Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Oh The Cleverness of Me*

Sometimes with teenagers you can get a 'win-win'. Here's an example.

On both the school uniforms the Baby Angel has been forced to wear, there is a rear half belt secured with two buttons. The problem is that on both uniforms the cut and style resemble something akin to a hessian sack. Teenage schoolgirls solve this problem by re-doing the half belt buttons so that the second button is secured in the first button hole, pulling the waist of the dress into a more flattering line (hem hem) and leaving the unused portion of the belt hanging down their backs like a tail. It is not a good look.

It is so much not a good look that teachers are stationed at the gate to ensure girls leave the school correctly attired, not looking like rejects from St Trinians. Somehow, the moment they breach the '500m radius from the school' barrier, the half belts spontaneously revert to their incorrect positions and mothers are left tearing their collective hair out.

And so a compromise is reached.

As it is the sack like nature of the dress which is causing the belt abomination, doting mama agrees to open the side seams and shorten the half belt so that it effectively nips the waistline in, thus reducing the need for incorrect buttoning. At the same time, and this is the clever bit, mother sews the half belt together so that there is no possible way it can be tampered with and it shall remain forever neatly and correctly buttoned.

Now to solve the 'rolling socks down and tucking them inside your shoes' problem.......

On the sailing front, I was spared the ordeal of sailing yesterday as the winds blew up to a not insignificant 20 knots. Today, Himself met up with a nice young woman (thanks Prof J) who has been sailing for sometime on big boats and is ready to make the move to the smaller, hands on, dinghy classes. She is 29, tall, slim and knows a tack from a jibe. I have been replaced.

The weird thing is that I feel somewhat disappointed.

* J M Barrie

Ronald Searle's St Trinian's cover

Monday, 22 February 2010

DNF: Finished

Blimey, over a week since my traumatic second attempt at sailing and here I am, at work, procrastinating and finally finishing the story. So, where was I? Ah yes....I had decided to give it another go.

The first part of the race was fine-ish. I mean, I am still crap at tacking; I can't tell where we are on the water (in relation to all the other boats), I still don't understand what he means when he says 'down wind', ' into the wind' and 'reaching', which, incidentally, is nothing to do with dry heaving; but I was able to look around a bit and the layout of the ropes in the new boat is less daunting so I was able to find my 'tweakers' and 'downhauls' much more easily. At one point we were coming 4th after having been last over the start line!
And then we capsized the first time.

I think it was probably my fault. Hey, I'm sure it was. I can't remember what I did though. It might have been a bit to do with Himself who was cursing and hollering something about the new tiller being 'unresponsive' and 'weird'. I had been afraid of this. The last time we sailed Himself was able to compensate for my incompetence with his genius sailing but then, he knew his boat very well. This time it was a new boat with a whole raft of idiosyncrasies and my general uselessness was more difficult to factor in. Anyway, we were in the drink.

The first thing that happened was that the boat immediately turned turtle. I was caught amongst the sails and ropes (as happened last time...only a LOT further from shore) and I struggled in the open sea to swim to the front of the boat. Himself meanwhile, was discovering that the design of this boat meant that he couldn't easily get up onto the hull to reach the centreboard as the body of the boat was too wide and slippy. With more tricks up his sleeve than Popeye, he kicked around underwater until he found the boom, then stood on it to give himself the extra inches he needed to reach up to the keel. Slowly but surely the boat began to turn over.

Meanwhile, I was swallowing water and trying to fight down panic as I held the nose of the boat and made my way down the side to get in at the stern, once it was righted. At the stern I met a new obstacle. This boat has a bar across the back (and not one dispensing rum, which I could have done with at that point), meaning that you have to haul yourself, your rubber boots full of water, your wet clothes, your sodden PFD and your lead like limbs, UP and over to get back in. I got stuck halfway.

See the bar at the back of this, the 2010 National Champion 'Jet Lagged'.
Our last boat did not have one.

"I can't do it..." I screamed,"I can't get in..."

"Please get in the boat."

Himself's voice was so desperate and pleading that I reached down into my diaphragm and gave an ungainly bellow, much as a ninja might whilst launching himself at an opponent, and hauled once more with all my might. I was back on board. Himself quickly followed and although I suggested right then and there that we head back to shore and give it a miss, he was undaunted and confidently issued instructions until I had; untangled the jib, rescued the whisker pole from over the side and rethreaded the jibsheet....a very tricky exercise with no glasses on.

