Visiting Ireland and Cornwall plus what the Skipper got up to!

November 19, 2011

Part 1: Ireland

Although I love this life we’ve chosen to lead, every so often I just have to go and spend time with the family whom I miss very much. Duncan usually spots the warning signs and suggests it before I have to! My latest visit was scheduled to coincide with when my Irish grandchildren were off school for half-term and Naomi had taken a week off work. So despite being only a relatively short time before we all gather again at the Christmas house, I flew off to Ireland after Maggie’s visit.

Harry Potter - should you be in any doubt!

The plan had been to spend the first few days of my visit in Donegal but this changed when the children realised that they would miss out on Halloween fun with their friends. My flight was already booked however, when the plans changed so dear Naomi drove up to Belfast in the middle of the night (or so it felt) to meet me.

Little Lily was poorly for most of the week of my visit so we never did make it to Donegal but spent the week at home in Ashbourne, north of Dublin. Despite being ill, Lily still contrived to be very cute and her distressed exclamation of “Uh oh!” whenever she threw up was very endearing. Since the family visited us in Corfu in May, she has changed enormously, not only having learned to walk and talk in the meantime but growing a crop of blonde curls into the bargain!

Lily, the curly haired blonde!

The first day of my visit was Halloween, a much bigger deal than when I was a child or even when my own children were small. We all had a lovely time with glitter making Halloween pictures and then Naomi made a wonderful graveyard cake with slabs of chocolate brownie and we had a party in the house before she and I took Charlie and Jess out Trick or Treating with their friends. After bobbing for apples, sticking the hat on the witch and various other games, we set off. I was amazed at just how much trouble everyone had taken to decorate their houses and certainly the children were fully expected at every house and came home laden with delicious goodies. In the meantime Daddy Ken and little Lily had been distributing sweets to all the callers at their own front door and by the time we returned home they had nearly run out of things to give out but the doorbell kept ringing. Jess and Charlie, far more interested in the excitement of it all than in the sweets themselves, immediately handed over a good percentage of their own “haul” for redistribution, thus saving Naomi from the predicament of what to do with such a vast quantity of confectionery and crisps!

and Jessie the wicked witch!

The rest of the week was spent relatively quietly because Lily was not well, spending much of the day asleep or wanting to be cuddled by Mummy. On Tuesday evening, Naomi and I escaped to the movies with her friend Jane and the next day Charlie, Jess and I braved the wind and rain to walk to the cinema and see the new film of the Adventures of Tintin while Nomie took Lily to the doctor. On Thursday, having spent most of the week cooped up indoors, we decided that a diversion from the Wii would be good so there was an expedition out to rent DVDs and pick up MacDonalds for lunch – a rare treat – well, a treat for the children at any rate ‘though I have to confess a weakness for the chocolate milkshakes!

Granny's den-building skills stretched to the limit ...


and a much better den out in the sunshine.

Friday, thankfully, was a much better day so when friends came over to play after lunch they were all able to get out in the sunshine and burn off surplus energy making dens outside as a change from in the living room. With Daddy home at the weekend, Naomi and I were able to leave Lily in his care and take Charlie and Jess swimming to a very wonderful pool with waves, slides and a pirate ship. Later we all visited Tayto Park, a cross between a wildlife park and an adventure playground where the family have annual membership. Lily, finally on the mend, was delighted by all the animals and Jess and Charlie had a brilliant time on a something halfway between a seesaw and a roundabout, before we all retreated into a café to warm up!

Inspecting the wildlife at Tayto Park- "Oh I see that fella!"

Monday was my last full day and the children returned to school so Naomi and I were able to seize the opportunity to buy Charlie’s birthday presents. Once school finished for the day there was a flurry of activity with Charlie going to his piano lesson, Jess to Taekwondo (which I was privileged to be allowed to stay and watch) and then later Naomi had singing lessons so Granny was left to put the three littles to bed since Daddy was away for a few days. Lily was asleep when Mummy came home but the others were just cleaning teeth – oops! However, I was forgiven as I see them so rarely and Naomi and I later relaxed with a large glass of wine each!

Jess all set for Taekwondo and Charlie in his new school uniform

Part 2: Cornwall

I made several herculean journeys on this trip; getting to Polly and Tommy’s house entailed Naomi driving me to Dublin airport, a flight to Exeter, a bus journey across Exeter to the railway station and the train to Truro where I was met by Polly and taken to their new home in Mylor Bridge near Falmouth.

