Back to the Boat

9 May

The glorious Early May Bank Holiday saw us heading for stormy Greece. Come on weather, what’s going on? A sweltering Sunday playing sardines and lugging luggage on and off trains and planes is not my idea of fun. But to be delayed due to the wet conditions at Corfu airport where they’re just not used to it, seems decidedly unfair!

Returning to a boat after the winter is always hard work. You have to unpack the boat before you can unpack any luggage for a start. Sails, dinghy and so on are all down below where there isn’t room for anything else so they get priority. Then bedding, soft furnishings and anything else that might go mouldy in the damp have to be taken out of their winter wrapping and beds made up.

By the way, making up a boat bed is a big enough job in itself – remember it’s only accessible from one side, the head end, so you have to crawl around on top of the bed to put the sheet on. Thats the sheet that has to go on top of the mattress you’re crawling around on. That’s right, underneath you where you’re on your hands and knees because there isn’t the headroom to sit up. Joy.

Having done that to a comfortable standard, the chances are you’ll find somebody needs access to the storage underneath and it all gets messed up again. You see, it’s at this point the realisation dawns that the space available to keep all those items that it seemed such a good idea in the UK to bring back to the boat is much less than you remembered.

For most crews the first job on arrival is fixing all the canvas that provides shade in the cockpit and the sun did indeed show its face the morning after our arrival. Shade for us was not to be however. We’d left the bimini and spray hood with a local couple to repair the stitching (it disintegrates in the sun). Was it ready? Of course not, but she’d deliver it at 5pm. Was it delivered at 5pm or even that night? Not a chance.

She finally arrived the following day (and had done a good job, to be fair) which is more than could be said for the character who was supposed to be repairing minor damage to the gel coat (not our fault, but that’s another story) while Desi was out of the water. Some work looked to have been done but plastic covering was still taped to her hull when we arrived. Neil has been ringing repeatedly and finally got a promise to be here at 9am today. This guy turns up at 11, borrows the dinghy, stays for about an hour and says he’ll be back on Saturday. Do we believe him?

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River Carnival

5 May

Yes, another blog! I just wanted to share some pictures from today of the Hereford River Carnival. It has to be said, the weather made it really special.

The river busy with homemade floats and traditional coracles.

Beautiful spot to watch the raft race.

Last night’s theme was based on the mythical creatures on the Mappa Mundi.

Getting to Know Home

3 May

Much as we still think of the UK as “home” we don’t actually spend very much time here any more. However, as mentioned in “Choices”, we now have a base, somewhere to call our own and where we headed after our stay in Spain.

Although we’d managed to make it habitable over the winter there was still a lot to do and sort out to even begin to describe the house as comfortable. The main focus of April, then, has been scouring shops and the internet for cupboards and drawers, cooking and cleaning equipment along with all the smaller accessories like lamp shades and cushions. Not an unpleasant task by any means but we did still hit the “it will do” phase.

Along with all this we’ve also taken the opportunity to get out and about, discover something of our new surroundings. Hereford is Neil’s hometown, where he grew up. Although it’s been many years since he lived here he still knows it well, the back roads to avoid the worst of the notorious traffic jams, the little alleyways in the centre and seemingly every bend of the river. For me, though, this is all new.

So we’ve done the tourist bit:

a walking tour of the city centre – the chap on the bike is Elgar who lived in Hereford for a while, writing the Enigma Variations here,

a visit to the cathedral which was displaying the beautiful and moving “Weeping Window” as well as its famous Mappa Mundi.

and lots of walking along the riverbank when the weather allowed.

This is nearby Hoarwithy.

PS I did write a blog at the beginining of April, describing our last month in Spain. However it was written on the ferry and, stupidly, I didnt realise it hadn’t uploaded on the their limited WiFi. So that explains the extra long gap between posts, then. Apologies.

Choices

28 Feb

With the last day of February dawning it occurred to me that I hadn’t written a blog for the entire month and an update is long overdue. This time it’s not so much that nothing has been happening but a combination of circumstances. I ended the last blog with the death of our old workhorse of a car and the need to find a replacement asap. For us it was impractical to do this in Spain and a trip back to the UK proved to be the best option.

Now there’s something I haven’t mentioned on here despite its significance to British nationals and those of us who call ourselves citizens of Europe. Yes, you’ve guessed it, Brexit. Don’t worry I’m not going to pontificate on here despite my opinion of the utter madness of the whole debacle (sorry, couldn’t resist getting that in) but it has made us rethink our personal plans. We’ve long been pondering the idea of getting ourselves somewhere to call home. We had thought this would be in Spain but the uncertainty and more specifically the dreadful exchange rate following the referendum made us have a rethink.

To cut a long story short, we acquired a small townhouse in the Midlands that had seen better days and arranged to get the builders in over the winter, all managed remotely, while we kept our distance in Spain. A bit stressful at times, this approach still proved to be infinitely preferable to living in the rubble as the work went on around us. It did mean something of a gamble and a lot of trust in the various contractors – our trip back this month would be the first time we’d seen the refurb with our own eyes.


We weren’t disappointed. OK, we had tried to make it simple by keeping all choices as neutral as possible with the idea of adding more personal touches as we go along. With the bare bones now in place, the visit this month was the perfect opportunity to start getting basic furniture and soft furnishings.

A clean slate to build your dream home on presents so much choice that the desire to get everything exactly right is overwhelming. The limited time available to us to get curtains, bed and bedding, seating, table etc in place proved to be its own challenge. It really focuses minds when you walk into a shop (or go online) and ask what they can deliver in the next few days. It also limits choice and has the effect of forcing an ‘it will do’ attitude to proceedings. So, perhaps, we made choices we wouldn’t have made if we’d allowed a gradual, more organic development to take place but it is what it is.

