Wear your poppy and remember

I don’t want to see Nigel Farage wearing a poppy, or any of the other people who talk about the wars of the twenty-first century for political gain; the jingoism reignited by men who never had to face themselves and find out what it was to lose everything.
We are told to wear our poppies with pride, but sorrow would be more appropriate. Sorrow for the loss of life, for the devastation caused by ideologues to whom the concept of a shared humanity was an anathema.
Farage is an ideologue. He is not the only one. Here in the U.K. and across the world there are people calling themselves patriots who have confused patriotism with nationalism. Nationalism does not understand shared humanity. Continue reading

Journey to das Boot

On a glorious autumn morning I am on the train to meet Older Nephew to take das Boot to the pump out at Ely and begin the process of winterising her. I have conflicting feelings about das Boot. I want to make improvements, I have ideas to make life aboard more comfortable, but I am also thinking the time is approaching to give up my car, and therefore das Boot. Older Nephew’s girlfriend is in London, and although he will still be based in the East, I wonder if his personal centre of gravity is shifting, and how often he will want or be able to join me when I am at the marina.
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The Secret River

Halfway through watching a performance of the very wonderful The Secret River at the National Theatre last night I realised I had read the book from which the play is adapted. This meant I knew there was to be no happy ending, not even a small redemptive flicker of hope.

It tells the tale of a family from London, he a now pardoned convict who was sentenced to be transported to Australia, his wife Sal who chose to accompany him, and their two young sons. Now free, William Thornhill sees the possibilities for a man like himself in this new world. He can lay stake to some land, become a farmer. What he does not understand is that this same land belongs the ‘savages’ who already live there. He sees them as rootless, nomadic. As it says in the NT’s notes, “Upon earning his pardon he discovers that this new world offers something he didn’t dare dream of: a place to call his own. But as he plants a crop and lays claim to the soil on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, he finds that this land is not his to take. Its ancient custodians are the Dharug people.”

The truth slowly and painfully dawns. Thousands are being shipped from London to this New World, the conflict over the land is bound to continue. This will not end well. Continue reading

What a Treat

I want an amaryllis. A particular one. Maybe I already have it, as I already have four growing in pots around my home.

As I wrote yesterday, I’m reading Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. And loving it. One of the characters is called Mary Treat. The details about are are so convincing, her research so fascinating I wondered if she was real, or if she was  a creation from BK’s fertile imagination.

So a few minutes ago I turned to the internet and found Mary Treat was a real person, a botanist, as she is in the novel, a woman who corresponded with Darwin among other celebrated scientists, who made a living writing about her observations and experiments.  She was self taught, a respected name in the scientific world. All this at a time when few women studied the sciences.

She has an amaryllis named after her, as well as three other species of plant and animal. Wow. Continue reading

Avoiding the cup final

A glass of chilled wine as the breeze picks up and the evening cools. It’s been hot today. I’ve drunk more than two litres of water, and shall drink more before I sleep. I am going for an early night. MasterB is currently stretched out on the bed, enjoying the air coming through the open door. Last night it was quite busy here, and I had already cleaned my teeth when he let me know that it was quiet enough for a perambulation. So I carried him ashore rather than risk my heart lurching as he leapt from the front of the boat, and once I’d got him in his harness we perambulated. Actually we stayed still for quite a lot of the time. Cats seem to like to drink in their surroundings, it’s quite boring when you are at the other end of the leash. Then there are spurts of activity, determined movements in directions I do not want to go. I hoped he’d have a poo, or at least a pee, but he saved the latter until he was back on board. I just hope he isn’t saving the poo for the journey home.

Toady, when it has been hot, he has spent most of his time under the rug in the forecabin, a rug that is supposed to save the upholstery from fur and claws. Sometimes he and I are not on the same page. The forecabin was bathed in sunshine. Surely it must have been horribly hot, but he stayed there until around five this evening, when he emerged, like Mole taking a break from spring cleaning, and blinked dazedly about him.

Shamed by my new neighbours (who set off after breakfast and have not been seen since), I felt I had to do some boat cleaning. The hot sun soon had my face running with sweat. Not wanting to disturb the grebes I didn’t want it to use the water pump and power hose. So my efforts, which were mighty but without great results, came to an end after an hour, and I retreated to the shower. I had already visited the big city, well a large village, and bought my newspaper, so after an early lunch I reclined and worked my way through pages of newsprint.

