Post 133. If you’ve gotta go…

And then there was one. If you ignore the builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, cleaners and decorators, of course. Plus the dogs and Blind Captain Catt. Actually it’s more Blind Admiral Greta as she can’t see as well as Polly. You’d not think Polly had any sight problem when you see her balancing on narrow ledges and catching rodents.

Yes, He’s actually gone off to restart the Race. A (negative) PCR test not older than 48 hours was needed before flying. We learnt from Commo’s blog post 138 dated February 23rd that relying on a postal test might not be the less stressful option, so JD booked one in person in London with a four-hour result. This was less than 24 hours before the flight so plenty of time if the flight was delayed (and with the Russian situation who knew what could happen).

We were asked, on our way to London, what’s the Plan B if the test comes back positive? I guess I’ll be stuck with a very grumpy non-sailor. And he’d be stuck with me skulking around trying to make all the household changes I’d planned. Thankfully, it was negative. He’s now in the exotic location of Subic Bay Yacht Club, enjoying the traditional cuisine that I remember, with a twist. Whatever he orders comes with sloppy mashed potato. Maybe Clipper left a load of unused Smash two years ago when they fled the boats in such a hurry and it has to be used up? Meals arrive at random times, see Commo’s latest blog:

I remember it well! A rumour that a Unicef crew member tested positive lead to him being left on the dockside when they did their Level 4 refresher training last week. I’m not sure what the plans are if this happens just before they set off for Seattle. Ironically, JD says the minibus from the airport was jammed packed, whereas when we left Subic Bay we were only allowed five people per bus, and had to be as far apart as possible from each other, both in the bus and at the airport. Another crew member appeared to test positive but it turns out he’d been drinking orange juice. The school kids got it right last year, the acid will give you a positive result and you can have a day off school.

Here is the last personal sighting of that rare bird, the Lesser-Bearded JD. I’m not sure what form this blog is going to take for the next few months as we’ll probably not see the LBJD for five months. The next due sighting is Saturday 30th July in London Docks. By which time it’s likely to have its new plumage and be the Greater-Bearded JD.

Crew diaries and skipper blogs are back. Well, I’ve seen some Skipper blogs, not sure if the crew will start talking to us until they officially set off on 20th March, with the first race start on 24th March. I’m hoping to give you a breakdown of crew numbers / newbies / circumnavigators per boat but it may take a bit of research. I know the numbers are reduced, but all boats do have the minimum needed to sail safely.

My ability to use out of date food has taken a new turn. I bought some chapattis from a well-known supermarket, well in date (a month or more to spare) in a sealed pack. When I opened them, the top one had a spot of mould and the bottom one was riddled with it. I was unable to take them back as I was going up to London but I’ve sent an email of complaint. I wanted to do it in green font and CAPITALS but those options were not on the form I had to complete. Pity.

How am I coping on my first fortnight? First: Coming back from London, after waving the LBJD off, I caught a train to Bath to meet a pal. A doddle, bus to Paddington, train straight through, a nice relaxing lunch then train to Castle Cary and home. Unfortunately, a Points Failure at Bath meant Delays, which meant I wasn’t sure I’d get to the kennels in time to pick up the beasts. It was ok in the end, only half an hour standing on a freezing station platform stressing about a possible train cancellation. Second: the next day, I was mixing up seeds that I like to have in my yoghurt: sunflower, pumpkin, chia and linseed. (Why not lin?). As I was about to add the final ones to the mix, I caught the lid of the Kilner jar and spilt chia seeds everywhere. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across them. They are about the size of poppy seeds (teeny tiny) and have the ability to swell to maybe fifteen times that. I’m now waiting to see if I’ve blocked the drain with them. Third: it was time for me to renew my Driving Licence. When it came back, it’s only for three years!? How to feel old in one fell swoop.

The week before JD left, we had a few nights out at The Southbank Centre. The Royal Philharmonic played Holst’s The Planets, The Budapest Festival Orchestra played Stravinsky, The Philharmonia played Dvorak’s New World Symphony and the London Philharmonic played a programme called “Escape Velocity”, featuring John Adam’s Short Ride in A Fast Machine, a world premiere of a concerto for piano and orchestra by Jimmy Lopez Bellido and Also Sprach Zarathustra by Strauss. All three programmes were wonderful and raised the spirits. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard all of Also Sprach Z, just the bit you get at the beginning of the film 2001. If you’ve not, do go and find it to listen to.

It was interesting seeing four different orchestras in such a short time. The common theme seemed to be a tatty upright piano on stage, surely they can afford something better than that? Especially with such a smart grand piano as well. Oops, my mistake (ignorance), it’s a celeste or celesta. Although it looks like a piano and is played by a pianist, it is apparently a percussion instrument. Like a drum or, indeed, a rattle, as played by me some months ago!

One evening, on the spur of the moment (remember those?), we booked tickets at Crazy Coqs cabaret at Zedel. This is a two-minute walk from Piccadilly Circus and a fascinating venue.

We saw James Hume and Lucie-Mae Sumner. The former is not the Northern Irish Rugby player, in case you wonder what on earth we were listening to, but a graduate of Musical Theatre. I don’t think there’s another Lucie-Mae Sumner so no confusion there. A thoroughly entertaining evening followed by dinner in the Brasserie.

Another memorable meal was at the Regency Café a few minutes’ walk from the flat. It is famous for its breakfast (“the best English breakfast in London”) and not allowing you to book a table. I was going to post a picture of the breakfast we had but it might put you off your salad! In the pre-pandemic days we were told the queues stretched around the block but no more. I think it used to be frequented by Westminster workers but we didn’t recognise any MPs there.

Not twelve hours after JD had left, I had a great time in London painting the town red with George and Yangtze. This timing was unintentional, as the tickets had been booked weeks ago, when we thought he was travelling in February. It was more research for my cellar bar, as the theme was Great Gatsby. It’s the first time I’ve been to an interactive performance and we had a great time. I was asked my advice by one of the performers, on how to attract her beau. George was roped in to get the room ready for afternoon tea: he got right into the spirit of the event and managed to crash his trolley with all the teacups and tea pot! Luckily, nothing was broken, but he was sacked from his role. Photos were not allowed during the performance but here we are after the event about to enjoy some well-earned fizz.

I’ve been reconsidering my cocktail bar layout. I hate to admit it but the mockery may have been well placed, I now have to waste valuable time hunting for a specific bottle. I didn’t show you a very special bottle we picked up on our recent trip to Spain. Pao gin: you can’t get it in the UK (yet?) so you need to go over to Barcelona or Sitges to buy a bottle. It comes highly recommended and if you play your cards right you might even get a free hamster!

I can see you scratching your head and asking what on earth I’m on about now. I think I’ve mentioned it in the past, created and marketed by the 3 F’s parents (John’s daughter Emily and husband Ed). Middle F was given a hamster for her recent birthday but what no-one knew was that it was expecting, a few days after the birthday there were eleven hamsters! In order to avoid this becoming a horde of rodents (they are sexually mature after about three weeks), I believe that the first few people to buy a bottle of Pao Gin were also persuaded to have a hamster, and Emily now has the (un)enviable nickname of Hamster Lady.

I had thought I’d not be making cocktails for some time but I find I now have visitors who are “just making sure you’re OK on your own” and never say no to a drink. I created a Peacock Cupid, my interpretation of one requiring gin, rose water, elderflower syrup and champagne. Take equal quantities of Pao (Peacock) Sitges gin, Lanique rose liqueur, St Germain elderflower liqueur and top up with champagne. I’m not sure Polly approves but we enjoyed it.

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