Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".






Sunday, 7 May 2017

'Who killed the weekend?'


I’ve just been reading a great article in the ‘Guardian’ by Katrina Onstad about what has happened to the concept of a weekend and it resonates. It has made me think, as I approach retirement in a few weeks’ time, about all the missed opportunities and how there is so, so much I need to put right. Better late than never I guess would be the slogan.

As a kid, just like Katrina, my weekends were unstructured. I spent a disproportionate amount of time doing nature diaries, walking country lanes, seeking out birds’ nests, lizards, newts and ladybirds. I bought back mice, one legged seagulls, hurt hedgehogs, and once, even an escaped ferret. My parents were very tolerant. Not many people would have put up with a one-legged seagull visiting her kitchen and perching lopsidedly on top of the electric cooker, but mum did.  I’d ride my bike, roam the estate with friends and go down the playpark. We built a den out of an inverted abandoned septic tank on the building site. Great fun crawling on our bellies down a tiny hole beneath to squirm our way through the circular porthole into its cavernous interior. By ten I had walked, on my own, or with two friends, the Glyders, Carneddau, Crib Goch and the Snowdon horseshoe. What were my parents thinking? It would be child neglect now and parental diminished responsibility!!  I loved gardening. My grandad taught me how to plant onions with carrots to avoid carrot fly plagues; how to cheat at growing supersized marrows by drilling into their storks and inserting a thread of wool back to a dish of sugar solution. Osmosis, apparently!! It seemed to work!  I loved to draw and paint and was pretty good. I was imaginative, creative and able to occupy myself.

So, what happened? How did my weekend passions honed over years of childhood disappear? How has it become so ironic that the last time I walked on Dartmoor, properly walked on Dartmoor, was at least ten years ago? How have I ended up hating gardening, seeing it as a chore at weekends, tugging away on my precious down time?

The number of people working more than 48 hrs per week has risen according to Katrina and a TUC report, by 15% from 2010 to 2015. She calls it ‘Burnout Britain’. So too has the shape of employment with 1 in 10 people now on temporary contracts or self-employed with all the difficulties that brings.  Most families rely on dual incomes to even begin to meet the bills and rising costs.

As a teacher completing his 34th year in the profession, I have worked an average 55 hr week from day one. A total of 73000 hrs or so. Some basic maths shows that I’ve worked in excess of 20,000 hrs over the top of a 40-hr week; some 12 additional years’ unpaid overtime. Ah, but we get the long holidays. True but basic maths shows that if I reduce that to 4 weeks per year, I’ve still worked an extra four years overtime unpaid.

But it isn’t the hours. Comes with the territory, although should it? I guess I had a choice – I chose the profession. (But then when I chose it, it was radically different). Anyway, it was the impact of my career choices. On my kids.

Term time dad and holiday time dad – two different entities they call it. Others call it ‘monsoonal parenting’. Those evenings when me and the missus juggled tea and homework and a family game so that we could each create time to do our three hrs preparation for the following day. Our weekends reduced to housework, gardening maintenance, food shopping – all because we hadn’t had time to do them during the week; a quick stroll or bike ride out of fitness necessity, if we were lucky. We lived for our holidays’ and travelled extensively during them. That’s when all our parenting came to the fore and our family became nuclear again. Our kids adapted. They say it taught them to be self-reliant and resilient; they understood. Ironic, I spent most of my working life worrying more about other parents’ kids than perhaps I did my own. Even when our kids left home and went successfully to university, our weekends changed little. We were exhausted from the week. Saturday’s pass in a stupor – shopping, housework, vegged out on the sofa. Sunday morning’s – a surge of activity, bike ride, brisk walk, coffee and the Sunday papers and then Sunday afternoon…..the dragging oneself to the kitchen table to do the four hours work needed to give yourself even the remotest fighting chance for the following week. I can’t talk about other professions and Sunday afternoon’s but any UK teacher reading this will so understand that fear, dread, the tightening knot n your stomach as the Sunday morning drags on. You can’t enjoy a Sunday morning….because you know what follows!

But what of the teaching profession today? Was it me? A perfectionist, a compulsive pathological need to do everything perfectly? A drive to give the best public service possible? Some colleagues would shout out a resounding yes. But I think that that isn’t all of the point or the truth of the matter.

