Shine On

For someone with little religious faith and none at all in saints as people able to intercede from beyond the veil on our behalf, I am quite demanding of Edward the Confessor whose tomb lies at the heart of Westminster Abbey. Continue reading

Advertisements

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

Privileged and Proud

Afloat. Alone with my best boating companion, the lovely MasterB. Feeling incredibly privileged that I can do this. That my pension is crap fades into insignificance when the Boy and I settle down to a weekend, a long weekend thanks to my self-employed status which means I can choose to say no to work and ring fence days in the way I could not when half my income relied on a job where I was required to be there when my employer so decreed.

Listening to Ed Sheeran and loving it. I know some people think he's lightweight, and they are free to their opinion, but I love his lyrics and music. Maybe it's a ginger thing. My brother-in-law used to call me Ginge, though I was a strawberry blond rather than true ginger. I was never bullied for my hair colour and am appalled that many kids are. How does that work? The second most popular cats to be adopted from shelters are gingers (the first have odd eyes), so how come people love ginger cats, but think the human gingers are objects of derision? Prejudice. Yuk.

Last night I saw Girl From the North Country at the Old Vic, and before I left home at lunchtime today I had to listen to Planet Waves. I wouldn't put myself in the first rank of Dylan fans, but this production was a reminder that his music and lyrics have been part of the soundtrack to my life, and they have such resonance. Such resonance. It's a fabulous production. Tired as I was, and I was very tired, it was another occasion when I felt acutely aware of how privileged I am. I was my friend Nicola, and we knew quite a few members of the audience, I because we had complimentary seats due to my work, she because she is a voice teacher and ex drama teacher. It was something of a shock that I realised today that Ncola and I have known each other for twenty-eight years. Am I really that old? Answer: yes.

Continue reading

Isobel and Fiona Go Shopping

I live in hope that tonight it will still be today when I go to bed. True, I was between the sheets a whole hour earlier last night than on Sunday, but it was still more than hour after my desired bedtime. So again this morning was a later than anticipated start, and I did not take Westie Boy for the walk I promised him before I left for Belfast.

My intention had been to arrive betimes and spend few hours wandering and looking, maybe stop in one of the many coffee shops for elevenses, and go to the Linen Hall Library café for lunch. As it was I started with the lunch, a very lovely mushroom soup with some wheaten bread. Then I set to wandering, but as I had an engagement to meet Speccy at three o'clock at City Hall I needed to make sure I did not wander too far.

My wanderings found me a branch of Tiger, a much bigger branch than the one I usually patronise at St James Park station, and I duly wandered in and around it, emerging with several purchases, including a new collar for Westie Boy. I doubt if it'll make up for the missed walk, but it is a boyish blue, so when he feels doubts about the floral pink number he currently sports on his perambulations he will have an alternative. I think he's pretty comfortable with his sexuality, or lack of since he has been neutered, but it was an excuse. For myself I could not resist the carrot shaver which looks like a big pencil sharpener. Alas, I forgot to pick up some organic carrots in M&S before getting the bus back to Cousin's.

Continue reading

Marina Evening

My recycling bag after a few days at das Boot suggests Bacchanalian evenings, and massive fruit consumption. The fruit consumption would be about right. I was reading and nibbling at a newly washed bunch of grapes this evening, only to realise suddenly I had eaten the lot. The impressive number of empty wine bottles is rather more deceptive. I brought two almost empty ones from London. Or rather one almost empty one (it turned out to have barely enough to cover the bottom of the glass), and one somewhat less than half full. Those are the two empties in the recycling. Then there are two lager cans, so I feel quite justified in quaffing a glass of Chianti tonight, toasting the evening and das Boot, wishing I could stay on and didn't have to return home tomorrow.

Geese are flying overhead in a V formation, noisily talking as they go. The cuckoo has stopped singing. But the swifts and swallows are swooping about, grazing the surface of the water, munching the numerous insects. The light is fading from the sky, leaving streaks of pale blue and silver tinged with pink. Only three weeks to mid summer and the evening is long and warm.

I'd post pictures, but Blogsy seems strangely reluctant to allow them, so it's all prose when afloat until I can work out what that's about. I'll try including one that has seen the light of blog before and see if that works.

Continue reading

Angela’s Ashes

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Mother’s funeral, but it was someone else’s death I was remembering last night, Angela’s.

Over the weekend I received a message to say her ashes were to be scattered on Monday evening in the churchyard of Old St Pancras church, the church where her memorial was held. At that memorial friends and colleagues read a selection of poems by Angela. Last night, Nicola, who now teaches voice, and who taught drama and English back in the day when she, Angela and I worked together, had been asked by Rob, Angela’s husband, to read two poems while the ashes, with I hope Angela’s generous spirit, were released into the air.

Before Nicola arrived, Rob, an actor, and now a frail elderly man walking with the aid of two sticks, and very slowly, announced he would sing a song to Angela. It was My Love is Like a Red Red Rose. We stood in the shade of the Hardy tree while his cracked voice rang out, and we knew he felt the pain of her loss as keenly now as when she died. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in having suddenly blurred vision.IMG_3923

The Hardy tree is named after Thomas Hardy who had the task of clearing the headstones of the graveyard, and now they are grouped around the tree which has grown into them and joined them in a mutual embrace. Continue reading

Pictures to Follow

According to my Fitbit, a piece of technology I love more than I could have ever imagined, I walked around fifteen miles. Which means Celia did too, as we spent the day together. It’s not everyone who would be happy to spend my birthday walking in wind and occasional sunshine across the fens, but fortunately it’s not only poetry and dying mothers that has underpinned our friendship. I’m saying about, as Fitbit speaks metric, so it tells me I walked 26.16 km, and my conversion to imperial is approximate at the least.

