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.

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Dog Show

It may have been mainly about antiques, but there were an awful lot of dogs.

Some of them looked none too impressed that their walk had turned out to be a lot of standing around. At one point the heavens opened and we made a run for the tea tent. The camera crew carried on filming; dripping marquees, sheltering people, this dog.

 

The setting couldn't have been better. We were at Stormont. The approach is wonderful, and many of the dogs at the Antiques Roadshow yesterday enjoy their exercise in the grounds of the castle. Quite enough to give a dog a sense of grandeur.

 

Interest was fairly intense with knots of people gathered around experts.

These experts seemed to favour bright colours, whether in socks or trousers.

 

And Fiona Bruce's jacket drew admiring glances and comments. We caught up with her in a pre-recording moment talking to a man who had brought a glass inscribed no surrender, which had belonged to his grandfather.

Although all three of us had agreed we did not want to be filmed, we were standing right behind her as the cameras rolled, so if you see a trio of women when this episode is broadcast looking alternately interested and uneasy, that will be us. We stayed as she prepared to talk to a boy and his mother. The boy, or rather young man as it turned out he was 18, Sam won the Norhern Ireland Young Musician of the Year competition, and we were lucky enough to hear him play his violin.

We quickly became paid up Fiona fans. One way or another I have met a few TV celebs. Most have been lovely, but one TV chef was a prat, quite the opposite of his bonhomous TV persona. Fiona Bruce fell firmly in the first category; professional, patient, natural. Unfortunately the black cloud which had been inching closer arrived above us at that point and everything was quickly covered over, the interview took place somewhere else while we sheltered in the tea tent.

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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.

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Flying Into Light

My flight was delayed by longer than I care to think about, ironic as I was in a panic at the railway station when I learned the train I planned to catch had been cancelled. A quick reroute, and I arrived at the airport more or less on time. And then had to kill it in a series of crowded areas amid families heading off for their summer hols. When I booked my flight I hadn't considered that this was the weekend after many schools in England would have broken up for the summer and hence one of the busiest times for travel all year.

We left Luton as the sun was setting. The sun is still setting. The sky looks much as it did thirty minutes ago, but we are flying north where the days are significantly longer at this time of year than in London and the Home Counties.

From which you have worked out that I am off to Cousin's again and flying to Belfast. I have no plans, or rather I had no plans, but in the moments before take off a swift exchange of texts and now I am seeing a friend tomorrow. Earlier texts at the airport with Speccy means that Tuesday afternoon is also pencilled in the diary as a possible time to meet up.

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Another Enchanted Evening

I am hoping MasterB will come and join me on the foredeck, then maybe venture ashore while it is still light and sunny. There's no one around. I can't even see any geese or cows in the field next door, though birds are singing and insects drone as they fly by me.

It has been a gorgeous day, perfect July weather, mid 20s degrees C, though it felt hotter this afternoon and I revised my plan to sit out here and stayed with MasterB in the rear cabin. That was a bit of a revelation. I don't usually spend much time looking out of the back of the boat when we are in the marina. It's perfect for bird watching. Birds were swooping about, skimming over the water to catch insects. The swallows were silent and graceful, but there was another bird in significant numbers that made splashy noisy contact with water. It had a forked tail and the same sort of wings as swallows, but was much bigger, and white with a black head. I reached for my bird book, the one I keep saying I am going to replace, wondering if there was a type of swallow I had never heard of. That would be eminently possible as an ornithologist I am not. But I think it's a Tern, a type of gull. I don't recall seeing them here before, at least not in such large numbers, which is another argument for an up to date bird book.

Before the day warmed up I did some boat cleaning. Armed with the water pump, the hose, an old toothbrush and an even older J cloth, I washed slime from the port side of the boat. My goodness it was dirty. I think I jet hosed it last summer, but you'd never have guessed. I had intended to do some jet washing today as well, to clean the stuff that stops me slipping and sliding on the gunwale, but the slime removal took longer than I expected, and when I went inside it was evident MasterB was not happy. For starters he had thrown up all over the but of carpet that sits in front of the sink. Another thing to wash.

