87. Happy Easter 2020

Rather a different Easter for everyone this year, not allowed out to visit church or friends and family. Who managed to get Easter eggs? I ordered some online but forgot to allow for our post being redirected still, so George has ended up with way too much chocolate for one person.

In addition to my cocktail experiments I’ll give a few photos of the garden to cheer you up. The header is of the supermoon we had the other night, so-called pink but not in colour. It refers to some US flowers that are pink in colour and blooming around now. I think I’ll call it my daffodil supermoon.

I have received comments about the size of our drinks bar. All I can say is, wait until you reach our advanced age. People give you bottles for Christmas, Easter, birthdays and any other event they can think of. When you go on holiday and taste the local speciality you enjoy it so much you bring bottles back, not thinking what it will taste like in dark dank Somerset. When shopping you might spot something that looks interesting (the plum and clementine gin we finished last week being a case in point). You cannot abide waste so don’t throw it away, especially as alcohol doesn’t go off. Finally (I think, there could be other reasons I’ve not thought of yet), we have the space.

Before I forget, I have been informed by JD that I got the race details wrong. I have all the dates and stops correct but I’ve put some of the Legs in the wrong place, a bit like Eric Morecambe playing Grieg’s piano concerto with “Mr Preview” (Andre Previn): all the notes but not necessarily in the right order. If you want to watch it and have a laugh here’s the link to the three minute sketch from 1971 on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMPEUcVyJsc. (I’ll sort out the race details when it happens).

To the garden. In a normal year I’d buy lots of bulbs and our industrious gardener would plant them up for me, so we’d have a wonderful display all year round.

As I wasn’t here when the bulb catalogues came out, nor intended to be here now, this is the view this year. I cannot even go to the garden centre and buy anything. I hope it’s not the same empty pots all year, it’s going to be very boring. Maybe I could move them around every month, or knit flowers now that I’m not knitting Unicef and Qingdao beanies? Hmmm.

Having depressed myself with the bareness, let’s return to the cocktails. You’ll remember that the first was Maiden’s Dream, which consists of equal quantities of absinthe and gin with a third of grenadine. The recipe said to make it in a long glass (highball or Collins for those of you who like to be precise). We decided that these three ingredients on their own were possibly a little bit too alcoholic so added ice and sparkling water. Here’s the result, I think it’s an acquired taste. A little aniseedy as you’d predict plus a little fruity. (JD asked if we had to keep taking selfies of us drinking so this is just the glass. Normal service will be resumed later).

Maiden’s Dream

Back to my flowers, normally (sorry, you’ll probably be getting this word a lot in the next few months) I’d have hundreds of tulips everywhere, and the pots above would have alternate colours, different each year depending on my mood when I bought the bulbs. You are advised to buy new bulbs each year as they are bred to not be as vigorous in subsequent years, so I put the old bulbs around the garden and see what comes up (literally). Here are a couple, I cannot remember the names but probably have a list if you need to know.

Tulip A
Tulip B

Not quite the dazzling display I’m used to. Next year maybe…

As my Dream didn’t tally with the Maiden’s Dream (whoever she was), a couple of days later we decided to try Rimbaud’s Left Hand. Intriguing who thinks up these names. On your behalf (unless you studied French literature, in which case apologies for all the errors) I did a bit of research. I’m not a Wiki addict so tackled Britannica. Some years ago in the late 1990’s I bought possibly the last paper version, comprising 32 volumes (three being indices) and I’ve a special bookshelf for them, but these days I use the interweb. I’m sure nothing has changed from the paper version as he died in 1891. Arthur Rimbaud was a French poet: I find his poems rather difficult to comprehend, even when translated into English (and I guess more so in their native French as I never got beyond what were then ‘O’ levels and I think are now GCSE’s, at 16 years old). At the age of 27 he declared he’d given up on the idea of work and would dedicate his energy to being a poet. Good job George doesn’t read this blog, I’d not want to encourage his ideas!

