Sunday, 29 May 2016

A little Mansplaining and a lot of Spa

 It’s raining in Cardiff but Lily, Rose and I are going to make the most of our long-anticipated spa day. Russ has arranged it as a treat for Lily before the end of her maternity leave and we’re going to make the most of every moment, heck, we’re even going in to town by cab! 

Unfortunately no one’s told the cab driver this is our treat, not his, as every time one of us tries to talk, he talks over us! There’s a lot of mansplaining about how many miles he’s travelled, he tells us about the ring he chose for his fiancĂ© (her birth stone in a heart-shaped setting, delivered to her with the bill at the end of a meal, (a lovely touch) in case you’re wondering. Apparently, she ‘liked’ it but before Christmas, she presented him a Samuel’s catalogue with a diamond ring marked out that she ‘liked better’ i.e. she hated it), and he passes us his phone to show off the many fancy dress costumes he’s worn to darts finals. And do you know what? Instead of saying, ‘do you mind, we’re trying to talk,’ we find ourselves muttering ‘lovely’ at his photos of himself as Mrs Brown and laughing at his feeble jokes. None of us is exactly a shrinking violet, we’re just too polite to tell him to shut up!

Anyway, we reach the hotel and check in at the spa. The girls have both booked back massages, but I’ve decided to have a facial - the first one in years. It must be the Day of the Talkers as my very sweet beautician drones on throughout about how my skin would be much better if I spent £80 on various lotions and potions. ‘Although cennot vork miracles,’ she adds, comfortingly, warning me that I’ll end up ‘like dried epple’ if I don’t drink more water/spritz my face/spend £80. Nice. Still, off to the spa where groups of women perform a strange watchful dance as we take it turns to occupy favoured spots like the jacuzzi. There are only two men - and guess what? - one of them jumps into the pool like Shamu the bloody whale and causes the biggest splash ever. We almost sit on the other one who is lurking in the steam room when we wander in blinking in the murk and don’t realise he’s there.

Our day is rounded off with a champagne afternoon tea which is lush, but it’s still raining when we leave so we pile in another cab which, we quickly realise, smells of wet dog. Luckily our driver doesn’t chat. Oh no, he’s too busy cutting up other drivers and complaining under his breath about the other road users. We make it back to Lily’s in one piece, although I suspect the strain of the journey won’t helped my chances of avoiding the ‘dried epple’ look.

I then spend a fab three days with Lily, Russ and Bee who’s such a joy tottering round the place. It’s quite a wrench to leave and I have to admit to being a bit tearful on the train. Next month it’s Bee’s first birthday - how quickly that time has passed - another reminder of how important it is to make the most of every day.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Merry-Go-Round of a Weekend

Whilst Tom is busy on a research day at the University of Kent, I have a freewheeling day in Herne Bay which has more than a hint of Little Spitmarsh about it and it makes me wonder what my characters who live there are up to. There will be some fiction - it’s not that I’m short of ideas - but, gosh, as I’ve said many times here, with so many readers expecting to pay as little as possible for a full length novel, it’s a lot of work for scant reward. However, Herne Bay in the sunshine is a fine place to be - even though that North wind is a bit nippy on my bare legs (sorry about that, people of Herne Bay). I tuck myself away in a sunny spot in the municipal gardens to admire the triumphant tulip displays and read for a while then I take myself off for a walk round the pier. A wonderful display by the Herne Bay Cosy Crew who’ve ‘yarn-bombed’ the railings with their brilliant knitted and crocheted creations makes me stop in my tracks. It’s not just the art work, but the smiles on people’s faces that delight me - it’s such a lovely, playful idea. I buy myself a pot of tea and brave the icy wind so I can just sit and soak up the sights.

In the evening Tom and I find an unexpectedly good restaurant, The Oyster and Chop House, where someone really knows how to put a dish together. It’s not too expensive either and makes a wonderful end to the day.

Over the weekend we do the relly round and keep our fingers crossed for Stepson Two and his lovely girlfriend who are - if all goes according to plan - buying their first house. Exciting times.

It’s good to have some lovely memories in the bank because on Monday my eye test brings up worrying discoveries and a new referral to an ophthalmologist. Health wise, I’m pretty fortunate, but, goodness how I would like better eyesight and stronger eyes. The lesson, in the meantime, is to concentrate on the moment and keep soaking up all that is good and precious in this world. Whilst I’m sitting down absorbing the news someone sits next to me… it’s Julie Walters. I have a ‘one of our national treasures is sitting next to me’ moment before spotting Ma heading towards me. Ma’s feeling good because she’s treated herself to some new glasses, after getting every penny’s worth out of the pair she’s been wearing for ten years. I wonder, perhaps, if Ma is so distracted by her new specs that she hasn’t noticed who else is there, but no. Proving she’s still as sharp and eagle-eyed as ever, Ma leans in and tells Julie how much she loves her work. I hold my breath but Julie Walters smiles warmly back at Ma and thanks her. Happy faces, and some relief, all round!

Monday, 2 May 2016

New Adventures in a Small Boat

It’s launch day for Blue Nun, time to see if all the hours spent scrubbing every bit of her, hoisting sails (during which I managed to turn the boatyard air blue as I fight with one end of a flapping Genoa (sail) whilst Tom bellows instructions from the other) and the long, hard, expensive fight to install a sea loo have paid off. Launching is always fraught but wondering if Blue Nun is about to leak like a sieve adds an extra frisson of danger and I have flashbacks to the our previous little boat, the stumpy-legged, evil-tempered Pig Boat which must have been a submarine in a previous life so keen was she to disappear underwater.

The sky's a beautiful blue and there’s a stiff, bitter breeze but at least it’s not raining. Alistair and Martin, who are in charge of operations, calmly scoop up Blue Nun in Rudders boatyard’s tractor contraption, trundle her down the hill and place her gently in the water beside a pontoon where Tom and I step aboard. If the new seacocks leak it’ll be the shortest maiden voyage ever… we wrap up, put on our life jackets and check again… the seacocks still look good. Phew! The engine - after a heartstopping moment - starts running. We run through safety checks and procedures and then it’s time to cast off!

As the boatyard recedes we see Alistair waving us off, a curiously emotional moment which underlines the fact that even a short passage in a little boat has the feel of an epic voyage. Six years of being without a boat suddenly fade into nothing as everything comes back to me. Blue Nun’s certainly lighter, friskier in motion than our first boat - the one we sailed the most, pretty Veryan, a vintage wooden boat - and there’s enough of a chop beneath the Cleddau bridge to get a feel for her, but - amazingly and wonderfully - I don’t feel sick! And believe me, I can do seasick very easily!

We follow the marker buoys to Blue Nun’s new home in Neyland Marina’s Upper Basin where she slides obediently into her berth… which, take my word for it, is a huge relief. We’ve made it, the sun is shining and new series of adventures in a small boat beckon.