Saturday, 27 December 2008

Mass reprisals

More killings of innocents in Gaza. Totally sickening. I was also worried about my friend who, according to her blog entry today, was very close to the attacks.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Hedgerow Hooch

Aahh - back in the lap of luxury in my parent's house! Where doorways don't lower by magic to hit you on the forehead; where ice stays on the outside of windows; where taking a shower doesn't involve the courageous removal of 5 layers of clothing.

I've brought mum'ndad some of my Hedgerow hooch made from elderberries, booze, cloves, mace, muscovado sugar and I can't remember what else - I got carried away that day and er... kept tasting it. I started with a recipe from my Hedgerow Medecine book for Elderbery Syrup, good for coughs and colds. The book says to take it either in neat spoonfuls every so often, or to add boiling water for a warming drink. This is a very boozed-up version and I really like it. Tastes a bit like hot mulled wine but stronger.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Fun boat

I like this boat! The owner welded the tree-stump chimney with the bird on, himself. It's great bumping into nice peeps with a light-hearted approach to their boating cos theres so many stuffy "don't look at my paintwork in case you scratch it" people on the canals.
I, of course, am perfect in every way ;-)

Friday, 19 December 2008

Gaza goings-on

At last, the friend who broke through the Gaza siege this year has started a blog.
It has to be more edited than her e-mail updates for the security of themselves and their Palestinian friends but it's good to be able to keep track of the stuff that never makes the news in the UK and to see photos.
Since the first two boats landed and left, there have been others, enabling students with study places abroad to go back and continue their courses (young people went home to see their family in Gaza in the holidays and weren't allowed to leave), divided families to meet again and vitally, bring medical supplies.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Good King Wenceslas

The canal is frozen and I begin the day with a brave act - getting out of my snug bed. The boat is very draughty with gaps above the back doors and I can see daylight through the side hatch and none of the windows close tight. Of course I've only had another whole year in which to remedy these things but they go straight out of my head with the first ray of spring sunshine!
But the days are so beautiful and sunny at the moment, that the freezing mornings and nights are ok.
Most days, I forage for wood when I go for a walk with my dog (4-legged hot-water bottle. I'm sorry to exploit an animal, but I swear it's mutual ;-)
On days like this, I find myself singing Good King Wenceslas which is a carol I love, partly because of the description of the 'dinted snow' cruel frost and shining moon and partly because of the 'gathering winter fuel' part. I feel like part of something eternal in a landscape of roaring motorway and barbed-wire fencing.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Chainsaw massacre

Tree-cutting by the canals. I think of BW as the lions bringing down the poor beasts with their huge chainsaws, working in a team. Then there are the hyena boaters with smaller chainsaws, moving in to claim the trunk and biggest boughs. Finally there are the vultures (that's me) swooping in with bow-saws for the smaller branches and, if the tree was dead and dry, the twigs for kindling.
I'm always sorry to see any tree cut down but I was really sad to see a boater who had taken it upon himself to clear a whole area of scrub woodland with his own chainsaw. He had cut down all the elders on one space, regardless of thinning the trees or leaving some trunks intact, in his own private slash 'n burn frenzy. None of the trees could have been infringing on the wide towpath as they were set well back. I guess he chose the elders as trees that don't need much drying out to burn or perhaps he genuinely thought they were dead as they look so pale and brittle in winter, but the branches he'd left strewn about the place were springy and clearly healthy.
I was trying to rationalise this, thinking well, isn't this what man has always done to warm himself? But I'm not convinced. Five minutes walk further up, there were loads of huge fallen boughs and I'm always coming across wonderful great piles of wood that I just can't tackle with my puny saw but which a chainsaw could make short work of.
People sometimes suggest I get a chainsaw (to save my back!) and I think they're good for people who otherwise couldn't cope, but I don't want that thoughtless power in my hands. This is going to sound hopelessly hippyish I know but, I like cutting wood at the pace of my arm movements, earning the right to burn it, using up every last piece out of a sort of respect. I like using human energy, not fuel energy. Ok, apart from the hippy stuff, I just know if I had a chainsaw, I'd bury the bugger in my own leg within the week.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Character forming - huh!

Things bain't been easy recently. I was quite happy to be locked in, about a mile from the nearest shop ..... while I was strong and well that is. Then I hurt my back cutting or hauling wood I guess. Couldn't sit for long, couldn't lie on any side comfortably, cut wood, walk far - you get the picture. Feels like disc trouble. Had to hobble along for dog food and bread after a few days. Lighting the fire and tying shoelaces were the hardest.
Things have eased now and the stoppages finished early so I came up through two locks VERY slowly indeed, especially as it's snowed, only to find the boatyard water tap was frozen solid. They weren't very helpful at the boatyard and although I was walking like a constipated elk, they stood back to watch me do the diesel myself. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but just hauling the pipe and getting down to the filler cap was a big task! My fault for not asking for help which I always find hard to do. I wanted a gas bottle too but knew I couldn't handle it myself and would not ask them! See - all my fault! I'm ok for gas till after Christmas though, I reckon.
There was no mooring free near the boatyard to wait for a thaw (the guys cheerfully informed me "oh the sun never reaches these taps, it'll be like that for a few days") so I had to carry on up through another lock. Thank goodness I've got rainwater collecting which has tided me over the last couple of weeks as I'm not up to carrying water yet. God, this is a HUGE moan, isn't it!
I love boating and I wouldn't be surrounded by people or in a marina for all the tea in China, but I admit I'm really really looking forward to going to my Mum & Dad's for Christmas and getting looked after and hugged and fed and given brandy at regular intervals.