INTRODUCTION


There seems to be a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) and in the absence of my being able to read about other people's experiences, I instead offer you my own "Great Big Retirement Adventure."

My husband (Mister E) and I have moved from the initial concept through the planning stages to implementation and this site is intended to record the whole process. What I am seeking from retirement is now very different to what I thought I was planning and has gradually developed into a quest for fitness and a desire for simplification, with a transition away from both a highly organised lifestyle and the personality traits reflecting a pedantic professional career. Indeed I recently described myself as "a goofy idiot" who enjoys smiling at sunflowers; a far cry from the pre-retirement professional and an indication of just how far I have travelled.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. The blog is in reverse chronological order but popular posts and those highlighting our journey are specifically pinpointed below on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the summary or wisdom we have acquired or even our have done list with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.




Showing posts with label Physically Active. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Physically Active. Show all posts

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Beautiful People and a Council Tip



The DIY activity at the house the eldest has been living in at Nottingham reached mammoth levels over the last 10 days. With the eldest safely out of the way in a ski resort with Mister E, I once again drove that familiar 120 mile route down the motorway, paintbrush in hand. I spent five days cleaning, decorating and meeting with the letting agent we have appointed to manage the property, now that the eldest has submitted his thesis and is pursuing his destiny elsewhere.

It was not all work in that on three evenings I gave myself a break to sneak out and meet old friends from my own university days in the same city. One dear lady I had not in fact seen for 27 years and another only once before in all that time. It was of no consequence; time rolled back and nothing had changed. Not only do we still have much in common but we are all now beautiful people. The days of acne angst, emotional crises and a lack of confidence are all long gone and we have emerged as wiser, interesting and more graceful beings. Those still working have found a new balance between work and leisure, opting for part-time and flexible positions as they manoeuvre towards retirement and those who have taken the plunge are filling up their days with exercise, hobbies, travel and voluntary work. Pilates and a desire to work hard at retaining fitness and good health was a common theme. It has taken until our sixth decade but at last we seem to have life sorted; we are in control and, we agreed, feel comfortable with ourselves.

At least I thought I did, nodding vehemently when the suggestion was put. However, returning home to North Yorkshire utterly exhausted and then adding to it with a series of fitness classes and other activities I felt particularly drained two days later. So it was that at 9.05 on Friday morning I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, contemplating getting out of bed whilst revelling in the thought that I would have a weekend "off"(yes even in retirement you need the odd one or two of those). 

Then, suddenly, it happened; the telephone rang and my  plans, or lack of them, were thrown into disarray. It was the letting agent confirming that within the space of two days he had found the ideal tenant (great news) but....... he wanted to move in immediately. A hasty family conference with Mister E and the eldest, fortunately with all limbs intact despite their escapades, agreed yes. After I had confirmed our concurrence, panic set in: three rooms still to decorate; all the eldest's worldly goods to remove; more cleaning; IKEA furniture to build; blinds to cut to size then fit; utilities to transfer; keys and instructions to sort. What kind of mad plan was this? Could it actually be achieved in a weekend?

It could and it was but the days were long and hard and when it reached the point that we were held up by traffic trying to reach the Council tip before it closed at 4pm, I could have cracked emotionally. Arriving with what I thought were ten minutes to spare, we were greeted by a five minutes to closing announcement and I found myself running from skip to skip, throwing unwanted chipboard, empty paint cans, cardboard, textiles and broken household goods as I went. There was no grace and beauty left; this was ugly but it was effective.

We finally left late on Monday evening, in a car weighed down with everything from bedding to a bicycle. We had stretched ourselves so hard that we had skipped lunch and hardly noticed, the hunger pangs long gone, as a muted and drained contemplation of our achievement dominated the two hour journey home. There was no strength left to unpack at the other end just a warm bath, pyjamas and bed.

Two days later, I have lower back muscles still screaming in agony (although Fitball and Zumba sessions in the interim may not have helped); I remain totally confused as to the day and date; our hall is piled high with bags and dirty washing but the tenant has moved in. 

I have crossed this weekend off (a pile of books at the ready) and on Monday I shall once again emerge as a serene being.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Letting Go and Making a Difference




Three months into my third year of retirement and it is good to realise just how far I have come. Reflecting on the period of time that has passed, I can now look  back and recognise three different phases. They are not separate or distinct; the boundary between them ebbs and flows but there is nevertheless an obvious progression.

