and when life was dark. When you told me, and even when you didn't.
When it was easy and when it was hard. I knew. Every minute of every day. I knew." — Mia Hollow, poet
RCR have come and gone at last; ME Tom replaced the bilge pump hose and showed me how to grease the stern gland. It is an easy thing to do if you know how. I am not someone who can learn how to do manual things by watching a video or attempting to make sense of Chinese drawings without written instructions. Now I have one tube of the proper stern gland grease and two more ordered from RCR as back up. Now I know to grease the stern gland every 200-300 hours on the engine and I will attend to it zealously! Now I know I have a complete set of stern gland seals all ready to go on if need be. For now the boat is sorted.
|The package from RCR with the proper stern gland grease and a picture illustrating perfectly how and where to apply it.|
|The tip of the tube of stern gland grease...|
|and the opening of the tube of silicone grease Les had last used for this job. I have no idea how he managed to pack the stern gland without the proper end on the tube, but he did.|
|The bag I now have of various tubes of silicone grease, not good for greasing the stern gland!|
|The prepared stern gland seals with a note to me from Les on how to replace them. I found it under the dinette seat among the dozens of other boxes of spare parts he squirreled away for me.|
I am still at Fenny Stratford and will stay through the weekend. The water point has been repaired but of course RCR didn't come until late this afternoon so I schlepped 15 gallons of water in three separate trips early this morning, adding them to what little water was still in the tank. Imagine my surprise to dip the tank and find it is now almost half full! I had more left than I thought. Of course I have not washed clothes in nearly two weeks and I have bathed in the sink and washed my hair with one pan of water heated on the stove. I washed my dishes in four inches of hot water and soap, and otherwise made 5 gallons stretch for nearly seven days!
The last time we were here together was late last July. Les had went in to the Royal Free Hospital for one week in order for them to assess exactly where the cancer had metastasized and what could be done to control his pain. Many times in the three years we fought for his life, Les and I waited for trains at this stop. We have a long history with Fenny--long for us anyway.
The first time we moored here together it was late May, 2011. I had flown over for three weeks to make sure living on a boat was going to work for me and us, before we returned to Pullman, Washington to get married. Les had one very large, overstuffed leather recliner which took up most of the saloon (for non-boat folks this is what you would call a front room or living room). While big, it was not large enough to accommodate both of us together. We needed to go chair shopping and I thought IKEA might be a good place to start. There is an IKEA just a twenty minute walk from here. So we fetched up here at Fenny Stratford and the next morning--an unseasonably hot spring day with brilliant sun and temperatures up in the 70's F. we set off on foot for the Swedish superstore.
Les had his fixed route to the store. Of course he told me it was only a ten minute walk (anyone who knew Les well knows how he downplayed the actual length of any journey on Shank's pony! twenty minutes was always ten, and twenty five minutes was relayed as fifteen. Well this particular journey was my first on foot with Les and I had yet to learn...a lot of things. We strolled across the pedestrian bridge over Fenny Stratford lock and up Lock View Lane to Simpson Road and turned left. We crossed Simpson Road and walked over the Fenny Stratford rail station--an outdoor stop with a covered seat and a reader board.
We continued on the footpath past the rail stop and came up at the side of a very busy road--Watling Street--the road that began life as an ancient foot track across this land used by the Britons and paved by the Romans. We walked along the sidewalk for about fifteen minutes, the sun beating down on us until we came to a weird lozenge shaped divergence of Watling street heading North and the B4034 eastward. We needed to cross and the traffic came off Watling street around the curve heading east in thunderous fashion. I asked my Best Beloved,
"Les where is the cross walk?"
"There isn't one. These roads were made to carry automobiles quickly and efficiently and pedestrians crossing them were not a consideration." My eyebrows raised to my hairline.
"Well then how are we ever going to get across?" Les grabbed my hand tightly, looked left and yelled,
"RUN!" and we did...after I took a moment to catch my breath we walked around the side of a very large roundabout to where two widely separated lanes approached and left it, depending on which direction one was headed. These were Bletcham Way and Les took my hand once more and yelled,
"RUN!" and we were off once more. I felt like Alice trying to keep up with the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. When we finally survived the crossing of both lanes we stood with heaving chests while I surveyed a narrow footpath barely noticeable through a very overgrown lot--Bletchley's version of the forty acre wood! Les said that we needed to follow the path through the shrubs and we would come right out at IKEA. We stumbled through the overgrown greenery and actually did as he said. We popped out of the bushes at the back of a parking lot. I considered all we had endured to get here and asked,
"So, are we going to call a Taxi to take us and the chairs back to the boat?"
