BOB CURTIS: Home for Christmas despite the weather
BEING confirmed 'home birds', the many troubles associated with holiday travel arrangements don't burden the minds of my lady or me. That's not to say we don't feel for those who have their arrangements disrupted by bad weather, floods or landslides.
Fact is, we spent a couple of days pre-Christmas deeply concerned about whether our son and his wife would get home from Dublin.
Flying to Bristol didn't present a problem, but there was a warning of no train service south west into Devon.
Mums tend to worry and believe me the tension built up as their arrival day drew ever closer.
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As it turned out they wisely changed airlines and flew into Exeter, where our niece picked them up and delivered the weary travellers to our doorstep… lovely!
DAYS before Christmas, what with the rush of last minute shopping and festive preparations, I was a bit apprehensive the BOMVC's coffee morning at the community hall would be a bit of a non-event… oh ye of little faith!
The hall was packed and Ron and his 'lads' not only rushed around serving coffee and mince pies, but gave a great account of their community involvement by uniting the audience with many favourite carols.
My lady and I came away feeling warm and excited about the whole festive experience.
My grateful thanks, gentlemen, for making us feel a part of the spirit of Christmas.
DRIVING towards home, for some strange reason my mind drifted back to another Christmas, something like 45 years ago.
The build up towards the holiday caused more than a little nautical tension.
Late in December, after loading seed potatoes in the port of Belfast, we departed from Ireland's north east coast for Plymouth.
The normal passage time is about 36 hours and even taking into account the strong south westerly winds forecast, we should make Plymouth, and so home, by Christmas Eve. Fingers crossed.
I'd been informed that, come what may, we wouldn't be discharged until after Christmas so it was up to us.
As most of the crew were from the Westcountry it was to our advantage to make a quick passage.
Hugging the Irish coast we crossed Dublin Bay, with the Irish capital lighting up the dark horizon like a giant Christmas show… onward!
Down past Wicklow Head, inside the Arklow Light vessel and come morning, there was the towering Tuscar Rock lighthouse dead ahead.
Time to test the wildness of St George's Channel. An hour later it was obvious the sea was winning… we'd only managed three nautical miles. So, back to Wexford Harbour for shelter.
Twelve hours later, we tried again. As we weighed anchor, a local trawler, home for the holidays, landed a basket of cod on our deck.
"Good luck, Skipper, 'tis one hell of a mess out there. May the Gods be lookin' down on ye!"
There are places, like the Bay of Biscay and Cape Horn, with a reputation for horrendous stormy weather, but for me the sea separating the county of Wexford from the coast of Cornwall at Land's End is high on the list.
The breaking seas were savage, almost soul destroying and it took us 24 hours to reach Land's End, only to watch great waves breaking over the Longships lighthouse.
Concern for the safety of the ship, the crew and the cargo told me it was time to seek shelter in St Ives Bay.
December 23 and still 100 miles from Plymouth. One more day lost!
That evening a Cornish fishing boat, drew alongside and passed aboard three great cock crabs and a bucket of scallops.
The ol' boy on deck looked up and wished us a Merry Christmas.
"Come low water tomorrow morning, Skipper, 'er'll go more to the west. Then's your chance to round the land. Good luck!"
In the darkness before dawn we eased out of St Ives Bay and struggled around the Longships.
The ol' boy was right. The wind had shifted to the west and although it was still wild, there was a slight lull.
Once pointed towards the Lizard it was plain sailing. Two o'clock that Christmas Eve we entered Sutton Harbour and after ringing, 'finished with engines' my heart heaved a great sigh of relief. 'Home for Christmas!'