Rain, Rain Go Away

4 Jun

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The dank, quite chilly and, at times, frankly wet days of May returned and have persisted into June. So we are back in the marina, the convenience of a decent town and shore power with its associated hot water too tempting. But we did get a few days out and about.

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After that night at anchor, we had a few days in Sivota, Lefkada close enough for me to hobble to the Family Taverna for some of Yianna’s wonderful home cooking. Then a couple in “Little” Vathy on Meganissi, again convenient for me to get about a little. But the forecast rain took us back to our berth.

Days in the marina soon start to merge with only a few, for me anyway, warm enough for a couple of hours lying around in the cockpit. My ankle is, thankfully, improving enough for the short walk to and around Levkas Town to be possible. At least the poor weather has meant I didn’t get too stir crazy, convenient for days resting down below.

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After a night of heavy rain, today is probably the coldest and consistently dull day so far. I’m writing this lounging on the “sofa” snug in a fleece and wrapped in a blanket. Neil, however, is in the cockpit determinedly clad in swim-shorts and t-shirt. And socks.

 

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That’s More Like It

22 May

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It’s a fact that the more time we spend in a marina the less inclined we are to go out. Mind you the inclement weather, Neil being full of cold and the fact that I could barely walk didn’t help. With some improvement in all three, though not what you’d call ideal, we thought we’d better take the chance and actually move the boat. So with all the accompaniments of shore power and a relatively horizontal floor packed away we cautiously edged out of our berth and through the Lefkas Canal. 

The familiarity of these islands can sometimes make us blind to their beauty but it was with the new eyes of a winter away that we chugged the short distance down the east coast of Levkas to the holiday resort of Nidri and into the bay of Vliho beyond. We truly appreciated every minute. The season and the temperature had kept the majority of boats still awaiting their owners​ or clients and the wildlife was making the most of it. We even saw our first dolphins/porpoises of the season – almost unheard of later in the year in these busy waters. I’ve long since given up trying to take pictures of these beautiful creatures, resigned to never being able to capture their extraordinary beauty. It’s so much better to just live in the moment and store the memory away for the days when this is no longer our lifestyle.

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We’d chosen Vliho as our first stop for its easy anchoring and all round shelter from the still chilly wind. It’s a popular haunt for liveaboards but not somewhere we tend to spend much time. But yesterday it was perfect. A pleasant temperature to lie around in the cockpit, still water for easy cooking and a wonderfully​ restful night. Neil even took the plunge and had his first swim of the season this morning. Mind you, that says more about him than anything else. I was still in my fleece.

 

 

Feeling Sorry for Myself

14 May

It has been very wet dav

I’m on bedrest.

I was already a bit stir crazy from the, shall we say, inclement weather of the last couple of days. So when it brightened up this morning I was actually looking forward to the short walk into town and a bit of a shop to top up our diminishing food supplies. I got as far as the footbridge out of the marina.

More concerned about puddles and the distinct possibility of more rain, the bridge didn’t strike me as any sort of hazard. The next thing I knew, though, my left foot was sliding forward and my posterior heading for the floor with my right leg twisted under me. The pain even cancelled out the embarrassment and soggy bottom.

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My ankle bone isn’t normally that size!

When the endorphins kicked in Neil helped me up and back to the boat. Pretty confident that  nothing is broken, I’m still watching the foot swell up and it’s probably​ going to develop pretty colours over the next few days. Getting on and off the boat is now a non starter. Just as it’s brightening up.

 

 

 

 

 

Grubbing About on Board

9 May

I didn’t write much once we returned to Spain in January or at all during the month we spent back in the UK afterwards. There just didn’t seem to be very much to say, to be honest. But now we’re back on the boat I thought I’d better get my finger out.

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A very welcome site to wake up to – view from our hotel room

It was only this morning that we came aboard, having indulged in the luxury of a night in a hotel. Neither of us begrudge it, though. The thought of having to somehow access a bed on the boat after a late arrival and a long day of traveling was beyond daunting. You see, when a boat is “put away” for the winter, left to cope with the inevitable bad weather and potential consequences, a lot of work is involved.

