Saturday, November 29, 2008

If that's Belfast...

Here's a thing. Every week I look at the photo competition in the Guardian Weekend magazine to see whether the theme is one on which I might have anything to enter, and a fortnight ago, for the first time, it was: 'graffiti'. So I sent in the photo that I took on August 27th, somewhere between Clapton and Little Venice, so very definitely in London, of my favourite graffiti as featured here.

Now, I knew I hadn't won, as they'd have been in touch, so I was surprised to see that very same view featured amongst the winners today. I would show you, but they don't put the pics on their website, and I thought it might be a bit naughty to scan it. At first I thought that someone might have ripped off my photo, but no, it's not the same picture. As well as being a smaller part of the scene, it's taken from a different angle - more head on - and earlier in the year; the ivy hasn't grown so high as in mine. It is, however, without a shadow of a doubt, the same piece of graffiti, the same location.

Leaving aside the fact that my photo is, in my humble opinion, better (the winning one cuts out all the interesting trompe l'oieul that the graffiti artist has achieved with the white-painted brickwork), what really irks me is the accompanying caption, supplied by the photographer, and that I will quote (fair usage, I think): 'Among all the political slogans and sectarian murals prominent in Belfast, I loved the juxtaposition of this equally heartfelt statement.' Now that very definitely and deliberately implies that the photo was taken in Belfast, and that, I think, would contribute to its significance.

Yet I cannot be the only person who has seen this very 'mural' on either the G.U. or the River Lee (in fact, I'm sure someone will tell me which). Unless someone has painted exactly the same thing, on exactly the same blue-painted wall, in exactly the same alignment with the brickwork, with the same concrete and the same ivy below it, then that picture was not taken in Belfast but in London. What's more, the people at the Guardian presumably had my entry in front of them as well, clearly saying that it was in London, so one can only assume that they either didn't notice or didn't care. As always, the idea that it's Belfast makes for a better 'story', and the fact that a few readers out of hundreds of thousands might notice that this is actually inaccurate, matters far less.

Interestingly, in the 'meet a reader' column in the main paper today features my friend Donna, and they've spelt her name wrong.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Postcards from Ireland

My sister has been to Dublin and - as she always tries to do, wherever she goes - has sent me some canal-related photos. I know nothing about the Grand Canal, other than what I have read here, but - as I have never visited Ireland at all yet - perhaps one day I shall see it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New view

This is what we will see now when we look out of the front of Warrior.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Light fantastic

Fast running out of light puns. It was a (nice) surprise to learn that Jim had done this job. Way way back we (he?) bought a pair of lovely solid brass bulkhead lights with satisfyingly thick chunky glass at some show or other. One of them was fitted in the engine room last year, and I thought it would look nice, as well as be useful, to fit the other one above the table cupboard (where one might more usually have a mirror?). The only light on the back cabin before was on the side wall towards the engine room end, and pretty useless at illuminating the end where you would most likely be sitting (although very handy for reading in bed, of course).

This second light is not perfect; it has at some point suffered a severe bash which has dented the brass cage on the front and broken the glass. But it's still lovely enough to use and enjoy, especially since we bought up a vast stock of bulbs when we finally found them, at 50p each, in the Ramsey motor factors.

The photo, as you can see, shows only the hole cut in readiness. There aren't any decent ones of the light in situ. But I'm sure you can imagine it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Something to report

At last, there is news and photos. Many photos, which Jim brought back with him yesterday. He has finished the back cabin, and completed the graining in the bathroom; fixed the gear lever, and looked long and hard at the back boiler. He has used nearly sixty quid's worth of varnish alone - and that's not even at Craftmaster prices. All the dark bits, basically, are new. Everything without roses on has been redone. Some of these areas were previously done in that rather crude yellow graining, but all the framing - it seems so long ago now - had been painted over in a horrible royal blue. The initial plan was just to redo those bits but it sort of growed.

The photos provide just a tantalising glimpse of what has been achieved, and I have insisted that we go up again in a couple of weeks so that I can see it in the flesh. Then of course we will be going for Christmas too. Jim has heard a rumour from Moominpapa that Salters Lode may re-open ahead of schedule around December 18th, so Christmas in Cambridge might just be on the cards again. Or New Year, which would be even better.

Other exciting things to report are that Warrior has a new berth at Bill Fen with a more, in estate agent speak, open aspect (although I never minded looking out at Axe, even if it is somewhat unrecognisable from the side with its pearlescent purple cabin and upvc double glazing), handier for the pumpout and with closer car parking. For anyone that remembers, it's pretty near where our temporary spot was when we first arrived there. With the new mooring have come new neighbours who, from all accounts, are jolly nice.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


It's Saturday evening, and I only switched the computer on five minutes ago. I haven't had the radio on, or played any music, all day. I went to the market and bought some fruit and veg, and exchanged a few words with no.1 son this morning, but apart from that the only soundtrack to my day has been the whirr of the fridge, the gentle popping of the fire in the kitchen stove, the ticking of the clocks and the distant cries of seagulls. My word, this keyboard is loud.

Jim is still up on the boat, and Baz is off on some kind of philosophy field trip; it appears that the environs of Windsor Great Park are highly conducive to beard stroking and logical thought. He did send me a text last night, saying 'rubbish reception'; I wasn't sure whether that referred to the phone signal or the wine and peanuts.

So I'm home alone and loving it. There is a vast gulf of difference between solitude and loneliness. Sometimes, other people's company can be the loneliest place of all. I have spent a weekend which has been both delightfully indolent, and at the same time unusually productive. I can get up, go to bed and eat when I need to. The quiet, the lack of distraction and the ability to develop an unbroken train of thought have been fantastic for thinking and writing. I realise with amazement just how much time and energy other people - even with the best intentions in the world - draw from our reserves.

Now, for many people, and the accepted wisdom, that's a reasonable trade-off. Lots of people like and even need much higher levels of company and interaction. But I suddenly realise, with a blinding flash of light after all these years, that I am not one of them. I recall how solitary I was as a child, and how as an adolescent I invariably enjoyed my own company, and that of a book (not necessarily a good one, by any means), to that of my peers.

As a child, and as an adolescent you can generally absent yourself from family life without attracting much comment, in a way that you simply can't as an adult. Even to want to do so temporarily is viewed as somewhat pathological.

Coincidentally, I've been reading lately about people seeking ever greater quiet, or living isolated lives, and I've had an idea. What I would like to do is go up to the boat, by myself; stock up with provisions, and then go off to some little-frequented Fen or drain, drop the mudweights, and just stay there, completely alone, for a week or so, or until the milk goes off. Just to be alone with the quiet, and my thoughts. And maybe a book or ten. In the nicer weather would be better, so that I could sit outside. Even the landscape, there, is unobtrusive. To be able to notice ever smaller things, the things lost in the white noise of everyday life. To get to know myself again, like an old friend I've been too busy to keep in touch with for the last twenty five years.

Well, it sounds feasible to me, sitting here now. I wonder if it still will when I am no longer alone.

Friday, November 14, 2008


OK, so I'm back, although I haven't been away. I haven't been particularly more busy than usual, and I haven't got fed up with it, so I don't really know why my posting has been so sluggish of late. I think you'd have to go right back to the beginning, to the post free May of 2006, to find such a poor posting record.

Admittedly, these are quiet months boating wise, but that hasn't stopped me before. I could have written a review of Water Gypsies by someone whose name I've already forgotten, which I just took back to the library today. I could pass on Jim's reports of graining and varnish fumes. I could tell you about my last outing on Tarporley, although the fact that I know a number of the committee read this might constrain me from my habitual bitchy style, and thus take all the fun out of it. Nonetheless, here is the bare factual version:

There were four of us. Three had never worked a lock before so I had to do them all. It poured with rain. I got to steer for a bit but I didn't get to control the speed. We were going quite fast trying to get back before dark. This made steering extra difficult and I hit a bridge and missed the bend at Cumberland Basin. The others all found this quite amusing. When we got back to Kings Place we had picked up something major on the prop (subsequently discovered). And the wind got up, blowing us away from the mooring and onto the towpath. There were no long ropes. Eventually, by dint of tying ropes together, running dripping and muddy through Kings Place, and with the help of the friend of one of the crew who fortuitously happened to be a tug-of-war competitor, we got tied up after an hour and a half. Did I mention that it rained constantly?

Now, given that I am meant to be marketing officer, can I say that?

Or I could just burble on about nothing in particular. It couldn't be more boring than a blank page.... could it?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Where do you think you've been?

I can't believe it's more than a week since I last posted. Nothing earth shattering has happened, it's true, but I have waved Jim off to Bill Fen with a long list of jobs (a list compiled by him, not me, I hasten to add); I have been out on another Tarporley training session which was sort of eventful, and very wet, and last night I was officially appointed to their committee as marketing officer. The meeting was held at the Wenlock Arms, which is a highly regarded real ale pub, which demonstrates the right priorities. In an early flush of enthusaism on their part, I was bought a pint or two and a half by other committee members.... some of whom read this blog, it turns out.

Mmm. Must try harder.