Thursday, 31 October 2019

A reflection

They say a week is a long time in politics, this of course has been shown beyond any doubt in the events that have unfolded recently in a country I used to call home. But what of a year?

I've been reflecting a lot over the last few days, I do that, but especially at this time of year as it's an easy time to remember.

Of course looking back both the painful and good memories come flooding in, once again I've been glad I live alone so nobody else has to witness the mess. But it suddenly occurred to me; just what was I doing in the less memorable years? So I looked, rather inevitably I took advantage of Google photos and it turns out I could track back at least to 2010 to see exactly where I was on this day.

As I looked at the photos I realised something, the me of that day had no idea what the hell was coming next...

2010: London Zoo

Ah yes. At this point in time I'd scurried off to London to work as ends needed to meet and food needed to be on the table, it was a difficult time. I do remember that I was walking on eggshells, carefully following the line that separated one argument from another. But at this point I had no clue, no idea that it would be but a few short months before being rather unceremoniously informed that my marriage had reached the end of the road. It was, quite simply a path that I couldn't see. And yet with hindsight it was so obvious.



2011: The Crown, Victoria Park

When Monty met Bizzle. Obviously I was only there as Monty's chaperone, I know Bizzle was a bad bear likely to lead him astray. By now the events outline above had not particularly neatly unfolded and I was in a strange place. And I don't mean Barnes, though that was, of course, where I was living at the time.

Looking back through the previous months there were huge gaps which rather reflected the darkness.

I know I had plans, though I know the unravelling that was going on made them all singularly difficult, which is probably why I didn't see that a year later...



2012: Limehouse Cut

Rather unexpectedly I found myself sharing a flat with my best friend and Contrary Towers was born. We'd been there since March, which rather proves the point of not seeing what was coming next. And at the time I had no idea I would be there for the next 3+ years. Things were moving, changing, morphing. And more importantly in 2012 things were stabilising. After years, oh so many years, of being what others expected me to be, to do my duty, to conform, I became... Me.

Selfish, single minded, me.

At 45, I finally, well, nearly, got to do what I wanted to do.

Bitch.



2013: Limehouse Cut, again.

By All Hallows Eve 2013 I'd acquired a wand, given by the daft sod who would become my flatmate in 2016, but I didn't know that then. In fact, thinking about it, I was quite pissed off with him at the time, though not for the wand. I can't really think what it was all about. Not to worry.

Though looking at the picture now I'm wondering where the hell my boobs went.

What I do remember was I was home alone, missy was away somewhere or other and, as a result, she missed the fireworks that were either for an early Diwali or a very early Guy Fawkes. I didn't expect them. I was sitting on our balcony, a glass of wine in hand, when the first firework exploded. I put it down to kids. However, after about 20 minutes I decided that maybe it was actually organised...

I had no idea that the next year I would actually be in...



2014: Norfolk

Eh? To be fair it was half-term and was really trying to make an effort, contrary to what I imagine my ex would have been said and, almost certainly, is still saying, even though things aren't exactly being made simple. So I behaved. And carved a pumpkin. It must be said, these are a lot easier to carve than the turnips I used to do when I was young.

As memories go this was a bit of a non-time. This is almost certainly a bad thing as I'm really good at blanking that kind of nonsense. I just wanted to go home. I wasn't looking forward to the next All Hallows Eve, but then I didn't know that the next one would be...



2015: She, Soho

Well this beat being at home. I'd been working that day, things to finish, and afterwards I popped in to She for a cheeky cocktail before heading home, as you do. I can't remember exactly why I agreed to the whiskers and moustache, but it seemed like a really good idea at the time.

That night though, in context, felt like the end of an era, the last madness before a coming storm.

And I definitely didn't expect that the next year I would be in...



2016: New York

And then the storm hit. Or didn't.

Have you seem "The Crown" on Netflix? In series 1, episode 2, you see the young Elizabeth blissfully off on her Commonwealth Tour unaware that her father had died and her life had changed.

That was me, sort of. Mine had changed a few days earlier, on the 28th, when, unexpectedly, my partner died. Because he'd previously done disappearing acts I put not having replies down to that. I dutifully wrote messages, gave updates and said goodnight to somebody who didn't make it to the end of play on the Friday. And I had no idea. I took missy to the airport as she headed home, I packed, I faffed, I messaged, I boarded a plane and I flew to New York. It was another couple of days before I was tracked down and contacted.

