Archive | May, 2012

Congratulations and Celebrations…

31 May

A little bird tells me it is your birthday today. A Very Special Birthday.

And I would like to send very special birthday greetings and congratulations to you.

Never mind the Olympics….

Never mind the Diamond Jubilee…

This 31st day of May 2012 is the Real Event of the year.

Eighty years young. I salute you Mrs. Brown. Have a wonderful day..!

Jolly Boating Weather

26 May

That’ll be why I am at the treehouse then and not at the boat…

The Law of Sod dictates that any decent boating weather going is also good farming weather. As someone in this alliance of ours needs to earn money (and it isn’t me just now) farming has to take priority over the fun things – boating and even flying. We will get to take Hobo out but no doubt when the weather isn’t fit for much else – you can still boat in the rain and cold and wind even though you probably don’t want to. It does mean that you get the river to yourself though so that is a bit of a bonus. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.

The treehouse is where the John resides when he is not on the boat. It is at the farm on the Fens where he works (delightfully and accurately known as Nettle Bank) and, whilst it might not be the lovingly crafted from wood, romantic maze wedged among the branches of a magic tree with lookouts, secret escape runs, rope swings and fairy lights that you might have (and I once did) imagine, it is at treetop height and does have some lovely views. Fen skies in particular (you’ve seen those before so I will try to show you something different this time) and countryside in general. No, it is a portakabin on stilts – sorry if this shatters any illusions.

John is in fact playing tractor tractor right now, making the soil ready for planting, which is set to start on Monday (late this year). So if I want to see John I come to the treehouse. It’s no hardship though, I like it here and it has become another home from home – much like the bus in SA. It can be very peaceful here too (when the yard isn’t full of slaves during the potato harvest and the peacocks aren’t being overly vocal) so condusive to writing, reading or doing nothing…three of my favourite things. It’s also a damned good place to walk or take the air, provided the ‘Fen Blow’ is switched off and you have packed suitable outdoor wear. I’ve finally got it right this weekend with wellies, arctic fleece, woolly socks and anorak when all I really need is shorts and flip-flops…hey-ho.

There are sofas – two of them – so a real treat for me. I do love a good lounge on the couch but not enough to crowd out Hobo by installing one there. 

Multi-aspect windows are great for gazing out of but play havoc with computer screens – as yet no blinds/curtains but John is threatening to make shutters. (He has coped for a decade without them so I am not holding my breath). 

Heating by halogen/convection is fine now that the boss has his own windfarm and encourages the use of electricity and much less dramatic than the flame-throwing space heater that was the order of the day on my first visit.

Tom, Dick and Harry – phase 1 of the windfarm

Kitchen facility is minimal with kettle, microwave, toaster, slow cooker and electric frying pan. The lack of a conventional oven and hob is fine by me – no hot stove for me to slave over. The bathroom has all the usual facilities – H/C, shower, loo – no bath though. Well…nothing is perfect. The bedroom is just that – room for a bed and not much else so we fight for floor space on which to neatly hang our clothes. There is, however, both curtain and blind that helps to stop the rising sun from being too much of a nuisance in the morning.

Being a lazy cow Not wishing to upset the natural and unique charm of the treehouse, I do try to leave it be and not engage in  domestic interference or inflict too much order hereabouts. John has his own system and far be it from me to upset the chaos rhythym and feng shui that he has created. It does get the better of me sometimes though and I find myself tidying or cleaning but it doesn’t last for long.  Usually just as long as it takes to scour the inside of  a mug that has seen many brews and not a lot of washing up inbetween. Or scrape a path through the mud on the kitchen floor. Nothing too strenous you understand.

There’s decking (cleverly crafted from potato boxes) at the top of the stairs that serves as a dumping ground for John’s treasures verandah. This is due for a little re-modelling imminently as the staircase is about to be moved (to give slightly more private access away from the middle of the busy, muddy yard) and existing boxes now rotten as a pear and an accident waiting to happen fail to meet strict health and safety standards in force at Nettle Bank. Yeah right..

To be fair, the treehouse doubles as the farm office so sees its fair share of muddy boots and, with farming starting painfully early and continuing till darkness and beyond, I completely see that anything more than a shower/something to eat/bed after a day’s work is simply too much to ask. Of a man.

Downstairs is a fully kitted out workshop (where John makes things and can amuse himself for hours), jetwash (well there was before the pikeys paid a visit), endless supply of calor gas, diesel and wood in exchange for reasonable money or (in desperate times) my labour. And all the potatoes you can eat, the occasional cauli and coming soon – peas. Not to mention a runway, now properly grassed (needs mowing and rolling) just the ticket for John to make his escape…

Walk this way…

…to the landing strip

John’s boss, recently seen on BBC’s ‘Question Time’ and not one to be messed with,

is very accomodating of John’s love of flying and has made a super job of the new runway. He’s a pussycat really…….

Mostly, this year is all about wheat and the spuds are being kept to a minimum.And the aforementioned peas.I’m thinking we need a tractor pic so here is John in the distance, spreading the fertilizer..and again close up..Now you know what it means if John is back in the yard……..Yep, it’s time for lunch. Hooray!!

Stitched up

16 May

I am by no means an expert in the photography field but, with the aid of digital technology and a little help from my friends, am learning.