We breakfasted on porridge and coffee. Celia normally has tea, so that might explain how even before the washing up was dry she’d broken the coffee pot and managed to move the pull-out table from its runners on one side. Mind, I am the person who threw the kitchen scales out of the galley window and into the mud at the base of the marina where they are doubtlessly puzzling the resident fish.

We set off before either of us could do by more damage, changing our shoes for walking boots, and clothed in several layers against the wind. As a first port of call we were heading for Wicken Fen, a nature reserve run by the National Trust. I went there once with Mother many years ago. We always meant to return but it didn’t happen. Celia and her mother had planned to go, but didn’t make it. So motherly ghosts came with us yesterday. Appropriate for me at least since Mother died on my birthday four years ago.

It’s hardly The Pennine Way. I am listening to Simon Armitage read his book, Walking Home, Travels With a Troubador on the Pennine Way, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys walking. With an hour of listening to go, he reads the sentence, ‘I walk therefore I am’; a feeling familiar to anyone who has enjoyed a spell of walking day after day no matter what the terrain. Actually I’d recommend it to a anyone, but maybe not listening to it on the bus as I started doing, as my snorts of laughter drew curious and worried glances from my fellow travellers. Whether they were members of the Communist Party I know not.

Regular readers of this page may recall that Celia and I have a track record for getting lost when we go walking. I was mildly concerned, though I hope it didn’t show, when Celia said she had forgotten her compass and her whistle. I was hoping it wasn’t going to come to that. Maybe she needed to redeem herself in her own eyes, anyway her map reading was exemplary and we reached Wicken Fen in time for lunch. I was hovering over whether to have a baked potato as well as the soup which sounded greenly delicious when the most heavenly cheesy smell filled the air. Home baked scones about to leave the oven. Decision made, and a severe setback for my progress towards becoming an egg eating vegan (sic).

I even photographed the lunch; it was that good. We went round the boardwalk after spending a long time in the very wonderful shop. Celia upgraded the OS map from the one I had onboard and which I believe belonged to Mother, to a new one with larger scale. There was a windmill, and misled by the Wicken flour for sale in the shop, we assumed it was used to grind grain. Not so, it drained the fens and allowed people to grow crops. In one hide a coup,e with strong binoculars some in whispers about birds they could see several miles away. I took a photo of the information board showing the great crested newt which made me think of Janh1 and Sabina. A modern windmill ironically keeping the fen moist to protect it as a wildlife habitat stood diagonally opposite the old mill. Continue reading

Sunday

Older Nephew arrived be times on Sunday and we stood looking at the trees and shrubs moving energetically, and feeling the sway of das Boot beneath our feet. But other souls were out on the river, and I'd added ten more litres of fuel to the tank, so off we set, destination Ely, to collect Celia who was arriving by train in the early evening. We met more boats than last time; mainly hire boats being driven too quickly, Toads of the river to our sensible Rattys, leaving bumpy swells in their wake which made it feel like we were moving over stones.

MasterB amazed me by miaowing and then joining us in the fore cabin for much of the journey. He seemed a bit surprised to see the scenery moving past him, but coped admirably. To date he has been under pillows or blankets for the duration of all boat journeys undertaken.

We texted Celia to report our progress, she confirmed she was on the train. Older Nephew who is a less than secret anorak about some things, turned out to have downloaded the details of her journey, and at intervals announced which part of the country she would be in. She's just arriving at Cambridge now he said as the empty green river banks became busy with people and buildings.

Quiet river

Once moored up, I sent another text with instructions from the Cutter Inn, our agreed rendez-vous, to das Boot, but Older Nephew suggested we walk to the station in case Celia got lost. We stopped MasterB from taking a spell of shore leave, locked up and strolled by the water.

Scoping out the marina

A train that wasn't Celia's arrived from Cambridge and I recognised one of the passengers who got off. So the three of us were deep in chat when I saw a familiar figure walk swiftly past us. Celia! I said, and made the introductions.

Continue reading

Blogsy be Kind

Will Blogsy be kind tonight? I don't know. I hope so, but the internet signal goes from weak to disappeared so maybe not.

For the record, it's Saturday night. I am sitting in the forecabin with a blanket over my legs and I am warm and cosy. MasterB is on the bed where he has spent most of the day after being extraordinarily vocal for extraordinarily long amounts of time during the night.

I slept in once he allowed me to sleep at all.

He has had shore leave, two lots in fact. One he decided quite quickly he wanted to get back on board, the other he was looking increasingly confident, had just dug a shallow hole and squatted down when a couple approached from the far end of the marina. I thought they were heading for a car, but no they continued towards us, presumably going to the pub a mile or so away. MasterB lowered himself to his belly and scuttled back to the boat and the indoor facilities.

Earlier I went to the organic farm and bought some salad. There wasn't much in the shop. An architect called Colin who I met in the car park explained the lack of rain has held growth back. He started the conversation by asking me if I came there often, a cliché so hackneyed I wasn't sure what he meant. It turns out he helps at the farm once a week and is married. By some curious chemistry we quickly devined each other as non Tory Remainers. That's how I came to stand in the April sunshine for a good thirty minutes clutching the money I still owed to the shop's honesty box while we agreed on almost everything. There was a sticky moment when he asked if the Daily Mail was my newspaper. To dignify the Mail by calling it a newspaper is several steps too far in my book.

Continue reading