We were now in last place.

Can I express to you how much I could not have cared less which place we were in?

We continued on; but now every tack was messy and felt dangerous. I didn't seem to be able to do anything right ( I was exhausted), the mast rotation handle (see left) was knocked out of position and didn't want to co-operate and Himself was wildly cursing the tiller which seemed less and less sensitive at every tack. We were on the last leg when the inevitable happened. We were in again.

This time it was definitely my fault. I couldn't get the mast to rotate and I'd stayed in the wrong side of the boat too long wrestling with it. As we 'came about' we heeled over and the addition of my weight on the starboard side meant that we just kept going. This time the sail came down on my head and something hit me hard on the leg. It's all a bit of a blur now. Suffice to say, tired as we were, it took longer to right the boat this time; it took longer for me to get on board and, just as I did, Himself lost his grip and I was drifting away from him out to sea.

Now, the terror I felt when I found myself trapped under the sail, the terror I felt as I saw the boat drift away from me on my last outing, the terror I felt when I realised I was about to squeeze an object the size of a small watermelon out of my nether regions, these were as nothing compared to the terror I felt alone in a small dinghy, heading out to sea. It was like being a four year old trapped in a runaway car. I had NO IDEA how to sail that boat. Have I mentioned I am a control freak?

"Let the sails flap, LET THE SAILS FLAP," Himself screamed at me from the water.

"WHAT THE H*** DOES THAT MEAN???????" I screamed back. I had checked all the cleats and all the ropes appeared to be loose but I was still moving away from him!

"%$#@ the tiller!!!!" he bellowed.

Now, that first word was the problem. He wasn't swearing, it was just that I didn't have a clue what he was saying. It could have been 'push', or 'pull', it could have been 'parboil' the tiller for all I knew. All I did know was that I had to do something.

Of course, I did the wrong thing.

I pushed the tiller, the sails filled with wind...and I was off.....out to sea...on my own...

"NOT THAT WAAAAAYYYYYY..." I heard from Himself as his voice faded into the spray.....

No kidding.

I immediately let go of the tiller and the boat fell over....again. This time was really bad. I was caught under the sails. I swallowed a huge mouthful of seawater. The wind was coming up to about 15 knots now and the boat was rising up above my head and threatening to crash down on me in a mighty frightening way. If had thought the previous two times were bad, I was sadly mistaken. This was very nasty indeed.

I am not sure how I got myself to the front of the boat but it involved a lot of 'O God..O God's. I was vaguely aware of the rubber rescue boat roaring towards us, initially keeping its distance but quickly circling closer as they heard my panic. I didn't know where Himself was and I kept hysterically calling for him. Suddenly I was aware of the rescue guy holding his hand out to me.

"Hang onto me, you're going to be alright."

"No, no, I can't let go of the boat, I mustn't leave the boat, where's my husband???"
"Just give me your hand, you'll be alright."


"Listen to me, we won't leave without him, just give me your hand..."

And so it went on for about a minute until the guy actually shouted at me quite crossly,

"You HAVE to LISTEN to ME!"

He coaxed me to let go with one hand and I swung suspended in the water between the two boats for a few moments. It became quickly apparent that we couldn't stay like that for long without endangering the rescue boat (which was just a rubber ducky with an outboard) and so the process began again as he tried to convince me to let go of the boat. Eventually I calmed down enough to be hauled into the rubber ducky, reassured by the fact that I could now hear Himself's voice.

Himself meanwhile, had been swimming the 50 metres between us; swimming in rubber boots, clothes and a sodden PFD. He was exhausted. He couldn't reach the centreboard to right the boat. He begged for them to throw a rope over it and help pull it towards him but they couldn't hold the ducky steady in the rising seas. In desperation he made a leap for it, bodily, straight up out of the sea, caught on and clung there, waiting for the weight of his body to slowly, ever.... so...... slowly, right the boat. The highly polished and sharp edged centreboard (see right) bit into his upper arms but he hung on. By the time the boat came up, he barely had strength enough left to pull himself over that sodding bar at the back.

