A grey but warm day today. I finished writing my notes, packed papers and books away, swapped magazines with Celia – my copy of Walk for her husband’s copy of The Economist. Their neighbour’s Jack Russell is no more, having had that last trip to the vet on Monday. He used to be such a cheery soul, but his deterioration this year has been sad to see. I have a candle burning in the window for him tonight.
My RSPCA supporters’ magazine I have passed to Joe. In it there were pictures of pets needing homes. Two cats, aged ten, were said to need a home for their twilight years. MasterB has lived with me for ten years and he was three quarters grown when he arrived, so he is probably nearing his eleventh birthday. He is not nearing his twilight years any time soon. Today he has chased balls around the flat (I have the task of throwing them and retrieving them so they can be thrown again), raced around a racetrack that is invisible to the human eye, woke from apparently deep slumber when he heard me in the kitchen, chased and killed a fly. He’s in great shape. But I still haven’t put the calendar together.
I had my winter ‘flu vaccination yesterday. I went to the local pharmacy to book an appointment and was fitted in then and there. By late evening my arm was sore and by this morning most of my upper arm was covered in an angry red rash. I felt, still feel, somewhat under the weather though probably by tomorrow I’ll be fine. Why my body should react so strongly to vaccinations I do not know.
Consequently it has been a rather lazy day. I have read a book, made some notes for a job I am doing in ten days, read emails and replied to them. I could quite happily go to bed now, but as it’s not yet five o’clock, I shall stay up a while longer. The day has been grey, windy, not cold enough to put the heating on, but cold enough to close windows and wear socks and a jumper. It’s soup weather. Soup and crusty bread, except I am deliberately buying boring bread as when I have good bread I keep eating it. Boring bread does not exercise the same appeal.
I woke up with a sore throat. It didn’t go away. I took two paracetamol and considered my slightly stuffed nose. Cold? Covid 19? A couple of hours later my nose was clear and my sore throat was sore no more. A slight cold maybe. Nothing more serious. On the bus the other day there were five of us on the upper deck. I was the only one masked. On the lower deck all five had masks, but two were wearing theirs under their chins. There are lots of tweets about Covid 19 being over. But the evidence says otherwise. I don’t want us to return to lockdowns, I don’t want us to live sequestered lives, but it does seem we can learn to socialise safely, with masks, and some people don’t want to do that. I don’t have a solution, but I think I shall probably be steering clear of crowded venues for some time to come. Maybe for ever.
Tonight we enjoyed a neighbourly game of Cluedo. Last Sunday four of us convened to play Equaliteas, a game devised to raise awareness about women’s enfranchisement in the UK. We enjoyed it so much we made another date for tonight. So six of us sat down around Celia’s table. It was my game in the sense that I brought the board and pieces. There are new versions of Cluedo. Mine dates from the 1960s. We began by rubbing out the pencil marks on our Detective Notes. Quite a few bore my childish handwriting. It was fun. Usually Michele and I are otherwise engaged on Sunday evenings, and we are already wondering which night of the week can be our games night this winter. Cluedo is a less chatty game than Equaliteas. I have never played it with the full complement of six players before. It was a novel and interesting experience. When I was a child I usually played it with my friend Marion. Charlie struggled with the idea that his character could be the murderer yet he would not know until the crime was solved. Reinhild got a pad of paper and a pen and worked at the solution. Next time we may have to go the whole Line of Duty hog and have a whiteboard, photos and coloured markers.
I have Scrabble, Ludo, Monopoly as well as Cluedo. Celia has Carcassonne which I have never played. I saw a game called Shakespeare the Bard in a charity shop. I may need to return and buy it. I also have decks of cards, and Lexicon which I haven’t played in decades. My father and I used to play cribbage, but I have forgotten how to play. The winter is suddenly full of possibilities.
So now for the first walk of Celia and my series of three. No walk this weekend as Celia was away until last night and I have been working.
This walk was the one we have done before. Several times. It’s a good one. Guildford circular via Compton. Last autumn I did it with Nicola. Here are some pictures.
There were blackberries as we had hoped. But we didn’t want to pick in the morning and carry all day, so we picked and ate. Had I been living in Guildford or anywhere along this circular route during lockdown it would have been. walk I should have been happy to do every day.
We met the man with the aged Labrador as we left. Coco was back in the boot of the car and raised her head when she heard her master speaking to us.
I had been hoping for apples for sale at the farm table, but it was bare. At the fingerpost I wasn’t’t sure if this was a lost boot or a memorial. As a teenager, The Withies Inn was considered quite classy. I don’t even know if it still exists.
Days have passed, maybe a week, maybe more, since I posted. I have not been ill, not been lying in a darkened room. I have been stressed, but I have still been active. There’s been work for starters, so no staring at a blank wall emptying my mind.
