Tuesday 24 December 2019

Freefall: the empty stage

The empty stage, awaiting the band a few minutes before we go on; it was our final gig of the year last Friday. It was another good one.

We are now stopped for Christmas, the guitarist and drummer both have young families and will spend it with them. Not very rock and roll, but truth be told, I'm quite happy for the break too. I shall spend it with my own family, except for an hour or two on Boxing Day and New Year's Day respectively, when I shall spend it racing the Laser on the lake at Frampton.

I was listening to Frank Turner in the car this morning. I've shared his music here before. My daughter introduced me to his work, and I've been quite hooked ever since. I'd quite like to include a song of his in the band's set one day. He is the kind of artist that leaves me with regret that I don't write my own anymore, and wondering if I still could.

Perhaps sometime I might try. Meanwhile, I thought I'd share another one of his.

Monday 23 December 2019

no man is an island

Another happy discovery for me. Apparently this was 2012? The more I wander, the more it becomes apparent I've been living under a rock.

rainbows and showers

Sunday, of course, was the winter solstice. It was a day of rainbows and showers. Not at all cold, but very squally.

From here on, the weather may still get colder, but at least the days will slowly get longer. I don't mind the rain, the wind, the snow or even the cold of winter. But I'm no fan of long, dark nights. 

The sun didn't come up until 0815 this morning, and will set this evening at 1601.

Calstar: comfort of a lock gate

Dad and I went down to check on Calstar this weekend. As the weather was too rough to sail, we didn't bother going down straight after the gig Friday night, but hit the road first thing Saturday morning. Or would've done, except Dad overslept. So it was more of a second thing.

Apparently, since he retired back in April, he's not been setting an alarm in the morning any more and instead just letting the daylight wake him up.

The boat was fine, all the lines still attached, although from the bits and pieces we picked up off the cabin floor it was clear things had been a little bit bumpy over the last few weeks. We'll be moving her into Sutton Harbour as of next April; literally next door, but sheltered behind a lock gate, which will put Dad's mind much more at ease.

It's nowhere near the same inconvenience as the locks at Portishead or Cardiff. Sutton Harbour's lock is left on free-flow for around three hours either side of high tide, and when it's not, it operates on demand 24/7, 364 days a year. Apparently, they take Christmas Day off.

Thinking about the year to come, I'd like to explore a little more with Calstar; we've spent the last couple of years essentially pottering between familiar ports, being completely unadventurous, but there are lots of other options, smaller harbours and beaches to anchor off.

The Scilly Isles seem a little out of reach, given the limited amount of time I can get off work at the moment. And I'm not sure Dad or Nik would necessarily appreciate the amount of time or sailing involved to reach them. But I do wonder if the Channel Islands might not be a little more achievable this year.

Guernsey is about 80 miles from Plymouth. About 20 hours of sailing in Westerly Griffon terms.

Friday 20 December 2019

thought(s) for the day

Sorry, still on a political theme. Can't quite seem to break free of it. Christmas is coming though; perhaps sinking myself into a haze of inactivity, rich food and far too much alcohol will do the trick.

Meanwhile, this line made me chuckle:

"I thought my opinion of David Cameron was immovable – that he was a terrible prime minister. His autobiography For the Record made me appraise him anew. I can now add “grasping, desperate shell of a human who exists in a moral vacuum”." -- Adam Kay, Books that made me (Guardian website)

Currently listening to Lana Del Ray on Spotify; just a random whim. Had expected to get bored quite quickly and move on, but find myself surprisingly quite charmed.

The photo at the top was the sky out of my office window late yesterday afternoon. It was calm down here in the shelter of the valley where the office is, but above, the clouds were charging across from one side of the valley to the other. It was the unusual mammatus cloud formations however that really caught our eye, and the gorgeous late winter afternoon light slanting through the valley beneath the racing clouds.

The second photo is a snap of next year's plan. I only took it last night to send to Nik to remind her what days to book off if she wants to come sailing with me. But came across it as I was searching out the first photo just now, and the promising chaos of the month it depicts made me chuckle.

