Letouttoplay

Life, photos but not the universe

By any other name

I was going to have a rant but after I’d written most of it I got bored.

So what shall I do today?

Oh!  Dunno.  It seems my head is empty.  Odd that.  usually there’s plenty of fluff in there out of which I can fish the odd post.  Surely I’ve had some thoughts in the last few days?

Hmm.

Ah!  Rescued.

We’ve had our cars serviced and maintained at the same garage for the last fifteen years or so by Paul.  A helpful and friendly chap with a habit of beginning a sentence with “as I said” though in fact he hasn’t previously said what he is about to say.  We have enjoyed many a conversation about the weather, the roads, politics and  modern cars over the years on the short journey between his garage and my home.

Now, he and Barney call each other Paul and Barney as men do but, possibly because Paul is an old fashioned type and I’m the lady of the pair or maybe because my accent bears traces of a middle upper class upbringing, he has never called me Mig.  Another probable reason is that he daren’t say it because it doesn’t sound like a proper name.  Once he’d got over calling me Mrs Bardsley, some ten years ago, he’s politely managed by calling me ‘you’ or not needing to use my name at all.  So when he called me today, and I called him back with some information he needed, I was quite pleased when he called me by name.  Except for a small detail.

Most people, when they get it wrong, say it as if I was a small, swarming, biting insect (of which they have many in Scotland) instead of pronouncing me as if I were a Russian jet fighter, which is correct (if a little too flattering; there is no way in which I resemble any kind of jet plane) .  A fair number of people pick up most of the name phonetically but not believing that they’re hearing right, transform the last consonant into two other consonants which make more sense to them (though there must be a momentary gender confusion).

Now I have a social dilemma.  Should I put him right, in which case I strongly suspect I’ll go back to being ‘you’?  Or should I simply be grateful that he’s finally dared the barrier and let him call me Mick for evermore?

Life can be so complicated sometimes.  It would be so much easier if I had been christened Rose instead of Marguerite.

Also, if I hadn’t married a Bardsley.  Variations on the spelling have included Barguley, Bardfley, Bardlsey, Bardoly and Barabbaly as well as the less adventurous Barkley. But the prize goes to the charity which annually sends us a request addressed to Bauble Eye Brown.

Moving  on to lunch (I’m hungry), I watched Hugh Eat-it-all Whittington and Dear Jamie talking about fish the other day and as a result, have found it necesssary to check out the sustainability and environmental  responsibility of John West’s tiny tins of tuna* which Barney likes for a quick snack when he comes home.  Sadly, John West are rated the worst of the major tuna suppliers investigated by Greenpeace in 2008**.  So I was about to tell Barney that he’s just have to make do with bigger tins since no one else sells the tiny tins. Only, the big tins that I knew were hiding on the shelf in the larder, turned out to be John West’s.  I am embarrassed.

Apart from a couple of large and embarrassing tins, I have no fish on offer so you’ll have to make do with ice and a duck feather.

Sleep well.

*I know I know.  The tins cannot be held responsible for their contents.  But I’m sure you knew what I meant.  And now I think about it, Barney doesn’t eat the tins, only the contents.

**Not only do they use some kind of evil technology which attracts turtles and sharks to their nets, they fish in overfished waters and catch a number of bigeye and yellowfin tuna which are both more endangered than skipjack tuna.  Sainsbury’s, amazingly, scored best for responsible fishing and although Waitrose weren’t mentioned in the survey they do at least claim to catch tuna with line and pole rather than the other methods.  (Oh and it’s possible that John West have improved their methods since this survey was done but if so, they don’t say so on their tins so it seems unlikely).

Just in case you’re interested, Greenpeace have a page devoted to sustainable fishing here.

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February 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I woke up this morning

follow with gloomy 8 bar blues of of your choice.

Later the sun came out.

Click

follow with triumphant, joyful chorus (not the Hallelujah though, please)  with full orchestral accompaniment.

Perhaps I have that SAD thing?   Otherwise, how is it that as soon as the sun comes out, click;  I weigh less*, ache less and regard household tasks with resignation instead of loathing and despair.

It’s always a bit of a surprise, thus, I’m shuffling around, glooming and whinging to myself and then suddenly I realise that I’ve stopped doing that and am trotting up and down with armfuls of stuff and making plans to do yet more  and I didn’t even notice the change happening.

