Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Working Boat racing in St. Mawes

Enough is enough, JP has finally gone yotting.

An easy start to the season (no smart cracks please about it being closer to 2012 than 2010) with a gentle sail over to St Mawes where we saw these lovely working boats racing.

I might do a spot of crop and resizing of this pic when get back to laptop land (hint hint Steve Jobs the iPad isn't that good at this. And yes I have even got a photo editting app but it says it can't edit pics over 8 Megapixels and that's not much good nowadays)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sailing to Scilly

I'm having to rely on the iPad to blog which is pretty basic alas. Some one should tell Steve Jobs to spend some of Apples huge money pile on making Safari more blogger friendly.

Anyhow here is the start of the Penzance to Scilly race as described here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oops, I did it again

Yup, I've been out on the Thames- again! Cue the music, roll the credits, its that big screen spectacular "The return of the stranger".

But it was a lovely evening so leaving the office a little early to go kayaking was definitely worth it.

Who knows, one day soon I might even go sailing.......

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One year to Olympics

Yes the 2012 Olympics are now just a year away and these great rings have appeared in the majestic St. Pancras Station.

This building is an absolute wonder of Victorian gothic architecture and the main building has recently been superbly restored as a hotel.

This is a rather abstract view of the main staircase:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Goodbye Amy

It was with a combination of shock, sadness but also a sense of inevitability that I heard of Amy Winehouse's death yesterday.

Later on in the evening I was at a friend's BBQ talking to a psychologist who specialised in heroin addiction who'd got a text that simply said "Amy, so sad" but knew immediately what it meant. For Amy Winehouse was one of those artists whose creatively was intertwined with their self-destructive forces.

I was fortunate enough to see her live at the Brixton Academy, way back in 2004, before Back to Black, before Valerie, before Rehab, before all those Grammys, when it was still acceptable for me to ask "Amy who?" But that was not a question anyone asked after hearing her smoky voice and sultry jazz.

What can one add over all those acres of print space and gigabytes of online articles but what a tragic loss, another member of the infamous 27 Club.

Updated: Its well worth reading Russell Brand's article on addiction and Amy Winehouse in the Guardian here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Goodbye Irene, hello Cinderella

So the ship Girl Irene has been moved from Putney Embankment, hopefully for some patching up. But what is this I found instead while out for the morning run? 

Yes Cinderella has been wandering the wet streets of London, leaving behind this solitary shoe. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Girl Irene, Neglected

Over on the Bursledon Blog there's the sad sight of a neglected dory together with the question as to "why someone would let their boat fall into such a state of neglect?"

Well here's another example, currently moored up on Putney Embankment. The Girl Irene is is severe need of some TLC and is covered with posters asking the owner to contact the authorities.

Maybe one reason the owner hasn't is that the notice also warns that the ship has been leaking oil and there are fines to pay.
What a shame!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Buff Staysail Phone Hacking Scandal

It is with a heavy heart that I must report that Buff Staysail has been implicated in the phone hacking scandal, and therefore this blog must issue a clear and unequivocal repudiation of his actions. Ok, say your piece Buff:

G'day all! Buff Staysail here, Buff by name and Buff by nature!

Well I don't know what to say, though my lawyer suggests something on the lines of deep regret, error of judgement bla bla ... but really, don't they know how are it is to make a living nowadays as a hack? - oops, I mean journo. It's not my fault, honest, its just too easy with the latest temporal phone-hack technology.

It's not like its going to harm anyone, is it? Take for example these answer phone messages from some famous sailors and their relatives:

[Penelope]: Hi Pen, its me Odysseus. Guess what - we won! Anyhow me and the boys (background sound of a girl giggling) are heading out to celebrate. I might be a bit late - don't wait up!

[Columbus]. This relates to your travel insurance application. I'm afraid that all travel west of the Canary Islands is explicitly excluded due to clause 34.1: "Sailing near the edge of the world". Please contact us if you still want to proceed.

[Drake]: That wasn't funny. Leave the King's beard alone - no more singeing, ok

[Morgan]: Bad news Captain, the Spanish rang and they want Panama back. Better make sure you leave it as you found it

[Kidd]: Hi Kidd, this is the Pirate's PR Agency. Listen, this is fixable. We've a plan involving the King's mistress and a stage show. Just send a gold bar or two round and we'll get cracking

[Cook]: Trust me Captain, Hawaii on Valentines Day is to die for!

[Nelson]: Hey sweetie its me, Emma (above). What's all this about you and Hardy kissing? Are you going all bi-curious on me? Ring me!

[Sir Thomas Lipton]: Stick to the day job, tea boy!!! (background chants of U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A! etc)

Of course I might have missed a few, so please feel free to complete the list.

This is Buff Staysail, over and out when you hear the beep!

Monday, July 18, 2011

London in Black and White

Just found a nice collection of early photographs of London life, including quite a lot images from the river. It's part of an exhibition at the Tower Bridge called "London in Black and White" and you can see a nice selection of them on the Telegraph web site here.

