Where I am Now

I am sitting with my feet up having a pre dinner lager. MasterB is having some zzzs. We are at das Boot. How often do I start a post saying where I am I wonder. Quite often I think, and that's quite in the British sense rather than the US sense, so if you are from across the pond, read it as fairly often.

It's a warm evening, I have the windows open. Birds are singing. Someone is speaking quite loudly and his voice carries across the still water. There is virtually no wind. When we arrived md-afternoon after a chat with Janet Eggs a mile or so short of the marina, the place was full of cars, and people were walking up and down. MasterB meowed and I left him in the car with the doors and windows open, but confined to his cat basket while I removed boat covers, turned on electrics and started the engine.

I let him out of his basket then. The people had dispersed. After sitting in the well in front of the car seat while I lifted bags out of the boot, he climbed out onto the grass. Then he had little sniff around, and made towards where I had my stuff piled into the the little trolley. I thought we were about to both move to das Boot, but suddenly someone appeared and MasterB retreated under the car, out of my reach. I kept ferrying stuff to the boat, returning to sit cross legged on the grass near the car and trying to encourage him out. It looked as though he was ready for a long stay.

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Play For Today

My parents weren’t theatre goers. They had neither time nor money, though my father attended music concerts in his youth, and as a pupil midwife my mother enjoyed London’s West End theatres courtesy of free tickets left at the nurses’ home. I got the bug for watching plays via the BBC. There used to a programme called Play For Today. Every week, on Thursday night, I think, there was a new play written for television by writers that included Dennis Potter among others. It was magic. My sister loved the Regents Park open air theatre and introduced me to that, and I became a supporter of my local theatre in Guildford, where five minutes before curtain up for 50p I could get a seat in the house.

Unsurprisingly, in London theatre has been a constant since I moved here.

My friend Tony and I went to see Twelfth Night last night at the Globe. Last year we were blown away by Emma Rice’s Bollywood Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as this is to be her final season at the Globe, we wanted to see Twelfth Night as she has directed it too. I bought tickets as soon as they became available and have been really looking forward to this production.

Most of the audience were enraptured. We less so. After Malovolio had blown his whistle for the sixth time, I wanted to leap on the stage and take it away from her (a female actor is playing the part of the male steward, whereas up river at the National, a female actor is playing Malvolia, the steward’s gender having been changed).

It was a less than subtle production. Emma Rice seemed to have decided to throw everything at this one, and for me it was a case of less would have been more. There were bits I loved; the shipwreck, Antonio rowing through the groundlings in his boat Bewitched, some of the music. There was a lot of music. At one point in Act I, we wondered if the play had been turned into a musical. Twelfth Night is a light, frothy sort of play, to my mind it didn’t need, or deserve, to be whipped up further and half a ton of cherries put on the top.

It’s part of the Globe’s 2017 Summer of Love season. Ironic in more ways than one, but with the upcoming general election on my mind, it’s the disunity on painful display across my country, the distinct lack of love among our separate parts that seems most obvious this summer. The talk is all of a Tory landslide, Labour wiped out, Theresa May measuring up for new curtains at Number 10 and settling in for a long stay. Some of her admirers speak of her as the new Margaret Thatcher, a divisive politician to the power of n, and although Mrs May says she is no Margaret Thatcher, her constant harping on about unity while spelling out policies that obviously divide, punish the metropolitan communities who so stubbornly don’t vote Tory, and reward the Home Counties and shires who do, reminds me of Thatcher’s little speech when she quoted St Francis.

But for those of us who remember the days of Thatcher as leader, and I do with a shudder, we know that unity was the last thing she achieved. My country was riven. There were riots across the country. Greed and ostentatious wealth were praised, poverty was obviously the fault of not believing in Mrs T strongly enough, of being feckless enough to think the weak and the vulnerable were deserving of respect and dignity, of working in the public sector. Continue reading

Angela’s Ashes

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Mother’s funeral, but it was someone else’s death I was remembering last night, Angela’s.

Over the weekend I received a message to say her ashes were to be scattered on Monday evening in the churchyard of Old St Pancras church, the church where her memorial was held. At that memorial friends and colleagues read a selection of poems by Angela. Last night, Nicola, who now teaches voice, and who taught drama and English back in the day when she, Angela and I worked together, had been asked by Rob, Angela’s husband, to read two poems while the ashes, with I hope Angela’s generous spirit, were released into the air.

