And so I find myself back in Brazil.
The last two and a half weeks have been on the busy side. Almost each day could warrant a lengthy spiel, as a great deal has happened; we will just have to be content, however, with a hastily assembled summary and let the details fade into the mists of time. I'm not going to use a chronological order (chronology is so 2006) and instead use my own, special ordering system, as yet to be named. Suggestions welcome.
Sailing in Croatia
I spent last week - Saturday to Saturday - on a yacht, sailing the Adriatic Sea down the coast of Croatia, and flitting between the islands. My old castlemate, Mike, whom I'd not seen in almost four years, had invited me to join him and some others on this jaunty cruise. Two 45 foot Elan yachts had been chartered, and Mike and his younger brother Matt, both excellent sailors, were qualified to sail them. Sailing a yacht is no mean feat, especially when the yacht is filled with the likes of me, and lazy girls. But despite this massive handicap, a-sailing we did go, and very successfully too.
I'm still trying to make sense of this week, to be honest. So much happened, a mixture of high drama on the seas and idyllic relaxation in peaceful bays, and it's all begun to blur into one giant faux-millionaire haze. The week was truly spent in breathtaking surroundings, sailing past sheer mountains falling into blue seas, with enchanting medieval villages improbably streched along. I've seen a few nice places in my time, but the Croatian coastline must be among the most stunning - an absolutely world-class spectacle. Not just the popular places, such as the picture-perfect towns of Hvar and Korcula, with their antique town centres with narrow streets and delightful clock-towers, but all the locations well beyond the non-sailor: the endless chains of craggy mountains, the church magnificently and mysteriously nestled alone within one of these mountains, the nest of small, forested islands on the way to Dubrovnik, the serene bays with rocky beachs and an old ramshackle fishing cottage crumbling. For entertainment we were given a raging forest fire, with a plucky helicopter scooping water from the sea and chucking it at the flames in a wholly futile gesture of machine vs nature.
All that was the backdrop: each day provided more than its fair share of action and adventure. Of note was "Pirate Day", where the occupants of both yachts dressed as pirates, and chucked water balloons at each other when the yachts were steered close. Other passing yachts seemed to find this behaviour somewhat intriguing, as they saw a bunch of ragtag youths in bandanas and eye-patches, waving plastic cutlasses and hoisting the Jolly Roger. Pirate Day ended, appropriates, with raging drunkenness, injuries and some memorable walking of the plank.
Seafaring dramas didn't end their, as the beginning of the voyage threw at us the double whammy of a yacht losing its anchor and then its engines, only our experienced captains ensuring we avoided the respective disasters of crashing into the rocks and being stranded at sea. There was the night out in Hvar Town, where myself and Mike managed to miss the last taxi-boat back to our yacht (in a different marina) and so had no choice but to drink all night and find alternative accommodation (the back of a different yacht did the trick for me).
But mostly it was just idyllic indolence. Finding a nice little bay, taking a swim, eating, drinking gin, playing chess, reading, strolling over dry twigs, getting sun-burnt, and making inconsequentual chit-chat. Surrounded by beautiful people and scenery, it was a bit like being in a Duran Duran video. Time became entirely irrelevant - nobody ever knew what time of day it was, on the Thursday one whole boatful of people was convinved it was Wednesday, and we celebrated someone's birthday with great gusto until late in the evening someone suddenly realised his birthday had in fact been the day before.
So a great holiday, wedged somewhere between the realm of dream and actual past.
The day before I disappeared off to my yacht adventure, I was the usher for my old friend Cheesman's wedding. Giving me such a responsibility can only ever be a great risk, though it was certainly a great honour too, but the whole thing managed to go without a hitch, so to speak. All except for me, after the ceremony, mistakenly directing all the guests away from the the refreshments and instead to the street outside. But even this worked out, as the Aberdeen weather was surprisingly gorgeous, with warm sunshine and that rarest of rare pure blue skies, and all the guests got to watch the happy couple leave, and take lots of photos.
Everything else went swimmingly, for what was a pretty large wedding. Cheesman's bride, the now Mrs Charlene Cheesman (I bet she had some sleepless nights wondering how her life would be with that new surname), had put in a lot of planning, and it all paid off, for a well-prepared and tastefully done event, both formal and fun. The best, of course, was the ceilidh dancing to end the occasion, one of the reasons that make a Scottish wedding truly stand out in the world, as whisky-fuelled kilted gents whirl petite young things around the dancefloor in a chaotic rendition of traditional moves. For once, I managed a strip the willow without hurling my partner to the ground - must try harder.
Very sadly, my grandfather died just as I returned. It was peaceful, and I'm glad I got to see him before he died (as opposed to hearing the news while stuck on a rig), but these things always feel strange. He was the perfect grandfather, and a keystone of a great childhood, every weekend after lunch taking myself, my brother, my sister and whatever number of friends happened to be around up to his large house in nearby Strathpeffer and letting us run rampant, as he sat back in his porch with a whisky.
With Green's help, I moved all my stuff from his spare bedroom to my new flat on Market Street. Make no mistake, this was not a fun task. My new flat isn't just top floor, it seems to exist somewhere high in the clouds, and lugging all my junk up the many thousands of stairs (I lost count after 15,600) turned us both into sweating, heaving wrecks of men far past the prime of youth. As Green will readily admit, I have a lot of unnecessary stuff; I don't, for intance, strictly need four hi-fis.
However, despite all my stuff now being in this flat, I still haven't got round to getting the power turned on, and haven't spent more than four hours there. I've been too busy to live in my own flat. One day, and it is a distant ambition, I hope to spend the night there. I'll need to buy a bed first.
I'm still working on my King Street flat. It's so close to being finished, just days away, but all now on hold while I waste my life in Brazil. In my few days back in Aberdeen, I worked at breakneck pace to fit carpets, paint, cut and tile a new kitchen surface, and make a thorough, thorough mess. What a damn tip the place is.
Also, the pissing around sorting a mortgage out for Flat no.4 (aka Justin's flat) appears to be over, and it should all be in place by the start of October, which is when Justin moves out of his collapsing den into a deluxe new West End mansion. So while I'm moping around in Brazil, I'll gain possession of another flat, which will make three (out of four) empty. So there's no immediate let-up in sight then...
I bought a new camera and have taken lots of lovely photos. But you'll just have to use your imagiation.