Recently, I was bemoaning the fact that I was unable to capture a complete rainbow  here . When my dear friend Lorna showed this to her accomplished photographer other half, he of course had the answer: stitching. Simple – all I had to do was download Microsoft Ice. So I did…as well as the other half a million programmes necessary to support this, carefully unticking a whole host of boxes to prevent gaining unwanted extra tool bars along the way – you know how it goes. At the end of all this I then had to install something else because it wouldn’t work – needed the 64bt version apparently. Beats me why it didn’t know that in the first place but my knowledge of computer speak isn’t that great either.

So, after something of a schlep, it was done. This is my first attempt at stitching and, whilst not a brilliant result, showed the potential and gave me ideas….

A few weeks back I finally got round to scanning all my old photos into the computer (previously stored in a picnic hamper behind my chair and all but forgotten); a little job that has been on the cards ever since I moved on board some six years ago. I say little job…that it wasn’t. But it was a very worthwhile one. I actually look at them now that I don’t have to move stuff to get at them and can use them and, to get back to the point, I can stitch some of them together.

A long time ago in another life, I was travelling in South America and went to see Angel Falls. The trip was incredible and a bit intrepid at times.

We flew in this..                                                                                                                                                                              over this..

Orinoco River




and landed on this..We trekked through the jungle and walked up this..and passed this..After walking in the ice-cold water, hanging on to ropes as the gradient increased and being made by our Indian guides to swim in pools along the way, we eventually reached the ‘end of the road’ – the most marvellous waterfall, which we swam beneath. The descent was much faster, like a giant foaming waterchute carrying us spashing and squealing to our starting point. Exhilliarating or what!

The above was made up from my original pics (taken in stages) and stitched together; something I’d always planned on doing with the hard copies and never did. Quite a result I have to say and thank you Alex for telling me how to. I can’t see the join..

I should tell you at this point that when I started this post and looked for my scans, they were nowhere to be found. It was a bad feeling, all those hours of hard work lost. I was for a time totally gutted, search after search producing nothing, until I checked the re-cycle bin where I had inadvertantly filed them.

Told you I wasn’t very clever…

Pretty Ugley

11 May

Ugley is an Essex village that happens to have beautiful bluebell woods, as well as a funny name, which we discovered by accident the other year and chose to re-visit on the way to the treehouse this Tuesday.

It’s a small but most worthwhile diversion if you get the timing right…

Which for once I think we did…Aren’t they gorgeous? 

All around you and everywhere you look, a beautiful blue haze seemingly hovers just above the ground. Totally stunning. And the perfume is astonishing, making a tramp through the woods a real delight.

No wonder they call it beautiful Ugley.

I am warming to Essex.

Silly thought: Ugley probably has a Womens’ Intitute too, which I certainly won’t be queueing to join. Think about it…..

Hobo Time

10 May

Hobo time is a strange phenomenon that John and I are regularly subjected to when left to our own devices on board. We’ve just had another dose of it during the past week or so – ever since I picked him up from the airport in fact.

Not only is Hobo the boat tardis-like in terms of available space once inside but also capable of time travel. It’s true. I often wonder if other liveaboards experience this or if it is peculiar to Hobo, or us, or is some kind of odd chemical reaction that occurs between us all.

However it comes about, it has the effect of propelling us into the future, right from the very beginning of the day. We wake at the usual time, which is early if John is around – say 06.00. He makes tea, which we drink in bed, and all of a sudden it is going on for 10 o’clock. How does that happen? We get up, do breakfast, have a quick look at the paper/check e mails etc and, magically, we are transported into the afternoon. And so it goes on throughout the day.

That said, we’ve had a lovely time. Apart from the obvious joy of being re-united, we’ve actually (despite Hobo time) achieved quite a bit jobs-wise. OK, so if it hadn’t been for the World Snooker Championships being televised at precisely the right time, I know damn fine that my new digital TV would  still be in its box right now, where it has waited patiently for the 12 volt wiring to be extended in order to power the aerial booster. But, thanks to Ronnie O’Sullivan and Co, it is now fully functional, complete with new slimline aerial and mast. A  vast improvement and cosmetic coup  – no trailing wires inside or outside as now all neatly concealed beneath the woodwork.Neat eh? Aerial folds completely flat to the roof too.

This, together with several other small repairs and refinements that fall outside my strength or skillset, have made me a very happy boatbird. Not to mention how nice it is to have a man around when the river is up over the jetty, making comings and goings a little tricky and decidedly damp.

All good things come to an end though and John is once more installed into the treehouse, where he lives when not on the boat, ready to resume farming – weather permitting. When next I spend some time there I shall do a treehouse post but for now I include some pics I/we took from inside the treehouse and around the farm earlier.Fabulous Fen skies…Flocking Starlings…Ploughing up the Gulls and Maris Piper in flower..Percy the Peacock…

And Spring hedgerow…

I broke the 150 mile round trip to the fens and back with an overnight stay, returning to Hobo last night, where I am left to resume my work. Much of this morning has been given over to mucking out and restoring order from the chaos that John naturally creates. I’m not complaining,  it’s who he is and, anyway, a little chaos in my life is good and keeps me off the OCD road, which I fear I flirt with. But I simply can’t live and work in a muddle as a general rule.

With the river flowing fast of late, water and towpath traffic has been minimal so the view from my window has had a bankside focus…And the water didn’t stop here – yes, the jetty was totally submerged at one point and remained so for a couple of days. And the meadow was a total bog – wellies essential.

Plans are now being hatched for frights in the scary hairyplane – Goodwood, Isle of Wight, Cornwall, HusBos and Sherburn-in-Elmet and more – so watch this space for spectacular shots of English countryside and more…