Thursday, 13 July 2017

Basket Weaving and Kayaking

Good morning all! I hope you've been enjoying the sunny weather that we've been having in the UK this week - it's been just perfect for Wimbledon fans like myself, although the garden is desperate for a bit of rain. I keep tapping the barometer hopefully and occasionally it does swing temptingly towards change but, apart from one day of light drizzle, there isn't the longed for downpour.
I admit that I have spent most afternoons this week glued to the sofa cheering on Konta and Murray, but there have been a couple of outings at the weekends that I'd like to get down here to remember:

The first was a basket weaving workshop at our local nature reserve. I have made a couple of woven baskets in the past - my initial wonky one sits in the hall, full of winter gloves and my log basket (a bit of a personal triumph!) is in constant use in the colder weather. I do love making baskets but I find that they are a bit tough on the hands. I remember after a weekend spent making the log basket, I was barely able to write out a birthday card to my friend! Anyway, this was a one day workshop to make a small round basket and here are my photos of the day:
The view of the lake from the studio:
 Different colours of willow:

 I'd like to say that these were all my own work, but they were made by the tutor! She had a photo album of her pieces, which included a dog basket commissioned as a wedding present for Will and Kate.
Here is the base of my small basket - I tried to do a striped effect with the different willows:
 
....... and here it is at home:
I really enjoyed the workshop - lunch was included which was yummy and I met some really lovely people. I would love to do some more (once my hands have recovered!) but, unfortunately, this particular tutor is moving to Devon.

At Easter, L and J had come to visit and we called in at the sports shop Decathlon near Oxford while dropping them back at their flat. We went to buy a few bits and pieces for our sailing holiday but, whilst we were there, L and J impulse bought a 3 person kayak! Their current flat is beautifully situated on the banks of the Isis (the bit of the Thames that runs through Oxford). They keep the kayak inflated in their garage and when they feel like a paddle, they can just walk it to the nearest jetty. Keen to try it, R and I went to Oxford last Saturday. I had a wee go at paddling, but have to confess that L and R did most of it while I sat admiring the scenery and taking the odd photo. In my defense, there were only 2 paddles!


 The cows in Christchurch meadow: 




 Wildflowers on the bank:
 The back of the Botanical Gardens:
 Magdalen Bridge:

 L's legs, showing how snug it was: 
It was a beautiful few hours, some bits were busy with people punting, but the parts where we had it to ourselves were lovely. My favourite bit was floating gently in the sunshine and listening to the church bells peel out a celebration of a wedding. You do get absolutely soaked though, so we collected J and then had to change before going for a well earned pub lunch.

Other recent happies include:
A trip to Bristol to help E move out of her Hall. She and 3 friends are renting a sweet, little house together next year and R and I helped to move their stuff across. It was a little sad as their Hall was fantastic but their new place is down a quiet crescent, close to the uni, shops, cafes etc. I think they will love it.
A squirrel in the Hall car park with a bread roll raided from the bins!
 
The Old Quad:

One of the ducks has started bringing her duckling to the back door to be fed. L has named him (her?) Timothy:

Wimbledon watching and sock knitting:
The finished socks - just a plain vanilla sock in 'Peppermint Swirl':
Well, that's all for this week. I'm just off to clean the bathroom and move a bit of dust around, then I've got a date with a sofa and Johanna Konta's semi-final this afternoon!

Toodle Pip for now. x

Monday, 3 July 2017

Sailing

Ahoy, me hearties! Well, we're home and our sailing holiday was ......... not as bad as I was expecting. Is that damning with faint praise? Probably. It was during the Easter holidays that R first expressed a desire to go sailing. The rest of us were decidedly underwhelmed by the idea. R has in the past done a 2 day sailing course on a dinghy to learn the very basics. L, E and I were absolute beginners. We had several reservations about the plan - mine were more related to the actual boat, more specifically the bathroom arrangements. The thought of a pump toilet that couldn't handle anything that 'hasn't passed through your body', filled me with dread. E's concerns were based more around the fact that R would start bossing people around and shouting at our incompetence. Of the 3 of us, L was the most optimistic. We suggested other holiday ideas but R threw a strop, said it was the only thing he wanted to do and so, of course, we signed up. He later tried to pass the whole idea off as being 'for the girls'; sailing apparently being a life skill (?!) which would stand them in good stead. You can stop laughing now! We pointed out how it was funny that the learning of 'life skills' didn't extend to skiing (which R refuses point blank to try) but that fell on deaf ears.
So, we set off on Father's Day (appropriately enough, as it was after all entirely for him) for Preveza on mainland Greece. Our tour was of the North Ionian Islands: beginning on the mainland, moving up the coast to Parga, then Sivota Mourtos, crossing to Lakka then Gaios on Paxos, Emerald Bay on Antipaxos, Petriti on Corfu and then back to Preveza. 'We' were a small flotilla of boats with an assigned lead ship of 3 crew - Cookie the engineer, Emily the hostess who told us where bins, tavernas and supermarkets were situated at each harbour and Callum the sailor, who was there to sort out any difficulties with the sails etc and to help us to moor. Each morning we had a meeting at about 9:30am, where we were told the day's destination, wind speeds, any potential hazards and what time to be in the next harbour. We then had until that time to make our way there, stopping to swim, have lunch etc. on the way.
Here are just a few of the many photos that were taken:
Our home for the holiday: Panopeus.




