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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Time to Cruise

"I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places that this heart of  mine embraces, all day through...I'll find you in the morning sun and when the night is new, I'll be looking at the moon but I'll be seeing you." - Lyrics by Irving Kahal, 1938

     Wednesday April 19th was a lovely sunny day. After a week of recovering from the trip back to the UK from America (more of which I will write about in another post), I locked the keys in the boat and had to rely on my neighbor Owen, who resides in a re-fitted oil rig lifeboat with his cat Sam, to cut the lock off the stern hatch. I decided then and there to stick close to home. I scrubbed the boat from stem to stern, ceiling to floor, inside and out, removing the Chimney and cleaning the stove pipe and stove; It was wonderful to know that what Les taught me in theory held true in practice. I spent fifteen minutes looking for the large number 13 ratchet he used to loosen the nut from the bolt holding the chimney chain in place only to discover that when I wasn't looking Les switched it out for a small, compact ratchet that fits my small hand perfectly. This is love. I completed my list of chores, stocking up on groceries, catching up the laundry, filling the water tank and emptying the loo. Last but not least I said goodbye to some of the dear friends Les and I are so fortunate to have made in the time spent at Cowroast.
     We arrived at the top of Cowroast lock on August 2nd, 2016 and with the exception of one lovely cruise to Bulbourne with family, there had been no cruising. I hadn't worked a lock or steered the boat in over nine months. While I was gone to the States, the final repairs were made to our boat and now it was time to get underway. Tom and Jan Jones on NB Waiouru happened to be at Marsworth and they telephoned me to ask if I would like to cruise with them since they were headed north too. As I cruised past Mike Griffin on NB Albion I said, "Call me if you need cake. If you aren't cruising up my way you can always drive up for a visit and bring one home." 
     Tom caught up with me at Bulbourne and was kind enough to lock me through the Marsworth Flight. I was fine until I caught site of Startops End Reservoir. Les and I both love mooring there and I was flooded with memories, tears pouring from my eyes.
     It was while moored up here that Les fell on the boat and hurt his back in 2009. While recovering from that fall Les spent thirty one days moored at the Reservoir where he wrote the blog post asking readers from around the world to contact him so he could get an idea of how widely read his blog was across the globe. It was that post to which I responded, setting everything else in motion. 
     When we returned to Britain in 2011 we moored up at Startops End for eleven days to await arrival of my dowery: 640 pounds of worldly goods which traveled from Pullman, Washington to the docks in Seattle, onto a cargo ship which spent two months traveling down the pacific coast of the Americas, through the Panama Canal, across the Atlantic ocean over to Europe and finally to England. Les found an online tracking web site and he followed the cargo ship with avid delight.
     We spent the time waiting for my boxes by walking all the paths around the four reservoirs, waking early before the sun rose and watching the mist rise from the water, enjoying the dozens of ducks and geese who also called the local environment home. We watched with fascination while a pair of swans worked over a plastic bag with raw chicken inside which someone had tossed in the cut. The Cob had found it on the bottom and brought it up; both he and the Pen spent hours working at the bag with their tremendous beaks until it finally split open, disgorging its meaty delights which they both devoured quickly. From this we learned that swans are omnivorous. Les and I delighted in waking each morning to bird calls right outside our boat, and listening to the last quacks and squawks each night as the local aviary population settled down to sleep. Back in 2011 there were not so many boaters on the cut and we often had the large pound adjacent to the reservoir all to ourselves. It was and still is one of the loveliest bit of wild places left so close to London.
     The last time we cruised past the reservoirs we could not stop--we had to make time to get to Cowroast and connect with Hospice. As we sat together on the stern of our boat last July 30th, I watched Les drink in the view like a thirsty man looking for water in the desert. He knew he would never moor here again or watch the waterfowl take flight against the summer sky.  And I knew with my leaden heart that the next time I came through Marsworth Les would be dead.
     I moored up behind Waiouru and spent a couple of hours chatting with Tom and Jan. At 6 p.m. I gathered a trowel, a daffodil bulb wrapped in newspaper, and a small jar with some of Les' ashes in it and walked up above the bottom lock, past Bluebell's Tea Room. I chose a place just beyond where the path separates into a Y, where a simple wooden bench was built as a memorial to someone else's loved one. Les and I used to sit on this bench in the sunshine after walking around the reservoirs. A tree had been recently planted just nearby. On my knees I dug a hole right next to the sapling, sprinkled some of Les' ashes in the bottom, placed the Daffodil bulb in place and patted the soil around it. The late evening sun was just slipping beyond the shoulder of the grassy hill, the sky still lit with its golden light. 
The Daffodil planted with Les' ashes under the last rays of the evening sun, Startops End Reservoir, Marsworth.
     Since Les died I have waited for a sign from him. I have seen, felt, and heard nothing and my heart has grieved in deep disappointment especially since others in our family have received signs from Dad, Da, and Granddad as they referred to him. As I knelt in the dirt, a nearby boat was playing music from some radio station. I didn't recognize the music but the words jumped out at me: "I'm sending you a sign that I am here and I still care, just to let you know I am still there." I sat stock still, my heart aching and racing, tears cascading down my cheeks. I took a picture of the spot as I will do with each place I stop to scatter Les' ashes and plant flowers. In several pictures there is a hazy spot just nearby. It isn't a reflection of the sun on the camera lens. It has an indistinct, out of focus shape. It isn't something that I saw through the lens when I took these pictures. I have no rational explanation for it being there.   


