundary to the north, of which I am sure I have not. I've not been to the Malverns since I was a small child, and know little about them, other than when I pass them by car or by train when returning from the north, they are the first distinct landmark that tell me I'm now home. Everything from there to my doorstep becomes once again familiar.

And May Hill, the western sentinel. That's the picture above, taken last autumn when I took Lilly and Boo for a walk up Haresfield Beacon.

I love Google. Much of the following was learned just, and I've now plagurised with gratitude from the sources Google led me to, those being, but not limited to, mostly our local paper The Citizen and Wikipedia.

The local legend is that May Hill was named after a certain Captain May who used it as a landmark when navigating the Severn estuary.

I love this, for obvious reasons, but documents from a couple of hundred years ago relate that the hill was known as Yartleton Hill and was renamed because of the May Day events held there. A ceremony on May Day morning has been carried out atop the hill for several centuries; originally it included a mock battle between youths.

They're a robust, enthusiastic lot, the youths of Gloucestershire. By way of illustration, look up Cooper's Hill and Cheese Rolling.

We still get Morris Dancers up on May Hill swilling scrumpy and beating the vermin out of the hedgerows (or whatever it is they're doing) every May Day. Which, thinking about it, is coming soon.

Prince Rupert and his Cavaliers are said to have taken shelter amongst the trees during the Siege of Gloucester in 1643.

In 1905, it was said in parliament that witches were practising their craft on May Hill when the Markey family 'went insane'. A whole family going insane, and on that side of the River? Who could imagine such a thing!

Buried treasure is said to be on the east of the hill at Crockett's Hole – a place of safety in times of persecution under Queen Mary.

Sadly, the trees and their signature view are now threatened by disease; Red Band Blight. It acts slowly, but the Parish Council has been recommended to take down the mainly Corsican Pines, most of which were planted in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. The trees are not likely to face the axe soon, but they will have to be replaced as they are being slowly killed by the blight, which affects photosynthesis.

All the brief hunting around for gimlets of information regarding May Hill on the Internet have led me to Ivor Gurney, a local composer and poet of the Great War, who lived 1890 to 1937, for which I'm grateful.


God, that I might see
Framilode once again!
Redmarley, all renewed,
Clear shining after rain.

And Cranham, Cranham trees,
And blaze of Autumn hues.
Portway under the moon,
Silvered with freezing dews.

May Hill that Gloster dwellers
'Gainst every sunset see;
And the wide Severn river
Homing again to the sea.

The star of afterglow,
Venus, on western hills;
Dymock in spring : O spring
Of home ! O daffodils !

And Malvern's matchless hues
Bastions of ancient fires
These will not let me rest,
So hot my heart desires....

Here we go sore of shoulder,
Sore of foot, by quiet streams;
But these are not my rivers....
And these are useless dreams.

by Ivor Gurney, circa 1917

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Sixpence was singing atop the hawthorn outside my window a few moments ago. He looks well. I'm pleased. I didn't see or hear him at all last week beyond that chance Tuesday lunchtime meeting in the car park.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Halftime at the Railway Tavern

And it looks like it'll be a wet drive home later tonight.

First set appeared to go down a storm. I love this place. Lovely people, and we've been playing down here so many years now it always feels like coming home.

One of the new songs, a number by The Cure, went a bit south. Entirely my fault, which is annoying. The crowd are very forgiving though, and determined to enjoy themselves.

My acoustic seems to have been fixed. The jack socket has been playing up badly of late, unusably badly.

Matt, our guitarist, took it home with him after the last rehearsal. He's a clever man, and the Taylor is now sounding sweeter than she has in an absolute age.

Back on in a couple of minutes.

The Railway, Fishponds, Bristol

On in five.

The Cathedral Tower

Doesn't look so bad to me, I reckon I could manage that. Of course, these days you'd likely get arrested for terrorism or something!

Gloucester Cathedral

Apparently, my late Uncle Alan, his cousin Terry and, according to her, my mum used to climb the Tower in search of pigeons.


The Great War memorial on the green in front of the Cathedral. Amidst all the hustle of the Gloucester city , this is one of my favourite spots.

Don't come into town very often anymore. Only dropped in today to get some guitar strings for tonight.

Friday 25 April 2014

Randwick Park by Twilight

Robinswood Hill

Friday evening

And a stroll up the hill with my girl.

