Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Morning After

After the glorious sunset the morning set in with a thick mist rising from the water. Utterly divine.




I am a winter person, but these crisp spring mornings have an atmosphere that are second to none. Not only do they make one ‘feel’ but they wash the tired and weary mind with something indescribably soothing.

This morning reminded me of the first few days living on a boat. I was moored in Wolvercote and I awoke to a beautiful brisk Autumn light where the mornings were not dissimilar to this one; crisp and cold. I made a cup of tea and as I was quite sure civilisation would still be asleep I stepped onto the front deck to drink it.  As I sat there revelling in the freezing cold I glanced up to notice a long line of fishermen. I don’t think I have ever got dressed quite so quickly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


BW have done some more work at Isis lock. I made my thoughts clear about the area so now we wait and see whether the works will be an improvement. They still haven’t finished it as you can see the posts on the landing stage still have a gaffer taped top, but they have put the booms up. Here are some pictures.


The gap between the posts allows for smaller boats to get through which is to be expected as the EA inspection launch needs access. Here are the booms looking upstream:


The posts still have gaffer tape but the collapsing edge has been fixed and capped. October has moved back into the Mill Stream:



Last night the sun hung in the sky, reflected in the water and burned with fire. It was beautiful.DSC08751

May you sing like no-one is listening

I got this off a friend of mine and I like it a lot!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Shipton Lift Bridge

On Saturday I set sail for northern climates.  I filled up with water and pottered about until I was ready to go, but my crew hadn’t arrived. Nick had decided to bicycle down from the North and meet me in Thrupp for the return journey by boat.  It turned out he was a bit delayed so I decided to meet him along they way and pulled the pins. 

Just as I approached Shipton Lift Bridge a couple asked me how far I was going ‘probably as far as the bridge’ said I.  They disappeared off into the field with their dog.  I moored up and decided I would have a go at using a Banbury Pole. I am not terribly keen on the Banbury pole, but as Shipton lift bridge has a handle on the towpath side of the bridge I thought I would give it a go.

I couldn’t lift the bridge. Fail. Rethink.

No problem thought I. I decided to do the usual – take the bow up to the bridge, get off on the off side, open the bridge, lock it down, get back on the boat go through the bridge, get off the boat, unlock it…

As I approached I noticed the side had been trimmed heavily and was delighted to see that access was easier.  As I leapt onto the side I noticed the trimmings hadn’t been removed and were all thorns. ouch. I lay my long front rope out on the land (there was nothing to tie it to) and went to lift the bridge. 

The bridge plate that covers the weights had been undone and clearly some weights had been removed as the bridge was really rather heavy.  When BW installed the rings to hook the bridge up they put them in the wrong place. This means that when the beam is down you can’t see the ring and you have to lean over and under to secure it. I scrabbled around and managed to get the chain secured. I reoriented myself in an upright position just to see that the bow rope was now in the water. I knelt down to reach it and couldn’t. Fail. More thorns in side/legs/hands. I grabbed a branch to encourage the rope to the bank but that had thorns to so I gave up. Fail.

I stood to survey the scene as my boat rapidly drifted backwards with Boots looking at me as if to say ‘this is not funny’.  I let the bridge down (which took a while as the ring is in the wrong place which makes it harder) and walked over the bridge whilst wondering what I was going to do.

As I strolled along Boots’ stare got more and more intense.  Fortunately the boat started to drift at an angle and I was able to leap on from the bank further along the canal. I took the boat back to the bridge just in time for the couple to return from the field. I did explain that my comment was rather tongue in cheek and I did want to go further, but my friend would no doubt arrive and give me a hand. We chatted for a while and then they offered to do the bridge. It took the two of them to open it and I was very grateful! As I went under the bridge Nick came into view on his bicycle.

Nick missed the scene by 5 minutes – he would have roared with laughter to have seen my boat in the middle of the cut with me chuckling on the towpath - hands on  hips scratching my head wondering what on earth I was going to do!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Red One: Kevin Ivison

Nathan told me about this book and it sounded right up Maffi’s street so I gave it to him for his birthday last year.  I have just finished reading it. It is extraordinary, easy to read, gripping and will leave me thinking for some time.


I am not very good at book reviews but I found this book gripping. It is the story of a bomb disposal officer in Iraq who won a George Medal.

It is gripping and as I sit in my arm chair there is no way on this planet that I am ever going to ‘feel’ as he felt but the moment he describes having to walk the long solitary road to diffuse a bomb by hand left me cold. He walked to a certain death and survived.