Shiery Beaty said...

I love you so much mamma. I so wish I could be close to offer you what ever you need to feel supported. I am so happy that DA let you know he was still around!

life afloat on nb tickety boo said...

I have no doubt in my mind that Les is watching over you Jaq. I feel my Dad all the time. I am sure you, like me find this a huge comfort. When we eventually meet I will tell you the story about the sunflower! I want to start writing my blog again. The inspiration is coming from you. Thank you x

Nev Wells said...

Beautiful words Jaq, you have me in tears once again! Now I have recovered and as part of your learning it's a spanner 🔧🤓

Take care


Anonymous said...

Hi Jaq, Glad to see that you are safely back and starting your travels. I'm sure Les will be with you every "step" of the way. Stay safe. Sandra X

Maffi said...

I'm glad you went with the daffs on the ashes. It's a nice touch.

Xxiplay RobloxXx said...

Hi Jaq, nice to have you blogging again.
We also love mooring at Marsworth, it's such a special place. Next time we are there we will be sure to go and say hello to Les.
Best wishes
Kath (nb Herbie)

Dragontatoo said...

I think the "hazy spot" is Les standing there watching you plant your bulbs--he's there. Talk to him, or journal and write your entries to him <3 I love you 1000 Swedish Fish

Jaqueline Biggs said...

I love you too Spark. Someday we will be able to spend lots of time together; I promise it will be before I am too old and feeble to enjoy it!

Yeah, me too with respect to Da. I knew Les's soul probably had things to attend to on the other side, and I have no doubt he has been with me but I have been too steeped in grief or to intent on putting one foot in front of the other to notice. So the song and the haze in my pictures was a incontrovertible way he could use to get my attention at a moment when I was only thinking of him.

I love you to the moon and back sweetheart,

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Deb,

I live in hope our bows will cross soon. You have followed our love story form the off and throughout the last six years. I look forward to hearing your story and I am deeply touched that I have served as a catalyst to move you to blog again. I've missed your posts.

Love Jaq xxx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Oh Nev you are such a love! You too have been with us throughout the start of our love story and all along the way.

In the States any tool that you ratchet back and forth to tighten or loosen a nut or bolt without having to take it off and put it back on repeatedly is called a ratchet wrench. So I assume any hand tool is called a spanner? are there no distinctions in the different items?

I look forward to more lessons!

Love Jaq xxx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Sandra. It is good to be back home and moving. I hope I have the chance to see you again this year.

Take care,

Jaq xxx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Maffi,

Thank you and when others tell me the same I explain to them that the flower bulbs were your great idea.

Jaq xxx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Kath,

That would be lovely. I am so pleased our friends amongst the boating community will remember him in this way. Les would be chuffed to bits.

I have been trying to write a blog post for three weeks about my trip back to the States but two drafts later it still eludes me!

It is good to be cruising again although it feels odd and incomplete without Les' physical presence beside me.

Jaq xxx

Anonymous said...

The world continues, home for Jaq is NB Valerie.
Les is there, observing; the first year without is
difficult, part of your learning process.
You shall recover however never forget.
Nor shall any of your friends.
Cousin Kindheart

Carol said...

Hi Jaq, so good to see that you're out and about and blogging again and that Les is by your side. Take care of yourself and stay safe. Will call you soon. xx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Yes Jesse I think so too! I have always kept a journey diary of our movements but now I write to Les instead of just in the first person. I miss you sweetheart, and I love you at least 30,000 Swedish Fish!

Mamma xxx

nb Chuffed said...

I visited Les's daffodils this morning, beautiful xx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Dear Cousin Kindheart,

All you say is true. and Les is not the only one who watches over me. I know you are too from afar and I can count on your for wisdom and words to ease my pain.

Take care of yourself my dear one.

Love Jaq xx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carol,

It is good to be moving but it has not been without its hazards as I will write about shortly. I welcome your call anytime.

Love Jaq xxx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Debby,

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit Les' Daffodil and to let me know. I have tried to leave comments on your blog about five times and for some reason it won't let me no matter if I use my Google profile or my Wordpress profile! Could you email me please? the link to my email is at the top left of our blog.

Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs