Glorious!

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We were blessed by a couple of those ‘held breath’ Autumnal days, when things pause before the decline into Winter. A chance to sit and stare a while, enjoy the water,  and take the boat out for the shortest of cruises.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Pictures are more articulate than I could hope to be, so this is a picture post.

Autumn half term holidays. The London Escape. The return to the boat. Just 48 hours away. But what quality time!

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Wabi-Sabi of boat

Our old boat Eileen is a project that’s never likely to be completed. In my minds-eye there are grand designs and the hope that the ‘next big push’ will move it towards some degree of completeness – but it never actually happens. Time’s not on my side and life gets in the way. There’s just too much distraction and not enough daylight as the boat’s located just too far from home to make an evening’s work on it viable. Still, that’s not to say we can’t enjoy it’s rough-&-ready incompleteness. We can indulge in ‘glamping’ afloat perhaps, shabby-chic without the chic and, over time, we’ve cobbled together a camping stove and sleeping bag ‘make-do and mend’ mindset that works. The threadbare space, the unfinished rough-edges being seen as an antidote to slickness. The boat’s concrete materiality is a refreshing change from the temptations of the virtual world.

This year we’ve not been able to get a-boat as much as I’d like. This picture-post is about when we did and for a few days enjoyed the wabi-sabi of the boat

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Parkland Walk Stories…

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The Edgeware, Highgate & London Railway line from Finsbury Park to Highgate (and on to Edgeware) opened in 1867. A branch from Finchley to High Barnet opened in 1872, and from Highgate to Alexandra Palace in 1873. In the 1930s it was planned to transfer all the lines to become part of an expanding Underground Northern Line. The sections north of Highgate – to Barnet and Mill Hill – were transferred in 1940, however, though partially completed, the rest of the scheme was halted and then abandoned after WW2. Infrequent passenger trains continued to Alexandra Palace, but these ceased in 1954. Some freight trains ran until 1964, and the last use of the line was by London Transport to transfer tube trains until 1970.

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Is there a bit of ‘pioneer’ left trapped within us all?

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Is there a bit of ‘pioneer’ still trapped within us all?

It’s a question that was prompted in my mind by the sight of what I suppose would be called ‘western re-enacters’, camping out as frontiersmen and women as crowds passed by and stared in.

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Initially I couldn’t quite work out what would motivate someone to set up a pioneer encampment and live the cowboy (or indian) way, depending on your particular preference, for a weekend. I looked up ‘Western re-enactment’ and found that the Shootists website defines Western re-enactment as being: “…all about reliving the “Old West”, not content with just reading western books or watching westerns on tv, we’ve taken things to their next logical phase. Re-enactment groups are nothing new, people have been staging shows for more than 100 years. Even Buffalo Bill’s travelling shows that featured staged “Indian” attacks on settlers were a form of re-enactment, and the growth and enjoyment of the hobby is steady.

Western re-enactors cover time periods spanning decades, from Native Americans through to gunfighters, lawmen, ranchers and civillians. The re-enactors pride themselves on authentic attire, replica firearms, and many put in countless hours of historical research into their characters surroundings and cultures. Many of these groups are more than willing to accept new members and they’re a great bunch of people.”

Whilst Open Range has a mission: To promote respect, credibility and awareness of and for Old West re-enactment and Living History in the UK, by advocating and encouraging authenticity and historical accuracy.

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All well and good, if you’re into that kind of thing. But perhaps behind the explicit references to the Wild West there’s also something a little more universal going on here, something hinted at by the gorgeous ephemera that’s so proudly displayed in every encampment.

Here are people seeking to create imaginative closed worlds; worlds that hark back to a time unmediated by virtual reality and squarely set in a more direct and harsher physical reality. Here are people creating a palimpsest of something long gone, yet it’s something that increasing numbers of people strive for, namely a simpler life more closely connected to the natural world.

To be honest I wasn’t so much struck by the teepees and the cabins, the buckskin and the stetsons (authentic and cherished though they obviously were) but by the gorgeous equipment-of-camp, all of which would be familiar kit to anyone passionate about the great outdoors, whether that be fishermen, campers, walkers, ‘glampers’, shed-workers or boaters like me.

Yep, it was the campfires, smokey hurricane lamps and homemade stoves; and the sooty tinware, kettles and kitchenalia that really seduced me, alongside the fact it was so obviously well used by committed re-enacters living their dream.

I thought back to my happy experiences around the boat’s campfire earlier this Summer, and found myself longing to build a campfire again.

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