There’s a lot of guff about visions and consciousness and (here we begin to come to the point) he underwent fasting and pain, drink (including absinthe) and drugs in order to experience hallucinations. He got involved with Verlaine (another French poet) and his wife in a menage a trois initially. Verlaine and Rimbaud had a tempestuous relationship, running off to London at one stage. At the end of their relationship, Verlaine shot Rimbaud in his LEFT HAND and was imprisoned for two years. Hence the name of the cocktail (why you’d want to name a drink after someone’s maimed hand I’m not sure but I’m only a scientist). The cocktail officially is equal parts Aperol, Benedictine, Absinthe, lemon juice and pineapple juice with some rose water dropped into the centre. As we didn’t have all of these I created Rimbaud’s Right Hand: Aperol, Drambuie, Absinthe, and double Tropical juice (mostly apple and orange when you read the ingredients but a little pineapple, mango and passion fruit). I did have the rose water so that’s OK. Here I am drinking it (in the correct Martini glass) in JD’s greenhouse. It was delicious. I’ll try it again once I’ve been through the rest of the bar.

What else have we been up to? Chatting to people, trimming dogs, cutting grass, piano practice, clearing out stuff we always said we’d do, all the usual things you do when confined to quarters. I’ll introduce the second cocktail ingredient next time. A bientot!

86. Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

Remember me telling you about our garden produce in Post 85? Here’s the meal we had on April 2nd: rhubarb and ginger cocktail (R&G gin, lemon juice, R&G jam, shake with ice and decorate with a tiny stick of rhubarb), mackerel with rhubarb, then rhubarb and marmalade sponge pudding. Interestingly the original cocktail used marmalade instead of rhubarb and ginger jam so continuity across the meal.

Making the rhubarb and ginger sour

Going back to the original purpose of this blog for a moment. On April 1st, with no joking, Clipper published an updated schedule. The plan is to re-start the race from Subic Bay on 21st February 2021, with Leg 6 resuming and taking in Sanya (arrival on 25-26 February), Zhuhai (arriving 5-6 March) then Qingdao (arriving 19-21 March). This will be the new end of Leg 6 (instead of finishing at Zhuhai). Leg 7 will then be to Seattle (arriving 19-24 April) and Panama (27 May to 1 June). Leg 8 includes Bermuda (arrival 15-17 June) and Derry-Londonderry (8-12 July) then finishes in London on 24th July 2021. Those of you with long memories (or plans to travel to this stop) will notice that we have lost New York (very careless) and will finish roughly two weeks before (but one year after) the intended finish date of 8th August (2020). Obviously this is all subject to change but that’s the route and timing for now. I’m not making any plans until nearer the time.

And drinking it

Day 16. Saturday 4th April. Finally finished all our unpacking. Still to go round the house and replace all the blown light-bulbs. They seem to delight in keeping the light-bulb manufacturers in business. I have four boxes of spares: small bayonet, large bayonet, small screw and large screw. I still seem to always be missing the one that JD wants when we need a replacement. Made the marmalade sour on which the above cocktail was based, with plum and clementine gin. Having sorted all our spirit bottles, from absinthe to whisky (Scotch), I’ve decided to make this a cocktail blog for the time being. If I become increasingly incomprehensible you’ll understand I’m sure. I’m ignoring shots as they don’t last long enough. Looking back, I see that without realising it, this has been an underlying theme for some time.

Marmalade sour

Before I get onto the alcohol recipes, the bird life here is expanding, even if I cannot take photos. A long-tailed tit tried to fly through the (closed) window, offering a good view of its undercarriage. JD saw a charm of goldfinch (I think that’s the correct collective noun) in the orchard. As usual, we have constant buzzards mewling and being mobbed by the rooks. In addition, we are beginning to embrace modern technology, with JD resuming his physio with his personal trainer via the computer. He says it’s much better than being in a class and it saves about an hour travel time. Good job I “mended” the internet last week.

Absinthe to whisky (Scotch)

As well as unpacking, I’ve audited the kitchen under-sink cupboard and the freezer (after defrosting). I went onto the local council website and discovered that the recycling centres are closed, so reminded myself what I could recycle at the kerbside (not that we have kerbs in the wilderness). I told you this blog would become boring.

So, to the first bottle in our store: absinthe. You only use drops in most recipes so yes, thanks Chris, it is still the same bottle for my birthday xx (I forget the exact number) years ago! I did make Midori and absinthe sorbet not long after receiving the bottle, it didn’t freeze and tasted aniseedy and melony at the same time. Not bad but maybe not to be put on the favourites list.

