The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Happiness, hysterectomies and duck-bothering

‘I’d recommend a hysterectomy to anyone,’ said my lunch companion cheerfully. ‘Best thing I ever did.’ What kind of life must a person live for a hysterectomy to be the best bit? Food for thought…


The  hysterectomy lady surfaced at a conference in Sheffield, land of my birth – and the rest of the week was a sort of hurried time trip through all of my life and friendships.

George and Jonks

George and Jonks

In Sheffield I paid tribute to little George, whose dad is my oldest schoolfriend. George is living proof that a hysterectomy is not always the right choice – though his mum sometimes has her doubts. I saw my mum in the blessed Peak, shared a birthday party (and my latest quilt)

Isobel's birthday quilt

Isobel's quilt

with dear chums the Foxes, who I met at Banks’ Mill… and on Saturday helped friend Julie, widow of my writing chum Arthur Gardner, to move into her post-Arthur home. In a stroke of generous brilliance she passed on to me Arthur’s huge, well-used and much-loved Oxford Dictionary, and a beautiful pan he used to create culinary masterpieces. Let’s hope I can do them both justice.


While I was away someone broke into my boat and started to build me a bedroom in the back cabin… once again the Crown Narrowboats A-team are on the case. I will soon have more room for guests and, more importantly, books.  The dictionary alone will need its own room.


On Saturday, marina-owner Ged turned sixty. I have seen Ged dressed as Nelson on a narrowboat rigged with squaresails, as a gendarme at a party where we literally set the house on fire, and as various other things. I knew that his sixtieth birthday would be a night to remember only with the greatest of difficulty, and stocked up on Nurofen in advance. It was a huge, glorious, funny party. Little Mathilda fell asleep in my arms to the tumultuous banging of a Yorkshire oompah band; men of various sizes and shapes struggled with their compulsory embroidered waistcoats and neckerchiefs; friend Monty and I hid behind the bar to avoid being dragged in to suggestive trumpet-related games. I looked around me and realised how many good friends I’ve made since mooring in Macc. In fact, I felt in grave danger of belonging somewhere…


I expected to feel odd when I woke up. But I was aware of a very peculiar sensation; nothing. You, dear house dweller, expect your home to remain stationary as you move around it. But to the boater waking on a winter morning, if the furniture doesn’t sway very slightly as you get up it means one thing – ICE. We are frozen in for the first time, and it’s not even December. Like the first snowfall in a garden, it makes everything a bit magical

Ice on the estate

Ice on the estate

and reminds us what a curious environment we live in, so somehow we feel even more waterborne. It’s a beautiful, misty day with frost blurring the outlines of everything. The ice is not thick, there’s a milky sun and I the marina is full of happy, hungover people. Boating is a somewhat outdoor lifestyle, so we all enjoy the comforts of the fire and a bacon butty even more on such a day as this. It fills me too with a deep, physical longing to take the boat out and bother the chilly ducks. I’ve hardly done any proper boating this year but even so, the boat remains a deep pleasure and I’m doubly determined to take her out and show her a good time next year.


I did do some work this week – a grant application for £225,000 and planning for next week’s events in Cheshire and Stroud – but it hardly seems worth mentioning. Excuse me, I must go and start the engine…why walk to the King’s Arms when I could boat there?




This entry was posted on November 30, 2008 by in Writing exercises.
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