The weather appears to have arrived

Wet, and wet some more, with not a whole lot of wind expected for racing on Sunday unless you happen to be at Land's End. In which case you may also find Saturday a little hairy.

Plan is to vegitate tonight, or maybe strip some tiles in the kitchen, not decided yet. Will walk the dogs. Oddly, I actually enjoy doing that in the rain.

Tomorrow is a trip out for dog food first thing, try and get back in time for karate around lunch time, then take Ben back to Uni. Then home for an hour before heading back out for a gig in Bristol.

By the time I get to bed Saturday night, I will have driven up and down the same half-hour stretch of motorway three times which seems remarkably inefficient, but unavoidable.

Sunday is simplicity by comparison. Get up, glue the kitchen sink in place, drill a big hole in the wall for the extractor fan over the stove, then grab my kit and and head to the Club to spend the afternoon sailing.

It's going to be raining cats and dogs, but I don't care.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Midway through the week. Again.

Just going through the photos on my phone from last week. These couple
of Dad slaving away in my kitchen I rather like. Reminds me of what the
kitchen looked like a week ago, and what it would probably still look
like had I not had all his help!

Ben (boy_v1) goes back to Uni this weekend. He's currently debating
whether or not he asks me to give him a lift back Saturday, or hangs
around for the sailing on Sunday.

April feels like it has flown by ever so quick.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Normal service is resumed

Back to the usual grind today, following my week off refitting my kitchen.

Of the two photos, the one is from the gates of the level crossing
looking down towards our office (the big old mill in the background) and
the other is of my friend, Sixpence. He hasn't been sat in his (now
enleafed) hawthorn today. I'd missed him, and was actually wondering
about him as I was walking back into the office after fetching my lunch
earlier, just after taking the afore mentioned photo of the crossing in
fact. Then he hopped right across my path, his own lunch by way of a
worm in his beak.

Good to know he's still well, even if I've missed his singing today.

The kitchen that was last week's grind and obsession was a long overdue
promise to my wife, finally delivered in exchange for a long weekend
away with Dad and friends in Fowey, Cornwall, towards the end of May,
whilst she stays at home to look after the dogs.

I have, in an odd way, enjoyed the seven days of hard, manual graft.
Though if there's a next time ashore I'm almost certainly going to save
up and pay somebody else to do it for me.

Not that I intend to ever have such a next time.

Dad's help has been invaluable. Although neither of us are practiced at
this sort of thing, he's got the physical skills, mechanical wit and
years of practical experience to carry this sort of thing through. I've
got a bit of logic and some practiced problem solving ability, but am
very much the pauper in this exchange.

I've learned a lot though. Removing a bunch of appliances and cabinet
carcases and then refitting a different set of same, most previously
salvaged from somebody else's kitchen, proved to be as much an
intelectual exersize as a physical one.

The time sink turnout out not to the the inevitable hard graft of
measuring, sawing, drilling and screwing, but the problem solving needed
almost every single step of the way. I quite enjoyed the problem
solving, though was frustrated by the way time was just soaked up and
the deadlines overrun.

Though we do now have a (mostly) working kitchen sink, a (mostly)
working stove and the washing machine and tumble dryer are plumbed back
in, so despite the number of jobs still outstanding, the situation is
survivable and no longer urgent beyond a deep felt desire to see it done
and done with.

Though maybe now I've had a bit of practice, I might try putting up some
shelves and fixing a few doors elsewhere in the house when I find an
evening or two spare. I'm feeling less intimidated by the concept of DIY
than I have in years. Can almost see the charm and attraction in it.

Then I realise that it's mostly cutting into time I'd otherwise have to
go sailing.

Boo inspects the new kitchen

Still got a lot of little jobs to do, a persistent weep on the cold water supply and a few more cupboards to hang, but almost there.

Strange to be back in the office today. The break is almost worth it!

Sunday 20 April 2014

End of day x (I've lost track)

Both work surfaces done. Hanging cupboards still to do, standing unit still to do, extractor fan still to do.

Stove gets replaced and refitted next Friday, centred and levelled (the one they sent arrived damaged)

Shelving still to do. Re-tiling still to do. A couple of small tears in the vinyl now to repair. A small weep in the plumbing yet to fix.

Electrics behind the stove to be fixed.

Think the project is going to over-run. Back to work no matter what on Tuesday.

Feel like we've broken the back of it though.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Doesn't look like five days solid work

But damn well feels like it!