There is a new expectation in the profession, one I suspect has creeped into may public service roles and probably the private sector as well. It is the norm to work a 55 hr + week; it is socially unacceptable if you don’t!

If you work in school, nonstop, five hours teaching, a working lunch, an hour before school starts and two hours after, then that would be a ten-hour day……a 55-hour working week BFORE taking any work home each evening and at weekends. Surely that is enough? Shouldn’t the teaching profession take steps to limit the hour’s teachers work? Yes, we have a relatively sound pension and the holidays…..but like other public services, the profession faces its severest recruitment crisis ever. I always laugh when I get from people ‘oh you are a teacher – all those holidays and pension lucky bugger!’ My reply as always is, ‘if it is so good, retrain, come join us’.

We have to throw training bursaries of £26,000 to recruit science graduates and many of them train, teach for a couple of years and then leave, burnt out, exhausted, destroyed, all creativity and joy sucked from them. Would it not be better to use the money from recruitment drives, recruitment advertising and forced academisation to actually do better teacher training and to improve class size, teacher welfare and resourcing? Is that so hard for a government to achieve? Apparently so because I can’t remember any government achieving that since around 1987!

Anyway digressing.

What particularly attracted me to Katrina’s argument was her description of a typical weekend now, based on the Victorian, Protestant based working week ethic our society has. See if you recognise this………. we stuff a weekend full of getting our kids to sports clubs, recreational activities and enrichment courses. Unstructured play becomes something of the past!  We fill our weekends with what she terms ‘consumption and diversion’ – shopping for the dopamine hit; binge viewing boxed sets – ‘decompressing mindlessly’ she calls it. So many of us remain glued to smart phones and laptops, checking work email, making sure, as she terms it, ‘we are making our employer know we are available and working hard in precarious job security times’

I am sure, positive in fact, that there are thousands of families who don’t recognise this weekend. Who get out on the moors; go to the beach; have unstructured play in the garden. But I also suspect, that many thousands recognise the description. It feels ‘familiar’. Maybe it is a ‘British thing’.

For me. Retirement brings an opportunity. To rekindle my love of gardening for joy’s own sake; to take up drawing again; to do all those walks across Dartmoor; to geocache; set up bird boxes in my woodland; put away Facebook forever and detoxify myself from technology. I’ll blog and vlog occasionally, for they are hobbies. I will take up new hobbies. I wonder if we have seen over the years the death of hobbies? I used to collect stamps, build model boats, build full sized boats, canoe, socialise with friends, fish, do photography, go camping, climbing, do letterboxing. The highlight of my weekend has become a visit to a garden centre, a cup of tea, a browse of the Sunday papers……what happened?

In the meantime, Katrina does offer hope. Her article attracted many critical comments. But actually, she was right to raise the issue. To stop and make us think about what we have lost; and what we have become at weekends; and what we need to perhaps focus on regaining. I am told that the French work a shorter working week; rarely take work home and have significantly higher productivity that we do…..if this is true………..what are we doing to ourselves?

I don’t agree with everything Katrina said in her article.

But she made me pause, reflect and think. And that was worth doing in itself. Thanks Katrina, appreciated.



If you want to read her article go online to the Guardian and search ‘Who killed the weekend?’

Friday, 5 May 2017

welcome to

a new navigator and what a beauty.....read all about it here

http://duckworksmagazine.com/2017/05/selina-a-unique-navigator/


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Well that's it then........

I have just submitted my on-line application for retirement. My notice is handed in. My replacement has been appointed. There are eleven weeks and fifty five days left in my teaching career. No turning back now.

Wow!


Thursday, 27 April 2017

What's in your dinghy cruising tool kit?


I am often stumped or baffled by my inexperience when dinghy sailing. Take the ‘cruising dinghy tool kit’, for example.

Exactly what should be in Arwen’s tool kit?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXTo1REMqO


I have tried to anticipate what might be needed and since I have yet to have a major mishap or equipment failure, touch wood, then my experience of what to take to sea is…well….limited!

I tend towards the overkill…….so here we go………

Arwen’s tool kit is divided into three – tools, spares and outboard kit. The safety kit is a different issue which I touch on lightly here but may do in more detail in a later post.



