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Fair Winds Following Seas – Farewell Friend

I’m saying good bye to another old friend, a tangible piece of my life’s adventure.

The Jubilee Sailing Trust operates two tall ships that are designed to accommodate many forms of disability, not only things like deafness and sight impaired, but also stroke victims, amputees, wheelchair users and mental health sufferers. We are all involved within the watch rota to sail the ships and keep them shipshape. Across her thirty year history STS Lord Nelson known as “Nellie”, has circumnavigated the globe, chased icebergs, clipped the Bermuda Triangle, tamed the China Seas, she has raced as part of the tall ship fleets and been the floating ambassador and has touched hundreds of thousands of mixed ability lives for the better.

A family friend passed a brochure to me in the eighties and I had toyed with the idea of running away to sea, so when Nellie visited my home port I secretly took myself off, explored her and spoke to a volunteer crew member, over a mug of hot tea and freshly baked cake we chatted, mused, discussed and laughed. After that I made up my mind to throw myself fully into this once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-repeat adventure and booked a four-week passage from Southampton to Gran Canaria via Lisbon.

The experience was nerve wracking, exhilarating, daunting, engaging, challenging, educational, but filled with hilarity, congeniality, and above all else, equality. We were just a bunch of people sailing together. I enjoyed myself so much that I repeated the experience another two times on Nellie before my last voyage on the sister ship Tenacious. The atmosphere and camaraderie onboard is indescribable and so special. It’s where I learnt to tie a bona fide hangman’s noose, take down the shipping forecast, complete obs for the Met Office. I’ve hauled ropes, peeled potatoes, polished brass, coiled ropes, swabbed decks, scrubbed toilets, pulled ropes, brewed tea, repaired flags, and messed about with ropes. I’ve been man handled, hauled, shoved, shifted, and tied down, I’ve laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed; I’ve helmed, watched, hauled, radioed, taught navigation rhymes, learnt a bewildering language of terms and created a few specific to Nellie and many other such useful/less life skills. I even have a qualification, the Department of Transport Steering Competency (sailing) Certificate from time at the helm before the mast. I’ve made friends I still keep in touch with. I’ve had conversations and shared experiences (like being at the helm when we were struck by lightning, playing with dolphins, counting shooting stars). There are anecdotes galore, not all repeatable in polite company.

Recently the Trust has been forced to look hard at its future running. A promised significant donation from a business source failed to materialise resulting in the Trust nearly folding (we raised £1 million in a week to save it). Subsequently the decision has been sadly made to decommission Nellie.

I kept a detailed diary, my (dis)abled seapersons twig (as opposed to captains log) for two of my voyages are on my website www.amgroves.com It’s on my list to add the others.

It is unknown what her next adventure will be, but I wish her fair winds and following seas, as we salty dog types say; and another piece of my heart is broken and another tear will fall.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2019 in In The News, Life, people, Projects, Website

 

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Fun No More (until April)

I’ve been wonderfully distracted for the past two glorious weeks, BFF has been to play, stay, I meant stay. … and this time it was greatly needed by us both. Finally after all the stress, anxiety and sorrow attached to so many happenings I could cry my heart out and get physical console. But all too soon, the suitcase is being zipped up and it’s that dreadful time to try and hold the stiff upper lip and say ttfn.

Pre arrival plans had been put in place, a few DVD’s were ordered, two mahoosive boxes had arrived with the neatest of handwriting upon them (more wool to add to the packed suitcase stash) and the dozen bottles of cherry cola added to the grocery order.

We may both be in our golden years, but you’re never too old for a PJ party, and that’s what we do. It’s not all indulgent fun, there were chores and errands done too, the dentist visit with deep deeeep clean and the annual hospital appointment with my neurologist (test results, blood pressure, heart rate all ‘normal’, never thought that word would be attached to me). I supervised while BFF cleared out, sorted, organised my kitchen cupboards (nothing last century lurking in the dark corners), general tidy up of the bathroom and lounge, the resort and reorganising my bedroom draws and I feel sorted, organised, prepared for carers and helpers, etc.

We’ve mooched up and down my High Street, been back and forth to Morrison’s for eats and treats, sat outside enjoying the sun and breeze, took an afternoon stroll along the esplanade and I, yes me, suggested a ice-cream (it was lush), we even went to the cinema to see Downton Abbey (rather good).