Anything that the wind could get hold of – sails, dinghy,  bimini (provides shade in the summer) as well all the loose items like buckets, brushes and soft furnishings have to be stowed below. A cold, unventilated interior is asking to be affected by damp so anything that might go mouldy needs to be protected, usually by wrapping them in plastic bags, and moved away from the walls. These all have to go somewhere and every bit of space is utilised including the floor of the heads (bathroom) and the beds.

If the boat is to be lifted out onto the land every item that might either break or cause damage has to be secured in some way. Electricity is disconnected, water tanks emptied and the toilet flushed through with chemicals to clean the pipes and holding tank.

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Neil let’s down the bathing platform so we can board from the pontoon

From all this you can probably gather that the boat is pretty much uninhabitable without a lot of work to put it all back together. Mostly dirty, back-breaking work at that. Bruises, cuts and​ broken fingernails are all par for the course. Even doing the minimum late at night is not to be recommended.

 

So that has been our day today. There’s still a lot of cleaning and provisioning to be done but we’ve both had enough for the time being. It’s T-shirt weather, at least for now, and it’s wonderful to ditch the shoes and get out the flip flops. Plus a little drink is called for. 

L’Albarda Gardens

28 Feb

Blog L’Albarda Waterfall

Why have we not been to L’Albarda ( website ) before? Friends have long been recommending it and it’s only about 20 minutes away from Jávea. Somehow we’ve just never got around to it despite happily travelling much further afield. The last day of a glorious February was the day, though.

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The sound of water is everywhere.

From the sight of the path up to the entrance we knew we were going to like it. Initially ignoring the map provided, the vision of the house itself with a few tables set up alongside, drew us to ignore the tempting side routes. What a beautiful place to live and what an amazing hotel it would make. Maybe if we won the euromillions lottery (we’d have to actually buy a ticket first, of course.)

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If the roses aren’t properly in bloom yet the many orange and lemon trees still impress if you’re more used to a colder climate!

But the gardens are what this visit is about. Citrus trees heavy with ripe fruit, Arabesque fountains, Italianate statues, shady pergolas and wooded paths had me clicking away taking pictures at each turn. And everywhere the sound of water and birdsong.

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A pond in the area left to return to the wild. Frogs dived into the water at our approach.

Don’t get me wrong, these are not immaculate formal gardens or even obviously well maintained (at this time of year at least.) Much has been left deliberately to return to nature but some areas have also been left to run to weed where you might expect otherwise. Perhaps it is a work in progress and probably best seen anyway when the flowers are in full bloom. We’d like to return and see. 

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An early rose blooming in February. The long trellis archway covered in climbing rose bushes must be a spectacular site in season.

 

 

Sunshine

29 Jan

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I think it’s fair to say I haven’t really been myself this month. Returning to Spain was something I longed for and yet as we were driving into Jávea a couple of weeks ago I felt decidedly down. Neil has definitely borne the brunt of this; I know I have been even more irritable and intolerant than usual.

The time we’ve spent with friends, regular exercise, perhaps, and the general way of life here have all played their part in alleviating this feeling. But, the bright and breezy days we’ve mostly had since we got back are a tonic I wish could be prescribed on the NHS. As John Denver sang “sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy”( Video here ) To be able to lift my face up to the warmth and brightness in winter is a privilege. It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped nagging Neil, mind. 

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Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you the day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for sunshine for all the while

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
Sunshine almost all the time makes me high

Words by John Denver, Music by John Denver, Dick Kniss and Mike Taylor

A Last Goodbye

28 Dec

 

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It’s Christmas Eve and we’re sitting on a plane flying home. Except it won’t be home I go to, I’m not even sure where that is anymore. No, although we will drive to what will always be my home town, it’s a nursing home that’s our destination. Mum is dying.