The early days, weeks and months were a time for healing and recovery. An opportunity to relax and to take the first steps towards a new healthier, fitter self. There may still be some way to go but the pattern has been set.

Gradually and alongside those baby steps from enervation to vigour grew a sense of letting go. Like healing and recovery, it manifests itself on two levels: the physical and the mental. The clutter from both house and mind is being dissipated. Life is simpler; the habits of a working existence have been dropped. Activities and commitments have altered. Although there remains much to clear out especially of a physical kind ( household stuff and clothes with no longer any clear purpose in retirement),  there is now obvious and steady progress. 

A milestone was reached this week when I even made the decision to change the name on my driving licence from the birth name that I used professionally throughout my career to the married name I have always used at home. There are other changes that I know I shall be making in measured and deliberate fashion over the coming months. To let go in the early days felt brave, in Year 3 it is empowering.

Now too I have begun to recognise the dawning of a third phase; the period where I make a difference and which gives the motivation for getting out of bed every day. Whether I am decorating at home or in our rental property; clearing the garden; helping out in the Save the Children shop or campaigning on its behalf; acting as Parish Clerk or as an almshouse trustee; even just cleaning the windows: I am making a difference. To know that I am achieving, that my pursuits are worthwhile and that I can perceive the change as a result, is exciting and a spur for further self-enterprise. 

Life is invigorating and stimulating despite not knowing what the ultimate outcome or next phase will be. After 27 months, retirement is still novel enough that it remains an adventure into the unknown.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Enjoying the Elements



We returned from another week in the Lake District on Saturday, staying, as we always do, in a lodge in the Great Langdale valley. It has the wonderful advantage of being able to park the car and then not use it again and instead walk everywhere. We also enjoy a superb view of the Langdale Beck and the visiting wildlife from our accommodation.


The problem with the Lake District National Park, however, is invariably the weather. All the wonderful scenery, the lakes and greenery, come, as one must expect, at the price of heavy rainfall. So, on this visit, torrential rain prior to and at the time of our arrival caused the River Brathay at the bottom of the valley to burst its banks and somewhat inconveniently run across the road. Following other vehicles like a sheep, I plunged into the moving torrent, made it to the other side but at the cost of what remain internally wet driving lights, although at least they are still working.


Walking for the next two days was interrupted by flood water and even games of Pooh sticks were off the agenda. However, we moved quickly from downpour to radiant sunshine and enjoyed at least two days of blue skies, sunshine and a heat that was not entirely supportive of tackling steep inclines (I panted a lot). 


Then we had the dank, miserable overcast day, fit only for enjoying a lakeside stroll but without the views, before the cloud lifted and we could return into the hills.


How does one define a trip of this kind in retirement? If we enjoy it so much, why don't we  adopt the lifestyle as a permanent one rather than seeing it as a break from normality? When working it could be defined as a well-earned holiday and much needed change; how does that sit with retirement which many would define as one long holiday? Do we need the banality and farming landscape of home in our every day lives in order to appreciate the rugged beauty of the fells?


I don't  know the answers. As time goes on, I think I am becoming more wrapped up in enjoying the freedom of retirement than in understanding a logical narrative that explains where one goes next. Unlike the world of work, retirement is a spiritual and emotional experience that extends beyond the confines of diligence and grafting. It is being played out on a higher level than the chronological record of the working years and in so doing invariably defies a target-led, rational progression. In the early years at least it remains a time for exploration and exploitation of the senses and, when you make it to the top of some of those Lakeland fells, you are literally spinning,  unless that's just the altitude effect.


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Manual Labour




There is something intrinsically gratifying about toiling with your hands. I find the application of emulsion paint to walls (of which there has been much lately) almost therapeutic, whilst the delight of the outcome remains a source of pleasure for many weeks. It is probably just as well as the last fortnight has seen us remodel the bathroom, continue with the painting of the hall and begin work on external masonry at the eldest's home in Nottingham where I surprised myself by repointing an outside wall of the house ready for a coat of masonry paint on my next visit.

