Archive | April, 2012

More from My Window

24 Apr

Starboard side, by way of a change….

Pretty aren’t they? I’m no expert on wild flowers but, if I am to believe the Collins Gem guide, it is the Cuckoo flower. AKA  Lady’s Smock, Milkmaids and Meadow Bitter-Cress, it is found in marshes and damp meadows. That was the clincher – it is that here for sure. It’s edible too. Hey, a new salad ingredient!

There’s much more photo opportunity portside, the towpath being across the river, and the people watching potential is brilliant. But I am loathe to point my camera in the face of the ‘innocent bystander’ and have been ever since my time in South Africa 2010.These women clearly did not want their picture taken, something of which I was blissfully unaware until John pointed out I was about to get stoned.  And not in a good way. See the one on the right, arming herself with a rock as the one on the left covers up?

I had no wish to offend or frighten these people; my actions borne out of ignorance of their culture. For that I am sorry.On the other hand, these boys positively relished being in focus and flashed gorgeous grins at my camera. There was a dead cow in the bakkie – see the blood running onto the road? A feast for the family.

Both shots were taken on approach to the Kei River bridge during the run up to Christmas, a particularly manic time on South African roads, as we returned from our epic road trip to visit John’s boys at their anti-poaching unit up near the Mozambique border.

Some towns were totally gridlocked.

So, it remains to be seen whether I brave the towpath people shots or not. I don’t want to upset anyone and you never never know do you?

From My Window

22 Apr

In a previous post I made reference to some of the things that gang up on me to tear me away from whatever it is I should be doing and it occured to me that perhaps I should show you what I am up against.Nice weather….…for ducks.Yesterday was all sunshine and showers here and gave way to the most stunning rainbow ever. I just had to leap up and go outside to see more…

…it was one of those perfect yet rare specimens that you can see both ends of, as well as the middle, and the light was incredible. A spectacular scene. Neither me nor my camera  was up to the job, sadly unable to capture its whole or to really do it justice. Hopefully the essence of the moment will come across in these pics.

This morning brought sunshine and white fluffly clouds that stood out against a beautiful blue sky; clumps of cotton wool suspended in the atmosphere like those in a child’s painting.…and Dobbins senior and junior came out to feed and frolic.It brought out the anglers too……and one man in his canoe.

I’d seen him coming through my cratch window at the front of the boat so went to position myself at the kitchen window, ready to take the shot as he passed. But he didn’t show up. I looked  forward again and he was taking a photo of Hobo!!We both had a jolly good laugh as he glided by. It really was a ‘snap’ moment and he did have a lovely laugh.

Notice how ‘de tren’ has snuck into shot too…?

So you see, in the last couple of days alone, there is much to take my mind from where it should be. And this is the norm. And minus the sound effects. Apart from jumping up to roll down the canopy each time it rains and again to open up when it stops, there’s always something afoot outside my window, albeit sometimes merely the elements showing off.

I can see that I have started something, which as well as whatever it is that distracts me in the first place, will now compel me to also photograph it for this spot. I feel it may become a regular feature of this blog.

I can also see that I shall have to keep my windows nice and clean….

The Week That Was…

20 Apr

Last Friday two of my neighbours set off for their summer cruise, earlier than usual so as to avoid the Olympic nonsense, vaguely headed for the Llangollen – or Llangollywog in Johnspeak.  I watch them chug away,  all smiley faces and waves;

two narrowboats travelling in tandem towards places as yet unseen and adventures unknown.

I am a little envious and question my decision to not cruise, as such, this year. My plan being to stay put, earn some money and give Hobo some attention – that much needed paint job being top of the list. It’s the right thing to do but still I feel unsettled. Or, more acurately, settled.

John, via e mail, reassures me this is the way to go and speaks of the fun we can still have, exploring more of the upper Lee, playing with anchors as we try out wild mooring techniques. Well done John, I am once again convinced I know what I am doing and  look forward to spending some time here just messing about on the river. What could be better?

Saturday turns out to be my really good news day. John is booked on a flight that gets him into Heathrow at stupid o’clock on the morning of April 30th.  My birthday. Hallelujah and Happy Birthday to me!

I ran out of gas on Monday, not like me at all, probably due to the 12kg cylinder (smaller than usual) only lasting just over two weeks. I am used to getting around six weeks worth of hot water and cooking from my normal 13.5kg – still not making sense. Anyhow, off I trot to fetch more so I can at least have a cup of tea. A 12kg costs £29.50 and a 19kg £31.50 – how does that work? Scandalous. I can’t woman-handle the bigger size so cough up the £29.50 but order a 19 for delivery – I hate not having a spare. I’ve been spoiled up until now, having access to gas  at cost price from John’s farm. The real world is painful.

The rest of the week sees me beavering away and my current assignment is almost complete. I’ve established a routine that works for me and I hope to continue to be productive and less likely to succumb to the many distractions that go with life on the water: jumping up to watch and wave as boats go by, staring out the window at birds/sky/rain/planes/trains/sunset/towpath traffic/canoeists/wind in the trees and all sorts of other interesting stuff that conspires to take my mind off the job.

There are unavoidable diversions though. Feeding the fire (and me), dealing with essential chores, invariably involving people interaction – no-one walks by without engaging in conversation here. But that’s nice. And there’s the shopping, not my favourite thing but has to be done. And Thursday was the day.

I’m usually on a mission to get this over with and managed to get there, done and back inside an hour. Pretty good. I had a phone call on the way back – my gas delivery had arrived and where was I? Two minutes away to be precise. Of course it is chucking it down as I lead the way through dog dirt alley to the boat and a dip in the field en route has turned into a pond. This causes my delivery man and his sack barrow some concern so I wade in, ankle deep, to show it’s OK really.