I fell apart.

Yet in the same light that I had no idea I would be there, I had no idea on this day in 2016 that all of the plans I'd made, we'd made, had evaporated. Gone. No more.

What makes it worse, in hindsight, is that the friend that I was with then, well, she is no longer talking to me. And I have no idea why, nor would I get a reply if I asked. The kids apparently call this "ghosting". I can't begin to tell you how much this hurts.

However, what I can tell you is that I sat on that plane heading to JFK I really had no idea a year later I would be in...



2017: Brighton

Well, Woodingdean, just outside Brighton. A lovely private hospital having some major corrective surgery to fix a long standing problem. Go me! That evening I feasted on not very much and jelly whilst being completely horizontal and not allowed to move. It has to be said, my costume looked before authentic and scary.

I didn't think much about what would come in 2018 as to be honest I was falling asleep every three minutes, not making much sense and being even more spaced out than normal.

There was no wine that evening. Mind you, a mixture of general anaesthetic and morphine is guaranteed to make you a party animal! Sort of.

I can say though that this was a good reason why I had no idea that the next year I would be in...




2018: Epping Upland

Eh? I really shouldn't have been quite so doped up the year before, maybe I would have been able to predict me becoming so exasperated with London life that I moved out to a stupidly remote place to live mostly alone in an old farmworkers cottage. Definitely not Limehouse Marina. Oh, just realised, in 2016 and 2017, whilst I lived by Limehouse Marina I was never there on the evening of the 31st.

Whilst it had been a tricky year, a really tricky year, I was happy enough with the situation. I know it wasn't to everybody's taste, but I had emotional wounds to heal and it worked for me. In fact it was working so much that I'd checked with the agent to ensure that I'd be able to renew for another year, plans had been formed.

So once again, I had no clue that with a swift change of circumstance, I would find myself on this All Hallows Eve on...



2019: Sark

Sark. It's been 225 days since I moved here.


And yet; going back to my opening line, my feelings could have been very different this evening. Today was supposed to be the big day, according to the dogma driven politicians, that the UK would leave the EU. Unlike the politicians though, when I make an actual plan, I stick with it, I was determined to leave the UK before it left; of course the 29th of March came, went and the band played on.

Unlike the politicians I've learned that you can't predict the future, you can't state with certainty that something will happen. You can't stake your reputation on the unknown.

And I'm now sure I have no idea where I will be, or what I'll be doing on the 31st of October 2020.

Que sera, sera.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Watergate - an analogy

Not a bath.
If you've been following me on Twitter, you're probably aware of my ongoing problem with water. Or a lack thereof. The problem is fairly simple, my water comes from a well, though this in itself was contentious, the well fills from the ground water and an *electric pump draws the water up, pressurises a tank to 3.5 bar and is then delivered through the house by pipes.

A modern miracle.

The contentious part is that many people on the island believed that I am on a borehole, as most now are. But I'm not. To settle this, the lovely Aunty Helen called her brother to ask about it as he'd done the renovation work when her aunt and uncle lived here. Sure enough he confirmed that this work was done before the borehole that feeds other buildings in Mon Plaisir was sunk. In fact, it was done before the other buildings had been built.

During the conversation she pointed out, quite rightly, that originally there would have been no running water and it would have all been drawn by hand-pump from the well.

Ah, the good old days.

And that got me thinking. Surely running water is like the European Single Market.

Why? Well, as with the Single Market, and as hailed by brexiteers everywhere, we used to get on without it just fine. We can easily return to those times and there will be blue skies, girls in pinafore dresses, picnics and lashings of ginger beer.

Not to mention the sparkly unicorns.

The problem is this. Since the conversion the nature of the infrastructure changed.

A new fangled electric pump was installed along with pipes and taps to give just-in-time delivery. No more going out to the hand-pump, pail in hand, as the wind whistled by at 50mph with horizontal rain. A flushing toilet was installed, no need for an outhouse or for a chamber pot to relieve those middle of the night calls of nature. And a shower, what bliss, heated by an oil boiler, stored in a tank and delivered under pressure to make you clean and refreshed for the day ahead, those glorious bygone days of fetching the tin bath, boiling water on the range and spending a quick moment in an inch of lukewarm water.