The caption for the picture above is as follows: A flat-bottomed barge or "lighter" going downstream towards Southwark Bridge, circa 1905. These barges, moved along by long oars, were a common sight in London until as late as the 1960"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thames Estuary

I've just watched Estuary, a short film about the Thames estuary by Southend Festival director Rachel Lichtenstein together with film-maker James Price. As the blurb puts, it "with the grey water lapping at the prow, they sail from Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey across the shipping channels to Southend pier."

All very arty stuff - you can watch it here.

Rather topical, given there is currently an unexploded WWII mine floating around in those waters. Apparently it was dredged up and then escaped before it could be safely detonated.

A case of one our mines is missing.

Updated: now exploded, see video clip here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stranger on the river

INT: Wild west saloon, honky tonk piano bashing away, polished wood bar with assorted cowboys with their beers, miners drinking whisky etc etc. To one side are racks of kayaks, canoes, PBDs, skirts, paddles etc - the art director isn't sure about this bit.

Soundtrack: clip-clop / squeak of bike brakes / theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

There's a shadow by the door, then enter: the Stranger (JP)

All look round: the bar goes quiet.

Howdy stranger (he spits) Haven't seen you around these parts.

I've been out East

We don't want no trouble (spits again - what is it about spitting?) We want a nice safe paddle.

JP nods then walks over to the bar.

Old timer serving behind said bar
Oh my giddy eyes. God-darn it if isn't old JP. How've you been youngster? (ok I made that last bit up) You look older (alas didn't make that up)

It's been a tough 6 months, old timer. Been back East working, and had family troubles. RP is dead.

Old timer
I'm right sorry to hear that JP

Enter glamorous woman, think Jane Russell / Scarlett Johansson / enter your choice here. She approaches JP and slaps him on the face

Glamorous Woman / Scarlett
That's for leaving me lonesome, you double timing no good heart-breaker (ok, totally made that bit up, but its what should have happened).

Old timer
Go easy on him, Scarlett, life hasn't been good to JP - sounds as bad as finding a rattle-snake in your jack-pants

Glamorous Woman / Scarlett
Oh you poor thing, you come here now and let Scarlett take care of you (still making it up)

Old timer
No time for that Scarlett, I'm taking JP off up Thames canyon for old times sake. What you riding JP?

I'll have that fibreglass slalom kayak

Cut to: EXT: Thames Canyon. Sound track clip/clop splish/splash, backdrop ol' Father Thames

So what's new, Old Timer, looks just the same to me.

Old Timer
All the same? Haven't you seen that darn yellow monstrosity? Those PLA boys did that (he spits - its ok, they're on the river.)

And that?

Old Timer
(shivers) We don't talk about that JP. No good comes of asking about that.

JP and the Old Timer go paddling upriver towards a fine sunset...

Fade to black. 

- The End -

Thursday, July 14, 2011

All the fun of the (Barnes) fair

Last Saturday it was the Barnes Fair, which was pretty good. Indeed I heard someone say rather ruefully "it knocks our Kew fair for six" or words to that effect.

There was something for everyone. I heard a teenage boy see these standup paddly things (insert right word here) and go "that is so cool" while a teenage girl a moment later went "Oh my God! Vintage clothes!!"

For the young-uns there was a harrowing tale of domestic violence, otherwise known as Punch and Judy:
For the foodie there was stand upon stand of cup-cakes in feed-an-army quantity (seriously, what is it about cup cakes?)
There was enough second hand books even for me, plus bands, good causes, furniture, fossils..... you name it.

All in all rather a good time was had by all. It even only drizzled rain a little bit - what more can you ask from a British summer?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Knoxville: Summer of 1915; London: Summer of 2011

After the earlier trip to the Goldsmith's Hall and the didgeridoo & string quartet concert I looked at the City of London Festival's web site and straight away booked another concert as it included one piece I'd never heard live but have always loved.

It was given by an Aussie chamber orchestra with the rather wonderful name of Ruthless Jabiru. They played some more Sculthorpe, who continues to impress, especially the new work Small Town - Djilile - Shining Island, and ended with Copland's Appalachian Spring, which was a mistake.

Partly because the playing didn't grip me, as if their spirit wasn't quite in it. But mostly because I was still lost in the piece they played before the interval, Samual Barber's haunting Knoxville: Summer of 1915, beautifully sung by Emma Pearson.

Intensely evocative, the words by James Agee are about memory, of childhood, the feeling of safety within a family and all of life being ahead of one. It is about looking back, remembering what is lost, of a time long gone.

One sentence spoke to me, and our family's recent loss:

May God bless my people... 
remember them in their time trouble, 
and in the hour of their taking away.

Apparently Agee wrote the words to Knoxville: Summer of 1915 after his father died, at a time when Barber's father was dying.

Afterwards I could hear the lyrical, aching, gentle, dream-like main theme echo in my head. Like Agee's streetcar, the tube "raised its iron moan; stopping: belling and starting, stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan".

And above the concrete and iron towers was the moon, clear and crisp, gently watching.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

String quartet plus didgeridoo

Yesterday I went to a concert as part of the City of London Festival (yes, this blog will get back to boating at some point).