It would be nice if I could predict or even harness the effect (bottle it?  put it on a USB stick?) but it doesn’t seem to work like that.  I’m not even sure that the appearance of the sun is directly related.  This blogging is the nearest thing I do to a diary – I have started  diaries in the past, in much the same way as my Dad gave up smoking which is to say often and not for long – so I don’t have a reliable record of what happens at the moment when suddenly everything is ok instead of being heavy.  (That’s heavy as in h-e-a-v-y man!  Goodness what an interesting word ‘heavy’ is.)

Well never mind all that.  Here’s a sweet and pleasant coincidence.  I’ve just finished ‘The Trout Opera’ and it was very enjoyable in a slowly seductive way.  Not for gobbling down or rushing towards a dramatic conclusion, more for careful savouring.  I think I’d like to visit Australia.  Anyway, I mentioned, the other day, that the beginning of the book introduced the Snowy River which took me back to Elyne Mitchell’s novels, much loved when I was a teenager.  Because I didn’t quite want to have reached the end of this book, I read the acknowledgements and blow me if the very last one wasn’t  to Elyne Mitchell.  No wonder I liked it.

It’s a wonderful thing, the internet.  All those years ago, I wondered a great deal about the lives of my favourite authors.  All I knew about them was the brief notes on their book covers and with the blythe ignorance of youth I assumed no one else knew much about them either.  So it’s something of a surprise to discover that Elyne Mitchell was quite a famous woman in her time and when Matthew Condon, author of the Trout  Opera, says he was inspired by her, it seems he meant that some of her life story was woven into that of one of his characters.  It’s nearly always a pleasure to discover yet more of how little I know.

So here are some English sheep and a horse.  Best I can do to add an Australian flavour : )

And a couple of kites

Goodnight.

*Well probably I don’t weigh less.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The living and the dead and SPRING!

After asking for water poetry the other day it suddenly dawned on me that I was about to print, and effectively publish online, a book with a lot of quotes by living people – and indeed dead people whose copyright may now belong to other living people.  I looked up some stuff about permissions and copyright and hastily replaced some of my quotes with others by people like God (Ecclesiastes 1:7) and Heraclitus (540 – 480 BC).  I decided to keep Mark Twain.   The effort of finding out who might have the copyright for a quote by him sounded simply enormous and isn’t there some thing or other about copyright only lasting 70 years?   But I did email one William Ashworth, since he’s alive and has an email address and his quote was a particularly pleasing one, and ask him directly for permission to use his words.  I reckoned if my patience ran out before he replied or if I would need to ask his publisher I could always substitute an old English proverb or a scrap from an ancient Chinese text.

Amazingly he replied almost immediately!  saying permission granted and he’d love a copy but that isn’t necessary.

I immediately plunged into a lengthy dither involving costs, potential embarrassment or approbation, a totally unmerited feeling of having been flattered, a reorganisation of most of the pages and the addition of dust flaps.*

Anyway, you’re spared all that because in my excitement I ordered two copies by mistake.  So if it’s not too awful, William gets one just for being so nice.  He takes a mean photo himself I discovered, when I looked more closely at his website.

I believe two copies of the final thing are being prnited** as I write!  (Tentative) Wow!

So this morning, I tried to print a couple of invoices online and one of the passwords wouldn’t work.  ^~^

I successfully reset it.  Wow!

But in the process, I discovered that my Hotmail account has gone AWOL.***  I got an alarming message saying they’d text me a secret number to prove I am really who I am.  So I hunted around the internet for verification that this is something they really do and got it and followed the instructions.  No text has arrived.  Oooh, terror!   Wurrr!  Not wow!

Then one of the new yellow pages arrived and it seems that my intensive few days on the phone to them bore fruit!  The right fruit!!!  Both entries are present and correct.  Wow!

Also in the post, arrived a letter to someone who has never lived at this address. (This happens a lot).  I scribbled “not known here – return to sender” as usual and stuck it back in the letter box.  Not exactly Wow!

It must be that time of the month – I fielded three calls from companies offering to collect our debts for us.  Not at all Wow!

This morning, I got up with extremely painful feet and decided to give them a brief loosening up period before showering.  Now I’m about to have that shower.  However, the feet have recovered somewhat.  (sort of) Wow!

