Saturday, 17 December 2011

The plumber cometh?

In July/August of this year I mentioned to a plumber acquaintance that the kitchen tap needed replacing as it had virtually seized up with limescale and also the bathroom wash basin taps needed replacing as the chrome finish had discoloured.  OK, he said.

Early September he asked if he could come round to inspect the taps so he knew what was required.  OK, I said.

The penultimate day of September he rang to ask if he could come 'after 10 am' the following day.  As we were planning a rare long weekend away I asked if he could be more specific and we eventually agreed a set time.  He was early for this appointment which bode well, looked at what was required and went away, saying he would contact me when the taps arrived.  OK, I said.

A week or so later I received a phone call, asking if I could take photos of the taps with certain measurements and email them to him.  OK, I said.

It then went very quiet until around late November when two boxes were delivered, containing taps - followed by a phone call asking if I would inspect them and advise if they were suitable.  OK, I said.

Inspection duly took place and plumber advised of suitability and asked to let me know when he could come and fit them.  OK, he said.

It is now a week before Christmas and there is still no sign of the plumber coming to fit the taps.  The kitchen cold tap now completely refuses to work at all and has been dismantled to the extent that it takes a large spanner to turn it on.  Not very convenient if I need a glass of water in the middle of the night!  I have today resorted to writing to Father Christmas with a plea for new taps for Christmas and just hope that he will say OK.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Found in my memories box!

This was written in 1977 so will not read as cynically as I might write these days! 

It all started when my husband* said “why don’t you come away with me.”  I should explain that he is a pilot with a cargo carrying airline and his company allows wives one trip a year with their husbands.  The aircraft operate rather like a tramp steamer, hopping from one port of call to another, dropping off cargo and collecting a new load.  As the flight was going on a round trip to Hong Kong and it was mid winter in the UK, the idea of a couple of weeks away from the cold and fog was very appealing.  However, there were details to be arranged, most important of which would be a visa for a certain Middle East country.  As we had been given only a few days’ notice, frantic phone calls and telexes were exchanged and we eventually received the information that it could all be fixed up when we got there.   

So, with a suitcase packed for all eventualities we set off to the airport at 7.30 on a cold, windy, rainy February morning.  The aircraft was carrying what seemed to be Hi Fi equipment for Hong Kong (coals to Newcastle, I thought) and it was going to be a working trip for me, as chief cook and bottle washer, which included tea at very frequent intervals for the crew of three.  I took the orders, weak, no milk, 1 sugar and lemon for the Captain, weak, milk but no sugar for the 1st Officer and strong, milk and two sugars for the Engineer.  Tea was requested to be served 20 minutes after take off and thereafter as regularly as I care to make it.  As we had an eleven hour flight I was going to be busy!  Having solved the eccentricities of the “hot cup” and avoided scalding myself on the first attempt, I settled down to enjoy the flight.  As the cargo bay opened directly on to the flight deck there was no feeling of being shut off and I felt I was participating in the whole thing.  My first fright was as we climbed, some large drums of paint or similar sent out loud cracking noises due to pressure changes which had me leaping onto the flight deck, where it was all explained to me.  The next fright was a slight pressure leak around the door (quite normal I was told) which the Engineer quickly stuffed up with paper towel!  I caught myself wondering whether British Airways had to do the same, and what the reactions of the passengers would be! The tedium of the flight was broken, apart from the tea and sandwich making duties, by being allowed to sit in the pilot’s seat and having the dials etc explained to me.

We landed at 1 am in Oman to find only minor officials on duty, none of whom spoke English, so we handed over our passports and were drive to a very welcoming bed.  At 9 am the same morning, we awoke to an insistent knocking on the bedroom door and on staggering to open it, found a very beautiful local policewoman outside, who asked that I should dress and accompany her to see the Chief of Police.  In a slight panic we dressed and were escorted to a police Landrover.  I was not allowed to ride with my husband in the back but was ushered into the front between the policy lady and a stern policeman driver.  I was feeling decidedly uneasy as we bumped out way over the rough roads to the airport.  The Police Chief turned out to be a charming man, but he wanted to know why I had no visa.  We explained the situation but this wasn’t good enough and we were told that I would have to see the Chief Immigration Officer.  We discovered later that quite a few people had been hitching rides to and from the Far East and arriving in this country without visas and it was very unlucky that I was the one they picked on to “make an example of.”  Anyway, we were all piled into the Landrover, this time without the police lady as I think they realised I wasn’t going to make a break for it, and set off.  100 yards up the road, the policeman swung off into the bondu and drove towards what I was certain was the local gaol.  I immediately had pictures of being locked up in a small airless cell with dozens of locals with bread and water being pushed through the bars, but he drove round the back to some small houses, stopped and got out.  We sat there for a while feeling hot, sticky and more than a little hungry until he suddenly appeared again in a gleaming Datsun, bedecked with dangling furry things and charms etc and invited us to climb in, saying he thought we would be more comfortable.  He was obviously very proud of his car and his 8 track stereo which he played at full volume all the eight or so miles to the town, stopping occasionally to chat to friends and wave at other police patrols.

