susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Whatever will Tesco sell next?

Inflating 4 inch smelly balls - £1

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My horrible son

keeps coming into the sitting room, sees me, stops short in complete amazement, and

'What are you doing here? Thought I took you to Stansted this morning?'

'Fuck off,' I grin back, waving couple of fingers in his general direction.

The begging bowl

He looked up quizzically, as I sidled alongside, smile pinned. I'd seen him briefly at the ****jet desk, then he'd drifted off towards the coffee stall. After losing the battle with the airline's computer, the prospect of camping in even quite an attractive airport for three days had given me an idea. If this man had come up to the desk where I was, and I'd spotted his UK passport, he was bound to be heading home. Oh bugger, worth a try, anyway!

'Can you lend me some money?'

Honestly, what finesse! A total stranger, begging, in a foreign airport - I half expected to be brushed off rudely, so I rushed on to explain what had happened, and what a knight in shining armour! Without a pause, he delved into his bumbag, pulled out a 100 euro note and handed it over. I was never more overwhelmed with gratitude!

'I'll pay you back - I'm good for the money, I promise - as soon as I get home,' I gabbled over and over again. 'I must give you my address ...' 'Indeed you must!' he said, but his voice was friendly.

'Me voici encore, Madame!' Triumphantly, I handed over the exorbitant amount of money+transfer fee to the surprised ticketing woman. I'd told her I knew no-one, that I was on my own - and now here I was flourishing an extra 100 euros at her. I could almost see her wondering how ... where ... I set her mind at rest - 'I have a new best friend.' Impossible not to tease ... but I had my ticket!

D and I while away the time till the flight left, talking - and behold! He's retired, with a big river cruiser he's doing up and knows the area, and the canals and rivers of France... I seem to have fallen on my feet - and once again, acquired a tour guide ... I can't help but laugh at the unlikely coincidences. He's a great talker, and with little nudging on my part, we exchange details of our lives, our mutual detestation of bureaucracy and politics, and why he's excused seatbelts.. (pacemaker, left shoulder - done in France, where they drive on the other side of the road). Lots of small things, big things - and his anxiety the flight isn't delayed - he has a train to catch back to Yorkshire, and not much time at the other end.

From here on, things are back to mundane - waiting, queueing, shuffling forward to the check-in, shuffling on to the plane - same plane, same cabin staff. I did wonder if they'd recognise me and ponder ?drugs. And so home. Little time for profuse thanks - I'm really extraordinarily grateful - D has his train to catch and he's off, disappearing into the crowds. I ring home, get collected, get teased sans cesse, and here I am now - at home drinking coffee, instead of adventuring through central France... :-( A very little bit of French leave!

She was a day tripper, a one way ticket ...

You know those sudden moments of ghastly realisation! Today has been rather full of them ..

And it all started so well - up at 4.30, and off to Stansted to catch the 7.10 am to Lyon in central France. I was off to check out a cute Dutch river cruiser.. I'd booked and paid for a car, and was excited, if slightly apprehensive, at the thought of driving on the wrong side of the road, but hey - I'd done it before, and there's far less traffic on French roads. Three days mooching in the middle of France lay before me.

I'd done the usual checks - money, passport, tickets, driving licence, road map - yep. Little niggle - on the way to the airport I remembered I'd forgotten my toothbrush. Oh well, mentally practising brosse a dents, brosse a dents, onwards and upwards...

And upwards it was - plane a third full - a whole row of seats to myself - things were flying!

Short flight to Lyon, over a countryside like a rumpled unmade bed, a smooth landing, and off into an unknown airport. So it wasn't a surprise that it took quite a while to sort out that the location d'automobiles was in fact a short shuttle bus ride away. As I got outside the airport, a shuttle was waiting. On I hopped, checked (en francais) with the driver that we were going in the right direction - Oui - and after a false start, ended up at Avis.

Yes, she found my name on her list. Smiles all round, then

'Votre carte de credit?'

And that was the first one. I couldn't picture my chipper new silver card wallet anywhere in my bag. I could, however, clearly see it in my other bag, hanging in the hall at home... No amount of brandishing a handful of euros would budge her. I couldn't get the car. Nor could I get a train, nor a bus, nor rent a room for the night - a handful of euros was going to get me nowhere..

And this was the second one. There was nothing for it, but to transfer my Thursday flight home to this afternoon. But the girl at ****jet desk back in the airport quoted me a price WAY over the increasingly meagre notes I was now clutching anxiously. Oh for a few euros more! 'You mean, I've got to LIVE in the airport for THREE days?' I couldn't believe it.. She shrugged slender and elegant and very French shoulders. 'Je peux rien faire, Madame. Desolee.' It was such a surreal Tom Hanks moment. Incroyable! Visions of kipping on a row of hard seats or in the chapel, cleaning my teeth under automated taps, spending those precious euros on inflated airport coffee and sandwiches and prowling the long long corridors of the airport lounges..