He lay there for sometime in a huddled heap and finally called out breathlessly,

"I need her to help me sail it back in!"

Well, at that point there was NO WAY I was getting back into that boat!

I have to shamefacedly admit that I left my brave hero of a husband to single handedly sail the dreaded beastie back to shore whilst I was ferried in, in the relative comfort of the rescue boat.

We were a long way out to sea. Half way back I had calmed down enough to start feeling sheepish and to be able to marvel at my husband's sailing ability as he used the mainsail only and gently guided the boat back to safety.

When we got back onto dry land and he was speaking to me again, we discovered that part of the problem was indeed the tiller which had come loose in its housing. So it wasn't just me.

So, will I go again?

Yes. It's like childbirth. The agony fades.
Anyway, I've got to be able to do better than that pathetic effort.....

Just found this picture of our new boat, being sailed by its previous owner.....(note bar at back!)

image credit 1

image credit 2

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image credit 4

Monday, 15 February 2010

DNF: The Next Sailing Installment

Here is a picture of the correct way to 'right' a capsized dinghy with the assistance of a rescue craft.

Obviously you climb onto the hull, grab the centreboard and attach a rope, then, with a bit of 'oomph' from the outboard motor, haul the boat into an upright position. Simple. Except that it is definitely. not. that. simple.

Now, you remember that Himself has a new boat? And that there is still the issue of crew? You can hear this coming can't you? Yes, Saturday saw me donning my attractive sailing attire and heading out to Brighton for another bite at the sailing cherry. What was I thinking?

I am not a sailor. I think we have established this. I am not a sailor's small, left toe. The most sailory thing I have ever done successfully in my life was singing 'All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor' whilst tap dancing and brandishing a mop. I do not understand wind. I have no concept of the difference between 'on' the wind and 'off' the wind. I thought a sheet was something you put on a bed. I have only recently started remembering that port means left (thanks to the husband of my dear friend Prof J, who taught me that there was 'a little red, port LEFT'...very clever!). When Himself asks me to 'get the telltales flying' or to 'let the sidestays go'.......he might as well be speaking French. I don't think I am a natural.

But, I am a loving wife and I know how much it means to Himself to get out there on a beautiful February day with a moderate 8-10 knot seabreeze and a new boat. I know he needs to see what it can do, to discover it's pecadillos, to test his skills against the equipment and the elements. And so I went.

The weird thing is, I kind of 'get it'. I mean, I don't get sailing per se; but I do get the passion for pitting yourself against the elements. Those of you who know me in real life know that skiing was my passion. These days, my move back to sunny SA has meant that the costs of travelling to the Australian snowfields are prohibitive and so it is 15 years since I last skiied in real snow, with the icy wind in my face and my knees groaning in protest at the rapid procession of moguls slipping beneath my skis. The sense of achievement you get as you finish the 'black run', exhausted, legs like jelly, face blotchy from the cold; I get all that. And my first taste of yacht racing hasn't left me.

After the infamous December 19th experience, I was not able to put the memory of the race out of my head. Like the childbirth I so flippantly compared it to, it haunted me. I thought of things I could have done better. I thought of ways I could have made it easier. I thought of doing it again. The pain, the fear, the exhaustion were forgotten and the thrill of finishing and surviving remained. I felt I needed to give it another go.

But it's getting late and it's school tomorrow. I'm going to leave you with a few shots of the process of 'righting the boat' so that when I tell you all about it tomorrow you'll have some concept of what I'm talking about.............

Step 1: climb onto the centreboard.
Step2: Apply pressure to the centreboard with your weight.
Step 3: The boat will slowly but surely right itself.

Image credits
righting the boat

Sunday, 14 February 2010

'Goodbye Jester 'or 'I Refuse To Sail In A Boat Called Bongo Brain'

You know how it's sometimes hard to explain things to someone who wasn't there? Like to anyone who asks about the new boat Himself is crooning over?

"Himself bought a new boat?"
"What sort did he buy?"
"...errrrrr....the same kind as he sold...."

I know, I know.......why? What was the point? Well as always it is a complicated story.

