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Friday, October 19, 2018

Life's Cherished Gifts

"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future but today is a gift. That's why its called the present." ~Bill Keane, American cartoonist, 1922-2011

   It's been a busy two weeks here in my world. I've been writing every day with punctuations for a walk to stretch my body. I've cleaned out a ton of old paperwork, said goodbye to Les' three ring binder from the visiting nurses with all of their notes on the last six months of his care, and organized several drawers. I've also dug out file folders of family documents, pictures, and items I used to have pinned to my bulletin board at Cloudhouse. I bought a clear polyvinyl desk protector to lay on the dinette table and I slipped pictures and mementos underneath to help me with my writing.
My new memorabilia collage which lives under a desk protector on the dinette table. Each item represents some aspect of the things I am writing about now in my book rough drafts. 
My favorite oldest daughter Jesse, left with her favorite oldest son Micheal as a baby. The cartoon below is one I found over three decades ago and saved because it encapsulates my Jesse girl as a child in terms of her relationship with her sister. My favorite youngest daughter Sparky on the right as a teenager and far right a few years ago. Her cartoon also encapsulates a little of what she was like as a child too.  
The card top left came with a dozen roses from Les the day my spouse visa was accepted. I've had the Pinups on Writing for over thirty years. The picture of Les was taken in 2011 and is one of my favorites of my Best Beloved. I bought the post card of the Bison and the bird when I was thirty. Many times I've reminded myself to be like the Bison: develop a tough hide and call on persistence while turning my back to the wind. Some days all one can do is stand knee deep in the snow and wait...for spring.

This is one of my favorite poems, The Bus of Questions. It was written by my dear friend and member of The Wednesday Women,  Lisa Conger. 
The other poem which I couldn't get a clean picture of, is one I found years ago somewhere and it is so evocative of my life I have held on to it as a reminder of where I came from and how far I've traveled.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters--Anon.

I walk down the street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I pretend I don't see it. 
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault. 

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it. 
I fall in again. 
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault. 
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there. 
I still fall's a habit...but
My eyes are open.
I know where I am. 
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

