The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th September 2020

I should sleep well tonight. This morning I scrubbed the foredeck and then parts of the port gunwale until my spine ached from nape to lower back. I have no doubt I shifted a lot of dirt, the water in my bucket turned a muddy brown and there was great deal of sluicing to be done to see the results. They were good, but not as good as I’d wanted. My mop decided this was all too much and fell apart. After washing down the top and sides of the boat I did the windows inside and out again, inexpertly as I could see later, but a job that needs repeating often. My neighbours, who had spent a relaxing morning as the day warmed up, set off for Waterbeach and I walked crab like to the tap to rinse my waterproof trousers and my cleaning cloths. Then a hot shower. That did much to restore me and I realised I was hungry, too hungry to drive to Reach, order food and wait for it to be served. I had a lovely lunch on das Boot, and was just finishing when I noticed a kingfisher had landed just by the boat. I sat mesmerised by its closeness and compact perfection, then it flew away. I didn’t see where it went, but maybe if I’m lucky I’ll see it again before I leave tomorrow.

Washing up done, MasterB asleep under the rug in the fore cabin, I went to Reach to pick blackberries and sloes. Then onto the farm shop where (hurrah!) they had salad. Just one bag so I bought it and then went slightly wild buying fresh chard, a bunch of azaleas, a bag of new potatoes as well as some mammoth beetroot and a delicate thyme plant for B&J. Driving back to das Boot I was aware how much I had slowed down and was enjoying the rhythm of the day. On the road, I passed teenage girls riding their ponies, any number of cyclists, mainly adult and in twos and threes. It seemed a good way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon in September.

Cherry, from the neighbouring boat, and I had been wondering about Mr Handsome as we hadn’t seen him. He turned up this evening. I am so glad he’s not on anyone’s plate, though I suppose that is his inevitable fate. It won’t be my plate, but that’s not much of a comfort. Unusually he did not come over to say hello. Maybe he has learned the horrid truth about human beings. He is just as handsome as ever, and, I think, quite a big bigger.

Mr Handsome and Friend having a paddle

Mr Handsome gets up while his lady friend remains in the water

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th September 2020

There were watermelons at the organic farm today so I bought one. I haven’t cut into it. It’s in the boot of the car and I shall take it home intact. The fridge on das Boot is not much bigger than a sheet of A3 paper, and I already have quite a lot of fresh food in it. Making sure it doesn’t go off means I have been eating very well, though having established that the pub at Reach is now properly open for business I am tempted to go there for lunch tomorrow before I start my sloe and blackberry picking in the afternoon.

I had a short stroll around the marina, admiring some boats and noting the absence of others who have either been sold or moved to new moorings elsewhere.

Jolly yellow boat

The countryside around is flat. It’s one of the things the fens are famous for.

Flat as far as the eye can see

Bare fields

MasterB has had two walks ashore. The first this morning as the day warmed up, the second this evening. Given that the weather is gorgeous though autumnal, I expected lots of people to arrive this evening. They didn’t. So tonight’s walk was an unexpected bonus, and achieved just in time as, having had a very long pee (yes!!) and spent almost as long covering it up, MasterB looked about, evidently considering his options and a car turned into the marina. I watched it drive the length of the track and guessed correctly it was our neighbours who have the boat the other side of the pontoon.

Boats

MasterB has been gradually become braver about people and cars at the marina, but the likelihood of him having a panic when he saw people walking towards him was high, so I made the choice for him, lifted him up and popped him through the window of das Boot. He was quite calm while I took his harness off, but when the footsteps crunched on the shingle close by and the pontoon began to rock he displayed his disquiet by growling and sinking his belly to the floor. He didn’t rush to hide though, and that in itself is progress. The light was already fading while we were ashore, so there has been no socialising between our two vessels, and I am guessing they will set off somewhere early in the morning. I needed to cook my supper,* so I drew curtains, popped a CD into the player and poured a glass of wine. MasterB remained crouched on the floor until I lifted him onto the bed. He looks pretty relaxed now. Maybe he’ll join me in the fore cabin in a while. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th September 2020

So what have I done today? The military aircraft continued their fly overs much later than I expected, so my early night didn’t happen. I was in my pyjamas, but the noise kept me awake, so I read and MasterB slept on my feet.