Once a week whether you needed to or not.

Even the heating changed, instead of fires in each room a move could be made to a new fangled system, timer and thermostat controlled to ensure a house was cosy whenever you wanted it. Bliss.

Or at least it would be bliss so long as the frictionless movement of water from the well to the house was maintained.

Firemen showing me their hose...
And this is what has happened in the UK with the European Single Market, the infrastructure changed, the supply lines aligned with great efficiency to provide a seamless means of getting stuff from A to B when you wanted it without effort.

But if you take that away... Things break. My actual Wexit.

Suddenly the toilet no longer flushes, the shower doesn't work, the washing machine stands idle. I have neither a tin bath nor a tub and mangle to replace what I've lost, but even if I did I would have to schlep down the lane carrying endless buckets of water to boil very slowly in a range of pots and kettles to clean with. And my dishes are piling up.

Of course, I adapted, you have to, as the UK will adapt. But I can promise you that having to stroll across the island to the public loos when you wish to do more than spend a penny, is not pleasant in a storm. Neither is waltzing down that muddy lane with jugs for water to cook with. Or buying bottled water at a premium.

Fortunately I have plenty of wet wipes to keep myself clean. Ish. If I had a bath I could of course have taken a leaf out of the 1950s handbook and boiled water for that luxuriating one inch soak. But I don't.

It's a good job I live alone.

The analogy goes further. As a deal is struck to bring water back in to the system you will find things have changed. Dumping 600 gallons of water in to a few hundred year old well using a firehose is guaranteed to stir up the mud and sediment that lurks 28' below the surface. This isn't good.

So whilst some services return, I can flush the loo, the washing machine remains idle, the cooking water comes from down the lane, the shower is unused, dishes are unwashed and drinking water comes in a bottle. Over time the water settles and bit by bit I can use more of it. But the seamless integration that existed before Wexit is a distant memory. And all the while I'm aware that it's a matter of time before the water stops again.

Of course I'm hoping that I will find things better under the WTO (Well Turned Off) rules as a deal is forged with the borehole outside Mon Plaisir Stores. But even that is filled with uncertainty as I don't know when it might happen.

Island life.

* also an issue


Sunday, 19 May 2019

100 days...

As you walk along Rue du Sermon in Sark, heading from the Clos à Jaon crossroads towards Le Port, you'll see a little pink stone farmhouse nestled behind Mon Plaisir Stores. 100 days ago as I write this, I saw this cottage for the first time.

100 days.

In the far flung former colonies there is great play made of the first 100 days of a president in office, or, of course as it is now, the Wotsit in Chief. So when I realised it was 100 days I had to write. Let's face it, I've been threatening to write about the move itself as well as the realities of living on a rock in the middle of the sea.

Wet. Very, very wet.
I often fret that I've not managed to "do" much, let's face it, whenever I'm asked how I'm settling in I usually include the fact that I've still got three boxes to unpack. I have. They are being singularly stubborn and refusing to distract me from other things to get them done.

But it got me thinking, just what have I done? Well...

I visited Sark for the first time, I discovered just how wet and windswept I can get and still keep smiling. Location might have made a difference. I put in an offer for a place, arranged removals, slept little, panicked a lot, packed endless books, lost my marbles and yet somehow managed to get from there to here.

Not Sark.
In the 40 days between visiting and then moving here I also managed to squeeze in trips to Barcelona and Nice as well as forays to different parts of the UK to deal with various issues.

The funny thing with these trips, as well as my final bumble in to the West End for going away drinkies, was that they helped me realise that I really was ready to not being constantly surrounded by endless noise, chaos and... Anonymity.

Don't get me wrong, I love the experiences and no doubt I'll be travelling again soon, but for now I'm happy to adjust to a new way of life.

Un rock star.
The last trip to Nice was memorable for a couple of reasons, one because we stumbled on a fabulous little restaurant, Chez Moi, the other... turns out the Hotel had a dark past as the former Gestapo headquarters in Nice. I guess they liked how convenient it was for Gare de Nice Ville...

I did try not to dwell on the connection.

