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Wednesday, April 16th, 2008
1:56 pm - Digest
There is another of those things that I think I should write about here even though I don't write here any more, and it's a good one this time. In fact, there are two of them:

Tom and I are engaged. He asked me (being the more cautious, it was his prerogative to decide when to jump in) to marry him on 25th March, which was his thirtieth birthday. He'd chosen a beautiful ring; mangosteen has taken some splendid photographs of it, which are here and here. Mike conjured impromptu champagne as soon as I'd accepted; Liz gave us a betrothal gift of a KitKat; my nan had to have a little cry and a small sherry; Mike and Rick lent their house for a party; Matt donated a great deal of booze; everyone gave us cards, of which Susan's was hand-made, and congratulations, and more fizz of all kinds; colleagues did uncharacteristic things like hugging me and signing SMS messages with kisses; Zoë came dress-hunting with me at the very earliest opportunity; Jonathan gave us some very welcome John Lewis vouchers; Hilary gave me a book about wedding planning and, very perceptively, a box to keep the ring in so I don't lose it when I take it off to do the washing-up; everyone is wonderful, especially my impending spouse. It's a bit strange following my last post with this one; I miss being able to tell Oggie about everything, and it makes me think what a different world this is from the one I was in a year and a bit ago, yet—or it might be an "and"—it doesn't stop it from being wonderful.

And on Monday I received a letter confirming that I have a studentship in the Bahn Laboratory at the Institute of Biotechnology, and I'll be leaving my current job at the Careers Service to start there in July. It's a summer research studentship, except that I'll be there for longer than the Long Vac. That's good too.

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Monday, April 2nd, 2007
1:41 am - Things I thought would happen
I thought Oggie would be proud of me when, eventually, I told him of our engagement (we're not engaged; but I thought there would be a time when we were, and I'd tell Oggie and he'd be proud). I thought he would kiss me on the cheek on my wedding day, and then make rude comments about the arrangements. I thought he would listen to me complain through my pregnancies, and tolerate, ungraciously, far more biological detail than he wanted to know. I thought he'd babysit sometimes, and afterwards, to wind me up, ask whether it was all right for the baby to eat duct tape. I thought that, when they grew older, he would teach my children unsuitable and dangerous things. I thought he'd indulge my training them to tease him. I thought he would be there for supper often; even, if we were lucky and he weren't too busy, mostly. I thought we'd all grow old together. I thought that, finally, he would predecease me; but I'd be a grand old woman by then, in my seventies, all the brilliant boys having gone before me. I expected that, and thought I'd expect it even more by the time it came, but it was too sad to keep in mind for long.

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Monday, March 5th, 2007
6:31 pm - Oggie
My best friend Oggie died on Sunday 11 February. He was amazing. I don't think I will ever know anyone I can be more sure of. I was going to write more, and less stupidly, but I don't know what to put. I loved him more than the whole world.

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Wednesday, February 7th, 2007
5:03 pm - Cold
It is absolutely frigid ear-shrinking toe-stunning lip-flaking cheek-slapping walk-on-the-sides-of-your-feet two-hats cold.

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Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006
1:00 pm - Nounnat
Nounnat (a French name, with a silent "t") is a charming, likeable, fit and very willing Camargue pony with boundless energy; after a long canter yesterday, following a bigger horse in driving rain, she didn't seem the least bit tired and was still trying to push forward. She has the looks to go with it all, too, and it's a great pleasure to ride her. Others have found her excitable to the point of taking a dislike to her, and it's true that she can get herself marvellously wound up at times, but it isn't such a problem; she calms down if you don't let her wind you up as well. She was ridden all the way here from the Camargue as part of a charity ride for the Riding for the Disabled Association (Nounnat is the pony behind in the picture), and was originally donated to their centre in Norfolk, but she has too much go for that kind of work at the moment.

Anyway, I had a contented sort of evening yesterday, coming back from a very wet ride to a lovely hot shower, the rest of yesterday's lamb hotpot, tea, buttered toast, and a few hours curled up on the sofa with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. The rain and wind over the last few days had cooled things down enough to have lots of candlelight; much more pleasant than electric.

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Monday, July 3rd, 2006
12:35 am - splosh, sizzle, oink
My second river swim in less than a week this evening, as the water intake for Roe's engine cooling system got blocked at the point where the pipe goes through the hull side, more than a foot below the waterline where I could only locate and unblock it from in the water. It looked like bits of waterlily; what with that and the swans the other week, I'm beginning to wonder whether this "pastoral" lark isn't just a big con. Anyway, happily, we were a long way outside Cambridge so with any luck I won't get Weil's, and even more happily, it wasn't (eg) February. It wasn't nearly as pleasant as the afternoon I spent in and by the lovely warm Lot a few days ago, though!

To restore my strength, I ate barbecued sausages and drank tea. Then I followed mouse262's example in drawing a pig, with which I am foolishly pleased.

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Saturday, June 10th, 2006
5:28 pm - Fowl play
When I opened one of the hatches late the other evening, a couple of bolshy swans glid over to investigate. The river was empty except for me and them, and a few drakes splashing around by the boat next door.

"Urnh. Hng-hrnh," Swan A taunted, and tried to peck my fingers.
"Hrngh hngh!" goaded Swan B.

I eyeballed them, saying nothing.

"E-henh-henh-henh," sniggered Swan A, clearly the ringleader.
"Henh-henh," offered Swan B, sycophantically.

"Hnnh. E-hngh. Henh-henh-henh," remarked A, with audible contempt.
"E-Henh. Hrngh," grunted B, derisively.

"You are the Beavis and Butthead of the swan world," I told them.

They looked at each other, wishing they could roll their eyes, then swanned off sullenly, before I said anything else embarrassing.

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Wednesday, April 19th, 2006
6:18 pm - Warm-up
After such a long winter it's a relief to find the weather finally getting warmer. There is time in the evening to get things done, and the world seems to open out a bit so that I can make plans. One downside of this milder month, though, is that now I can open the hatches and see the inside of the boat by daylight, the dust that had collected invisibly by candlelight since the beginning of Michaelmas is plain to see.

Cycling to Haggis Farm for a riding lesson yesterday I saw a cock pheasant perched on a log on Sheep's Green, and the pair of magpies that I noticed last summer on the farm drive have survived the winter; I usually see at least one of them on my way there. It is warm and light enough to ride outside again, although the horses are excited by the change, and a little bit fizzy in the breezy weather, and need a bit of bringing in hand. They are generally willing and good-natured and don't need an experienced rider—in fact, I bet most riders would barely even notice the fizz—but I'm glad I'm not just starting at this time of year. Gentle hacks around the farm are a real pleasure, and yesterday I noticed swallows around the stables as we came back. It's proving to be a good substitute for cycling in this flat part of the country, as I hoped it would.

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Friday, April 7th, 2006
2:13 pm - Instant gratification
I thought I'd write a bit about gardening, which I've continued to do since I started around the time I started this journal, on and off. Living on a boat curtails the possibilities somewhat, but with a few containers, a bit of space on the roof and forward of the cratch, and a large supply of water necessarily to hand, there is still much that can be done with very little effort or competence.

Last year I had a window-box full of pale yellow primroses and tete-a-tete, and then, later in the year, several containers of lobelia, zaluzianskya, marigolds and heliotrope that my expert gardener friend Andrew had grown on for me. The brilliant Susan gave me a window-box of herbs as a boat-warming present—this rivalled in marvellousness even the boat-warming presents of coal that several others gave us—and although, because I am stupid, I forgot to bring it in before the weather got cold and the tender things died, the woody things like thyme are coming back already, and I have high hopes that enough lemongrass will have survived under the soil for that to come back too; I'll just have to replace the basil.

My laziness in not tidying up anything that had died back has paid me handsomely this year; the primroses and tete-a-tete have come back nicely, without the need for any more work than removing the dead leaves from last season. One splosh of flowers doesn't really do such a big boat justice, though, so I've just been to the market where the above-lauded Andrew helped me to pick out the most vigorous-looking primulas, candelabra primulas and pansies for a gaudy show—tart's knickers, as Squeezeweasel would put it—and bought me some cowslips for good measure. These should be enough to fill most, or even all, of my derelict containers, and all for about the cost of your average round: instant gardening! The cowslips are particularly pleasing, as not a week ago I was several hours' train ride away from home, lamenting the fact that the lovely ones I'd spotted at a Cotswolds grocer's would certainly be disadvantaged by the journey back to Cambridge.

Plenty to keep the containers going for a while, all in all, and for the summer Andrew is growing on some red geraniums for me, which I reckon will set off Roe's old-school British Waterways blue and yellow nicely; some people apparently think red geraniums common, but never mind about that. I had also been considering some containers full of salad leaves, some of which are quite decorative; but then, perhaps I ought to be wary of anything that might attract the were-rabbit in our direction.

