In spite of the grotty weather it has been absolutely lovely to have a month at home. Kvint and Emma had a very quiet week after Lier and Askeaton was very good to get back on after her two week break. Anna and Tom came down for Easter which was lovely, a chance to catch up and for me to spend some time doing some proper cooking and have some proper sociable meals together.
On Easter Monday Tom and Anna went to spend the day with Tom's parents and Camilla and I took Askeaton to Felbridge where she jumped a lovely clear in the British Novice. On the Thursday I took her to Felbridge again for the Discovery - we did need two rounds to get it right but she is definitely on her way. Marine and Emie jumped the 1.20 for a good round, and Kvint and Emma jumped the 1.30. Emma jumped a great round but the jockey missed two fences in the first round, which allowed Kvint who jumped one of only two double clears to be second and cost me a fair amount of money!
The following weekend Sophie and I had our first go at wedding dress shopping in Tunbridge Wells and surprised ourselves when Sophie cracked it first time and got the most beautiful dress - so exciting. Alex then bicycled down from London in time for supper bringing Sophie's beautiful ring, which he had collected from designer Rachel Boston that morning, with him. I don't think many people have their engagement ring delivered by bicycle! Another lovely weekend of catching up and cooking meals that were enthusiastically appreciated.
On the Wednesday I went with my eldest brother Andy and my sister Polly to Crewe to say a final farewell to our step-uncle David Stern who had been a very special part of our lives for the past 37 years. I absolutely love my siblings, but their time-keeping can be a little too exciting, as they managed to get on the train at Euston with about 1 second to spare! What a wonderful opportunity to catch up, probably not for the 4th person at the table - but she was able to catch up on Designated Survivor. We then had a very interesting 30 minute taxi drive with a Kurdish freedom fighter from Northern Iraq, a beautiful service of remembrance, a lovely tea and another train journey home.
The next morning Camilla and I were up hideously early to take Askeaton, Kvint and Emma to Coombelands. Askeaton jumped really well to be placed in the Discovery and both Kvint and Emma jumped very well in the 1.30.
To round off, what was already a very busy week, Mark and I had a Pritchard Gordon Tankers ship launch trip to Istanbul. Pritchard Gordon Tankers own small oil tankers, which are shallow drafted, and mainly operate between South America and the Caribbean where they are able to deliver oil directly to the islands. This was a very special launch of a very special ship to carry very delicious alcohol! We had a wonderful weekend with the Pritchard Gordon family and their clients and ship-brokers, and Chloe Breen. Some of the time it was like being on a James Bond set and some of the time an Agatha Christie novel. Istanbul was predictably beautiful, and the ship launch was unbelievably exciting. At all the previous launches I have attended the ship has been built in dry dock, and the dry dock is then flooded so that the ship floats out. But the Lily PG was the real deal. She was on blocks on the sand and then she swept down the slipway and into the water. We all felt as if we had been part of a truly momentous moment.
We got back from Turkey very late on Tuesday night and had two days at home gearing ourselves up for two days jumping at Pyecombe. Askeaton jumped the British Novice on Friday and the Discovery on Saturday, both in the main ring for two double clears, Kvint jumped two more clears at 1.30 and Emma jumped the two 1.40's for four faults apiece. On Friday I thought I'd take more strides out than anybody else in the jump-off. Sensibly Emma disagreed! Marine Delanoe and Emie also jumped two double clears in the 1.20 during the weekend, and Karen Rees and Nemo also jumped two double clears.
Looking back April does seem like an extraordinarily busy month, and Pyecombe wasn't even the end of it. All this could never be done without my amazing team of Steff and Camilla who make sure the horses are all beautifully looked after and never want for anything, and my great sponsors Saracen Horse Feeds and MacWet Gloves.