Mostly we snoozed, nattered, laughed, chatted, rested, and watched stuff

  • Last Viceroy House
  • Mad Men Season 6 and 7
  • The Green Book
  • Trumbo
  • Edie
  • A Cat Named Leonard
  • Norma Rae
  • Pursuit Of Happyness
  • My Old Lady
  • The Favourite
  • Colette
  • Don’t Eat The Daisies
  • The Right Stuff
  • Spotlight
  • The Girl On The Train
  • Billy Rose’s Jumbo
  • Glass Bottom Boat
  • Man With A Horn
  • To Kill A Mockingbird

Of course the REAL prime reason for being together is a certain four legged furred charmer, known as Mickey, aka #NotMyCat, wandering in when he pleases, playing with his new toys, choosing one of the many seats to snooze upon, getting head rubs and chin scritches galore.

Three quarters of an hour ago we hugged, smiled, said “call you tomorrow”, and off she goes ……… just 199 days to go until we’re back together *fingers-crossed*

Thank you BFF for being everything I need and a heck of a lot more, words are not enough to convey all you do for me, help me, cajole me, entertain and help me.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2019 in Films, General, Life, people, Pets

 

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Letter Of Loss

Dear Big Sis,

It’s been a month already, but it’s been a lot longer since I last saw you. Wednesday July 3rd you left my flat early to go home as you weren’t feeling good, you were due to go on a short holiday on Saturday, but you ended up coming home early and the next day you were taken into hospital. I never got the opportunity to visit you, to spend any time with you, to have a conversation with you, we only had one brief interrupted crackly phone call.

Sitting here I am scanning for something of you to focus on, your black gillet often discarded to the kitchen chair, your wooden posh pen, anything tangible to state you were here but there isn’t anything. I see the numerous holiday gifts you brought with me in mind, I see the soft tigger you gave me one Christmas, I see the curtains and carpets you helped me choose when I moved here, tonight I’ll snuggle under the duvet set you bought for me, and so many more other things, but it’s not enough, it’s not you.

I flick through photograph after photograph, but there are so few of you, I have the one of you and me on your wedding day. That’s my earliest firm memory, aged five in the pretty pink dress, jumping out the front door as my cousins arrived, walking into church behind you, following you around the reception until we had that photo taken. Remember I told you, you could get married so long as you never left home. I remember staying at your house and the two cats deciding they would guard me all night by one sleeping between my knees and the other beside my head. I remember telling you a dirty joke, I was about twelve and as embarrassed as hell when you made me repeat it to your hubs. The Sundays we’d play cards, black jack, rummy, or Trivial Pursuit which turned into a mime game with help from ‘the audience’. More recently our trips out, to be holidaymakers instead of those working for holidaymakers. Our London trips, sitting in Westminster Abbey, walking around the Tower of London, being in awed during the Houses of Parliament Tour, being at the BBC Studios. Our world to rights conversations, watching programmes I’d recorded for us to enjoy, the evenings of dvd and take-away, reminiscing of our mutual work places and people. The planning and strategising around birthdays and Christmas. So very much, but still, it’s not you.

Your reflections funeral was beautiful. You’ll never know how many people were eager to travel so many miles to have paid respects to you. We did as you wanted, told them to spend a moment reflecting, smiling, remembering. It was tearful, emotional, especially when your boy stood and placed those two single white roses from the grands, one with T-bods best handwriting and the other a special drawing by mini-me, and the darling little pink elephant (that looked so much like the pink paraffin mascot) they won on their holiday. I knew you were so incredibly proud of your boy, his wife and family, how they are as a team instilling manners, love and boundaries with the grands, how they are trying their very best to keep things right.

I miss you so very much, I am forever changed, lost in many ways. I am empty.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2019 in people

 

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Big Sis, the biggest loss

I was not yet prepared to have to say the following. My Sister died Friday 26th, at 5am.

Last October she had an emergency op to remove two tumours from the edge of her brain (we joked she’d had her marbles removed) little knowing there was a lung tumour. She recovered well and had radiation treatment before commencing immunotherapy in February. She had been responding well despite a few issues.

A little over three weeks ago she was suddenly lethargic and severely dehydrated and admitted to hospital where they discovered she had infections. While there were signs of slow improvement on Thursday she suddenly deteriorated and died within moments of her hubs and son arriving.

The impact of this has not fully hit me yet, on top of the recent changes in my personal circumstances 2019 is not being kind to me and my nearest.

Give a loved one, even if it’s your dog or cat, a hug and recall a pleasant memory.

I will be okay.