For those of you who have never heard of it, absinthe can be a vivid green spirit classically made with wormwood. As with so many spirits, it started life as a medicinal product, curing malaria. It tastes of aniseed and when water is added goes cloudy. Its main association (to my mind) is with Toulouse-Lautrec, with his hollow walking stick full of absinthe, and the Belle Epoque in France in the late 1800’s. You prepared it for drinking with a special absinthe spoon, on which you placed a sugar cube and let water drip through into the glass of absinthe. According to an exhibition at The Tate, it was apparently known as “the Queen of poisons” and the name comes from Greek meaning undrinkable. https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-5-autumn-2005/drink-fuelled-nations-art

Are your salivary glands watering? It could be up to 80% alcohol, definitely lethal, and was said to cause hallucinations due to the presence of thujone, a chemical in wormwood (or maybe the alcohol content alone?). It had such a bad reputation that it was made illegal. I’m happy to say that mine is clear (no contaminants) and a mere 53%. If you want to try some, look here: https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/c/358/absinthe

Putting all that aside, I have a great app on my phone called Mixology so I consulted that for absinthe recipes. I chose ones where we have all the ingredients and shortlisted 14. NO, I’m not going to try them all. Well, not all at once. I then reduced the list further to those that used a reasonable amount of absinthe, not just a couple of drops. I dismissed two due to their names: Death in the Afternoon (although champagne and absinthe doesn’t sound too bad) and Corpse Reviver (gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, vermouth and absinthe). Not suitable under present circumstances. The names in general tell you something about absinthe: TNT, Hiroshima, Earthquake, Monkey Gland, Flying Fortress, Peep Show. I’ve decided to try two, purely because I like the innocuous-sounding names: Maiden’s Dream and Rimbaud’s Left Hand. No, checking the cupboard, Rimbaud will have to wait another day as I’m out of pineapple juice.

What, you want to know what it’s like before you rush out (or to the computer) to buy your own bottle? Tune in next time.

Proof that we also eat: rhubarb sponge

85. Is This The Real Life?

Or is it just fantasy?

Greta with a skirt of hair

Before we left for the Clipper Race, we had the dogs neutered to make life easier for the house sitters. Unfortunately, their coats go fluffy and Greta looks like a woodlouse from above. This was my first big job when I got home, trimming as much as I could in ten minute intervals to not stress them or me out.

Day 8. Friday 27th March (continued). Meanwhile, OBB in London went out and had takeaway fish and chips whilst I had parsnip soup. Such is life in the boondocks. I was able to have a long distance chat (shout) about local conditions with Kate and her family, who have sheep in the fields around our house. It would appear that most of Somerset is taking the situation very seriously, John might not be allowed out even to go shopping during the “over 70” hour. The sight of sheep on the hill was most welcoming (see header to this Post), as well as the birdsong in the morning. I am sure that if I was technologically more adept I could add sound to this blog, but sorry, you’ll have to go to https://www.birdsong.fm/ which I have just discovered: it plays birdsong 24/7, or the RSPB website https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/let-nature-sing/birdsong-radio/.

Furry Adie

Instead, in these drear days, try listening to John Finnemore’s Cabin Fever on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhTBp1DRfx4. It helps if you know the Radio 4 programme Cabin Pressure, with Benedict Cumberbatch before he was Sherlock. Another good site to make you smile is a week of Georgina’s Isolation Diaries https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7p-owybihQ by comedienne (or is it comedian these days?) Anna Morris. Every day she gives you a different song to sing when you’re washing your hands. At bedtime, we found out that there were no Bonio biscuits left: calamity! The dogs have one every night as part of their routine. I know they should clean their teeth afterwards but they’ve not yet managed to wield the toothbrush.

Tidy feet (untidy tail)

Day 9. Saturday 28th March. Got up late. Trimmed dogs’ feet. Spoke with a few pals. Wandered around reminding myself what was growing where. Noted that we have plenty of rhubarb so won’t starve. (But may get bored and vitamin deficient). Emergency supplies of milk, Bonio and the weekend FT brought over by Barry. Found out that the internet had gone down, very annoying. Realised that I had not missed all the daffodils, spring is later here than in London.

