Tuesday, 19 September 2017

All aboard

 It has been a rather social time of late with
  • meeting Mike Coates and lovely partner Julia at Mercia Marina for pre-loading on Waka Huia then dinner at the bistro
  • Mick and Julia at Willington for roast lamb on board Waka Huia as our scheduled but short encounter, along with
  • Barry and Pauline who came for a week's holiday with us, with Willington as the starting point and Sawley Marina on the Trent as the end point.
Between Willington and Sawley Marina we have moored at:
    • Shardlow, although we had not necessarily intended to get there, as I'd thought that Swarkestone would be a good place to stop. However a pound closure planned for the Monday meant we had to scoot on through, and stopping any sooner after Weston Lock would have entailed putting up with listening to a roaring A50.
    • Sawley across from the marina - a huge boating day that took all of an hour ...
    • Nottingham for lunch and on the way we saw Gary and Carolyn from nb Inca (photo below of them escaping from us). 
      • It was only a brief stop in Nottingham although we had planned to stay a couple of nights and explore the city. This plan was thwarted by the news that CRT was going to close the floodgates on the Trent because of the violent winds expected that evening. We could not afford to be trapped, so back to Sawley we went - much slower on the way back than the way down: 2.5mph with the flow and wind against us as opposed to 6mph with the flow and the wind increasing our speed. I was very grateful to have Barry steering that whole day as it was more than 6 hours of boating. (I am now officially a weakling and a wuss.) On the way back, we did have a brief chat in passing with Trish and John Woods as we passed their place on the river at Barton in Fabis. We bought Waka Huia (when it was still called Mistress) from them back in 2013. We see that John is now restoring a WWII boat - I didn't get to see fully the signage, so am unclear exactly what the craft is. What I do know is that it will be done beautifully and thoroughly.
    • So we moored up back at Sawley, tied up tightly and waited for the storm to arrive, which it did right on schedule at 2am. By 3am we were awake - well, I'd been asleep until David got up to go out and check 'things'. So a bit of lying in bed chatter - a bit like a kids' sleepover - and Barry was deputed to make extremely early morning drinks. Photos were taken out of the windows and we all went back to sleep even though the wind was howling. To be clear though, the strongest gusts were about 65mph. A couple of days later, Wellington had winds of 140kph, i.e. about 85mph. So as NZers we weren't worried about 65mph ...
      • the following day was still too windy to boat in comfort as the boat has no keel and acts as a giant sail. So we walked into Long Eaton and back along the river path and towpath up the Erewash Canal. About 8.4 miles in all and lovely to be striding out.
    • Shardlow the next day when the wind had died down and we moored in the same place behind the boat that had been there on the 48 hour moorings when we arrived a few days earlier ... We were just facing the other way.
    • Sawley Marina ready for the journey by car to the outskirts of London, Surrey and Southampton
So all in all not much distance covered but some of it multiple times! Having Barry and Pauline on board with us is always fun, with lots of laughs and political discussions as we are at different ends of the continuum. They did witness our voting papers even though they would not have given two ticks (or any) to Labour. Go, Jacinda!!

And that brings us nearly up to date. For the pictorial story, see below.
Mike and Julia
On the very windy night the moon was out. The twinkly bits aren't stars though, just raindrops on the window

This unkind photo is David having a nana nap one afternoon. I think Barry, Pauline and I had watched a movie with German subtitles that David cannot keep up with, so he retired to bed and the radio. The movie was Downfall - about Hitler's last days - very good.

Here we are on the river. Given how tall I am I must be standing on the stool, but why when Barry is steering?
That's Gary and Carolyn waving goodbye in a relieved fashion, being pleased to have escaped from the mad kiwis!

On our walk to Long Eaton we saw house boats on the Erewash. There were several of them looking rather lovely - reminded me of Amsterdam.

This one looked very posh!

On the way back alongside the Trent and beside the golf course, this double rainbow was extremely impressive. I couldn't get all of it on my screen but I could see both ends of the lower one. I haven't often seen a rainbow where I can clearly differentiate all the colours.
I turned around from the rainbow photos to take this one through the rail bridge - amazing how the weather was so different and changeable. That was on our way back to the boat from Long Eaton - rain and sun interchanged often over the three hours or so.

