Archive for January, 2006

Le Clan

Last night we rented Le Clan. The story is outwardly bleak, but lovely performances by the four leads bring out nuggets of humanity in the face of a grim reality. The photography is excellent, and at times highly erotic, but this is not a piece of soft porn by any stretch of the imagination. Recommended.

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On holiday I devoured Alan Hollinghurst’s prize-winning novel The Line of Beauty. Somehow, it manages to combine a page-turning story line, an evocation of the height of 80’s Thatcherism, and some wonderful prose into a satisfyingly integrated whole.

I’d like to re-read parts of it, as inevitably my holiday reading was rather interrupted and often the book only had part of my attention. The trouble, as always, is that there are too many other books to read first…

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Vela en las Islas Canarias

Graham has written a great log of our Christmas and New Year sailing trip to Tenerife and La Gomera over at Leaving on a jet plane, so I’m not going to recount the whole lot here, but rather jot down some highlights.

A great crew:

Skipper, engine repairer and scotch-drinker supremo
Dinghy helmsman of distinction
Co-organiser and imparter of German: bade handtuch
Watch leader and culinary maestro
Our New Statesman on every level
Watch leader, purser and reluctant translator
Co-organiser, impervious to sea-sickness but not to the cold

A lardy old tub: the Bavaria 44 actually did us proud and was very comfortable and spacious below decks, but wouldn’t be my boat of choice. She sailed okay once she got going, but cornered like a bathtub and was not really equipped for comfortable long passages: hand-holds few and far between; awkward seats in the cockpit; no lee-cloths nor straps for the galley. The chart table was decent, though, and best of all, I could stand up straight in the center of the saloon!

Not quite an ideal cruising ground: the long distances between ports and islands, the Atlantic swell and strong prevailing northerlies, and the highly limited space for visitors in the marinas all count against an easy and relaxing cruise. On the other hand, some of the destinations are well worth the effort, and the sailing is very exciting. Crossing a line in the water and going from 5 knots to 40 knots of wind over about 20 metres certainly keeps you on your toes.

La Gomera: a beautiful, relaxed island to which I’d love to return to explore further, probably on foot and in the rather lovely Parador next time.

Sailing skills: I’m not so worried about a big boat now. Lessons learned include: the genoa’s big so shorten it first before worrying about reefing the main; everyone must know to spill the main as the first reaction when things get hairy; when you first think about putting in a reef is probably the right time to actually do so; keep light tension on the lazy sheets: it may not matter in a light breeze, but Alex has the bruises to prove what happens in a bigger blow.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife: a lovely and lively Spanish city in the middle of the Atlantic, with more going for it than its pleasant but touristic namesake, Puerto Cruz. And the New Year fireworks were breathtaking. Apparently they’re even better for Carnival.

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