Day 10. Sunday 29th March. Still no internet so JD emailed our provider. Apparently a mast had come down so I need to be patient. Made spinach, garlic and ginger soup from items left in the fridge. Trimmed dogs’ tails. Found out that the kitchen radio has decided to play Classic FM only. I don’t mind this but it seems that after every piece of music there is a long ad about coronavirus and washing our hands and not going out and swinging a broom at people to make sure they are not too close. Or something like that.

At 5 pm I had a virtual cocktail party with Victoria. She made a yummy sounding “cupboard cocktail” from The Telegraph involving marmalade and a spirit of your choice. As I had been bequeathed some coconut water in the fridge, I found a cocktail that used that (rum, mint and coconut water). That plus the soup meant I had a rather limited eating programme today. Where are the Kit-Kats when you need them? The good news is that the clocks went forward so I only had to endure 23 hours of today.

Spinach soup anyone?

Day 11. Monday 30th March. I spoke with the chap who inserted our internet as it still was not working. I did the old trick of turning it off and on again: no response. He told me it was not reporting back to their system but the mast was no longer an issue so maybe the power was not working. I went to the barn where it comes into the property to find out that some idiot had turned it off. Turned it on and, behold, back in the technical world of the 21st century! I have to break it to you that there was only one person at home at that moment. Assuming that neither the dogs nor the cat have learnt how to turn things on and off, the idiot has to be me. Oops.

To celebrate having the internet I went onto all the major supermarket sites to see if I could order anything. Some of them (Tesco, Morrisons, Asda) had no delivery or click-and-collect slots as far as the horizon. (The click-and-collect would be no good as I’m without transport but I thought I could click then get a pal to collect on my behalf). The others (Sainsburys, Ocado, Waitrose) didn’t even let me onto the sites to see if they could help me. There are a few local farm shops around here that will deliver so I might have to go down that option.

Coconut Mojito (of sorts)

Day 12. Tuesday 31st March. Our house sitters emailed to say they would not be coming back. A great relief, I could finish off the spinach soup (and coconut water) without a guilty conscience. I started to go through the kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what items we had and what we would need to buy. Some rice, some pasta, a little flour, Weetabix amongst other foodstuffs. Enough for a few days. John’s logbook turned up so he prepared to come home and to go shopping on his way back. My last day of solitude.

Day 13. Wednesday April 1st. Despite going very carefully through the papers and BBC website, I could not find a single April Fool. Either life is too serious now or my sense of humour has fled. I chatted with a few more pals but did not trim any parts of the dogs today, we all had a break. In the middle of The Archers John arrived. I was told that Clipper would change him and so it proves. Prior to the Race he would never miss an episode, and had been known to drive around the block before arriving home if he needed extra time. I’m happy to report that his car was loaded with more clothes and equipment from London plus enough food to keep us going for a week or more, with a selection of things, not just rhubarb and spinach!

Honey, I’m Home!

I’m going to stop recording the day-by-day experience as it will become monotonous very quickly (got up late, trimmed dogs, phoned pals, made soup). Instead I’ll give you uplifting pictures of the countryside to cheer you up when you’re sitting on your own. wondering if you can really be bothered to watch your favourite box set again, or get out that jigsaw that you never managed to finish, or the jumper you started in 2001 when you were a size smaller and had different taste. You will come to appreciate that you really do want to live life like this, quiet and slow and satisfying. Or not. As the song says, it doesn’t really matter to me. (Of course it does, I rely on my audience, every one of you!)

84. Dash To The Country

I finished the last blog post with uncertainty about getting back to our home in Somerset. This is still unsettled, as you’ll see below. Those of you looking forward to hearing about my London incarceration should not give up hope yet! And just for you, the header on this post is of my last view of a London sunset.

Day 5. Tuesday 24th March. Having arranged Denis, my intrepid driver, to pick me up at lunchtime, I packed as many of my clothes and other necessary items as I could. Whilst I was waiting, two other residents drove up with car boots bulging with food and toilet rolls. Getting ready for London lock down.

Ready to go!

We set off and there was hardly any traffic on the roads so a smooth run to Somerset. No road blocks in evidence. No fuel at the Fleet service station on the M3 but that didn’t bother us.