I’ve spent the past few days dealing with the bureaucracy of death, going through the emails, unsubscribing from lists, shutting down online shopping accounts. Amazon is a nightmare! Make sure you have your partners email password and account password because there are numerous hoops to get tangled up with. Getting the contact details on utility bills and insurances switched to hubs details. Answering question after question over what’s to be done in accordance with her wishes.

Timing of life is tricky, today is her grand daughters 4th birthday.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2019 in people

 

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The Best Of Fun


Recently my BFF came to play stay for a couple of weeks. Our twice annual pyjama party complete with fabulous food, furry entertainment from #NotMyCat Mickey (aka Mickster, mooch, buggerboo, etc), lots of conversations and reminiscences, music, stitching and of course movies.

  • Barefoot in the Park
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets
  • Cromwell
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin
  • The Way
  • Walk In The Woods
  • The Road
  • The Battle of the Sexes
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Stonehearst Asylum 
  • In The Shadow of the Moon
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Summertime
  • The Fastest Indian in the World
  • Gravity
  • The Zookeepers Wife
  • Sybil
  • Blackboard Jungle
  • Mad Men season one, two, three, four and five

BFF had had a vertigo episode before she came to stay, and while resting in her bed she was able to focus on crocheting some cat blankets and brought 10 finished ones with her, along with a stash of double knitting yarn. She is such a quick stitcher that she could stitch a complete blanket every day. We paid a visit to the local wool shop to source a cotton blend to complete one of my blankets. Before long we had 23 blankets ready, and contacted the local cat protection branch for somebody to come and collect them. They posted a very nice thank you message on their Facebook page.

We ventured in to town to take care of a few errands, and often trotted to the local supermarket for nibbles and treats. On Easter Saturday we even went to the local beach and wondered the Esplanade before sitting on a bench and enjoying the sunshine. It was quite unexpected as often there is a cooling sea breeze but there was hardly any movement.

All too soon our fun has to come to an end, the suitcase is packed, and she is returning home. We re-set the counter for her return sometime in September. 

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2019 in Life, people

 

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The Ying-Yang of Reality


It’s been a twenty four hours indeed. Yesterday, dear readers I was forgotten! FORGOTTEN!! Moi, the indignity.  BFF usually calls me as she walks home from work everyday. Yesterday circumstances meant she went home at lunchtime, but come 4pm no message so I readied myself, tv muted, phone in hand, and waited.  Hmmmm, 4:15 no call, perhaps she’s chit chatting with her boss (not unusual).  Hmmm, 4:30 no call, perhaps she’s calling after getting her prescription. Hmmm, 4:40 no call, perhaps her phone died.  I sent a message, immediately my phone starts ringing “I forgot about you”. Charming! Lol.

Today my niece and great neice popped in for lunch and to help with a chore or two (at above inflation living wage pocket money rates too!) and was bestowed the honour of an original piece of artwork.  We didn’t spend long discussing the modernist take on the abstract theme of the piece, very much leaving it to the fluid thoughts of the viewer.  It could be a statement on climate change and the rising of the blue waves, or it might be Rizzie the cat lounging in the sunshine.  Either way I am rather chuffed to be considered worthy of such thought.

Life – never a smooth road, keeps one in one’s place.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2019 in Life, people

 

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Remembrance


As per my tradition, I always watch the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance and the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph.  It is important to remember and reflect the sacrifices, trials and hardships of these two most gruesome of wars.  Whilst I am humbled and thankful to all those men and women who chose and still choose our amazing armed forces as a career path, I always specifically think about the hundreds and thousands of people who were conscripted to join the war effort, those who during war time volunteered to join, ordinary people who didn’t have a tantrum of ‘it’s not fair’, who didn’t have the modern day selfish, I’m owed privilege, but with pride, patriotism and sense of duty went to defend their way of life, and our future.

As I watch ‘the old guard’ march past the Cenotaph, I remember the remembrance service I stood at in November 1994.  I cannot tell you where I was, because I was standing at the bow of STS Lord Nelson as Captain John Fisher led us.  My voyage was in its second week, so likely just off the coast of Portugal.  As we sailed the Atlantic Coast with the sun shining around the white clouds, as we crested the rolling waves, my buddy and I trying not to burst into giggles at the thought of a crashing wave washing the foredeck at the bowsprit.  Trying to keep to the tune and timing of “those in peril on the sea” hymn without any accompaniment.  Quite poignant and moving to be so isolated on the vest ocean, yet knowing such services were taking part all over the globe.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2018 in General, In The News, Life, people

 

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