Captain’s Log: Monday

Tomorrow, as well as being my birthday, is the fifth anniversary of Mother’s death. Clearing out some papers a couple of weeks ago I found a letter sent by a friend I have known since we were both five. She sent it just before Christmas 2013, and I imagine it must have been contained in a Christmas card. In the letter she commented on the fact that Mother’s death and my birthday happened on the same day, and remarked that for me this is a time of year when the space between heaven and earth will be particularly thin. It certainly feels like it today.

Although tomorrow is the anniversary of her death, today is the anniversary of the last time I saw Mother alive. And on and off today I have felt waves of emotion, reliving some of the memories of that day, and other memories of very different times. I’m sure part of the reason for this is that I am at das Boot where I stayed as she lay dying and for for several days afterwards, and also that I was with Older Nephew yesterday so family feelings got stirred up with the pair of us reminiscing about Mother’s wonderful baking repertoire. For the most part we had different favourites, but we were united in loving the marmite whirls she would make from scraps of left over savoury pastry. Heaven. Continue reading

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Captain’s Log: Sunday

I wrote this last night,but could not post as I had no internet. Surprisingly,this morning, which is wild,cold and wet, I’m able to get online. I hope it lasts and I may be able to post again later.

Well, we had a lovely day. Not the weather; that was resolutely grey, threatening, and occasionally delivering, rain, cold, and generally sulky. But Octavia made her first trip to das Boot and on it, with Older Nephew piloting, me on coffee, washing up and other Anneish activities as in the Famous Five. It is my boat after all, so it is only right and proper that I should be the chief wielder of duster, wet wipe, and wearer of rubber gloves.

We drank an impressive amount of alcohol while still remaining coherent and relatively sober. What that says about our livers I don’t know, and I’m not sure I want to know. MasterB, who had been distressed during parts of the car journey, voiding his bladder and bowels somewhere near Bow, spent most of the journey to the pub, The Shippe at Brandon Creek, where we enjoyed a very late but satisfactory lunch, under the pillows in the rear cabin. On the journey back to the marina he was keener to be near us, albeit hidden from view in a citadel of cushions in the fore cabin. Continue reading

Pitter Pattying

A quick post before bedtime while MasterB enjoys some Outside Time for the first time in days. He’s having a good sniff around, and seems quite confident, so I was able to come back indoors without the sense that I was abandoning him. The thaw has come. It was all amazingly quick. Yesterday morning the trees were staring to drip, but the pavement outside chez Isobel and Cat was still snow covered and icy. By the afternoon it was clear. A few bits of snow cling on in corners, but our snow people have almost gone, their hats lying on the grass. Yesterday was still very cold, but today, in comparison with last week, was almost balmy, 7℃ according to my thermometer. It was possible to walk down the street bare-headed and bare-handed without the imminent threats of hypothermia and frostbite.
I’ve been baking biscuits which is both good and bad. Good, because I enjoy it and it’s helping me work my way round my new oven. Bad because I eat them all very quickly. I have also been continuing to make fritters. Or rather patties. I thought I’d check what the definition of fritters was, and it says something cooked in a batter. I tried rissoles, but I think that said something encased in pastry. At last patties, which my concise OED (second prize in a crossword competition 1998) defines as a small flat cake of minced meat etc. I’m not entirely happy with this description; they have no meat and not very flat, but for the moment the name will have to do. Obviously this interferes with my plans for a volume of recipes Cooking for the Fritterati as the highway to wealth (still no luck with the lottery tickets. I hope the opera buffs are grateful for my continued subsidy). I have not so far thought of any punning title that includes patties, let alone the literati.
On the plus side, I still think they are delicious. I am mildly addicted. The current batch where the main ingredient is Carlin peas taste wonderful. I really must try to recall what I put in them.
I’m starting to explore the possibilities of aquafaba. It has become quickly apparent I am not on the same page as the most prominent vegan writers. I rarely use tinned beans, and chickpeas are just one pulse of several in my cupboards. Stubborn searching revealed aquafaba can come from various pulses, and you can make it at home. Then it becomes a bit vague. How much aquafaba equals one egg? How exactly do you include it? Where can you use it? I have no plans or desire to make meringue or macaroons any time soon. So I think the current aquafaba I have in the fridge is likely to be thrown out, but just keeping it has been interesting to see how it has thickened. I was put off an aquafaba page which said no references to animal products would be tolerated. I understand people have strong feelings, but it hardly wins hearts and minds when non-vegans are tentatively exploring possibilities. It could just request that people respect it is a vegan page. I agree with much of what vegans say, but when they claim the high moral ground and start lecturing, I find it irritating, and my inner teenager, never far from the surface, wants to stick my tongue out at them and walk away.
There was story I read as a child that has stayed with me. It was about the sun and the rain having a competition to get a man to remove his coat. The rain went first and tore at the man’s coat, summoning the wind’s help. The man was buffeted and pushed around. He drew his coat tightly round him. The rain conceded defeat. It was the turn of the sun. It directed its warmth at the man, drying his hair, allowing him to stand up without fear of the wind knocking him over. His coat steamed and began to dry. He unbuttoned it, and as the sun continued to gently warm him, removed the coat and carried it over his arm.
It’s my belief more people will be won over to veganism or flexitarianism through gentle persuasion rather than sledgehammer tactics.

