Half a World Away
Wednesday 24th January 2018
Back to Earth with a Bump
At Last, the first morning since we bumped down at Whangarei Airport last Saturday I have not woken up at 1.05am, 2.03am, 2.38am my poor brain thinking it was pm instead, as it had been when we left the UK 20 flying hours before.
For me we lost the 12 odd hours as our big white bird flew over the south west corner of Australia on route to Melbourne. I awoke after a reasonable slumber looking forward to a little in flight breakfast, sat looking at my dish full with roasted aubergine, peppers, onions etc thinking what an unusual breakfast when over the cabin speakers a sweet voice said “We hope you enjoy your dinner!”
It is now 4.40am and I promised myself, and you dear readers, that as soon as I woke up after 4.30am I would get up and start writing having had quite enough sleep.
Today will be quite exciting for Rob and me because Ben, our electrics engineer, is coming down river with us on Zoonie to check out the watermaker since the renewal of certain parts and to swing, or rather, calibrate the new auto pilot compass. The most exciting bit, as you can imagine, is taking Zoonie on a trip, the first since November 2016, when we arrived here in rainy, as it is at present, New Zealand.
However, first there is the small business of two blogs to bring you up to date, the first to cover our story from Christmas Day to early January and the second to relate the tale of our trip to Norway, where hearts are warm and Hell is frozen over for at least five months of the year.
As I type this, this morning a Tui is pleasing my ears with its intermittent call, the early morning is refreshingly cool in the saloon here, and the day promises to be another hot and humid 30’ reminiscent of Bahia in Ecuador, remember? When the night time temperature never went below 30’ and the days hummed along in 38’ of swelter.
So, back a little from now to Christmas Day 2017.
Our early present opening was made the more delightful for watching Darcy’s well honed present opening technique. We all needed his assistance and he was more than willing to oblige with a gentle but firm tug downwards at one of the bottom corners of the wrapping paper. This was effective and while he was being careful not to damage the contents he went on pulling at the paper until it all fell off. Parcels were passed under and around him as he worked diligently until the job was done. This way he appreciated everyone’s gifts not just his own. All the while Tom was playing a Kinks album Christmas present on his 1980’s record player which he has recently fixed with a new drive motor.
Then Rob and I drove the short distance to Richard and Juliana’s’ home for Christmas Dinner with them and our youngest grandsons, Rupert and George. A day I remember for its warmth and celebration of family life.
Through our various news leads we learned of a lady named Karen Murdoch who was at Sandringham Church when the young royal couples were about to attend the Christmas Day service. Prince William and Kate and Prince Harry and Meghan walked abreast of eachother when Karen called out “Merry Christmas” and all four, well three actually because Will continued to look ahead, so three turned their smiling heads to look at Karen and “click” she took a photo that then fronted newspapers and reports around the world. Her agent worked hard with the result that this timely bit of good fortune will help finance her daughter’s passage through university. A modern fairy tale.
Boxing Day in Oakham starts with the arrival of the Cottesmore Hunt in the Square for a public relations exercise. Whether or not one agrees with hunting, and personally I wish they would all go and chase a pre-laid scent instead (drag racing) and leave the wild animals alone, the spectacle is an experience I did not want you to miss. So my role was investigative photographer please understand.
The Fox Hound pack was started in 1666 and continued unabated until in 2004 The Hunting Act stated that hunting wild mammals with a dog was illegal unless it was for the purpose of enabling a bird of prey, in this case a golden eagle, to hunt the wild mammal. Same horse, different rider it seems to me, and a legal way of making the Act easier to change or repeal.
