The phrase you’re looking for is “out of step”.
As in, the Cardinal and I are out of step. The majority of other folks pootling up and down these delightful ditches are “left, left, left right left” whereas the Cardinal and I are more “right, right, left right right”. We’re also slower than most. We mooch. This is, methinks, because when I wake up every day I am on my boat, whereas other folk mostly wake up in Brixanmortah and boating is a bonus, a treat, a brief respite. The hire boaters have given themselves five days to circumnavigate six counties, those who can only get to their boats at weekends are anxious to squeeze the last possible smidgen of enjoyment out of their holidays.
I’m always home, on holiday. I brew coffee, and I make toast, and I watch.
I get to watch duck families waking up and performing their various ablutions. I get to watch the occasional squirrel or weasel scuttering along the towpath. I get to watch moorhens building nests only to have them raided by ravenous heron. I get to watch escaped sheep (yep, they’re out again) plucking up the courage to stampede past my boat.
I get to watch fish breaking surface to catch flies, I get to watch butterflies making mad, passionate love to hedgerow flowers, I get to watch rabbits sneezing with hay-fever, and I get to watch (and listen to) farmers pile-driving new fence-posts into the ground at 06:00hrs just ten feet away from my boat (ha-ha, ya boo sucks to you – I was up and about at 05:30hrs).
Then, when no-one is looking at me, the Cardinal and I move, and we move entirely to our own pattern and timetable.
Hey presto, a whole new outlook, a fresh garden view and confusion to Robespierre, Napoleon and Miss Thorndyke of the MI5 Witless Protection Scheme, Desk 112a, Room 17, Floor 6, Resettlement House, Whitehall SW1A 2HB (other pencils are available, mention of 2HB does not imply endorsement). I have no fixed abode, and yet I have a thousand addresses.
Talking of confusion, let me prattle on some about the weather. Living in an oddly-shaped bucket on England’s system of flooded ditches tends to put one somewhat out there, in it (rather splendidly). There are no neighbouring houses to block off the horizon or to break up the breeze – it’s rather like being on a countryside walk with only an eighteen-ton steel umbrella for shelter.
May I draw your attention to the previous photograph, in which I’d like to point out the bright sunshine, the pelting rain, the heavy and threatening clouds and the couple on the bow of this boat, sweating cobs in the heat in the only waterproofs that they had with them on holiday, under an umbrella supplied as standard by the hire company.
The couple on the front were enjoying their headlong rush through the sunshine and rain immensely, confident that the young couple at the back end of the boat were doing things such as looking ahead and steering (when in fact, the young couple at the back were both on their “smart phones”, probably swapping pictures of their knees or bare ankles with each other, or something).
Iggorunce is bliss, and a nice boat will mostly steer itself anyway.
England, as the educated among you may know, is the little blob in the middle of maps of the world, the blob with the wrinkly coastline. It’s where all of the pink on the maps spread out from to form the empire upon which the sun (still) never sets. Scotchland clings to it on the northern side, the The Wales sticks like sticky stuff to the west and Eire (et al) hangs around farther west, desperate to move off and find a permanent berth in New York harbour and yet never actually quite daring or brave enough to weigh anchor and make the o’voyage.
England is an island kept from freezing, some of the time, by the North Atlanic Drift. The city of Manchester generously shares a latitude with Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. We get most of our weather at low second-hand prices after the The United State of North American has finished with it, and when it’s not blowing across the pond from there, we get it second-hand from continental Europe (where the poor European sods all live cheek by jowl in pain-au-chocolat and Bratwurst confusion). Sometimes it blasts down from the Arctic north, sometimes it wallops up at us from the Middle East and North Africa. I believe that March of 2014 was the most recent notable occasion when the Sahara upped sticks and moved to dump itself on England.
You chaps abroad have “climates”, here in England we get whatever weather no-one else happens to be using or wants at any one particular moment. This is why Englishmen talk about the weather a lot and why we’re never dressed appropriately – when we yack on about rain/sleet/snow/blazing sunshine/wind/hail we’re trying to guess what we ought to have brought out with us to wear for the next half-hour, before we have to begin the guessing process all over again. We’re always reactive since it’s impossible to predict from one hour to the next, thus we’re always one knotted handkerchief and an umbrella away from “suitable”. Think on this the next time you see some oik strolling about in a Mackintosh and sandals, or Wellington boots and a mankini.
An hour later:
All in all, being out of step and moving at so much slower a pace (overall, in terms of day to day rather than boat speed) has an awful lot to recommend it. My garden changes, I get to see most of it, albeit briefly and at random, as it would look in most seasons, and then when I’ve seen it I haul in the lines and move on again. Rinse and repeat.
It really is rather a splendid show beyond the Cardinal’s windows and portholes – and someone else does the gardening.
Having not been long since I was last lighting the Cardinal’s stove at 05:00 to ward off some thick frosts, we are, today, heading back into the realms of the eighty-plus Fahrengezundheitings on the temperature-o’mometer. Is I bothered? No, not really, because just half a sentence ago I had to break off to go the well deck to sort out the clothes horse that had been blown completely over by the 25mph breeze…
Of course, should we lose the breeze today, well then I’ll be worried and reach for my knotted damp handkerchief again…
Ingerlund in Spring. I am not convinced by your cloudless blue sky. I shall still be cooking myself a blazing-hot curry for lunch.
Ye gods – I kid you not, Humpty Dumpty in a straw hat and striped shirt and braces has just sailed on by. What shall I wear, I wonder?
My rubber wetsuit, methinks, if it’s to be curry for tiffin at noon.
Mad dog curry.