Separate Lives

Having spent the first three weeks in Beaucette checking the weather for an appropriate weather window coinciding with a favourable tide time, we did quite a lot of soul searching and wondering just what it was we were doing. Whenever we saw Ricky (the marina manager) and advised that we would be staying a bit longer, his response was: “stay as long as you want”.   I believe this sowed a little seed in Steve’s head and made us face up to some difficult questions – What are we doing? What do we want out of this life?

It felt like all we seemed to do was watch the weather, looking for the opportunity to move to another marina to do the same thing again there – relax, drink and people watch. Neither of us particularly enjoys the sailing side of things but absolutely couldn’t go back to living in bricks and mortar. Steve felt that he wanted to put down some tentative roots – in fact it appears that we are not the gipsy/roaming types we thought we were after all!

Why is Guernsey the right choice for us?

  • The people are amazingly friendly. When we have been out and about, looking blankly at our map of the island, people stop (whether on foot or in their vehicles) and offer assistance
  • Steve can understand the locals
  • The ‘hills’ aren’t big
  • Honesty boxes are prevalent for local produce
  • The marina is picturesque, gnarly (being an ex-quarry), entertaining during strong easterly winds with a good mix of friendly live-aboards
  • Great walks – as we are in probably the least populated part of the island where beach and cliff walks are plentiful
  • Even in hot weather, as we are a stone’s throw from the sea, it is at least 5 degrees cooler

Why is Guernsey a poor choice for us?

  • Wine at English prices
  • Bread selection is poor as there doesn’t appear to be any small bakeries on the island (only the supermarkets)
  • Haven’t managed to find an egg supplier yet (other than supermarkets)
  • Shower block/toilet trips are best planned to coincide with high tide (the ramps are a tad challenging at low water). This also applies to trailer shopping trips as the decline is quite impressive which could result in a runaway trailer!

After chatting with Sunil in the marina office and then Ricky, Steve returned to the boat with the figures for a year’s berth here! Could we do that? Should we do that? We could always do some sailing from here and return but it would mean that Steve could have his required roots and he would be able to find something, other than the boat and the weather, to occupy his time. This again caused more conversations and we agreed that it might be a good idea so Steve ‘paid up and looked happy’, but this then caused more issues!!

After having spent practically every day for the last year together (ok we did have one 24 hour period apart when he took off with a French man!) we were starting to realise that we have absolutely nothing at all in common. So after many hours discussing matters we have decided that it is in our best interests to follow our own particular dreams and go our separate ways.

To be honest, it is not as bad as it sounds! We have both decided to return to our great loves. Steve’s love is food and cooking and being the hunter/gatherer type he decided that he would try his hand at fishing. He bought himself a tin of sardines and put them into his lobster pot and dropped that over the side of the boat. He didn’t have any luck for the first few days so decided to try the other side of the boat, closer to the pontoon. I think he had pretty much given up and was going to wash off the pot and put it away when he pulled it up and discovered a decent sized lobster inside. He was like a kid in a sweet shop, so excited!!! This was all the incentive he needed.

Surprisingly my love is for getting fit again. We have walked and cycled around some of the island and have discovered some lovely beaches – good enough to encourage me to “take the plunge”! So now I cycle the ten minutes to L’ancresse beach and spend some time splashing around in the water! When we first arrived we noticed a blackboard proclaiming “Bendy Beaucette Yoga”. I have wanted to try yoga and thought perhaps a small group here might be a good introduction – although I wasn’t sure if I would be confident enough to do something on my own. However, Steve encouraged me (or should that be, pushed me) to give it a try and so far I have been to two sessions and that combined with the swimming and cycling seems to have helped me with my intermittent back aches and has also resulted in a marked increase in my fitness level, such that on our most recent cycle ride together I had to brake whilst cycling behind Steve as he wasn’t going quick enough!

One particular cycle ride stands out in my memory – is this the unluckiest woman in the world? We had bought a picnic at the supermarket after visiting the largest car boot sale we’ve ever seen (well , at least ten cars!) and ended up at L’ancresse beach, sitting with a nice bottle of cider and some bread and cheese. The only other occupants of this part of the beach were a young family and then after a while a woman and her son stopped to chat with them. I suddenly heard a “thwack” and the standing woman fell to her knees. The poor lady had been hit by a stray golf ball. The fairway that the golfer was aiming for was at least 150 yards away. The man from the couple disappeared off and, according to the kids, was going to “go and tell off the golfer”. He returned shortly with two men – they had both hit their balls off course towards the beach so were unsure which one had actually hit her! Amazing, considering how much empty beach space there was, that one of them managed such a direct hit. Fortunately the lady had turned to reach her phone so it hit her on the side of the neck and not smack bang in the middle of her face.   She was a bit dazed and shocked but I don’t believe she suffered any serious damage and the rather embarrassed golfers were extremely apologetic.

There have been some very large, beautiful yachts visiting here. At one stage we were one of the smaller ones, having been dwarfed by an Oyster 62, Hallberg Rassy 64 and a possible Contest 60ish. When I went to my first yoga session, inevitably I was asked which boat I was on so pointed Shearmyste out. Comments were made about Beaucette becoming a ‘Super Yacht Haven’ and I believe Shearmyste was included! Quite chuffed about that, although I already knew she didn’t look out of place amongst them!

The buses here are cheap (£1 per journey) so we have taken advantage of them and have been into St Peter Port (Town) a few times. You can also go all the way around the island and if you want to sit in the bus station for about 20 minutes that still only costs £1. We did the trip but broke our journey in Town. This did mean that our ‘round the island’ cost £2 but to be honest I think we would have quite happily paid at least £5 each. The nearest shops to the marina are at St Sampson which is about a 10-15 minute cycle away with a Co-op and an Iceland and there is an Alliance (Tesco) fairly close too.  There are lots of small produce stands dotted around, so far we have purchased tomatoes, strawberries, cauliflower, new potatoes, cucumber and lettuce. As they all have honesty boxes it is necessary to make sure you have enough pound notes (yes I do mean notes!!)

Liberation Day back in May – we took the bus to St Peter Port, saw the parade and had a little mooch about. We walked past a lady who was the spitting image of Shane Spall (wife of actor Timothy Spall) and “star” of one of my favourite TV programmes – Somewhere at Sea where they sailed their Dutch barge around the UK. It is one of my go-to DVDs as they visited quite a few of the same places we have and I have noticed a lot of similarities in our relationships! I didn’t approach her as I thought it was inappropriate but when we got back to the boat I looked for her on Twitter and she had posted a photo of the life boats taken from the exact spot I had seen her! I am just amazed that she didn’t recognise me from my avid viewing!!!

