Sunday 25 May 2014

Camp Gribble

Well, it ain't Fowey, but it'll do. Dad's tent to the left, mine to the right, Ben is sleeping in the boot of the car.

Next job, retire to the pub for supper. Then back to the lakeside to spend the rest of the night around a campfire with my guitar and Mum's last box of red wine.


Thursday 22 May 2014

On the Wings of a Dragonfly; Mum

Late in the evening of Tuesday 20th May, Mum passed away after a sudden, brief and unexpected illness. We were there with her at the end, held her, told her how much we loved her; still she slipped away. 

To all things, their time.

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, 
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight? 
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well. 

Henry Scott Holland

Wednesday 21 May 2014

The waiting

Done now.

All plans have gone awry. How brutal and swift life can change. Things you knew were fragile but in your heart always thought were eternal are swept from your grasp before your uncomprehending eyes.

It has been a hard night. The picture is my view of the room I spent most of it in. I never forget the moment of a photo. Hope was still briefly alive for a short while in this room, and I don't want to lose that.

Though at the moment it was taken, hope had already fled. I just hadn't discovered that yet. Unbeknownst, the messenger of its demise was just walking through the door.

The world changed tonight. Or, at least, ours did.

A barely adolescent poem, read some time after it's writing, at my Gran's funeral many years ago:

Loves lost
Loves found
Loves gained without a sound
Loved dying
Friendships gone
Love me tender
'cross distance long

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Tuesday 20th

Thoughts are with the families and crew of the Cheeki Rafiki. Hoping against hope, but others have managed a lot longer than 20 hours adrift and yet come back. For those in peril on the sea.

Thoughts are with Webb Chiles, a lovely man, as generous with his words as he is eloquent. In a very short while he casts off on the first leg of his sixth solo circumnavigation of the world aboard his 24' yacht, GANNET.

Thoughts are with Phil Kirk, a friend and an inspirational dinghy sailor who in just over a week's time launches from Thornbury Sailing Club on the Severn in an attempted circumnavigation of the UK with his friend and crewmate Jeremy Warren aboard Jeremy's Wayfarer, Hafren.

I've restrung the Spanish, it holds its tune and fits in the drybag, and though the nylon strings, thick neck and weathered polish feel quite strange and clumsy in my hands, I figure I can compenstate for that with ale when we're in Cornwall. The Tak can stay behind and remain safe and sound on her guitar stand at the office. I've not played a nylon strung guitar in quite some time, though that was what I started out with. Suprisingly enjoyed the process of restringing her.

Monday 19 May 2014

Doesn't spoil her elegant lines at all :)

Final Dress Rehearsal

The question

Picked up a 110 litre dry bag for little money from Go Outdoors on Sunday morning. Delighted to have found out today that it fits a whole guitar.

Only question now is whether I take my Takemine, pictured above, or the el cheapo beat up old Spanish guitar I've been saving for trips away like this.

The  Tak, though now gigged out and no longer up to the demands of the stage, is pretty, a delight to play and sounds gorgeous unamped, as of course we will be this weekend.

The old Spanish is a rough old thing, reglued back together, and may not even hold its tune.

On the other hand, if anything happened to the Tak, I'd be sad. I'd be sad to damage the Spanish, but it wouldn't be quite so hard.

Escape plan

This weekend was non-stop. Not all bad, as most of the non-stop was on the water.

Don't actually remember Friday, but Saturday morning I got to the Club early to help Dad out with Sailability; the preceding photos were posted from there, whilst we were still out on the water, lovely thing, technology.

Dad wryly noted that you can always tell when we've overloaded Ondine with crew, because the water comes in through the scuppers. But they were a lovely crew, the morning was bright sun and gentle wind, so Ondine was more than up to the load.

We also managed to get a tent to fit aboard her, so accommodation for next weekend is now sorted.

The Club had an Open Day on the Saturday, so after Sailability, I spent the rest of the day helping out in the Club boats, taking visitors out on the water and introducing them to sailing. Always fun and endlessly rewarding, but exhausting. That evening, on getting home, Nikki and I went out to play skittles. Never played skittles before in my life, or had the inclination to do so, but it was a fundraising event for a couple of friends from karate who have been selected to fight in the FEKO European Championships.

Whilst I did look forward to the evening's company, I didn't expect to enjoy the game quite as much as I did.

Sunday, of course, was racing. Glorious weather, warm sunshine and a gusty, shifty north-westerly F4. Hels had been out all morning helping with the race training mob, so managed the first race but then was struck down with a crippling headache and nausea. A touch of heat stroke and dehydration, I suspect.

She manfully managed to finish the first race with me, then I left her in the care of her husband and some of the ladies ashore and, fortunately, found a replacement crew for the remaining two races, so all was not lost.

I'm being somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I'm not that heartless. Hels was okay, in good hands, and would have been mortified had I not continued to race. It hurt to go on without here, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

And now I'm being flippant, so I'll stop.

