Of Chilled Water, Cider and The Scottish Referendum

Why is chilled water, particularly if it has ice cubes in it, suddenly so much nicer to drink than water straight from the tap? This summer I became addicted to ice cubes in glasses of water. Now I have revived my water filter jug and chilled water from the fridge is available all day.

But I have also found a new pleasure; bottled cider. It’s not really new. when I was a child we would often have cider with Sunday lunch, drinking it from my grandmother’s cut glass goblets that my sister now owns. It is a drink I sometimes enjoy if we stop at a pub when we go walking. But not a drink I buy to have at home.

That changed a few weeks back when I wanted a cold drink on a hot evening and decided to open the bottle of cider that had been resident in the fridge door since Christmas. The opening took a few days, as I realised I no longer had a bottle opener.

Eventually I noticed that the can opener had a hooked thing on the end, and correctly matched this to the bottle top. I can’t say I had high expectations, but it was delicious. More time passed, and then I saw there was an array of ciders in M&S, and they were on offer. Counties in the north and south of England trumpeted their claims as the land’s chief cider sources, though I admit I was checking closely that none said the word sweet. Sweet cider is an abomination; an alcoholic equivalent of Coca Cola. So Hereford cider and Somerset cider have found their ways onto my shopping list. It would be better for my waistline, liver and pocket if they hadn’t.

I strogly suspect they are more calorific than wines, so I am not reading the labels too carefully. Someone who had enrolled at WeightWatchers told me mournfully that a glass of wine is the calorific equivalent of a cream cake. I imagine a fact like that is supposed to make you stop drinking wine; seeing mille-feuilles and choclate eclairs in each glass. I rarely eat cream cakes, so somehow, I felt I was already being sufficiently restrained.

A friend joined Scottish Slimmers (WeightWatchers north of the border) several years ago. The pounds fell off, but hearing her quote from the manual reduced her social circle. There is something very depressing about conversations that all incude references to weight loss. We haven’t had much communication recently. Although the holder of a French passport, she’ll be able to vote in next week’s referendum, and I strongly suspect she’ll be voting Yes. She has taken to talking scathingly of ‘down south’, as if it is some lesser place of dubious culture and vision. Continue reading

Well Off? Moi? Yes, I Suppose I am

Shall I get back to das Boot this month? I don’t know. It isn’t looking likely, but an overnight stay would be great. I am extraordinarily lucky to have this bolthole.

I don’t live in the most glamorous or wealthy part of London. In fact some near neighbours are evidently living in great poverty. One woman I see most days tripping up and down my street. She is probably no older than I am, but there is something about her that makes it hard to imagine she was ever young. One winter, I noticed she was wearing unsuitable sparkly sandals. It dawned on me that those were the only shoes she owned.

I don’t consider myself well off, and I think my accountant, which sounds very grand but is a necessary expense when you are self-employed and struggle with tax forms, would laugh himself to death if you suggested I were. But compared to that woman, I might as well be Victoria Beckham. Education, expectation, have riven a gap between our lives as graet as the Grand Canyon.

Should she turn around to me and say she had spent time away anywhere, be it tent, B&B or hotel, I should be amazed. If she said she owned a boat or a caravan, my jaw would probably hit the floor.

Well-offness is relative; George Osborne would doubtless consider me a pauper; but in many ways I am well off, and believe me, I’m grateful.

Little Miss Sayers and Sal of Greece

I have been mulling over the day, as you do. Some highs, some middles, no real lows. So, a good day. Mind, I have been a tad tired; yesterday MasterB had very little time outside, so during the night he was rather full on. You can be sure he is outside tonight.

No sign of Little Miss Sayers. Something very strange happened last night. Two people from the now notorious chcken shop approached some of my neighbours to say their cat was missing. They claimed they had seen a couple, a white couple, carrying her away on Tuesday night. Then they started to ask lots of questions about our block of flats, questions that made my neighbours uneasy. Continue reading

Love in the Car Park

MasterB has a new admirer. She’s younger than he is, less than a year old I believe, and actually I don’t know if she is a she, was a she or anything about her. Or possibly him. I’ll call her Sayers for the moment; that should work whatever gender s/he turns out to be. And she is very light. She lives in the nearby fried chicken joint; a place to avoid at all costs. I am guessing she was acquired to deal with their mice and rat problem.

