Friday, 12 July 2013

RIBS! £5, large size


I woke up this morning with an idea that is not mine.
I can't really develop. That'd be immoral and I always shout down plagiarism.
In a Rabelaisian way.

I feel like that for a while. Then it passes.
Remember, remember all these weeks. About seven.

I think I have let myself down for a bit.
Not that I have chosen to do so. Not that I have willingly entered the world of the bizarre and the unknown. Not that I am that much bothered about my own peace. Not that. No.
I have dreamed my days more than I have seized them. I have hoped for a recovery.
And now, well, I am.
Apart from the occasional sneezing, the recalcitrant sock and the casual free-for-all on the tube, I am fine.
All these weeks, I tried to embrace the routine and the ordinary but felt invited in the world of a dispiritingly funny invalid rib-less character and somehow, perceived the environment very much like a Lam painting.

I have shadowed myself in the path of my habits.
I was not wearing clothes, I was just giving them a shape. I was not eating, I was entered by food. Cigarettes were smoking me. People were drinking, I was feeling drunk.

But I have perceived the environment differently. I touched something that was there but unknown until then. 
The stress of the crowd.
The brouhaha spoke to me. 
The other.
I is an other.
Sorry I meant marvelous.

What I am trying to say here, is clear to me but not necessarily to the rest. Like when you try to speak on the phone in the hall of a train station.
Too much hubbub.
It ain't easy to convey.
I mean, Indiana Jones, Jesse James or Arsène Lupin, they did not have to tell their story themselves, did they?
And yet.To me,
It has been an adventure.
I could have done without but I have done well. I think.
But I missed out a lot.
For example I have not been able to do much physical stuff, really. Like lifting things.
Six weeks without lifting things.
I mean, heavy things.
Like on a Saturday afternoon or on a Monday evening in those sweaty gym centers for anonymous alcoholics.
Barbells and weights.
Don't they call it dumbbells too?
Lifting dumbbells and dumb things used to be the fast track for work opportunities.
Like becoming governor of California.

But I digress here.

Breakfast and morning stretching.

The other day it was epic.
Croissant, Nutella, champagne and sunbathing.

Today, with the relics of broken ribs, on the boat, it is as normal as can be.
Coffee and italian biscuits.
Guava juice.
And one attempted sit-up.
With broken ribs exercise is not a priority, on a boat or anywhere else.

In these open letters, reluctantly ego-centered diatribes against my infuriating condition, I have been more successful with describing the italian little pleasures (the biscuits) than showing how I have walked out on yoga or any other form of modern organic physical bullshit.
I could not possibly describe it so today, I'd rather submit a drawing to highlight my position on the matter and enhance my point.
Proportions are somehow, almost accurate.

With time, pain becomes a friend. Like a cigarette becomes the girlfriend for those who don't have one.
But pain really, is more like one of those friends that are consistently annoying since childhood. Coming to your house to watch Tom Sawyer and eating all the Miel Pops, stealing girlfriends and smoking most of the difficultly acquired pack of rancid yellow Camel... but you can't do without them because they're from the same village.

I have been on a holiday with them once or twice.
Being on a holiday with them usually tends to be a bit like that...

None left to spare


Digression seems to be spying on me. 


This chapter needs concluding.
A page needs turning.
A night cap needs drinking.
Like a little drink for the road and off you go onto the 38 bus towards Mare Street...
Bloody 38 bus. I miss the bendy ones.
My friend from Bilbao used to call it the 'social bus'.
The only alternative to save on the outrageous £2.40 fare (without oyster).
The new ones are not fitted with windows that can be opened.
I know I should not really mind. But since it is summer this week and next, here in London, it'd be nice to open a pair of windows.
30°C is a bit much on a simili wool seat.
And yet someone next to me feels that chips with vinegar is needed for the ride.

Better to jump on the bus than taking the car, after a drink or two though.
Drinking and driving is not good.
Unless you drive a narrow-boat. Apparently.

About that, there are different stories.
What is right and what is in the middle and what is wrong.

While driving a boat, some tends to say that the allowable percentage of alcohol in the blood is higher than the one allowed for driving cars while intoxicated.
Others seem to milk the idea that boaters on boat below a certain size are permitted to drink alcohol, as long as it is not in excess.

How about that!

Let's note the occurrence "a certain size" here.
It seems that the old adage about size is wrong and that size does matter. I believe so. Size does matter. It's whether it is big or small that does not matter, innit?
As long as it is certain.

I would also like to focus a second on "as long as it is not in excess".
In my experience, it should read "as long as it is not in excess, especially if the driver is an orange corny fairy".
I have to say, on a personal note, that the tacky pixie who drove her boat right into mine yesterday, attempting a manoeuvre against the wind, something only a drunkard fool, or Dick Dastardly and Muttley maybe, could have thought of as doable, is a right bitch and I am sorry if I am offending anyone here but finding most of my crockery and flowers splattered all over the floor has driven me into the last corner of a possible outpost of patience. And the fraudulent goblin, deceitful narrow-boat driver and dipsomaniac in her spare time, did not stop the killing game there and has had my red lilies falling off the roof onto my neighboor's boat, resulting in one of them being beheaded.
It is difficult to think of anything more likely to arouse my ire and drive me to intimately search my home for weapons.

I did not see it but J'accuse!

Even with cracked ribs, I have managed to maintain a home where all is order and beauty, luxury, peace and pleasure*.
Even with no cracked rib to begin with, in my suspended garden, I managed to fall elegantly and sacrificed the thorax rather than the red lilies.

People. The crowd. They break things, they start a fire on you and they walk away while everything is burning.
Me, I don't break.
Things, I mean, since I had to come to the conclusion that I am somehow breakable.
Maybe I broke one thing.
But it was not mine. **
Same old story. 

And then


I guess I feel a bit fagged out... sharpish, resonant and strident. A bit like the TING TING of the cyclists on the towpath.
About that, while I am at it, I read this passage in Ian Sinclair's book, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: 

Cyclist should slow down, ring with Two Tings and let other users 
through the bridge before continuing. Never pass a pedestrian or 
another cyclist underneath a bridge. The waterways and towpath have
many historic structures and important wildlife habitats. The Regent's Canal 
has been designated a Site of Metropolitan Importance
(Sinclair, p.20,  2009)

Dismounting is the key word. 

