Sunday, 30 May 2010

Volcanoes, floods and storms in Guatemala.

I knew it was raining a lot but the news today of the devastation throughout the country is sobering.
Already suffering as the international airport in Guatemala City remains shut for a further three days after the eruption of the volcano on Friday the country is reeling from a second blow from nature.

The latest toll is 73 dead,the highest rainfall in 60 years in some parts of the country and more than 70,000 evacuated from their homes.

Although the river here has not risen greatly,yet, all traffic to and from the area is greatly limited. No international flights, flooding has closed the main road across Guatemala and the bridge between here and Honduras is under threat. Looks like the only way out soon may be by boat!

We have filled the boat with fuel today in anticipation of a disruption of supplies later in the week. Tropical storm Agatha has given a nasty start to the season of 'tormentas'.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Comfort Food.

It's still wet, really wet. The first Tropical Storm of the season looks like it is revving up. The humidity is horrendous. The washing won't dry. TBH is struggling with a piece of software that refuses to behave...

So I am serving up good comfort food. No doubt bad for the figure (bit past caring about that now!) but oh so good for the soul.

Bacon avocado hamburgers, first tasted at Lagoonies in St Martens.It's not the same these days, it was redeveloped and is now just one more marina cum restaurant. Shame still time moves on.. It was a dive of a place but there was somebody there who could really cook. Tasted these and never looked back. Just make up your own hamburger recipe. Grill a large bun on each side till warmed and slightly browned.
Fast grill hamburgers.

Assemble with baby spinach leaves, sliced roma tomato, half a slice avocado, burger, slices of crispy grilled bacon. Top with a melted cheese slice and enjoy!

Also on the menu today Double Chocolate Muffins..


90z flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
4oz sugar
4tbsps hersheys cocoa powder
1 egg
240ml milk
90ml oil
two handfuls chocolate chips

Sieve flour,cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarb together in bowl. Add sugar and 1 handful of choc chips.
In another bowl mix egg, milk and oil.

When oven is heated to Gas 5, 400 F and muffin cases are prepared mix the two bowls together quickly.Sprinkle remaining choc chips on the top. Once combined put in tins and immediately into the oven
Bake for around 20 minutes until well risen and browned.

I have found that the faster you get them in to the oven once the mix is ready the better the rise will be...

Friday, 28 May 2010

Volcano erupts close to |Guatemala City.

Just picked this up off the internet, certainly makes you wonder what Mother Nature is up to these days.
Guatemala President Alvaro Colom on Thursday declared ’state of calamity’ following the eruption of the Pacaya volcano near Guatemala City.
President Colom said during a press conference that at least four people are missing after the eruption. Noti7 TV said one of its reporters, Anibal Archilla, was hit on the head by rocks and was one of the missing. According to the TV channel, his body was found on early Friday. The others missing, three children were found

Emergency services reported at least 20 people injured as volcanic debris fell on villages.
The eruption covered Guatemala City with ash, prompting local officials to close the La Aurora international airport until further notice.
The Pacaya volcano began to erupt just after 7:00 p.m. local time.
“Due to the presence of volcanic ash after the eruption of the Pacaya volcano, Civil Aviation is recommending to cancel all air operations at La Aurora International Airport,” said a special bulletin from the Guatemalan Geology Institute.
Civil Aviation spokeswoman Monica Monje said the airport closed since the beginning of ashfall. Only the Tikal El Peten Airport is open and any Guatemala-bound flight will be diverted to El Salvador, Monje added.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Cheese Dreams.

Oh dear, bad day. Desperate for some decent cheese. Don't know why but I spent last night dreaming about big chunks of sharp West Country Cheddar, definitely not the sweaty rubberized cubes vac packed in industrial polythene that they sell here. Yuck.

At breakfast it was visions of creamy unpasteurized Brie, tangy blue Stilton(and a glass of Port), runny pungent Pont L'Eveque. Smooth and creamy Camembert, oh and a  nice slice of Lancashire.