In the meantime and with temperatures that are now happily average for the time of year, the vegetable patch has continued to grow successfully and the sweetcorn I was fretting over has pollinated and sprouted horse-tails which is surely a good sign. My angst now is focused on the ripening of my tomato crop; the greenhouse has gone into overdrive in producing  the most delicious tasting cucumbers but the masses of cherry tomatoes remain steadfastly green.

Of course any spurts of growth amongst the vegetables is usually accompanied by an increase in weeds. Sadly that's where the manual toil offers less satisfaction. Pulling a hoe across hardened clay soil has never been my idea of fun. Enter, therefore, the youngest just back from volunteering on an organic farm in Sweden. She can now weed like a demon on a mission, leaving me to lean back in my garden chair and think about the next decorating project.


Sunday, 24 April 2016

Watch Your Back


A bit of sunshine and last weekend saw me digging and weeding in the eldest's garden in Nottingham. It's in a more sheltered situation than my own and after the long winter months I was pleased to be able to spend two full days in the open air, working hard. Regrettably the journey home was  uncomfortable when the good old latissimus dorsi began to ache and the next morning I could barely stand up straight.

Ever the fool, when the weather finally picked up in the North at the end of the week I spent another two days, this time in my own garden, digging, weeding and albeit a little late, planting summer flowering bulbs. Needless to say I literally could not move on Friday evening. Once again it has taken two days to recover to a stage where I can at least walk comfortably even if I am not yet ready to bend down.

One of the problems with retirement is remembering that just because you can make hay every time the sun shines doesn't mean you must. You have to take into account, regardless of all the stretching in Pilates and Yoga, that it's easy to strain a muscle and, if you do, that the recovery time is longer than it ever used to be.


Friday, 15 April 2016

A Week in Which....



I have survived a non-stop week in which:



I met my MP to lobby for support with Save the Children's campaign for proper investment in nursery education;

I had an induction to be able to provide emergency cover for regular volunteers in Save the Children's local shop;

I attended three Pilates classes, one Yoga class; two Body Blitz sessions and did a gym workout;



I came face to face with Leonardo da Vinci or rather some of his original drawings at an exhibition from the Royal Collection at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle;

I prepared, clerked and then typed the minutes for a Parish Council meeting;



I went on a wonderful walk in the Yorkshire Dales, still a little soggy from all the winter's rain but, with a blue sky and a breeze, it was invigorating and  the views were magnificent;



I caught a return ferry to Amsterdam to see the bulbs in bloom in the flower fields and be dazzled by the wonderful displays in the Keukenhof Gardens.

When you play hard, it's not like working hard. You may still need a rest in retirement but flopping in brain-dead mode or with a head reeling with facts and figures that  just won't go away is no longer on the menu. Instead and buoyed by exhilaration, it's time to plan the next activity.


Friday, 11 March 2016

Downhill All the Way




Call it stupidity, madness or a desire to self-destruct but, notwithstanding degeneration in the knees, a rotar cuff impediment and, of course, that sprained ankle, I have been skiing. Moreover it was only a year ago that I finally disposed of my long loved but rather worn ski boots, after resolving that my skiing days were over. 

I last skied at Christmas in 2013 and I guess it's like riding a bike, you don't forget, even if the risk of breaking bones when you fall potentially increases. Fortunately in my case I am pleased to report that rather than crack, I still bounce!



Getting back to the top of a chairlift in the crisp mountain air is truly invigorating but moving down the slope at speed (even if I was bringing up the rear of our party) was absolutely exhilarating. Two turns and my nervousness had almost dissipated. Four days and my right knee was wobbling along in a brace, screaming with pain and asking to be rested.



Yes, Mister E and I can no longer ski for as long as we used to; we were far more particular about the weather we went out in and the slopes we skied down. Indeed to observe us on the slopes you could quite correctly say that we were going downhill in more ways than one. The great thing though is that whilst we spoilt ourselves with a few days in Zermatt, which for many years has been one of if not our favourite ski resort, we are now equally satisfied by destinations catering primarily for beginners and intermediates. In fact if I can keep this up until I am ninety, I shall no doubt be happy with a tractor tow in the back garden.




Hiring ski-boots was always an horrific experience as a beginner; the pain is sufficient to put many people off ever venturing onto the slopes again. Things haven't improved and if anything spoilt the trip it was the friction burns and blisters caused by a pair of ill-fitting boots on the first day. Common-sense tells me that if I am to return to the Alps every year then it must be on the basis that I first acquire a new pair of  boots and this is where the dilemma sets in. My heart happily skips a beat as the thought of the adrenalin surge descending the piste. My head tells me that the risk of serious damage to my knees is high and that it is ridiculous to consider repeating the experience let alone buying my own boots to do so.


So which will win? Head or heart? I guess we'll have to wait until the 2016/17 season to decide that one.


Friday, 29 January 2016

Positivity in a Monochrome Environment


Battered by storm after storm outside, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that retirement offers the perfect opportunity for hibernation. However, after a couple of days hiding from the weather and catching up with all those tasks left for a winter's day, I confess to feeling somewhat isolated. At work there is, of course, always an opportunity for social interaction without seeking it out; retirement is different and one needs to be proactive.



In contrast, last week we once again visited Langdale in the Lake District and were joined by the eldest and two long standing friends; company was on tap. 



The weather was still disappointing in its own way and was dominated by cold, dull and wintry conditions. Nevertheless we got out and about showing our friends our favourite low level walking routes and lunchtime stops. We even ventured into caves that I had never visited before.



In retirement I have rediscovered a love of colour  but last week the landscape was very definitely monochrome. Positivity ruled and my camera tried to find beauty there too.


I think it succeeded!


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Rugby World Cup



We arrived back in England on Sunday to find the country in the midst of hosting the Rugby World Cup and itself already eliminated from the competition. You might think that would be sufficient to avoid all further interest on my part in the tournament. However, yesterday I returned to the gym I frequent with a view to making amends for the inevitable overindulgence and lack of vigorous exercise that go hand in hand with a good holiday.

It seemed that not only had I missed England's vital games but also the arrival of New Zealand's All Blacks at the hotel to which the gym is linked. However, and with their next match scheduled to take place in Newcastle on Friday they were still very much in evidence, not least in the pool and spa areas.

Needless to say the Aquafit class in which I regularly participate had a far higher attendance of members than normal. Who says that retired ladies are too old to admire the toned muscles of those who play sport?


Friday, 11 September 2015

Busy and Dizzy


Since returning from our trip to the Lake District, the last couple of weeks has passed in a blur, with visits from the eldest as well as the youngest, who is still with us. We even managed to fit in an unexpected sailing trip (probably the last of the season) in the early part of this week when we had near perfect conditions and the Firth of Clyde to ourselves (sea birds and porpoises excluded), or so it seemed. 

Unfortunately, and despite our best made plans, the weather this year off the West Coast of Scotland has really been truly awful for short-handed (well I am small) sailing with low pressure system after low pressure system rolling in, one after the other. It seems that 2015 has been one of the windiest in Scotland for decades and with snow already appearing on the mountain tops, the temperatures too have been, shall we say, challenging.


Naively we kept thinking that conditions would settle and summer sunshine, fair breezes and warmth would arrive at some stage; we only had to wait for them and with the luxury of a retired lifestyle, free of commitment, would seize the opportunity when it arrived. How wrong can you be? With, according to the forecasters, no prospect of an Indian summer, and autumn fast approaching, we now have to accept that this year's sailing ambitions have been dashed.

At least  we are still revelling in the flexibility of retirement and aren't disheartened, having found plenty of other activities to keep us occupied and out in the big outdoors regardless. Indeed the bigger disappointment weather-wise lately is just how slowly vegetables have grown in the garden this summer, when we are only now able to start harvesting crops which any other year might have been ready 6 or more weeks earlier.

When you are working and extra-curricular hard work and planning fail to bear fruit because of the weather (did I mention that my plum and rhubarb crops might as well have been non-existent this year?) there is inevitably a sense of sheer frustration. In retirement it is more of a minor irritation, a test of our patience and a sense that there will always be next year and time to improve on our preparations, including, we have decided, for a Plan B and C.



Saturday, 1 August 2015

Back to Nature



There have been a variety of studies that demonstrate the beneficial effects of nature and in particular living in or experiencing a rural environment with its trees, plants and other wildlife. In essence getting back to nature is good for you. 

A recent study from Stanford University suggests that strolling through grass and trees is advantageous for our mental health. Another paper from the University of Chicago has even found that the health benefits of the natural environment is such that living in an area with 10 more trees is equivalent to being 7 years younger.

