Showing posts with label friends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friends. Show all posts

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lunch is in the Sea

Travelling alone across Northern Italy by train and bus, armed with only a toothbrush and a dozen words of Italian, was not on the agenda when we agreed to join friends for a sailing trip to Venice and the Venetian Lagoon on a charter boat.  I had jumped ship!

Fishing boat - Chioggia
The previous day had started pleasantly enough with a wander round the old fishing town of Chioggia, investigating the street market and drinking delicious Italian coffee, watching the street life.  There was a strong wind blowing though and we both wondered if sailing back to our home port was viable in such rough conditions. However when we arrived back at the boat and started preparing lunch, we found ourselves underway! Without consulting anyone and anxious to get the boat back in time, the skipper had simply set off.  

Surprised and apprehensive, we took the french bread rolls up to the cockpit in a plastic bowl and started to eat lunch, anxiously watching the harbour mouth to see what conditions were like at sea. With layer on layer of white water ahead, I voted to turn back now, before we left safe waters, but in a group the consensus rules and only one of the others was concerned as apparently it is not uncommon for conditions to be at their worst at the harbour mouth, but to settle down once out at sea.  We donned the flotation jackets but with no safety straps provided to hook onto the boat, we had simply to hang onto any fixed bit of the boat we could find.  I wrapped my arm firmly around a winch as a huge wave, over 7 feet high, lifted us over the sandbank and tossed us down into the churning, boiling sea - the heaviest I have ever seen, or wish to see again at such close quarters.  


With the bowl of sandwiches proving a distraction from the grim business of hanging on for our lives, one of the girls took the executive decision to dump our lunch, bowl as well, into the sea. She crouched beside me, silent and pale, an accomplished sailor unlike me, and way out of her depth. Trembling with fear, teeth chattering, I clung to my winch.  The skipper refused to turn back. The huge wave at the harbour mouth would, he insisted, turn the boat over if we tried to return and there was no way back.  He handed the wheel to my partner, the only other man on board and luckily an experienced sailor, and disappeared down below to sort out the navigation.  By the time he returned we had mutinied, and to a man and woman had decided to go back, whatever it took, rather than face many hours in such dire and dangerous conditions with an uncertain outcome.  


My partner took charge and somehow managed to find a tiny window of slightly flatter water to turn the boat swiftly, avoiding capsizing it which could have flung any or all of us into the sea - a huge wave hitting a small boat sideways-on is the biggest danger.  He then skillfully surfed the waves back into safe waters to the enormous relief of all on board.  Later, we took the safe route back through the canals to Venice, a route which had previously been discounted on the grounds of depth, but which turned out to be perfectly negotiable.  We never did get lunch that day but we really bonded over supper that night!


I rose early the next morning and set out alone for Grado where we had joined the boat, unwilling to expose myself to such potential danger again and looking forward to a trip overland under my own steam. My partner felt he should stay with the boat and see everyone safely back as the sea was still very unsettled after the recent storm. 



St Marks from St Elena
I thoroughly enjoyed my early morning Vaporetto trip across to St Marks Square where I found myself a front row seat on a trip up the Grand Canal to the railway station, negotiated the pitfalls of the Italian ticketing system, took a train across Northern Italy, nearly missed my stop, somehow managed to communicate with a fellow traveller who spoke no English at all, but helped me find my way by bus to Grado and back to the market square where we began our adventure a week before. 

Sitting with coffee and a croissant, I decided enough was enough and booked myself into a hotel for our last night in the Venetian Lagoon, a small cosy room with my own loo and shower and a bed that I could stretch out in and get out of without hitting my head!  Utter bliss.  The others arrived later that evening after a long but relatively uneventful trip, cold, tired and wet.  We shared a final celebratory meal together and, relieved, went back to our everyday lives.  



The holiday from hell or the holiday of a lifetime?  A bit of both perhaps but two firm decisions have been made.  One is that we will only sail alone, on our own very sea-worthy boat, make our own decisions; and the other?  To learn Italian!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Tulips are so beautiful right now

Today is time out from all this madness of putting our house on the market and at the same time reassessing our lives, where we are now and how we want the future to unfold.  This turns out to be better than therapy and there are plenty of opportunities to contemplate the tulips while we try and make some tough decisions.  My jealously guarded pot of tulips has survived the further depredations of the dog, but she continues to show great interest in them!  Her other particular favourite flower to nibble is carnations

I am having serious second thoughts about the chain of events we have triggered.  Who are these strangers who trail through my home, poking about in my closets and demanding to know exactly how much sun we get in the courtyard, and when (it varies depending on the time of year, how high or low the sun is in the sky), then dismissing us for their own spurious and personal reasons as everyone chases their own particular version of the dream, the rural idyll.


Putting so much time and energy into our home recently has only made us love it more, appreciate all the things that work for us here, despite the things that don't.   Every little change we make, every detail we complete, every vision I have had for the house and garden that we are now realising, bonds us to it more.  It is such a jewel of a house, full of colour and love and it fits us perfectly now after the five years we have spent here.  The thought of starting again in another house with all the adjustments that will have to be made does seem increasingly daunting!  And life moves on.  I know things won't be the same again if we do make a move back but at the same time, I do miss my old friends and companions and would love to spend more time with them.




The memorial service for my friend was held last week in the lovely old village church in Kent where my youngest son was christened and where my mother used to join me for the annual candlelit carol service.  The church was full of old friends and familiar faces and of course everyone wanted to catch up with us and then I was so sure we were doing the right thing.  But my sons have all left home now and my mother is no longer alive so should I really disrupt our lives to chase a dream, a time that has vanished into thin air. Perhaps the answer is to make sure I spend more time there in future and keep up with my old friends but hold onto what we are building here?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Getting There... maybe

I'm sitting here alone in my house tonight with a glass of Kentish white wine and a frittata, made with vegetables from a neighbour's garden.  I bartered the vegetables for a pot of the marmalade I make every January, a popular present.  Yesterday afternoon was spent sitting in the garden of another neighbour in the village, together with the latest additions to the next generation.  Tomorrow my next door neighbour and I are planning a blackberrying expedition in the country lanes that surround the village.



It's been just over a year now since my partner and I made the move from Kent to Suffolk and it's been a challenging and sometimes fraught time.  I have often been horribly homesick for my old life and familiar people and places, but having decided to leave my comfort zone, I am slowly beginning to reap the rewards. Friendships take time to grow, but there are some promising beginnings.



Today was spent sorting out the garden, a new challenge for me after years of living in rented houses.  It is a continual puzzle to me, what should go, what to keep, what will thrive and where.  There have been some successes and some ignominious failures. I am currently trying to work out what to grow beside my pink climbing rose, now planted in the courtyard outside the kitchen - should it be cat mint, lavender or a deep blue Hebe?  And what will do best in the very dry corner of the bed by the front door when the Cosmos has finished?  I'm tempted by a deep red lavatera framing the herbs - the silver thyme I planted there is spreading itself very nicely indeed. There is so much more to do, so many plans to make, but it's been a good first year and I'm enjoying myself, rootling around deep in the Suffolk soil.  It certainly keeps me grounded.




My peaceful time will end tomorrow, as it should.  I really wouldn't enjoy it so much if I had too much of it.  My youngest son, home from university for the summer, will be returning from his visit to his father in London, soon to be joined by my oldest son and his girlfriend, staying for a couple of days rest and relaxation - them, not me!  Then it's off to Holland on the ferry to join my partner, who took the boat over yesterday, for a week or two of cruising the Dutch canals and inland seas before it's back to earth with a bump and perhaps an end of summer Pimm's party for all our new friends and neighbours.


Thursday, 13 November 2008

Adieu

The late afternoon sun slanting through the trees transformed the ancient country churchyard, turning the few remaining leaves to pure gold. There was a gentle breeze and a spirit of sadness and regret but also of deep peace. Dozens of black-clad mourners gathered in small groups, all saying goodbye in their own way. A modest woman, she would have been amazed that so many people cared about her and came to see her laid to rest.

We buried her with her lost husband, the love of her life. After all the years of treatment and all that she had suffered, her time had come, and although she was young to die, there was a sense of release and of a life complete.

It was, at the end, where she wanted to be.

Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Year Turns

After the recent stormy weather, it wasn't hard to fill the car boot with fallen branches to build a fire in the orchard. My son and I carved out pumpkin faces, threaded lanterns through the apple trees and borrowed bales of straw from a kind neighbour, scattered around the fire for seating. We put the stereo outside on a long extension lead, playing party music and waited for the guests to arrive.

