113. If We Make It Through December

…Everything’s going to be all right, I know (as sung by Merle Haggard, a Country-and-Western singer/songwriter, in 1974, well before things started to go pear-shaped). He died on his 79th birthday in 2016. It has been released this year by Phoebe Bridgers (a 26 year-old Californian folk-rock singer) so very timely. To compare two very different treatments of the same song, listen first to Merle Haggard then Phoebe Bridgers:

Meanwhile, there are two Round The World boat trips going on. As well as the Vendée Globe, more below, there is the Jules Verne Trophy up for grabs.

Sloe G&T

This is for the fastest unassisted boat (of any design) to sail around the world, with a crew (‘non-compulsory and unrestricted’ according to the rules, so no conscripts, but any number of crew). They have to do it in under 80 days (obviously). The route is to cross the starting line (between Créac’h Lighthouse on Ushant Island and Lizard Lighthouse), travel around the world with the Capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn to port (on your left hand side), then re-cross the line defined above in the opposite direction. Sounds easy put like that! The start seems to be any time after August 1st (i.e. no official start date) and the Skipper has to be a member of the ’Association Tour du Monde en 80 Jours’ so don’t worry, you can’t accidentally enter just by sailing through the start line. The originators calculated, in 1985, that it is possible to sail around the world in 80 days (minus five minutes) and in 1991 set up the Association. The trophy is a graceful sculpture, kept at the French National Maritime Museum in Paris, although the photos here refer to the New Zealand Maritime Museum.

The sculpture

The first record of 74 days was set in 1993 and currently stands at 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds (in 2017). Of course, our very own Sir Robin appears on the Honours List, in 1994, with a time of 74 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds.

This year, two boats set off in late November (although one, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, has turned around for repairs after colliding with something). If your French is better than mine you can follow their progress and there is a Tracker! Yay! Sodebo needs to finish by 5th January to win the trophy.



DIY Advent gin calendar

Back at the Vendée Globe, I forgot to say last time that Alex Thompson is out of the race. He had too much damage and retired on 28th November. There’s a heart-breaking video where he’s almost in tears but I’ve spared you that. (You can find it on the website if you look).


Late on 30th November another boat, skippered by Kevin Escoffier, hit a massive wave and rapidly sank. Four other competitors were asked to head towards his distress signal to rescue him from his life raft.


He was rescued after 11 and a half hours. I remember JD having to do emergency training escaping into a life raft way back in 2019 before setting off on Clipper. He said he’d not want to spend much time in one but he’d not be alone (good and bad in different ways).


Then on 4th December the French skipper Sébastien Simon announced he was retiring and on 5th, Sam Davies also retired, both due to damaged boats. That leaves 28 of the original 33 skippers still racing, including two British (women), Pip Hare and Miranda Merron, lying 20th and 22nd today.


Jam Advent calendar

But as the British contenders fall by in the Vendée Globe this year, others come to prominence in a different sport. Have you seen the Formula One races this year? I don’t routinely watch them but last week there was the horrific fire (thankfully no-one badly injured) then, on Monday, Lewis Hamilton tested positive for Covid and was replaced this week by George Russell, a 22 year-old from Norfolk. Interestingly, he’s known as “Russell the Rocket”: our George when on a school ski trip at a tender age was known as “The Pocket Rocket”!


He (the other George) has been racing all this season for Williams (the second Mercedes team) but not finished anywhere near the front. In the first 15 races, he didn’t finish four times, and was in the bottom five (of 20 cars) six times. This week he had the opportunity to drive Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and what a difference. Despite having to wear shoes that were a size too small, in order to press the pedals down (he’s five inches taller than Lewis), and having a seat that was from last year (I’m guessing they have them moulded to their body shape), he was second on the grid at the start of the race. He stormed into first place at the start and stayed there until Lap 63 (of 87). Until the Mercedes team made a big mistake and put the wrong tyres on (intended for his team mate) during a pit stop, meaning he had to go into the pits again on the next lap. He came out and went from 5th to 2nd place, only to have a puncture which meant back to the pits for another tyre change! He came out this time in 15th but had too few laps left to climb his way back to the front, ending in 9th. Even though I’d followed it on the BBC website and so knew the drama, my heart was in my mouth watching the highlights. You can see more details here. Mercedes were fined €20,000 for their mix-up.


So what’s been happening at our HQ? I had a routine DEXA bone scan at the local hospital. A bit scary going in as I had to go to the main Radiology department, lots of people, and the hand sanitizer dispenser was empty. Luckily I carry my own! The results confirmed that I’m not building back bone. Shortly after, I had a dental check-up and she mentioned that I could get osteoporosis in my jaw. Great. Not only do I have to consider falling over, I’m now worried about breaking my jaw on the sixpence in the Christmas pudding. Pass me the porridge.

We have been given two Advent calendars this year, pictured somewhere in this Post. The first one has little jars of Bonne Maman jams (JD says it’s great marketing now that the hotels are closed, they need to get rid of all these jars somehow. Cynic). They are flavours that we do not normally get in the UK so I’m hoping I don’t get too hooked on them.

Jam and Gin

The other calendar is a wooden frame holding 24 x 50 ml gin bottles. I had to make it up so I inserted the bottles at random. The finished article is the header to this Post. I’m not sure if there are any normal (unflavoured) gins, so far all have been fruit apart from today, which is lavender. We have discovered that 25 ml gin each doesn’t last long! I have therefore continued to make cocktails at the weekend.

The latest challenge was to use a bottle of ‘Grog de cana’ from Cape Verde, kindly donated many years ago by a pal who’d been there. We finished it! As the recommendation was to drink it neat with ice, but it’s a sort of rum, I found a suitable cocktail. It was meant to be a Spark in the Light but I made a Spark in the Dark. Take 45 ml of dark rum (or Grog), 15 ml Kahlua (aha, two bottles for the price of one this week) and 10 ml lime juice. It tasted ok but I’m not sure about the appearance, rather muddy.

Cocktails and canapes

On researching the grog, there was not a lot of information about this specific type. Obviously, it’s made from sugar cane and they spell it grogue.

Grogue: Cape Verde’s alcoholic beverage

Grog tends to mean rum and water, given to naval ratings in the old days, although it can refer to any drink (fancy some grog mate?). Water would not keep fresh, wine and beer did not last, so rum (from sugar from the slave colonies) was given to sailors. This link gives some great information. The rum ration was last served in the Navy on July 30th, 1970.


And now to Kahlua. This is a coffee-based liqueur, similar to Tia Maria (although I’m sure they would disagree). As I only have Kahlua I can tell you about both without spoiling any future blog post and cocktail. Kahlua is rum and coffee and was invented / created in 1936 in Mexico, not by a doctor but by a chemist and his pals. It is claimed to be the number one coffee liqueur worldwide. There are loads of cocktails on this website, for when I get to the end of my bar and have to start again (in the middle?). I see they now do salted caramel and a chilli chocolate varieties as well as the original. You can get espresso martini in cans but it doesn’t taste right. I’ll wait for the bars to re-open.


Tia Maria, on the other hand, is said to date back to the mid-17th century but was re-discovered in the 1940’s. It uses cold brew extraction of coffee beans, vanilla and Jamaican rum. There’s not a lot more information about it on the official website, other than a new bottle and label introduced in March this year. As I’ve not been scouring the drinks aisles in the supermarkets, I’ve not yet seen it.

One of a Kind

We had a bottle of fizz over the weekend, not our usual pretty cap but one that I thought referred to heavy machinery. It’s not a champagne but a Cremant de Bourgogne.

Finally, to see some decent photographs, check here. They look more like covers of Science Fiction books if you ask me, they are so detailed. Thank you for putting up with mine!


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