I’m not going to enjoy a screaming abdab over the fact that the whole morning has vanished while I did all this, even though all the successes are just things that shouldn’t have needed doing anyway.  I’m just going to enjoy the belated shower and then rush about a bit in hopes of fitting into one afternoon all the things I’d expected would take a whole day.   And worry about the secret number which still hasn’t arrived – how long are a ‘few’ virtual,  Hotmail minutes anyway?****  Is my ID being stolen as I speak?  Wurrr! Terror!

Did I say

Spring?

Well yesterday it was.

Today it was wet.

I think I’ll go back into hibernation.

*curiously, hardback with dust cover costs less than having the cover work printed directly on the hard cover.

**Well I hope it’s being printed – I hope I haven’t told them to prnit it.

***Has anyone been getting excessive and/or unacceptable emails from my Hotmail address recently?

****About 5 hours apparently.  Yes the text came.  Perhaps I still own myself.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Yay! I’ve got my fiddle back

I left my fiddle with my fiddle wizard while we were on holiday and asked him (his employee actually) to replace its old and slightly bent bridge with a new one.  While checking it over, his employee discovered a crack across the peg box which a) might account for it going out of tune a lot recently and b) required urgent treatment if the whole thing wasn’t to fall apart without warning.  Not enormously expensive said the lad when I asked how much it might cost.  Nervously (having some idea of what this particular kind of repair means in terms of hours and difficulty I asked what his idea of not enormously expensive might be.  Oh not much more than £500 he said.

Gulp!

Well it had to be done.  But it seems the young employee erred on the expensive side.  When it was ready, it turned out to be only £130.  Oh and as I was about to leave, the same lad said, some time when you don’t need it for a week you might want that bridge replaced?  Well yes.  I might.

But it’s lovely to have it back and the worrying rattle has gone and it seems to be staying in tune better.  And it sounds quite happy after the gluing and bushing and cleaning.

But I’m too cold to play it and it’s too cold to type so I decided to fill up the bird feeders.  It’s a matter for constant astonishment how much those birds eat!  If we fill the feeders in the morning, they’re empty by lunch time.  The cost of keeping the seeds and peanuts and fat balls topped up is not to be considered and now there’s the goldfinch seed as well.  Those goldfinches had just better come in flocks that’s all I can say. (That’s why I’m sitting here at the chilly computer again – I want goldfinches to appear RIGHT NOW!  And I can see the feeder from here.)

I wonder how they’ll find out that we have niger seed out for them.  Will they smell it?  Will the blue tits tell them or will they just hear the pigeons complaining that there’s some new fangled black seed at Number x which they don’t like?

I wonder if we should consider an extension to the bird bath?

And maybe strengthen the landing stage.

I ate too much dinner*.  Time to sleep it off.  See you soon.

*It was the leftover Love Tub Caramel Pudding that did the damgage.

(Update: Still no Goldfinches.  Maybe I should leave a trail of niger seed all across the fields and hedgerows to lead them to our garden)

February 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

MnX

Last week the potato masher broke and was promptly forgotten, till last night when I was about to mash potatoes.  After a fruitless and increasingly grumpy search for it I recalled its final demise (it’s been a bit loose and shaky around the handle for a long time)  and proceeded to confirm a truth I’d suspected for a long time – as long as we’ve had a potato masher – which is that  potato mashers don’t do the job as well as a fork.  The holes are too big.  And, if you want a bit of foody folly, the masher flattens the air out of the potatoes while the fork merely breaks them up and even lifts them a little.

Barney likes a potato masher though so I’ll get a new one.  But I might go back to the good old way myself.   (Hark at the old biddy : )

Anyway, I was thinking of having the left over, excellent, light fluffy mash for breakfast with MnX but Barney beat me to it (by a couple of hours – we rarely breakfast together as mine is usually closer to lunch than breakfast) and ate all the potato so I had MnX on toast instead.  And the X, very briefly, tasted like eggs used to taste when I was a little girl.  They were those Burford Browns’ eggs which Waitrose sell ( I buy them as a special treat now and then) and which always have the most gloriously orange/yellow yolk.

If you’re wondering why this maundering on about minutiae of daily life it’s partly because I’m reading a book called the Trout Opera, which is written moment by moment (though with much more style and lyricism than I can), and mainly because I don’t want to sort out the washing.

