Saturday, 25 September 2010

New Home!

Dear readers,

Please follow our adventure now on my new blog 'Country Mumkins' it took me a while to think of a new title and to get my feet back on the ground, quite literally!!

Look forward to seeing you there! It's quite exciting all this moving around and change and fresh air and and and...!!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

All Aboard!

Hello stranger - it's been a while and so much has been happening!

Since having Rowan we've moved house in both senses - took our lovely boat on our last trip down the canal and moved house as in onto terra firma, to the country mind, not just around the corner and have been making chutney and jam since!

Our last trip has been part documented by the lovely Laura in her blog - please take a look, very convenient because it was hard work looking after the baby let alone taking photos of the trip as well. Laura and Boyfriend were on the journey one way and left us somewhere East to public transport it home. We carried on and after stopping off for a big birthday meal for Jam in Bow we started the Limehouse loop. There's an electronic lock at some point, just outside the Olympic stadium. It was brilliant, huge and like something out of a movie, especially from my angle: I was feeding Rowan inside, looking up at these huge walls with lights casting shadows everywhere. Jam said it felt like we were going into a crusher! I concentrated on Rowan, letting the friends crew the boat. We stopped off somewhere near Victoria Park for the night, cracked open a bottle of birthday bubbly, then tequila shots all round ( I declined of course, the little one can do without the alcohol right now!)

The next day it was just Jam, myself and Rowan crewing the boat - we weren't much help, but it was a nice day and we had fun. We totally forgot that it was the Angel canal festival and were held up waiting there before we could get through the tunnel back to our mooring. It was great though, a couple of friends Scarlet and Odysseus joined us for the tunnel and festival wardens were manning the lock, whilst the Pearly Kings and Queens were serenading us from the other side - it was quite surreal actually, singing along and dancing to 'My Old Man' as the water in the lock filled up and we were surrounded by happy festival people, a really lovely ending to a fabulous weekend trip on our lovely boat.

Once back on the mooring we cleared away all the rubbish, cleaned and scrubbed as best we could as the light was fading and our energy levels dropping, our lovely neighbours did pop round with a cake for Jam which helped raise the spirits! Later than expected and slightly ragged, we packed up the car and headed out.

More on the new life soon, I'm not sure what to do with this blog as I'm no longer in London living on a boat, or pregnant! I shall start something new, for the new life and perhaps keep going with the memories and stories from the last few years of boat life anyway, for I hadn't planned to move so soon, well, we'll see, my little boy is crying now for Mummy's attention! Better go!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Rain and a mad coincidence!

I love the sound of the rain on top of the boat. It's so calming, soothing and relaxing. It takes me back to holidays in caravans with Nana in the Lake District when we were kids. Caravans are a little like boats in that way, the rain drumming tunefully on the metal tops, the tapping like a gentle massage of the soul.

Today, we went for dinner with some friends, then whilst back on the boat having cups of tea a boater came by in a very similar looking boat to ours and we were just remarking on it when the chap said, 'oh hello, we were in the waiting room at the hospital together when you were going in to have your baby' ~ what a coincidence!!

They needed to fill up with water so we let them moor up and we had a chat and compared boats and babies (ours seemed much larger and more sleepy ~ the baby that is!)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Windsurfing on the canal?

I looked out of the window yesterday and this is what I saw...

He didn't mind me taking a picture. He was with a friend, they had surfed from Broadway market through the tunnel. They said that was something else, surfing through the tunnel ~ must be like an extreme sport or something, extremely crazy more like!! One way to keep fit, shame I haven't got a spare windsurfboard! And off he goes back through the tunnel...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

One Handed Whizzkid

I'm amazed at how much I can get done with only one hand. I normally write with my right hand, but when I was at school I broke my right wrist on a ski slope ~ it wasn't even whilst on the skiing holiday it was on the dry ski-slope practise session beforehand. I was petrified and convinced I was going to break my leg, only did half the slope, turned around at the bottom to joyously shout 'yey I did it' and fell, breaking my wrist...~ and I remember having to start my new geography book with my left hand. I was good. A little slow but at least you could read it. From then on I practised writing with my left hand as much as possible and when people asked if I was left or right handed I would proudly say, 'mainly right-handed, but ambidextrous really'!

So now, putting it bluntly, depending on which boob is being drained, one hand is supporting the boy and the other is frantically texting/typing/eating chocolate or whatever is close to hand/drinking/reading/knitting (that one is admittedly a little harder!)/mopping up spillages/brushing hair/making tea/you get the picture...

I know I could use one of those slings, but to be honest I'm still a little tender down there and don't fancy crushing my stomach too much just yet - I have got a brilliant shoulder sling a friend bought for me in Canada, it's a Pippalily and it's got a beautiful design of dragonflies on it and I even have a picture of me using it for the first time...

Oops = upside down, bit like how I feel at the moment! He can feed whilst in it too, but I like to sit down whilst feeding and it's then that I seem to want to do everything all at once and oh crap, I've really waffled on here about nothing that I even wanted to waffle on about and it's time to get on with the cycle of feeding/nappy changing/sleeping, in which I'm not sure where I'm at right now but hey...

Jam asked me to juggle this morning with a pomegranate, lemon and apple, whilst I was feeding, making tea, buttering toast and washing up... I did it too, what fun we have!!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Baby Gazing

Please forgive my absence, I'm rather busy you see,
Not busy writing, reading, or watching lots of telly,
We don't even have one of them on board, what a waste of space,
I'm just happily sitting here ~ gazing ~ at my baby's beautiful face.

The perfectly formed fingers, delicate and long,
Made for the piano, time for Rowan's song.
The sweet dimple in his chin, just like his Dad's,
And cracking side-burns that Jam wishes he had!

Gentle purrs of pleasure as he suckles on my breast
Losing track of the days in this idyllic love nest.
Rolling eyes and a beautiful smile,
I know it's only wind but let me play for a while.

Auburn head of hair that curls when slightly wet,
Ancestral colours lest we should forget,
Deep blue eyes, will they stay or change to green?
Shh, he's gently sleeping now ~ blissfully serene.

I'm in another world and don't ever want to wake
The joy I now behold can make grown men shake,
Whatever did I do before this miracle came?
Who cares, life's amazing and will never be the same!

Picture taken by Anna Deacon, eagerly awaiting the rest of the set ~ she's a fabulous photographer! my link button missing for some reason and baby is waking, so had better post this now!!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Welcome to the World!

Well, I am over the moon! On Friday morning our little angel of a boy arrived. He is everything and more I could have ever dreamed of! He's got my nose, Jam's chin and auburn hair, a proper red squirrel!! My grandad was a red-head, my sister and Aunty too; awwww he's so beautiful!!

The Cesarean was fine, I was really nervous, but calm and expecting it. Having the canola fitted was the worst part, I hate those things (the tube for the drip, canola may not be the right word)! The anesthetists were so lovely and really put us at ease, going through their cd collection to find some nice music, they said I should have bought one of my Hidden cd's in, but we ended up plumping for Frank Sinatra. When we told them about living on a boat they were really interested and after the procedure on the way back to the recovery ward we lost Jam only to find that he'd stopped to give my blog address to one of the anesthetists who was interested in reading it and finding out more about living on a boat!

When they lifted our baby out, they held him up for Jam to announce 'Oh Flora my darling, we've got a son, it's a boy!' He was taken to the side and checked and passageways cleared, he started to cry, then weed on the nurse, Jam started singing the lullaby he used to sing to him and he calmed down and grabbed his fingertip, then Jam bought him over to me and held him close to my face and he stuck his little hand in my mouth and up my nose and had a good look and I cried with joy. It took a bit of pulling and pushing as they sewed me back up, which was just a weird sensation and I was convinced that my legs were in stirrups, even when they took the curtains down and showed me ~ apparently your body remembers the position it was in when it went to sleep so that was why it felt like that.

Back on the ward I just held him and held him and he suckled and looked at us and it was incredible. Our little miracle safe in our arms, we've called him Rowan. When we were choosing names we were certain of our girl's name - Romilly Bella, and really struggled with the boy's name, liking Morgan, or Rowan, or more recently I'd been thinking Barnaby. His middle name would be Courtenay, the same as Jam's, slightly breaking the tradition in the family that the second born son would take Courtenay as his middle name, but hey.

I stayed in hospital for two days. It was so hard when Jam left in the evening, I should have slept whilst Rowan slept during the night, but he was on me, suckling and I was just gazing adoringly at him, unable to do anything else. The second night was the hardest, it was still quite hard to move around and the noise of the TV's from the other beds was too much and the nurses would turn on the lights every time they came in to take blood pressure or give out medication. It was hard getting up to put him down in the cot and then get back into bed, only to have to get up again because he didn't want to be there. One of the ladies from another bed, who I had chatted with in the waiting room came and helped me, I burst into tears, she was really lovely and said it was all completely normal!! Of course it is, and now we're home it is all so much calmer and more relaxed and I'm going to have to post this quickly to go and feed the little angel - more on this soon with photos, I just wanted to welcome him to the world... xxxxx

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Countdown to the Cesarean

Squirrel is a breech baby and we are having a Cesarean on Friday. This is not what we planned ~ see already the little nipper is having it his or her own way!