And Celia and I have resumed our out of town walking. So three Saturdays, three walks. The middle walk was fairly close to home, but one I will gladly do again. I had thought I might write and post photos of all three tonight. Then I downloaded thirty-one pictures from yesterday’s walk. The other two will either have to wait or not get written about. That would be a pity as this blog is essentially my diary, albeit with bits of my life expurgated to protect myself and others.
The first thing to say is that we didn’t get lost. Celia and I have such a track record of getting lost (and thus finding unexpected delights before we find our way again) I feel that needs to be said. The second is this not the first walk, or even the second we planned to do yesterday morning. The first was discarded because of transport problems. The second I printed out and helpfully left on the window sill at home. It started from Otford and finished at Eynsford. Celia was keen to see Shoreham. On the train we found an Otford circular via Shoreham. Bingo.
The forecast said it would be cloudy all day, and that is how it started. having climbed a steepish hill we looked at the view and saw a white cross on the opposite hillside at Shoreham.
But soon we were shading our eyes and grateful to walk through woods filled with filtered sunlight. Celia is a bit of fungi fan, so this specimen, glowing in isolation caught and held our attention for several minutes. What is is it?
We walked across fields, past barns, were warned, were objects of curiosity, saw views down valleys. I think my favourite bit, and there were so many good bits it’s hard to choose, was when we entered a wooded paddock where a notice warned of us of hardy animals kept there to help with the bio culture. I was expecting sheep, maybe ponies, perhaps highland cattle or llamas. But we had barely walked a few yards into the paddock when there was the noise of hooves and animals coming down the path and three very healthy looking bullocks came to check us out. They were curious, not aggressive, but I wondered if their curiosity might put us in danger. We stopped. They stopped. Hello, I said, we’ve come in friendship. We don’t want to harm you. I’m vegan. Celia isn’t.
Celia may hold that against me to the end of my days.
One of the bullocks mooed. It was like a summons. More crashing through the greenery and a lot more cattle appeared. They stared at us then made up the hill. It seemed for a while they were tracking us along a higher path that ran parallel to ours. I’d love to be one of the volunteers who checks on them. What fun, what a privilege, to get to know them as individuals. Just before we left the paddock there was another long loud moo. It sounded like the all clear.
B&J, Celia, Mr Celia, Hartley, Romeo and I convened in the garden this evening over a bottle or two of wine.
There was more than a suggestion of autumn in the air.
Actually this was useful as tomorrow evening we are all, save Mr Celia who’ll be at the Cricket, off to an outdoor event, listening to Octavia’s niece singing in a Handel opera. Celia found her layers wanting within minutes, and although Hartley was doing his best to warm her by sitting on her knee, one of my fleeces was needed. I was trying out a combo of jumper (US sweater) and body warmer, which worked for the most part but there was a bit of a cool patch between the bottom of the warmer and the waistband of my jeans. B&J were rugged up. So it was something of a warmth dress rehearsal. I plan to take a blanket with me, possibly a flask, a quilt might be going too far. Maybe not.
It was lovely to have the gang reunited. Pre-Covid, Celia and Mr Celia hardly knew B&J. Now Celia says she can’t imagine life without them. They have all been wonderful carers of MasterB when I have been away in Ireland or more recently at das Boot. There are moments when the look in MasterB’s eye suggests he is wondering when I shall be away again so he can have the love and attention he deserves. Nothing in the diary at the moment, but there is Uncle Bill’s 100th in October.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, which is a reminder that there are worse things than Covid 19. I remember the date as it was also our wire haired dachshund’s birthday. Obviously she was born much later. The fact that we continue to manufacture and stockpile nuclear weapons, and some regimes have made it clear they are happy to deploy them, is also a reminder how callous and cruel human beings can be. Much of the time animals are much better company. Not that our dachshund was angelic. Like most of her breed she was stubborn and opinionated. A big dog in a small disguise.
Yesterday I rang the vet practice to make an appointment for MasterB’s boosters and annual check up. The receptionist exclaimed that she loved his name, and then referred to him as an older animal. Older? MasterB? No one has told him. He may be in his eleventh year but he still thinks he’s a youngster, a rather large kitten. But her words made me blink and wonder how many more years I have with him. Last year the vet pronounced him to be in perfect shape, perfect health, to have a perfect coat, to be simply perfect in every way. I had to agree. Now I just want him to stay that way.
It’s odd, or perhaps interesting is the word I want, the things that give you street cred. In my case it’s never going to be my clothes or anything else about my appearance, though in my defence I can claim to have been a precursor of several clothing trends: Levi shrink to fit straight leg jeans when everyone else was in flares, a tweedy jacket several seasons before they featured on catwalks, and Adidas Stan Smiths decades before they became the in footwear. All of these were accidental, driven by economy and thrift.