The reality is there is nothing like that available in Central America. If we are really lucky one of the stores may have some 'Danish Blue'. Ah well back to the dreaming.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Rain stops play.

Well I am not certain that TBH would see it quite like that!

The past 3 days have seen him diving every morning to clean a plague of barnacles off the hull. Same thing happened to us this time last year, it must be barnacle spawning season. The tenacious little bastards grab on to everything below the waterline and grow like crazy. I've no idea what hormones they are on but am betting that chicken breeders worldwide would love to know.

Just as an aside did you know that Darwin wrote learned volumes on the barnacle before he published his theory of evolution. How mind numbing is that?

Anyway TBH had to give up on the final 20% of the hull yesterday after a terrific storm the night before. Even by our extreme Tropical standards this was quite some event. Dear old Mother Nature rather o.d'd on the SFX, lightning to herald the end of the world and thunder so violent that the sole of the boat was shaking. I was too. Shaking that is. After the first hour, during which I felt I remained impressively calm, I was reduced to a quivering wreck in TBH's arms as lightning strike after strike hit all around us. I could not believe this was going to happen to us again...and it didn't. This time we were safe.

But man you should have seen the sight the next morning, huge islands of debris floating downstream towards the sea, big enough to be classed as navigation hazards. The water like an over stewed cup of tea, thick and brown and full of bits. Yuck.Impossible to see anything under the water so we are now condemned to sail in ever decreasing circles until it clears and TBH finishes the job. Maybe we won't notice the difference!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Betty's Tearoom Apple cake

Betty's is one of those famous British traditions, like Harrods in London. If you are ever in York you simply have to visit for a cup of tea and slice of cake.

This recipe is for one of the best sellers from the tea rooms and I made it the other day here in the jungle. Oh Boy! They say it's best left a day for the moisture to develop, no chance....

125g soft butter
125g sugar
3 large eggs, separated
grated zest and juice of half a lemon
1tsp baking powder
125g flour
3 small eating apples
2tbsp flaked almonds

Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and heat oven to Gas 4, 180 degrees C

Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and light in colour.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, followed by lemon juice and zest.
Sift in the flour, baking powder and mix together.
In a small clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Add a small amount to the mix and stir to slacken the mixture. Using a large metal spoon gently fold in the remainder.
Peel, core and have the apples.
With the curved side uppermost, and without cutting right through, make as many fine slices as possible.
Spoon mix into tin, then push apple halves into the mix curved side up.
Sprinkle surface with almonds.
Bake 35-40 minutes.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Downing Street and down time.

Finally! After an appalling hiatus Britain has a Government. I felt some pretty
intense emotions when  Gordon Brown left Downing Street and David Cameron took his place. I don't know how a coalition is going to work, I guess none of us do, but I wish he and Nick Clegg well in the mammoth task they have in front of them.

Looking at the photographs and video of Cameron and his wife entering Number 10 Downing Street made me somewhat wistful for the past. Aged 11 my parents took my younger sister and myself to visit Downing Street. This was back in the days when there were no security gates at the end of the road and you could wander up to number 10 itself. Under great duress I was persuaded to pose for a proud family picture standing on the doorstep!

More years later that I care to admit to I returned to the scene but this time as a lunch guest of the then Prime Minister, John Major. As I climbed into the black taxi and asked to be taken to 10 Downing Street the cab driver turned and ginned, 'Oh yeah darlin' You 'avin lunch or what?' he was astounded as I answered yes and showed him my security pass! I must admit to feeling just a little bit special.

I climbed out of the taxi, flashed my invite at the guard post at the end of the road. They checked me on their list and let me through the huge wrought iron gates. It was pretty unreal as I walked up the road, a bank of journalists opposite the door perked up as they saw me approach then slumped back down as I was a nobody!

As you arrive on the doorstep the big black shiny door swings open as if by magic! No touching that shiny brass doorknob!I believe they phone ahead from the gate and a man waits behind the door for your approach!

So as I watched David and Samantha Cameron make their entrance through that hallowed portal I had a bit of a lump in my throat...