Himself has been frustrated this year. Since October he has only sailed 3 races, 2 with Small Boy and the infamous Dec 19th race with me. Finding a crew has been a challenge. Small Boy has declared that he does not like being 'shouted' at and my efforts were evidently so horrendous that further offers to crew with him only hastened his decision to put the boat up for sale.

His plan was to buy a single handed boat. At our club there is a burgeoning fleet of Sabres, a simple, one design class with a single sail and healthy competition. The idea seemed to be the perfect solution. The going price for a Sabre was reputed to be around $6000 whereas Himself felt he could get significantly more for Jester. He would not have to scrape the bottom of the barrel (ie me) for crew and he would always get a good race on an even playing field. He was not completely sold on the idea of being a single sailor as he loves the teamwork of a two man boat and he had desperately wanted one of his sons to join him in his passion, as he had with his father before him, but he was simply not prepared to sit at home on perfectly good sailing days.

And so the decision was made, he was putting the boat up for sale! Of course, Himself was reacting viscerally in a kind of 'emotional blackmail' attempt to try and push one of his family members to commit to sailing; but this came back to bite him. Jester is a special boat. It is one of only three of its kind in a development class of boats (ie within set parameters the shape of the hull is not 'fixed') and was built by a friend from NSW who met his wife whilst on the project. When Himself put it up for sale, our friend was beside himself with excitement and before Himself could change his mind, the boat was sold. He was committed to travelling to Melbourne to deliver his baby to its former builder and he had yet to find another boat!

Still, the plan was good: a cheaper boat; no crew hassles; $3000 profit; a new mattress for our bed and paying off the Christmas credit card debt.

But it soon transpired that buying a Sabre was going to be harder than we had imagined. There were no South Australian boats for sale anywhere on the web and the boat builders were not answering their phone. Himself found a couple for sale in Melbourne and made appointments to check them out when he was over there. He was determined to bring a boat back with him.

He set out at 5.20am last Saturday morning and by nightfall Jester was in the hands of her new owner. The next phone call I received related the news that the Sabre Himself had seen in Victoria was 'old and crappy' and that new information revealed a reluctance on the part of Sabre sailors, to sell their boats outside of their own elite circle. Additionally, there was a 12- 18 month waiting list for new hulls! The single man boat idea was not looking good.

On Tuesday the phone call I received went like this:
Himself: I think I've found a boat!
Me: Great! Is it a Sabre?
Himself: Not exactly, it's actually another NS14.
Me: WHAT? How much is it?
Himself: Well he wants $7500 but I think I can talk him down....
Me: *sigh* There goes our profit margin. But why would you buy another NS????
Himself: Well, it's a newer one and it's a more common design and it's better in different kinds of wind and...
Me: (exasperated) but youo still don't have a crew...
Himself: Well, are you still up for sailing with me? If not, maybe Small Boy would consider it. It's a much simpler boat to sail...
Me: Well, I don't know....I thought the point was...
Himself: I know, I know but I'll make a concerted effort to find another crew and it's a really good boat and....
Me: Hmmmm. >:-(.........well where is this boat?
Himself: Well.........it's in Tasmania.
Me: TASMANIA????????
Himself: But he's going to put it on the ferry.
Actually there's a slight problem with that. The ferry costs are $1300.
Me: THIRTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Himself: (hurriedly) Calm down, calm down....I think I can talk him down.....

In the end the new boat cost us $7300 with ferry costs, another $500.00 in motel bills, petrol costs and who knows how much in changeover costs >:-(. Himself is still relying on us to crew with him and to add insult to injury, he wants to name it Bongo Brain!!!!

I will get my new mattress however. He has promised me this much.

SOOC Saturday: Stick A Fork In Me

Last week was the Year 10 Camp so this week for SOOC Saturday, I present you with one of our students at the end of his tether (literally).

The High Ropes course challenged the students immensely. It was 36C. There were 20m high poles with staples in the side for climbing. In groups of four the kids had to harness up, learn the techniques of 'belaying' and send one of their fold up the pole. There were a variety of activities up there, at great height; monkey ropes, postman's walk, bosun's chairs, I think that's where this lad had met his match. He was so close to the end too but he called down urgently and breathlessly, "I'm done!"

I love the 'almost silhouette' of this shot but I also love the fact that up close you can see his relieved smile as his friends lower him down.

This is Straight Out Of Camera with no cropping or editing. To see more raw shots, click over to Melody at 'Slurping Life' for SOOC.

The pinnacle of challenges on the High Ropes course was the 'Leap of Faith'. You scale the aforementioned 20m pole, stand on the top and leap for a trapeze 2 metres away! I don't think I could have done it; but my colleague did.....

Sunday, 7 February 2010

SOOC Saturday: My How You've Grown

Melody's back! And with her; amazing stories, amazing words of inspiration and love, amazing photographs and Straight Out Of Camera Saturday.

Today (although it's Sunday here in Aus), I thought I'd give you this recent untouched shot of our Small Boy. He has really started to shoot up. Well, relatively, he's still the oldest yet smallest of the neighbourhood lads.

But I reckon he looks pretty dashing here, for a Small Boy.

Wish I could get him out of his bathers and into some proper shorts though......

Friday, 5 February 2010

That's Another Swimming Carnival Off The Blocks

For some reason, every school in Adelaide seems to have held their annual swimming carnival yesterday!
Here's the setting for ours.

Swimming carnivals in Australian schools are not the 'Baywatch' events you might imagine them to be. A remarkable number of teenagers seem unable to swim; unable at least with any degree of confidence. Getting kids to nominate for events is a continual trial and even those who put their names down are frequently incapacitated on the day for any number of reasons.
"Miss, I pulled my hamstring at footy training."
"I can't swim miss, I feel sick."
"Miss...it's ladies things...you know!"

Humph. Ladies things indeed. Have modern youth never heard of tampons????? Apparently, or should I say conveniently, not! I remarked to one of my colleagues that it was amazing how 80% of the House seemed to have a period today.....and that included the boys!!!!!

My Care Group were no exception. They readily embraced the opportunity to wear casual clothes, some of them even managing to stretch to some House colour! (green of course)
But of this little group, gathered in our home room for roll call, only two actually got in the pool!

Mind you, there were those who entered totally into the spirit of the thing.
That's our House captain in the body paint! But even out of this enthusiastic group, only one was a swimmer! She was a pretty good one though.

You may have seen a picture of this before:
it's our House banner, taken at last year's sports day. On the first day back at school this year, they called for the banner, to be used in assembly as we presented badges to the new House officials. It had last been used in a similar assembly on the final day of 2009 although I had been reluctant to part with it as, on many occasions previously, it had not been returned. Well, surprise surprise, as I looked around my office on the first day back I realised.....the banner had not be returned. A quick email to the staff brought me no joy. No one was willing to take responsibility for the whereabouts of our banner! Grrrrrr. I set the new House Seniors onto the task. They had to search the basement sports store room and the offices of any likely sport related staff who may have inadvertently packed the banner away with other equipment at the end of the year. As the swimming carnival approached and our fruitless searches left us empty handed, I faced the realisation that I would have to make a new banner.

Which I did on the night before the carnival.

I finished at 3am.
Now, admittedly it is not as showy as the original, but it is bigger! It is also not perfect...but did I mention it was 3am?

Why did such a simple thing take so long? Well, first I had to go shopping for materials, home at 8pm, cook dinner, then start planning and sewing. I started off with a cheap, queen sized satin fitted sheet from The Reject Store ($25.00) and cut it down to a rectangle. The fiddly bit was the letters. Himself generated some letters for me to print out in tile formation. I then had to tape them all together and use them as patterns. I backed them all in iron on interfacing and carefully ironed over the edges to create neat letters for appliqueing. I had originally intended to put some yellow lightening bolts onto it but Himself and I couldn't agree on the design principles and it was getting late at that stage so I left that for another day. I hope to embellish the thing before the Sports day in week 5 or 6.

Oh and guess what? You've guessed haven't you. On the morning of the Swimming Carnival I went into the basement sports store to look for some random item and looked up on the top shelf. Yup. There was the old banner.

Still, we used the big one. >:-( I wasn't sitting up all night sewing for nothing!!!!! The kids seemed happy enough.

Speaking of the kids, the swimming carnival is always a great revealer of character. Usually this is a good thing; kids rising to the occasion, filling in at the last minute; setting themselves a challenge, even if it is only to make it to the end of the pool; but yesterday I had more of an ugly reveal. One of our year 12 girls is an accomplished swimmer and has always done well for the House, even though in the last few years she has become less inclined to compete and more inclined to lounge about in a revealing bikini displaying her other talents. Yesterday she just didn't show up at all. I couldn't believe the selfishness of that act. To have a gift and keep it when your House needs you? Sorry. I just don't get it.

BUT.... on the other hand.....

A while ago I wrote about this guy.....

that's him up there on the blocks! And what is significant about this is that he IS up there on the blocks. Now, as you may be aware, the African race are not known for their swimming prowess. A few years back one of the African girls jumped in during the swimming carnival and had to be rescued! No joke!

In the past, Gene has been very reluctant to participate in anything House related. He and another three African lads wander the school looking like some sort of Liberian Mafia gang and generally being 'too cool for school'. Gene turned up to the swimming carnival wearing very sharp clothes, with plenty of 'bling' and looking like there was no WAY he would go anywhere near that pool. Now, I would love to say that I talked him into giving it a go, but in truth it is an even greater joy to me that I didn't. I simply looked around at one point and there he was sitting in a chair waiting for the next race. I guess he feels like he belongs now.

I love the House system.

Monday, 1 February 2010

We Will Honour Yet The School We Know

I have been feeling very guilty about my lack of blog posting. I know we are supposed to be 'blogging guilt free' and supposedly I am more productively using time which would otherwise be spent blogging, but it truth, it doesn't sit well and I can't quite pinpoint why. Maybe I don't feel like sharing at the moment? Or is it that I have just lost interest in life? Like, nothing's worth blogging about?

And yet, of course , it is.

Like this last week for instance. Surely I couldn't let the start of the BA's time at my Alma Mater go unmarked? I dutifully took photos as she waited nervously in the kitchen for Grandma and Grandad to pick her up and take her down for her first day. She had been in to an Orientation on the previous day; but that was in casual clothes, the only other students being other newbies and consisted mainly of a lesson in how to use the school's IT network. Thursday was the big day and she posed patiently for photos, her lovely smile masking that deep, overwhelming dread you get as you stand on the end of the jetty and look down into the murky, seaweedy depths below, knowing that the push in the small of your back is but seconds away.

She shed a few tears before I left that morning. She shed a lot more that afternoon in my office after school when, as I rushed down the stairs from a meeting to gather her up and ask her the inevitable questions, the relief and loneliness poured out of her.

It was a fine day. She had been given a buddy who was very nice and whose group of friends were very welcoming. She had people to sit with at lunchtime. The lessons were fine. She had endured the first of hundreds of assemblies in our old Hall, where my Bestie's name gleams dully down from the dark, aged wood of the Honour Roll; where dust motes are caught in the light, streaming from the huge, rear lead light window.

But it was all a bit overwhelming. My Baby Angel has been a central player in a close knit group of very social friends for a long time now. Her old school was smaller and has less history; it has no 'Great Hall' as she calls it: it does not have the ghost of her teenage mother lurking in its hallowed corridors. For the first time in a long time she was completely alone in an unfamiliar environment. And she smiled at everyone the whole day. No wonder the tears flowed when the pressure cooker lid lifted.

I was supposed to be going up to our Year 12 camp that night. 2010's Year 12s are a group I have known for 3 years and I have taught many of them. I was going up for the 'Red Faces' Concert, usually an hilarious occasion, but the BA hugged me desperately and begged me not to go so of course I cancelled immediately and we spent a bit of time twined together on the couch that night.

The next morning there were more tears and an inability to eat breakfast so I promised to pick her up after school, as she finishes after we do. I dropped everything at 3.03pm and with the anticipation of a mother, awaited her arrival at the school gate.

She waltzed out about 15 minutes late, all smiles, announcing that she thinks she might like to do 'Drama Studio' this year!

So in a quick answer to all of your very thoughtful inquiries......she's doing OK!! So far......

This morning it was back to feeling sick and shedding a few tears. Dearest Grandad was so concerned about her that he stopped enroute so they could both have a coffee together. Unfortunately she doesn't drink coffee yet! Tonight when I picked her up again she was fine; and tonight we have been learning French irregular verbs on flash cards!!!!

Already we are seeing value for our $$$$$$$$$$$$