|16/10/2010||Filled under Cycling, England, house refurbishment, Yeovil|
Yet another minor excitement in our property improvement lives…. our new shed has been delivered, in pieces and complete with a rich smell of preservative. Originally our plan was to throw out the pre-existing one, a misshapen and rotting thing that stands (just) in our back yard, home though it is to every wood-loving creepy-crawly for miles around and safe haven though it is for spiders so large, it is a wonder we don’t hear them stomping around at night. But then we discovered that we could actually move the structure sideways a little way without too much of it falling off or disintegrating to dust and having done this, a brand new one will fit nicely on the old concrete platform. Well, you can never have too many sheds, can you? One of them will soon act as a garage for our cycle trailer, soon coming home to us after living with friends Rich & Gerry for a few years.
The shed is the first part of our order placed a few days ago which started as a long shopping list of kitchen-related parts but which we added to once we realised that the discount we were being offered would be applied to anything we bought at the store that day. We very quickly thought up some more goodies, throwing in some rather nice flooring which we have used to cover up the bare and rather unattractive chipboard in one of our bedrooms. We do a lot of our shopping for materials at B&Q, largely because every Wednesday is their ‘Over 60’s’ day when they offer discount to all who have reached this age. As you might expect, on these days the place is full of grey-haired old men and the clatter of Zimmer frames can be deafening but fortunately they also employ people of a certain age at the checkout. It was here we met Reg who was in no doubt that his role was mainly to ‘translate’ for those who need it – things like metric measurements for those who grew up with imperial or the wonders of the economy light bulb.
We really feel we are turning a new leaf and getting into reconstruction mode now, using different skills and different muscles too, many of which are complaining, but then that’s nothing new. There are still little distractions, of course, like when the house catches us out with one of its bits of botched DIY. One evening we spotted water emerging from beneath the refrigerator, just a small pool, but it was coming from somewhere hidden away at the back. Investigation revealed a tiny hole in an innocent looking water pipe which had been dribbling happily away for days, even weeks. Replacing this pipe with a new section disturbed another joint nearby which started squirting water down the wall and once again this needed to be ripped apart and replaced. These are examples of poor quality plumbing work that is dotted about the house, little of which is fatal but it is annoying when the water won’t stay inside the pipes.
While I am still grovelling under the sink, Kate is watching TV, absorbed as I have never seen her before. She is not normally much of a sports fan but the Commonwealth Games in Delhi has been the focus of her attention for some days now as she waits for the hammer-throwers to begin. Why? Because she has a nephew competing, not for this country but for Australia, in this little-understood event. We both still remember him as a small boy when he visited the the UK and came out for a walk with us. His concern over dangerous snakes in our countryside was a rather touching sign of his Aussie-ness. Both Simon and his brother Jamie giggled and imitated the word “woods” in a terribly English accent, then corrected the name. “It’s not woods, it’s the bush, Auntie Kate”. Simon Wardhaugh is now a giant of man but still very young for his chosen sport and the 5th place he gained at the Games does him great credit, competing against some of the best in the world. Well done mate!
We are spending much time out of doors here this week as it has been unseasonably warm and dry for some days. Time therefore to crack on with jobs that will soon become impossible when the rain arrives and the cold winds recommence, like repainting the fence and wall around our back yard. Kate calls my attention to the telephone wires above us where no less than twenty-eight goldfinches are sitting watching us and laughing, no doubt, at our attempts to entice them to our seed feeder. We know there are thistles in full seed in the country park just a short flight away, far more tasty than what we have on offer. These birds will soon be packing for their flight over to Spain where most of them will spend the winter. Let’s hope they make it!
|12/08/2010||Filled under Cornwall, Cycling, England, family, Yeovil|
|01/05/2010||Filled under Cycling, mountains, Scotland|
|15/09/2009||Filled under Cycling, Kerrera, Oban, Scotland|
Of course by this time my leg muscles were burning from pumping the pedals up the steep slope so I may have imagined all this. The track improved as we crested a summit on the spine of the island and we began our descent towards the public ferry on the east side. Here the green clad hills rolled away from us as we picked up speed to bump and bounce our way towards the better roads that encircle the southern end of the island. There is a farm at Lower Gylen converted to a small café which sells soup with homemade bread and tempting carrot cake with a pot of tea of your choice, a refreshment treasure trove after our efforts and one of the few commercial enterprises on the entire island.
|13/06/2009||Filled under Cycling, Scotland|
Having been sailing for the best part of our married lives we know that the sea is a risky environment and that it will always have something unexpected up its sleeve, so to speak. There are few constants at sea. Just when you think the wind has settled blowing in one direction at a strength your boat needs to move along nicely something will change, either the wind or the sea itself, and sailing can be largely about managing the risks associated with this.
So given that we enjoy being at sea, how then do we cope with being on land for any length of time. We always fully expected to find ourselves spending time in one port or another, not necessarily one we might choose to be in, waiting for weather to arrive that we were prepared to put to sea in. We have time on our side and can do this and we are prepared to amuse ourselves until the weather we want arrives. But life on shore could become mundane and boring in some hitherto unknown port if we did nothing but watch the clouds skim across the sky while huddled up under our sprayhood sheltering from the rain.
In some way the strategy we have for coping with this situation explains why Cirrus is not sailing very quickly these days – she is just a little overloaded. She is weighed down with what can best be described as our ‘toys’, things we are carrying along with us so that we can cope with life away from the sea as well as we cope with life at sea. Perhaps the biggest single items in the toy cupboard are our bikes, Grace and Jet, neatly folded up in the starboard hull. Then we have books to read which we swap regularly at places along the way (many marinas have a book-swap shelf), our walking boots and rucksacks to take us wherever our legs will carry us and of course the mandatory scrabble and domino sets. But scrabble is hardly likely to give us the risk element we get from sailing so how do we get our fix when on land?
The answer to this lies not so much in what we do but more in where we do it. Take a recent Sunday cycling adventure, for example, where we found ourselves first of all traversing a busy golf course when members were queuing at each hole for the chance to score a direct hit on a cyclist then, having survived this, we crossed a main railway line and found ourselves on a cycle route past a military firing range with red flags flying and signs warning graphically “Anything you pick up may explode and kill you”.
Or again, take a recent walk along the Seaton cliffs just outside Arbroath where the sea has shaped the Devonian sandstone into formations with names like the “Deil’s Heid” or this one, the “Needle E’e”. Warning signs here show just what happened to this foolish Johnny who strayed from the path and had to be rescued.
Clearly this is also a risky place to be and once again we have found the excitement we need to survive.
No such additional buzz was needed when we sailed around Rattray Head earlier today. This will be our most northerly headland on this trip and it has a fearsome reputation, more than anywhere we have previously sailed. The coastline is low-lying here and only a small stunted lighthouse guards what is one of the major corners of Britain. The tidal currents rushing past flow over off-lying shoals and can combine with strong winds to produce nightmares of turbulence that can swallow ships whole.
But pick the right weather and get up at 4.30am as we did to catch the tide at the moment it goes slack and you can sail benignly past and into the Moray Firth.
Our cockpit GPS chartplotter and log now show we have turned this corner, at 5.5 knots, and are now at last on course towards the Great Glen, the passage to the west coast of Britain.