You can just see Barry in his red coat crossing the footbridge - the rainbow points to him. Pauline is ahead of him (look carefully - she is on the sloping part of the bridge and you can just see her legs below the railbridge)

We went for lunch at the New Inn in Shardlow - good food and acceptable chardonnay even though from the US (Jack Rabbit, I think). This sign was on the wall. I agree ...

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Not my two best tricks ...

The day before yesterday we had a lie in while waiting for Dave Freeman to come and change our gas regulator from butane to propane (I think). All done in a trice and over we moved to get diesel before heading away, in the sunshine.

See the piglets to the left of the blue bin? They have made bigger an opening in the netting of their compound and can escape. However when Dave Freeman's wife Rachel, came to serve our diesel and told them to get back into the pen, they scurried off to do as she instructed!

... which lasted about 15 minutes before turning into liquid again. So we moored up by the aqueduct at Rugeley, and blobbed for the afternoon - some rain, some sun, but more of the former was my impression. So not a busy day.

As we need to be at Mercia Marina by Friday, and as the weather is meant to be a bit pants until then, we decided to take advantage of good weather yesterday and set off early with a stop to do supermarketing at Rugeley.

All was well, as we pulled up at the moorings (not a bridge too far, but a bridge too soon, but hey ho). But we were close to the bridge and I needed to move backwards to ensure space for other boaters to get through the bridgehole. To assist the stopping action, I put the boat in reverse and stepped off with the middle rope, with the intention of getting David to put the boat in neutral. Quel horreur! he stepped off the front with a rope, and there was the boat steaming backwards with no-one aboard!!!

With the strength born of a desperate desire not to demolish any other moored boats or off-side properties, David hauled the bow close enough to the side to be able to leap onboard. He raced through the boat and up on to the deck, and slapped the boat into neutral. Of course it was still moving quite quickly backwards, so he then put it in forward to avoid ramming an offside fence...

The poor ducks who were peaceably going about their own business, were tossed and flipped by the violent wake. They quacked loudly and said he was imprinted on their genetic memory - he was the man who at 3am 40 years ago drove through a flock of their ancestors peaceably sleeping (see a theme?) in the middle of Marahau Road outside Maxwell. His excuse? 40 years ago he was driving me and the pregnant belly (plus 22 month old Tim) to hospital so that Kirsty would be born.

[Given his next trick on that journey was to almost bowl a black poll angus steer that was on the road (did you get that we lived in the country then?), Kirsty decided not to enter the world quite yet so home we went in the morning. Kirsty waited another few days to make sure it was safe, and then I drove us all into town - David said he knew when I was having contractions as I drove in the middle of the road. Seemed sensible to me, as I needed to be prepared for any swerving that may come upon me involuntarily ...]

So back to yesterday morning - David brought the boat successfully to the towpath side, and we tied up. I was shaking a bit but David laughed.

My lesson - DO NOT GET OFF THE BOAT WHILE IT IS IN GEAR! Doing so qualifies as my silliest move yet in my boating history!

In one of the shops near Morrison's I saw this enormous panda. You can see by the height of the door just how large he is. Bruce and Gary, he makes your polar bear look rather diminutive. Dee, you need to show this to Murray and Big Bear - but please, before you do, remind them both that envy is one of the 7 deadly sins, OK?
This narrowboat is up on the hard in a school playground in Rugeley. It is called Discovery and looks as though it is a great piece of playground equipment. If schools weren't so forbidding (notices, intercom systems, locked gates) to enter here, I would have called in to ask to see it and ask how they got it. It looks to be in very good condition on the outside!

Going through the Armitage Tunnel - a very narrow stretch with a corner in it, so a crew member has to go ahead to check the way is clear. David took his new bright LED light and did three short flashes (behave!!) to let me know I could come on through. He does like his new light!

You can see how close the wall is. The rock was cut to create the channel - probably cheaper and quicker than building locks up and locks down, I expect, and quicker and cheaper than taking the canal around the hillside.

I do love the allotment system here in the UK. Almost all the ones we see on our travels are well kept and filled with veges growing.

But leaving the boat in gear with no one on it is not the only stupid thing I did yesterday, unfortunately.

Before we left the mooring, I hand washed David's new red shirt as I was clear it would leach colour - as it did, but only into the bowl. David put it on to spin and then hung it on a hanger in the cratch as we cruised along. He did the same with two new bright blue handtowels we had bought. But I, knowing better where to position the hanging-on-a-hanger laundry when it is in a moving cratch, changed the positions of both hangers ... And then, just after exiting a lock, I saw a bright red cloth thing in the water. It was close to the boat, but not close enough. So I put the boat gently in reverse to edge myself a little closer so I could kneel down and swoop it up. Well, that was the plan, and why the water and the red shirt conspired against me, I do not understand!