Once the sailing was done, I then had just under a couple of hours on the road, delivering a sack of dog food to some of our rescue dogs currently in kennels out towards Swindon. Spent a while with them whilst I was there, as I hadn't actually met them before.

Luna and Stan. Lovely creatures. A little worn and battered by life so far, but they're going to be fine.

Four very busy days at the office now, then I bunk off Friday to head down to Fowey with Dad for a long weekend. Vaguely anxious as to how Nik will cope with the dogs without me, though I continually underestimate her, and I'm sure she'll be fine. Vaguely anxious how Dad will cope with living outdoors for four days if the weather turns inclement. But I continually underestimate him, and we can always find a pub for shelter. I'm sure we'll be fine.

From our last trip to Fowey, back in 2011, we'll be launching from here and staying on this pontoon overnight for three nights:

Hopefully the weather will be a little brighter than it was back in 2011:

But who really cares about the weather when you can finish each day with a view like this:

Friday 16 May 2014


Just watched a buzzard circling in a the thermal from the heat rising
off the road running along Chalford Valley, just beyond Sixpence's
hawthorn. I love buzzards. I used to fly gliders, before I returned to
sailing. The two disciplines have much in common, and, in a purely
viscreal sense, offer similar gratification.

The photo above was from an early winter flight, November 2005, just
north of the airfield at Aston Down where the gliding club was
conveniently based (just over the side of the valley from here - I still
see the gliders from my office window during the summer when the wind is
in the south)

I remember once, quite vividly, sharing a thermal with a buzzard.
Sentimenal fool that I am, I found it an especially moving experience.
It's been years since I last strapped myself into a sailplane. I still
miss it, far more than I'll ever miss smoking, which I quit just before
I stopped flying. But whilst I never intended to quit gliding forever,
only pause a small while, I couldn't now give up sailing to return to it.

And even I am a realist enough to recognise there's really not room in
my life for both. At least not at the moment.

The words below were written about six months before the above picture
was taken, following that flight where I met the buzzard. The poem sits
in a dusty corner of an old, all but forgotten website I set up pretty
much at the dawn of the Internet, along with a collection of other
scribblings. A handy place to keep such things.

Part of the charm of a photograph, for me, is that I can take in hand
nearly any picture I've ever taken, and the second I look at the image,
I'm immediately returned in vivid detail to the moment of capture. My
memory can otherwise be pretty shakey in many respects, history and
sequence tends to blur if not totally fade through my obsessionwith the
present and whatever's in front of me now. But when looking at a photo
I've taken, the moment of its creation and the situation surrounding
seems to always returns in crystaline, gorgeous clarity.

Before the very recent dawn of digital photography, when film was too
prohibitively expensive for me and photographs too delicate and easy to
loose, poetry and songwriting served much the same purpose, I think, and
still have the same effect of recall.


The Buzzard

Passing two thousand.

My palm sweats, my arm aches
The perspex filtered sun sears my brow,
Then falls shaded by the cloud once again
As my thermalling turn carries me round.

Two five.

Turbulent core; breathe, remember to breathe
As I trim out the ache in my arm; my arm aches
With the strain. Then the sun breaks, again
Spilling out from the shadow of clouds.

Passing three thousand.

Keep my look out, glance up, scan around,
But the sucking sky seems alone mine. Circling still
I guide the sailplane up through the thermic rise
In an epiphany of solitude and rushing air. Ecstatic am I
Don't stir the stick, damn you! coordinate and fly;
For me the bubbling sky is alive.

Passing four thousand.

Almost there now; the heavens are kind
My wing-tip dipping the glowering clouds down reaching.
And the sun momentarily breaks through a veil of haze from behind
Framing the buzzard, outstretched and effortless, a silhouette soaring.

Four five.

My palm sweats, my arm aches
The rudder pedals clumsy beneath my feet; the stick stirring.
He glances at me across our mutual circle, an indifferent avian eye
Not judging and yet in grace am I found wanting; but I do not mind.

This heaven is his kingdom, his bubbling sky;
And I, however familiar or frequent a privileged stranger
Am and shall remain but a stranger,
A flattered guest in his airy domain.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Block commentary

Forget teaching the world to sing in prefect harmony. I'd just dearly love to teach the multitude the beauty and coherence of a well formed paragraph.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Said window

And the view from my desk. Yes, that is a chart of the estuary acting as an unintentional table cloth beneath the errant pile of paperwork that I've still not filed.

I like it there. Keeps me reminded of other ambitions beyond these four walls.


There was me, saying yesterday I hadn't seen Sixpence in the hawthorn since it had come into leaf. And here I find him this morning through the window as I walk into my office, sitting fat and happy on a blossom-frosted bough, enjoying the spring sunshine.

Monday 12 May 2014


Sixpence's hawthorn has erupted with blossom over the last few days. Haven't seen him sat in it since the tree first came into leaf, but do regularly see him through the day foraging for worms on the grass in front of the Mill.

I presume this is because he has the demands of feeding a young family to meet.

Good for him.

Sailing was a blast yesterday. Both races saw me make appalling starts, and I mean appalling; of the kind of quality not seen from me in years.

