i am waylaid by dactyls

Lumpity Trumpity,
Fascist dictatorship’s
Not what our nation was
Formed to achieve.

Given the cowardly
Sloth of our congressmen,
Things can get worse than
We want to believe.

it’s been

…more than one week since I left the boat to visit family. I meant to post another update before I wandered off, but things got hectic.

(this post contains affiliate links – see sidebar and below for more details)

The update I was meaning to post in November was going to focus on stuff that I’d found made the hugest difference to my happiness and quality of life after moving onto the boat. I didn’t buy any of it urgently, and I felt guilty and stupid for buying it at all in most cases, because I already had something that should have been good enough, or I should have been able to make something work without buying anything. Possibly true in some cases, but I certainly anti-regret getting these. Strongly anti-regret. Why is there not a word for this.

In related news, I signed up to be an amazon associate. I like linking to useful/interesting stuff, and it seemed like a mostly harmless way to potentially get some money from something I was doing anyway. I jumped through the hoops for amazon.co.uk a few months ago (and amazon.com a few days ago), thinking it was a sort of passive thing – create the account or whatever, then whenever I link to something I got off amazon, if other people click through and buy stuff, I get some money from amazon without it costing the clicker anything. Right? This was honestly not the best thought-out plan.

Anyway, a few days ago I got an email from amazon.co.uk observing that I had not … linked anything? … sold anything?… and that they give me 180 days to be productive in some way or close the account/disable my affiliate-ness, something. Which was surprising. Because it costs them nothing to have me registered as an affiliate-linking sort of blog, so… I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind the urgency or whatever.

But anyway. Here I present some things that took me by surprise by how much better my life was with them in it (including for the first time on this blog: affiliate links!):

A pair of red suede welder's gloves on a slate hearth.
welding gloves for not welding with, from amazon.co.uk

1. This one is not a shocker. Welding gloves. Not for welding. (Not yet.) But I needed fireplace gloves. Loading logs onto a fire sometimes requires precise placement. My stove is small. The logs are supposed to be small, but sometimes are less small than would be ideal, and sometimes they need wodging into the stove in a specific way or else the door won’t shut or something equally bad will happen. Flinging them quickly while trying to keep my hand out of the fire/heat and not touching the sides of the stove was not working specially well. I didn’t get these for ages because I thought I could hold off, I would only be there a few more weeks, etc. Nope. Should have done it sooner rather than later.

My other reason for not buying these for ages was that there were too many options and I have small hands and what if they don’t fit and I don’t want to be spending money at all, much less on something that won’t fit, etc. I can work with medium size nitrile gloves, but they’re a bit roomy, as a point of reference useful to probably nobody. But these are fine – I honestly can’t see how they would work for anyone with normal/large hands. They’re comfortable and work well for what I need. I think the right one is only quite that filthy because I was wearing it to shift coal by hand.

Small multi-fuel stove in a corner of a narrowboat lounge.
cosy atmospheric photo of the stove in question. idek about the frying pan. i was thinking to increase thermal mass a little? it was there so i used it. it’s the one that comes with the lodge marmitout, which I love with a fiery passion. i used it to bake bread for years. now it’s bravely supporting my ecofan. those are both affiliate links, too.

2. Mundane and bizarre, but: a cutlery/drawer organiser. That’s the one I got, and it is very very good and very very much cheaper than the one I wanted but totally could not justify the expense of. I don’t have photos of this at this time. Perhaps later. Anyway. I only have one kitchen drawer. It’s a good size, and it holds cutlery and utensils and random crap and kitchen foil and sandwich bags etc., but it drives me apeshit to have things all jumbled around loose in a drawer. Especially cutlery. I swear I’ve read something that said it’s more efficient to just dump it all in together, that it’s easy enough to identify and grab what you need without having little slots, and it saves time putting things away if you don’t have to sort them. I had a neighbour once who was a devout proponent of this theory. I call it crap, and it gets me very irritated, because it is not logical. Or practical. Or sensible. Or functional. Or aesthetically pleasing. Or true.

3. Similar but somewhat more surprising: a Joseph Joseph Wash&Drain Plus washing up bowl and dish drainer. The previous owner had left loads of useful things for me, including a dish drainer. However – it was chrome/wire, which I’m not a huge fan of, it lacked a cutlery drain cup thing, and it was somewhat large for the space, taking up the whole drainboard and blocking the hot water tap and access to stuff to the left of it somewhat. I felt like an idiot getting something new when I had a perfectly functional thing already, but the new one is bliss. The bowl has its own drain, which makes it so much easier to use than a normal bowl, and it stands on fairly tall legs so there’s plenty of circulation under it and it raises the working surface higher (which I love). And it’s narrow – it doesn’t fill the whole sink, so I can have the bowl full and still work around it. The drainer has a cutlery cup, which I needed, and its design makes it really flexible in how I can stack my stuff. And it’s tiny so I’ve got more room (visually appealing/relieving in addition to allowing better use of space). And it’s easy to clean. And it’s beautiful. And I love it.

Dish drainer and washing up bowl in a sink.
bliss. pure bliss. <- that is an affiliate link

4. Final total shocker (more or less): a folding table that is more like a really big TV tray than anything else. Again – the boat came with a table. I’ve got an L-shaped dinette and there’s a wood tabletop with two sets of legs – one for a table and one for converting the dinette into a double bed. The previous owner was cool and wonderful, but his dad was also cool and wonderful, and came to meet me when I got to the boat since the owner had moved way far away by then. He showed and told me all sorts of useful things, including the fact that the table was ‘low’. And that I might not like using it as a result. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, in spite of him explaining in detail what he meant by ‘low’: you can maybe get your legs under it, if you are a skinny child. I was delirious and jetlagged and nervous and all sorts of other confused and overwhelmed emotional states at that moment, and wasn’t really taking anything in. Surely it will be fine. It’s a table. How complicated can it be? A table’s a table. I’ll make it work.

I later tried to set the table up. Shockingly, I could barely get my legs under it. Also, it was sort of wobbly and not well placed to be spectacularly functional as a table.

I work remotely and use my computer a lot, and because there is video involved, it needs to be stable and the camera has to be at eye level. I wung it a few times, and tried to find different solutions using what I had, but ultimately it wasn’t workable long term. Narrowboats are sort of narrow. There’s not a ton of space for furniture and stuff. The non-perfection of the dinette + table setup sent me into a frenzy of thinking ‘I have to tear all this out and make something more workable’ but when the folding table arrived, that all calmed down. I had thought I would use it for work then take it down again, but it’s super useful and made the whole boat more liveable and cosy and functional. It was suddenly a home. I did not know I needed a table in order to feel at home. It lives where a dinette table could be expected to live, but it’s shiftable. If I need to set up the bed or want more space, I can fold it in two seconds and put it away easily.

5. This one doesn’t quite count, but it was another mind.blown. sort of experience. I’ve been reading boaty blogs and forums for over 10 years. I’ve done some research. I have planned real and fantasy boats for a very long time. I have always been aware of people saying coal coal coal you need coal on a boat what sort of coal do you use do/can you mix wood and coal in the same stove and if so how coal coal coal etc. ad infinitum. I was told by everyone I met when I moved onto the boat ‘you’ll be wanting coal/we’re going to get coal do you want some/here’s the sorts of coal you’ll be wanting/here’s where to get coal for cheaper/here’s what to do if you’re stuck in an emergency without coal/YOU WILL BE WANTING COAL YOU WILL BE WANTING COAL’. And I was like Yes, Yes, coal, I get it. I know small stoves are small and you can’t really keep a wood fire in overnight as a result. I wanted wood anyway. I would learn how to make it work. I wanted no-coal. I planned badly and ran low on wood and had to use the coal that the previous owner had left (have I mentioned how lovely the previous owner is?).

Mind. Blown. The fire was more controllable. It was possible to achieve temperatures between Off and Blast Furnace. The stove was still warm in the morning. The boat wasn’t, but the stove was. I can work with this to improve. I came to the conclusion that a multi-fuel stove, being designed for coal, is good at burning coal. And I have a multi-fuel stove, with no budget for anything other than praying that it doesn’t need replacement any time in the next several years. So. I shall be buring coal, mostly. Probably Ecoal50.

Just for grins, here (for the tiny stove lovers of pinterest) is the current stove of my dreams for when I do have the budget for a new stove (which will be a dedicated wood burner): the Esse Warmheart.

Esse Warmheart woodburning stove/cooker

I’m tempted by the Bakeheart but by the time you get that size and cost, you’re very nearly in Plus 1 territory, and I would probably spring for the Plus 1 at that point. Luckily, I’m very unlikely to ever be in a position to have to choose, so I’m hoping they still make the Warmheart by the time I’m in the market for a new stove.

Tangent, but Pivot Stove & Heating are the most damn informative and lovely people (person? I’ve only ever seen vids with Greg, but there must be more people and they must all be lovely). If I were in Australia I would have moved in with them ages ago. Meanwhile, I watch their videos obsessively. Greg appears to have just as much of a crush on the Bakeheart as I do, so for your watching enjoyment: one, two, three, four recentish (late 2018) videos from them on the subject. Watch enough of their videos, and you, too, can learn how to pronounce Geelong!

the perfect foot

Undoubtedly an effect of poorly timed cappuccino at bedtime, I was beset by incipient double dactyls last night. Mostly incipient. Some of them more or less completed themselves. None of them made sense, of course. Or came remotely close to meeting all the actual requirements of the form. Still. Possibly one of the more pleasant ways to while away insomnia without going blind.

Higgledy piggledy,
Floats like a butterfly,
Stings like a bee.

Normally I don't approve of
Deadnaming but
This wouldn't work with
'Muhammad Ali'.

Higgledy piggledy,
Muppet Jim Henson 
Is probably best known for 
Kermit the Frog.

Nonetheless I think it's
Sadly mistaken cos
Clearly the best one is 
Fozzie the dog.

i’ll tell you what i want

This must exist: I want an app that will prompt me to do a thing every 30 minutes (with blackout times, obv). And prompt me to wrap it up after 25 minutes. I want it to be cute. I miss Astrid. I’ve tried the purported clone, Tasks, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. That isn’t what I’m looking for at the moment anyway (the thing I’m imagining here isn’t a to-do app or time tracker, exactly), but Astrid was useful for me in a lot of ways that I didn’t know I needed, and I tolerated a lot of managing from Astrid that I don’t tolerate from anything else. That’s the bit I want to replicate now – I want a thing that says like Hey, the clock, she’s a-ticking, and maybe get on A Thing in a no-huge-commitment way – just throw 25 minutes at knitting/writing/laundry/that R book/duolingo/yoga – but I need it to not piss me off or make me feel like shit. Obviously it would be helpful if it was said by a small pink octopus who’s not afraid to call me a slug. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.

jeoffry’s as good a pseudonym as any, i suppose

Siamese cat stretched out on a floral duvet cover
I am made of love. And sharp points.

The absolute happiness of the cat depends on a few things: loving human interaction (in the form of laps, scritches, cuddles, or play fighting), hunting, and the ability to come and go as he pleases. He’s territorial, and he has a strong drive to walk his territory regularly. Apparently, the cat wake-hunt-sleep cycle happens 8-20 times per day. When we’re in our own space, I leave a door open or install a cat flap. When we’re visiting family in an apartment complex, this is not possible.

When the cat is pent (I am Merlin the pent, son of Corwin the lost), he goes walkabout in the space available. Sometimes at night. When there are many levels and/or obstacles, they add less-boringness. When we are pent together in a bedroom for many hours, he paces as large and complex a route as he can during his restless hours when I’m not available for cuddles or simulated hunting exercises or play fights. Since I develop pain and mobility issues in a normal-people bed, I’m sleeping on the floor while visiting family at the moment. The cat’s path runs counter/anti-clockwise around the perimeter of the room, taking in bookcases and tables and stacked boxes, and involves a jump down onto my pillow. Not so much an issue when I’m not in bed, but potentially problematic when I am.

He’s landed on my head a few times and gotten groggily sworn at. This morning was the morning for him to land some part of himself on my nose. Not quite sure if it was a blunt or pointy part, but it resulted in a bloody mess and a grumpy human who would have liked 35 more minutes of sleep before the alarm went off.

The solution, of course, is going to involve me keeping my head somewhere more sensible while I’m sleeping, because only one of us is capable of understanding the issue and making sure my head is not along his route (or at least not two feet below the immediately prior part of his route).

travels with cat

Siamese cat in a blue backpack cat carrier with an expandable mesh section.

I’m shocked by the ease with which I just booked a flight with an in-cabin pet with United. Usually booking an in-cabin pet requires booking the ticket for me online then calling an agent to add a pet reservation, hoping that it will be possible on the flights I just booked since they only allow 2 in-cabin pets per flight. However, they not only had my info saved in my account, they had the cat’s.  Award miles, in-cabin pet, adding an extra bag one way and upgrading to riff-raff+ both ways, fiddling with dates to see the best/cheapest option, selecting seats… All achievable online pretty simply. The only glitch was that between selecting it all and getting to the payment page the first time, it decided it didn’t want to play anymore and I had to start over, and the return date I’d chosen initially was no longer available. In this case it wasn’t a huge tragedy so I picked a second best and clicked faster and it was fine the second time through. Possibly I’m lucky and only seeing good stuff, but I feel like United sucks a lot less than it did when I last hated them like 20 years ago. I can’t get used to something so right.

When it became clear that I would be travelling with a cat a lot, I looked around to figure out the best airline for my needs. There are a handful of useful blog posts and websites and comment sections out there, but far and away the most useful to me has been Dog Jaunt. Between posts and comments, there is a massive amount of information about many persons’ actual experience interacting with staff of different airlines, flying in different seats on different equipment on different airlines, using a wide range of pet carriers. It didn’t stop me trying 47 different pet carriers before landing on my best solution, but it did help me pick United to commit to. They have the least restrictive in-cabin pet rules (I think it was that there was no specified weight limit?), so I felt better about my odds of being turned away at check-in in case my cat gets fat or my carrier is not optimally lightweight. Air France was a close second because of how I’m flying (in and out of CDG). Having flown with them since then with the cat, I would be super willing to switch to them if anything went pear-shaped with United, but United also flies domestically within the US and has an awards credit card and I was afraid of Air France because of their weight limit and apparent fussiness about pet carriers. I have since discovered that the French do not give a single shit about much at all. Second to apathy, common sense seems to be available to and used by almost everyone I’ve had contact with, and getting through CDG with a pet both outbound and inbound has been stress-free and shockingly simple and straightforward for the most part.