We didn’t mean to stay away (with apologies to Arthur Ransome)

December 1, 2013

Our last post on the blog was on 15 October, over a month ago now so I suppose I’d better start with an apology for tardiness. However, the blog will explain just why it is that we haven’t managed to put up a post! As before in some of our posts, if you’re reading this for the nautical input, stop now unless you’re interested in the upper reaches of the Bristol Channel; what follows is much more of a travelogue about our visit to the UK.

We had enjoyed the short time in Crete between arriving there and flying back to UK on 22 October for what was supposed to be a two week visit, the highlight of which was to be our attendance at Rob and Katie’s wedding (Rob being J’s nephew) in Deganwy, North Wales. We had a pretty tight itinerary, spending a couple of nights at my sister Susie’s house in North Yorkshire, followed by the wedding, then a couple of night with my other sister Jinny in Cheshire, before we headed south to see our son and his wife and catch our flight back to Crete on 3 November.

Susie and J on the bridge at Clapham, North Yorkshire on our way to Inglebrough Cave.

Things started to go awry almost immediately after our arrival at Susie’s house on the evening of 23 October. She told us that she needed to go into hospital for an operation which would entail 6 weeks of convalescence, during which time she would not be able to drive and would be very limited in her movements. As she is single and lives in a small village, this would be very difficult for her to manage so we volunteered to look after her when she came out of hospital. At that stage, she didn’t have a date for the operation but we decided that if it was before the end of November we would remain in UK whilst if it was any later, we’d go back to Crete as planned and then return to the UK to look after her.

After a great couple of days, overeating and walking in the hills round the village of Low Bentham where Susie lives, (and coincidentally where our children went to school,) we headed south to North Wales for the wedding. We had arranged to stay with our friend Richard Horovitz in Deganwy, about 5 minutes from the hotel where the wedding was being held. After a great welcome from Richard, we changed into our gladrags and were given a lift down to the hotel along with the promise of a lift back when required!

The Skipper climbing over a style above the caves at Inglebourgh.

It was a small wedding of only about 30 guests, so we were very pleased to have been invited to such a select gathering. The wedding ceremony was lovely, held in a large airy room overlooking the Conwy estuary and all the yacht moored there. Eric, the 3 year old son of the bride and groom, had a great time during the ceremony, handing the rings to the registrar and later taking the marriage certificate to his mother in the most amusingly offhand way. This was followed by a great meal and lots to drink; all to soon we needed to call in our lift back to Richard’s house.


Eric, having tossed the marriage certificate to his mother, was keen to get back to the festivities…..

The following morning, J went over to Rob and Katie’s house with a carload of papers, photos and sundry stuff from her parents’ house that we had been looking after since it was sold in the early naughties. The intention was to go through the boxes with her brother and sister in order to decide what to keep and what to dispose of thereby reducing the quantity and enabling us to move our remaining storage into a smaller unit, thus cutting down costs. In the event, they made a start but did not finish the job; however, Lizzie and Ian both took half the boxes away with them so we would no longer have to store them.


Rob, Katie and Eric – much better than a picture of boxes of family papers……

Sunday morning saw us moving on to Jinny’s house where we met up with both our daughters, Polly and Naomi plus our grandchildren, along with Susie. They had taken my mother to church and brought her back to the house for a great family lunch, which J and I cooked whilst the others were still at church. Mike and Jane plus family friend, Dee, also came to lunch so we were quite crowded round the kitchen table.

We had a further 2 days with the children at Jinny’s, enjoying the inevitable chaos of anywhere that involves Lily. We hired a day boat on the canal and pottered down the cut to Waverton where we had lunch from the local chip shop before returning to the marina. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day and we picked sloes and found some caches on the canalbank into the bargain.


The canal looking back towards Tattenhall Marina where Mike’s narrowboat is moored.

On Wednesday, J and I saw the children off back to their various homes before we went to our storage unit in Wrexham and moved all our stuff into a much smaller unit. In the interim, Susie had got in touch with us to let us know she had an appointment for her operation towards the end of November, so we now knew we would not be returning to Crete until she was better, probably early in the New Year. We sent emails to friends in the marina to let them know what was happening: as we had not intended to be away for long we had left things like onions and potatoes on board which would have spoiled if left several weeks!

On Thursday we took our rental car back to Birmingham airport, picked up a replacement and carried on to London by way of Banbury, where we stopped for lunch. We spent that night with our friends Gill and Simon Camamile; we had a terrific time with them catching up on ten years’ worth of gossip and news over a great meal out followed by a visit to Annabel’s.

