The sun has begun to shine, following a winter that began, I believe, in April 2012. And our winter is coming to an end too. It feels like a moment of rebirth and rejuvenation. We have had little time to stop, but a lot of time to think. I spent the last week of March in New York with two colleagues and twenty-eight students from Exeter Department of Geography. And what a delightful time I had. We walked for miles each day, exploring the history and culture of Manhattan Island, learning how the waves of immigration shaped the city socially, culturally and economically. We sought out nature in the city – in Central Park and at the American Museum of Natural History, at the community gardens around Tompkins Square, and at the farmer’s market when we ventured across the river to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. We strolled along the High Line and wandered through the Meat Packing District, Tribeca, Greenwich Village, lovely Washington Square, enjoying excellent food, unforgettable independent book shops and tasty beer. The change of scene and the change of pace gave me time to reflect, to think about my priorities, my goals, and my dreams. It’s good to have time to take stock now and again.
When the field trip ended I took a bus down to Haddonfield, New Jersey, through the industrial north of the state and the rural south, to spend Easter with my old friend, Meredith, who I hadn’t seen for 13 years. It was as if a day hadn’t passed, not least due to the remarkable youthfulness of my dear friend. Shortly before I last saw her she met an army helicopter pilot. She and the pilot have now been married for twelve years and have three delightful children who showered me in hugs and kisses. We adults talked about love and politics and society and children, and on Easter Sunday I spent a delightful day in the company of Meredith’s parents, extended family and in-laws. I almost didn’t want to leave. I was overwhelmed by this gregarious and loving family. But all too soon it was time for me to return home to my own precious family.
While I was in the US Julian, with his uncle and aunt as crew, moved Carina from her winter mooring at Teignmouth to Plymouth. On my return from the US, I took two weeks off work, and Julian spent a good deal of that in Plymouth, preparing Carina for our imminent move back on board. I had my turn too, spending two days and a night on board, cleaning the living quarters. The first day of cleaning was pleasant. The sun shone and a warm breeze meant I could open the hatches and had light and air aplenty by which to work. I awoke the next morning to heavy rain which carried on unabated for the entire day. The spray hood and cockpit tent were stowed, and I had never attempted to attach either before, and I thought of how very wet and very annoyed I would get if I tried. So, every time I ventured in or out of Carina, rain poured down the companionway. Most the day, however, was spent below deck, with a torch in one hand and a cloth in the other. The combination of overcast skies, rain soaked windows and dark wood panelling made it nigh-on impossible to see the back of the oven or the backs of the cupboards. Once something had been wiped down, I was then faced with the dilemma of getting it dry. The newly purchased fan heater was one option, manually drying with a cloth was another. But eventually I got there, and I left the boat clean as a whistle that evening and ready for us to move back aboard. Roll on the first weekend of May.