Musicians Mobilise in the Metrocentre

LCpl Damian Dunphy

LCpl Damian Dunphy

Lance Corporal Damian Dunphy is a trombonist with the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band (HC&C Band) based in Catterick. Having served such a length of time in Yorkshire Damian’s roots are well and truly established. He plays for a number of orchestras in the North East in addition to a number of brass bands, he is also the Musical Director of a local brass band and has conducted a number of other bands in the area.

The threat of a visit to Gateshead’s Metrocentre will invariably either fill your heart with joy or fill it dread, depending on your attitude to shopping and more than probably your gender.  Add to the threat the fact that the visit is in December on a Saturday and you are likely either to jump for joy or tremble in trepidation with the thoughts of the impending crowds and crushes at the tills. But……

On Saturday 7 December musicians from the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band, the Band of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the Royal Signals (Northern) Band were tasked to visit the Metrocentre for something far less mundane than assembling this year’s Christmas presents, this was the Corps of Army Music’s third flashmob event.

For those unfamiliar with the concept the dictionary definition for the term flashmob is as follows: “A group of people mobilized by social media to meet in a public place for the purpose of doing an unusual or entertaining activity of short duration”

Okay, granted you cannot assemble 60 musicians spontaneously via social media, indeed the events take a great deal of choreographing, but the result has the appearance of spontaneity about it.

Festive mob

Festive mob

Rehearsals

The sixty musicians, regular and reserve, met for the first time at 8am on the morning of the event. Any thoughts of grabbing a bacon butty were quickly put aside as it became clear that time was to be a bit of an issue, with the mall opening to the public at 9am. The Director of Music and Drum Major met with the film director to discuss camera angles, choreography and the overall look of the film, whilst the Band found their positions on the floor.

Drum Major Smith heads up the performance

Drum Major Smith heads up the performance

The overall shape of the Band once assembled was to be that of a Christmas tree and the best way to rehearse creating formations like this is to work backwards from the finish position.  To that end musicians were herded into position, given a marker and in some cases tape-markings were placed on the floor.

The show was to start with a soprano saxophone ‘busker’ being joined by a brass ensemble and then musicians were to emerge from various parts of the mall in an apparently random fashion before forming our Christmas tree shaped marching band.

After half an hour or so a crowd of curious and bemused Metrocentre workers had gathered to see what all the commotion was about, their elated reaction to the first run through verified that we had chosen a popular programme for the event!

The massed bands then returned to the St George’s Army Reserve Centre, in Newcastle, for a musical rehearsal and some well earned pastry based confectionery, courtesy of the Band of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Performance time

The performance was scheduled for peak shopping time (1pm) in an atrium in the mall. Musicians gathered together in various service bays and fire escapes out of sight of the crowds waiting for their musical cue, which was to be Lance Corporal  Andy Lightfoot on soprano saxophone playing the introduction of ‘A Winter’s Tale’.

For the occasion Lance Corporal Lightfoot was dressed as an Elf, and prior to the flashmob he was to be busking next to a Christmas tree.  Nobody had quite expected him to look so adorable, and combined with his excellent busking skills, the public were donating money quite quickly, which caught him somewhat by surprise, he hadn’t planned for that element of the event. The money will be donated to Help for Heroes the next time the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band perform for the Pheonix House Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire.

With the predictability of the rising sun the cleaners had removed the tape markings from the floor and the fact that the mall was now full of people made finding visual references a tad more difficult. It all went as planned though, and the sight of military musicians playing whilst descending an escalator will no doubt live in people’s memories for a long time.

Cpl Brown meets surprised children.

Cpl Brown meets surprised children.

Christmas

The Band performed ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ both from Ian McElligot’s excellent selection simply entitled “Christmas”, to a warm and appreciative audience.  The feeling from the ‘shop floor’ was that this crowd really enjoyed the performance.

The Band left the atrium to Rodney Bashford’s march Wassail and the music and the performers disappeared as swiftly as they had arrived. They say it’s always good to leave the audience wanting more and that was definitely the case with this performance.

Following the flashmob on Saturday the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band stopped at the Metrocentre to entertain the crowds with some more music.  Whilst we performed to the public, the Army Media Team were editing the video ready for distribution.  By the time the bands had got changed and boarded the transport for home the video was already online and had already generated thousands of hits both on Facebook and YouTube. By the time the bus arrived back at Catterick the event had been shown on the local news.

Good news does indeed travel fast.

Lastly we would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas from all members of the Corps of Army Music and Army Reserve Bands.

Watch the action unfold in this video of the event: 

Visit The Corps of Army Music and learn about its role within the British Army

Army Music performs for Alan Titchmarsh

Musician Jerickson Villacarlos

Musician Jerickson Villacarlos

Musician Jerickson Villacarlos is the oboist of The Band of The Blues and Royals, one of the 22 bands in the Corps of Army Music (CAMUS).  He passed out of Phase 1 Training in Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright in September 2011, Phase 2 Training in the Royal Military School of Music Kneller Hall in November 2012 and completed the Household Cavalry (HCav) Mounted Dutyman Course in June 2013. Here he talks about the experience of being on the day-time TV series Alan Titchmarsh with his band.

Lights, camera, action

Within 24 hours of playing for the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Airmen’s Family Association (SSAFA) charity with the Windsor Military Wives Choir in the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, we set off on the road with bright eyes and bushy tails.  This time, we made our way to the ITV Studios in Central London to appear on the Alan Titchmarsh Show.  The Band has appeared on TV before but this was my first to go in a TV studio. I was thrilled and full of anticipation to be involved in another unique opportunity to represent the British Army.

Maj Jason Griffiths Director of Music The Band of The Blues and Royals

Maj Jason Griffiths Director of Music The Band of The Blues and Royals

We unpacked our instruments, uniforms and other kit with the help of supporting staff from the studio. We were then led to our dressing rooms and the so-called ‘green room’ where a generous amount of refreshments of cold soft drinks, hot beverages, delicious sandwiches and a tray full of fresh fruits awaited us. Needless to say, we were very well looked after.

Not long after arriving, we touched up our uniforms; Brasso cleaned our helmets, straightened our plumes and ensured our boots, spurs and belts had that mirror shine, nothing short of the stringent standards of the Household Cavalry.  I then quickly prepared my reed and warmed up the oboe.  Soon, donning our uniforms, we descended down to the set to briefly run through our segment on the show… by ‘brief’, I mean only 10 minutes!  We stood on stage observing and awaited directions.  It was interesting to see what goes on in the a studio with staff doing their tasks adjusting lights, cameras and microphones.

