Small Triumphs

Against the brutalities of the world, small triumphs are like anchors, keeping me safe, secure while the waves crash around me: finishing a library book and returning it before the due date; recycling some small electricals; posting a present to a friend whose birthday falls when I’ll be in New Zealand. 

The news continues to broadcast from a world untethered, a world where interrogators arrive in planes with diplomatic immunity, bone saws in their luggage, and the President of the United States expresses a willingness to believe the Saudi Royal family  knows nothing about it. Given that country’s reputation for state control, and the Crown Prince’s hands on actions, are we really to accept that they were so busy watching the Saudi version of Bake Off that they temporarily abdicated that control to persons unknown? Continue reading

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Captain’s Log 4th October 2018

The forecast for today was good, so when I woke up to a morning where the thick mist muted the birdsong, I assumed it would burn off in an hour or so and the sun would shine down on das Boot. Breakfast, shower, washing up all accomplished and still no sun, MasterB had retreated to under the rug in the forecabin, placed on the seating to protect the upholstery from cats’ claws. So I kept my layers on, turned on the car heater and set off on my travels.
Nial and Jan met me at the cemetery. We were all armed with gardening tools, and I had a selection of bulbs. The chrysanthemum I had planted on my father’s grave had vanished, but at Aunt’s more extensive plot (Dad was cremated, so it’s just a small marker stone showing where his ashes were buried) we were pleasantly surprised to find quite a few plants were flourishing. So many in fact that quite a few of the bulbs will be coming back to London with me, even after planting a clutch of them on Dad’s grave.
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Captain’s Log 3rd October 2018

I am at das Boot with the First Mate (MasterB has been promoted). We are both  in the rear cabin, I’m on the director’s chair looking out at the quiet marina, MasterB is purring on the pink fleecy blanket at the end of the bed.

In the field beside us the calves are grazing with their mothers. I got off to photograph some of them. They are so very pretty. One or two were curious but shy. I like to think their mothers recognise me as the woman who uproots sticky weed from my side of the barbed wire fence to give them. Certainly they seem unconcerned by my presence, and do nothing to warn their calves not to speak to me.


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Vale Billie

I wrote quite a lot about Billie when I visited Melbourne nearly two years ago. I told my friend Vicki to warn Billie I’d be relying on her for canine comfort as I’d be missing MasterB. She’s not a cuddlesome dog, said Vicki. But in the wayward manner of pets who like to prove their owners wrong, Billie decided immediately I was someone she’d like to cuddle her, and our bond was established. She was elderly then, her gait a bit wobbly, and made me think of a refined lady who’d had a bit too much Sherry but was still game for a knees up.cropped-photo-201611201341297011.jpg Continue reading

Day Three on das Boot

Day three on the twenty-five foot boat and I’m settling in. Too bad I have to go home tomorrow. In the fields the hay is baled, the leeks have been harvested, something tall that looks like corn is still growing. Men are out and about with guns. Maybe women too. I haven’t seen them, just heard them. And last night there were fireworks.
Who needs fireworks when you can listen to owls calling to each other?
I grew up in the country, and although now I consider myself a Londoner, there is something about the country that calls me, resonates with me. I’ve picked blackberries and my finger nails have been rimed with purple. I helped myself to windfall apples someone had left in a wheelbarrow outside their house. If I hadn’t stopped to talk to the cows in the field next to the marina I should have missed this skin shed by a snake.

Snake skin in the grass

Meanwhile meals have been enlivened by visiting swans. This one comes with her cygnet, approaches the boat then hisses if I so much as look at her offspring.

Visiting swan and cygnet

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the end of the day

I’m working on Monday so it’s back to the Smoke tomorrow. The forecast is for
a hot day, so I’ll try to leave in the morning. The evening might be cooler, but there’ll be lots of traffic with people returning at the end of the weekend.

I’d like to be able to stay on. Stay on until I become restless. Right now, being on the boat with some human contact and some internet access, but not too much of either, suits me down to the ground. I’m hanging out with MasterB. Doing a bit of gentle boat cleaning after the rigours of scrubbing the covers, eating lots of salad, drinking lots of water and a bit of wine. The pace is so slow you might not even realise I was moving. I am very happy to not do very much, to recharge my batteries by vegetating.

For the first time in ages I brought my Lumix camera with me. I haven’t taken many pictures, but just using it again reminds me what a different experience it is to my trusty little Olympus,.

I’d like to stay and let the sights and sounds of summer in the country sink into me, so that the big skies, the scent of lavender, the bees, the pennants moving in the breeze, the squawk of the moorhen, the swan dipping its neck into the sun reflected water, are all filling my senses, so that Brexit, Trump and all the other noise and nonsense dims into insignificance for a while.  Continue reading

many birds, no pictures

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

And Another Thing

When I wrote my last blog post I did not know of Theresa May’s announcement that more money, a lot more money, but still not enough, was to be forthcoming for our wonderful NHS. when I finally heard the speech my blood pressure, normally on the low side, soared. It was so full of caveats; the NHS must do this, it must prove that, it must meet the government’s requirements. So, a government that has consistently and cynically starved the NHS, made working conditions in many hospitals and GP practices almost impossible, has relied on the goodwill of staff but never ever rewarded or praised them, now, instead of owning up to the fact it has jeopardised one of the greatest achievements of this country in its entire history, make that the greatest achievement, apologising, holding its hands up and admitting it was wrong – something which would have earned them my respect for a rare moment of honesty in government – it wants to set hurdles. WTF? As for the Brexit bonanza, I don’t believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden and I don’t believe that if we leave the EU we will suddenly receive a substantial windfall of millions.

I have been a teacher. I have been through Ofsted several times, and yes I was rated as an outstanding teacher delivering an outstanding lesson. Ofsted is stressful. You know you are under the microscope. Everything you have written, everything you say, everything you do, is under scrutiny. If this current government were to undergo an equivalent scrutiny I have no doubt it would be in special measures. Continue reading

Delphiniums and Chrysanthemums

I haven’t blogged for days; no, make that weeks. I’ve been busy with lots of work and quite a lot of play. That should be plural, quite a lot of plays, including Matilda, 42nd Street, Translations. I had complimentary tix to the first two. I loved Matilda. The children were amazing. Some looked as though they could have barely started school, but these were professionals giving fine performances and looking as though they were enjoying very minute. I saw 42nd Street with my friend Julia. We were a bit nonplussed by it. As a spectacle it is everything you could ask for and more, the dancers tap their socks off and the set pieces are stunning. But the story. Why would you revive that now? I wanted to stick #metoo hashtags all over it.

Which brings me to Translations at the National which I saw with my friend and colleague Tony. His family is from Mayo, and we often go together to events with an Irish connection, despite digging with different feet as you might say. Tony had see a production of Translations, also at the National, in 1981 and brought the programme along with him. He also bought a programme for the current production and it became very clear the same sources were consulted when the notes were written in 1981 and 2018.

But my goodness, what a production. It was fabulous. Ciaran Hinds has cornered the market for roles as Irishmen of a certain age. To my ear, his delivery owed something to the declamatory style of the late Ian Paisley. It’s part of the Travelex season, meaning we got to watch it in the Olivier for £15 per seat. Good seats, there are no bad seats in any of ten National’s three theatres. The Olivier is based on the theatre at Epidaurus so you can feel yourself a part of a theatre tradition stretching back centuries while sitting on cushioned seats. That last comment is because Octavia and I saw As You Like It at the Globe last weekend. We had seats, and hired the cushions, but it makes you appreciate small creature comforts like seat backs and arm rests.

Octavia and Celia are both away at the moment, which means my two close friends who live close by are absent. MasterB is having to listen to me a lot as I process my days. He’s given me the excuse I needed to write this post by sitting half on me and having a wash. Truly, no one ever lived with a sweeter cat.

The NHS is about to turn 70. There are some in government who would like this to be its last birthday. People who say things like “we can’t afford it” and “people need to be responsible for their own health insurance”. They are either wilfully ignorant or wilfully misleading. Maybe both. Mark Haddon, one of several people writing in the Guardian about why he values the NHS has hit the nail on the head with his piece which you can read here – and please do, especially if you are from the US or another of those countries where private health companies would have you believe the NHS is an unmitigated disaster and you are so much luckier to receive itemised bills for everything anyone does for you from helping you onto a bedpan to heart surgery. Continue reading