This morning we woke up to the lovely sound of rain pattering on the steel roof above our heads. A soothing, cat-snuggly-on-my-feet, this-is-the-life moment for me; a frantic, leap-out-of-bed-for-the-nearest-saucepan moment for the Owl.
On my way to the station I passed a fleet of ducks, sheltering head beneath wing on a weed-float in the middle of the turning pool, and a scattering of small gulls sailing about industriously. They weren’t having as much success as after the catastrophic rains a few weeks ago, but more on that in a minute.
Dick and Liz occasionally pay us a visit on their way to the barrage and back – they live a little further up-stream.
Mother Goose pops by regularly with her two teenagers for an overnighter on the orange tub. She knows her game and is right over for a biscuit (never mind the kids) the second she spots a likely biscuit-bet up on deck.
We have a host of commuter pigeons who come home (presumably from a hard day’s hustling in Trafalgar Square) to roost on the Grain Store every evening after a sociable pint or a dip at the folly. Inevitably, some individuals have more accomplished pro-flyer skills than the others who mostly skid, anxiously flapping, down the slope of the partially submerged metal tank in scant control, and reach the waterline all flustered and slightly embarrassed. But I saw one crazy gun actually hover, dip her fluffy undercarriage down and lift herself up again seconds from a major water-logging. I’ve never seen anything like it, foolhardy fowl (henceforth to be referred to as Maverick. Or maybe Goose.)
We even have the odd sight of a pair of these rare little beauties, who very occasionally alight on the folly to do a little waggle-tail dance and then disappear again…
At least I think <a href="http://this is what they are. It’s too far to really see let alone capture them on an iPhone, look, I tried:
A Tribe Called Coot make a daily educational perambulation* down the gap between our boats and out around the edge of the river and back.
(*I know they’re in water – but you should see their freaking feet)
And then these are some of the fishes.
We initially thought it was because we were using too much soap, I’m not going to lie. But it quickly became too big for us.
The first sign (which I missed) that something was wrong was the sight of these dinky little flat fish kissing the surface when we woke up.
Almost immediately the Barking Community group email started pinging. One neighbour estimates he saw about two thousand dead fish float past on the outgoing tide. (The following morning these poor creatures were still anchored in the mud behind the barrage gates. The one in the middle was about a foot long and we reckon was a roach, if you’re interested.)
The mooring managers called the Environment Agency who came down, did tests and found no chemicals, ruling out the ‘Beckton Sewage Works Bastards’ theory and reassuring us the seagulls at least would be ok. They did however find that there was no oxygen in the water. My little fish had been not waving but drowning.
Another neighbour circulated this link on the state of East London’s rivers from the charity Thames 21.
Toxic run-off from suburban driveways and roads, suddenly released from the banks into rivers by heavy rains. Which is as punchy and futile a conclusion about the terrors of inner-city Tarmac as I ever saw. He proposed a community clean up, which we pretty much all agreed with. It’s heartening how bothered everyone is, and how keen to do something.
But still. I feel weirdly frustrated, incompetent and dissatisfied. After a week’s holiday I’m working full time in town again, and most of these photos were taken during my week off, but still – I’ve not seen any more fish. The wagtails are absent.
Where are A Tribe Called Coot? And how can this be normal?