In a life filled with work and family responsibilities, it is easy sometimes to forget the simple things. The down times that make all the hard work worthwhile. The reasons why you wanted the mortgage and to build a family of your own in the first place.
These past few days have been a rediscovery exercise. An interlude of fun and relaxation in the hustle and bustle of daily life when I have tried to stop and smell the flowers. Not actually, obviously – I mean, no-one has time to do that!
It began last Friday when I gave up the day job for a couple of days to head back to my sailing roots. I was asked to help out with the launching and display of the Team GB yacht entry into the Clipper Round the World race 13-14. Being there on this gorgeous new racing yacht plumped slap bang in the middle of Trafalgar Square – an amazing sight – was a privilege and an absolute pleasure. I spent two days meeting and greeting thousands of people who crossed that famous London square and introducing them to my love of the boat, the race experience and the legacy of sailing that catches all who take part and never lets go. Four years on from my own exciting voyage across the Atlantic, my enthusiasm for it is still undiminished, although two whole days of smiling and chatting has left me with lock-jaw and a need for Botox around the crow’s feet. I would leave with this year’s crew to set off around the globe on this mad race in an absolute heartbeat, if only I could. Ah! Jealous? Me? Abso-bloody-lutely!
Anyway. Having had that lovely catch-up with old crew and Clipper pals, including the brave and wonderful Rachel about to set off for a seven month sojourn in Switzerland before joining me back here for our Coast to Coast walking challenge next April (!), I moved on to some even older friends and a lovely Sunday in the country.
I have known these two particular good buddies since the heady days of our times together in investment banking in Canary Wharf. Many a lunch hour was whiled away setting the world to rights over curly fries and a bottle or two of fizz – would be totally frowned upon in these days of austerity and belt-tightening but in the mid-90s it was all completely normal behaviour.
Without them, I would have been an even worse employee than I have eventually turned out to be! They saved me, nurtured me, made me a better person and we will be – I have no doubt – lifelong friends. Babies, annoying and inconvenient health issues and my stubborn refusal to lie down and live quietly will never affect our close bond. We meet rarely, owing to geography and intruding life, but when we do it is as if we have not been apart in the interim. We can, literally, talk for England.
So having finally got our diaries synchronised, we all met up close to our home in Sussex at a bizarre and eclectic pub called The Bell at Ticehurst that we had been recommended to try. As it turned out, it is a great pub with a friendly atmosphere but, sadly for us, not a marvellous restaurant for a big group of chattering people. The quirkiness of the staff and surroundings palled quite quickly when faced with cold plates, wrong orders and slow and eccentric service. The men folk that accompanied us to lunch returned bemused at having had to pee literally into a trombone – an experience the Man-Hog described in excruciating detail later that day. Ew. Nevertheless, it was a lovely – if expensive and slightly weird – day with our friends and we shall just have to re-group at a better researched venue next time!
The following day was family day. A fab, sunny morning meant it would be rude not to hit the beach in some form. That beach turned out to be Deal in Kent. Via a brief stop in Sandwich. It was a treat to be out with the kids all day. I call them kids but, of course, one of them is not really. I sometimes hyperventilate at the thought of the Teen’s impending adulthood – come November she can legally get locked in at a pub without me! So these days spent all together are all the more precious because of their rarity and their approaching end. How much longer can I realistically expect her to hang out with her old Ma? Burying your Mini-Pig sibling up to his neck in beach stones will not appeal forever – although when he is annoying her it is ALL she wants to do!
A flying visit to the Isle of Wight by ferry and some exciting Colin McRae driving in the Mini ended our travelling days out – they know how to do a cream tea on that island. Devon and Cornwall – beware!
Some final shopping with the Teen and a sprinkling of CVs around neighbourhood in her continuing search for the Lesser Spotted Saturday job completed a relaxing and enjoyable week. Tomorrow I go back to work – ugh. But just for a while there, it was nice to do – and think about – practically nothing at all…..