The tools:

·       A small clamp

·       Various screwdrivers of various sizes both Philips and flat head

·       An adjustable small wrench; some grip jaw pliers, some long nose pliers with cutter

·       Small hacksaw

·       Smaller hammer

·       A hand drill and drill bits’ various diameters

·       Gerber multitool

·       Short length broom handle pole ……for sticking through the centreboard case top – if centreboard jams……..and yes…..with judicious use of the hammer…..it works……..and no don’t ask how I know that…….you can guess!

The useful:

·       Electrical tape, duct tape and Velcro strip tape

·       Plastic ties

·       Whipping twine

·       Hot sealing cutting knife

·       Garden wire

·       Marine sealant tubes

·       Epoxy putty that sets under water

·       Wooden bungs various sizes and to add – flat plywood patches various sizes

The ‘spares’ kit

·       Assorted size blocks

·       Spare cleats various sizes

·       Deck loops and deck eye pads

·       Snap hooks and shackles various sizes

·       Various size screws, nuts, bolts

·       Centreboard bolt; centreboard casing bolt

·       Spare rope halyards and control lines various lengths and diameters

·       Batteries assorted sizes for torches, radio, GPS and nightlights etc.

·       Spare anchor / mooring warps various lengths

·       Spare fenders various sizes

The outboard kit

·       Spark plugs

·       Shear and spilt pins

·       Pull cords

·       Kill cord

·       WD40

·       Pliers

·       Philips driver

·       Spark plug remover

·       Electrical tape



And that is it. Oh safety kit? Well for what it is worth here it is



The safety kit comprises of

·       Floating grab bag containing spare VHF radio and batteries, a fire-starting kit; bivvy bag, foil blankets, small first aid kit, waterproof matches, spare snacks and some bottles of water, signalling mirror (like I’m going to be ship wrecked on some deserted island and never rescued!! – Dur!)

·       Collapsible radar reflector

·       Fire extinguisher

·       Portable side navigation lights

·       Airhorn for fog

·       Whistle

·       Spare hand held Silva compass

·       Safety harness and safety lines

·       Bucket

·       Portable hand pump – a fixed hand pump is next item for Arwen when I can save up the pennies

·       Safety waterproof torch

·       Sailing knife, swiss army knife

·       SPOT PLB

·       Mobile phone

·       Flares – handheld and floating cans

·       Strobe light on PFD

·       Power monkey expedition solar charger

·       Anemometer

·       Optional – sometimes carried dinghy inflatable buoyancy bags

·       Spare anchor

·       Spare five litres of outboard fuel

·       Oars

·       Canoe paddle



Too much? Overkill? Needs pruning?  Forgotten something vital? It is a wonder Arwen ever floats!!

Let me know…….constructive advice always welcomed.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Pembrokeshire National Park

The family, well most of them, have been staying at a cottage in Pembrokeshire. Blessed by fine weather, our summer, come at Easter time, we have made the most of visiting beaches and castles.

A visit first off to Pembroke Castle for number one son who is in his second year of reading a medieval history degree


Then a stop off at Barafundle beach for ma and Pa



Stopping off at Solva
Me thinks some Guerrilla Geographers have been at work



and then the smallest city in the British Isles...the City of St David's with it's cathedral built on the site of the monastery first established by St David way back in 589 AD.
St David is of course, The Patron Saint of Wales


the Cathedral entrance guarded by these two former Bishops.....


what the photo doesn't show is how the arches actually lean outwards towards the edges of the photo
Nor does it show the steep floor angle rising up towards the alter and organ area

the roof of the main tower and below the roof above the shrine of St David


The shrine of St David. This is my second 'pilgrimage' to the shrine and so it is the equivalent of one pilgrimage to Rome as agreed by a Pope many, many centuries ago. As I have been to Rome several times, I'm hoping that the accumulated pilgrimages are now equivalent to one pilgrimage to Jerusalem

The wonderfully ornate iron gate entrance to the Bishop's Palace found next door to the Cathedral

The ruins of the once ornate Bishops Palace started way back in the early 1200's



And finally an early evening at Porthain below to admire the little harbour, the art galleries and, of course, the famous Sloop Inn


Guardian of the entrance to one of the art galleries at Porthgain









another blog update from Howard Rice

http://thepocketyacht.blogspot.co.uk/


Monday, 10 April 2017

First sail of the year 2017 part 2

Part 2 of First sail of the year 2017 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9TetGlqEbo





Thursday, 6 April 2017

Retirement learning curves and a video of a welsford navigator sailing!