    A week ago Britain caught the tale end of the hurricane that ravaged the Southeast coast of America. Over here is was named Callum. As it swept in from the west, passing over North Wales and into the borders I hunkered down for three days and nights and wind gusts up to 65 mph. Moored at Hurleston Junction just before the bridge, I had a front row seat watching boats coming off the Llangollen canal and out of Hurleston bottom lock where they have to turn right and cruise through the bridge towards Nantwich and NBV, or turn left and head towards Barbridge, Calveley and Chester. While the canal is wide enough to comfortably turn a boat at the junction, the towpath curves around to the right and the winds sweep down the lock flight, pinning boats to the side. Even on a mildly windy day the winds swoop down the hill across from the moorings before the bridge. More than once I have helped boaters who come slowly through the bridge to pick up a partner who was working the locks, only to find their boat pinned to the side. I am grateful to Ken Deveson for showing me how to pin the boat using spring lines. What a difference this makes in a storm! Yes the boat did rock side to side with the wind generated waves but she stayed secure and didn't slide vertically back and forth. Passing boats had no choice but to give their engine some welly to keep the high winds from shoving them into moored boats, but the spring lines kept NB Val secure and stable. Below are two videos from the wind storm.
   After the winds let up it was time to head back in to Nantwich. I had a leisurely cruise in lush and lovely afternoon sunshine. It took just under an hour to fill the 144 gallon water tank which was pretty low, dump the rubbish, and pick up three packages from the Laundrette. When I arrived at the Nantwich service point there was one boat moored on the 48 hour visitor moorings. I had hopes I might actually be able to moor up at the end of the moorings just up from the service point. By the time I finished filling up there were only two spaces left! Fifteen boats had come from both directions, quickly filling the empty mooring spots but I was lucky to get in where I wanted, just behind NB Bessie Surtees.
   We've passed each other throughout the past nine months, coming and going on the Middlewich arm and the Shroppie. She called to me once that she followed my blog so it was a pleasure to finally have an opportunity to stop and meet Phil and Barb and have a chin wag. They've been boating for years, and have lived aboard NB Bessie Surtees for four years now, cruising. Phil followed the blog from the beginning when Les first started it. Did I take a picture of them and their boat??? By the time I remembered the camera they had been to town and the chandlers and cruised off. Next time!!
   Yesterday my phone rang and Elsie Fletcher's lovely Welsh accent said, "Hi Jaq it's Elsie. We thought we would come for a visit this afternoon." Lovely!! It's always a treat to spend time with Elsie and Eric (NB Bendigedig). I cleaned up, popped a Betty Crocker gluten free Devil's Food Cake in the oven and finished putting together a Venison stew for dinner later. They came bearing flowers and cwtches (special Welsh hugs) and we spent several lovely hours setting the world to rights. Thank you Eric and Elsie for blessing me with your company.
The bijou Aloha Island Grill hut on Monroe Street in Spokane,Washington. There is just enough room inside for five people to stand and order at the counter. I've eaten many a Hawaiian plate lunch at the outside tables or in my car.
   I have been searching for recipes that are gluten free and still tasty. I find I still cannot fix most of the things I used to cook for Les. As everyone knows food is a potent means of stirring memories. I take no joy in cooking food for myself that Les and I enjoyed, without him here to share it, and most of those recipes need tweaking and substitutions to remove gluten, lactose, etc. For some reason I found myself thinking about one of my favorite Spokane take-aways from Aloha Island Grill on Monroe Street. 
Their Hawaiian plate lunches of Teriyaki chicken, macaroni salad, and sticky rice with Katsu sauce is food for the weary soul. This set me on an Internet search for recipes that might be close and I am happy to say I've found several I am going to test out soon.
   The other cuisine that has grabbed me by the gut is Middle Eastern--I finally found a Tzaziki sauce recipe I like and I cannot get enough of Chicken Souvlaki in gluten free pita bread. I am also jonesing for (craving) Dolmathes which are stuffed grape leaves.
   As a kid my parents hung out a couple they met through work. The Schei's had a daughter named Jeri who was close to my age and we hung out quite a bit. Her parents had been world travelers before settling in Anchorage and having children. They had ties to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Lowell was a fabulous cook. I still remember everyone gathered around their table filling and rolling grape leaves. I wish I would've had the presence of mind to ask for some of his recipes but of course when one young, that isn't what is on one's mind. I've searched off and on for decades for a Dolmathe recipe close to Schei's and I've finally found one that I have adapted. I made a batch last week and they were so good! Now if I could just get Schei's recipe for salad dressing life would be darned near fabulous!
These Dolmathes are stuffed with a mixture of rice, organic lamb mince, finely diced onion, finely diced fresh mint and parsley, ground cumin and dash of Tobasco sauce, fresh lemon zest, olive oil, salt & pepper. Layered in an enamel cast iron pan, six cloves of peeled garlic are tucked down in between the layers which are topped with tomato passata (tomato sauce), olive oil and water, then cooked for 40 minutes after which the juice from a fresh lemon is squeezed over the top. These little rolls of love are addictive!
   My cold nose woke me this morning at 4:40 am. The coals had gone out in the stove and the boat was COLD.  I had planned to back up to the service point yesterday to top up the water tank but I woke to such thick fog and it didn't dissipate until noon, so I decided today was the day. At 8:00 am I started the engine, pulled the fenders up, folded down the TV antenna, slipped the tiller in place, untied the mooring lines and pushed NB Valerie out stern first, backing her up beyond the boat moored right behind me, past the permanent moored boats and over on to the service point landing. I topped up the tank, cleaned out the loo and the bathroom, dumped the rubbish, picked up the mail, and cruised slowly in the sunny chill of the morning wearing Les' green down Jacket for warmth.
Yellow roses from Elsie and Eric Fletcher, pink flowers and the birthday card from Ken and Sue Deveson, and pictures of loved ones. On the far left is Jesse with her favorite oldest son (and my favorite oldest grandson) who is now nineteen!
   Moored up now by the playground at the other end of Nantwich, I have a grocery order sorted for delivery tomorrow. The rest of today is one of leisure as it is my 61st birthday. I splurged and bought three books to read: two are Man Booker award winners and one is a BBC 4 book of the week: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017 winner), Milkman by Anna Burns (2018 winner), and Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History. I am filled with a fine sense of satisfaction today as I completed all those chores and moored up again by 10 am, and I've received a lovely birthday card in the mail from friends, emails and e-cards from friends, and cell phone texts from friends and family. Today Life is good. xxx 


Carol said...