I remember when I was living at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, walking my cocker spaniel, Meggy, along the old railway track at around 5.30am one beautiful morning. I was out that early as I had a house full of B & B guests to get back to and feed one of my amazing FEBs, (Full English Breakfasts). Meggy was off ahead when we rounded a bend to find the Hunt coming towards us, impeccable horses with their colourful riders and lots of lanky foxhounds relishing the walk. My immediate thought was “They’ll eat Meggy as if she was a tasty petite four paws.” I swear one young huntsman read my mind when he called, “Don’t worry lady, they won’t harm your sweet little dog.” From that day I have been even more distanced from animal activists who would harm certain types of animals in order to save others. I still wish they’d go drag racing though instead. I hope you like the photos.
It seemed we were having a horsy few days and how appropriate staying as we were in the heart of England, steeped in tradition and rural activities. Which are all year round activities of course as we found when we slid gently over the ice into our friends Sybil and Martin’s snow covered driveway for a visit after a ride along just passable roads through the beautifully ‘ royally iced’ countryside.
Sybil was busy seeing to their two horses, Jamie the chestnut (once a Queens Horse) and Claude a grey, white with less white areas, apologies to the equestrian intelligentsia if my description is wrong. Very slightly built Sybil had fed them and was in the process of letting them out for a couple of hours of fresh air and exercise to keep them fit. I have just finished reading Sea Biscuit, a book about an American racehorse so I learned how important regular exercise is for them. Jamie immediately laid down for a good roll in the snow and Claude took himself off for a canter.
Martin was away assisting at a funeral for Rob’s company, now run by Richard and Juliana, but he arrived back after we had finished Sybil’s delicious ‘Aga’ lunch and were being shown the cupboards full of rosettes won at horse shows over the years by this devoted country couple.
Back at base camp, Charly and Tom’s home, I was enjoying a newsfeed about how well the UK did in 2017 in efforts to slow down climate change and promote clean fuel. In June the UK produced more Wind, Solar and Nuclear power than Gas and Coal. It has halved carbon emissions since 2012 and is the 4th cleanest power system in Europe and the 7th in the World. April saw the first 24 hour period of no coal power since the Industrial Revolution, (the beginning of or end of I am not sure).
As far as solar power goes the solar fields I think have the right idea are dual purpose, panels overhead soaking up the sun and sheep grazing underneath in the shade.
The nights grew colder and by the 28th December the roads and pavements were solid ice and seemingly ungritted, even the main roads were not being made safe by the authorities. The first gritter we saw was from the comfort of my warm Wheatsheaf pub seat when a young council worker walked past the window pushing a hand gritter, so at least we could walk from the pub back towards base camp in relative safety for a short distance.
Snow thundered down off roofs and ‘phlumphed’ onto the ground. Tom had to walk into Oakham to replenish Darcy’s food supply.
The time came for goodbyes before we shared the driving back down to Broadstone.
Do you do New Year’s Resolutions? I decided to have a light-hearted try with the children. I suggested that they might both do Daddy’s perfectly reasonable bidding (brush your teeth, put on your coats etc) at the first time of asking and they both considered this to be fair and do-able(!!) and surprisingly Henry said he would try to stop biting his nails. I didn’t even know he did.
As a delightful aside, I was standing at the front door with them about to go somewhere and trying to read some directions on a brochure when thoughtful Henry said upon seeing my eyes closing to slits, “Granny do you need your glasses?” and before I could respond he dashed off to where he knew I kept them.
We re-visited our favourite walks, Rockley Park, Badbury Rings, Arne and Branksome Chine for a breezy stretching of the legs before a lunch at Pizza Express. In the evenings we dined in style on Emily’s new vegan range of suppers, I like my chilli spelt with and ‘I’ not a ‘y’, and we washed the flavours down with the Moonshine and Coconut Vodka we had bought at the Choc Fest in Melton all those weeks ago.
For a second time we took a day out to drive to my brother Robin and nephew Christopher on their farm in Devon. In our favourite restaurant at Widemouth Bay, The Bayview Hotel, we were astonished to see that the roof on the semi-permanent extension to the restaurant had been blow off in storm Eleanor that passed through a few days before. But it was business as usual as the place filled with locals and visitors and the offshore wind blew the wavetops on the rollers back out to sea.