Tuesday 28 February 2023

Tailspin

 Tailspin




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As part of his pilot training, Gilbert has to practise getting out of a tailspin.


Meanwhile, Roxy, his instructor, watches from the comfort of HMC (Her Master's Chair) Note that she has rearranged the coverings to her liking. She and Gilbert do this several times a day. 


Roxy is squinting to get a really objective view of this most critical part of Gilbert's training. She vehemently denies any notion that she is thoroughly bored with the process and falling asleep.

After a strenuous training session, Gilbert retires to the sofa to practise covert, undercover tennis ball operations.

Jellicoe


 Jellicoe's really putting his back into it this morning!

Monday 27 February 2023

Splooting

 

Splooting

Roxy splooting 
Most of our dogs have adopted the hearth rug position, limbs stretched out fore and aft, from little Jack Russell, Busy Biddy to big Dalmatian, Frodo the Faller. Watching Roxy relaxing today and demonstrating her hearth rug technique, I dimly recalled hearing or reading something to the effect that this pose was not good for dogs, could damage their hips, or some such thinking. I felt this could not be right, as so many of our dogs have done it with no lasting damage, or, indeed, any damage at all.
Puppy Bertie splooting 
There is potential for damage, if passing humans are not looking where they’re going. A dog is a trip hazard at the best of times. For the dog, being mistaken for an actual hearth rug could be perilous!

I looked it up and discovered there is a name for ‘hearth rug dog’. Apparently, ‘splooting’ has long been associated with Welsh Corgis, but many other breeds also do it, as do cats, rabbits and other four-legged animals, like squirrels and lizards.

One explanation suggests that animals sploot to stretch their joints. Another thought is that they do it to cool down when the weather is very hot. Dogs can only sweat through their pads and so stretch out to expose as much as possible of their skin to cool surfaces.

Anyway, splooting is my new word of the day, but there will be limited opportunities to use it.

Saturday 25 February 2023

Sous Vide

 

Sous Vide

My son is an accomplished and inventive cook. I attribute this, modestly, to my influence in his young life, and, incidentally, that of his siblings.

Allow me to explain. I am the World’s Worst Cook. My mother did not enjoy cooking, although her mother was a professional cook. Her meals were appetising and varied and she did her best to teach me the rudiments of cooking and baking. The love of cooking was not there, however, and it did not find fulfilment in me. Like her, I did it because I had to, though not as well, and my children would have suffered had it not been for their father, who enjoys the chemistry of cooking, managing to introduce original dishes to their experience. (You know, he even tastes as he goes along!)

So, my children followed my husband’s path and each in turn became ‘good cooks’, but Gareth is taking it to greater heights. Nina, his wife, is also a good cook, but she is happy to let Gareth take the lead and continue to produce outstanding meals.

We have enjoyed many repasts, often produced on his barbeque. He barbecues the Christmas turkey every year regardless of the weather, and we have appreciated his wonderful home-smoked salmon.

He has been using the Sous Vide method for some time now and recently introduced Barry to it, with a gift of Sous Vide equipment. Sous Vide has been around in one form or another since 1799. Simply, it is low-temperature, long-time cooking (LTLT) and has been used in some restaurants for more than twenty years. Now, very few professional chefs do not use Sous Vide, though many prefer not to admit to its use. Jamie Oliver is an exception.

Sous Vide is not for the last-minute ‘What shall we have for supper?’ cook (me!) It requires thought and timing but the results, I must say, are amazing, succulent and flavourful. Barry is enjoying the challenge of a new way of cooking but he hasn’t yet tried anything that takes 72 hours! 

Thursday 23 February 2023

My first blog post

 

My first blog post

I started blogging in February fourteen years ago, when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister. Reproduced below is my first blog.

There has been barely any mention in the news of the terrible life-changing injuries sustained by British Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is very difficult to obtain accurate figures which suggests a degree of duplicity; additionally the figures that are available are incomplete and do not tell the whole tragic story. Last year alone 4200 very seriously wounded personnel were ‘casualty evacuated’ out of theatre to receive outstanding dedicated medical attention at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham. This figure does not include fatalities or indeed other less seriously injured people who were treated in situ initially before being returned to home shores. Neither are the figures for those who die during treatment after repatriation readily available. Many of the homeless people existing on our streets are there because their lives have been irrevocably altered during active service. No longer able to cope with ‘normal’ life they have been abandoned by the state and reduced to begging. It is understood that General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, bringing to the attention of Gordon Brown the plight of returning injured and damaged men and women, was told that any monetary help would not be provided by him. This smacks of a washing of hands by the Government. There is little or no Government support for the victims and their families who must rely on charities for assistance. Help for Heroes, SSAFA, The Royal British Legion, BLESMA are just a few of the many organisations delivering advice and support. Communities throughout the United Kingdom are forming local charities to help alleviate the suffering of their disabled citizens’ blighted lives. It is time for the Government to cease its reliance on charities and take responsibility for the ongoing care of the young men and women whose minds and bodies have been shattered in the service of their country.

Little has changed in the ensuing fourteen years. Veterans still rely on charity. There was enthusiastic talk about providing ex-military personnel with identity cards that would allow them swifter access to services.

Taken from https://www.questonline.co.uk/news/article/id-card-rollout-to-veterans-could-take-a-100-years-at-the-current-speed

“In 2019, ministers pledged to give every veteran an ID card to enable them quicker access to health, housing, and charity services.

As of November 2022, data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that only 56,000 ID cards have been handed out since 2018, despite there being more than 1.8 million veterans in England and Wales.

That could mean all those entitled to a card would, in theory, be waiting 125 years to receive it.”

The will to help is there – somewhere.

Meanwhile, the military charities compete with every other charity for donations to help those living in straitened circumstances.

 

 

Brer Fox

 

Brer Fox

Tigger in his blog (Tigger’s Wee-blog) the other day mentioned ‘his’ fox burying a bone. What clever animals they are.

My heart misses a beat when I see one trotting purposefully across my garden and my blood chills when I hear them screaming in the small of the night. The sobbing cry of the vixen as she calls for a mate or while mating is other-worldly.

I know they are loathed by farmers and can understand their vexation at the damage they cause, but still I admire their cunning, their style, their elegance.

As a child I liked all the Uncle Remus tales, but one of my favourites was Brer Fox and the Tar Baby. Later, I enjoyed Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, which lauds the wit of the fox. (I wonder if that story has fallen prey to the prissy rewriters of much-loved tales?)

Foxes feature in much children’s literature, frequently in Aesop’s Fables, those pithy moral tales. The gingerbread man (Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me , I’m the gingerbread man) meets his end on the fox’s nose, and Chicken Licken and his friends are fooled into entering Foxy Loxy’s den, never to be seen again. The fox in Beatrix Potter’s book, The Tale of Mr Tod, does battle with Tommy Brock the badger, using ‘dreadful bad language’. ‘Fox in Sox’ by Dr Seuss is another favourite with small children.

In song, there is  'The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night' sung by Bob Shane., and found on YouTube.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Basil Brush was a fox glove puppet and the star of a television programme for children. He spoke rather in the perceived manner of ‘a fox-hunting man’ and was given to atrocious jokes, always followed by his catch
phrase, ‘Ha, ha, ha. Boom! Boom!’

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Leicester City Football Club adopted Filbert Fox as their mascot in 1992. Filbert is always to be seen on match days, dressed in blue, entertaining the crowds and cheering on his team from the sidelines.

Reynard was the country nickname for a fox, deriving from mediaeval English by way of the French ‘Renart’ and the Old German name ‘Reginhart’. ‘Tod’ is also from Middle English and is still used in Northern England and Scotland as a name for the fox.

Foxes are believed to be largely nocturnal and yet there are many well-documented stories of foxes sunning themselves on roofs or leaping over walls and fences from one garden to another during daylight hours. My next-door neighbour has a visiting fox that spends much of its time resting on her lawn. We have nocturnal foxes and cubs regularly crossing our front garden. They have well-defined paths and never seem to stay long, so I don’t know what they’re looking for. Snails, maybe? They don’t come into the back garden since we installed our cat enclosing fencing. One night, before the installation, we watched a vixen teaching her cub to catch rats, but we have not, to date, managed to photograph a fox. Must try harder!

 

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Cause for celebration

 

Cause for celebration

Following his recent significant birthday Barry was informed by the Pension Service, part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that he was entitled to a rise in his state pension. The rise is 3.5 pence per day.

3.5 pence per day will not even buy an onion or a potato or an egg.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Nicknames

 

Nicknames

Do you have a nickname? Do you love it or hate it?

For the humans, Gillian was Gillyillyillian and Gareth was Gareth-oh, or, from his siblings, Gaz.  Susannah was Sooozzz, or Cookes or SueSue, or her judo coach’s favourite, Susie. Bethan was always Bethan and cast a stern look if called Beth. To family she is known as The Bethelator, though Gillian calls her B.

