I was off sailing with my nephew over the weekend. This is his eloquent account. of our trip which saves me writing it up and he's done a far better job than I would have
A Long Weekend in Paignton
I have been going to Guitar Retreat weekends and holidays for many years and over that time I've met many great people. I have kept in touch with a a few of them and last weekend we met up in Paignton.
I flew to Exeter airport and Brian was there to meet me and take me to Paignton. Brian runs a couple of businesses, amongst them a holiday letting. Friends were travelling from Cobham in Surrey and Bude in Cornwall and they were to spend the weekend in his apartment. I was staying with him and his wife in their home. He lives in the Goodrington area of Paignton which has fantastic views across Torbay to Torquay.
Brian and I walked down to the town for a couple of pints at The Inn on The Quay. After dinner we played (or should I say attempted to play) some music in his wonderful downstairs lounge.
Sharon and Stu arrived from Bude in the afternoon and were staying in the apartment. After they settled in we ate from a wonderful buffet prepared by Paula, Brian's wife. Sue and Chris were arriving a little later and they would meet up with us later. During dinner Brian and Paula announced that they had bought a property in France and were planning to move there permanently in August to start a B&B business. Their new property looks very impressive, they have great plans for it and I hope they are successful. Perhaps the next time we all meet up again it will be in their new French home!
Brian had negotiated for us to play in The Blue Anchor Pub that evening. The pub is in Brixham, just down the coast from Paignton and we decided to take the ferry. Paula had kindly offered to take all our gear to the venue so Sharon, Stu, Brian and me walked down to the harbour at Paignton where we would catch the ferry. We were the only passengers on the last trip across. Whilst Saturday had been a glorious warm sunny day, Sunday was very misty and the crossing a bit chilly. We arrived and walked round the harbour from the jetty passing a replica of The Golden Hind on the way. Brian told us it had recently been purchased by a coupe he knew. It looked very much a money pit to me and if you look closely at the photograph you'll see that there are gaping holes in the hull below the waterline where planks have popped or rotted. It must fill with water each time the tide comes in.
The pub was rammed full of imbibing locals many of whom looked as though they had been there since opening time that morning. There was a guitarist playing when we arrived (oddly also playing a large kick drum) and we were on after him. Paula had arrived with the gear and we started to bring it in. As we were doing this Paul and his wife Heather arrived. Paul is a proper musician and he was playing a gig at a gallery in Torquay on Monday evening where we were all going to see him. We all performed and many local also joined in including Ted Turner the brother of Wishbone Ash founder member Martin. Ted played. We were also treated to one very drunk Glaswegian who fell out with everyone because they weren't listening to him.
It was a brilliant, if somewhat odd evening in The Blue Anchor. I think we went down well and the manager invited us back - mind you, with the locals so drunk or high on drugs they probably never noticed us.
On Monday we visited Dartmouth. I walked down to Paignton and met Paul and Heather at the railway station to take a steam train. The others were driving and would meet us there. It was a beautiful sunny day and the journey was very picturesque. The train took us to Kingswear on the east side of the River Dart and we caught a foot ferry across the river where we met up with the others. During the journey, Paul told me that there was an Open Mic session before his set at the gallery that evening so a quick message to the others to see who wanted to perform!
Dartmouth is really quite small and whilst not that busy, most of the cafes and restaurants around the harbour were quite full. We found a wee cafe down a back street where we all managed to get a seat. We wandered around the town and sat in Royal Avenue Gardens for a while before crossing back over the river to get the train back to Paignton.
We all ate together that evening - a delicious Thai curry made by Paula - before making our way to Torquay to see Paul and hopefully do a couple of numbers ourselves. The gallery was quite small as was the audience (our group made up the bulk of it). Some of us performed, I did a couple on my uke, played the wonderful "Speed of Loneliness" with Chris and Stu and I performed our party piece "KIss".
On the way home we were listening to "Night Fever", singing at the top of our voices (difficult high notes!) with the windows and sunroof wide open. Sharon has promised to find white suits for me, Stu and Brian so we can perform a couple of numbers at the next Guitar Retreat!
It was an absolutely wonderful weekend and great to see everyone again and I'll be meeting up with all these friend over the next few months at some time or other.
I recently took up the post as Editor/Coordinator for the in-house magazine of the Moody Owners Association, more of an honorary than a paid position, but there is a small remuneration which will pay for a Guitar Retreat or so, another passion in my life alongside sailing . The magazine is published 3 times a year and sent to every member of the MOA. It's a good quality magazine packed with features and great information, I hope that my tenure won't drag that quality down.