"Of course not. There are no cabs large enough to carry us and two large boxes." Les started off across the parking lot towards the store entrance.
"Well if we aren't taking a Taxi, how are we going to get our chairs home--assuming we find any here today?"
"We'll take them back in a trolley the same way we came." Les smiled smugly.
"Are you out of your mind?!! We will never make it across all those lanes of traffic with a loaded trolley and no crosswalks, never mind hoiking it through the forty acre wood back there."
"It'll be fine. Trust me." So off we went hand in hand and I had another first experience: discovering how indecisive Les was when faced with the need to choose something; to make up his mind and commit to something. I had no idea about the existence of this quirky facet of Les' personality since he was quite decisive in declaring his love for me and asking me to marry him!
We were in IKEA's chair section for two and half hours while Les circled around, trying each chair multiple times--just like Goldilocks in the fairytale about the three bears. Les had quit smoking four days previously because he felt it was unfair to expect me to live in confined quarters inhaling his smoke. I could see him itching for a fag while mulling over his choices. I finally I sat down in a chair and said,
"I'm done shopping Les. This is the chair I want. Please make up your mind and let's get this over with." I am one of those female anomalies. I hate shopping!
Decision made, we went downstairs grabbed a large trolley, found the flat packed boxes with our chairs and paid for them at the register. Now the fun part was about to begin! We rolled the trolley across the parking lot, slowed long enough to be sure no one was watching us, and Les manhandled the trolley into the shrubbery! He managed to wrangle the bloody thing all way through the forty acre wood tipping it this way and that, lifting it over large plants, and out onto the grassy verge near Bletcham Way. He surveyed the traffic, and clutching the trolley with one hand and me with another he yelled,
Off we went careening across two lanes, a grassy median and another two lanes. By now I was hot, sweaty, tired and thoroughly unimpressed with this idea. Sweat was beading on Les' brow and he was out of breath too.
"Never mind Jaq, we'll be back to the boat soon enough and it won't take me any time at all to put these chairs together. We'll sit side by side tonight!" Les turned on his thousand watt smile, my heart melted as laugh lines creased his face around his lovely bright brown eyes, and off we went once more to continue our journey homeward. After careening across one more set of lanes like drunken monkeys, we sidled along the sidewalk, back the way we had come until we turned off Watling Street and headed down the ramp to the Fenny Stratford rail stop. We both took one look at the cool, shaded railway shelter and made a beeline for the seats. Sitting quietly next to one another Les suddenly exclaimed,
"Crikey I could use a fag right now."
"I could use a fag and I don't even smoke!" Les burst out laughing and in seconds we were both cracking up, sides heaving with mirth.
|The boat is back up the ramp, to the left along Simpson Road and down Lock View Lane to the cut.|
|The sheltered seat at the rail stop. I left a message in the upper right corner of the side wall above the last two holes on the top.|
There are so many memories along all these roads as we moored up time and again here and made our way up the streets to Tesco's for groceries, or to B & Q for varnish, or Halford's or Wickes for some bit or bob on Les' list.
While waiting for NBV to be repaired I took the train to Bletchley Park. It took all of five minutes to carry me from Fenny Stratford rail stop to Bletchley station. I walked two minutes up the road and entered Bletchley Park for an intriguing day that carried me back to WWII and the infamous Code Breakers; Alan Turing, the father of modern computers, and the Bombe he helped design and create which broke the German Enigma code--every day anew. My round trip train ticket cost me all of £2.70--cheaper than taking the bus!
By late afternoon the weather turned fowl, with low black clouds spitting frigid rain and eventually snow! As I disembarked at Fenny Stratford rail stop I thought back to that lovely sunny day, six years ago and I could feel Les all around me. I did something I've never done before and will hopefully be forgiven; I defaced a piece of public property by gently scratching the paint off inside the rail shelter near where Les and I sat that day back at the beginning of our life together. I didn't carve it into the metal for all time. I only removed a layer of paint. The next time the Milton Keynes Council have the rail shelter painted my etching will disappear. But for now, there is a small reminder that we passed this way once upon a time and that we are soul mates forever.