And that was before I went to the loo - bloody thing, flushing and flushing and flushing, as I brushed past the autosensor. Foreign plumbing! Grrrrrrrrrrrr

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I remember, I remember - my first kiss

In a German bierkeller on the Bodensee, to the sound of the oompah band, great steins of beer, long tables of rollicking young men. I was 15, tanned, wearing very low cut tight trousers, and snogged this young guy next to me long and hard, with his hand down the back of the trousers, right in front of my parents. They hid their astonishment very well.

Things that go crunch in the night

I'm woken by footsteps, crunching in the gravel on the flat roof over my bedroom. I should explain, my bedroom was once the garage, now with a door from the kitchen, and french windows into the garden, a single storeyed building on the side of my house. In the summer, I sleep with the french windows open to the night air, and the possibility of strangers creeping into my garden ...

Did I dream the crunching footsteps? I listen. Finn continues to sleep in his usual place in the centre of my bed, my legs twisted round his warmth. There they are again. I'm wearing the blue satin nightdress, and it's not cold outside, despite being in the middle of January. I go to the front door, and out into the front garden. Indeed there is a young man wandering around on the flat roof.

'What are you doing there?' I ask him, as if it's normal to discuss one's whereabouts on a rooftop at 1.45 am. 'Spying on Tim,' is the reply. Tim, whose bedroom faces out of the back of the house, where the flat roof doesn't reach. 'How did you get up there?' I ask again. There's a moment of deep consideration. 'The ladder at the back,' he answers. I ask if he can get down the ladder, but it appears not ...

I go back inside - actually, it is chill out there - and upstairs, knocking on Tim's door. He and Jess have been to a beer festival. There is, of course, no response to my fairly loud repetitions of his name, even when I poke my head round the door. Next door, Paul the lodger's light is on, so I knock there. Paul comes outside with me.

I now know who the visitor is, of course. 'Are you pissed?' I call up. 'No!,' stoutly. 'Er, yes.' Paul goes round to the back of the house, and by the time I go back, he and Tom have appeared through the conservatory door. Tom says Tim rang him and told him to come round - but of course, Tim's dead to the world. And I do remember Tim's drunken ramble on his mobile, when I picked him and J up from the beer festival. I offer Tom a sofa and a quilt for the night, which he accepts, then joins Paul, who's watching a late night film. Boys will always be boys ...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Keep on running ... he'll get by with a little help from his friends

"VERY impressed with the marathon training - good for you! You make me feel very lazy - but keep on running, speedy bloke ... The padded green alligator costume you specified is nearly finished, including the long snout with realistic teeth and long tail to drag behind - it'll make it much easier for everyone to follow your progress, but you might find your vision and speed impeded somewhat. The matching green tights, however, will enhance your legs no end, even though the leg holes do seem to come down to your knees - but the clawed feet are a triumph!"

No tulips :-{ but last week ...

I went to Amsterdam for a couple of days - Easyjet - and because it's January, there were no crowds, which made up for the slightly glum aspect to Amsterdam. It's the first time I've ever been there, rather shameful, really, given it's a very short flight from Stansted. I walked so much (in the wrong shoes, of course) that I ended up with monster blisters on the balls of my feet. I knew you'd all want to share that. I hung over the edges of the bridges over the canals and thoughts of living on houseboats in a city centre drifted idly through my head ... I had intended to cycle through Holland for a week last year, but was so broke it couldn't happen. Now I've been there, I'd definitely love to go back with my bike - preferably in springtime, to see the blossoms on the trees. I didn't do any touristy things - just no time - but I got a good idea of the place, went to a couple of bars - one for breakfast, one later on for coffee, where they had oriental tufted patterned carpets on the tables, then on to a tram to the station, where the double decker trains were so sumptuous, both I and a group of Brits wondered guility if we'd wandered into first class by mistake. Apparently not ..

Oh, and outside the station was a multi storey bike park - NEVER seen quite so many in all my life, and remember I live near Cambridge. How on earth do you remember which bike is your? They all ride the old black sit up and beg sort, but with no hills, they're great.. lethal when you want to cross a road, though. First, the bike lane, then the car lane, then the tram lane (shoe heels caught in the tracks - yikes! Like an old silent movie where the heroine is tied to train tracks) and just when you've reached the middle of the road, you've got to negotiate the same again in reverse. My head was spinning, looking in all directions at once, I felt rather queasy..

I had to walk miles in Schipol airport - everywhere is a long way from everywhere else - or at least, so it seemed to my poor feet, who were on a go-slow and threatened to strike if I didn't give them a rest. Airports these days are fairly horrible places - my bracelets there and at Stansted made the alarm bells ring out, and of course big mouth has to say sarkily: 'Hm, these are very dangerous bracelets,' or some such idiocy to the security people. And at Stansted, I had to take off my shoes TWICE! Within a few yards.. Better safe than sorry?

I'm now reading 'The Man In Seat 61' ( about going everywhere by rail - and yes, he does make it sound so very much more appealing.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A home movie

(err, press the play button - I didn't, and wondered why it didn't work ....)