We spent the weekend with Jonno and Lucy in Putney. They had told us recently that they had great news; Lucy is expecting their first child in April 2014. As a result, they have decided to move out of London and their one bedroomed flat and find a house. They’d told us this just before we left Crete but we arrived to find that not only had they sold their current place but they’d found one in Farnham to move to, all within a week of putting their flat on the market. We had a great weekend with them, visiting the farmers’ market in Barnes and going for a great walk near Frensham Ponds on Sunday, before having lunch with Lucy’s parents in Farnham.


The joys of urban caching. Lucy, Julia and the Skipper completing the log for a cache in Putney.

On Monday we had a leisurely get-up before we motored down to near Salisbury to stay with Mags in Redlynch. We stayed 3 days with her, taking long walks in the New Forest and generally taking things easy before we drove on to Falmouth to stay with Polly and Tommy.

Again, we took things gently here, sorting out some admin as Polly and Tommy now act as our postal address for all things official and financial. I visited an osteopath for treatment to my back and knees, which seems to have worked, but otherwise we just didn’t do very much at all other than go for walks and eat well!


J and Polly at Helford – no sloes although there are lots of sloe bushes….

All too soon it was time to move on again and we headed to Bristol to stay with friends, Pete and Tig. Once again, we had a great evening putting the world to rights over an excellent meal and possibly just a touch too much wine. It emerged that Pete was about to depart for a 3 day cruise on his yacht Sheigra, aiming to go to Swansea and Cardiff. Seeing as we were heading to Cardiff next anyway, and I had not done any UK sailing for ages, I foolishly scrounged a place on board whilst J agreed to go on single-handed to stay with her brother, Ian, and I would join her on Saturday or Sunday depending on the weather. (She had arranged to stay with Ian where they would be joined by Lizzie to finish trawling through the family stuff.)

I had a great, if chilly (no, not chilly, freezing), time sailing with Pete and Mike. Sheigra lives in Portishead Marina, a locked dock just south of the mouth of the Avon. We left at 0530 on Friday morning and found wind and tide to take us about 30 miles down to Watchet, a lovely little harbour. We had to anchor off the harbour for about 2 hours to wait for the tide to come in enough to enter the harbour. That evening we ate at the local Indian before turning in fairly early, as we needed to catch the tide at 0700 the following morning.

Swansea had been abandoned as a destination as there wasn’t enough wind, so we headed for Cardiff under the motor. It was fascinating for a Med sailor to be back in UK waters again, coping with tidal flows and so on. No longer can you simply aim the boat at your destination and wait until you arrive; instead you have to take account of the tide pushing you to one side or the other and wondering if there will be enough depth of water at your destination when you arrive. In the event, we got to the locks on the Cardiff Barrage about an hour before there was enough water to let us get into them! We spent quite some time sitting firmly aground waiting for the tide to lift us off so we could get to the locks.

Once into the Bay, we made our way into Penarth Marina where I called J and she came down in the car to pick me up. Thanks to Pete and Mike for letting remember why we spend our time in the Med – it really was cold out on the water, and thanks to J for letting me go.

I wrote the above on a borrowed laptop at Ian and Barbara’s whilst Ian, Liz and Julia sorted through reams of old photos and letters. J and I moved on next day, returning to Richard’s for a couple of nights and from there to spend a few nights with my brother, Mike and wife Jane aboard their narrowboat. While there we made the necessary alterations to a special narrowboat awning known as a cratch cover which J orininally made last spring while we were still at the marina in St Carles in Spain. Sadly the measurements I’d made we’re not quite accurate so work was needed to get the thing to fit. It took a while but the end result was pretty satisfactory.


The new cratch cover fitted to the now of NB Gotaroundtoit.

Susie came to collect us last Sunday from Mike and Jane’s. At this point J decided to entertain us all by doing a free fall tumbling display down the aft companionway of Mike’s boat, attempting to kill a free-standing radiator in the process. No, she wasn’t drunk on this occasion! We’d been using the forward doors throughout our visit so she’d forgotten that the steps at the back do not go across the full width of the doorway but are offset to one side and unable to see in the pitch dark, she stepped down into a void. She now has a magnificent sent of evenly spaced bruises down her rib cage courtesy of the radiator and has been trying to avoid coughing or laughing ever since.

Nearly a week has since passed, Susie has now had her op and her little dog Sandy is coming to terms with us as his walking companions. We expect the boss home from hospital early next week and in the meantime, our sister Jinny is visiting later today.

We’ll be at Susie’s for the next few weeks. We’ll post an update once things become clearer, in terms of our return to Crete, as there is a possibility that we’ve been booked for house moving duties with Jonno and Lucy once Susie is back on her feet.


Susie, sitting up and taking note of things in hospital after her operation.


One comment

  1. Dear Julia and Duncan, This is Karen McCrea who lived nearby in Izmir, Turkey. I was brousing the web and thrilled to see photos of what you are doing now and how the children have grown up. If you have a moment I’d love to reconnect. I can be reached at (email removed) 🙂

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