Ooh, what am I thinking, now we're talking about food... In Barcelona I rather inevitably went back to Bar Restaurant Victòria on Carrer dels Àngels, it's as good as ever, especially if like me you're allergic to tourists... Another highlight, foodwise and if you like dead things, was Arcano on Carrer dels Mercaders. The steak was really good and the view... *fans self*

Somebody will check the address and see that it's down a side street. Ladies, just go, you'll understand.

Bloody bear.
Finally, cocktails, I can't recommend Pura Vida, again on Carrer dels Mercaders, enough. A fantastic, if tiny, wee place.

I really need to do more blogging, I'm way behind on trips!

Where was I? Oh yes. Back in the realities of oh-feck-not-long-before-I-move I had three weeks after returning from Nice before I would be handing over the keys in Epping Upland. But here's the thing, as I will write at some point, to move to the Channel Islands requires a certain amount of logistics which means I had 16 days before the boys from R&R would be turning up to pack everything...

*shrieks*

Epping Upland
Wait, when did that happen? I must have booked them at some point in the previous few weeks. Keep in mind that it was 40 days between arriving on Sark and arriving on Sark to move in. Come to think of it there were a mass of things I organised. How did I do that and manage to keep working? Perhaps I'm not as hopeless as I think.

In this time I managed to also take a trip to see my surgeon for a check up to see if the prolapse repair worked (it did) and, more importantly, the travelling one rolled back to the UK for a couple of weeks so that she could organise her things and give me moral support. By organise things we mean sort out anything that needs to be dumped or taken to the charity shop, moral support though? Giggles, morning natters and evenings in the Traveller's Friend, my nearest pub in the next village.

Missy was sent packing the day before R&R turned up and I went from worrying about all the things I had to do to feeling helpless as they were now doing the actual move. And very impressive they were too.

For the avoidance of doubt, as you can see in the picture to the right, Epping Upland was lovely but quite isolated.

The packing went over two days. Well, a day and a half. Fortunately more moral support turned up in the form of my lovely friend Paul. Also handy as he would go to Epping in search of emergency supplies.

I never want to move again.

Way to stressful.

Somehow though I made it to handover day, said goodbye to Rosie next door, managed not to cry too much and then jumped in the SLK and headed to Yorkshire...

For fish and chips. As you do.

Here's another number.

60.

60 days since I moved to Sark. But there was one day in Guernsey.

After the fish and chips in Yorkshire it was an early start for the flight from Manchester. Monty was happy as there was fizz on the plane. Monty is always happy with fizz. I'd also arranged to meet up with a friend of mine and former flatmate of my former flatmate, like a friend of a friend but with more insider knowledge.

As my friend Ermin lives in Guernsey it meant I had a quick run down of things I should know, or not, and a brief tour of St Peter Port.

I also found my trusty boots had decided that they didn't want to be with me anymore, they heel developed a puncture and I was listing to one side. I'm sure there will be a few people that will wonder how this is even slightly different from normal. Fortunately, Millets were selling off their old stock so I picked up a pair of sensible rough walking shoes ideal for life on Sark. Goodbye slingbacks and ridiculous heels, I'll miss you.

The only fly in the ointment was I received a phone call... From R&R, only two of the three containers had made it to Sark...

After a fabulous evening in Da Nello as guests of Ermin and his brilliant and lovely wife Laura a good night's sleep was had before yet another early start.

Moving day.

February sea...
At least the rain was holding off and it was no way near as rough as it had been 40 days earlier in February. I was glad to see the removals guys on the boat.

I was slightly fretting, in the same way that the sea is slightly wet, about what the third container contained. I just hoped it wasn't my bed, or worst still, the kettle.

As is my wont, I spent the hour trip preparing plan B, there wasn't a lot else for me to do other than meet the estate agent and stand there telling people where to put things.

I'm bossy like that.

So what next? Well, over the next 60 days I've simply made a home. It took some effort as first I had to get past the enormous pile of boxes, the pile that grew when my neighbour Jimmy turned up with the missing container.

Eventually the scaffolding came down from the chimneys, the boxes were mostly emptied and, most importantly, I got back to work. At first I was in the lounge as the third bedroom which would be my study was, well, full.

Progress seemed interminably slow as, of course, I was also working during the days which meant I mostly did a sorting at weekends with a little in the evenings.

