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'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.