The Trout Opera now.  I’m not totally enthralled yet but who could resist such a title?  And then after noticing that this is a free uncorrected book proof, not for sale‘, wonder how it came to be in Oxfam.  It does in fact begin with the staging of an opera about trout* in the town of Dalgety in Australia but as a prologue, there’s a visit to the town by two Townies, in search of a historical old man, and the Snowy River is introduced.  And long ago, I used to read and reread, with absolute devotion, Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby books, staged on the banks of the Snowy River and among the mountains.  I still think of snow gums and bogongs and sallees as if they were familiar old friends, recalled intimately as if I’d lived with them though I’ve never even met any**.

Anyway, a friend has just sent me a link to these photos .  Extraordinary and beautiful.  But also, don’t those pics of the lit up world at night make you think just a little of how the Earth might have looked when it was being formed, aeons ago and its surface ran with fire and magma?  How can people see photos like this and doubt that humankind is truly affecting the atmosphere in a huge way?

(I looked at these last night and was mesmerised by a comment argument on the existence of God which ran to about 12 pages of heated and often insulting exchanges of views.    One commenter complained (repeatedly and with increasing capitalisation) that the astronaut failed to mention Israel and it occurred to me that there were no photos of North America, China or whatever they now call the area once occupied by the USSR.  Censorship for security reasons?  Who says the sight of Earth from the heavens strikes us dumb with awe!***)

I won’t post any photos.  The whole of Earth is enough for one day.

Oh well.  Back to the Trout Opera.

*And who could resist such a theme?

**Spellcheck had a small fit over all those delicious words and painted my text red!

***Yeah yeah.  Me too, rabbit rabbit rabbit.

February 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Cabbages*** and Kings. Oh and birds.

Well not so much about cabbages but we went to see ‘The King’s Speech‘ today.  I was moved to the odd sniffle.  It was very good.

A while ago we saw, on TV, a film about another son in that sad family, Johnny, who had epilepsy and died aged thirteen, sequestered away from the eyes of the world.  And as for Edward and Wallace, well it doesn’t seem as though they were very happy either.

Such courage these royal children needed, and had, in the face of physical and mental adversity and a home in which the weird and lonely requirements of being royal held sway at all times.  I’m no royalist but when we get these glimpses of the real people behind the public faces of monarchy, I feel sympathy at least.  It’s not a good way for people to live and I suspect that the wealth and privilege they have don’t balance the equation for them at all.

And speaking of poetry,  Thank you for all your wonderful suggestions.

English Inukshuk reminded me of these fabulous lines by Kathleen Raine

from  The Marriage of Psyche

He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water
Whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea,
He has married me with a ring of light, the glitter
Broadcast on the swift river.
He has married me with the sun’s circle
Too dazzling to see, traced in summer sky.
He has crowned me with the wreath of white cloud
That gathers on the snowy summit of the mountain,
Ringed me round with the world-circling wind,
Bound me to the whirlwind’s centre.
He has married me with the orbit of the moon
And with the boundless circle of stars,
With the orbits that measure years, months, days, and nights,
Set the tides flowing,
Command the winds to travel or be at rest.

Which were the inspiration for the title of Gavin Maxwell’s book about otters, A Ring Of Bright Waters.  (Also, less pleasingly for a song in the film of the book.)

But without doubt, the most impressive response to my request for water poetry was this elegant piece by the  incomparable Christopher,  irrepressibly witty author of  Soft Lydian Airs.

Elemental passion

H said to O:
‘I love you so
And you should know
How much I’d like your hand to win!’

And O replied:
‘I’ll be your bride
Whatever betide:
But in the contract please include your twin.’

The Hs both
Were nothing loath
To plight their troth:
Two grooms, one bride, held in molecular cohesion.

They said: ‘It’s 2 to 1
That everyone
Will moan like fun
At the news of our mutual adhesion,

But we’re sure we’ll we find
One of our mind,
Not disinclined
To declare us triply matrimoniable.’

Their loves confessed,
Their union blesssed,
Each wedding guest
Took his (or her) place at the periodic table.

No time to waste,
Upstairs they raced.
In best of taste
We leave our trio at the bedroom door.

The outcome’s plain:
(Please, do not strain
This rhyme-scheme to sustain)
Within the week the heavens opened, and it began to pour.

Honoured and humbled I am!

However, I’ve now realised that as it stands, my proposed photo book takes itself altogether too seriously to support comparison with Christopher’s neatly contrived gem.  If I ever get round to having it printed (I spent several hours yesterday rearranging the pages and replacing photos with other photos and muttering a lot so now all the captions have to be rearranged too)  people might notice that it’s a bit pompous and even a trifle precious.  I’m just hoping all its beholders will have beautiful eyes.

So next holiday, perhaps I shall spend a lot of time looking for comic moments and light relief  to capture and then I can use suggestions like the  immortal line (and poem)

Water is water

by Mr Bean.*

(or at least, an excerpt)

And instead of borrowing other people’s work to enhance my own, use my small talent to illustrate their greater ones** – with apologies.

So on the subject of birds, following a suggestion from a friend, I have purchased some Niger Seed which will, apparently, attract goldfinches to the bird feeder.  I was reminded of this by Mrs Middle’s next door Neighbour’s recent visitor which I watched for some time while Little Middle was asleep.  One goldfinch spent most of the time on the far side of the feeder but was joined by a friend who favoured a higher outlook.

After her sleep, Little Middle was much less coy.

Prepared to be highly amused by Grandma

and pleased to exhibit the fetching colour of her spinach and sweet potato dinner

.

.

.

.

.


And now it’s really really cold here at the computer so I’m off to have coffee with my fiddle wizard.  He makes the best coffee in Newbury.

Hope you are (or soon will be) enjoying  something hot and delicious too.

*Thank you Peter : )

**Particularly yours Christopher – if you permit.

***What?  Oh sorry, cabbage is definitely off today.

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

May the (insurance) power be with you

I’m waiting for the insurance company to ring.  Our old one no longer insures homes it seems, and the renewal is due any minute.  I tried to get a quote on line from Aviva (who don’t do comparison sites but are, apparently, competitive)  and they sent me back to square one  before I’d saved the reference  number.  While I was struggling with the website, a young man rang me and asked how I was getting on with  it!!!*

?}:O

WTF*!?*

My reply was quite printable but the tone of my voice must have contained elements of hysterical fury because the nice young man hastily offered to ring back later when I’d finished.  Actually, this reminds me of the self paying checkouts in supermarkets which nearly always have a bright, young person hovering nearby, ready to spring into helpful action the minute you fumble or hesitate.  Of course, if you’re completely up the creek with the machine, the young person is nowhere to be seen.**

Enough of that.  I need to have a shower, tidy up, run about a lot and go shopping.  Most of which can’t be done while simultaneously listening for the phone.

Still, on Monday, I stopped on the Ridgeway to admire the effects of a rainstorm approaching Didcot Power Station – until it passed over my head!***

Much of our literature and art celebrates puny man’s doggedness and persistence and eventual triumph over impossibly large odds.  So it’s not so hard to believe that the tiny power station is, even as we admire the great power of the storm, eating away at the resources for that power and will eventually tip the balance, leaving no power but only a hollow triumph over our nurturing planet.  It’s past time for mankind to grow up.

There are some things against which we can’t insure .

Oh, back to Mr Golightly’s Holiday.  Written by the charming and slightly whimsical Sally Vickers.  I like her books.

*So before you’ve even typed in the information the website alerts them to your intentions.  Why do I have to jump  through these hoops when obviously they’re watching my every move already?

**Especially if you seem to be muttering curses and imprecations at it.

***I’m really not sure what I actually said there – but I meant to say that the storm passed over my head; neither the Ridgeway nor the power station left the ground.

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Birds, bees and books

I recently went into East (a clothes shop) armed with a medium sized handful of cash.  I came out, not with a couple of sensible but lacey, vesty things ( to conceal the parts that this years fashion for low wide necklines doesn’t*) but with a multi-coloured, striped woollie.  With a low, wide neckline of course.

So, it being Barney’s birthday today (Last week actually, it takes me at least four days to get a post together what with birthday dinners and such like), I decided to wear it with something or other underneath to do the modesty thing** and at some point during the following shopping trip, I caught sight of a creature somewhat resembling a wingless, pink and black bumble bee, reflected in a shop window.

Hmm.  Better get some wings then.***

On the subject of dress, decent or otherwise, Two of Barney’s presents are a leather flying hat and a white silk scarf.  Being tall, not excessively um, broad and having a splendid moustache, he’ll be able to carry this off when he’s driving the little car about in the summer with the top down.  However, if I’m required to wear floaty things and a wide brimmed hat,  I will not.  I’ve neither the figure nor the shoes for this kind of thing. (Nor, if truth were told, the legs to go with the shoes) (I don’t mean I’m short of any legs but I am a trifle short – and wide – in the leg(s) if you see what I mean).  And hats fly off my head at the drop of a….in the wind.  So I guess I’ll just have to go for the pink bumble bee look with a long, floaty, silk scarf.  Not that I expect to resemble Vanessa Redgrave **** in any other way but it might strike the right note?  Somebody will have to take our photo.

*Bzzzzz*

I’m quite buzzzzzzy at the moment

*slap – stop that*

I’ve registered with Blurb, an online book producing company and I just received one of those jolly, welcoming emails, that people like to send on these occasions, signed, ‘The Blurberati‘.

O–k.

Hmm.

And in a burst of creative, slightly embarrassing, energy I’ve almost ‘created’ a book of photos. (Blurb’s expression not mine, since all I’ve actually done is upload a lot of photos into a pre-set format and try to think of things to say about them).  When I’ve finished, I might even ask them to print it.

Then I can admire it in the privacy of my own home.*****

Hmm.

Anyway I have a request.  I need half a dozen short lines of poetry about water for the back cover.  It needs to fit down one side of the page and I want it to be more about water than love, God, human vagaries or any other philosophical meanderings.  I’ve got some nice quotes but a bit of poetry would be even nicer.  Any suggestions?  It doesn’t have to be a whole poem,  an excerpt would do.  It doesn’t have to be by anyone famous either (that’s a sort of hint).  How come, with all the stuff I’ve read and heard and loved over the years, nothing has sprung to mind already?

Hmm.

Birds?  Oh I haven’t got any of them just now.  Sorry.

It’s a bit damp today.  Hope you’re keeping warm and dry.

*Of course, this year’s vests also have low, wide necklines so they aren’t a lot of use to them what wear underwear.

**More of a decency thing really.

***Excercise?  Diet?  What’s that?

****I’d forgotten how stark the ending of the film was, of Vanessa Redgrave playing Isadora Duncan.  So haven’t linked to the final scene.  It made a big impression at the time.

*****And, of course, leave it lying around casually when people visit, leave the odd link casually plastered all over my blog and Flickr in BIG LETTERS and mention it casually to everyone I meet.  Um….   Not that I’d in the least make a big thing of it.  Oh no.  And I haven’t really casually mentioned it now.******

******Have I?  Oh.  Well.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Approach with caution – this blog may contain videos

For your entertainment, of course, not just because I’m so pleased to discover how to get one on Flickr and link to it.

A short video entitled  Icebreaking (Sorry, not a twangling bit but if you have sound and turn up the volume a lot you may get an idea of the crashing  noises).

I hope it works.

And I really will try not to plaster this corner of the virtual arena with bits of video.  Honest.

I have just written a whole lengthy whinge about the less joyful aspects of living on a boat for a week and then realising that I could post an actual, live performance of the icebreaking, deleted the whole lot.  After all, rather than complaining about the more than half fullness of the boat (it never seemed even slightly empty) I should be rejoicing in having a boat.*

Instead, I shall show you our first night’s mooring – view from partially frozen (and therefore not rocking) boat.

And the first morning, rocking even less and frozen a bit more.

We moored at the Ash Tree pub near Rugely Power Station and the food was quite nice.  The menu was one which we encountered several times during the next week so I think we were lucky with the chef at the Ash Tree.  Not so lucky at the next place in the chain, The Star at Stone.  (Really?  have I got that right?).  The third time we met this menu, the food was quite nice again and our evening was enlivened by the riotous and rowdy sounds coming through the kitchen door, next to our table.   The Chefs sang loudly along with the radio, breaking off to swear and laugh quite frequently.  There were loud crashes and exclamations and we half expected someone to emerge brandishing a cleaver though on the whole it all sounded quite good humoured.

Three of our number left on Sunday as they had to be at work next day.  We ordered a taxi from the pub (so they could get to their car) and there followed a truly wonderful confusion.  The local taxi arrived and our friends piled in and we told the driver where to go. The Plough, at Weston on Trent.

Now it may have taken us on the boat a whole day to travel from one place to the other but by road, it was a fifteen minute journey and is on the A51, which was about half a mile away.  Quite a major route really. So we were surprised when the taxi driver asked for directions (in a strong Italian accent) and then for the postcode so he could put it in his GPS navigator.  It took quite a while to find out the postcode but eventually we did and he entered it and, worryingly,  drove off in the wrong direction.

For the following hour and a half, we received regular updates from his increasingly baffled and despairing passengers as he headed out towards Derby and then towards Stafford and then finally homed in on Weston (on Trent).  It seemed that although everyone knew of Weston, nobody around there has heard of Weston on Trent.  We checked, the following evening and the sign does say Weston on Trent.  What kind of ‘local’ taxi driver, it must be asked, doesn’t know the way to the next village, doesn’t know the names of all the pubs in the area and can’t find a major road which is less than a mile away. **

Well, they got home, by which time we had eaten, drunk and tucked ourselves into the warm and studied all the possible routes they might have taken on the canal maps we had with us.  And I had finished reading Hilary Mantel on the French Revolution*** and recovered from the summary executions of Danton, Desmoulins and Robespiere and begun a new book.

…..Afternoon

Evening

……………………………………………………………………………Bedtime

Goodnight, sleep well.

*I’m sorry but I simply must say that  I really can’t accept that a rail in the ‘en suite’ loo, and some hangers above the toilet qualify as a hanging cupboard – or if they do then the  ‘en suite’ doesn’t qualify as a toilet.

**Actually, what kind of taxi driver doesn’t have a map in his car?

***A Place of Greater Safety.  Once again, I found myself liking the bad guys and was sorry to see them finished off.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The rain it raineth

Though not too much and the wind it bloweth and the ice it freezeth and the gasman didn’t come but we collected some gas anyway, from a marina.

Yes, we have returned from our week on the Waterways of Britain and they are just as you’d expect in midwinter, cold, windy, wet and, for two or three days, icy.

Frozen solid in fact.  We did icebreaking!  The noise was astonishing and caused passers by on the bank to raise eyebrows and make friendly but perhaps slightly amused comments which we couldn’t hear for the crashing and grinding noises all around and underneath us.  And one boat person, driven to distraction by the noise of sheets of ice scraping against his hull, ran along the towpath after us crying “why are you doing this?” repeatedly.  The answer was too long and involved to reply adequately so I’m afraid, though our reasons for boating in deepest winter were impeccable, nay altruistic in the extreme, we simply couldn’t explain it to him.  No doubt there will be an impassioned letter to ‘Waterways World’ or ‘Narrowboat Monthly’ on the subject.

Every so often when we entered short stretches of unfrozen water, the noises changed as we pushed through loose, floating  pieces of ice, to a pleasant and gentle twangling sound.  Yes indeed.  Boating on ice causes twangling and I’m deeply grateful to Mr Shakespeare for giving me the word which exactly describes the sound. (And now I think about it, during those lulls, we could also hear bird song which made for pleasant airs)

Well, ice breaking was a completely new experience for us and very instructive.  For instance, if we slowed down when passing moored baots, the consequent loss of way (forward momentum of which boats normally have a lot) caused the boat to lose steerage as well.  Then we were pushed whichever way the ice was weakest – often towards the moored boats.  On open stretches, the ice slowed us down a surprising amount and in locks, it sometimes crunched up into heaps which stopped the gates from opening fully.

Bits of it broke free from the big sheets and skidded and sparkled across them  Other bits rose and piled up on each other and ahead of us, long jagged cracks ran the width of the canal and were filled with ripples  coruscating in the sunlight  (when the sun was out).  Where it was thick and even, you could see the ice ahead quivering until it cracked.  Ducks stood on it until we were close and then took off, skating across the sheets.

When we retraced our steps (our float?) after a night’s refreezing, we could see our previous day’s path outlined with broken chunks and cracks and, presumably, thinner ice.  (Not sure about that thinner-ness).

 

It was all very new and exciting.

I’m afraid there really isn’t room for six people, all their bits and pieces and a dog.  Though three people and the dog manage well enough.  Oh and that reminds me, we have a new, official ship’s dog.

He belongs to Mr and Mrs Magnificent and is very small, very young and remarkably well behaved.  When abandoned by Mr Magnificent, he utters extremely pathetic and heart wrenching small wails and cries of distress and if you’re cold, he’s a perfectly lap-sized tummy warmer – a grateful one to boot.  He’s called Jacko.

He also does upside down wriggling.

And there were a couple of sunsets : )

 

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments