Password Purgatory

Having spent a year or more in password purgatory, I have eventually re-set the password to this blog and can continue. I am not even going to start a rant about passwords – you all have had the same experience, I’m sure.

The other reason I am writing this post is that my Tax Return is due in and I am procrastinating.  This is due to complications with my being self employed, and also whether I have paid enough National Insurance contributions over the years to make any further payments (and filling out a Tax Return) redundant.  I need to phone someone and be an adult, but that will, of course, happen tomorrow.

Meanwhile, here are some lovely autumn colours to gaze at!

I am lucky to live near several beautiful parks.  I often do a ‘Three Park Jog’ around Tothill, Beaumont and Freedom Parks.

Beaumont Park has many mature trees, including my favourite – a widely spreading oak tree. This is Beaumont Park – Henry’s Tree, planted to remember a little boy who died over twenty years ago.

 Beaumont Park also has some mature beech trees.

Tothill Park is our nearest and has a community centre (where Paul holds his art groups), tennis courts, a bowling green and children’s play park.

Also nearby is Saltram Park – a National Trust property which has a very fine parkland beside the River Plym.  We don’t go very often as it can be very busy with walkers, dogs and cyclists and we tend instead to seek out places which most people find a bit too awkward to find for themselves.

By the way – I am still swimming!

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts 2017

It has been a busy summer!

I had a big birthday this year and decided to go to my very first festival – Glastonbury! Back in the cold dark winter, on a beach in January, my swimming friend Sue encouraged me to join her and some some chums who work at the festival every year as recycling volunteers.  I was apprehensive to say the least – didn’t fancy the dreadful toilets, the epic mud, the hordes of people.  None of my fears materialised – but it was amazing, challenging, hard work, friendly, welcoming, hot, dusty, exhausting, character building and joyful – but yes the long-drop toilets were dreadful (don’t look down, don’t touch anything, don’t breathe).  The site is HUGE – use this map to overlay the festival on to your home area and it gives you some idea of how far you have to walk! Uphill!  I worked four shifts in the recycling barns – imagine rubbish from millions of sacks collected from the whole festival site travelling down conveyor belts in front of you – so I was provided with hot showers, food and unlimited tea and coffee.  The best thing about the whole festival was the friendliness of the people. I was out on my own most nights until about 1 or 2 am,  never felt intimidated and talked to anyone and everyone.  It took me at least a week to recover some sleep!

Apart from the Glastonbury interlude, Paul and I have been doing the usual round of swimming and surfing – not so much surfing this year, but a bit of bellyboarding and lots of swimming.  Paul has been teaching a mixed summer class on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at our local Community Centre and worked on a large commission. We went to a fabulously colourful wedding.  Neither of us has been particularly healthy this summer for various reasons and have been trying to be kind to ourselves, whilst still earning enough! I have had to rein in my swimming because of a neck problem and we have been a bit less active than we would like.  A bit depressing at times – but family events have made up for this as our daughter moved back to Plymouth after many years away and so we have the whole family around us.

Corfu

I have always wanted to visit Corfu ever since I read ‘My Family and other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell when I was quite young.  It often made me laugh out loud but I was struck by the descriptions of the island, the people  and the flora and fauna.

Paul and I had a week there in April – we arrived just before the season started and everyone was painting, power-washing and planting.  At first, it was a little bit on the chilly side with an unseasonal Mistral wind blowing.  The locals put on multiple layers and complained that it was like January.

We hired a car from the airport and drove across to the North West of the island to Paleokastritsa.  We took a wrong turn just before the town as the authorities had removed a sign to avoid confusion.  We ended up – and up – and up! We finally stopped when we could see our destination far below us and asked directions in a Bakery, promising to go back and buy bread another day.

Paleo surpassed our expectations.  The blue ocean was as clear as crystal and a tad warmer than here in the summer.  The water was deep and full of fish. The beaches were empty as nothing was really open – which suited us down to the ground.   A few tavernas welcomed us and we ate out a quite a few times as the food was real food, and the village wine like nectar.

