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'.

Monday, 8 June 2009


Had a pleasant walk along the river after a good night's sleep. Yesterday on my way back to Lysander, as for the last few days, I passed by a duck 'couple' in exactly the same spot on the path. They seemed understandably wary each time I passed (the path is narrow here) but only the first time did they launch themselves from the bank into the water. Walking along this path is like walking through a series of back gardens / yards and allotments. Sometimes people have their 'back door' open and the sound of living drifts out across the path.

So I've had the operation (an hour late) and my 'wart' has been replaced by scarlet scab the size of a five pence piece. The consultant 'shaved off' the offending protruberance and said it will leave a scar. 'It may grow back again', she added. She almost seemed to be trying to put me off getting it done. 'It's probably a viral wart with a sub-hemo-globin supeona underneath it', she said. Or something like that. Just a lot of medical lingo that just went over my head as I was all too conscious of the young medical student smiling beatifically at me across the room from a chair in the corner. She came from up north somewhere and we exchanged a few words about how Homerton was a real community-based hospital and me walking in to the hospital from a canal boat around the corner on the River Lee/Lea. All this was while unseen activity was swirling around my now prone body. Somebody said something about 'silver nitrate'? (Or something like that). I thought blimey I've come in to get this 'wart' off my cheek not to get plated. No, of course I didn't. But it was all very disorientating being encompassed by all this bustle of unseen incarnate efficiency.

She said it would look like a cigarette burn for a week or too - as if I knew what that looked like.

So back to the boat along the tow-path in the sunshine and a late (a half 3) breakfast at the riverside cafe where a young black labradoodle was playing among the tables and its posh owner was explaining its genetic mix to a less doggy-knowledgeable person sitting at another table nearby.

After pausing on the footbridge to watch our upstream neighbour pass beneath I made my way back to Lysander and caught sight of the Cruising Club bar-tender reading on the back of her boat. Got back, put a pair of shorts on and a polo shirt and looked in the mirror.

Blimey - it's big. The bloody result of my 'shave'. Bigger than I thought it would be and there is a reddened line about a centimetre long - presumably where the needle went in for the local anaesthetic. Oh well. Job done.

Now to get my teeth fixed. A rower splashes passed, the boat rocks and gurgles at its mooring.


Did some more work last night on the boat. I have spent some time over the last few days putting together a small demountable wall panel for the bathroom. It is intended to be a stub-wall perpendicular to the rear bulkhead - extending 18 inches out. It will assist in affording some privacy when visitors make use of our sophisticated lavatory services. If we were a sailing boat it would be referred to as 'the heads'. S not convinced at the moment. But the selling point is that it is not fixed permanently.


I was up earlier this morning in order to get over to London Bridge by 8 to assist with a bit of team coaching. I think it went well. They were good people and very responsive - 'up for it'. Got back to the office around 15.00 and sorted through some e-mails.

Tomorrow I'm off to Homerton to get this thing removed from my left cheek so don't anticipate being in the office at all. Tiredness and hayfever is starting to overtake me and I can't wait to get back to our lovely Lysander. Just a few more days at Springfield Marina and then - Saturday - we are off again back to Limehouse with guests on board. S has planned the day (such that it is). Its only going to take a couple of hours although taking on water and emptying the porta-pottis will add to the overall journey time.


The weather has turned cloudy.


There is still light in the sky and I'm listening - on and off - to Radio 4. Its a cool evening which is a welcome contrast to the heat of the last few days. The rowers and their coaches have gone and just walkers, cyclists and chair pushers make their way up and down the path on the other side of the river. The glow of tungsten lights in the homes opposite is punctuated by the cold yellow of flourescent tubes in bathrooms and kitchens. These are reflected in the gently shimmering water of the river as it makes its way down to the River via Bow Locks and Limehouse. I'm ready for a sleep now after a long day and will text S before I shut my eyes and open myself to the viscissitudes of dream. Talking of which I've been re-reading Ian Marchant's book that W gave me. It's an enjoyable read but no great work. Its conversational laddish tone tends to get a bit tedious after a while. The writing style does not sustain the length of the book methinks. It would be a better book if it were shorter and didn't constantly play to the gallery. But I applaud its thesis with respect to 'The Railway of Dreams'.

Time for bed.


The weather is expected to change tomorrow.

Friday, 29 May 2009


We have a mooring slot at Springfield Marina (on the river bank) for another week). The security has been improved, so that should prepare us for returning to the big wide world of 'continuous cruising'.

We are moored outside the bar but I will move the boat up to its temporary mooring after work tonight.