The other day, with this extract in my head, I cycled from King's Cross to Hackney Central, spry and alert.
I have been on my bike three times only, since the rib situation. 
I followed the canal towards Islington Tunnel, went up and found my way through a mazy Caledonian Road estate. I got onto Tolpuddle Street and turned right onto Liverpool Road. Toward the Angel.
I saw the Angel. 
It was a big grey and aggressive combination of breeze blocks, cars and stuck up traffic lights. I saw myself cycling onto Upper Street for a very short distance, before diverting onto the pavement, ready to dismount.
The weather, the freedom of cycling again, the beauty of not being late for my meeting, made me do the mistake, which proved to be fatal. 
As I unstraddled my right leg, I caught myself enjoying the image of me, elegant and angelic, gliding on one leg, almost heroically. 
Not so much to the liking of the pair of police community support officers who stopped me unprecedentedly. 

-Come here my friend!
-Pardon me?..
-I said stop and come here my friend! 
-Well, I am not a friend... surely not yours.. I am a.. euh.. a citizen!..
- Right! This is how you want it to be? How about Sir? You like Sir? 
-Yes, I think that's a good start. Then I can call you Officer..
-Sir, you have been stopped because you were cycling on the pavement. This is an offence to the...
-I know, I am bad. Euh, you are going to fine me, so can we get to it, please? I need to be somewhere...
-So you don't contest? 
-You have been caught infringing the law so I have to ask you if you have a comment to make about the offence? 
-Yes, I know I am an offender.. Can you fine me please, I kind of have to go..
-So you are not contesting?
-Do you find it that surprising?
-Well...No! Can I have your I.D please? 
(looking for the pieces of my driving licence)
-There you go..
-... Which one is your last name? 
-That one.. No, Don't write 'NOM', that means 'name' in my language.
-Ok, ok... Do you have an address in the UK? I can only see an address in France. 
-Yes, I know, this is when it gets a bit funny you see. I don't have an address, I live on a boat. 
-Ok. So what is your PO box then? 
-... no, I don't have one either, I live on a boat, without a fixed address. 
-I see. I am going to have to run a check on you. 
-How much is the fine anyway?
-OK, look, I have a tenner here and there is a cashmachine right there. I leave my bike to you, as an hostage, and I go and get you the money so we're done.
-This is not going to be possible I am afraid.
-Because Police officers cannot take money from people in the street.
-... isn't it what you are doing right now?  
-Ah.. so how do we do this? Can you not just make an exception, I give you the money and you sort it out later, find a vacant address, something... I don't know.
-I am afraid this is not going to be possible. 
(a name check later)
You don't seem to have an address in this country. Do you live in this country permanently? 
-Yes, I do. On a boat (I almost wanted to add "with a cracked rib" but that might have been lost in translation).
-I need some kind of address to fine you, if not I will have to take you to the police station.
-Look... look at these, my house keys. See the key ring? It is two cheap prosecco corks. Do you know why?
-So that if my keys fall in the water, they float. 
-Do you think I would have such a key ring if I was not living on a boat?
-People sometimes tell us they don't have an address. 
-Look, what if you stick with the French address and you trust me and I'll send the money soon. Or get Interpol on the case, I don't know...
-You will have to pay the money because if not, next time you leave the country and try to come back, your name will flag up and you may be arrested. 
-Right. I already have problems with my passport. They don't like the picture they say.
-I don't know about that.
-Don't worry, that's a story in itself. So, shall we do that?
-I don't think I have a choice here.
-We always have a choice, officer..
-Ok, here is what I will do. I will issue you the fine and you have now 28 days to pay it. Failing to pay it and you could be prosecuted. It is a serious offence. 
-The cycling on the pavement bit or not paying the fine?
-Both! I need now to fill in your details on this.
(He starts writing; my name is quite long to write. Five minutes later). There you go.
-Thanks. So can I go now? 
-You are free to go Sir.
-Thank you. So, on my bike and off I go?
-... No, push your bike a little further, my colleagues are over there, you don't want another ticket. 
-... Right, thanks for everything, you've been great. Bye

Unbelievable. £30 pounds!
But a priceless conversation. 

Later in the afternoon, I thought, back on the boat, that I should be a little more cautious.
A little less cynical about people and about boat drivers and cyclists in general. I am not better than them in certain situations.
Charity begins at home.
I should not boo the cyclists on the towpath too much. I should not boo the troll trying to stir a boat.
Maybe these seven weeks have taught me that there is more to learn about myself than I thought I could possibly see.
But there is only so much a man can do.
And even less with cracked ribs. 
This might be now the beginning of a new era.
I am getting over what happened with not so much psychic tolls of ordeals and an awful lot of questions. 

On a boat with the relics of a cracked rib, with the summer which has finally arrived, I feel I could spend an afternoon climbing onto the roof again, trying to figure out answers to my questions; hoping that they won't make the questions disappear as Sixto would say.
And sunbathe.
Taking a bit of height and a bit of sun, the breeze and the empty space below, that opens onto the glistening water, mostly due to oil and diesel leaks.
Giving me the impression that I can now climb mountains again and not be afraid of falling,
and not be afraid of...
That, however, is still on my mind...
And there we are, left at a cliffhanger. 

I shall leave with this one


* Thank you, Charles B.

** a beautiful vintage oil lamp has inopportunely met the trajectory of my arm while searching my neighbour's boat for a lighter or a sander machine. 
If anyone had a glass part to lend me, similar to this one below, I could replace the thing and my neighbour would be, as ever and again, a happy man. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Thursday's Child while Promise had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on me ****


But I have to work today. How rude.
I am waking up to the smell of coffee.
I am dreaming of fresh baguette and mummy’s fig jam.
Squeezed Spanish orange juice.
Enough time to eat it. 
Maybe take a shower. 
It’s not happening. I think it's Friday. 
I am in England and on the boat.
It is raining. 

