New blog


It’s been ages since I last wrote a post for this blog, yet still I see people are viewing it each day. Thank you!

I feel I have moved on, although this is very much part of my life, I have settled a little and am learning to adapt to Dorset life.

To mark this change I began a new blog. I am not really sure of its format yet: a mix of my explorations around Dorset, learning about its villages and attractions and recording the beauty of nature through photos.

If you would like to join me on this new blog, here is the link

Currently called “A Londoner in Dorset”, I would be very interested to hear how best to ‘spice up’ a blog on country life and living quietly in retirement. Those of you who have read this blog regularly, followed me for a while or know me will know that “living quietly” has never been something I have been good at.

I hope you find time to drop by this new blog and leave a comment. I intend to keep this blog live but will not add posts for the foreseeable future. If you would like to continue to follow me, please use the new blog.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks to everyone who has followed this one.

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Beautiful New World


I am feeling my way into a new world. Gently nudging the edges so they grow, unfolding like petals. First, my house begins to feel like home. I find myself settling down for the evening,like my cats, rather than roaming round restlessly. I begin to potter in the garden, someone else’s garden true, but huge and in desparate need of care and attention. I pull out brambles, prune back unruly bushes, we cut the beech hedge in the front of the house and in doing so begin to feel a pride.
My tendrils reach to new experiences: popping to new neighbours for a cuppa, bearing a slice of cake. I am proud of the cake too; my first from the Aga!
Life has the texture of a holiday.
Visiting new villages, new towns most days. Walks, markets, new shops, even supermarkets tempt me to difference, to change habits of a lifetime.
How many times have you walked the isles of your local supermarket, cursing that they have changed the shelving layout? It takes longer to shop, but you see more. We are trying lots of new shops, market stalls for fresh vegetables, the Sherborne Pannier Market for fresh fish and bread, supermarkets in several different towns.

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Today, as I was driving back from a perfectly normal supermarket experience, I looked… Really looked! Rolling hills, a soaring buzzard, wide skies, a patchwork of creams, browns blending together over the farmland, describing the stages of harvest in their hues.
Pull in, stop and wonder a while!
Really! This is special! It’s beautiful and I live here!

Last day – Friday 25th May 2012


The bay last night was incredibly quiet. Even when two tiny fishing boats pottered round us, we could hardly hear their engines. Breakfast was beautiful. Tinkling spoons in mugs of steaming coffee, contented murmurs from the crew, were the only sounds above the harmonious bells from a row of sheep as they walked up a distant hill.

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It was only ten miles to Lemnos capital, Myrina. One of the least tourist capitals- low key with a mild military presence, a wide variety of shops and lots and lots of roadworks.
We ate lunch just off the harbour in a small taverna, then walked round. It was quite a surprise to find 6 supermarkets and 4 bread shops. I mean big supermarkets with more than four isles!
We bought our water in a delightful shop. Quite large, rather dark, sells everything from broom handles to seeds with the odd tin thrown in. There was no one to serve us, despite our coughing and calling. Eventually, a young boy about 7 crept out of a store room and looked at us. I began my six phrases of Greek. “kalamera, endaxsi, yassas, ephraisto, parakalo.”. Mostly meaning hello, pease thank you. Whilst I amused the boy with this, I pointed with animation at the water bottles, the till, some coins we had in our hand. Nothing! So I tried again. Pointing to tills, money, pen and paper to request the price of the water. Nothing!!
The boy seemed overwhelmed by our presence and simply looked at us. He did not smile or show any sign of understanding at all. Eventually John counted out, what felt a suitable, average price for water and offered this to him. He took the handful of coins and notes and nodded.
Back on board, we cleaned the yacht, scrubbing and polishing with a will. The next crew turn up tomorrow mid day on the same plane that we will need to fly out. I know one of the couples and Louise knows the other, so we want them to feel comfortable.

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We have time to walk around the town at leisure and find an Internet cafe. Whilst on our travels, we come across the road works. Many roads are closed for this but pedestrians can walk by. Down a hole I spot two umbrellas sheltering the workmen from the sun. What a contrast to yesterday!
Our last meal is lovely. We have enjoyed each others company. We eagerly discuss the memories of the sailing and the many villages we have seen.
Tomorrow we need to leave by 10.30.
It’s a strange thing that I have been retired now for 10 months. Six and a half of these we have been traveling! I can honestly say that I have not been bored for one moment. Retirement seems to have given me a new lease of life. I feel much more centred, comfortable about me. I thought I would miss being a head teacher so much, but no. Sometimes, I think about the hundreds of children I taught or cared for. They made my life fulfilled and occupied my thoughts almost exclusively. I am happy for the involvement I had with each and everyone of them. But I cannot say I miss them. I am happy for them. They move on from class to class, from school to school. I move on to other things.
So
Moving house next!

Don’t go out in this storm! – Thursday 24th May 2012


We have to cross about 40 miles to get to Limnos, where we will take the plane home. When we were arranging this trip, Captain suggested that we might have to take the ferry if the weather was inclement. Much discussion has centred on the best day to undertake this five hour voyage and the conclusion was – ‘today’.
However, it has been a really stormy night. We could hear the thunder, see the lightning. It’s not over yet! We eat breakfast in the main cabin instead of on deck. A sense of dread fills the air: lumpy seas and poor visibility are reported by the harbour master. A Swiss yacht comes into harbour very early is morning, bedraggled. They left the same bay we had been in about 3 in the morning because the weather was so bad. They shake their heads and ‘tut’ at the idea of going anywhere today.
Captain says that he feels sure it will be ok. “What is the difference between the strong winds we had the other day in the sun and this rain?” he reasons. I silently think, “the rain and the ridiculous downpour we are witnessing!” but I am wise enough to say nothing. captain has never let us down yet. I trust him, but I take some sea sick tablets!
We are about to set off when another bout of rain begins, so instead we batten the hatches.

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It can get quite gloomy down below. Louise and I make sandwiches so we can eat during the voyage, cutting off the crusts from the old bread we scavenged from the restaurant last night.
Despite the portentous signs, we set off by 8.45. The sea chases us with boiling waves. We barrel along. I cannot decide whether to stay below and feel sick, or go above and get wet. Someone has to stay above. Captain has a stock of bright red sou’westers and leggings, which look a lot jollier than they feel. I notice he is wearing Wellington boots!
I am determined not to be sick. For while I stay on board with my IPhone music playing calm tunes like Satie and Chopin. I try something more upbeat and dance and sway to the music, trying to bend my legs to compensate for the rolling, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the horizon.

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Below the cooker swings violently on it’s cradle, and even John has to hold on while he scrutinises the charts. Eventually the rain cascades down and I can no longer stand it. I go down below decks, and instantly regret it. Louise has no problem, she has always felt at home at sea and tries to persuade me that it feels like a mother rocking a cradle. This mother is very angry, I think!
I try dancing below decks but it just makes it worse, so I crawl off to my little bunk and lie, headphones firmly attached, listening to podcasts of A History of the World in 100 Objects. I had heard many of these at the time of their broadcast, but they are brilliant and I become absorbed. Louise lies on the sofa in the main saloon, listening to music. John and her husband take it in turns to assist Captain in the pouring rain and I have to say I think her husband was a true hero as he took more than his fair share.
Seven hours!
We motored all the way, but it took seven hours!
Just when I was truly sleepy, Captain roused us all to come on deck. The rain had finally stopped and he had spotted dolphins. Six dolphin chased our yacht, laughing in high spirits. They ran under the bow, jostling for pole position. There is no way you can feel sad when you encounter dolphin. We had seen them in the distance earlier in the week, but now they stayed with us for nearly 15 minutes and our excitement was wonderful. All the cold and wet, the rolling and cold was forgotten. As suddenly as they chose to stay with us, they decide to leave, dropping back and returning into deeper water. We are nearing the coast finally and we can see them for many minutes leaping away into the distance.
None of us need to stay below now. We hug the coast line for a while and decide not to finish the complete journey yet. Instead we pull into an inland waterway where we see monstrous solar panels which rotate to track the sun. Apart from that it is very pretty and very quiet.
I scrape the cupboards to produce an asparagus risotto, which seems to fill a hole. Thank goodness for tins! And tins of asparagus especially!
We are quick to sleep after the exhaustion of the day, even those of us who lay down for most of the time!

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The long tack – Wednesday 23rd May 2012


Overnight the wind has changed completely. Thank goodness we anchored in this sheltered bay rather than risking it off the coast at Tsonia. We motored out of the bay and around the headland along the North shore of Lesvos.
Our destination is Molyvos (sometimes called Mythymna, which I think prettier). The boys are aware of a ticking clock, unerringly counting the time to our return home, and they are keen to sail even though the wind is against us in direction. It is strong enough but we need to sail headlong into it- not good!
We can get there under sail by tacking, massive strides across the ocean, zig zagging our way across the sea between Turkey and Greece. Each stride will take an hour but we are in no hurry, so proceed.
I have never known Captain agree to tacking. In the past, he has shown himself to be a gentleman sailor, who considers the comfort of his crew. Indeed I have know John to feel slightly frustrated by his preference for easy motoring rather than put up sails. So the boys are delighted when Captain agrees so enthusiastically to tacking. Both have enormous fun at the helm and I sense some healthy competition as to who can steer to take best advantage of the wind. Louise’s husband has been suffering from a cold, but any remaining symptoms evaporate in the exhilaration of the sail. Four tacks are completed. The wind enables us to tap on nine knots, which is a brilliant speed. There is talk of racing other boats, although I am sure there is only one other yacht,; the rest are tankers!

