Home Thoughts From the East

OK I am back in London where, although the thermometer tells me the temperature is the same, it feels much hotter than in the country. Tonight, having cleared some space on my laptop, I have been able to download some pictures from my little Olympus.

Goodness I feel conflicted. I grew up in the countryside. I walked to school through a housing estate, where I lived, built on farmland, through more farmland, and my first school years were beside a sheep farm. We had plenty of opportunity to witness the cycles of life. I thought lambs were born in plastic bags.

The countryside exerts a huge pull. But I live in London. Unlike New York, it sleeps, but there are endless exhibitions, free events, wonderful theatre. My neighbour Wendy, who has a number of serious health issues, has been disregarding her partner’s instructions. He is away from home, and, anxious about her wellbeing, has told her not to leave the house. Well, huh to that. I have met her out and about the last two days. She is very interested in the pretty tabby I have told her about, though partner has banned any new cats. We stood on the street, and were joined by other neighbours. Wendy’s health issues have not dimmed her interest or attendance in theatre. Time was I’d see her dancing through her housework which she’d do accompanied by the soundtrack to shows such as South Pacific. One of the neighbours who joined our chat – never believe the rubbish that Londoners don’t know their neighbours – explained she had lived in Brixton, had not heard of Walworth, and now could not believe how central was her location.

But this is not what I intended to post about. I have a few pictures on my camera from das Boot. Pictures I hope will help you understand why I love being there. Pictures which show MasterB relaxed and contented afloat.

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Intrepid Friends, Captain’s Log 1st May 2016

It’s not all pink gins, striped tops and waiting for the sun to pass the yard arm you know. No, not at all. Without a yard arm in sight to tell us whether it was okay to drink or not, Celia and I polished off the bottle of white wine that has been keeping me company in the evening since. Friday. We were also having a very late lunch.

This morning I dressed in my horrid three quarter length trews, a pair of waterproof trousers which badly need replacing as the elastic has gone, and I feel like one of those boys who wears their trousers below their buttocks, Mother’s old waterproof, black rubber gloves and my beach shoes. The reason for such glamorous attire? I wanted to start on the task of cleaning the exterior of das Boot.

It’s curiously satisfying work, though perhaps not the traditional way to spend one’s birthday, but I was as happy as Larry as the accumulated filth of the winter months started to wash away. I spent ages on the front cover and wet, it looked pretty good. Dry, I can see all the bits I missed.

I stopped, reckoning it must be approaching twelve, then inside discovered the seals around the bathroom windows need replacing, and there was evidence of my work on the walls. It didn’t take long to clear up, then I tripped off to the shower.

I had just stepped back on board and was wondering whether to eat a piece of bread and cheese or tidy up a bit when my phone pinged. A message from Celia to say she had boarded the train, and was due to arrive in a little over an hour at Ely. Continue reading

30th April 2016, Captain’s Log

My watch strap has broken. OK, not exactly the end of the world, but very annoying, and a reminder of how much I rely on being able to glance at my wrist and know what time it is. A bit more annoying as I only bought the watch strap a week ago. I'm thinking about my bed and wondering if !MasterB will settle. He's not exactly had a lot of exercise today, though earlier this evening we played for a while and then I turned all the lights out so he could sit on my knee and look out at the ducks swimming beside us and the geese flying overhead. Celia may come tomorrow, and if she does, she has offered to look in my flat for his harness and bring it with her.

 

It's cool now after a warm, sunny day. Well, warm after the winds that were gusting first thing had calmed down. Cosy on das Boot, I had woken feeling too warm. That was the second time I woke. The first time was when Himself was vocally reminding me he had not had enough to eat. I did, for a nanosecond consider getting up then. It was as dawn was breaking, and I understand that otters are swimming the river then. If it had been a simple matter of strolling down to the river bank, being immediately rewarded by the sight of frolicking otters and then returning to bed, I'd have done it. But I think it's more of a wait in the cold light of a new day and hope.

 

I heard a cuckoo this afternoon. It seems to me I always hear my first cuckoo of the year when I am at the marina. I had to leave das Boot to get a newspaper. The nearest newsagents is at Burwell. I have been there lots of times. Somewhere I read that it is the largest village in East Anglia. Until today I had thought I knew its extent. But I decided on a different route back, turning left instead of right, then a series of right turns to bring me back to a familiar road, and Burwell stretched away and far beyond where I thought its boundaries lay. I passed a building advertising freshly laid eggs and homemade chutneys. I noted it for times when the hen lady has run out of eggs.

 

My morning drive took me through Reach where I dropped off several bags of used cat litter and found the recycling bank. At the Organic Farm I bought tomato plants and a second hand copy of a Len Deighton novel I read in the 80s, a bunch of yellow tulips that had been reduced to 50p because they were already open. They opened further in the warmth of the car, and are now boldly splendid in the blue and white striped vase Mother bought from the Oxfam shop. It was intended as a present, but she started using it, as indeed she did all the other things she bought that day. At the time I was puzzled. In retrospect, I realise it was one of the signs of her entry to dementia.

 

I was wearing Aunt's body warmer, and realised I was in the local uniform of the horsey community. There's a fair at Reach every May Day Bank Holiday, and the death defying rides, tooth rotting sweet stalls and all the rest of the paraphernalia is being set up.

 

Back at the marina, Ian was working on his boat. He and his wife Jackie have become people I look forward to seeing when I come east. They are warm, unpretentious, generous. True to form, Ian checked out the engine of das Boot. I have been worried as when we ran it a few weeks back no water came through, meaning it wasn't sucking up water from the river to cool the engine. He fixed it in a trice. The pump needed to be primed. Phew.

