Charlie and the Great Big Hot-Water Bottle

It was Charlie who coined it.  The waterbed he said is like a great big hot water bottle!  And he is not wrong.  It warms you gently and rocks you to sleep and keeps you that way as long as it can.  The visiting grandchildren this year took turns and two of them overslept by two hours.  Someone said to me ‘A waterbed?’ That’s for ill people isn’t it?’  Well if it is good enough for the ailing, it should be even better for the well.

After a prolonged absence of water beddery, arising from our holiday in Mauritius and the waiting list of family who wanted a turn over New Year, I finally sought hot water bottle sanctuary this afternoon, with my current read, for a rest.  Later with the light fading (but not this one!) I floated back up to consciousness feeling very much revived after a busy interlude.

Barns left this morning taking JACS back to Cholsey.  Coming back into the house it was at one awesomely quiet, and disconcerting too.  My mother always said that we young families filled the house when we stayed at the parental home in Weymouth and I know what she meant.

Whilst JACS were with us we taught them to play Newmarket.  This is a card game I played with my parents and siblings often, and always when we were on holiday.  The essence of the game is ably described by this blogger except to say that whereas in his version the 4 Kings are the ‘horses’ we play with the Ace of Spades, the Queen of Clubs, the Jack of Diamonds and the King of Hearts as the four horses.  It is a perfect game for children, it’s about chance and a bit of concentration and with multiple opportunities to gain winnings.

We also play the game with shells, cowries in fact.  We have a tall jar of them, accumulated over the years from such places of holiday pilgrimage as Shell Beach on Herm and Prussia Cove in Cornwall.  On the former beach you can find them scattered liberally along the strandlines but in Cornwall you must comb your fingers through the shingle in Bessy’s Cove to rake the small pink shelly ovals to the surface.  Memories of competitions with the Goldmans…..

It is appropriate that we use these tiny cowry shells as our currency for Newmarket.  Cowries have a pedigree when it comes to their use as money.  Cowries, particularly the Money Cowrie (C. moneta) and Ring Cowrie (C. annulus) have circulated as currency in more places in the world than any coin.   In China, from 1200-800 BC, cowrie shells were important valuables and in India cowries have been found in association with coins from sites dating from the first century AD.  Cowrie shells arrived in Africa by the 10th century and possibly earlier, preceding European colonization by some hundreds of years.  Their use as money spread throughout the African continent and eventually European settlers and traders brought Indo-Pacific cowries (both C. moneta and C. annulus) to North America where they were readily accepted by the native peoples in barter.  You can read more from the link at the head of this paragraph.

I wrote the text for that Conchological Society web page a couple of years ago, and the Society is going to claim rather more time over the coming weeks.  There are many loose ends to tie, some conundrums to solve, some biological recording data to process.  This year is earmarked to get it all signed off…………… note to self, review progress in a couple of months!

Christmas in Mauritius

After a year of dotting between WK and St V we felt like some winter sun.  So we opted off the festive merry-go-round and took ourselves to Mauritius for Christmas.  We were lucky to have a recommendation from Charles and Susie, who had visited the hotel a month or so earlier.  Our every need was catered for and I will remember the holiday for the warmth, the balmy breezes, the sunshine, the very equable lagoon sea and the variety of gastronomic delights offered in the main restaurant. I also read novels to my heart’s content on my new Kindle.

Each day we draped a pink towel over our chosen sunbed, and as the sea lapped gently close by we gazed out to the reef-line, marked by the crests of white surf breaking over it.  The reef marks the seaward edge of the relatively shallow lagoon around the island, before the seabed falls steeply away to deeper, clearer water.  Nick fished these deeper waters when he booked himself for fishing one day.  Outside the milky millpond waters of the lagoon Nick was surprised to find himself afloat amid 3-4 metre-high rolling waves.  The promise of marlin and sailfish did not materialise but he enjoyed being afloat and chatting to the boatman – another Nicolas..

But the holiday was not without its minor glitsches which were entirely self-inflicted: we each had to fend off a gastric upset and I managed to burn a bit of myself badly on the first day by failing to cover that area with Factor 50 and then taking an unscheduled nap under my shade whilst the sun crept round to find me underneath.

It was a holiday of luxury and self-indulgence but on Christmas Day I found myself a bit distracted, glancing intermittently at my watch which I had kept on British time, and wondering what our nearest and dearest would be doing back home.  This was only the second time in 40 years of marriage that we have taken ourselves away at Christmas.  On the first occasion we booked ourselves into a hotel in Padstow where we celebrated a Christmas which was orchestrated for us.  That felt a bit strange bit I guess we had to try it again to see how it would feel.  It still felt odd.

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