“We are sailing…..” (not very well)

“BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS, IF NOT DUFFERS, WON’T DROWN.”

It was about 9am when I started to feel drunk. Which, considering the timescale of the day, was no great surprise.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Are you settled? Then I shall begin.

Our adventure began, as all great adventures do, unexpectedly. Saturday night drinks in Hamble turned into Saturday night drinks on the yacht in Hamble (I keep calling it a boat but I get corrected every time). Due to the open air nature of this yacht, an early morning awakening was inevitable. But on this occasion I didn’t mind; I was on the river Hamble, in last night’s bikini and it was hot, even at 7am.

“We’re going sailing,” announced my friend grandly as he stood up and stretched. “Sailing where?” I enquired. He shrugged, “Anywhere.” And so it was that we sailed off to Anywhere (otherwise known as Cowes).

We literally sailed off the pontoon rather than using the motor, which I rapidly learned is a bit like taking cheat notes into a maths exam if you’re sailing for the day. It meant that we didn’t get anywhere quickly, but it also meant that we could be smug and yell “Motor W***ers!” at passing boats. As if…..

I pointed to a digital display in the cockpit, “What’s this?”

“The depth meter. It’s 7.5m now and anything below 0.2 is risky territory.”

“Oh.”

Seeing as it was 7:15am, Luke bent down, opened his rucksack and removed a bottle of rum. Not wanting to seem like a total novice, I pretended that I was a true sailor and accepted the bottle for my turn to swig nonchalantly. Time and time again. I could describe the journey over but suffice to say that we arrived in Cowes at about 11am, very giggly, none too steady on our feet and the bottle was empty. Our (sober) boat neighbours watched us negotiate our way out of the yacht disapprovingly.

“Do you have life jackets?” one enquired.

“No!” replied Luke, cheerfully. At this stage he didn’t even have a t-shirt on.

“A life raft?”

“No.”

“That’s very unsafe,” he frowned. “We always – ”

“How long have you been sailing here Luke?” I interrupted.

“About twenty years. Come on.”

We exited the pontoon unsteadily and for some reason we decided that the best place we could go to was the pub. Whereupon we met our very best friends in the whole world. We expressed pure shock and sorrow that we had never met them before and pledged undying love from this minute – nay, this SECOND – onwards.

We spent two hours with our new family members before Luke took a deep breath, lay down on the bench and said “Ask me anything you want to now because I’m going to sleep.”

“What?! No!” I cried and shook him, “Stay awake!” He sat up. “Go and get some Prosecco,” he said decisively. “We’ll take it back to the boat.” Obediently, I went to fetch Prosecco but when I returned, he had disappeared.

“Where’s he gone?” I enquired, and was met with blank stares, “Who?” Brilliant.

I made my way back to the marina and swiftly discovered that I had absolutely no idea where the yacht was. They all look the same to me. Up and down I went, back and forth, gradually feeling the knowledge that I was stranded dawning upon me. I needed to get back across the Solent! I came to rest at the end of a pontoon.

“Are you ok?” enquired a foreign man next to me.

“No,” I grumbled. “I’m stuck here.” And I repeated my sorry tale.

“Well I can get you back,” he said, “that’s no problem.” But at this point the Chinese people on his boat, who had chartered it I guessed, starting muttering unhappily and casting their rods further out into the marina.

“Tell you what,” he said kindly. “I’ll help you find your boat.” Excellent. So off we went and to my great surprise it was about 200 yards away. And joy of joys, there was Luke in the saloon. Asleep.

The nice foreign man nudged him awake and reminded him of his principle (only) role as the sole person who was capable of sailing back across the sea, but by this point I was firmly ensconced in Swallows-and-Amazons-land. Sail a boat singlehandedly? Of course! Winch the mainsail? Of course! Normally, you see, the only thing spinnaker means to me is the tower. Unfortunately I’d been given the job of making the boat go straight and during these musings I’d been pushing the boat (yacht!) round and round in circles. Eventually Luke noticed and steered us out into the Solent, whereupon his first question was “Where’s the Prosecco?”

Almost immediately, things got hairy. We turned into hypocrites and started the motor to help us get home. It coughed, spluttered, coughed a bit again and then died.

“Oh,” said Luke. “I thought I’d mended it.”

After that, the sun disappeared, it got very squally and the ensuing minutes were probably quite dangerous. Happily, we’d had so much rum that it didn’t really register. We nearly crashed. We sailed the wrong way for quite some substantial period of time until I happened to notice the Needles looming large in front of us (for those not acquainted with the Solent, the Needles is probably the very last place you’d want to be). Luke spent a long time sitting on the foredeck, peering at the sails as they flapped about the place whilst I attempted to stop the boat from capsizing. The sea was very rough and salty seawater sprayed over me, the boat, our clothes, the wine……It was about this point when I looked at the depth meter.

“Luke? It says we’re down to 1.2m.”

“What?!” he turned and scrambled down to me none too graciously and actually fell on top of me momentarily. Which was painful.

