Thursday, 29 November 2012

I learned one thing at school .....

and that was how to line a cake tin!  We must have had a very good cookery teacher in my school days as so much of the stuff I remember dates back to school cookery lessons.  My mother wasn't a 'natural' cook and therefore found it hard to pass on any skills; some do remain however, mainly how to scrape out the mixing bowl when the cake was in the oven!  This, of course, isn't allowed these days because of the raw egg content!

My skills in lining a cake tin returned to me today as I decided for the first time in many years to make a Christmas cake. The last few Christmas's have been with family who don't like Christmas cake so there was no real incentive to bake and previously R's mother had always made the cakes.

There were no instructions in Delia's recipe on how to line the tin, although I'm sure her skills with this are even greater than mine, but from the back of my mind I dragged the ancient instructions on how to do this.  Line the base first - cut the paper with an overhang which could be turned up, then measure round the tin to get the length which then had to have a 'turn up' which had to be cut at intervals to make it bend!

Grease absolutely everything with butter and fit the paper.  Hey presto, it worked.
The base corners shouldn't be inspected too closely but, what the hell, no-one's going to stop a galloping horse to look at them (as my grandmother used to say).

Very pleased with my efforts and went on to read the Method of the recipe, realising that I needed at least four large mixing bowls.  As I only have two and one of those was full of stew (another story) I had a stop for a coffee and a think. It was possibly the caffeine rush but I suddenly remembered that somewhere in the depths of a cupboard I had my late mother-in-law's Kenwood Mixer! She had bought this in the late 1950's when they were new to the market (my mother had one as well) and had the same impact as today's technology!  Baking was revolutionised!  No longer did you have to stand with a wooden spoon beating sugar and butter until it was white or tediously whisking eggs with a hand beater - this mixer was all electric, had so many attachments it was a phenomenon, and, in my view, has never been bettered. With a little forward planning the problem was over!

So I end with thanks to Mrs Stallibrass (my cookery teacher) and Gwen (my lovely m-i-l) for giving me the knowledge and technology to bake a Christmas cake.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Hickling/Horsey sailing

Another wonderful weekend but this time something rather different for me.  A friend invited me to sail with her (and another crew member) up to Hickling Broad and then on to Horsey Mere in her classic Broads river cruiser, meeting up for lunch with about half a dozen other boats from the same sailing club.

Having only sailed on river cruiser on a couple of occasions I was a little uncertain but decided that it was too good an offer to pass on so packed my bag with life jacket, sailing gloves, wine and cake and headed for Thurne.

We duly met up and I was quickly bundled on to another boat to cross from one side of the river to the moorings on the other side, handed the tiller and told to guide the boat down the dyke.  Gulp!!   Luckily there were no sails up at this stage and once I’d remembered that the tiller should be turned the opposite way to which you wanted to travel, I was ok.  I did hand it back when we got to the busy main river and the mooring.

We seemed to have a huge amount of gear for three of us, although the other ladies were staying overnight on the boat, so this was understandable. This was all stowed away in the cabin, the boat was uncovered, the outboard engine was lifted on to its bracket, the sails were set up ready, the boat was turned round and we were all set to head upriver to tackle Potter Heigham bridge.

The original plan was to sail up the river to this bridge and moor up to lower the mast but as we had been a little late setting off it was decided we would lower the mast first and motor to the other side of the two road bridges.

As we approached the bridge it became obvious that there was a sailing race starting and we had to carefully negotiate through the start, our skipper greeting most of the other sailors as we weaved our way through. 

She wasn’t sure of our air draft so I stood up to judge the height and we cleared the bridge with about 12 inches to spare.  We discovered later that some boats had centimetres clearance! 

Having moored up to raise the mast we set the sails and off we went up the river, luckily no tacking involved at this stage so we could look at the riverside properties and boats as we progressed in the glorious sunshine.

After a while, we turned left into Candle Dyke and after a fairly short sail we arrived at Hickling Broad, which is a National Nature Reserve.  There was a regatta of small boats going on and we spied our raft up on the other side of the Broad.  As we approached, under sail, there were shouts to me of “where’s your camera Sue” and I just managed to snatch one shot as we tacked and turned to come neatly alongside the end of the raft up.

 Greetings were shouted along the boats, lunch was produced, wine was opened with a pop from the fizzy stuff I had brought and everything was perfect.   It was so peaceful and we watched the dinghy racing on the Broad - what a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

As time went by, one or two of the boats started peeling off to sail on up Meadow Dyke to Horsey Mere and the dyke where we would be mooring before heading to the Nelson Head pub for an evening meal.  We were almost the last boat to leave and were overtaken by another faster boat as we made our way up the beautiful winding dyke on to Horsey Mere.  A quick sail across this lovely stretch of water and we were into our mooring.

