Blackberries and a Baby

The man with the two lovely collies and the equally lively yellow Labradot told me there were damsons at the end of the path. 'Some are very big,' he asserted. But although I followed you he path I found no damsons. I did gather my fourth box of blackberries, and had I had more containers I could have gathered yet more.

Quite a lot of the smallest container, about half I reckon, I have already enjoyed for pudding after lunch. A lunch which featured a poached egg. I bought the egg this morning and it was still warm from the hen. Although I do not think I want to live in the depths of the country, car culture is one of my main objection, there are compensations. My neighbour having, though with the best of intentions, killed my thyme plant, I have bought another. I have freshly picked spinach and salad. Janet Eggs is reserving some eggs for me to take home with me tomorrow. Das Boot is brightened by a bunch of sunflowers.

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Precious and Blessed

Do I only post these days when I am away from home? It feels more and more like it. How have I become so time poor in my day to day life? That's something I'll perhaps think about, but it does make these escapes afloat and elsewhere particularly precious.

The plan for today was to head for the local Co-op and get my Saturday Guardian and a few bits and bobs I needed – celery, chilli flakes, brown rice – then come back and do some boat cleaning. However the weather had other ideas. Last night it rained and rained. MasterB and I cuddled together in the fore cabin and I watched Defence Of the Realm, a film I saw at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank in the mid 80s and which, along with the TV series Defence of the Realm with Ray Macanally informed much of my political prejudices and beliefs. I remember walking home feeling very unsettled. By today's standards it seemed quite tame, which made me wonder about how the world has changed in my lifetime, and how my expectations, despite the end of the Cold War, are bleaker. It was this film that introduced me to Paschabel's canon. In my memory this music played almost constantly. I was surprised how sparing it was actually. Incidental music to heighten tension seemed very dated and in fact probably reduced tension, seeming almost comic.

The rain continued today in sudden spiteful outbreaks of heavy showers, but it was the wind that deterred my cleaning plans. Having the water from the hose blown back in my face didn't appeal. Call me a wimp if you like. It'd not be far from the truth. But I did get my Guardian and groceries, plus flowers from the organic farm shop where I intend to go before I go home to buy fresh salad and kale. So I shelved the cleaning plans and read the paper with a fairly easy conscience, tried and failed to solve the problem of the airlock with the taps on board that just splutter and spit, listened to some more chapters of Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope and went for a walk with my camera.

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Privileged and Proud

Afloat. Alone with my best boating companion, the lovely MasterB. Feeling incredibly privileged that I can do this. That my pension is crap fades into insignificance when the Boy and I settle down to a weekend, a long weekend thanks to my self-employed status which means I can choose to say no to work and ring fence days in the way I could not when half my income relied on a job where I was required to be there when my employer so decreed.

Listening to Ed Sheeran and loving it. I know some people think he's lightweight, and they are free to their opinion, but I love his lyrics and music. Maybe it's a ginger thing. My brother-in-law used to call me Ginge, though I was a strawberry blond rather than true ginger. I was never bullied for my hair colour and am appalled that many kids are. How does that work? The second most popular cats to be adopted from shelters are gingers (the first have odd eyes), so how come people love ginger cats, but think the human gingers are objects of derision? Prejudice. Yuk.

Last night I saw Girl From the North Country at the Old Vic, and before I left home at lunchtime today I had to listen to Planet Waves. I wouldn't put myself in the first rank of Dylan fans, but this production was a reminder that his music and lyrics have been part of the soundtrack to my life, and they have such resonance. Such resonance. It's a fabulous production. Tired as I was, and I was very tired, it was another occasion when I felt acutely aware of how privileged I am. I was my friend Nicola, and we knew quite a few members of the audience, I because we had complimentary seats due to my work, she because she is a voice teacher and ex drama teacher. It was something of a shock that I realised today that Ncola and I have known each other for twenty-eight years. Am I really that old? Answer: yes.

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Dog Show

It may have been mainly about antiques, but there were an awful lot of dogs.

Some of them looked none too impressed that their walk had turned out to be a lot of standing around. At one point the heavens opened and we made a run for the tea tent. The camera crew carried on filming; dripping marquees, sheltering people, this dog.

 

The setting couldn't have been better. We were at Stormont. The approach is wonderful, and many of the dogs at the Antiques Roadshow yesterday enjoy their exercise in the grounds of the castle. Quite enough to give a dog a sense of grandeur.

 

Interest was fairly intense with knots of people gathered around experts.

These experts seemed to favour bright colours, whether in socks or trousers.

 

And Fiona Bruce's jacket drew admiring glances and comments. We caught up with her in a pre-recording moment talking to a man who had brought a glass inscribed no surrender, which had belonged to his grandfather.