M3 in the middle of the day

As our house sitters were still in situ and germ free I went into isolation with some friends who have Adie’s brother. He was so excited to see me, I hope I get the same greeting when I get home. Although it is possible it wasn’t my presence as he kept looking for his sister. I must have her hidden somewhere about my person, surely!

Looking out for his sister

I self-isolated in the dedicated bedroom / bathroom and the garden, where Alfie kept me company. In the evening we ate “together” but not too close. It’s great being back in the countryside and seeing green everywhere. I missed the daffodils while I was away but the tulips are coming out and blossom on the trees is appearing. I ordered a load of vegetable seeds to plant out for a little self-sufficiency when I’m home. I may have some old ones left over from last year but my memory doesn’t go back that far.

Day 6. Wednesday 25th March. JD found his missing logbook but too late to tax the car as a new one is on its way. The car passed its MOT and is insured so that’s the last step before he can drive. He’ll probably come down to the house mid-week after the weekend. In case of confusion, our house sitters confirmed that I was not going to go over to the house until they had left, as they didn’t want to risk any contamination before leaving for the USA. I went for a walk with Alfie and one of his owners, maintaining a social distance (the road) between us. It was so quiet, not at all what I’m used to on that stretch of the A road. You can hear the birds singing, I must try to (re)-learn what they all are. The chiff chaff is pretty obvious, as is the Great Tit (“teacher teacher”) but the others I get confused with. The robin and wren I can usually recognise but I couldn’t tell you what they sound like.

Somerset sunrise

Day 7. Thursday 26th March. Another day of isolation, walking around the garden and staying in my room. It is a very nice room, south facing so sunny all morning. The picture above is my view of the sunrise. Things got confusing today as our house sitters reconsidered their actions. Their new plan is for Mrs HS to stay at home in the USA with their two dogs and for Mr HS to come back once he’s settled them in. All well and good but that means I’ll be going back to London with all the stuff in the photo above. We should find out after the weekend what the final plan is. Maybe. To take our minds off the confusion, before dinner we had Cosmopolitan cocktails. I know they are a classic but I’d not had one until now. Very yummy.

Cheers!

This was followed by Thai green curry ON A PLATE! Things are looking up. I am being thoroughly spoilt by my hosts and I don’t (can’t) lift a finger. As I felt a (tiny) bit guilty I did the ironing that was there. I am assuming that any nasty germs I may have brought back from my travels were killed off by the heat of the iron. Seriously, I have no symptoms so I think we’re all safe.

Thai chicken curry

Day 8. Friday 27th March. I was taken to do a bit of food shopping for essentials by my host, in a farm shop with only three other customers. We all kept a healthy distance from each other. The choice was very good although as a farm shop they do not sell the new essential toilet rolls. That’s OK, if you look back at the first photo you’ll see I came prepared. As the house sitters had left for the airport, I then came home. Not a rapturous welcome from the dogs, more of a “oh, you’re here at last are you” shrug. Captain Catt (Polly) was a bit better.

Polly and me

So here I am, in splendid isolation, wondering what next week will bring. I’ll leave you with a quote from JRR Tolkien which is very apt for these times, although written with reference to the last two world wars.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I” said Gandalf, ” and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”. From The Fellowship of the Ring, the first in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and my thought for the day.

83. Life in The Time of Covid-19 (1)

I’m not sure I’ll be able to think of enough punning titles, hence the number. Most of the ones I had ready to use were related to sailing, oddly enough!

Day 0. Thursday 19th March 2020. I’ve mentioned this in Post 81 dated 20th March. Our wonderful driver Denis bought some essential supplies. We got to the flat and took an inventory of stores: one bottle gin, twelve cans tonic, nine bottles champagne (left over from John’s 70th birthday party), some Portuguese and Uruguayan wines bought to remember the first two Clipper stopovers. And the almost obligatory open bottle of sherry, in possibly every fridge in England, left over from some Christmas or other. Enough to drink then. Two tins sardines (another British favourite), one smoked oysters (to go with the champagne, dahling) and a bag of porridge oats. Plus two packets of biscuits from one of the boats.