One day I shall have time to just sail. Or just gig. Or just walk the dogs. Or, um. Well, I guess no, there lies the problem. There are too many things to do, and not enough time to do them all as intensely as they all beg to be done.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to specialise?

Tuesday 17 December 2019


This last week, aside from just getting on with life, I've been listening to a lot more music than usual and not listening to the news. It's been a comfort.

It occurs to me that I don't actually listen to a lot of music. I play a lot, obviously. I play a lot of the same, I suspect. I've effectively created my own bubble. Perhaps that is an inevitable risk of growing older, but I take comfort and inspiration from the few friends I have older than me that have clearly found a way past this trap.

Picking random playlists off Amazon Music to listen to in the car and on my headphones at work has been a refreshing adventure.

It's been a busy weekend. A mad, frantic, lively gig Friday evening at The White Swan in Downend, Bristol made for a promising start.

Then up early Saturday morning and running around town doing "stuff" for my wife. I don't even remember what now, but it I think it involved shopping. Saturday evening was our Company's annual Christmas party; ate well, drank too much and then stayed over at the Frogmill Hotel in Andoversford. A lovely place, and a good evening had with good friends.

Sunday morning got up early, showered off the hangover, skipped the hotel breakfast to drop Nikki back home and then headed straight back out and down to South Cerney Sailing Club to race for a couple of hours, crewing for my friend Mark in his Albacore. Both his crew and mine are currently injured and resting. At least we still have each other.

The sailing was very good, nice lively wind and a big fleet out on the water for SCSC's last race of the season.

Got home Sunday afternoon just in time to head straight back out for another gig at The Old Neighbourhood in Chalford, just outside Stroud. This one was unexpected; we got a message Wednesday evening asking if there was the slightest hope we might be available, and by lucky chance we were.

A lovely early Sunday evening crowd, and a quite different mood to Saturday night in Bristol. Some faces we knew well, some fresh faces we'd never met before. The perfect way to finish off the weekend.

I came across a gorgeous song that popped up on whatever Amazon playlist I was listening too as I drove into work this morning. It perfectly caught my current mood. "Pictures" by somebody called Benjamin Francis Leftwich, apparently released in 2011, although he has until now completely passed me by.

Which is a loss, now remedied, but no surprise. As I said, I don't listen to enough music.

"If you are afraid, don't be / I have the whole thing planned" - Benjamin Francis Leftwich, 2011

Friday 13 December 2019

politics, a footnote

The Internet is a cool thing. Whatever your thoughts or feelings, you rarely have to look far to find somebody that will speak for them, even when you feel you cannot. A random New Zealander's post pretty much sums up my thoughts and feeling on what happened in the UK last night, so I thought I'd share it.

But first, for the sake of context, a small confession: I've never been exactly apolitical, but over the last few months I've allowed myself get drawn much further in to both local and national politics, to the point that I've been actively campaigning for our local Labour candidate in this last election.

We lost, and although that's a bitter pill, it's a small thing compared to the overall disaster of last night for the country as a whole.

On the other hand, I could be wrong. I know a lot of people, some of whom I love dearly, who sit on opposite sides of the political divide, and who cannot conceive that there could be any other truth than their own. I'd like to hope that this is not me; I think I believe that truth is relative to where you stand, and the experiences that brought you there. Your truth may not be mine, but that makes it no less valid.

Although it is hard, sometimes very hard, not to make a moral judgement about another's truth when you find that it's so diametrically opposed to your own.

If politics isn't your thing, and right now I can't blame you, I urge you not to bother with the following link, otherwise I think it sums up perfectly what I think just happened to my country: leftinnewzealand.wordpress.com

And instead move straight on to this lovely song by Frank Turner, which I also felt compelled to share, as beyond the above, it sums up the balance of my thoughts and feelings on this grim morning that has followed the night before:

Thursday 5 December 2019

Albacore: undercover blues

The boat cover for our new boat is very torn, which was pointed out when bought the boat; torn to the point that it's almost not worth bothering. So first job Monday morning was to order a new one. Glorious thing, the Internet. The chandler's website, an online company I've used for years called TridentUK.com, suggested it might be five days in the delivery, so I was quite pleasantly surprised to see it arrive Wednesday morning.

