August Nights

I am not terribly confident that I shall have an undisturbed night’s rest. We reached das Boot yesterday afternoon. There was no one at our end of the marina, so once I had opened up the boat, run the engine for a while and vacuumed away the worst of the dust, I let MasterB out of his travel basket while I unloaded the car. Contrary, he decided the interior of the car was somewhere he’d like to be. I lifted bags onto the grass and opened the boot for the rest: bed linen, food, new ropes, a bag of books for Older Nephew, towels and clothes. MasterB moved to the shelf at the back of the car and looked out, watching my progress.

When at last I picked up the food bags and turned towards das Boot he leapt down and followed me, stopping every now and then to look about him, assess the possibility of danger, sniff the grass. Why didn’t I have a camera in my hand? Then it was a leap on the gunwale, a swift look at the interior, and he was aboard. Great. Continue reading

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Love London

The new layout at the airport confused me. I could see the shuttle bus I needed to take to the railway station, but not how to get to it. So I wasted several minutes going in the wrong direction and the bus I had seen departed. Fortunately another arrived almost immediately. It was nearly empty, as was the train to London. Until we reached St Pancras. I looked up from my book and saw a sea of faces on the platform. Not all those people boarded the train, but as travelled through Farringdon and City Thameslink stations the train filled up. I got off at Blackfriars and made it to the bus stop just in time to see my bus pull away. Joggers dodged the pedestrians; commuters talked earnestly into mobile phones; the Thames flowed sweetly under the bridge. It was a beautiful evening.
After being the countryside I was struck, as I always am when I return home from less populated areas, by the hustle; the sheer number of people; the energy. I couldn’t decide whether I was pleased to be there or not, though I was increasingly impatient to see MasterB.
He was more interested in going into the garden. Within seconds I realised his pleasure at seeing me was more that I could let him out of the flat and into the big wide world than in an emotional reunion. Ah well, he made up for it later, and this evening. Continue reading

Homeward bound

We reached the airport betimes, travelling on a section of road that only opened this morning. Maybe someone cut a ribbon in the pre-dawn, maybe there was a fanfare. I don’t know. Cousin thought it might be busy, but the cars were sparse and we had one of those once in a lifetime conversations where we admired the unpitted tarmac and the smoothness of the ride.

The journey was so quick that I was turned away from bag drop and told to come back in half an hour. I sat on a metal seat and ate my lunch. The airport seemed very quiet. Even security, an area I have learned can take a long time to pass through at Belfast International, was nearly empty. However, I set off an alarm when I passed the first scanner and had to remove my shoes, enter the thing that looks like the orgasmatron in that Woody Allen film, and submit to being patted down before I could collect my hand luggage and proceed.  Continue reading

Departure Day

Just a few minutes to go until my flight is announced. I am not someone who usually enjoys airports, but after a morning of domestic activity – stripping the bed, loading the washing machine, hanging out the wet bed linen, ironing it, remaking the bed, and a dozen other little things I needed to do before leaving home – the air conditioned anonymity of the airport has been pleasant and the time has passed very quickly.

I heard that today may be the hottest day of the year so far in London. I shouldn’t be surprised. It was great for getting my washing dry, but not the sort of heat I enjoy in cities. So it is with a sense of relief that I am heading to the colder climes of Co Derry. Continue reading

Some pictures and thoughts from last week

I am looking at my diary and wondering if I can return to das Boot sooner rather than later. The good thing about being freelance is that you can take time off. The bad thing is that when you do, you don’t get paid.

Cow parsley

Flat earth and cows

But having discussed Mother’s ashes with Older Nephew who is going to think about the issue, our minds naturally enough turned towards my father.

Alert

Stretch

He was a fit man though an ex smoker, an ex Royal Marine Commander, a man who was always on the go. Barely a year after retiring he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage from which physically he recovered well. But it shook him. Suddenly his body had let him down. Mentally it took longer.

One swan with reflection

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MasterB

When MasterB was a kitten, I doubt very much if anyone, least of all Himself, imagined he would be a boat cat. Not a full time, paid up member of the union boat cat, but a boat cat nonetheless. Nonetheless seems the wrong word. MasterB is not known for his daring do approach to life; there is little (I hesitate to say nothing for fear of offending him) of the feline Errol Flynn in his make-up. He verges on the timid though has a habit of making friends with intact male cats the other more laddish cats shrink away from. My boy is a ginger contradiction.
A ginger miracle. Continue reading

Of ashes, memories, fresh food and boat cleaning

If there was ever an argument that might persuade me to move to the vicinity of Newmarket, it would be Southgate’s. I went there this morning to discuss Mother’s ashes. She died six years ago, and after the funeral, which we arranged with Southgate’s, she was cremated. The plan was to have my father’s ashes disinterred from the spot where they are buried, and which I think he would have thoroughly disliked, and mix and scatter his and Mother’s remains together.

In sitcoms, until the advent of Six Feet Under, undertakers were generally depicted as gloomy souls. At Albin’s, South London’s leading undertakers, the mood is upbeat, and when a colleague and I visited (for reasons I shan’t go into here) we had a wonderful time. We also learned that they watched Six Feet Under. I forgot to ask Luke at Southgate’s about the television programme, and I think now I should have asked him if he knew Albin’s, which like Southgate’s is a family firm.

He remembered Mother’s funeral, and Aunt’s; remembered that they came from Northern Ireland and we established that he has friends who live near to their birthplaces. But I was there to talk about the ashes. Or rather to collect them. Continue reading

A Cat in His Citadel

I know I am biased, but I think any one of these pictures of MasterB in his cushion citadel is worthy of inclusion in 2020’s calendar.Take your time, look at each one and then tell me your favourite. I know which one is mine.

Citadel One


I have spent most of today making slow progress with admin work; doing some washing, some ironing.

Citadel Two


After a few days on a twenty-five foot boat, the flat feels wonderfully spacious. It is also wonderfully untidy.

Citadel Three

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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

A little slice of heaven

The gentle movement of das Boot at her mooring, the creak of the ropes, the birdsong, are like a balm. The great crested grebes are nesting yards from the galley window, and watching them tidying up the nest, adding to it, taking it in turns to sit on the eggs, has fascinated me. When there was a change of shift last night, the one who had been sitting, the hen I think, immediately went off to collect more weed to add to the structure. Had she been thinking about this, looking about her for likely material during what must have been a fairly tedious afternoon?

Maybe Older Nephew’s and my coming and going provided her with some entertainment. We went to Ely and back, eating lunch aboard and enjoying a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc the ON had brought with him. The newly serviced engine purred. Not far from the marina we spotted a terrapin the size of a side plate. It was sunning itself on a stone. No doubt an unwanted pet, dumped in the river, and now a predator of small fish and young birds. I hope the baby grebes, when they hatch, will be beyond its orbit. MasterB joined us after a while, and as is now customary, I built him a cushion citadel. He seemed perfectly at ease. Continue reading