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Whispers on water - a photo journal of our life on the 'cut' dedicated to keeping family and friends informed of our whereabouts.
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1. Tucked away.
2. A twilight peace.
3. A welcome find.
4. Ready to stack.
5. A frosty morn'.
6. Crisp underfoot.
7. A frozen path.
With night temperatures beginning to dip below zero, life on the cut becomes all the more cosy and windfall all the more welcome. A few hours spent foraging for wood, then sawing and splitting logs and kindling, is good exercise for mind, body and spirit; keeps me warm too.
Our bird-feeders come into their own now as feathered friends eke out their existence feasting on the nuts and sunflower seeds on offer, bringing the morning chorus ever closer as visiting songbirds herald the beginnings of a new day.
The clear evening skies of recent cold days has left the boat exposed to icing as the night-time temperature takes hold. Underfoot, glossed surfaces, regularly trod, become treacherous to the unwary and the sliding stern hatch freezes to its runners. The fabric cratch cover stiffens over the enclosed bow and zips resist being opened and closed, frustrating fingers hurried by the cold. A candle lamp is lit and hung in the bow, thwarting and gently thawing any ice attempting to take hold of fabric or zip. A simple, but effective trick learnt from my father who used to place a burning, paraffin fuelled, ships navigation lamp in the bathroom of the house I grew up in to stop the pipes freezing.
In the darkness an owl hoots for its mate, receiving a screech in reply. A distant freight train rumbles by, a farmyard dog barks, over the hedgerow a flock of sheep can be heard fleeing the unseen threat of a predator.
The boat is aglow with the warmth of a welcome, woodsmoke slowly breaks free of the chimney, seemingly hanging in the dense cold air, it's aroma nearly as enticing as the dinner now cooking. I refill the coal scuttles and log basket to capacity, and place them to hand, one in the bow, and one in the saloon. With the stove oozing a cheery warmth, time to sprawl with a glass of wine and doze for forty winks. The day is nearly done, becoming a memory, it's sun gone to wake another. Daydreams take hold as I succumb to the comfort of my chair with a smile for a life entwined in contentment. Dopey me!
7th Dec 2014, 20:06
25th Nov 2014, 12:03
1. Airliners, distant, observing too.
2. The chill is noticeable as the sun slips from view.
3. A twilight sky.
4. A welcome haunt.
5. Stove warm light.
6. A gathering of mist.
7. A red ribbon horizon.
8. Beautifully chill.
Dawn was accompanied by a stiff frost that loitered in shadows left unmolested by the sun for the rest of the day. The ever earlier sunset hastened the ground to stiffen underfoot as cold shadows crept from under tree and hedgerow. Gunner, feeling the crisp chill of the grass beneath his feet, whirled in excitement and ran into the thick mist now rising ahead of us. I could just make him out, stood, still, unsure, wondering, then relieved to catch sight of me, he came back at a run, tail wagging furiously as he sought my hand.
We stayed close as the last of the sun slipped below the horizon, his unfettered faith and loyalty unmistakeable, my trust in him the same. Just two good friends wending their way home at the end of a beautiful day.
24th Nov 2014, 20:17
1. A magical twilight.
2. An Autumn hedge.
3. Stumbling blocks.
4. Evening draws in.
5. A dirty sky.
7. Twilight pools of rainfall.
8. Grove Church, c.12th century.
9. Amongst shadows.
The light was fading fast as the late afternoon sky, laden with clouds, grayed ominously, the sun fast sinking behind the trees lining the towpath. I stepped from the boat, Gunner looking up at me as he sat waiting for the treat that signalled the start of his evening walk. He nuzzled my fingers, gently taking the proffered biscuit, mouth soft against my hand, then, with a bound of excitement, he was gone.
I caught up with him at a farm bridge. He sat waiting for me, his tail sweeping the leaves about him as he excitedly brushed the path in anticipation of me allowing him to follow his nose. On uttering the word 'over', he was away again, difficult to make out against the darkening hedgerows as we headed away from the canal on a footpath leading through a stableyard. Stepping beyond the halo of artificial light illuminating a riding compound, we stepped into twilight once again and crossed to a stile that dropped down through a tall hedgerow into a field with sheep dotted all about, moving cloud-like in the failing light. Gunner walked by my side, unperturbed by the floating apparitions and the sound of fleeing hooves drifting away from us as we crossed their green pasture.
Gunner is adept at finding stiles in the most inconspicuous places and I often rely on him to find them when they have all but disappeared. If I take it upon myself to ignore him and wander off in the wrong direction he will sit and wait until I come to my senses and let him take point again. I smile ruefully as I follow his waving tail, upright and insistent that his is the way. Often overgrown and neglected, stiles point in the direction of the next and lead the wary walker across the patchwork quilt of the countryside by long ago line-of-sight established footpaths.
Reaching the next hedgerow, darkness is upon us and the field beyond is a mystery. My torch beam sees us safely over a stile and we make our way into the gloom of a stand of trees opposite.
I suddenly stumble over newly erupted molehills, a stout walking stick saving me from a fall. Beyond the trees we find ourselves on a quiet country Lane. Rounding a bend a farmhouse pours a welcoming light onto the paved rural highway. The telltale sights, sounds and smells of a working farm still last long into the day yet many have had to turn away from their traditional roots. Decoratively painted milk churns give this farms origins away, all such activity now long abandoned.
We drift past, strangers, not wishing to intrude on a scene falsely reminiscent of a bygone age when a welcome at the door was assured. No dog barks, no smoke drifts from a chimney, no kitchen aromas, nothing. A deceit, a charade of what once was. Open curtains hang, long undisturbed, part of the illusion. The light from a wide screen television intrudes on the night, I turn my eyes away, not wanting to blight my night vision.
The way ahead is marked by contrasts, a familiarity with the scrap book of my mind identifying way markers, a postbox here, a sign there. The rising and falling contour of the land moving beneath my feet giving me a confidence born of experience that I know will bring me to a watercourse. Once reached, a canal, river or brook will always guide me home.
An owl spooks Gunner as it passes silently overhead, he barks and the trees either side of the lane rustle with the muted panic of roosting birds. The lane now begins a gentle rise and the familiar outline of a canal bridge comes into view.
Back on the towpath we head in the direction of the boat, probably some two miles distant. The distance deceptively longer what with the tight curvature of the canal as it follows the level contour dug into the farmland.
The sky glitters with stars, the Great Bear pointing my eye to the north star in the constellation of the Little Bear. All is as it should be. Take me home Guns.
24th Nov 2014, 12:21
A rural canal-side churchyard wall and an endearing scene with a subliminal message for us all to heed.
19th Nov 2014, 17:49
John William Ward
Merchant Navy Seaman.
A veteran of both World War One and World War Two, notably the Russian Convoys and the Dunkirk troop evacuation during Operation Dynamo. As a qualified Merchant Seaman Gunner, he served as Bosun aboard T.S.M.V. 'Royal Daffodil' 167210 between 15 May and 5 June 1940. The following extracts are taken from his 'matter-of-fact' work-book written during that period:
Monday 27th May.'Arrived at Dunkirk 4.30 pm. Embarked troops. Bombs dropping all round. Left Dunkirk 5.15 pm. Arrived Dover 12.30 am Tues. Disembarked troops and wounded.'
Thurs 30th May. 'arrived Dunkirk 8 am. Embarked 2000 troops and left 10 am. Arrived Dover 1.30 pm. All hands on deck. Disembarked troops and left again for Dunkirk at 9 pm.'
A hero amongst many.
13th Nov 2014, 11:31
8th Nov 2014, 10:54
6th Nov 2014, 19:57