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Friday, 28 June 2013

The written word

The cottage is packed with books, books collected over years, perhaps. Have they all been read or are they just books bought in antiquarian bookshops that would look good on the shelves. The scary thing is that I have a feeling that they have all been read. Our friends are academics, much more cultured than I could ever hope to be. The books are categorised into their own corners of culture. In the front room there are three separate sets of shelves,  one has a library of books on cricket and above this shelf, poets and poetry, the complete works of Robert Frost.  The only thing I know about Robert Frost is a mention of him in a Simon and Garfunkel song called the “Dangling conversation” on Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme. I remember thinking way back in 67 that I had a lot of catching up to do when it came to American poets, but it wasn’t until now, in 2013 that I’ve ever seen a book of his poems, and even now I’ve only glanced the spline of the collected works on the bookshelf.
On another bookcase there are books about music, books about Wagner and Mozart, and many other composers that I’m sure I should have read, but haven’t.  There is another bookshelf in the same room about wildlife and nature, birds plants, travels in the Gobi  Desert . The next bookshelf has classic literature like Homers Iliad. I took this one off the shelf thinking I should check this out as it’s supposed to be famous. It’s an antique copy from perhaps the 1920’s and browsed the first page, the instructions to the reader. Now the first thing that put me off was that it was printed in a font that was about four point. By the end of the first page I was at a loss to tell you what I had read. I turned to the first verse of     Homers rantings and gave up after the first few lines, and put it back on the shelf. The idea of being cultured was fast retreating from my 21st century mind. Have our friends actually read all this stuff, is this what you have to plough through to be cultured and informed. To me it was just hard work and so I put it back on the shelf.
Upstairs in the back bedroom is a bookshelf full of science fiction, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, and a few other authors I should have read. I haven’t. Another bookcase, this one full of stuff about Naval history, or at least novels about Naval histories.  I should read these, there just may be some insights that I can use when we get round to buying our boat and exploring the Caribbean, but I very much doubt I’ll get round to it.
In fact I don’t suppose I’ll get round to reading any of this library before we go. I tried the Woody Guthrie, “Bound for Glory” tonight but I’m finding it hard going. I really think I should know much more about the guy that inspired Bob Dylan but I don’t think I’ll get much further with it. I know I should, but I know I won’t.  But I keep dipping into this archive, this collection of culture that I missed, that I should have paid attention too in my last sixty five years, but I was distracted by rock n roll, cannabis and the Apprentice. Perhaps I would now be a wiser and more rounded individual, had I been exposed to this literature. Or maybe not.

After all, each of these books is simply an adventure that some individual or other has been on, in their time. The truth is that we all have our own adventures. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bending on the mains'l on Hearts of oak

Summer has finally arrived in Cumbria, in fact we've had almost one week of glorious weather and we are making the final preparations to leave. We have walked the lanes where the cow parsley is in profusion and the fields are abundant with buttercups. The blackthorn is awash with it's snow-white blossoms and everything is lush in this late rush of spring, a month late. In fact in these glory days as we trip the light fantastic at 7am across the fields, buy eggs from the local farm, and pop £2 in the honesty box we wonder why we should be leaving such a beautiful part of the world.

Of course it's not always this idyllic, bird song, and the lazy cattle, in the early warmth of the morning. More often than not it's grey, or its raining, or its windy and uninspiring, but this week you wonder, just for a moment if Englands such a bad place. Of course it's not, especially on weeks like these but we have charted our course, let go the quay and are ready to sail away.

In fact we're almost done with casting off the trappings of this life, we're almost there with the sifting of the stuff that we will leave behind, give away or take with us and we went sailing.

We went sailing on Hearts of Oak. Well not exactly sailing. There was a job to be done, a shakedown cruise. After a winter, a long winter of refurbishments it was time to bend the mainsail, thats a nautical way of saying putting the sails back on to the old girl. This was carried out with a degree of pondering and hilarity as we wrestled with bits of rope and canvas until finally we had something that resembled a gaff rigged cutter called Hearts of oak.

