Bobby’s Girl

We had not intended being back in Edinburgh until November but in September we received the sad news that my brother-in-law Bobby had passed away in his sleep – a good way to go for him but a shock for his family – so we were returning to Edinburgh for the funeral. As usual we had to choose a suitable place to leave the boat for a few days so we had headed out of London.

The day before catching our train it felt like there was a bit of a Scottish theme to a couple of the boats we passed, which is rather unusual as Scotland hasn’t many miles of canal and they are not connected.

Gregory’s Girl – boat and an excellent film of my teens, being a similar age to Gregory and his girls
Boaty McFloaty, not quite Boaty McBoatface, but sporting a Scottish face all the same.

My mind was on my widowed sister. I was trying to send her regular messages to keep in touch and as she loves flowers I sent her some photographs of any nice ones I saw and this day there was a selection from a particularly well planted lock. Even the bridge over the lock was festooned with flowers.

Most were not as well planted out, unlike the Thames locks. Another lock keeper’s cottage seemed to provide tables and chairs for passing cyclists. The cyclists provided some help to me with some awkward gates that closed themselves. One lock had decorations of a different kind. A door was covered in horse brasses, the kind I had seen for sale in a London design shop just the week before.

A door with a canal horse brass collection

Our train to Edinburgh was cancelled so we booked an earlier one. That made it even more important that we get promptly to a good mooring spot, close to the railway the night before. Finding a good spot proved tricky though, all the best spaces being already taken. We were trying to find a place where we could get close enough to the bank. I was at the front with a rope and Shane asked if we were in close enough to get off as he edged the bow in. I made a wider than usual jump on to the edge and thought I had landed well but then my toe caught on a bramble and I was prostrate on the path. For a moment I wondered if this was going to make our walk to the station impossible – had I twisted my ankle perhaps. Shane was asking if I was alright. I soon decided it was only my hand and elbow that had been scraped, and my elbow was under two layers of material so was well protected, so colder weather was something to be grateful for. I had moved away from wearing shorts that day too. We got the boat in close enough to be able to board at the bow only using the gangplank. That was added security when leaving it for a few days.

The walk to the station had a very nice unusual bridge design. We were early enough that stopping for a picture was allowed. The actual bridge was concrete but the protective rails to stop you falling were twisted metal with plates of clear perspex, etched with pictures of natural, agricultural and canal references.

I regret I could not identify the wild plant. It was a nice sunny walk, which was just as well as the pedestrian access to the station was quite a long cut. We found our way on the round about route to Harlow town train station and into London. I was surprised to see a boating reference in the decoration of the underground station at the seating bays. Tottenham Hale must be near the river and I guess this might be a ferryman, a medieval commute. Small foot passenger ferries still operate to cross the Thames but they have motors and I doubt they carry chickens very often.

Medieval ferry tiling at Tottenham Hale underground station

All went smoothly with our journey. Usually our trips in Edinburgh are peppered with coffee and meet ups with friends but for me, this time was much more family oriented. We did try out a new Portuguese recipe (it was a success) from Helena on Saturday evening after Kenny and Shane had been cycling. Shane discovered that he was a little out of practice with hills and saddles.

I saw Margaret each day, sometimes with her daughter and we did a mixture of activities and quite a few hugs. We did a crossword together, went for a walk along the canal, past the pond, through the wood and up a blowy hill with a seat at the top a flask and biscuits like our mum used to make. I left the cups on the kitchen table but the tiny espresso sized flask lid was used alternately with two cups each. She said, “It’s good to share”.

As we passed gardens I asked her some flower names. I am not a gardener but Bobby certainly was and knew lots of flowers. She recalled a name but wasn’t sure it was the flower I was asking about, so I looked up the name and recognised this as a distinctive flower that I hadn’t known before, alstroemaria, and no it wasn’t the one we were looking at but I had learnt a new name anyway. The next day on my way to see her I saw that flower on my street, nothing like consolidation to help learn something new.

Alstroemeria between the roses in a front garden

Bobby was very knowledgeable about plants and those attending the celebration of his life were invited, if they wished, to take part in “Bob’s pot luck”, to bring a cutting from their garden for another person to take home, as Bobby had often done in his life time. I had never taken a cutting before so the internet had to help me and I managed to get together a hydrangea cutting in a pot and was reassured that they are one of the easier plants to take cuttings from. People really liked the idea and even if they hadn’t managed to take a cutting, many people brought pot plants to share. Bobby had visited many a garden centre, so that was appropriate too. The service and Bob’s pot luck were both very fitting tributes. It was said that he was self effacing but liked to think of himself as the head of a very fine family. Despite the reason for the occasion, it was indeed a very fine family meet up. It is not often all the sisters get to meet together. The older ones were brought up near Ullapool where there are mountains called “the five sisters of Kintail” and I always think of them on these rare occasions. I look forward to seeing Bobby’s girl again, next time I am in Edinburgh.

Bobby’s girl and all her little sisters.

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