Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Well the longest day has come and gone without major incident - apart from the police chasing a motorcycle thief into the garden of the marina manager. One of these coppers could have come straight off the centre page of some gay periodical or a fetish mag. Dressed top to toe in black leathers and wearing aviator sun-glasses. How gay is that? The object of their pursuit got away - leaving 'his' motorbike behind him - lying on the towpath with its number-plates thoughtfully removed.

Oh, and talking of gay entendres and stuff, we have joined the marina cruising club. Oh how we love that Carry-On levity. Whilst we were filling up with water yesterday in the company of R, L and A, S came back from the bar (our main reason for joining) with our membership cards. Now the main official reason - one would have thought - of a marina-based 'cruising club' was, er, 'cruising'. Well, the club rules printed on the back of our newly aquired cards bang that notion to rights and are exclusively concerned with marina club bar and drinking policy and processes: Not getting so pissed that you can't stand up, not abusing the volunteer bar staff, not expecting drinks after closing time, running a bar tab (at the bar staff's discretion) and appealing to the cruising club 'Commodore' in cases of contested braking of the aforesaid rules.

Now that's what I call a cruising club. No pretence to anything to do with taking a boat out on the the inland waterways.

I also encountered - courtesy of S's sister a novel supposition. Apparently the bubbles of gas eminating from the river-bed and making their mazy way to the surface (or getting trapped under the hull) could have been the orignal inspiration for that ubiquitous fixture of modern middle class homes; the jacquzzi. Who'd a thought it? Responsible for such an idea. And there was me thinking it was the Romans.

Monday, 22 June 2009


Last night I think someone got mugged on the tow-path opposite our mooring. We heard some shouting - a pause - and then more shouting - and then a relative silence. I looked out the window and saw a small red light flashing. A bicycle rear light.

I heard some talking in the dark. I heard, '...got a 'phone...better call the police...' Then the flashing red light lowered to the ground. A figure moved and briefly appeared in the glow of an out of view street light. The figure went out of sight for a few seconds and then re-appeared. A few more mumbled words - a street name I think - directed at the flashing red light. Someone was on the 'phone I think. To the police maybe.

And then ... A flurry of figures on bicycles. Some 'fucking' and angry shouting. Seemingly at no one or no thing in particular. The gaggle sped along the towpath, the surface of the path crackling under the rythmn of spinning wheels and whirling pedals. And then the voices faded in the darkness. And then silence.

I looked across the river and back down the tow-path to where the red light was flashing. It rose from the ground and started - tentatively at first - to move away. Then rapidly the flashing light got smaller and then disappeared.

In the distance a fugue of sirens could be heard. I don't know if the police turned up or if the group of figures on bikes were anything to do with the mugging. If there was a mugging.

The clouds of bugs continued to dance silently around the boat and we went to bed.

Tonight S is in Blackpool; at a the Railsport Games. A kind of Olympics for railway industry employees and their families. Well, not sure about the 'families' bit - but families do go. We met for lunch as S was leaving from Euston. Went to one of the new food and drink outlets that have recently opend up on the piazza outside Euston station. Not too busy this one. Whose name escapes me. But relatively good and cheap. We then said our goodbyes and I went back to the office - where, once again, I singularly failed to put together a PDP (a Personal Development Plan). - I had instead an interesting cycle of communication with one of our public affairs chaps. Apparently some MP was complaining about some weeds at a station out west somewhere and wondered why we couldn't just get a local firm to come in and do the clearing. Someone in the office remarked that he could get his gardner to do the job and claim the cost on his expenses - oh how we laughed.

I've been watching the tow-path tonight. I'm becoming an inland waterways curtain twitcher. Except we haven't got any curtains. Not on that side of the boat anyway.

And so to bed. Tomorrow I hope to get on with some work in the bathroom. It's not far from being finished - just a few details and a new bit of floor covering. Another seven or eight working days should do it.

Thursday, 18 June 2009


We had three intruders along the bank in the early hours of this morning. Somehow they got in the gate with a motorbike (which turned out to be stolen). The first I was aware was when I heard the bike motor past the bedroom window. I must admit I have a sneaking admiration for the audacity of their little adventure - I just wish they'd use their skills in a more constructive way...S called the police ( must be on first name terms with them by now) and, inevitably the miscreants had long gone by the time they arrived - leaving their stolen motocycle abandoned - engine still running - at the gate which they had thoughtfully propped open for the quick getaway that did in fact transpire. Not sure at this time whether anyone along the bank had anything stolen but how this troublesome trio managed to get through the gate in the first place is a bit of a mystery.

S had an appointment this morning. Hope it goes OK. And I'm on the train to the delightfully named Didcot Parkway - for a meeting with a supplier in Abingdon. Just pulling in to Reading.

On the 16.47 back to Paddington. The weather has taken a turn and its blowey and raining. Feeling a bit fatiqued after this morning's falalla. Looking forward to getting back to the boat and cooling down with a wash and change of clothes. S has been signed off by the doctor until the end of the week.

Now sampling the delights of the Hammersmith and City line during the 'rush hour'. A cartoon man with chisselled chin, no. one haircut, aviator sun glasses and the obligatory stubble chats to a girlie girl. Oh, and he has an i-pod nano - of course. Lime green. Probably gay. No I take that back. The effect is spoiled by what appear to be ill-fitting asda jeans and a sky blue oxford shirt that is far too small. Amateur dramatist..

And on to the Victoria Line. I get a seat! Ha Ha! More obviously commuters on this train. A bit of Polish chatter and a few with their heads in the free-sheets. Still too hot in this bloody thing and sleepiness is really creeping up on me now. Looking forward to my walk along the river - but not the hike up the stairs at Tottenham Hale now the escalators are being refurbished and out of action.

Loads of people get off at Finsbury Park and my marks and sparks chinos are sticking to my legs. Next station is Seven Sisters where seven sitters stand up and get off. I counted them.

S was on the boat when I got back but was complaining of a really bad headache. We listened to a bit of radio four, talked of the days events, had a mug of tea and then walked down to the marina to get rid of some rubbish, do our bit for re-cycling and empty the two small briefcase potta potties.

S was sick in the river on the way back and was obviously distressed. She was sick again when we got back to the boat and headed straight to bed. But surfaced a few minutes later and was sick over the side. I taped up the bedroom bulls-eye as now she was complaining of a migraine. I was worried about her as her health has taken a downward turn over the last three weeks or so - with symptoms like a cross between a persistent cold and hayfever.

But all is quiet now and S is sleeping. I'm writing this sitting in the front doorway of the boat as the light fades and the laden trees are vibrating in the wind. The wind turbine spins fitfully with the ebb and flow of the breeze. It's a few days away from the longest day but this evening it feels like autumn.


There are few things that happen in my working life that make me smile with an inward satisfaction but the recognition given to a genuine and effective partnership this week is one of them. One of the companies I have been working with for the last four years or so has been shortlisted for a 'Partnership' award. Now I'm normally not much of a corporate being when it comes to this sort of thing but in this case I'm making an exception. Why? Because this is a genuine partnership that has been going for ten years and has made demonstrable sustainable safety gains for the men and women who work on the railway infrastructure. So much so that people now take it for granted. The system is so effective it has become a bit of a non-issue. A victim, therefore, of its own success.


The 253 is fairly quiet this evening. S gave me a lift into work this morning. The last few days in no particular order:

Making a couple of aerofoil shaped shelves for Lysander's bathroom.

Tiling what will become a door to a space where we keep the blue and the green.

Spending Saturday afternoon on Amelia with J and T at Roydon and thereabouts on the Stort.

Sunday: Enjoying a Bacio pizza on the riverside in the company of our fellow marina occupiers.

Getting a lift with S on tube strike days.

Friday / Saturday / Sunday; Listening for the bubbles around the boat and feeding the swans and geese.

Tuesday evening: S has gone with L to see a musical tonight (Sister Act?).

Last Monday evening: I surprised myself when demonstrating the stylophone to B.

Monday: Spent some time looking at some hang gliding web sites today. Found a photo of me on the SHGC web site from 1976. The year Lysander was built (approx).

I'm boring myself writing this stuff. The thunderstorms have swollen the river and in the last couple of hours the water level at the mooring has risen over two feet (As I walked across the bridge in the rain and gathering gloom there were flashes of lightning off to the north over the reservoirs).

The first indication I had of this was when the mirror in the bathroom fell from its perch on top of the radiator expansion tank. In fact at one point the boat was listing on its taut centre-line so much that I had to push hard to open and hold open the front door. The water had risen to within about six inches of the top of the bank and the boat was riding high - but has now slowly - very slowly - started to recede. Our neighbour with the smoker's voice and bad teeth told me that he had rung British Waterways and they were 'opening the sluices'.

I have re-tied the centre-line as the faster flow of the river forced the stern of the boat out away from the bank as the level dropped.

A bottle and a plastic football has just swept by in the shadow of the rain clouds.


No time or inclination to write anything today...apart from this of course.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


The first day of June and it really feels like summer. The sun is shining, the breeze is warm, and the bugs are out in force. For the last couple of nights Lysander has been subject to a pincer-movement orchestrated by an alliance of midges and suicidal moths - the moths try their luck in a dance of chance around the citronella candle (4.99 from Netto) whilst the blood-sucking midges swarm off the port side - frustrated at the smokey midge equivalent of a crucifix. A few more days at Springfield Marina along the riverbank and we have our own little back yard to attend to (well, about a metre by 20 - a narrowyard no less). We have bought ourselves a little more time at this nice spot on the Lea/Lee (confusingly this stretch of 'canalised' river has two different spellings depending on whether one is referring to the river proper or the canalised bit. Love that word 'canalised'. It's like caramelised and carnalised rolled into one. Still can't remember which spelling refers to which. If your talking about it it doesn't figure anyway.

Some kind soul has temporarily given up their mooring for us whilst we mentally repair ourselves following the break-in. I almost feel that we shouldn't show that we are enjoying it so much. But Sally loves it and is already imagining how she might develop our little strip of back yard by the river. I feel touched by her aspiration - and it would be great to get a permanent mooring here. We have both resolved to do it.

The marina manager has been very helpful - flying in the face of the anecdotes we had been exposed to about how surly and downright obnoxious he normally is ... And the people at the marina are an interesting and engaging bunch. We shall join their cruising club methinks. Better than that lot of white-middle class curtain twitchers at St Pancras (of them, more some other time)..

I recently discovered - in the notes to a book I've had on my shelf for some time - that Duchamp met two other painters whilst he was in Munich (in addition to Max Bergmann). There he met the Romanian painter Lazker (Lasker) Vorel and another, M Blocman whom he knew from family holidays on the Channel coast at Veules-les-Roses. I will do further research around this note.

The meeting with Gabrielle in the Jura was an event kept largely secret from the art history community until - when in her last years she revealed this event in an interview : the meeting came on the back of two lovely letters that Marcel had sent Gabrielle whilst she was on holiday on the south coast of England. In these letters he compared their relationship to the bitter-sweet platonic goings on between the two young 'lovers' in Andre Gide's early novel, 'Strait is The Gate'.