I woke up coughing while it was still dark. My own coughing entered my dreams and then propelled me from sleep. Lockdown may be easing but my first thoughts as I gulped water and then dug out a Strepsil were that I had succumbed to Covid 19. I wasn’t truly reassured until I woke to sunlight with no cough or any other symptoms.
A gorgeous day, but one where das Boot has been plagued by tiny flies. They are very annoying. I have a glass of wine and it has a coaster on top of it not underneath as I don’t want wine with drowned fly. I went to Soham, a town I have driven through but never stopped in. My first impressions were positive. An array of attractive buildings in the High Street, though closer inspection revealed they were mostly cafés and take aways. I wandered down a side street and realised there has been a lot of building in recent years. Not all the new homes are what I would describe as sympathetic. A glance in an estate agent’s window revealed the house prices were so far below those in London as to seem to belong to another planet. I read noticeboards and learned that the railway station which closed years ago is to reopen in 2022. As it is on a branch line I doubt if it will push house prices up enormously, but it was interesting. Briefly Soham featured on my Places I Could Move to if I Left London list. Briefly, because only one person said hello to me. It wasn’t exactly welcoming. I had gone there to see the church where Olaudah Equiano had married Susanna Cullen in 1792. Here it is, a rather wonderful Norman building.
My timing was both good and bad. Bad, because the church, which had been open, had just closed for two hours. Good because that meant I either abandoned my mission or explored the town. I did the latter.
I had some wonderful chips from this shop.
I asked the woman who served me if Soham was a nice place to live. She hesitated. That said a lot, but it turned out she was reflecting on how the town had lost its greengrocer, baker and butcher, and now just had tow small supermarkets. I also saw a European Food Shop which meant Polish. She had previously lived in Colchester, better shops but she preferred Soham. How about Wivenhoe, I asked. Ah yes, Wivenhoe, that’s a lovely place.
Through the back of an unpromising housing estate I suddenly found myself beside water with a whole bunch of very chatty ducks who displayed no fear of humans at all. A path lead through to meadows. Soham was looking up. There were some truly lovely old houses, gracious buildings whose history I’d like to know. The place to stay should you decide to visit is clearly The Fountain.
I saw my first ever planter in the form of a narrowboat in Soham. That alone made my visit worthwhile.
My portion of chips was so large I was still eating them when two o’clock came and went and the church reopened. Outside were two women and a sign saying the church was open for private prayer. I confessed I was there to see the memorial plaque. One of the women took me inside, pointed out the plaque and we talked for a while about Soham’s history and speculated on how Equiano had met Ms Cullen, who I learned was not a Soham girl but came from nearby Fordham. I remarked that the population of Soham seemed rather undiverse. The woman agreed. Apparently there are often events to celebrate the fact the Olaudah Equiano connection, but this year’s has, for obvious reasons, been cancelled. She told me where I could sit if I wanted to and left me to my exploration of the church.
There was quite a lot to see, including a very grand memorial window to someone called Turner who I learned was the man who started the haulage company whose depot is near where Mother lived in very sheltered housing.
I stopped off at Burwell Fen hoping to see the Konik ponies. I did, just about, but they were far from the fence. Next time. Back at the marina the boat was surprisingly cool. Before I left I had closed all the curtains and lowered the blind. I felt sleepy and lay down for half an hour, then went out to see if there was any sign of the otters I had been told about. None. But the river did look rather wonderful.
I was fired up after my experience with MasterB last night. I think I have already written that our strolls include a lot of sitting and scanning, then staring at a fixed point for what seems like hours. So it was last night. The boy had evidently locked onto something I could not see. It was dark and there was no moon. I leant back on the step railings and waited. How I was rewarded. Two hares appeared on the path going about their business, calm, they looked like they were chatting. They were within feet of us. Never have I been so close to a wild hare in my life. It was me not MasterB who gave our presence away. He was statue still. I am not sure if I made an involuntary sound or movement but there were immediately on guard and ran off. For the few minutes we watched them it was magical. Tonight MasterB returned to watch the path again, but it’s Friday, good weather and there are far more people about, so no magical hares.
Before I left for Soham this morning the cows were at our end of the field. I had a brief moment with His Handsomeness, but he was more interested in nibbling willow today than having a cuddle.
He pulled on a branch, lowering it to a height younger, smaller calves could reach. One rushed over, then a second, then a third. He stood benignly in the middle of them; the best big brother they could wish for.
Truly he is a prince among cattle.
In a few short days I have enjoyed the rhythm of life here at the marina. a rhythm set more by the animals than the boaters. The swan patrol arrives promptly for some evening weed nibbling, they swim and nibble together then sometimes separate. They go out on the river and then return. At some point if they are apart, one will utter a strange noise, a bit like a dog coughing, which the other will answer and they are reunited once more.
I am going to go home tomorrow, probably late afternoon or early evening when it’s cool. I brought work with me which I need to have finished by Sunday evening but I haven’t done it. I am enjoying doing other things too much, so back to the Smoke and no excuses.
Stay safe. Keep well.