Bear helping me with the kitchen

To be fair, he's not helping much.

New stove is due to arrive and be fitted this morning. Currently worrying over what I might have forgotten.

Outside of my comfort zone.

Bit concerned the electrics behind what was the old hob will need to move, as they will now be behind the new stove, which will put our an amount of heat, I presume, perhaps enough to melt the plastic fittings.

If the power point is obselete I could just decommission it. But that's easier to do before the cooker is fitted.

Trouble is, I don't know if it's needed or no until they arrive to do the fitting. At the very least the isolator switch will need to move.

Not so warm today, chilly with the patio door open. At least it's still not raining.

Friday 18 April 2014


Not really a fan of Leonard Cohen's voice, nothing wrong with it, just a personal thing; I think it's all to do with the tone. Which is lovely, but not my thing. His song-writing, however, often floors me. The lyrics leave me humbled, jealous, and, occasionally, close moved to tears. Not sure why. Some things I don't analyse too close.

Came across a clip on the BBC of an Irish priest singing a variation of Hallelujah this evening. Actually, ran into it a week ago, but tonight was the first time I bothered to click on it. A priest getting a standing ovation at a wedding is, to my mind, in danger of stealing the limelight from where it ought to belong.

However, I assume the bride knew what she was booking, and all concerned were quite happy. And to be fair, he has a fine voice and an even finer nerve. I should've clicked on the link sooner. Far be it from me to jab at any man's personal sense of showmanship.

The clip reminded me of the song, however, of Cohen, and of a recording I made of it myself and posted up on Youtoob a while ago after having recorded it on my mobile at the office one evening after everybody else had left. 

The while ago, I was just shocked to discover, was 2008. How time flies.

I've been up to my ears with DIY the last week, and hardly online other than posting the occasional photo from my mobile to here or Facebook. Don't watch TV or read the papers. Just read about the ferry capsize in South Korea. Terrible. My thoughts are with all involved.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Don't tell the wife

But I'm actually quite fond of puppies.
This little bundle of paws, promise and fluff is Bud, a foster that came to us last Saturday.

I was told by Nik we were his last resort, he had nowhere else to go but kennels. Keep in mind we're already fostering Digger, and my normal limit is one foster at a time.

Turns out Nikki volunteered for this one.

So I've been played.

Trouble is, it's just gone 7pm on a lovely spring Wednesday evening, I've spent the entire day working on the refit of my kitchen, and I'm now sat on the patio on an old sofa we're throwing out listening to the evening birdsong.

He crawls up with me and snuggles in and the heart melts. He's got huge paws and floppy ears and we've no idea what he is. Watching him grow up is going to be an adventure and a privilege, albeit for somebody other than me.

But he's terribly easy to fall in love with. They all are.

Hmm. The little monster has just eaten a hole in my fleece whilst I've been distracted typing this into my mobile....

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Mum's garden

The pear tree in mum's garden is in full blossom. It's been a lovely, blue sky sunny spring day.

I've spent it with Dad, ripping out my kitchen for a refit. Haven't seen much sun, but have been grateful for the lack of rain.

Sunday 13 April 2014

A little different from last Sunday


Has turned into a gorgeous day to be on the water, first day of the year in shorts.

Two races. Waiting on the results. First race went well. Second race Ben developed an unfortunate habit of bumping into things.

Did so many penalty turns, I'm still dizzy.

Sunshine and wind though, enough to get us up on the plane when the gusts came in. Lovely day's sailing.

Blue sky snooze

Thursday 10 April 2014


Looks like we might be in for a sunny drift on Sunday, if the weather
comes in as forecast.

On the bright side, that should stop the Lasers and, possibly, most of
the Solos in their tracks and give us a clear shot at a good result. On
the down side, I did really enjoy blasting about the lake in the gusts
of last week and would have been happy with the chance to do so again
this weekend.

Unfortunately, Hels is without the use of her hand following her
encounter with the Highfield lever last Sunday. Nasty bruising and
swelling, though nothing broken. So it seems pretty certain she'll not
be in a fit state to crew this weekend. Fortunately, Ben's still around,
so I can crew for Ben.

Assuming we get out on the water. Have got next week off work to do a
long-overdue refit on our kitchen. There is a small chance I may get
pressured into making a start on it over the weekend, which will absorb
Sunday. Trying to put it off till Monday, but we shall have to see.