And Friday is meat draw.

And sometimes you just have to go for a little walk.

The lounge was made ready just in time for the littlest offspring to visit over Easter. It's not quite how I'd like it as the daybed is for my study for when I need thinking time. But it would do until I can afford another sofa.

The dining table, well that's currently my desk. And will stay so until I can manage to order the desk I'd like, which, this being Sark, is really tricky. But that's for another blogpost.

The important room though was pretty much sorted, the kitchen. As with Epping Upland when I first arrived I pretty much lived there.

Needless to say other things have happened. I've had visitors on four of the weekends, which has been lovely. One was written off after spending the entire day in the pub, something I just don't do.

I've explored a little, particularly when the littlest offspring was here. Friday's are the night I always go out-out as I love how busy the Bel Air becomes for the meat draw. It doesn't hurt that I've managed to have a winning ticket a few times.

Lunches have been had in the Island Hall or even a solo picnic on Port à la Jument beach. There have been pizzas at the Bel Air, fish and chips at AJ's and even supper at La Seigneurie were I was fortunate to meet some fabulous new people.

Closer to home I've bought a lovely British racing green bicycle called Imogen, the first I've had in years. She's not quite as quick as the SLK but she does have the advantage of being far easier to park. And cheaper on fuel (about a pie a week). I've baked lots and lots of bread and this has me pondering a mad idea.

I've also managed to re-discover my creativity. Maybe not with writing yet, I'll get there.

I also know there is no rush.

A photo.
For example, last week, I think, I did something I've not done in ages, I planned a photograph. On the perfect day, sun just right, windy and the tide coming the right way, as the Guerns were partying away on their Liberation Day I climbed down to Port à la Jument with my tripod and took a photo. And you know what?

I felt at peace.

I've even restarted running. Now I've not done that in ages owing to, well, injury, surgery and then moving somewhere where it was very difficult, ploughed fields are impossible. So I'm restarting and whilst I'm only at week three I can't think of a better place to go for early morning runs.

There are definite upsides. Whereas in London a 6am run means you have to deal with seeing all the really fit and toned people making like gazelles as I do my award winning interpretation of a hippopotamus wearing Nike, here all I have to deal with are the sheep laughing at me and occasional free range chickens executing their right to roam.

It's truly horrible.

Yes the roads are not perfect. And perhaps a little stony. None of that matters. The air is clear, the breeze keeps me cool and the view is calming.

Yesterday was momentous. At day 99 I discovered that the potatoes I'd planted had started to grow. This was a massive surprise as I wasn't sure whether I'd done things quite right. I'd wondered how best to deal with some sprouting potatoes and found an article that seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Time will tell.

So what next?

Well, more of the above. But none of it in any particular hurry. As I finally finish the last of the jobs needed to make the house just right I will have more time for activities other than just working and sorting. What direction these take I don't know and I'm not sure whether it matters. If you move to a place because you want a more peaceful life then why create artificial stresses?

I'm sure all will become clearer over the coming weeks and months. My days will continue to be punctuated by the rising sun as the birds, horse's hooves and occasional tractors provide a soundtrack.

In the meantime I shall sign off, I have bread to make, the rest of my washing to put on. And, of course, I need a cup of tea.

Oh.

And there are three boxes left to unpack...


Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Mystery, minarets and mint tea

Happy Ferry Face
It started in Bosnia - like most exciting, earth-shattering things do. That country has a magical draw and I need to spend more time there. Of course, it could just be the melancholic thoughts caused by too much beer and burek. But I digress already.

Many years ago I made a friend there, and on the rare occasions we meet, he still manages to challenge and expand my mental horizons; some people just have that effect. May 2016, sat in that dim* Sarajevski Celtic bar, he revealed he was from Turkey and it sowed a thought-seed. He said he was never coming back to Istanbul...but I’m happy he was here to go out for an epic pizza with me, although that’s his story.

Friday, 15 March 2019

You're moving where?

It's been a while since I last wrote.

In fact, looking at blogger I see there were several posts that I never published. I'm not sure why. So you must forgive my complete lack of writing mojo, it's something you have to do often to let it flow easily. This isn't going to flow easily.

But I do need to write because I keep getting asked the whys and whats of "you're moving where?".

