The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th June 2021

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.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd June 2020

MasterB and I slept soundly. It’s cooler today but not cold. We woke to the sound of the woodpecker. Just before the start of lockdown I spoke to my cousin in Co Derry with whom I stay regularly. She was expecting me to head to the boat to self isolate. I couldn’t as the boat was out of the water, not connected to hook up and the water tank was empty, but then it became clear I wouldn’t have been allowed to anyway.

When I thought about it I was relieved. We know we can be infected with Covid 19 but show no symptoms for several days. The idea of being seriously ill here, was. not appealing. I also think I should have gone stir crazy. Friends have been so important in this time. Waving to those sequestered in their homes, walking with Celia, the socially distanced alcohol free aperitifs with a Michèle, even standing in queues has helped the adjustment to the new normal.

But now feels good to be away. My friends know that I have an almost constant debate whether to stay in London or move away so that I can buy a property with a small garden, something I cannot afford in the capital. The cuckoo, the duck and the woodpecker have done much to persuade me to the latter course over the past twenty-four hours.

It may be the stress of lockdown, or maybe because she has a void in her life, but my bossy neighbour has become even bossier. I can’t see her moving, so it looks like it will have to be me. I have neither the desire nor the stomach for confrontation, and she seems to thrive on it. 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.

Mixed Emotions

I am aboard das Boot on a spring evening. I came here this afternoon, after a later start than planned, but I had been weeping over the tributes to Victoria Wood, then my nice neighbour Lawrence was helping connect my television to the internet.

I have a strong suspicion that Victoria Wood’s fame never crossed the Atlantic. In my adult life her writing and performances have been a continued pleasure. I believe sometime in the past I posted a link to her singing one of her many compositions, Let’s Do It. Check it on YouTube and you may understand what you have missed if her name is new to you.

Although I came up to das Boot a couple of weeks ago, I came by train, and met Brian who has been doing some work on my neglected vessel at the station before coming here in his car. Today was the first time I have driven East since Aunt’s funeral, and the first time I think I have ever stayed here without calling her. I want to tell her that the Great Crested Grebes are around and I am crossing my fingers they will again nest near das Boot; that there are new born lambs in the field next door, and pairs of ducks swimming about the marina; that I saw bluebells in the roadside woods, and stray tulips posing as wild flowers on the verge.

My visit is brief. I shall go home tomorrow. Last time I was here I realised the while. Brian has making the necessary improvements the boat’s interior has filled with dust. Like every man who has ever worked on das Boot, Brian does not share my philosophy regarding dust sheets. Whenever I leave, I cover the soft furnishings and the mattress, put bedding into zipped bags, with the aim of reducing the amount of spider poo and other unwelcome additions to them. Brian has removed the dust covers, folded them neatly, and not replaced them. What is it about dust covers that men don’t understand? Continue reading

Of Boat Cleaning, Dogs and High Tissue Consumption

There are three black Labradors at the marina tonight. A mum, and her two growing puppies who are staying in the family. Full of vim, when I said hello, they pulled their master to the ground. His wife came out of the loo, and we bonded as dog lovers do, so that at the end of several minutes, I knew the dogs’ names, but not the humans. The adult dog is used to river cruising, but for the two youngsters, tomorrow will be their first time. I may have to watch them set off.

The people on the boat next to mine were struggling with flat batteries. We chatted and as they were asking about my boat, I gave them the guided tour. It was nice to see it through their eyes. They seemed impressed. They also have the same problem with the vinyl lining as I have.

Eventually I stowed my stuff away, ran the engine for fifteen minutes to ensure hot water; removed and shook the dust covers; wiped away the spider poo; used the vacuum cleaner and upset the resident insects and arachnids.

Then it was time to get down to the main reason I had come East. An afternoon of washing the roof of the boat, and scraping away things that had started to grow on the foredeck, left me satisfiedith my efforts, but tired. The boat’s blue front cover is increasingly green, but it will have to wait until morning. A hot shower and a good meal did much to restore me, so then I thought I watch a programme I had downloaded to the iPad.

It seemed a good idea at the time. I was watching something else, and as I don`t have any advanced technology at home that always me to record programmes to see later, I tend to rely on the different channels’ services.

The programme was Stammer School on Channel 4. Maybe you saw it. It followed three people with stammers through a four day course in Croydon where they found their voices. There were lots of tears. And not just on the screen. A few minutes in, I fished a tissue out of my pocket and blew my nose; hard. Continue reading

Back on the Boat Again

Oh it’s a hard life: leaving London in the rain and driving east to where the forecast says it’s dry, and finding it’s true. Watching the sunset go down with a glass of cider close at hand. My window frames slightly cleaner than when I arrived. Not difficult that; you could have planted potatoes in them when I got here.

Only one thing missing to make it a perfect evening. MasterB has remained in London with the lovely neighbours. It made the cleaning easier; I vacuumed, and where Cat thought the vacuum was a love rival, MasterB thinks it is a dangerous alien.

Between cleaning and dinner (and there is more cleaning to be done if anyone would like to volunteer), I went for a walk. Harvested hay; flowers by the verge, slows; cyclists enjoying the fine evening; a lone swan when I got back to the marina. Continue reading

Ahoy There

Afloat. It is dark and cold. MasterB has deserted me for the warmth of the bed where the electric blanket is doing its stuff to make sure I sleep in aired sheets.
I knew there would be work to do on das Boot. I haven’t been here for months and she has been on holiday to the boatyard. She looks wonderful. On the outside. Inside was a different story. Please put the dust covers back over everything I asked the boatyard people. Of course, they said. Did they hell. At least they didn’t remove the dust covers from the bed, that would have been a disaster, because they piled everything else on top; dirty fenders, ropes, you name it. Continue reading

Blue Sky Thinking

It’s a perfect April evening here tonight. The skies are blue; there’s a stiffish breeze; the lilacs are swaying; the grass is a glorious green after all the rain. Just gorgeous.

I heard that May is expected to be cold and wet, but I am hoping that at least the May Day Bank Holiday weekend will be fine. The plan is to spend the long weekend on das Boot. The extra day means I can spend time with Mother, have a full day afloat and head back to London before the roads get clogged up.

It’d be good to do a bit of boat work; swab the decks; clean the outsides of the windows. That sort of thing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m quite tempted to invite Katharine Whitehorn to stay. In her autobiography, Selective Memory, she commented that cleaning her boat put her in quite a different state of mind to cleaning her house. Maybe she’d like to keep her hand in. She’s a cat lover too, so she could enjoy NotCat and I could get to meet one of my heroines.
Continue reading