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By the end of the day we moor in a double harbour in Mythymna and I am instantly charmed by the town. A row of tavernas line the quay and a large castle stands proudly over the houses which clamber up the hillside. We eat a late lunch in a taverna and this feels a luxury as we usually eat lunch on board.

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Even the cats of this town are happy.
The walk up the hill is very pleasant. Rows of vine covered streets mostly offering tourist tat in pretty shops. As we get higher the streets are covered in weeds. Eventually we reach the castle which offers a wonderful panorama on every side: farm, sea, trees, village.

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We eat at the “Captain’s Table” by the quay that night. The meal is fine and the atmosphere positively buzzes, in comparison with some of the places we have eaten recently. Despite all our walking through the town we had not found a loaf of bread so ask the restaurant if they can spare any. No problem!
Except that when we come to eat it, the crust is so hard we can hardly get our teeth into it! No wonder it was free.
Still it has been a brilliant day: excellent weather, brilliant sailing and two tavernas!

A strong wind to Tsonia – Tuesday 22nd May 2012


The inland waterway of Kolpos Yeras proves excellent shelter and very pretty. I am surprised how green Greece is because most of my travels while working have been dovetailed with school holidays, so this means high summer. Our anchor held well overnight. There is not sufficient wind to sail out of this water back to the open ocean, if you can ever call the Mediterranean ‘open’!
Our most reliable source of weather forecasting comes from a website aimed at windsurfers and surfers. It breaks the day into two-hour slots and has so far seemed very accurate. Today, as predicted we have enough wind to sail a steady course North, and we eat lunch on the move.
Shortly after eating the wind picks up to around 25-30 knots. We reef in the headsail to something akin to a pocket handkerchief and sail briskly along at 6-8 knots.

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Tsonia is such a tiny village on Lesvos that we almost miss it! The architecture implies money and the shoreline taverna has beautiful sunbeds, all empty, arranged across the sand. But we cannot achieve a firm anchorage here and are forced back along the coast to shelter behind a hill.
There is a taverna here too but we can see, without going ashore that it is not open. The kitchen fitters are hard at work and we will need to eat on board again. (Must check the labels before opening any other tins, we don’t want a repeat of tomato purée!)
The sun has been strong today, although we hardly felt it due to the wind. By the time we have anchored we allow ourselves an afternoon snooze. Swinging in the bay seems a great way to send you to sleep! Both John and Louise’s husband have really enjoyed the sailing today. We sip our gin and tonic that evening with a sense of total satisfaction and enjoy another great sunset.

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Cast off – Tuesday 15th May 2012


Last night the engineer was still at work on board until 11.30 at night. Seats had been dismantled, lockers emptied, carpets lifted and the stairs between decks had been removed for access to the engine room. (Actually it is a simple thing to put the stairs back in place!)
This morning, our task is to it everything back in place. We wake at 7.30 to arrange passport control, and get the ship in ship shape condition for sailing. There are plenty of small tasks, removing a stain from the cushion, scrubbing the deck where some chemical had been spilled – and breakfast, of course.
By 11.30 Captain says we are ready to cast off. We leave Turkey today and sail to Greece. Goodbye to the lovely warm showers at the marina and the posh restaurant. Whilst the marina sea is flat and calm, as soon as we reach the open sea, we find out that the gentle breeze is, in fact, quite strong. This is good for sailing, but creates a ‘lumpy’ sea. Short bursts of high and low rock or toss, depending on your constitution. It is always a shock at first until your body gets into the swing- pun intended!
We hoist our sails and set off. Both John and his friend instantly parry with each other to be at helm. Our friend is 70 this year, but you would think they were both 7!
After 4 hours, with wind of around 20 knots and a speed of 8 knots we land at Pythagorio. This is the island of Samnos, on which Pythagorus lived, becoming the famous mathematician and triangle buster!
It’s a tiny harbour near an airport. There are a few other yachts. There are several good restaurants to choose from and we eat in a garden, covered by vines.