“Bugger, I’ve miscalculated where we are. Prepare to run aground!” he shouted above the wind and the sea. It was all quite dramatic as the little yacht was tossed around on the waves and I felt very gung-ho and brave about it all. Out in the Solent, battling with the elements, quite, quite alone, miles from safety. And then I looked the other way and saw that Portsmouth was basically within touching distance.

The depth meter dropped again to 1m which nearly had Luke in spasms. But I could see the land, I reasoned, and therefore I could swim to it.

“Oh, don’t worry,” I said casually, fortified by several pints of rum, “we’ll be fine!”

Eventually, a partly broken yacht, a shaken Luke and a very relaxed me sailed safely back into the river Hamble. Well I say safely, but I’d broken my foot and we’d lost the Prosecco. We hadn’t drowned, I reasoned, so at least we weren’t duffers.

As we calmed down I began to realise just how battered I felt. I am not used to winching (or whatever it’s called) large sails in by myself and my entire, sea-salted, body ached viciously. My only thoughts were of home, bed and tea.

“Let’s go to Hamble,” Luke announced, steering the yacht towards a boat parking space. “Few drinks in Hamble?”

“But……”, I said weakly. And then capitulated. “But of course.” I galvanised myself and we got off the yacht and walked on unsteady sea legs to the King and Queen pub (which, by the way, is just about my favourite pub in the world) and it was there that my friend came down to meet us.

“Have you had a nice time?” she enquired. I thought about it. “I’m not sure,” I said. “Define nice time.”

 

Answers on a postcard please :)

S x

Walk a mile in my shoes, would you? I dare you, I just dare you!

Has anyone else ever had the sheer, undiluted joy of unblocking a severely blocked, overflowing toilet without the aid of a toilet plunger first thing in the morning? No? Well let me tell you then – it’s not one for your bucket list.

Before I start, I promise I am not making this up. The meaning of this will shine through before long. Yesterday, I made the rookie error of acquiescing to the plans of my children without properly checking what they were.

“Can we swap bedrooms?” – it sounded like an innocuous enough question.

“Why of course my dear child,” I murmured vaguely (or words to that effect), stuck as I was in a pile of legal articles to write about such riveting matter as commercial dispute resolution. “Off you go now.”

I actually don’t know what I expected when I went upstairs later, but the scenes of Napoleonic devastation were not it. There were now no discernible beds, just bits of wood everywhere. Every single cuddly toy that has been collected over the last FIFTEEN YEARS was piled in the bath. To head height. The bathroom was covered with books which hadn’t seen the light of day since the mid-80s. Tables, chairs, lamps, pencils, created an indiscriminate, merry little tide of stuff that now flowed gently across the entire upstairs of the house, blocked only by a whacking great mattress which was placed so that no -one could get up or down or from side to side easily. Or at all, in fact. You may imagine my face. It’s too bad a mess to deal with. Note my use of the present tense.

Somehow the mattresses have bred and there are four of them whereas there are only three beds upstairs. Stationary has gone forth and multiplied to create a tsunami of felt pens, leaded pencils, glittery markers and all sorts of other hellish child entertainment ploys which are all over my gold carpets. Never again will I buy gold carpets, but that’s a separate issue. The elder girl had somehow managed to create a haven of cosy domesticity in her new bedroom, whereas the younger girl’s bedroom looked like Toys R Us had thrown up in there. It’s an unspeakable mess that will need crampons and an ice pick to tackle it, I thought, looking at it. Oh little did I know that just twelve hours later my analysis of what constitutes an ‘unspeakable mess’ would be sorely challenged. The night ended with my younger girl on a mattress and me on the gin.

FAST FORWARD TWELVE HOURS

“Mummy! The toilet’s blocked!” It’s not my favourite way to wake up in the morning, but I’ve had worse.

“Just try flushing it again,” I said sleepily and turned over. There was an ominous silence before I heard “Oh.” Which frankly scared me more than a scream. I leapt out of bed and dashed up the stairs amidst the toys and dolls and clothes and paper and……you get the picture. The next obstacle was a mattress firmly placed across the stairs, but once I had negotiated that to reach the bathroom, I dearly wished I hadn’t. The toilet had overflowed. All over the floor. And I won’t subject anyone to a description of what it was, but think of the worst thing you can imagine and then quadruple it. All over the bathroom floor. Seeping gently and determinedly into shoes, clothes, cuddly toys; all manner of things which have no business being near a bathroom and in the ordinary course of events would not have been. But oh no, all my bad luck seemed to have ganged up on me at once and paid a visit. It was one of those situations where you stare weakly and think – but how? How am I going to sort this out?

