Back where I belong.

Only Debbie could invent a five prong marshmallow toasting fork. photo: Simon houstoun

Only Debbie could invent a five prong marshmallow toasting fork. photo: Simon Houstoun

Back out in the woods with my gang of volunteers, toasting marshmallows on a big bonfire while tawny owls called amid the trees. Mulled wine, baked potatoes and good friends providing the perfect antidote to an excess of Christmas shopping. Came away full of festive spirit. Hope everyone enjoys the season in whatever way means the most to them.

Life afloat

Still dreaming of boat buying but will, know doubt, end up with something looking more like this beauty, spotted floating near Conyer in Kent….then, again, in some ways it’s my ideal home, so, why not?

photo Simon Houstoun

photo Simon Houstoun

Floating an idea

rescued from Sheppey - this time not by the lifeboat!

Rescued from Sheppey – this time not by the lifeboat!

Cycled to Lower Halstow on a beautiful winter’s afternoon to admire the boats and dream once again about buying one.

I have toyed with the idea of buying a boat ever since moving to Medway. Something to escape down river in on a summer’s evening to enjoy the peace and commune with the seals or, rather more intrepidly, chug across the Thames to Essex to visit the folks. But I currently have zero boating knowledge and no spare cash. Strangely neither of these small issues is likely to deter me.

This year, having spent so much time walking along the river and meeting people living in many weird and wonderful ways along its banks, the idea has really taken hold, but just what boat should I be dreaming of? a motor boat? a sail boat? a canoe? I have no idea what a cash strapped, total novice should buy and have a healthy respect of the dangers of the estuary after being rescued by a lifeboat from an ill-fated canoeing tour. Consequently I don’t know if this is one of my many crazy desires that I should squash or one of those rare moments of inspired clarity that I should run towards. Today, with the river spread out before me and all those islands and inlets to explore, every boat looked tempting.

A few weeks ago I had spent a merry half hour perusing the ‘for sale’ board at Iron Wharf boatyard in Faversham and saw an advert for a sailing boat called Katie;

‘Sloop rigged, motor sailer, twin bilge keels, roller reefed, mailsail and furling jib, £3250.’

I have no idea what it all means but it sounds beautiful.

I am tempted, too tempted but rather fear I could become like one of the inhabitants of Iron Wharf who, having spent their life savings on the boat,  realise that they don’t have the skills to keep it afloat and instead end up living in a rented railway carriage at the dock. At notice next to the boat informed me that I could rent my very own railway carriage for £10 a month. At this price life on the dockside was quite tempting too.

Railway carriage home - Iron Wharf

Railway carriage home – Iron Wharf

All Blue

Spent a beautiful winter’s day walking from Faversham to Whitstable on what I thought was to be the last leg of my trip across the marshes for my book, Estuary Life. Turns out I was wrong. Saturday 30th November 2014 – 12 on the beachOutside Seasalter

The bait diggers are heading home. There is a nip in the air as the day turns. I am conscious of losing light and although I can see Whitstable crawling over the hills and ridges to the east I know I still have a fair walk ahead. I evict the sand flies from my lunch box and walk on.

My shadow grows long across the beach, my feet walking on sand, my head somewhere out in the pools, my hair wiggling into the mud rivulets.

Mist grows from the sea and the light glows blue around me, blue sky, reflected in blue pools, the blue haze of the grazing marsh on Sheppey, the shadows, blue, the mussel shells, blue, the little blue sticks of a million cotton buds flushed down toilets and washed to beaches on the tide, all blue.

I reach the Neptune pub. It is late afternoon, the tide is sloshing around the base of the groins. The seals I saw earlier will be swimming out there now, diving for fish beneath the silver skin of this molten liquid. Directly opposite, I can see, through the hazy light, the cliffs of Warden’s Point on Sheppey. I have reached the mouth of the Swale, the end of the Estuary. If I walk on then I will be out to sea. It is the end of the journey but it doesn’t feel like the end, it feels unfinished.

It is no good, the sun is going down and I can’t walk on so maybe for one last time I need to walk back.