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.