I love the cows. Some are very friendly, others are shy. One young bullock couldn’t get enough of me. He licked my arm, nuzzled my shirt, wanted head scratches, raised his nose to my face. If we had been on the same side of the fence I reckon he’d have sat on my lap.
When the bull approached I thought he was going to tell me to keep away from his herd, but no, he wanted head scratches too. No sign of Mr Handsome from last year. I fear he has been slaughtered, butchered and eaten. A sad end for any animal, but especially for one who loved humans as much as Mr Handsome did.
The ducks turned up and stayed around. One has very orange feet, one has muddy orange feet. They work singly as and as a pair. They woke me early on Thursday morning doing some sort of duck flamenco outside the window. My neighbours across the pontoon feed them, so I am guessing the ducks thought the café was open. they were remarkably persistent. One even flew onto the roof of the boot and peered over the edge to watch me. They quack softly and plaintively, tap imperiously on the windows with their beaks, march up and down the gunwale (they are surprisingly heavy footed) and do a good job of staring at me beadily eyed.
The swans also turned up. One young swan, last year’s cygnet by his feathers, was alone and so excited when I came out of the door on das Boot I thought he was going to climb aboard. This pair, swimming off the Portside, were more self-contained.
On Friday morning I was about to open the door at the back of das Boot when something caught my eye. I paused. A kingfisher. I took a picture with my little camera through the glass. Obligingly the kingfisher then flew to another boat to prt of my galley window, which I opened very gently and slowly. My little camera does not have a strong zoom, so I ma quite pleased I can see the bird at all in these pictures. I was feeling a bit blue, and this encounter, followed by the ducks visiting while I had breakfast, and then some affectionate bullocks, did a lot to lift my mood.
Much to my surprise I have been dancing around the forecabin this evening.The sound system at das Boot is great, but I was barely able to lift myself off the cushions to eat a short while ago. Maybe it was the power of Nanci Griffith, or maybe the fact that after a day of rain and drizzle it’s approaching a fine evening. Maybe it was the power of curry. Maybe it was the adolescent swan who appeared at the rear of das Boot as I was preparing to head over to the shower. It was so excited when I hung my wet trousers on the grab rail it almost climbed aboard.
I didn’t have high expectations of dinner. I prepped a curry while it rained this morning, Fortunately there were chilli flakes and ground ginger in the cupboard because the amount of curry powder was less than meagre.But it was plate licking good. Yes I did lick the plate. And tomorrow I’ll have seconds. curry is always better a day or two later.For pudding I had soya yoghurt with mandarin oranges. A can that came from Mother’s so is at least a decade old.
I’m at das Boot. Alone. MasterB has stayed at home and is being looked after by Celia and B&J. It’s odd to be here without him, but I am going to be busy cleaning and doing noisy things he doesn’t like, so probably just as well. He wouldn’t have liked the journey much either. There were several diversions. I saw more of Leytonstone than I have ever before. I was quite worried about being totally lost. I did learn that there is an Alfred Hitchcock Hotel in Leytonstone. I wonder what it’s like. Leytonstone is his birthplace and I am acquainted with the mosaics which honour him at the tube station, but the hotel was a bit of a surprise.
it’s coming up to 10pm and the light is fading, but you certainly couldn’t call it dark. A duck, maybe the same one that visited last year just came onto the gunwale, and then round to the foredeck and tried to get my attention, tapping on the window glaring at me fixedly. I was rather glad I had closed the windows to keep the insects out a few minutes earlier.
Das Boot is very grubby. I spent the first hours removing the worst of the dirt from the interior, discovered a half pint of very off semi skimmed milk in the fridge. Who put that there? Not me, I don’t drink milk. Maybe Stuart when he was working on the boat earlier in the year.
Back in the day people talked about ley lines. Well, when I say people I mean men, young men. They would adopt serious faces and explain how places were linked by these lines of incredible force. If they had beards, they would stroke them. As teenage girls, we were the audience. We might talk about ley lines among ourselves but in mixed company it was clear our role was to listen. I am glad things have moved on, though obviously not far or fast enough.
I am also glad that the only ley lines we’ve talked about recently is the one that links three households. J realised she could look from her basement kitchen through H&J’s ground floor sitting room straight to my first floor bedroom. Our three households are also linked by friendship and membership of a lottery syndicate. It’d be nice if the ley line theory would hold good and deliver us millions but so far my bank balance has not been miraculously inflated. So much for beard stroking.
After days of warm weather and sunshine we have cashed in the warmth for a return to cooler temperatures. The sun has lingered though, and that makes all the difference. Sunny days, increased hours of daylight, spring springing, the possibility of release from lockdown in the not too distant future. Things are looking up.
A short walk today with Celia. We have both been busy with other things though the fine weather was calling at least one of us. It was hard to turn away, sit down at the computer and spend the hours inside. MasterB sunbathed on the sitting room carpet. But we had the consolation of yesterday’s walk which was a good one. We met in the middle of the afternoon and, at Celia’s suggestion, walked up to St James’ Park via Lambeth Bridge. We were obviously not the only people who thought it would be great place to go. For those of you who are unfamiliar with London, this is the park that flanks the Mall (pronounced to rhyme with gal) which leads up to Buckingham Palace. It’s a bird sanctuary, has has wonderful flowerbeds, crocuses in the grass, and wildish areas for the birds, bats, and whatever other creatures make their home there. I know there’s at least one fox.