Feelin tired, 'headachey' and full of hay fever.

Our tresspassers also robbed the cafe across the river. Took some computer games.


On bus - 253. They've got the bloody heating on.

Went to the marina office this morning and met Guy - the general manager. Lesley is not in until tomorrow morning.


Our tresspassers are described by a fellow boater. A stocky black man and a tall thin white man. Very agressive. Saw them sitting on the back of our boat - having got on board another - the red wide beam by the footbridge.

Back on the boat checking on the work done to the doors.

Return from M and Vs (and A) in Breda.

Checked the Mark / Dintel and the Albert Canal on Google.

Found a young bird on the path on the way to Breda rail station.

Long walk out to end of Albert Canal on outskirts of Antwerp.

Good cheap hotel in the diamond district. Massive bedroom with kitchenette and big bathroom.

30 kilometre plus bike ride out to Wagenberg from Breda. Crossed the Mark by ferry. Lovely harbour and community.

Cycling with the baby trike and S on V's bike.

Electrical storm over Breda on our last night. Monday night.

Took A to the park on our last day and met up with V later for a meal and coffee.

Saw a black and white rabbit in the park and A chased. Also saw soldiers and baby moorhens 2 and ducklings.

Wandered around Breda during the Jazz Festival and had a brunch with M, V and A.

A drunk on the train. We go 1st class on recommendation from V. A nice compartment to ourselves.

Had lovely spag bol in Cafe des Artistes in Antwerp. Nice beer too (Martin's Pale Ale and Blond Leffe).

Ferry trip boat moored in Antwerp and walked past the closed maritime museum.

Had a drink in the Princess ? - a 'flotel' in one of the old docks in Antwerp.

Discussion on whether to upgrade on Eurostar. Decide not worth it. Played scrabble on way back. S wins by 4 points - pipping me at the last.

Back at flat around 8. Play some AEF strings and unpack whilst S goes to get spare boat key from D who's been for an interview and the ask him to do three weeks unpaid probation.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


The boat was broken in to yesterday during the day.

S and I came home from work - we had met up at the bus stop outside Morrisons. It was lovely seeing her there at the junction as I got off the bus. She looked beautiful and we gave each other a big hug. We bought a few things and there was a man in front of us at the checkout. s nearly packed his purchases for him.

We made our way back down Spring Hill - slowly - my blistered feet were making progress painful. And back to the boat. All seemed fine. I went through the boat and saw the i-pod box opened on the bed and thought nothing of it. Had a wee and then went around the outside to the back to get the engine running for a few minutes - to recharge the domestics. On the back deck now and I notice that the back door is ajar but the hatch is still locked so it must have just swung open slightly during the day as you can't get in without sliding the hatch back. Once the engine was ticking over nicely I went back to the front of the boat and mentioned to s that the back door was open. Well ajar. That's funny she said - because the i-pod box is out on the bed. 'You didn't leave it there this morning'? Someones been on the boat. We exchanged concerned glances and decided that was all that had been taken until s noticed that the i-pod nano by the radio in the front cabin was also not there. The realisation that we had had 'guests' on the boat then sunk in and s called the police.

Monday, 18 May 2009


And so, another weekend passeth. Another Eurovision - of some spectacle it has to be said - has also come and gone (an evening in front of the tele with a chinese take-away, courtesy of Duncs). Well done Norway, for getting the most points 'ever'. As the BBC website put it,'The vast Olympic stadium in central Moscow was certainly packed with an enthusiastic crowd, which was entertained with the usual mix of the bold, the beautiful, the bad and the utterly bizarre'....which is probably why it appeals to the surrealist in me. I look on the whole thing as 'pop' performance art.

On Sunday...we took Lysander down river to Old Ford Lock - having finally caught up with K and B. It was an enjoyable little afternoon run with two all-too-rarely-seen friends. An added comedic ingredient being the muppet on a tupperware boat who pitched up as we were filling up our tank with water in the lock. This chap was straight out of an Ealing comedy - complete with reverse baseball cap, and rock blaring from his 'flying bridge'. S thought he was drunk. He couldn't hear any of our responses to his febrile attempts to say anything remotely comprehensible. Not from where I was standing.

Returning from Old Ford Lock back to Springfield, I chanced to open up the throttle on Lysander like I've never done before...the result: 4 mph according to the GPS and a substantial bow-wave. I could smell the heat of the old Lister below our feet.

Later that evening as S and I were out for an evening walk we saw our tupperware boat come steaming by in the opposite direction - this time a power-ballad the soundtrack to his progress. He was crying as he went passed.


Took a punt on the tube from TH again and got a seat after one stop.