I attended the AGM in Telford at the end of February. It was a great weekend and I met many MOA members from Scotland who I hope to meet up with during the coming sailing season. Over the weekend I had the opportunity to visit Blists Hill Victorian Town a recreation of a late 19th, early 20th century Shropshire Town. The open air museum attempts to recreate the sight, sounds and smells of a Victorian Town. Lots to see and do even during the winter season, although a number of the attractions only operate over the summer period.
Wednesday was one of those glorious February days we get from time to time in Edinburgh so off I set on one of my favourite walks to the beach at Portobello.
After last weekend and the dismal performance against Wales in the Six Nations, I wasn't holding out much hope for the second game against France at Murrayfield. I was so confident after years of trying, we could eventually win in Cardiff - alas these hopes were dashed within 5 minutes.
I was meeting friends in The Stockbridge Tap before going for something to eat in Hector's and watch the game. The Water of Leith Walkway is one of my favourite walks in Edinburgh so I decided to leave a bit early and walk to Stockbridge. It was a wee bit damp and muddy along parts of it and it was incredibly busy with others having the same idea as me for a nice Sunday morning walk.
After a couple of drinks in The Stockbridge Tap we crossed the pavement to our table in Hector's.
It was a great match and Scotland looked incredibly good - pity they hadn't performed like that the week before. Still...
This is the first time I've visited Portugal and it may well become an annual feature.
I was in Glenfarg, Perthshire last week helping my sister to celebrate her birthday.
We went for a great walk in the grounds of Falkland House just outside the village of Falkland in Fife. It's an early 19th century Jacobean style country house with extensive wooded grounds. The Pillars of Hercules organic farm and shop are also within the estate. The house was converted into a school in 1984 for boys experiencing social, emotional and behavioural problems including Autism and Tourette's Syndrome.
I've met many wonderful people over the years both whilst sailing and on my numerous ukulele or guitar breaks. I met Sue and Chris on a Guitar Retreat a few years ago and earlier this year when we were all on a Retreat on Tresco, I had arranged to take them sailing at the end of September. However, after a pretty decent summer's sailing, the weather around the middle of September became a bit more unpredictable. Neither of them has ever been sailing before so it was decided that whilst I might enjoy bobbing along in a force 5 in the rain, they might not. Instead I invited them to stay with me in Edinburgh and we spent a wonderful time walking around the city playing guitar and generally having a great time.
They knew that I would be in Ross-on-Wye at the beginning of November and they kindly invited me to stay with them at Sue's house in Cobham. I've been to London a number of times but this was my first visit to this part of Surrey.
A number of things struck me, it's a beautiful part of the country with some wonderful countryside, trees, parks and villages. It's also very busy. I drove from Ross-on-Wye and arrived in Cobham in beautiful sunshine. Cobham is a village in the Borough of Elmbridge and is a bustling wee place with many fine houses and a busy High Street. The Chelsea training ground is also close by, next to the railway station.
We spent Monday walking around the magnificent Wisley Gardens and then a short time at Brooklands and the Bus Museum.
Tuesday was a colder overcast day so we took the train to Hampton Court Palace.
I've lost count of the number of Guitar Retreats I have been on over the years - must be about a dozen - and one thing that they have all had in common - apart from expert tuition from the likes of Paul Nicholas - are the terrific venues. The venue for my most recent retreat in Ross-on-Wye was spectacular. Glewston Court is a beautiful 18th Century Country House set in the wonderful Hereford countryside.
The weekend centred around Americana and the music of artists such as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, The Eagles, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. The tuition from both Paul and Stu was to its usual high standard and the elegant surroundings of the house and grounds made this a truly memorable weekend.
I came away with a fistful of new songs and techniques which I have been busily practsing since returning home and hope to have these perfected for my next Guitar Retreat in January - this time in Portugal!
When I go on a Guitar Retreat anywhere in the South of England, my good friend Paul Nicholas is kind enough to put me up for a couple of days before and after the weekend. Paul is a singer songwiter from Tredegar in South Wales and a regular tutor on Guitar Retreats and I've stayed with him many times. I had booked a Guitar Retreat in Ross-on-Wye for the weekend after my trip to Minehead and didn't really fancy a trip home and back after the ukulele weekend so I stayed with Paul for a couple of days.
When I visit, Paul always takes me to a local Folk Club or venue where he plays and I get a spot. This time it was The Redhouse in Merthyr Tydfil where I played a couple of songs on my ukulele and accompanied the resident band on a blues number at the end.
We also had a lovely drive and walk around the Abergavenny area and a trip to a local luthier - Richard Meryck - to get my guitar set up. We visited the ruin Llantony priory, before having lunch at the brilliant Bear Hotel, Crickhowell. Ii have a friend who is a fan of Half Man Half Biscuit, an 80s rock band of minor success. One of their songs is called "Lord Hereford's Knob" - we drove there just so that I could get a photograph of it for him!