Not only is it a true story of bravery, courage and war, but it is a story of losing his mind as so many other soldiers do. The things soldiers have to face, see, witness and go through is so beyond our imagination.

Many bits struck me but particularly this:

“More soldiers killed them selves after the Falklands War than died in it”

Mental health and PSTD is a bigger killer to the soldiers in the Falklands than this war.

I will be thinking about that for a long long time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cam and the River

For one reason and another I was in Cambridge for a brief visit. I wasn’t very well at all so Mark said he would drive me which was very kind.

While Boots lived it large in the chair:


Stanley made use of the fire. He would have got much closer if the guard wasn’t up:


On the final day I was feeling a bit better so we went for a walk up the Cam while we waited to pick my father up.  It was beautiful. The day was bright and clear. The pictures aren’t great, but you may get the general idea:


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I think I was much closer to some people I have been meaning to visit for a while than I thought… so next time I will investigate.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sophie Lancaster

On Saturday I took a walk over the fields with an afternoon play that Weepingcross bought to my attention. Black Roses: the killing of Sophie Lancaster on Radio 4. In 2007 Sophie Lancaster, a Goth, was murdered in Lancashire.

The download isn’t available any more.

It was incredible listening to the tribute and reminiscences by Sophie’s mother interleaved with poetry. I found one part particularly striking “I marched to the beat of a different drum”

“…I was strange, I was odd,

–aren’t we all -

there was something different down at the core.

Boy bands and pop tarts left me cold,

let’s say

that I marched to the beat

of a different drum…”


Being a Goth isn’t about wearing black. It isn’t just about fashion, architecture, music and art.  It isn’t a phase.  It isn’t always obvious but it is something you are born with. Like a lot of life it is as much about marching to the beat of a different drum as anything.

Combe Mill

Meccano Model


A hot air engine:


Beam Engine





Sunday, March 20, 2011


I haven’t felt great this weekend.  It is probably something to with me being me, but I think the added nature of family worries and my tooth infection (I am always hopeless on antibiotics) has taken its toll. 

It is times like this that I am reminded that, like our planet, humans are dynamic creatures capable of all the extremes of feeling. Sometimes things are so confusing that feelings are something I read about in a book on the shelf somewhere that I saw once at the back of a library sort of thing.

Sometimes I just want to shut off and hide.

Sometimes the world shuts me up and hides.

Either way weekends can be quite bleak without the structure of the working day. There are two sides to every coin and the other side is that weekends allow freedom and spontaneity.

I was sitting at the tea rooms when Kate bicycled up to see me.  That sight cheered me up instantly. We had a lovely cup of tea and natter and then I was whisked off to Northamptonshire to look at a boat and then see ‘The diary of a nobody” which was absolutely superb.

Today I made it into Oxford, heard a nice piece on the Organ and then took a bike ride out to Coombe Mill in Steam. I saw Mark Paris as I was setting off so he came along too on his Panther.  I was shattered by the afternoon and took to my dark corner under the bed to reflect and enjoy the silence when I had a phone call. I didn’t feel like speaking and by the time I had processed the call I had missed it. It is easy to miss calls but when threads of fun are thrown into the ether only a fool throws them away.  I was just contemplating calling back when the person called again.  I hadn’t expected the lovely Helen and Andy to be passing my door, but they were. They stopped, we had tea and it was lovely. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Morning Light and Happy Dogs



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Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Boots, despite his activities in the field, thoroughly enjoys Skinner’s Rough and Ready dog food. It is his favourite – particularly the bits that look like cornflakes. He likes it with hot water (to release the natural flavour), gravy or yoghurt. He also likes it dry. 

I get his food supply from the Paternoster Farm shop in Yarnton after Mr Paris told me of its existence.

All the pet food is stored in sacks on shelves a barn in the yard. Yesterday I went to get some more food for Boots and was rather surprised to find two gorgeous Rabbits pottering about in the corner with ‘free to good home’ on their cage. I resisted the temptation left without them much to Boots distress.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Picture Book

I took a walk up to Shipton on Cherwell yesterday with dogs.  I live in paradise.



The light this morning with the frost was beautiful

Narrowboat Columbia:IMAG0517

Maffi and Molly disappearing into a halo sun:



I was walking through the departmental dungeons yesterday afternoon and saw these two new notices:IMAG0509


Monday, March 07, 2011

Holywell Cemetery

I was taken to Holywell Cemetery for the first time by a friend of mine when I was in the middle of a particularly unpleasant series of events; such joy, yet such sorrow. We would sit here, by this tomb stone, and be at peace. I drew, I ate, I sat, I wrote and I contemplated. It was funny after these years to go back and speak to my ghost: ‘this is where I am now’.

I wonder, were the two times to meet, what I would think.


In 1066 this land was a meadow. In medieval times it contained a small village community full of fullers and weavers. There was a Manor House, church and Holy Wells.   In the 1700s it was used for recreation with a cockpit and bowling greens. In 1847 Merton College made the land available for use as a burial ground.

Kenneth Grahame, Author of Wind in the Willows is buried here:

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This gravestone is particularly poignant:DSC08556 DSC08557

There are a sea of crosses in this churchyard:

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Morning Light

The Oxford Canal is very picturesque in this glorious light, just like its name sake. The City of Oxford is delicious as the tall buildings rest against the blue sky.




Friday, March 04, 2011

St Sepulchre’s Cemetery

This little gem in Jericho was beckoning me as soon as I looked out of the window at lunchtime and saw the sun shining against a blue sky.  Church yards are such restful beautiful places and even more divine in the glorious light.

It is on an the site of the abandoned Walton Manor farmstead and was born out of the need for a place to put the bodies following the Cholera epidemics in the 1800s.  If you are in the area, it is worth a visit; there are some gems buried there. Here are some pictures. I have posted my favourite one last.





I liked this lounging angel:


and the Funky hair:


But this is my absolute favourite:


Dear Granny and Grandpa

In my time I have eaten:

*Shakespeare’s Sonnets

*Nerets Michelangelo

*A spot of Lempicka

*A magazine of Poetry

I have had a nibble of William Blake and a little chew on a bit of a magazine of “poetry and creative works at Oxford” (but I didn’t even nibble Mum’s poem).  From this fine selection I think we can safely determine that my interest is in the arts, yet Mum seems to think I am interested in Science. I even hid Kandinsky!

Granny and Grandpa.  I AM NOT A SCIENTIST. I didn’t even dribble on the guide to Astronomy, the book of anatomy remained untouched (I only glanced at the book of anatomy for the artist), I passed over the biology of insects, and as for the book on physics – oh Granny – they are of NO INTEREST AT ALL.

Just because mum is a Scientist it doesn’t mean I have to be one too does it??????!!!!!!!!????????  Even if I was it would be obvious, especially from my interest in Grandpa’s garden, that it could only be in Botany. Mum won’t accept Botany.

Oh Granny. Perhaps you could have a word?

Your despairing Grandson


Thursday, March 03, 2011


Snow drops are in the churchyard, buds are on the trees daffodils are flowering and the days are getting lighter. This is all, I am sure, glorious, but my batteries are getting a bit full.

I don’t use my fridge in winter not just because there isn’t quite enough sunshine for the solar panels to run it, but because the world, in winter, is a fridge.

I put things to keep cool in my bilges or engine room, and I make more use of the fridges in shops. This works very well, and I would do it throughout summer if I didn’t mind no ice in my gin throughout 12 months of the year, but I do.

At the moment the world is still a fridge, but my batteries are getting a bit tetchy and feeling underused so if this goes on for much longer (and experience suggests it will) I will be switching my fridge back on. It just doesn’t seem right.

The good thing is the ice compartment will be back in service which means ice in the gin. AT LAST.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Yesterday was my Ma’s birthday. She has a birthday every year. I like that. I telephoned her in the evening and it sounded as if she had had lovely day; apart from eating too much cake. I like it when my dear Ma sounds happy. She sounded happy.

I had a nice surprise too. Cap’n Ahab and Bella were passing and dropped in for a cuppa bringing milk, daffodils and cake.  I had a kettle of water left but my milk went off days ago but between us we had quite a tea party.  The daffodils are in a vase staring out of the window. Lovely, very lovely indeed, to see them both.

I attempted to fill up with water but a diet of cake and missing parts to the hose with the dying light were not conducive to such an enterprise so I went for a long walk in the dark over the fields. Boots got quite jumpy at one point and started to bark disturbing the peace.  I kept him on his lead this time.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Boots and the Fire

Boots isn’t so keen on warmth and unlike his friend Stanley he doesn’t tend to lean against the fire, or go anywhere near it.  On Sunday he decided he wanted his bed near the fire, so I moved it there and then I took two pictures that were totally out of character for him.


It is unlike Boots to go near the fire so I was very surprised when he did this – I wonder what his point was!