I've found this really hard to come to terms with and still have the odd outpouring of tears. There's so much to read about it all out there, both scary and reassuring, yet when you're actually in the hospital being told your options it all seems so clinical and quick and you're in shock more than anything so making decisions there and then is a hard thing to do.

I read lots of stuff about how to make baby turn, indeed I was already doing quite a lot of them. One friend said baby won't turn unless you want it to turn, but I don't agree. I really did want Squirrel to turn and asked kindly too, but I don't think there was any room left at 38 weeks or desire to ~ he or she much prefers sitting upright looking out through the belly button window I think!

At the end of the day though we understand that making sure Squirrel enters the world safely is our top priority and it doesn't really matter how we get him or her here. It probably knows best too and doesn't want to put me through the pain of childbirth, especially with a history of difficulties in my family. I think I was concentrating more on the birth beforehand anyway and now am focussed on the time afterwards!

My gorgeous friend that I still haven't thought of a suitable pretend name for yet came around and helped me get organised sorting out all the different bags of baby clothes I'd been given and arranging the space for baby practically - it made such a huge difference in such a short space of time and everyone that's visited since has noticed how fresh the energy is and clear the areas. Friends like that are invaluable. They just know, they come over and DO stuff. (Picture of the book shelf we removed books from to make a space for baby things, with a changing area too).

Tomorrow is our last day before baby Squirrel arrives, so we are going to spend it together, talking about everything, doing very little, perhaps a nice long lie in, breakfast in bed, a trip to the cinema or theatre or a museum. That's what I'm hoping for, I'm sure though that Jam will want to continue doing all the things that need finishing around the boat ~ I'm trying to persuade him otherwise, saying Squirrel won't notice if the back steps are finished or not, but I do understand that he doesn't want to be doing it further down the line. It's very stressful for him right now and he is worrying about everything. I know though that once baby arrives, our hearts will melt and we will not want to do anything else but gaze adoringly at this little miracle we've created.

Only two more sleeps!!

Monday, 12 July 2010


Apparently, according to a very close friend of mine, who shall remain nameless ~ because I haven't thought of a suitable pretend name for her yet ~ I don't update my blog often enough. So I'm now wondering what the protocol is with updating your blog?!!

Once a week? Once a day, twice a week, every hour? How glued to the computer does one have to be? How much do people want to read and where do you draw the line?

I mean, I started writing a blog a few years ago when I was travelling down under, then deleted it all for I didn't feel right somehow doing it and preferred to just send an email updating my friends on what I was up to every week, sometimes more if it had been an extra special week. I then started the blog again just posting my poetry, then I decided I needed more structure and a purpose for writing and decided to do the London Boat Life, incorporating the pregnancy. I really wanted to just do it for myself, making sure that I wrote regularly, but once I started getting readers it became a bit harder and I would find myself writing for the reader rather than myself.

I'm probably putting far too much thought into this and should just get on with it, take more photos and keep posting things that amuse and interest me and point my friend in the direction of all the other blogs out there to read and make sure she just checks in to me once or twice a week.

Right, I'm going to go and buy one of those wire things to download the photos from my phone, I seem to keep losing it...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Nice Catch!

Watching what goes on outside our boat is better than having a TV anyday! Yesterday I heard a rather loud SPLASH and thought that perhaps someone else was having a swim ~ it's been happening a lot lately, there's a funny sounding couple that keep diving in and swimming around a bit further down. It baffles me, the water is so disgustingly murky and polluted, but they seem to love it.

So back to the splash, I opened the hatch, peered out, with a bright and chirpy 'Morning' to the regular fishermen who were already three hours into their morning fish and saw a man with a pair of shorts on and a woolly hat, holding a line and tugging on it. A couple of people were with him, watching for whatever he was about to haul up. Nothing was coming, his line was stuck. I thought he was the same man that had been pulling out motorbikes and cycles further down the canal a few months earlier, but he said he was just a regular fisherman who was fed up with his line getting stuck and so had come down with a rake to try and fish out whatever it was that kept tangling up his line. Fair play.

The only problem was that his line was stuck. Well and truly stuck. I noticed that the funny sounding couple who loved swimming were actually sitting on the edge of the canal further down and mentioned that perhaps they would dive down for him to try and untangle it. He left his line with one of the keen onlookers and ran down to ask them for the favour. They declined saying they'd just dried off. This meant his only other option was to get in there himself. So he took off his shoes and started to lower himself in.

Now the other fishermen were showing some interest, in the kind of 'shake-your-head in bafflement at the crazy things some people do' way. I asked him if he was mad and hoped he would go home and have a shower afterwards. He said it was quite refreshing and he wasn't going to swallow any of it and didn't have any open wounds. Then up came a bike, his helper hoiked it out, quite a nice looking one at that, if you saw through the oily gunk. The line was still caught though, as he pulled it further, up popped a wheel of a shopping trolley...

'Ah, I remember when the boys threw that in, you should keep looking though, there were definitely two!' So he pulled himself out of the water, for the trolley was caught up in his rake and untangled it all, then threw it back in and caught the other trolley. 'That's great' he said, 'now I've got a clear path to fish in.'

I popped out for the afternoon. When I came back I asked if he'd caught anything more than the bike and trolleys, 'nah' was his reply, but he seemed quite happy enough. No real edge of seat clinchers here I'm afraid, but this is the real -life TV!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Never under-estimate the power of a pregnant woman!

4.17am. Rudely woken from our sleep by what sounded like the neighbour having a party. Jam sent Paddy a funny and rude message telling him to 'pack it in, you noisy bleep bleeps', which was promptly returned with a 'it's not me mate, woken me up too!'

Jam then pops his head out of the bedroom hatch and shouts to the group to 'keep the noise down please, we've got to be at work in a couple of hours'. Nothing happens. I turn over, with some difficulty I might add, then Jam puts a pillow over my head, I throw it off laughing at him as he starts humming loudly to try and drown out the sound of the all-night-revellers.

Twenty minutes or so later, the noise is not getting quieter and so I get up and go and look through the round window to see the bunch of young revellers with a couple of policemen standing talking to them. I think the policemen are asking them to put out the fire they have lit on the path and maybe to keep the noise down, then they head off back up the steps, leaving them all, still making lots of noise.

After another ten minutes or so of loud chatting, I decide that I should be the one to go out and ask them to stop, Jam protested but I insisted, whipping on my dress from the previous day and donning my flip-flops and glasses and heading out. Daylight was already upon us, a few stray revellers were lounging opposite our boat, but the main crowd were down by the tunnel entrance, some of them were nipping off into the bushes for a quick wee break.

I walked slowly down to the end of the mooring, a couple of them clocked me then they all turned round and looked. 'Hi guys, er, it sounds like you're all in my bed with me. Could you maybe move further down the canal where there are no boaters or houses nearby please?' Lots of apologetic mumblings follow, then I asked where they lived and their answer was 'Norway, France, Sweden etc'. 'Oh good, well give me a week or so and I'll come to your houses and wake you up in the middle of the night with a screaming baby!' Not sure they understood that but they all shouted sorry's and Good Luck with the birth, as I waved nicely and headed back to bed.

Jam gave me a round of applause as I got back into bed. I didn't expect it, but was amazed to hear nothing more. With a huge sigh of relief I drifted back into lala dream land.
Never under-estimate the powers of a pregnant woman!

I'm totally exhausted today and whilst writing this have managed to chow my way through half a packet of ginger nut biscuits some chocolate cream biscuits and an apple... ;)

Thursday, 1 July 2010

a baby shower

So the girls all get together to throw a baby shower party for the Mum to be (me!). There's lots of excitement, laughter, nibbles, wine (not for me ~ although I brought along a bottle of non-alcoholic Riesling our dear neighbour Paddy had given me, left over from his all night mooring party, it was kind of disgusting, but palettable with some fizzy water...), there's presents, screaming, tears, silliness and the big surprise as to what the girls are going to make for the little one this time!?

Every time someone has a baby, our groups of friends get together and create something ~ one of our first parties we painted bibs, then we painted babygros, then some fabulous bunting and a really cute mobile of soft toys. We all bring along our sewing kits, complete with sparkly bits, buttons, crazy material and let rip. It's a huge amount of fun, everyone has a go and a good catch up at the same time.
For my Squirrel shower we were going to be outside in the park nearby so I didn't have too far to waddle, but unfortunately this was last week, when the weather had changed slightly so a last minute weather check meant we went to Prin's house instead. Scarlett came and picked me up beforehand with some whispering to Jam and disappearing off into the bushes to put things in her bag. I was beginning to wonder what they had in store for me! I was also feeling quite exhausted for I was about to have a quick pick me up nap when Scarlett arrived ~ she gave me a wee massage which was heavenly but not quite the same as a snooze! Still the excitement kept me going!

As you know, I'm a consultant for Neal's Yard Organic Remedies now, sharing my love for the products and finding a new business to throw myself into, that will work around Squirrel. So I took along my kit and held a mini party as well. It was great fun, I even managed to sell enough to be able to get the New Baby kit for free! A good result! (If you would like to know more about this let me know!)

