Monday, May 28, 2018

Classic Cars

Came across three of my favourite classic cars on a walk in the countryside yesterday...

... and a couple of dream cars in a mall last week...

The Cotswolds - Artistry in Stone

We’ve come to Tetbury in the Cotswolds to spend a few days with Pen’s cousin Paul. I’ve been aware of the picturesque reputation of the region for years, but have never visited. This week we’re suddenly immersed in it, not just passing through but actually living in one of the historic stone homes that dot the region. Best let some pictures do the talking...

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Reality Check

Whoops! Guess I spoke too soon. Yesterday we spent an afternoon in the Brent Cross shopping mall. While it’s true that British business men both young and old appear to be very fit and svelte, the mall demographic was more representative of the average body type. None-the-less my observations in the CBD have stuck with me and I remain determined to firm up my mid section for the long haul.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No beer guts please - we’re British

During our first foray into the bustling London metropolis, I was immediately struck by the preponderance of straight-backs, tight abs and perfectly fitted tapered shirts of the men-about-town - both young and middle-aged. Of course the city swarms with tourists, who far outnumbered locals at our Piccadilly Circus destination. But the locals are easy to spot at a hundred paces. On this warm summer day they are mostly clad in smart suits or slacks with their ‘modern fit’ shirts hugging their modern, fit, bodies. They stride confidently among the throngs of punters, brief cases swinging nonchalantly at their sides.

There has been some kind of revolution here since I last visited 20 years ago. No more beer guts; no more fish and chip guts; no more flab. I found myself instantly inspired to suck in my own protuberance, brace back my shoulders and do my best to walk tall. I was reminded of the striking appearance of Prince Phillip, just a few days before and a few hundred meters away, at 96 walking proudly ramrod straight to his place an his grandson’s wedding ceremony, just weeks after hip surgery.

There appears to be a new 21st century element to the old British “stiff upper lip”. I’m inspired to adopt their “stiff upper back” as well. And whatever gym tricks they’re using to achieve such notable results!

Arborarium Extraordinaire!

An early morning ramble down Southside Road, Inverness, set me to contemplate the early history of this leafy lane. At first I was struck by the beautiful heritage stone homes, from cozy cottages to grand mansions, mostly set behind bulky stone walls. Then I began to notice the exotic gardens and an incredibly diverse collection of trees and shrubs from around the world. 

Western Yew?

How could it be, I wondered, that in one tiny corner of this historic town, so many plants “from away” were thriving here in the northern reaches of Scotland. Towering over one  particular front garden was a massive Douglas Fir, as big as the monster that sits at the top of our driveway on Vancouver Island. Just below it, a Canadian Red Cedar and a Broad Leaf Maple. This signature ‘Canadian Corner’ had obviously been planted by someone celebrating another time and place. A little further on, at the intersection of Southside Road and Old Edinburgh Road, I found a thriving Eucalyptus, emblematic of my other motherland. Many of the exotic trees I spotted were beyond my limited knowledge, but obviously imported from far away.

Douglas Fir

When I asked John Ridgway about my discovery later in the day, he explained that this part of town had originally housed wealthy tea plantation owners who had obviously returned home with seeds and seedlings in memory of their oversees adventures. (My discoveries would suggest that there were maybe a couple of fur traders and perhaps a couple of ex convicts living among the tea planters!)


My entrepreneurial spirit led me to contemplate an interesting hobby-job. How fascinating it would be, with an arborist’s assistance, to estimate the age of a sampling of the more exotic Southside Road trees and shrubs, then research the titles of the related homes to determine who the likely planters were. One could then develop a walking tour of this beautiful neighbourhood, merging its history and biology. Hmmm... Maybe I should initiate a franchise of the concept, with the proceeds funding our next visit to Scotland!

Crown Deli, Inverness

Jet lag eased me out of bed at 5.30 AM the morning after our reunion celebration, so I snuck off to explore the historic neighborhood of the Corriegarth Hotel. Surprised to discover the tiny Crown Deli open for business at 6.00 AM on a Saturday, I peaked inside to spot my favourite appliance at that time of day - an espresso machine! “Any chance of a coffee at this time of day?” says I. Roddy Morrison the owner said not a word, but turned briskly to his shiny machine and deftly set about the daily ritual I generally enjoy at home.

Roddy’s tiny wedge-shaped corner deli specializes in custom catering of home style Scottish delicacies, several of which were already well underway. Roddy rolls out of bed at 3.00 am and after a short walk to work, commences preparing ingredients for the day’s orders by 3.30 AM.

I guess my strange blended accent made it obvious that I was “from away”, so we chatted about Vancouver Island and Tasmania. Roddy had two relatives who’d migrated to Tasmania, and I had a Morrison friend years back, so we easily found a mutual Tasmanian connection. While one of Roddy’s relatives had remained in Tassie, the other returned home only to drown in the River Clyde!

After a pleasant chat in the time it took to make my coffee, Roddy set me on my way for a delightful morning walk, which I’ll describe in my next post. However on my return to the Corriegarth an hour and a half later, I popped back into the Crown Deli to secure two more lattés for Pen & me. A lovely start to my day!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Reunion Celebrations

  Photo: Tony Dallimore 

Well the past couple of months of planning and preparation culminated in a marvelous gathering of Whitbread crew mates and partners in Inverness, Scotland May 18-19

To kick off the celebrations, five crew and partners gathered for lunch at the historic Corriegarth Hotel on Friday May 18. 

Mid-afternoon, John and Marie-Christine Ridgway hosted a delightful garden party at their charming cottage on the banks of the Ness River, replete with champagne, fresh strawberries and cream.

It was here that we presented John and MC with a gift expressing our gratitude for the adventure of a lifetime - a photograph printed on canvas capturing a constant  Southern Ocean companion, the Wandering Albatross.

Our evening celebration included an excellent 3 course meal at the Corriegarth, interspersed with a few surprises. 

In December 1977 during our stop-over in Auckland, Paul McCartney launched his recording “Mull of Kintyre”. Someone brought the tape aboard and it promptly became our theme song for the remainder of the voyage. The significance of the song for us all lay in the fact that the Mull of Kintyre was the last prominent headland to be rounded on the final leg of our return voyage to Ardmore on the north west tip of Scotland. 

With a little help via the Web, I  commissioned 17 year old champion piper Angus MacFee to enter our dining room playing Mull of Kintyre. It was a delightful moment to watch the faces of my crew mates as they first heard the pipes in the distance, then recognized the tune, and finally came to the realization that Angus had actually come to pipe for our celebration.

In sealed envelopes at each couple’s place-setting were lyrics for the song, so after the initial grand entrance we all joined the pipes in a lusty rendition of our forty year old theme song.

The next surprise arrived immediately afterwards, as our hostesses Bella and Maya were piped into the room carrying bottles of Fonseca Bin 27 Port and copies of The Fonseca Story. 

During the race, Fonseca sponsored us with numerous cases of their fine vintage port, which became the staple of our daily “happy hour”. At each port of call, a fresh pile of cases would await us on the dock ready for the next leg.

Through their London agent Mentzendorff, Fonseca generously sent a case of Bin 27 to our reunion, plus 8 copies of their beautiful coffee table book celebrating the history of the company. We all signed the books as a record of the gathering, also honouring our piper and hosts with their own signed copies.

After dinner we gathered around a screen for a slide show. Each couple had been invited to submit 10 photos capturing some of their favorite memories of the past 40 years. Crew member Tony Dallimore has continued his lifelong passion for photography which first blossomed during the race. Tony compiled our joint photo collection into a delightful and very professional presentation, with each crew member narrating their own set. It was a great way to round out the evening, accompanied by tea and desert.

The following morning we reassembled for breakfast, continuing to recount numerous memories of our shared adventure around the world, blended with family stories from the past 40 years.

The icing on the cake happened at 11.30 am May 19 when our friends Colin and Ana Ladd,  Penny and I dropped in to bid John and MC farewell before driving back to Aberdeen. The TV coverage of Harry and Megan’s wedding had just commenced and John and MC insisted that we join them for the occasion. Armed with a bottle of Fonseca Bin 27 to toast the happy couple, we settled into a comfy circle with our crew-mates once again, to take in the television spectacle of the year.

In addition to compiling the magnificent reunion slide show, Tony acted as official reunion photographer. By the time he arrived home from his 7 hour train journey from Scotland, Tony had edited and posted a great record of our gathering. 

In 1977-78, Tony captured a fabulous set of images of our adventure, topped up with a few from other sources. View that collection here:
Out of respect for Tony’s private Flickr account, please don’t forward either of these links.

Cap’n John, Mate M-C, Pen and Pete - Inverness 19/5/18

Sunday, May 13, 2018

40th Anniversary Crew Reunion

For the past few months, I’ve reconnected with ten of our Whitbread Race crew. We’ve remained in touch with five through the years, but tracking down the other five took a fair bit of online sleuthing. Once the connections were made, Pen and I decided that the 40th anniversary warranted a reprise of the 20 year reunion we organized in 1998. That was celebrated  aboard English Rose VI at Ardmore, Scotland, where the whole adventure began. 

