Friday, June 17

Where to start?

there were cats and now there are none

there was school but that's  finished for summer

I'm sort of back in Bristol but keep going away - that embroidered rendition of Clifton Suspension Bridge was discovered on a visit to a Stoke Newington junk shop on wednesday with my fairy-godmother-aunt who haggled mercilessly to buy it for me. After the f-g-m-a left I met my tutor and asked him if our exam results were out yet

yes but I haven't worked out how to publish them

visited Holy Island with the Man to see the priory and the upside down Hobbit boats

then to Scotland to see my sister and the nibblings where a discussion of future careers was going on:
adult: you can be anything you want
five-year-old : can I be a Wot Wot Hoo Ha?


I feel the need to draw your attention to this poem about hermits

Monday, June 6

It was like the Sleeping Beauty House

While I've been up in That London for the last few months the dust snuck in and blanketed the house - slightly less in the places where someone had brushed a space to eat at the table or torn a path through the cobwebs on the stairs.

But I'm back and banging moths out of their sexy revels in my jumpers, degreasing the stove, taking the bindweed off the pinks and marigolds in the garden and getting my sunny sunshine clothes out from the under-the-bed-boxes.

It's lovely to be home

Saturday, June 4

I've come back to Bristol

the garden is full of slugs and I'm shaking moths out of blankets as the Man appears - I tell him that we're besieged

no he says, we're popular

Saturday, May 28


Gary makes sure there's no funny business with the knives, Brian and Nigel cover the exit -Barbara is sitting on my feet

Friday, May 27

being held under strict surveillance

I'm under house arrest - will smuggle out messages when I've finished the tunnel

Friday, May 20

cat polisher

Two weeks ago the toothless cat had starey fur that was a bit sticky-feeling and off-putting and she also really really wanted a lot of hugs - so gave her a rub down with a slightly damp towel like it was a gigantic mother's tongue and put in a bit of regular brushwork with a soft rubber brush ... she's come up all lovely and shiny. 

I'm hoping that the owners are going to be ok with this new shiny cat when they come home because maybe they like sticky cats and they might just think that I've broken her

Monday, May 16

On Friday we said goodbye

to our friend Simon,

he hadn't been that keen on music* so there were no hymns or any kind of singing, instead we told stories about him that made us laugh because he was the funniest man in the world, he saved butterflies and kept a supply of food plants in his garden for distressed caterpillars and he would chase people up the street with the litter they'd dropped and wave it in their face - which sometimes got them angry and he had collections of bits of old motorbikes and interesting bicycles and big mechanical pencil sharpeners and his yard was full of the bee hives that he'd made because he kept rescuing bee swarms - once he inadvertently upset one of the hives and made a bee so angry that it chased him inside and upstairs and managed to follow him into his bedroom to sting him.

we'll miss him

*He went to a concert once  - the Rolling Stones - and slept through it

Tuesday, May 10

The other cat is perched by my ear

she purrs constantly - a rumble accompanied by the wobbly creaky-squeakiness - like an old fashioned pusher lawnmower

Different cat in the bag

This one is also sitting on my pencil case

Saturday, May 7

I left my jacket on the sofa

when I came downstairs this morning it had been turned into a cat's nest and one arm was covered in sicked up hairballs  

I read until cross-eyed then walked out across Highbury Fields which were teeming with frisbee-playing youth. I should've been happy in the sun and the smokey barbeque air but an enormous gloom has descended.

Friday, May 6

the man came home

but today I had to return to London - another cat sit and a study binge before exams.

I am looking after a pair of rescued cats, one of them is already sitting  in an alert position in my half-unpacked suitcase, the girl cat has neither teeth nor tail and talks incessantly - naturally I am already very fond of them. 

We're in Highbury which is quite posh and appears to be a lesbian hotspot

Thursday, May 5

The man is on his way home

the man is on his way home

the man is on his way home

from switzerland where he has been visiting these exact same ants

An Irish Sisterhood Practise their Defence Skills from Ammonite Films on Vimeo.

in other news

last year I wrote a post about the man going out to film a woman and her dogs who'd discovered bioluminescent worms in their french garden

the bioluminescence film is now ready and can be seen on english television on monday - here's a clip

Monday, May 2

Too much going on

exams next week - scary   
houseboat study continues - great   
a death - tragic 
home -  messy 
weather - changeable/British 
friends - brilliant-but-not-enough-time
end of first school year - emptiness looms
job-hunting - grim

Tuesday, April 26

Tomorrow I am back at school

but today I am in Bristol  - we sat by the fire, me mending jumpers while my Japanese friend, K made a patchwork quilt and we spoke together about everything:

I showed her the holes in my jumper and made a crying face
moths ... moths make me sad

she thought I was talking about moss and looked puzzled, I explained about the creatures that eat my jumpers
aaah yes in Japan sometimes I think I can hear them in the roof space

That turned out to be mouses so I mimed an evil tiny flying nibbling thing  

Saturday, April 23

Vienna was full of cake and sun

and I spent last Saturday walking beside something I took to be the Danube until I looked at a map and realised it was just a canal.

