Live And Let Die

As well as the butterfly resting on my shoe, some of the red admirals have made it into the cabin but found their way out. In the summer, with the windows open, many creatures come in, and some like to escape quickly and some want to take up residence. We have had to “escort” a few spiders and other beasties out with the trusty glass and card. This is usually my job and most often happens at bedtime with Shane retreating under the duvet and entreating me to do the honours when he spots a spider or moth.

We direct some wasps to the open air again as it buzzes at the window. They are usually happy to leave and are only around in the day. We have a wasp trap which I recently baited with sugar and put outside to encourage wasps to prefer visiting there.

Lately we have seen the odd ant come in. I try to adhere to live and let live but if it bites or stings or raids my larder I am less forgiving. I don’t want ants in the kitchen but that is right next to the back door. We saw some on the back deck too. One evening this week we found when we returned from an outing that there was a long line of ants marching around the larder door. That is just where I don’t want them, so I had to act fast with a damp cloth and made a clean sweep of them, also getting rid of their scent trail. I found that they were attracted by the sugar in the wasp trap which was on the counter. Shane had taken it inside while we were out. It went back outside again pronto. Shane used the chemical deterrent of some baking powder at the back door.

I was relieved to see the following day that this had even effective and there was no recurrence of the invasion. We investigated one of the lockers where we had seen a couple, but no nest. Just in case they were harbouring ants around our deck, Shane thought we could do with some clearing of the deck draining gutters as they were accumulating leaves and general detritus. He was prompted to do it the night we moored at the spot where we saw the hoverboarder. It was a tricky mooring and in the end we tied to trees as we could not get close to the bank. I had managed to jump off and tied one end but soon found that if I stood still my ankles had several ants on and biting, making me jump and slap. I was shifting foot to foot waiting for Shane to get the gang plank placed so I could get back on. He took it in quickly and we got in with cleaning the detritus. We think we have sorted the problem. What a coincidence that this boat should pass while we were at that mooring with the name “Ant On Deck”!

Boat “Ant On Deck” passing…we hope not!

I am usually happy to keep spiders alive and don’t mind little ones indoors hoping that the webs might keep other little insects down. Then today, while outside a little black spider nipped me in the crook of my arm. It was overboard straight away. I don’t remember being bitten by a spider before. It was sharp but no lasting itch. I haven’t developed any super powers.

Yesterday we went through a staffed lock in Henley where we had seen a blackboard with a joke on it before. The board was there again but this time we think it might have been a message for the swan uppers earlier in the week. It read “Swans don’t like it up ’em Mr Manwaring, Don’t Panic!” I’m sure they don’t. I don’t think the younger generation will get the reference but Shane let the lockkeper know we appreciated it.

In another lock I had a chat about my tomato plant. The people in the boat alongside asked how it was doing. I was delighted earlier this week to see some flowers open, but don’t know if it will fruit. The people in the other boat had grown tomatoes before but had lost all of theirs this year to a disease that blackens the tomato at the stem. We chatted about fertilisation methods. I have my fingers crossed and I’ll keep watering. It is nearly as tall as the window.

Flowering tomatoes growing fast.

We have continued to share the load with other boaters of helping through locks. I did a little button pressing at Sonning lock today and got some photos of their splendid hollyhocks. There were lots of other people offering to help too and admiring the flowers.

Jolly lock hollyhock

We stopped at a marina to get a pump out and diesel. We moved along the jetty a bit to be closer to the diesel. Another boat arrived wanting water. It was a traditional working barge (no longer working). I said what a wonderful old boat she was as I took a rope to let them breast up beside us to get their water and diesel. One man told me it was 124 years old. Wow a whole 120 years older than Bartimaeus. There was no gunwhale to walk on. He said they had to walk inside or across the roof, which had lots of obstacles on it. He said he used to walk along the roof but he was getting too old now and his wife didn’t like him to do it. I said that she obviously wanted to keep him a bit longer. He agreed but said he didn’t know why. I said she’d picked him or he’d picked her and he said the ladies always get to choose. She must be happy with her choice.

We moored again at Shiplake Lock. Last time I was there they had splendid roses on the walk from the mooring to the lock. I breathed their scent all the way. This time I could see they were all fading and wilting. They were in their prime three weeks ago.

Roses in their prime three weeks ago

On the plus side the rubbish barge was actually there. It didn’t smell so nice at very close quarters when I had to stand on it to tie on while waiting for others to finish at the water point and make space at our mooring. Still it wasn’t that smelly at all when we were at the correct distance and had smart blue covers on the bin.

Everything has its time. An old boat is repurposed and giving pleasure in another way by the lock. We had an evening stroll enjoying the bats, the dark water and the crescent moon. The roses will be back next year.