When I get to work I'll go up in the lift. Less distance from exiting the doors on the 2nd floor to my desk. And I've got my squeaky shoes on again after the Loakes I was wearing yesterday wore the skin of the top of my left big toe.

The worst bit is walking back and forth between my desk and the loo. I've adopted a kind if limp in order to keep down the volume of the squeak.

I think these shoes niff a bit as well. Especially when my feet get hot - normally in the afternoon. Someone enquired about a smell today. Was it gas? Even the facilities chap turned up the other day after someone in the office had reported the smell of gas.

And so, Friday early evening and I've just had a welcome chat with B about this evening's social arrangements. I hope B and K will join us. I think Sa and D are coming as well.

Will need to fill up with water this weekend - and diesel too. It keeps the riverside suppliers sweet if you buy something from them as well. There's no dosh in just dispensing water.

Friday, 15 May 2009


The tube.
No air - no grace.

Back to Lysander on the bus then. A very fat person has just sat down next to me - the bulky imposition jolting me out of my internal reveries. The fat person pushes a bag into my thigh and starts scanning the evening free-sheet. The head appears to be attached directly to the shoulders which appear encased in a coat made out of a blue blanket. The fat person constantly sniffles into a tissue as another nearby sneezes repeatedly. The fat person gets off at The Angel.
A small person with two extra large plastic bags sits down. The forecast 'heavy rain' has not materialised.

I've just noticed that the small person has gone. Must have been whilst I was in conversation with my boss. A normal sized person with a normal sized bag is sitting next to me now.

The boat is isolated at its mooring now as our neighbours fore and aft (as they say) have departed. The new lettering on the side looks good I think.

Being a fat person myself - nearly two stone overweight according to the machine at Homerton Hospital - I wonder what it's like sitting next to me on a bus - I close my eyes and long for the obliteration of sleep. I love sleeping. It brings forth not monsters (it used to in pre-pubescence) but warmth and tenderness. I'm a better person in my dreams and the night will not be long enough.

So...It's been one of those days which I just wanted to get through with the minimum of fuss and effort. I wanted nothing to happen of any significance.


My nose has been running all day - I've had (and still do have) a dull headache and I feel exhausted. I hate the way feeling unwell has made me more ungenerous and ratty than normal...

I don't like what I've written today but two of the (connected) rules I've set myself with this blog is never re-write - and go with what emerges. Don't spend time pre-meditating. Is that three?

Thursday, 14 May 2009


The geese are protesting this morning.

This stretch of river doesn't seem to get the attention from the authorities that the London canals get. The tow path on this bend is narrow with gravel, and the weeds grow unhindered along the bank here. So much so that when we moored here ten days ago we had to beat down the nettles to get off the boat and tie up. Now the riverside growth is starting to reclaim its ground and because the piling and bank is quite high the boat is partially obscured - which is good. Being dark green helps as well ('Chodo Green' it said on the tin).

One of the things we have learned on this trip is be as inconspicuous as practicable. Anything otherwise invites interest - not all of which is welcome.

Sally's Vespa was set on fire in the early hours at Victoria Park which was a moment both of distress and 'surrealism'. That part of the towpath is unlit and the bike on fire threw flickering colours against the boat windows and surrounding trees, path and fence. It had an element of ritual destruction. In this case it was probably a form of exchange. Earlier in the day S had chased off a group of children who - equipped with bolt cutters - were attempting to steal a bike from another boat moored nearby. They beat such a hasty retreat that one of them left his own bike behind - across the towpath. Lying on the ground. For a brief moment it was like an unconscious gift. A few seconds later one of the younger children returned - sheepishly - to retreive his property presumably. Had it been me standing there over the abandoned bicycle instead of S, I would have said something like, 'You need to be more careful matey. Some ne'er-do-well might nick your bike'. Oh the wit and irony. S, was far more moral and said to this child (who was feigning contrition on his return to the scene) - 'How would YOU like it if someone tried to steal YOUR bike'.

And a few hours later, in the darkness, the Vespa was on fire.

We were woken by a couple of guys knocking on the side of the boat. I took a quick look out and grabbed a fire extinguisher. Thanks to our two friends the fire hadn't spread beyond the back box - melting a part of the seat. The melting plastic dripping down on to the rear panelling and number plate had put a green-grey iceing on this fire-bug's handywork.

The fire was out in a second or two. I was taken aback at how effective the extinguisher was. The bike was now surrounded by a slowly settling cloud of white dust. The two guys who had woken us muttered a couple of damning expletives and then disappeared into the gloom. We stood momentarily in shock and then started to gather our thoughts.