I've only just found I had Movie Maker on my laptop (well, someone asked me, actually - and when I checked - yay! there is was! So I've spent a jolly evening sorting through the photos of my sailing trip with Jack in 2006. Sorry there's no music - yet - and some of the photos are out of focus...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Screams of frustration

I'm off to inspect this cute river cruiser in the middle of France at the end of the month. But I've been to see my old sailboat. And of course I've looked up the same boats on the internet to see what's out there. And yep, there are quite a few. And now I've just seen a short clip on someone's blog, filmed at sea, bloke's tanned and wearing shorts - it's hot, the boat's heeling and sailing just sweetly under sun, breeze and autopilot. WHY can't I want to sail on my own? Cos I love sailing... I'm such a weed. Thank goodness I've been invited for a weekend on the Clyde at the end of April - flying up to Glasgow with saily chums. Should be good for a weekend, but my soul shouts out for more.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Boat Show, London ExCel Centre

Gimme a free ticket, and I'll go anywhere - which is how I ended up at the Boat Show the other day, where 'Save £23000' signs on boats makes you perk up and look interested.. until you see that it's still over quarter of a million. Slightly beyond my pocket.

This is a pretty new venue for the BS - and it was full and bustling and bursting with thousands of ways to spend HUGE amounts of money. And funnily enough - or maybe it's because I was brought up in the days of wooden boats, frugality, roughing it, spartan attitudes - I found it all rather overblown, too clean, too shiny, too high maintenance and very far removed from 'proper' sailing. Daytime jaunting from marina to marina, maybe, but not really 'me'.

A bit later on, I listened to a couple of saily talks by well known saily journalists, on the main stage. 'Look!' I nudged a neighbouring woman. As the journos left the stage, they were replaced by lightly-clad young ladies prancing up and down the catwalk. But we were looking at the quantities of gents of a certain age, crowding to get front row seats ...

Oh, and there were some very cute muscley young men strutting their stuff - I can window shop, can't I?

Brilliant acrobats after that, and a couple of people on those high stilts - amazing!

Later on, feeling I ought to make some contribution, I splurged on a sandwich and a couple of magazines for a quid each. SUCH a cheapskate!

I met up with some fellow posters on a saily forum, and as usual it was fun putting faces to names; had a wander round the stands, a mooch through some books - one with a propped up recipe book, a basket of apples and an untethered pot of herbs on its cover - a million ways to make your boat homely. Given the thought of the French canals, the little Dutch cruiser, sunshine, wine, olives and chilling, I was very tempted. I've also thought about a narrowboat - and yes, I'd have a herb box.


'Beef's off, dear. And the lamb. And the chicken and pork,' says the waitress, pencil poised somewhat uselessly above her pad. She considers, thinking, as we anxiously search for any leftovers. Mm, mussels look good. We turn towards her, starting to mouth the word. 'Oh, and the mussels. They're off,' she says with satisfaction.

So it's burgers and sausages. Actually the venison hache (burger to you and me) is ok and comes without those doughy buns so beloved of lesser establishments.

What have I been doing recently?

It's been a while, but here I am again. I haven't been busy since I last wrote here, but nor have I been doing nothing - that rarely happens, I 'm glad to say.

So - last Sunday, I went and saw my old boat and her current owner, Tom. He bought the boat nearly four years ago, took her from Ipswich up the east coast, through the Caledonian Canal, over to Ireland, down to Preston, Lancs, and back again to Ipswich. All the things, and probably more, than I'd wanted to do when I owned her. I'd have been sad to see her again, if I hadn't had my wonderful sail round Newfoundland, and the prospect of buying a river cruiser in France. (Off to France at the end of this month to have a look at several boats, one in particular - a steel boat, Dutch, 10 metres).

For my boaty readers, the old boat is similar to this one:

And yes, I came back home and looked up any boats for sale like this, even though I don't want to sail on my own ...

It was slightly odd, going back in time - I climbed up the ladder, ducked under the cockpit cover (the conservatory), and went down into the saloon, where Tom and his friend Stuart were - and immediately said 'I remember buying those cushions!', or something similarly mundane. And I was rather pleased how well the upholstery had lasted - no signs of wear! Someone had to benefit.

We spent a great afternoon, if you're a boaty person, amazingly dull if you aren't, and then picked up Sue, Stuart's gf, and went to the Butt and Oyster at Pin Mill for dinner. The B&O is famous on the east coast, usually packed to the gunnels, but tonight, almost empty, despite promised live music. We greedily inspected the menu cards, doled out by the waitress, and chose, as she hove to, over our horizon ....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A tale of Two NYEs

Same place, same time, same people - but oh what a difference a year makes!

Last year:

See last entry

Gave a whole lot of chums lots to gossip about for a year!!

This year:

Drove to party (BIG main difference from last year, eh?)
1 glass of white at 8, 1 glass champagne at midnight
Ate party food (other BIG main difference)
Talked sedately (ditto)
Played Balderdash, rather than the fool ...
Went home instead of spending the night in a coma on the floor

OK, then - which NYE did I prefer?

Loved the naughty feeling of the first one - and yes, it does still make me laugh, though only because my hosts are still my friends.

Last night was very good fun, great company, but ....

I still ended up on their floor - tripped down a step and sprained my ankle, didn't I!!

Happy New Year, people!!