By the time everything was tidied up and bunks were prepared for the two staying overnight, it was time to head to the pub.  There were 32 of us and we took over the restaurant for the evening, amidst a lot of laughing and joking.

R had joined me for the evening and we then drove home for the night, rejoining the fleet early the next morning.  The thick fog which was surrounding us as we drove cleared as we reached Horsey and the coast and another day of lovely sunshine dawned.

It had been a cold night and many of the brave people who had stayed on their boats were returning from hot showers in the toilet block or tucking into hearty breakfasts.

R was to sail back downriver on another boat, which he was delighted with as he had admired this particular cruiser for years.  He told me later that he had been allowed to helm most of the way!  Very impressed!

We set off on to Horsey Mere and decided to have a bit of practice manoeuvring the boat.  The other crew member (who had only been sailing for 4 months but was a natural sailor) wanted to learn how to sail backwards, so we spent some time trying out the theory, unfortunately failing!  There were a number of suggestions made, some quite bizarre, but we gave up in the end and headed for home.

Halfway there, the wind died completely so the decision was made to use the engine and lower the mast whilst travelling.  I was again put in charge of steering and only made one or two mistakes!!

We cleared Potter Heigham bridge with about 10 inches to spare this time and again I steered whilst the mast was raised.  We rafted up for lunch on Womack Water which wasn’t quite as peaceful as the previous day as someone was strimming on the bank!  Uh, what was that all about?

Boats again started to move off for the journeys back to their home moorings and we reluctantly set off, passing the Hunter Yard boats ready for lifting out of the water for the winter.

We moored up by Thurne Mill to offload the bags and then the skipper and other crew member took her back to her moorings.  Goodbyes and thanks were exchanged and we went on our way home.

What a fabulous weekend and I had such a good time, in the best company and super weather.  I am so lucky!

No telephone banking

I can remember the days when you could telephone your bank and the phone was answered by someone who actually worked at the branch and knew the names of all the staff and could put you through to the person you wanted to speak to, or take a sensible message for them.

I recently had to cancel an appointment with someone at my bank and, naively perhaps, assumed that the telephone number on his business card was his direct telephone line.  Wrong!

On ringing the number, I had to go through a tedious procedure of tapping in various branch, account and birth date numbers.  The latter was easy but the former meant I had to search around in my file whilst the automated voice on the line seemed to become more impatient with me.  I eventually got these stages out of the way, only to be asked for the third digit of my telephone banking pin!  I don't do telephone banking!

After asking me three times, the automated voice suggested that I should hold on whilst I was connected to one of the bank's staff and the music started.  After what seemed like 10 minutes of music a real person came on and was actually someone I could understand.

However, he didn't seem to be able to grasp the fact that I needed to get a message to a particular person to cancel an appointment.  I tried to speak precisely, with nothing but the facts but he was making assumptions and I wasn't entirely confident that the message would get through.

Perhaps I should have just not turned up for the appointment as the quickest way of getting the message across!  I suppose one compensation is that I don't appear to have been charged for the call.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A busy weekend

I know I’ve written a couple of stories previously about travelling from the northern rivers of the Norfolk Broads to the southern rivers and some might find yet another account boring, but to us it is a different adventure every time we make the journey.

Saturday lunchtime started with a run up to Horning to get some diesel, from a small boatyard where it is quite tricky at times to moor.  However, on this occasion, there was no obstacle course to negotiate, just some clever manoeuvring by the skipper and 'kerching' – lots of notes handed over!

This was my first anxiety out of the way!  The next one was going to be, as always, whether we would have enough room under the pesky bridges at Great Yarmouth (popularly known as Yarmite locally).  We had planned this journey to coincide with spring tides, which give low lows and high highs but tide times are only predictions and it could all be different on the day, as we have found to our cost in the past!

We had a pleasant journey down the Bure, cruising slowly with the tide and under the bridge at Acle (plenty of room there), spotting the Wherry Ardea moored at the Bridge Inn.

A number of boats passed us on the river, obviously in a hurry to get to Yarmite but we stuck to our plan, although we did seem to be getting ahead of ourselves when we reached Stokesby so decided to moor at Stracey windmill for half an hour to lower the radar arch and make final checks, as well as stocking up on biscuits for the weekend!

