Friday, April 30, 2010

All moments are key moments

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I discovered a website – the unlikely sounding whiskey river – on a fellow author’s blog  – with a new quote on it nearly everyday, and so often these quotes “speak to my condition,” as we Quakers say.

Here is the one from yesterday…

"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."
- Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The burning question at Hepworth Towers

Could a cat live happily on a travelling narrowboat?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When I say ‘barge’ I mean ‘narrowboat’

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I promised not to show you any more holiday snaps but the one above is illustrative. That’s my excuse.

Dave and I have been ogling narrowboats (oh, it takes so much longer to type!) on the net with a list of what we would want ours to have – if we took the plunge, and launched into buying one. There are certain must-haves – comfortable beds, windows (not portholes) in the living quarters, and a solid fuel stove (recommended by all the narrowboat dwellers we met on the canal.)  It’s amazing what some  boats provide. We came across one with a dishwasher.

It’s interesting to me what people want from narrowboat life. Part of the charm for me is the stripped down, back to basics kind of living. When I got home last Saturday, the things I looked on with joy were my computer, my saxophone, and our comfy bed. It was also a huge luxury to wake up in the morning in a warm house so that a trip to the loo in pyjamas did not feel like a polar expedition that one had to summon up all one’s reserves of determination to complete. I can see that if you’re living on the boat for three weeks, a washing machine would come in handy, but a dishwasher???

Monday, April 26, 2010

Still missing

dead tulips

I got home from my (second) barge holiday on Saturday and on Sunday I caught up with some of my favourite people on the phone. I spoke to my three children and my daughter-in-law, my two sisters, one of my brothers, and a friend.

Still there was that ache to ring my mother and tell her about the holiday. She died eighteen months ago. I wonder when I shall stop wanting to ring her every time I get home from being away.


Wet Evening in April

The birds sang in the wet trees
And as I listened to them it was a hundred years from now
And I was dead and someone else was listening to them.
But I was glad I had recorded for him
The melancholy.

Patrick Kavanagh

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The simple life

Life is so simple when you live on a barge.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

In love

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It’s official. Dave and I are in love with barging. That’s where we’ve been for the last week. We liked it so much when we went with our friends two weeks ago, that we got a last minute cut price week on the same canal for just the two of us. This is me at the tiller.

And below, I am steering across the 127 foot high Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. It is easier than it looks but just as scary.

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And here I am coming back…

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OK, that’s enough holiday snaps. I shan’t bore you with any more. It’s back to reality now.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Out of reach

I shall be away from the net for a while and unable to blog. I’ll be back as soon as I can.


It has been going on for years. My younger son has been trying to get me to watch a Coen brothers film – all the way through. First, I tried with The Big Lebowski and gave up after half an hour because of the swearing. I swear myself. I have no objection to swearing in moderation. But it seemed as though every other word in The Big L was a curse. I tried The Hudsucker Proxy and gave up because it was weird and I felt alienated from the characters and the setting. I tried another one I have forgotten the name of  - The man who wasn’t there? – and gave up on that. It was cold and weird. A few years later I tried The Big L again and got to an hour into the film. Yes, it was funny, but oh, the swearing.

Last night I managed to watch Burn After Reading all the way through. Yay! I did it! It was funny. The dialogue, characterisation and acting were great. Overall feelings about the film the morning after? I like a better ratio of sympathetic characters to unsympathetic ones in my fiction. I like people. I think that most people are likeable. I want my fiction to reflect that. Also, I had to cover my eyes so I didn’t see the two gory scenes. I knew they were coming because I was warned by my son sitting next to me.

Will I watch another Coen brothers film? Maybe – yes – if my son (who knows my taste) recommends one, and as long as he is sitting next to me telling me when to hide my eyes. I am lily livered. I would never watch a film that was rated higher than a 15. Yes, I’m a baby - So bite me, blondie!

(I love that expression – Phoebe used it once in a Friends episode, and I made a mental note. I bring it out just occasionally.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thoughts at six o’clock in the morning

1/ Maybe I will be able to learn to recognise bird songs: I’ve only listened to the first track of the Collins Garden Bird Songs and Calls and I could tell it was a blackbird that just woke me up. 

2/ The only bad thing about the barge holiday was the God-awful beds. I was so tired when I got home (and it was a lovely holiday) that I couldn’t play my saxophone for two days.


3/ The keys for the barge had a giant cork ball on the key ring so that if you dropped them in the canal they floated. This did not help when someone (no names no pack drill) dropped them on the tow path in the twilight, and didn’t realise until half an hour’s walk further up the towpath, so that someone on a bike had to cycle up and down in the dusk asking everyone she came across if they had found some keys. Fortunately, someone had.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Hepworth tutorial on how to go through a canal lock

This is for people who don’t know how locks work. Everyone else can ignore the post and come back tomorrow.

If you want to go up a lock that is full, the first thing to do is make sure no-one is approaching from the top and wants to come down. If they are, you must wait for them to come through, so you aren’t emptying a lock and wasting water for just one boat (yours.)

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2/ Open the paddles (shutters) in each of the gates at the bottom of the lock, by winding up the mechanism (huge heavy cog thingy) at the side. You can just about see Dave doing this on this picture, and the water churning out.

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3/ When the lock has emptied and the water levels on both sides of the bottom gate are the same height, open the lock gates. Then close the paddles in these bottom gates.

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4/  Sail in.

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5/ Close the gates behind you, and open the paddles in the top gate. You can see Dave winding the cog with a windlass (below).

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6/ Here he is opening the paddle on the right.

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7/ The water in the lock begins to churn and your level begins to rise as the water comes through the opened paddles in the top gate.

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8/ Now the water levels each side are just about equal in height.

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9/ Open the top gates  when you can, by leaning on the end of the beam.

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10/ The gate opens.

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11/ Sail out the top.

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12/ Close the top paddles, and shut the gates.

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13/ Sail away.

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14/ Don’t forget to wait for your glamorous assistant.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I love aqueducts

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The most exciting thing on our canal holiday was sailing over the 100 foot high Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, above the trees, over the river Dee, with just an iron edge between us and death.

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It was as exciting as I was expecting, but I was impressed to the nth degree by the fantastic engineering of this aqueduct built by Thomas Telford 200 years ago. Go and see it! Go and walk on it! You won’t be disappointed!



Sunday, April 11, 2010


This is where I have been living for the past week. April 2010 Llangollen barge holiday 139

When I went away, I worried about not being able to write my blog. But I have wound down so far (travelling at 4 mph) that it will take me a couple of days to wind myself back up again and write a proper post.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


I just woke up from a long, disturbing nightmare in which I was stranded in a strange city (Nottingham) with a one year old baby and had no babyfood and no nappies and I had left the car in Lincoln and forgotten which car park. The baby got up to all kinds of mischief but remained cheerful, but then it nearly fell off a moving truck and was rescued by Jack Straw – not a man I like or trust (for overseas readers – one of the ex-Prime Minister’s henchmen.)

When I woke up I was exhausted and disturbed, and I didn’t feel better until I’d had two separate hugs a from Dave, a cup of tea, and a cheery email from my Little Red Hen. I am sitting in bed recovering. I may just watch Neighbours on the net as a pick-me-up, or listen to the Birdsong CD I was given for Christmas, as the birds are singing outside the window and I am supposed to be learning to identify them.
Then I will get up and finish my packing.
Goodbye again.

Friday, April 02, 2010

4 m.p.h.


I’m going away to a place where the speed limit is 4 m.p.h. I’ll tell you about it when I get back.

Happy Easter!