The Voyage: Roz Savage
Taking tea at the House of Commons
Roz Savage
12 Jun 2006, Westminster, London

On the House of Commons terrace: Susan Kramer, Stephen, Trish, me, Caroline

It was a boil-your-brains sweltering day in London and I was a sweaty mess when I arrived at the House of Commons to have afternoon tea with Susan Kramer, Lib Dem MP for Richmond, and the 3 winners of the prize from my Prince's Trust charity auction. Luckily it was soothingly cool in the Victorian Gothic halls of the Commons, and I took a seat in the Central Lobby to compose myself.

A white-haired gentleman tottered over and collapsed onto the green banquette next to me. 'Marvellous lunch,' he slurred. 'Fine wines. Excellent.'

'Hmmm,' I said, non-committally.

Turns out he was there with the Poole Conservative Association - they had paid a fair amount to come and enjoy some Commons hospitality. He'd clearly got his money's worth.

'Poole has got one of the finest beaches in Europe, you know,' he went on. 'Sandbanks. Funny thing happened. Couple comes to stay for a fortnight. Disappear off to the beach every day. Gets to the last day of their holiday, and they say, "Don't think much to your beach. No more than a mudflat." "Where have you been going?" I say. Turns out they've been going down to the wrong side of the peninsula, and that IS a mudflat. 100 yards further, and they'd have found Sandbanks. Daft buggers.'

I made a note in my diary. How many people settle for the first thing that looks vaguely like what they're looking for, when they might find something much better if they could be bothered to make a little bit more effort? 'This looks like a life, this will do.'

My jottings were interrupted by the arrival of Trish, Stephen and Caroline. Susan Kramer bustled into the Lobby to meet us and we went to the Pugin Room for tea - elegant sandwiches with the crusts cut off, scones with jam and cream, a choice of fruitcake or fruit tart, and tea served in fine china cups. Only the service was a let-down, our waitress arguing the point when Susan pointed out that one medium size teapot might not be enough to serve four.

We bagged a policeman to take a photo of us out on the Riverside Terrace. Neil Kinnock was out there having a meeting with 7 or 8 people. I wasn't brave enough to try and get a photo.

I WAS brave enough to try and rub Winston Churchill's toe (the statue, that is) - the Lib Dems and Tories do this for luck before a vote. But a stern security guard intervened.

Too bad - alongside Oscar Wilde, Winnie is one of my heroes when it comes to providing the pithy quote. How about this one - 'A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.'

Best not to share that one with Susan Kramer, I thought, especially as she clearly does make things happen.. Not least persuading recalcitrant Commons staff to bring another pot of tea.

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A Dashing Blade
Roz Savage
09 Jun 2006, Christ Church, Oxford


What a nice surprise, when something arrives on budget, ahead of schedule, and exceeds expectations.

I was living in my old college, University College Oxford, for much of June, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get my Atlantic blade painted up, as there are signwriters in Oxford that specialise in that sort of thing. But I was chatting with an aspiring ocean rower, Sarah Outen from St Hugh's (conspicuously bald, having just shaved off her alopecia-stricken hair - watch out for her in ocean-rowing circles), and she recommended that instead of the signwriters I should go to the Clerk of Works at Christ Church.

So I tracked down Karl Lemar, blade in hand. This was one of the two oars that lost its spoon on the Atlantic, and at the time I'd chucked it in the forward cabin, already thinking it might make a good trophy. I'd then whiled away several rowing shifts designing a suitable symbol in my mind, but when I tried to draw my design on paper I couldn't manage to make it look right.

So it was rather a half-baked idea that I presented to Karl. 'Err, well I think I'd like the yin and yang symbol in the middle, and a compass, and a couple of crossed oars, with maybe a dolphin and a rose in there somewhere.'

Turned out Karl was no stranger to the sea himself, having spent 25 years as a submariner, and although he was a man of few words, I got the impression he was pleased to help.