I can hear the swans pecking the long hairy canal weed growing on the hull.
I know it is food for them. But it does not appeal to them that maybe they could find better?
The amount of take-away boxes and litter in the canal is very much part of the wild life.
They should find some left overs. But I guess they don't digest plastic. 
I wonder sometimes if these animals have taste though.
So elegant and yet so unrefined. 
Faithful but unpredictable. 
They have an impeccable composure above the water line and yet they have to paddle hard. 
Their life is a bit like having the arse stuck between two stools, stuck in a quandary on the horns of a dilemna. 
I don't want to be like them. 
So I feed them with some Kellog's Fruit & Fibre. They like it. Better than the canal weed. 
A guy told me off the other day for feeding them. He said they are wheat intolerant. 
Isn't it one of the oldest job in the universe? Feeding swans with dry bread? 
Even children do it. 
If children do it then that must be fine.
I wondered if that guy was real. 

One of them has a Tesco bag around his webbed foot. 
 I am not surprised.
Tesco bags are probably the most common aquatic flower in London. It is a perennial white and blue flower. 
It's got a Latin name. 
Tescolea Plastica. 
In other mooring places in London, it is possible to find the Sainsburo Aurentiaco, a vivid orange shade.
In posher places, Little Venice or Angel, admirers of the Marksum and Spenceralinis can be contented. 
A rich dark organic green colour. 
But these ones are the rarest. And the reason is because they are being consistently picked up. 
People picking up, usually on Saturday morning, the Marksum and Spenceralinis.
These people seem really on it. They never pick up any other plastic flowers... only that one. 
It looks as though they are taking them so that no one sees them around and only see Tescoleas and Sainsburos. 

No? Really...?

Even my cynicism does not allow me to think that. 

And it is time for breakfast.

Italian biscuits will do. As ever.  
They make me happy but sometimes I’d like to throw a party for my breakfast. People do that for their birthday, why can’t I do that for my breakfast?
I think about what it would be like to have lots of friends turning up for my breakfast. Bringing me things, like doritos and dips, listening to music rather than BBC4… not worrying about tomorrow, drinking coffee like it was a rhum and guava cocktail.
Meeting strangers.
When was the last time I met someone new at breakfast?

I am getting dressed. I put on a nice bespoke shirt that has been especially tailored but not for me and yet it fits me perfectly. My neighbour gave it to me *.
I still grimace when I get dressed but I start to believe that I do it more by automatism than by response to an acute pain.
It is patience that I am lacking now. I have used roughly two years’ worth of patience in the last four weeks.
I haven‘t got much left.
But I am getting better.  
So, what's next?
My ribs are reforming, that's a fact.
But will they be the way they used to be?

I have heard a few things about what happens after an accident. Sometimes things aren’t the same after, especially for bones.

The thing is I want my ribs back the way they used to be. Not stronger or weaker. Just the same. If not my rib cage would be like when a band gets together again after not having played for twenty years.
Usually they turn out to be the best tribute band of their own songs.

I have no sympathy for these devils.

And tribute bands always remind me of that Beatles tribute band I once saw in Dundee. And the Beatles remind of a friend of mine who has fucked up seriously with most of our friends.
And my friends remind me of home and home is here and home is there and I feel alienated. And being alienated is very much like living in London. This reminds me that England has never been on my list of places I would love to live in, but there I am. 

Here, some call me 'expatriated' because I am from Western Europe. I know that it is only a word.
'Expatriated' is a word that is used if someone is an immigrant coming originally from a country that is considered superior or on an equal footing with the country of adoption. 

In my case, what makes a difference is probably the use of the language. Had I not learnt English in the first place, I may not have stayed here for six years. The choice was mine to make. Only time got on the way.

Maybe the hint that got me to learn English in the first place is the music I never understood.
I always enjoyed the melody first. The words came last.
The less I heard the words, the better the harmony was. It was an advantage to be half a beginner, reading little English, speaking it even less and hardly understanding most parts of the songs.
Such was my pleasure as De Quincey would say.
There are songs I have been listening to, for twenty odd years, and only got to understand what they are saying a few months ago. 


So I go back to think about the Beatles. And the Beatles remind me of that tribute band from Dundee. 
And Dundee, Scotland, reminds me of my first car, a red Peugeot 309 diesel. And this car, really… reminds me that I lived in it for a while. 
And that reminds me that it is probably when I learnt how to live on a boat.

 The Ho(me)ly Corridor

All boats are different. 
But the lowest common denominator is the confinement, impediment, thinness, in short the narrowness. 
It's like living in a corridor. 
I never thought I would do that. I never tried before to fit in a corridor with all mod-cons. 
But I have listened to The Jam in a corridor before so...
It all makes sense here

Before moving on Thursday's Child, I lived on a small boat called the Promise. She had what it needs to make life difficult. 
There was quite a significant gap between the frame and the door. If I had had an address, the postman would have slipped the letters through it thinking it was the mailbox. 
There was rust in the water tank. When the water was running low, I would know it after a shower. I was covered in orange rust which gave me a Southend look. OMG.
The stove could fit a log the size of a match. It was so cold in the morning I had to get dressed in the evening and jump under four blankets to sleep.
The top blanket would always freeze overnight. 
There was a fridge that did not work. I then realised she was the fridge. 

Once I broke down crossing Islington tunnel, right in the middle. 
It was a dark night, maybe in June.
The old diesel engine, a BMC 1.5 which used to power a black cab, had started to play on me a couple of weeks before.
I remembered calling my neighbour, told him I was about to cross the tunnel.
Told him that if I was not out within thirty minutes he should do something.
Like panicking or something like that.

I broke down.

Alone in the dark.

As a habit I don't panic in an emergency. I stay smart. Quiet.
I panic afterwards.
Afterward panic is a bit like having an argument with someone but thinking of the most vivacious and spiritual retort five minutes too late**.
It's galling.

It took me twenty-five minutes to get out, using a barge pole and the walls.
Back in the days that's the way they were doing it. They're cute ,aren't they?