What does one do in such circumstances? I went back on the boat and put the kettle on.

A patrol boat went by earlier. Checking boat numbers and licences. The boat was stopping momentarily next to each moored boat like a spectator drifting along a row of pictures at an exhibition. Three boats are now adorned with 'Patrol Notices' - the contents of which I know nothing about. They may have 'overstayed'. Who knows.

I've just heard on Radio 4 that Michael Martin may have lost his impartiality. I know from painful experience just how distressing that can be. When I was a child it happened with tedious regularity and I would look for it under my bed before going to sleep - which I'm now also going to do. And it's not even dark yet.

I love our boatbed.

I get undressed; a piece of painted wood has just drifted by the window. Not significant other than I know that it was about half a mile upstream - noticed it lying in the verge next to the tow path when I passed it yesterday on my way back from work. Now it's on its way to the sea with all the beer cans, bottles, rotting fruit and veg.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


And so the other way.

Left the boat with the wind turbine swinging wildly in the gusty wind. Now on the tube to Euston from Tottenham Hale after a delayed departure from Lysander. A minisick down the trouser front after a gulped breakfast cereal doesn't do much for ones managerial cred so had to be attended to accompanied by much cursing and time anxiety.

Still, there is room on this train to breath - now that I'm running late. Finsbury Park and another load get on. I feel my bile rising again.

Just picked up another message from R about the late Ian Carr. Seems there has been quite bit in the media following his death. That's what living on a canal boat can do for you. The musical trail-blazer's passing was not so ignored after all.


From work about 18.15:

Waiting for the tube to Tottenham Hale. There's been a trespasser on the line which has resulted in this wait. The dot matrix counts down - then counts up - the next train's arrival. First its due in five minutes then this goes to six. Oh it's here...but packed. After an exchange of puppy glances - I'll wait for the next one. A forced choice if ever there was one. Oh dear - not this one either - and it's only going as far as Seven Sisters.

So here I am - on train number three. Well, it's number three to me and it's all armpits, B.O and perfume mixed up in the heat like a cake mixture. Sort of. Well, what do you expect. The only room there is available is finger room to tap out on this thing. Nothing to lean against until Finsbury Park. I think LUL should contribute to my laundry costs. It's so bloody hot down here and the summer hasn't even started yet. We are now 'terminating' at Seven Sisters. What a 'termination' this will be, will be. We are supposed to be going to Walthamstow Central. The driver apologises for the late (ie none) notice and cites orders from 'control'. I chance to cross to the platform 'opposite' ('chance'? Where did that come from?)

So now I'm waiting at Seven Sisters for a train to Walthamstow Central. And I wait. A bit cooler here on the platform but still waiting. In real time no less....how's this for immediacy? Pooterisms on the move no less. Train coming - on other platform. Pity. Looking forward to the peace and air of the boat and the waterside. Apart from the glooping that is. Ah, a train approaches. 'This station has step-free access', issues forth from not only the train but the same message is then repeated out on the platform - which' if you don't mind missing some steps is jolly fine and dandy - but it doesn't bloody have any fresh air.

As I get back into the welcoming evening sunlight and a 15 degrees drop in temperature, my Blackberry hums and its a welcome message from an old friend, R. Noting the death of the great Ian Carr. I wish I could listen again to Solar Plexus tonight. It was once a jewel in my record collection - in the days when people had collections - and records.

Still news through today on the BBC that Jordan and Peter Andre are suppurating. Or was it separating. Same difference.


An evening on the boat with no stove. The last few days have been breezy but we are in the lee of Spring Hill and have a bank of small trees marking the boundary between the tow path and the park. This means that 50 yards away its gusting enough to make your coat do the splits but here the wind turbine turns fitfully at best - certainly not long and fast enough to put a decent charge in to the domestic batteries. Never mind. It looks cool and supports the TV antenna (ariel / arial). But the signal is non-existent for all channels as we are ... in the lee of this bloody great hill.

Monday, 11 May 2009


It feels like the first balmy Sunday of summer; people messing about in boats - but others from the nearby rowing clubs appear to have more serious intentions.

Earlier, I awoke after a disturbed night of riparian flatulance. Every move I made precipitated much glooping and gurgling from the water around the hull. I will have to get used to it until we get off the river. It doesn't seem such a problem on the canals. Moving on from such pooterish concerns, I finally got my arse into gear and went to see the Ray Johnson show at Raven Row - the last day. It made a refreshing contrast to much contemporary art with its industrial polish and vacuity of concept. Ray Johnson's lo-fi product was a bit of a minor revelation. He shows a continuity throughout which amounts to a personal iconography. The whole show rarely deviated from his signature passions - shot through with sly and vulgar references to his sexuality - mediated by those particular stars of the big screen which seem to hold so much fascination for gay artists of the time: James Dean, Shirley Temple, Elvis Presley and the like.