During the night I woke briefly several times, mainly because I needed to change position which isn’t always easy with a cat who has decided to sleep on or as close to one as possible. Around six he came under the quilt, curled up by my chest and we slept companionably until half past seven. The morning wasn’t as cool as I was expecting, but the windows in the rear cabin where we’d slept were covered in condensation. Even so, it was obvious it was going to be a beautiful day. The light was gorgeous. I emerged from the boat in time to see a swan flying low over the river. It’s moments like this when it feels unthinkable to give the boat up.

I‘ve been puzzled by a bit of broken ceramic, tonight I got the answer when the bathroom shelf fell off the wall and I could see where the piece fitted on the back. Since it was fine on my last stay and Older Nephew and his partner were the last people to use das Boot, I assumed they had had a mishap with the shelf. He says not. Strange. The shelf didn’t get back on the wall on its own.

Anyway, MasterB and I enjoyed our respective breakfasts and then I read for a while, feeling rather contented and lazy. But there was shopping to be done at Reach. I wanted carrots, salad and a marrow. I didn’t find any of them, I ended up with squash and fresh walnuts. There weren’t any water melons either. I wasn’t expecting them. They are not the sort of fruit I expect to find on an organic farm in Cambridgeshire, but a woman who was there at the same time as I was waxed lyrical about them and was very disappointed not to get one today.

I turned down the lane and picked blackberries for a crumble I have made this evening. I had half feared there would be no blackberries, that I’d be too late, but I think these were on a north facing hedgerow. I’ll go back and pick more before I go home and I have two orders for sloes, both I think for gin. I may try sloe chutney. I have only had sloe gin once,  an ex neighbour made it and it was so strong I thought I’d go blind.  Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th September 2020

It wasn’t the most auspicious start to our few days away. I got caught up with some stuff this morning and MasterB stubbornly refused to have a pee before I put him in the car. Instead, just about a mile from home, he began to cry and then had a pee in his basket, immediately followed by a poo. He then cried a lot more, distressed at having to share his space with his own waste.

Fortunately I was able to pull over into a car park for customers at a group of shops on the Old Kent Road. For those of you only familiar with the district via the British version of the board game Monopoly, I should tell you it is a busy road with several lanes of traffic. MasterB showed a worrying desire to get out of the car. For obvious reasons I had lifted him out of his basket. I then had to use the basket, still with pee and poo, to block his exit. I am not sure which of us was the most stressed by this. Basket emptied, I then had to get it into the car again without my cat getting out. I ended up holding him firmly round his middle and shutting him into the basket, now equipped with clean newspaper, before closing the door and getting his seat belt round the basket again.

I don’t know if anyone watched this performance. I was much too concerned to get it done to look out for onlookers. After that he settled and slept for most of the journey, which was just as well as I think we hit every red light on the route and ended up travelling through school traffic. Never a good idea, though it did give me the chance to study the truly hideous uniforms girls have to wear at some schools in Bishops Stortford.  Is this an infringement of their human rights, or their rights as children not to be made to look ridiculous? There seemed a lot of school children about well before three thirty. Are schools finishing earlier? Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th August 2020

So home. It was glorious this morning at the marina, warm but not hot, the promise of a new day held in the palm of the sky. I vacuumed, stripped the bed, carried things to the car while MasterB slept. He had a short stroll after breakfast.

We left around lunchtime.

Our route took us over a bridge above a dual carriageway where I could see lots of cars. Decision made, we’d take the back roads as far as we could. I started taking these roads years ago as there is more shade, and in warm weather, with a car minus air con, I didn’t want Cat to overheat. Now I often choose them as the route home to get that last good hit of countryside.

There were very few cars. It was a loveLy drive. Inevitably as we got closer to London the traffic increased. A hundred yards from home I looked at all the people on the street and reflected that I hadn’t seen half as many the whole week while I was away.

Washing dried ridiculously quickly. Even at seven this evening the temperature was over 30C. Actually it’s over 30C now but only just. 30.1C according to my thermometer. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th August 2020

Fortunately this afternoon the breeze became stronger and the air in consequence fresher, free of the clinging humidity of the last two days.I put my book aside and went for a walk. There’s a ridge, I presume manmade, that protects the fields beyond from flooding, and it allows views across the flat farmland. This is fertile country and everywhere you look is green and growth. I took some pictures, but it seems the internet connection keeps dropping so I may not be able to upload them.

I haven’t seen the cows all day. Where are they? A moment ago I heard a cow mooing and looked up, hoping to see the herd in the field beyond the fence but nothing. The cow I heard was probably across the river. In the other direction there is another farm, or rather a farm house with a couple of fields. The last people to live there were very unfriendly and bred dogs which barked a great deal and which I used to pity. The current owners keep hens, horses, some rare breed sheep, and two llamas. I hadn’t noticed the llamas until this afternoon. I haven’t met the owners, but like their predecessors they have roped off a path which when I first came here people were free to use, so maybe they don’t want to meet the neighbours either.

I had a conversation with the Dan, son of the couple who own the marina, and another with a woman who has a boat here with her husband. Until now the woman and I have only smiled and said hello. Today we talked about Coronavirus and the uncertainty of the future. It was a similar story with Dan. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th August 2020

I am sitting at the back of the boat enjoying the very slight breeze around my neck and face.It’s been a hot day with temperatures above 35C. Not only hot but humid, so not a day for strenuous activity. I have done a fair amount of reading, drunk pints and pints of water, swept dead flying ants from the boat’s exterior and otherwise moved as little as possible. MasterB has slept in various positions and places around the boat. He had a walk after breakfast, his breakfast, not mine. While he ate I went to the shower block, and when I returned he was at the door. It was already warm, but no one else seemed to be up, so we had a pleasant stroll, both of us for different reasons watching the thrush with interest. We nearly had another stroll just now, but a boat entered the marina as MasterB was about to go ashore and he had a change of heart.

I had a conversation with Stuart as I was finishing my own breakfast and so decided to get out the battery charger and see if the battery could be revived. It turned out the fuse had gone in the charger, so I wasn’t able to carry out this plan until I had been to the shops. I forgot to take my mask, but fortunately had a small towel in the car which I tied round my face. It worked surprisingly well and was more comfortable than some of the masks I have bought. On the track from the marina a pine marten carrying a dead mouse in its mouth ran across the path. On the road there were numerous spilled beetroot. I stopped and gathered some up. Some beets have been mulched and are in piles in the fields. Their distinctive sweetly earthy smell hangs in the air, overpowering the leeks which are in neighbouring fields. Are mulched beets good fertiliser, or is there just a glut the farmers can’t sell?

I could have tried the engine earlier than I did, but MasterB was asleep near it and I didn’t want to upset him. He woke up and moved to a new location and I primed the engine for a minute, turned the key and it sprang to life. I’ve removed the charger and will try the engine again tomorrow to see if the battery has held the charge. Older Nephew and partner are coming here at the weekend, so when I leave I’ll leave it on trickle charge just in case.

The book I am reading is Homeland by Fernando Aramburu. It’s very well written and I am involved in the story, but worrying that the person who lent it to me will want it back before I have finished it. It’s a our book group’s summer read and nearly 600 pages long. I am on page 133.

The ants started swarming again tonight and my heart sank. It was still over 30C and the prospect of sweltering inside the boat behind closed windows did not appeal. Fortunately it seems to have been a much less extensive occasion than yesterday, and they have all gone.

The sunset is spectacular. If the red sky at night saying is true, we are in for a glorious day tomorrow.

Red Sky at Nigh

Shepherd’s Delight

Behind me I can the swans nibbling at the weed. They are doing an excellent job. This morning the cows were in the field, and one cow was watching me. I slowly approached the fence talking to her. She came a bit nearer. I kept on talking to her. The flies were bothering her and she kept shaking her head to get them away from her eyes. She could do with one of those shields horses wear. The farmer doesn’t seem to have any water troughs for the cattle. They must have to drink from the river. The cow finally came right up to me and allowed me to stroke her face. Emboldened, others who had been watching started to walk towards us and soon there was a good crowd, including Mr Handsome who gently nudged his way through the others for a neck scratch and rub. Two young calves were watching, one shied away from me when I stretched out my hand, but the other, which was black with a white face, was braver and had a good sniff at my arm. It made me want to read The Secret Life of Cows all over again. Maybe I can suggest it for book group.