We learnt that 5 minutes was half an hour, 10 minutes was an hour and a half. The scenery was amazing, the locals welcoming, everything seemed easy. Well – it was for us.  The Corfiots work really hard throughout the summer to earn enough, starting at 9 in the morning and working till 1 am seven days a week.  They can’t afford holidays themselves – in the winter months they cut olive wood for the fire and make olive oil.

Paul did a tiny bit of sketching.

We swam on four deserted beaches, took a leisurely boat trip, visited a monastery and walked up the donkey paths through the olive groves to buy bread in the bakery, as promised.  There was a cafe there and we drank frappe overlooking the swooping swallows and the turquoise bays of the town.

 

Huge Pastel Apples

I’m not good at Christmas time. Back in 2004, my dear Mum was ill during the whole of November, died during December and her funeral was Christmas Eve.  I try to be jolly but it’s a little tricky for me. I am so glad that Christmas and New Year are behind us and we can look forward to Spring!

I tend to think of December as a big mountain to climb – it’s hard going all through the month, getting steeper as you reach Christmas – then there is a flattening out between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and then – behold! here is January the first and you are on the summit and can see all the way across to Summer! Yippee! What a lovely view! Just have to negotiate down through the rocky terrain of Winter and we will be in the Lovely Land of Sunshine and warmer water!

We did have a good time over the holiday – the weather was glorious at times and we managed many swims and walks, a couple of bellyboard sessions and a sunny surf at Polzeath. The waves were huge – far too big for us to manage so we were White Water Warriors that day, keeping in the mushy zone after the big waves break.  It is such a joy to be in amongst the foamy waves, right in the middle of the planet.  The sea never ceases to amaze me.

Christmas Day Bellyboarding fun

We hunted surf at Bigbury but missed the tide window and I had to make do with a swim.

Bigbury

We walked the cliff path from Wembury towards the Yealm, trying to find a secret spot to swim but found nowhere safe enough. The gorse was out!

Gorse near Wembury
Towards the Yealm

We found a stand of fir trees and picked up lots of pine cones to open in front of the fire at home.

River Yealm

We returned to Bigbury and found some surf to play in on the big boards.

Burgh

I am trying to squeeze in as many swims as possible now, meeting up with my swim chums to dip in the water off Plymouth Hoe. Water temperature is around 10 degrees at present – I stay in for between 10 and 20 minutes,depending on the wind chill factor: if there is a cold wind (especially an easterly!)  it is much harder to warm up after coming out of the sea.    I know it is only a matter of time before I have to head indoors to a chlorine pit to keep my distance up – it’s hard for me to swim a long way in the colder temperature.

Paul always presents some one-day workshops over the Christmas holiday and just occasionally I join in for the day!  I decided to try ‘Working Bigger’ – and thoroughly enjoyed making huge marks with charcoal and pastel on massive lengths of lining paper. It was messy and jolly and great fun.  Sometimes we humans need to be eight again and allow our brains to return to the sensation of play which we enjoyed when we were young.

Huge pastel apples

We are looking forward to having a little more time to think.

Earlier this month we were in full swing at Paul Acraman Artist‘s weekend Event at Studio 99.  I say full swing – the Saturday was quite slow, but events gathered pace on Sunday and we were very busy, selling paintings and cards, chatting to people and serving coffee and cakes – all in aid of St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth.  Our current total for the weekend stands at £618, however some donations have yet to be counted in so we are hoping for a little more! Many thanks to all our supporters.

Paul has now left Studio 99 and we have handed over the keys.  We have enjoyed our time there but now is the right time to leave the stresses of a big premises behind and re-group!  We are both looking forward to having a little more time to think.  We shall continue to support St Luke’s Hospice in the future in some way.

Recently a swimming friend was very ill and spent some of her last days at St Luke’s.  I visited her and was encouraged by the relaxed atmosphere and dedication of all the staff. My friend was very upbeat and positive despite her situation and was relieved to be so well looked after.  I over-stayed visiting time by more than an hour as Lynne kept me talking for so long, but never once did I feel unwelcome. St Luke’s staff make the patient the priority and Lynne was clearly enjoying our chat. Every penny raised for St Luke’s is worth it.  I am pleased that we can help a tiny bit.

