Journey to das Boot

On a glorious autumn morning I am on the train to meet Older Nephew to take das Boot to the pump out at Ely and begin the process of winterising her. I have conflicting feelings about das Boot. I want to make improvements, I have ideas to make life aboard more comfortable, but I am also thinking the time is approaching to give up my car, and therefore das Boot. Older Nephew’s girlfriend is in London, and although he will still be based in the East, I wonder if his personal centre of gravity is shifting, and how often he will want or be able to join me when I am at the marina.
Continue reading

Plate licking good food

I like my food. Make that I love my food. There’s a television series at the moment with Jamie Oliver making vegetarian and vegan food without compromising on flavour.
The words in italics aren’t mine, they are used in the trailer by an anonymous voice. They are enough to stop me watching what may be a good programme with great recipes. The implied message is that vegetarian and vegan food is tasteless. What nonsense. They also suggest that these programmes are aimed at meat eaters. Wouldn’t it be nice if us vegetarians and vegans had a cookery programme aimed just at us, presented by reputable vegetarian and vegan chefs who don’t deal in analogue (fake) meats. One day.

Last Monday I went with my neighbour Helena to Broadway market where she was investigating a shop, normally a butcher’s, that was holding a vegan meat day. At the door a very nice woman offered me a vegan chicken nugget. Um, I said, I don’t eat chicken. Don’t worry, it’s vegan, she said. I tried it. It had a meaty texture and I wouldn’t want it again, but the dip was nice. Do you think it tastes like chicken? she asked. Um,again. I haven’t eaten meat for fifty years. I really couldn’t say. We had a chat. I explained that for me fake meat is an anathema. I can understand its purpose for people who struggle to give up meat, but that’s not me. Why on earth would I want to eat a fake version of something I didn’t like and don’t miss in the first place? She saw my point.

As autumn has tipped from being very Keatsian into something cooler, greyer and wetter, so my menus have undergone subtle changes. It’s still the season of mellow fruitfulness with a wonderful cornucopia of fresh produce to choose from, and quinoa salad has yet to pack its bags and settle under the duvet for winter, but soups, risottos and so on are suddenly more attractive.
I’ve been tucking into lentil and celeriac shepherd’s pie with lots of kale and leeks. Crumble (apple, blackberry, rhubarb) has become the pudding of choice. The other night I had said shepherd’s pie with kale, roast beetroot and onion gravy. It was heaven. I made my first celeriac risotto with a lemon oil and sage leaves. Delicious. I’ll be making that again. I have eaten quantities of noodles with green veg, tomatoes, mushrooms, spring onions and tofu. Fresh figs make the perfect snack.

Finger-licking good? How meagre, how half-hearted. This food is plate-licking good.

September in the fens and democracy up against the wall

When the big lorry passed me the fenland shuddered under my feet. Just a little reminder of how this is borrowed land. The soil is thick, dark, fertile. Whenever I look at now I think of Celia and how she wanted to bag it up and take it home. Autumn is all around. Once the baling starts in August, you know summer is nearly over. There are berries everywhere, sloes, hawthorn, acorns, some I cannot name. I picked a bowl of blackberries today. Two weeks ago I managed to pick a small bowlful to give to my downstairs’ neighbours. Returning to the same spot this afternoon, I had to remind myself to take only what I can eat between today and tomorrow.

Other than picking blackberries I didn’t have any plans for today. The forecast was for rain until mid morning. I heard the rain in the night. On the boat there is less between me and the weather than at home. I thought it would provide a nice reason to lie in bed, but when I woke properly, the rain had stopped. It was windy and rather grey. It still is windy, in that brisk business-like way that wind can have at this time of year; not cold, but as though it has things to do, and no dilly dallying will occur. But now the skies are blue and it was a pleasure to walk down the lane to deliver a letter and look more closely at the fields and the hedgerows.

There seems to be an awful lot of maize being grown this year. Usually the air around here is heavy with the scent of leeks, and I associate late August and early September with the voices of migrant workers in the fields, and in the evening the sound of music coming from the nest of caravans where they stay. There were fewer last year, apparently none this year. Better to earn money in a country where the currency will convert to a better amount of cash when they get home.

On a whim, coming back from my blackberry picking, my fingers stained, my nails rimed in purple, and bloody scratches on the back of my right hand, I turned down a lane I have passed many times but never used. It’s six years since Mother’s death, and three since Aunt’s, but I am mainly travelling the same routes.

The lane stopped near a bridge. A bridge I recognised from the walk Celia and I did a few years ago on my birthday. The weather was kinder today. I was excited to see the sculptures again, and to know how easily they can be reached from the marina. If Older Nephew doesn’t come for lunch tomorrow I may drive back to the same spot, park the car and walk the three miles to Wicken Fen, and the three miles back. I wish I had a bicycle here.

At the marina a swan was in the middle of a patch of pennywort. It stopped what it was doing to watch me, so I couldn’t tell if it was the pennywort it was eating or something else. The former I hope.

When I arrived yesterday afternoon MasterB made his way confidently down to the boat. He hid under the rug when Stuart, who has been doing some necessary work on das Boot, arrived. It was a glorious evening. I’d been filling the water tank, laboriously carrying five litre containers backwards and forwards, filling them at the tap on the other side of the marina. Some people turned up in a car, and stood about with bags of food and drink, like characters in search of a picnic. They told me they were waiting for a friend and were going out on his boat. I’m glad they didn’t stay at the marina. Boy they were loud. It was just after they left I realised I couldn’t see MasterB. He wasn’t under the rug, wasn’t on the bed, wasn’t using the litter tray.