Before Nicola arrived, Rob, an actor, and now a frail elderly man walking with the aid of two sticks, and very slowly, announced he would sing a song to Angela. It was My Love is Like a Red Red Rose. We stood in the shade of the Hardy tree while his cracked voice rang out, and we knew he felt the pain of her loss as keenly now as when she died. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in having suddenly blurred vision.IMG_3923

The Hardy tree is named after Thomas Hardy who had the task of clearing the headstones of the graveyard, and now they are grouped around the tree which has grown into them and joined them in a mutual embrace. Continue reading

Coventry, City of Culture 2021

I went to Coventry again today. It was fab. I knew it would be. I went there for the first time in February. I fully intend to return before long and explore some more.

It’s going to be the City of Culture in 2021. It’s going to be brilliant.

It’s been twinned with more cities than I can remember, mainly I think because its mission to promote peace and reconciliation.

I think it should be twinned with the Elephant and Castle, SE1. The clue is in the coat of arms.

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Janet Eggs

Once clear of London en route for das Boot I generally stop at a supermarket for supplies, things I think I’ll need afloat – beers, coffee and so on. But not eggs. No, those I buy on the road that leads to the marina. Just a quick text to Janet Eggs to let her know I am on my way, and provided the hens are laying, half a dozen eggs are hidden in the mailbox attached to her gate.

Eggs for sale

I don’t know how many hens Janet keeps, nor do I know her real surname, though it definitely isn’t Eggs. I do know the hens are free range and that any money collected from the sale of their eggs goes to support local good causes – someone in financial straits due to illness, the victim of a hit and run accident. Janet is a farmer’s wife. Before you accuse me of sexism, it’s only her husband I seen on the big machinery, his ears shrouded in the big protectors. I know she refers to him as Daddy when talking to her dogs. She has several dogs; golden retrievers, a Jack Russell who escapes under the gate to scamper around my feet, a standard poodle. Janet has never met MasterB, but that doesn’t stop her asking if he is with me and how he is. Continue reading

Copybook Cat

When Celia and I looked at the weekend’s photos while afloat I offered to copy them all onto a USB for her, including the many of MasterB on shore leave. She severely blotted her copybook by saying she might not need all of MasterB’s pictures. I believe my disapproval was apparent.

If you look at these, a mere sample, you will, I’m sure, agree with me.

I hope.

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Pictures to Follow

According to my Fitbit, a piece of technology I love more than I could have ever imagined, I walked around fifteen miles. Which means Celia did too, as we spent the day together. It’s not everyone who would be happy to spend my birthday walking in wind and occasional sunshine across the fens, but fortunately it’s not only poetry and dying mothers that has underpinned our friendship. I’m saying about, as Fitbit speaks metric, so it tells me I walked 26.16 km, and my conversion to imperial is approximate at the least.

We breakfasted on porridge and coffee. Celia normally has tea, so that might explain how even before the washing up was dry she’d broken the coffee pot and managed to move the pull-out table from its runners on one side. Mind, I am the person who threw the kitchen scales out of the galley window and into the mud at the base of the marina where they are doubtlessly puzzling the resident fish.

We set off before either of us could do by more damage, changing our shoes for walking boots, and clothed in several layers against the wind. As a first port of call we were heading for Wicken Fen, a nature reserve run by the National Trust. I went there once with Mother many years ago. We always meant to return but it didn’t happen. Celia and her mother had planned to go, but didn’t make it. So motherly ghosts came with us yesterday. Appropriate for me at least since Mother died on my birthday four years ago.

It’s hardly The Pennine Way. I am listening to Simon Armitage read his book, Walking Home, Travels With a Troubador on the Pennine Way, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys walking. With an hour of listening to go, he reads the sentence, ‘I walk therefore I am’; a feeling familiar to anyone who has enjoyed a spell of walking day after day no matter what the terrain. Actually I’d recommend it to a anyone, but maybe not listening to it on the bus as I started doing, as my snorts of laughter drew curious and worried glances from my fellow travellers. Whether they were members of the Communist Party I know not.