Luckily there was the barest whisper of a breeze and a flat calm sea to achieve this. Gordon seemed to know more or less how the bits of rope and canvas got tied to the gaff and mast and we just threw in the odd comment to confuse each other but eventually she started to look like the ship we remembered from last season. We then motored out into the bay for an hour or two looking for a vesper and managed to turn the engine off for about ten minutes before we agreed that there was really no wind.

It didn't matter though, it was good to be back on the briney. The sun shone on a beautiful June sunday and we sailed her back to the drying out mooring, picked up the mooring and rowed ashore.

For a few hours we forgot about moving, about work, about anything except sailing. That's why we want to do this, wind or no wind, just being a part of this classic old sailboats crew with the creaks of the rigging as she wallows in the swell is enough, enough to escape the world for a few hours.

Next weekend we move out and take up residence in a cottage in the countryside with views of the mountains and the Duddon estuary. It won't be our home, but if the weather stays like this it's going to be a joy, and just one step away from the plane ride to our  new life in the Caribbean and our sailing adventure. But today on the Hearts of Oak was beautiful, not a sailing day but a reminder of why we are doing what we are doing, sailing is such a meditation, and if we can sail something like this old boat with its old systems of stiff hessian sheets and halyards and then it gives us confidence in our adventures on something a little less old.

So here we go then the last week, it's getting very close now, the next few weeks will surely fly. And then we fly.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013



About three pm today I got a call from our solicitors to tell us that they have finally exchanged contracts on the sale of our house in Sun St. We won't be moving this weekend but next, the 17th.
That's the day we hand over the keys to what has been our house for the last 13 years. The tiny Larch that we planted in our back yard of a garden back in 2000, and should have grown to 15ft is now mature and more like forty foot high. The bloke at the garden centre told us a little fib there, but we have loved watching it soar into the sky marking our time here. It's the only tree in the street, except a squat magnolia that is next door. The postage stamp that is our garden is abundant with bluebells, that are just going over now, and the weather has turned to summer at last. The drystone wall that divides our domain from next door with it's collection of mini ferns that are drying out in this dry spell. Our next door neighbors have just recently moved to another part of town, neighbors for the last 13 years, gone, and soon we too will be gone. Everything changes, and it feels good, exciting, and the butterflies are swirling around. Is this the right thing, no turning back now. That plan that we cooked up about five years ago is about to happen and all we can do is hang on to that tigers tale and go with it. Committed,
The last time I did this was when I was thirty years old, but then it was a rented flat in London to go travelling to South America, Equador, Peru, Muchu Pitchu. And when I came back I thought that we would be soon on the road, that open road, where adventures were the only way. No more humdrum life for me.
And thirty five years slipped by. Families, divorce, new life away from London and eventually, meeting Jackie .
We made a great team, we made a difference to our little town that we adopted. We immersed ourselves in the " community" and bit by bit became famous. We didn't set out to be, it just happened that we did what we did and eventually we became the face of our adopted enterprise, the saving of Ford park.
We took over the reigns gifted to us, and turned a derelict nine acre waste land into a beautiful park for Ulverston. A legacy that we will be proud to leave behind. They all say they will miss us, and we will miss them, but adventures beckon. We are about to take that leap of faith, to venture into an unknown future in the Dominican Republic,and a sailboat, me at 65, jackie almost 60. Is that foolish, not at all. Now is our time to grasp the last of the summer wine, to boldly go, to spread our wings and feel the spirit of adventure.

This house is not our home,although it has been,  home is wherever the wind takes us, wherever we drop anchor in the next few years. This is a new chapter, new horizons, dangerous, unknown waters, and uncertain futures.

But one thing is for certain, we are now committed, no turning back, Contracts have been exchanged, we no longer own 45 Sun street and the Caribbean is our next port of call. It's all so scary, but at the same time so liberating.

Looks like August  will see us on our way, after we tie up the loose ends in England.

Can't wait, can't wait.