Well folks, there’s a first time for everything. Unfortunately, this is one first that I’d rather not have experienced: missing a flight. The 4.5 hour drive up from Portscatho wound up as a 6.5 hour marathon and all of our best laid plans were foiled. On a positive note, I’m bunkering down in the airport for the night and it means that I’ll be able to get a little bit of writing done at long last.
And I wouldn’t change the situation for the world because it meant that I was able to get a couple of days knocking around with a top mate – H.M. “Digs” Denning – and her swell family down in Portscatho, a nice part of the world. It’s no hyperbole to say that my time at the Denning household was right up there with the most relaxing and enjoyable moments of my entire trip so far. The south-west of England truly surprised me in all aspects (except perhaps the predictably dreary weather) and the lush green woods and fields were the perfect antidote to almost a month at sea. Doyle’s cold-water swimming exploits continued with an early morning swim accompanied by Digs and Jennifer (mother of Digs) – who both proved to be women of steel in the chilly Atlantic Ocean. Swimming out to the pontoon triggered fond memories of Mandurah where a boogie board was the only way to traverse the vast expanse of Indian Ocean way back in the early days with the cousins.
There were mixed emotions the day before upon departure from the good ship Excelsior. As taxing as the voyage was and despite some significant personality clashes aboard, it’s hard to spend 11 days aboard a cramped traditional sailing vessel without forming a certain kind of respect and mutual affection for the other souls on board. Fundamentally, Diggsy and I were glad to depart the claustrophobic confines of the ship but I certainly came to enjoy my time down in the galley with Deidre (the diesel range) and to appreciate the different characters on the voyage.
In any case, we whipped through the changeover cleaning, saw off the charter guests and made our farewells to Jelly, Gav, Toni and Brixham before taking the bus and train down toward St Austens where the amiable Jennifer was waiting in the trusty Fiat Panda. It was a gorgeous drive through tall, ancient hedgerows, rolling fields and twisting tree tunnels – complete with a very English blanket of low cloud and misty rain. The Denning family beach house is a stunningly renovated old fisherman’s apartment and a good many cups of tea were put away on the window seat overlooking the bay.
In between tea and coffee breaks, we had a grand old time in a full house – complete with the Denning family (Jennifer, Nick, Digs and Claire), two friends (John and Hillary), Claire’s mate (Tilly) and yours truly. There were croissants for breakfast, a dinner party (with celebrity chef “Jamie” Doyle), a trip to Truro, stunning views from the clifftop point, and a bit of much needed R&R for two weary sailors.
Then, of course, came the increasingly frantic drive up to the airport – two distinct highlights were Digs’ fine driving and even better company and a drive-by of Stonehenge, which is every bit as mysterious and impressive as the stories suggest.
So there you have it, folks – the post-cheffery report. As always, it’s sad to leave behind some terrific friends but the adventure continues – onwards to Provence for a month or two. See you in the land of wine, cheese and lavender!