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
Last year's hanging basket has kindly come to life again with no effort from me other than irregular watering. Despite it being April, which you'll remember in the rhyme is the month associated with showers, and we're not talking personal hygiene here, this April rain in any form has been notably absent. Which makes me nervous for May, associated with flowers and my birthday. I am wondering if some new intern at heaven's weather station has seen the flow part of flowers and mistaken it for a month of gross inundation. The forecast is for frost next week, maybe even snow. I may have a stay at home birthday, and the mice will get a temporary reprieve on das Boot.
So make the most of these pix of the season while you can.
Twilight falling and I am on a fast train back to London. We pass fields of flowering rapeseed, the acidic yellow of the blooms a sharp contrast with the deep greens and mid browns of the neighbouring fields. There are well-tended allotments with scarecrows, strips of coloured plastic, and old CDs twirling in the wind; rows of terraced houses, semi-detached houses, large villas with surround sound gardens. There are sheep in the fields, some with lambs, some without. The flat landscape is occasionally interrupted by a slight rise, topped with a small copse of trees. The sky is blue with soft looking clouds the colour of the cherry blossom so prevalent just now. There’s a farmhouse, with collie dog lying at the door, then a man circling a field on a tractor. A benign version of England spreads out as far as my eyes can see.
I have been at das Boot with Older Nephew. He met me outside the station at Cambridge, and dropped me back there in time for this train. We spent the day afloat de winterising, cleaning, checking the bilges and running the engine. There had been visitors over the winter: mice, evidenced by numerous droppings. They had nibbled my J cloths, shredded newspaper left ready to line the litter tray, chewed through plastic bin liners and attacked the foil around the neck of a bottle of cava. Before we could eat I had to boil water and wash plates, knives, forks and saucepans. There was poo in the cutlery drawer, in an empty vase, in the sink, in one cupboard under the sink, but not the other.
Westie Puppy is back in her Belfast home and thriving. MasterB has not been outside for two days. The birds are emptying one of the four feeders in the garden and ignoring the others.
Half past five tonight and it was still light. It is spring. The evidence is all around us in the shape of daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses. New shoots pierce the earth. Trees are in blossom. Neighbours are turning the earth in their gardens and planting small purchases made at flower nurseries. I went out without my gloves.
Today is St David’s Day, 1st March, just over two weeks to go before Ersatz Paddies take to the streets wearing dubious hats and swearing allegiance to Guinness. When I was a child being Irish was unfashionable. Actually, it was more than unfashionable, it was social leprosy. I remained largely ignorant of this due to Mother’s relentless programming. My sister and I were brought up to believe our half-Irishness was a miraculous bonus, something of pride and joy. Similarly being the daughters of a working mother when girls we knew at school had mothers who mainly stayed at home. How I looked down on them. I’m sure the feeling was mutual.
I was around twelve when the penny finally dropped that I was doubly socially inferior as far as many of my classmates and their parents were concerned. At Mother’s funeral one of my cousins, the one who the rest of us see as being fantastically and unaccountably right wing, queried my description of Mother as Irish. It’s how she described herself, I replied. Another cousin said Mother would have called Derry Londonderry. No she didn’t, I said, hearing Mother’s voice in my head saying she came from Co Derry.
A few years ago Cousin and I deposited our grandmother’s autograph book at the Linenhall Library in Belfast. Much as we valued it, it seemed to have a significance beyond our family. It’s clear that my grandmother and her friends all considered themselves uncomplicatedly and proudly Irish. There are many patriotic entries for St Patrick’s Day; verses, pressed shamrocks, pen and ink drawings of harps. My grandmother signed the Ulster Covenant. Look online and you can find her name. I am guessing that post Partition she may have called herself British, but I don’t know. By then she was married and trapped in a cycle of pregnancy and increasing hardship, leading to her premature death in 1927. Continue reading
So far 2017 seems to be The Year of Not Blogging, but hopefully that will change. It is also the year when language comes under fresh assaults from people who call lies alternative truths.
But let’s draw a veil over the last few days and think of something else, something that reminds me why the world is somewhere I still enjoy, and why I think it’s worth fighting to protect.
As I said in my last post over a week ago, Celia and I went on a ramble and as it was the anniversary of Aunt’s death, we thought we could call it Auntie Mary’s Walk. Just one problem: we’re not entirely sure where we went. Celia and I have yet to go on a ramble where we don’t get lost.
At this point I’m pretty sure we were on the right track.
This wasn’t the route we were following, but it ran alongside ours for a while.
In retrospect, perhaps we should have followed it, as we never did reach the pub. As the pubs we have planned to eat at in the past have invariably been closed or no longer serving food, lunch has been the point where we have deviated from our planned route and ended up somewhere we did not expect to be. This time, although Celia called the pub and confirmed they were indeed still open and sold hot meals, I announced that given our track record, I intended to take soup with me. It was this (deserved) lack of faith that prompted Celia to go to Stanfords and buy a map. Though she did bring sandwiches.