So I curbed my enthusiasm, unplugged and disconnected everything, left them on the gravel to drain and dry while I showered. When I went to put them away a few hours later I found them boiling with ants, flying ants. Today is evidently the day when ants sprout wings, and the spot they were doing it here was in front of my boat. They have all dispersed now and the evening is left to dragonflies, bees butterflies and other things I can't name. Leaping fish make loud splashes, there's a bird that has been calling all day that sounds like a phone alarm. Goodness knows what that is. Every now and then cows I can't see low from the other side of the river.

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Not a Bad Life

As timing goes, it was pretty good. I'd been back on dasBoot rather less than thirty seconds after a longish (in terms of time rather than distance) walk with my camera when the heavens parted and there was a brief but determined shower of rain. Now it's shaping up to be another lovely evening.

 

Today I had decided to write. Some of you will now that a few years ago I started a collection of short stories about the Greek gods. These grew until I had around 18,000 words and I realised I was writing a novel. Lots of things happened at the same time: Mother's death and its aftermath, giving up my salaried part-time job and going completely freelance, Aunt beginning to fail. I think these things contributed to the cessation of my Greek gods stories, but the main reason was feeling I needed to structure what I had written, to think about what the point if the stories was. I stopped enjoying them and stopped writing them.

 

However, they have stayed with me. From time to time I have wondered how Hera is getting on, if her walking boots are still conker bright; if Hades and Persephone have managed the makeover of the Underworld; if Zeus has seen even a glimpse of the light regarding his behaviour; and how Poseidon and Amphitrite's business is going. I have wondered what Max and Dr Jones are up to, if Evangelia has moved to another job, if the Goddesses'Guild is thriving. Continue reading

A Not Uneventful Day

The trouble with not posting on a blog for while is that I have too much to say, too much to record, and sometimes, make that often, it's easier to draw a line under the passed days and start from wherever I am now.

I have always failed at keeping a paper diary for the same reason. Somehow a blog feels more forgiving. If this survives beyond me, and future family historians try to understand what great-to-the-power-of n Aunt Isobel's life was like, they may well suspect that the silent days were ones where I had nothing more to say than that I got up, had breakfast, fed the cat and frittered away the hours. If so, they will be wrong. In my head, walking along, on the bus, queuing in shops, I compose posts that are never written; posts where I muse on life's beauties and inequities, posts where I opine that the NHS could probably save a small fortune in anti depression medication if only IDS and Michael Gove were barred from speaking in public, or preferably at all, posts where I rail against cruelty to all animals, human and otherwise, posts when I realise that true happiness lies in the perfect poached egg.

Also posts about the Daily Mail, a paper I would go a long way not to read, but whose outrages are often reported elsewhere. A paper from which one might catch something nasty ending in ism. Does it have a purpose in the grand scheme of thing? Perhaps just to remind us of what hell might be like. I suppose Paul Dacre must have his uses, but so far I have not devined what they are. Apparently his staff have suggested his shoes never wear out as he goes from carpeted office to chauffeured car to home with barely any contact with the pavement, or reality. I'd like to think he pays enormous taxes that go towards funding the NHS, but I have a hunch he will have his money stashed in some offshore enterprise that means the exchequer sees little of what he is paid.

The Tory party has not learned from the Strong and Stable backlash, and is still in love with repeating alliterative phrases. The current fave seems to be stability and certainty, though for variety they are happy to use the words singly, then join them like cymbals for effect. I don't know how this goes down with other listeners, but I find I cannot remember a single word of what they have said other than the alliterative pairings, and those I translate as blah blah blah, a cover up for not really knowing what they are talking about. If they can't be bothered to make proper arguments why on earth should the electorate be bothered to listen to them, far less take them seriously?

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