This is a lot less well known than the Proms but has a really interesting range of concerts and, what's more, range of locations. The one I went to was in the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, one of the original Livery companies of the old City of London, going back to 1327. You can sort of guess what their guild was for and it was an amazing building, stuffed with gold plates the size of shields.

So that was a good start, and then the concert had a cracking good musicians, appropriately called the Goldner String Quartet, with a program that included Shostakovich's 4th and Dvorak's 12th, The American.

In between they had a number of works for string quartet and didgeridoo. Nope, I hadn't heard that combination before, one to add to this year's list of new sounds, along with the theremin. But those indigenous Australian instruments really added something: a earthy, throaty growl.

The one that worked the best for me, which was also a world premier, was performer and composer William Barton's piece that combined the intricate sounds of the strings with the pulsing rhythm of the didgeridoo, underpinning its beat.

There is apparently a down-under feel to the festival this year, and the string quartet also played works by Australian Peter Sculthorpe, who was also present.

So all in all a good concert... but there was more, as the pleasure of the evening was increased by three things:
  • The ticket included a glass of wine in the interval
  • There was a chance to go round the exhibition of silver art, which was wonderful, and included works like the bowl below by Alistair McCallum
  • An elderly lady in the rows behind us, whose voice carried somewhat, asked after the Shostakovich: "so there isn't a conductor then?"
Indeed ma'am, string quartets don't have conductors, but as this program showed, they sometimes do have a didgeridoo.

Updated: review in the Telegraph here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Will makes a splash with his chopper

Yes, the daring-do all-action Prince William from Blighty-land showed those doubters what he's made of, successfully piloting his helicopter to a perfect water landing.

Newly wed Kate glowed with pride at her hubby's performance, and then he went on to show who's on top with a bit of full-on dragon racing action, just nudging her into second.
The Canadian visit seems to be going a smoothly and sweetly as pure maple syrup... what water sport can these two get up to next?

Updated: go paddle a canoe of course. And when in Canada....

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Will & Kate plan to re-conquer America: part 2

Today we continue Glenn Beard's scoop on how Benjamin Franklin, secret agent of Britain's SIS, will help Will and Kate reclaim the American colonies:

As I revealed yesterday, Britain is on the verge of recovery of the lost colonies due to a long term deep penetration SIS operation to undermine the revolutionaries via a constitution that is biased towards inaction. The USA will inevitably run out of money, giving the plucky Brits the opportunity to put Will and Kate back on their rightful thrones.

But how is this to be funded? Well you have no doubt heard accusations that Britain is operating as a form of hedge fund - well that is actually more true than people know, for the SIS and Buckingham Palace intend to take over the United States of Ameri-can't using similar methods.

Basically it will be done on the standard take-over technique to borrow to the hilt and sweat the assets, but in a smart way. First of course there's the imposition of a Westminster style parliament combined with the English legal system: this removes the unproductive drain on the US economy that are lobbyists and lawyers.

In addition:
1) Will and Kate's first decree will be that all cars must drive on the left hand side of the road and American's must buy new cars within [3] years. This will create a huge economic boom as GM, Ford and co sell 300 million extra cars!!

2) These cars will use the latest technology from Blighty and hence be at least 50% more fuel efficient. Hence American's won't notice when Will and Kate impose a petrol (none of this "gas" nonsense) tax of 50%, raising enough free cashflow to pay off the loans.

3) Under-performing assets states will be sold off. China is understood to be interested in California (though a sale and lease back approach is being considered), Alaska of course will be bought by the Russians while Canada is understood to be lined up to take Washington State.

The result will be a lean and mean United States of Britain with King Will and Queen Kate at the helm!!

God bless their majesties!!

Updated: I was going to scan Franklin's spy papers but alas at that moment a swarve man in a dinner jacket burst through the windows. All I remember is him saying "The names Bond, James Bond" before everything went dark. When I came to the papers had disappeared....

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Will & Kate plan to re-conquer America: part 1

Today we welcome back this blog's guest contributor, the outspoken commentator Glenn Beard, the man unafraid to speak his mind, who seems to have a scoop on his hands:

Friends, I am here because I am mad!

In a few days time three hundred million people will celebrate the defeat of Britain! Can you imagine it -  actually having parties and letting off fireworks on what should be a day of quiet reflection. So-called civilised people will be seen for what they are - descendants of tax evaders!

But I have in my hands - my trembling hands - documents that show that not all is lost. For due to a deep undercover mission of our Secret Intelligence Service or SIS the day is coming when the colonies will be recovered.

These hand written papers from the 1770s show that Benjamin Franklin was actually a British double agent!! "Turned" by the SIS during his stay in London he returned to reek havoc on the revolutionaries, ensuring the ultimate failure of the United States of America.

The master-stroke was the constitution, written in such a way as to ensure there would come a time in which the states would become ungovernable, political processes so stalemated that the government would ultimately run out of money, unable to borrow a dollar more.

And that day approaches! The tour across the pond by the highly popular Will and Kate is part of top secret manoeuvring where by Britain will take over some of the United States of Ameri-can't's debt in return for them ascending to the throne.

But how can Britain afford to do this, you might ask? Indeed, but that's where it gets even cleverer - more tomorrow!!

God Bless the Queen!!