Returning to London, the Thames houseboat research continued, we visited a squillionnaire who owns three large houseboats - one for himself, another for his offspring and a third for guests, afterwards we visited the lady who had run the boatyard for 30 years, we told her that we'd just met Mr Threeboats. She scoffed

Him - he's an idiot!

We had been sifting through newspaper cuttings in the library going back to the fifties, there were many stories concerning glamorous-looking students, actors and writers who lived on the houseboats in those days, I wondered how accurate this image of houseboat tenants was

When I arrived in the boatyard (the early '70s), the houseboats were mainly occupied by old women, very well educated women, their boats full of books, interesting women who wanted to be left alone

In other news
spent last night with some girlfriends dancing to Prince songs

Thursday, April 14

Back in Bristol today

walking through town it's hard not to notice the huge increase in homeless people. One neat, nice-looking older man walked up to me with a box filled half with nettles and half wild garlic

would you like some wild garlic, I've just picked it in Leigh Woods ... I'm homeless these days

foraging seems a whole lot better than standing around selling Big Issues but I worry about animal contamination when I can't see where the garlic gets picked so I let him fill my bag with nettles and then spent an hour cursing him as my hands got stung to pieces preparing it.  Cooked up with lentils, lemon and coconut it's delicious but my hands are still fizzing.


Wednesday, April 13

One of the boats we visited yesterday

(the one with the muddy burglar under the bow)  was 'pratically given' to the owner's mother in the '60s when she was an art student. I hadn't really understood what was going on when he said that she used to have to get up in the night to pour concrete into the hull and stop water coming in - this aspect of boat life was clarified by an elderly lady today:

you had to bail every day because the wooden boats were so leaky, in 1974 a woman gave me her boat for fifteen pounds because she'd come to hate it. I bailed both boats every day and got hers fixed up, then sold it for three thousand pounds and took off to South America but my lodger sublet my boat and the sub-letter wouldn't bail - I got a call to say the boat had sunk but I still had the mooring and a thousand pounds so I bought this boat - this one's got a steel hull.

Tuesday, April 12

Today we started interviewing houseboatees

as part of an effort to record people living on boats on the Thames before they all get wiped away by property developers.  Newspaper clippings from the sixties tell stories of louche living and bawdy behaviour but we'd heard that the rising cost of moorings had respectabilised boaty life and that we'd find none of that sort of thing these days.

As we got to our first mooring so did the police - to evict a conman who had got into a houseboat on the pretext of doing repairs then locked the owner out and refused to leave. Four years later he was now taking his belongings, one armful at a time, to a waiting car several yards down the road.

We continued on our ways and spent the next hour with someone who told a story about the police helicoptering over his boat one night, shining lights in at him and then finally knocking at his door because a burglar had been seen running into the lowtide mud, rolling around in it and then wriggling in under the bow of the houseboat.

As we left the boat we saw the conman, he had filled the car to bursting and was continuing to pile his bags on the pavement around it and having an argument with the driver about how they were going to fill the car and also get in and drive it away.

Monday, April 11

blanch a whole cauliflower

then chopchopchop the florets and little stalks into crumbs  

mix with  tahini, cinnamon, good oil, saltpepperandlemonjuice 

chochopchop roasted walnuts, hard boiled eggs and  parsley  

mix that into the dressed cauliflower crumbs

cover the dish with butter paper and put it in the oven you just switched off, next to the almost-cooked roast salmon so that when Rosa turns up one hour late it will still be delicious 


the point is to have enough of the cauliflower dish leftover to fry up the next day - if you want to feel that it's a whole new thing add chopped anchovies and sprinkle with crispy breadcrumbs

Sunday, April 10

two full days off the boat and I'm still swaying

or maybe the motion is what seamen call 'tacking'  - possibly I was a boat in a former life and, having discovered my roots, I'm trying to get get back there.

In other news

A reunion lunch at the family home yesterday - seventeen of us squashed round a table intended for six-to-eight in what-used-to-be-the-garage, shepherds pie and carrots for everyone followed by an assortment of cream pies. Once everyone was in place at the table we were locked into a sort of chinese puzzle - no-one could leave the room unless everyone rotated in the correct order.

After lunch my nephew continued an eternal wrestling match with his other auntie which is now in it's sixth year and my gappy-toothed niece declared her love for a magenta-haired cousin, imprisoning her in one of the bedrooms for the purpose of telling monster/princess stories.