They moved in about a month ago and have worked incredibly hard, not simply unpacking and painting just about every room in the house but also finding time to clean the old place before handing it back to the landlord, a trip to the States for Tommy’s father’s wedding, competition gig rowing and working full time. It makes me weary just thinking about it.

Polly is currently competing in her school’s version of the Master Chef competition in order to raise money for Children in Need. As a result I was fortunate to be guinea pig that first night as she trialled an amazing meal including tuna, swordfish, asparagus and roasted tomatoes. Needless to say, she is through to the next round!

Polly and Tommy were both out at work during the week so on Wednesday I decided to contribute to the work effort and armed with a paintbrush, I set to work on the skirting boards and hall cupboards. Thursday was rather more self-indulgent however. They had kindly insured me to drive Tommy’s car so after a visit to the butcher in the village I set out for Truro with a slightly hazy idea about where to go and somewhat apprehensive to be driving an automatic again for the first time in nearly 20 years! All went smoothly however and having had my annual haircut, I went on to savour the delights of Truro’s vast and comprehensive haberdashery before launching myself on M&S. Having braved Asda, I then returned home to prepare supper for the workers. Friday saw me back with the paint pots although I did escape in the afternoon, commissioned by the Skipper to search for various bits of chandlery. That evening Tommy arrived home to announce that we were off to join friends for an Indian takeaway. We had a great time; living where they do, all their friends seem to be boatie types so the conversation (and wine) flowed.

On Saturday morning Polly and I set off early to join other lady rowers for a training session. I should state immediately at this point that yours truly was not doing any rowing! I can row … after a fashion … when I have to … like when the outboard on the dinghy dies. However, no way am I in the same league as these ladies who train several times a week and row competitively. For those of you not already familiar with the Cornish Pilot Gig it Wikipedia states the following:

Flushing and Mylor Gig Club ladies out for a training session

“The Cornish pilot gig is a six-oared rowing boat, built of Cornish narrow leaf elm, 32 feet (9.8 m) long with a beam of four feet ten inches … The original purpose of the Cornish pilot gig was as a general work boat, and the craft is used for taking pilots out to incoming vessels off the Atlantic. In those days the race would be the first gig to get their pilot on board a vessel (often those about to run aground on rocks) got the job, and hence the payment… Today, pilot gigs are used primarily for sport, with around 100 clubs across the globe.”

You get the general idea that these are big, heavy, fixed-seat rowing boats so racing them competitively is something of an endurance sport, especially when you remember that most of the races are conducted in open sea – exposed to the wind and waves. Indeed, although it was a beautiful, sunny morning and relatively calm as we sat out, (self, sitting in the bows and well wrapped up,) by the time we got out to the open sea beyond Black Rock (for those of you that know the area) it was getting pretty bouncy with waves well over a metre high – and they rowed for 1½ hours – I was deeply impressed.

Tommy's office (!) beside King Harry's Ferry

Later Polly and Tommy took me out to lunch crossing over on ferry beside Tommy’s office – he now works for King Harry’s ferries managing their website and has probably one of the prettiest working locations in the country! Later, going for a walk along the headland, we came upon hundreds of ripe, plum sloes so Tommy was despatched back to the car for a couple of bags and we picked furiously. Having stopped to pick up several bottles of gin on the way home and a large quantity of sugar, Pol and I then settled down to make sloe gin while her dutiful spouse cooked supper!

One of so many beautiful Cornish beaches - sorry don't know the name of this one but it was on the Roseland

Sunday was my last day and the three of us went to the Remembrance Service at the little church in Mylor Harbour where they were married just over a year ago. The service was particularly poignant since Mylor is a maritime parish, bounded by water on three sides. The area has strong naval connections and during the 2nd World War, Mylor Harbour was the base for the French Resistance. More info at http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/Mylor-village.htm .

Afterwards Polly made pancakes and bacon for brunch served with maple syrup purchased on their recent trip to the US and that evening Tommy – always an imaginative and skilled chef – made a most wonderful roast dinner for my final night.