Steve has now become quite a proficient fisherman. In his lobster pot he has managed to catch three lobsters (one too small to keep), a haddock, a brown crab and an eel. He took the dinghy out of the marina the other day and attached himself to one of the waiting buoys and caught himself two mackerel. I must admit that the only item I have eaten was a small portion of the haddock in a curry! I did try the first lobster but I really didn’t like it and I think Steve was quite pleased about that as he won’t have to share any!

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Steve then turns from fisherman to chef, so far he has made:

Lobster with lime and caper butter served with coconut rice

Lobster fusilli with a lobster bisque sauce

Haddock jalfrezi with boiled rice (this was for me!!!!)

Crab and Haddock with a spicy noodle broth

Smoked mackerel on toast

Smoked mackerel quiche

As I write, the smoked eel is sitting in the fridge, excellent taste test results, no dish yet created! (Cooking time 45 minutes, preparation time a day and a half – so not your Jamie’s 15 minute meal!!) Recipes will appear on the Recipe Page!

Other food highlights have included, I’m sorry to say, yet another falafel based meal. I had made a rather tasty pea risotto and as is normal I’d made enough to feed an army! So we decided to use up the leftovers as arancini – mozzarella stuffed rice balls. Steve thought about putting breadcrumbs on the outside but then suggested using falafel mix – hence the creation of Falancini! Served on a spicy tomato sauce they were bloody lovely!!!

 

 

Chocolate Cookies

Haven’t done a foodie blog for a while, so here’s a very tasty treat.  A family favourite adapted to ingredients we have on board!

Steve’s mum always makes these for us (mainly because Steve demands them!).  Below is her recipe with my changes alongside.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz Butter or Marg.  (Butter – salted)
  • 3 oz Soft Brown Sugar.  (Whatever sugar I have available)
  • 6 oz Self Raising Flour.  (I add bicarb to my plain flour)
  • 1.5 oz Sweetened Drinking Chocolate. (Cocoa – unsweetened)
  • Salt (I never add salt as I use salted butter)
  • 3 oz Walnut Halves. (Steve doesn’t like walnuts so we don’t have them)
  • Chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate bar to suit taste/availability

MUM’S METHOD

Soften the fat, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  sift the flour, drinking chocolate and salt and stir into the creamed mixture.  Knead until smooth.  Roll mixture into small walnut size pieces and place 4 inches apart on a greased baking tray.  Flatten each piece with the base of a wet jar and top with a walnut.

Bake on the second shelf from the top in a moderately hot oven (375 deg F, gas mark 5) for 8 – 10 minutes until cooked through.

DO NOT ALLOW TO DARKEN as the flavour will be spoilt.  Cool on a wire tray.

Makes approximately 36

MY METHOD

Soften the butter, add the sugar and beat until as light and fluffy as you can be bothered.  Add the flour and cocoa (don’t possess a sieve) and stir into the creamed mixture.  Add choc chips or chunks.  Knead until smooth(ish).  Roll mixture into small balls, flatten with palm of hand and place on a baking sheet.

Bake in the oven at about 180 deg C for as long as it takes for them to look cooked but not BURNT.

Cool on an upturned pizza tray (COOK’S TIP – any breakages are cook’s perks!)

Makes approximately 18 (if you are lucky)

Steve will not be drawn into whose cookies are best! Even under the threat of violence, the most I can get is “they are two different cookies – both excellent!” What a creep!!!

French Ladies Of The Night And A Couple Of Shags

Well, here we are sitting in Beaucette, Guernsey, looking at the black clouds and missing the French language and especially French tv – it is amazing how much! Yes, even Steve, he is devastated that he can no longer watch his “Les Carnets de Julie”!  A wonderful programme about, yes you’ve guessed it, food!

So a quick recap of what we have been up to.

In total we spent two weeks and two days in Cherbourg.  The marina was great, although the walk to the showers/toilets was quite long – we were on Pontoon H and almost the farthest from the Capitainerie – but the exercise did me good!  The biggest issue was, as it is an all-tide access port, the pontoons rise and fall with the tide resulting in inclines especially with Spring tides (the highest highs and the lowest lows).  This meant careful planning (if at all possible) of shower and shopping trips!

The first week was a focus on using the clear waters of the harbour and removing any signs that we had been so friendly with the ugly French buoy, so Steve set about removing the evidence of the up-close and personal kissing of the buoy.  The first stage was cleaning the topsides, this was done both from the pontoon and then from the dinghy.  My role was Safety Officer which, on occasions, I took seriously but with so much going on around us I did get a little distracted, this was evident to Steve when, several times, he had to ask me for something more than once. With the topsides back to pre- kissing condition it was time to clean under the boat.  Steve rigged up a 10ft cleaning brush which proved successful at cleaning off the winter growth (well impressed with the Jotun anti-foul , it has been on since the re-launch in 2014).  He then undertook his underwater survey (which was done during one of my now traditional afternoon siestas).  His 20 Euro video camera worked a treat, it showed that the anodes were in good condition and the only area that could do with a bit of cleaning was the prop and prop shaft.  This meant that he had a chance to try out his newly purchased face mask and snorkel (for some reason he thought the flippers were a step too far!)  He donned the wet suit and he was going to get under and give it a clean.  He hadn’t taken into consideration that what looks like the Med isn’t always the Med and that the water was obviously still in its winter plumage.  As he stood on the ladder at the back of the boat with most of his body in the water, “getting used to the temperature”, and even with my encouragement to “man up and just get your head under” it was, in his words: “bloody freezing” he stated that perhaps that’s a job for when we get to warmer waters!   The rest of the underneath was good to go; the prop work would only cost us a bit of drag which he was prepared to live with on a big ship.

We went out on the bikes a few times – mainly to the supermarkets (Carrefour and Lidl) but also along the seafront and across to La Cite De La Mer (which, although was probably only 200 metres from us as the crow flies, was a pleasant enough 10-15 minutes’ cycle).  There are three major attractions there:

  • an aquarium – the deepest in Europe at 11m (but in our opinion not a patch on The Deep in Hull)
  • a Titanic exhibition and
  • Le Redoutable – France’s first nuclear submarine. The main reason we wanted to go there and also the subject of one of my better “blonde” comments.  Whilst sitting on the back of the boat on our first rising tide there I commented that it must be floating as I could now see more of it.  Steve pointed out the reason I could see more was because we were rising not it. I think my head was still at St Vaast where even though we were going up and down I couldn’t see any difference but then again I couldn’t focus past the bedroom (that’s my excuse anyway).

Our berth at Cherbourg was next to the Allures/Garcia yacht berths.  It seemed that this was where they were put for the new owners to take possession.  These are “shiny, new” aluminium go-anywhere yachts.  When we arrived there were at least four new owners taking possession, a mix of nationalities – Swiss, French, Dutch.  Shearmyste sat proudly alongside these ¾ million Euro yachts!  But I think you can buy a hull for less than 100,000 Euros (dependent on the current price of aluminium).

In line with our usual naming of individuals we had John Le Measurer (a French man and not the English actor with a similar name!!)  So named as the back of his padded gilet said “Measurement” which we later found out was because he was part of the scrutineering team for dinghy racing at international and Olympic level and not a QA man as we had assumed and was, in fact, a banker by trade!  He liked his tape measure and also had a very lax approach to health and safety – highlighted by grinding his brand new Fortress anchor with no safety gear whatsoever.  He then later used both his favourite items (tape measure and grinder) to cut his anchor chain with his hands just millimetres from the spinning disc.   He and his wife were very friendly and must have taken pity on us.  She enjoyed baking and on two occasions they appeared with cake and then tart.   The cake was definitely the best cake we have eaten in France – we thought it was pear and chocolate cake but it might have been apple.  The tart was not as successful for me as it was an apple tart but with a custard-type base.  Steve asked her if it was ‘Crème Anglaise’ and her response was “no, it is milk, sugar and eggs”.

During evening drinks on our old tub, which John couldn’t believe was aluminium so had to go outside and tap it to be sure, he explained his sailing style and the fact being that he now has a “push button”boat.  He can just push the buttons and sit inside as he gets seasick.  He accompanied his comment with a gesture – he would lick his forefinger and then imitate pushing a button.  He also explained that it was “an old man’s boat” – he is 62 and not getting any younger or stronger.   He also said that he didn’t like using the engine very much and admitted that his wife was a better sailor than him. During this conversation we said that we don’t mind using the engine and that almost made us a “push button” boat too where he conceded “15 all” as Steve had mimicked his gesture.

We got in touch with Serge to let him know we had arrived and he invited us out for a meal.  He knew that I was a vegetarian and thought that there must be a vegetarian restaurant somewhere in Cherbourg or at least a restaurant with a good vegetarian selection.  However as it turned out he couldn’t find one so he and Francoise invited us on board Kazan 4 for a completely vegetarian home-cooked meal (Steve was a little worried as he is not the biggest vegetable fan!) We had a wonderful evening conducted entirely in Franglais! At one point Francoise was speaking away to Serge and he replied “you can speak to me in French, I’m French, you’re French!!”

Close to the end of our pontoon there is a public toilet block on the quayside which Serge had warned that it wasn’t the cleanest of facilities and when Steve had been there before, Serge had commented that “ladies of the night” frequented it.  Every day, whenever we passed the facility, on route to the town or the ‘sanitaire’ there were two suspicious, not very young or pretty, “ladies”.   We only ever saw them in daylight so they couldn’t possibly have been ”ladies of the night” although they may have made more money if they were!  Being a country girl it was a first for me when, one afternoon as we were returning to the boat, a “Mr Magoo” lookalike on a three wheeled moped kept circling the area.  Just after I spotted one of these “ladies” he parked up and appeared to go shopping!  I may be paying him a disservice but this was the first time I had ever seen a man shopping in the public toilets!  It made me smile and I had to keep looking back to confirm my suspicions!!

Our next “Everest” on this trip was to be the notorious Alderney Race – where Walti lost his mast last season.  We planned to leave on as calm a day as possible knowing full well that the white flappy things were not going to be used as we didn’t want to spoil the start of the season!!  We had decided to go to Beaucette marina, as it had been recommended by someone on a Cruising Association forum where Steve had asked about refuelling – diesel in the Channel Islands is a lot cheaper than it is in France.  I had tried to contact them by email, but on reading their website they seem to prefer phone contact – great, we were still without one.  We then contacted them via the “Contact Us” page on their website and waited patiently for a response.  Steve started thinking that we would have to go to St Peter Port instead and wanted me to contact them, but I held firm – Beaucette appealed a lot more than St Peter Port!

The trip to Beaucette marina was 40nm so should be completed well within my 8 hour wellness window!!  So we spent a few days watching the weather closely and looking at best tide days for a daylight trip with a dignified wake up time and waiting for an email response from Beaucette as I still had no phone.  We decided on Saturday 22nd April and everything seemed to fall into place – North-easterly winds (Beaufort 2-3), 6am high tide at Cherbourg which meant an 8am leave and a tide window at Beaucette of between 2 and 6pm – and we had even heard back from them!! “John” got up especially to see us off – what a nice man!!

The pilot books and almanacs recommend that leaving Cherbourg two hours after high tide is about the right time to get the most comfortable advantage from the Alderney Race which started 14 nm from Cherbourg at Cap De La Hague.  We arrived there at 10 am as planned and this is where I got the boat speed record (although admittedly under power).  We were receiving five knots of assistance and my top speed was eleven knots, which beats Steve’s nine knots under sail around Norfolk!  The race was like a slightly bubbling mill pond and was nothing like I’d expected from what I had read and been told previously.  We had encountered quicker tides on the West Coast of Scotland when we travelled round Britain.  The weather was slightly overcast although we had been able to see Alderney from 12 nm out.  This is where I saw my first ever Shag (enough of the giggles, we aren’t in Cherbourg anymore!)  They are slightly smaller than Cormorants but with a wonderful quiff on the top of their heads.  Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to get a picture (sounds familiar).

With the fair tide we decided we should slow ourselves down as our ETA at Beaucette was looking to be at least two hours before entry was possible.  We arrived outside the marina just after 12 (BST) and, luckily our phone had been reconnected the day before, so we were able to contact Ricky the harbourmaster to ascertain the earliest time to enter due to our draught and the height of the water above the sill.  Ricky confirmed our calculations and said that 2.30 would be a good time to enter.  So this then gave us the opportunity to look at the entrance from afar and bloody hell was it scary!  All we could see were rocks and a brick wall!  As we had to wait a couple of hours we thought we would have a little sightseeing tour along the coast and to check out the “block of flats” I had previously spotted anchored just outside St Peter Port.  It was, in fact, the sister ship to Ventura (we’d seen in Cherbourg), the Azura.