Band Corporal Major Stuart Marsh on the Drum Kit

Band Corporal Major Stuart Marsh on the Drum Kit

State Trumpeters

Following a warm welcome from Alan Titchmarsh himself and the cues from the studio staff, we proceeded to record.  We prepared a piece called “Fehrbelliner Reitermarsch” featuring four of our State Trumpeters led by our Trumpet Major Phil Bishop and a piece called “Sing, Sing, Sing” featuring our soloists: Band Corporal Major Stuart Marsh on the Drum Kit, Lance Corporal of Horse Tim Garner on Alto Sax and Lance Corporal Evatt Gibson on Trombone.

Maj Jason Griffiths Director of Music The Band of The Blues and Royals talks to Alan Titchmarsh about the future of Army Music

Maj Jason Griffiths Director of Music The Band of The Blues and Royals talks to Alan Titchmarsh about the future of Army Music

After the opening, Alan chatted to the band.  The Director of Music (DOM) Major Jason Griffiths spoke about the exciting times ahead for the Corps of Army Music (CAMUS).  He told him about next year’s reorganisation and that in April 2014, CAMUS will be forming the UK’s first 3 professional Brass Bands, 3 Rock and Pop Bands and the new Corps of Army Music String orchestra.  He went on to say that the Corps is still recruiting and we need quality musicians to join us. He reminded the viewers that all instrumentalists (including guitarists, string players, vocalists as well as the standard wind instrumentalists) are encouraged to apply. 

The producers were happy with the set.  We exited stage left and packed to return to Windsor.  Certainly, it has been an insightful event for me to see what goes on behind the scenes of a TV show.

Tenor Sax

Back in Windsor, we returned to the practice room the following day to prepare for the upcoming Festival of Remembrance.  We provided musical support for the several events and the Remembrance Service in the Garrison Church in Windsor, as well as playing in aid of the Poppy Appeal for the Royal British Legion in three London Railway stations in the same week.  In addition, I especially enjoyed the Lord Mayor’s Show on the 9th of November. We wear State Dress, I played Tenor Sax on one of the many iconic steeds of the Household Cavalry in the City of London.

The variety of events I have been fortunate to participate in as a musician in CAMUS has certainly been very interesting and rewarding… and I have only been in for about six months!  I’m looking forward to what is in store for me for the future.

Learn more about the Corps of Army Music

Playing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Lance Sergeant John Storey

Lance Sergeant John Storey

Lance Sergeant John Storey is the principal Euphonium player in the Band of the Coldstream Guards, Corps of Army Music. Here he talks about the excitement and privilege and some of the hurdles he had to overcome to perform with the world famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

From Sappora to Sloane Square

Over the last 15 years as Principal Euphonium in the Band of the Coldstream Guards, I have been privileged to travel the world and play at great venues with amazing musicians. October 2013 was the time for the Red Machine to make its regular concert tour of Japan.  But……

Three weeks before we were due to leave, I received an email from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), one of the most famous orchestras in the world, asking if I would be interested in playing with them at the famous Cadogon Hall in Chelsea. I was flattered and excited about the offer to swap the bearskin for Black Tie and jumped at the chance.

After accepting the gig I started to panic. The concert was two days after we were due to get back from Japan. Would I be able to practice? Would I be able to get my instruments back in time? What was I thinking?

I arrived in Japan with a large silent brass mute hidden in my suitcase. This enables brass instrumentalists to play normally while controlling the sound output to headphones. The trouble was the size and weight of the equipment left me a little short on other luggage. Who needs more than two pairs of trousers and one going out shirt?

The tour was pretty hectic and I had to be inventive. I practised in hotel rooms, swapped sushi for scales and ditched chicken Katsu for Cadenzas. One night, I even lay awake playing the music over and over in my head.

Lance Sergeant John Storey sits poised with his Euphonium on the left of the stage

Lance Sergeant John Storey sits poised with his Euphonium on the left of the stage

The concert

Lance Sergeant John Storey performing on the trombone with other brass players of the RPO

Lance Sergeant John Storey performing on the trombone with other brass players of the RPO

The two weeks in Japan flew by. In what seemed like a whirlwind, I was no longer on stage with my trusty band colleagues and old friends. I was rehearsing in a church in Blackheath with a group of other people, mostly strangers. There was no time to think about the things that had worried me up until now.

Before I knew it, the gig was over! I loved every minute of it and was touched by how many people from the band came out to show their support. After a few drinks with old friends, the adrenaline levels fell and I finally got to catch up on the jet lag my body had been so desperately fighting. It had been little over 48 hours since I landed at Heathrow.

I was asked to use this article to reflect on how preparing for and playing on stage with the RPO made me feel. Was I nervous? Did I get a real buzz?  Did I feel proud? The answer to all is undoubtedly, yes!

However, this is not the time to rest on one’s laurels. I am back with my band to prepare for the most important gig of all. It is the one that after 15 years leaves a lump in my throat, sends shivers down my spine and makes me so proud to be a member of the Corps of Army Music – the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, London.

Never the twain shall meet: writer’s block comes into focus

Corporal Si Longworth in Afghanistan

Corporal Si Longworth in Afghanistan

Corporal Si Longworth is one of 38 trained British Army photographers.  He left a career in aviation to pursue his passion for photography; capturing everything that military life has to offer. He is currently in Afghanistan as the Task Force Helmand Photographer on Op HERRICK 18.

Hello, it’s been a while

Why? Well to be perfectly honest, I lost my way, but not in the geographical sense. Had you been serving in Camp Bastion for the past couple of months, you wouldn’t have seen me aimlessly wandering around the camp. I am quite content with my ability to read cartography. It was for a different reason, and although I have spent this last month and a half trying to work out why, maybe I can write it all down and see if it makes sense to you.

I finished my time with Capt Mau Gris and the Baz duo and headed  back to the UK for Rest and Recuperation (R&R). My time at home with my wife is probably worthy of a separate blog altogether. It was always my intention to write about R&R and what I did etc. But, having been stuck with what I can only describe as ‘bloggers block’ and watched two great bloggers write about theirs, I now feel it would be time wasted.