And, yes, we did get a car. That was the easy bit.

Car Trouble

27 Jan

Our car hasn’t been looking too good for a while. Originally purchased back in 2013 when the idea of towing a caravan began to look like a real possibility, this big workhorse more than proved worth keeping long after we parted company with the ‘van. The sheer amount of “stuff” that could be piled into the cavernous boot space made it ideal for our wandering lifestyle. The bulk of our old boat’s contents were transported across Europe, the caravan dragged around the UK and every winter we’ve spent in Spain it crossed the channel with us, carrying all we needed for months at a time.

I was the problem. My 5 foot 5 inches proved to be insufficient for the driver’s seat of this man’s car. Being unable to see where the bonnet started and the boot ended meant I struggled with close maneuvering and parking (OK, never my strong point) and proved to be a bit too much of a challenge. It reached the point where we decided not to bother with cosmetic repairs. I’m not taking all the blame, mind, as Neil added his own bit of decoration last autumn!

But still this beastie kept on going. Until last week, that is. What didn’t make it into the last blog entry was the fact that the car ground to a halt on the motorway just after leaving Benidorm. Neil managed to steer it under its own momentum to the hard shoulder and to peer helplessly under the bonnet whilst I hurriedly clambered over the safety rail sporting a fetching high-visibility vest. Similarly attired, he joined me on the scrub-covered bank and rang round our friends in search of a contact number for a mechanic. Thankfully they were able to help but it soon became clear it was a breakdown truck we needed.

We settled down to wait in what proved to be a record breaking heatwave for January and as bladders relentlessly filled. This inconvenience is so much easier to manage for a man. Having put it off as long as I could, the time eventually came when I had to get myself into an off road hiding place. This involved climbing over the sharp, scrubby bushes and assorted debris that accumulates​ in inaccessible places and down a slippery, precipitous bank to find somewhere discreet to expose myself. Did I mention the sharp bushes?

Well, the long and short of it all is that we are now without a car. The engine failure proved to be pretty catastrophic and uneconomic for us to repair. A replacement is being sought.

Show Time

21 Jan

In all the time we’ve been coming to the Costa Blanca the show at the Benidorm Palace is something we’ve never done. This is, perhaps, surprising as the resort’s night time buzz makes a welcome change now and then from Jávea’s more laid back vibe and the Palace is something of an institution. Somehow we’d never got around to it mostly because of an image of “Dancing Girls” which didn’t really appeal.

Then we got chatting to a couple who had been recently and were raving about it, describing the show as the best they’d seen in years. In the post Christmas lull where nothing much was happening further investigation seemed like a good idea.

First opening its doors in 1977 but going through a couple of transformations ​since including a major refurb, this winter’s show was the 40th anniversary celebration ‘Rubi’ in which “more than 50 artists participate and whose main theme is the “Spanish” Fiesta.” and promising “A night full of surprises, elegance, fantasy and art.” Well, sounds worth a try doesn’t it?

Booking on-line (https://www.benidormpalace.com/en/benidorm-palace/ )was a challenge though. Perhaps we’re just awkward, but having decided we wanted to go the whole hog and have dinner there before the show we were completely unable to select our chosen main courses. Not to be defeated Neil rang the booking office. Turns out that the difference in price of the various menus reflects not just the food itself but also the location of the table. I wanted a deluxe (of course!) so Neil had to pay the extra, allowing us to sit at the same table! 

It turned out to be well worth it. I can honestly say we had the best table in the place; bang in the centre, a comfortable few rows back and elevated above the tables in front. OK, we’re not talking Michelin star food here but it was more than satisfactory and the show, well, not to spoil anything, was pretty awesome. In the early hours of a chilly January morning, there was a spring in our stagger as we left. Definitely worth the visit. 

Moderation

3 Jan

So it’s the New Year (Happy 2018, everyone) and, I suppose inevitably, I start thinking about resolutions​. I’m an old hand at this and wasn’t going to bother to be honest. Along with most of the population I don’t stick to these somewhat arbitrary good intentions. I’m not going to give up chocolate, do Dry January, take more exercise or whatever. Still, there is this nagging realisation that I’ve been overdoing it.

My weight has been creeping up since we arrived in Spain – the food and drink here is just SO good. I already, sort of, do the 5:2 on a long term basis. That is, we both have ‘fast’ days twice a week but don’t bother counting calories on the ‘non-fast’ days and this tends to keep our weight pretty steady. Particularly since the build up to Christmas, however, there’s no denying that there is a definite trend in the upward direction. Me and millions of others, of course, but hence the, rather delayed, preoccupation with resolutions​.

And here we have it – Moderation. I can do that. Surely? Today is January the third. Alcohol has not passed my lips since going to bed in the early hours of New Year’s Day (brilliant night, by the way) but tonight I’m cooking and wine will be required in the recipe. I’ll be opening a bottle of rather nice Rueda Verdejo so I’ll naturally be having a glass. But do I have the willpower to keep it to just the one? I can do that. I’m resolved. 

The truffles are another story, though. The problem with January and giving stuff up is that there still tends to be whatever the temptation is lying around the house from Christmas. These chocolates have been burning a hole in the cupboard for the last three days and now I’ve opened them. They’re incredibly moreish. Having stuffed down four in rapid succession after lunch (well, I was too full for a banana) I’m yelling at myself “Moderation!” I’ve drunk several glasses of water. I’ve brushed my teeth. I’ve concentrated on being aware of my lack of hunger (stupid idea – when was chocolate ever about hunger?). I’ve tried to distract myself but all to no avail.

So now I’m writing this. I’m resolved. Moderation. I can do it. Yeah, right. ​