The Immigration Offices are set in a very imposing modern building with mosaic floors, high ceilings and long corridors.  The Immigration Officer was ex Hong Kong police and had obviously been used to dealing with hardened criminals.  He sat us on the other side of his large desk and proceeded to tell us that he was going to complain to the Foreign Office about me, there would be a diplomatic incident, the aircraft would be impounded, the Captain personally would be fined $100,000 and I would have to leave on the next aircraft.  At this point I burst into tears, which I think was the best thing I could have done, because he softened somewhat and after a stern lecture he said he would stamp my passport and allow me to stay until our aircraft left, two days later.  Feeling much relieved, we were driven back to the company’s rest house, where we spent a pleasant couple of days sitting in the sun.  Even so, I was even more relieved when we got out to the aircraft to leave for Bangkok, only to find that one of the engines wouldn’t start.  At that point I very nearly refused to leave the aircraft again as I was convinced that this time they would lock me up.  However, we dashed over to the air terminal where we just caught the Chief of Police before he went off for the normal three hour “lunch hour” and explained the position, whereupon I was given permission to stay until the aircraft was mended.  To cut a long story short, we had to wait another 18 hours whilst a ground engineer was flown out from UK with parts and the poor man then had to work on the aircraft in boiling temperatures, having missed a night’s sleep.  He promptly fell asleep in the bunk when we finally got airborne and slept for the entire next leg.

Our next stop was Bangkok and we only had about 18 hours on the ground during which time we had to sleep but we did manage to go shopping for rubies!  The jewellers were like Aladdins caves to me and I could have spent hours just looking, but we were soon back in a taxi heading for the airport.  The driving in Bangkok is bad and our driver was appalling.  He had apparently been working all night and was ill, and kept dropping off to sleep and awaking with loud retching noises!

The flight to Hong Kong was uneventful but I was rather disappointed that we had to land on the runway from the sea direction, rather than heading for the chequer board in the middle of the skyscrapers and then suddenly turning to approach the runway from the land.  We had a bit of luxury in Hong Kong and, after bathing and changing, we spent a couple of hours sitting in the lounge at the top of the Sheraton Hotel watching the lights on Hong Kong island.
A small incident took place on the way out through Immigration in Hong Kong.  I had, in my handbag, a penknife and this was picked up on the x-ray machine which all the baggage had to go through.  A small Chinese lady rummaged in my bag, produced the knife, opened it and went into consultation with her colleagues.  Oh dear, I thought, here we go again.  I tried to explain that it was for cutting up lemons for the Captain’s tea which, to my relief, she accepted and then tried to close the penknife again.  Her small fingers couldn’t manage it and she handed it to me; I snapped it shut whereupon she uttered a scream and covered her eyes with her hands, no doubt expecting to see my fingers drop to the floor!

Our next port of call on the round trip was Karachi where again we only had a night stop.  I was very tired by this time and after a superb meal we crashed out in the motel.  Sometime in the early hours, we were woken by a scuffling, rustling noise and, on putting the light on were horrified to see a large rat on the table opposite the bed, trying to gnaw its way into the polythene bag which contained the butter and cheese we had brought off the aircraft to keep cool.  As the light went on, the rat shot off the table, scuttled across the room and disappeared.  Being too tired to do much about it we dosed off again, to be woken a second time by the same noise.  This time we came wide awake and hurled an empty lemonade can at the rat, which shot off the table again and this time went under my bed.  I was horrified by this and after taking my courage in both hands, I hung over the edge of the bed to see if I could discover where it had gone.  I could see no holes in the wall and we eventually assumed that the rat lived in the divan base of my bed!  We decided to leave the light on but needless to say I didn’t get much more sleep that night.  When we told the receptionist next morning, he shrugged his shoulders, and we assumed that it was quite a natural occurrence for them.