The geese were convinced we must have something for them. They came over to us, talked to us eloquently and energetically, but to no avail. Our pockets were empty. A squirrel was even more determined and climbed up Celia’s leg. If I were a St James’ Park goose I would be muttering about the parakeets. Parvenus: loud, aggressive, confident, they were the ones most people were offering food to. I’m guessing if a goose tried emulating their behaviour and landing winsomely onto an outstretched hand it wouldn’t go down too well. Again there were signs asking people not to feed the wildlife. Ignored signs by and large. People had come armed with tubs of bird seed. The joy we humans get from feeding wildlife is fascinating to witness. A heron seemed to be following us. Then we realised it was watching someone else: a litter picker who when his work is done stays on to offer feed the birds. He offered us fish to give to the heron and Celia accepted without hesitation.
A stunningly beautiful day: cold, but with bright blue skies and when you in it the sun was warm. Octavia and I met and went for a walk. There has been a short series on BBC4 this week called Winter Walks. Five well known figures have gone for a walk alone but with a camera recording a 360° view of what they saw. I have seen three of the five programmes. Don’t think car chases, or indeed anything fast, though one farmer had a fine collection of old tractors he was happy to talk about with Lemn Sissay. In some ways it reminded me of those short filler pieces between programmes back when all television was in black and white, things lies a pot being thrown. Slow, mesmeric, and somehow deeply pleasing. the filming has been edited down to thirty minutes per programme. when I have finished writing this post, I shall probably watch the two remaining episodes. The fact that the words Series 1 follow the title means, I hope that there will be more. I was struck by how in the three I have seen (Lemn Sissay, Simon Armitage and Richard Coles) at some point each muses on the power of walking and landscape to soothe, to heal, to inspire and to calm. I shall be shocked if Selina Scott and Sayeeda Warsi say anything to the contrary. The programmes made me more than ever want to get my boots on and get out into the country, but with strict instructions to stay local, Cynthia and I are planning an urban walk from our front doors to Norwood cemetery next week. we need to plot a route. The most direct way is along main roads, but they will be the most polluted, so we would be better sticking to side streets, housing estates and parks. It’s going to be an adventure.
It’s my half birthday and the universe seems to be telling me to leave things alone. I repeatedly forget to buy a lottery ticket in a shop, when I try to buy one online it doesn’t work; I make the decision to put my flat on the market and I turn down the virtual tour option, a second lockdown is announced immediately. Return to Go, go back two spaces, miss a turn, or whatever board game cliché you like.
I’m not sure how I feel about the flat, certainly some relief, but whether that is simply to do with knowing I can duck out of the stress of selling and buying for a while, or if I don’t really want to move, I don’t know.
I do love London in the autumn. With the dark streets lit by the lights of cafés, bars and restaurants I almost certainly shan’t go to, even the wettest night – and we’ve had a fair few of those this past week – takes on a fairy land look. Riding on the top deck of an almost empty bus, looking out at the capital is a pleasure. Then Celia and I came across a vegan café not far away with outdoor space where, when we can socialise again, we should be able to meet, and my world seems complete.
A bit of change of subject today. I spent a fair amount of time travelling backwards and forwards to the West End. I can’t say it was an entirely successful use of my time, but I did get stuck into The Nickel Boys by Colston Whitehead, a book that has been on my to read list, as opposed to the pile by my bed, for some time. I found it and Margaret Attwood’s The Testaments in the Barbican Library yesterday.
Celia and I walked uo to City. Both of us were somewhat overdressed. Not in the sartorial sense, though Celia was undoubtedly smarter than I was, more in anticipation of rain which did not come (at least in the quantities expected), and temperatures lower than they actually were. Celia has a pair of waterproof trousers which are very smart. Much smarter than my over trousers. I have waterproof trouser envy, something I have never before experienced.
We ate our packed lunches under cover. There were an awful lot of cigarette butts about. I thought of the City’s campaign to get people to dispose of chewing gum and cigarette ends responsibly and realised it had failed.
After the library, which really I shouldn’t gloss over because the Barbican library is a joy, we went to the conservatory. Celia was ahead of me as I was looking at Which? reports of cordless vacuum cleaners. If anyone reading this has a Halo Capsule (with bag), a Tineco A10 Hero, a Vax Blade 4 bagless, or a Jashen cordless, please get in touch.
Since finding Billy Mann and his blog every time I am near the Barbican I wonder if unknowingly I shall see him. Maybe I did.
The month comes to an end with a wet evening, although this morning was dry and warm. Last night we sat in a group of six in the dusk then dark drinking and talking, nibbling on crips, or in my case water melon. Actually we were seven, but before your outrage and rule breaking surges, the seventh was feline. Not MasterB who was snoozing indoors, and took his constitutional later, but Hartley.
Hartley had a lovely evening. He found B&J before they even had time to sit down. He made sure he acknowledged each member of our little group, and checked out Celia’s bag in case it had anything for him. J groomed him and his face expressed his bliss. Later Celia groomed him as well, so if he keeps a diary I suspect yesterday would have been a five star day.
Celia had returned from Wales earlier in the day and rescued me from the computer screen by suggesting a walk in Burgess Park. It was another beautiful afternoon. And very autumnal. There were swathes of michaelmas daisies.
Michaelmas daisies en masse
Michaelmas daisy close up
The South London Botanical Institute is not offering fungi identification at the moment, though I notice it has an open day tomorrow to visit its garden. Celia’s interest in fungi has not waned and we spotted a wonderful specimen at the base of a tree.
A closer look
Not everyone was interested in fungal growths. The park wore an air of contentment.
I’m going to let photos do most of the work tonight. I had my first proper, boots on, train to the start point, walk for months today. If we are locked down again it may be my last for a while too. At the last minute my friend Nicola decided to join me and we met yup at Waterloo Station. The walk is the the one Celia and I did at Easter 2019, and it was wonderful to do it in a different season. We stopped at the Watts Gallery for lunch, checked out the shop, spent some precious moments at the Chapel and revelled in the views of the countryside, the boot against the path, the blackberries in the hedgerows and the sweet chestnuts bursting from their spiny shells.