I’ve said my goodbyes; I do every time I leave, never knowing if I’ll see her again. But I desperately want to say them one more time. As the plane descends and the wet streets below reflect back the wintry sun, I can only hope for that chance.

On the ground everyone is in high spirits at the approach of Christmas. The staff at the car hire company teasingly joke with each other, backs are patted and hands shaken. It all takes precious time. 

 

The pendulum of Mum’s retirement clock swings from side to side although the fingers no longer give any indication of time’s reality. It chimes randomly. I doubt anyone will wind it once the woman on the bed can no longer take comfort from its familiarity. For now, though, maybe she does. 

I sit with her holding her hand or moistening the slack mouth taking its rapid, shallow breaths. The eyes flicker open slightly, a hand rises at my touch. In recognition? Maybe, a consoling maybe. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to convince myself of any real recognition. But I’m with her. We’ve made it.

 

Time ticks by. It’s good to see my brother again. He’s been the one who has been there for Mum so much more than I have. I don’t see him anywhere near enough either and there’s so much I want to say to him, so much I want to ask but the speechless woman on the bed who bore us both makes me hesitate. Is Mum there? This vile disease that has slowly extracted every memory from her brain, every consciously controlled function from her body, has it left anything of the person, the very soul, of who she once was?

Suddenly it’s more than I can cope with. I want to leave and hurriedly make my excuses. Dave is there now, Dave will sit with her. Selfish, unbelievably self-centred me, leaves. Guilt, guilt and more guilt on guilt. Guilt washed down and subdued with red wine. 

 

Christmas morning and I sit with Mum again. The nurses pop their heads round the door and come to turn her as needed but otherwise it’s just the two of us. The sense of hearing is the last thing to go, apparently, so I should talk to her but it’s a struggle. Surely there’s stuff that should be said. I tell her it’s Christmas and that I love her. Perhaps that’s all I need to say.

Instead I put Nat King Cole on the CD player. The soaring violins and beautiful voice seem to reach her. At least her eyes flicker open if only briefly. I let my mind wander, disjointed memories from happier times.

I remember ringing several times a week on the public telephone in the nurses home and Mum ringing me back so we could talk as much as we liked without it costing me a fortune. And, boy, could we talk. I remember a summer afternoon in the back garden drinking Belgian beer with her from bottles so small it seemed only natural to have another and another. And her strange laughing cry of oh, oh, oh! as the chair gently tipped backwards, both of us powerless to do anything about it. I remember going into her office at work, the smell of ink potent in my memory, as she turned the handle of the duplicator. I still marvel when I remember the way she would add a huge column of figures in her head, not trusting new fangled calculators.

Looking at the smiling young woman in the wedding photo above her bed, inevitably I remember the woman widowed far too young and wonder if Dad is somehow watching and waiting. I cry for the first time. 

 

 

Boxings Day and the family is gathered around Mum. The irony is not lost on us. It had always been accepted that Boxing Day was the big family celebration with Mum cooking turkey and all the trimmings, declining all help with the preparation. In retrospect we have come to realise that the first time it was all too much for her was, in fact, the first indication of something very wrong.

The change in her now is apparent. We’re all expecting this to be the last goodbye. Eventually just Dave and I remain at her side, half heartedly watching the TV as the hours pass, the clock on the wall sporadically chiming. He winds the mechanism as he always does when visiting.

It’s shortly after Neil rejoins us that her breathing changes. We hold her hands, subconsciously​ catching our own breath each time there’s a pause. When the moment comes, though, there’s no mistaking it. A startled look and, yes, perhaps the shadow of a smile. She is gone. Stop all the clocks. No, let the pendulum continue to swing for there is comfort in that. 

 

Into the freedom of wind and sunshine
We let you go
Into the dance of the stars and the planets
We let you go
Into the wind’s breath and the hands of the star maker
We let you go
We love you, we miss you, we want you to be happy
Go safely, go dancing, go running home.

Ruth Burgess