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

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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.

Continue reading

Of Margaret Atwood, the Arts, and Why Both are Vital

Margaret Atwood is often described as a difficult interviewee; an intimidating writer of great intellect who can be openly disdainful of a luckless interviewer. She doesn’t play the game, the game that most play when invited onto chat shows or whatever when they have something to promote. I can only think she likes Alan Yentob. He evidently likes her. The result was a fabulous interview broadcast on Monday night but only watched by me this evening.

I’m not sure how I came across Atwood. I know it was in the 80s, and it wasn’t because of The Handmaid’s Tale, though I read that later. I think it was probably that she was published by Virago. Feminism and feminist literature were (and still are) very important to me for a mixture of reasons, one of which being a relationship that fortunately ended with a man with whom I am now mystified why I spent more than five minutes. Make that seconds. Or nano-seconds. So authors published by Virago, or the Woman’s Press – motto: Steaming ahead! complete with a sketch of a steam iron – had a particular attraction. Continue reading

Where I am Now

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.

Continue reading

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

An Urge to Post

I had no intention of blogging tonight. I should be on my way to bed, it’s an early start tomorrow. But I read Outward Hounds latest and it reminded me of why I have stuck this blogging mularky for so long. There are bloggers out there whose writing is sublime. Their pages may not garner as many hits, likes or comments as others, but bloody hell, it’s amazing to be able freely to read their output.

I love the way that the internet has put me in touch with people from the other side of the world, people who I shall probably never meet, never have a conversation with other than via the keyboard, yet with whom there is a connection. Thank-you Tim Berners-Lee. Continue reading