Regular readers of this page may recall that Celia and I have a track record for getting lost when we go walking. I was mildly concerned, though I hope it didn’t show, when Celia said she had forgotten her compass and her whistle. I was hoping it wasn’t going to come to that. Maybe she needed to redeem herself in her own eyes, anyway her map reading was exemplary and we reached Wicken Fen in time for lunch. I was hovering over whether to have a baked potato as well as the soup which sounded greenly delicious when the most heavenly cheesy smell filled the air. Home baked scones about to leave the oven. Decision made, and a severe setback for my progress towards becoming an egg eating vegan (sic).

I even photographed the lunch; it was that good. We went round the boardwalk after spending a long time in the very wonderful shop. Celia upgraded the OS map from the one I had onboard and which I believe belonged to Mother, to a new one with larger scale. There was a windmill, and misled by the Wicken flour for sale in the shop, we assumed it was used to grind grain. Not so, it drained the fens and allowed people to grow crops. In one hide a coup,e with strong binoculars some in whispers about birds they could see several miles away. I took a photo of the information board showing the great crested newt which made me think of Janh1 and Sabina. A modern windmill ironically keeping the fen moist to protect it as a wildlife habitat stood diagonally opposite the old mill. Continue reading

Sunday

Older Nephew arrived be times on Sunday and we stood looking at the trees and shrubs moving energetically, and feeling the sway of das Boot beneath our feet. But other souls were out on the river, and I'd added ten more litres of fuel to the tank, so off we set, destination Ely, to collect Celia who was arriving by train in the early evening. We met more boats than last time; mainly hire boats being driven too quickly, Toads of the river to our sensible Rattys, leaving bumpy swells in their wake which made it feel like we were moving over stones.

MasterB amazed me by miaowing and then joining us in the fore cabin for much of the journey. He seemed a bit surprised to see the scenery moving past him, but coped admirably. To date he has been under pillows or blankets for the duration of all boat journeys undertaken.

We texted Celia to report our progress, she confirmed she was on the train. Older Nephew who is a less than secret anorak about some things, turned out to have downloaded the details of her journey, and at intervals announced which part of the country she would be in. She's just arriving at Cambridge now he said as the empty green river banks became busy with people and buildings.

Quiet river

Once moored up, I sent another text with instructions from the Cutter Inn, our agreed rendez-vous, to das Boot, but Older Nephew suggested we walk to the station in case Celia got lost. We stopped MasterB from taking a spell of shore leave, locked up and strolled by the water.

Scoping out the marina

A train that wasn't Celia's arrived from Cambridge and I recognised one of the passengers who got off. So the three of us were deep in chat when I saw a familiar figure walk swiftly past us. Celia! I said, and made the introductions.

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Blogsy be Kind

Will Blogsy be kind tonight? I don't know. I hope so, but the internet signal goes from weak to disappeared so maybe not.

For the record, it's Saturday night. I am sitting in the forecabin with a blanket over my legs and I am warm and cosy. MasterB is on the bed where he has spent most of the day after being extraordinarily vocal for extraordinarily long amounts of time during the night.

I slept in once he allowed me to sleep at all.

He has had shore leave, two lots in fact. One he decided quite quickly he wanted to get back on board, the other he was looking increasingly confident, had just dug a shallow hole and squatted down when a couple approached from the far end of the marina. I thought they were heading for a car, but no they continued towards us, presumably going to the pub a mile or so away. MasterB lowered himself to his belly and scuttled back to the boat and the indoor facilities.

Earlier I went to the organic farm and bought some salad. There wasn't much in the shop. An architect called Colin who I met in the car park explained the lack of rain has held growth back. He started the conversation by asking me if I came there often, a cliché so hackneyed I wasn't sure what he meant. It turns out he helps at the farm once a week and is married. By some curious chemistry we quickly devined each other as non Tory Remainers. That's how I came to stand in the April sunshine for a good thirty minutes clutching the money I still owed to the shop's honesty box while we agreed on almost everything. There was a sticky moment when he asked if the Daily Mail was my newspaper. To dignify the Mail by calling it a newspaper is several steps too far in my book.

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