After canvassing the group, we finally settled on May 18-19, gathering at the Corriegarth Hotel, Inverness, Scotland. Seven of our crew plus our partners will gather to reminisce over lunch, dinner and brunch. Pen & I will also meet with our Southern Ocean navigators, Tom Woodfield OBE who piloted us safely from Cape Town to Auckland (via the Antarctic pack ice) and Alan Green, longtime Secretary of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, who piloted us from Auckland to Rio via Cape Horn. That gathering will take place over lunch at the London HQ of the RORC.

On Wednesday May 16, Pen & I fly Victoria - Vancouver - London - Aberdeen, on the first leg of our journey. Check back for a re-cap of our celebrations!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Whitbread Round the World Race

The first Whitbread Round the World Race (now the Volvo Challenge) took place in 1973-74. When the fleet pulled into Cape Town South Africa, I was mate aboard the 50' cutter Active, built in Hobart Tasmania, 1947 (a good year!). As sailing instructor with the Offshore Sailing School, I spent 6 days a week living aboard, teaching mostly South African and Rhodesian businessmen 'the ropes'. Just by chance, at the time of the Whitbread fleet stop-over, Active was moored at the Cape Town Yacht Club for some refit work, so for a couple of weeks I was enveloped in the atmosphere as crews and supporters readied the yachts for their foray into the Great Southern Ocean. Exciting times!

When the fleet sailed out of Cape Town heading for Auckland, Penny & I drove onto the lower slopes of Table Mountain to view the start and share a picnic lunch. Sitting there in our VW Beetle, Pen turned to me and said "You'd love to be out there wouldn't you!" I raised my eyebrows and grinned.

Unbeknown to me, in advance of the second Whitbread Race in 1977, Pen wrote to the organizing committee at the Royal Naval Sailing Association to enquire about getting a crew position. (By this time we were living in London.) Pen was told that the RNSA kept a list of wannabe crew members, made available to skippers on request. I sent off an application and resumé, and thought no more about it until, out of the blue, a letter from British Adventurer John Ridgway. I've never forgotten his opening line: "Dear Peter, We are looking to stiffen up our foredeck crew for the Whitbread Round the World Race..." Of course my heart leapt! I subsequently joined about a dozen other invitees for a week long try-out at the John Ridgway School of Adventure at Ardmore, Scotland. Somehow I was the lucky bloke, thus beginning the adventure of a lifetime.

Our crew ready for the adventure of a lifetime, August 1977

Departing The Solent, August 27, 1977.                         Photo - Beken of Cowes

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gardening in the Bush

When we started the blog a year ago, it was intended to provide us with a site to share a few travel experiences and pictures. Once we returned home to Vancouver Island in April, we hung up our backpacks and quit blogging. We'd drawn up a long list of home improvements to occupy our time and didn't see the point in sharing our everyday chores. I also decided to quit my brief foray into Facebook. Now with Christmas just around the corner, the blog seems like a reasonable place to connect once again with family and friends, share a few pictures and stories of some of the highlights of our year and send warm holiday wishes to all. This post shares some of our gardening efforts.

Raised Bed Mk 1
Mk III with refined legs

During a restless night in Vietnam in March, I turned my mind to our plans for a vegetable garden when we returned home. Raised beds are a popular way to garden these days, so my initial plan was to build traditional wood framed beds on the ground. Then it occurred to me that I could save our knees and backs by raising the beds right off the ground to waist height. At first I envisioned wooden legs, but realizing that they would be likely to rot fairly quickly, I decided the legs should be steel. This led to further scheming to incorporate a cold frame support into the legs, thus providing us with a poor man's greenhouse. In our setting in the bush, we also have to keep deer out of our garden, so the cold frame would do double duty as a frame for deer netting. The results are pictured at left.

When we cleared a space in our acre of bush for our house 32 years ago, we used some of the huge Douglas Fir trunks as a retaining wall for our back yard. These had rotted away pretty badly over the past few years and I'd looked forward to replacing them with a proper stone wall as one of my first retirement projects. The last job I ever did with my dad was to build a 6' red granite retaining wall in Coles Bay, Tasmania. The skills I learned on that project quickly returned. $50 worth of field stones from a local farmer plus loose rock I'd
Wall and deer fence
stockpiled provided enough material for a wall 40' long by 3' high.

While I enjoy building the garden beds and walls, Penny is the real gardener. As well as planting our raised beds and newly fenced plot at home, she also established a large garden on friends property a few miles away. The advantage of that property is that it enjoys all day sunlight, unlike our wooded acreage that gets a peep of sun for just a few hours during the summer. Between the 2 gardens, Pen managed to raise an excellent crop of potatoes, carrots, lettuce, beets, beans, peas, chard, kale, tomatoes, parsnips, peppers and egg plant. Our most self sufficient summer ever!