Shortly after setting off we were passed by a river cruiser which is very familiar to us, having watched her sail in most of the regattas for the last few years.  Her mast was down and her skipper was happily going down with the tide.  We exchanged greetings as he passed.

I always have a sense of relief when I see the mud banks appearing at the banks of the river, as this means the tide is definitely going to be low enough for us but I was happy to see the height board which showed in excess of 12ft headroom.  No worries then!

The tide was still flowing out very fast and there was a hire boat fairly close behind us which we knew wouldn’t be able to stop if we had to give way for any reason and, sod’s law, as we approached the first bridge there was a river cruiser struggling through the bridge, closely followed by a privately owned motor cruiser and another hire boat! 

At this stage I signalled to the boat behind us to back off, as we had to hold in the river to allow these boats through.  Normally it would be up to the boats coming against the tide to give way as they have more control but as the river at the bridges is quite narrow, and the two bridges are close together it would have been too much to expect them to give way.

A good bit of manoeuvring (for the second time that day) by the skipper and it was our turn to negotiate the dreaded bridges.  It was obvious that height wasn’t going to be a problem and I didn’t need to keep a look-out but the tide was obviously running late as it was still racing out, well after predicted low water – you never can tell!

We were amazed, as we passed the famous yellow post, to see a mud bank behind it, which we had never seen before, proving how low the tide was that day.

As we started across Breydon Water the sun was coming through the clouds and once again I got that feeling of well-being which I always get when we come “down south”.  Breydon Water holds no fears for us (I used to sail there) and as we pushed across fairly fast to make the most of the light, we passed the river cruiser who had passed us earlier.  We offered him a tow but he said he was ok – although he did say in the pub later that if I’d mentioned the large gin and tonic which would have been poured for him, he would have accepted! 

We had a beer and G&T respectively to celebrate the bad part of the trip (the bridges) being behind us!

We were aiming for Cantley and The Reedcutter (ex Red House) pub but started to get a little concerned as we passed the Berney Arms and Reedham to see very busy moorings.

More sunsets here Sunsets
As we came up to Cantley it was obvious that there were a lot of boats moored, mainly tall masted river cruisers but, in the failing light, we saw one space where a couple of fishermen were sitting.  As we came towards the mooring I went up to the bow and shouted to the fishermen that we had to come in as we had no other option.  They shouted back that they were packing up and would help us in, for which we were very grateful.

When we had secured mooring lines, the skipper thanked the fishermen and in chatting they said they couldn’t believe that we were planning to put a 33ft boat into a 30ft space!!  Perhaps it was the alcohol which made us brave!!  I took some photos in the morning …..

A bit of supper and then a pleasant couple of hours were spent in the pub where we met up with the chap from the river cruiser and his family.  An early night as we were quite tired after a busy day.

Woke up to a sunrise over the sugar factory (known as “Cantley Castle”) and the sounds of activity on some of the boats.  When we emerged to chat with the boat owners we discovered that there was going to be a race from Cantley to Coldham Hall that day – the Cecil Howard Memorial Trophy race – which we had never heard of before. 

This is where I need to refer to a previous blog – “Going south” where I gave an account of our ‘interaction’ with a river cruiser by the name of Wandering Rose.  After our experiences last year, I jokingly told one of the crew that we would steer clear of them this year!

Hahaha – couldn’t believe it when I saw the boat moored in front of us – yes, it was Wandering Rose!  The owner/skipper (who wasn’t able to sail her last year and trustingly allowed friends to use her) told us that he was short of crew for this race and would we like to help out.

We thought about it whilst I got coffee and biscuits for him and his two crew members who had arrived by then (we knew them both) and decided to do it.  We were promised a lift back to our boat after the race as we had a berth booked at Brundall that night.

Quick grab of life jackets, water, money and cameras and we were on board and out on the river!  The rig looked quite complicated to us novices but the skipper gave us some quick training on what we had to do and then we were off – there were three or four starts and we were in the last one so were at the back of the pack of about twelve boats.  Something to do with handicaps but to us it all sounded as complicated as the rig!

It was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to take any photographs, as I had initially hoped, as we were kept busy tacking up the river, initially against the tide but then when it turned the wind dropped and it was a gentle sail up to Coldham Hall for a couple of hours – very enjoyable. 

We had a drink and substantial lunch at the pub and then it was time for trophy presentation!  We were surprised to be awarded a third place and a very tasteful cup but then even more surprised to be told that, after a ‘recount’, we had second place and were awarded a very strange trophy!

Owner/skipper and trophy!

