Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Mighty Oak Has Fallen

Captain Ian MacDougal

Captain Ian MacDougal

I wasn’t in your fan club. Two adventurers from opposite ends of the spectrum, we didn’t gel. I found sailing with you difficult and frustrating and come the end of our trip together, I was happy to leave your company without a backward glance. But … I was in a minority of one. What does that say about me? More importantly, what does that say about you?

It’s not only today that people who knew you have posted flattering, loving comments about you. They always have. Your kindness, your patience, your sense of fun have all been admired by the many who love you and I respect every single person that has ever enjoyed your company.

It wasn’t all bad – I loved to hear you sing, I appreciated that you watched me and another crew member suffer a massive fit of giggles in an Oostend bar (neither of us were drinking, we were just – high on life) without understanding the joke. I loved to hear that you were a wrestler, a stunt pilot, a ship builder and I admired that you knew your ship from keel to t’gallant because you were there at her inception. And I am grateful that you allowed me to fulfil a long-held ambition to sail on a square-rigger. I met many, many people who I still hold dear seven years later. So, thank you.

I will not pretend to have changed how I feel because that would be false, and I am not a liar, but I am sad. I have shed tears. A man like you should only have left this world after being struck by lightning – twice – but none of us can choose how we exit life (unless by our own hand.) You weren’t electrified by the heavens but you are still absent from this world and there is a vacuüm because of that.

Unlike you, I don’t have a god or a faith and I don’t believe that you will ever know what I have written here. I am writing for me – and for any of your friends that might read this – but I want you, and your loved ones who will be in such pain, to know that you were a mighty man. A captain, a seafarer, a shanty singer and a person of note who will be remembered as a one-off, an unrepeatable man of many talents.

Goodbye Ian, safe sailing in your heaven.

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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Shedward Seawards


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Silence is Not Golden – Well Not in This Case

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s been awful quiet around here lately. I know, I know. But don’t think I’m lazy or giving up on Shedward. It’s just that (sob) my laptop is dying. Eight years we’ve been together. I’ve boosted his memory, updated his software, had him tuned up but it’s time to face facts. He’s not well at all.

My niece got a brand new, sexy purple laptop for Christmas (and her mother will be paying for it until next Christmas). It’s got Windows 8 and all sorts on it. And boy, it’s fast. I know because I’ve looked over her shoulder when she’s using it. She won’t let me borrow it. I can’t prise her sweaty palms off the damn thing. It’s not fair.

When I’m working, it would take me less than a week to earn the money for a new one but, the trouble is, I’m not working and haven’t been for a year because of a torn tendon in my arm. So I’m poor. Very bloody poor. Too poor to even think about a speedy new laptop with a webcam and a billion gigs of memory. Sigh.

Imagine a laptop that doesn’t take a day and a half to get online. Imagine a laptop that takes less than a week to boot up. Cor!

So, I just thought I’d let you know that I’m still here and I will post properly when I can get the mice inside my elderly computer to run fast enough on the wheel to power it up.

In the meantime, if anyone finds a genie, make a wish for me. I want a red one with lots of memory – touch screen optional …


Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Family Life, Struggling Writers


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A Plea to Women who Know Girls

Everyone – parent or not – should read this and learn

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Posted by on January 4, 2014 in Uncategorized


2013 in review

I find these reviews so interesting. Makes me think more deeply about who and where my visitors are. I start trying to picture people – then I have to stop or go mental. Whoever you are and wherever you are, if you’re reading this then you are already one of my 2014 statistics. Ooooooooooo!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Uncategorized



Int Life Brilliant?

Alfie aka Alfredo, Affers, Alfus Dumbledore, Alfonso and Oi!

Alfie aka Alfredo, Affers, Alfus Dumbledore, Alfonso and Oi!

My mother always said she didn’t like Dobermanns because she couldn’t read the expressions on their faces. Not having known a Dobermann up close and personal, I accepted her reasoning and thought it wasn’t a breed I wanted to get to know. Fast forward to me as a woman in her mid-thirties being thrown around a wintry North Sea on a sand dredger. Coming off watch, I call home.

‘Guess what?’ asks my sister, St Francis.


‘We’ve got a new dog! It’s a rescue dog and it’s a Dobermann. We’ve called him Alfie.’

‘You’ve got a WHAT?’