I used to write, lots. Educational stuff, mainly for journals and it was generally well received - both the geographical and educational content. I didn’t earn anything but some journals had a high profile and it was the kudos of being academically published I guess. I just enjoyed doing it.

So, I’d like to try my hand at travel writing, not books, but small, odd articles, for a magazine or a Sunday supplement. I’m under no illusions that it will be hard and that I may be no good at all but if you don’t try, you don’t know and actually whether it gets published or not is frankly immaterial to me. The process of learning how to write, to self-critique, to search for a style, to create………that will be enjoyable enough. And you have to start somewhere!

 I want to start a new blog as well; to run alongside ‘Arwen’s Meanderings’ with direct links between the two. It will be a travel blog, its sole aim to encourage, support, inspire people to travel and meet others, to have micro-adventures. And I think we have an idea for launching it to. By ‘we’ I mean me! ‘Her indoors’ is less enamoured with this idea! ‘We’, are thinking of trying to do 14 holidays in one year around Europe for under £2500. It stems from an article we read a few weeks ago about a twenty-six-year-old who, working in a high-pressure job in London, felt he needed to maximise his downtime and so embarked on trying to do as many mini breaks as he could across Europe without taking time off!

  ‘We’ have rules for this engagement too although they change frequently at the moment. Each trip can only be 4 days long or less. On each trip, we have to pack in as much ‘free stuff to do’ and ‘cheap’ activities as our poor bodies can take. So far so good – ‘her indoors’ is onside. “No posh hotels – hostels, cheap Airbnb rooms whatever, but no ‘nice’ hotels! We have to step outside of our ‘travel comfort zone’ on occasions”. And there it was when I lost her! Don’t get me wrong, ‘Her indoors’ is a good, accomplished traveller in her own right; she’s slummed it and suffered travelling hardship and deprivation on many occasions. But I sense she is expecting something just a little more. When she retires, she’s wanting a little bit more than a hostel floor in the middle of a mosquito ridden swamp or a smelly drop pit toilet in the deserts of Namibia!

Although the blog will be for all age groups, our (my!) real target audience is our age, the fifty somethings. So, nightclubbing in Ibiza, cave tubing in Slovenia, grape picking in Italy, kite surfing in Sicily, a painting course in Paris, rowing down the Danube……..well it’s an idea! It needs refining!! A lot of refining according to ‘her indoors’.


I think I might take up vlogging as well. I have no idea why but I like editing films. Hopeless at it, never been trained, no idea what I’m doing! My YouTube channel attests to that! But I have young friends who are playwrights and script writers so I know where to go for tips and ideas and why should all the twenty somethings have vlogging to themselves?

 I want to create a channel with short videos of my micro-voyages and travel micro-adventures. More face to camera work, videos with a story to tell, a purpose. ‘How to’s’, ‘problems encountered and solved’ ‘tips’, if any, ‘suggestions and reviews ‘, ‘learn from my mistakes’ type features. I want the channel to inspire and encourage others to travel, build boats, sail, break out, pursue their dreams and ambitions, take up something new, explore; generate discussion, provide a little interlude in people’s busy, busy lives; I want it to promote my wonderful ocean city and be full of laughter, fun, warmth, humour and passion; passion for learning new things.

A tall order and I have no idea why I want to try it. I don’t even know that I have the skills or attributes to make it remotely work or of value to anyone but it’s worth a try. Nothing was ever achieved by doing nothing and if no one ever subscribes, I will still have been on a learning journey and that’s half the fun.

In the meantime, my Youtube learning curve remains exponentially vertical……today it was learning how to put in annotations. ‘Cards’ they call them and ‘subscribe’ links. I have no idea whether they work or not, whether people will like them or not. I guess it is one of those ‘suck it and see’ moments!




Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Retirement fears?


It looms before me and I am very excited in some ways and then not in others. Have we made the right decision? Are our financial calculations correct? Will we have enough money to do what we would like to do for ourselves, family and charity? How will we fill our time?

How will we fill our time?

It sounds silly. Having looked forward to this for so long it seems funny that this is now the question upper most on my mind. It gnaws away at me in the wee hours when I can’t sleep. I’m sure that those who have retired will say ‘don’t worry. Time will have a way of filling itself’.