It was so dark inside I could not even see my hands.
Then a bat decided to get tangled in my hair.
And I made it.
I finally got out.
And saw the neighbour with a cup of cider in his hand.

- What the...? Didn't I ask you to panic in case I don't come out?

- Yeah, but, you've only been twenty-five minutes...
   And you said thirty minutes before panic.

- ...


I heard The Promise is being considered for compression.
A woman, who lived on that boat last, found under the sink a mushroom the size of a pillow.
I heard people calling this boat the Broken Promise.
I almost celebrated a wedding on her, once.
She is a legendary boat.

Courtesy of D. Summers, Feb 1950

And then 

I guess I feel a bit out of breath today. A bit like a sentence without punctuation.
And not much can help me recompose myself. I still have to get to places and I will need my ribs fully back soon.

Being on a boat that is pretty much like a corridor, with cracked ribs, is a challenge.

But being on a promise with cracked ribs, boy, that'd be a whole different ball game.

Luckily I am going through my invalidity experience on Thursday's Child, which, while I am here, has not been named after Bowie's song but after a nursery rhyme ***.
Being on a boat with, still, cracked ribs, I can spend my afternoon wondering how far I have to go. 

Beautiful Eartha Kitt.
I leave with this one


I said it before; my neighbour is a good man. And he likes featuring in the footnotes. 

** And that is called 'l'esprit d'escalier', French expression used in English, meaning something like the spirit of the staircase or staircase wit. 

*** Monday's child is fair of  face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go
Friday's child is loving and giving
Saturday's child works hard for a living
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay
(Traditional, 1838)

**** The Promise had a good effect on me although Thursday's Child had already had the charm I wanted.
It was a matter of time I found her.
Thursday's child, while Promise had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had a better effect on me.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The (Bone) Marrow boat


The Italian in me house has taken over the breakfast.
The coffee is good again.
But the biscuits go faster.
That's politics, isn't it?

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Things seem to slowly come back to a natural state. And yet.

I am starting to acknowledge rib pain as a way of life.

I am looking around the house and think about what can be done with restricted movements.
I am contemplating where I would like to have shelves.
I like my new rug. It's got colours. It's made of recycled plastic.
I have two  friends with great make-up who call it up-cycled.
I make kefir with water and dates.
And lemon.
I make vinegar. The mother is growing.

I am domesticating myself.
But I am taking it slowly.

I start seeing things from a counter-chauvinist point of view, which is, for a Mediterranean man quite a progress already, even though Dr Block told me at the beginning of this adventure * that  I must do as little as possible and rest (that, on another hand, is most manageable for a Mediterranean man).
Hence being served breakfast and enjoying it.
Not having to worry about cleaning up.
Doing as little as possible.
But if I am true to myself, this goes against the root of my up-bringing. I ain't no machist.

I have been raised as a boy who can iron socks, fold tissues and pretend to take a shower by turning the tap on for twenty minutes while sitting on the tub reading comics, cook meals for more than one without microwave or pizzaioli but enjoying eating honey in bed from the pot with the finger, sew on buttons or even make alterations to clothes and do DIY almost at the same time, watch TV like it was a radio set while doing the dishes...
The list goes on, but I'll stop, it brings all sorts of memories... and shows that I might be slightly psycho-neurotic... which is a paradox. But does one know the difference between a psychotic and a neurotic person?
As Pierre would say, a psychotic is a firm believer that 2+2=5 and is very content about that. A neurotic is someone who pertinently knows that 2+2=4 and that makes him sad.

I have been raised like that, although I did not choose to.
Now, I might be at odds with the truth and merely articulated, but I have learnt a few things,
for I have sworn that it was fair and have regarded it as beautiful practically and morally, although it was as boring as hell, as gloomy as night.
I have learnt one thing. Big thing.
But I cannot say really, that'd be spoiling it for too many.
I can't do that.
I shall not spoil.
I saw it, the other day.
The act of 'spoiling'.
I saw it with my eyes.
In vivo.
Or even medias res. 
(yep, Mediterranean men can speak Latin...)
I saw the reaction the other day, in people's eyes, on the tube...
Anger, because one of the free abominationalist newspaper made an article about The Game of Thrones, revealing a major twist in the serie.
People were not pleased... so they wrote letters to the editor... actually no, they texted their angst to the editor.
I saw this commuter.
Let's call him Roger.
I saw Roger the Commuter, fulminating.
Crushing teeth against teeth. Because he does not have Sky TV, Roger... he could not see the episode before hand... But Roger can read the free newspaper and no, Roger was not pleased so Roger took his phone and offloaded his besmirched ignorance onto his iPhone.
Someone had to be the recipient of his wrath and like a sailor fearing raging seas he jumped on the next train like it was a life raft, leaving behind the proscribed newspaper that sunk his imagination, before he could fall prey for madness.
Folly awaits and I can only recommend, Roger and others, this.

So I won't say. And I will continue to take it slowly.


What separates me from a scarecrow?
I wear a hat rather well.
Birds don't come near me or if they do they usually end up regretting it...
The latter usually takes a few years though.

But I have realised, since I started paying attention, that scarecrows are scary.
And ugly.
So I made one, rather pretty and fit.
I needed help for the garden and needed to talk to someone who does not necessarily need to tell me to take paracetamol. But I did not want to freak out anytime I go home or go out.
So I shaped him nice and welcoming. I gave him clothes. A good hat.

Mine is an activist.
He has an Amnesty International T-shirt.
On a boat with a cracked rib, I can have an activist scarecrow.

He protects my suspended garden while I am recovering.
He has duties. Mostly chasing the bastards who have consistently been eating my seeds.
Six seeds of corn, six seeds of cherry tomatoes and twelve seeds of garden peas. Straight from the wooden box where they try to grow**.

If he could make sure that I don't get broken into, that'd be a bonus.
Last week two boats were broken into. That happens a lot here, in Victoria Park.
In fact it seems encouraged by the authority. Not that I want to cast a stone at the council but I thought that removing street lights from the park and subsequently from our temporary garden was not the most effective way to tackle night vandalism. I guess the scarecrow might not be very useful during night time anyway.