A brief refuelling stop in Baghdad and hours flying over nothing but sand, Istanbul was our next stop.  We stayed outside the city and caught the train to take a look at the bazaar.  We were minutely examined from head to toe by the other passengers in the carriage who seemed fascinated by our jeans and shoes!  Unfortunately it had been raining and the streets were awash with mud but we picked our way through to the Bazaar which was a huge arcade filled with little shops laden with all kinds of goodies, leather ware, brass, copper, rugs, cheesecloth clothes etc.  We were immediately recognised as being ‘tourists’ and as it was off season, we were pounced upon as soon as we set foot inside the arcade.  Men were clutching at our sleeves and whispering in our ears and we nearly backed out again rapidly until one of them asked if we were Australian.  Upon our reply that we were English, they all faded away in disgust and we were left to browse without being disturbed!  Despite our slight mortification at being considered the poor relations, we did manage to find a few bargains.

When we finally emerged, blinking, into the open air again, we found that we had come out in a completely different part of the town to where we went in, consequently had completely lost our sense of direction and could recognize no landmarks.  We could find no-one who spoke English and wandered around for about two hours until eventually we fell exhausted into a taxi, told the driver the name of the village where we were staying and indicated in sign language that we wished to go by train.  He appeared to understand, but after travelling for ages, we arrived at a hotel with the name of our village!  By this time we had more or less given up, but a stroke of luck as we set off again, we recognised a Mosque and there was the station.
Our last evening in Turkey was made very pleasant by the motel proprietors who invited us to eat with them and their family.  About 20 of us sat down to a huge spread of lamb, dozens of vegetables and salads and many bottles of delicious wine.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and, apart from being ogled by the burly Austrian handlers in Vienna where we stopped briefly to unload some cargo, there was no more excitement. 
Our family was pleased to see us back.

* now ex husband

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Nothing in particular

A day at home with loads of jobs to do but no motivation!  Wrapped up a few presents, wrote the odd few last Christmas cards to deliver by hand locally and took a few photos around the place.

Nothing much left in the garden apart from the crabapples, mahonia and a couple of bits of ceanothus 

I need to venture further afield - maybe tomorrow.

I would love to see the Geminids meteor shower tonight but can't think of anywhere high enough to watch from. One of the drawbacks of living in Norfolk .....

Monday, 5 December 2011

17th Century Nun's Prayer

I was going through some old papers last week and came across this - typed originally by my mother.


LORD thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.
Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips on my aches and pains.  They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.
I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.
I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessing cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.  Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint – some of them are so hard to live with – but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people.  And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


I am reminded of when I was young and used to stand dominoes on end in a row, push the first one over which then toppled all the others in turn.

First in the ‘row’ was the dishwasher last year.  The control panel burnt out and was irreparable, which I thought was a bit much after only 10 years of frequent use!

When the dishwasher fell over, it hit the PVR which took a while to fall over but eventually had to be returned to the manufacturer for repair.  They very quickly lost it and after many emails and phone calls from me, offered a replacement, believe it or not Free of Charge!!

As the PVR fell, it hit the A3 colour printer which has always hated me!  I have tried talking nicely to it and being gentle to no avail!  I have opened the window and threatened it with death, I have punched it and kicked it but it just refuses to eat the photo paper more than once out of ten attempts.

As it is falling, it has glanced off the washing machine which did a mad dance out of its cosy home, across the kitchen floor to the extent of the hose, banging and crashing until the fuse box decided enough was enough.

So far, it is perilously close to the microwave, the toaster and the television but hasn’t yet decided which way to fall.  Perhaps I should just push everything over and be done with it!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Going south

After our aborted attempt at a trip down to the southern rivers last year, we decided to give it another go last weekend, particularly as the Yare Navigation Race was taking place on the Saturday and we have enjoyed watching it in the past.

The skipper decided to leave work at 11 am on Friday so I took all the provisions and cameras over to the boat early and got everything ready.  We needed to be away by 11.30 at the latest to maximise the low tide under the bridges at Great Yarmouth.  We need 9ft 3ins height and knew that the low tide normally allows for 11-12ft – which is why we couldn’t get through last year as the tide only dropped 1ft!!

The sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing so we lowered the canopy and opened all the windows and set off with light hearts for our adventure.  All went well and we passed under Acle bridge and in the distance saw the big sails of a river cruiser, probably going down for the race.  We kept well behind them and were very impressed by their expertise on the narrow, winding river.  We knew that when the sails and mast disappeared from view that they had stopped to lower the mast.  By the time we caught up with them, they were ready to go through the bridges, so we followed on close behind them.

As we were approaching the first bridge, with me checking the height markers with binoculars and checking about 10ft 6ins on the first bridge (the second bridge is 6ins lower), we suddenly heard shouting from the bank.  The quay attendant was waving his arms at us and saying there wasn’t enough headroom!!  I shouted back that we needed 9ft 3ins and after an interminable 20 seconds where he studied the marker board which I had already checked, he gave a thumbs up and indicated 18ins to spare, which is what we had calculated!!  That was a last minute panic, although we were confident and aware that we had room.  We had come through at slack water which is not the lowest tide but saves pushing against the tide on the way up through Breydon Water and the river Yare.

As we passed through Breydon Bridge, the river cruiser we had followed down was tidying up its shrouds and preparing to raise the mast.  We went past with a wave and headed across Breydon Water which is a 5km long stretch of water, around 1.5km wide, with a deep channel across it, marked with large posts.  A lot of it drains out to mud flats at low tide and any unsuspecting boats which venture out of the channel on a falling tide could be stuck in the mud for hours!

We opened up the engines for a few moments enjoying the exhilaration of speed, wind and sunshine.  

We passed another river cruiser (Moonshadow) having a wonderful sail to locate for the next day’s race, hoping they didn’t break any of the gear! 

As we reached the end of Breydon there were a number of motor boats towing river cruisers about to leave the moorings so, as we were not in any hurry now, we let them pass us and relaxed with a glass of wine.

I love the bit of river from Breydon up to Reedham.  

It is quite wild but there is always something to look at – wildlife, windmills, etc and it is a lovely wide length of water.  


As we reached Reedham, we noticed a boat moored on the right which used to moor near us on the northern rivers.  We had wondered where they had gone as we used to see them every weekend; obviously felt like a change.

We passed under Reedham swing bridge with no problem and cleared the chain ferry without incident.  The chain has caught many people out in the past, not least one of the big river cruisers in last year’s race!

We pottered on up the river, commenting on all the landmarks we remembered from a few years’ back when we moored near Thorpe St Andrew.  

As we approached Cantley Red House pub, there was a river cruiser with its mast down, moored to the bank and as we got closer, a friend was waving his arms and asking us if we could give the river cruiser (Wandering Rose) a tow up to Coldham Hall. 

They did have an outboard engine but it would have used a lot of fuel and taken a long time so we readily agreed, came alongside, tied up and set off.  Beers were produced and we motored steadily upriver, reaching Coldham Hall around 6pm.  The moorings were very crowded with masses of boats but our friends managed to find one of the last slots so were cast off with waves and best wishes.

We crept on to Surlingham Broad, having rejected the idea of going further upriver to Whitlingham, as it was getting dusk and sat on the Broad, with three other boats, enjoying the lovely sunset and calm water.  

We both slept very well that night!

Woke up to a glorious morning but with little wind – hopefully it would get up a bit later so we could see some good racing.
We cruised quietly past Coldham Hall where all the boats were tied up, some people were up and about but most of the boats were still covered.  

We enjoyed a leisurely cruise down the river, detouring through Rockland Broad, past the Beauchamp Arms and on to Cantley.  

As we approached the moorings, a yacht in front of us began preparing for mooring, putting out fenders etc but then motored on past the moorings.  We aimed for the space we had identified and did a good mooring.  As we were tying up, the yacht came in to moor behind us and we helped them in.  Obviously we got talking to them and found out they moored in Langley Dyke and were out for the day to watch the race, as we were.  Nice to meet you Michael and Kathleen!

Just had time to make another cup of coffee and sort out some biscuits and the first river cruiser came past at 11.50.

 This was followed at intervals by 49 other boats, some in groups, others singly.  I am obviously not going to add all the photos here but if anyone is interested, the link to the race photos is here

A number of friends’ boats passed by with waves and shouts until around 2.30 when it all went quiet until around 4.30 when they started coming back.  The history of the race is as follows … In 1976, Coldham Hall Sailing Club started the Yare Navigation Race for river cruisers, which has become an annual event. The competitors travel from Coldham Hall at Brundall, down the River Yare to a mark on Breydon Water near Great Yarmouth and back, a distance of more than 30 miles.

The strategy of the race is dependent on tides and if they are suitable, the boats go downriver with the ebbing tide and, if they’ve got the timing right, return with the flow.  