I knew, indeed how could I not? that Donald J Trump is coming to London this week. What I had not understood was how many members of his family he is bringing with him. This is less a state visit, more an invasion. I do hope they all have return tickets. Prince Charles and Camilla seem to have drawn the short straw and are spending a lot of time with Family Trump. I worked with a Trump supporter last week, and one day was enough to exhaust me. Continue reading

Booked

My shelves are groaning. Something has to be done. Culling books is so hard. Each one feels like a friend, how to tell them they aren’t needed anymore, how to cast them into the outer darkness that is the charity shop (even though that’s where a fair few of them were before I brought them home)?
A friend is taking some volumes of French poetry I feel I can live without, as well as a copy of Louis Aragon’s Le Paysan de Paris, a book I used to love. I read the opening pages, and I still love it, I just don’t think I’ll read it again.
There are so many wonderful books I haven’t read, if I could just identify the ones on my shelves I shall reread and let the rest go it would be an immense help. As it is, I feel a responsibility to make sure they all end up in good homes. Continue reading

Losing the Lurgy, Tax Returns, I Object, and the 2019 Ginger Ninja Calendar

My clients yesterday, morning and afternoon, were very tolerant and indeed sympathetic of my almost constant nose blowing and intermittent sneezing. Where does all this fluid come from? And why? A whole big box of paper hankies used in twenty-four hours. So I made it through, considerably relieved that my colleague Simon had agreed to take on the job I was supposed to be doing today.

At home, I subsided onto the sofa and I was in bed by nine o’clock. MasterB was sweetly accommodating of my low energy. I slept almost immediately, but woke up sometime after midnight, and after that I think I slept fitfully. Anyway, I didn’t feel exactly refreshed when seven o’clock rolled around. But onwards and upwards, or perhaps upwards and onwards, and knowing I had avocado, watermelon and pomegranate seeds to top my toast motivated me into the kitchen. Continue reading

Neighbours and Outsiders

It is often said that London is a series of villages. I’m not sure I buy that, but I would say it’s a series of neighbourhoods. Most people are very aware of and loyal to their neighbourhood. When I came to live in London people would talk about their manor. It’s not a term I’ve heard for a while, so I suspect that those a generation behind me would find it as quaint as I did expressions from the 1950s.

Celia, Octavia and I all live in the same neighbourhood. I couldn’t tell you exactly where our patch begins and ends, but two or three years ago Celia and I were walking in an adjoining neighbourhood when we spotted a notice for a book group. It was behind glass and the worse for wear from condensation. We peered at it, trying to decipher date, location and book. As we did so, a woman approached with a wide, friendly smile. Do join us, she said. We don’t live here, we answered, wary of trespassing on alien territory. We live up the road; we belong to a different tribe. Alright, we didn’t say the last bit, at least I don’t think we did, but I certainly thought it, despite knowing people from this other tribe. That doesn’t matter, said the woman, smile enhanced by a halo of blond curls. You’d be very welcome. Continue reading

Backing the Booker

In Twitterland, Sabina @sabaone responded to the news of the latest book to win the Booker Prize with this comment:

some of the booker winners baffle me. have read God of small things and White tiger and was not impressed by either

I loved The God of Small Things, and thought this year’s winner sounded pretty interesting when I read about it after it was shortlisted. The only Booker prize winners I have tried and failed to read are Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, which I hope to try again and enjoy, and Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, which I am not going to try again. However, there are many years when I have not read the winner, and 2015’s A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James remains on my to read list.

But I loved Possession: A Romance by AS Byatt, (1990) which was the first novel I managed to read after my father died and which felt like a requited love affair. Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring up the Bodies (2012) by Hilary Mantel are in my all time top ten of best novels I have ever read or hope to read. I’d never have read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (2013) if I hadn’t heard about it because of Booker. Continue reading

A Mad World

Sadly I have to return home tomorrow as I am working on Sunday. I thought lots of people would turn up at the marina tonight, lured by the forecast of temperatures in the mid twenties and sunshine. Maybe they’ll come tomorrow. We are once again alone. One couple and their elderly Jack Russell did arrive tonight, they ran the engine, stowed their gear and disappeared into the (beautiful) sunset. Then the hunters started shooting. Close by. Not nice. Fortunately they have now stopped.

Older Nephew said something to me yesterday about the boat being part of who I am. I think he’s right, and in the aftermath of Mother’s and Aunt’s deaths I am enjoying the boat in a different way to formerly. So keeping the car, keeping the boat is my preferred option for the time being.

I caught up with the review section of last Saturday’s Guardian. There was a piece by Amy Grace about how she (and Margaret Attwood and Donna Tartt) wrote for Playboy. Maybe I need to reread it, but on first reading it made me very cross. Saying Playboy was tame in comparison with what was available elsewhere does not, to me, make Hefner’s empire acceptable. I remember in the 80s feeling despair when very young girls in the school where I taught appeared carrying pencil cases with the bunny symbol, the most charismatic boy in the Sixth Form (a Sikh, don’t think HH’s appeal was merely to middle-aged white men) wore wristbands with the same logo and looked up to Hefner as a rôle model. From Instagram I have been educated with the very unwelcome knowledge that many young women see their worth in their sexual attractiveness and availability. There are more cleavages and bare buttocks, sometimes pouting lips, out there and apparently posted by their women they belong to, than I would have believed possible in 2017.

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