 

I spent the rest of the day being alternately active and lazy. I finished listening to a not very good story while digging horrible muck out of the window frames. I sat in the sunny fore cabin and read the paper. I considered the filthy exterior of the port side of the boat and wished I had got the water pump and hose out after lunch. Hence the plans for tomorrow morning if it's warm enough.

 

Unusually for me I have taken hardly any photographs, though I have my good camera and all my lenses. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next time. I don't know how many more seasons I shall have das Boot, but if I can manage it, I shall be here quite a lot this summer.

Pictures to Follow

The grebes are nesting, but not next to das Boot. This year they have chosen a spot on the river. I watched them busy collecting material. It seems much noisier spot than in the marina, but I suppose most grebes don’t have the luxury of off river facilities. I took some pictures, but it don’t know they show more than vague outlines.

I forgot MasterB’s harness so he can’t have shoreleave, and this time he seems rather keen. I’ve been playing with him, but it can’t be as interesting as the smells he’d have found out on a walk. Indoor cats must miss out on a lot.

 

The forecast has been so dire I nearly didn’t come. But in my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to be here and if there was a chance the weather might be kind, I would come. So there I was this morning, still vacillating, but at the back of my mind choosing the things I would pack. Pity I forgot the harness. Maybe if it’s quiet tomorrow morning I’ll risk taking him ashore and letting him run free. Not if it’s windy though. I don’t want any accidents when he gets back in board.

 

The journey east was varied. We left in sunshine, drove through hail with winds that swept the rain sideways across the roads. Pedestrians in Stratford outlined by garments wrapped round them. Then more sunshine; winds that chased clouds across impossibly blue skies; scatters of raindrops.

 

There were roadworks. There are always roadworks in spring. One lot had us crawling several miles until we were clear. I stopped at a petrol station and filled the tank.

 

Near the start of the undulating road across the fens that leads to the marina I nabbed half a dozen eggs from the nice egg lady. The road seems even more undulating than a week ago. Mary and her two uncontrolled but beautiful Labradors was here. They ignored her commands and jumped up at me. MasterB, so had been quiet and accepting most of the journey began to cry plaintively as I emptied the car. I wanted to get the bed made before he came aboard. When I let him out of his box, he made big eyes and sniffed everywhere before taking refuge under a pillow.

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Blissfully Afloat

It's a repeat performance. I don't want to go home tomorrow. The sun is warm, the evening long and light. Now nine at night and it is still broad day.

Truly, the northern isles of the UK and the RoI are magical in midsummer. Birds sing. MasterB sleeps. The Shouty Man is quiet and fishing. There are dogs. The lovely Nelson, a black Lab, has got me pinned as a soft touch, thrower of balls, and he brings me fluorescent tennis balls when I go ashore.

Das Boot is more than half clean. The newspaper is entirely unread. I bought eggs from a new source this morning and met a a young Rotweiler who really really wanted to say hello.

I do feel a bit guilty about not seeing Aunt. I shall be back in a couple of weeks and shall devote a day to her.

What I thought was a fairly casual conversation last week has been taken seriously, and apparently there is someone ready and waiting to replace the linings on my boat. This is very good news. Continue reading

Separated by a Common Language

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Dog Named Bob.”

James walked into the sitting room and sat down heavily on the sofa. Bob thumped a welcome with his tail on the floor and James reached down to stroke the dog’s head.

Jane smiled, carefully capped her pen, and blotted the ink on the letter she’d been writing. She poured him a glass from the bottle on the table.

“Is she asleep?”

He nodded, taking an appreciative sip and turned the bottle so he could read the label. Continue reading

Of Spring Days, Happy Cats, and Supper in the Garden

Supper tonight at Octavia’s and some very bad pictures of the Grey Ninja who swarmed up her catwalk, slid behind the frothy blossom of next door’s tree and disappeared to her own private hunting grounds. She did make a sudden and rather speedy return, and when we stood up we saw a grey tabby following her. He changed his mind about coming closer in the face of our stares. As I said to the Grey Ninja, next time he asks you ‘you and whose army?‘ you can remind him of tonight.

Bad Photo of Grey Ninja and Pink Blossom

Bad Photo of Grey Ninja and Pink Blossom

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Between the Seasons

Seeing the signs of spring as I drove to and from Aunt’s was a tonic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Drifts of snowdrops beside the road; slightly more light at the end of the afternoon; busy birds.
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From Aunt’s flat I watched blue tits and blackbirds. A male pheasant strutted by, his feathers gorgeous in the sunshine. A green woodpecker attacked the grass. Aunt and I gazed at him from the window.
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At the front of the building the river birds were noisily in charge. The geese were the most evident, but ducks snoozed on the grass, and a pair of swans paddled by. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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On the way home, I was surprised to see signs of snowfall. There had been a dusting of snow on Thursday night, but I hadn’t thought it had been enough to settle. These are the strange weeks where winter and spring seem to intermingle.Today i dried my washing on the line and walked around outside with no coat gloves or scarf. Yesterday I felt as though the cold had seeped into my bones.

The Apprentice Hunter

Much as I love watching Not Cat exploring the garden and climbing the trees, I am increasingly aware that this is all preparation for successful hunting. He has at least two hides now where he can crouch concealed among leaves to watch for birds. He alerts me to the presence of the wrens and blue tits by his obvious interest. The blackbirds alert me to his whereabouts. He’s fast and light and determined. A friend with two killer cats reckons he is studying. I do hope she’s wrong. I never saw Cat catch a bird. He was interested, and would sit hopefully for hours beneath the bluetits’ nests, which is how we knew where they were, but I only saw him catch mice and moths.
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