I expressed my horror. My niece, Medusa was a very small person back then and my nephew, Semtex was a baby. How could my sister bring one of those dogs into her home? Her children’s home? My disapproval lasted the three weeks of my trip away. It lasted right up until St F and her children’s father arrived to pick me up at the station.

‘Come and meet Alfie,’ they chorused, leading me to the back of the car.

They threw open the boot and a huge dark shape launched itself toward me. Slobbering tongue, ginger eyebrows, big, floppy ears – I was sold in less than fifteen seconds.

Despite his being beaten and severely traumatised in the first two years of his life, St F was able to teach Alfie how to play and she calmed many of his neurotic tendencies. He caused numberless problems but aggression wasn’t ever an issue with him. He was one of the universe’s gentlemen. Affectionate, patient, polite, he was all of that and much, much more.

He stole chocolate cake. He allowed Medusa to put flashing reindeer antlers on him at Christmas. He regularly and spectacularly knocked people off their feet by running full tilt at them and forgetting to stop or swerve at the last minute. And once, my sister found that she didn’t have change for the parking meter so she ran across to the nearest shop. On returning to her car she found an angry mob surrounding it. Coming closer she saw above them that Alfie had got half way out of the partly open sunroof before getting stuck. Except for his frantic barking, he resembled a tank commander. Much tutting and shaking of heads followed as St F tried to explain that she hadn’t abandoned her dog, she’d just gone for change. No one was listening though. It’s one thing to work up the courage to smash a car window and drag an overheated doggie to safety but, it’s quite another to have one tunneling through the roof to get out. Crisis averted, the crowd dispersed leaving St F unwedge her dog on her own.

I learned to love Dobermanns. And the fantastic people who jumped out in front of us and said how they’d had one and they were the best dogs ever. The enthusiasm that Doby owners show when meeting another Doby is mind-boggling. One summer’s day, down by the beach, a young German was sitting on a wall eating an ice-cream. On our approach, he leapt up and told St F and me that he had a Dobermann at home and could he please give Alfie the rest of his ice-cream. You can guess what Alfie’s answer was.

Of course he got his ice-cream. He earned it. By being the nicest dog you could ever meet (unless you’re a waterfowl …) and by being the dog that taught us to love Dobermanns. And by being the dog that finally taught me that’s OK to love something. I did love him. I still do and always will.

A year or so after I moved away up North, Alfie went to live with friends of ours. A large family with lots of bustle to keep Alfie occupied and with someone special who could spend time with him. St F, Medusa and Semtex were able to see the dog regularly and they saw how attached he became to his new guardian,Tony. Then Tony and his family moved some miles away and our only sightings of Alfie since then have been the photos that Tony and his wife have shown us.

Very kindly, Alfie’s family kept us in the loop about his adventures and misdeeds. Very kindly they told us about Alfie’s last adventure on New Year’s Eve. Fourteen is a good age for a Doby and even heroes have to go sometime. Cuddled up in the arms of the man he loved most in the world, Alfie drifted away from us all and breathed his last. I cannot think of a more beautiful way to bid goodbye to a loved one but also, it must have been intensely painful. My heart goes out to Alfie’s family but I envy them the years they had with him. I envy their being there at the end but not in a jealous way. I am truly glad that he went with them because they gave him what he most needed – time, care and lots and lots of love. Also, I’m glad I didn’t have to dig that hole! With that in mind, I hope Eric is immortal!

If Alfie were ever to have a headstone, or memorial, then my version would say ‘Int Life Brilliant?’ because, just like ‘Brilliant’ in The Fast Show, Alfie loved life. Let off his lead on the beach he would tear around in circles, knocking people over at every turn, and his facial expression (his apparently unreadable facial expression)  would read, ‘Int sand brilliant?’ Lead him to the sea and his face said, ‘Int water brilliant? And er, cold. Can I go back now?’

Take him out into the fields and you could see him thinking, ‘Int grass brilliant?’

Maybe, somewhere out there, Alfie is tearing around an open space and thinking to himself, ‘Int death brilliant?’

I do hope so.

I Wuv Oo Too

I Wuv Oo Too

Int Running Brilliant?

Int Running Brilliant?

Int Grass Brilliant

Int Alfie Brilliant?

Int Alfie Brilliant?


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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Family Life, Uncategorized


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