Many of my retired friends say they are as busy now as they were when working only less stressed and in complete control of how they manage their days, evenings and weekends.

I have some thoughts. Silly thoughts I suspect, but hey sometimes silly thoughts have led to some interesting discoveries, journeys and stories to tell. Life is about living, learning, sharing, giving, loving, supporting, laughing and a whole host of other things besides. So, without much ado, here we go…………….my proposed time fillers



I think I would quite like to  

·        Spend much more time with Mum and Dad; see my sisters more often

·        Visit my brother in New Zealand

·        Bring my gorgeous wife a cup of coffee and breakfast in bed for the rest of her life AND have all the washing and housework done by the time she gets up; and, from now on, sort all the household and car insurance paper work and bills as well!!

·        Spend more time with my friends and be a better, more sociable friend than I have been in recent years

·        Do a learning how to sketch/draw class

·        A day skipper theory course ought to be a priority

·        Do an A level in history – my son has fired my passion for the subject

·        A father daughter trip – I’ve done a couple of father/son ones but daughter and I never seem to coordinate our time and I so want to do a trip or two with her

·        Volunteer for a local children’s sailing charity

·        Actually make it to a Dinghy Cruising Association rally for once

·        Join a pub quiz team

·        Be a film extra – ambition to have a walk by part in ‘Poldark’

·        Bring joy to my neighbours by landscaping and controlling our wild garden

·        In same vein, make their cups runneth over with joy by decorating the house

·        Run a half marathon for charity (HaHaHaHaHa – sorry, overcome with mirth at that thought, given I’m a short, fat, overweight welsh guy)

·        Go on a wood work course so I can make my own oars, turn square yards and booms into circular ones and actually do just one piece of high quality wood work, once in my life

·        Learn to sail properly, I mean really learn to sail; to be able to overnight anchor off beaches without suffering anxiety attacks and self-doubt; to be able to properly trim Arwen’s sails and actually understand what I’m doing with tack, downhaul, outhaul for different wind circumstances – basically to do justice to John Welsford’s wonderful boat design (I feel soooo guilty – sorry John); to be able to actually plot a coastal passage where I, for once, plot tidal drift, passage speed and ETA’s reasonably accurately!!

·        Master some basic sailing skills – sailing on and off moorings and anchor and alongside pontoons; and yes, leave the outboard motor at home A wise man did tell me a year or so ago, it would be the only way to learn to sail properly……get out there and just do it…..you’ve got oars and anchor if there is a problem. And I guess from September, there is no rush or urgency to be home at a certain time to get ready for school. No more excuses……ouch…….this one is going to be a steep and painful learning curve!!

·        Join the University of the Third Age

·        Find some volunteering work supporting the elderly in our community

How will I fill my time? Possibly this might not be as much of a problem as I fear!



Saturday, 1 April 2017

retirement.......

I am retiring at the end of this academic year. I can't believe it. After 34 years at the chalk face I am calling time. I have handed in my resignation and a week or so ago my replacement was appointed. A strange day in some ways.

I will have worked for the state for 34.5 years, a total of 72,930 hours.  21,000 hours will have been unpaid overtime which equates to 12 extra years -  so I will have worked 46 years in principle.
If I take into account the longer holidays than most of the work force,  then this reduces to an extra 6 years or so free overtime for the state. Since 1984 or so I have worked an average 55 - 60 hour week. Sometimes it has been 45 hpw. Sometime, 80 or so.

It has been a privilege and honour. I have worked with extraordinary teachers, parents and support staff. I have learned so much from thousands of amazing teenagers and colleagues. I had the truly amazing privilege of teaching my own children although I suspect neither of them would quite see it that way from their perspective!!

I've been able to lead school expeditions around the country and as far afield as Africa, do fieldwork in stunning places and train teachers across the nation, parts of Europe and as far as The Gambia.

And so from August a new chapter begins.

I struggle to imagine a life without young adults in it. They have made me laugh and cry; they've both aged me and kept me young; inspired me and left me proud and in awe of their achievements and creativity. For a while though, they will still be with me as I do some regular supply teaching and I am fortunate to have many living along the road in which I reside. And maybe I will volunteer for a local youth sailing charity for a while.

And then time for me and her indoors. Travel, more time with our parents and siblings and of course.......lots more time with Arwen!

I'm looking forward to it.