Three tubes of toothpaste, shower gel, deodorant, shampoo. We will not be replicating Clipper fleet conditions, I’m glad to say. Twenty five toilet rolls. Lest you accuse me of being a hoarder (before we even knew there would be a run on them), let me explain. After I returned from Punta del Este I realised that, without a car, I would struggle to buy all the usual household items. I therefore ventured onto the computer and into the dark arts of online grocery shopping. Gosh, that was exciting! Long-life milk for when I arrived home on a 4.30 am flight, bottled water, washing powder and conditioner, toilet cleaner, and toilet rolls. When I came home the second time, after Cape Town, I was so impressed with my new-found ability that I ordered other stuff like biscuits and Earl Grey teabags and goats cheese. Unfortunately, I somehow managed to press some button that also repeated the whole of my first order. A big shock and embarrassment at the time but what a relief now. If necessary I can become a black market spiv and wander the streets of London with a loo roll hidden under each arm. Just imagine me being George Cole as Flash Harry in the original St Trinian’s film. Or James Beck as Private Walker in Dad’s Army if you’re too young for St Trinian’s. Whilst we’re all house bound, why not get the box sets? Innocent films for innocent times, although somewhat at odds with modern sensibilities.

Sorry, where was I? Ah yes, day 0. George went and did a bit of shopping and we coped with being stuck in a two bedroom flat with all the sailing paraphernalia of two Round-The-World sailors. Spread everywhere. Including the balcony and bedroom floor. Bought some lasagne meals from Cafe Society, at the bottom of the flats for supper.

Storage solution

Day 1. Friday 20th March. We unpacked and sorted stuff as best we could. Looked out at the view a lot. Did some exercises (George is taking this very seriously). Piano practice for both George and me. At 6 pm, it was announced that all pubs, restaurants etc would have to close until further notice, apart from doing takeaways.

Day 2. Saturday 21st March. I went down to Cafe Society and bought some cake to go with our afternoon tea. (There are scones in the freezer but we might need them in the future). The owner said he’ll stay open for the people in the building as long as he can. I suppose that technically I went outside, but only five paces. George went out to see what food he could find: there was a rumour that pubs would be selling off the surplus food they had bought in for Mothering Sunday this weekend but no trace was seen, all pubs locked up. He did very well though, one of the local supermarkets had enough for him to bring back food for a roast beef dinner. The only thing missing was Yorkshire puddings but we can survive. We ordered an Indian takeaway from Millbank Spice for our evening meal to celebrate, but as they didn’t deliver George had to pop out again. Exercises and piano practice.

JD exercising?

Day 3. Sunday 22nd March. Mothering Sunday. The first “event” that MBB have not missed since they set off last September! George gave me a card and mid-morning a box from the Hummingbird Bakery arrived, with a massive lemon and raspberry cake inside. What with slices of that plus the Sunday roast, you’d not think we were in lock-down. We skipped piano practice (sorry Caroline). All museums, galleries etc in London have closed. Typical, I’d bought memberships for the year. Even the London Eye has stopped. From the flat we could see a few people wandering around, nothing like the usual traffic but more than expected. The news showed queues of cars going to popular spots like Snowdonia and the beach.

Day 4. Monday 23rd March. Piano practice and exercises. We had a telephone conversation with our house sitters, who said they want to go back to the USA as soon as they can get their dogs certified fit for travel. We had resigned ourselves to remaining in London as we thought they’d want to stay in the depths of the country where they could bring up the drawbridge or batten down the hatches or whatever one does in deepest Somerset. Instead, we looked at going back imminently. George was happy with this decision as he was worried about going out and then bringing back infection whilst we were living in such close quarters.

Mother’s Day

JD had to find his car paperwork and get it back on the road. Although there’s a file called “car” it seems to have thrown out the logbook (actually one sheet of paper) in pique at being left alone. At 8.30 pm the PM came onto the TV (watched by 27 million people according to the statistics) and announced we would all have to stay at home. Not an order, but likely to become enforceable if we don’t start to be more sensible and “socially distance” ourselves. Would we be able to get home or would it be like The Philippines, with check points taking our temperatures and asking where we were going? If needed, we do have paperwork showing our home address.

And at this juncture I shall leave you for today. Will our intrepid adventurers manage to get home? Will the dogs and Captain Catt speak to them or sulk? Will Somerset be any different from London or will the pubs still be operating their own lock-ins (as opposed to lock-downs)? Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment.