Shortly after we boarded a river cruiser to head back to Cantley, under power this time, and enjoyed the trip sitting on the bow.  The ancient skipper of this boat, with a cackle of laughter, told me I had to be foredeck tottie which was a first for me and made me laugh as I was probably older than him!!

Our lift back to Cantley

Then it was a leisurely trip up to Brundall to find our berth which was to be home to our boat for four nights before we set off back to Cantley to watch the Yare Navigation Race next weekend.  We were greeted by the fine sight of a hot air balloon floating by.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Once in a lifetime trip on MTB102

I was given the opportunity last Friday to take a once in a lifetime trip aboard the motor torpedo boat MTB102, which was the first MTB of the modern era and is now in a Trust.  More information can be found here

The trip was supposed to have three people who would act as crew and six passengers.  I put my name down as a passenger but said I was willing to act as crew if required.  Not being sure what crewing entailed on this large boat I was a little apprehensive!

During the week, we were advised that new propellers and shafts were being fitted to the boat and by Thursday morning these had not arrived, so until the last minute the trip was in jeopardy.  However, they did arrive and the team worked almost throughout the night to install the new parts.

As the MTB was on the sea side of the Broads on Lake Lothing, Mutford Lock would have to be negotiated as would the swinging railing bridge, so some organisation was required.   

The original timing was that the MTB would go through the lock at 10 am and we had to be there by 9.45 but this was then put back so we duly arrived at the boatyard at the newly appointed time of 12 noon.  The boat was on the slipway but it was fairly obvious that she couldn’t be floated until the tide came up.  Richard Basey, who runs the Trust and skippers the boat, told us that high water was 3 pm but he would try and float her before then.  We anticipated the long wait and settled down on the bank to talk and eat our lunch.

Crew and passengers

Around 2.15 Richard and his usual crew asked us to move down to a nearby pontoon in anticipation of boarding and they went on board, started the engines and tried to power the MTB off the trolley but she was stuck fast!

Engines started

 No amount on rocking, pulling and shoving would budge her so again we sat and watched the tide creep in until eventually, with one roar of the engines, she was afloat!  We all cheered and clapped!

And she's free!

Having twin engines, she can turn on a sixpence, which she did, and came alongside the pontoon where we clambered on board, Richard hoisted the flags, signalled the railway bridge and lock keeper and off we went.

I hadn’t been through Mutford Lock for many years and only in small boats previously so was very impressed with the handling of the MTB through the confined space.  It was all hands on deck with fenders until the water levels adjusted and we were able to make our way out on to Oulton Broad, to the cheers of the boat owners in the marina!

The idea of the trip was for MTB102 to lead a procession of private and hire boats down to Beccles where spaces had been booked in the marina, for a weekend of fun and frolics!  As we went across Oulton Broad, the fleet formed behind us, many of the boats decked out with flags and bunting.  There were cameras clicking and flashes flashing everywhere and we felt extremely privileged to be on board this historic vessel.

It was quickly clear that most of the small boats in the procession were struggling to keep up with the powerful MTB so one of the engines was shut down which reduced the speed thus allowing the procession to keep together.  There was one intrepid sailor who managed to keep up with the leaders, under sail, for about a third of the journey which was very impressive.  I think when it came to tacking the skipper thought better of it and resorted to the engine! 

The fleet!

The trip took almost three hours and we were cheered and photographed all along the route. 

I'll give you 10 seconds to drop that camera!

The MTB had taken part in the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations on the Thames so had quite a high profile and as she isn’t seen too often on the Broads these days, it was a momentous occasion.  One I certainly enjoyed tremendously and the memories will stay with me for a long time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A long journey

In the old days I can recall my mother being anxious when she knew that I was going on a long road trip and insisting that I call her as soon as I arrived, which wasn't always easy in the days before mobile phones and sometimes entailed a trek to a phone box and juggling with many coins, for a two minute call of reassurance.

This is probably why, when my children are travelling anywhere I always ask them to let me know when they arrive.  However, this is no longer necessary as in these days of super technology, I get updates via social networking sites every five minutes or so.  I know exactly where they are at any given time, what delays they are experiencing at airports, on motorways or when they stop for refreshments.

This is great - the only problem being that they sometimes forget to let everyone know that they have actually arrived, so I am left suspended - are they really still at the services stop on the M5, or still waiting for their luggage at Lanzarote airport?

They do remember eventually and I breath a sigh of relief and relax, until the return journey! 

The photo (C 1952) has no relevance to my comments above but I guess that my parents had to reassure my grandparents that we had arrived safely at our holiday destination.