So, at 2.30 we met Ricky on the fairway with the plan to follow him in – however he took off at great speed and we were only doing 4 knots!  I stood at the mast so I could easily see the entrance and be in a position to do anything if needed.    Steve’s suggestion that I get my boobs out was not well received!! (Too cold for that nonsense and I wasn’t even standing right at the pointy end!)  Now, imagine this, our 4.5m wide boat going through an 8m gap (however with the tide higher the gap was slightly wider, thankfully) with the most jagged rock face, no smooth sides to bump against and a brick wall dead ahead.

Guess what? No dramas here, my super skipper followed Ricky and made the turns (even though he was probably going a little fast!) and we calmly moored against a nice long pontoon!  Ricky helped with our centre line and left us to it as he had other customers to attend to.  Beaucette Marina is Beautiful (with a capital B!) if you like rocks and couldn’t be more different from Cherbourg.  Here for at least a week, possibly two!!

Ugly French Boys (Sorry, Buoys)

Following on from our false start the day before with the pea soup, we arose on Tuesday 4th April to a favourable outlook, fairly good visibility, no real fog and just a little bit of drizzly rain.  Bearing in mind this was our first movement since 15th August we were a little apprehensive!  We left the mooring with absolutely no issues whatsoever almost as if we had been practicing all winter rather than just sitting about drinking wine and vodka!  On leaving the marina we were confronted with a trawler coming down to get the same SAS as us.  We got out of his way quick and decided it would be better for us to follow him rather than lead especially as we were getting no feedback from the port via VHF even though we could hear them talking to the fishing boat – do we have radio issues again?

We had pre-planned to pick up two vertical wires to secure our lines to in the larger lock as they were still trying to fix the smaller one.  I asked Steve which one he wanted me to get, followed by: “should I get this one”, “should I get this one” – but he seemed to ignore me and by the time he was ready for me to get one they weren’t any close by.  There were helpful markings on the quayside, showing where the lines were meant to be, however there were an awful lot missing!!  We had a little drift around a bit in the lock and I was wondering if I should perhaps put some fenders on the other side as the boat is a little stubborn when we want her to go backwards.  As it was Steve managed to get her alongside the quay on the right side and he jumped off with the rear line in hand.  I threw the front line up onto the quayside and returned to the cockpit, where I was to be in control (me?!!)  Steve told me when to apply reverse or a touch of bow thruster so I wasn’t  really “in control” but it was close enough for me!

We left the lock and our winter home with no major issues  – NEW SEASON, here we come!!

We had decided that we wanted to ease gently back into this cruising lark and wanted  to make sure that our first trip would be a nice, flat, calm one so we motored from Ouistreham to St Vaast La Hougue.  We took turns helming and I was, by far, better at sticking to the compass heading!  So when we encountered a fog bank, I steered and Steve kept lookout (my eyesight really is poor!)

We picked up a hitch-hiker on route – a little bird (some kind of warbler from the looks of him).  He only stayed for about five minutes but obviously got enough of a rest to continue his journey. Our only other wild-life sighting was a solitary dolphin in the distance.

As Steve had previously spent a windy night (with Serge) at anchor at St Vaast, he knew the holding was good so we had decided that we would have a go at anchoring ourselves,  but coming up to the anchorage Steve noticed that there was a mooring buoy marked on the chart in the same vicinity. Steve pointed it out but I thought it was a little boat in the distance.  However, once we were closer I could see that my “people” were in fact cormorants!  The buoy itself was definitely ugly, however Steve insisted that it would be less stressful overnight than trusting the anchor as the wind was forecast to get up to 20 knots plus.  Having arrived exactly at high tide we could have entered the port, but with the weather being ok and me feeling fine we chose to give it a go.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  It was like a scene from Custer’s last stand as we circled the buoy three or four times attempting to catch hold – Steve’s grabbing hook thing (the ideal tool for the job) was too heavy for me to manage at full stretch with the sea state not helping my aim/footing.  Steve then decided it would be better if he did it (thankfully!) and a few minutes later we were rubbing alongside and attached.  After attaching a few more lines to the buoy off went the engine and a successful first foray was over!  I hadn’t felt the slightest bit seasick all day and had even managed to go below and make Steve a coffee – I think that is the first time ever (whilst moving!)

DSC02415
The Ugliest French Buoy Ever?

Unfortunately for me, this started what is possibly one of the worst 36 hour periods of my life.  I was a bit cold and had a slight headache so decided that it might be an idea to have a lie-down whilst Steve enjoyed the view with a well-deserved glass of wine.  When I got up again (still cold & headachey), our pre-prepared menu choices did not appeal at all so we decided on a bowl of noodles.  This helped to warm me slightly but all I wanted to do was go back to bed – so I did.  Steve waited for low-tide before coming to bed and then was up again at 2am to check the lines as he noticed the boat position had changed and this was when the wind was predicted to be at its strongest.   He did come back to bed but, in his words, didn’t sleep and so he subsequently got up at 4am and stayed up. Steve used my phone to check the weather, now that I had changed my EE contract to a 4GEE Max, allowing us data access.

IMG_2188
What Steve saw!

Apparently he spent a very pleasant day on the Wednesday, enjoying the nice weather and the comings and goings of St Vaast with a couple of glasses of wine in the afternoon.  I showed my face at least three times during the day but never for more than 10 minutes at a time.  I did manage to eat a couple of bread sticks and a couple of plain Pringles.  Steve did the planning for our next stage on his own (we normally do this together but he couldn’t be sure I would even get out of bed before we left).  He decided to check the weather again and discovered “No Service” on the phone.  He came and asked me what he was doing wrong but I could only do the same as him and it was still “No Service”.  A little niggle hit the back of my head when I thought of the date.  (More on this later!)

When Steve came to bed (stinking of wine – urgh!!) he advised me that he had had a lot of “alone time” and had been doing a lot of thinking.  His thoughts had been along the lines of: perhaps we are not cut out for this life, he can’t imagine not living on a boat but perhaps it is another type of boat we need (without sticks or keels and only ever goes on flat water). He had even thought about selling the boat, buying a smallholding and raising pigs.  I thought this was a bit drastic but couldn’t really argue as although they say nobody has ever died of seasickness I would have quite happily been the first!)  We agreed to discuss it at a later date as we hadn’t really given this season much of a chance.

The next morning Steve’s plan, if he felt that the weather matched his last available forecast, we would catch the fair tide around Pointe de Barfleur which meant leaving the mooring buoy at 08.45.  Steve’s day of doing nothing had obviously given him the opportunity to plan in minute detail how we would extricate ourselves from the ugly French buoy.  My only job was to stand at the helm and if required apply some backwardy or forwardy drive.  As it was all fenders were cleared away, lines were slipped and we drifted majestically away just as Steve had hoped.  We left the buoy at 08.43 (not bad planning Stevie!!)  The trip around Barfleur is renowned, like most headlands, for fast running tides that can be uncomfortable and treacherous but with a favourable forecast the seas were fairly benign not to say that it wasn’t a little bit lumpy in places.  I became reacquainted with Fred (but only the once) during a particularly confused, lumpy bit of water.  I then had a bit of sleep (surprise, surprise)well I had been up for at least  two and a half hours.  I regained some level of brain function as we were approaching the outer harbour of Cherbourg (Grande Rade).  Steve called up Jobourg Traffic on the radio where a very pleasant man told us we didn’t need to contact him and could just contact the marina – well that at least proved the radio works!  He then placed the fenders and lines whilst I steered having been given instructions from the marina staff that we were going to the deep water pontoon just inside the marina entrance.  Coming up to the pontoon we noticed a few people sitting on the back of a Garcia and we wondered if they would give assistance.  They immediately came to help and it turned out one of the individuals was Walti, the Swiss owner of Alunga who we had previously met in Dieppe.  Shearmyste parked herself beautifully and we were secured.  Minutes later I was feeling much better!!! Unbelievable.  Initially we thought we would stay here for a week, however considering it will be Easter next weekend we have decided to stay for two weeks before considering the next appropriate weather window to move on to Guernsey.

Now back to the phone situation:

We had discussed getting rid of my EE account as it was quite expensive for what we were using, even though it was my comfort blanket.   So, as my contract was due to end on 5th April, on the 3rd March I rang EE and asked to cancel my account at the end of the contract.  They suggested some other plans that might be suitable but we decided no, we would cancel.  On reflection this decision was not a good one as there are times we do actually need to use a phone.  So on 8th March I rang EE back and said I would take up one of their new plans.  The girl I spoke to made a point of saying she was cancelling the cancellation and setting up the new plan.  I got confirmation of the new plan by text and also on the myEE app – so thought nothing more of it – except we now had data so could check the weather etc even if we were not in a marina on Wi-Fi.

So, back to St Vaast on 5th April, with the phone showing No Service – I thought, oh dear, they’ve closed my account.  No worries, nothing we can do until we get to some Wi-Fi.  So once settled in Cherbourg I decided to see what I could do to sort it out.  The only way I seemed to be able to contact them was by using Twitter.  The guy who responded said I needed to phone Customer Services or go to the EE help pages and launch “Live Chat”.  I tried this “Live Chat” business as, obviously, I couldn’t phone them.  After unsuccessful attempts at the live chat I reported back and was told that as that wasn’t working the only thing they could offer was for me to ring as soon as I was able.  They seemed unable to understand that we only have one phone and didn’t know anyone well enough to ask to borrow a phone to make an international call.  This continued for two days, me asking if there was any way that someone from customer service could contact me or if I could contact them by email but no – I could try “Live Chat” again or call, and the live chat still wouldn’t work.  It finally dawned on me that as EE had closed my account maybe I no longer had access to the ”Live Chat” page – why on earth couldn’t they have just told me that at the beginning and saved Steve two days of me sitting in front of my iPhone, iPad and computer getting more and more frustrated?

In summary:

  • You can contact EE on Twitter and EE Community but all they can do is tell you to contact Customer Services
  • You can contact Customer Services by live chat (if you have a live contract)
  • You can contact Customer Services by phone (if they haven’t cut you off in error)

Hooray for EE.

So in a nutshell we no longer have a phone and will be relying on Wi-Fi in the marinas we visit! (Another reason for no more nights at anchor or mooring buoys!!!!)

A Woman Of A Certain Age 

Well, the weather put paid to our plans to leave Ouistreham this morning as the ‘pea soup’ arrived and as we actually want to see where we are going (and passing) rather than just keeping a lookout for other vessels in the murk we decided to go back to bed. It has also presented me with the opportunity to finalize a little poem that has been building in my head (generally at night when I can’t sleep!). I think I’m finally happy with it and thought I would share it here with you! Hope it makes you smile!!

A Woman Of A Certain Age 

A woman of a certain age is that what I’ve become?

I hope it doesn’t last too long, I know it does for some

I hope you will forgive me if you think I’m being rude

it’s just that all this shit puts me in a cranky mood

A woman of a certain age is that what I ‘ve become?

But I was sure I’m meant to be one of the “ever young”

My mind is busy telling me I’m only twenty one

So WHY can’t it tell the rest of me and make it play along?

These bloody ‘granny whiskers’ keep appearing with no warning

So I stand before the mirror, plucking, each and every morning

Don’t talk to me of flushes or sweating over night

Because I’ve become an expert, just so you know, ALL RIGHT?

Maybe I should try some fancy HRT 

But that means seeing a doctor and that is so ‘not me’

They’d ask me lots of questions and I’d struggle to reply

I might be able to say my name but then I’d start to cry

A woman of a certain age is that what I’ve become?

It’s not supposed to happen to me, I mean, I’m not my mum

I wish that it would hurry up and please, please, please just end

Before it’s finally too late and driven me round the bend

A woman of a certain age IS what I have become

Now a wrinkly dry old prune, no more a juicy plum!

Summer Starts Here!

We really can’t believe it is already April.  Winter’s over – did it really begin?  Having experienced the past ten years in the north of England (other than a brief interlude in a snowy Somerset) a winter in Northern France has almost been like a summer up north.  Other than the highest winds the area has seen in at least fifty years it has been rather benign. I haven’t even had to use my “clamp-ons” (spiky things that go over your shoes so you grip not slip!).  I have, however, on about ten days had to be escorted to the ‘bloc sanitaire’ to perform necessary ablutions. I think one of my favourite moments was watching a coot struggle on the ice – his wings flapping to maintain balance much as I think I do (well, I use my arms not my wings).