We got lost quite early on, but were rescued by a woman walking a rather lovely Golden Retriever called Bingo. Naturally I do not know the woman’s name. She set us on the right direction and off we went. Given that we passed most of the things she told us to look out for, I don’t understand how we found ourselves at the wrong end of the map.
However by that time we had been thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The fields and ditches were covered in a dusting of snow.
This Saturday will be the 14th January. I understand that on the other side of the pond the floss-haired one will be inaugurated as President of the United States, something that strikes me as a being a joke too far, as well as being a jolly disrespectful thing to do on the first anniversary of Aunt’s death.
Or so I thought, but Lyn has just emailed me to say it’s the 20th, not 14th, so goodness knows where I got that idea from.
I meet quite a few Americans through my work. I have yet to meet one who says (confesses?) s/he voted for Trump, which may be significant in itself as I am meeting those who travel away from their home country, and I know a large number of US citizens never acquire or use passports.
A woman today, I’ll call her Jane, told me she is returning on Saturday, and marching on Sunday as a Nasty Woman who is not going to be quiet. She won’t be alone; just her party comprises two busloads of similarly nasty women. She cheered my heart. Continue reading
Vicki was dubious about our accommodation when we booked. Now she’s converted. The staff are friendly, the position in Battery Point couldn’t be much better; it’s clean, simple with comfortable beds and good showers. I’d happily stay here again, so if you’re planning a trip to Hobart get in touch and I’ll give you the details.
Tonight we have borrowed plates and cutlery so we can eat ‘at home’ after a day at Mount Wellington. We went up by minibus to a summit shrouded in mist. Everyone else was staying with the minibus, but we had opted to walk down. Vicki started to have second thoughts on the way up, but screwed her courage to sticking point and off we set. The first, and longest, part of the walk was decidedly rocky. I have dodgy knees, so chose to lower my centre of gravity for extended sections of the path and move down on my bottom. The mist was my friend as I tend to fear when I can see how far down it is should I fall.
There was lichen, fungi, trees, plants I have never seen before, the sound of birds who mainly stayed out of view, but we saw some with yellow flashes on their sides. It was something of a nature walk.
I was in my walking boots and Vicki in her Blundstones, advertised as boots you can wear anywhere, doing anything. She disagrees. On steep descents her toes started slamming in the end of the boots; she has at least one blister to deal with now. Our progress was steady but slow, Vicky nursing her toes, me taking photographs. A few people passed us on the way up. Brave souls. You wouldn’t catch me doing that ascent these days.
As we walked on there were more trees, more bird calls. Then water. Lots of streams crossing our paths. Bubbling rivulets tumbling poetically. More walkers headed uphill. One or two coming downhill at a faster pace than us. Some trees seemed to have had their bark shredded by sharp claws.
Animal droppings at the beginning and end of the walk Vicki identified as wallaby. m. We hit a clearing; cars, toilets, picnic tables and a coffee van. We ate our sandwiches and enjoyed hot drinks. We had now reached the final ‘easy’ section. But if you have dodgy knees steps are often painful, not easy. It was beautiful though. Fern something, and it was very ferny.
While we waited for the bus a kookaburra laughed loudly and invisibly nearby. There was quite a long wait and we checked our phones, replied to messages and sent new ones. We were deposited in the centre of Hobart, not far from our starting point. I have been wearing my boots for the last few days, but as we walked down to Salamanca Place I realised I was walking like a Walker; someone who has spent a large part of the day in the hills and been happy. Someone who has enjoyed reconnecting with nature and feeling her feet upon the ground in places that, if no longer wild, are not part of the tamed existence of the city.
Bar a rather late contribution to a photo challenge (I am always amazed at how some people apologise for their ‘lateness’ less than twenty-four hours after the challenge is announced) it feels as though I have been an absentee blogger and bloggee, or whatever the right word is for someone who reads blogs, for a long time. Oh only just over a week? Well, there you go.
The lovely Romeo has injured his leg and is confined to quarters, so MasterB, who has been refusing to go outside unless I am right beside him armed with my Super Soaker, is being bravely independent and has let me know my hovering is de trop. Therefore I am indoors, impatient to go to bed, but happy My Boy is feeling confident in His Own Garden.
The countdown to my Australian adventure has begun. I have been making lists of lists. I thought I was being over organised when I tried to sort my currency last week, only to be told I should have allowed a month. Fingers crossed I am not reduced to begging. Every day I tell MasterB I shall be back before Christmas, that although I shall not be with him that does not mean I do not love him. I am secretly worried that when I get home he will look at me and say, “I live with B&J now. See you around.”
I don’t want him to be unhappy while I am away, to pine, but I do want him to be thrilled to see me when I get home. Is that too much?
Older Nephew is going to complete the boat winterising. I love das Boot but I am not a good boat owner. I wonder if I should give it to Older Nephew now. Should I pop my clogs he would inherit it. I have no intention of popping my clogs just yet.
We had such a lovely time on the river. There was no other traffic. Lots of birds, especially grebes, which I thought were supposed to be rare, but obviously not on the Cam. Lots of herons.Continue reading