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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Marina Evening

My recycling bag after a few days at das Boot suggests Bacchanalian evenings, and massive fruit consumption. The fruit consumption would be about right. I was reading and nibbling at a newly washed bunch of grapes this evening, only to realise suddenly I had eaten the lot. The impressive number of empty wine bottles is rather more deceptive. I brought two almost empty ones from London. Or rather one almost empty one (it turned out to have barely enough to cover the bottom of the glass), and one somewhat less than half full. Those are the two empties in the recycling. Then there are two lager cans, so I feel quite justified in quaffing a glass of Chianti tonight, toasting the evening and das Boot, wishing I could stay on and didn't have to return home tomorrow.

Geese are flying overhead in a V formation, noisily talking as they go. The cuckoo has stopped singing. But the swifts and swallows are swooping about, grazing the surface of the water, munching the numerous insects. The light is fading from the sky, leaving streaks of pale blue and silver tinged with pink. Only three weeks to mid summer and the evening is long and warm.

I'd post pictures, but Blogsy seems strangely reluctant to allow them, so it's all prose when afloat until I can work out what that's about. I'll try including one that has seen the light of blog before and see if that works.

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Lost on the Surrey/Sussex Borders

So far 2017 seems to be The Year of Not Blogging, but hopefully that will change. It is also the year when language comes under fresh assaults from people who call lies alternative truths.

But let’s draw a veil over the last few days and think of something else, something that reminds me why the world is somewhere I still enjoy, and why I think it’s worth fighting to protect.

As I said in my last post over a week ago, Celia and I went on a ramble and as it was the anniversary of Aunt’s death, we thought we could call it Auntie Mary’s Walk. Just one problem: we’re not entirely sure where we went. Celia and I have yet to go on a ramble where we don’t get lost.

At this point I’m pretty sure we were on the right track.

Hedgehog Lane

Hedgehog Lane

Postbox and Black Cat

Postbox and Black Cat

This wasn’t the route we were following, but it ran alongside ours for a while.

Fancy a Pint?

Fancy a Pint?

In retrospect, perhaps we should have followed it, as we never did reach the pub. As the pubs we have planned to eat at in the past have invariably been closed or no longer serving food, lunch has been the point where we have deviated from our planned route and ended up somewhere we did not expect to be. This time, although Celia called the pub and confirmed they were indeed still open and sold hot meals, I announced that given our track record, I intended to take soup with me. It was this (deserved) lack of faith that prompted Celia to go to Stanfords and buy a map. Though she did bring sandwiches.

We got lost quite early on, but were rescued by a woman walking a rather lovely Golden Retriever called Bingo. Naturally I do not know the woman’s name. She set us on the right direction and off we went. Given that we passed most of the things she told us to look out for, I don’t understand how we found ourselves at the wrong end of the map.

However by that time we had been thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The fields and ditches were covered in a dusting of snow.

A Dusting of Snow

A Dusting of Snow

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First Anniversary

This Saturday will be the 14th January. I understand that on the other side of the pond the floss-haired one will be inaugurated as President of the United States, something that strikes me as a being a joke too far, as well as being a jolly disrespectful thing to do on the first anniversary of Aunt’s death.

Or so I thought, but Lyn has just emailed me to say it’s the 20th, not 14th, so goodness knows where I got that idea from.

 

Auntie Mary october 2015

Auntie Mary October 2015

I meet quite a few Americans through my work. I have yet to meet one who says (confesses?) s/he voted for Trump, which may be significant in itself as I am meeting those who travel away from their home country, and I know a large number of US citizens never acquire or use passports.

A woman today, I’ll call her Jane, told me she is returning on Saturday, and marching on Sunday as a Nasty Woman who is not going to be quiet. She won’t be alone; just her party comprises two busloads of similarly nasty women. She cheered my heart. Continue reading

Welcome to Londonistan

No surprise to learn I am here because MasterB is enjoying Outside Time.

