Post 125. Freedom!!

We seem to have been gifted total freedom on July 19th. The header shows JD in a pub standing at the bar, something we’ve not been allowed to do for some months. Our revered leader had been referring to it as “Terminus Day” for a while, which I don’t like the sound of. However, with cases, hospitalisations and deaths all stalled or on the rise, I think it could be an accurate description. I seem to remember, not too long ago, the mantra “Data not dates”. I think it has been airbrushed from history.

We possibly need to self-isolate if we get ‘Pinged’ by the NHS app. Or is it only if contacted by Test-and-Trace? Not even the (Westminster) government seems to know what is legally required and what is merely advice. If you decide to go to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you’ll find different advice / rules apply. So far, I’ve not been contacted by either method so I think I’m safe to talk to. (The fact that I don’t have the app on my phone possibly helps me stay under the radar). We are now being recommended (not ordered) to keep wearing masks. It’s all up to us and how responsible we are. Who saw the photo of the so-called football fan with a lit flare stuck where the sun don’t shine and reflected on the common sense of the English? At the end of September, we’ve been told, we’ll need to have proof of double vaccination if you want to go to a nightclub, even though you can go to one with no requirement until then. That’s all us oldies sorted for the autumn!

We are now hearing that “critical” workers (no longer key workers) in a number of industries will be exempt from isolating if they’ve had both their vaccinations, or possibly if they test themselves every day, or possibly if both criteria apply. You cannot accuse our government of making decisions on the hoof. It’s all beginning to sound a bit like WWF definitions. (That’s WWF with the fluffy panda mascot, not the World Wrestling Federation. No idea what their mascot is). Threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered and extinct. As long as we avoid the last one I think we’re safe (but maybe not the planet).

Thinking about The End, I was chatting to a pal about whether or not to spend money on a treat, saying you can’t take it with you. But then I got to thinking, what if, after we die, we find out we should have been buried with coins on our eyes to cross the river Styx? What if the ancients were right after all? We’re going to look very silly.

Typical British summer

Onto more cheerful news (maybe).

The bird is back! Attacking windows on every side of the house this year, not just the West. Luckily not as early as last year but still waking us. It’s not only the crows giving me grief. I went to pick some raspberries the other morning (a lovely peaceful time of day before the world is awake and Greta starts barking at whatever she thinks she can see and the birds start warning each other that Polly is prowling) and found two thrushes in my fruit cage. I managed to salvage a few berries, unlike the cultivated strawberries, which the squirrel delights in eating just before they are ripe enough for me to pick. Alpine strawberries are obviously not good enough for them, plenty of those left in the grass.

Swifts looking down on me

Later in the day, as it was so hot (we even had a Met Office heat warning, unknown in the UK), I left the doors open to get a through draught. Do you do this, or do you follow the recommendation to leave curtains and shutters closed? I think they could be onto something. I went back in the house some time later to find two swifts had flown through two open doors and taken up residence by the bar. To get rid of them I had to fling dust blankets over the skylight (climbing around outside the house to do so) then leave another door open. They eventually took the hint but not after leaving a number of calling cards. Back to coping with the heat, I did not open the curtains on the South side for three days and it made NO DIFFERENCE. Still, in a few days it rained so something new to complain about. (I originally wrote this a few weeks ago, as those of you contending with rather too much water will have realised. Our internet is iffy if the wind blows from the East or the air is wet or the sun too strong or there’s an R in the month. Or any excuse it fancies).

My brother and his wife came from Scotland to visit recently, after aborted attempts at Christmas and Easter. This helped me discover how to get rid of visitors very easily and with no personal animosity: say “I’m just going to do today’s piano practice” and suddenly there’s a stampede out of the door to take the dogs for a walk, by both dogs and humans! Hmm. I know my piano ability is not brilliant, but I’m trying. However, I did find out the other evening that playing solo is very different to playing with an orchestra.

