Sunday 4 December 2011

Ticking the boxes

In a weekend that has felt like we are gradually ticking off the farewells to social groups the work colleagues on Friday were followed by the Barge Volunteers on Saturday and a run down to Pud Lady's house for an early Christmas Dinner with the family today.

The barge one takes the form of a pot-luck supper where everybody cooks food to bring and share and everyone brings booze or soft drinks to share. Dad has actually been at the barge all day anyway as the Cambria Trust play host to the Rotary Clubs of Kent and East Sussex. The Trust is pushing for the Rotary Club to sponsor respite sailing trips for young carers. 'We' have done a couple of these in 2011 as a try out, and these went so well that the Rotary Club in this region has adopted them as a good thing to do. The 'centre' is now trying to push out to the local groups that they should sponsor between the one and a full complement of 8 'students' for a week depending on the size and affluence of the local group.

The open day was so that the reps from the local groups could come and see the barge and the 'centre' (actually the two groups who had already dipped their feet in the water) set up a stand in the main hold where they could book the visitors in, give them brochures and info, show them the 'movie' on DVD and start them on their guided tours which Rotarians were on hand to do rather than 'us'. These tours talked the guests through how the sail training goes, what the kids like and how it all works. We were just there to look after the guides and stands and to pick up any strays or to give them the barge from our more normal angle - the workings, history and the rebuild project. We had our own stand selling postcards and pictures of the barge. The day went really well and 146 Rotarians from over 100 local groups were shown round. Cold and damp, though, Dad thankful for his new black knitted thinsulate hat.

The evening do went very well too, says Dad. By 1830, of course, it was dark and the tide had come in, so the volunteers had rigged up lighting over the now quite steep gangplank to help everyone aboard. Bee had created a lovely 'Bon Voyage' poster across 3 sheet of A4, the individual letters of the words being outlined around Irish iconography like the tricolour, Guinness logos, a map of Ireland, a Galway Hooker, shamrock and so on. There was a nice presentation to Dad with a framed embroidered picture of old barges to hang in the new house and exchange of cards signed by everyone.

The main course was a chilli with rice and a superb lamb tagine but this was well surrounded by salads, garlic bread, rolls, doritos and then mince pies, muffins (thank you Diamond!), choc fudge brownies, apple pies creme fraiche etc. Everybody came a way very well fed and as tiddly as they needed to be. We also created a "time capsule" by having all the volunteers write comments on paper which were posted into a (cleaned, dried) champagne bottle which will be hidden down in the aft framing somewhere to be found, possibly, by the shipwrights restoring Cambria again in another hundred years!

Today's Christmas dinner was a more standard affair. Mum and Dad's job was vegetables, so they headed down there with spuds, parsnips and sprouts in the car plus some sweet spicy red cabbage prepared by Diamond (Thanks again!). Pud Lady and Tom had the turkey and bacon-wrapped sausages plus the pud already in and the Swindon team were looking after the non-meat alternative (a fish pie) and the dessert option (chocolate roulade). Friend of the family Jane was gathered up and boyfriend of eldest niece Kat, name of John also came along so 11 people were seated. This was a first. Pud Lady has never played host to that many before so an extra trestle table had been blagged from somewhere. An excellent time was had by all accounts though everyone missed the presence of little white hopeful hoovers underfoot in the not-particularly-big kitchen during carving etc.

Happy Days

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