119. We Gotta Get Out of This Place

(In memory of Hilton Valentine of The Animals, who died on January 29). Well, we’ve managed to get to Mars, even if it’s only unmanned so far. After the announcement on 22nd February, it sounds as though, come summer, we may be able to get out of the UK on holiday. World, beware, The Brits are coming!

No-one would have believed, in the first months of 2021, that human affairs were still being stopped due to a microscopic creature. To misquote H G Wells. I’m back to Richard Burton again, in Jeff Wayne’s interpretation of War of the Worlds. I had planned to go and see a performance but like so much in 2020, my plans changed. A great book, I loved reading it when I lived in Surrey: driving daily past Horsell Common on my way to work, I could see the landscape where the Martians landed. Maybe not so entertaining now, when we have our own perils to deal with.

Despite the promise of possibly leaving the UK, I fear that haircuts are not considered essential. Our last appointment was 11 December. Our hairdressers cannot open until April 12th so it’s likely we will end up looking like the Slag Brothers in the Wacky Races cartoon.


Talking of Valentine, as I did in my opening, life was one long eat-fest a few weekends ago, with Chinese New Year on 12th February followed by Valentine’s Day on 14th.

You might have picked up that JD enjoys cooking. As a favour, to give him a break, I decided to order a restaurant-ready dinner for Valentine’s weekend. JD decided to do the same, luckily from a different restaurant. All you do it heat up and serve. Oh, and open the obligatory pink fizz supplied.

Having two meals prepared for us didn’t satisfy the inner chef though. As Friday was Chinese New Year, he decided to buy some supermarket meals, but these were deemed insufficient so he also cooked four dishes from scratch. Two people (us) had:
1) Prawn crackers with ‘Chinese cocktail’, so called (I think) because it was red, a lucky colour in China. Take lots of rum, add triple sec, grenadine, cherry juice and bitters. Enjoyable but a bit sticky.
2) Prawn toasts and prawn dim sum.
3) Peking duck. By now we were onto white wine, one cocktail is enough.
4) Sea bream, steamed over spring onions, ginger and garlic. Rice noodle stir fry with lots of veg (peppers, mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts, chestnuts). Pak choi soup, made because we had some pak choi in the fridge. With (shop bought) bang bang cauliflower and char sui pork.

Be warned, water chestnuts are not the same as chestnuts in water, in case you ever considered substituting one for the other. A few of the (sweet) chestnuts went into the soup with some left over for me to make a dessert for the next night (and, in fact, for all of the following week). Also, if you cook that amount of food for two, you’ll have a lot of leftovers! Someone thought that maybe they could have the sea bream, as we had so much else.

It might jump off the plate

We are now in the Year of the Ox: you might be interested to know that JD is a double Ox (both Taurus in Western astrology and Ox in Chinese terms). Me, I’m a double Goat (Capricorn and Goat). Implications? I don’t think we want to look too hard at that. As I said, red is considered lucky so we wore as red as we were able. They should have been new, but who is going out and buying clothes?


For the Year of the Ox it is said that success comes to those who work really hard. I guess if I’m not successful, I’m not working hard enough. It certainly applies to my ability on the piano. The more I practice, the better I get. A book I was recently reading referred to someone playing as though they were painting by numbers, that is, just daubing paint with no real feeling for the picture. I feel they were talking to me, although (after five years, minus the gap for travelling around the world) I’m beginning to feel a bit more confident. I can (sometimes) get all the right notes now, especially with the left or right hand alone, but getting the feeling (tempo, rhythm etc) is only just beginning to click. Will these help me?

Bass and Clef fingerless mitts

Our highlight of the week was provided, as so often these days, by Polly and Adie. Go back to blog post 98 dated 8th July last year and you’ll see where I’m going!

I needed to put Polly in her cat basket for an hour or so. Next time I looked, she’d escaped. Not sure how, did I not close the door properly, or did she have (four legged) help? Shortly after, there was an almighty din in the dining room. I went to look and Polly was at one end of the cupboard we keep glasses in and Adie the other, both scrabbling away. I got the torch and at the back, amidst the cobwebs and dust, was a mouse. We (the humans) tried to get it out but it ran under the piano, then under the sofa. Madame Polly, meanwhile, satisfied with her revenge on being kept captive, was sitting on the stairs nonchalantly having a wash. Adie was sniffing the sofa and looking hopeful. Somehow, we managed to find the mouse and out it went. There are now no cobwebs left.

Back to Covid, I was intrigued to see this on the BBC website about the village of Eyam in Derbyshire. I remember reading a book many years ago about the Great Plague and how Eyam went into their own lockdown.


From memory, there was a crossroads with a big rock and supplies were left there for them. When the coast was clear they went and collected the goods. I don’t think it was a novel so it should be on my “medical” shelf but it must have gone in one of my clear-outs. Here is their official village website where you can read more.


I think I might be missing the sailing adventures: I decided to do a duvet cover repair. It was tempting to get out the black marker pen, as we used for the sails, but I decided it might not look so good once it was back on the bed. Talking of which, who remembers the band Three Dog Night? (What’s she on about now, you ask). Well, a three dog night is when you need to have three dogs on the bed to keep you warm. We only have two so when it’s really cold we have to add an extra duvet layer.

I’m afraid it’s all over for the INEOS team in the America’s Cup. Prada Rossa (the Italian team) were first to seven wins with a score of 7 to 1 after four days (two races per day). I could comment but instead I’ll let you read blogs that are more analytical and knowledgeable.



In addition to these Prada Cup races being delayed due to lockdown, the actual America’s Cup has been delayed due to another lockdown. In contrast to the UK, where we seem to have lost a person testing positive to one of the “variants of concern”, despite having a world-beating Test and Trace system (really?), Auckland has imposed a Level 3 lockdown in the whole city due to one person visiting different places around the city whilst being Covid-positive. The racing is not allowed: it’s been postponed until March 10th at the earliest. Also to look forward to this month, the Olympic flame officially sets off around Japan on March 26th. I’m not holding my breath, much of Japan is in lockdown as I type.

Is it a duvet cover? Is it a sail?

Over the last few posts, I’ve been keeping you updated on the Vendee Globe, now finished. Miranda Merron finished 22nd on February 17th and Sam Davies, although not officially racing, finished on 26th February, raising money for the charity she was representing, which enables heart surgery on youngsters in third-world countries.



What I haven’t gone into is the boats themselves. There are loads of sailing races in different countries, to and from different parts of the world, and quite a few involve IMOCA (International Monohull Open Class Association). If you thought the Clipper races were confusing, see the scoring at the end!

Herrmann is 2018-21 IMOCA Champion


Oh, before I forget, we had an engagement in the family! We can’t party but I can create cocktails. It would have to involve fizz, naturally, and be red. I created two but neither quite hit the spot, so I combined them. Here is the Engagement Cocktail for you all to try. Mix one part Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, one part rum, four parts blood orange juice and six parts pomegranate juice. Pour as much or as little as you like in a champagne glass and top up with champagne or other fizz.

Who knows where the path leads?

7 thoughts on “119. We Gotta Get Out of This Place

  1. Hi Sam I must have missed something over the last year (of course you have, you air head) but I didn’t know you were learning the piano. I played when I was at school but nothing since but over our 30+ years of marriage I have often mentioned I’d like to take it up again – never more so than during lockdowns. So for Xmas Michael bought me a piano keyboard – it sounds exactly like a piano, (or harpsichord or an organ if you want), but is relatively portable and comes with headphones, and off I went. I thought it would be like riding a bike – wobbly to start with but soon back to normal. Instead my brain and fingers are in complete denial at ever having played, so instead of Grade 7, I am struggling with Grade 3 level. Never mind, Michael can’t hear me (headphones) so I can fiddle/practice to my hearts content, but like you, co-ordinating both hands together is ridiculously difficult. I’ve found a really lovely jolly teacher and I have a half hour lesson each week on Zoom. He’s absolutely not into scales and arpeggios or even necessarily classical pieces, but he just wants me to have fun playing. I’m really only into week 4/5 but I am gaining in confidence if not ability so he and I are on the right track. I’ve got a book of easy duets (or so the title says) so perhaps we could play duets on Zoom eventually. What do you think? Lesley xx

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Hello Sam and to Lesley, you are fortunate to have a husband who knew what you needed (I assume you wanted a piano keyboard). I am sure many people are doing similar things.. so far I have forgotten how to knit – apart from knit and purl, to make ribs, but they go wrong, my violin has been at the violin shop since last November – I last played it when I was 16, I hope to get it back tomorrow with new strings, probably I will get sore fingers until I am used to it again. I have a bicycle but I’m not sure I can still ride one! Which one should I try first?!


  2. Hi Sam.
    So you have to take those pesky mice on a little drive about a mile away from your house or they will come back in!
    I have driven quite a few down your way!
    Julia x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s