We drove to Aberystwyth and back at the weekend. Chris is going into his second year at the University there and I have to admit that I am jealous. His home for the next year will be a bungalow on the Golf Course above the town, within two minutes’ walk – through some pretty woodland – of the most spectacular, west-facing view over the whole town and the sea. It was breathtaking!
Paul and I walked down to the town for a beer and found a great little pub called the Ship and Castle selling many real ales. The place was full of all ages, students and locals alike. On the way back up the hill in the dark we met a group of happy students. We stopped to chat and they said they had been up to the golf course to look at the stars. I wanted to be young and at University with all those cool things to do!
In the pub we met a young post-grad couple who lived locally. I asked about a good swimming spot (as you do) and they recommended a clear water area by the jetty on the beach. The following morning, before the Lidl’s run, we went to the beach for my swim – and there was a Triathlon just where I wanted to be! How annoying! Anyway, I went into the clear, deep water a few yards away and watched the swimmers from the water. I saw some ladies wrapped up in big coats and boots on the Prom pointing at me, so I did a bit of synchronised swimming with myself to amuse them. What a wonderful swim! The Triathletes seemed to enjoy it as well, although I’m glad I didn’t have to bike and then run up Aberystwyth’s steep hills.
Paul’s Art Classes start again this week and we have been busy settling in old and new students to the new term. Paul is a great teacher and is incredibly patient with everyone, as well as skilled in all things to do with painting and drawing. He is also very inspiring and encouraging. Each class is like a mini community with friendships sometimes going back years. These relationships are almost impossible to be evaluated by twenty-first century administration, and Paul and I cherish them.
Some of my swimming chums and I were asked to take part in an e-mail interview for the Silver Grey Sports Club. You may like to read the results – link below.
I know it’s Autumn, but I’m still planning to do lots of swims and adventures. So there, pipe that in yer smoke and put it, Winter!
Have a look at Paul’s lovely paintings and prints on the main website:
Paul is taking a break between teaching sessions this week. September is a golden time of year when Paul & I traditionally have had some trips out together, with Lucie and Chris back at school and summer still just visible. Now of course, Lucie is living away and Chris is at University, so one of our trips will involve taking him back to Wales. This term we are taking his surf boards on the ‘Wrap rax’ on the roof of the car, so the six hour drive will be interesting!
The Marine City Festival was great fun – we went to a free lecture by Monty Halls in the Aquarium, I swam the Blue Mile, we watched Martyn from the Fishermans Arms cook tasty fish dishes and laughed at the raft race. Wonderful to see the Barbican in festival mood.
We are hanging on to summer by our fingertips. We’ve been swimming and walking and had the first overnight camp of the year at Polzeath. Paul has been sailing - he was crewing on the beautiful yacht ‘Purple Haze’ - and they came first in their two races. Paul & I had an opportunity to go coasteering with some friends one evening. Good job the Fashion Police were asleep as we looked wild with our wetsuits, bouancy aids, old trainers and helmets. My friend and I had swimhats underneath our helmets to add to the glamour. Luckily the only living beings to see us were fish and cormorants. We leaped off folded rocks into deep gullies of turquoise blue and green. We found barnacled rocks just under the surface and stood on them in the middle of the deep water, and laughed. We swam into the mouth of a coastal cave, with a small waterfall rattling on our heads and were swooshed by the swell further in with slithery seaweed beneath us. I was quite scared, imagining lithe sea monsters under my feet and screeched like a small child. My friend held my hand and we half swam and half scrambled over rocks to the dark beach about 50 metres in. It was eerily beautiful. We headed back to base as we got colder and swam the strange coasteering stroke – a mix of breast stroke, crawl, side stroke and doggy paddle – at one stage resorting to moving through the water as if riding a bicycle.
Autumn is beginning (she whispered in case it’s listening) – there is a definite chill in the air when I go out to the chickens in the morning. Pearl and Violet have been grumpily broody for a couple of weeks, which is a bit annoying as they don’t lay during this time. Pearl is edging out of it now so we’re waiting for her to start laying again – Pearl’s eggs are bigger! Primrose is the dunce of the flock, but she will tackle the fat, two inch long slugs hiding in the border, taking a stomach-churning few minutes to finish them off.
This is a picture of Beryl – the littlest but by no means the least of the flock. Below Beryl there is a picture of Violet Being Broody.
Today we’re having a rest day, although I think the sunshine may call us to the seaside for a swim.
This is the time of year when Paul and I are juggling students. Not literally, of course, although that sounds fun! We are organising registers for the coming Autumn Term, receiving messages from most students to say they will be returning to class at the end of the month. There are very few people who decide not to come back, so we nearly always have a waiting list of people to invite into the various groups. New students are understandably apprehensive at first, but Paul’s classes are so friendly, welcoming and supportive that people usually settle very quickly and make friends easily. I go to a Tuesday morning group and we have a great time. Today Paul demonstrated a painting of the Horsehead Nebula, such is his versatility. Most of us would prefer to be told what to do, but Paul is gradually persuading us to make our own decisions about our paintings. McVities biscuits – digestives, milk and plain chocolate – are a big help and are always available (a big bonus with Paul’s classes) and there is often cake involved if someone has a birthday and brings in a tin of chocolate brownies or Bakewell tarts.
Paul and I kayaked off Cawsand last week on a lovely bright sunny day. The water was crystal clear and we saw a beautiful boat anchored in the bay. Apparently this boat was built near Millbrook and was launched earlier in the year. She looked very fine, with red and yellow pennants streaming in the breeze.
I encountered a bigger boat today. My swimming chums and I went for a dip in Firestone Bay near Devil’s Point. Just after my swim in dark green water, over forests of seaweed, HMS Bulwark steamed past. She has returned from Olympic duties. What a wonderful sight.
I won a prize at the World Bellyboard Championships at Chapel Porth! This is one of the best days for British eccentricity, friendliness, surfing and people just generally getting along and having fun together. There are cakes, but no wetsuits. This year, gloriously and luxuriously, hot tubs were thoughtfully provided for the hundreds of competitors.
It would be good to report that I beat my last year’s third place in the Ladies Junior (under 60′s) Section with a resounding win! Alas, no podium finish for me this year – but I did win first prize in the Ladies vintage swimwear category. I bought this glamorous Slix costume at a jumble sale over 30 years ago, when my chums and I entertained each other by dressing up in it and giggling a lot. I’ve kept it all these years as I am a determined hoarder and can’t throw anything away. At last year’s Champs I wished I had brought it with me, so I vowed to give it an airing this year. I had to re-shirr the back panel and re-elastisize the legs: I tested it in the shower and there was a large element of sag. I teamed it with vintage sunglasses left over from the Opticians where I worked many years ago and a pair of 15 year old jelly shoes. I donned my outfit and then went to collect my beautifully painted board from the display. I was descended upon by photographers from all angles – it was like getting married again! Paul and I made him a vintage-style suit using a ‘Vegetable’ motif – a bit of a tongue-in-cheek joke about the ubiquitous ‘Animal’ range. We were both invited to take part in the Expression Session – a wonderful 10 minutes when around 80 people rush into the sea with their Bellies and have a communal surf. Happily my costume stood up to the epic waves, although I did get sand in my nose, ears and teeth, as well as the usual places.
As I am Plymouth Maid born and bred Paul Acraman the Artist painted Smeaton’s Tower on my board – it looked brilliant and I love it.
We now have Bellyfriends from the Champs – Sue the illustrator and her husband Martin, Alison the hot tub lady and others whose names we didn’t get. We’re already looking forward to seeing them all again next year. I might even enter the Bake Off!