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Friday, March 3rd, 2006
11:55 pm - Pleased
I am pleased with everything today. Things I am pleased with include:

how pretty Midsummer Common was when I cycled across it this morning, with hoar frost clinging to everything
the box of spotty paper tissues on my desk, with its pretty (and seasonably Welsh) picture of daffodils
the nice shiny weather and the produce stalls when I went to Market Square to buy my lunch
peppered smoked mackerel
the smell of yeast
English Breakfast Tea
a convenient opportunity to restore my record of my Open University tutor group's contact details, which I had lost
my Clare scarf
my intelligent colleagues
the engaging content of the hand-outs from the useful course I'm attending at work
Mark and Francis
The facility of listing things

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Monday, January 30th, 2006
10:23 am - Leafless
Last night I dreamed that all the leaves fell off my Benjamin Fig plant, which saddened me. It was my fault, because I'd over-watered him. This morning when I reached my desk I saw that he is, in real life, unharmed and as leafy as ever, which cheered me up even though I'd forgotten about the dream until the sight of him reminded me.

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Sunday, September 18th, 2005
12:03 am - Autumnish bits and pieces
It's stopped being summer very suddenly. I quite like this time of year. I feel ready for a bit of cold and dark now, after the summer, although I think I might tend to be more down, stress-prone, and liable to be obsessive when I see less daylight, so I'm thinking about getting one of those UV lamps and sticking it in my dark basement office. And we'll need to sweep the chimney and light the stove soon; this afternoon I bought some of the Really Easy Firelighters for Lazy People from Mackays in preparation.

I collected a bowlful of shiny conkers from the edge of Jesus Green today, and have put them in a bowl on Roe. I want to get some glowy autumn leaves to take home, but everything's all soggy at the moment.

I've started another OU couse; this one is the Level 1 general-science-from-pre-GCSE course that's supposed to go before the course I started with last year, but I have to do it in order to get just about any OU BSc I might eventually be interested in doing, and having forgotten all my GCSEs it's the gentlest route towards knowing any physics and chemistry again. It doesn't really start until October 1st, but the first lot of stuff has just arrived, looking all pristine and glossy and fine, and turns out to begin with step-by-step explanations of what a decimal point is and how to use a calculator, which is handy for reassuring my boyfiend that I'm not silly to have signed up for it and will still have enough energy to cope with any and all kittens that we might hypothetically acquire.

The other thing that starts on October 1st is Michaelmas Term, so I will have to summon some extra patience for cycling with. But I quite like the feeling of town when it's full of all the new students.

I'm having another bout of screwing small things into the bulkheads. Today it was cuphooks. Tomorrow it will be fire and carbon monoxide alarms.

I have run out of tea and awakeness, so that is all.

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Monday, August 8th, 2005
3:38 pm - Boat Open Day
Yesterday was Boat Open Day on the Cam. We thought we ought to open Roe up, to be community-spirited and all, so we did. It was hard work—we were up at half past seven and by the time we'd returned to our mooring and locked up it was quarter past eight in the evening, without a break other than a brief escape for breakfast around three—but enjoyable all the same. It can, after all, only be gratifying to know that there are so many people in Cambridge who'd like to look at, and enthusiastically compliment you on, your living quarters that they'll keep you on your feet for five hours; we weren't counting, but we must have shown around between fifty and a hundred visitors, given the size of the groups coming in and the number of tours we did. When we came back from breakfast we even found a polite little queue of two sitting on the bank and gazing with patient intent at the sign saying when we'd be re-opening.

It was quite a do, although I'm told not nearly as many boats participated as last year. Everyone even had balloons and bunting, which we both agreed are guaranteed to turn any event into a party. Roe had multi-coloured diversity bunting, and red, white and blue Britain-Will-Not-Be-Cowed bunting, so she was quite Zeitgeist-y.

I took a picture of Roe, bedecked in her One Nation finery, on an instant camera that I've now used up. If it turns out OK I'll put it somewhere and link to it from a journal entry.

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Thursday, August 4th, 2005
7:41 pm - New job
People usually write about things like new jobs in their livejournals, so I expect that I ought to mention mine. I started working as a grade 3 computer officer at Cambridge University Careers Service last month. It's much more interesting than my previous job, my colleagues are friendly, my boss is sane and affable, I have more responsibility and an office of my own, and it's better paid. I'm very glad not to have to do admin and data entry any more.