So cut to the chase WHAT DID THEY MAKE YOU I can hear you cry! Well, they opened their bags and announced that they were making me a dreamcatcher! If you don't know what one of these is, it's a willow hoop, that has a spider's web inside and jewels and feathers attached to it. It is meant to catch the bad dreams which would then dissolve in the light of the day and all the good dreams would filter down to the sleeper.

Scarlett and Yogi start binding the willow together to make a circle with it, then they attached material around it and sewed it on, then they wrapped leather straps around it to try and make the shape stay. Some of the other girls make some dangly bits with buttons and badges and feathers to attach to the hoop. The web-making part was proving difficult and I wanted to help so got stuck in and made a web, but unfortunately it was too loose and didn't stay and it took so long to do I couldn't hold my arms up long enough to do again, so Scarlett tried again but it wasn't happening, so we fixed the shape using beads instead.

It was getting late and everyone was tired and needed to head home, Prin, who was feeling a little loose-tongued after a few glasses of vino, came out with, 'Oh Flora, every time we make something we get more and more creative, and for you, one of the most creative amongst us, we've made something really shit!' And the wonderful Ra churps up 'and you don't even like dreamcatchers!' Scarlett was adamant I shouldn't take it home, but I insisted, saying it was beautiful, it looked more like a mobile without the web part and I really wanted Jam to see it!

Anyway, it's the thought that counts and I think it looks lovely on the door of the boat, even if it is a bit squashed! It's colourful , fun and made with oodles of girly love for Squirrel!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

I just want some sleep...zzz

I'm waking up tired, too tired to go to work!
I just want some sleep!
I want to sleep on my stomach and stretch out
without cramp setting into my calves.
I want to roll over and over and not ache in strange places.
I want to cuddle in to you and feel the warmth of your back
Wrap my legs around yours and nuzzle into your neck.
I want to jump out of bed feeling refreshed
And not have to get up four times to pee
I just want to sleep and wake up as me!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Joy of Gardening!

There's something so satisfying about gardening!

After the weekend of DIY we had a spare day and Jam and I decided to do something about the mooring and cleared up some of the ivy that just goes mental strangling all the trees and bushes.

We brought over the logs from the old log pile that had once held up the shed that Polly had put up when she'd sold her boat, to put her stuff in, which BW then made her take down saying it was an obstruction to navigation, strange that for it wasn't anywhere near the water but that's a different story, and so we made a lovely looking woodery.

We planted some flowers that we'd bought at a car boot sale, mainly marigolds and little blue daisies, I forget their real name now.

I incorporated my trophies for darts and go-kart racing. Yes I have a trophy for playing 'arrows' ~ after my degree I lived above a pub in the East End and was roped in to playing arrows for the team, we did really well, considering you had to drink your body fluid capacity in vodka and orange at each match. I could barely see the board let alone hit it! I actually got sent home once at an away match for missing the board and shooting an arrow through someone's foot ~ didn't they realise I was a liability with a drink inside me?

There's also a section of home-grown salad and herbs in the woodery as well, a lovely climbing rose, some seating and a little bit of a rockery trail. Not bad for a day's work!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

35 weeks pregnant and a slight panic

When you are pregnant you can sign up to all these websites which send you regular tips and tricks and offers and little reminders of what's going on inside and out of your body. So why does it come as a big surprise to me when I get an email saying 'Hi Flora, you're 35 weeks pregnant'? I suddenly find myself in a mild panic, worrying that I haven't packed my hospital bags yet, washed any of the baby stuff we've been given in baby friendly soap powder or prepared my husband sufficiently or myself for that matter!

The panic leads to me putting on a calming CD to try and breath through it and sitting on the edge of the coffee table whilst bursting into tears. Jam is poorly and trying to rest but comes through when he hears me sobbing and comforts me. Through the tears I sob, 'tell me it's all gonna be alright', he says 'I'm going to be alright', I sob a little more, squeeze tighter then say, 'what did you say?' He looks deep into my eyes and repeats it, and I say, I thought you said that, I actually said 'tell me IT'S ALL going to be alright, as in ME and the BABY, not YOU!' Then the laughter sobs break in and he reassures me that EVERYTHING is fine. I'm doing an incredible job and he had wondered why I was worrying about things I couldn't control, then the CD starts skipping at the 'little donkey' ambient dribbly variations on a theme part and he offers to make some tea and talk about what's bothering me.
[You may be interested to know the chap who wrote little donkey in 1959, Eric Boswell died in December last year.]

The pregnancy preview email also said I would be having whacky dreams and should write them down. I do this anyway, they are usually quite bizarre. Last night I couldn't sleep very well and wanted to get up at 5am, but forced myself to sleep some more after another trip to the loo (poor Jam has to change the loo nearly every other day at the moment instead of weekly.)

I woke having dreamt I'd had the baby, it was a boy, but I was also performing a concert for my album launch at the same time, and kept forgetting I'd had the baby, and would run backstage and Jam would be holding the baby and it was a girl, with really crusty hair, then I'd go back on stage and talk about the album and find that the words for the songs were all muddled up on the songsheet insert of the CD, which was a long thin sheet of black satin and one side of it was in Arabic, and the other side had a big lion and the words KAPLAN and I would be joking with the audience, doing a stand-up routine instead of singing the songs for I couldn't remember the words. I was saying things like, 'so, I'm 8 months pregnant and I've been watching this bellydancing DVD every day, that's right, every day, I'm really good at it, see, I'm watching it on the shelf, I'm looking at it every day, I think it's made a huge difference don't you? Then I'd remember I'd already given birth and run backstage to see the baby again....

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The kindness of other bloggers

I was so overjoyed to read this post by a fellow blogger on her blog Edible Glitter, a lovely looking, exciting and diversely filled blog, which I love dipping into! I was shocked, surprised, then overcome with gratitude that still makes me smile now ~ it's amazing how kind people can be, saying such lovely things ~ and I've not been blogging regularly for very long and I didn't even know she had written it, I just found it whilst looking at her blog!

My darling friend LLG linked to me in her fantastic blog encouraging me to get on with the regular blogging and despite going into a slight panic at the thought of people reading what I'm writing I've overcome that now I think and am actually enjoying it.

It's incredible to think that we've been using the internet for years and yet it's still quite new and exciting, lots of things to explore, learning every day, ~ I guess it's similar to 'about to become a Mum', you hang out with friend's children or your siblings forever and never think you're actually going to do it yourself, then suddenly there's a whole new world of nappies, sick and baby classes to explore. Maybe that's not such a great simile, equating the excitement of writing a blog to having a baby, but most people DO think of their blogs as their babies, the above two ladies included, and why not? I'm beginning to get the bug, in fact I feel like I'll be looking after two babies soon enough! Bring it on! I can see it now, nappies on the laptop, posting pictures on to the baby... ;)

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Re-cycling envelopes

Always check your envelopes before re-using them - you never know what your recipient might find as an extra free gift!

I sent my sister Oli a parcel for her birthday.  She lives down under so you have to send things well in advance and although it wasn't that long ago, I had totally forgotten what I'd sent her, and I haven't even had the baby yet!  It also took her a while to ask me if what she'd found was meant to be in there...

But before you get excited it was nothing sinister, just one of my contact lenses.

She thought it was a sweet way of me keeping my eye on her...  ;)

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Bank Holiday DIY time and a little ditty...

Jam is such a fabulous handyman! I'm sooo very lucky! Right now the mooring is full of men working hard on various different projects.

We have Paddy quietly digging up his garden patch, making room for his table and chairs and vegetables, King Pin the Daddy rockin out doing final bits of decorating for his boat before renting it out and Jam whirring away in the workden making shelves and cabinets for King Pin's boat. I'm taking it easy, cooking lunches and suppers for them all and making sure they drink plenty of water, what a good woman!

Of course, the weather was beautiful that weekend (I know I'm a bit late on posting this, in fact, I'm sure my absence could have been a 'ooh crumbs has she had that baby' moment, but not yet, I'm still huge and growing daily) and so with nice weather we could eat outside in the 'Whispering garden'. A haven on the mooring, hidden amongst the greenery, using an old church pew we rescued from the canal a few years ago and a bar table as well, that had one leg missing when we hoiked it out, but that was good for it meant we could add a longer one so it sits on the slope properly. We've built a fence and canopy using all the overgrown ivy and woven in old guitars and signs saying 'Angels gather here', it's peaceful and calming.

I remember when we found the church pew, there were a few of us, and I saw it first, and wished I'd kept my mouth shut for the boys were all drunk and I was sure there would be an accident, but actually it was fine, and I'd jumped off the boat so as not to be part of it and they'd all come past me jeering and winding me up, but it was a fun day to say the least and one of the first times I'd hung out with Jam, who wasn't being so mean, the seeds of love being sown over the church pew, ahhhhh.