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Too many beaches to choose from – Saturday 14th April 2012


Overnight, the sky has clouded, but the heat remains. We are no quicker getting out of bed, still recovering from our travels. Suddenly, I remember the couple we met on Bondi beach in October 2011 when we began our journey. They had been travelling for three months through Vietnam, Thailand and were on their way to meet their son in New Zealand. “Don’t do what we did,” they advised, “staying only one night over and over is so tiring!”. Damn right!
Still we are up by 10.30 and ready for action, of sorts.
I’d like to see the end of Jervis Bay peninsula so we drive past Hyams Beach to find a pay booth for Jervis Bay National Park, $10.
It is so similar to Wilson’s Promontory where we went with my Melbourne friend: beautiful, wild and full of beaches. We begin with Cave Beach, (yes, it had a cave!): half a mile of buttermilk sand, which brushes off like talcum powder. John rushes off to the sea, leaping through the waves. There are boogie boards and surfers in the sea, but I reckon the surfers were beginners because the waves were not that strong.
There is little sunshine, but it is warm enough to lie for an hour, people watching. We also walk the length of the beach and find crab sand ball patterns like we did in Northern Queensland. We nearly forget that we wanted to explore all the beaches.
Off to Green Patch, such a sweet beach with a stream down one side and greenish sea. We explore Jervis Village briefly, mostly related to the marine corps I think. Then there is Murrey beach and, suddenly we have run out of daylight. If only this was UK. Our summer days last until 9pm! Here we have darkness by 6 on a dull day!

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We have run out of food, so drive the 30km to Nowar, the nearest big supermarket and buy up.. What to eat tonight? Pre-cooked chook! It’s a Tudor feast with no vegetables just roasted chicken and some bread, all the better of not having to do any cooking myself.

Watching the world go by – Friday13th April 2012


We are so much better for a good night’s sleep and the kind of morning that allows a leisurely breakfast in bed and lots of reading. Wifi connections are appalling here, so we abandon our frustration at not being in touch with friends and family, and not being able to catch up with blogging.
It’s colder inside the ‘budget bungalow’ than outside. So we walk all of 10m to the river front, sit on the wooden chairs, drink coffee, and lemonade and read and talk. There are birds to watch too.
Terns dive frequently into the rising tidal river, the oyster catcher has procured an excellent patch of shellfish, which he picks over as fresh water drenches them, pelicans fly majestically overhead, three cormorants sit and idle the time with us, each on their own jetty piles.
Along with the tide comes paddle boards and canoes but by high tide all seems very still. We bask in the sunshine, peaceful and not traveling anywhere!

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Only when the late afternoon shadows envelope our spot by the jetty do we finally move. Out through the town and along the sandy beach. Not quite white here! As we wander further and further from one beach to another we discuss the most apt descriptive title: buttermilk, says John, no, say I, more like white bone china clay.

Perfect! Relaxing, warm. John and I have come to enhance our relationship in so many ways through this long journey. Peace…

The whitest sand in the world – Thursday 12th April 2012


Just a 2 hour journey today. After weeks of traveling relentlessly towards Sydney, we are going to stop for a few days and enjoy ourselves. Jervis Bay was recommended by our friends in Melbourne, but we have seen it rated as on of the top ten “whitest sandy beaches in the world”. Who could we not want to come?

We have two hours before we are able to book into our ‘budget bungalow’. After the past few cabins in holiday parks, I am beginning to get an eerie feeling that the title of this is not good. There were beautiful photos of bungalow 1 and Waterfront Bungalow, but only a stark ‘older kitchen in budget bungalow’ photo. Still it is considerably less expensive than the others and brilliantly located as absolute waterfront on the river.

First we head off to Hyams Beach. This is said to be the beach with the whitest sand, according to the tourist books and Internet. We look at the smaller section first, to the left of the main beach. Yes, the sand is white, but seaweed covers much of the beach and the grain of the sand is slightly course. I feel irritated with myself for having such high expectations.

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John insists he has not warmed up yet from the cold of yesterday, which had actually been warmer than the day before. He stubbornly sits on the beach with his jumper on. My concept of tropical beach has difficulty coping with this.
We move onto the larger Hyams Beach. This lives up to my imagination. The sand is talcum fine, and brilliant white. It is truly hard to see without sunglasses. The water contrasts beautifully with the white. Even John is warmed by the view and his jumper magically disappears. We sit in awe of the beauty that surrounds us, envious of those in the sea; we have swim wear lodged in the murky bottom of our cases back in the car.

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Eventually, we quit the beach for an impromptu lunch of hummus and bread from the food bag out the boot of the car.
Finally, at two o’clock, we arrive at Husskison at the budget bungalow. The setting is just as I wished for, grassy, well kept with a long wooden jetty protruding into the estuary. Two wood chairs and a small table invite us to take coffee and admire the view.
We spend the late afternoon wandering round the town. They too have a sandy beach, where we have brought our swimwear and simply soak up the sun, until the evening shadows force us to return home.
But the bungalow itself is, also, as expected. The kitchen is large with two modern yet already aged sofas and a smell of unkempt, unloved cupboards. The bedrooms are good enough and we set to making it comfortable. The best bit is the verandah, where we bask in the evening sun and eat our meal.
Best of all though, we are staying here a while. Four nights to recover, to relax, to get to one the area better.