The real pressure is having it done and dusted within the week, which is
a daunting deadline for my unpracticed hands.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Happiness is

That moment of exultation mid-way through the morning grind when you realise you still have a few jelly babies left in the packet from yesterday.

I would've photographed the jelly babies. But alas, they are now extinct.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Paradise lost

I love salt & vinegar crisps, but they always make my mouth blister. Never used to when I was younger; no idea why they do now, it's just one of those things I guess.

Yesterday afternoon, I succumbed, and ate a packet. Suffered for it for the rest of the day.

Was it worth it? I honestly don't know. But they were there, and I was hungry. Sometimes the little pleasures in life have to be worth a little suffering, I think.

I'm feeling victimised

Monday 7 April 2014

Nikki's birthday

Ben cooked us a lovely super. Entire family now sat around the table, telly off, dogs at feet, and Ben now thrashes us at Risk.

This is why we only play on special occasions!

A pocket full of rye

Sixpence has obviously had a good weekend, he's been outside my window
in full voice all morning.

Had a great day yesterday. Ben and Hels sailed Buffy for the first race,
and Hels insisted I took over as crew to sail with Ben for the second.
Whilst they were having their fun, I appropriated one of the Club's
safety boats and amused myself drifting around the lake taking photos.
Over the course of an hour's racing, filled up a 4gb SD card with about
250 snaps, so will hopefully have one or two in focus when I get a
chance to go through them. Which I didn't last night after I got home,
and won't this evening as it's Nik's birthday.

It was a squally, southwesterly F4, pretty much as predicted, but by and
large the rain which the forecast had also promised held off.

Ben and Hels did well, finishing a credible 5th place against against a
strong fleet in gusty, challenging conditions, and more to the point,
beating the other Enterprise "Ghost" fair and square into 6th place.

Returning to the lee shore, the main and jib halyards got tangled inside
the mast, preventing them from fully lowering the mainsail. The solution
to this is to release the tension on the jib halyard. Unfortunately, as
Hels released the highfield lever to do this, she caught her index
finger between it at the mast with the inevitably painful consequences.

Luckily no bones were broken, but the swelling and bruising was

After setting her up with an icepack, and making certain there were
people around on shore to keep an eye on her, Ben and I went to prep the
boat to launch for the second race. As I hauled up the mainsail, the
rope tail to the wire halyard snapped, dropping the sail and losing the
wire halyard up the mast.

We laid Buffy over on her side, walked the sail up the mast, then lashed
the head of the sail in place. We then got on the water and made it out
to the start line with mere seconds to spare. It made for an indifferent
start, and put us into the crowd at back half of the fleet for the
windward mark rounding.

The next mark was at the end of a deep, goosewinged run, hardening up
with a startboard rounding (ie. to the right) onto the next beat. There
are rules governing who has right of way at a mark rounding, largely
dictated by the position of the boats when they get to three boat
lengths from the bouy; who is overlapped by whom and where they are in
position relative to the mark we're all trying to round.

At three boat lengths, in the grip of a sudden gust and amidst lots of
shouting, we had "water" on most of the rather large crowd forming on
the outside of us, but it was questionable as to whether we had rights
over the boat leading them, a single-handed Comet sailed by Pete. I
could see Ben decide to sail it conservatively, clearly conscious he was
sailing his Dad's boat and not wanting to damage her with me watchin. He
moved out and away from the mark to slow our approach, slip in behind
Pete and make room for the Laser that had an inside overlap on us.

Unfortunately, Jon in the Laser on the inside of us, and with water on
us, but possibly not on Pete in the Comet, slid into the gap just as
Pete hardened up to round the mark. They colided, with Jon's mainsheet
wrapping itself around Pete's neck as the two boats tipped over, taking
out Roger in the Solo on the outside of them both as well, and leaving
us tearing down towards them all in the teeth of the gust without
anywhere seemingly to go but over them.

"Sheet in NOW!" Ben screamed, with a viscreal terror in his eyes as we
threw ourselves out to windward and hiked hard to flatten the boat. He
slipped her into the minute gap that was now opening up between Jon's
upturned hull and the mark that the wind was now pushing them all away from.

It worked, and we beat away from the tumble of boats, sparing only a
moment's glance over our shoulder at the mess and a wry, disbelieving
chuckle that we'd gotten out of the carnage unscathed.