It is a constant question. Is it safe to be on a boat in London?
I don't personally think about it as a threat. I have lived a few years in a house and I got broken into once.
I have lived four years on a boat and I have never been broken into. They attempted it once.
On a Tuesday evening. At three in the morning.
I had been occasionally thinking about what my reaction would be, if something like that would happen. How should I react? I never found the answer but I put an axe under the bed.
When I awoke to the sound of a crow bar trying to crack open the side hatch, it made my blood boil and I jumped off bed and grabbed the axe.
Maybe five seconds passed. I was standing quietly, gripping firmly on the handle of the steel tool turned weapon, waiting. Listening to the housebreaker owls.
Was that plan A?
At the time I had not read the Walking Dead but I surely looked like a survivor surrounded by a herd of zombies.
In fact I did not have a plan. I only had a vague idea of what my instinctive reaction should be.
I switched. I felt like I had to get the owls away from here. By all means.  But then I switched back.
I dropped the axe. I put all the lights on. I opened a window. I shouted at them.
They eventually left.
That seemed to be a better plan.

I suppose scarecrows are no good with owls.

And then 

I guess I am feeling a little edgy today.
A bit like when I ring someone and they don't pick up.

Summer was nice last week, but it might be already over. It does not matter.
What matters is to get my joints and bones repaired. I am no man of straws. I want my ribs back. Being on a  boat with cracked ribs for too long, I could spend afternoons standing, looking scary. But I have a better plan.

I leave with this one

*See previous posts for info about Dr Block. Recently I have been in contact with them and they assured me that if I waited a bit longer I would be on the road to recovery. They insisted that I should rest and take paracetamol. I enjoy this sense of medical pragmatism. 

**My neighbour, who has a good eye for things, it's even his job, has been consistently pointing out that I should not have stolen that wooden box, that is why I get roamers of some sorts eating my meager crops. My neighbour believes in karma and is convinced that crime never pays. My neighbour is a good man. I may expend on that later. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013



Today is a lovely day.
I like to say the word "lovely". It's one the first word I learnt to enjoy saying when I lived up north. I just thought for a while it spelt "loafely". A combination of bread and love. The story of my life. I would not do without any of them two. And I could not choose.
I finally realised that I could stop failing my morning coffee. As I tend to forget the moka on the hob, it boils.
I made tea instead. Nicely boiled.
With biscuits. Three.

About these biscuits. They make me happy. They really do. Lots of things make me happy, but the biscuits, particularly happy. And because I meet them usually for breakfast, they kind of make me happy first.
I felt this morning I needed to give them back a bit of joy and happiness, besides the obvious joy and happiness that is to meet my lips, somehow quite a valued destination.

Today, because it is a lovely day, the biscuits need dressing. I have crème fraiche. I have plain chocolate. I have Nutella. I have peanut butter. I have time.

The trick when attempting to seduce italian biscuits or any other italian items of fantasy, is to give up most a priori of what is right or wrong and mentally sing this. It works.

The peanut butter starts melting in a red hot sauce pan. It smells nice; some steam starts condensing on the window panes. I throw the crème fraiche in the pan and boil it. Once boiled, it is easy to stir and make a nice velouté crémeux. It is still one step away from a ganache. I add the kind hearted chocolate, a bit plain but not for long, into the velvet fluid. I forget it for a while. I will stir, later.
The biscuits, shaking shy and naked, want attention. They get swirled with nutella and peanut butter, the three of them, but one of them gets lucky and gets done both side and looks like a Daft Punk song. I pile them up. On top of each other they look nice and blithe.
The ganache is done. The biscuits want more. I dive in.
They dive in. They roll, in the ganache, they roll about. It is beautiful. It is perfect.

The fridge does the rest while I try to get dressed.

The Bullshit Patrol

It is a nice morning. It is not sunny here but I hear that the sun shines in some part of the world; the thought that the bastard has not resigned from sky duty makes me feel nonchalantly cheerful. It just needs to show up here and everything will be in its right place. I have herbs and plants that need photosynthesising.
I eat the obnoxious biscuits. It is delightful. It is full of calories. But I have an allowance and it won't make a difference. Not today.
On a boat with cracked ribs, it can be as smooth as homemade snickers.
It can.
It is possible.

I got dressed.
Graphically buoyant and touching. The pain remains.
I look at the day with hope and sincere fondness in my heart.
I think it is Saturday. I think I am going to walk along the canal. I think I am going to stay happy for most of the day.
I think if I stay away from more news about extreme right wings idiots who are ruining it for everyone, I will stay happy.
But these days, too many hatred, too many strong words of dislike. It is unbelievable. It is bullshit. We need a bullshit patrol.
To stand up and point the finger and shout "Bullshit" to the pricks; can I say pricks?
Bullshit is everywhere. It is in my fridge when I prepare breakfast. It is in my words when I try to avoid an argument I know I will lose. It is in me most of the time. I know it but I would not admit it most of the time.
That's bullshit, too.
But hey, I keep it for myself.
I would not tell people what they should do, unless they ask me for advice. I would not just because mostly whatever I think belongs to a moment around the coffee table with my friends.

Bullshit. Even though I am good at it, I won't go and preach it.
In fact, in London these days, it would be mostly preaching to converts so..
Hence the Bullshit patrol. A neutral organism ready to step in whenever bullshit happens. Just a thought...

My walk along the canal showed me few things, amongst others.

There is a huge increase in boats.

After four years spent on the canals I have on a few occasions, synchronised my cyclic routine with another boats for a few days, a couple of hours, a week... And it also became ritual to cruise and pass by some boats once every three months**. It was usually in the same spot. It was lovely.
Would follow a sort of decent and engaging conversation.

- where are you off to?
- west... you?
- east... where were you moored?
- King's Cross... loads of space.
- cool, that's where I am heading. Fancy a coffee? I've got italian biscuits.
- lovely
- swell

But things have changed... are changing. I am a man of my time; I am not afraid to change and I like hip hop.
But in a society, we get the hip hop we deserve, as Chilly would say.
The conversation has also evolved.

- where are you off to?
- west... you?
- east... where were you moored?
- King's Cross... absolute nightmare... boats all over the place. Triple moored mostly...
- bullshit! That's where I was heading...
- and it's the same in Camden and Little Venice...
- yeah you might want to get going as well 'cause we haven't seen an empty space either for seven miles or so... it's mayhem in Broadway market... Some boats in Victoria Park haven't moved in months...
- I know... apparently one of them was there for so long they found a fossile on the hull.
- Bullshit... I would offer you a coffee, but I 've got to get going... and I ran out of italian biscuits.

An important and neglected fact is that the hull of the boat gets more damaged and altered by the water if the boat is stationary.
Moving is also a way of preserving the blacking applied on the hull and it makes life easier for everyone.

Another thing I see on the towpath, walking my ennui. Locks (une écluse, quoi!)
Beautiful mechanism. Archaical but beautiful. Work of art, really. Almost invented by Da Vinci. Very simple and efficient to build long stretchs of canal on an uneven land. Very usuful to regulate an impetuous river.
Simple to use.
But there are many ways to misuse them, apparently. Loads and loads of lost opportunities for the Bullshit patrol, here.

So, a lock, how does it work. To be brief, the boat goes in the lock, the gates get closed behind her, the paddles get lifted from the winding gears, the water gets in or gets out, the boats moves up or moves down and once completed, the bottom or top gates get opened and that's it.

The boat exits the lock, the gates need closing and the winding gears need winding down.
That is the part that isn't fun to do. It actually isn't because it means stepping out of the boat after exiting the lock.
And that is what most of boats seem to forget to do, at least on the stretch of canal I walked along.
Why not taking the time to do it? In a rush? Hey, if a person drives a narrowboat, they cannot be in a rush.
Lazyness? No, bullshit!

It is primordial to do it though.
It saves water. Canal water is not natural. It is contained within the boundaries of canal sections. Eventually the rain tops it up. If a gate stays open too long or if the winding gears are left up, the level of water will drop. Fast.
As a consequence, boats will end up sitting on their hull. And again that's not good for the blacking of the hull or anything else poorly balanced inside the boat.

And then

Well, I guess I am a bit revolted today.

It is not just about the locks;
not about the increase of boats, the lack of commitment to a certain good practice and the lack of space that results from this lack of commitment;
not just about the extreme right wing extremists pricks polluting my city and the country,
in which I am an immigrant, although I am as concerned about their presence as I would be of a pile of steaming hot excrements in my living room;
But there is a certain reach and range and I like things to be in a certain spot.
A bit like dating someone too tall. It might not work.

And I feel I don't need to say more because I'd contradict myself here. I don't want to say. I wouldn't like to start bullshittin' myself, and I am fickle enough to know I would. On the boat with cracked ribs, I can spend an afternoon being focused on the real important things, being in the mood to be happy.

I leave with this one


*read the post Bruising for a Cruising for details if needed
**another important element of a good constant cruising practice: it is implied that a boat that leaves an area after having stayed for two weeks will not return to the very same area for a period of three months


Monday, 27 May 2013

Stand By Me


I am really trying.
I do.
But sleeping has gone worse.
I sleep... But I don't lie down. Despite that it is probably my favourite position.
Now I even wake up earlier.
And again, coffee. Managed not to boil it. Three italian biscuits and some extra crumbs. Paracetamol and ibuprofene. Because it's Monday.

The weekend has passed. One week already. There is some development in my status. I realise now that I have moved away from being injured and being pampered to being injured only.
That's it.
It is a bit like the end of the honey moon of an arranged wedding.
Too soon. Too predictable. Too sordid.

My face expression has changed. I do not inspire liking no more; or compassion.
I am resigning from it.
I am accepting the pain.
I do not remember how I use to put my socks on before. Now I just keep them on.  I do not remember how I used to manage the whole 'getting dressed' thing before. Now I just pin my underwears to my trousers with clothes pegs before putting them on. Yes, bending once rather than twice does make a difference.

Something has changed.

I can't lie down.
But I have ambition so I stand.
Vertically, I mean.
I tried standing horizontally but it is apparently as close as lying down as it can be.
It's a bit like being on a diet and eating a slice of pizza with another slice of pizza placed on top and thinking that the stomach won't see the difference. It does not work.

So I stand. But being on a boat with cracked ribs and having to stand for most of the day and night can be a little annoying.

The Stand-On Vessel*

The whole romantic idea of the boat herself, with this cosy twist given to home, with the fire going and the kettle whistling, with the pitching and tossing, with the encens encensing, with the shipping forecast on the radio going on about Forth, Tyne, and Fisher, variable, becoming cyclic, cyclonic or even bubonic, 3 or 4; Easterly 5 or 6 in North. Rain then showers. Moderate or good, becoming poor later, the whole enjoyment of a moment of calm and rest, even though I don' t have a sofa, is terribly compromised, because, let alone lying down, I can hardly sit too.
To my great concern, as the narowness of a narrow boat tends to inspire resting, sitting, being seated, giving feet a rest, grabing a chair or a log, ensconcing, hunkering, perching, parking, relaxing, sqatting, not ploping down though.
But no; I have to stand on the boat. It's a new perspective. I look at things in the distance for longer.
Everything looks different. I feel more celestial... I stand... stand... Stand!
My legs and arms, however, are getting strange.

Still. Thinking of stillness makes me dizzy. I have REM singing Sitting Still in my head... I always thought these lyrics made no sense. Now? Even less. Michael Stipe & co, you are becoming my number one band who's annoying me right now... The Buffalo Springfield swaggering, singing Sit Down I think I love you, comes second... It's despair now... What do they all have to gather in my head, it's like a party with too many chairs and not enough girls, a musical chair game you always lose...
No Otis, no, please. I can't whistle anyway.