Stay safe. Keep well. Be kind.

The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th August 2020

The spiders will eat well tonight. There’s an ants’ nest near this mooring and tonight the exterior of das Boot and the neighbours’ boat is covered with winged ants expelled from the family home. I have closed the windows, cancelled all shore leave and am preparing to sweat it out. It is warm and muggy after a day of intermittent cloud and hot sunshine. Apart from a brief excursion to Reach to get onions and to check on the progress of the blackberries, I have been at the marina all day.

When I came here yesterday I was thinking of peace and quiet, rest and relaxation. This morning I realised I had a tight knot of anxiety in my chest. I poked at it, was it the unplanned but necessary expenditure for the boat? A mild reaction. Not that then. Was I worried about a possible workless future? A stronger reaction. Moving? Stronger still. So I spent much of the day trying to untangle my feelings. Not moving also brought a feeling of anxiety, so it was good that I had arranged to speak to my friend Nicola this evening. We have known each other for twenty-six years, we’ve witnessed each other go through difficult times, make difficult decisions. She has a few of her own to make right now too and one of them involves the possibility of moving.

I can’t say when we finished talking, she to attend her online meditation class, I to cook my supper, that my feelings of anxiety were wholly resolved but I did feel better, and my thoughts were clearer. I hope she felt the same way. It is astounding how much energy anxiety uses up. I imagine these flying ants aren’t feeling too zen either. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th August 2020

It’s hardly the Starship Enterprise but this is the Captain’s Log. I watched Star Trek less than a handful of times. The characters were so well known that even I had heard of them, and some of the famous lines. To this day I have a 45 by Spizz Energy called Where’s Captain Kirk. It’s a bit like Friends, which I never watched at all, but such was its popularity back in the 90s that I know a surprising amount about it and can even name some of the characters.

Did Kirk ever have to delay the start of a journey because one of the crew was asleep in an inaccessible spot, ie in a drawer under the bed? Did he wonder if it was National Bad Driving Day when overtaken on 20mph, 30mph, 40mph and 50mph roads by drivers doing at least 20mph above the speed limit in each location? Was he refreshed after such a day by a green curry which the unexacting would describe as Thai, and even the exacting would describe as delicious? Can’t see it somehow. For the record, vegetable marrow works extremely well in green curry. Try it for yourself.

Anyway we made it to das Boot. I have just had a potential Miss Moffat moment as a spider lowered itself on a self spun thread to take a look at me. However, instead of sitting down beside me it has now climbed back to the ceiling. Maybe it recognises me as the Mighty Destroyer of Webs. If it knows anything about marine engineering I should like it to tell me. Last Friday Older Nephew rang me with the news that the starter motor needed replacing (c£350). Fortunately it was just a loose connection, the solenoid. I have no idea what the solenoid is, but I am glad it wasn’t the starter motor. He also mentioned the battery was low which seemed odd. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th July 2020

I woke up coughing while it was still dark. My own coughing entered my dreams and then propelled me from sleep. Lockdown may be easing but my first thoughts as I gulped water and then dug out a Strepsil were that I had succumbed to Covid 19. I wasn’t truly reassured until I woke to sunlight with no cough or any other symptoms.

A gorgeous day, but one where das Boot has been plagued by tiny flies. They are very annoying. I have a glass of wine and it has a coaster on top of it not underneath as I don’t want wine with drowned fly. I went to Soham, a town I have driven through but never stopped in. My first impressions were positive. An array of attractive buildings in the High Street, though closer inspection revealed they were mostly cafés and take aways. I wandered down a side street and realised there has been a lot of building in recent years. Not all the new homes are what I would describe as sympathetic. A glance in an estate agent’s window revealed the house prices were so far below those in London as to seem to belong to another planet. I read noticeboards and learned that the railway station which closed years ago is to reopen in 2022. As it is on a branch line I doubt if it will push house prices up enormously, but it was interesting. Briefly Soham featured on my Places I Could Move to if I Left London list. Briefly, because only one person said hello to me. It wasn’t exactly welcoming. I had gone there to see the church where Olaudah Equiano had married Susanna Cullen in 1792. Here it is, a rather wonderful Norman building.

St Andrew’s Soham

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