Archive for September, 2005

The One

Just finished reading The One by Paul Reed. A fantastic evocation of schizophrenia and Edinburgh life, and Nuala used to work on the ward where much of it is set, too.

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Guided off the rails

We hired the recent film of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Perhaps I had too many preconceptions, and perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I’d never heard the wonderful radio series or read the book, but it really didn’t work for me. The Vogons were good, there were one or two great CGI scenes, and Alan Rickman did a great job voicing Marvin. But the Guide took a sad back seat to the action, and half the cast seemed to be on automatic pilot, with the honorable exception of Mos Def as Ford Prefect. We both agreed on 4/10, and that was being generous. Sorry, guys.

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Cafe Royal

E&E took me into Newcastle and we had lunch at the lovely Cafe Royal. Scrummy mussels in calvados cream with chorizo. Then the long slog home via metro to Newcastle Airport, EasyJet to Stansted and Central Trains home. Next time I’m going to take the train…

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Great North Run

Now that C is in Gateshead, we didn’t have quite such an early start: just a walk down the hill to the metro and a short journey into Newcastle. There was no bottled water at the start: eek! I was gasping by the first drinks station.

This year we made sure that we kept right at the start to go on top of the sandwich motorway rather than down in the depths. The high continued with the Red Arrows flying directly over as we crossed the Tyne Bridge: what a buzz!

C, J, H and I all started together, but after a while H dropped back and later I dropped behind C and J. I found myself running near F for a good part of the race, which was nice. Gosh, it was hot! But none of us died and we all finished. My time wasn’t as good as last year, but I was quite happy with it given the heat and my somewhat patchy training.

Back in Felling we dined on huge amounts of takeaway pizza, before sadly I had to walk Graham to the metro so that he could get back for work.

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A long day of travelling: depart at 8am; coach to Glasgow; train to Newcastle via Carlisle; arrive Newcastle 3.30pm. A mometary highlight was this converted police box on the outskirts of Glasgow, now cheekily selling coffees as ‘Coppuccino’. Sadly we couldn’t leap out and buy one so we had to wait for a rather less original Costa at Central Station.

In Newcastle C+N met us at a convenient metro station and took us to Seven Stories. Graham got a row for taking pictures,but not before he’d snapped me in the story teller’s chair. It’s a great interactive musuem and center for children’s books. We followed up with more coffee and cakes at a Cafe Nero, and tea and more cakes at F’s.

The day ended in Gateshead at C+E’s place for much pasta and pre-race preparations.

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Loch Leven Hotel

We spent the morning doing exercises on Loch Leven: man overboard under sail; and blind navigation, which was entertaining but I put us much closer to the shore than I thought! All good fun. Our final task was to clean the boat from top to bottom. Dominic and I drew deck scrubbing!

Once again I provided the dinghy ferry service back to shore for crew and luggage, apart from the final trip back with Paul in the fibreglass tender. Graham’s last shot of the boats at anchor captures the beauty of the spot.

For Graham and me it was a short walk to the Loch Leven Hotel for a well-earned bath and relax on a proper bed, before we met Alec for dinner. The hotel is very traditional but the restaurant has been given a facelift and serves excellent food. Alec is sailing with us – and will probably be skipper – on our Canaries cruise this Christmas. We all got on very well and finished the evening with large whiskeys all round.

I must thank Graham for his lovely photos. More are online via our pobox site.

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Back to Ballachulish

I woke early and took a short run on Kerrera, frustrated somewhat by endless farm gates. My last training before the Great North Run!

In beautiful weather we returned under sail and later motor to the mooring at Ballachulish. En route I practised steering the boat with sails alone (simulating a rudder failure), and we had a rather disturbing incident which was safely resolved – ask me if you want to know more!

Sailing up Loch Linnhe towards the entrance to Loch Leven was magical, with the mountains all around and Ben Nevis looming directly ahead behind the lower mountains on the shore. Simply spectacular.

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A tour of Oban harbour by night

We had a busy day! I piloted us into Loch Spelve, short-tacking through the narrow channel with shallows on one side and hidden rocks on the other. We lunched whilst hove-to in the loch, and then sailed over to the beautiful anchorage of Puldoran (Puilladobhrain), practising the use of a pole for the genoa and a gybe preventer for the main.

At anchor in Puldoran, Dominic and Neil practised rowing in the dinghy, we dined, and then we waited until it got dark. For the night sail, I piloted us up the channel between the mainland and Kerrera and into Oban harbour, for a quick tour of the southern half, before Graham took over to show us the northern half. A close (but not too close) encounter with a departing trawler added to the fun and gave us some steaming lights to practice on too. A great night passage, and very different in character to all the lights of Harwich and Felixstowe and all those buoys up the River Orwell.

Before midnight, we were moored up at the marina on Kerrera.

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Gale force 8

The weather forecast was for a big blow so we reefed the boat right down and had a fantastic sail in winds of force 6 and 7, gusting to 8 on a regular basis. Exciting stuff, made possible by the shelter of the Sound of Mull. Had we been the other side of Mull it would have been a different story: nothing but an endurance test. As it was, we all had a great time and Neil and Dominic lapped it up for only their second day on a yacht. We eventually sought refuge in Craignure Bay, watching the ferries come and go from Oban as if it was only a light breeze.

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Yacht in the Sound of Mull
We woke to the beautiful scenery of Loch Leven and Ballachulish. A gentle start, going over the boat and the safety briefing. The crew: Paul, our skipper and instructor; me, doing my Coastal Skipper practical course; Graham, for his Day Skipper practical; and Dominic and Neil who had never sailed on a yacht before, both taking the Competent Crew course.

We had a beautiful sail down Loch Linnhe calling in briefly at the marina tucked in behnid Shuna for water, and then running and goosewinging most of the way up the Sound of Mull into Loch Sunart and thus to and through the narrow entrance of Loch na Droma Buidhe, or Loch Drumbuie for the Gaelically-challenged (i.e. most of us). After a couple of failed attempts we anchored in this beautiful sheltered loch with only a couple of other boats for company.

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