A Post Without Haste

January 6, 2010

Well, time has passed since I started to write what follows & I am only now in a position to update the blog; it’s January and we’re back on board Rampage in Barcelona…. Go figure – life was fairly busy for us whilst we were in UK over Christmas and New Year (13 different beds in a 3 week visit!). What follows is inevitably fairly long, so we have subdivided it for those of you like Pol, who prefer their blog in more manageable, bite-size pieces!

The run up to Christmas.

(written 23rd December 2009)

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Here we are in late December, just before Christmas and we’ve now had several emails asking just what we thought we were doing not posting a blog entry to let you all know what we were up to.

OK, I know that some people have been following the blog closely but I didn’t realise perhaps how closely. To be honest, we didn’t think that an entry that largely consisted of ‘got up, didn’t do a vast amount, had a nice supper and a couple of drinks and went to bed’ was the sort of thing that you’d all be interested in. Clearly, we were wrong if the complaints are to be believed. So you asked for it, so here it is!

Jonno at the ripe old age of 30 - and he still doesn't look a day over 16!

Firstly, we’re not in Barcelona at all at the moment but back in cold, snowy UK. We came back here on 12 December for a surprise birthday party for our son Jonno. He was 30 this year and his wife Lucy had organized a considerable party of friends and relations to surprise him in a bar in London. His face as he was led into the place was a picture – imagine a fish gulping for water and you’ve got it. We had a great evening and spent the following day with Jonno and Lucy in their new flat, before moving to Cheshire to spend time with Duncan’s Mum and Dad and his brother Mike and wife, Jane. We had a fair bit of business to do with banks and house letting agents and the like which kept us busy until last weekend, (19th/20th Dec.)

The scenery around Pennant farmhouse (grand-daughter Jessie in the foreground)

Since the weekend, we’ve been in a rented farmhouse high in the hills above Llanrwst in N Wales. The link below is to the Google earth map for the place so you can get an idea of how remote it is (OK, I know that our north American readers will think that it’s not that isolated but look at it from the UK perspective). <http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=53.132663,-3.756466&num=1&sll=53.141063,-3.799093&sspn=0.026777,0.06403&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=53.138842,-3.751144&spn=0.043456,0.1684&z=13&gt; I’m sitting in our bedroom to write this, looking out over a vista of snow capped mountains to Snowdon in the distance – great.

We’re here with the extended family, there were 18 of us in residence last night and the same number are due tonight, when we’re going to have a murder/mystery game, written by Julia and me. It involves murder most foul in the California Gold Rush, so it will involve much dressing up and ham acting of the worst kind! If we can remember what goes on, we’ll post an entry to tell you all about it!

The "boys" get down to some serious Lego building (left to right: Ken, Jonno & nephew Nick)

We then have another week in UK before flying back to Barcelona in the New Year. We’re very grateful to the courts for having banned the BA strike, as it means we should now be able to get back to the boat easily and on time(ish).

Making jewelry

As regards what we were up to before we left Barcelona, well most of our time was taken up writing the murder/mystery for today. This is not an easy process, especially when you’re doing it as a partnership. One person has an idea, the other thinks its rubbish and then both of you go to opposite ends of the boat to sulk. Takes forever but we did get it finished and didn’t fall out too badly in the process. We’ve also spent a certain amount of time making bits of jewelry for Christmas table gifts. The skipper seems to have a bit of a flair for this, matched only by Jonno’s skill as a nail technician!! During this week he has decorated fingernails with minute Christmas trees and snowmen, holly and Santas. An unexpected talent but it does at least mean he can earn a little extra income if pushed!

We’ve been out visiting other boats a couple of times and have hosted a few friends on Rampage, usually eating a little too much but hey, why not live dangerously! There were quite a few people in the marina who were heading back to home for Christmas but about the same number of people were staying put. The marina gave some free electricity to those who decorated their boats with lights, so the place looked quite festive as we left. I’ve no doubt that those who stayed over the holiday will have some tales to tell when we get back in the New Year.

Jessie & Charlie setting off to toboggan

This week has been pretty action-packed so far: a couple of gargantuan food shopping expeds to cope with the vast numbers we are feeding, lots of snow-related activities with the grandchildren such as tobogganing and building an igloo plus a trip on the Ffestiniog Railway. The latter is a narrow gauge railway which originally took slate from the N Wales hill quarries down, through some beautiful scenery, to the coast at Portmadog. It has been a tourist attraction for many years now and our grandchildren, Charlie & Jess, were the third generation in the family to ride on it. None of us before, however, were privileged to ride the “Santa Special” through the snowy hills, opening early Christmas presents whilst their adult relatives enjoyed mince pies and sherry and endured Santa’s excruciatingly bad jokes!

Charlie, Grandpa & Jonno inspecting the engine at Tan y Bwlch station

The Santa Special

Charlie, delighted with his gift, aboard the Ffestiniog, with Lucy looking on!

Jess and daddy, Ken, admire her new "Princess" storybook

Christmas and New Year.

(written 5th January 2010. Photos for the following sections will be added when our luggage – including camera – has been restored to us!)