Survived both though, and managed not to fall out of the boat during the penalty turns that followed, though did get dizzy. Didn't actually hit anyone, at least I don't think I did, but did end up being fended off from the committee boat by a bemused Race Committee in the second race. Not one of my more glorious moments!

The starts were reflected in our results, to which I'll never again make further reference.

The sailing was brilliant though, and despite the odds, we didn't tip in. Though plenty of others did.

[edit: fixed typo that originally read "Sailing was a boat yesterday", blasted predictive text on my mobile chipping in to help!]

Sunday 11 May 2014

Home at last

Exhausted, but a good night's work. A short while to wind down with a book and a glass or two, then bed.

Haven't checked the latest forecast. Think I'll just look out the window in the morning.

Saturday 10 May 2014


First set done. Lovely, friendly folks in the crowd. It's apparently not a 60th Birthday, but an end of 50's party. The birthday girl, Anne, is 60 tomorrow, and clearly young with it.

As I kind of expected, I'm feeling better now than I have all day. The bite was only my fault, by the way. Jack and Digger are both lovely creatures, they just have a few small issues with each other. I knew that, but let my attention slip for a second.

I should know better. A slip of a second is all it takes.

I should perhaps go dose up on some more ibuprofen. But I feel fine for the moment, and never really feel the pain when I'm playing. Think I'll save it for later. I shall probably need it later.

Then again, I have three quarters of a bottle of red wine waiting for me when I get home.

Looking forward to racing tomorrow. This morning I actually thought I might have to call it. But like gigging, the pain is always muted when I'm sailing. Think it's going to be fine.

A little stiff and bruised

But it seems my fingers can still dance over the fretboard. Well, as well as they ever do, anyway.

So we're all good. On in two.


All set, on in about fifteen.

60th Birthday Party tonight

Guests arrive in 45 minutes. Plenty of time to set up and soundcheck.

A pretty spot for an unplanned dip

A day for keeping the sails furled

Lovely morning

Friday 9 May 2014

Almost to the weekend

Looks like it might get a little frisky on the water this coming Sunday.

Two races planned, first starts at 2pm. Can't wait. Hels, my usual
crew, is back with me if all goes to plan. We've not sailed together in
an age; I'm out of practice with the blustery stuff and she's going to
be out of practice generally. Must be very careful not to break her, but
it should otherwise be fun.

Need to replace the burgee at the top of the mast that we lost in the
mud during the heavy weather at the beginning of this year. Probably
just as well I haven't replaced it yet. Will leave it till after the
weekend now, I think. I'm expecting a capsize or two. Though they're
becoming much more infrequent these days.

Agreed with Dad that I'd help him out with Sailability tomorrow morning,
then once we were done, we could look at fitting a tent to the
Drascombe. We're away to Fowey for four days at the end of the month,
and intend to sleep on the boat, so a boat tent is pretty critical.

Can't wait. A little apprehensive about essentially living in an open
boat for four days this early in the year. If it's a wet weekend, life
could turn pretty miserable. On the other hand, I picked up a slight
sunburn sailing last Sunday, so it could equally be quite glorious.

Sailability of course conflicts with the two hours of training at karate
I was supposed to be doing tomorrow. It's fairly important, actually I
think probably critical, if I'm to have any hope of making the grading
in July. Much as I'd really like to, it's looking less and less likely.
I've only got myself to blame, too many other commitments this time of year.

It's been two years since my last grading. I guess another year of
practice won't hurt.

And with a gig tomorrow evening, the weekend is shaping up to be
anything but dull.

Monday 5 May 2014

Meeting Oscar

This is Guinness's little brother, Oscar, saying hello to Budd. Oscar is pretty sure he's a GSD himself. Budd is just slightly bemused to finally meet somebody shorter than him.

The verdant field was awash with wildflowers. This is a lovely time of year.


Met this young man, Guinness, today along with his pack-mate Oscar. Their mum, Maria, is thinking of adopting Budd, one of our foster dogs, so took him for a walk with them over the fields at Frampton so they could meet.

Lovely day for a stroll.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Sunday lunch in the sun

Fuel for the two races to follow this afternoon.

An utterly gorgeous day

Wind is a complete lottery. Spun 180 degrees ten seconds before the start, caused absolute pandemonium.

Lovely being back on the water though.

Thursday 1 May 2014


Don't really understand how the boy could be so tired. Every Wednesday is the same.

Nik works Wednesday afternoons, so Sam has always walked to his Gran's after school on a Wednesday and I've picked him up after work

He's old enough now to just go home and let himself in, but he likes visiting his grandparents, so the tradition continues.

But clearly the conversation is lacking, because of late whenever I pick him up, he's asleep on the floor.

To be fair, I doubt it's the company. Harry is always great fun, and nobody sleeps around Lil.

I think it's just an odd teenage thing. A week of early nights are clearly needed.

Made a start tonight, and sent him to bed an hour ago.

He seemed grateful. I felt jealous.