Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Keeping an eye on things

Ely – Monday, 11 February 2013

I arrived at Lazy Otter at mid day. Skylark was fine, with no signs of suffering from the recent cold. I took onboard some supplies for a couple of days away and another bag of Phurnacite.

I headed downstream. The weather was dull and there was a bitterly cold wind in my face coming from the northeast. I was not surprised to find that I was the only person moving on the river. Ely was understandably quiet with little activity along the quayside – not even a hardy angler. I took up my usual mooring alongside the Maltings restaurant. I didn’t feel much like going into the town given the dull and dank weather so I just went into the nearby Sainsbury’s to top up my provisions.
Ely – Tuesday, 12 February 2013

It was quiet night. I woke up at about 7.00 am to the faint noises of the riverside waking up – a couple of ducks pecking at the weeds along my hull, people chatting as they walk to the railway station, a Council employee emptying the nearby bin and a rowing team taking a boat out for their early morning training session. Lying back in my dark cocoon, it was good to listen to the quiet murmurings of the riverside waking up.
I turned on the radio to find that the Pope resigned yesterday and North Korea has let off an atomic bomb – a slight overreaction, I thought. Unlike most jobs, I guess many of his followers thought being the ‘Pope’ was a job for life.

Horse meat is turning up in burgers, kebabs and lasagnes. After the problems we had last year with the proposed tax on pasties and pies, crisis meetings are now being held in Whitehall to make sure our pasties don't include hooves and horse hair.

Barclays has announced the sad news that its profit is down from £6bn in 2011 to £246m in 2012 so 3,700 members of staff have to be sacked. Fortunately, most of them are working overseas. To help share the pain, the new Chief Executive has agreed to waive his annual bonus. It’s good for leaders to be so thoughtful.
It’s also interesting to note that the new CE was in charge of Barclaycard when it was selling PPI to people who didn’t want it or even knew they were getting it. He said on the News last night that he agrees that everyone has to take responsibility for their wrongdoings but it didn’t stand in the way of him getting promoted to the top job recently. I wonder how he addressed that issue at his interview? 

Of more importance to me, the weather will continue to be cold but will brighten up on Wednesday and Thursday.
That’s enough of a roundup of what’s happening in the world. I got up at 8.00 am and, while I boiled the kettle for my first cup of coffee, I heard the rowers coming back. I guess they didn’t need me to tell them it’s freezing out there! I do admire their commitment though. It takes a certain kind of chap to turn out at 7.00am on a cold winter’s morning to sit in a cut-down plastic tube with a group of hairy-backed, rugby-playing, heavy-breathing lumps of muscle. I think I’d rather be the Cox in the ladies team.

At 10.30 I pushed off down the river to pick up some diesel from the marina on the Little Ouse. Heading into a nasty north wind was not nice but it only lasted a couple of hours. It would have been better if it had only lasted 20 minutes but then I don’t have one of those stream-lined cruisers. Skylark is a not very aerodynamic, is a tad heavy and, while the engine is powerful, the horsepower is more Suffolk Punch than Newmarket racehorse. Oh well, I got there and took my place in a queue of one behind NB Yarwood. After about 20 minutes, I pulled into the small jetty and Natalie and her hubby sold me 200 litres of their finest red diesel. And their price was not half bad (compared to other dealers in the vicinity).
After parting with the best part of 200 squid including a notional amount for duty, I pootled up the river a couple of hundred yards and turned on a wide corner, well, it was just wide enough for Skylark’s 60 ft. Had she been a few feet longer it would have been touch and go especially in the fast current.

Returning up the Ouse, I passed Little(to re)Port, resisting the temptation to pull over at the 48 hr moorings at the Swan on the River pub (nee Black Swan). The wind had died down but it was still cold and, as it was now 3.30 pm, I wanted to get back to Ely in daylight.
On the straight bit of the Ouse (one of many) near the Lark Junction, a team of rowers passed me heading south, all looking very determined and cold. As I neared Ely, they overtook me heading back to their base. They must have been going at least 12 miles an hour to my 6!

Passing the rail bridge at the south end of town, I pulled into the water point and did the necessary stuff. To take my mind off the various glugs and gurgles I thought I should congratulate the Council for pollarding the willows along here – it looks a lot better. They also seem to getting to grips with the over-stayers.
Returning to the riverside, I found a couple of camo-clad anglers were exactly where I would prefer to moor but, being a considerate boater, I slowly cut them up and went further down the quay.

I may pop into a local pub tonight to suss out their open mic evening. Tomorrow, I may pop into Cambridge. That’s enough planning. I’m getting hungry!
Ely again – Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Before I tell you what I did today, I must tell you about the open mic event last evening. I won’t name the pub because they were doing their best to drum up business and I wouldn’t want to discourage people who get up and sing. I know it takes guts to do this so 'good luck' to whoever gives it a go.

When I got there a young duo was singing some self-penned songs with a guitar. In the audience there were some family and friends who obviously thought they were wonderful. The duo treated us to an interesting selection of songs about searching for yourself, discovering someone you don't like much, finding young love, dealing with rejection, turning to drugs, developing clinical depression and experimenting with various forms of suicide. Just the sort of entertainment I needed on a cold winter’s night! All they need now is to match up the tune they are singing with the notes on the guitar and they might find a niche in the alternative music market.

They were followed by a couple of girls who were playing with the same guitar’ (if you know what I mean). They delighted us with a more adult selection of songs about useless men, challenging relationships, lost love, disappointing jobs, working in a circus, etc., etc. One of them has a free album of her songs on the internet. I’m afraid I didn’t have a pen handy to make a note of it.
As I still had a third of a pint left and I didn’t want to leave that, I stood through the next performance of songs from someone whose hobby is rock climbing. His material was more ‘folky’ and naturally focussed on difficult assents, rocky outcrops, hard cliffs and wet gullies. After about five minutes I hoped his next effort would be called, ‘I’m falling off a 400 foot cliff for you’.

As I supped my last mouthful, a new singer came on stage and he introduced his act. As he tuned his guitar, it went something like this, ‘Hi… I’m sorry… but I haven’t played the guitar for a while… my brother took my guitar to Uni… Sorry. Anyway… I’m going to sing my favourite song… by my favourite group… Smeghead (or something like that). I’m sorry if you don’t like it much… but it’s the only one I know… Sorry’. After that build up, I downed my last few mouthfuls. As I left by the side door, I thought I heard the plaintive wails of a persecuted soul - mine!
I woke up this morning at 7.00 to the faint noises of the crews getting ready for their early morning rowing practice. I crawled out of bed as they returned an hour later. They looked perished.

I decided to stay in Ely today as the temperature is still cold and the weather forecast predicts snow and later rain overnight. I plan to return home on Thursday as the rain is expected to clear by mid day. If I have time, I might go into Cambridge to see more of the Scott Polar Exhibition but that’s not important. I know the Polar Institute is under threat but I guess it will survive for a few more weeks or months. It will be a great shame if it closes.
Had lunch and then decided to head home today. There seemed little point hanging around so I up sticks and left. Temperatures and water levels all normal. Nice to see the Barn Owl flying over the river as I got back to LO. Got home about 4.00 pm.

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