Front of blade

Detail on back of blade

I am very impressed and extremely pleased with the results. He'd brought all the elements together with far more artistic flair than I'd managed in all my hours of pondering. I've already booked him in to do the Pacific oars - although hopefully those spoons will have to be cut off rather than being severed by the force of waves in mid-ocean.

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Back to life, back to 'reality'
24 Mar 2006

Back to life, back to 'reality'

Huge apologies for recent silence... and I don't even have the excuse of a non-functioning satphone now. My feeble excuse is that life has been hugely hectic and a logistical nightmare - on my boat everything I needed was within 23 feet, but back here in England, and without a home to call my own, it has been a challenge to get myself to where I need to be, on time and suitably clothed. There have been times when I've yearned to be back on my little boat bobbing around in the big blue, when life was relatively simple.

I got back to England on Monday and spent a couple of days with Natalie, my old rowing friend-turned-nutritional therapist, in Emsworth. I popped down to the Dolphin Quay Boatyard to catch up with the guys and let Richard Uttley, boatbuilder extraordinary, know just how well Sedna had performed.

Now I'm back in London for a few days before I cross the Atlantic yet again to give a speech in New York. While I'm not recognised in the street here the way I was in Antigua, there is enough media interest to make life interesting. In the last week there have been various newspaper and magazine interviews, and I've been on BBC South and Channel Five News - the latter fortunately was on the day of the fundraising party on HMS President (courtesy of Cdr Mike Pearey and the Royal Navy) so I was able to turn up still wearing my studio makeup, i.e. looking significantly more glamorous than usual.

The party was a great success, raising more than ?5000 for the Prince's Trust, thanks largely to the magnificent efforts of our guest auctioneer Mr Nick Bonham from the famous auction house.

In the midst of all this activity I'm struggling to keep that little kernel of serenity and strength that I tried to nurture in the latter stages of the row. When I was in Antigua I looked back on the race and wondered which was the dream and which was the reality, and similarly I now find myself wondering which was the real Roz - the one I finally found out there on the ocean, or the one who seems to be re-emerging now I'm back on dry land. I'm desperate not to forget all that I learned out there, but this will be at least as big a challenge as the row itself. But if I do forget, then what was the point of it all?

(Apologies for lack of photo - for some reason the dispatch interface won't accept my photo selection. Technology - pah!)

Atlantic Row Part 4
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The Antigua Experience
Rita Savage
20 Mar 2006

Together with the flare on arrival day.

20th March

Roz is very kindly allowing me to do another dispatch! When I went out on the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we met up with Roz 4 miles out of English Harbour, and her first words were "We did it!" The hug had to wait until she was ashore; until we had tied up the rib and forced a way through the crowd of people, with the lighted flare.
What I really aim to say is how much we appreciate the welcome and help which we received on Antigua: local Antiguans, English people now living on Antigua, and people we met aboard yachts just visiting Antigua. From beginning to end they have been so enthusiastic and generous that it has been an amazing and wonderful experience. We could not have managed without their homes, phones, computers, hands, advice, knowledge, generosity, interest, fenders, buckets, boats, cars etc etc. Just saying thank you is hardly adequate, they all deserve medals!
Both Roz and I have also been overwhelmed by the messages of congratulation by email, and also people who live on the island recognizing us as we gone about our business, stopping to have a word and shake our hands.
Some of my earlier dispatches were full of 'thankyou's, and here we go again, but we are SO grateful for the comments and interest shown by so many people. It has been a fascinating experience for me - when I wasn't worrying about Roz!

PS Just a reminder about the Party/Charity Auction on Thursday 23rd: it would be great to see you there, but please remember that we are not issuing tickets: WE NEED TO KNOW if you are coming, and YOU need to bring photo ID because of the Royal Navy security rulings. Do use Roz' home page to send messages and/or payment. Thanks, Rita Savage.

Atlantic Row Part 4
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