What I do want to say that if you ever book a holiday to the South of France, and decide to locate yourself around the Ardeche River valley; picturing tranquil paddles down a lazy river, with nothing but peace and quiet, may I recommend un-booking and instead, head for the summer mountains of Switzerland. In particular, Nedez.  I will save you the disappointment of sharing the river with hundreds and hundreds of other tourists. Even better; whilst I have slipped into R&R mode. If you do find yourself in Nedez during the summer season, I HIGHLY recommend visiting what my mind has decided to call ‘Chalet Paradise’ but what is actually called, Chalet Grand Loupe, run by Steve and Karen Allen, two British Ex Pats who have set up and will host you beyond expectation.  They couldn’t do enough for my wife and me; turning twisty river hell into one of the most enjoyable holidays in a while, and for that I will thank them eternally. Steve, Karen, we will return, I promise you!

France and Swizerland

France and Swizerland

l seem to have gone off-piste

So, I return to Afghanistan, supposedly recharged and ready to push out the final stretch, but in all honesty having to leave home again was quite difficult. I knew I only had a month to do, but I was already feeling the burden. Two things made matters worse. Firstly the brigade headquarters had moved to Bastion while I was away. My own quiet office space had been replaced with an open plan situation that I was just not ready for. 180 people buzzing about, 130 phones ringing. It was going to take some getting used to. The second thing that didn’t help, and the thing I will never forgive myself for, is that while I was away, I had suffered irretrievable data loss from my master hard drive. The real stinger to the story is that because I was so busy before going home, I hadn’t managed to back it all up. I lost 40 per cent of what I had taken, including all the work for the CCT. I worked hard to try and retrieve pictures from clients of the jobs I had done, and using recovery software for my memory cards but in the end I was down images, and down in the dumps. I have learnt the hard way what it means to lose hard work, and suffice to say that my electronic work flow now includes two hard drives and online storage. I don’t want to ever be caught out again.

Long working days, long editing nights

With the loss of some of my favourite work coupled with post R&R blues, I wasn’t firing on all cylinders, and I think my boss, Capt DJ, sensed this. He knew what to do. Get me back out on the road and make me take pictures. He knew that I needed to start building up my library again, and soon. So it was. I was booked on a ’round-robbin’ of Helmand, two days after landing from my leave. Bouncing from one base to the next and capturing what I could in short spaces of time kept me the right kind of busy and images started to build again quickly. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the medicine I needed. I soon got back into the swing of it. I snapped, I interviewed and I wrote the interviews up. I tried to keep engaged with my followers on twitter, and their support of my images kept my spirits up. The only problem was now, I just couldn’t settle down to write my blog.

The weeks passed, and as my six-month tour drew closer and closer to the end, the jobs started ramping up. Whether it be requests for photos I had taken or end of tour photographs for squadrons and regiments, it all added to long working days and long editing nights. There was no way I was going to have peace for long enough to write this blog. Even Captain Sophie Whitaker, who’s job required her to walk past my desk over 50 times a day, and who’s constant prompting about my blog couldn’t get me inspired.

So where did this leave me?

Well, 45 minutes ago I boarded a C17 aircraft at midnight on my final day in Afghanistan. Whilst probably 95 per cent of other passengers sleep around me, I am writing this blog… Peace at last. I regret having kept you waiting this long.

What has been the theme of this blog? Well I think it is a reminder that we are all human. We have ups and downs, but we get there in the end. I don’t know what it was that prevented the small creative part of my brain from putting pen to paper for so long. Different things in different ways affect us all, I guess.

So, after all that, was my last six weeks worth it? Well, you decide.

Here is a short summary, in pictures.

An Apache Pilot stands in front of his machine

An Apache Pilot stands in front of his machine

A Landing Point Commander shields himself from the downwash of a Chinook

A Landing Point Commander shields himself from the downwash of a Chinook

An RAF Crewman keeps watch from the tail of a Chinook

An RAF Crewman keeps watch from the tail of a Chinook

A Royal Military Policewoman receives an award from the ANSF and celebrates in the usual Afghan manner

A Royal Military Policewoman receives an award from the ANSF and celebrates in the usual Afghan manner

A Proud Afghan National Policeman smiles for the camera

A Proud Afghan National Policeman smiles for the camera

Soldiers in FOB Ouellette play cards by torchlight under the night sky

Soldiers in FOB Ouellette play cards by torchlight under the night sky

Snipers keep watch over a patrol

Snipers keep watch over a patrol

A Chinook departs Camp Bastion under a setting sun

A Chinook departs Camp Bastion under a setting sun

Is this the end of my blog? Don’t be silly: the journey has just begun. I promised you in my first blog that it was a journey we would take together. I will remain an Army Photographer for the next five years. For the next year, I will remain in Wiltshire, but then who knows. What I do know though, is that if you remain faithful to me, I won’t let you down. Lets get through the next five years of photographic ups and downs together. Times may be tough, but that’s life, is it not?

Thank you for all your support over the last six months, but here’s to the future…

The author on his last day in Afghanistan

Me on my last day in Afghanistan – by Capt Dalzel-Job

More tc

More tc.

Read Si’s other blogs here: Life Through a Lens…

An artist abroad: Back into the swing of things

Captain Sophie Whitaker, 39 Regt RA. Image by Cpl Si Longworth RLC

Captain Sophie Whitaker, 39 Regt RA. Image by Cpl Si Longworth RLC

Captain Sophie Whitaker is a serving war artist whose main job is to provide Joint Fires Targeting support to Task Force Helmand on OP HERRICK 18. As a member of 74 Battery (The Battleaxe Company) 39 Regiment Royal Artillery – attached to 1 Royal Horse Artillery, Sophie works in the Brigade Headquarters, Lashkar Gah, where she finds time between an often hectic schedule to put pencil to paper.

How quickly time is still flying by, I have now been back at work for just over two weeks and my handover will be here in another two. Now fully re-charged and re-energised I will endeavour not to succumb to what is most commonly known as the R&R blues – a condition that affects 99.9 per cent of personnel returning from the joys of a restful R&R to the high tempo and routine of OP HERRICK. Determined not to allow this to creep in, I hit the ground running and I felt as if I had never left. It was actually a pleasure to see the familiar faces that I have been working alongside for the past five months and listening to their experiences on R&R with reinvigorated spirits and renewed enthusiasm… although this rapidly faded into the general routine hubbub of the working headquarters.

