Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Fishing boat moored
Ionian sea, June 2014
We were on holiday and now we're back, have been back for a week or more, and where has all the blogging gone? It's gone to work, that's where, with five-day full-time working for three weeks and the realisation that I had taken my extra spare time for granted over the last five months. I'd got used to being able to play badminton on Monday and Tuesday and have a lie-in on Tuesday and Wednesday, thus allowing me to function when necessary at work for the remaining week.

Coming back from holiday on Sunday, then straight into full-time hours for a week has also reminded me how old I am. One of the very young badminton players (i.e. under 30!) was talking about where she would be going to party on her birthday after badminton finished on Tuesday at 9.30 p.m. It made me remember that I used to do that once. It was lovely being young, and the observation that youth is wasted on them is becoming a common refrain. And no young person has ever or will ever understand.

Saturday morning was the first opportunity for lie-in, and what time do you think I woke up? 6 a.m, that's what time. Birds singing, sun shining, bin lorries reversing, distant trains and nearby cars and even more nearby snoring. I finally gave in at 7 a.m.

Back to the holiday - it was in the Ionian sea off the coast of Greece, in a very large catamaran with four other friends, and we stopped off on the coast of Ithaca and Cephalonia and probably some other places. I wasn't paying attention, really - I wasn't in charge, and there was nothing much to see that was memorable or of historical note in any of the villages or towns we saw, except a couple of presentation boards in the town square of Stavros on the island of Ithaca, suggesting that Odysseus's palace had been found. We didn't go to the site, though. It wasn't that kind of holiday.

Golden sunset over the harbour

Instead we sailed, and while our friends Mr and Mrs Captain who have their sailing qualification did the driving, the rest of us sat in various shady (or sunny) corners of the boat and read books or surveyed the scenery. It was a great holiday for reading. I thought there would be more swimming, but the water was still fairly cold. I did swim twice, and was reminded how buoyant the sea is - I think the last time I swam in salt water would have been in the King Alfred baths in Brighton when I learned to swim as a child with Auntie Sylvia. You can just float if it all gets too tiring.

Mr A became a knot specialist. We were all expected to help with the mooring, which is the trickiest manoeuvre in a sailing holiday when you don't want your enormous catamaran to come into contact with any rocks, jetties or other boats. This is quite important, I came to understand, a bit like the importance on land of not coming into contact with railway bridges or other cars or, in the sky, with other aeroplanes. I'm quite confident with my half hitches and clove hitches, and I could do a bowline at a push, but by the end of the week Mr A could do a bowline upside down while suspended from the dinghy. He actually practised tying knots with his eyes closed.

Mr Captain did most of the steering and played with the sails when there was wind, Mrs Captain was in charge of the anchor, and my special skill turned out to be driving the dinghy, which is needed if you have to moor at a short distance from the shore because the mooring is too shallow for your enormous boat. I only had a couple of goes at it, but they went quite well. Our other two friends on board were in charge of swimming and smoking roll-ups if these were needed, which they mostly weren't. In fact, Mr and Mrs Captain did 90 percent of what needed to be done, Mr A did 5 percent (mostly knots) and the remaining three of us did virtually nothing. I did cook lunch twice, so that was a small contribution. The other two did quite a lot of washing up.

The other notable highlights of the holiday:
- The three male members of the party had become friends through their participation in various off road motorcycle events and rallies. They found it impossible to walk down any street without stopping at least 1000 times to look at and discuss some form of motorised transport. A seemingly ordinary conversation about, e.g. the merits of a hat could suddenly veer off into tales of foolhardiness on some desert rally in Africa.
- I found a Factor 50 suntan spray (called P20) that doesn't contain poison, doesn't smell like rotting vegetable matter, and works so well that on a day when my arms were exposed to the Ionian sun for the full eight hours I still looked as though I'd spent an overcast day walking in Scotland. I am tempted to write to the manufacturer. It was the day we rented scooters and whizzed about on the island of Ithaca: great fun. The disadvantage of the wonderful P20 is that weight for weight it costs more than gold.
- Greek salads. Every day. And lots and lots of reading.

Table and chairs on the sea front

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