Pictures to Follow

According to my Fitbit, a piece of technology I love more than I could have ever imagined, I walked around fifteen miles. Which means Celia did too, as we spent the day together. It’s not everyone who would be happy to spend my birthday walking in wind and occasional sunshine across the fens, but fortunately it’s not only poetry and dying mothers that has underpinned our friendship. I’m saying about, as Fitbit speaks metric, so it tells me I walked 26.16 km, and my conversion to imperial is approximate at the least.

We breakfasted on porridge and coffee. Celia normally has tea, so that might explain how even before the washing up was dry she’d broken the coffee pot and managed to move the pull-out table from its runners on one side. Mind, I am the person who threw the kitchen scales out of the galley window and into the mud at the base of the marina where they are doubtlessly puzzling the resident fish.

We set off before either of us could do by more damage, changing our shoes for walking boots, and clothed in several layers against the wind. As a first port of call we were heading for Wicken Fen, a nature reserve run by the National Trust. I went there once with Mother many years ago. We always meant to return but it didn’t happen. Celia and her mother had planned to go, but didn’t make it. So motherly ghosts came with us yesterday. Appropriate for me at least since Mother died on my birthday four years ago.

It’s hardly The Pennine Way. I am listening to Simon Armitage read his book, Walking Home, Travels With a Troubador on the Pennine Way, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys walking. With an hour of listening to go, he reads the sentence, ‘I walk therefore I am’; a feeling familiar to anyone who has enjoyed a spell of walking day after day no matter what the terrain. Actually I’d recommend it to a anyone, but maybe not listening to it on the bus as I started doing, as my snorts of laughter drew curious and worried glances from my fellow travellers. Whether they were members of the Communist Party I know not.

Regular readers of this page may recall that Celia and I have a track record for getting lost when we go walking. I was mildly concerned, though I hope it didn’t show, when Celia said she had forgotten her compass and her whistle. I was hoping it wasn’t going to come to that. Maybe she needed to redeem herself in her own eyes, anyway her map reading was exemplary and we reached Wicken Fen in time for lunch. I was hovering over whether to have a baked potato as well as the soup which sounded greenly delicious when the most heavenly cheesy smell filled the air. Home baked scones about to leave the oven. Decision made, and a severe setback for my progress towards becoming an egg eating vegan (sic).

I even photographed the lunch; it was that good. We went round the boardwalk after spending a long time in the very wonderful shop. Celia upgraded the OS map from the one I had onboard and which I believe belonged to Mother, to a new one with larger scale. There was a windmill, and misled by the Wicken flour for sale in the shop, we assumed it was used to grind grain. Not so, it drained the fens and allowed people to grow crops. In one hide a coup,e with strong binoculars some in whispers about birds they could see several miles away. I took a photo of the information board showing the great crested newt which made me think of Janh1 and Sabina. A modern windmill ironically keeping the fen moist to protect it as a wildlife habitat stood diagonally opposite the old mill. Continue reading

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Out of Reach

It's a rule of fruit picking that the best fruit is either too high or protected by nettles and brambles. Still, it's that time of year when the blackberries are ripening and high on my list for this morning was to go a-gathering in Reach.

I've written about Reach before. It's a village near das Boot with a perfect pub and a perfect organic farm. Most of my blackberry gathering over the last four summers has taken place there. Not all the berries were ripe. Some were still at the flowering stage, so should I get back within the next month or so there's a good chance I shall get a second crop.

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.

A Wonderful Day

I shouldn't like to live on das Boot all the time, and I can say with great certainty that neither would MasterB, but that doesn't stop me from feeling sad that I shall go home tomorrow, or from MasterB having a nice time now. He has commandeered my seat, a fold up director's chair of some vintage, rather as he commandeers the sofa. I am writing in the dark to discourage the ingress of insects.

I just tried to ring Aunt, but her number was engaged. It was similarly engaged half an hour ago, from which I deduce that she is relating our day to Uncle Bill.

As forecast, the day dawned bright and sunny. It got brighter and sunnier as the morning passed. And hotter. I should have mentioned hotter, some 30 degrees C, and hotter still in my car after it had sat in sunshine for a while with the windows closed outside Aunt's flat this afternoon.

Showered, dressed and breakfasted, and with my hair brushed and also washed, I headed off for Aunt's, only to discover when I stopped to buy the paper that I had left my purse on das Boot. At least I was able to offload the bags of used cat litter into the bin outside the newsagent's. I refused all Aunt's offers of cold drinks, biscuits, and goodness only knows what and hurried her out of her flat. My big fear was that we would reach the pub only to find the table she prefers, her table, taken.

So she got her vist to the marina, albeit briefly, while I grabbed money, a hat and sun cream, not realising Aunt had already put the latter two requisites in her bag in advance of my arrival.

We admired the poppies in the fields, the growth of the corn, the neatly rolled hay bales, and the rectangular ones. The sun shone. Continue reading

Murderous Thoughts, Fresh Eggs, and A Day With Aunt

It was fortunate that I was able to come East yesterday afternoon, as minutes before I left I had a conversation with someone that made me want to modern one of my neighbours. Celia and Octavia can probably guess which one. I may still want to murder her when I get home on Sunday, as my feelings have remained pretty unchanged for over twenty-four hours, but at least there are some miles between us for a while.

If MasterB had not gone back to bed and delayed me, I shouldn’t have had the conversation at all. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

Anyway. I played Van Morrison in an almost endless stream, and got out beyond the slow London traffic to the slow traffic beyond, and practised breathing calmly, and made myself concentrate. In my head I wrote a paean to gardens and how good they are for us. I don’t remember it now, but it comforted me and included the word lyrical, which is one of my highest words of praise.

So maybe there is karma, because when I stopped a mile or so short if the marina at the new egg place, all the dogs came out to greet me, which brought the Egg Lady herself, who explained the eggs were sold, then suddenly remembered she had just collected a few, and if half a dozen would be all right? Which they would. And we chatted, and I gave her my collection of egg boxes from the boot of the car. And drove the last part of the road to das Boot admiring the poppies by the leek fields, the evening sun on the grass, and telling MasterB he was A Good Boy. Continue reading

Aunt at the Pub, Birds, Super Repairman, and MasterB

I had a little problem with my car on the way home, meaning that MasterB and I sat in an isolated lane for around forty minutes waiting for the repairman. Actually MasterB lay and I stood. I moved his cat basket from the car and settled him in the shade of a tree.

The repairman would have been quicker had not the person who answered my call, yes Connor, I do mean you, given the address my mobile phone appeared to be calling from rather than where I said I was. It turns out the two are some five miles apart. The repairman, not finding me, called. He quoted the address he had. I squeaked. He took down the details I gave him. He arrived, and despite a distinct lack of underpants on top of his overalls, diagnosed and fixed the problem. Continue reading