We got back last night, at 12.15. Amazingly, only a six hour journey, which I don’t really understand, considering there was a lot of traffic, several delays, and a minor hiccup when we missed the M25 turn off and had to double back up the M1. Maybe we entered a time hole.

It was a great few days, except perhaps the ending, when the Newcastle supporters amongst us headed off to St James’ in the certainty of an easy victory over Blackburn, only to watch a dismal performace turn sour in the second half. Toby buying me a sweaty pie was the highlight of the afternoon: scalding hot ‘meat’ and gravy and damp pastry. Delicious.

There were nineteen of us for Christmas lunch, with turkey, roast potatoes, brussels, pudding, profiteroles, cheese, coffee, wine, champagne. Later, we played Empires, which some may remember from Isola, and Canasta. Also, on the first evening, we had a long game of Monopoly.

We went down to the land on Boxing Day and built a bonfire, chainsawed logs, drove the two four wheel drives around and bombed about on the little motorbike. The bike was great, though changing gears was a struggle. It was a freezing cold day but we all got warm. Then, onto Granny’s for lunch.

I did the 8 mile bike circuit across the golf course and down the avenue of trees with Crip one morning and Jamie the next. There are two seriously steep climbs that strain heart, lungs and thighs; but arriving back and having a hot shower made it all seem most pleasurable.

Then there was the five a side game. I was in one goal, James in the other. Crip, Jul and Henry just lost to Liv, Jamie, Edward and Edward’s friend. So we had a numerical advantage. We also had another advantage which was Henry struggling with an injured foot. Henry was a nightmare when he got close enough to have a shot at goal. He reminded me of Geoff. I would be lurching in one direction, to stop the ball that looked like it was coming that way, only to see it roll past me into the net on the other side. Had Henry been fully fit, we might well have lost. All in all, both tense and satisfying, with much discussion afterwards and some jolly backslapping amongst the winning fraternity that Jul claimed was ‘frankly nauseating’.

Then, homeward in Daisy.

Sounds good! None of the others joined you then? I will mail in amo after brekkie as it is free here!
Might phone to.T

Cale concert

I thought everyone ought to know about this, in detail!

Having seen John Cale at St Lukeís without the benefit of knowing Hobosapiens back to front, familiarity with the new songs meant I enjoyed Brighton ten times more. The set list was similar, though no Hallelujah, nor Cordoba. Queuing to get in, I was worried only a smattering of people would turn up. In the end, a respectable number half filled the Dome. It was a curious mix of young and old, weird and very ordinary looking. It could have been a model train collectorís seminar. I sat near the front; but as soon as the music started I headed closer to the stage. That was definitely the place to be. I thought the entire set was musically pretty tight, and song seemed to follow song seamlessly. There was very little talking, or introductions: the songs spoke for themselves. Over the years, Iíve got so used to hearing musically simple ñ just piano or acoustic guitar ñ versions of most of John Caleís truly amazing back catalogue, I found I preferred the recent songs to those I knew almost as well as childhood nursery rhymes. Having said that, Chinese Envoy and Andulucia were fantastic. I couldnít say the same for Paris 1919. The lead guitar interpretation of the pastoral interlude just didnít do it for me. There were three great screamers: Fear (unbelievable), Cable Hogue and Leaving It Up To You (visceral); they left me wondering at how much strain a throat (or heart) can take. I would have liked to hear Zen; but Over Her Head, Look Horizon, Magritte, Archimedes, and Things, were all top class. One song stood out above all the others, though, and that was Caravan. This was performed loudly, but started softly, remained beautifully modulated throughout, and rose to its crescendo so sure footedly I was in awe. What a fantastic track it is. I donít know how the enthusiasm of the audience compared with other shows on the tour. John seemed happy enough with his reception. I wasnít yodeling but I was clapping pretty loudly. Clapping above my head, which is rare for me. I did join in the shouts for an encore, but this was always going to happen, since it was used to both introduce and bid farewell to the band members. What I hope to see one day is John Cale in concert, alone with his electronic keyboard. Sensitive and accomplished though the others were, it was Johnís versatility that shone through. What a voice; what lyrics; what an extraordinary performer! My abiding feeling was astonishment at how somebody so accomplished ñ a living legend, as I overheard one person say – should attract such a relatively paltry audience; and how fortunate I was to be there.

