What is it about us and Storms?

Wisborough Green, West Sussex

By: Kerry

Having spent six months in Tonga cut off from the world, it seems kind of ironic that we’re now in England and still cut off from the world!

We haven’t had phone or internet since the 23rd – it’s only just come back on this morning, which is a bonus, since British Telecom was saying they hoped to have it restored by January 2….

True to our usual form, Christmas in West Sussex has been quite the adventure.

England-4193We went out to do a bit of last minute Christmas shopping on the 23rd. In addition to dealing with the usual crowds and queues, we battled hurricane strength winds (70mph) and freezing sideways rain. I was nearly blown down some stairs and the wind ripped the fake fur off the hood of my borrowed anorak! We drove home through wild wind, falling branches and flooded roads, with the headlights on high beam – and it was only 4.00pm.

I will never complain about Christmas shopping in Sydney ever again!

The storm got worse and we woke on the 24th to fallen trees and fences, floods and a power outage, which also took out the phone and internet. Damian tried to drive Grant, his nephew, to the train station – a five-minute drive away – and an hour and a half later, he hadn’t returned (and of course had no way to phone us to tell us what had happened). To cut a long story short, they never made it to the train station – they couldn’t get through the floodwaters – and had to take a long, long way around, ending up at Damian’s Dad’s place – which was lucky, since that was where we were due for Christmas Eve lunch.

Only trouble was, Davina (his sister) and I were still at her place….

We did eventually make it, and had a lovely day – despite having no electricity, which meant no heating, brrrrrr – with Damian’s Dad, step-mum, brother, sister-in-law, Davina and nephews ranging from 24 to 2 years old. We went over to his Mum’s in the evening, which is just down the road from where we are staying at Davina’s place. Had a couple of drinks by candle light there, and walked home through dark streets, flooded roads and freezing cold….Everyone saying they’ve never seen floodwaters like these around here.

Christmas Day we went to Damian’s Mum and step-father’s place for hot Xmas lunch with Davina, Karl (Damian’s brother), and Davina’s two boys. Fortunately, the power (though not the phone/internet) had come back on at around 10.30pm on Christmas Eve, so we were able to cook Christmas lunch! As expected, the table was groaning under the load of food: turkey (cooked by moi), gammon, smoked salmon, a dozen different veg followed by mountains of desserts and Christmas pud. Weather was too horrid to venture outside (no snow, unfortunately, just slush left over from the big storm). So there was nothing for it really: we just had to drink more wine and Davina and I re-discovered our mutual long-forgotten penchant for Amaretto. Mmmmm.

All in all, there were no eyes lost and everyone kept themselves nice (including me, can you believe?), so as far as family Christmases go, we’re chalking it up as a win!

Boxing Day saw brilliant sunshine and not a breath of wind: hard to believe the contrast. We went for a (muddy) walk through the village and surrounding fields and everything was shining in the sunshine – really beautiful. The river is still in flood – Davina says she’s never seen it anything like this in her lifetime. But it was great to get outside and bend our legs rather than just our elbows!

It’s now the morning of the 27th and we’ve woken up to phone and internet working – yay! So will send this now as there are more high winds forecast for today…

PS. Click on Images in the Menu bar at the top of the page to see our full England photo album.

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Merry Christmas!

Wisborough Green, West Sussex, England

By: Kerry

Merry Christmas!

Next-door neighbour's Christmas lights, Wisborough Green

Next-door neighbour’s Christmas lights, Wisborough Green

It might even be a white one for us!  I’m writing this from Wisborough Green, West Sussex, sitting at the dining table in Damian’s sister Davina’s house. We arrived a few days ago to -2C and fog and the weather hasn’t improved since – it couldn’t really be more of a contrast to Tonga!  And why, I hear you ask, would we leave a fabulous southern summer for the grey misery of an English winter?

We’re here to visit Damian’s family, who he hasn’t seen in about five years. We’re staying at Davina’s and the rest of his family, including his ‘new’ nephew, two-year-old Joshua, all live within a few miles. I haven’t met any of them before (apart from Skype calls) so I’m on best behaviour…!

The good news is that – finally, about 10 days before we left NZ – the insurance company agreed to accept our claim ‘without prejudice, subject to the usual adjustments’.

While we were waiting for the insurance company to decide, we were running around getting quotes (in triplicate) for a new mast, sails, gel coat repairs etc etc etc. The repair list is formidable, and there has been a huge number of choices and decisions to be made: and the more we researched, and the more people we spoke to, the more confused we were.

It has been all-consuming, trying to get our heads around all the technical requirements and physical approaches to building a mast (carbon or aluminium? High modulus carbon or ‘regular’? Male mould or female mould? One piece or two? How many halyards? etc etc). Then there are the sails: do we go with what we had before or go with something different? Which of the dozens of potential sail cloths is most appropriate?

I could go into a whole lot more detail but you’re no doubt glazing over already. I know I am. It’s been fairly tedious on many fronts, but we’ve also learned a lot along the way and will certainly know it inside and out by the end of this.

We left Sel Citron parked among the Pohutakawa (NZ Christmas) trees in Whangarei. We hauled her out at Norsand Boatyard the day before we left: it felt like deja vu, having spent so many months on ‘milk crates’ there last year.  She is supposed to be going into the shed next week for a new paint job, which will take 6-8 weeks – the yellow topsides are going to be re-done as they were quite badly scratched up during the dismasting. Hopefully a fair bit of the repair work will be done while we’re away. Then the mast will be ready (in theory) by about March and with luck we’ll be in the water soon after.

We will be spending Christmas around Billingshurst/Wisborough Green. With Damian’s brother, sister-in-law and two-year-old Joshua, as well as his sister, we are going to their Dad’s place on Christmas Eve, and then to his mother’s for Christmas Day lunch. It will be the first Christmas where Joshua really understands about Santa and is more interested in the presents than the wrapping! And it will be the first ‘cold’ Christmas Damian or I have had in about 25 years!

Meanwhile, they’re forecasting gale force winds (100mph) here tomorrow and another similar storm for Christmas Day. Never enough big storms, I always say…

Might have to go find some mulled wine. Already developing quite a taste for it….

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year.

PS. Click on Images in the Menu bar at the top of the page to see our full England photo album.

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