The last two mornings he has woken me up at five and asked (loudly) to go out. This is exactly what Cat used to do. It worked well with Cat and it has worked well with MasterB this weekend as I have been out most of each day, and I am glad to know he has enjoyed himself in the early morning light. It also works as I fall asleep as soon as I get back into bed.

Aunt’s obit appeared in a national newspaper this weekend. I was a bit surprised to learn it has been online for month. A friend emailed me tonight to say she had read it. She described it as ‘lovely’, which pleased me, as a) Aunt was lovely and b) I wrote it. Nearly four months since Aunt died. I hope others who didn’t know her and who don’t know me will read it and marvel at her resilience. The editor at the paper was full of admiration for her. She emailed me several times to ask for more information about Aunt. I like the thought that Aunt’s life may be an inspiration others.

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30th April 2016, Captain’s Log

My watch strap has broken. OK, not exactly the end of the world, but very annoying, and a reminder of how much I rely on being able to glance at my wrist and know what time it is. A bit more annoying as I only bought the watch strap a week ago. I'm thinking about my bed and wondering if !MasterB will settle. He's not exactly had a lot of exercise today, though earlier this evening we played for a while and then I turned all the lights out so he could sit on my knee and look out at the ducks swimming beside us and the geese flying overhead. Celia may come tomorrow, and if she does, she has offered to look in my flat for his harness and bring it with her.

 

It's cool now after a warm, sunny day. Well, warm after the winds that were gusting first thing had calmed down. Cosy on das Boot, I had woken feeling too warm. That was the second time I woke. The first time was when Himself was vocally reminding me he had not had enough to eat. I did, for a nanosecond consider getting up then. It was as dawn was breaking, and I understand that otters are swimming the river then. If it had been a simple matter of strolling down to the river bank, being immediately rewarded by the sight of frolicking otters and then returning to bed, I'd have done it. But I think it's more of a wait in the cold light of a new day and hope.

 

I heard a cuckoo this afternoon. It seems to me I always hear my first cuckoo of the year when I am at the marina. I had to leave das Boot to get a newspaper. The nearest newsagents is at Burwell. I have been there lots of times. Somewhere I read that it is the largest village in East Anglia. Until today I had thought I knew its extent. But I decided on a different route back, turning left instead of right, then a series of right turns to bring me back to a familiar road, and Burwell stretched away and far beyond where I thought its boundaries lay. I passed a building advertising freshly laid eggs and homemade chutneys. I noted it for times when the hen lady has run out of eggs.

 

My morning drive took me through Reach where I dropped off several bags of used cat litter and found the recycling bank. At the Organic Farm I bought tomato plants and a second hand copy of a Len Deighton novel I read in the 80s, a bunch of yellow tulips that had been reduced to 50p because they were already open. They opened further in the warmth of the car, and are now boldly splendid in the blue and white striped vase Mother bought from the Oxfam shop. It was intended as a present, but she started using it, as indeed she did all the other things she bought that day. At the time I was puzzled. In retrospect, I realise it was one of the signs of her entry to dementia.

 

I was wearing Aunt's body warmer, and realised I was in the local uniform of the horsey community. There's a fair at Reach every May Day Bank Holiday, and the death defying rides, tooth rotting sweet stalls and all the rest of the paraphernalia is being set up.

 

Back at the marina, Ian was working on his boat. He and his wife Jackie have become people I look forward to seeing when I come east. They are warm, unpretentious, generous. True to form, Ian checked out the engine of das Boot. I have been worried as when we ran it a few weeks back no water came through, meaning it wasn't sucking up water from the river to cool the engine. He fixed it in a trice. The pump needed to be primed. Phew.

 

I spent the rest of the day being alternately active and lazy. I finished listening to a not very good story while digging horrible muck out of the window frames. I sat in the sunny fore cabin and read the paper. I considered the filthy exterior of the port side of the boat and wished I had got the water pump and hose out after lunch. Hence the plans for tomorrow morning if it's warm enough.

 

Unusually for me I have taken hardly any photographs, though I have my good camera and all my lenses. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next time. I don't know how many more seasons I shall have das Boot, but if I can manage it, I shall be here quite a lot this summer.

Pictures to Follow

The grebes are nesting, but not next to das Boot. This year they have chosen a spot on the river. I watched them busy collecting material. It seems much noisier spot than in the marina, but I suppose most grebes don’t have the luxury of off river facilities. I took some pictures, but it don’t know they show more than vague outlines.

I forgot MasterB’s harness so he can’t have shoreleave, and this time he seems rather keen. I’ve been playing with him, but it can’t be as interesting as the smells he’d have found out on a walk. Indoor cats must miss out on a lot.

 

The forecast has been so dire I nearly didn’t come. But in my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to be here and if there was a chance the weather might be kind, I would come. So there I was this morning, still vacillating, but at the back of my mind choosing the things I would pack. Pity I forgot the harness. Maybe if it’s quiet tomorrow morning I’ll risk taking him ashore and letting him run free. Not if it’s windy though. I don’t want any accidents when he gets back in board.

 

The journey east was varied. We left in sunshine, drove through hail with winds that swept the rain sideways across the roads. Pedestrians in Stratford outlined by garments wrapped round them. Then more sunshine; winds that chased clouds across impossibly blue skies; scatters of raindrops.

 

There were roadworks. There are always roadworks in spring. One lot had us crawling several miles until we were clear. I stopped at a petrol station and filled the tank.

 

Near the start of the undulating road across the fens that leads to the marina I nabbed half a dozen eggs from the nice egg lady. The road seems even more undulating than a week ago. Mary and her two uncontrolled but beautiful Labradors was here. They ignored her commands and jumped up at me. MasterB, so had been quiet and accepting most of the journey began to cry plaintively as I emptied the car. I wanted to get the bed made before he came aboard. When I let him out of his box, he made big eyes and sniffed everywhere before taking refuge under a pillow.

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Mixed Emotions

I am aboard das Boot on a spring evening. I came here this afternoon, after a later start than planned, but I had been weeping over the tributes to Victoria Wood, then my nice neighbour Lawrence was helping connect my television to the internet.

I have a strong suspicion that Victoria Wood’s fame never crossed the Atlantic. In my adult life her writing and performances have been a continued pleasure. I believe sometime in the past I posted a link to her singing one of her many compositions, Let’s Do It. Check it on YouTube and you may understand what you have missed if her name is new to you.

Although I came up to das Boot a couple of weeks ago, I came by train, and met Brian who has been doing some work on my neglected vessel at the station before coming here in his car. Today was the first time I have driven East since Aunt’s funeral, and the first time I think I have ever stayed here without calling her. I want to tell her that the Great Crested Grebes are around and I am crossing my fingers they will again nest near das Boot; that there are new born lambs in the field next door, and pairs of ducks swimming about the marina; that I saw bluebells in the roadside woods, and stray tulips posing as wild flowers on the verge.

My visit is brief. I shall go home tomorrow. Last time I was here I realised the while. Brian has making the necessary improvements the boat’s interior has filled with dust. Like every man who has ever worked on das Boot, Brian does not share my philosophy regarding dust sheets. Whenever I leave, I cover the soft furnishings and the mattress, put bedding into zipped bags, with the aim of reducing the amount of spider poo and other unwelcome additions to them. Brian has removed the dust covers, folded them neatly, and not replaced them. What is it about dust covers that men don’t understand? Continue reading

State of Mind

I see that this week’s photo challenge is State of Mind, and that the person setting it has commented that the photos we take often reflect the state of mind we are in. I’d agree with that. I think we are often drawn to images in art galleries that speak to us in a very personal way, and it makes semse to me that I am similarly drawn to take pictures of things that either reflect where I am at the moment or which feed a particular need. But not always.

These pictures for instance were because I was alarmed by the funghi on the cherry tree. I ahve sent copies to the people who maintain the garden but so far not had a response. I’m hoping it’s harmless, but if you knwo anything about it, please laeve a comment.

So I probably shan’t be taking part in this week’s challenge. Continue reading