Where was I? Ah yes, so there we were in the whispering garden and after food, Jam said he fancied a cigarette, so I 'pretend' stormed off in a huff and came on board to write a song about it - here it is, I'm kind of in disguise, wearing an old pair of glasses and it was a first take so there were a couple of slips but I think you'll get the gist and hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Giving up seats for pregnant ladies on the tube

I went into town today, it's only three stops on the tube, and Squirrel tends to kick, wriggle, knit ~ whatever it does in there ~ quite a lot these days so I wasn't too bothered about sitting down, in fact I didn't want to sit down because I knew I would be sitting down all day.  A very sweet young man touched my arm and offered me his seat as soon as he saw me get on, and when I said 'oh thanks but I'm fine really, it's only a couple of stops' he seemed quite offended and flabbergasted almost and sat back down, looking around as if to say, did you see that? Offer a pregnant lady a seat and she refuses it, honestly!

Then a young German couple got on and when a seat became available instead of taking it the man asked me if I would like it, 'oh thanks but I'm getting off at the next stop I'm fine thank you though!'  More puzzled looks and whispering to his girlfriend and some odd looks from other passengers too.  I was quite happy perching on the cushioned rest, reading the man's paper next to me, then his mobile as he checked his very important messages about meeting with the Moroccan ambassador and Princess Laila and then looking around as if I wasn't reading it whenever he looked or the man on the other side of me caught me looking. Yes it was a fun journey indeed, but I did feel guilty, not just for reading the man's texts but for offending two very kind gentlemen who offered me seats.

After a very long, uncomfortable day I got back on the tube, desperate for the loo, hot, tired, hungry, and nobody offered me a seat, but I didn't really mind for it was only a few stops.  Then a gentleman excused himself past me to walk to the middle of the carriage, to stand and wait for a seat, saw me, then grabbed the young man sitting in the end seat and asked him to get up for the pregnant lady, the young man was instantly apologetic and grabbed his things together and gave me the seat, which this time I very gratefully accepted, and thanked the older gentleman too.  Sitting down, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with gratitude, a mixture of feelings welling up inside about accepting and declining seats and the whole protocol of it all and felt a huge burst of tears building up, but looked up and shut my eyes and let a small trickle of exhausted frustration run down my cheek quietly.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Fishermen again...

Now I spoke with Kevin and Simon recently, two of the regular fishermen and they are really quite sweet.  One of them recently had to put down his dog and doesn't know what to do without her, so that's why he spends his days fishing.  The atmosphere on the canal is much calmer with them fishing opposite, in fact they say that they fish here because they don't want the pesky kids throwing stones at the boats.  See, it's quite a community really.  They make the time to get to know us, always ask how I'm getting on with the bump and throw a joke or two over...
Kev - when are you due?
Me - I'm due July...
Kev - no I don't lie, are you calling me a liar?

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


Now, those that know me will know that I am the daughter of a notoriously bad fisherman, not bad as in no good at catching things but bad as in one of those that had a women in every port and has more children than fingers and toes ~ I kid you not, but that is another story, and I'd better not get into that one right now or this post will end up as a harrowing novel!

Fishermen.  What does that word conjure up for you?  Quiet, introverted, peaceful chaps, at one with the earth and water, pursuing a relaxing hobby? Perhaps if we were moored somewhere up in the Pennine's that would be the case, but central London?  Let's see, noisy, rowdy, always up for a fight, often throwing each other in the canal, complete alcoholics, very friendly mind and mostly useless at catching anything except blue bags and the odd scooter.  Perhaps I'm over-generalising and it's not really like that at all, in fact maybe it's the drunks that go to the local church's AA group and then gather for a can or ten on the canal that join the fishermen and give them a bad name!  Yes I think that is it.  There are some very pleasant fishermen that come and sit opposite the boats, all day, catching very little, but peacefully passing the time away.  Polite and civilised conversation comes from their mouths, if anything at all.  It doesn't take much though for them to get involved with the local drunks, and it's not exactly like they can walk away, they're all set up for a day's fishing, with their chairs, rods, nets and gubbins.

I don't think that I'm complaining here, I'm just painting the picture.  We don't have a television on board, and really there is no need, for when they get going, the conversation and activity is quite enthralling and entertaining ~ often x-rated!

Here's a sneaky picture of a group of them, some of them are new faces, some are regulars. It's a relatively sober picture...

One chap lost his leg last year and now has a prosthetic one.  When he first lost his leg, before the replacement part came, he had a motorised wheelchair which was very handy for him to pop up to the local off licence in for more beer.  He's definitely one of the louder characters, but also a fisherman.  See, it's wrong to put people in pigeon holes.  (Most definitely, too small for starters).  The couple on the left are not fisher folks, they are without doubt drinkers, the women can get really lary and scary with it! I'm relieved I'm on this side when a woman kicks off after one too many...

Monday, 17 May 2010

A little bit of fame goes a long way

It's crazy isn't it,  I did some filming a few years ago when I was pursuing my acting career, which seems to have taken a back burner these days - I wonder why?! The filming was for Numberjacks, which airs on Children's BBC, Cbeebies.  It was a small budget production and I got the gig through a friend from my orchestra.  I've never actually seen the show but it seems to be on all the time, and I would surely be a millionaire if I got royalties for every time someone called me to tell me they'd just seen me on TV whilst watching Numberjacks with their children!  I'm even in the Annual one friend told me over Christmas, as they read a night-time story to their child.

Well today was a bleary-eyed and tired Monday morning and a very good friend called to tell me just that ~ the whole family had sat down to eat breakfast and watch Numberjacks and there I was, putting my head in all sorts of strange positions on the table, on the chair...  She thought I'd like to be reminded how wonderfully talented I am and it did cheer me up a lot! ;)

So after work I came home and finished writing a song I've been creating, it's a bit folky country & western style, but I like it and I'm pleased that I've finished it.  I shall try and record it decently and post it on here one day soon...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Staying Positive

Maybe it's just because I'm pregnant and the emotions and hormones are all over the place, but I'm finding it hard to stay positive sometimes.  I do remind myself that I'm doing alright and there's a whole lot of love spinning around me and that surely should keep me strong but arrrghhhhhhhh!!!

Jam lost his job yesterday, he has another one, two days a week, which is a teaching position, more in his line of work and didn't particularly enjoy the one he lost, although it was a godsend at the time of getting it,and he's got great arm muscles from it too!  The job was a landscape gardening job, although it was really a glorified litter picking job and I had to remind him when he called me nostalgically from one of the sites he'd proudly worked on, that he wouldn't have to get up at ridiculous o'clock anymore (well not until the baby arrives!) and he could find more fulfilling and hopefully better paid work doing what he enjoys doing etc. and it wasn't until he had to pick up a used condom whilst talking to me that he remembered all this and snapped out of it and carried on thinking positively!

It is hard though, I am sure we will pull through and do the right thing, I sometimes feel that I'm in a dream and will wake up and everything will be different.  I'm having crazy dreams, some of them horrid twisted nightmares and really horrid thoughts too, that just aren't me, and to top it all, there's this great big boil-like creature that has decided to make a home on my chin - and the weirdest thing is that exactly this time last year, when we were on our honeymoon, the very same creature visited!  I mean, what is going on! Most of my honeymoon pictures had me holding a biscuit or glass of wine in front of my face, whilst trying to explain to the locals that 'no my husband hasn't been beating me or throwing me around - it did look like I had been thrown to the ground, a pulsing crusty ball like a mouldy apple stuck to my chin (nice) and we met some great herbalists who gave me some tinctures and ointments to use.  It built such a huge mansion on my chin last year, that this year, I'm not giving it anything, letting it know that it is NOT welcome on my chin and can jolly well clear off and find a home somewhere else.

Yes, staying positive ;)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A tasty dish!

Mmmm, last night I was hungy and really fancied spinach and ricotta something or other, I didn't quite know what was in the cupboards... 

So I had some spinach, ricotta, a red onion and some cannelloni.  I decided to make a dish. 

I gently fried some chopped up red onion in a knob of butter, then added the spinach until it wilted, then I let it cool before adding the ricotta and giving it a good mix.  Added some allspice and mixed herbs (I was looking for nutmeg but didn't have any, so allspice had to do.)  Then I stuffed the mixture into the cannelloni tubes (that part was so much fun!), placed them in an oblong casserole dish, then looked for the tin of tomatoes I was sure I had in the bottom of the cupboard - to no avail, all I could find were 3 tins of coconut milk and 2 tins of baked beans.... Hmmm.

So I took a tin of baked beans and mixed them up with some chopped up vine tomatoes lurking in the bottom of the fridge, then made up a quick white sauce - melted butter, added cornflour then milk, poured it on top, finished off with grated cheese and then baked in the Aga for half an hour or so, whilst I manically moved around all the shelves and boxes on the boat to make more homely and locate Jam's music boxes he needed.

Ahhh, that felt good, and when I tried the dish, I was pleasantly surprised, the beans gave it a creamy rich texture and wasn't so full on as tomatoes would have been.  Jam has just called me to thank me for his really tasty lunch (said dish) which he's tucking into now, and in fact, there's enough left over for my lunch too! Hoorah!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The story of the greedy duck.

