A very sociable weekend

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve ignored the news and kept clear of current affairs programs on the TV.

Instead I’ve had a very sociable weekend. I’ve still downloaded the Times and read a few bits – I always read Melanie Reed’s spinal Column in the Saturday magazine. It’s been several years since her tragic riding accident and she has a great attitude to life. Giles Coren’s restaurant reviews have, from time to time, got him both verbally and physically attacked. He tells it how it and is highly entertaining.   

Robert Crampton is the beta male. He and I have so much in common that my wife sometimes asks if I ghost write his column –  for the purpose of clarity I want to point out that I have never met Robert, but I’d be very happy to do so, and that I do not, have not, and never expect to write his column.

On Friday we enjoyed a social evening at the sailing club, and that’s not as posh as it sounds. We gathered in our large wooden shed beside a rapidly drying ditch, sitting on old plastic garden chairs we picked from a variety of takeaway menus. Two of us were despatched to collect the meals from the Chinese/Fish & Chips/Pizza restaurants while the others arranged trestle tables and paper table cloths.

There was plenty to go around and several people took doggie bags home – there’s nothing like cold pizza dipped in sweet and sour sauce for breakfast. We have no alcohol licence so you have to bring your own drinks, everyone did and they were mostly soft. One of our member spoiled us with a home made pudding, a great big apple pie smothered in double cream. I could feel the arteries hardening and it was wonderful.

We chatted for a couple of hours about boats and families. Mostly we’ve known each other for so long that it’s one big extended family in all but name. Our wooden hut might not be the most celebrated clubhouse on the east coast, and I’m sure it’s never going to win any design award. But it’s the scene of some of the most memorable occasions of our thirty plus years in this town.

Fast-forward to 6am this morning and our annual breakfast race. The idea is that we have a silent start with no guns or hooters to disturb the neighbours. The Sailors are meant to “read” the flags and cross the start line accordingly.

We can ignore the race, I did as well as I ever do. Once everyone had finished, and the boats were out of the water, we settled down for a fabulous fried breakfast. Thanks must go to the members who cooked bacon, eggs, sausages and tomatoes on a Bar-b-que. Once again the trestle tables came out, we sat either side as they stretched down through the dingy park. Although it is September, the early morning sunshine was bright and warm, we feasted on a breakfast fit for a king.

And this is the point of today’s blog. Good food doesn’t need to be served on bone china plates in opulent surroundings and chased down with fine wines. If the right people get together over takeaway food or a Bar-b-que breakfast, eaten off plastic plates. In a wooden shed it can still feel special and create an atmosphere of joy filled thankfulness. We are drawing towards the end of our sailing calendar for 2019, there are maybe half a dozen races left. Our plans for 2020 will be constructed around social events like this as much as trophy races and personal handicap events. 

Thats all I have to say, I’m off for a bath with a good book . You can see what I’ve been reading by clicking on this link. It’s not a comprehensive list of everything I’ve read recently but you might find few hours of escapism here.

Two falls or one submission

Those of my readers who have reached the middle of their fifth decade will probably recognise this title as one of the rules, and there were precious few, of Saturday afternoon wrestling on TV back in the late sixties or early seventies.

I remember sitting with my grandmother and giggling as this otherwise respectable lady was transfixed by World of Sport on ITV. Nanna, as we called her, was old even then. I was six or seven and everyone who wasn’t in my class at school was old, but she was my father’s mother, and born in the eighteen nineties which made her a Victorian. That’s old.

I don’t remember exactly when she died but I do remember watching Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy, real name Shirly Crabtree, with her on wet Saturday afternoons. Nanna would shout at the small black and white portable screen as the two combatants threw each other from one side of the ring to the other. They’d bounce off the ropes and come back, often knocking their opponent to the canvas with a forearm smash or a flying tackle. The referee would count; one’a, two’a, three’a, and so on to nine. The injured fighter would then spring up, miraculously recover from his injury, and resume the bout. It was all staged of course, but to a boy who hadn’t mastered the five times table or joined up writing, it all seemed terribly real.

Moving forward to the present day, or yesterday to be precise, I could hear Nanna’s voice as clear as if she was right beside me. I was racing my sailing dinghy, a twelve foot long Comet Duo, in winds that were probably a bit strong to be out. Phoenix is a two person boat but as a sailor with a larger, well padded, frame I prefer to go out on my own. I usually have enough weight that I’m not to be overpowered by the wind and I can put a reef if conditions dictate I reduce the sail area. But yesterday the gusts were so extreme that, even reefed, I was struggling to keep her upright. Twice I failed and capsized, nipping over the gunwale and onto the centre board where my weight was sufficient to bring the mast out of the water and pointing skyward again. 

It was after the second incident that I heard Nanna’s voice coming down the decades. “Two falls ref, that’s two falls.” She’d obviously decided that I should be sent to the changing room for an early bath. As I knelt in the bottom of my boat, half soaked and mostly exhausted, I agreed with her. It was time for me to bang on the canvas and tell the referee that I’d had enough, I was only half way around the course but the elements had won. I was ready for a shower and some dry clothes, I indicated to the safety boat that I was retiring, opened the self-bailers, and set a course back to the club. 

It wasn’t the best race of the season so far, but it was one of the best afternoon’s sailing I’ve had this year. The most exhilarating and physically challenging without doubt. You have to know your limits and I’d had my two falls. Just like the fighters all those years ago I might look beaten but I’ll be back again next week, all recovered and ready for another bout.

Eyott Sailing Club – firstling race.

It’s been one of those perfect spring Sundays and it coincided with our first race of the season. How good is that?

William sailing Phoenix

Although I only managed to come seventh, there were eight boats racing, I had a great time and it has been quite warm out on the water today. Honours we to the Hancox family with a win and a second boat well placed.

Tomorrow it is an early start as I am booked on the 9am ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne on the lsle of Wight but I am glad I stayed here today and went sailing as it’s been a day to remember.