Pest Laid Plans

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.

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Lessons From History: Tourism and Trump

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.

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Of My Australian Trip, MasterB and a Day on das Boot

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

Heron taking off

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Of Trains, Boats, Brexit, Bombing and Neanderthal Attitudes

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

Out of Reach

It's a rule of fruit picking that the best fruit is either too high or protected by nettles and brambles. Still, it's that time of year when the blackberries are ripening and high on my list for this morning was to go a-gathering in Reach.

I've written about Reach before. It's a village near das Boot with a perfect pub and a perfect organic farm. Most of my blackberry gathering over the last four summers has taken place there. Not all the berries were ripe. Some were still at the flowering stage, so should I get back within the next month or so there's a good chance I shall get a second crop.

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Wednesday Postscript

I don’t mean to rub it in but I shall be afloat again tomorrow. If it helps, I can go because I do not have any work, and work equals income, until Monday.

Not my boat

Not my boat


I didn’t mean to post twice tonight, but MasterB is outside, I have finished The Tidal Zone, and I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to clear some space in my laptop’s memory. I’m hoping the next book group book will be delivered before I leave. It’s Jane Gardam’s The Queen of the Tambourine which I thought I had, but if I do it’s buried deep in the bookshelves. The library doesn’t have it, so I ordered a second hand copy from AbeBooks. My idea is to sit on das Boot and read it.

Night is falling earlier. It’s an unwelcome reminder that bare-toed days are numbered. We are two months past the longest day so just four months off the longest night. Grabbing time at das Boot before the temperatures drop is a priority. I shan’t venture far; some short walks locally, maybe drive to Reach and the organic farm.

local landscape

local landscape


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Restored Confidence

It seems I am not the only one to find a few days in the country at das Boot beneficial. MasterB has been having a hard time of it lately with his territory invaded by half a dozen new cats on the block. He’s not a natural fighter, quite unlike Cat who gave any would be intruders short shrift and enjoyed a good show of aggression and some claws out action.

So the Ginger Ninja has been intimidated into using the indoor facilities, has had second, third yea even unto sixth thoughts about going out and enjoying his demesne these warm summer evenings.

But after three days and two nights at das Boot, he has come back a different cat. Maybe all that snoozing on the ropes gave him time to reassess the situation and decide he could cope with it after all.

On the ropes

On the ropes

Or maybe it was watching the swans as they swam close to das Boot and made blatant requests for handouts that strengthened his nerve.

Swan

Swan

Maybe it was vapour trails through the blue skies that lifted his heart.

Vapour trail

Vapour trail

Or the views across the fenland during the day.

Viewing the day

Viewing the day

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Perfect Tuesday

Just on four o’clock and as I don’t drink tea I decided to open one of my cans of weak lager. MasterB is stretched out on the bed, sleeping his way through the heat of the afternoon. I’d post pictures of him and the surrounding farmland, but for some reason my camera and my tablet are not talking. He’s a seasoned boat cat these days; he’s been coming here for five years now, the first time the day after he was neutered, which was also the day of the Royal Wedding. He’s had three lots of shore leave, though this morning’s was very short. Although eager to check out the world beyond the gunwale, he swiftly had second thoughts and opted to come aboard again after less than five minutes.

When I woke up I discovered he had been playing with the feathered toy in the night. I had hidden it away as I don’t want him to choke on it. He is getting too clever at winkling it out if the hiding places.

The morning was spent washing the boat. It is not yet finished, but I have done a good job on the starboard side and the roof. Unfortunately these are the areas where I always do a good job; the port side has green algae of at least two seasons on it. My excuse last year was that I was just getting down to work when with the hose and water pump when I realised the window seals were inadequate and water was pouring into the interior. My excuse today, when I eschewed the electrics and instead used mop, new broom which distressingly shed its bristles with abandon, and old toothbrush, is that older Nephew was coming for lunch and I needed to be showered and have said lunch ready to eat when he arrived. So shortly after eleven, when I had been diligently mopping and rinsing, scrubbing and mopping again for over two hours, I propped the mop in the flagpole holder, lined the broom up beside the landing net (which is not for fishing but in case MasterB falls in) and headed for the shower. Oddly, I was quite sad to curtail my cleaning efforts. Continue reading

Saturday

Before I left for work this morning I emptied, cleaned and replenished the litter tray twice. MasterB had had a pee sometime in the night, so I bagged that up before breakfast, washed my hands and made my coffee and toast.

While I showered, MasterB joined me in the bathroom and evacuated his bowels. I opened the window wider and wondered if this was an experience familiar to Mark Twain, Albert Camus or other famous cat lovers. I don’t recall any scenes in L’Étranger where the protagonist interrupts his introspection to bag up cat poo.

There are moments when I feel my life lacks glamour.

I also wrote a little list for myself, cryptic reminders for things I want to get done over the next few days; bathroom shelf, bolt, catfood – sachets and biscuits, invoice TG, bottles and jars, bolt and drill. I examined the tomatoes but didn’t photograph them. That had to wait until this evening.

They are doing well, and the flowers give promise of more to come. One of the coantiners has four plants supported by a wigwam of canes. This was working well until I went to Ireland. I suspect underwatering dried out the compost and the cans became wobbly. Now the tomato plants show a distressing tendancy to fall over at any provocation. I have just rescued an orphaned green tomato untimely ripped from its moorings by one of these falls.

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