Once upon a time there was a little narrowboat.  A young couple lived on the boat and it was around the time of their marriage that this little story unfolds. 
The couple had found some reed beds and attached them to the stern of the boat so that the beautiful reeds could grow up and hopefully attract some ducks looking for somewhere to nest.  Sadly the reeds were eaten by all the local ducks and coots and so they didn't grow.  Instead the coots decided to make a nest, gathering all the rubbish they could dredge up from the bottom of the canal. 
When the couple returned from their honeymoon the sight that met their eyes was beautiful ~ a colourful collection of feathers, shredded blue plastic bags, sticks, leaves, willow branches, sari's, mouldy bread, old vegetables, wire, boxes, coke bottles ~ all piled high on the stern of the boat in a wonderful love nest for the coots with a whopping thirteen eggs starting to hatch.

Father coot was extremely protective.  He spent all his days foraging for food for the little ones and ferociously fending off any intruders with an eye on the nest or the young chicks.  Mother coot did her best to nurture the little ones and encourage them to take their first flustered flaps on the water.
The task of protecting and providing for all those little ones is not an easy one and the coots found that they were having to work harder and harder.  One day, a rather persistant duck decided it wanted a piece of what the coots had and was causing rather a large commotion as it buried its head in the nest attacking the remaining unhatched eggs, Mother coot created quite a stir and Father coot came and a ferocious battle took place, the duck being savagedly pecked in the neck by both Father and Mother coot. 
Now whilst all this was going on Mr Boater was up in his woodshed chopping wood and heard all the commotion and ran down to see what all the fuss was about.  He stooped down and grabbed the duck and flung him away from the nest.  The duck had been badly injured by the coots and was unable to hold his head up or even stand up out of the water.  Mr Boater went over to the other side of the canal to see what could be done.  The duck was not doing very well and he thought he had better try and save it.  He picked it up and as he was carrying it across to the other side, the duck turned its head, looked at Mr Boater and gasped its last breath. 
Poor Mr Boater didn't know how the day had turned out quite like it had and he had to go and visit his mother the next day for the opening of her art exhibition.  So he did as any countryman would and skinned the duck, leaving all the feathers and bits and bobs in a bucket in the bow of the boat, roasted it and took it down to his mother's for tea. 
On his return, a few days later, Mrs Boater reminded him about the bucket in the bow.  The remains of the duck had managed to produce a bucket full of maggots and the only thing for Mr Boater to do was to feed them to the newly hatched young coots squawking for food from the nest, somehow aptly completing the cycle of the greedy duck's life...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Joy of Sound

On May day, we were involved in the Sensorium 2010 workshop that Joy of Sound put on each year.  It is an amazing three day event of international folk music and dance workshops and performances, exhibits, art and food.  Joy of Sound is 'an inclusive arts project that provides workshops and equipment to enable everybody, regardless of their abilities and dexterity, to enjoy taking part in music making and other arts activities'.  Jam volunteers at Joy of Sound, helping mend the instruments and encouraging the playing.  That is why our boat looks more like a musical instrument mending workshop, but I don't mind - our kitchen is huge compared to the corridor we had on the narrowboat so it doesn't feel too cramped and it's kind of nice seeing lots of instruments in various states of repair as you walk in, anyway, I digress - back to the Sensorium...

We were dazzled from the moment we stepped foot into the courtyard, by an astounding collection of hanging windchimes and decorated instruments.  The smell of the horses from the City farm next door made it feel like we were out in the countryside and the lighting inside the church was fantastic and atmospheric.  We played the music for the wheelchair friendly maypole dance, Jam played violin I played recorder and there was a chap playing the hurdy gurdy - which is a fabulous name for an instrument, don't you think? 

(A hurdy gurdy pic, taken from the web)
There was a drum circle, a harpist who insisted we all dance, Jam and I cha-cha-cha'd around the room at a mighty pace ~ it was exhilirating!  We watched Slovakian dancers skipping around decorated glass bottles and performers with some crazy bamboo bassoon type instruments, Eritrean dancers.  At the end there was a group drumming and instrument session and Squirrel found it a bit too much and kicked me out of the room, to rest on a bale of hay and chat with Terry and his guide dog Ken.  A lovely chap, we had a good giggle, we then helped clear up, I was given some flowers made out of balloons by Miss Ballooniverse, then Jam and I scooted through the rain to the subway where we started busking with an acoustic bass guitar and treble recorder ~ quite an inebriated chap stopped us in the swing of 'can't buy me love' to say that we needed a hat for people to put money in ~ good point, well presented, with this I threw down my scarf, added a few lonely coins as bate, but sadly didn't catch much.  We blamed it on the weather and Jam gave up due to blisters, so we skipped home via a pub meal, which was absolutely delicious and our anniversary treat!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Happy Anniversary!

To me and Jam!  One year! Well one year and one day.  We celebrated by lying in bed, listening to the rain on the roof ~ you really can't beat the sound of rain on the roof of a boat, it makes it all snuggly and warm inside and when you look out of the window the water is alive with all the drops, sometimes making big bubbles across the whole surface so it looks like you're floating in a big cauldron of hot chocolate with loads of marshmallow pieces on top - that being the beautiful white cherry blossom blown down by the wind.  The whole place is covered in cherry blossom ~ we were going to attempt to finish painting the boat next door but with the rain and blossom it's a losing battle, so it made sense to do absolutely nothing for a change!

Jam brought me breakfast in bed, in two stages ~ the first was fruit and cherry yoghurt with hundreds and thousands, snowflakes and big silver candy hearts and blackberry tea.  The second was boiled eggs with soldiers and he'd tried to write happy anniversary on the toast but could only fit in 'happy' so we had happy toast, happy eggs and we were truly happy!

We snoozed some more, Jam found the third part to a new tune he's been making up on his guitar, I got a lot further with the Squirrel I'm knitting for Squirrel, (tummy name of our baby!) and our neighbour brought up the hand-made crib he'd made for his first grandson for us to borrow.  It is beautiful, made of oak, with silver plaques for each baby's name that 's slept in it, we feel truly blessed.  Hard to believe that this time last year we were all dressed up in silly fancy dress costumes with over 300 of our friends and family skipping through a field of bluebells, playing sack races and welly wanging, down on the grandparents' farm with beautiful weather, fabulous food, funky bands, a juggler, a roaring fire, jokes and music and sleeping in a love tipi ~ not a drop of rain in sight, yes truly blessed with wonderful memories, crazy loving families and fabulous friends.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

We are Master Gardeners! (The first of many on this subject...)

Jam and I went on a course at the weekend to become Master Gardeners through Garden Organic.  It was the first course ever and we had such a great time, learnt so much, met some entertaining people, worked on fabulous ideas, visited a beautiful community garden (pictured) and ate tasty organic lunches.  We are so lucky to be involved in such a fantastic project!  There was so much energy in the room ~ it was a breathe of fresh air!

Our local community gardeners group, which we are members of, has won an Edible Islington award to turn some waste land into allotments.  We are now challenged with finding ten households each to become part of our Master Gardener plan.  The allotment has ten plots, and there is another lady from the gardening group who will become a Master Gardener at the next session, so we shall all work together, with the other Master Gardeners on supporting each other to grow the nation of organic growers! Organic gardening will take over the world!  Especially with things like volcanic eruptions disrupting the import of foods we need to be more aware than ever of what we can grow and do locally!

Everyone can become involved even in the tiniest way through the One Pot Pledge, look it up, it's so simple and such a great starter for becoming addicted to making things grow on your own doorstep.

The name Master Gardener was discussed, as it seemed a little pretentious or odd to say ~ hey I'm a Master Gardener ~ especially if you don't have heaps and heaps of gardening experience.  It is actually about being able to offer advice and support to local people wanting to try growing their own food, organically.  We have been given the tools to provide this advice, supported by Garden Organic.  It is about making other people aware, attending shows and events to promote the cause, going into schools and meetings to give talks and presentations.  Whatever way we can promote it, we will do it!  Like now, right here, on my tiny little blog with only 8 wonderful organic followers ~ are you thinking I'd like to be growing my own organic food?  Oh! If only I had the support of a Master Gardener...well now you do!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A double edged sword

I'd like to say that it's good news that we haven't had any trouble from the kids recently, but the reason being is a very sad one indeed.

A young man, aged 20 was killed outside the pub around the corner the other night.  The canal has been cordoned off and the roads around us.  The pile of flowers tributed along with a bike, T-shirt, candles etc. are piling up around a lamp-post near the pub.  There is a sadness in the air and all the land across the way has been hacked down as the police look for the murder weapon, they even had a team of divers searching the canal yesterday.

We didn't know the man but apparently he'd just come out of prison and was having his first drink in the pub, there was a dispute between two gangs, he was stabbed to death with a broken golf club outside the pub, died not long after at the hospital, he had led the memorial service for another murder victim not long before, which just highlights how sad it is that this has to happen and keeps happening in this area. Not only does it affect the families and friends involved, but the whole neighbourhood suffers, even the wildlife!