Today was different. I was walking home from MCQ, a wonderful treasure trove of a shop owned by Clyde, and Mary Portus’ idea of a vision from hell. I was carrying my newly repaired amp. A man sitting outside a café on the Walworth Road beamed a huge smile at me and made continuous eye-contact. “NAD,” he said, “A 3020. Nice. Very nice.” I was beaming myself as I continued my journey home.
Some simple interactions like this can do so much to lift the spirits. I don’t think I’d recognise the man if I met him tomorrow, and I reckon unless I was again carrying my amp, he wouldn’t even notice me.
My MCQ collection was just one of the things of my to do list. I was working via Zoom in the morning so at home, tied to phone and internet. The flat needed cleaning. With the windows open these past weeks the amount of dust is startling. I am very glad I do not have asthma. I took some fabric to Rocket Van. They are going to photograph it for me to include in the virtual yard sales. They have turned down my Tourlet Lulu. I am realising people are prissy about second hand portable toilets, however little they have been used and however much they have been cleaned and disinfected. I’d hate it to end up in landfill, so I shall have to keep trying. Anyone here who goes camping/glamping/champing or makes long car journeys where public toilets may not be available, or whose toilet is unusable thanks to building work, or if you are just having problems with an on-board toilet on your boat, please get in touch. I can share pictures.
I love the cows. Some are very friendly, others are shy. One young bullock couldn’t get enough of me. He licked my arm, nuzzled my shirt, wanted head scratches, raised his nose to my face. If we had been on the same side of the fence I reckon he’d have sat on my lap.
When the bull approached I thought he was going to tell me to keep away from his herd, but no, he wanted head scratches too. No sign of Mr Handsome from last year. I fear he has been slaughtered, butchered and eaten. A sad end for any animal, but especially for one who loved humans as much as Mr Handsome did.
The ducks turned up and stayed around. One has very orange feet, one has muddy orange feet. They work singly as and as a pair. They woke me early on Thursday morning doing some sort of duck flamenco outside the window. My neighbours across the pontoon feed them, so I am guessing the ducks thought the café was open. they were remarkably persistent. One even flew onto the roof of the boot and peered over the edge to watch me. They quack softly and plaintively, tap imperiously on the windows with their beaks, march up and down the gunwale (they are surprisingly heavy footed) and do a good job of staring at me beadily eyed.
The swans also turned up. One young swan, last year’s cygnet by his feathers, was alone and so excited when I came out of the door on das Boot I thought he was going to climb aboard. This pair, swimming off the Portside, were more self-contained.
On Friday morning I was about to open the door at the back of das Boot when something caught my eye. I paused. A kingfisher. I took a picture with my little camera through the glass. Obligingly the kingfisher then flew to another boat to prt of my galley window, which I opened very gently and slowly. My little camera does not have a strong zoom, so I ma quite pleased I can see the bird at all in these pictures. I was feeling a bit blue, and this encounter, followed by the ducks visiting while I had breakfast, and then some affectionate bullocks, did a lot to lift my mood.
Much to my surprise I have been dancing around the forecabin this evening.The sound system at das Boot is great, but I was barely able to lift myself off the cushions to eat a short while ago. Maybe it was the power of Nanci Griffith, or maybe the fact that after a day of rain and drizzle it’s approaching a fine evening. Maybe it was the power of curry. Maybe it was the adolescent swan who appeared at the rear of das Boot as I was preparing to head over to the shower. It was so excited when I hung my wet trousers on the grab rail it almost climbed aboard.
I didn’t have high expectations of dinner. I prepped a curry while it rained this morning, Fortunately there were chilli flakes and ground ginger in the cupboard because the amount of curry powder was less than meagre.But it was plate licking good. Yes I did lick the plate. And tomorrow I’ll have seconds. curry is always better a day or two later.For pudding I had soya yoghurt with mandarin oranges. A can that came from Mother’s so is at least a decade old.
It seems ages since I posted. Blogging is so last decade, or maybe that should be last century, but it does help to clear my head, to clarify what I’m thinking, what’s on my mind.
After a few days of cold turkey (surely there must be a vegan version of that?) from spiralised courgette and carrot I am back on it as of tonight. Is there a three step programme, and if there is, is it necessary? I do not understand how these two simple vegetables, spiralised and then mixed with spinach or lettuce, with olives and dressing, with butterbeans or chickpeas taste so good. Oh I forgot to add wholemeal bread or wholemeal pitta.
It’s been. busy week. Computer problems and then when computer up and running more hours in from t of it than I care to admit. There are days, quite a few days, when the memory of those simple times of pen and paper, books and buildings housing reference libraries seem enormously attractive.