Tommy cooking an amazing meal

Tommy heroically rose from his bed at 04.45 next morning to get me to Truro station in time for the 05.38 train to Reading, from where I caught a connection to Gatwick and my flight back to Athens. Originally the Skipper had decreed that I could reverse my outward journey, catching the airport bus to the main Athens bus station and then a 3½ hour onward journey to Messolonghi. However, thankfully he realised that should there be any sort of delay, there was a strong risk of missing the last bus and so he very kindly drove the 200 odd miles to come and meet me. Even so, it felt quite a marathon and we were both very thankful to reach the marina that night.

It was a brilliant trip and would just like to thank Naomi, Ken, Polly and Tommy for their wonderful hospitality and Charlie, Jess and Lily for their pictures, cuddles and so many hours of entertainment!

Polly and Tommy

The next blog must now be written by Himself – by all accounts it was just a mad social whirl here whilst I was gone!

Part 3: Himself’s bit.

Rather than do another truly separate blog, I think the easiest way is simply to tag on to that what the First Mate has written. So, to keep you up to speed with the mad social whirl that is Messolonghi Marina in the winter.

Having put J and Maggie on to the bus for Athens, I returned to my pit to make up for lost sleep. I rose a little later and joined the rest of the community here for the Sunday barbeque. The weather is such that, provided you get out of the wind, it’s quite nice sitting out in the sunshine. The following day I started work on some of the jobs I’d been told to get on with and then had a pleasant evening in the Marina Sunset bar, where we had a games evening – nothing competitive, just playing games with others of a like mind.

On Tuesday, I went over to Lefkas in the car with a liferaft for servicing and to buy a new set of washboards, to replace the ones I broken during the thunderstorms just after we’d arrived. I found the washboards in Nidri at IGR Marine Services, run by Danny Keen. He took my cardboard templates and turned out lovely new washboards in no time at all and at a very reasonable price! I also got a couple of bits of stainless steel tubing to make a new bimini frame and had an English brunch in the Vliho Yacht Club before driving back.

The next few days followed in similar fashion – not going to Lefkas of course – but working through the jobs list during the day and joining in with events in the bar in the evening. Andy and Sue, next door on Curly Sue took pity on me on a couple of occasions and fed me supper and I did seem to drink lot of coffee with other folks on the pontoon at one time and another.

I was in touch with Nikos of Ionian Marine Safety about the liferaft; he had been worried when I dropped it off that it was a little ancient and would not be up to a lot, but when he opened the canister, he found that the raft itself was much newer than the canister. He serviced and repacked the raft and told me to collect it the following Monday, so I took Andy with me for the ride and the opportunity to visit the many chandleries in Lefkas. We had a good day out, including stopping on the way back to Messolonghi for a pita gyros at Amfilochia on the shores of the inland sea.

Duncan wrestling with the alternator

I was also been working on fitting an improved external regulator to the alternator, so as to boost the power delivered to the batteries when the engine is running. This proved more difficult than I’d first thought and has had to wait until J returned from UK with some extra bits.

As time went on with J absent, folks in the marina began to ask if I intended to go and pick her up from Athens, to which the reply was simple: no, there’s a bus. However, I then sat down and did a bit of looking at timings and rapidly came to the conclusion that, whilst theoretically possible, even a small delay would see J waiting at the Athens Bus Station through the night for the early morning bus, so I decided to go and pick her up in the Fiat.

I left Messolonghi in plenty of time so that I wouldn’t have to push the little car too hard and arrived at Athens airport with time to kill. But I already had a cunning plan in hand: visit Ikea again! They didn’t have the little LED light strips that I wanted in stock but they did have magnificent chocolate cake, so I was able to pass the time drinking coffee and reading the paper before driving the last ½ mile to pick J up. Well, there you are, a quick overview of my lonesome time without the First Mate. We now have another load of jobs to do, as J has brought out new bits of kit to be fitted so watch this space for more winter fun and games.



  1. I wanted to like this post but wasn’t allowed to without a username. But anyway, I like it. xxx

  2. But having made your first comment, you can now do so as often as you wish! Love you! xxxx

  3. Good to hear that J has brought you plenty of things to keep you out of mischief !!

  4. Just came across this – loved reading it all. Looking forward to sampling P&T’s Sloe Gin at Christmas!! It was lovely to see you, thank you so much for coming all that way – it was a hell of a trip! xxx

  5. Ah, yes, that amazing haberdasher’s in Truro – Mags and I spent a happy afternoon there the weekend of Polly and Tommy’s wedding (and made my headgear from their wares). Like Aladdin’s cave!

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