This was a pond yesterday - honest

But the real fun started when we reached the ruts made by the JCB when the tree murder was going on a few weeks back. It’s very uneven and the gas cylinder wasn’t secured to the barrow and, you guessed it, it jumps off.. We both stood there, like two drowned rats,  watching in disbelief as the bloody thing rolled and rolled and rolled……right in to the river. Splosh!  You couldn’t make it up – hilarious. Well I thought it was but disguised my giggles by grabbing the boathook off the roof, resisting the urge to fetch my camera and capture the moment. I think this may have induced a total sense of humour failure on the part of the gas man…

The rutted road

We fished it out without further trauma, thankfully. He told me he was having a bad day and just wanted to go home. Poor man. I paid up and probably overdid the thanks by way of trying to make amends for my part in it. I then had to repeat the process (squelching through the bog but not throwing it in the river) with the shopping. All good fun and just part of life as a boatbird.

the river that waits patiently for that lapse in concentration.....

It’s just as well John will be back soon – I don’t think I dare order any more gas for delivery…..

Left a 12kg @ £29.50. Right a 19kg @ £31.50.

Well that’s my week. How was it for you?

The Easter Bunny……………. and so much Moore

12 Apr

Continue reading

So what’s not to like…?

1 Apr

Yes, even I have to remove the rose tinteds occasionally and concede there are some things about this lifestyle that I don’t particularly like or look forward to. Or to steal a phrase I read recently:  it’s not all roses and castles…

1) There’s the loo. Boaters don’t have the luxury of being able to rely on the flush fairy to take away their waste and talk a lot about their particular method of dealing with it. Be it a pump-out, cassette or porta potti, it’s not a chore you can ignore. My own is the last of these three, probably the least sophisticated and, like the cassette, has to be manually tipped out and you’d have to be some seriously sad sicko to put your hand up to liking doing that. It was the first thing I planned to change, by upgrading to a pump-out, when I moved aboard. BUT:  The holding tank is usually sited beneath the bed, which doesn’t appeal to me in the least – I’ve heard tales of them leaking  (OMG!) – they cost in the region of £20 per empty – the boat has to go to a special pump-out place, which could be a way away and may or may not be working when you get there – takes ages – still smells – will probably require emptying every couple of weeks.  And if the river/canal is frozen and you are iced in…..? OK, so you can get a DIY kit but you still end up with a containerful of stuff to deal with. Most boaters I know who cruise end up with one like mine as a back up anyway. SO:  I live with my little camping loo. It’s not so bad, lasts nigh on a week and I am now able to stop breathing for the two minutes it takes to tip and rinse. Simples! And from this negative comes a positive: the moment the deed is done you can rejoice in the knowledge that you are as far away from the next time as you can be. A bit like Christmas.

2) Narrowboats naturally sit lower in the water at the stern, meaning that water will always drain towards the back of the boat. Whoever fitted my shower tray didn’t think about this and the plughole is nearer the front end, water won’t go uphill so I always end up with a dreg to sponge out before the limescale gets to work. BUT: Small price to pay. SO: Live with it.

3) Nobody likes dog poo though some people I know (John) are positively dog muck magnets and it gets walked into the boat. Great. A friend of mine has a similar problem and when we were in Jersey……………better not go there in the interests of our continued friendship. We get our fair share on the towpath; in fact regulars here will know I call the approach to my boat dog dirt alley. BUT: Same can be said for pavements, parks and anywhere else that dogs are walked where their owners turn a blind eye. It’s a people problem not a lifestyle issue.  SO: Shit, as they say, happens.

4) Leaving Hobo. Sad but true. I hate to leave her, be it for a short while or the whole of the British winter, don’t ask me why. BUT: It’s really good to get back and I do have a very good friend who keeps an eye on her if I’m to be away for long.  SO: It has to be done for heaven’s sake. Get over it.

5) Being  away from old friends. BUT: Mostly we can, and do, communicate electronically and I do have new friends around here. The community thing means I always have company if I want it. There’s nothing like meeting up with an old mate on the spur of the moment though, being able to nip round for a cuppa/lunch/chat or whatever and no real substitute for actually being with someone, for real, in the flesh. SO: This is the cloud for my silver lining and will, in time, probably draw me nearer to them. As long as there’s somewhere to moor Hobo of course…!

6) See picture. Gross you say. Indeed. BUT: Tell me you’ve never seen one near your home or place of work or somewhere you’ve been. Fact is they get everywhere (we’re never more than 6ft away from one allegedly) and, contrary to popular belief, not seen on, in or around boats that much. Not in my experience anyway. SO: Live and let live – just not in my tree eh.

7) Dropping things in the water.  Something that drives me bonkers. It usually happens to me when I’m getting on or off, specs perched on head, full bag of shopping or generally just getting a bit blase. Maybe you’ve had a drop of pop – it’s so easily done. Thankfully (touch wood) I’ve not dropped in myself but they do say it’s a matter of when and not if.  I’m very careful these days with anything precious. If you can’t get hold of a boatie friend, chances are they’re not avoiding you but have dropped their phone in the drink. BUT: It can give rise to funny stories – we’ve lost chimney caps to trees when approaching boaters’ brains have gone AWOL and John has dived in before now to retrieve a whole chimney that we managed to knock in with a rope as we tried to moor in high winds. And you can, with luck and patience, get some things back with a magnet or hook. SO: Very much a hazzard of living afloat, just stay aware.

I had thought this would be one of my shorter posts, given the subject, but turns out to be one of the longest. But that’s just me wobbling on as usual and in no way means there is much, in my view, bad about living on the water. But it wouldn’t suit everyone.

Sorry about the nasty picture and by way of something to help you forget, here is something completely different……………….