Several weeks ago I wrote to my landlord's agents to ask what the scores were about continuing in Epping Upland. They were fine, no changes, I'd move to a rolling agreement with just a month notice and I could start thinking about doing boring things like repairing the skirting board and perhaps a little light redecoration. It wasn't ideal, for many reasons, but I was relatively settled.

And then...

Well then missy decided that she, quite rightly, would like to fund a more permanent place in Croatia. It had to happen sooner or later and meant that I could think about somewhere that didn't have the issues which came with the place. Namely... traffic noise, no easy way to get to the pub in the next village and a lack of community in winter. It wasn't too bad in summer, but winter... Well winter was rubbish and fairly lonely.

Don't get me wrong, I knew it would be like this, but I wasn't getting to see anyone.

So I started looking, something big enough for one but not shoebox, something affordable, something with a community. A veritable Kinder egg of the accommodation world. Yeah, right.

Affordable for one meant nowhere nearer than a stupid distance to London, which meant that any savings I might make on the accommodation would be utterly broken by the travel budget. And as I'd already learned community is something impossible to measure unless you've spent time somewhere.

I even looked at a few places along the south coast and was left with that sinking feeling of being a parody of Waiting for God without a Tom as a foil to my inner Diana. I was definitely not ready for that.

Which brings us to Sark... I'd been fortunate enough to visit the island in February during a gale force 8-9 storm with hellish rain. And I loved it. There was most definitely a community spirit. I had more conversations with people in a simple walk than I ever did in weeks in Epping Upland or even Epping. And definitely not in the two years I lived by Limehouse Marina. Did you know that in those two years I could count the conversations I'd had with my neighbours on one hand. Three of those were with the same chap in number 88.

Great.

And then there is the UK. I'm fed up with it. I'm fed up with the rudeness and how selfish everyone is. And the endless anger. When did it become acceptable to have stand up rows in the street because people don't let you do your own thing in a world where everyone is centre stage. But also... brexit. A simple idea that has directly contributed to a rise in the unpleasant index of a once supportive country. When this all kicked off two years ago I had a very clear vision of what was to come, nothing has happened to show I was wrong. At the time I decided that I would get out, leave the UK, I just didn't know where and I knew that it would be potentially impossible to move to mainland Europe in the meantime. Okay so there was a point where it wasn't just a possibility but was the plan. But like people, plans die.

So a lovely place with friendly people, pubs and no cars or streetlights. Outside of the UK. It was sounding good.

Especially as I lay there at 5am listening to the beginnings of the constant drone of vehicles driving past the cottage that wouldn't abate for several hours before starting again in anger.

There was something else. As much as I theoretically lived in a bucolic idyll it was not ideal with the littlest offspring to visit as he couldn't just go wandering off exploring the lovely countryside without  crossing an incredibly busy B road with no footpath. It simply wasn't safe.

Food is available...
So what if he could visit? And those visits could be weeks at a time with him being able to go off, hang out with other kids and explore? The kind of thing I did growing up in the 70s. And on an island.

It sounded... perfect.

Okay there were problems. Getting there is a bit of a pain, but this is not unsolvable.

So with this in mind... I found a place and put in an offer.

It was accepted.

...and proper tea!
Since then things have fallen in to place and, incredibly, the dots of steps have been joined by tenuous lines. And those tenuous lines have become solid. So solid that as I write this my worldly goods are in a lorry heading to Portsmouth and I'm working wherever I can find a place to sit. I think the move has to be the subject of another blog about the realities of moving to an island. In the channel. With no cars.

It will be worth doing.

It will be exciting.

It will be an adventure.

First though I have to complete the move and paperwork. For now I'll leave you with the latest thing I've changed; The marker on Google maps for... home.

I arrive next Wednesday.




Saturday, 29 December 2018

Surprises, love and laughter

Mama Mia, here I go again*. I'm writing in the sun. On an island, in a cafe by the sea. The locals are talking more than usually incomprehensibly, and I have had a couple of beers, which means I probably will be writing in dialect shortly. All that is missing is the other contrary one writing opposite me.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Going backwards; or up the creek without a paddle

There is something magical about canoeing; the gentle plap-plap over the waves, the swirl of the water under the paddles, and the light fizzing around like pop on a hot day. Leaning over to look in to the deep blue-turquoise water is as close to heaven as I can get. So this is why on Thursday after an obligatory trip to Pomena for some cash, I popped in to our local Little Heaven and asked for paddles. The sensible one had gone to get water and put her money in the apartment; mine would have just got saltily damp in the event of an emergency landing. My water would have just got wet.