No wonder then that, following on from our outings earlier in the week, Mister E and I yesterday went on an eight mile walk through forest, across fields, uphill and then over moorland. I guess we should have been feeling several years younger when we returned home. In truth, however, and until my hot bath to ease the aches and pains, I felt like a ninety year old! 


Thursday, 30 July 2015

Dodging the Rain



Despite the weather forecast with its warning of ground frost and chilly nights, Mister E and I know that it is really July. Unfortunately in what has been the windiest summer we can remember, we have all but given up any chance of a spell of settled weather for some longer distance sailing. This week, therefore, found us determined still to enjoy the outdoor life despite the bouts of heavy rain. We may have waterproof gear but there really is no fun (or we don't think so) of trudging up and down hills hidden behind peaked hoods and seeking shelter beyond a dry stone wall to eat our lunchtime sandwiches, the view all but obliterated by low cloud and raindrops.


So yesterday and today, our walks shared a common theme of conservation as we walked first to a local wetlands area, small but of scientific interest as it dates back to prehistoric times when a lake formed after the last Ice Age. It is close enough to home that when the rain clouds began to congregate again, there was almost sufficient time to reach our front door before the heavens opened.

Today we waited until the rain appeared to have dispersed and headed by car to another site also designated of scientific interest,  namely the conservation area at Foxglove Covert on Ministry of Defence land at Catterick Garrison. We thought the bird hides would provide the perfect shelter, should we need it.

To enter the area you have to pass through a security gate, vouch for your credentials at a guard house, handing over your passports to the duty officer, after which you are then given a military escort to the entrance to the reserve, the gates to which are locked behind you. 


All great stuff and worth the angst, because the conservation area itself was an impressive wet, grass and heath environment providing the perfect habitat for all manner of British wildlife and plants. Moreover it was relatively quiet and to the extent that we had the board walks and pathways very much to ourselves. 


Also, it was hard to believe that we were actually in the middle of one of Britain's largest army bases.


Sunday, 26 July 2015

My New Best Friend



Following on from my post about food, exercise and the paucity of weight loss in retirement, after I had somewhat overindulged in Whitby last weekend, I thought it was time to make amends. With all the exercise I now get in retirement and the healthy diet I follow, I decided that if I was not losing weight in any significant amounts then life needed to  be shaken up a bit.

So I have found a new friend: My Fitness Pal.

Yes it's a virtual friend, a wonderful app from Under Armour that records the calories you take on board and the calories you burn, producing graphs to show how balanced your day's food consumption has been, the nutrients you need and what you are likely to weigh in 5 weeks if you continue eating in that way.

I have never calorie counted in my life before, failing to understand how some people, it seems almost intuitively, know just how many of them are in a slice of bread or chocolate biscuit. After almost a week I am still none the wiser in that respect, which is where My Fitness Pal does all the hard work. It is programmed with so much information that it never fails to surprise me; like yesterday when I succumbed to a Marks & Spencer pistachio and almond cookie, it had all the detail, right down to the last grain of sugar.

Doing all of that manually would of course be totally boring, but when, like me, you are compliant by nature, very pedantic, logical and love living by rules, then My Fitness Pal could become a friend for life.

Even better, every time I visit the gym, my new companion effectively gives me a pat on the back and allows me to eat more. Now who doesn't want a friend like that, especially in that fish restaurant in Whitby?


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Know Your Berries


Mister E and I took advantage of that window between birds nesting and the start of the shooting season this afternoon to exercise our right to roam. We walked around Black Hambleton on the North Yorkshire Moors starting on the Cleveland Way and then rough footing it across the heather. I have to confess that I was concerned lest I stumbled and fell only to be attacked by a poisonous adder hiding in the undergrowth, but that was truly a disaster of the imagination. Our real life misfortune luckily brought with it a moment of hilarity.


The weather was not brilliant but we still had a reasonable view across towards the Dales over a patchwork of farm fields. Not too hot, not too cold; perfect walking weather and a splendid opportunity to continue walking our way to fitness.



Storm clouds threatened but ultimately passed overhead and we returned to the car, somewhat stiff and tired in sunshine and short sleeves.