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Saturday, June 25th, 2005
7:34 pm - I feel dirty
Not that I play it—well, I played a game earlier today, but that was just out of curiosity, just to see what all the fuss was about, you understand?—but I've made a Sudoku checker. In Excel.

I'm sorry.

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Tuesday, June 7th, 2005
2:28 pm - Competence
I met one of our neighbours from the Dutch barge moored astern of us recently. I had to go round to apologise for the fact that we were probably going to have to run the generator until some ungodly hour as we (or rather, Tom and a friend) thought they'd spilt battery acid into the bilges. This would be a Bad Thing as it would eat through the boat's steel base plate quite quickly leaving A Hole between The Inside Of The Boat and The River, which seasoned gnarly old watermen have traditionally viewed as Not Quite What One Would Prefer, Given The Choice. So we would have needed to run a drill pump to rinse and drain the bilges several times before being able to sleep easy in our bed in the reasonably certain knowledge that we would wake up dry. Fortunately it transpired that Tom and friend were mistaken, but not before I'd been to the co-op to buy enough sodium bicarbonate to cut coke for the entire cast of Eastenders. We deduced that there was no leaked acid from the fact that when we chucked the bicarb in, it didn't go fizz. We all agreed that if you chucked a bunch of sodium bicarbonate into battery acid, you would probably hear it go fizz. So now our neighbour thinks we're total morons (she's right), although she did tell me, when I asked whether they might be able to help us out with electricity to power the drill pump, that unfortunately she couldn't as her partner was away and she didn't know how to start the engine, for which I like her a lot. I am strongly in favour of other boat people who admit to not knowing basic things about their boats, as it makes me feel much better about not understanding what a Watt is or why steel corrodes[1]. And the cashier from the co-op thinks I'm a dealer. Hey ho.

[1] Please don't comment explaining this. I can ask Google. But my brain is averse to retaining this kind of information.

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Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005
6:35 pm - Miscellaneous observations
Being woken by rowers passing a couple of yards to one side of the bed is neat.

A solid fuel stove produces a lot of heat.

A steel boat on a river in February absorbs a lot of heat before it's
comfortable for those aboard to walk around in stockinged feet.

Coal is heavy.

When I lived in a house, I used way too much water and electricity. In particular, if you have to carry the sewage to the disposal point and pour it out yourself every time the loo container fills up, you make absolutely sure you don't use any more flush water than you need.

Things often look more attractive when seen through a small gap like a porthole or a hatch.

It is odd, but cool, to look out of your living room window and observe that the water outside the window is a couple of feet higher than yours.

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Monday, February 21st, 2005
2:36 pm - Why I must never drive
I am typing this one-handed because I can't turn my wrist.

I hurt it when I dived in front of that juggernaut to rescue that tow-haired tot from certain death.

It was when I wrested that kindly old lady's purse back from those two burly muggers.

I cycled into a lamppost.

It wasn't a particularly ill-placed lamppost, there was nothing coming the other way or behind me or ahead of me, and the pavement (this was on Elizabeth Way bridge) wasn't slippery; I just suddenly realised there was a lamppost about 4 ft in front of me and thought, "Oh shit, there's nothing I can do to avoid hitting that," so I did. Then I thought, "That must have looked HILARIOUS to anyone watching. Bastards." Then I thought, "I'm not even going to take my glove off for a while, because I'm pretty sure it's full of blood and that will only distract me, and I still have to get diesel, which is actually a good thing seeing as how if I already had the diesel one of those jerry cans that just described a graceful arc from my bike basket to the pavement a couple of metres away would have split and there would be diesel everywhere." (I was thinking in narrative, you understand.) And after a bit I took it off and there wasn't any blood and I thought I'd got away with it, until I woke up this morning and my wrist was jammed.


Especially ones that are in cycle paths and you could cycle into them if you were concentrating on worrying instead of on where you were going and it was dusk and the lamppost was grey, and they are all grey.

Bastard fscking lamppost.

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Wednesday, December 15th, 2004
10:05 pm - I won!
I mean, um, I passed. I got a Pass Grade 2 (of four). I'm slightly astonished. Astonished, but happy.

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Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004
10:27 pm - They don't / They don't speak for us
Proud of Britain?

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