I’d never tackled a blocked toilet before and this one was very seriously blocked. It looked like it needed some Oramorph and palliative care. What did I do? I turned around, went back downstairs and pulled on my Dubarry boots. The soles of those have seen some sights, they’re used it. My poor, unprotected feet were not. Then I surveyed the scene and amassed my weapons. A toilet plunger was not amongst them. Google advised that I pour dishwasher liquid and hot water down the toilet. Or poke at the blockage with a clothes hanger. I tried both of those and got absolutely nowhere. I needed a plumber of course. But the thing was, there was no way I could invite a soul into the house as it was. The poor man wouldn’t be able to reach the bathroom – I honestly cannot describe the mess. And even if he did manage to negotiate his way there he would think we stored all our worldly goods in the bath. No, no, a plumber was not an option.

So what did I do? I put on a pair of rubber gloves and stuck my hand down the loo. I kid you not. I held my breath at first before I realised that all the dishwasher liquid had made this effluent smell quite nice. Which was good, seeing as it was lapping against my feet. Once I’d done that I poured a bottle of bleach down the toilet and sent up a quick prayer to God, or Allah or in fact any deity that might be listening and crossed all my fingers and toes.

I don’t know if my treatment has worked yet because I do not dare to go and check. What’s the moral of this story? If your children sidle up to you and whisper sweet-sounding plans in your ear – do not grant them permission instantly or give any reaction that can possibly be interpreted as permission. Because I’ve learned the hard way that if you do that, then life really can be sh*t.

Happy New Year! 2016, eh…………

My New Year had a strange start. Well, no, the actual start was in a very cool club in the conventional manner of a twenty-something. We’ll ignore the fact that I’m almost 34. It was loud, there was drinking, hot tubs and in terms of enthusiasm I was utterly put to shame on the dance floor by a 56 year old American man who actually did dance like no-one was watching. It’s possible that he’d got muddled up because he had his eyes closed the entire time. However, we certainly could see him – and we could also actually feel him as well as he flung his not-inconsiderably sized self around.

 

So midnight came and we jumped up and down like loons because the clock had gone from 11:59 to 12:00. The metaphorical clock, I mean. There was no actual clock, just a rather frenetic countdown which I’m convinced started at 11:59:55. There was no Auld Lang Syne either, or dancing with our arms crossed over, which I’ve always rather enjoyed. It was straight back to Dizzee American or whatever the DJ was called.

 

Somewhere around 2am my friend and I made our way back home and finished off the champagne that we’d started earlier. Which was all very well at the time but when I woke up two hours later it seemed like the worst idea in the entire world. You know when people are near death or dying and they have those moments where they go into the light? Well I was neither of those things (I realised in retrospect) but I definitely had one of those moments. I knew I had ibuprofen somewhere so I blindly and faithfully stumbled forward following the tiny shard of light which would lead me somewhere near to the kitchen, where I found the tablets and my phone. This had a message on it from the same friend that was in the house. It read “I’m inside Buddha”, which I found particularly confusing. Then I went back to bed. It felt like I’d only just gone back to sleep when my friend burst through the bedroom door, switched the main light on and leapt onto the bed.

 

“What are you doing?!” he demanded. Seeing as it was the early hours of the morning and I was lying in a bed with my eyes shut, I thought that was perfectly self-explanatory, but I humoured him.

 

“I’m asleep,” I explained patiently with my arms over my face.

 

“I’m alone downstairs!” He said in genuinely injured tones. “Get up and have a drink with me!” Now I am all very keen on social glasses of wine and Bucks Fizz for breakfast, but not at 6:45am on New Year’s Day when the jigsaw of my head is only just piecing itself back together after champagne and aniseed-tasting shots and I’ve had about thirty seconds sleep.

 

“Do you know what time it is?!”

 

“No.”

 

“It’s 6:45am. Go to sleep.”

 

I tiptoed downstairs at some point later (pretty quietly, I thought) when there was a sudden thunder of footsteps above me and my friend shot down the stairs and collapsed over the table.

 

“I’m so drunk,” he complained.

 

“What, still?!”

 

“Yes……”

 

Because I’m naturally a sympathetic type, I decided this was the perfect moment to tease him about a lady with whom he’d had a fleeting relationship and who had arrived in the club in search of him. “I can’t believe that woman…..” And it was like I’d prodded him with an electrode.

 

“Woman? What woman?” He leapt up from the table and glanced around fearfully behind sofas and curtains, genuinely believing that she might be in the room. It was the funniest thing I’ve seen all year. How often does he find random women about the place?

 

“You know, the love of your life?”

 

“I don’t believe you. I’m going back to bed.” He stormed halfway up the stairs and then stopped. “I don’t want you to go because you think this is a really horrible house.”

 

“It’s my house.”

 

It was around seven hours later that I received a sober-sounding message from him saying how much he’d loved the night and how he didn’t remember much of what happened after we got back. I’m saving it all up for when I meet a new girlfriend of his or something.

 

And so, I am going forward into 2016 with a few resolutions and sadly the knowledge that I really am getting old. When I woke in dreadful pain early on 1st January after my night of drinking and cavorting on the dancefloor, it was hard to work out what hurt more; my head – or my knees.

 

Happy New Year to old and young!

 

S x