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.

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.


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.


It is absolutely frigid ear-shrinking toe-stunning lip-flaking cheek-slapping walk-on-the-sides-of-your-feet two-hats cold.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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