But back down here in the real world we have been having engine problems again... Starting the engine up the other morning I was greeted with a big cloud of white smoke and a sheen of fuel on the water. Bugger. Anything connected to the engine sends me into a cold funk. I immediately start to envisage scenarios of new engines, massive bills, horrible events. TBH always reminds me that most things are simple and I try and remember each time but boy it's hard going where that engine is concerned. I think it's because I feel at a loss when it comes to mechanics so when a problem arises I am rendered so impotent that it reduces me to jelly.

Pulling Nigel Calder from the book shelf I start to troubleshoot. Oh lord it could be polished pistons, blown head gaskets... I feel sicker and sicker. TBH takes a firm hand, pointing out that 95% of problems are linked to dirty fuel he begins by investigating the condition of ours. Yup, he's right, it is appalling! Black and full of suspended particles. Some hours later he has changed the fuel filter, drained some 10 litres of mucky stuff from the bottom of the tank and we are back in business. Well not quite. As I start her up again there seems to be a greatly reduced volume of water spewing from the exhaust, then the temperature gauge starts to rise. damn and blast and double bugger. Off goes the engine. Once again, bit tedious this, panic rises in my breast...what have we blown this time? Dear TBH brings me back to Planet Earth , it can only be allied to the water cooling system so we will start there and again it is usually an impeller or the fan belt. Score 2 to TBH! Right again, the impeller had disintegrated. On top of that the adapter plate, unique to our engine, had badly worn. We had replaced this in Tobago some four years ago. That was fun! Had to get the islands only machine shop, owned by the Dept of Works to make a new one for us. So back to the ignition and, yippee, all was going well.

OH oh! No it wasn't. Now the fridge had stopped chilling. Triple bugger! TBH set too with amazingly good humour and got out his gauges and cans of refrigerant, and soon dealt with yet another problem.  So I  am hoping that after a run of three problems we will have a bit of a respite...Well you can only hope can't you!

Sometimes I just love (!) boating.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Wicked and wild.

Every time I try and order my thoughts with regard to the debacle currently playing out in British Politics I feel physically sick. My stomach tenses into knots and the brain fires off in a million different directions. It's not something I am proud of and it is making me feel rather old and feeble. I wonder why I still care so much? After all I left the UK 8 years ago and haven't even been back to visit for the past 6...

Maybe a hard dose of realism will do the trick for UK residents. A Lib Lab pact can only hasten the financial social and economic meltdown that lurks in the wings. I have just read a book, Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. In 1941 she sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France. Her death, in Auschwitz, in 1942 meant that she never saw the day when, 65 years later, her manuscript was published.

Her all too vivid description of the breakdown of society, morals and charity is terrifying in it's exploration of the general public's inability to recognise what is happening around them. In denial until it was too late to flee. What a terrible price they paid.

Coupled with that I have also just finished 'Mukiwa, A white boy in Africa' by Peter Godwin. Growing up in Rhodesia in the 1960's his memoir of those terrible years is both an adventure story and a portrait of a bitter moral dilemma. The very ordinariness of his tale frightens me in it's awfulness.

The world can be a wicked place....

So thinking of my own life and experiences I was mulling over the story of the British family rescued over the weekend in the South Atlantic after hitting an iceberg. It seems to me that it is so important to not be in the wrong place at the wrong time! Something we got badly wrong last year by trying to remain out cruising during the hurricane season. Day 1 hit by lightning. Sometimes you gotta listen to what Mother Nature is trying to tell you. I'm listening Mother!!

Friday, 7 May 2010

So what now?

So there we go, no definitive Government for Britain. It's not a complete surprise after the exit polls that have been touted around.

Personally I am rather cheered that the British public have made their feelings clear. The 'expenses' debacle MP's have been given their marching orders and there seems to be the glimmer of the start of a moral backlash toward the whole incompetent tribe of politicians. Not before time too in my opinion.

But where does that leave us as a nation? In a pretty dire spot, batten down the hatches and wait for the financial storms to hit.