But his work seemed so much more than a kitchen table version of Warhol. He seems to have more in common with the personal poetics of Joseph Cornell. His images are also - resolutely - things. They have a material substance like flattened out Cornell boxes.

'Forever on the scale of the stars.... A guardian of his solitude'. I just picked up the phrase (or something very like it) from a radio programme about Rainer Maria Rilke and his relationships with women. It seems to fit Duchamp's relationship with Gabrielle.


Saturday. And the date is a palindrome - well it should be because I'm not sure if I'm coming or going: I had an idea of going to an exhibition this afternoon but the draw of a walk up the hill to Netto was too much and I'm now back on the boat having stuffed my face with Ryvita, cheese spread and ham. An infantile minor binge. The sort I can get away with when S isn't here to exert any sensible influence. God knows how much saturated fat I've just consumed - topped off with a packet of Cheesy Whotsits as well. Still, I can satisfy myself that I don't do this sort of vandalism to my insides very often.

There are all sorts of other things I could have done today but didn't. I'm surrounded by the soporific babble of conversation, both human and avian. A goose out on the river seems to protest and the bubbles vent from under the boat with every movement. S is in Newbury this afternoon and evening, celebrating a friend's 40th birthday. It's cloudy but otherwise bright and mild. I've let the Morso go out but the forecast is for it to be a 'chilly' night so I'll prep the stove in a while after I've re-read some of W's draft.

Time for a nice cup of tea. All that Ryvita, ham and cheese has given me a thirst.

There is still much to do to this boat. It's 32 years of existence have left their mark both externally and inside. But its getting some care lavished on it at last. Its very much ours - rather than a standard spec factory boat. I can't imagine ever selling it. 'Its our baby', as S often describes it to friends and family, particularly when the conversation turns to 'issue' and we have no appetite for baby and toddler talk..

I'll run the engine in a bit to
recharge the domestics.

The afternoon rolls into early evening and I can hear some cricketers shouting something like 'howsat!' In the park next to us. Followed by much excited and less orchestrated exclamations.

I do like it here: The park; the rowers; the hasidic jewish community; the bridge and riverside cafe with Springfield Marina opposite. There is less of that achinging trendy set (neo-hippies in designer gear mostly) one tends to get at Victoria Park and Islington. There also is - so far - none of the aggro from gangs of youth who find it amusing to let your boat free in the middle of the night or steal things from you. We are also free of the manic necklaces of cyclists that pound the towpath around the Angel and Victoria Park. Bah-humbug to the sad lot of them and pass me that copy of the Daily Mail.

I'm on my 2nd mug of tea and prevaricating over whether to recharge the batteries by running the engine or getting out the portable generator and firing THAT up. Oh, the choices - both of which are equally unattractive as the peace of the moment is so enjoyable.

Maybe I'll go to the Ray Johnson show tomorrow. It's the last day and Barney has asked for a 'report'. Not sure I'm interested enough though...Shall I go or should I stay. Tomorrow is another day. Hah!

I've just been dismantling (unpicking would probably be a better description) what used to be the family home laundry basket. Just the bottom foot or so is left now. It used to reside in the corner next to the loo in the bathroom at Brookly Gardens. Mum used to tell me to put my dirty stuff in for the wash. And the basket would swallow all manner of things that would emerge a day or two later in pristine condition. It was like alchemy. A magic beyond the understanding of an innocent youth.

Well, now the basket's remains are the fuel for another sort of magic as the thing itself becomes food for the Morso. It's only right and proper that it should go this way. In its time it has swallowed the blood-soaked underwear of my dear dad who suffered badly at times with 'piles'. He would often suffer particularly after doing some heavy work in the garden. In would also go my mums underwear and all those things containing stains that (as the old advert used today) were even difficult to talk about.

I could never have just thrown it in a skip. That would be like throwing away my history of mum, dad, and brother. All those traces contained in its intertwined fibres demanded a slow, processional, almost ritualistic, disposal.

The stories that washing basket could tell if only it could speak. Oh dear, yes. But, on reflection, just as well it can't as it wouldn't relish being cut and pulled apart and stuffed into a stove for heat and cooking and hot water. Nevermind the family secrets.

One of the drivers for this diarising (as management-speak might have it) is as a diversion from what I should really be writing - and that is my 'Duchamp story'. Maybe I should compose it on my Blackberry. Make it part of my blogging. Weave it in to my musings like the bamboo weave of the old laundry basket. So, here goes...

(1912) Marcel, Munich and Gabrielle...

I think he loved her, Garielle, very much. It was much more than just a 'crush' as some writers have it. It was a love that both sustained him and undermined him. It was a young man's silent obsession. She figured in his imagination like a madonna. The part-object of his creative musings. It was his paralysing shyness that sustained his creativity. But driving this was his quiet ambition. His desire to break away from artistic dogma and make that dogma part of the humourous lubrication that facilitated his imaginative machinery. And Gabrielle, was, I think, an unwitting player in this game of self-exile. Duchamp's decision to go to Munich was a brave gamble. But very much part of the game that he would increasingly play with himself and repeat throughout his creative life. It was a giddy test. Gabrielle was a musician and intellectual. She was a writer and avant-gardist, like Marcel - and he wanted to be more so and neither. He wanted to do something so new that it would not fit into any pre-existing form of art. Whether this be painting, theatre, music or sculpture. And he thought that Gabrielle might guide him in some way to that goal he had, in part, set himself. For he had the countenance of a kind of ethical perfectionist. And the overblown theorising of his peers drove him, metaphysically, into the arms of a woman whom he thought - whose very being could offer him something he could not obtain via any other means. In this sense it was imperative that this love was and remained unrequited. She did not touch him. He did not touch her. They would sit in the surrounding darkness of the railway station - talking of things we can only imagine and here I might do that; construct a communication of desire between a young man in his twenties and an older, more sophisticated woman with two children of her own. Moreover, this woman was the wife of Francis Picabia. An exuberant artist-provocateur with independent means and an attitude to life which probably both appalled and attracted the young provincial-born Marcel in equal measure. I think Duchamp considered the Picabias like surrogate parents - but parents who were more dangerous and exciting than his real ones - with no care for the bourgoise norms of this young man's background. They were bohemian royalty and Marcel was consort to both of them with the added frisson of the sexual chemistry that Marcel imagined existed between himself and Gabrielle. I say 'imagined' as this was definitely a one way passion. Gabrielle was interested in Marcel because the desire of this much younger - less 'sophisticated' man fascinated and entranced her. This is not to say she had a patronising attitude towards him. She was certainly very fond of this strange young would-be suitor. But she lived in another world. One in which Marcel was a mere apprentice.

Friday, 8 May 2009


Took the 476 back to the boat. It took slightly longer than going via the tube to Tottenham Hale and walking along the riverside. The bus journey was uneventful but more comfortable than the tube. At least I can get a seat as the 476 starts its journey where I get on. Was going to get a pint of milk on the way back but decided that existing supplies would suffice for tonight and tomorrow morning. Emailed S this afternoon... No certain news from S about the restructuring of her team. She expects to hear something tomorrow. She might end up at Totenham Depot but she would be happier staying where she is.

Still no licence from BW despite them taking the money from my bank account. Expect some busybody to point out the obvious soon as I haven't put up some explanatory note as is so often seen on boats with out of date licences on display.

Just before leaving the office picked up a sales call on my Blackberry. It was from my bank offering to review my financial situation. Wasn't in the mood and agreed they should contact me again early next week.

Its nearly night now and the boat is being gently buffeted by the wind and currents of the river. The wind generator is struggling to find a rythmn in the lee of the trees adjacent to the towpath despite the stiff breeze that has been with us the last few days.

Have nearly finished Diary of a Nobody and will slope off to bed soon. Missing S. We have a few things to talk about.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


The emails started coming before I left the boat this morning. One was about a 'whistleblower' case and the other a report for me to look at and comment on.

Had a restful night but this isn't to say it was disturbance-free. The river farts its bubbles constantly and they get trapped under the flat base-plate. In fact in a boat of this age some of the bottom steel plates have probably gone a bit concave over the intervening 32 years - trapping the rising river gas more effectively. It then escapes in flurries of noisy glooping when I shift in bed or it just builds and escapes subject to the general viccissitudes of the boat/water interface. Blimey - that's a very Blackberry thing to say.


Today marks our 5th anniversary. S is playing netball tonight and I'm anticipating a peaceful night. Took the day off from work and walked along the riverside until I got to the now empty factory where Matchbox toys were made. 'Lesney Industries', the building proclaims in dusty metal lettering. I have been to Homerton Hospital to get the small growth on my cheek looked at. Have to go back on June 4 for an op to have it removed and sent for analysis. Earlier this evening bumped in to S at the flat. She had come home early having heard that some 'announcement' was going to be made tomorrow - most certainly about job cuts and/or restructuring. Never a good time for this but not a good time around now. Went from the flat after S left for her netball practice and had a leisurely walk to the doctors. Got a repeat prescription for my scalp condition and talked about snoring and relationship counselling.

Came back to boat around 8 and read a bit of Diary of a Nobody until it got too dark to continue. Missing S. Will make a nice mug of Horlicks and turn in shortly.

The bubbles are active around the boat and radio 4 has Bill Bryson talking about science... and plugging his new book.


Back to work after the bank holiday. The swans on the river are as endearing as ever and the pink footed geese with offspring even more so - especially when they come to the boat and we can feed them from the kitchen window.


On the train to East Midlands Parkway. One of those eco-stations that look as though the architect's inspiration has been the contents of a child's construction kit. It's a sunny morning and the clear pale sky grades to milk at the horizon. On my way to a meeting and the carriage is full of the chatter of people on business. There is a woman somwhere behind me talking to a north American about farming. I'm still tired and a little subdued. I don't really see the point of some of this. The voice behind me cuts through the softer babble permeating the carriage. It's starting to become intrusive in that I can't quite pick up all that is being said but I'm hearing enough to piece together a kind of conversational jigsaw. It's too much like hard work and there is a level of anecdotal first person reference which is banal and tiresome. I should turn my attention to something else in my quest to log a tiresome first person blog. Har har.

I feel like just closing my eyes.

170409 Evening

Graham Road - going back to boat. Just picked up a text from S saying she was going for lunch at the SandM Cafe. Miserable weather. A 277 goes past the other way. Back in Mare Street. A kind gesture and a smile on the way out of the office made my day. Isn't it amazing that such a thing can pierce you to the core when you are down. The truth, once more, is out there. Smiling in my face.

Looking from the upper deck Hackney Town Hall is like a toy-town building this time. Looks like a grubby wedding cake.

S coming to the boat in a bit. It is now 20.20 and it's still raining.

Friday, 17 April 2009


On the bus this morning - from Victoria Park. The rain was rattling on the roof most of the night. At the same time comforting and depriving me of sleep. Outside Hackney Town Hall - all those capital letters seem to sum up the bloated pomposity of local government. But then it just is. Part of that normality that helps define the texture of London maybe. So tired but not sure if I'm looking forward to that customary relief that is the weekend. Got a party to go to Saturday night but haven't seen S since Tuesday morning. Graham Road.


Biked along the tow-path to work this morning - from cabin to desk took about 45 minutes - actual cycle time probaby more like 30 to 35 mins. Certainly coming back to the boat this evening took around 30 minutes cycle time. It's still a bit of a palaver to get the bike to fold as it should. Just out of practice methinks.

The boat is rapidly being defeated by bits of falling tree - a trifle of sticky droplets, leaves, pollen, twigs and small leaves - whole and part. The boat looks a bit of a mess after s's efforts to clean the outside of the cabin. It looked lovely then - at Paddington Basin.

It's just gone eight and I've just cut the engine after around 20 minutes of battery charging. Not sure if I'm imagining things but the engine seems to be vibrating more than it should. The old Lister is hardly whisper-like even at tick-over but there does seem something harsh about the beast at the moment. One sunny weekend I'll get the back deck up and have a poke around....Mmmmmm, that sounds like I know what I'm looking for.

A plane flying overhead just made a momentary roar. Sounded like a wounded spirit.


The candles give a lovely glow. It's been a warm day and I've just returned from seeing Tiff and Jamie who have kindly been baby-sitting one of the folders since Monday evening. S at netball tonight - and is wanting to go away at the weekend. Feeling very down since the Easter weekend. Seem to be caught up in something that I find utterly perplexing. One of those periods in my life where helplessness surfaces with a vengeance. Although I wonder if this emergence is a cover for a plain and simple truth. A personal truth only perhaps but this truth of 'desire's signpost' doesn't always point in the right direction. In fact I don't think it ever does.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Victoria Park. A bank holiday Monday. Arrived here yesterday. Just a 75 minute cruise from the Angel. It's about 10 and the runners have been pounding past at intervals since the early hours. Had a pleasant but uninvolving evening last night. Just seemed contactless. Maybe it was just fatique. Or the age difference, but I wish for something with a bit more substance. The last conversation of any challenge, real humour, or interest was probably with Will and Kath. I find myself trying to avoid the pergorative 'lightweight' (it's also a term virtually trademarked by Alan Sugar). But this does describe my deep-seated dissatisfaction with most of our social encounters. There is something about conversation largely driven by anecdote that I find saddening. Not because anecdote as a conversational form is intrinsically dull; it's just that most people we meet have so little of interest to say.

Evening. A day of children. N lovely. A charming baby. A real sweetie. Came back to the boat just a few minutes ago. Running the engine to top up the domestics. The weather has teased us today with what it could have been like over the bank holiday weekend. It's now a mild spring evening. The planes are whirring overhead. But the fish aint jumping. Tired and stressed after couple of days of babies and toddlers. Too old to cope well with the inscesant demands of this alien breed. Well, not alien perhaps but parental over-weaning makes them seem so. Small, forming humans - not from mars. Hunger for a bit of adult conversation though. Now peace but little tranquility.


Visitors to the boat today. Mike and Ikks and Richard dropped by on his bike. Iwona is back in Poland for a couple of weeks getting her teeth done and seeing her mum. Finally set off through the tunnel about 3. Not a nice day weather-wise but M and I are easy and enjoyable company. Very fond of them both. Had a compact tea at St Pancras basin and took on some water while we ate a lovely spread put together by Sally. She put a lot of love in to it - as she does most things. I take too much of this for granted. In fact I sometimes wonder if I take such 'spiritual' generosity as a kind of simple mindedness. But, then again, such paucity of spirit on my part is rooted in safety - a kind of psycho-social risk aversion. Something that took its place in my outlook in early life and has festered there over the years and has resisted all my feeble attempts to overcome its insidious power. I really don't know what I can do other than be wise to its tactics. Today it has resulted in souring the end of an otherwise lovely day. It was a lovely day, wasn't it?


Slight muzzy headache. Went through an afternoon of assessing a pitch for a professional services contract. More style than content. On the bendy back to the boat. Have cleared a backlog of work for Bob. Hope to get through this Easter break without too much stress. Set my aspirations high you know.


And then there's the squeaking. A pulse in time with my stepping around the office. Not just in the office of course, but noticeable there - to me if not to my colleagues...kind of reminds me of the old theme music to the Laurel and Hardy shorts. It comes from my right shoe. From near the heal I think. - stooped slightly as I walked to the office loo this afternoon. Trying to focus on the part of the shoe from where this squeaking issued. No luck so far. The exact source remains illusive. Think I might wear my Loakes tomorrow, instead.


Evening. At least the coming long weekend will bring some light relief from the weekday routine.

I tend to the Morso with this routine now well rehearsed, making sure that the ash in the tray is merely warm - emptying the tray and then giving the thing a good 'raddle'. S likes that word...'Is it a real word'? 'raddle'. 'No idea', says I. 'But it's in the manual.'

Radio 4 murmers in the darkness. A programme about 'Britishness'. As I tap out this missive, I note the glow of the Blackberry illuminating the bulge of my Horlicks-engorged belly.

Enough. Time to turn in and escape into sleep. Shall I walk in to work tomorrow?

Monday, 6 April 2009


Sunday - the 7th anniversary of my discovery of Sally at Tower 42. The sun is shining and we have The Archers keeping us company. Sally is a bit snotty at the moment and a boat has just chugged by us - heading east- maybe going to the next mooring at Victoria Park. We'll be here for a few days (a week maybe). My right arm is still giving me gip. Its very quiet here - considering our mooring spot. The east gate wasn't opened until around ten causing some minor consternation for sunday morning runners and the more ubiquitous cyclists which blight the towpaths in this part of London. I don't share any camaraderie with the bikers here. Bloody menace most of them. Would delight in seeing one career in to the canal...


Finally left Paddington Basin after picking up two pairs of new glasses from Specsavers on the Edgware Road and taking on water. Got to Angel about 2030 in the gathering darkness. No respite from the Islington tunnel at this time of the day. We doubled up with a fellow 'continous cruiser' - a chap in his 50s with a smart newish boat - about the same length as Lysander. Passed a few niceties about doubling up and even got an exchange in about us going to France and 'Narrowdog to Carcassonne'...had a fraught passage through the locks at Camden. Usual hoards of youngsters out in force on such a sunny Spring afternoon. Sally did not enjoy the experience. Got quite stressed. Both.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Thursday January 8th 2009 - Later

I'm not sure what a 'blog' is meant to be for...I feel compelled to add 'for me'. Ah, that ego-centric compulsion to qualify such statements at the alter of the confessional!

So, what follows will - indirectly - exploit this forum and this genre to help find an answer to that question.

Thursday January 8 2009

Yesterday the ice on the cut supported three coots.