Bold and bright painting

My $3 Afghan engagement ring

My $3 Afghan engagement ring

Time certainly wasn’t going to drag during my first week back as my Battery Commander (BC) was due on his R&R and therefore I would have to cover some of his tasks and staff work. With a comprehensive set of handover notes – all rigidly hyperlinked and absolutely foolproof.  My  BC has now returned and I managed to accomplish the tasks I was set and await the next drafting for various pieces of staff work to include; the Relief in Place (RiP) , handover and normalisation FRAGOs  (Fragmentation Orders) , a Post Operational Report, and a Mission Exploitation presentation. All of these are essential to ensure that our handover to the next brigade is professional and informative to provide a seamless transition from one to the other. The Post Operational Report and Mission Exploitation are key documents to enable all the lessons learnt from our tour to be collated and discussed to improve our capability and deployment for the future.

But enough about staff work…

This blog’s painting is referenced from a photograph of two Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) women on the ranges conducting pistol training. I wanted to create a bold and bright painting by laying a brilliant orange background in contrast with the blue of the AUP uniform and the dark blue/ coal shades of their head scarves. These women are in training at the Lashkar Gah Training Centre (LTC) which is the centre of excellence for police training in Helmand Province – where over 2,000 Afghan Nationals are trained each year  to become policemen and women. Their skill and courage is highly commendable, and their will is strong as they persist to be able to provide their own security – an Afghan solution to an Afghan problem, as is the running theme of OP HERRICK 18.

Paint was drying far too quickly

Painting outside with photo reference

Painting outside with photo reference

The painting starts life out the back of my tent but with temperatures still reaching 37 degrees Celsius during the day, I couldn’t spend much longer than 20 minutes outside – particularly as the paint was drying far too quickly! Here you can see I managed to get a quick wash of colour on the background before I turned into the shade. I am struggling to find the time to paint as my shift doesn’t allow time during the day, and at night; now sharing a tent often means the lights are out by the time I get back off shift. However, a fellow artist in the headquarters – the Brigade Movements Warrant Officer (BMWO) has regularly booked out one of the small conference rooms in the evening after 2100hrs, and so after hours we both sit down for an hour to paint. Although this does compete heavily with my gym time!

Tented accommodation

Tented accommodation

Times of change are noticeably prevalent as I am one of two OP HERRICK 18 females remaining in our tent, whilst the others have all moved to the transit as they start their handovers with their replacements now occupying their former bed spaces. The ratio of red rats (7 Bde )  to green triangles (1 Mech Bde ) is rapidly increasing as they filter through their RSOI and start to find their way around the headquarters. I admire their enthusiasm, for some this is their first tour and for others they are seasoned veterans already. But I don’t envy them, nine months is a long time, and I’m glad my six are coming to an end now.

Selecting artwork for the coffee table book

AUP women WIP

AUP women WIP

AUP women WIP

AUP women WIP

 

In addition to routine staff work I am in the process of selecting all the artworks from across Helmand; from paintings, pencil drawings, photographs and poems, for the production of the OP HERRICK 18 Operational Art coffee table book.  A number of professional artists have deployed with various members of the Brigade during Op HERRICK 18 including; Graeme Lothian, Matt Cook, Hugh Beattie and Michael Alford to name a few.  I have had a fantastic response from the soldiers of the Brigade and certainly have my work cut out with over 500 submissions to filter through. They will all be presented to the Brigade commander and his panel in the coming week. Throughout this sorting process, I have also managed to design a poster to be distributed amongst the Brigade and soldiers are already signing up for their memento. Copies of the book will also be available to the general public – so look out for information on the British Army social media pages if you want one!

Op HERRICK 18 Art Book Poster

Op HERRICK 18 Art Book Poster

With only three weeks remaining I am incredibly excited already about the prospect of going home and enjoying my post operational tour leave! I also have a new job to look forward to on my return …more details on that in my next blog. And to finish this blog, here is the finished painting of the AUP women.

AUP women finished painting

AUP women finished painting

Look at Sophie’s page

Find out more about Army Arts Society

An Artist Abroad: Home Sweet Home

Captain Sophie Whitaker, 39 Regt RA. Image by Cpl Si Longworth RLC

Captain Sophie Whitaker, 39 Regt RA. Image by Cpl Si Longworth RLC

Captain Sophie Whitaker is a serving war artist whose main job is to provide Joint Fires Targeting support to Task Force Helmand on OP HERRICK 18. As a member of 74 Battery (The Battleaxe Company) 39 Regiment Royal Artillery – attached to 1 Royal Horse Artillery, Sophie works in the Brigade Headquarters, Lashkar Gah, where she finds time between an often hectic schedule to put pencil to paper.

I am drafting this blog late at night sitting in a dark tent, with six other bodies sleeping, using the glare of the laptop to light up the keys as I type!  I have been quiet on the blogging front for a couple of weeks due to the move of the Headquarters and I have also been enjoying a break back at home on my R&R (rest and recuperation).  However, now I am fully back in the swing of things it seems that was all a distant memory.

Harry

Harry

In this blog I shall attempt to describe the past few weeks of events from the Headquarters move, to the journey home, and then a brief insight into what I got up to on R&R.  Running throughout the script I shall post pictures of the work in progress (WIP) of a pencil drawing that I completed whilst on R&R – the model is my future mother-in-law’s favourite horse, Harry.  If none of this is of interest you then please don’t read on, for the rest there is a lot to report so do bear with me!

The Move

This blog starts in the hot and dusty climes of Lashkar Gah where I have spent the last four and a half months working in the Headquarters.  The Headquarters has been based in Lashkar Gah since May 2006 and has co-ordinated UK operations across Helmand Province for over seven years.  I was a part of what can possibly be described as the most complex headquarters move on operations ever undertaken by the British Army.

We were down to minimal manning, with the other half of the Fires cell having already established the Bastion set-up.  I had come on shift at 0400hrs to enable to night shift to get away on their early morning flight, as I held the fort with one detachment commander (DC) for the Change of Command (CHOC) and the close down of the TFH headquarters in Lashkar Gah.

Harry work in progress

Harry work in progress

It was a long morning and it seemed like an absolute age that we were waiting for the CHOC.  With only a skeleton staffing, large screens on the walls showed locals going about their daily routine, as muted pictures of BFPS flickered in the background  – time passed very slowly.  My R&R wasn’t too far around the corner either, but we were all itching to get on and join the rest of the team in Bastion.

When the time came for the CHOC, it was a very surreal and memorable moment.  The DCOS (Deputy Chief of Staff) entered the JOC at around 1015hrs on 9th August 2013 to establish communications with the Bastion headquarters.  Any current operational issues were swiftly dealt with and at precisely 1020hrs the DCOS spoke over the net (radio) to Bastion headquarters and clearly stated that the command of Taskforce Helmand had now been assumed by the Headquarters in Bastion.  As those words fell from his mouth, it was quite an unbelievable experience as I witnessed history in the making.

Although words can barely describe that feeling, it was as if I were watching an old war film where the news of war was being broken over the radio.  This marked the end of an era, as we swiftly switched off laptops that had been diligently manned 24 hours every day for the last seven years.  We switched them off, pulled out the cables and packed them in boxes.  Cables were ripped off the walls where makeshift black nasty (tape) and cable ties had affixed them, and radios were disconnected to be placed away.  Within minutes the Lashkar Gah headquarters ceased to exist and the remaining staff headed back to their rooms to finish packing for their onward journey to Bastion.

Waiting at the LKG HLS

Waiting at the LKG HLS

As we waited at the helicopter landing site (HLS), we chatted about the prospects of what lay ahead, but most importantly – what our respective R&R plans were and for some even end of tour plans! It wasn’t long before we were given notice that the helicopters had left Bastion on their way to collect us, and we swiftly put on our PPE (personal protective equipment) before being led out to the HLS.

I video recorded the two chalks (groups) of staff with my digital Olympus camera crouching alongside the compound walls as the two Chinooks flew in to transport us.  It is said there are two types of people who look towards the Chinook as dust and stones are thrown towards us… one of them is a photographer!  As we lifted up in a cloud of dust, I strained my neck peering through the scratched window, as I looked down at the wall of the HLS, symbolically painted with all the crests of other Brigade Headquarters that went before us, as I watched them fade in the distance.

Wall of former Brigade emblems

Wall of former Brigade emblems

New Digs

With so much nostalgia being left behind, there was nothing for it but to embrace the change and look forward to the new set-up in Bastion.  In no time at all, we found ourselves hot, tired and sweaty being orientated around our new accommodation and listening in to the security and welfare briefs.  We were then walked immediately to our new offices where we took up our respective seats and started work, as if we had never been moved.  The orientation and layout was different, and although we had access to all the same programmes, information and systems as before, we had more modern versions which took us all a while to navigate!

The tempo of operations was still relatively quiet and after lunch I managed to shower and change and feel a little more human.  Our new accommodation is a small camp within Bastion, protected by its own HESCO wall and rows of razor wire…’home sweet home’! I must admit, I have never been to prison but if this is anything to go by I’d rather not! We are bound by various rules and regulations to ensure that whilst there are still troops ‘roughing it’ out in the FOBs, we do not succumb to ‘Bastionitus’ – a fond term used to describe the condition of complacency and comfort.  Not that a 12-hour shift enables me much time for comfort; nor did I have time to fully settle in as I began to write my handover notes for my R&R cover.

Harry work in progress

Harry work in progress

Within a couple of days of the move, I had to re-pack my bags to get ready to go home.  The days, hours and minutes prior to R&R can be excruciatingly long at times, knowing I would be with my fiancé, family and friends in a matter of days and wishing away hours so that I would be closer to being home.  Four and a half months is an incredibly long time to be away from home, and phone calls and internet can only maintain morale for so long.  It was a great morale boost to find out that 24 hours ahead of my scheduled departure date, I had been ‘Space A’d’ that is, that our whole flight was fortunate enough to travel on spaces available on an earlier flight.  I handed over my role and headed back to our Bastion echelon group to start the process in going home.

We handed in our operational equipment and stored our weapons in the armoury.  I felt somewhat naked without my pistol attached firmly to my side and was constantly aware that I may have forgotten it somewhere! My OSPREY was also considerably lighter to travel back with.  After our mandatory briefs, we collected our passports and mobile phones and headed on the bus for our first check-in.  Here we labelled our baggage, checked in and loaded our hold baggage.  The remainder of that day I sat in the ops room and caught up with some Bastion friends.  The second check-in wasn’t until the late afternoon, and having handed in our weapons we now had to be escorted everywhere.  Thus it started – the long journey home, waiting for flights whilst fighting tiredness, impatience and excitement to see my fiancé, family and friends.

Harry work in progress

Harry work in progress

The journey home

We travelled out of Bastion to Cyprus on a Tristar, which isn’t too dissimilar in style internally to a budget airline.  We were on our way home at last! I sat next to a female Lieutenant Colonel with whom I chatted to about her role in Afghanistan, and what we were both particularly looking forward to back at home; including lush green grass and rain.  As we were busy chatting away about chickens, horses and ducks, the flight crew invited us to sit in the cockpit (perhaps because we were the only two to still be awake at that time of morning.) It was a brilliant experience as we were shown the controls, listened on the headsets and admired the views over Egypt (some fires could still be seen smouldering in the Capital).

Harry work in progress

Harry work in progress

We admired the sun rise and it wasn’t long before we spotted the Cypriot shores among the haze of the sea mist.  We belted up for landing and with our headsets on we experienced a very smooth landing in Cyprus.  We disembarked for an hour to refuel and stayed in the very familiar departure lounge of RAF Akrotiri.  I rang my fiancé (at about 0400hrs UK time, just 3 hours after he had eventually gone to bed after a long day harvesting…) to let him know that my flight was on time, only to ring him again ten minutes later to announce that I would be arriving an hour earlier than expected!

Home sweet home

Finally the green, yellow and brown patchwork of the fields of Britain came into view and shortly afterwards we were waiting for our baggage at the carousel.  Black bags, gorilla boxes and camouflaged bags of all shapes and sizes were spat out and rapidly collected.  When I walked through the doors of the arrivals lounge I joined the crowd of soldiers waiting to be collected.

It was wonderful to be met at Brize by my fiancé as I walked over to the car park, placed down my baggage and hurried over to give him a huge hug!  I was still wearing my cheap temporary brass/copper engagement ring that I had bought at the local shop, when he suggested I take it off as he revealed from his pocket my engagement ring in its box.  The ring is an heirloom, his late grandmother’s engagement ring, whom unfortunately I never had the opportunity nor pleasure to meet.

The engagement ring

The engagement ring

 

I desperately tried not to fall asleep in the car on the way home but I didn’t survive contact.  Having spent a few hours reacquainting myself with the M25 I was relieved to finally complete the journey and arrive home.  Thankfully I didn’t make my usual faux pas of ‘talking’ to the dog first rather than my fiancé (principally because the dog did not accompany him to the airport!).  Lola (the lab) and Boots (the cocker) were both excited to see me, and Lola couldn’t contain herself but kept bouncing and jumping up! She didn’t leave my side for the rest of that day, nor for a few after.  It was so good to be home, but I must admit I was exhausted, jet lagged and a little disorientated – all I wanted to do was crash out on my bed.

Boots and Lola at work and at play

Boots and Lola at work and at play

It is a very surreal experience to find that within the space of 48 hrs you have been working at a high tempo, living by strict routine for four months and occupying your thoughts with little other than work matters; to waking up in your own bed and wondering what you have to do that day.  It is almost as if I were living two different lives, and whilst the body adapts quickly, the mind takes a little longer.  For the first few days I didn’t do an awful lot really, the dogs enjoyed some long walks and I didn’t even mind if it were raining! I enjoyed doing some training with them, as they are both working gun dogs (in progress), and it was a nice change for them after having spent many a day accompanying My fiancé  in the tractor and listening to his rendition of the Kings of Leon!

Lola at work in the tractor

Lola at work in the tractor

‘Wedmin’

One night neither of us was sleeping particularly well, I was still jet lagged and My fiancé  was worrying about the weather, so we ended up talking at 3am about wedding plans.  It was so nice to be able to talk face to face and get inspired and excited about our wedding together.  We were engaged a few days after Christmas, after which I had been thrust back in to pre-deployment training and then deployed.  The first couple of days of my R&R were relatively quiet as I rang round friends to catch up, arranging to meet up with some and inviting others over.  My fiancé was busy with the harvest during the sunny days and thankfully we had a couple of rainy days to spend time together.  This was the perfect opportunity to crack the wedding guest list!! You wouldn’t have thought that either being in the military or part of the farming fraternity would incur so many friends and family – not that we could do an awful lot about the latter. After a rather hefty cull we fashioned a list of 150.

My Mum came to stay the first weekend, and I managed to book an appointment to try on some wedding dresses, one of my sisters and future mother-in-law joined us.  It was a very emotional experience for my poor Mum, who in less than a minute of me trying on my first dress was in tears! I tried on about six dresses which were all gorgeous and surprisingly even the ‘meringues’ were flattering, however, I am still intent in making it myself (with a little help and guidance).  The following day, Mum and I had a look at some fabrics, and she helped me make a skirt from the silk I bought from Afghanistan.

Skirt template

Skirt template

Daily routine

It didn’t take me long to get back into the routine at home; early rises, dogs, horses, chickens and lambs to be fed, along with runner beans, tomatoes and cucumbers to be picked.  It wasn’t long before My fiancé roped me into helping shift a few bales and dropping off his various work colleagues back to their farm machinery! It wasn’t all work and no play, as my friends stopped by for tea, lunch and dinner and I frequented a few pubs too! However, my alcohol tolerance had significantly reduced from its level prior to deployment.  Nevertheless a glass of chilled white wine at dinner was a welcome pleasure.

Mid-week I had the pleasure of Hannah and Dan (from Ditto), and Graeme Lothian and his partner for company at dinner.  I prepared home-made quiche, salad and new potatoes – something I had missed whilst out in Afghanistan.  We had a pleasant evening and Graeme surprised me by giving me a copy of his book ‘ An Artist in London with a signed message to say ‘thank you’.

My fiancé  and me

My fiancé and me

The following evening My fiancé and I attended a dinner dance where I managed to catch up with a few more friends.  That bank holiday weekend was a local agricultural show.  My Dad came to visit and joined My fiancé , the dogs and I for the day.  Unfortunately this indicated that only too quickly was my R&R coming to an end.  That afternoon we left the showground and I said goodbye to Dad.  I packed the remnants of my kit, grabbed a quick dinner, changed into my uniform and jumped in the car ready to go back to Brize Norton.  Even the dogs knew I was off as they recognised me wearing the uniform and saw the bags being moved to the car, wearing that worried and forlorn expression that only dogs can.

Dad and me

Dad and me

Time to go…

I said goodbye to my fiancé at the airport car park, knowing that I would be home again in just a matter of weeks.  In some ways you strangely look forward to getting back to Afghanistan, if only to see everyone again.  Once resigned to the fact that I was going back, there is nothing to do but look forward to it and enjoy it, for that way time goes faster at least.  With less than six weeks to go on my return, the worst was over and there will be plenty to keep me busy! I shall save my first week back at work for my next blog, by now I am sure you are as exhausted of reading this as I was when I got home!

Final portrait of Harry

Final portrait of Harry

Look at Sophie’s page

Fastnet update: 18 August 2013 – We finished!

Final Update Sunday 18 Aug 13 – Apologies for the gap in blogging due to lack of connectivity and the need for a bit of sleep and cleaning up. 

Sunday 11 August: A sea of sails leaving The Solent.

Sunday 11 August: A sea of sails leaving The Solent.

Thursday 15 August: Our last couple of hours of the race were somewhat eventful as we had a problem with our spinnaker again but this time is was dark which made things far more difficult. With the finish line only just over two nautical miles away we were so desperate to resolve the issue and continue to the end.

It was extremely disappointing for the team to see a number of boats over take; ones that we’d worked so hard to catch up with and overtake during the race; while we battled in the dark to get moving again. The finish line was so near (we could see the lights of Plymouth harbour) yet it seemed so far away and at past midnight we were tired, especially as some of us had only grabbed one hour of sleep since 0400.

Finally we hopped over the finish line at just 0211 with mixed feelings of relief to have completed the race, combined with the disappointment of losing a large chunk of time and positions. We were gutted! After mooring alongside and cracking open the champagne we then literally wobbled along the pontoon to find the bar! (After spending a number of days at sea when you reach dry land you still feel like you are moving on the boat )

Still in our stinky clothes, looking rather wet and bedraggled we enjoyed a few drinks and shared tales with other crews before wobbling back to the boat to grab a few hours of sleep. We were not a pretty sight but at this point in time we certainly didn’t care! We’d just successfully completed the Fastnet 🙂

Friday (16 Aug) morning was spent with a media rep from Andover and another photographer before heading out for a celebratory crew lunch in the sunshine and a chance to relax. We then attended the prize giving and learned that we’d come 57th in our class of 85. We weren’t top of the fleet but for us we had achieved our aim of finishing the race. We then relaxed for a short while before getting the boat ready to slip for Gosport that night at 0100.  Gales were brewing and we wanted to get back safely ahead of the weather.

