It was a sad week for river-folk as the resident seal, the one I mentioned before with the big face, was attacked by a dog near Hammersmith and had to be put down.  Friends were sending me links to articles about it in every news source (including the Daily Mail even) and according to Pat the neighbourhood forums were awash with angry people suggesting that the owner of the dog should be put down too (yikes) and that this incident was an example of how ‘dogs and cats and pollution were destroying wildlife’…(Personally, I wouldn’t bunch these three things together in my own version of the ‘what’s destroying the planet’ list, but hey maybe they know something I don’t about the workings of domestic pets that puts them on a par with pollution).

So yes, it’s terribly sad because so many of us were captivated by the seal sightings, and somehow, they made lock-down that bit more magical.  The idea that us humans slowing down the pace was allowing local animals to spread their wings (or blubber in this case) and take up more space felt comforting.  As though finally we were doing something nice for the wildlife for a change instead of constantly deafening it with our noise and scaring it with our engines and paddles.  The seal came to be a happy part of our lockdown lives because it also made us feel good about the world and the possibility that we might be able to live alongside these amazing creatures.  BUT ALAS.  This was not to be.  Poor Freddie M.  I have no idea why anyone called him that.  Having seen him up-close, he definitely bore no physical resemblance to the singer- which is probably a good thing for a seal.

Yesterday it was Captain Pat’s birthday and we set out with an ambitious morning plan- to take the kids to school by boat and have a little boat trip of our own.  We decided it was time for Fergus to get some proper sea-legs on him so he came too.  I did feel ever-so eccentric in our filthy little cabin cruiser, kids in luminous life jackets, school bags and guitar case, dog on a string (almost) as we approached the other side and attempted to moor up just by the alley that leads to the school from the river.  We attracted a fair bit of attention too, as people seemed very excited/ impressed/ bemused by the scene.  Mainly I was just concentrating on not letting anything fall overboard or the engine cutting out which would have made the whole scene a little less romantic and people would probably have begun to feel sorry for us.  Pat said, don’t worry, we have paddles but this didn’t really reassure me as I’m pretty sure I can’t paddle against the tide and hold a puppy at the same time, although of course I would do my very best if it came to it.

Anyway, the trip was a success and kids arrived squawking at everyone about how they’d arrived at school on a boat and it was all very jolly.  I bundled them off, got coffee as a treat and went back to the boat for our morning trip. It was the first of the year for me and felt so good to be on the water and heading down that lovely stretch of river which is surrounded just by parks and gardens, no buildings at all for a long while.  Fergus took to the river very well and even did some posing for me as he looked out across the water (see above).  He just needed a brass spyglass in his paw and he would have looked a right royal marine.  What I especially like about him is that he has a very serious sort of face, not a goofy face.  He looks like a no-nonsense sort of dog, one that means business and will get shit done. Definitely captain material.

Then, we were all VERY EXCITED to come across a delightfully camouflaged chunk of a seal lying resplendent on a floating thing.  Come to think of it, I’m not exactly sure what that floating thing is, a pontoon-ish surface in the middle of the river covered in twigs, buoys, slates and bird poo.  Mainly bird poo. In any case, Chunky was clearly very happy to be there and appeared to be dozing.  Here he is, pictured above looking like a velvety sausage. We did wonder if he was definitely alive but then he moved!  We think he was the second seal that was spotted a lot during lockdown, a blacker one with droopy eyes and a long wonky nose.

It occurred to me that he looked a bit like a Clanger, but not pink and without the armour.  Which then made me think how marvellous he’d look in some armour- bright gold and maybe with some tassels.  Which then made me think that if only Freddie M had had some he might have been ok.  So maybe that’s a side-project for the local angry mob?  Put their energy into something more constructive and design a fully functional seal-suit that not only looks MAJESTIC but also protects.

I’d say the seal spotting was just what we needed to soothe our spirits in the wake of Freddie M’s departure.  But, we definitely need to make sure Fergus does NOT get any ideas about taking on any wildlife himself as we wouldn’t want to lose any more seals and also because we don’t want Fergus being lynched by either Chunky or the angry mob of neighbours.  But first things first, seal armour design.