Sailing to Purgatory
The final scene in this true adventure shocked the author, too.

‘The reader will be enthralled as Paul, former Fleet Street journalist turned professional yachtmaster, takes us along on his ‘swallowing the anchor’ voyage, his retirement from the sea.

'This self-confessed newish ancient mariner … has spent almost a lifetime sailing solo, as both an ocean going competitive yachtsman, as a DoT Commercial Yachtmaster, and during his circumnavigation to become a singlehanded Cape Horner ... Sailing to Purgatory has all the roller coaster elements of a heart stopping adventure — drama on the high seas, observing life ... undersea volcanoes, a love interest, and waves high enough to scare the pants off most of us.’ - Brenda Vowden, journalist, avid reader

Home from the outside ... St Helenans,
'Saints', round their South Atlantic
island in Midshipman,
en route for Stockholm.

Enterprising forebears ... The house Paul's father designed, and the car his paternal grandfather designed and built.

Running repairs ... crewman Declan checks rig fittings on the superyacht, Midshipman, which Paul sailed from the Cape to Sweden.

Sail power ... Gavin's Howe's beautiful yacht in the Mediterranean.

Rescue in the Southern Ocean ... Yachting World's international edition this month features Paul and Captain Fantastic in its Great Seamanship series.

Pat and Gerry Adamson, two wonderful supporters get Spirit of Pentax ready for her circumnavigation.

Home sweet home ... St Helena islanders, after a voyage round their island home on the superyacht, Midshipman.

Baptism of a Cape Horner ... Lady Chichester names Spirit of Pentax in a ceremony at Brighton Marina.

Homeward Bound 2 is prepared for her attempt on the longest open boat record.

Tri trials ... testing Paul's entry in the singlehanded race across the Atlantic are great friends Ron Pell, Jerry Freeman plus a keen helper.

Cover up ... Bob Abrahams works on cover ideas for Sailing to Purgatory.

Stocking up for 18 months ... Last minute farewells before Spirit of Pentax and Paul left on the long route to become Cape Horners.

Death of a racer ... Baltic Wind flounders after running into a container in the South Atlantic. Paul and a lady shipmate spent eight worrying days in a liferaft.

We hear of hundreds of patients booking appointments with their GP yet failing to turn up. Until recently, most doctor appointments could only be made on the day, so it seems like really bad manners.

As if to even the score, NHS hospitals often seem almost intentionally to keep we patients waiting quite a long time. Of course, it might just be that they are incredibly busy, almost right round the clock.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Punctuality ... the politness of princes. Paul's interpretation of the hospital's notion of punctuality might not be exactly theirs. Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

What pleasure then to receive a letter for a hospital appointment which inferred that waiting around for an hour to two belongs to the past.

It came as a heavy inference in two paragraphs which seemed to prescribe a deal: be thoughtful for us and we’ll be thoughtful for you.

Sorry to be raising the subject again, but the letter was to do with my recent cycle crash.

Embrace with mother earth

Readers may well remember that very unpleasant embrace with mother earth the other week.

I was cycling back from the discount supermarket Aldi in Epsom, Surrey. The bike and I smashed into the cycle lane, and my head struck the path so hard that for much of the night, memory of the hours beforehand vanished.

My concerned brother Christopher suggested the possibility of a TIA, a minor stroke. I passed the suspicion onto my GP tout suite and he arranged for the fitting of a 24-hour Holster Monitor.

The clock ticked away. Soon the session was quarter of an hour late, then three-quarters, and soon – though it didn’t feel very soonish – an hour late. ‘Any moment,’ I encouraged the impatient inner patient.

St George’s Hospital was the chosen venue and they sent me an encouraging invitation. It added, ‘If you are unable to attend this appointment or are running late, please let us know immediately by contacting the above number.

'This means the appointment slot will not be wasted as we can offer it to someone else. We can then arrange another time with you.’

A ‘Did Not Attend’ label

The message gets rather sterner now. ‘If you arrive over 15 minutes late and have not contacted us we will not be able to see you for this appointment and you will be classed as ‘Did Not Attend’. Those three very cross capital letters seemed to represent a grave frown.

What joy, I thought. No passing an age in a waiting room and accordingly arrived quarter of an hour early. Bearing in my mind the concern expressed in that welcoming letter, I apologised to the receptionist, saying but for public transport delays I would have arrived a good half hour early.

I was thanked and told the fitting couldn’t happen exactly on time, but it would soon.

The clock ticked away. Soon the session was quarter of an hour late, then three-quarters, and soon – though it didn’t feel very soonish – an hour late. ‘Any moment,’ I encouraged the impatient inner patient.

An hour and a half, two hours, two and a half … The receptionist came over to me. ‘You’ve been waiting a long time. Who are you, and what are you here for?’ Just under three hours later, I set off for home with the gadgetry in place and perhaps a little wiser about the thinking behind some hospital correspondence.

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.

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