Saturday was a long slog back to Gosport and we had to motor initially as there was no wind. After a long race we could have done without the final leg home. There certainly was a lot more wind closer to home with gusts at Force 8! As we came alongside at Joint Services at 2130 we were pleased to have arrived with crew and boat still in one piece.

Sunday, was an early 0500 start so that we could get to work and clean Redcoat from top to bottom ready for handing back to Joint Services. Everything was hauled off on to the pontoon and cleaned and the empty boat was scrubbed from top to bottom. The quicker we could get the job done the quicker we could get home to a bath and clean clothes! After our final farewells and debrief from the skipper we were free to go.

We have all achieved something as part of this team and will all take away different memories. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to complete this event, have made new friends and will remember the highs and lows!

Sunday 11 August: Approaching the Needles.

Sunday 11 August: Approaching the Needles.

Sunday 11 August: At the start

Sunday 11 August: At the start

Sunday 11 August: Motoring out displaying storm sails before the start.

Sunday 11 August: Motoring out displaying storm sails before the start.

Wednesday 13 August: Approaching the Rock.

Wednesday 13 August: Approaching the Rock.

Update 15 August 2013

Update 14 August 2013

Update 13 August 2013 including updates for 9, 10, 11 and 12 August

Update 8 August 2013 

Update 7 August 2013

Update 6 August 2013

 

An Artist Abroad: People make places

Captain Sophie Whitaker, 39 Regt RA. Image by Cpl Si Longworth RLC

Captain Sophie Whitaker, 39 Regt RA. Image by Cpl Si Longworth RLC

Captain Sophie Whitaker is a serving war artist whose main job is to provide Joint Fires Targeting support to Task Force Helmand on OP HERRICK 18. As a member of 74 Battery (The Battleaxe Company) 39 Regiment Royal Artillery – attached to 1 Royal Horse Artillery, Sophie works in the Brigade Headquarters, Lashkar Gah, where she finds time between an often hectic schedule to put pencil to paper.

I finished my last post suggesting that I would have a go at some caricatures and so I did…

Whilst travelling back to Lashkar Gah from Price, I transited through Bastion for a day and spent some time with the ‘Bastion Ops’ team, whom I talk to daily over the Polycom in my daily update brief. I had my camera out when the MTWO (Motor Transport Warrant Officer) grabbed me and suggested that I take a photograph of her team there and then, sitting on the bench in the ops room. In fact, she demanded that I produce something memorable for them! Now the MTWO isn’t the kind of person you say no to, and so I hurriedly snapped away at the somewhat reluctant faces either side of her. She suggested that it didn’t matter what style I managed to produce, so long as it was fun … and that she wouldn’t mind a caricature…so that set my thoughts going!

A local face.

A local face.

I have never drawn caricatures, and on reflection of this project, I probably ought not to attempt them again! I googled a few ‘how to draw caricatures’ guides on the internet and printed off some examples to have a practice and see how I got on. This was certainly easier said than done! I managed to copy the examples with no problems, but I found it hard to steer away from drawing what I saw realistically, instead ‘seeing’ a caricature and highlighting obvious features of recognition. Nevertheless I had set myself this aim of creating a caricature of the Bastion Ops team, and would persist to see what I could come up with.

Ten years younger!

Bastion Ops team

Bastion Ops team

Here is the final drawing – I purposely tried to keep the faces as the main focus with only rough, sketchy lines to indicate their bodies in order not to detract away from their faces. As a first attempt at a recognisable individual, it wasn’t too bad – the team certainly recognised themselves, but a little more work is needed on this style of drawing! I ‘revealed’ the finished drawing to them during one of our daily conferences, as it appeared as the final slide to the powerpoint presentation entitled ‘Any Other Business’. It was a little light humour over a weekend, as the weeks so often merge into one. Thankfully, it was very well received and the individuals in question shared the humour. The RSM was particularly happy as he appeared around ten years younger, whilst the BSM now has an idea of what he will look like in ten years time! The BK also noted the size of his biceps whilst the MTWO appeared younger!

Free flowing nature

However, in the aftermath I thought I would stick to what I knew and decided to produce a watercolour painting of a little girl who caught my eye as she fleetingly stared up at the sangar as she walked past with her classmate. I wondered what she could possibly have been thinking as she wore such a suspicious and perturbed expression whilst clutching her book. The perceptions of ISAF troops vary considerably from children who rush from their houses to wave the troops past, to those that are only too happy to pick up the biggest stone and take their best shot.

Colourful passers by.

Colourful passers by.

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this piece as it was painted on nice grainy watercolour paper, and I had forgotten what a difference good quality paper makes! The Movements Warrant Officer in the headquarters (another keen artist) had returned from a visit to the UK bringing with her a large pad of the paper, and very kindly gave me a few sheets. I love the way the paint is absorbed into the paper, and the subtle shades but deep colour it enables.

Yellow fusion.

Yellow fusion.

The dress takes shape.

The dress takes shape.

Well I must admit that I find acrylic encourages me to paint in layers and blocks of colour whereas watercolour is a lot more fluid. I particularly enjoy the free flowing nature of watercolour paints as I use flow of water to place the paint on the paper in a loose and carefree manner. I started this week’s painting with a background wash of yellows and brown infused to create a mottled and patchy backdrop.Once this had dried, I started to work on building up the cloth and texture of the girl’s dress and headscarf. A suggestion of the pattern on the dress, and the shadows of her headscarf start to take shape before I hint at shading her face. You may notice in this picture that I have also used some watercolour pencils to mark out the dress pattern and the detail in her hands prior to painting them.

Detailing her headscarf.

Detailing her headscarf.

It wasn’t long until I had completed a very simplified suggestion of a pattern on her dress, and had built up the layers and shading of her headscarf. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to take any pictures in between these stages as I was too busy concentrating on working up the shades and texture. Once I had completed her clothing, I focused on her hands and troubled expression. Skin colour is often hard to gauge but I always start with a rough mix of yellow, brown and red, using white and blue to vary the lightness and darkness. The more red and white I add, the more pink the tone, whereas adding brown and a smidgen of blue will darken the tone considerably. In extremis, I also use a black, but tend not to make a habit of it.

Test sheet.

Test sheet.

 

I prefer to paint the face light to dark, starting with a light base layer and building up darker layers working from the edges of her headscarf and fading towards the centre of her face. I particularly wanted to make her frown stand out, and focus on her eyes. So here is the finished piece for this week!

The Observer.

The Observer.

This next week will be very busy as my room is packed up and my work space limited to a ruggedized laptop and monitor, two phones and a handful of stationary. The rest of the office should be making its way to Bastion where, at the end of this week, I too shall soon find myself! I am incredibly excited at the prospect of my R&R which is now only a week away! I can’t wait to see my fiancé, the dogs, the rest of my family and friends! Not long now.

Look at Sophie’s page

Fastnet update: 15 August 13

Update Thu 14 Aug -1330. We rounded the rock at 1315 yesterday and then headed on a steady tack to the Scillies. Last night the weather was mixed with some heavy rain and gusts. We have been chasing down some distant yachts and are determined to pick up a few places! Our first spinnaker hoist of the event ended abruptly as a tear developed, ripping the. Material to shreds rapidly! We are now sailing under our only spinnaker left ( after a quick patch job after spotting another tear) We have recently rounded the Bishop Rock lighthouse and The Scillies and our making our way to The Lizard. We are all showing signs of fatigue but spirits are up as we hope to reach Plymouth in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Heidi

Update 14 August 2013

Update 13 August 2013 including updates for 9, 10, 11 and 12 August

Update 8 August 2013 

Update 7 August 2013

Update 6 August 2013

Fastnet update: 13 August 2013 – Need more wind

 

Update AM 0630 Tue 13 Aug. We are making steady progress and have been on the same tack for hours, but the wind has dropped and is due to drop further – conditions that do not suit our boat. We need more wind! Sailing at night under the moonlight and stars is always exhilarating. You have to keep a lookout for lights as ships and tankers can creep up upon you very quickly.

Capt Lucie Allaway

Capt Lucie Allaway

Watches change every 4 hours and I’m on with Lorna and Sam while Leila, Caz and Emily make up the other watch. The stint between midnight and 0400 always seems to pass the slowest but we are keeping our energy levels up and morale with copious amounts of food. ( perhaps we should rename this race the ‘fatnet’?!) Seriously though, just moving  around the boat while heeled over and bouncing through the waves, especially visiting the heads (loo) is hard work as you have to hold on tight and keep your balance. It almost feels like an obstacle course! We are now passing the Isles of Scilly to our West and heading north.

My sister and her family live on St Mary’s so I’ve given them a wave 🙂  This morning we were blessed with a beautiful sunrise as dolphins played in our wake and bow. 236 miles covered but a number still to go- somewhat demoralising when we know that some of the bigger yachts will finish today!

Fastnet update: 11 August 2013 – The race begins

We arose at 0700 with mixed  feelings of excitement and nervousness. We then slipped just after 1000 wearing life jackets and with our storm sails up to queue behind the long line of yachts and progress through the identity gate. Race rules dictate that we have to do this before the race actually starts. The Solent then became a fleet of white sails bobbing around the starting line as skippers inspected which end to start from. This is always a difficult time as all eyes are on deck watching for boats to avoid collisions! Helicopters were swarming overhead filming the start and hearing the radio and starting gun became very difficult.

We set off at 1230 and tacked our way out to The Needles passing dozens of spectator boats and crowds of  people at Hurst Point. We were tacking every 2-3 minutes for 3 hours so we were pretty ‘pumped’ as we exited the Solent and moved into watches. It was an amazing sight to see all the other boats on the water and we were in awe as the class one huge monohulls and trimarans screamed past us!

After a scrumptious home-made ricotta and spinach lasagne made by Lorna and chocolate brownies made by Sam we sailed through the night and are now heading to Start Point near Plymouth. Winds are hovering around 11 knots and we have completed  110 miles. Morale is high!

Fastnet update: 10 August 2013 – Caz’s birthday!

Heidi up the mast.

Heidi up the mast.

Capt Lucie Allaway continues to update us on the team’s progress ahead of the race…

As Cowes Week has now ended we managed to secure a berth at Cowes Yacht Haven and moved Redcoat down the Medina River to a pontoon with shore power and no need for a paddle in the tender to get ashore. It has been a busy day making final preparations to the boat and reassessing our personal kit and rations required for the event.

Lucie and Saskia attended the skippers brief and have buried their heads in weather and wind forecasts, various navigational charts and tide atlases working out our route. Getting the navigation right is key and we have every faith in their decision making.

Final team meal ashore with cake for Caz.

Final team meal ashore with cake for Caz.

After our final meal ashore and some scrumptious birthday cake made by Sam, we have hit our bunks for an early night. We slip tomorrow at approximately 1030 and our start for IRC class 4 is at 1230. (All starts will be screened live on the RORC Fastnet website.) Thankfully our tracking device is now working after a few hiccups today and everyone will be able to follow us on our journey over the coming days. We are all getting excited now; fingers crossed for a safe finish in Plymouth.

Fastnet update: 9 August 2013

Maj Saskia Hart takes over the narrative of the crew’s preparation for the Fastnet race, which starts on 11 August…

Today is ‘victualling and rationalising’ day, i.e. loading up with food and getting rid of excess baggage (and that’s just the crew).

Pastry wizard Maj Sam Shephard was dispatched to a nearby kitchen to bake Cornish pasties and coronation turkey with her able sous-chef Maj Leila Greene, while the independent Scottish contingent, Maj Lorna Craik, was tasked with the spinach and ricotta pasta bake.

Meanwhile, back on the boat, our ever-cunning skipper, Capt Lucie Allaway, watched with a beady eye while we emptied Redcoat of non-essential items. Out went our electric kettle, saucepans, pillows, the five-year-old box of sugar with the coffee-coated spoon embedded in it like Excalibur… Not to mention personal kit that would not be required: non-sailing shoes, jeans, large bottles of shampoo, seven tubes of toothpaste (one large one should last us the week) and towels (no opportunity to shower during the race!).

We also received a small pile of Royal British Legion parcels which contained T-shirts, polo shirts and a flag that would double up as a spinnaker (approximatey 6 by 4 metres). At least nobody will miss us!

Final shopping done, and off to Cowes to berth on Whisky pontoon in order to watch the end of Cowes Week fireworks.

Sam's yummy home-made pasties to keep up our morale!

Sam’s yummy home-made pasties to keep up our morale!

 

Update 7 August 2013

Update 6 August 2013