Well, that’s the end of the bit we wrote in December. The murder/mystery was a great success with most people eventually guessing that Lucy did the foul deed using Tommy’s pistol. We all ate far too much through the week and drank a fair bit too. There had to be several replenishments of the beer stocks (and I thought I’d over-catered in that department). One Christmas Eve, Jonno & I constructed a hot air balloon out of multi-coloured tissue paper which we launched after dark from the back garden and watched sail away into the night sky over the hills. We then retreated indoors to the warm, and after supper sang carols, accompanied by Great Grandpa on his clarinet and fortified by some wonderful mulled wine, courtesy of Tommy.

The church service on Christmas morning in Betws y Coed was excellent and the children were delighted to be greeted by a vicar liberally covered in spray glitter and later to be presented with a Christingle orange each and have its meaning explained to them. Later, after presents and lunch, Mike & Jane produced a family tree they have been working on over the past few months and we were invited to update it where possible, (a golden opportunity when we were all gathered together.) This was followed by a general knowledge quiz put together by Jonno and Lucy and to round the day off, we were treated to an archive Byrne family photo show! Over the past few weeks Mike has been painstakingly scanning old slides and photos onto the computer and compiled a wonderful selection of amusing and embarrassing pictures of the family over the past half century. On Boxing Day we went to the pantomime of Dick Whittington. It followed tradition with lots of audience participation, singing, booing and shouts of “It’s behind you!!” Almost inevitably, because we were sitting on the front row, the Dame took a fancy to Grandpa and decided I was undressing her with my eyes – hmmm – unlikely!

After we left the farm, we spent one night at my parents in Waverton before I put J on the train down to visit the Cardiff part of the family whilst I did some scouting round for various bits for Rampage (including a new immersion heater element for the hot water system). I then spent the next couple of nights with my brother Mike & his wife Jane in Wrexham, before taking Dad up to visit sister, Susie and partner Ian at Carnforth. J got back from Cardiff the same evening and we stayed with Mike & Jane another night.

The following day was New Years Eve and we went down to Y Felinheli, (aka Port Dinorwic) where we kept Rampage before we set out, to spend the day with friends from Malpas (Jean and Al from next door and John and Sally from No Mans Heath). We stayed in a rather run-down hotel called the Pink Palace and alternately froze and boiled as an erratic heating system struggled with the weather. There is, however, a great little pub in the village where we had lunch and then returned later to see in the New Year. A grand, if relatively quiet time was had by all.

New Years Day was spent with Richard and Julie Horovitz in Deganwy, just over the river from Conway. They have just moved into a new house there – spectacular views over the river to the castle and the hills beyond. After a quiet night with them we retreated to Mike and Jane’s before staying our last night in UK with my parents.

Return to Barcelona

(written 5th January 2010)

The trip back out here was long, frustrating and an example of why I loathe Heathrow Airport! The flight from Manchester was late leaving (because of delays for de-icing), so we arrived late in London. We then had to transfer to Terminal 3 (had thought the idea of Terminal 5 was that all BA flights went from there?), taking an age to get through the security checks (6 lanes of equipment with only 2 actually in use, queue of 30 minutes) then rushed through to the gate with minutes to spare. Then we spent another hour and half on the plane waiting for – you guessed it – a de-icing truck to turn up and deal with a bit of hoar frost on the wing.

This wouldn’t have been too bad but we got to Barcelona only to find that our baggage had not turned up. All the pilot books, bits of cooking stuff, charts, spares (not to mention our clothes, Julia) all gone walkabout in the black hole that is Terminal 5. Ah well. Took another hour waiting to report the bags had gone missing before we caught the train back to the marina.

Well, I hope that’s brought you up to date with what’s been going on over the past few weeks. We’ll be a little more diligent in keeping the blog updated – indeed the Skipper has written an opinion piece which will be posted after this entry for your amusement.

Do come and visit us, either here in Barcelona or on our travels this year. Our outline plan is pretty simple. We leave Barcelona on 27 April and will be sailing to the Balearic Islands. We aim to explore the islands for a few weeks, although we have to be clear of Spanish waters by the end of June if we are to avoid being clobbered for a Spanish tax on the boat. We then intend to move to Corsica and Sardinia before visiting Rome and Naples; we aim to finish up in the Ionian Sea for the winter but dates are more than a little flexible. The only truly fixed date is 7 August when Polly and Tommy get married in Cornwall; we’re looking now for a place to leave the boat for a few days whilst we fly home to join in the celebrations (we’re promised Grandma’s Weapons-Grade Ginger Beer amongst other Cornish delights). You can see from this that things are fairly fluid and will remain so. If you’re planning a visit, then the best thing to do is to keep an eye on the blog, email us to see what our cruising area will be for the dates you’re thinking about and then book you travel fairly last minute. We’ll then either be able to meet you at the airport if you happen to be able to come to one near us or we’ll get you local travel advice on how to get from the airport to where we happen to be. Best visit location (from the point of view of ease of pick up) will be the Balearics (they’re small enough that we can come to the island you fly into to pick you up) or Corfu in September/October time. Best time from the point of view of getting some sailing in will be Corsica and Sardinia (nice open sea positioning trips to be had with really good coastlines to explore). Hey, it’s up to you. Please do come and visit.

We’d like close by wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2010.


One comment

  1. Sorry to hear about your flight & luggage problems. I would recommend Bristol Airport and Easy Jet for people going to visit you in Barcelona – much easier and a small enough scale for country bumpkins, sea gypsies and all others intimidated and appalled by the sheer scale of Heathrow.
    It was great to see you all in Llanrwst.
    Glad you’re home safely!
    Mags xxx

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