If I were Cameron I'd take a step back, let Labour and the Lib Dems try a coalition, I don't think they have much chance of it working out. Another election before 12 months is out and the public will be far more willing to follow Cameron. Still it's only my thoughts....

We are preparing for a rough ride financially as exchange rates become more volatile and as the real depth of the economic cuts that HAVE to be made will  begin to hit home.It's not going to be a fun time...

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Polling Day in Britain

So it's voting day back in Blighty...

Who will be leader by tomorrow? So long as it's not the appalling, sanctimonious,idiotic Gordon Brown I don't mind. Whoever takes the helm is in for a stormy passage with little hope of a calm harbour for some considerable time.

I have no vote, not registered anymore in the UK. Once I stood for local Government, it was a sobering insight into the machinations of power. I remember the shock of seeing the boards planted along the street 'Vote Gerry.....", a chilling moment! The big boxes of ballot papers counted late in to the night, each cross NOT against my name a personal slight! I won.It was an experience, not one I intend to repeat.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I love books.

I will read anything: the back of the cereal box, an instruction manual, a foreign newspaper but mostly books.
If I haven't got a good supply of reading matter on board I become a very irritable beast. The problem is that I read at an extremely fast rate. Always have. It seems that I don't read in a conventional manner, rather I 'scan' a page and see the whole thing at once. It used to drive my teachers crazy. Mind you it's a godsend when researching or looking for a small piece of information. One of my party tricks used to be finding a telephone number in a directory simply by looking at the entire page, I used to be able to pull the right one out in a second or so. I believe it's something to do with pattern recognition. My brain identifies the shape that I am searching for rather than the specific digit or letter. Weird huh!

Anyway it makes book carrying a major item. I can get through at least one medium to light weight novel a day(that's without really trying), heavier stuff takes a little longer but not much! TBH also reads a lot and isn't far behind me in speed.

As it has been so very hot for the past week or so the only thing to do during the hottest part of the day has been to lay back in a sweaty heap and devour books. That can be a problem too. Most marinas have a bookswap but, how can I put this politely, most of the books on the shelves are complete crap. Really bad thrillers, westerns, romances. Here on the Rio the quality seems to be particularly low! Then you realise that the best stuff never touches the shelves! Canny cruisers sound out new arrivals and seduce them into a private bookswap! Sadly there aren't that many canny cruiser's around either!

This season we have been lucky a few times. Firstly the visit from daughter Lucy back at Christmas enabled me to go hog wild on Amazon and she bought bags stuffed with wonderful books out. Then I met Ann of Galivant who is a most discriminating reader. We were mutually delighted ( I think) to discover a similar taste in both fiction and fact and also a real relish of travel writing. I was able to introduce her to Dervla Murphy, a great favourite of mine, and she opened my eyes to Barbara Kingsolver and numerous other American writers. Mind you I think Ann is a whole lot more literary than me ...

Then just as things were starting to look a hit dire again Angie from Blue returned from her summer cruise. Wonderful! 40 new and exciting titles and Angie is another hell of a discriminating reader. I think she was a linguistics lecturer in a previous life and she certainly upgraded the material that we have been accumulating!
Another fan of travel writing and some marvelous historical biographies. I have been thoroughly enjoying the contents of the two big bags that she delivered to us just before they departed for the UK.

After a very unsatisfactory selection of American spy thrillers, whodunits and sad female romances(I try and ration the 'good' stuff), I have just got through Hugo Gryns 'Chasing Shadows' a moving and thought provoking account of his childhood in Hungary and subsequent interment in Auschwitz.
Hugo was a rabbi at a London Synagogue and he was a regular broadcaster with BBC Radio 4. His programme "The Moral Maze' was one of my favourites. Thought provoking, witty and erudite, I was a regular listener. His book is all the more powerful for his lack of exaggeration or drama. The ordinariness of his tale at odds with the horror of his story. I recommend it.

And so once again supplies of literature are getting thin, only a handful of decent books left on the shelf. One of the offspring needs to visit soon or there may be some uncomfortable moment on our boat!