As for our misfortune: after walking for miles surrounded by bilberry bushes, I pointed out to Mister E that there did not seem to have been much of a crop of fruit this year. Eager to see for himself, he bent over to examine a bush and proudly exclaimed that there were some ripe berries there just under the top layer of foliage. He grabbed a handful and then with a look of distaste suddenly let the plump black fruit fall to the ground. He had picked up a pile of rabbit droppings!




Friday, 10 July 2015

A Couch Potato



Out in the garden my potato crop is growing well. Inside the house and for the duration of Wimbledon, one couch potato is also thriving!

I have generally not watched sport for many years, making time whilst working only to watch the Eldest and Youngest participate in their various activities although I did make an exception in order to visit the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

However spurred on by some wet and breezy days during the last week I have been swept up in watching Wimbledon. I recall in my teens and early adult life following the tennis in July quite closely but somehow there is a significant twenty years or so gap where I jump from the eras of Connors, Borg, McEnroe and Becker to Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. Here I am retired, and it is as though I am back in my teenage years with the ability to follow the whole tournament, although I confess that I now need to wear spectacles in order to have any chance of seeing the ball.

The great thing about major sporting events is of course that their scheduled start times are generally in the afternoon, leaving the morning for all my other activities. The downside of tennis, however, is that unlike team sports there is no limit on the length of a match and you can, should you so wish, spend all afternoon and evening in front of the television watching the action. I have therefore tried to be selective. In particular and because I find the strange grunting noises made by the women most irritating, I tend to have focused more on the men's competition.

I understand that cricket matches are even longer than in tennis and that International Tests can last up to five days. Fortuitously I was put off cricket as a small child, forced to endure lengthy picnics whilst my father played for a local team and have never understood the rules sufficiently to yet follow the game. I was once invited to enjoy corporate hospitality at the Durham County cricket ground which I thought might be my opportunity to comprehend this most English of summer games but, in typical style, rain stopped play before the match started and we enjoyed an afternoon of strawberries and cream instead. Still anything is possible in retirement and when the tennis finishes who knows?

Amongst the range of summer sports there is also golf, although again it is not a game that I am at all familiar with and the odds on seeing what is a very small ball much reduced, despite the spectacles. I have actually been to driving ranges on a couple of occasions but pulled a chest muscle quite badly the last time and have been unable to raise any interest since.

On reflection and once Wimbledon finishes, I shall inevitably prefer to turn off the television and pursue my own action, walking or sailing perhaps, unless of course it rains which is how I came to be watching Wimbledon in the first place. Indeed, and in anticipation that retirement may in the years to come bring with it either bad weather or infirmity on my part, perhaps I should really start to read up the rules on both cricket and golf and invest in a large screen television set.




Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Circuit of Arran - Days 3 and 4




At Lochranza we saw Oyster catchers with their unique shaped beaks and red legs as well as black guillemots which in the UK are very much limited to the West Coast and islands of Scotland as well as Northern Ireland. 


A shag passed us in its low flight over the ocean and on land we saw red deer grazing their way through the village and regarded as a pest by the local people. 

Leaving to head east on Wednesday and then southwards to Lamlash we heard our first cuckoo of the year and noted that even if we were well wrapped up against the chilling sea breeze, seals were basking on top of rocks in the sunshine. Unfortunately we had to wait for our next mooring to gain any benefit from the sun's heat as on our voyage southwards the sails blocked out its rays and my layers of fleeces remained intact.

We were just commenting on the fact that we had not spotted any dolphins on our trip when the tell-tale noise of air being expelled through the blow-hole of a cetacean gave the game away and the fins and tails of porpoises were soon clearly visible.

With gannets undertaking their vertical dives at all points of the compass, we thought we had seen our complete wildlife collection for the day. However, returning to our dinghy on the jetty after a stroll around Lamlash itself, we came across a pair of swans and on the back of one, between its slightly raised wings, nestled two cygnets.




In the shelter of the bay at Lamlash with the town on one side and Holy Island on the other, we benefited from a heat trap sheltered from the wind chill and I finally removed those layers. Perhaps it really is June and for the first time on this trip I didn't wear socks in bed.


Indeed the next morning we didn't even turn the boat heater on and so with the benefit of a benign temperature we headed out from the bay and across the Firth of Clyde towards Troon and so completing our circuit of Arran. 