Coot on Ice
Coot on Ice

 

On the upside, compared to all other marinas we have been in in England, maybe by chance or luck, the marina staff told us that our electricity consumption would be included in our mooring fee. Bearing in mind we have a 32 amp supply (the proper visitor pontoon has 6 amp, I believe), our heating and shower facilities were effectively incorporated in our mooring fees – a huge saving as we used to spend around £500 on electricity and gas for an English winter.

Over the Christmas period Steve finally got his head around this “not working” thing and decided he needed to compartmentalise his life – End of Season, Break, Prep for New Season, New Season.  This really helped with his mental state!  As he had decided it was now Prep for New Season he could focus on what needed to be done before our departure (preliminary date April 1st – end of 6 month contract) and created a Before We Leave List.

The only significant activity that appeared on this list (other than him rearranging the galley cupboards – no. 1 priority!!!) was to replace all the batteries.  This required a little bit of homework as the costs in France would have been maintenance budget busting for the year.  We needed to replace two engine and four domestic batteries – total ampage (for those numpties that want to know) 1260 amps.  These batteries also weighed in the region of 50 kg (7 stone) each.  We decided on a company in England that could supply them at approximately a quarter of the French price (and with free delivery!).  We needed to try and arrange a delivery date where the boat would be stable enough and with the weather amicable in order to exchange them.  Thanks to a really good French delivery driver who wheeled them along the pontoon on his trolley they were deposited on a pallet right next to the boat!  Our little trolley was breathing a huge sigh of relief I believe!! Next came the fun part – imagine this – Steve’s 6’ 5” frame having to lift a seven stone lump whilst bending over on his knees in a confined space (the size of a kitchen cabinet!) twelve times, whilst also getting the old ones off and the new ones on board – all on his own – what a sweaty hero!!  Fortunately the marina here will accept the old batteries so along came ‘Marina Man’ with his trolley and took them away – saved us making several trips to the local tip.

Following this it was time to get Shearmyste back into her summer plumage, so off came the window covers, on with her sails, decks and windows cleaned – oh she does look pretty!

So now, we are ready for the off again – one year on from Steve quitting work – still talking to each other and loving life!

We plan to leave here on Monday morning (3rd April) so thought it appropriate to reminisce and reflect on our time here.

In order to assist in our internal communication and not knowing our neighbours and passing yachties we have fallen into giving individual unique identifiers (names to the uninitiated).  So we would just like to share a few of these with you:

  • Grimsby – so called as when we first spoke to him, he asked where we were from and we said Hull, the Humber and he said “oh yes I worked out of Grimsby for a while”
  • Smiley, friendly motorboat man. This chap helped us on our arrival – taking our lines
  • Grandad – spent most of the remaining summer on board his yacht with his grandchildren (also passed on his knowledge on shellfish cleaning to Steve – purging the sand)
  • Pyjama trouser man – sports the most wonderful pair of pink (although could be very faded red) trousers
  • The Belgian – self explanatory!! His yacht is named “Bye Bye Bruxelles” and apparently he owns a classic 2CV
  • Deux noeds (translates to two knots – the speed limit in the marina) – This man on the next pontoon spends most of his time shouting “deux noeds” at any passing vessel that may or may not be sticking to the speed limit
  • Cute Dog Man – needs no explanation, however during a stormy evening after Steve had helped both him and Grimsby securing the boats, they joined us for a drink (non-alcoholic for them) when he mentioned that, in fact, it was his dead wife’s dog. (We had often seen him with a lady and were concerned that he was recently bereaved – however that lady reappeared a few days later so was obviously not his wife – we assume)
  • Monsieur et Madame Le Criou – Le Criou being the name of their yacht – he speaks quite good English and waves like crazy every time you walk past his boat
  • Strawbridge – This man has the most amazing Dick Strawbridge-like moustache and hairstyle – he is only a passing yacht but always acknowledges us
  • Smoker No. 1 – chap on our pontoon who coughs like a good’un whilst smoking and talking on his mobile
  • Smoker No. 2 – worker at one of the local yacht businesses, who collects boats from their pontoons and takes them across the canal. Practically every single time we have seen him (usually in enclosed motor/day fishing boats) a roll-up dangles from his lips.  Although I must say I did see him the other day without a fag – in an open yacht!!!
  • Paris Boat Show man. Another Pontoon E berth-holder, initially called Old Man but renamed after he spotted and greeted us whilst visiting the Paris Boat Show
  • Blue boat man – Plays music (and not necessarily good music) loudly whilst sailing and manoeuvring around the marina. Steve thinks he looks like one of the jailers in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian – bald on top with long hair on the sides
  • Guy and Jacques – because we were told their names!!!!
  • AND FINALLY – Serge (Wiz A Little Lemon Twist for fans of Beverley Hills Cop!) He bought Guy’s boat (in the adjacent berth)

Now over for a little bit of input from Steve!

During our time here Serge became the new owner of Kazan IV, a Bavaria 36 with slab reefing & furling head sail – which was his first foray into owning a  larger yacht.  We believe that his previous boats were either dinghies or perhaps a 24 ft day sailer.  He had spent January and February understanding bits of his boat and playing with a few things and had taken the boat out into the canal twice with his other half, Francoise.  We had quite a few conversations (Franglais) and he said that his ‘maiden voyage’ was to be taking his boat to his permanent berth in Cherbourg.  His wife was possibly going to do it with him or he would do it alone.  About a week prior to his departure date I had been assisting him in how to pull in his genoa and thought that it might be a nice idea to offer to act as crew if he was going to be short-handed. (His wife seemed less than enamoured with the idea of the trip and gave a huge grin at the offer).  Initially although Serge was grateful it appeared that he wouldn’t accept, however Francoise obviously worked on him as we received a very pleasant email saying yes please (I think google translate had a hand in it as it did in our reply!)  This was likely to be a challenging operation for both of us as Serge’s English is on a par with my French (next to nothing). The week passed with checking the forecasts and the only near favourable forecast was for Monday 6th March, however this was still force 6 and 7 – and, of course, in the direction we were heading – yet more wind on the nose.  We had calculated that the trip (66nm) should take 12-13 hours assuming the boat could do 6 knots.  What we both didn’t know was what the boat could actually do. 

So Monday morning I got up at 5.30 in preparation for the 7am lock out.  We cast off at 6.45 just as it started to rain. Serge managed his first SAS successfully and was very pleased with himself.  After leaving Ouistreham and passing the Cardinal buoy we headed for the headland at Barfleur which was approximately 45 nm away.   Due to the headwind, (fairly light at this stage) we could only motorsail with the main fully raised and a small amount of genoa.  At this point we were doing maybe 5/6 knots maximum. The wind then decided to pick up and was in a slightly more favourable direction so Serge cut the engine and we sailed for about an hour.  At that time our average speed went down to less than 3 knots so we pulled in the genoa and restarted the motor. At about 12 o’clock, whilst attempting a French definition of a sandwich, the wind picked up to a degree where I made the decision to put a reef in as we were getting gusts of up to 20 knots. (The following day Serge did comment to his wife that I must have had a sixth sense at that point). About an hour later the wind increased to maybe force 7 with possible gusts of 8 and another reef went in the main, however due to the wind and the rain we were lucky if we got above 2 knots.  I was bored out of my brain.  After a few more hours and with the skipper coming out of the cabin deciding that he was feeling seasick and needing to get closer to the rails (without his lifejacket on) I decided that the best course of action would be to head towards St Vaast la Hougue and anchor as we were likely to miss the tide gate for entry into the harbour.  If we continued to Cherbourg at this pace we would be trying to round the headland with a foul tide and gusts of force 7/8.  During this redirection from a course of 305 degrees to 270 degrees, the skipper, whilst at the helm, was quite often nowhere near the required heading – maybe this was due to tiredness/seasickness.  We made it to the safe anchorage at St Vaast just before 9pm – therefore 14 hours to travel 44 nm! (Pace a little bit slower than I am used to now).  We anchored successfully in very good holding and by 9.30 we were secure with the engine off and twenty minutes later Pot Noodles to the rescue!  Serge’s phone was unable to make international calls so we had to send Tee an email to let her know where we were and our plans for the following day.

Before any “relaxing” could occur Serge was insistent that I tell him when we should leave the next morning. In my mind it was a very simple equation as the tide window to go around Barfleur on this day was at 5pm, therefore simplistically the next time would be 13 hours later – 6am Tuesday.  So our plan was set to get up at 5 o’clock and, due to the amount of diesel used, head into St Vaast to refuel and then proceed to Cherbourg.  The trip around Barfleur headland was a little bit lumpy but not unexpected and with very light winds (I would have hated to have done that the previous night in force 7/8).  On the way round we talked about whether we had done the right thing the day before – my mind was yes, his was no.  Maybe we had different perceptions or experiences that led us to these conclusions. 

We arrived at Cherbourg at approximately 10-10.30, after securing the boat and Serge talking to his other half, it came to pass that she (having Serge’s car) was unable to get to the port due to work until 8pm.  So 9 hours to kill in Cherbourg – after having a well-deserved shower and letting the water run as long as I wanted I thought it would be a good idea to have some time apart and trundled off into the town to see what we could expect when we (me and Tee) arrived.  Feeling a bit peckish I decided upon a kebab for lunch (prohibited when Theresa’s around) – couldn’t tell you what the meat was as it wasn’t a doner, maybe some pork derivative?  However at 3 euros 50 including chips it did the business!  I then managed to find a Carrefour City where I decided that a couple of bottles of cheap Chardonnay would help me get through the rest of the afternoon (which it did!)  Here endeth my little tale other than I did have a sore arse from the trip but honest it was down to the hard seats on the Bavaria.

Back to me!!

My time was spent somewhat differently!  I got up at about 6ish and watched all the activity as they got the boat ready (thankful that they had made some decisions as to how they would communicate basic actions!) and waved them off – then I had the day to myself – the first time since March 31st 2016!  I did my usual pottering about and decided to eat my main meal at lunchtime – a two course effort as I misjudged how long my pasty would take to cook so started my veggies too soon!  This meant I could have a go at making my own crumpets – we have been able to buy them in France but I’d found a recipe on my favourite baking website (BakingMad.com) and wanted to give it a go and not having Steve around meant if they were awful I wouldn’t have to admit the attempt! As it was they were lovely and I had two for my tea with four left over for breakfast the next day with Steve (or so I thought!)  I spent a fair amount of the day wondering how the boys were getting on – especially as the rain didn’t stop all day! The evening rolled around and I thought it would be the ideal time to watch some of the DVDs we have that Steve isn’t interested in so out came “Far From The Madding Crowd” but I couldn’t get into it, so tried “Guys and Dolls” – for all of about two minutes – then I remembered that I had Season 6 of Castle on my laptop so started watching that.  When my phone signalled an email at about 9.30 I thought “ah good, they’ve made it” so I was very surprised to see that they were only at St Vaast.  With nothing else to do I continued watching Castle until about 2am!!!  Next morning I got an email at about 10.30 to say they’d arrived and please ring – so I did! This was when I discovered that I would get another full day on my own as it was unlikely Steve would be back any time before 9.30pm.  This really put the whole trip into perspective – it had taken them 19 hours by boat but the return journey by car was 1 hour 20 minutes max!

We did manage to eat the crumpets for breakfast the following day and Steve reckoned they were better than shop bought ones – although to me they weren’t as good as on the day they were made – so success and a new sometime breakfast (when I’m organised enough!)

Another essential before leaving Ouistreham was “restockage”.  Steve’s latest favourite word! We know we are not going to be too far from supermarkets anywhere in France but it is nice to know that we don’t have to immediately search out provisions on arrival.  The supermarkets are relatively close to the marina here so Stevie decided that, with the help of his trusty trailer, we would refill the empty lockers.

Our first foray was to Carrefour and Lidl where we purchased:

  • 6 kilos of flour (three different types!)
  • Cream crackers
  • 6 kilos of pasta (on special offer!)
  • 6 bottles of milk
  • 2 kilos of rice
  • 15 litres of fruit juice (various)
  • 2 litres of olive oil
  • 2 litres of vodka
  • 10 litres of wine
  • Loo roll

To name the bulky items!!

Then Steve went to E Leclerc (on his own – while I got my hair cut!!) where he returned with:

  • Another 4 litres of vodka (it’s a better price at Leclerc!)
  • Another 10 litres of wine
  • 5 kilos of potatoes
  • Various crackers/breakfast bars.

