Then I heard it. That strange scraping, rasping noise I have been trying to identify. A low, slow single scrape lasting for about a second at a time. I rose much too quickly, went to the galley, raised the blind and slid open the window. Of course, the sound stopped. A solitary swan was sailing past with wings stretching like the solar panels on a satellite. I abandoned the yawning duck theory and wondered if it could be the swan making some sort of drumming noise with his beak. I didn't see anything moving. I heard the noise again and it seemed to be coming from another direction. The mystery sound remains unidentified.
Since I was up I decided I could hang out the washload I'd put in before I went to bed. I have a line stretched the length of the mooring and I do like to take advantage of maximum airing opportunities. I hauled myself quickly into joggers, jumper and topped off the ensemble with a fleece and hat. I zipped the fleece to the neck because I didn't want to risk meeting anyone who might form an opinion about the boatman who keeps his pyjamas on under his clothes. I could get dressed properly when it warms up a bit more. "You have a very colourful washing line," Yappy-dog Woman once said to me before her eviction. I like my tie-dyed and primary coloured clothes, but having someone observing my smalls felt creepy.
However, before hanging out the linen I wanted to have a word with Jack. I was hoping he was still with us. Despite the farmer's sister managing to wrap him in two horse coats it had been a cold night. There was a light mist on the river and a light frost on the decking. A heavier layer of ice had formed on the roof of the boat and it was not yet warm enough to begin melting. As I climbed the steps up to the top of the bank I looked into the low sun to see if I could spot Jack where I'd seen him last night. He wasn't there. My heart did one of those momentary quickening things and then I saw him in silhouette. He was standing, grazing at the far end of the field. Hooray! I had to go and have a word and let him know how pleased everyone would be that he had made it through the night. As I drew closer he looked uncomfortable and seemed as though he wanted to move away, so I backed off and he relaxed. I didn't want him to have to move about unnecessarily if it still hurt to move and certainly not on my account. From a distance I told him that I was pleased to see him up, if not quite about, and I think he was listening. He had stopped grazing anyway.
|A light mist on the river|