Well, that’s seven days into the New Year, Christmas Tree and decorations taken down and put away for another year. For many, it will be their first day back at work nafter the holidays. We are often asked “What’s your New Year Resolution”? I don’t make any as I am unlikely to keep them and anyway, 2018 seemed to go pretty well (for me) without them. I’m on the train back home after a great weekend in Leatherhead with friends and thinking about last year and looking forward to this.
I remember last year kicking off with a flurry of winter snow, however, I was lucky enough to miss most of it as I flew out to a Guitar Retreat in Alvors, Portugal. In contrast to the chilly weather back home we found ourselves in extremely unseasonable in the Algarve with wall to wall sunshine and temperatures in the mid twenties. It was a great Retreat, not just down to the weather, but the great bunch of people who went.
In February I drove down to Telford to attend the Moody Owners Association’s AGM. I had recently become the Editor for MOA’s “Compass Magazine”, and whilst attending the meeting I had been asked to photographer for the weekend. The meeting took place at the Telford Golf and Country Club. Which was a great venue and the weekend included an interesting trip to Blists Hill Victorian Museum, a bit like that at Beamish. It was also the same weekend that Scotland played England in the 6 Nations. They won comfortably and it was a most enjoyable experience, for once, being in the company of the losing support and pass comments like “tough luck, you played well” in as condescending a way as I could muster!
March was a fairly quiet month spent walking around Edinburgh and visiting some of the splendid hostelries to be found here. I also went through to Largs a couple of times to check on the boat and do a little maintenance. In the past, I have had the boat lifted out for annual maintenance toward the end of March. Foolishly, I had forgotten to book a cradle…
When I’m carrying out annual maintenance I like to stay for a few days in an AirbnB close to Largs. It is a bit more expensive than travelling back and forward, but it means I am able to start early in the morning and finish a bit later in the afternoon. For the past three years I have booked a wee place in Fairlie, just down the road making the booking around November before. When I booked I couldn't understand why this was not available and there was very little else to choose from. I eventually found a small flat in Largs, which was a little more expensive but I had little choice. When I arrived at the beginning of April I found out why booking had been so difficult. I had chosen the same week as a National Junior Sailing Regatta and nearly all accommodation was full. Despite the constant threat of rain, annual maintenance went well. Alan came through for a few days to give me a hand (and spend some time in the local watering holes!). During April, some of us also played ukulele at the christening of a friend’s grandson. This was in a former school which had been converted into a rather swish hotel.
The weather had really improved by May and me, like most folk, were unaware that this was going to be a cracking summer. I have met many kind and generous people at Guitar Retreats, Brian Lee being one of them. Another good friend, Paul Nicholas was playing a gig in Torquay and Brian suggested that a few of us Retreaters might not go along and support him. At the time Brian lived in Paignton and offered to put us up in his house and a flat that he owns and rents out. Towards the end of May, I flew to Exeter and along with half a dozen others, we spent the weekend in Paignton. We had a great time, even playing a gig in The Blue Anchor Pub – which was an interesting experience!
After a most enjoyable weekend of sailing with my nephew I set off on the 6th of June for what was a major trip to France. In 2017 I had attended a Guitar Retreat in the magical La Perdrix, a converted 13th century monastery. It was a hot, glorious visit and it reminded me just how much I love France, particularly the Dordogne. At the time I decided that if I were to return to La Perdrix on another Retreat then I would drive and spend some time touring the area. I took the Channel Tunnel and after a great week of guitar, spent another memorable week visiting Sarlat, Tours and Rouen. I took a detour on the journey home stopping off at Duhallow War Cemetery where a relative, killed at Ypres, is buried – a much more moving trip than I expected. The end of June saw some more sailing weekends with friends, gloriously hot, but disappointing winds.
The hot weather continued into July and I managed some further sailing weekends with friends – this time in better winds. A memorable weekend right at the start of the month saw an encounter with a Royal Navy Frigate 238, HMS Northumberland, as we came out from Otterferry under sail and forced her into a huge detour to avoid us. The month continued with many long sunny walks around Edinburgh and ;ots of time spent at UkeHoot at the Kilderkin, The Captain’s Bar and a new venue, The Scotch Hop on the Southside.
At the start of August I took out a friend who was keen to sail but hadn’t any previous experience. Steve is a Government Civil Servant and had been working in Moscow, up until fairly recently, working on immigration and trafficking. One of his Russian friends, equally keen and equally inexperienced joined us. Fortunately, the weather was pretty benign but we did manage some sailing.
August and September saw my main sailing adventure with my sailing buddy Alan. Just as in previous years, we planned our trip to coincide with the Tarbert Music Festival in mid September. The Crinan Canal has been our usual route to get to the Western Isles, but this year we took a break from tradition and sailed west then south roun Arran to Northern Ireland before heading back north up the Sound of Jura, Sound of Fladda and Sound of Mull. A most memorable trip with a few issues on the way, mechanical and weather related, culminating in a weekend of music at the music festival. I also managed to fit in a trip to the beautiful island of Iona - I was lucky, it was a glorious day,.
I didn’t do any travelling in October, except for a couple of trips through to check on the boat at Largs. The rest of the month I pottered around and spent a great deal of time working on the next edition Compass Magazine which was to be published in November. I needed to get most of the work done in October and November was building up to be quite a busy month.
November began with a flight south to Bristol with some rugby mates. Earlier in the year we had decided that a trip to Cardiff to watch Wales and Scotland contest the Doddie Weir Cup looked like good fun. We flew to Bristol (the flights were a fraction of the costs of those to Cardiff) and took a taxi to our digs, AirbnB, in Cardiff. The whole weekend cost less than £240 . We lost. A couple of weeks later I flew to Southampton having been invited to attend the MOA, Annual Committee Meeting at Winchester. I had hoped to spend some time with a guitar friend who lives in Southampton but this proved to be too problematic. He has two children who live with his ex-partner in Prague and the only time he could visit was when I was the same weekend. The end of November saw me again down in the South West of the UK, this time to go to a Guitar Rtreat in Ross-on-Wye. I spent a couple of days with my good friend Paul Nicholas before the Retreat ( he was teaching on it) and then afterwards I drove east to Leatherhead and a visit to friends Sue and Chris who were house and pet sitting in a swish house there.
December, was well December with the rounds of parties, Christmas Lunches and of course, Christmas and New Year. I intentionally had a low-key Christmas and New Year.
Well, that was my 2018 and even without making any Resolutions at the start of the year I think it went pretty well. I had some great and memorable times and looking forward to having just as good a time over the next 12 months. I’ve started already with train journey - 1st class no less – to visit Sue and Chris in Leatherhead. At the end of this week I’m off to Portugal once again to enjoy some winter sunshine, it doesn’t look as hot as last year, but I’m sure I will have a fantastic time. There’s talk among the regular Guitar Retreaters of a trip to see Brian in the Dordogne and of course I am planning my trip to La Perdrix in June. On top of that, I’ll be off to Fairlie at the end of March to stay a few days working on my boat and the end of the season sailing trip with Alan has still to be planned.