Took an extended lunch break to nip down to the club which is only twenty minutes down the road from the office, making it about ten minutes closer than Frampton. Changed the covers over, only to discover the straps on the new one are only about two thirds of the necessary length, despite it being a cover advertised as specifically for my class of boat.

It was exceptionally frustrating. The old cover, torn yet further by the manhandling, is back on the boat for all the little good it'll do, and the new one is on its way back to the chandler for adjustment. They'll have it fixed and back to me by next week they promise; their returns policy and procedures are very good, but all the same, it's frustrating. Very frustrating.

The weather forecast is appalling for the weekend. 30mph winds expected for Sunday at South Cerney, and up to F10 down on the south coast. Dad and I have postponed our trip down to Calstar until later in the month, when we'll hope for something kinder. We'll probably get snow.

It's not the kind of weather to take a new dinghy out for her maiden voyage in either, even if it is within the relative safe confines of a lake. I could go race the Laser at Frampton, but I'm all excited about the new boat at the moment. So I'll content myself with simply rigging the Alabcore on Sunday, checking everything goes together and all the controls work.

However, my friend New Boy (his nickname, not his description) has asked me to crew for him in his, so I should get a couple of races in anyway.

In somebody else's boat. Always my favourite kind of heavy weather capsizing. Sorry, I mean sailing.

He's also offered to lend me the old cover for his own Albacore until my new one arrives, which is very kind.

Wednesday 4 December 2019


As of last weekend, we have ourselves a new boat to play with. An Albacore, we collected her from Lyme Regis on the south coast Sunday and delivered her straight to the club at South Cerney. Rigging a mast on an unfamiliar dinghy in the dark and with frost on the ground was entertaining. As was finding her allocated berth in club grounds that are still so new as to be equally unfamiliar.

I'm hoping to stay sober enough on the evening of Saturday 14th (work's Christmas party) to be able to get to the Club and race her on Sunday the 15th. Or at least work out how to rig her properly and get her out on the water to play.


“I never weary of great churches. It is my favourite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday 19 November 2019

of two gigs, a cold, a drift and an overrun

Friday 15th & Saturday 16th: two gigs. Feeling distinctly under the weather, so skipped karate Saturday morning. The worry with a cold isn't the discomfort or fatigue, just that if it goes to my chest and develops into a cough, it strips out my voice. An hour of heavy exercise always seems to encourage that, even if I'll otherwise feel better for it afterwards, so I stayed home Saturday morning instead and lazed around the house until it was time to head down to Bristol for the second gig.

Sunday 17th: sailing. Two races, crewing for Barry in his Albacore. It was an absolute drift when I arrived. The lake was still mirror smooth when we launched. And then, as if by magic, the wind filled in. Not by much, but enough to keep us moving. 24 boats on the line for the first race, and we botched the start, getting caught over and having to go back around the Committee Boat. We were saved by an early tack onto port towards an empty right hand side of the course and clean air, and clawed our way back through the fleet to finish a credible 4th.

Only 20 boats for the second race, but we got a much better start, leading the fleet around the windward mark, and extending our lead to finish 1st, beating the second boat, another Albacore, by 7 seconds. That was our best result so far, and might be the last time I sail with Barry for a while as I'm racing at Frampton next Sunday (or will be away with Dad and Calstar) and the Sunday after am travelling down to Lyme Regis with Amanda to look at an Albacore we're thinking of buying for ourselves.

I got home Sunday afternoon to find our daughter Tash had decided to pay us a visit. Nik had a short shift at the shop that evening, so it fell to me to cook supper for us all. The only complaint was that I should've cooked more. Apparently it's not enough to simply double up when the recipe is for two and you've got to feed four. Appropriate portion sizes are not my family's strong point.

