School Days

Sunday already, a week has gone by since I last posted and now it’s all a bit of a blur, probably because I have one had cold after another and my brain is befugged. Off the top of my head there’s been book group, another terror attack in London, low temperatures, MasterB very reluctant to go outside and hissing at Hartley who only wants to be friends, and mainly friends with me at that, BoJo reviving the £350 million to the NHS – if only – and Theresa May blah blahing.

I have been fed up with WordPress because it has been crashing whenever I have tried to upload pictures when I have used the version of the editor I like (this one) and not the new-fangled one that I find annoying. I have now, on the advice of the happiness team, removed my cache (aka my browsing history, not some illicit stash of arms) so we shall see.

Ooh, something exciting did happen. Well, exciting to me in any case. Though to be honest it didn’t seem very exciting at the outset. Stuffed into a drawer I had some old bits of school uniform, from two schools actually, primary and secondary. I still have the primary school bits but I am hopeful they may soon find a new home.

A year or so ago, via Twitter, I made contact with a member of staff at my old secondary school. We exchanged a few messages and I said I had the uniform bits and some exercise books, would the school be interested? Yes, she said, and then things lapsed. Over the summer I contacted the school directly, having forgotten the name of the Twitter person, and so on Wednesday, while on a trip to Guildford to visit the dentist, I made a detour up the Farnham Road to what is still the Guildford County School in name, but a very different beast from the institution I attended from the age of eleven. For starters there are boys, for seconds it is a comprehensive.

Oh the memories. As I reached Guildford Park Road I remembered the Chinese take away called the Bamboo Garden. I looked right and behold! there it was still.

Bamboo Garden

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Sunday Miscellany

I am, as is often the case, still up because MasterB is enjoying some Outside Time. His Outside Time makes me feel increasingly that to move somewhere with a catflap and private garden, however small, would significantly improve the quality of his life. And  mine. Hartley and Smudge, the two black and white fur balls are also outside in our garden. Hartley is very friendly to me and would be friendly to MasterB, but the objet of his affection is playing Hard to Get. Actually, I think Hartley is looking for a new home where he would gets lots of love and attention. I don’t think it’s my home, but I wish him luck.

As I have heard nothing to the contrary, I believe Ann is still alive. Ridiculous, but I can’t help feeling if she has made it through the weekend she might still surprise everyone and rise again from her sick bed.

Octavia has been looking for talcum powder and not finding it. Since she said this I have seen talcum powder on sale everywhere. There is a mystery here I am not sure I am qualified to solve. Continue reading

A Good Day Out in Chatham

My first impressions of Chatham made me regret not booking an earlier return train. It had every indication of poverty; so many shops with pound in the name, pasty faced people in cheap clothes, once fine buildings now unkempt and scruffy. Although Dickens spent his early life here, there was no obvious allusion of him, though I did find this rather wonderful statue of Waghorn.

Thomas Waghorn

I admit I had never heard of him, but his statue was arresting and Wiki filled in some of the blanks. Around the statue were railings with a trident theme.


A nice touch I thought.
I was less convinced by the fact that the smartest building by miles was an ex Post Office now Weatherspoon’s pub bearing his name.From Post Office From Post Office[/caption]


to pub

There were bits of ordnance and naval wotnot scattered about the town, presumably to remind the inhabitants of its past status.


Grand gates

But the present and the future looked pretty grim.

It probably didn’t help that it was raining. After days of blue skies and warm temperatures the clouds were a uniform battleship grey. Before I had walked through the town I had almost resolved to leave Chatham after lunch, walk the few miles to Rochester and spend the afternoon there. Fort Amherts did nothing to make me change my mind. It may be one of the most important forts left from the Napoleonic Wars, but it had a neglected air, and when I walked into the cafeteria/reception not one of the three staff there bothered to smile or say hello.

The statue of Lord Kitchener outside was very grand, so I photographed it and continued along the path, following the signs to the historic docks. As luck would have it I stayed on the wrong side of the road, and so I could see the very grand entrance to the docks, but not access it. It was a hundred yards or so before I could cross, and saw a sign telling me to continue along the path in the direction I had been heading to the entrance. I walked on, thinking about other things. The signage started to improve. There were signs to St Mary’s Island. I had never heard of it, but it sounded interesting. Next I noticed the buildings around me looked smarter, more loved than in the town, and realised I was heading into the area where the non-nabla docks had been. Outlet stores. Oh well. Then I saw boats. A marina.Amazing how it lifted the heart. My pace quickened. We were on the Medway, but close to the sea, so these boats had that salty look the boats at my marina quite lack. There was a road bridge over the Medway that had been officially opened by Princess Anne and more signs to St Mary’s Island. I strode on. Disappointment hit when I realised St Mary’s Island is a new housing estate. At least that’s what it is now. What it was in the past remains for me a mystery.

The Outlet Stores were busy. There is something quite depressing about the way shopping has become so much of a hobby. Still, there were cranes and architecture that hinted at different preoccupations.

Finally I found the entrance to the Dockyards themselves. I don’t quite know what i had been expecting after the disappointment of the town, but I am happy say that Chatham’s Historic Docks far exceeded my expectations. I never did get to Rochester, and I did find a house near the station with a plaque saying it was the young Dickens had lived. A tour of a nuclear submarine, HMS Ocelot, was fascinating. The guide was informative and relaxed, dealing well with a young enthusiast who had obviously done the tour several times before and was keen to share what he remembered. A collection of lifeboats with pictures of crews and details of rescues was salutary. The rain continued to fall. All around there were pieces of engineering equipment whose purpose I couldn’t even begin to guess at. The site is extensive and I started to get a real feel of how it had functioned as a enclosed community. This is where the Temeraire was built, the Victory too. We often talk about places being steeped in history. This place is where the steeping happens.

I’d have enjoyed the tour of the Ropery better with a different guide. He was playing a part, but still struck me as more than a little misogynistic. None of the children in the group I was in was female, but I’d bet fairly freely that he’d have favoured the boys for questions and participation had there been.

In the end I hurried back to the station, fearful I would miss my train. In fact I was early which is how and why I found Dickens’ house.

It was a good day out.

Of Margaret Atwood, the Arts, and Why Both are Vital

Margaret Atwood is often described as a difficult interviewee; an intimidating writer of great intellect who can be openly disdainful of a luckless interviewer. She doesn’t play the game, the game that most play when invited onto chat shows or whatever when they have something to promote. I can only think she likes Alan Yentob. He evidently likes her. The result was a fabulous interview broadcast on Monday night but only watched by me this evening.

I’m not sure how I came across Atwood. I know it was in the 80s, and it wasn’t because of The Handmaid’s Tale, though I read that later. I think it was probably that she was published by Virago. Feminism and feminist literature were (and still are) very important to me for a mixture of reasons, one of which being a relationship that fortunately ended with a man with whom I am now mystified why I spent more than five minutes. Make that seconds. Or nano-seconds. So authors published by Virago, or the Woman’s Press – motto: Steaming ahead! complete with a sketch of a steam iron – had a particular attraction. Continue reading

A Few Pictures from das Boot

Summer is having a late flowering here in the UK with sunny warm days, even today, a Bank Holiday, normally an appeal the heavy rain gods can’t resist. Across the pond, Hurricane Harvey, who sounds suspiciously like a particularly driven snooker champion, has brought heavy rain to Houston. It’s all very alliterative. The electricity is still working, as is the internet. I know this as I have been exchanging emails with my friend Sue who loves in Houston. I gather she is holed up with dog, cat and a load of junk food she bought for a poker game that had to be cancelled. I have just finished rereading Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver, so these indications of climate crisis and how determined some of us are to ignore or dismiss how our behaviours are contributing to extremes of weather feels very pertinent.

Yesterday Celia and I met up for a walk around a near neighbourhood we don’t know followed by lunch at Dulwich Picture Gallery and a visit to the exhibition of watercolours by John Singer Sargent. They are amazing. I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t this. Go if you can. My work today took me to Greenwich. On the bus back there people on their way to carnival at Notting Hill. There was a strong feeling of London being on holiday, but of course Notting Hill Carnival is in the shadow of Grenfell Tower, and the survivors and victims of that horror have been remembered and respected in this year’s carnival. Joy and sorrow coexist. Human beings are remarkable in being able to feel more than one emotion at a time.

I’m wondering if I can get back to das Boot on Sunday. If the warm weather persists I shall certainly try. On Wednesday I am heading for chatham for the day, so before I fill my camera with pictures of dockyards and Dickens memorabilia, i think I should share some of the photographs i took when I was last east.

Pontoon and mat

At the window

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Petersfield Circular

You might think, having been unable to take photographs during the Three Generations Boat Ride as I had not checked that my camera battery was charged, that I might learn from my mistake. But no. Same error different day, different camera.

My cousin Russell and I had agreed to meet up on 25th August for a walk. Initially we were thinking of Dungeness, but it’s a pig to get to by public transport from London (though why I should bad mouth pigs I don’t know; I am pretty fond of them as farm animals as it goes) and equally awkward from where Russell lives in Hampshire.

Rather late in the day, i.e. just before bedtime 24th, we spoke, and R proposed a circular walk from Petersfield. The train journey suited and so it was agreed with R assuring me there was a pub for lunch en route.

Now back in my pre-teen days I did my first ever sponsored walk for Shelter, or possibly Oxfam, between Petersfield and Godalming. I stopped two miles short of the twenty mile goal with feet covered in blisters. I am not sure I have ever returned to Petersfield.

It’s very couth. When you leave the station the first building in front of you is a business catering for equine and country interests. There’s a book swap/exchange in the station. A station which consists of just two platforms but has toilets.

Russell was there to meet me, and the texts we had exchanged when I was on the train suggested he was less confident about the pub, so had double rations with him for our lunch. I had a bottle of water and a small bag of salted popcorn. In Petersfield I added a couple of bananas, three gorgeous apples and a peach to these, but the peach and one of the apples I had eaten before we even got to the starting point.

Starting Point, Petersfield.

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Pictures from the Marina of My Beautiful Boy

While I loved seeing some of my near relations at das Boot. It was very nice to be alone with MasterB when they left. He had not really socialised, spending most of the time we had company hidden under a pillow in the aft cabin.

But with few people at the marina, he enjoyed some shore leave. While he gets scared very easily by passing vessels or near voices, when it is quiet he has a courage and sense of adventure that scares the living daylights out of me.
One or more of these pictures will I hope appear in the 2018 Ginger Ninja Calendar. As it is nearly September I should be putting it together soon, so shout if you have particular favourites.

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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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