Although all three of us had agreed we did not want to be filmed, we were standing right behind her as the cameras rolled, so if you see a trio of women when this episode is broadcast looking alternately interested and uneasy, that will be us. We stayed as she prepared to talk to a boy and his mother. The boy, or rather young man as it turned out he was 18, Sam won the Norhern Ireland Young Musician of the Year competition, and we were lucky enough to hear him play his violin.

We quickly became paid up Fiona fans. One way or another I have met a few TV celebs. Most have been lovely, but one TV chef was a prat, quite the opposite of his bonhomous TV persona. Fiona Bruce fell firmly in the first category; professional, patient, natural. Unfortunately the black cloud which had been inching closer arrived above us at that point and everything was quickly covered over, the interview took place somewhere else while we sheltered in the tea tent.

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Isobel and Fiona Go Shopping

I live in hope that tonight it will still be today when I go to bed. True, I was between the sheets a whole hour earlier last night than on Sunday, but it was still more than hour after my desired bedtime. So again this morning was a later than anticipated start, and I did not take Westie Boy for the walk I promised him before I left for Belfast.

My intention had been to arrive betimes and spend few hours wandering and looking, maybe stop in one of the many coffee shops for elevenses, and go to the Linen Hall Library café for lunch. As it was I started with the lunch, a very lovely mushroom soup with some wheaten bread. Then I set to wandering, but as I had an engagement to meet Speccy at three o'clock at City Hall I needed to make sure I did not wander too far.

My wanderings found me a branch of Tiger, a much bigger branch than the one I usually patronise at St James Park station, and I duly wandered in and around it, emerging with several purchases, including a new collar for Westie Boy. I doubt if it'll make up for the missed walk, but it is a boyish blue, so when he feels doubts about the floral pink number he currently sports on his perambulations he will have an alternative. I think he's pretty comfortable with his sexuality, or lack of since he has been neutered, but it was an excuse. For myself I could not resist the carrot shaver which looks like a big pencil sharpener. Alas, I forgot to pick up some organic carrots in M&S before getting the bus back to Cousin's.

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Flying Into Light

My flight was delayed by longer than I care to think about, ironic as I was in a panic at the railway station when I learned the train I planned to catch had been cancelled. A quick reroute, and I arrived at the airport more or less on time. And then had to kill it in a series of crowded areas amid families heading off for their summer hols. When I booked my flight I hadn't considered that this was the weekend after many schools in England would have broken up for the summer and hence one of the busiest times for travel all year.

We left Luton as the sun was setting. The sun is still setting. The sky looks much as it did thirty minutes ago, but we are flying north where the days are significantly longer at this time of year than in London and the Home Counties.

From which you have worked out that I am off to Cousin's again and flying to Belfast. I have no plans, or rather I had no plans, but in the moments before take off a swift exchange of texts and now I am seeing a friend tomorrow. Earlier texts at the airport with Speccy means that Tuesday afternoon is also pencilled in the diary as a possible time to meet up.

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Another Enchanted Evening

I am hoping MasterB will come and join me on the foredeck, then maybe venture ashore while it is still light and sunny. There's no one around. I can't even see any geese or cows in the field next door, though birds are singing and insects drone as they fly by me.

It has been a gorgeous day, perfect July weather, mid 20s degrees C, though it felt hotter this afternoon and I revised my plan to sit out here and stayed with MasterB in the rear cabin. That was a bit of a revelation. I don't usually spend much time looking out of the back of the boat when we are in the marina. It's perfect for bird watching. Birds were swooping about, skimming over the water to catch insects. The swallows were silent and graceful, but there was another bird in significant numbers that made splashy noisy contact with water. It had a forked tail and the same sort of wings as swallows, but was much bigger, and white with a black head. I reached for my bird book, the one I keep saying I am going to replace, wondering if there was a type of swallow I had never heard of. That would be eminently possible as an ornithologist I am not. But I think it's a Tern, a type of gull. I don't recall seeing them here before, at least not in such large numbers, which is another argument for an up to date bird book.

Before the day warmed up I did some boat cleaning. Armed with the water pump, the hose, an old toothbrush and an even older J cloth, I washed slime from the port side of the boat. My goodness it was dirty. I think I jet hosed it last summer, but you'd never have guessed. I had intended to do some jet washing today as well, to clean the stuff that stops me slipping and sliding on the gunwale, but the slime removal took longer than I expected, and when I went inside it was evident MasterB was not happy. For starters he had thrown up all over the but of carpet that sits in front of the sink. Another thing to wash.

So I curbed my enthusiasm, unplugged and disconnected everything, left them on the gravel to drain and dry while I showered. When I went to put them away a few hours later I found them boiling with ants, flying ants. Today is evidently the day when ants sprout wings, and the spot they were doing it here was in front of my boat. They have all dispersed now and the evening is left to dragonflies, bees butterflies and other things I can't name. Leaping fish make loud splashes, there's a bird that has been calling all day that sounds like a phone alarm. Goodness knows what that is. Every now and then cows I can't see low from the other side of the river.

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