My 15 minutes of fame

When the Clipper fleet were active and I was in London, I became a Supporter of the LPO (London Philharmonic Orchestra). Due to lockdown, they’ve not been able to perform so they planned a big Gala Night in July. It became a slightly smaller Gala Night when the deadline was moved but still worth supporting, we decided. In the booking form was a little box which asked if you’d like to be entered into a draw to ‘play’ with the orchestra. JD ticked this and, guess what? My name was pulled out! I asked if I had to be able to read music and was assured I’d be fine. I arrived for the rehearsal in the afternoon and met someone else hanging around. We introduced ourselves and I found out she was a musician, singing and playing the violin in her spare time. Then a chap came along and they started chatting, yes they’d performed together (only in local productions they said, but still). THEN, another chap came along and introduced himself. He had just finished his music scholarship at Cambridge and was wondering whether to take a Masters. At this stage I was ready to make some excuse and catch the next bus home, but our liaison person came out and ushered us into the rehearsal. The very first thing that happened was we were handed our individual sheets of music! Great, I didn’t even have anyone to follow. We were playing Leopold Mozart’s Kindersymphonie (Toy Symphony, sometimes attributed to Joseph Haydn). It requires a toy trumpet, drum, cuckoo, nightingale and… RATCHET! Guess which I played? Well, played might be too generous a word. The ratchet, a bit like football rattle, except this one had a handle to turn. I didn’t hold it up high so I’m not sure how well you can see it.

The lovely chap next to me is Andy Barclay, chief percussionist to the LPO. He was so patient, counting me in and not losing his temper when I lost my way. I might look like I’m singing but I’m counting like mad (for all the good it did).

I don’t think I can share our private YouTube with you, send me a personal email and I’ll see if I can send the link. Here are links to more professional performances, just to give an idea.

It was three years ago last month that we first set eyes on a Clipper fleet, coming back to Liverpool at the end of the last complete race. At the end of Blog Post 124 I promised some sailing news. All olds now but hey-ho.

Sailing brothers

JD went away for a week sailing with his brother and some pals, I thought I’d have lots of free time. I forgot I’d need to do the boy jobs as well as the girl jobs (thank you Theresa May for that description). However, due to the UK “pingdemic”, our refuse collectors are not (yet?) critical workers so they were unable to muster enough people to take away the recycling. Thankfully it was not general rubbish week, that’s only collected every three weeks so I’m guessing it would have been left for six weeks.

I had planned to tell you to watch out for the Rolex Fastnet Race but it started on 8th August and the first boat has already finished. Over 450 boats had signed up but only 337 set off, due partly to the weather conditions. There were quite a few collisions at the start, mostly I gather with spectators getting in the way, plus dismasts, torn sails, some injuries, electrical problems etc etc. Thankfully not as bad as the infamous 1979 race, mentioned in Post 116 in January this year. Also in that Post, I mentioned the Gitana racing team. They finished this Fastnet first, in a time of 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 54 seconds. Faster than the commentators at the start could get there catching the ferry. Meanwhile, the smaller boats that are left in the race are still passing Plymouth on the way out. It was interesting to see that the bigger faster boats went from Cowes South almost to the Channel Islands before turning West towards Fastnet Rock (at the bottom of Ireland). The smaller boats hugged the English coastline. Here’s a link to the start so you can decide if you fancy doing it next time.

Sailing son

George gained his Yachtmaster qualification a couple of months ago and sailed in the Round-the-Island Race around the Isle of Wight (a sort of mini round the world?) with a few of his Qingdao chums. Whilst doing that he somehow got signed up to do the Fastnet. He was in Ithaka, a Swan 44, both for the Round the Island and Fastnet. They managed to complete Round the Island but the foul weather on August 8th put paid to their Fastnet plans. He told us ‘literally on the start line the tack of the No 3 jib ripped off so the sail flew loose and damaged the track. We carried on for a while with the stormsail then stopped to assist a dismasted boat’.

Where’s our mast gone? (copyright Donna)

After which they took a team decision to go back to the pub. Sorry, a decision to retire before they got into a worse situation, then they found the pub.

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have wondered what was the structure around the wisteria in the final picture last time. We’re having Works done, too much to tell you today so you’ll have to wait for another time.

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