I cannot believe this is happening to me. Don't get me wrong.  I don't even like sitting. For exemple I'd rather stand on the tube. People think I am a nice guy because on the tube I give way  to pregnant people and elderlies and families when a seat gets freed. People think I am a good audience at the theatre, because I always give a standing ovation at the end;  I even suffered through most Shakespeare's plays, again, standing. It's not that. It's because sitting is dull. In fact sitting is dangerous. And because standing is good. Because standing is good. Even Dr Block told me that, twice. Standing is good. Standing is good.
Standing is good, it is healthy; it cuts by loads of % the chance to develop cardio-vascular diseases... There is even a disease that is called the sitting disease... No joke, I am serious here. It is apparently the product of the modern sedentary lifestyle. A normal person will sit about seven and a half hours per day. Per day! It's too long. It should not be. Seven and a half hours per day. I can hardly do three.

I cut down my sitting time. Radically. It might be a good thing; but my lying down time is inexistant. There is no justice.
Nevertheless I am doing right for my body. I am healthy.
Being on a boat with cracked ribs and having to stand is healthy.
I might just pick up smoking again then...

And then

So I guess I am a bit frustrated today.

It is again a dilemna I am facing.
I want to find a zone of confort. I want to rest. I want to lie down. I am good at standing, but I think I lie better. I might even prefer lying down. I want to lie down. I demand to have some lying down. But 'I want never gets'. It is utopic, in both senses of the word.
If I remembered what my my Ancient Greek teacher told us (I don't even remember if I studied Ancient Greek), I would know that 'Utopia' has two meanings.
Instead, I watched the Mad Men and they explained it in season one. It means 'the good place' and 'the place that cannot be'. It is where I want to be. But I cannot go there because it does not exist.
It is lying down when I want to sleep. It is sitting when I want to eat. It is standing when I want to stand. But instead I stand when I need to sleep. I stand when I eat.
And I sleep when I stand.
And that, is dystopia.

As I said I am resigning. I am quitting the world of the seated.
I shall not sit or be seated, lie down or get laid (hum).
I shall stand still.
I shall be as pathetic as a standing army.
I shall look like a fisher man anytime I stand next to a pond.
I shall stand in the rain. I will be wet. If Audrey Hepburn were to stand next to me,
she would be sexy.
I won't stand up for that.
Until then, I'll stand by.

And maybe someone will stand by me. As Bill Withers once told me, I can lean on him when I'm not strong, 'cause he'll be my friend, and he'll help me carry on. On a boat with cracked ribs, I can spend an afternoon leaning on someone's shoulders because today, after hours of standing by, my arms and legs feel funny.

I leave with this one


*It is the rule 17 in the International Navivation Rules. It happens mostly when two boats are in sight of each other and crossing ways. If I don't give way, I stand-on. It is kind of complicated to know whether I am the give-way vessel or the stand-on vessel but to be short I am not the stand-on vessel when crossing with under powered boats, working boats and Dominique. If I am to cross way with Dominique, if he is cruising a boat or anything else, I'll give way. No matter what;

Friday, 24 May 2013

Bruising for a Cruising


I am awake. I slept.
Coffee, italian biscuits and paracetamol.
I have to get used to this.

Rain and gusts of wind kept me on my toes last night. The pitter patter was nice at first. But there is only so much a man can take apparently. A good rest for exemple, considering my newly aquired status*, would be most welcome.
Living on a boat does not necessarily allow this. In many ways. I might talk about this another time.
Don't get me wrong though. I am a devoted narrowboater.
I want to believe in living with "less" to access "more".
I want to believe in other ways of living, where we don't need constant supply of "modern commodities"  such as electricity, water and broadband internet connection. And landline.
Landline? When did I last received a call on a landline... When did I last have a landline?  Do kids know what a landline is these days?

I'll be brief here, but landline, honestly...

In my brief encouter to landline (about twenty-one years, at which age I then got my frst mobile phone), I must say that it has not been always easy. Anyone who grew up with four sibblings like I did might know that, more than anything else, landlines bring discord. When a phone call needed to be made, there was always a sister or a brother using it.
The rule to get it quick then, was to be subtle. A blunt "how long you gonna be?" never worked... in fact it seemed to trigger an extra twenty minutes wait. At least.
A sly "mum is calling you in the kitchen" opened bloodthirsty retaliations.
Eventually the line'd be free. The tribulation started. A landline does not call a person, it calls a home. A palette of ready-made sentences were needed:
"sorry to disturb, I know it's dinner time but please could I speak to..."
"oh... they're not here... could you take a message, please?"
"Could you ask them to call me back between x am and y am, please?"
"Could you pass on that message, please?"
But really, above all, the threat of the bill waved by my then not so trans-parent dad, just when I managed to get hold of the landline, was probably the richest. It is a bit like being told to close the fridge, to keep the cold in, the exact second I've opened it to choose the yogurt I want to eat.
As a consequence, I probably haven't dated as many people I could have.
So no.
No regret.
Landline shall not be missed on a boat or anywhere else.
But confort and the ideal I make of it. Yes, maybe.

Therein lies the rub, as the bard would say.
I want to have confort and I am prepared to create and sustain this level of confort. I delimit where my threshold of tolerance is. And I have to stick to it. It teaches constance and earnestness. To be true to the choice.
But with cracked ribs, boy. The threshold wants lowering. The bed seems to be too high. The steps, so steep. The sofa, so... I don't have one.  Dry land, a step too far.

But what really hides behind the corner, trying to catch me when I am most vulnerable, ready to confront me coldly, it is the duty to move the boat.
I am a constant cruiser.
I did not choose the name though. I would have gone for something else but that'll do for now.
I am a constant cruiser. So I need to cruise. It is like a contract between me, the British canal system which is a bit like my landlord, the International Navigation Rules, and the element.

Constant Cruisin' (for a bruisin')

Every other week I need to leave where I have moored, two weeks before and on my way to the following spot. If space is to be found there, then I would moor. If not, then I continue cruising. Until I find a space. A sixty feet long space, mostly water based, to live a normal life. A two weeks long routine opens.
After four years cruising London and nearby surrounding towns, I understand what a cyclic routine might be. It is knowing where the corner shop is, but not just in one corner. It is knowing the quickest tubes and buses route to the possible destinations to reach within this two weeks cycle. It is knowing where the launderettes are, how much it will cost, and knowing which ones would do it for me (!). It's keeping good relation with the local communities and shop keepers, because smiles are nice and being greeted when entering a shop is a decent aspiration for a landa city-dweller who grew up in a small village.
All that, in twelve different neighbourhoods.
I am a constant cruiser and as I said, I did not choose the name, because it means a hell of a lot more, to be a constant cruiser.
But with cracked ribs, I feel that I am to disown this title. For a while.

Today, I thought I would move the boat. To Victoria Park maybe. Or to Angel.
But I won't.
And I know that I might get in trouble for that. Not real trouble of course. I might get a patrol notice for overstaying. I tend to get a lot of them since May 2012. Moored in Angel, we regretably gathered one saturday morning, at the bow of the vessel, lovely Thursday's Child, to be merry and happy, to feel that the sun had finally pierced through eight months of thick winter clouds.
Not to the likings of a specific neighboor who has their house by the canal. They complained. They complained formally (anyone who has cruised for long enough and moored in Angel regularly will know who I refer to). On this, more recently, we could read this Pulitzer type article on the respectable Islington Gazette about dirty and noisy canal boats (Thursday's Child' moment of fame. No royalties paid yet though).

And then..

It is a dilemna that I am facing right now.
I am aching to move the boat but I can't, especially after Dr Block's warnings and my prime witness' advice. And the risk to catch a cold is too big. I know about sneezing now. Doctor was right.
I am also aching.
I might as well just stay.
Who cares? Well, I do.
I want to be a continuous cruiser. I would like to change neighbourhood and enter another cycle. Another routine. I believe in the good practice. Keeping moving, to let spaces free. To find free spaces. The river and canals are navigations path, not camping spots. I don't dry my underwears on a line between two pines.
It looks like I am going to settle here for a while. But under the circumstances, I'll settle for anywhere.
It looks like I am a bit upset. Because I am not sure what to make of staying. Overstaying.
Why do I care? I have always cared about that. It is kind of the condition number one to be a constant cruiser. Moving.
Maybe because I feel that, with cracked ribs, I let down a certain good practice.

Today I look through the window. I feed the swans with coconut crunchy oat. They like it.
And I wish to see boats passing. Boats cruising.
I wish someone would care moving. And someone else. And someone else. That would make me feel better.
Restaure the balance a bit.

Irma Thomas wished that someone would care. On a boat with cracked ribs, I can spend my afternoon wishing that someone would care cruising, because today, I won't.
I leave with this one
* see my first post for precision if needed

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Anyone knows Georges Moustaki?


I come to the conclusion that the next few weeks will offer their cocktails of little revolts against my patience and calm demeanour.
Therefore I will relate; as long as necessary.

... I haven't talked yet. I went to the shop round the corner, I got the stuff I needed. I paid. I did not speak.
I grumbled.
I watched an episode from the Mad Men. I did not learn much. I liked The Mama's and the Papa's at the end.
I slept.
I woke up and ate three italian biscuits and warmed up some coffee. I managed to avoid boiling it like I usually do. It was nice.
I smiled.
I did not smoke. I gave up again.
I looked at the ashtray instead.
My phone rang. I looked at it as well. I did not pick up. I haven't given up phoning though.
But I have an excuse.
I bruised my ribs. I bruised them badly.So badly that I don't even want to complain. I even went to work. Twice this week. In denial of rush hour and the horde of mad puppies (analogy taken from Mr Mills) running wild in the corridors of the school.
Mistake. I realise it now. I have a status. I am injured, damaged, hurt, spoiled, wounded, altered, affected, impaired.
I have cracked ribs said Dr. Block.Along with "with patience and paracetamol, you'll be fine" to which I answered approximately "...". To then hear "but make sure you don't get a cold, snizzing would hurt you".
Thank you doctor.

The accident

It was Sunday. I fell. I did not scream.
Then I got given a drink and carried on.
There is always something to do on a boat.
I live on a boat.
And there is a lot to do. I usually do a lot of superfluous things on the boat because I get professionals to do important things like fixing important things, but I like to repeat that there is always something to do on a boat.

I am finding out that with cracked ribs, there is not much, even superfluous, to do.

I like building things. I have a good relationship with my hands and they are ok with it. On Sunday for exemple, I extended my garden. Mostly with succulents but also with pepper and sage. The roof of the boat is turned into a little suspended garden, a travelling and ephemeral rebellion against the city.

I was standing in the suspended garden.
A second after, I am half lying on the boat moored next to me. I fell from the garden...
A man witnessed this. From his second floor's terrace overlooking the canal, in the heart of Hackney Wick, he shouted "are you alright" I think he said... "'you're gonna be bruised".
Stirling observation.

I fell. After four years on a boat, this is the first time. Not a single time have I felt in the water or on the boat. I am quite feline when it comes to my sense of balance. Even without moustache. So what happened? I stopped asking this question. No one can answer. The only witness could not be of any help. he was too focused on giving me good advice:
"You should sit and rest".

So I sat and rested. I am still sitting. I sit on the boat, rocking one side to another.

And then.. 

So I guess I am a bit bored right now.

Today... today living on a boat with cracked ribs is boring. It is painful to crawl out of bed. The minute I am out of bed, I realise that it was more confortable. So I crawl back to bed. It is also painful but more annoyingly I do not find the position I had that was so confortable... so I crawl out of bed again.

So I sit. With an angle. To open the chest a maximum. To get as much air as possible without having to physically to do it myself. Because breathing is funny these days.

Today I also hear that Georges Moustaki will not sing again.
So I went on youtube. The first link that I can open with my 3 network connection relayed by an under achieving dongle is this.

Ma solitude

This is something I can do today. Listening, it is still quite boring, but it saves a little my mind from rocking sideways, too.

An afternoon spent with Georges Moustaki... On a boat with cracked ribs, I can spend my afternoon listening to Moustaki... 

I shall leave with this one.