Susie’s on her day off and Josh is making the coffee this morning. He is a very accomplished Barista and my double espresso with some hot water on-the-side is well-made. Don’t have long before I need to head down to the hot yoga studio in Middle Street but thought a shot of caffeine was needed. Caffeine is easily absorbed by the body within a few minutes and can increase one’s mental alertness and physical energy; for me very necessary! That very first sip, lips on the side of the cup, the hot liquid seeping into the mouth and down the throat – one of those ‘ah!’ moments.
Last Sunday morning, head down into the biting north easterly wind, I passed a couple of rough-looking chaps outside the Smart Seaview Brighton Hotel. One of those delightful misnomers as it’s neither smart nor in Brighton, although to be fair you can see a patch of sea between some buildings!
They sat either side of a wooden table & bench combination, concentrating madly on rolling some tobacco or something stronger in some paper; a couple of stained mugs with steaming tea lay on the table. I didn’t want to interrupt the process, as I was aware how important the first ‘something’ is, in this case the first inhale of smoke, in through the nose and down into the lungs and then the heady rush of nicotine. Being an ex-smoker I can well remember that first morning cigarette, the nicotine entering the blood stream, stimulating the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. God it felt good!!
Got me thinking of other times when we all experience ‘that moment’. Maybe we have hundreds, maybe even thousands but some are more instantly recallable than others, aren’t they?
A visual one comes to mind, prompted by a recent television programme, ‘Griff’s Great New Zealand Adventure’ (Note 1). Griff Rhys Jones was making his way down the South Island of NZ when he had to stop …. simply had to get out of his car …… and shouted ‘wow’, looking at the stunning scenery through which he was driving. I have had many such moments in New Zealand, such is its breath-taking landscape. My most recent one was in December 2019 (See PCs 169 & 170), driving away from Elmslie Bay where, in 1877, the girl who became my great grandmother came ashore from a shipwreck. It’s 100% pure New Zealand and around every bend there was another photo opportunity; the rolling landscape of this hill looks like a Pug puppy’s face! That is a moment to treasure.
Yachts have their own idiosyncrasies and it takes a while to get to know how to get the best performance out of them. Sailing in Uomie in the Fehmarn Light Race in Kieler Woche , the German equivalent of our Cowes Week, many years ago, the first leg of some 35 nm (6okms) was out to a lightship off the German island of Fehmarn.
We beat into a cold northerly; pointing the bow too much into the wind and the yacht slows, too far the other way and it heels over too much. On the tiller, I somehow managed to get Uomie sailing as best she could, thrashing into the night. In sailing parlance she “lifted her skirts”, like mums in the 50m dash at a school sports day (Note 2) ; we rounded the light a few hours later, tacked and bore away towards Sønderborg and the second course mark about 80kms away ….. but that moment stays with me, that and the fact we won our class!
Nothing comes close to seeing something in real life; no matter how many times you’ve seen pictures of, for instance, the Mona Lisa or the Taj Mahal, you can still gawp and wonder either in the Louvre or in Agra. My first glimpse of Christ the Redeemer on the mountain overlooking Rio de Janiero is one.
And this reminds me of a sister-in-law’s children, in London for the first time, seeing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament as we drove in from Heathrow one night. The excitement in their voices: “Look! Ah! Wow!”
Some of you will be parents and maybe grandparents. Whilst I acknowledge that the birth of a child is special, I think the birth of a first grandchild is extra special. The realisation that the little mite has some of your DNA in its cells is a moment like no other.
And there’s another moment, maybe more sombre than others, that I was reminded of recently. When your last surviving parent dies, there is this rather weird realisation that there is no one ‘above’ you in the family. We are so used to having our parents around ….. and then they aren’t!
At this time of year when alcohol is being advertised more than normal, I am reminded of the first whiff, and then the first taste, liquid on lips, into the mouth and eventually down the throat, of some Australian Grenache.
I asked a friend what “Ah!” moment immediately came to mind and she said: “Losing my virginity in a caravan”. She didn’t elaborate and I thought it would have been indelicate to ask whether the experience met her expectations!
When your body is hot from being in the sun, a dip into a cold sea is an absolute delight; that sense of being enveloped by water. Interestingly many more here in the UK are swimming in the sea all the year round – great for increasing one’s immunity from disease.
Josh came to collect my empty cup and asked what I was scribbling about this week. When I told him he immediately said: ‘First Love!’ Maybe that’s a topic that could fill a PC on its own?
Left the Hope Café in a hurry, off to yoga.
Richard 17th December 2021
Note 1 Griff Rhys Jones travels from Cape Reinga on the tip of New Zealand’s North Island to the bottom. Four episodes UK ITV.
Note 2. ‘Showing her underneath/keel’? Yachts are always female hence this expression – today I hope, sincerely hope, we don’t shy away from this tradition. “It lifted its unisex trousers ….” doesn’t create the same emotion.