I cannot understand the mentality behind it all, why kids these days have to be in gangs with knives and weapons and kill each other.  I guess now that I am having one of my own it makes me want to understand even more and try to do something to stop it.  I was actually meeting my 20 year old brother, who was coming up from Devon to stay with us for a week as the murder took place, I had to give him other directions because the road had just been cordoned off, I thought something had happened to him at first, it was a terrible feeling and a really great welcome for him - hey brother good to see you, welcome to London, murder city, watch your back!

Monday, 12 April 2010

A Family of Soft Towels

The other morning I was up before Jam, reading one of my numerous pregnancy and birth books, curled up on the sofa.  I somehow managed to get myself worked up into a bit of a tizzy by reading the page on stillbirth, followed by the page on sudden birth.  Jam heard me sniffle and came in to catch me bursting into tears ~ wooooh there honey what's the matter? How long have you been crying alone for? ~ I had to gulp back the tears and a little giggle came out as I sobbed ~ I've been reading this book and... and... you have to read all this and know what to do and... and... we... we... haven't got any clean soft towels, all our towels are...are... hard and old...sob... giggle...sob, Jam coos calmly that we've plenty of time to buy some more towels and everything will be fine.

So the next day I take a day-trip to Birmingham where my Aunty K lives and Mum is staying there for a week with them and it seemed like the perfect chance to see my Mum without having to make the huge journey to Devon.  So imagine my surprise when Aunty K gives me a bag with a big soft blue towel and a child's giraffe beach towel in it!  I told them my story about sobbing on the sofa and we all laughed, I think my Mum cried a little too, what with all the excitement of seeing me pregnant as well!

Now this part is where my family are magically connected.  I came home from work today and there was a huge parcel waiting for me from my gorgeous sister Oli who's residing down under.  In it were two huge soft John Rocha organic red towels, two huge soft white towels and a baby yellow towel with a duck on the hooded corner and a little mitten too!  So now, we are the proud owners of red, white and blue towels and two baby towels and I can use all the old hard towels as covers for the new sofa, so that whatever comes out of baby Squirrel doesn't stain it!!  Nice!

I've never owned really good quality organic cotton towels, I somehow feel all grown up and posh! Life is changing ~ it starts with a towel!!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Smiles and Hellos

On Saturday some friends were visiting from Brighton and I thought some other friends were visiting in the morning so I went up to the shops to gather ingredients for lunch and to bake cakes and the likes and on my way back was surprised to get 8 in a row of Smiles and Hellos - just a little game I play with myself, where I smile and say hello to someone as I pass and see how many in a row I can get - 8 is a record! It must be the beautiful sunshine making everyone feel so good ~ oh yes, the sunshine fun is coming our way!

The canal is a picture when the weather is good, as long as you ignore the group of kids that are throwing stones at cyclists and boaters, with young children on deck too, the picture is beautiful and it's lovely to see so many smiley faces out and enjoying our wonderful waterways.  The groups of fisherman that come and sit opposite, joking and laughing, not catching anything but sunburn and a glimpse of what it must be like to live on the water.

The weather also seemed to delay all our friends, but that was fine for it gave us time to get on with some work on the boats and most importantly to have a practise of some music for our friend's surprise fancy dress birthday party at the end of the month, where we're going as buskers.  You have to go as something beginning with B... It was brilliant playing music together again, Jam even managed to teach me some things without me getting in a huff and stopping playing, which is a massive breakthrough!

Paddy went on a bender of a boat trip, to play tennis at Regent's Park, but he ended up picking up lots of friends along the way and having a barbie instead of playing tennis, and a big ol' party when he got back.  He called us in the morning apologising and hoping that they hadn't woken us, but we'd been woken instead at 3am by a wrong number calling the landline, and when I said 'no this isn't Josie, do you realise it's 3am in the morning?' I felt awful for the poor chap on the other end who was trying to get hold of his brother because his father had just died!  I pattered back to bed oblivious to all the revelling and I do believe that Paddy's bender is still going on now, ahh, the memories of party times like that!

Sunday morning saw me scrubbing diesel off about 100 ballast bricks that had been in the engine bay of Ithaka, whilst Jam painted a red-oxide paint in the engine bay to seal the metal and help prevent rusting.  Some friends of the landlady are coming to stay for a few days whilst they do some work in London, so I got the bedding ready and we made sure everything was in order.  I feel quite frustrated that I can't do more to help with all the work that needs doing and poor Jam ends up doing all the hard work but I make sure that I cook some good healthy and hearty meals and I think he really appreciates that. 

The lovely Sasha visited in the morning with a huge bag of goodies for me and she was looking great and wearing trousers!  We had a surprise visit in the afternoon from some friends in Bow in their kayaks and luckily for them there was some flapjack left over from the previous day's baking.

Now it's time to turn in and watch some more of David Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth ;)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Pesky kids!

Oh dear.  Easter should have been so much fun but all our activities were clouded over by the trouble we had with the local kids.  I guess it only comes to be expected that you will get some trouble from bored kids throwing stones and hurling abuse, when you are surrounded by estates and some of them housing quite rough groups of kids who are causing trouble most days.  What is heartening is the swiftness of the Parks patrols responses and the police in coming to our aide.

So Paddy was on his way back from an eventful trip down the canal with friends and family, when they got stoned by about twenty youths all throwing rocks from the top of the bridge above the tunnel. Quite frightening and extremely dangerous to say the least. 

The next evening he was out and Jam was in the shower when I heard lots of shouting from the kids sitting on the bench opposite Paddy's boat, and it looked like they were looking across at his boat and shouting to someone on our side, I knew something was wrong and ran out, grabbing a broom, and chased the boy away screaming like a banshee 'what the hell do you think you're doing?' He had just finished undoing the ropes that moor the boat up, but luckily the boat is padlocked to the mooring.  I was screaming to Jam to call the police (he was already and the call took so long he had to put the phone down to come to my rescue!) and the boys on the other side were throwing stones at me and shouting 'shut up you slag we've got your laptop anyway' (charming!) - even though they hadn't but that comment alerted a member of the public to stop a passing police van who quickly came to our aide along with the wonderful Parks patrol team, who really are amazing guys. 
I was quite shaken by the event and found myself in tears, but I managed to pull myself together and we showed them where the boy had come across the bridge and onto our side of the mooring.  We called Paddy and he came home and we all tried to calm each other down, whilst munching through the last of the Easter chocolate.

The next day, we made sure all the neighbours and people who could help us were aware of what had been going on, emails galore, then in the afternoon, I was on the mooring on my own when a group of ten younger kids started throwing stones and climbing across the bridge and down onto the mooring.  This time,
I stayed put and didn't go chasing them off, I called the Parks patrol and the police and they were down really quickly and gave the kids a warning. ' How would you like it if someone stood outside your home throwing stones at it?' 'Oh yeah, we hadn't thought of it like that...' yeah right!

That evening we had an impromptu surprise party for our friend Scarlet's birthday, but Jam spent all evening grinding off old pipes the kids were using as footholds on our side of the bridge and painting the fences with anti-climb paint.  Signs were already up but the paint had long since gone.  It had to be done for peace of mind and Jam was finished in time for the birthday cake with an indoor firework as the candle. Fantastic!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Flourish of notes

Ah sweet music!
We are the music makers
The lovers, mothers, children of sound
Spreading the love of music around.
With a skip in our hearts
We create the beat
Under our feet
Tinkling sweetly, softly, discreetly.
A lyrical interlude
Creating an attitude
That beats with the rhythm of life.
Our stories unfold
An opera untold
To release a flourish of notes,
That rings out across the boats
To lands that hear no voices
Where words are merely noises
Open your hearts and let us in,
We want to fill your souls with our melody.

You can view more of my poetry on my other blog, link from my profile :)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Visitors from another planet, no, not really, just the next mooring

It’s wonderful when friends from the next mooring along come down for a visit. Boaters are such lovely smiley people! It always takes much longer as well, life definitely moves at a slower pace on a boat!
A quick text in the morning - ‘are you still up for a visit?’
‘Yes, but give us half an hour, just getting up’
‘and more easily’
– twenty minutes later, ‘we’re ready’
‘I’m not!’
Ok , so I’ll bake that cake! Ooh and what a cake! I even impressed myself! I made a chocolate date cake. It was moist and crumbly and not too sweet and was gobbled down in two swift gulpings ~ with only a few crumbs left as a reminder ~ I love it when that happens!

Our friends arrived just as I was frying the polenta fritter dish I’d made using polenta, a corn dish similar to quinoa or couscous, the Italians have it like potato, but it’s only the second time I’ve cooked with it and the first time wasn’t very successful. My fabulous friend, the poet Salena Godden got me onto it, she’s vegan and says she lives on it! So I tried it this time with garlic, onions, chick peas, herbs and spices and baked it after boiling it up and then fried it lightly and served it on a bed of rocket with crème fraiche and it was quite special, we all had a little nibble of that with lots of mmm’s and then hit the tea and cake and started catching up, for the last time we saw them was the day we conceived and we were still living on the other boat! Jupiter and Mars and their Neighbour with a Celebrity Boyfriend, let’s call him Neptune, had helped us make our fabulous Halloween costumes (dressing up link in case you missed the pictures and posting before) and obviously played some part in helping us conceive, because surely if your friends make you happy and positive it helps somehow! Jupiter was hoping that this visit will help him make Mars have a baby, we all seemed sure of it and so we’ll just have to wait and see!

They were all quite impressed with our new abode, saying how big and spacious it is and Jupiter had bought his table saw over for Jam to be able to use for the rest of the boxing-in. What a star! He also gave us a saucepan that he’d been given from someone having a clear out and it was great because we had just got rid of one that kept sticking and it was the perfect size. Somehow, things just work out right don’t they! It was so lovely to be able to sit around and chat and laugh and catch up! We talked about everything, troubles on the moorings, knitting, the gardening plan for the Edible Islington project coming up, and they were keen to be involved, more detail on that coming soon.

We played some music and Mars was saying she wants guitar lessons. Neptune is a fabulous jazz singer, apparently, we didn’t get a chance to listen because they had to head back to go to see his boyfriend in a theatre show, but we shall be catching up again and making music to be sure! I feel a boat jam in the brewing... can’t wait for that post, the last jam on the other boat was incredible – 16 people all on a narrow-boat playing whatever they could get their hands on! Spoons down the blinds, bouncing and squeaking on an exercise ball! You have to see this one to believe it! Here’s a recording of it! (Hmmm, coming soon in another Boat Jam post, when I work out how to get it on here...! ;) )

Friday, 19 March 2010

Paddy's Virgin Boat Trip

Last weekend we went out with Paddy on his boat, for a morning jaunt up the canal so that he could get used to steering it ready for the Easter weekend when he plans on taking a party down the canal for fun and giggles.  It was going to be a busy weekend and whilst we waited for the lovely Karma, his landlady to join us, we got on with clearing up the mooring.  It's amazing how quickly it can start to look shabby and it's not nice for passersby to look across ready to admire our little mooring only to be struck by tarpaulings and old broken prams ~ Jam had a season of sourcing broken pushchairs and making bike trailers out of them.  We were cycling to Normandy to play music at our friend's Summer party and wanted something to attach the luggage to our bikes with - but that's another story, and it was his bike that broke in half in the end.  He did make a very successful trailer though which he used to carry a heavy piece of machinery he'd been given back from a workshop, but it wasn't really sturdy enough to last forever. 

I remember when we were courting, I'd left him on the mooring attempting to make one bike out of two broken bikes, whilst I went home to get ready, telling him that he had to be at mine by noon if he wanted to come with me.  I forget now where we were going, and it was looking doubtful as to whether or not he would make it but sure enough at noon, just as I was stepping out onto my balcony I looked down and there was a triumphant looking face beaming up at me as he skidded round the corner and wheelied proudly round on his new bike...

Some things do last forever ~ moments like that, and the experience of taking a boat out for the first time!  Paddy's friend Jackson joined us so there were five of us and no dog.  I took a back seat, and was hungrily reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so was quite happy to sit back and relax and enjoy the journey.  There's nothing quite like it!  Beautiful weather blessed us and we were happily boating away.  We went West, manouvering the narrow bridges, waving at the folk walking by.  That's something I love about the canal, it is so friendly, everyone says hello and smiles ~ probably wondering what IS it like to live on a narrowboat, how DO you go to the toilet!?
The first test is the lock.  When you arrive at the lock and the gates are shut and the water level is too high or low you have to drop people off to go and prepare the lock and pull over and wait.  It's not a rush hour journey and you may take about half an hour to get through a lock if you're unfortunate to arrive after the person before you has already been through, so everything is the otherway round. I love the way that the canal can be quite quiet, then as soon as you get in the lock there are a few eager onlookers lining up to see how you fair.  Locks can be quite dangerous if you don't observe the rules, not closing the floodgates can lead to draining of the basin and disaster all round, or being too far back in the lock, past the cill marker lines can mean you get caught up in the back of the lock and end up tipping or even worse becoming jammed in the gates.

(Jam demonstrating this, not really, just pulling faces...)

Steering a boat is a gentle skill, where once you know what you're doing it's like riding a bicycle.  Coming out of the lock, on your first trip, in a tight space, with another boat moored up alongside the lock, complete with anxious owner watching and a wide-beam boat waiting to get into the lock is another story.  The trouble is, when you're at the stern end of a boat, with the engine running, you can't hear the people in the bow shouting 'starboard down' or even 'the other way mate' until it's too late ~ but that's what fenders are for, and feet.  It doesn't help that the other boat is a little too close for comfort and they seem to be novices too with a new boat, unable to move back further because they've come too far and at an angle so moving back bashes them into the boats moored on the other side, all making for highly amusing banter from the now healthy number of passerbys gleefully watching.  Tally ho, nothing broken, close shave, everyone happy, nicely manouvered, easy does it, onwards bound.

Steering a boat is also quite hard work on the arms, Jam had fixed their tiller after it was smashed from a spot of wrong steering in the tunnel.  He'd used a chair leg and it looked beautiful.  It often takes a moment of wrong steering to actually 'get it'.  Paddy had prepared a feast of food, so took a well earned rest from the tiller and grabbed some sustinence and went up front to feel the wind and enjoy the ride.  He was ecstatic and grinning from ear to ear.  What a treat! I'm so lucky he sighed...

Returning was fun, turning even more fun, trying not to hit the moorhens nests or get caught up in the sludge bankside, food had been shared and enjoyed, the lesson had been given and duly adhered to, Paddy was feeling confident that he would be able to impress his friends and that was important.  Jam steered the boat back to the mooring for the last bit, for we have to turn around in the basin then reverse down the last part of the canal because it's too narrow to turn where we are moored and you need to be a certain way round to be able to plug in to the shoreline.  He did it with such expertise he even surprised himself and bounced off the boat whooping with joy.  We had to rush off to visit Polly our landlady who was recovering from surgery and expecting us for tea, so we left Paddy and Jackson sorting out the boat, with a 'whoop whoop, don't forget to take the tiller out' and scooted off on our next journey.  Jam and Paddy will get another lesson in before his trip, just to refresh and build his confidence, but we thought he did a grand job, even when he bashed into the side at one point early on and the only thing that fell down inside was his captain's hat, which he then dutifully wore!

Ah, there's nothing quite like messing around on boats ~  bring on the glorious weather and lazy boating days ~ with a baby this time though and a wide-beam!

Monday, 8 March 2010

What a lovely weekend!

With such beautiful weather finally blessing our souls it's hard not to feel excited about being on the canal for another summer.  There's something so special about waking up in the morning to the sounds of the birds and the ducks and watching the reflection of the rippling water being cast across the walls of the boat.  To be able to step out of the boat into the sunshine and embrace the day with a big hoot to the heavens is bliss! 

Breakfast off the back of the boat, well actually not yet, it was still a bit chilly and there was in fact ice on half of the canal!  Crazy!  Crocuses popping their sunshine heads up above the frost in amongst the ivy is a wonderful sight.  New green shoots appearing on the trees, ahhh, it all feels wonderful and not having to do any work this weekend was even more pleasurable to be able to spend the weekend with Jam.

So, we decided to do some of the woodwork that needs to be done on our boat.  The boxing in of the pipework.  We started off by putting on some music, my turn to choose first, and we boogied like madmen, laughing and whooping til our cheeks hurt.  Then we set up the circular saw by the hatch so the sawdust would head out that way...(the hatch is closed here, we opened it obviously!)

We chopped up the wood for props along the big lengths, that was fun, what a tool, what a noise! I stood outside to make a quick call and Jam carried on chopping, whilst I suddenly found myself showered in sawdust! Great!

More chopping and measuring, Jam trying to explain the concept he had and me not quite understanding, wanting to just get on with it, but my leggings were too tight, so I went and changed into some baggy trouser legging things with sparkly leggings holding the bottoms in so I didn't rip them whilst doing the work - it was a very amusing outfit and made me giggle just looking down.  You can't actually see the outfit here, but you can see the bump ( that's for you Oli!)

We worked well together, taking turns in choosing the music and making tea, then as the work became a little more 'on the floor' orientated, I thought it best to get on with getting the dinner ready.  Jam was happy to get on with the job, I was equally as happy making the dinner, holding the odd plank of wood here and there.  For dinner we were having a roast chicken with a thai twist, I made a great sauce to marinade the chicken in, then another sauce to go with the chicken once cooked, lots of roast veggies and meringue, fruit and ice-cream for dessert ~ we were very satisfied!

No picture of dinner I'm afraid, but it was delicious and looked fabulous! Honest!

Our neighbour Paddy came over after a weeks trip away skiing and our cousin Pearl joined us for a right knees up, we ate, watched a movie, had a giggle, did some knitting, lots of chatting and laughing and felt content. 

What a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Does the boat rock?

This is a question we get asked a lot!  When we were on the narrow-boat the boat would rock ALL the time!  Gosh that sounds rude, but I don't mean it in that sense.  Simply by standing up and moving over to the other side would cause a rocking that we were quite used to, but newcomers to the boat would find a little strange.  The more people aboard as well the more rocking we would experience.  'Ooh, ooh, I just felt the boat move, ooh I feel sick, ooh that's strange...'

