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!)

76. Subic BayWatch

Let me rephrase my question from the earlier Post: if it were your husband / wife, would you go back to Subic Bay? Aha, you’re thinking differently now, aren’t you? As far as I can see, coronavirus (CV, like the fleet!) is now widespread across the globe. I was thinking of visiting a pal in Switzerland but they’ve got cases. The hospital across the river from me had all the London cases. Where is safe?

Well, when I look at the Race Viewer, it seems that Qingdao and Unicef both have a good chance of getting on the podium, so I’ve booked to go back in time for the prize giving on March 4th. Not that I wish to jinx them but if neither are on the podium blame me! Of course, the day before booking I’d gone out and bought a load of fresh food, so I’m now creating day bags for myself so that everything is eaten before I go.

Post 75 detailed some of the reasons not to go. I forgot to tell you about the wine. You all know how much I enjoy wine. Well, the choice in Subic Bay was red or white. If you were lucky, there was also premium red or white (although that never actually seemed to be in stock). There were some good times there though: Ha Long Bay (HLB) organised a pub quiz in aid of Unicef (the organisation not the boat, silly. Just because they were last didn’t mean they were a charity case!). Our team was very diverse: one supporter (me), one Qingdao crew (George), two Unicef crew (JD and Bruce) and two Clipper office staff (Sarah and Karla). If I tell you that the only round where we got full marks (thankfully) was “identify the member of the Clipper office from the photo” you’ll know we didn’t come near the top. (I really must have a lesson on how to take selfies, or get a wretched selfie-stick).

Dawson’s Clique team

We went into Olangapo, the main town attached to Subic Bay, to see a bit of SE Asia. They have buses (sort of) called Jeepneys which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve been on holiday there. I hadn’t so found them fun (to look at, I wasn’t going to risk using one). There’s one below somewhere. There were some lovely old buildings but in general the whole place was pretty rundown. In this picture you can see the electricity cables, all tangled up in one big mess.

An American we met in Airlie Beach told us not to go to Subic Bay, saying he’d worked there and it was like the Wild West. We didn’t really believe him, but then I saw this shack. Hmmm, maybe he had a point.

In my last Blog Post I mentioned Manuela, donated to HLB for their Nav Station. Before they set sail Josh very sheepishly confessed she’d not lasted the course: see his skipper blog of 26 February for more details. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/ha-long-bay-viet-nam/race7-day3-team43

Here’s a race update before I forget what this is all about. No-one played their Joker. I forgot to say there is no stealth, so keep watching Race Viewer to see how they are doing. Although it’s not much cop this race, partly because it’s a loop and partly because all the hills and islands interfere with the signal that’s beamed back to the office. Ignore the DTF (distance to finish) and look at the pretty picture at the top of the screen with the colourful counters. Regardless of the table below the picture, it does look as though our two (red Qingdao and mid-blue Unicef) are in the lead. I think the system is not able to distinguish whether they are heading out or back. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings

As this race is a loop, it does not count towards the circumnavigation so some RTWers have taken the opportunity to have medical issues checked out or to go and visit family where they’ve not seen them since the start of the race. To compete with my Unidao / Qingcef tee shirts, this race we have “Unizhu del Puhai Logistics“: Zhuhai has two crew borrowed from Punta, one from Unicef and one from WTC. GoToBermuda has two from Imagine Your Korea but have not (yet?) rebranded themselves “Imagine You’re Going to Bermuda” or “Go Imagine”. In the Ocean Sprint, Qingdao and WTC Logistics opted for the South sprint (heading south back to Subic Bay) but the other nine are all going for the North sprint (heading away from Subic Bay). Thus both WTC and Qingdao are guaranteed bonus points in this race. The rest will have to battle it out as usual. In contrast to the lean mean machines that are the Clipper yachts, the Philippines has bikes with side attachments that are used to transport the whole family or goods for the market. Here’s one.

All of this is on the bike!