I had left the boat open while collecting water. The pennywort by the boat looks like solid ground and for several heart pounding minutes I thought my boy had leapt onto it, fallen through it and was drowned. Willing myself to be calm, I searched the boat again and at last thought to check under the rear cover which was partly folded away. He was there. The relief I felt was overwhelming.

We did our old couple act in the evening. The sunset was around eight, and I closed the curtains against the insects once the lights were on. I watched Bake Off as MasterB purred under my hand. He is the perfect companion. I had watched much of the news, seen Rees-Mogg lounging, and on his feet, speaking in his most languid, would-be patrician tones, still saying the same old lies, still talking about Project Fear, or Project Reality as it is rightly called, while keeping silent about the lack of benefits Project Unicorn has brought us. I agreed with him about one thing, I should not like to see Corbyn as Prime Minister, and I believe there are many of the same mind as myself. However, if it came to it, I’d probably go for Corbyn and his church of Momentum groupies than Johnson and his inner circle of hell liars. We are, as the popular saying goes, between a rock and a hard place. I reckon Johnson wants a general election. I don’t. I think it would just muddle things even more. If the electorate does get asked to vote again in the next few weeks it should be for a People’s Vote, and any and all campaigning by both sides must be subject to scrutiny, with campaigners understanding that telling lies will render votes for their side null and void.

I noted that Rees-Mogg selectedly referenced Speaker Lenthall last week when he was rebuking Speaker Bercow. He said the Speaker should have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak. I’m guessing most people don’t know the end of the quote and that it was said by Lenthall when Charles I wanted to know where the five MPs he had come to arrest had gone. Charles I was behaving scandalously. Lenthall was quick witted and diplomatic. He said he had “neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak save as the House (of Commons) direct me, whose servant I am here”. In other words, he was defending and protecting Parliament from an assault on its powers and independence, just as Bercow was against an assault by Johnson.

The game playing has to stop. This is a fragile and precious democracy that is at stake.

Captain’s Log 5th October 2018

B0CEA50F-6521-4B16-9399-EEFD03EA1ACAThe sky has now clouded over and there are just patches of blue in the white, but for most of the day it has felt more like early September than early October. MasterB and I were up betimes, showered, breakfasted, he then went to his new favourite post breakfast spot under the rug in the forecabin, I set to wiping off spider poo, dusting surfaces and vacuuming the floor.
I wondered idly what time Older Nephew would arrive and then thought to turn on my ‘phone to see if he’d messaged me. He had, and arrived shortly after eleven, armed with pizza and cans of lager.
We had to put water into the tank before we could set off. Annoyingly, right at the end of the season, it was empty. I shan’t be back before the spring, ON will be here with two friends to take the boat to the pump out, then drain the water out and winterise her. I realise as I type this we forgot to talk about anti-freeze.
So today we just enjoyed some time on the river which was millpond smooth. A few people turned up at the marina this morning to take their boats out, and we met others on the way to and from Ely. Tomorrow’s forecast is for rain and low temperatures so I am guessing those who were able to take advantage of today’s warmth did so.
We saw a bird I did not photograph with a pink mask at Ely. Three of them in fact. Having consulted all three onboard bird books we have failed to identify what it was. There were the coots and moorhens, mallards and swans, herons, geese and grebes, one sighting of a kingfisher. Some of the calves in the fields are tiny, at least one must have been only a few days old.


MasterB spent the day with us in the forecabin, at first still under the rug, then sitting out and enjoying a fuss, finally in a new citadel of cushions. I am hopeful that he is becoming more confident on our boat trips and maybe by the time he reaches double figures in 2020 may actually socialise with us when we go out.
I have put a few bits and pieces I don’t think I’ll need again in the car, I shall put the front cover on in a couple of hours. Supper is sorted, I know what I’m having from breakfast, the more packing up I can do now, the quicker we’ll be in the morning. The biggest job is stripping the bed then putting dust covers on everything and obviously that has to wait. In some ways it would make sense to go home this evening, and it has crossed my mind. But I think we’ll enjoy our last night afloat of 2018 and drive back to London in the rain.

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.
Continue reading

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.


Continue reading

Changing Seasons, Sunshine, and Self-Pity

The day is warm, the skies are blue and I am feeling sorry for myself.

The reason? I have a cold. An unaccountably achy neck and shoulder on Friday was the herald of a lurgy to mark the change from summer to autumn. By yesterday morning I was sneezing and using up paper hankies at an impressive rate. By evening my nose was as pink as MasterB’s. Some might even say pinker.

Mr Pink Nose

Somehow it doesn’t look as cute on my face. Continue reading

Lasting Impressions

I came home last night and today I’ve working, so it was nice, just now, to look at the photos I took while I was away and relive the moments vicariously.

I am rubbish at photographing birds. I have about six out of focus pictures of a Great Crested Grebe swimming about the marina, and at least six more when I have clicked the shutter as it has dived under water. So although this photo of a Moorhen won’t win any prizes, I am pleased with it.

Moorhen


That’s the ever spreading Pennywort covering the water’s surface by the way. I’m not keen on photos of sunsets either, but there something magical about cooking dinner and looking at this view.

View from the galley

Continue reading

Yesterday

I was reading when Older Nephew arrived and didn't hear his car. The crunch of gravel near at hand made me look up and there he was. Now the day was warm, though it had been chilly first thing when I had braved the Spartan conditions of the shower block to emerge briskly clean.

We had a brief discussion and decided to head out. Older Nephew had limited time, so it couldn't be a long trip. I made lunch as we travelled, and we kept our eyes on the skies watching the kestrels hovering. We also had to keep our eyes on the water. There was very little traffic but a lot of weed. MasterB had inspected it from the rear cabin window earlier at the marina.

There were a surprising number of cows with young calves, then this fine fellow lost in contemplation.

Another cow seemed to watching us.

Continue reading