Friday, April 8

I adjust quickly to being on a boat

but I am becoming more and more vertiginous when I leave the boat and walk around on this good earth

so I've decided to leave the boat for good 

I'm feeling a bit sad about this

but not a really really sad because I have come to look after my favourite cats and there is a proper bathroom and it's warm 

the tortoiseshell is currently leaping in and out of my capacious handbag and Wheezy has made a nest out of my pajamas

I woke to the sound of running feet

lots of them passing by the barge there was also a sort of commotion.

Assuming that a crime was happening I stayed put and then forgot about it. Once I'd persuaded the damp firewood  to catch fire, I put the kettle on and wandered into the park. There, under a large gazebo, was a man in a Puffa jacket tidying away thermos flasks and bananas. I asked what had just happened

It's the Nike race, they should be at Kings Cross by now

Thursday, April 7

Notes on camp:

barge life is basically camping - issues that are insignificant at 'real home' suddenly loom large;

what goes in:

the quantity of stuff you carry to camp - you must keep this quantity in your head because if you could barely carry the stuff you arrived with and then you acquire more stuff - something has to 'disappear'.

what goes out:

I carried  quite a lot of food and tea to the boat - putting it into my body is simply hiding it from view - the way things work on the boat means that I have to plan my café visits strategically.

Luckily, there is a municipal swimming pool close by - combining bathing and bathroom addresses my major camping issues in one fell swoop.


The boat has solar panels - if I manage things well (and if the sun shines sometimes) I have power for lights and batteries - so far I'm handy with that.

For heating and cooking I've been using the woodburning stove - I've been trawling the park daily to pick up kindling and any other useful wood but to be effective logs are needed, there was a small supply when I arrived and I've used those up.

This morning I bought a sack of the logs at the nearby garage and now I know that London wood is, by weight, more costly than diamonds and that my lovely stove suppers are costing more than I imagined.

Wednesday, April 6

Today there were visitors

we ate satsumas while waiting for our crumpets to cook on the stove

Tuesday, April 5

in the evenings

the man who lives two barges away from me on the canal takes a double bass and a chair to the park railings. 

He puts the chair and the instrument over the railings then climbs over and settles down to play

Sunday, April 3

Barge life

is very tranquil - I am on a stretch of canal near an enormous park in East London, sunlight sparkles off the ceiling and it's all very beautiful. Last night I cooked my sweet potato supper in the woodburning stove.

Yesterday I walked across to the main road which is lined with Fancy-Gifts-for a pound-shops, pawnbrokers and counselling services, shops with shutters-down-long-closed and 50p burger bars. 

Today I crossed the park to a universe where everyone is slim and accompanied by stylish children in Bugaboo pushchairs, in this world the cafés are smart and vegetables organic. I purchased two of the most expensive sausages in the world and took them home to pop them in the stove for lunch.

Friday, April 1

Tate Modern

with mother-in-law having coffee. The actress Judy Dench is being discussed and she says

you know she's my twin? 

same birthday? 

same age, same height - five foot exactly, I'm keeping a close eye on her to see if she shrinks

Thursday, March 31

Despite being keen on neither Opera

nor Philip Glass, I had really enjoyed a recent production of Aknaton, so I accepted an offer to go and see a Harold Pinter play at the Old Vic this evening*

The show started at 7.30 - at 7.35 I was standing alone in the foyer watching a fuzzy version of Timothy Spall on the foyer screen. I hadn't been able to contact my friend who had my ticket and who I thought was meeting me early enough before the show for supper.

A thought crept into my head and I walked up the road to the Young Vic where my friend was waiting for me to join her for the show that started there at 8pm. It starred Jane Horrocks so I guessed that it would be an acting thing but it turned out to be singing and dancing thing - the sort of thing that I really don't like.

Also, before all that, my bus from Bristol to London waited in the bus station for seventy minutes before its driver turned up - I don't feel that I've had the best use of a beautiful day 

* I feel the same way about Pinter as I do about Opera - one day I will like them and then I'll know that I've grown up

Wednesday, March 30

I've been home

and I'm still here, seeing friends and the Man and sniffing round the house throwing out all the potatoes whose sprouts have encircled the larder and doing laundry and filling an enormous bin bag with my most stupid shoes (actually I kept the MOST stupid shoes for just-in-case) and then hefted them down to the charity shop. Then I wrote my next essay for school and I have forgotten to get my hair cut twice and I've been wearing my freshly knitted tank top and skipping in the spring weather.

Today I walked up the steep hill to my house as two young women were coming down - one of them handed me a daffodil as we passed each other. 

Tomorrow I return to London I will go and see The Caretaker at the Old Vic and on Friday I will take charge of a narrowboat on the canal - for one whole month I will be a Bargee
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