Monday morning rush hour

82. Race 8 and 9 Results

There was no Race 8, it was combined with Race 7, but I don’t want anyone (including me in months to come) thinking I’ve missed something out. There are some random pictures from Subic Bay here. The header is Romeo calling Juliet, early one morning. I was too asleep to get the zoom to work so JD is tiny! The next few Posts will be rather limited I suspect, make the most of seeing these exotic shots.

Race 9 was Subic Bay to Subic Bay Number 2. As well as the main race, there were three Ocean Sprints along the triangular course with each boat being allowed to enter two of the three. There were no Scoring Gates and no Stealth mode. As you may have read, the race was stopped early due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. In addition, there was no prize giving or party (except on the boats stranded behind the gate during quarantine). Is it coincidence that this was also the only race where there was not a Dawson on the podium?

The last few Ocean Sprints have been announced during the prize giving ceremony. It has been pointed out by an eagle-eyed reader that I transposed the North and South Ocean Sprints from the last race (Race 7/8). The results stand but Qingdao and WTC entered the South and the rest of the fleet the North Sprint. This is what happens when your husband comes home unexpectedly and actually reads something you wrote. In addition, I have been informed that I need to give better links to my previous Posts when I refer back. As I’m under house arrest for a few weeks or months I might find time to do this. If you get update emails you can ignore them, this is all I’m doing (and possibly correcting typos).

Unicef arriving for the last time

This time, for Race 9, the Ocean Sprint results went out on the Clipper website after we had all flown home. Assuming I don’t get these muddled, the results were as follows. Ocean Sprint 1 was entered by eight boats, namely Seattle, Punta del Este (PdE), Ha Long Bay (HLB), Dare to Lead (DTL), Sanya, Qingdao, Unicef and Zhuhai. The winners were PdE three points for being the fastest, DTL two and Qingdao one.

Qingdao ditto

Ocean Sprint 2 was entered by seven boats: Imagine Your Korea (IYK), GoToBermuda (GTB), Seattle, WTC Logistics, HLB, DTL and Zhuhai. The winners were HLB (three points), GTB (two points) and Seattle (one point).

You should be able to work out who entered Ocean Sprint 3 from the names above but I’ll save you the brain work, we all have enough to ponder these days (where will I find the next toilet roll seeming to be the main issue of the day). Seven entries: IYK, GTB. WTC, PdE, Sanya, Qingdao and Unicef. Winners: IYK three points, Qingdao two points and PdE one point.

Managed to get the zoom working for George!

Adding all of these up we have seven boats gaining bonus points: PdE four, HLB, IYK and Qingdao three each, GTB and DTL two each and Seattle one point.

Now to the overall race: HLB were first over the line and scored eleven points, PdE second with ten, Sanya third with nine, Seattle fourth with eight, Unicef fifth with seven, Zhuhai sixth with six, WTC seventh with five, GTB eighth with four, DTL ninth with three, Qingdao tenth with two and IYK eleventh with one. Interestingly, for the last two races, the last over the line was first the time before. Relaxing too much? Also of interest was Qingdao, who not only missed a Mark and had to go back (see Post 80 dated 16th March 2020), but also misread the new finish line and so cruised over the correct one in the penultimate position.

Final meal in Subic Bay (thankfully)

To the final results for this year. There is a possibility of penalty points being issued for Legs 5 and 6 but what we know is that Qingdao are still at the top of the table with 102 points, HLB second with 91, PdE third with 74, Sanya fourth with 65, Unicef still fifth with 58, then IYK with 54, WTC and DTL both with 47, Zhuhai with 40, GTB with 39 and Seattle with 37.

Seen outside a church!

Next time: who knows? Nothing to do with boats I think but I do need to keep myself occupied. Maybe I’ll start spouting controversial opinions? Sharing my knitting patterns? Become an entertainment critic? Or just carry on as normal.

81. The Boys Are Back In Town

Spoiler Alert: don’t read the title of this Blog Post if you want to be surprised on what happened after Subic Bay. Oops, too late! Before I forget (again), the answer to the puzzle in Blog Post 79 from 14th March is: cashew. The nut can be glimpsed at the top of the fruit, looking a little like something the cat leaves behind when she eats her prey (for those of you with female cats). They are toxic when raw (cashews, not female cats).