The first boat back was not the first boat down, but was swiftly followed by others and this is where the racing element really came in.  To see these huge sails coming round the far bends in the river always fills me with a sense of excitement and anticipation.  To see the crews concentrating so hard to get the sails set and filled and maximise the wind is amazing.  
 The return trip was over a little quicker than the outward sail, with the last stragglers coming through around 6.30 and, with the sun disappearing and the lights of Cantley sugar beet factory becoming brighter, it was time to have supper and visit the pub.  

A few drinks later we were ready for our bunks – it seemed to have been a tiring day.  The sound of the factory working didn’t disturb us at all and we had another good night’s sleep.

Again, we awoke to the promise of a lovely day 
and after a leisurely breakfast started to see the boats from the northern broads begin to wend their way back home.  We intended to pass under the bridges at Great Yarmouth around 3.30 so were in no hurry.  The friends we had given a tow to on Friday night passed us under sail and then Moonshadow came sailing down river, shouting to us as they passed that they had won the overall race.  There are a number of different trophies and Moonshadow had won two of these, with a second place in a third.  What a beautiful boat she is!  The race crew were not sailing her home (nor did they deliver her), allowing other sailors to have a “Moonshadow experience!”

We went down through Reedham and under the bridge, without incident, noticing the Moonshadow crew having lunch in The Ship garden.  Again, a gentle cruise down the river, with the tide, passed the Berney Arms windmill and pub where we saw a boat called Brandy Wine moored, with her crew having a drink (or two) in the pub garden.  Big waves from everyone!

On to Breydon we went and planned to cruise gently over the water today as we were in no hurry to reach the bridges.  As I looked out the stern I could see a huge cloud of smoke drifting across the water and a large motor cruiser appeared with engines obviously at full power.  

She came across Breydon, enveloped in smoke, very fast, until she got close to us and thoughtfully cut the power, then cruising at a much lower speed having had her ‘engine clearout’ cut short!  There were a few hire boats in front of us which would have probably been upset by the wash from this big boat.

This time we went under the bridges with 2ft to spare, at low water, and then had to push against the tide which was still flowing fairly fast down the Bure.  We had no problem with this, having two powerful engines, but other boats were struggling.

As we came to the end of the moorings for boats awaiting slack water, a Hunter yacht (no engine) was coming off the moorings, mast down, with someone quanting and crew fending all round the boat.  I am full of admiration for people who can get around the Broads with no engine at all!  I watched, as at one point they were sideways across the river but then managed to turn the bow to point in the right direction.  They manage by using the last of the ebbing tide to go under the bridges, then tie up at the side before raising the mast and sailing up under Breydon Bridge and across the water with the incoming tide helping them along.  Timing is the critical element!
We continued to push up the river with the tide gradually slowing down, past the slower hire boats until we came to a point between Stracey and Stokesby and realised that the large sail we had been following up the river had stopped moving!  As we rounded a bend we saw why – the river cruiser, Wandering Rose, had gone aground in the mud, probably just cutting a bend too close to the bank.  The small outboard engine was no help, despite the weight of a crew member pushing off from the bank with the quant pole.  We offered our services which were gratefully received and, after three attempts, managed to pull them off the mud.  The first attempt was a bit of a disaster for me, as I wasn’t wearing gloves so when the rope was released it bruised two of my fingers.  I got my gloves for the next attempt!  The river is quite narrow at this point and there were a number of other boats following us which came past as we were manoeuvring which made the operation quite tricky, very well handled by the skipper of our boat.  Wandering Rose is a heavy boat and the mud is very sticky!

We overtook her at Acle when she pulled in to the side to lower the mast for Acle bridge but she overtook us again as we motored slowly back up the river.  They turned right for Thurne as we turned left for St Benet’s, with waves all round.  Someone said to me during the week that we must have been Wandering Roses’s “guardian angel” that weekend!

We had been intending to go home that night but after our rescue operation, we both felt in need of a stiff drink so decided to stay overnight on the boat. Before I went to sleep I replayed the rescue in my head and thought of what I would have done differently under the same circumstances.

All in all, a weekend to remember – meeting lots of nice people, seeing lots of great boats, watching some super sailing, beautiful weather – who could ask for more.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

New Blog

I was getting very confused with my two Google accounts so decided to move everything to one account which will hopefully make it easier for me, at least! 

The old one is here but watch this new page for the latest adventure