Tuesday 19th: as of now, at home waiting for the fitter to arrive to start on our bathroom. His last job has over-run and so we've so far lost a day and a half. He said this morning he'd be here for around lunch time. Which is about now. Of the dogs, Boo (the blond, slightly anxious fur-child) was dropped off at my in-laws this morning; they're dog-sitting him this week and next and, surprisingly, seemed utterly delighted when I dropped him off. The other two are with me and I've promised them a walk, but we can't go till the fitter has got here and we've settled him in.

Lilly and Jack are not impressed.

Friday 15 November 2019

of first snow & a lazy Friday

Yesterday. It fell overnight on the hills, but the temperature had warmed back up above zero by the time I drove into the office around 0800, and the snow had turned to heavy rain washing it all away. Winter is nipping at our heels.

It was a cold, wet gloaming of a late autumn morning. The forecast suggests it will dry up for the weekend, windy tonight and tomorrow morning, then calm for Sunday. When, of course, I go sailing. Typical.

I have today off work so I'm sat at my desk at home drinking a leisurely cup of tea at 0730 when I'd normally be hustling to get out the door and on the way to the office. It's not unpleasant.

The excuse, if one is needed: delivery of a new bathroom that's getting fitted next week this morning, an early gig over in Cheltenham later this afternoon. Could've just gone in late and snuck out early, but seemed simpler and more honest to take the day as a holiday.

Monday 11 November 2019

Calstar: June 2018

Note that the post that follows was written in June 2018, and has been languishing in my "Drafts" folder ever since. Why I never finished or published it I don't know; too many other distractions I imagine.

I was just going to delete it, but reading through put a smile on my face, and in two days time Calstar will have been ours for five years; we bought her 13th November 2014.

Time has flown. We've had a few good trips out with her this year, but not as many as I'd wanted. Band commitments, more than anything else, really get in the way. By the end of this year we will have done 41 gigs; a little down on 2018 and 2017, but not by much. I guess the real difference is that she's now two and a half hours down the motorway in Plymouth. A five or six hour round trip does limit the day sailing opportunities somewhat.

There is always a small temptation to bring her back to Cardiff or Portishead. But then we wouldn't have adventures like the Fowey and Falmouth I write about below. Another reason to share an old, unpublished post, instead of just hitting the delete button.

Ten days away on a boat and only four days sailing is a little bit shocking by my usual standards, but is about the pace we usually end up setting when Nik joins us, and admittedly is a pace Dad's really very comfortable with these days.

Remember what I said about journeys and destinations?

It was always our intention to loiter in Fowey for the first weekend. It was the 8th annual British Moth "Sea Championships". That has to be taken a little bit tongue-in-cheek. The Moths have always been an easy going, humorous fleet, at least those I've associated with, and the British Moth being a definite inland boat originally intended to catch the light, fickle airs between the high-sided banks of a river, a salt water event is always going to be amusing.

I'm not sure it's actually a part of their official calendar, though I might be wrong.

In any case, I raced at the first, those many years ago, and have been to each since, with the exception of two. So the intention was always to make this one and catch up with old friends.

In return for taking him out for a a crash course in asymmetrics with his Topper 14 on Saturday, New Boy even lent me his Moth so I could  join in with the racing on Sunday afternoon whilst Nik "went shopping". I didn't do too badly, all things considered. And it was a great reminder of what I love about these boats; close racing, fun to sail, and they try to kill you if it gets too windy.

I might even have managed to secure the loan of a boat for their Nationals later this year. But we'll see, much as I'd dearly love the chance to race at the Nationals again, I won't hold Gary to that.

We ate ashore at the Fowey Gallants on Friday night, had the skinniest grilled mackerel in the world at The Galleon on Saturday night; my favourite Fowey pub, beer and view highly recommended, food not so much.

