Posted by Simon Gundry on 04/07/2014
A few months ago, I wrote in one of my articles in the Channel Magazine, about seizing opportunities and living life with a bit more of a relaxed sort of attitude. I mentioned how we should spend more time with our friends and families, and not take everything so seriously all the time, as so many of us do.
We’re only given one chance on this earth, and as so many of us know, it is not a dress rehearsal.
So when I got the chance recently to help a friend take a boat across the Atlantic, I seized it with relish. I ventured down to the garage here at home to dust off my old sailing gear and find the sea boots that hadn’t been used in a couple of decades. I booked a flight for the States, and left for a real unplanned, unrehearsed intrepid journey, for just over a month. At this point, I’ll apologise to the five of my loyal readers who have tapped me on the shoulder in the supermarket, or on the streets of Devonport, asking where my Grumbles were for the last month. I have no excuse, I just said
bugger it all, and I’m off. Opportunities like this just don’t come around like this at my stage in life. There are a lot of unemployed yachties out there, looking for the next gig and I was given one. I didn’t intend to drop the ball for one second. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up on a couple of my sons who are working overseas.
I had an air ticket booked for San Francisco where I stayed with friends for a week, again down in Silicon Valley where the economic downturn still reverberates and the building boom of yesteryear is still waiting to be reignited. I stayed in the town of Los Gatos, from there I drove on a particular day out to Fresno and up into the mountains to see my youngest boy who is again working at a summer camp teaching sailing. It was a six hour drive there, two hours with him and a six hour drive back – it was well worth every second of it. It was incredible to see the effects of the Californian drought in the lakes and the mountains. Where my youngest son had been teaching sailing a year ago, the lake level had dropped some 40 metres from the previous year.
I flew to the East Coast of the United States on Memorial weekend, and had to go through O’Hare Airport in Chicago where I had a 35 minute window to change planes, which of course had to be in another terminal. In all my years of travel I have never seen such a zoo, somewhat frightening for a small home town kid from Devonport to have to witness. From there I went to Norfolk, Virginia where I joined my friend on his boat. The boat was moored in an area off Portsmouth, Virginia – a very old part of the United States where the War of Independence had a huge influence. I wandered up town on the Sunday afternoon after spending a bit of time on the boat readying it for the Trans-Atlantic voyage. It was a hot, very humid day and I wandered up town to have a look at some of the local architecture. A lot of it was very old, dating back well before James Cook’s voyage of discovery to New Zealand. I found a bar, because I was hot, I felt like a cold beer. It was called the Longboard Bar, a hangout for locals. It was very pleasant service and company, and a pint of beer cost $3. I ask the question why a pint of beer costs $10 in this country, but that is for another month’s column.
The Trans-Atlantic passage took a couple of weeks, we had the snot knocked out of us for the first few days after we left the East Coast and then it became milder and more gentle as we approached the Azores. We sailed to the North of Madeira, and into Gibraltar. It was so great to be on the ocean again, to witness the sunrises and sunsets, the pods of dolphins and whales and the time to be able to sit down and read a book, for hours if I wanted. The trip was over before I knew it, and I was back on land. I got a cheap flight from Gibraltar to London, where I had six days of beautiful English weather.
This gave me enough time to catch up with number three son, who is working on a large underground tunnelling project in London. I managed to have almost a full day with him, which was understandably a bonus. I took the opportunity to have a lovely walk around Richmond Park, sit by the river and enjoy lunch with friends and catch a few of the tourist attractions. London indeed is a beautiful city in fine weather. So I am sitting here now, at home, writing this and the feeling is that I am so pleased I grabbed the opportunity and if another opportunity comes up again, I will certainly be grabbing it with open arms.
So again I apologise to my readers, all five of you, I apologise for missing my month’s column but I don’t apologise for taking the opportunity. I don’t apologise for enjoying myself. I feel I have worked pretty hard over the last 45 years and just getting out there and having a look makes one appreciate how beautiful our country is but how small and insignificant we are on the world stage. And, how at times, we take ourselves so seriously. The morning I arrived back from London, I listened to the early news and I realised I hadn’t missed too much. The news was full of the John Banks saga, the Kit Dotcom saga and quite a few other crap stories that really don’t warrant much attention on the world stage. But of course it was wonderful to hear that the Mighty All Blacks had once again beaten England, as that was really important.