As a memory to Lynne, a big group of her friends and fellow swimmers recently went for a moonlit dip – something she was trying to organise during her last days.  It was magical and will remain a special moment for me.

I have felt quite unsettled recently – I am not good when things change. I find swimming in the sea very helpful.  It can lift my mood considerably and make me feel physically better too – see  The Health Benefits of Seawater  I am very lucky to have the opportunity to swim as often as I do.  My swimming friend and I were today considering all those things for which we are grateful:  running water, warm houses, electricity, enough food and clothes and not least, being able to walk around almost anywhere in safety.  In many places in this world a woman swimming on her own would be unthinkable and I am truly grateful that I can walk into the boundless ocean without a thought.

 

H2Open piece about Lynne
Lynne Roper, wild swimming blogger and inspirational advocate for outdoor swimming, has died at the young age of 55. Her friend and fellow Devon swimmer Sophie Pierce pays tribute. How to sum up Lynne? When I first met her I was fascinated by her apparent contradictions. A former RAF servicewoman and Margaret Thatcher supporter, she was now a raving leftie (and she’d be very proud to be described as such). She’d gone to art school, but was now a paramedic. She had a particular interest in and love of witches; a witch dolly always hung from the rear view mirror in her beloved camper van. I met her of course, through swimming. She’d turned to the water to help her recover from breast cancer, and a double mastectomy. A few years ago, when the outdoor swimming network was in its infancy, I met her through Facebook. We met with a few others in a windy car park in Torquay one December day, and set off to swim through a natural arch called London Bridge. Around the back of the arch we discovered a cave and swam in, where we got bounced up and down by the swell, narrowly avoiding banging our heads. We laughed hysterically and there was an immediate bond. The waters of Devon ran through Lynne’s blood. She grew up swimming in both the Atlantic off the North coast and English Channel off the South, and she was passionate about Dartmoor and the rivers Tavy and Dart in particular. She lived in a former miner’s cottage on the Moor, which she decorated in her flamboyant style in her favourite colours of pink and blue, with a huge mermaid mosaic she’d made herself in the bathroom. (On her Air BnB listing she proudly said: “I don’t do grey or beige”). After her double mastectomy, Lynne found that swimming in the rivers of Dartmoor and the seas of Devon gave her both physical and mental therapy – as I think it does for the vast majority of us. What was so special about her was her ability to translate that feeling into words and to communicate the joy, humour, frequent silliness, camaraderie and all-round life-enhancing qualities of swimming outdoors. She wrote a blog, Wild Woman Swimming https://wildwomanswimming.wordpress.com/… which detailed her many adventures sometimes hilariously, sometimes angrily, always thoughtfully and always articulately. She wrote beautifully, and with originality. I remember one write-up after a particularly exciting low tide swim, when we’d seen a range of marine wildlife including Devonshire cup corals, breadcrumb sponge, and a very rare variety of soft coral called dead men’s fingers which Lynne described as “the same shade of pink as Katie Price’s jodhpurs’. It was a spot-on description too – they were indeed a lurid shocking pink. When she became ill with a brain tumour earlier this year, she turned to writing about both her personal situation and the wider context of the NHS, of which she was a passionate supporter. https://outofmybrains.org/ She christened her tumour Hunt after the Health Secretary, and was furious about what she saw as the ongoing cutbacks and the privatisation of the NHS by the back door. She also wrote movingly about facing her own death. Her blog is now being used to teach medical students. Lynne’s death has shocked our swimming community both here in Devon and wider afield. Locally we have lost a wonderful, witty friend, who made us laugh, led us on many adventures and was always keen to share her wonderful places. Lynne also touched people who never even met her, through her writing and blogging, and through several films and documentaries about wild swimming in which she appeared. One of the most moving tributes has been from a blogger in America who’s never even met her, but felt he knew her. I have so many wonderful memories of swimming with Lynne. Sitting in a hot tub at Slapton Sands, after getting battered by huge rollers crashing onto the shingle shore. Several New Year’s dips followed by raucous warm-ups in the pub. Hikes over Dartmoor followed by plunges in cool rivers and playing in waterfalls. And one incredible dawn swim where we watched the sky gradually turn pink and then slipped into the shining sea.