Whilst sailing in these waters as well as other yachts there are numerous working vessels. So we spotted a ship laying cable, the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries that connect the Scottish Islands to the mainland and various small fishing trawlers all with nets extended. There are certain rules of the sea governing who has right of way. It's a bit like playing Rock, Paper, Scissors and although yachts under sail can take priority, even they must give way to boats that are actively fishing.


So our final day's sailing was devoted to altering course on a number of occasions in order to avoid any serious shipping incidents. Indeed I must have been so busy watching the various fishing exploits taking place to port-side that I completely missed the silent arrival on the scene (presumably from the huge depth beneath) of a submarine. Curiously, and despite the well-established naval base just to the North, in all our years of sailing we had never actually come across one of those off the bow before. No avoiding action was needed; it had no difficulty in outpacing us!


Monday, 15 June 2015

A Circuit of Arran - Days 1 and 2



Last Monday (8th June), Mister E and I seized the opportunity of what we understood would be a calm weather window and set off on a four day voyage. Our time away was limited by a dental appointment for Mister E and a family party on Saturday evening, and the plan was therefore to round the Mull of Kintyre and spend two days on Gigha before returning to Troon and then home.

The one thing I have learned about sailing over the years is never to rely on that weather forecast and that everything is always at least twice as cold, wet and windy as we expect. Hence I can only blame our lapses in preparation on the fact that it was our first outing this year. I should, of course, have gone with instinct and taken a hot water bottle in addition to my heavy duty sleeping bag, inner lining and blanket. Instead I had to rely on socks and multiple layers of clothing to stay warm in bed.

I also assumed that two towels would be sufficient when of course in the absence of perfect conditions, they never seem to dry again after use. As for the total absence of sun tan cream on board after a late autumn clear out, whatever were we thinking? Having learnt the hard way in the past, that was definitely something that we could not set off without and so I made a quick trip into town before setting sail in order to acquire some of that high protection white lotion.


It was cool and overcast when we set off shortly after 10am and although the sky brightened on our South Westerly course, a chilly wind dominated. 


As a result I remained well wrapped up and did not bother applying that sun tan lotion. An error that I regretted later that evening. Offshore, the sun strikes noses brutally!


By 3pm I had run out of fleeces to add to my various layers of clothing. Of course, those bronzed gods that appear on all the promotional literature for boats had abandoned our vessel long before we took delivery and although some warmth was generated by pulling ropes and winding winches, it really wasn't sufficient. At that point, approaching the Mull of Kintyre (made absurdly famous by Paul McCartney and a band of pipers but in reality notorious for its wind and tides), with 2 reefs in the mainsail, an increasing wind and only me for crew, Mister E made the decision to turn around and we headed into Campbeltown for the night.




Anchored in the lock we were well-sheltered from the wind and I spent the night being rocked gently in the bow of the boat. In fact the experience was not unfamiliar to one I once had in a flotation chamber at a day spa. There, artistic types apparently flock to float in salt water inside a darkened tank, and where the effect on the senses is purportedly to generate new and imaginative ideas. Of course, all I got in Campbeltown was a vivid dream but I'm sure it is something that, given time, we may be able to market!




The next morning we were greeted by much calmer conditions and on emerging from Campbeltown Loch pointed Northwards and sailed (assisted by the motor on occasions) up Kilbrannan Sound between Kintyre and Arran. The Argyll mainland is an absolute delight of hidden beaches and beautiful countryside, although you don't always get to see it in such lovely sunshine, which is why it probably remains so unspoiled.



Our destination was Lochranza on Arran, where we arrived mid-afternoon, mooring overnight to a visitor's buoy. It really was an idyllic setting both on the water and, when we went ashore, in the village itself.



We had a pleasant stroll on land, taking in and exploring the interiors of the ruined castle (there is always something slightly thrilling about climbing spiral staircases even when you know they are only going to lead to the open air) and the local bar, as well as around the village. Unfortunately my camera chose to run out of battery power shortly after our arrival and that lack of preparation I referred to at the beginning of this blog entry meant that I had not even brought the charging lead! I did have my phone, but that was, of course, flat too! Ah well, it saved dropping either or both of them overboard from the dinghy; you have to look on the bright side, after all.