More of that later.

So we had a vessel each (I don't do sharing), appropriate clothing, everything stowed in the wrong place (me), and were ready for launch. We shoved the first one into the water, then the other...luckily one had a leading rein so we could stop it making a bid for freedom. Being chivalrous, I assisted the careful one to clamber elegantly aboard, and off she went proudly displaying walking boots as figurehead. Astonishingly I got myself settled without mishap.

Although having my rucksack - containing phone and bottle of water - utterly out of reach was annoying.

Off we went, boldly striking out into the blue. There was no longer a gale blowing but the stiff breeze was still making paddling a challenge. My shoulders were pre-emptively groaning in anticipation of the next morning's physical effort. The athletic one was already miles away and heading for open sea; I was happy to let the wind guide me and I gently drifted to the other side of the lake. The goal was to get to Veliki Most and possibly to moor up for a swim.

The Big lake for the most part is more like canoeing on the open sea, though we had already noted that there was unlikely to be a contretemps between us and a high-speed catamaran. My 40-something birthday canoeing trip to Lopud for tea and a bun had obviously stayed in our memories... But this was a far more peaceful experience; paddle, stop, paddle, drift, stop, paddle, ooo swat wasp. I was getting a little thirsty but the bridge was coming into view.

I have wanted to paddle under the perfectly elegant bridge for a while. It marks the change from Big Lake into Solinski Kanal and the direction of water flowing underneath changes depending on the tide. In this case, we shot through without need for a paddle. You emerge into the calmest aquamarine pool of perfection - it is this colour simply because it's sandy underneath and not too deep. The long nosed fish which I have just failed to identify were happy to mill around beneath me.

The highlight of the trip was the flash of copper and deep iridescent blue...a busy kingfisher was taking advantage of the stillness and was catching his lunch. He flitted between the foliage and disappeared into the undergrowth. Stunning and a moment to cherish forever.

The moment of calm turned into something else as suddenly the wasps decided that they wanted to come canoeing too. Whether it was the warmth, lack of wind, or moisture on my skin, there was an increasing annoyance of them. And it got worse. I was following the speedy one to the channel's barrier and there looked to be a sensible spot to pull up and retrieve my water - which as you recall was inaccessible, stowed in the back of my vessel.

Never before have I had such a tussle of wasp v dehydration. I was in a swarm. I grabbed my water bottle, not caring if anything was re-waterproofed and leapt back in to the canoe in a complete cloud of the evil ones. Inevitably I was stung. Shaking, I paddled away as fast as possible, eager to escape back on to the water. It wasn't the most pleasant of experiences but it could have been worse.

We headed back through the channel and under the bridge. We waved to the people above us as they were the lovely couple who would be sharing a taxi to Sobra the following morning. As quickly as they appeared, the wasps ceased to trouble us - they must dislike the wide open deep water. We paddled back towards home, and hysterically disembarked. There was much slipping on the rocks, and a paddle splooshed into the sea. Oh. There was no quick way to retrieve it and it just floated there, taunting us. Out of reach.

We stood there, doubled up laughing, unable to move . Finally I yanked on one of the dry canoes as it was in the way, having forgotten that it was tied to one of ours, safely bobbing about. Dithering, some wise-spark yelled to get my shoes back on. In this way I could negotiate the rocks to retrieve the still-in-the-sea one's figurehead boots. Ah yes. She was getting impatient with my continuing hysterical giggles. We hauled one of the canoes ashore, and fished out the errant paddle. Finally everything was out, and bags were safe and dry.

Unlike my bum. I think at this point it resembled a prune. A salted one, with an extra sprinkling of salt.

We retired to our favourite bar, hot, sweaty, wet and the older man laughed at my mokra guzica... With this hilarity in mind, I had to attend my company's annual meeting. So it was a very swift beer before heading back to make myself respectable and serious. Work over, I rejoined the sunny one, and was more than ready for the goat pekar. Kakve dan je bio!!