Friday night we spent on the pontoon at Berril's Yard. Easy access to the shore, and (and this was the clincher for Dad) shore power available for £2.50 a night, the theory is you're not supposed to be on the pontoon before 1600 and off again by 1000. So Saturday 1000 we duly moved off and over to one of the floating island pontoons on the other side of the river, intending move back later in the afternoon.

By lunchtime somebody had beaten us to it, with another yacht rafted up to them, and everybody settled in for the night. The two hour restriction that's supposed to apply between 0800 and 1800 isn't particularly enforced by the Harbour Master (as one of the harbour patrol cheerfully confirmed to us the following morning). The deal seems to be get on as soon as you can, and if you're willing to pay the extra for a shore-connected pontoon, stay there.

Dad elected to relax aboard Saturday, so I ferried Nik to shore in the tender. We timed our return to the boat later that afternoon disastrously, the heavens opened and she and I got an absolute soaking.

To avoid the perils of my ferrying both Dad and Nik back to the boat drunk and in the dark on Saturday night, we forked out a fiver each for the Water Taxi to ferry us across and back. We ate (in my case the afore mentioned skinny mackerel) on the patio of the Galleon and, just as we finished our food, the wind suddenly started whipping down the harbour, heavens opened up once again, and we were treated to the unexpected twenty minute spectacle of an almighty thunder storm battering Fowey.

And better to watch it from the pub than the boat, we all agreed.

The following evening, the boat back on the shore power on the Berril's Yard Pontoon, we ate with the Moths at the Rashliegh Arms looking over the beach at Polkerris. A lovely pub in a lovely setting with lovely company. And lovely food and lovely beer.

It was a still, hazy evening. Would've been perfect for sailing around and anchoring off for the night. A note to keep that in mind for the next time.

The passage from Fowey to Falmouth, and perhaps the lunchtime meal and beer we awarded ourselves with at a harbour-side pub on arrival, wiped Dad out. So Monday evening, Nik and I left him snoozing on the boat and snuck up to Falmouth town for romantic meal for two. I can't remember the last time we did that. After some time spent walking and down the main street trying to decide where to eat, we settled on a South African restaurant called Amanzi. The food was delicious.

On Tuesday, Dad suggested we revisit an old favourite for lunch, The Pandora Inn in Restrongeut. Whilst I was still pondering over tide tables, trying to decide where to drop anchor and ferry the crew in by tender, Dad summarily cut through the logistics and booked the Falmouth Water Taxi to take us.

We enjoyed a couple of hours, and a couple of pints or so, on the pontoon outside the pub before the taxi returned to ferry us back.

Tuesday evening we ate at a restaurant called The Bosuns Mate. One of the specials was a hand made steak burger plus a pint for a mere £7. I don't really do burgers if I have any choice so opted for the fish, but did volunteer to take care of the pint for Nikki. At that price, I wasn't expecting much of the burger (a beer alone was £4.50) but was, hands down, very impressed at what actually turned up on Nik's plate.

Mind you, the fish I'd opted for was also good.

Wednesday was a rain day. We stayed on the boat and read. It really wasn't such a bad deal at all, very relaxing. I got a lot of reading done this holiday, working my way through most of Bernard Cornwall's Warlord Chronicles.

Thursday back in Fowey, Dad, Nik and I ate at Sams. There was an hour's wait to get seated at that time of the evening, but the beer made waiting at the bar a not unpleasant experience, as did the wit of the proprietor, serving behind the bar and managing his staff and customers with flair and good humour. I had bouillabaisse, a rich fish stew, and it was delicious.

After eating, both Nik and Dad retired to the boat whilst I headed over to the Galleon to catch up with New Boy, Olga and the die hard Moths that hadn't yet gone home for the last night of their week away in Fowey. We spent the evening on the pub's patio veranda, overlooking the harbour, slightly damp because of the light rain, but not cold.

Good company, and we drank rather a lot.

[11/11/2019: And the rest remains unrecorded]