So, there you are. Practically history in the making.

Tall ship experience

Mama and I rolled out of bed at sixish on a cold Sunday morning to get to Portsmouth in time to board the Prince William on our one day voyage. We were in ‘White Watch’ and were assigned a cot in the bowels of the ship that looked like a piece of half drain pipe that had been stretched to accomodate a body. We then started basic safety training.

Later, after a bacon butty, we headed back on deck for ‘up and over’. This involved scrambling ‘op the rigging’, clipping your safety harness onto a taut wire en route, standing briefly on the level of the first cross mast (it’s got a name, but I can’t remember what it is) gazing out at the view, and then making a wobbly descent. The portion of the steel rope ladder that involved climbing backwards in space I found particularly hairy.

Then we moved onto heaving on the ropes, letting out a bellow on each pull. I and three others heaved on one side of the ship, Mama and her team loosening the same ropes on the other. This allowed the cross pods to swivel around, which enables the sails to fill with wind.

While working we kept warm, but otherwise it was freezing. Given an opportunity to climb out onto the bowspit – the pointed bit at the front, with a net hanging below – Mama was out there like a shot, but I declined. I also declined a trip up and out onto the side pods to furl the sails. Blue Watch handled most of the ‘furling’, with an Irish geezer straight out of Master and Commander yelling out how it should be done from the deck below.

Lunch followed, and then more rope pulling. Much excitement all round. Eventually, we drifted back to port. There was a short video at the end showing clips from longer voyages in more pleasant climes.

All in all, I should say a ten day trip in the Caribbean or the Canaries would be great fun. They’re cheapish, if you get a last minute deal. All the volunteer crew who had done one of these rhapsoded about it. Okay food, plenty of hot showers, and good honest toil, are the order of the day.

Hail all.
good pic of the visit! i like juls two tier hair! huddling for warmth hey! we are raosting here in christchurch with a top temp of 32 degrees today! fairly roasting, and with a warm winf of about 100 miles and hr we were melting on the spot. we made the mistake of leaving the tent up (yes, we are on one of our brief visits to a camping!) and it got so bent over by the wind that on e of the poles broke. no more tent for the present.

Chch is huge and we have only done a small section of it today. the botanical gardens made a pleasent resting spot for our weary feet after town. we went to an art fair in the morning which was great fun. wondered round lots of wierd and bizzar art – canvas with splodge of paint, bit of wire stuck in an apple, that kind of thing, but most of it was great, and you could actruallt watch da said artist at work in the poting and woodcarving workshops. Potting looks as much of a sinch as i recall. The Dod collection would have fitted in like a piece of the jugsaw, and as there was nothing much beloww about 100 quide i think mireille had the pricing about right. it does seem that mounting and frames are the way to go, so kepp mounting i say! geoff suggested ikea for bulk frames. in an internat place at the mo with paintings on the wall by some aritist or other who obviously prefered the part of the scenery tecnique! well, only 10 days to go before xmas and it has never felt more unlike christmas! boiling hot and sunny, with everyone running round in skimpy clothes, yet all the shops have that tinny music dod described blaring out of their doors. all the same old tunes as at home, and the shops are full of the same things, trees, stockings, decorations, cakes, puddings and a whoile lot more stodgy wintery food to be eaten infront of a roaring fire all nice and cozy. who in their right mind wants a slab of christmas pudding when you can’t move without sweating??? oh well, have fun up north and take a few piccies for me. now making more appropriate new year card for delicately nurtured. i will take over my class black one when i get back you bunch of weasles!