Jon and Pete were still in the bushes of the shore a few boatlengths to
leeward of the mark with the safety boat in attendance when we came
round for the second lap. By the third however, they'd untangled
themselves from each other and the shrubbery and were back in the race.

We spent the next hour struggling against a couple of other Lasers and
trying to catch Geoff and Sue in "Ghost". The conditions were great, an
enthusiastic F4 holding reasonably steady in direction but carrying with
it some entertaining, energetic gusts. It made for hard, fully hiked
beats, and some exhilarating, planing reaches. We kept in contact with
Ghost through the rest of the race, generally closing up on the beats
then dropping back on the reach, and then almost caught them in the last
half of the final lap.

On the beat approaching the finish, Ben tacked away from them in a last
ditch effort and as we crossed the line, there was only the one gun. The
results eventually put us in 4th place to their 3rd, but there were mere
fractions of a second in it.

Jon in his Laser eventually finished 9th out of 11. Pete in the Comet
and Roger in the Solo involved in the tumble sadly retired from the
race, but only after a good fight to try and win their way back in.

After we packed the boats away, we retired to the Three Horseshoes with
Hels, her husband Matt and friends for a very pleasant supper before
heading home. Hels was looking significantly perkier after a couple of
glasses of wine, but I suspect that finger is going to be very sore for
a while.

Breakages, carnage and digital maimings aside, it was a brilliant day's

Saturday 5 April 2014

Another one down

Great night, fine way to finish a fine Saturday. It's not exactly rock 'n' roll, but I find myself quite looking forward to bed!

The waiting

Well, soundcheck went without a hitch. Bassist was very rude about my acoustic, said the electric was nice, will be nicer once I learn to play it.

Bassist is my brother
Have a lifetime's practice of parrying his goads with fraternal indifference.

Power is still on. We're on in twenty minutes. Love and hate this part. Want to play, but it's a unique hinterland, where everything is done, and there is nothing left but to chill until the opening.

We're down to one Enterprise. Penny had a bad winter. Lots of work needed to bring her back to shape, and I have too many other priorities on my time.

Think I'm going to let Ben sail my boat tomorrow. I want to sail, but I'll get almost as much from knowing he can, and knowing he'll love it as much.

Fourteen minutes till we open.

Sailing, earlier today

I love this photo for a number of reasons.

In the boat in front of us is my wife and my eldest son. Nikki doesn't sail, not in anything that has the slightest chance of tipping her in, anyway.

Today she and a friend did a sponsored capsize to raise money for some dogs the Rescue is working with.

All very noble.

But the thing I love in this picture, taken from my boat shortly after the capsize as we were reaching back and forth to let the auto bailers work their magic...

The smile on her face.

I think today she conquered a fear and caught a taste of why I'm so in love with the water and wind.

And she trusted our eldest boy, whom I in good part taught to sail, to look after her.

Very proud of him.

Tonight's venue

The Dolphin. Arrived to find the place looking shut. It wasn't, just the power out on the whole street. Came back on air ten minutes later.

Been off again since. Apparently was of earlier in the day as well.

"Don't worry" says Dave the Landlord, "Got a genny out back."

I'm not worried, we've got two acoustic guitars with us and the drums don't need power.

As long as he can keep the beer going, we can entertain his crowd.

Friday 4 April 2014

A change being as good as a rest

My wife brought me this guitar for my birthday, many years ago. Being an acoustic soul at heart, I've always been too afraid to use it live.

Tonight I played through the entire second set with it. Pleasantly surprised at how well it worked out.

However, I think that makes tonight the first night in over athird least a thousand gigs and twenty years plus of performing live that I've performed with an electric guitar.

And we're done!

Time to pack up and go home. Couple of beers, a bit of food then bed. Busy day ahead tomorrow.

Was a grand night tonight, though.

Jim (keys) & Bean (drums) waiting in the wings

The Lion

Soundcheck done, on in 20 minutes.

Sing a song of ......

Sixpence is back outside my window, serenading me again. Actually, I suspect he's more interested in singing to the ladies, but whatever. He's in fine voice.

Busy weekend coming up.

Ben (boy_v1) is home from Uni for his Easter break tonight. His Granddad has volunteered to pick him up as I've got a gig straight after work.

Four new songs to put into the set tonight. About three more introductions to the repertoire than I'd normally allow at any one time, so we'll have to see how that goes. It's a friendly, regular venue though, so the audience should be forgiving.

