The big one and the bogs


Compounded by a second cold which burst my head non-stop for a week, the lethargy that set in between Christmas and New Year has only recently allowed itself to be wrestled away, groaning and breaking through a sleepy crust like the consciousness I reluctantly summon each morning. Rich wakes up, eats cereal, washes up the remains of whatever bizarre feast I have thrown together the night before and makes us both a coffee – mine black with sugar, the first of two I require before perception has a chance of being revived. We kiss and confer and while he heads off to his tools I pull myself through the second cup with a Twitter link or a Facebook video, putting off the inevitable and throwing on dirty clothes. It’s a formula that works for us. I get an extra half hour’s sleep and don’t wake up cranky to my lovely boy – even love is weaker than coffee when it comes to dragging me from slumber.

Rich, similarly afflicted by a post-festive shut down, has pulled himself out of it quicker by doing a bit of work making rudders for Dennis who is building a couple of 38 foot cats down the river from us. When not lost in headphones, epoxy and plywood down there he’s been doing wonders with our mast up here – realigning its eights sides, planing them down to sixteen and sanding them to a round finish. Today he fitted a circle of small hardwood batons to widen the mast at the gooseneck fitting which will spread its load, made from the last of our old floorboards which have so far fitted out half the galley and appeared in the chart table, deck hardware and backing pads.

Eight side,

Eight side,

sixteen side,

sixteen side,



One benefit of his work (aside from rescuing us from the brink of our overdraft limits – times are getting a bit scary on the financial front) is that he’s been able to chat to Dennis and Mark, who both know Hugh who built Gwen. Rich’s attempts to speak to Hugh have never been very fruitful and it was great for him to hear tales about Gwen, how she sails, that she sails. She’s not as tender as we’ve heard, and apparently she sailed really nicely, particularly with the huge ghoster that we’ll have to alter to fit the new, shorter rig. All good inspiration and fuel for summer dreams from the confines of this dreary shed in which we live, work and occasionally collapse.

I have been making a start on painting in the aft cabin. It started as “I’ll paint the heads” and swiftly moved to “while I’m here, the cupboards” and after some discussion is now full on “well, we might as well have the tongue and groove painted too”. Basically, if it’s pale and wooden, I fill and sand and paint it. Most of it is. I’ve been delayed and distracted, first by the lurgy and now by a dear friend’s tragic loss, but the work is easy enough and when not too unbearably hot from a morning’s fire the room is quite a pleasant place to be. I have Radio 4 or some crap ignorable telly on to keep me company and I keep Rich and myself hydrated and full of food to break up the day. I didn’t wear a mask on the first painting day and got quite dizzy from the fumes of aluminium primer, but now I’m on to the water based undercoat the world seems a lot less wobbly.

My little toilet/prison/listening booth, complete with pedantic second round of filler.

My little toilet/prison/listening booth, complete with pedantic second round of filler (and minus the bucket).

Today Rich and I put the first oil on the mast, which will be a daily job for me for the next fortnight while he returns to part time work. It’s quite magnificent, this huge bloody stick that stretches half way down the shed. It is symbolic of a step into the next phase of Gwen’s transformation, and is easy enough to turn over with a huge F clamp and a bit of bravery. I am pasting it in half boiled linseed, half shed preserver, rotating it and doing the other side, letting the wood drink it in to prevent and protect any cracks the fresh new wood may see fit to open. I tell mates that I am staying home to oil my partner’s pole, to rub his wood, to stroke his mast… you can imagine the inane giggle. Such smut. I should be sorry.

Bereavement seems to have stunned the whole raucous village down to a shocked whisper, and I am sad, mostly for my friend, and still trying to keep up the CBT and feel okay about myself. I am employed full time as painter and caterer, and occasionally as volunteer in Plymouth or mohawked village idiot do-gooder. This is the life I chose and I love it, and though a part time job that paid in actual money wouldn’t go amiss right now I cling ever closer to Rich and thank our luck as we do so often that we have each other and whatever odd adventure this is.


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