Wednesday 24 September 2014

MJ Long and Perfect Autumn Days

This is Moll in front of the magnificent cliffs at Burton Bradstock beach.

Last week I was fortunate enough to interview the architect, MJ Long, who was, with her husband, Sir Colin St John (“Sandy”) Wilson, responsible for designing the British Library, amongst many other works. MJ is well known for her work on studios and museums, and recently designed the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, and worked on the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Porthmeor Studios in St Ives and the Princess Pavilions in Falmouth. Those are just a few of her many and varied achievements, so I was in some trepidation at meeting her.

We’d arranged to meet at Custom House Quay so we could go out for a sail in her South Coast One Design, and she rang me that afternoon to confirm the arrangements. It was blowing a Force 6 easterly - which means very windy and Falmouth is not a pleasant place to be when an easterly wind’s blowing.

But I met her and John, who has a share in the boat, down there at 5.30 and he was to row us out in the tender (a wooden punt which is heavy) to where the boat is, off Flushing. Well, poor John had hurt the tendons in one hand pulling the mainsail down the previous weekend, and his poor hand was black and blue with bruising, so he could only row with several fingers on that hand. Still, he insisted he would do it, and we headed off in this punt (an old wooden rowing boat) through waves that smashed against the hull, showering us with salt water, no matter how skilled a rower he was.

After half an hour of wind and tide against us, we reached the boat, but poor MJ wasn’t feeling well. She’d been up most of the previous night with food poisoning so hadn’t eaten all day, and then had to give a lecture at the Tate St Ives in the morning. By the time we got to the boat it was blowing a hoolie - not too much for the boat, but enough for MJ and to be honest, the weather wasn't too enticing.

We sat on the boat and chatted, then John rowed us back (what a kind man) and I set off to MJ’s house to interview her there. Many people who are very skilled at what they do, and have been doing it for along while, often talk in ways that I find largely incomprehensible. But MJ was a delight - she chatted away explaining the importance of light in buildings, how important boats are to her, and it was a really fascinating couple of hours.

I left there, feeling very fortunate to have a job where I meet such unusual, diverse and interesting people.

In contrast to then, we’ve had a few settled days of perfect autumn when I met Al down at Mylor harbour on Monday. There was no wind, but a sense of peace and mellow stillness in the lazy, hazy sunshine which made the brightness of summer seem almost too harsh. The first nip of autumn was in the air, but the gentle sunlight warmed my hands and soothed my senses as Moll and I walked towards Flushing.

Mr B often laments that you can’t hang on to days like that. But I think you can. I don’t need a photograph to remind me of the perfection of that day. It’s like a tattered photograph, much thumbed and loved, tucked away in the wallet of my mind. On wintry days I shall take it out and share it with him.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Tamarisk Farm

Last week we were booked to do a review of dog friendly accommodation in Dorset at - or rather, one of their cottages, and were really looking forward to it, partly because we were both in need of a break, and also because it was a chance to see my dear friend Av.

I wasn’t sure from the website what the cottage would be like (pictures can be misleading), but we headed off on the Sunday in splendid sunshine and after a coffee and Lidls stop, went to Burton Bradstock. Mr B had camped here as a child so the area had fond memories for him, and we walked along the cliffs, while Moll raced ahead like a sprightly rabbit. We clambered down to the beach and I spent a happy half hour sunbathing on a rock while Mr B and Moll looked for fossils.

The cottage we were allocated was Whispering Pines and it was a delight, reached by a winding path through a secret garden that opened out with a big secluded lawn and patio, and this enchanting cottage in the middle, surrounded by pine trees. The whole atmosphere was very un-English - it almost felt as if we were in Italy, and the weather seemed to think so too, for the sun shone every day.

We shared this peaceful garden with dragonflies, a green woodpecker, greenfinches, rabbits, pigeons and bees, and it was wonderful to sit outside and read in the sunshine. We did venture further afield to walk Moll and had a notable trip on the Saturday to a car boot, then looking at the map we decided to go either to Dorchester or Weymouth. As we wandered round the town, looking for somewhere to have coffee, I said idly, “Dorchester’s rather like Weymouth you know.”
Mr B looked at me with gathering incredulity. “This IS Weymouth,” he replied.

When we’d finished howling with laughter, he wiped his eyes and said, “I should have kept my mouth shut. I could have just pretended we were in Dorchester. I could have kept that going for days.”

In fact, we had such a good time we asked if we could stay a few more days, until Friday which was changeover day. Then on Thursday, I asked if we could stay till Sunday and as luckily they didn't have a booking for the following week, they said yes.

We had such a wonderful relaxing week and the Pearse family, who run the farm and the cottages, were incredibly welcoming - so much so we felt part of the family by the time we left.

So if any of you fancy a holiday in Dorset, I couldn’t recommend Tamarisk Farm more highly. It’s perfect for walking (near Chesil Beach and the coastal footpath) and not far from Bridport, Weymouth and Dorchester. The scenery is just beautiful and we can’t wait to go back.

Thursday 4 September 2014

On the water

Last week saw the Tall Ships come to Falmouth for a wonderful few days. I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening ceremony so went on board the Polish ship before the mad rush started.

We took Echo out for the Parade of Sail on Sunday

and then on Monday Al came down so finally I got to have a sail on Snap and we were blessed with the most wonderful weather, and two fabulous sails.

And having had a double birthday celebration yesterday, I am now shattered.

Off to Dorset for a few days next week to catch up with my dear friend Av.
See you all soon.