Monday, 12 August 2013

Life, death and cats

Yes, it has been a while! Back in March I was planning  to write about our first winter on the canal, thinking that winter had ended and that we'd got off lightly. But then came the ice. Every morning we awoke to a frozen canal, around the beginning of British Summer Time. And with the return to winter came a succession of events, chaotic and confusing. Our little grey cat died suddenly one Sunday. However, she didn't suffer any long drawnout illness and we knew she chose to go. A friendship became more established as a result - we only knew one person at the time who would not bat an eye if we turned up at his boat at 8am with a dead cat, asking to borrow a spade. Not only did he lend the spade, but also found a lovely spot in the woods where the wild garlic grows, and dug the hole in the half-frozen stoney ground.
We went to a Quaker funeral not long after this, of a new friend, someone we would have liked to have got to know and had long conversations with about nature. She was approaching old-age, very busy and active and she took her own life so that she would not become a burden to anyone. I still don't know which I find more upsetting and shocking - that she took her own life or her reasons for doing so. What kind of society are we, that our Elders feels this is their only option?

And so the freeze continued, with Life Stuff that could not be resolved easily. We just had to wait and be patient.

There was also the matter of renewing our licence. All boats on the waterways of Britain need a licence, renewable every year. The granting of the licence is dependant on a valid Boat Safety Certificate, renewable every four years. Guess when ours ran out? A couple of weeks before our licence was due to expire. Without going into tedious detail, it all got sorted out. We reported ourselves to the Canal and River Trust, before anyone else phoned the Licence Evasion Hotline (oh yes, there is On). One day I returned to the boat , and after stepping over a slumbering dog, banished to the towpath, I found my Beloved and a friendly bearded chap holding something that looked very like a large catheter bag over the sink. An onometer apparently. It told us we had no gas leaks and we could have our BSC. Despite the cast iron stove not being bolted to the floor (yes, really!), a large bit of wood screwed down over the air vent in the back door and the duct tape which we hastily peeled off the air vent in the front door. We got our licence a few weeks late, but we were not evicted from our boat for being skint and disorganised.
Gradually, more good things began to happen. We have a new boat cat, who is lively, funny and affectionate despite the bad things that have happened to her in the past. She loves boat life, is endlessly curious about many things, such as the engine bay, the weed hatch and the local boatyard where we go for water and pumpouts, none of which is she allowed to explore. She is an excellent swimmer...
The final breaking of the winter spell came in early July, a couple of days before our first anniversary of living on the boat. I was awoken at 3 am by something splashing in the water. In my sleep fuddled state I thought a deer might have fallen in and I didn't think I could get back to sleep with a drowning animal just a few feet away. So I got dressed and went out.  I don't know what I could have done if it had been a deer, but I felt compelled to go outside anyway. Only it wasn't a drowning deer, it was a pair of otters having a very successful nights fishing. We made tea and watched until dawn. Then when dawn came, we made more tea and watched some more. These were the first otters I had seen in the wild ever. I still cannot find adequate words to describe the beauty and magic of those few hours. Another boater said later that he had heard the splashing and wished he had come to watch too.
Although I would describe myself as druid, with an interest in the shamanic, I generally don't believe in wildlife as " psychic messengers" or wonder what it means to see a buzzard or a hare. Or even an otter. (I want to explore this more fully in a different post). But. After the otters, things changed. Became less frozen, more fluid. I am writing and blogging again, teaching myself to crochet and to play the dulcimer. I love my itinerant life afloat, and couldn't go back to land living.
yes, she does this on the water side too, thereby disproving the theory
...that tails are essential for balance!

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