 

What on earth am I going to do when I grow up?

We have had our holidays!  It didn’t rain! Hardly at all!   We kayaked, swam and surfed and chilled out.  Paul did no painting and I read John McCarthy’s and Jill Morrell’s book Some Other Rainbow, which was surprisingly uplifting. I am not a great reader – I don’t remember any childhood books apart from Rumble and Chuff and I have to admit to secretly reading the Famous Five books from time to time. I usually have one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series on the go, books with many layers to sift through over multiple readings.

Exploring caves

I prefer to be outside in the summer – I am always anxious that I haven’t packed in enough outdoor times and it might be cold and dark before I know it. I find it impossible to stay indoors on a summer’s evening and recently picked blackcurrants until I couldn’t see them.  I am making wine for the first time.  I shall need to be patient.

Our garden also produces raspberries in abundance.  Every year I am shocked by the amount as I do very little to tend them.  The sparrows have had a few chomps at them  but I don’t mind as we have been entertained by the ever-growing family all this year. They hide in the honeysuckle and have frequent noisy rows.

Enormous raspberries

I am still swimming often – probably more than most normal people.  I am going to swim across to Drake’s Island and back soon – joining an organised event in aid of The Chestnut Appeal for Prostate Cancer.  We leave from Royal William Yard at 9.30 am on Sunday 7th August.  Please look at Rosie’s Drake’s Island Swim page if you would like to donate a couple of pounds to a worthwhile, local, men’s charity.

 I am a summer person – I don’t look forward to the autumn.  I can’t even listen to California Dreamin’ after July without feeling sad.  This September Paul and I will be re-balancing our lives. Paul will move out of Studio 99 and reduce his teaching commitments to two days per week – four classes instead of six – at our local community centre.  We are bound to disappoint people, we cannot avoid it and it bothers us.  However, we need to think of our own future and happiness. Whilst we were on holiday we were told by some relatively new friends that we are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.  This was a timely reminder as, although we feel very attached to all Paul’s students and dislike meddling with their support networks, we need to consider our own health and well-being.  Paul is planning on painting more and is looking at a small escape studio.  I shall continue to help him in the business, but the question still remains  - as I face a Big Birthday next year – what on earth am I going to do when I grow up?

Are we in Europe or not?

We shall soon know whether we are in Europe or not.  I have had to distance myself from the media in all its guises as the constant bickering is depressing me.

So!  Instead of Referendum Ranting here is a post stuffed full of photos of where we live.  I love Plymouth – the sea is nearby, the moors are just up there, Cornwall is over the Tamar and we have lots of lovely pubs, restaurants and events.  

The Barbican is within walking distance from our house and we often head there for a meal, a drink or to be a tourist for the day.

Barbican

Tinside is where I go most I suppose – either for a quick swim on my own or a meeting with friends.  The Terrace is my preferred coffee stop.  Sean at The Terrace gives us swimmers staff discount and provides hot water bottles for us throughout the winter.

Sunset over Tinside

There is also the glorious Tinside Lido – open during the summer months with hot showers and sun loungers.  There are even film showings this year – including Jaws!  

 

Tinside Lido

I don’t often venture up to the moors, preferring the coast, but there are some spectacular places on Dartmoor.  I should really explore more.

Most Plymothians know Cadover Bridge well – heading up to picnic by the river in the summer.  You can also jump off the bridge with the local ‘Erberts if you’re brave enough, but wear trainers (as I was advised) as the river bed is stony.

The Plym near Cadover

Bovisand is a special place – our nearest sandy beach with lots of places to swim off – and even a little bellyboard wave when the conditions are right.  Two cafes – spoilt for choice! – and a beach shop (currently up for sale if you fancy a new beginning?) selling fairtrade clothes along with beachy things and biscuits.

Bovisand on a busy day

Wembury, a little further around the coast, is a National Trust treasure with most Plymouth primary school children heading there at some stage for a Rockpool Ramble.