73. Make A New Plan Sam

My flight to Sanya would have been on February 9th, maybe I would not have made it out of the country anyway as Storm Ciara was affecting transport across the UK. I booked my flight to Subic Bay for 13th February and have a flight coming back to the UK close to the end of February, but as yet (Wednesday 12th) we do not know where next nor when. If they go straight from Subic Bay to Seattle I’m all sorted, back to the UK in the interim. However, the latest update from Clipper says that crew changeover will be “either Zhuhai or a port outside China” on March 6th, a few days later than originally planned. I’m OK, I can afford to be flexible, but what about the poor souls planning to join their boats for the beginning of Leg 6? Where do they fly to? The coronavirus is changing plans for everyone.

The ETAs are up on the Clipper website, the first one on 8th February, it’s possible I’ll miss not only Qingdao and George (Thursday morning) but also Unicef and John arriving (Friday morning). Wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books? On the positive side, they’ll both have time for a shower before I see them. No news yet on the next stop so keep reading, I hope we’ll know before this is posted live.

The welcome beers they get on arrival

ETAs keep getting updated, it’s now Wednesday 12th and after all the excitement of the first boats possibly coming in today, the wind holes have appeared and currently the first ones (Visit Sanya China and WTC Logistics, sneaking along a different line and leaving Ha Long Bay and Qingdao standing) are due in on Friday morning. In all, six of the fleet are possibly arriving Friday morning, including Qingdao. Unicef, at current estimates, are due in on Saturday morning, so I should see them arrive. However, all is up for grabs so keep checking whilst I’m in the air and unable to update you. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/subic-bay-etas

I’ve had a few more get-togethers with pals whilst I’ve been in London and had two dogs to cuddle on different occasions. I received yet another email from JD. He’s so pleased to hear that I’ll be going to Subic Bay, could I just pop out and buy him…What did his last slave die of I ask! Despite this constant need (has he not heard of travelling lightly?) I have managed to get everything into one big case and one smaller one this time. I just hope that, wherever I travel to next, I won’t be needing warm clothes as they have all been left behind. I’ve emptied the fridge, paid all the bills, washed all the laundry and dishes so I’m ready to roll!

P.S. The change in plans referred to? Well all the above was written a few days ago so it’s already out of date and meaningless if you try to look at the fleet’s progress. They are all in port now. You’ll have to wait for blog post 74 for more details.

Glastonbury Tor? Or on the way to Subic Bay?

72. Just Another Manic Monday

Post 71 attracted more readers than ever before. Sorry folks if you thought I had the answer to what’s happening with the fleet. It’s like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to see where I get diverted to and have I enough fuel or time to get there? I’ve decided to get on with my life until we have firm news from Clipper on where the fleet are going to land up, then I’ll decide whether I’m going there as well (whether it’s possible as much as whether I want to).

What have I being doing, you ask? Apart from emails from the boss asking me to buy yet more socks, I’ve been enjoying London culture. I’m starting to have a routine: piano practice (yes honestly, but I had to start at my Grade 1 book again as I’d forgotten where Middle C was. Oops!) then a 15 minute or so walk in the fresh air. The Garden Museum is about that far and I love it. The latest exhibition is about the Royal Parks. I hadn’t realised that the pelicans have been in St James’ Park since 1664, a present from the Russian ambassador. Nor that there were piggeries in Hyde Park and potato fields in Richmond and Bushy Parks during World War II. It may yet happen again now that we need to be self-reliant and not rely on imported food.

Parade of Sail, Sydney Harbour, New Year’s Eve

After my walk it’s a free day. So far I’ve been to see Touching the Void play and Mitsuko Uchida play (and conduct) Mozart at the Royal Festival Hall. These were both amazing. I’ve had six days where I’ve met up with pals, some pre-existing and some from Clipper. I’ve had a hair cut and done a bit of shopping for JD (oh, have I already mentioned that?). I have had a complete blank in my diary for three days of the first fortnight back. Bliss! The laundry and shopping don’t do themselves (although I’m working on it. Anyone want to be my valet?).

If you’ve read the book or seen the film of Touching the Void you must wonder how on earth they managed to put it on stage. It was visually fascinating, set in a pub with imaginative use of tables and chairs up the theatre sides as climbing walls. On one part, where they were falling into the crevasse, they were lying on tables facing the audience but it looked as though they were falling down into the darkness. It’s soon to finish but if you have time to spare then it’s well worth the trip to London. Very intense though so be prepared.

View from my seat (before the performance)

The other performance, at the Royal Festival Hall, you can’t see, although you might be able to see a similar performance. Mitsuko Uchida, DBE, who will be 71 this year, is a highly talented classical pianist and is currently the Artistic Partner of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Here they played Mozart’s Piano Concertos 17 and 22: she conducted the orchestra from her piano as well as playing. The music was sublime, I bought my seat at the last minute and I’m sure it was one of the best in the hall. It made me realise that my piano playing is like painting-by-numbers versus Manet or Turner. If you think she merely played the score as written, then I found out that Mozart played a lot of his own music and often didn’t leave a proper score to follow. The concert was about two hours but I could have listened all night. It’s not music you hum along to like Abba or Queen (well, I don’t) but you get lost in it when they’re playing. One thing I’ve yet to work out: the drummer (sorry, percussionist) kept resting his nose gently on the drums. Testing for vibrations? Answers on a postcard please (or via the comment section of this blog).

View from my seat (after the performance)

Talking of the comment section, thank you to all who commented either this way or off line to say how relieved you were that I’m not going to China. The trip was preying on my mind so I’m glad the decision was made for me by the FCO.

I guess at some stage I need to mention the Race. They are now through the Doldrums Corridor and have passed over the Equator again so are back in the Northern Hemisphere. Those new leggers who had not crossed the Equator (pollywogs) had a visit from King Neptune and all are now shellbacks. I still don’t know how tadpoles become turtles, must be something to do with evolution. However, the Trade Winds have not yet appeared (Sunday night) so if you look at Race Viewer they seem to be milling around with no obvious line of sail. (If you’ve forgotten where to find this, go to https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings and click on the windsock to see wind speeds (or lack thereof)). Blue is bad and has been there for days. A few boats have been in or are in Stealth mode. The boredom on the boats has been relieved by them playing Assassin, not a game I’d come across but a bit like Cluedo. Each crew member has a weapon, a place and a fellow member to murder. If successful, you get the victim’s “cards” and so have another murder to commit. I guess you need to be in an enclosed space to play it well.

Which way should we go?

The Scoring Gate has been passed and the results are: Ha Long Bay (HLB) three points, WTC Logistics two points and Dare to Lead (DTL) one point. This is great for DTL as it’s their first bonus point. It’s not so great for Qingdao as HLB is now only two points behind them. It’s getting exciting!

…It’s now the Manic Monday of today’s title. I started off with trying to sort out finances. Having gone to the bank on Friday without some of the documents I needed, I went back today with everything, I thought. All went well until he asked “security” questions like what direct debits had been cancelled in the last year and when did I open the business account (I didn’t even know I had one). After an hour all seemed to be sorted but I now need to investigate this business account, apparently it has money in it!

Are we there yet?

That wasn’t the real manic bit though. At 1300 today, the Clipper office announced that the fleet would not be going into Sanya (think we’d worked that one out) but they WILL be going into Subic Bay early and staying there for “a minimum of nine days”, with the arrival window estimated to start on 13th February. NEXT WEEK! Much liaison between supporters as it’s recommended you don’t stay alone out there. Yes, dear reader, I’m about to be your foreign correspondent again, not from China though. I managed to get the last room in a hotel close to Subic Bay marina. Also, the fleet now have a bit of orange and red to the winds so should speed up. Just not too fast please, I need to be there first. You’ll also see that the race end has been updated to Subic Bay.

If you’ve read enough from me, here’s a crew diary from Angie that mentions JD’s culinary skills. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1046 and one from the man himself https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1048

Philippines, here I come!

67. Another Day of Sun

So here I am in Airlie Beach. As I’ve been too lazy to post for a while, here’s a whistle-stop tour of the rest of our stay in Sydney.

A good thing to do in a new city is to ride the hop-on, hop-off bus. You see the sights, get a feeling for the geography, know how to find the places that sound interesting and end up where you started so you can’t get lost. Unless, of course, the bus is so full that you might as well be on a rush-hour London tube. In which case you cannot hear the commentary and you can’t see the buildings around you. We had planned to get off at the Powerhouse Museum purely because it was the first stop that had a cafe and we had skipped breakfast. We are so glad we did, after sustenance we went into the museum (which is being closed and / or moved to a less convenient location). It was free and full of good design icons, including the first train in Australia (Train Number One).

There was an exhibition of fashion by Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson. I feel embarrassed to confess I’d not heard of them as they had such an influence in the 1970’s and I have a number of knitting patterns that were obviously inspired by them. They had been based in the UK for a while and as well as knitted garments had the most awe-inspiring dresses. We actually went around twice, partly because my camera had decided not to take photos but also because we could. If you are in Sydney before March 22nd (when the exhibition ends) then go.

Back on the bus, we eventually managed to get a seat and plug in our earphones. Despite this being January 2020 and thus after Christmas, the sound track, when we were not being told about stuff (mostly how new luxury apartments were being built in previously run-down areas), was CHRISTMAS MUSIC! AAARGH!

Moving on. We had some great meals, Intermezzo in the GPO building, Cafe Sydney in the Customs House (still in use) and Gowings restaurant in the old Gowings Department store (a lovely old Art Deco place) to name a few. It seems that most of the restaurants are in buildings that previously had another function. Not just the restaurants either: the Conservatoire of Music was originally built as stables. I know this from reading Mrs. M by Luke Slattery, a novel based (loosely) on the life of Elizabeth MacQuarie, the wife of Lachlan MacQuarie, the last Governor of New South Wales. There’s a stone “seat” in the Royal Botanic Garden that she sat on to look at the view. Val is recreating the scene below. A good read if you’re looking for a new book to while away a few hours. It was recommended by Fiona, who will be sailing on Punta del Este.

We met Fiona at the Art Gallery of NSW and saw a small exhibition of paintings by Ben Quilty, a local artist who had been to Afghanistan as a war artist. His art was incredibly powerful, not just the war veterans he painted after they had returned but also his Rorschach paintings depicting local atrocities. Although the inspiration for these was of disturbing episodes in Australia’s past, the artwork itself was stunning.

Ben Quilty

Having been to the Opera on New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a tour of the Opera House. Very interesting even though we did not do the back stage tour. Our guide Peter turned out to have been one of the architects involved in the building when he had just qualified. You can’t get much closer than that, on a par maybe with being shown around Robben Island in Cape Town by one of the former political prisoners. We then walked around The Rocks, which had been an area of ill-repute in the past and saw the Ovation of The Seas, the largest cruise ship that visits Sydney. it can take around 5,000 passengers and looks at first glimpse like a block of flats.

We donated some funds to the NSW Firefighters, all volunteers and working in almost impossible conditions, and felt lucky that we had not suffered any ill effects whilst in Sydney. We are blown away by the number of shops in the CBD, there’s a veritable underground city of them. You go down one escalator, wander around, come up another and have no clue how you ended up where you are. The bookshop where I bought Mrs. M fills a whole floor of one part. On our last night we ventured out of the city to have dinner at Coogee.

Sydney artwork

The next day we said our farewell to the city and flew up to Proserpine for transfer to Airlie Beach. On arrival there was a smattering of raindrops but nothing since. It is such a relaxing place we’ve done very little: walked to the marina to work out where the fleet will come in, done our laundry and bought a few snacks for when John and George arrive, met a few other Clipper people and mooched around generally.

The Opposition: Punta del Este supporters and Fiona

It’s now Friday in Australia, my birthday, and NEITHER of my boats are here, due in Saturday or Sunday. We won’t know the Ocean Sprint results until prize giving (Sunday) so I don’t think I’ve any sailing news. The various boats have gone into Stealth, wallowed in wind holes, turned around and confused us all with their movements.

63. I Am Off To A Land Down Under!

Although I understand there are no certainties in sailing so maybe I should title this I hope I’m off…

A reader in Singapore! Welcome! Well I guess they may have read one entry and decided enough is enough, but who knows. My blog is going around the world.

I fled London on Saturday to go to Macclesfield to celebrate Keith’s birthday. You saw Keith in Cape Town, he’s one of the three bearded musketeers. I was lucky enough to have a window seat on the way up, except they seemed to have forgotten the window. We had a great evening though, 25 of Keith’s family and friends at Plum Kitchen. It looks like a sandwich bar but has a top chef who decided London was not for him. Lucky Macclesfield!

My window seat

On Monday Clipper published the first ETAs for Fremantle. As all eleven feature, the missile practices mentioned in Post 62 must have missed the fleet. I think George is going to beat me, he’s due in on Saturday morning (local Perth time) and I’m not leaving London until Saturday night. So much for my plan to arrive the first day of the arrival window to make sure I don’t miss them, they are likely to be two days before! Unicef, due to their emergency medical dash, are not due in until 18th, three days before the next race start. Before I leave I’ll update you on the situation, at the bottom of this Post.

Keith’s family at Plum Kitchen

If you want to catch up with John, he’s actually had a diary printed, here it is: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/698 which although dated 2nd December did not appear until 4th, so you may have missed it.

Now officially announced, the race finish will be at Royal Albert Dock on August 8th 2020. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/royal-albert-dock-confirmed-as-race-finish-partner-for-unforgettable-finale

This week has been one for Stealth mode. First Qingdao then Ha Long Bay then Imagine Your Korea then WTC Logistics then GoToBermuda. They’ve lost the wind so I guess they are hoping to sneak around the other boats.

Stowaway

The rest of my week in London was taken up with my Chinese visa application, finances and meeting up with pals. I hadn’t realised how much financial stuff John handled until he gave it all to me to sort out. Every time I return there seem to be more bills. To counteract all of this I have walked around London: Pimlico to Parliament to Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus one day, stopping to have lunch at Thai Square with Stephen, an ex-work colleague. Also to the other end of Pimlico to have dinner at La Poule au Pot (where I used to go when I lived in London in my youth) with one Clipper pal and to Victoria to have lunch at Browns with another Clipper pal (not on the same day). Another day, around the City of London, partly because I turned the wrong way out of the Tube on my way to a meeting and was 15 minutes late instead of (as planned) 15 minutes early. Oops.

This time packing, I remembered my toiletries before I sealed the case. As Australia has very strict import rules I removed the cat you see above from my case and left her in Macclesfield. I also, regrettably, left behind my Earl Grey teabags as they are not allowed either. Will I survive? I can probably buy them there. I hope. If the next blog post is unexpectedly ratty you’ll know they don’t sell them in Oz.

Spot my clothes!

Once again I was asked by Clipper supporters to take things out for the crew. As they will be at sea for both Christmas and New Year, this mostly consisted of Christmas presents and celebratory items. I have a small (artificial) Christmas tree in one case with a few presents and cards as well as Santa hats, beards (like they need THOSE), elf hats etc. In the other are two boxes of New Year fripperies, as you can see above. I have now decided that I am not taking anything else for anybody to any other destinations. For the last two trips I would have managed with one case for myself, more to the point I don’t think there are any other celebrations due. No point taking Easter eggs, they’ll only smash on the way then melt.

At Keith’s party the talk around me was obviously of Clipper. To try to get into the mood we decided to eat leaning at 45 degrees. As we weren’t sure which way to lean we tried both. I prefer my way of travelling thank you very much.

Heeling to Port?
And starboard. Or vice versa,

I think I’m ready for my six-week Australian adventure. I’m leaving London at about 10C and getting to Perth at about 35C. Even though I’m arriving very early at the start of the arrival window, I’ll arrive after the first four or five boats. It changes hour to hour so you’ll need to check the Race Viewer https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings every hour, but the first three (Qingdao, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam and Imagine Your Korea) could conceivably arrive before I’ve even left the UK. Not only will I miss giving George and pals a big hug as they come in but I’ll then have another ten days before John and Unicef are predicted to arrive. To cheer us up, here’s John’s pennant on display, I see it every time I go to bed.