I'm so glad that today is a good day Jaq, happy birthday lovely lady! xx

nb Bonjour said...

Hi Jaq, just to let you know there have been selected readings of the Golden Thread on Radio 4 this week - at 1.45 pm I think. You can get it on i-player if you want. Very interesting, the little I have managed to listen to! so it'll be a good read too.
love, Debby

Ian and Irene Jameison said...

Happy Birthday, Jaq, Good for you to relax and enjoy this your special day. Sending much love to you from us both. Xxx

Jo Lodge said...

Happy Birthday Jac.

I love the idea of your table. Such a fabulous thing to do. I follow your progress and always smile when i read your posts.

Much love to a wonderful lady xxxxxxxxx

Judith nb Serena said...

What a lovely post, it was a good read. Happy birthday, hope you've had a good day. Nice to hear mention of Elsie and Eric as been wondering how they were doing since Elsie's blog was hacked. Has she started a new one? We sat out the worst of the high winds and heavy rain but have managed to get soaking wet occasionally. We're moored in Penkridge tonight on our way to Oxley at Autherley for a service on Monday. Have a good weekend. Luv and hugs Judith nb Serena XXX

Barbara said...

Happy Birthday 🎂 it was lovely to meet you I didn’t realise it was your birthday we could have gone for coffee and cake! We are heading back on Sunday to visit the marina on Monday morning thanks to you, xx

Barbara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Wagg said...

Happy Birthday Jaq. Glad today has been a good day xx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Carol! And thanks for being one of those lovely friends who has stuck by me through thick and thin--life and death.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Debby,

I saw it listed on the Radio schedule. I tried listening but I find that since Les' death my learning disability is far more pronounced than it used to be. I am also far easer distracted so I gave up trying to listen and decided to go for the book!

I hope you two are staying warm and well!

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Irene and Ian! xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jo,

Thank you! What a lovely thing to say. I love my new collage table top. It really helps inspire me to keep writing and working on my book manuscripts when I am tempted to give up. It is a lovely way to have all those pictures and things out where I can see them considering the boat is too small to hang things all over.

I am really enjoying the pictures you've taken of your recent cruise up to Rugely and thereabouts. Hadar looks as lovely as ever.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Judith,

Thank you Judith!

Gosh as the crow flies you and John aren't very far away! As the canal flows however it is a different trip!

Sadly since Elsie's blog was hacked by some toe rag in the States she decided to close hers down. She said they don't cruise a whole lot anymore and she had really run out of things to write about so closing it down made sense.

I hope your service at Authorley is quick and inexpensive!

Love to you both,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Barb,

Thank you! I am looking forward to hearing all about how things unfold with your paint work. I am still moored up in Nantwich--at the other end by the playground. Planning to move Tuesday.

It was a real treat to meet you both and I look forward to an opportunity to chat with you both over coffee or tea sometime.

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Dave!!

Jaq xxx

Elsie said...

Lovely to see you Jaq. The chocolate cake was delicious and the stew smelled lovely. Glad you had a good birthday. Love Elsie & Eric x

Oakie said...

Pleased to hear that you had a very satisfying birthday Jaq. I also spend my birthday alone, because declaring it to friends tends to turn it into an alcohol fuelled bash, as on many past occasions!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Elsie that's lovely of you to say. I am so glad you enjoyed the cake. I would have offered stew if it had been ready.

I did have a lovely birthday in no small part because of seeing you and Eric the day before.

Love jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Ray,

Lovely to hear from you. With your love of pubs and brew, and being such a well known and gregarious boater, I can well imagine how your birthday celebrations might become a wet and wild party at the pub!

I do hope you are keeping well.

Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs