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!'