We would also find that the boat tilted to one side slightly, known as 'listing', too much heavy stuff would cause this and we would have to rearrange the ballast - heavy weights put in the bottom of the boat to even it out.  When we moved off the narrow-boat it was funny to see how much the boat had risen out of the water and our new boat now sits nicely in the water, although it lists slightly because the Heritage stove is quite heavy and we ought to move the ballast weights to even it out, although we are going to wait until we've got the rest of the work done and know where everything goes, because my mountain of books will probably even it out anyway.

We hardly feel the motion on the new boat at all, in fact the only time we've felt it was when the school groups were out in force in their speedboats tearing through the tunnel and the wake caused by this at the mouth of the tunnel made us rock around the clock! We had friends on the boat and the panic in their faces was a picture!  We'd been calmly chilling out and suddenly the little girl nearly falls off her chair.  Jam did the right thing though and asked the guys to slow down before coming out of the tunnel so as to dissipate the wake. I probably would have yelled at them 'Oi you brats, there is a speed limit you know!' But that wouldn't have got us anywhere, except for perhaps some more rocking and a bit of abuse!

So the old saying 'If the boat's a-rockin, don't come a-knockin' won't really apply on the new wide-beam, but safe to say, life's good, second trimester energy kicking in, and 'there be no fish under our boat!'

Friday, 26 February 2010

Snowdrops, swans, rain and randomness

Don't the weeks fly by? Before you know it I'll be holding Squirrel in my arms, knowing if it's a girl or a boy, not knowing if it's morning or night! 

This morning I'm awake really early.  Jam had the final interview for his new job yesterday and they called him to tell him he got the job soon after, so he had a celebratory drink with his friend and I stayed over at my friend's house for a while catching up, having looked after three children under 5 all afternoon ~ only one minor biting incident and a little bit of head bumping and shouting to report!

As I left yesterday afternoon, there was a local man sitting on the bench opposite the steps of the mooring.  He was on his third 1.5L bottle of strong cider and was calling out friendly greetings to me.  Lovely day I reply and he says 'whether it's a lovely day or not a lovely day you have to be sunny in your heart... always happy, now what have they done here, (pointing at the steps on that side), they should have done the same as your side, not saying they should be copycats but it looks much better doesn't it' ~ this chap is often seen pacing up and down the canal with his arms waving around in the air calling out about how great god is, or rambling on about something inane very loudly, nobody listening but the trees and ducks, and me. 

I was in a hurry though so had to press on, bumping into Jam on the way, to wish him luck for the interview and quickly catch up on the days news so far ~ ran out of electricity this morning, ran outside in pyjamas to see if the bollard was ok and saw Paddy leaving and asked him is he was messing around with the electrics, what a silly thing to ask, we'd just run out, but he gave us electric cards, he owed us some for the washing anyway, so that was lucky or I would have been stuck for we didn't have any spare, he then told me he had found somebody's credit cards that had been thrown over the fence from the back lane, obviously stolen and discarded and urged me to look for anything else, nothing found, ironed your shirt and the outfit's hanging up, good luck, ooh yes please I'd love a cookie, ok I won't cycle, I know the brakes aren't working, I love you! Bye!

I love the sound of the rain early in the morning on the top of the boat, nobody else but the rain is awake, apart from the ducks who seem to become more vocal as well.  Another friend and her young child came to visit the other day and it was so exciting for her, she said she much preferred this boat to the other one, it was so much bigger, and even though it rained the whole time she was insisting that it had stopped raining and that we should go and feed the ducks.  The rain eventually did stop and Ma'am made an appearance much to the child's delight.  Ma'am has taken to knocking on the side of the boat these days to make her presence known...this is Ma'am

And these are the snowdrops that popped up a few weeks ago, they are enormous!  My friend's child noticed a tiny orange narcissus that had popped up amongst the ivy on the edge of the mooring, I love the fact that we walk by every day and don't notice the small things.  We need to give ourselves the time to appreciate everything growing around us, all those little treasures!

The Squirrel is definitely growing and Jam felt it this morning, it feels strange, it's not proper limbs kicking out yet, but seems to be quite constant and my belly is definitely protruding lots now.

I'm afraid I've just rambled today, but that's not a bad thing, it's been quite a rambling week, dealing with the boat, looking after children, helping Jam prepare for this interview.  Whilst on the subject of random ramblings, here's a random picture, it's not just of the rubbish that floats down the canal, if you look closely you can see a very large yellow rubber duck, don't know where he came from and we didn't have time to rescue him before he was rescued by someone else, let's hope he's merrily bobbing in someone's bath tub!

Friday, 19 February 2010

On the subject of toilets...

People often ask - how do you go to the loo on a boat?  Well, on our old boat we had a chemical toilet to start with, but the slide handle broke and so it was rendered useless and sent to toilet heaven, and our neighbour Polly sold her boat and gave us her old bucket loo, which is not as hideous as it sounds.  It's quite similar to a chemical loo, but instead of having to change a cassette holding all the waste, you just simply take the toilet seat off and put a lid on it then empty the bucket. 

We have a sewage waste point up at the top of the mooring where our washing machine is.  It can be quite smelly when emptying, especially if not enough 'blue' has been used.  Blue is a disinfectant that you add to the cassette or bucket to hide the smell and cover up the waste.  With a cassette toilet, there's usually a slide handle that you open when you want to go to the loo, the waste goes down into the cassette and then you close it afterwards.  Most cassette loos have a flush as well which many first time users spend hours flushing and hence the cassette fills up fast and you have to change it more often.  Sometimes the flush is built into the toilet and has a 'pink' flush chemical, much the same as the blue really, sometimes the flush is attached to the water system and flushes water from your tank down. 

Our new boat has a chemical toilet, it is ridiculously small - capacity and seat wise.  Now I thought at first it was my widening hips and ever moving body parts that would make for an uncomfortable seat but Jam experiences it too.  As a man it's even more hideous because you risk weeing all over yourself if you sit down to go.  When you flush the toilet it spurts water all over the back of the wall for some reason, and the waste never seems to go down properly and you have the dilemma of wondering how to shut the slide handle without trapping everything in it or having to push it all down with your hands.  Not a pretty picture I'm painting but we are talking toilets here!  We use wooden kebab sticks by the way for that last part, but are still working on a better solution.

Weeing in a bucket, instead of into the cassette is also done by many, to save the number of times you have to change the toilet.  We are lucky to have such a hidden mooring and can send the men (and some women who don't mind the fresh air) out to water the garden and help deter the animals that like to mark their territory and eat our veggies.  I often have a moral dilemma about weeing in a bucket and tipping it into the canal, most people do it and yet it just feels wrong...

On my birthday for breakfast I went to a cafe in Islington, Jam was away working so I thought I'd be all grown up and treat myself.  In the cafe toilet was a fantastic but broken beach hut toilet seat behind the bin and I enquired at the counter as to where they got it from, explaining my possible solution for changing the chemical toilet seat for a more comfortable one and I'd not seen one like that before.  They were very lovely, friendly people and at the end of the meal they asked if I wanted to have that one.  I was strangely delighted and walked out of there carrying a toilet seat, and a silly grin.  I thought I could at least experiment with it and just see if it would work.  Jam thought otherwise and wasn't impressed, but I have managed to rescue it from another bin and make it a humorous part of the mooring garden.  It was too big to use on our toilet and you can't actually take the seat off, it seems to be all fitted, so we are making do - there's no ventilation in the bathroom so sitting down for a long time is not really recommended anyway.  When the layout was done on the boat, the bathroom was unfortunately not put in the right place, next to the window and without electricity sockets, so Jam is intent on buying a small bath and making the bathroom bigger to allow for ventilation.  The sink in the bathroom at the moment is the size of a finger bowl, it's really no use for anything, but hey at least we have the shower working now and Jam finished the tiling and it works fine.  No complaints here and I was talking about toilets anyway - see how easily I'm distracted already!

Now all these toilets have been chemical toilets.  Whenever my god-daughter comes to visit she always wants to go to the loo, just to see the blue, not to do anything else - sweet, the inquisitive mind of a four year old - but why is it blue Aunty Orla? -  I'm personally much more inclined to want composting toilets.  We are considering making a compost toilet outside for when we have parties and during the summer when it's not so cold.  Getting a compost toilet onto a boat is quite hard because most need a flu that goes straight up and trying to cut through thick steel boats could pose a bit of a problem.  They are also very expensive in comparison but the number of times you have to change them is amazing, something like once every six months, most of them having a separate section for solids and when you do change it you have a wonderful compost for the garden.  They also smell lovely - can that be possible?  I've used compost toilets at festivals that have been wonderful to smell - all that eucalyptus chopped up bark disguises the nasties so well.

I'm still investigating this, there must be a more natural and cheaper solution to the toilet than the chemical way.  I'm sure if someone could come up with one we'd all be fitting them instead of having to waste so much water and using bleaches etc to clean them.

I thought pictures might be a step too far for this post...