My late sister’s name was Beryl, but my late brother-in-law called her Bee and it suited her so well because she was a very busy person.

Barry’s names were Cookie, (also used for Susannah) Baz and Punchy, because he was a boxer. We also call him ‘Sir’. I call him Cooke!

My name is Janice and I loathe it being shortened to Jan. People only ever try that once. My very best teenage friend, through whom I met Barry, used to call me Janissimo, which I rather liked.

Our animals have various names to which they respond. Gus was Gustopher, Bertie was Berts or Bertyberts, Roxy is Roxyloxy or Roxalls and Gilbert is Gillygillygilbert or Giblet. Jellicoe accepts Jelly and Jellicose, and Herschel is Hershey, Herschels or Herschy-baby. Bethan’s dog, Lolly, who often spends her holidays with us, is known by us as Lollipop, while Arthur, Susannah’s dog, is Art or Artie or Artiloid.

Why do we indulge in nicknames? Sometimes they arise naturally from a child’s attempt to pronounce a name. Callum, for example, used to call Susannah Sue-Anna, and Frankie called Barry ByeBye. To many small children I was known as Daniss.

I think they are often an expression of affection, of closeness, of belonging to a tribe, a group, a family. They are special names to be used only by those ‘in the know’.

 

Saturday 18 February 2023

A Life full of Animals - the final part

 

A Life full of Animals – the final part

I cannot leave this theme without paying tribute to the other animals in my life, the two-legged variety. I have chosen to use photographs of them as little beings, when they begin to resemble human beings, not the very smallest, newborn ones, when only the most besotted and closely-related  can truly say, 'Oh, how beautiful' and sound as though they mean it!

Naturally, my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were stunning from the moment they were born, but they were the exception.

First. always and forever, is my husband. Here he is, at three years old, in India, where he lived for three years, He came back to the UK on a troop ship when he was six, better able to converse in Urdu than English. 

I debated whether I should include a photograph of myself, but I am another animal in my life. As the youngest of three, the novelty had rather worn off for my parents, so there aren't many snaps of me. However, here I am at the Festival of Britain in 1951, aged seven. I'm the one sitting on the well-fed pony.

Gillian appears next. A blue-eyed, corn-gold blonde, after the Cooke fashion, she looked nothing like me, a hazel-brown-eyed brunette, and for a while I wondered if I had actually had anything to do with her as everybody remarked on how much she looked like Barry. She grew up to be a very pretty girl, but not particularly tall (the Cooke influence) and is now a loving mother to two blonde blue-eyed daughters and a brown-haired blue-eyed son, and a grandmother to 4, soon to be 5, all with blue eyes and blonde hair.

 

                                                            Gardening

So delighted were we with Gillian that we embarked on a second child and Gareth was born twenty months later. Some people marvelled that a brown-eyed boy should be born to a blue-eyed father. Once again, where was I in the equation? Gareth grew into a handsome strong young man of 6’3” (the Mayne genes asserting themselves here) and is now a devoted father to three, two sons taller than him and a beautiful daughter, taller than her mother. All of them have wonderful deep brown eyes, and very dark brown hair.

 

                                                            Purposeful

Third in line came Susannah, a striking green-eyed ash blonde. Like her brother, she grew tall and is a loving mother to a blue-eyed dark blond boy.

 
Dreaming

After a nine-year delay, when we had forgotten what caused it, Bethan was born, a quietly beautiful brown-eyed blonde. She has two dark-eyed brown-haired sons.

 
                                                           Hobby horse
Then we move onto the second generation. 

Marnie, Gillian’s eldest

                                                          Birthday cake  

Her sister, Shakira (Kiri)

                                                        In the garden
Their brother, Callum

 
On holiday

Elliot, Gareth’s eldest child

 
Full of mischief

His sister, Eve

                                                            Curious

Their brother, Louis

                                       
                                                            At the helm

Susannah’s son, Frankie

                                                             Reading

Bethan’s elder son, Charlie

 
On the'phone

His younger brother, Jack 

A life on the ocean wave

Then comes the beginning of the third generation.

 Isla, Marnie’s elder child

                                                          Aye,aye, Cap'n

Fergus, her younger brother

                                                        Steering a course

Then there are  Shakira’s daughter and son, Ariella and Luca, but we have no individual photographs of them.

