Monday, 17 April 2017

Ebenezer and Florinda

Some readers might have spotted from the embedded twitterfeed on this blog that I rather like taking photographs of old boats on the Medway. There is a good reason, one which I explained a couple of years back on my (now defunct) Facebook page- so, apologies if you read parts of this story back then- bear with me, I have changed the punchline.


A century ago my Grandfather, Harry, would have been out on the Medway most days trawling the very creeks and channels I now sit and watch most days.

I remember him, but only just- he died when I was about seven or eight. My late mum Kath had been named after two of the bawley boats he'd sailed on, the Kathleen and the Florinda. (She was the youngest of seven children, I rather think they'd run out of names by that point.)

I posted all of this on Facebook a couple of years ago because I had finally tracked down a second-hand book featuring both Harry and the Florinda. Also really pleased to discover (because of a sketch in another book by same author) that Grandad actually appears on the cover of the book.

Different times, I certainly don't think there's any need nowadays for his specialist skill as described in the book:

I do like to think he'd have had a good knowledge of the birds, and might have treated them a little better. Medway fishermen certainly noted the birds- they called the period of slack spring tides from mid-April onwards the 'bird tides', the short window of opportunity when the saltings stayed dry long enough for nesting. The last high spring tide of late winter has gone this year and we are well and truly into the bird tides again. The nesters have got until late July to get away with it. I'd want to ask him about the wildfowl- were the geese and duck really so scarce as the old texts make out? Did my family have a treat of gulls' eggs? Did he notice visible migration downstream, were there really big clouds of small birds back then?

A real shame Masher and I never got to talk on such things. But I do like to wonder what he'd have to say on estuary birds back then, when I'm out and lost in my own thoughts on the seawall now.


So, mum was, for better or worse, named after not one, but two, boats. Makes the modern trend of naming your kids after entire football teams, Australian soap stars or districts of New York seem not quite so bad.

Having made the decision not to have kids myself, I have sometimes mused what names I might have saddled imaginary offspring with. Could I have ever gone for something 'exotic'? Well, thanks to a chat with a local wildfowler the other week, yes I most certainly could, because I have the perfect choices (cheers Clive!).

A daughter would have to be Florinda. Links to the river, links to mum.

A son? The poor lad would have to be Ebenezer. No doubt about it. Charles Dickens loved the marshes around here, I love Dickens. One of his earliest works, hardly mentioned nowadays, was 'The Mudfog Papers', based on and around my home town of Chatham and the marshes.

I'd have changed my surname by deed poll to Mudfog to complete the ensemble.

Ebenezer and Florinda Mudfog-

Eb and Flo.

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