Snow is Falling, Snow on Snow

Two months too late, the words of those Christmas carols about snow and cold weather are perfectly suited to London. My apologies to those of you who live in places where snow is a regular winter occurrence and who are wondering what all the fuss is about. I live in the south of a country where the climate is temperate, so any extremes mean acres of newsprint and all conversations dominated by talk of the weather. Actually we always talk about the weather, this may be a big island, but it is an island and the weather can change in a matter of hours. A lot of visitors from overseas, even somewhere as close as France, have the misplaced belief that it rains in London everyday, heavily. Er no, it doesn’t. Drizzle is more our style, Rome and Paris have more rain than London. That’s a fact. Yes, I do get irritated by people who seem to think Brits are born with webbed feet. Climate crisis is changing that though, and downpours are becoming the new normal. The snow is probably part of the same pattern.
So my pictures from today start in our garden.

Fuchsia


I woke in the night and knew there had been more snowfall. There was a quality to the light that is peculiar to snow. I looked out of the window and saw everything covered in white.

Purple in the snow


Our poor flowers are suffering. There’s a pale pink hyacinth that’s completely buried.

Laden


Our plants today are bowed down with the weight of the snow.

Garden chair


Hartley was out and about early, but then must have retired inside. His apewprints were everywhere, and I saw him eyeing the bird feeders.

Mosaic with growth


When the snow goes I need to weed this mosaic. Continue reading

The North Wind Doth Blow

The current bout of cold weather is being called the Beast from the East. I think I prefer the poem:

The north wind doth blow, And we shall have snow, And what will poor Robin do then? Poor thing. He’ll sit in a barn, And keep himself warm, And hide his head under his wing, Poor thing.

Not a lot of snow in London, snow is a rarity here. I got my washing mainly dry on the line this morning, though until the sun reached it, some of it was stiff and frozen. It was bitterly cold, and my cuddle with Hartley was shorter than he wanted. He was curling up on my lap preparing for a snooze when I stood up and headed back indoors to the warmth of the flat. I didn’t think it was going to snow, the forecast showed a twenty per cent chance but the skies were blue. But as I knuckled down to some of the endless paperwork the room became very dark, and I looked up to see real snow, serious snow, swirling about. It started to settle. For about half an hour it continued, then stopped. Tonight there is some left, a smattering, and it will freeze, so tomorrow pavements will be icy and treacherous.

But it is pretty.

I had to photograph the honey fungus on the cherry tree to send pictures to a tree surgeon so I took a few more photos of the garden while I was at it. I don’t know where the robin was, but this male blackbird seemed happy enough.

Blackbird

I checked the bird feeders to make sure the resident avian community won’t starve.

Bird feeders

Continue reading

Make Mine a Lemsip

The rain is lashing down. It’s ferocious, like an angry percussion section. The wind part of the weather orchestra is sending eerie whistles through slightly open windows and helping the rain create little scudding crescendos. I’m supposed to be on a train to spend the day with a friend on the Essex coast to walk and talk along the seashore, share some seasonal food and wine. Instead I’m in bed.

It’s not just the weather that has made me decide to stay in my pyjamas for the time being. On Christmas Eve I went out for a walk and realised I wasn’t feeling my usual happy self. Normally walking does a magical thing of connecting body and spirit for me. I love the way my limbs find their rhythm, breathing follows the same tune, eyes and ears absorb familiar and new sights. So when I found I was having to push myself along I examined my constituent parts and found a cold lurking. Continue reading

Autumn Boating

I have been pretty good about blogging recently, but now I am afloat, so I shall probably be on gold star behaviour for the next few days. It is windy. It is wet. MasterB and I are the only ones at the marina. And as there aren't other cars, I doubt if anyone else has taken their boat out. But since I last came, my neighbours have gone. There is no boat on the starboard side of the pontoon, and tonight the wind is coming from that direction so we are missing its shelter. That may be why I am having a frustrating time watching C4 news too. The winds play havoc with the signal, and it is breaking up so much a coherent narrative is impossible.

Yet the journey was full of sunshine. Golden leaves, trees on either side of the road glinting gold, red and yellow as well as green. It was fortunate the view was good as the journey itself was slow beyond belief due to intermittent road works which meant I was travelling at the end of the school day, so parents collecting their children (what happened to walking home or taking the bus, or cycling?) clogged the roads. Compensation as I neared das Boot. A glance to the right and there were three deer happily in a brown field. I saw a kestrel too, just sitting. I left a stack of egg cartons from not only my own stock, but also Octavia and my neighbours Hugo and Jolita, at Janet Eggs, I didn't see Janet, but her husband was ther with the dogs bounding about him.

People have been shooting tonight. Gunfire has peppered my unpacking and putting away. I don't think Keats references the hunting side of autumn. A great crested grebe was swimming about the marina when we arrived, then a swan. MasterB, released from his cat basket made straight for das Boot, although I was hopeful at one point he would dig a hole and have a pee and or a poo. Doubtless the joy of clearing both awaits me before morning. Continue reading

April Days

Last year's hanging basket has kindly come to life again with no effort from me other than irregular watering. Despite it being April, which you'll remember in the rhyme is the month associated with showers, and we're not talking personal hygiene here, this April rain in any form has been notably absent. Which makes me nervous for May, associated with flowers and my birthday. I am wondering if some new intern at heaven's weather station has seen the flow part of flowers and mistaken it for a month of gross inundation. The forecast is for frost next week, maybe even snow. I may have a stay at home birthday, and the mice will get a temporary reprieve on das Boot.

So make the most of these pix of the season while you can.