Finally, for the moment, there is Callum's daughter, Melia, still incubating and due to join the world in March . . .  and there will be others in the future, no doubt

What sort of world will these little people grow up into? Each generation faces problems which seem insurmountable but thus far, we have overcome them or adapted to them. Perhaps there is a kernel of truth in the saw, 'Where there's life there's hope.'

I see the formatting has gone awry in parts. It's a good thing I'm not possessed of the demons that demand perfection.

Thursday 16 February 2023

Gilbert the coal merchant

 

Gilbert the coal merchant

Gilbert with his friend, Herschel
We think Gilbert may have been a coal merchant in a previous existence. He has a fondness for selecting lumps of coal (actually anthracite) from the scuttle and taking them to his bed, his crate, the kitchen, the conservatory.

He enjoys munching them, though it’s not something we encourage. If he were a human female we might think he was ‘in an interesting condition.’
Gilbert with Selene-the-vet (left) last week
Playtime 

We’ve told him that Saturday is going to be very exciting for him but he looks quizzically at us, wondering if it means food - hoping it means food. So far, he’s liked everything he’s tried. Carrots are a particular favourite, but he also likes bananas, apples, pears, peaches, scrambled egg . . . well, anything, really. He takes his lead from Roxy, who considers that if the humans are eating something, it must be good. However, Roxy doesn't realise that the humans don't always eat things that are good for them - or for her.
Falling asleep with toys
Gilbert has been trying his paw at creative paper crafts, though we shall have to wait to see if he displays the same talent as Gus. The following is a critique of Gus’s work when he was 14 months old. It was published on February 10th, 2011.

Gus is an artist who displays distinction and diversity as he practises in different media. Still young, he has nonetheless shown great imagination and skill in his works to date and the art world expects great things of him as he matures. Below are two examples he intends to enter for the 2011 Turner Prize. As in previous years the Turner Prize Exhibition will be held at the Tate Britain in October. 


Gus's first exhibit is a wood carving he finished in the autumn of last year. Note the delicacy of the work and the contrast between the apparently random shapes and sizes. Some elements are so small as to be almost unnoticeable were it not for the strong background colour of the mount he chose for his work.

For his second piece Gus chose to work with found materials and selected a small tea carton on which to work his magic. He had intended to attempt an origami structure but discovered that the different textures he achieved made a more pleasing display. Note how some elements are roughly, almost crudely, torn, while others retain approximately their original form. Yet other components have been subtly punched to give an embossed texture. Again, the background has been cleverly selected to show the work to its best advantage. The dust and hairs are an integral part of the whole oeuvre.

Be sure to look out for Gus's name in the shortlist for the Turner Prize - we have high hopes for him.

 Sadly, Gus’s genius went unrecognised and he focused his attention elsewhere.

Yesterday, Gilbert tried gardening but then decided that playing with the empty pot was more fun, tossing it in the air and pouncing on it, rather like a cat. Bit confused, Gilbert?

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Random thoughts

 

Random thoughts

Random thoughts flit in and out of my brain. It’s not always possible to know what prompts them and sometimes they take me on ‘voyages of discovery and other clich├ęs.’

Recently, I have been thinking about sailors, that is, Royal Navy sailors. Obviously the trigger for that was my recent blog about sailing. I wondered why sailors were referred to as matelots.

Why would a French name be assigned to a naval rating? Maybe it was a hangover from when Calais belonged to England, in the sixteenth century. The English King Edward III captured Calais in 1347. It was returned to France in 1558.

I looked it up. Matelot is a Middle French slang word meaning sailor. Middle French covers the period from the 14th to 16th centuries. It came into use in the Royal Navy about 1847, so, nothing to do with the possession of Calais!

Another common term for a naval rating is Tar, or Jack Tar. It seemed logical to suppose that this name was applied because of the necessity of tarring a ship to waterproof it. Anyone involved in this messy task would soon be covered in the sticky, pungent coating.

I looked it up. I was wrong again. Apparently, it is thought to refer to the tarpaulins sailors wore. Tarpaulins were a type of strong canvas containing tar to make them waterproof. ‘Jack Tar’ to describe a sailor was first used in 1781 by George Parker, possibly Admiral Sir George Parker.

People born in Swansea in the UK have often been called Jacks or Swansea Jacks. Swansea people had a reputation for being skilled sailors and were much sought after for recruitment to the navy.

The official march of the Royal Navy, ‘Heart of Oak’, has a line which says, ‘Heart of oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men’.