The Mewstone, Wembury

Whitsands is my favourite place – it is reassuring to me that I could get there on foot if necessary, either on the Torpoint Ferry or the Cremyll foot ferry – both are iconic journeys across the Tamar.  It truly seems as if you enter a different world when you travel just over the water.

Torpoint Ferry

Paul and I are contemplating a few changes in September of this year.  These changes have had mixed reviews and we are facing a challenge to make things work. It is somewhat reassuring to know that these favourite haunts are still there as our sanctuary.

Rainbow at Rame Head

The coffee is excellent and the wine is cheap.

It’s been such a long time since I wrote a blog post.  The weather over the autumn and winter got to me and I don’t like to admit it but I have been feeling really down. We both have, for various reasons.   We were miraculously rescued when some money fell out of the sky and hit us on the head and we booked tickets to New Zealand. We have friends over there – they sailed a yacht from Plymouth in September 2014 and via the Atlantic, the Panama Canal and many various beautiful Islands, arriving in Auckland just before Christmas.  They invited us to stay on their boat.

Setting off from Plymouth September 2014

We also have very new friends who are working over there for 2 years, just north of Auckland at Whangerie Heads, a vast uncrowded  area of headlands, sheltered bays, estuaries and surfing beaches. We were invited to stay with them too!   We had a wonderful time. Our friends on the boat in Auckland made us incredibly welcome and looked after us, sharing their space with us.  Our other chums went out of the way to entertain us and make sure we were happy, fed and watered (and wined!).  They organised a beach house for us. We felt very special.

The New Zealand people themselves are  welcoming, happy, friendly and non-judgmental and it was very refreshing. I could easily live there: it is very familiar and I can see why Brits have settled there easily.  The coffee is excellent and the wine is cheap. I developed a passion for Whittakers Chocolate. We were in dairy-land and there were buckets of creamy yoghurt and great slabs of butter. We didn’t have a mediocre meal.

But….we’re back now and getting our heads around the jet lag, the weather, the darkness and the finances.  I’ve also had to adjust to the difference in the sea temperature – around 20 in Auckland and 8 ish here!  I do like the crisp freshness of our sea though.  The South Pacific was a bit too salty for my liking.

Pause for a photo... by Kate Timony

Every swim is different and magical and surprising.

The sunny, calm weather has finally ended and today I don’t mind sitting here writing the blog! The sun has been beaming into this room during the afternoon, and I have found it difficult to concentrate, so I usually end up in the garden, feeding the chickens grapes or trimming off some of the overgrown plants. Today though I am looking out onto heavy rain and I can hear an ominous drip from the skylight.  I’ll have to tell Paul about it when he gets back, mending roofs being a blue job, obviously.

Rainy view

We have packed in as many outdoor adventures as we could during this lovely weather.  I am conscious that my Dad died young (ish) and I seem to be panicking a bit that I may not have many summers left. Over the last few weeks I have swum under the moon and stars in the early morning watching the sun come up.  I have swum in the dark under a full moon, on a very high tide, a very low tide, in the river Dart, in the river Aune, off Cornish beaches and Devon ones.  Every swim is different and magical and surprising in some way and I have never regretted going in.

Early morning sunshine at Tinside

Fishes in the Aune

The Dart

Paul swimming ashore

Off Dodman Point

Early morning Tinside

The drizzle is relentless.

Huge thanks to everyone who bought cakes, draw tickets, paintings, prints, cards, gave us donations or just wished us luck at Paul’s recent two day event at Studio 99.  We raised around £500 for RNLI Plymouth!

Paul is continuing to teach over the summer period and do the accounts (always a hideous job for an Artist!) and paint when he can.  We have been squeezing in mini half-day holidays here and there. We drive off to Plymouth Hoe or the beach in the van and have coffee or lunch or dinner and try and chill out for a while.  We’ve seen some great sunsets.  We’ve been a bit stressed recently for various reasons – nothing major, but lots of small niggles adding together.

The summer weather has been particularly unpredictable this year – the odd hot day but mostly nothing to write home about.  The drizzle is relentless. My tomatoes are not ripening, but I have had a bumper crop of raspberries.  Let’s hope September will have an Indian summer.