Tomorrow I'm going to have my first capsize of the year. Intentionally. A friend and colleague we work with in the dog rescue is raising funds for some Romainian puppies she's trying to save, so is doing a month of sponsored dares. She's never been sailing before, let alone capsized, so that's been picked for one of them.

As it happens, there's a beginner's sailing course running at the Club as well at the moment (Adult RYA Level 2) , this will be their second day. So I've arranged to borrow one of their training boats and give
them a capsize and recovery demonstration. All works out rather well. Though it's inescapable that I'm going to get cold and wet.

Then another gig tomorrow night, another friendly, regular venue, so quite looking forward to it. Actually, I look foward to all my gigs regardless. Nice to have two in a weekend though.

Then, of course, we're sailing on Sunday. Heavy rain, a stiff F4 south-westerly. Should be fantastic fun! And very likely, given how out of practice I've undoubtedly become, we'll be capsizing some more.

Naturally, I can't wait.

Meet my new friend, Sixpence

I love the Internet. Bereft of inspiration but beginning to feel a
little rude in only referring to my friend as "Blackbird" this far into
our new aquaintance, I started poking around in Google. So I've
christened him Sixpence, after the song of the same name and in memory
of his four and twenty less fortunate brothers that didn't escape the
attentions of the baker; albeit I understand they came through their
ordeal none the worse for the experience in the end.

In hunting for inspiration for a name, I came across a poem by a poet
I've not read before. It's very evocative of where I live, here in the
West Country of the UK.


Yes, I remember Adlestrop --
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop -- only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Edward Thomas, 1917

Blackbird hunting

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footsteps.

I finally remembered my camera today, just in case my new friend shows up again. Used to take this thing almost everywhere with me, but the resolution in camera phones these days are such that I almost never bother anymore, even if the lens and software of my mobile will never match a DSLR.

Plus mobiles are instant. Take a snap, maybe tweak the levels or crop or straighten immediately after, then post to here and/or Facebook and it's done.

There is an honesty in an image like that which is almost poetry in itself, in my opinion.

But the real trump card for my mobile is that it's waterproof and always with me. The Pentax isn't.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Snooze mode

For some reason, my daughter says that Boo reminds her of a dragon when he's sleeping ....

Was beginning to worry about him

But my mate the blackbird is back, on top of the hawthorn again, singing
his little heart out. Hadn't seen or heard from him all week, so was
beginning to wonder what had become of him.

I've discovered our friend is a "he". "She" blackbirds aren't actually
black, who would've known?

Apparently, the males establish their breeding territory during their
first year, and hold it throughout their lives, defending it each year
from spring through till around July. My friend is probably over a
couple of years old, as his wings are jet black; apparently in their
first year, they still retain the juvenile dull brown colour.

So that means the little fellow isn't new to the hawthorn, only that
I've just noticed him this year.

The oldest known backbird recorded was, I read, 21 years and 1 month,
but the average lifespan is closer to 3 to 4 years, with this time of
year being the most vulnerable for him. The RSPB site tells me that over
half of blackbird deaths occur between March and June.

I'll keep my fingers crossed for the little guy.

The mark rounding from hell: last Sunday

The photo was taken from the shore by my friend and fellow Frampton club
member, Ken Elsey, and blatantly stolen by me without his permission,
though I'm sure he won't mind. It was from the third race last Sunday,
and was taken at the leeward mark rounding.

I love the photo because it so neatly captures one of the more
entertaining moments of Sunday's racing.

This particular course, and this specific rounding, was the horrific
invention of a clearly twisted mind. The early laps (and, it being only
a half hour race, all the laps were early laps!) saw the entire fleet
have to take it to starboard, for the leaders only to then find
themselves then facing into the bank and blocked by the far pontoon,
with no choice but to tack away and find themselves on a port tack
trying to cross the rest of the fleet that were still on starboard and
charging downwind towards the mark.

It made for some interesting moments. Probably best described as

This particular race is the one where we'd been ambushed at the start by
that Laser, so were quite far back in the pack - we're the second set of
blue sails, middle of the picture somewhat hidden behind the big Rooster
rig of the Laser in front of us.

[note the artistic licence in the writing: the Officer of the Day that
set this particular course isn't really horrific and twisted in his mind
or otherwise. In fact, he's one of the more decent and upstanding
citizens it's my pleasure to know]