 These rubber shoes were brilliant - non-slip for on deck and waterproof for swimming, making pebbly beaches easy to navigate. Notice E's photobombing sandal!

  Despite the heat (although we managed to time our holiday to coincide with the heatwave in the UK - we had temperatures of 29 degrees on one day and it was apparently 33 at home!), the Greeks are brilliant gardeners, managing to grow plants in any available space:
 Dinner in a lovely taverna in Parga. We did have to do the 'Drunken Triathlon' to get back to the boat - navigating down the hill, along the beach, then finding our tender and rowing across the harbour, all in the dark and after a moderate skinful!





 Getting up at 4:45 to watch the sunrise at Lakka. This was my favourite anchorage - we anchored out in the bay and it was peaceful and utterly beautiful.

 Emerald Bay on Antipaxos - the water was so clear that it was like a swimming pool:

 Our trusty little inflatable tender. You could pay extra and hire an outboard motor, which in retrospect would have been very worthwhile. R and L took turns rowing and it was quite fun pootling across harbours balancing on the sides:


 The lead boat, Kallamas:
A bit of sock knitting may have happened on deck. I did a bit more on these socks yesterday and the wool smells of suncream and the sea!
Sunset on 'Make a cocktail' night. There were a couple of get-togethers in the evenings. Our cocktail comprising Gin, Prosecco, Pomegranate juice, Peach juice and a lemon actually came second. We were so proud!
That's all for the photos. Would we go sailing again? R would at the drop of a hat, but probably not with a sailing company. We have never been on a package holiday before, ie. one where you are forced to stick to a strict timetable, and there were quite a few places where it would have been nice to stay for longer to explore but we couldn't as we had to move on. Also, the winds tended to pick up during the afternoon and were at their best for sailing just as we were expected in the next harbour. Having said that, I found it comforting to know that the lead boat was on hand in case we got into any difficulties. We didn't, thankfully, but one family we spoke to managed to trap one of the sails and Callum was there in no time to sort it out.
The girls quite enjoyed it - L more so than E, who found it a bit boring at times being constantly out at sea. She adores Greece, but would have been much happier, I think, staying in one place and having a chance to explore and spend more time snorkeling.
I found it a bit too much like being in a floating caravan and certain things started to irritate me towards the end: the men who took the radio far too seriously. R, who because we managed not to sink the boat on calm, non-tidal Mediterranean waters, thought he was Ellen MacArthur. I swear if he'd said 'Well. that's what happens at sea' (accompanied by a knowing nod of the head) one more time, I'd have hit him with a fender. Most irritating of all though were the boatload of Australian students who treated everyone in our final harbour to loud music, drunken tuneless singing and foul language until 1am in the morning. Unfortunately, we happened to be moored next to them and sleep was impossible. It was made more annoying by the fact that we had to be up at 5am to clean the boat and pack for the flight home. The final straw came when we got up to discover that they had thrown all their rubbish (bottles, cans etc.) onto our deck. Unfortunately, their passerelle (gangplank thingy) was up, so I was unable to hammer on their door. I was tempted to heave all our rubbish (bathroom bin included!) onto their deck but E stopped me. Furious, I grabbed the deck cleaning brush, leaned over the side and hammered on their deck until they emerged sleepy and cross, before tearing strips off them for their inconsiderate behaviour. It wasn't my finest hour but the thought of an irate English woman facing down a boatload of drunken Aussies whilst wearing tartan pyjamas still makes me laugh. I don't think that my family are going to let me forget that little incident in a hurry!
Anyway, that's all for this week. I'm just off to do the supermarket shop and then I hope to catch up with everyone's lovely blogs later in the week. Enjoy the sunny weather.

Toodle Pip for now. xx