The only problem with the Leclerc trip was that the wine was on special offer (half price) meaning a 5 litre box was less than 5 euros – this meant that Steve was adamant he would return to do some bulk-buying!  The offer was running until the 1st of April so we had a few days.  Unfortunately in this time Steve managed to pull a muscle in his back which had him walking around like a 90 year old twisted body man.  However the pull of the price reduction was too much and so he decided that he would see if cycling helped with his back.  This time he returned with:

  • Another 40 litres of wine
  • Another 2 litres of vodka
  • An additional 32 rolls of loo roll (he cannot pass up a bargain!)

It is lucky we don’t have any guests at the moment as the wardrobes are full with wine (well for the next week or so!)  We really aren’t alcoholics –  honest!

The little bike trailer performed perfectly, although when fully laden it did try to push Steve down the hill!  His back survived the trip too, fortunately.

Early Mornings, Late Nights and Dirty Grandpa

So, December started well with a trip to the Paris Boat Show (and a little bit of sightseeing too!!) As it was my first time in Paris Steve insisted that I had to see La Tour Eiffel and take a romantic stroll along the Seine.  The weather was exceptional, the Paris Boat Show puts the London Boat Show well and truly in the shade with at least 4 major halls.  The last time we visited the London Boat Show in 2016,  we had the show pretty much to ourselves and managed to look around it in two hours (admittedly it was a week day)! The Paris Boat Show in stark contrast was very busy and well worth the 5 o’clock alarm to catch the 0700 train from Caen.  We were also pleasantly surprised to discover that there were no charges on the Metro due, we believe, to pollution control.

The following day I was struck down by ‘man flu’ (honorary, obviously!!) and spent the next two weeks writing shopping lists for Steve and generally feeling sorry for myself.  I did share and allow him to have a whole afternoon of illness himself – maybe it’s all the fruit and veg he doesn’t eat – who needs that when you’ve got wine?  This time did allow us to plan our Christmas foray across the channel (La Manche). Steve, being mindful of our financial position (bones of his arse), chose different crossings to those previously decided upon, which meant that our pick-up in England was in the evening and our departure for return was yet another 5 am alarm.

The Christmas plan was a dual-venue excursion.  First to my mum and Mac’s with change-over day being Boxing Day.  We were joined by our two young and impressionable sons (note this for later) on Christmas Eve. Mac had bought himself one of these new-fangled so-called ‘Smart TV’s (which apparently are only as smart as their owners! Sorry Mac!)  As one member of the Monaghan clan does seem to understand this type of technology and being armed with his pass-codes for Netflix, Amazon etc, Alex took over and explained functionality to a bewildered audience.

Steve took over the kitchen with the mandatory fortified British wine in hand (a Christmas essential) and we created a Moroccan-inspired feast – chicken tagine with olives, preserved lemons, chick peas and green beans, cous cous, falafels (surprise, surprise!), hummus, carrot and numnee salad and flat breads. Much to everyone’s amazement Alex, the carnivore, Monaghan enjoyed the falafels and went back for seconds and thirds!!

Then it was time to gather as a family in front of the Smart TV.  As the offerings were not that inspiring it was decided that we would take advantage of Alex’s Netflix and watch a film.  The choice was left to the matriarch of the group who decided that a comedy would be a good choice for the demographic.  Having made her choice, more by actor than film description, Dirty Grandpa was selected. The only person who appeared to have looked at the full description rather than just the headline was Steve – he must have decided to kept his mouth shut for once!!  (IMDb parental guidance makes fun reading!! And if you are of a prudish disposition probably as close as you may wish to get!) So imagine the scene, two impressionable young boys, two senior citizens and the two of us spending more time watching each other’s reactions to the antics on screen than the actual screen!  Grandson and grandma sharing a two-seater settee, both getting redder and redder the longer the film went on!!!  Moment of truth – those two impressionable young boys are in fact 28 and 24 and could probably tell us a thing or two!  This experience will never be forgotten and undoubtedly mentioned at every future family gathering. Christmas Day went as planned with the notable phrase of the day being “you snooze, you lose” when our oldest went for an afternoon nap and missed out on the Christmas pud! Sorry Sean, it was very tasty (and it was me that ate yours)!

Having spent the last 20+ years avoiding the “traditional” Christmas fayre, (it started with a Christmas day barbecue in Tunstall, Suffolk and us choosing a different country each year to experiment with – some successful, some not so!!), we made up for it this year with Roast Beef on Christmas Day (with my cousin providing a nut roast for me to try – thanks Jayne!) and Roast Chicken on Boxing Day. The local chippy was open on our last night so, of course, as it is almost tradition, we had to partake! I think we all ended up having a chip butty in the end!  Alex had experienced strange noises coming from his car and took the opportunity to ask his dad – and was most surprised that his dad seemed to know what he was talking about! So on our last day in England Steve donned his father’s overalls and greased the cv joints, bearing in mind that Steve hadn’t touched a car (maintenance wise) in at least ten years and then it was generally old bangers and not these modern fancy cars –  but funnily enough mechanical vehicle design hasn’t really changed in 30 years, especially on rear wheel drive floating axles.  Outcome – one quieter cv, one child now with the knowledge to do it himself if he can be bothered and one chuffed daddy that he could teach his son something!  Sean was invited to watch and learn too, but given that it is highly unlikely that he will ever own a car or drive he declined the offer most graciously.

We found we were well loaded with baggage for our return trip (including Stevie’s new bike trailer) so Alex drove us from Blackfield to the ferry then he returned to Blackfield for his brother to take him back to London and then carry on home to Hartlepool, as there wasn’t enough room in the car for us all!!  The subsequent trip through security proved entertaining.  The guy watching the luggage scanner stopped Steve and asked “Have you a knife in that bag?” to which Steve replied, “yes, a kitchen knife in a sheath” and Steve took it out of the bag and handed it over, Steve even had to show him how to extract it from its sheath!! That was fine, he measured it and handed it back and then said, “I can’t make out what’s in the bottom of that bag?” to which Steve replied, “A router” and I replied “for woodworking” (I wasn’t sure he would necessarily know what it was for!)  Happy with our responses he let us on our way!

Yet another flat, calm crossing and a bright afternoon walk back to Shearmyste who greeted us with 6 degrees of warmth!  But this jet-lag is really something, we ended up going to bed at 7.30pm in an extremely cold bedroom!!!

At least I only had to carry my handbag!
Well laden little trolley!