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.
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
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.
Stepped out of the cabin
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
What’s in the water?
Checking out the lie of the water
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.
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.
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.
I know; I don't blog for days then suddenly you can't stop me. Tonight I am at das Boot. I'll stay until Tuesday, maybe Wednesday if I have enough clean clothes. I've checked the number of contact lenses I have but not my socks.
Tonight when I stood watching the swans and geese in the adjoining field and MasterB sniffing at a lavender bush, content ed and relaxed until another boater called out to a friend and he slunk back to the pontoon and on board, I thought it was our little bit of heaven. Then a moment ago, Himself came and climbed on me, touched my nose with his, purred and then settle to look at the night and things I cannot see, and I realised that much as I love das Boot, it is just a boat unless MasterB is here; then we are captain and mate, happy in our little floating home for home.
I met up with Sophie Scott in London a few days ago. She's a fellow blogger who has rather fallen by the wayside. She first commented on my blog several years ago, maybe six or seven years, at this time of year, my birthday, and I read her words sitting where I am now, in the fore cabin of das Boot. She is one of several bloggers I have met, and probably the one who is most intimately acquainted with the tough time I was having for several years. Years when blogging took on a greater personal significance. Years when blogging and photography were means to achieve balance in my life. Continue reading
Twilight falling and I am on a fast train back to London. We pass fields of flowering rapeseed, the acidic yellow of the blooms a sharp contrast with the deep greens and mid browns of the neighbouring fields. There are well-tended allotments with scarecrows, strips of coloured plastic, and old CDs twirling in the wind; rows of terraced houses, semi-detached houses, large villas with surround sound gardens. There are sheep in the fields, some with lambs, some without. The flat landscape is occasionally interrupted by a slight rise, topped with a small copse of trees. The sky is blue with soft looking clouds the colour of the cherry blossom so prevalent just now. There’s a farmhouse, with collie dog lying at the door, then a man circling a field on a tractor. A benign version of England spreads out as far as my eyes can see.
I have been at das Boot with Older Nephew. He met me outside the station at Cambridge, and dropped me back there in time for this train. We spent the day afloat de winterising, cleaning, checking the bilges and running the engine. There had been visitors over the winter: mice, evidenced by numerous droppings. They had nibbled my J cloths, shredded newspaper left ready to line the litter tray, chewed through plastic bin liners and attacked the foil around the neck of a bottle of cava. Before we could eat I had to boil water and wash plates, knives, forks and saucepans. There was poo in the cutlery drawer, in an empty vase, in the sink, in one cupboard under the sink, but not the other.
I woke early this morning and remembered Trump had won the Presidential election. Further sleep was impossible. The television has been turned on in the room on other side of the wall behind my head, so I guess I am not the only one feeling a horrified fascination with the result.
We got an intimation of how it was going yesterday lunchtime at Federation Square where Vcki and I had headed via a boat that looked remarkably like das Boot, only quite a bit bigger.
There was a screen at the square, and the subtitles were reporting gains for Trump. We watched, appalled, for a few minutes, hoped it was wrong, and headed off on Trail 7, Victorian Melbourne. We moved swiftly from the big riverside buildings to homes that have been through cycles of varying status.
It maybe an evolutionary safety device to help us hold onto our sanity in the face of the unthinkable that allows us to inhabit several planes of thought at once.
I love the lace decorations on the older houses in Melbourne, and yesterday’s walk was full of them.
Bar a rather late contribution to a photo challenge (I am always amazed at how some people apologise for their ‘lateness’ less than twenty-four hours after the challenge is announced) it feels as though I have been an absentee blogger and bloggee, or whatever the right word is for someone who reads blogs, for a long time. Oh only just over a week? Well, there you go.
The lovely Romeo has injured his leg and is confined to quarters, so MasterB, who has been refusing to go outside unless I am right beside him armed with my Super Soaker, is being bravely independent and has let me know my hovering is de trop. Therefore I am indoors, impatient to go to bed, but happy My Boy is feeling confident in His Own Garden.
The countdown to my Australian adventure has begun. I have been making lists of lists. I thought I was being over organised when I tried to sort my currency last week, only to be told I should have allowed a month. Fingers crossed I am not reduced to begging. Every day I tell MasterB I shall be back before Christmas, that although I shall not be with him that does not mean I do not love him. I am secretly worried that when I get home he will look at me and say, “I live with B&J now. See you around.”
I don’t want him to be unhappy while I am away, to pine, but I do want him to be thrilled to see me when I get home. Is that too much?
Older Nephew is going to complete the boat winterising. I love das Boot but I am not a good boat owner. I wonder if I should give it to Older Nephew now. Should I pop my clogs he would inherit it. I have no intention of popping my clogs just yet.
We had such a lovely time on the river. There was no other traffic. Lots of birds, especially grebes, which I thought were supposed to be rare, but obviously not on the Cam. Lots of herons.
Heron taking off
My short ride to the mainline station turned into a slow crawl across the capital. In theory, taking a train should have meant a fourteen minute journey that circumvented the clogged roads at rush hour. The driver kept as informed with a practised and resigned calm; red lights delaying our arrival at Blackfriars; a train ahead with technical problems preventing us from reaching Farringdon. I had expected to have time to kill at King’s Cross, maybe buy a coffee, admire the roof for the nth time. Instead I raced over the road from St Pancras International, found my train on the departure board, wove through the crowds and made it with just two minutes to spare.
Older Nephew is meeting me I hope at Cambridge station. We’re off to winterise das Boot, which means going to the pump out at Ely and probably lunching in a pub there, returning to the marina, emptying the water tank and adding anti-freeze to the engine. I’m hoping it’s more relaxing than the first part of the journey.
We shall doubtless talk Brexit and Trump. Now, most of you will be aware that there was a referendum in June over whether to stay in or leave the EU. I, like 48% of those who voted, wanted to remain. The question was a simple stay or leave. But somehow the government led by the redoubtable Theresa May, has decided that parliament should have no say in the niceties of how we leave the EU, what our leavetaking should be. No, she says, there will not be a discussion along the way, The Country Has Spoken and we must respect that decision. OK, fair enough, it was a slender majority, but it was a majority and much as I should prefer to remain an EU citizen to the end of my days, I reluctantly accept that is not to be. But people did not vote on immigration. Or if they did, they were answering a different question to the one asked. They did not vote on remaining in or out if the single market; on freedom of movement or pan-European health care. Some people will have voted so the 350 million pounds claimed by the leave campaign could go to our beleaguered and beloved NHS. Funny how that money does not seem to play any part in the post Brexit world. Instead leading Conservatives are talking about stopping foreigners taking ‘our’ jobs. The proposal by Amber Rudd that businesses should report on how many foreign passport holders work for them was roundly denounced and dropped amid assurances that we had misunderstood. The fact that this was background to my reading of The Hare With Amber Eyes made it all the more sinister for me. If you don’t know the book I urge you to read it. Aunt Nessa, who died nearly two years ago, sent it to me and it has sat on my shelves until now, a little bit of unsuspected golden treasure. It’s a memoir by Edmund de Waal, a ceramicist based in London. He is descended from a banking family. A Jewish banking family. The hare in the title is a netsuke, one of a collection made by his ancestor Charles Ephrussi in the nineteenth century. Continue reading