She started hanging out in the furthest corner of our garden, and made me jump out of my skin one evening when I went there to fill the watering can. Having decided I am not a threat, I generally get a friendly greeting and a head rub.

Hello There

Hello There

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Home Again

My Keens are drying in the bathroom. The washing machine was loaded as I unpacked. I had dropped my trousers into the marina and Older Nephew had to grab the landing net and pass it to me before they sank beneath the weed.

I have never seen such a weedy marina. It is like a mini rain forest around das Boot. Getting buckets of water out of it sans weed was more than tricky. Actually getting buckets of water out of it was tricky as the bucket handle snapped off after the second dunking. After that I had to lower the handleless bucket in the landing net to get some water to swish das Boot’s front cover as I cleaned the green algae from it.

The results were better than I had expected and motivate me to do the back cover next time. Older Nephew turned up, having just flown back from Brussels, as I sat cross-legged on the foredeck in my waterproof trousers, scrubbing away at the non-slip stuff which was/is full of gunk.

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Of Boat Cleaning, Dogs and High Tissue Consumption

There are three black Labradors at the marina tonight. A mum, and her two growing puppies who are staying in the family. Full of vim, when I said hello, they pulled their master to the ground. His wife came out of the loo, and we bonded as dog lovers do, so that at the end of several minutes, I knew the dogs’ names, but not the humans. The adult dog is used to river cruising, but for the two youngsters, tomorrow will be their first time. I may have to watch them set off.

The people on the boat next to mine were struggling with flat batteries. We chatted and as they were asking about my boat, I gave them the guided tour. It was nice to see it through their eyes. They seemed impressed. They also have the same problem with the vinyl lining as I have.

Eventually I stowed my stuff away, ran the engine for fifteen minutes to ensure hot water; removed and shook the dust covers; wiped away the spider poo; used the vacuum cleaner and upset the resident insects and arachnids.

Then it was time to get down to the main reason I had come East. An afternoon of washing the roof of the boat, and scraping away things that had started to grow on the foredeck, left me satisfiedith my efforts, but tired. The boat’s blue front cover is increasingly green, but it will have to wait until morning. A hot shower and a good meal did much to restore me, so then I thought I watch a programme I had downloaded to the iPad.

It seemed a good idea at the time. I was watching something else, and as I don`t have any advanced technology at home that always me to record programmes to see later, I tend to rely on the different channels’ services.

The programme was Stammer School on Channel 4. Maybe you saw it. It followed three people with stammers through a four day course in Croydon where they found their voices. There were lots of tears. And not just on the screen. A few minutes in, I fished a tissue out of my pocket and blew my nose; hard. Continue reading

Break Away

Paw Action

Paw Action

So this is the plan: get up and have breakfast; shower, dress and head for the bank to pay my overdue credit card bill. Put bags (clothes, food) into car. Allow coffee to work its way through my system. Head east. Stay overnight on das Boot.

The warm weather has returned. But we have had our warning. These days are numbered. Aunt tells me it will stay mild until November. I do hope she’s right. If she is, I should be able to get to see her a few more times before winter closes in. She accepts I may not see her this time as it will be a twenty-four hour visit where I hope to make das Boot a bit more presentable. Continue reading

Corrupting Aunt

When I was in NI in July, there was some amusement, some surprise, some almost disapproval from certain quarters about the pictures of Aunt at the pub. “You’ll corrupt her,” laughed one family member. One cousin said nothing at all. But her silence spoke volumes. Another cousin, also tea-total, smiled, and seemed amused at his strait-laced, Baptist-Church-attending relative happily chowing down at a pub. Perhaps I should mention he is a minister in the Church of Ireland.

Uncle Bill, Aunt’s Big Brother, smiled broadly.

Whatever their reactions, it seems we have hit on a winning formula. I pick Aunt up from her home, we drive through a countryside she doesn’t see enough of these days. We go to a pub with a chef, check that they can cater for someone with Coeliac Disease, settle ourselves comfortably, relax, eat and enjoy our surroundings.

So here is Aunt at Pub Number Two.

Aunt at the Pub

Aunt at the Pub

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