What lovely responses to my last post. Thank-you to all who left comments and those who emailed me. I don’t want to give the impression I don’t get on with any of my family, that would be quite wrong. Early 2019 is pencilled in as Cousins Time; not my Irish cousins who get mentioned a fair bit as I usually stay with Cousin several times each year. This time it’s my English cousins. One is my cousin Russell who I’ve mentioned several times on this blog. He is the only first cousin younger than me on my father’s side of the family. Much to Mother’s annoyance, I used to spend my pocket money on Matchbox cars for him. His parents were much better off than mine, and I think it irritated Mother that her hard earned cash was being syphoned of to a family who had a much healthier bank account.
It didn’t stop me though.
When my cousin and Russell’s half-sister Jeannette died suddenly in 2017 we realised we couldn’t take our cousins for granted, so Russell and I, already regularly in touch, became closer. When he contacted me to say he is the current artist in residence at the Watts Gallery I nearly burst with cousinly pride and excitement.
Russell is my first cousin.
The other cousins I hope to be meeting up with are also first cousins, but one removed; ie they are my father’s cousins, younger than him by some years, now old in their own right. Jeannette (another Jeannette) lives not far away from me, but we seldom manage to coincide. Her parents, my Great Uncle Percy and Great Aunt Helen decamped to Wales and Jeannette has inherited their property which has become a favourite bolt hole. I’m not sure how much she goes there now, but if she’s anything like Percy, she’ll think nothing of the drive. He drove down to London for his 90th birthday party and stood chatting to everyone throughout. Helen, his wife, was Swiss. They were both musicians and Helen was not brought up with domestic skills. At that birthday party she told me how she had not known how to prepare a meal, but good smells issued from her neighbour’s house, so she went round and asked her to show her how to cook.
Jeannette and I had a chat a few weeks ago and we plan to meet to exchange family stories and look at photos next month. It’ll be great to see her. As both sides of my family tend to be talkative the conversation should be lively . Continue reading
Octavia used to have some paper table napkins inscribed frugal is such an ugly word. I don’t mind frugality. It makes room for the occasional splurge. I’m rather more uncomfortable with excess, something modern weddings seem to have a lot of.
So I like this photo of my parents with friends and family (mostly my father’s family as my mother married in England in the days before cheap air travel). The date was 28th August 1948, so today would have been their 70th wedding anniversary.
Mum and Dad’s wedding 28th August 1948
We went on an expedition to another cousin’s house last night. Maps were consulted. Traffic conditions considered. Cousin’s older sister agreed after a few ‘phone calls to come with us. Watches were synchronised. Cousin’s brother and his wife arranged to meet us at our destination.
I was the only one who had been there before, but I had no memory of how to get there. I just knew it was quite near Uncle Bill’s. The satnav was consulted.
We stopped en route so we could arrive bearing gifts.
We were greeted by a hen who followed us to the front door. I thought she was going to come into the house, and Cousin did too, but the cousin who opened the door refused her admission. Uncle Bill was already there. The house belongs to one of his sons. Continue reading
Two and a half weeks to go until I cross that little strip of water known variously St George’s Channel and the Irish Sea for my hols in Northern Ireland.
Oh hang on a moment, I need to sort out some photos first. Maybe I can wait.
The plan hatched earlier in the year, which i hope is still live, is to have a family day with Uncle Bill, with as many photos as we can lay our hands on, and have a good session of family stories. Continue reading
It started with a swan nibbling at the lily pads while I made my breakfast, progressed through the usual array of ducks and geese. I heard more wood pigeons than I saw. The window of the fore cabin was open a smidgin, a gardening cane safe in the gulley to stop a curious cat pushing it wider. The curious cat was going to have a bloody good go though, and I turned from pouring boiled water onto the coffee grounds in their neat, unbleached filter paper to see his head and shoulders were already halfway through. After retrieving him (he wasn’t pleased) I trimmed another gardening cane to a longer length. At this rate I shall have to buy more. I have ordered some other gadgets to restrict how wide the windows open, but they are coming from China and may take some weeks.
Had I not still been in my pyjamas it would have been a good opportunity to let MasterB have some shore leave, but that fact and the as yet uneaten breakfast hardened my heart. There’s cctv here, I don’t really want anyone watching video clips of me in my nightwear.
MasterB retreated under a pillow where he remained until we left the marina in the early afternoon with Older Nephew at the helm, me on ropes, drinks and nibbles, when he joined us in the fore cabin, safely sheltered in his usual cushion citadel. Continue reading
Blue sky. Tree tops. I have to sit up to see more. Wood pigeons are calling. Leaves rustle on the trees. A bird I can’t identify peep peeps somewhere not far away. When we arrived there was a swan serene and calm. My starting the engine to check/charge the battery and ensure hot water for tonight didn’t seem to worry it. But after a while it moved off and into the river.
Blue sky and treetops
I was tempted not to come, despite having blocked these days out in my diary and written BOAT across them. I’m tired. My boat days should have started yesterday, but I still hadn’t found time to book the train and coach journeys in New Zealand to get me between various locations. The coach site was annoying. It decided early on I was looking to book two seats and no matter how many times I tried to correct it, that was what came up in my basket. I was going to cancel and try again but I got a message saying I might not be able to get seats at all. I emailed the company, and had some lunch. Of course no one replied; what was I thinking? It was the middle of the night there. So after humming and hawing for a while, I took the plunge.
In the evening I got a reply to my email. It was suggesting that the error was mine and offered a number I could call. I replied pointing out I had emailed about the problem before confirming my booking, was on the other side of the world, and had spent around half an hour trying to get the site to ‘modify’ what was in my basket.
It’s a long story and in the end I got a refund, but the company insisted all the time the error was mine. I found this tedious and patronising.
Despite this and the disappointment of England being knocked out of the World Cup (I couldn’t bear to watch), I slept well. This morning I was slow and sluggish, and if I had more free dates in my diary to come East should probably have stayed at home.
Celia, who has been in Wales for weeks, is back in London, and kindly gave me a second coffee while we caught up a little. My neighbour Jolita will water the plants, my bags were in the car. I lifted MasterB from the drawer under the bed where he was sleeping and away we came.
The traffic wasn’t bad; a few hold ups, but I was congratulating myself on having covered most of the miles before the end of the school day and the hoards of parents who collect their children by car, when we came to a sudden stop. Roadworks, I thought, temporary traffic lights. But I was wrong. Car after car in front of me turned and came back where we had come. I reached the front of the queue and followed suit. I hadn’t seen much, but it was enough. A red car across the road, doors open, glass on the ground. The detour was long but effective and we met fire engines racing towards us, making me wonder if someone needed to be cut free.
Always a cautious driver, I became doubly so. Continue reading
After a glorious day the wind is picking up. MasterB and I have had a little amble around a marina that is suddenly deserted. All but two of the cars have gone. The birds are singing still, though the cuckoos have gone silent. The cows have moved with their babies to the far end of their field. It’s still light, but sunset can’t be far off.
We’ve enjoyed a two and a half day break from the Smoke, arriving on Saturday evening and heading home tomorrow. Older Nephew came over yesterday and we set off promptly, surprised to find so little traffic on the river on such a warm sunny day. As we passed through Ely we realised that lots of boaters were just moored up and soaking up the rays. Beer and wine seemed to feature quite prominently, so we decided to join in and open the rather lovely bottle of red that Octavia had brought with her a month ago but which we had not drunk.
We saw the usual crop of birds, swans, geese, a heron, great crested grebes, and something I think was a female reed bunting.
It was all very relaxed, quite lazy, and thoroughly enjoyable. We ate, we drank, we listened to podcasts of old comedy shows, we talked. MasterB joined us eventually in the fore cabin. We’ve got the hang of making him a cushion citadel now so he feels secure, and I sat beside him, one hand in his fur most of the time. Continue reading
I wrote this last night,but could not post as I had no internet. Surprisingly,this morning, which is wild,cold and wet, I’m able to get online. I hope it lasts and I may be able to post again later.
Well, we had a lovely day. Not the weather; that was resolutely grey, threatening, and occasionally delivering, rain, cold, and generally sulky. But Octavia made her first trip to das Boot and on it, with Older Nephew piloting, me on coffee, washing up and other Anneish activities as in the Famous Five. It is my boat after all, so it is only right and proper that I should be the chief wielder of duster, wet wipe, and wearer of rubber gloves.
We drank an impressive amount of alcohol while still remaining coherent and relatively sober. What that says about our livers I don’t know, and I’m not sure I want to know. MasterB, who had been distressed during parts of the car journey, voiding his bladder and bowels somewhere near Bow, spent most of the journey to the pub, The Shippe at Brandon Creek, where we enjoyed a very late but satisfactory lunch, under the pillows in the rear cabin. On the journey back to the marina he was keener to be near us, albeit hidden from view in a citadel of cushions in the fore cabin. Continue reading
Could there be a more perfect view?
Slieve Gallion (1,737ft)
In the past I’ve walked up it when I used to take part in the Sperrins hillwalking festival. Nowadays I look at it when I do the regular walk with Westie Boy when I stay at Cousin’s. Aunt Ella’s funeral was two weeks ago and I spent two more days in NI, enjoying beautiful spring weather in the countryside. Tonight I booked flights for ten days in NI in August. Continue reading
There is nothing pleasant about seeing a ninety-six year old man in tears at his wife’s funeral. Uncle Bill bore up well, and showed evident pleasure greeting his various nieces and nephews outside the crematorium. The service, conducted by my cousin Tom, was kept light at Uncle Bill’s request, and it was good to see him nodding and smiling, laughing at one point, as Tom reminded us of happier times. The tears came afterwards, when we gathered to have tea and sandwiches and Uncle Bill was assailed by a stream of people offering condolences.
I’m glad to say he smiled again, and we made plans to meet in the summer (we being as many of the clan as can be assembled at one time) with photos to share, pencils to annotate, and memories to swap. His younger son, the one who lives in Melbourne, looks so like his father it’s a bit like time travel. He goes home tonight, so the jet lag he’s just getting over will be overlaid by the next long haul flights. But it was good to see him by his father’s side, and I’m sure he’d vote it worth the discomfort. Both sons are supportive, and the family is close. They are concerned for Uncle Bill, but while he mourns the loss of a wife, they have lost their mother, their children have lost their grandmother. That’s never easy, no matter how old you are. So mutual support all round will, I trust, be the order of the day. There are bound to be more tears, more moments of dislocation and aching loss, and that’s right too. Continue reading