I keep thinking, I really must write our blog, then a few more weeks go by. So I thought I’d best catch up, in brief, otherwise any peruser will be asleep wading through adventures, non-adventures, upheavals and settled-down-to-rest bits. A few events took place all at once and I thought at the time, if I wrote this as a script for a soap opera, it would be thrown out as too fantastical.
Our last blog featured mishaps and vandalism to Distant Drum at Ha’penny Pier. After many months of wrangling with our insurers, she was repaired beautifully at Fox’s Marina in Ipswich and was relaunched in time for this years Ostend at Anchor Festival. The little bastards who had untied her ropes, causing all the external damage, were all caught and questioned by the police. Two of them were let off with a caution as the third admitted total responsibility, and no remorse. He failed to turn up to his court hearing and at the second hearing date ended up with a £20 fine and a four month youth offending order. I felt really sorry for the copper who had worked so hard to bring the little bastard to justice. The damage caused by his actions ran into the thousands, and our insurance premium increased by £200. Ce la vie! As to the salt water damage, we keep finding niggling things to repair. The generator is the main victim. We were very happy that the insurers have so far been helpful and relatively straightforward to deal with.
Before and after repair, with a couple of shots of Boris for good measure!
In January my mum was rushed into hospital with congestive heart failure, which she survived. I helped dad get the house ready for her coming home and dad wisely engaged Maxine, who had been taking mum out once a week for a couple of years, to become their ‘house-keeper’ as he realised he couldn’t cope looking after mum on his own, and she was too unwell for a few weeks following her scare.
Then in early February we had a fortnight’s notice that Clive’s double heart bypass operation was at last scheduled for the 19th. This major op was bumped one day to the 20th and turned out a triple bypass. It was a scary time, especially the day of the operation. He finally came round at about 8 in the evening, though heavily sedated. It was horrible seeing him so distressed, bruised, bashed around, beaten up, sternum jigsawed in half and wired together and yet he is alive, thankfully, with a rebooted heart which will likely outlive all the rest of him. I don’t think his blood can believe how fast it can now whizz round his body, a veritable rollercoaster of a ride. It’s four months later and we’ve yet to have the follow-up with his surgeon, though he’s doing really well, still in a deal of pain and as I already said, alive! It’s incredible what they can do nowadays…
Clive’s arm after an artery was removed for the bypass. I daren’t post pictures of his chest, OUCH!
I got Clive home from Papworth on the evening of the 27th February, just before the blizzards hit. The last hour of our journey was thick snow tumbling down from a dark sky making the A120 into a scary skate-rink. Towing a caravan, my accommodation whilst in Cambridgeshire, added to my sense of unreality.
Sweeping our street with a couple of my neighbours after the first night of snow, and the car park outside the Thai. We gave up trying to clear the snow after three nights. It’s not a lot compared to other countries, however we don’t have the mechanisms to deal with it because it normally melts within a few hours.
Five days later my father died, unexpected apart from his 89 years. I couldn’t leave Clive who needed pretty constant support the first fortnight. My older brother Tim had driven over to Cheltenham Hospital to see dad as soon as mum had rung him to say he’d been rushed in that morning. Dad didn’t want any fuss and sent Tim off to look after mum. He died about an hour later. Shortly after Tim had got to Broadway the hospital rang to ask him and mum to go in – never good news. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t help or be there. It’s a four hour journey so I wouldn’t have made it there anyhow. Both my brothers were marvellous, taking up the gauntlet of support.
Dad and mum taken by Lake Tarawera in New Zealand when they came out to find me after my three years travel a few years ago (I love this shot) and 89 years ago my dad just a little baby with his big brother Peter
Four days later on 7th March it was mum’s 90th birthday and Tim & Guy were both in Broadway, taking mum for lunch when she got a phone call from her doctor’s surgery to tell her she has breast cancer. We were all furious. Couldn’t they have waited a few days at least? Her husband of 63 years had just died, it was her 90th birthday, I couldn’t believe it, especially when they weren’t phoning to tell her there was an appointment at the hospital the next day – the appointment they gave her wasn’t until June for crying out loud. We found out a week later she was to go on tablet treatment. By this point we invoked BUPA to get her seen far more urgently. Her heart is still not right and with the cancer too she is on an embarrassment of drugs. So we’re taking each day as it comes and thankfully Maxine has taken on the role of ‘house-keeper’, seeing mum for a few hours each day. She is great at getting mum to go out every now and again, especially as cream tea season has now started.
With help from two friends Duncan and George we sailed to the Ostend at Anchor Festival in Belgium on 10th May. A cracking event once again and a great thing for Clive to do as he was beginning to go stir crazy with the healing process from the operation. Sue and Howard were there already as were Julie and Keith who had saved a space for us with their little boat Maryll.
A cutter coming in to the harbour at Ostend behind us, followed by two shots of DD in situ, one with Maryll tucked beside us
After a weekend of celebrating boats, ships and all things sea related, Duncan, Julie and I headed to Hook of Holland to get our ferry home on the Monday 14th May. I had my first Reflexology exam the next day and the others had work commitments. A suicide on the tracks at Rotterdam set our travel plans awry causing us to miss our ferry (by at least three hours). On realising there was no way we could reach Hook in time, we changed our tickets to the overnight crossing. My plans for completing my revision aboard the afternoon crossing went down the North Sea with the fish, sigh. Instead I did my best between boarding at 7.30pm and hitting the hay at about 11pm, arising at 5am ready to disembark in Harwich at 6am. I wearily arrived at college in time for the exam at 10.30 and to my absolute amazement scored 84%.
I remained at home a further week to sit the second and final exam where I was able to complete all the revision I needed, reading everything through for the third time. The second paper had much harder questions, however I got 90%, YAY! I found this out on the ferry back to Holland on the Tuesday night, heading back to Ostend and Clive, towing two new pumps, binoculars and all sorts across Holland and Belgium, reaching Distant Drum by 1.30pm on the 23rd.
Antwerp station (which is really impressive) and graffiti en route to Ostend from Roosendaal
We took a trip to Bruge the following day, a beautiful old town, one which unusually wasn’t bombed to hell and back during WW2.
Some random shots taken round Bruge including Clive at the oldest pub in town, plus the last picture some whacky sculptures on the beach at Ostend. The whale sculpture is made out of plastic pulled up from the sea in fishermen’s nets
Keith very kindly came down to meet us in Ostend on the Friday and helped us sail up to Middleburg in Holland the next day. This involved hugging the coast to Vlissingen and getting through the lock gate in the Wester Schelde Estuary between the North Sea and the River Schelde, just in time for the Blue Wave. This is a process of timing the opening of all the bridges to enable vessels to pass down the river, scheduled once every 2 hours west to east, and east to west on a separate two hourly timetable. This ensures minimal disruption to the flow of traffic and people along the seven mile stretch to Middleburg. This involved dashing madly from one bridge to the next, then slowing and waiting for the next one to lift, etc, etc.
We caught the train one day to see Keith at Bergen Op Zom and apart from this enjoyed a week’s continued resting before Duncan came out to help us sail home again.
Bog Watch (is back!)
Ostend has very pleasant bathrooms, however the ladies shower block was exactly that, blocked off. I didn’t worry as we have a shower aboard DD. When I did use the men’s showers they were pretty good though the tokens only give you about 5 minutes of hot water, normally enough except when you’ve only one token and wanted to swap over to let the next person in haha. A 5 overall.
Middleburg sailing club had great showers and loos, definitely a 5 out of 5.
What a beautiful town Middleburg is! Well worth a visit. I leave you with photographs of Middleburg and will continue the adventures in our next blog.