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Inherited skills

My mum was a typical post war bride. Despite working on Colossus at Bletchley Park, she didn't progress to university to study maths but like many service women stood aside to make space for the demobbed men. Instead she married my father and brought up four creative children before studying to become a teacher, something she excelled at.

Being a stay-at-home mum bored her stiff and she compensated by studying every City and Guild course she could get onto, upholstery, pottery, cordon bleu cooking and more. As a kid I would watch her practice at home and somehow many decades later the skills she acquired seem to have passed on at a much diluted level to me.

Last week I finally got around to upholstering our sea chests (Ikea garden boxes!) and somehow I kind of instinctively knew how to make the mitred corners and tack the fabric. As for cooking, well, we are currently sacrificing our beach ready bodies to make sure our on-board food is as good as hers, though our repertoire is a bit less Escoffier and more (con)Fusion. More on this in the next blog.

While my mum was being brainy at Bletchley, my dad was being brave sailing one of these out of Medina in Sicily , up the Adriatic to supply Tito's Yugoslavian partisans. He returned after the war to become an architect, teaching it most of his life in Sheffield and Leeds. I followed in his footsteps but in reverse, being for most of my career an architect then retraining to be a barge skipper!

But the inheritance of skills aboard Snark doesn't stop there, Qiao also followed in her father's footsteps to become an architect before becoming a sailor. That seemed a strange leap for an urban girl from Beijing until she learned that her grandfather was a Yangtze barge (sampan) skipper before the Communist Revolution destroyed his world. He ended up scraping a living as a fisherman on Lake Tai, so maybe there is something in the genes, but more on that another time.

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