You were expecting me probably to fly home on my own on 17th March, to see the fleet arrive in Seattle after they had sailed on 19th. However, soon after I had posted the previous Blog Post (on 16th), we were told that there would be a crew briefing at 10.30 am on 17th. Prior to the briefing, we woke to the news that Canada was in lock down and that no flights would be leaving Luzon Island (where Subic Bay is situated) after 19th March. All public transport was stopped from midnight and there would be a curfew until April 12th. This had only applied to Manila and we thought we were safe. At the crew brief, the fleet were told that everyone had to leave Luzon Island by 19th as there would be no international flights after that. The boats will be left in Subic Bay and the Race will restart in eleven months or so. Anyone remaining on the island would be quarantined until (at least) April 12th. In view of all these developments, all of the crew would be out of quarantine and off the pontoon by midnight at the latest. They had to book their own flights home but Clipper would organise buses to get everyone to the airports, and issue health certificates to allow them to travel. (This included me and Becca).

Out of quarantine, late on 17th

This meant that the odds on catching the Qatar flight I’d booked for us all was at risk (we would need to leave by three pm), so I re-booked a flight leaving from Manila a day later. This proved to be sensible when JD and George turned up to the hotel room just after 11 pm. We got all of their kit into the room, caught up with our news and managed to sleep from about 1 am to 5 am, when we had set an alarm. The buses were leaving the hotel at 7 am and there was no way we wanted to miss our transport.

Unicef crew waiting for the buses early on 18th

The hotel provided us with a takeaway “American” breakfast (cold sausage, cold fried egg and bread with some sort of jam). The buses turned up half an hour late: they were minibuses and we were allowed five per bus, sitting as far apart from each other as possible. As Becca and her husband were on the same flight as us we shared. Once all the fifteen or so buses were loaded up we set off in convoy with hazard lights flashing and an escort. First stop: the local filling station for fuel!

Checkpoint

The highway was closed so we spent the next hour or so slowly driving around the back streets of Olongapo. At about 10 am we stopped at a 711 store and managed to grab a coffee or snack and visit the restrooms. Part of our convoy had gone missing and the lead bus with the necessary paperwork was with the other part. There were a couple of check points where a masked police or army officer carefully leaned into the bus and took our temperatures.

Getting into Manila airport lunchtime 18th March

We arrived at Manila Airport around lunchtime to long queues trying to get inside, although they did move fairly swiftly. As our flight was not until late evening we could not drop our bags off: it didn’t actually matter as the shops were boarded up and there was nowhere to go. There were a few free seats so we managed to sit together. Once the next flight left and lots of seats become free, the police came along and told us we had to sit on alternate seats for social distancing.

Inside Manila Airport 18th March

Eventually we managed to check in our bags and go through to the lounge area. There was no sparkling wine so we had G&T in tankards instead. Better than nothing, although (I hate to say this, Barry) there was no ice and instead of lemon we had orange slices from the fruit salad. Further intrigue when we got to the gate. The three of us were pulled aside and our tickets and passports minutely examined before we were allowed to board the plane. This delay was explained when we arrived in Doha, shortly after midnight, to be greeted by a very friendly chap who told us our flight was full and would we mind catching one 65 minutes later? We were each offered 300 Euros compensation so said fine. (Note to self, do not forget to claim this!).

Doha Lounge early hours 19th March

After repairing to the Doha lounge (champagne available) and having breakfast we boarded the plane and were on our way to London. Huge sigh of relief. I’d arranged a car to pick us up. The driver very kindly asked if he could buy anything for us as there were shortages. He went to three different shops to find milk, bread and pasta. A driver I’ll continue to use and recommend! (He’s based in Chiswick if anyone near there needs a car).

Back in the UK 19th March

FINALLY, we made it back to the London flat. The streets are deserted, our local tube station Pimlico is closed and whilst I was writing this, all restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs etc etc have to close. I think Subic Bay and the heat is looking more attractive every hour! (Ignoring the food and lack of good wine and the fact that they too have closed all eating establishments).

London flat 20th March!

Next time, the Race results to date. Then I may go dark and maintain radio silence until the Race recommences, or I may continue with “Life in the Time of Coronavirus”. I’m not sure how much there is to write about deserted streets and the inability to socialise but we’ll see.