Sorting Books

While I was away the first mate stayed home to prepare the library for re-painting. This was a more time-consuming job than you can imagine. On my return I found Ikea bags full of books in every room. A scrap of card had also turned up. I wrote this poem on examining it.
Sorting Books
A scrap of cardboard
found in a book
years later.

My mother’s writing –
a friend’s address
in pencil.

The other side shows
the end of a
shopping list.

“Oven cloth – £10”

I kiss the text
and cast the card
into the bin.

“Bless you mother”.
A gentle pain
seeps into my heart.

Liza Coates 29/09/2011

For Joan Mary Lucille Furse-Roberts née Paddison born 18/09/1912 died 24/11/2001

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Jan and the bunting

It took four days to get from Edinburgh to Glasgow for the start of the anniversary celebration, 10 years since the Forth and Clyde Canal was re-opened.

I had the company of Jan Fairley, who learned the ropes quickly, and was able to hold the bows of Jessica steady as we went up the locks, while I remained at the helm. Jan also cooked delicious and healthy meals for us both, and had brought some bunting in boaty colours that she had made for the occasion. It rained a lot, so here she is with the bunting inside the cabin, drying it out so that it will look good on the first day of travel from Glasgow.

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Prayer for the big flotilla

Next week-end there will be a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the re-opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal. There will be about 75 boats making their way along the canal from Glasgow to Falkirk, and we have been asked to pray for good weather. Here is my prayer:

Creator God, you have made us to be a community of fun loving boaters. We thank you that you have showered us with gifts of energy, skill and kindness. Bring us this week-end abundant good weather that we may enjoy the sunshine and have the grace to thole any wind and rain with the joy of looking for a rainbow. For you hold our wellbeing in your hands, Amen.

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Signs of Spring

Last Wednesday I took Jessica in to Edinburgh Quay, single-handed except for the final mooring where I had help from Mike [First Mate]. Ratho was about to be dredged, and BW [British Waterways] were needing the boats out of the way. Moreover the house building on the far bank was disturbing the peace.

I had feared that the developers would have driven out the larks entirely. Since Jessica was launched they have returned year after year. This year they were singing, but I was sure that I detected anxiety and regret in their song, confusion at the encroachment, and reluctance to build a nest.

The vegetation was beginning to bloom, with the colt’s foot leading the show, closely followed by pussy willow and celandines. This is a yellow month. May will be all white.

I met three other boats coming out of Edinburgh. Another sign of Spring.

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When I am asked to pray for someone:

People know that I use the Narrowboat Jessica as a special place for prayer, and sometimes I am asked to pray especially for certain people. The other day a friend asked me to pray for her and her brother. This led me to consider what she might be expecting, as she had asked for wisdom in a quite specific situation.

I realised that I would have felt uncomfortable if she had asked me to pray for a particular outcome to the difficult situation they were facing, but that I was all in favour of wisdom, and would gladly pray for her and her brother to be blessed with abundant wisdom.

When I pray for people I find it is much easier to pray for them if I know a little about them. I was asked to pray for certain people by name who were caught up in the floods in Queensland Australia. But apart from knowing their names (which were unusual names, so I did not even know if they were male or female), and that they were members of the same Franciscan Community that I belong to, I had no picture of them or their needs. I am left wondering about them and whether things have improved for them. But here it is a matter of leaving things in God’s hands and hoping that I will hear good news from them one day.

When it comes to prayer lists, the kind where we pray for a few of the members of the congregation on each day for a month, it is easier to bring them to mind. And prayer really does change things, but not just in the functional way that we believe when we are children, like sending a letter to Sana Clause, believing that if we are good we receive the gift in our stocking. Most importantly, I find that prayer changes me. It changes how I feel about people, it changes the way I notice them, and the concern that I have for them when I meet them. I become more ready to spend time listening to them, more appreciative of what they mean to the community we belong to, and more thankful that I know them.

I have generally taken time for prayer first thing in the morning. I am a lark, rather than an owl. But on some days the time is squeezed short. Our Franciscan Principles say: “Those of us with less time must not fail to see the importance of prayer, and to guard the time we have allotted to it from interruption.” [ see ] So it is for this reason that I endeavour to spend some time each week aboard NB Jessica in prayer.

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An acrostic

Moving on:

So Kew have developed an app
Pointing out the delights of the Gardens.

If you dote on technology
Replied the author, you miss the beauty.
I guide walkers to wonder at
The mystery of trees, the light and dark.

U have a map on the i-phone,
A compass and encyclopaedia.

Look, with their head in the screen world
Do they ever open their eyes to gaze?
I help them stop and look around;
Reflect on the vitality of life;
Enjoy the real physical world;
Combine with understanding and wholeness
The deep story of their landscape;
Integrate the longing and the blessing;
Open their hearts with courage to
Name the flowers of their humanity.

Liza Coates, Sunday, 2011-01-30

On Tuesday, 25th January 2011 the BBC Radio 4 Today programme carried an item on the new “app” that had been brought out by Kew Gardens to guide people with an I-phone, and help them identify different plants as they wandered in the gardens. The reply came from a man who took people for walks in the garden. He told the interviewer that he would stop by a grand sycamore tree and point out that the lichen grew only on the north side. Immediately some of the group would get out their phones to check the virtual compass, thus missing the opportunity to enjoy the wonder and majesty of the whole tree before they all moved on.

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The NB Jessica has been wedged in ice for most of the last month, while the Skipper has had the luxury of a visit to Australia and sailing in Sydney Harbour on a “real” boat with sails and a keel. Meanwhile the Ratho boaters made sure that those who live-aboard would share some food and drink with the others at the moorings, so on the night of 18th December we crawled from one ice-bound boat to the next, enjoying the humid and crushed conviviality.

Now Hogmanay is a time to review the year:
We recognise the healing power and peace to be found on the canal. We know the canal as a place where people can come together and help each other to enjoy these gifts. For these and many other mercies let us give thanks in a canal boaters’ prayer.

We give thanks:
For the fruits of our experience on the canal …
For the joy of the wildlife and the sunlight …
For the peace of the water …
For the patience of those who show us the ropes …
For the kindnesses unexpectedly shown to each other …
For the faithfulness of the Trustees of canal charities …
For the goodness of volunteers …
For the gentleness of the vulnerable …
For the self-control of organizers …
For the love that brings us together …
For the dedication of the British Waterways staff …
We give thanks to God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer

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