John was the commonest boy’s name in England in the 16th century.  Jack is a diminutive of John. An interesting article from ‘Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources’describes how the nickname for John developed.

Jack was a common name applied to any man and is still in use in many phrases today, as in Jack of all trades, every man Jack, Jack of both sides, Jack the lad, Before you can say Jack Robinson, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, I’m all right, Jack (pull up the ladder)

The infamous Whitechapel murders of the 1880s were not committed by a man called Jack the Ripper. In the twenty-first century a more accurate name for him would have been ‘Anyman the Ripper’.

From this point, I started thinking about Jack in children’s literature, in particular nursery rhymes. Jack and Jill, Jack be nimble, Jack Sprat, Little Jack Horner are all rhymes that have been sung and recited to small children, who respond to the rhymes with delight, in the process building a sense of rhythm and rhyming and developing their vocabulary in a most pleasurable way.

Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack Frost are well-loved children’s stories. This is the house that Jack built is a wonderful cumulative story that children love to join in with great enthusiasm.

 

Monday 13 February 2023

Another visit to the vet

 

Another visit to the vet 


Last Thursday, Gilbert was fourteen weeks old and visited the vet again for his final vaccinations. As he was not allowed to put paw to ground until fully immunised, he had to be carried. He now weighs 12 kilograms, the average weight of a three-year-old child, but he doesn’t cling on in the same way!

Most three-year old children are competent walkers and climbers and puppies would love to have the same freedom to tackle stairs and steps. The difference between them, though, is that children don’t generally fling themselves up and down stairs with gay abandon. Given the opportunity, puppies will.

However, there are dangers in allowing them to go full pelt because of the potential damage to their growth plates.
This is an x-ray of a two-week old puppy, showing how far the bones have to grow before forming a joint. 
From the Internet: ‘Growth plates are soft areas of developing cartilage tissue found by the ends of the dog's long bones. They are made of cartilage when the puppy is born, but gradually calcify and harden into solid bone; prior to that, the growth plates are vulnerable to being injured and possibly fractured because they are the last portion of the bones to harden.

Generally, most growth takes place between the ages of 4 to 8 months. After 8 months, there is minimal longitudinal growth of bones. By 12 months most growth plates are fused or closed and no longer show on x-rays. In some large/giant dog breeds the growth plates may remain open up to 18–20 months of age.’

We have always used the rule of thumb of 5 minutes of exercise per puppy month. When Gilbert sets paw in the outside world later on this week, he will be on a carefully controlled extending lead, so that he can explore and sniff the information left by other dogs. It will be an exciting time for him – and for us.

In the past two weeks Gilbert has learnt to climb stairs, under close supervision and control. At first he zig-zagged from side to side as he climbed, stopping every now and then to discover that Roxy, Herschel and Jellicoe had been there before him. 

Coming downstairs he always wants to go faster than he is allowed, usually because he wants to get into the garden. He has been a very reliable puppy, only having had one or two ‘mistakes’ in the house when he first joined us.

He seems to be in a hurry to grow up. It’s always amazing that puppies grow so quickly but Gilbert appears to grow visibly by the day. In the last week his adult coat has started to come through. The soft plush of his puppy coat now has a coarser strip along his spine.

He loves playing with Arthur and doesn’t grab his ears as frequently as he did, probably because he is now taller than him. Roxy plays with Gilbert, too, but not as much or as frequently as he would like. I think that will change as they start going out together for walks.

Herschel continues to strengthen his bond with Gilbert but Jellicoe usually ignores him in the supercilious way only cats demonstrate. Gilbert is grateful for any attention, even that of being positively ignored.

He saw Selene-the-Vet this time. She confirmed Patrycja-the-Vet’s discovery that one of his testicles hasn’t descended. We have to wait now to see whether the second testicle will descend by the time he is six months old. Life as a stud dog was never envisioned for Gilbert, nor a career in the show ring - just as well, really.

From the Internet: ‘Dogs with cryptorchidism can develop torsion, an extremely painful condition where the testicle twists upon itself, inhibiting blood flow. The testicle swells as it becomes engorged with blood. This condition typically presents with abdominal pain and evidence of a firm mass in the stomach. The pain can be so severe it causes the dog to go into shock. Immediate removal of the testicle is required to provide relief.’

Dogs with cryptorchidism are at a higher risk of developing testicular cancer later in life. Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer in older male dogs, and the risk among dogs with cryptorchidism increases by about 13 percent.’

It was all going so swimmingly! Hopefully, the problem will resolve itself. Meanwhile, we shall be keeping a closer eye on Gilbert’s nether regions than we had anticipated. I was going to say ‘watch this space’ but that hardly seems appropriate!  

Friday 10 February 2023

Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main

Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main


My family enjoys sailing and we have a boat on the Solent, in the South of England. 
Appaloosa, named after the kennel name of Cariadd

The Solent is a 20-mile-long narrow strait between the Isle of Wight and mainland Britain.
The Isle of Wight is marked red

 Isle of Wight , showing the Solent
The Isle of Wight was a favourite haunt of Queen Victoria and it is where she died, in 1901, at Osborne House, her summer holiday home. Her patronage of the island made it a popular destination for wealthy Victorians.

In addition to being a major shipping lane for commercial and military vessels, the Solent is a recreational area for water sports, in particular, sailing. The annual Cowes Week series of races attracts competitors from around the world. The week culminates in a splendid fireworks display.


There are a number of webcams situated on the island, which we enjoy watching. There is also a live map which enables watchers to identify different craft, from huge cruise and container ships, to local ferries to busy little tugs and pilot boats. 

USS Gerald R. Ford was moored in the Solent, near Portsmouth in November 2022. The world’s largest warship, it had been engaged in training exercises in the Atlantic with other NATO partners.
USS Gerald R. Ford

Watching one day, we saw our boat sail past, with one of its fenders hanging over the side. (Our boat is chartered when we’re not using it, which is most of the time!)

Both my parents were born and brought up in the area, my father in Gosport, my mother in Southsea. My father joined the Royal Navy and in those days, the 1920s, commissions were long. He left on a commission in 1928 not long after my sister was born and didn’t return for three years. The men made their own entertainment, Uckers, a form of Ludo, being one favourite occupation. Sometimes it was played on deck, on an oversized board, using a bucket to throw the large dice.

 He was a good pianist, so was a prominent member of any Naval band. He saw action in the Second World War, notably in the Arctic convoys. When he took my mother to Russia and it was discovered that he had been on the Arctic convoys he was treated as an honoured guest.

A favourite pastime with children on our boat was to hoist them up the mast in the bosun’s chair, where they could swing to their heart’s content. The bosun's chair is intended for repairing rigging - no ladders available!


Another pleasure for them was to sit in the boat’s tender or dinghy, attached to the boat and use the paddles. They also used to dive into the water for a swim, always attached to the boat by a line. 


Safety lines and life jackets were de rigeur and none of the foregoing activities were carried out unless the boat was safely moored. So the children became familiar with the boat and the sea, later learning to fish, then gut and cook the catch.

Nights were spent in peaceful moorings, like the Beaulieu river. Watching a wonderful sunset or waking to a glorious sunrise and enjoying the varied birdlife all enhanced the experience.

Of course, the weather was often inclement, sometimes foggy, frequently raining or blowing a howling gale. Then the dress of the day was oilies and sou’westers, often bright yellow or red, for, after all, if you have the misfortune to be swept overboard, you want to be easy to spot in the boiling sea..


Note the opening phrase of this post, ’My family enjoys sailing.’ The sad fact is that they do and I do not. A peaceful day on the mooring is lovely but my anxiety levels rise alarmingly if Barry should suggest that we ‘go for a little sail’. He has tried so hard over the years - more than fifty! – to encourage me but has finally accepted that I am not going to experience an epiphany. 

I find it sometimes boring – a wide expanse of sea with nothing in sight, unless it's crowded with small craft racing, or big vessels travelling – and, more often, worrying. I do not enjoy standing at right angles to the waves - it can hardly be called ‘sitting’ when one is braced against the opposite side of the cockpit, watching the water streaming past one’s feet at a great rate of knots. My family, however, find it exhilarating when the boat is over on its ear, and do everything they can to get the greatest possible speed out of her.

Then there are the ferries, cruisers, tankers and vast container ships and I know they have every safety device known to man, but I fear being mown down into a watery grave. I have every confidence in my husband, an experienced sailor since his youth, who can look at calm water and tell if a breeze is coming, and I know he is a cautious man, up to date with all the latest safety gizmos, but still I cannot help calculating the distance to the nearest shore and wondering if I am capable of swimming to it. I am sure Davy Jones has me in his sights to join his locker.

In short, I regard myself as a Jonah, destined to bring death and disaster on board. Not for nothing do suspicious, superstitious sailors fear that a woman on board presages bad luck.

Anyway, someone’s got to stay at home to look after the animals!