There was a nail-biting hour or so, when it seemed no-one was going to come. My son kept smiling somehow as his friends phoned and texted, changing arrangements, re-making plans, but finally a friend arrived, then a couple more. An hour later, there were a couple of dozen youngsters gathered around the blazing fire, seemingly immune to the damp and cold, eating pizzas and hotdogs, drinking beers, chatting and laughing.

Much later, when everyone had left, I wandered around the dark, quiet garden, collecting whatever needed to come in straight away, leaving the rest 'til morning, stopping to gaze up at the clear, cold, starry night sky and enjoying the sense of peace and the pleasure of another successful gathering. Memories that I hope my son will carry with him when his life takes him away from this quiet corner of the countryside and into the wider world where he must make his own way.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Christmas Walk

The sun came out briefly as we assembled by the white five-bar gate which separates the farmhouse from the busy B road connecting two villages which, a decade or so ago no doubt was just a quiet country lane. Today there was little traffic on the road and we soon headed off into deep countryside, following the thin trails linking one footpath with another, chatting and admiring the beautiful, unspoilt, wintry scenery, always keeping the Church Tower in view. Our lodestone. After a while we met the road again briefly, beside the old abandoned windmill on top of the rise, before crossing the ancient churchyard shaded by yew trees, and back into open country.

An hour or so later we emerged by a lovely hop-strewn pub, log fire blazing, and a very welcome drink and lunch. One or two people peeled off after lunch, but the die-hards set off back across country, following The Man in the Woolly Jumper who had the map, losing our way occasionally, finding ourselves in someone else's driveway at one point, but always finding a way through in the end.

The light was fading by the time we got back to the house, my sons grumbling by now. Friends rallied round, someone put the kettle on, TMITWJ lit the fire and mince pies were warmed in the oven. After a reviving cup of tea a few more people arrived and bottles of fizz popped as the fire warmed us through, conversation flowed and friends and family relaxed together by the brightly lit Christmas Tree.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Curdled Milk

'This milk's off,' I said to the Deputy Head, 'in fact the fridge is warm. Feel that bottle of white wine. Is it yours?' 
'Yes,' he said, 'do you fancy a glass?' 
'Oh, no thanks,' I replied, rather ungraciously. It wasn't the best offer I had ever had. It was late afternoon and we were just trying to have a final cup of tea before heading home to children and supper and chores. I suddenly thought of the bottles of fizz sitting in my lovely, cold fridge at home, waiting for a special occasion and decided I could do better than that!

'Why don't you come over to my house and have a glass of wine in the orchard?' I suggested. It was such a lovely, clear, warm late June afternoon and an opportunity simply to let everything go and enjoy the evening. And he came, along with a few other friends who could drop everything at short notice, bringing nuts and crisps and more fizz, and we had an impromptu drinks party in the orchard, moving the wooden table and chairs around to catch the last warmth of the sun as it sank towards the west and the shadows grew longer.


Sometimes, you just have to seize the moment.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Turning Point

'You changed the course of my life,' I said to her as we stood talking in the Marquee beside the white-covered trestle tables, laden with food and drink. She looked shocked. I suppose it is strange to think that a casual decision, taken one busy working day, can shape someone else's life.

I was a fresh pretty young girl, newly arrived in London from Yorkshire when she took a chance on me, offered me a job working for a large international company without checking my shorthand and typing, which weren't all they could have been.

Not that I had thought of her at all, these 30 years or so since that day, but seeing her there now brought it home to me that it was that decision that had changed my world, brought me a marriage that lasted 18 years, our three amazing sons, life-longs friends and the invitation to this party in a Sussex orchard on a fine June day.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Scottish Reels

It was quite simply one of the best parties I had ever been to. The Scottish reels were an inspired choice and the perfect antidote for inhibitions as we all made mistakes and fell over our feet or span into someone else. For a while, we all became children again, laughing and giggling and talking to complete strangers.

I took the floor with a friend but we were immediately whisked away from each other by the dance and I found myself stopping with the music in front of a tall, slim man wearing a pink shirt. I have a weakness for a man in a pink shirt. We chatted for a few minutes and discovered we had friends in common before the music started up again and we whirled away from each other, in opposite directions.

It was much later when I was taking time out at the bar, chatting to people I hadn't seen for a while, that I saw him come across the room towards me. He joined the group and someone introduced us properly, then the group gradually dispersed as people rejoined the dance floor or saw other friends and we were left temporarily alone. We talked for a while and I wondered if he would ever ask me to dance. I was itching to get back on the floor. At last he did and we danced the night away, leaving the party in the small hours.