The red shirt (plus its hanger) swirled away under water and could not be seen. I pulled over on the lock landing and tried to find it with the boat hook, but no luck. I would have kept looking for at least 30 seconds more (not because of the shirt, but because I dread to think of someone getting it and the hanger around their prop). But when David asked why I had stopped (he was about to set off on his bike for the next lock) and I explained his red shirt was no more, he declared that he'd liked it but it was a bit too much like a Manchester United shirt when all was said and done. So search abandoned and hopefully it has already blended into the bottom of the cut, never to cause problems to any boater. If it does, or has, my sincere apologies, people.
It was long day's boating for us and we probably should have moored up at Fradley, as I was approaching my use-by date about then. However we continued on to Alrewas. I can always tell when we are both past it, as we struggle to get moored up somewhere we like - finding a good place is the first problem as we are tired and decisions are hard to make. We tried two unsuitable places, and then, on our third go, settled in a lovely spot and were both too tired to go out anywhere - which was one of the main reasons for coming here, dammit!

Today we moved on from Alrewas, leaving our mooring before 8am. The weather was quite sunny and warm this morning, and the trip down the river section was beautifully peaceful.
Just left the waterpoint at Alrewas

Heading for the lock down to the river section
David opening the lock for me

See how sensible I now am? I have a life jacket on - one that doesn't catch on the tiller thankfully.
And we are off down the river section. No, we don't have to get under that bridge. It's the towpath/footpath.

A sight rarely seen in NZ anymore as farmers are not allowed to have unfenced riverbanks. The effluent from cows, either by directly peeing or pooing into the water, or as run off, is a major contaminant and polluter.

We had planned to go to Burton upon Trent and moor up where we were on the day we met Tony and Helen Porter from nb Holderness back in 2014, but decided instead to stop outside Branston Water Park as it is quite a distance from the ubiquitous A38, and it is where I had wanted to moor a few years ago, but David was sure it would be better (less crowded) above Tatenhill Lock - that time, we ended up moored by the rubbish point and only a few yards away from the A38, but I was so exhausted I was past going any further. You can read about THAT day here: 29 June 2014

I have just re-read that post and it seems I laughed - I don't rmember that, but I do remember being very tired and I do remember being delighted to meet Tony and Helen.

Since mooring at lunchtime
  • we have spoken with Brian and Anne from nb February 22 who moor in Mercia Marina
  • given them our details for a relation in NZ who is interested in living on a narrowboat - please get in touch, Dave, if you are reading this
  • I have finished making the bread I started before we left this morning, and made lunch with some of it (tuna and mayo open sandwiches with tomato)
  • baked a chocolate brownie. It is entirely likely that tonight's dinner will be comprised of dessert ...

Monday, 4 September 2017

Jaq Biggs is a lush and I have her permission to say so!

In fact, she was rather pleased that I decided to use that title for this post - she said it would be good for her reputation which she (mistakenly) thinks is too shiny right now ...

I have evidence, by the way - I am not just saying it for effect. No, not at all.

We have spent the last 4 nights in Jaq's company, moored up right in front of her at Tixall Wide. And on three of those afternoons/evenings, she has led me astray with regards to alcohol! She was assisted in that mission by having a box of Hardy's Cabernet Shiraz - chateau cardboard that she can tote around under her arm. Bad, bad woman.

The first night we had roast leg of lamb for dinner on Waka Huia, and were joined by her friend Chris who is also moored on the Wide. Before Chris arrived, Jaq had already inveigled me into afternoon imbibing.
Evidence: wine glass in hand, sunshine showing in the cratch, beatific smile on face - Jaq's, I mean. Mel always smiles!

Happiness is a glass of wine and a cuddle with Mel.

She doesn't want Mel to see her glugging that wine down ...

Then on the second night we went to her boat for dinner. I left early (I cannot hack the pace ...) and she and David continued to chat for quite a while. No photos, I'm sorry, just one of the sunset and moon rising.
Lovely peaceful evenings here on Tixall Wide - it is a beautiful place to moor.

The moon coming up
On the third night we were joined by Adrian and Adam from Briar Rose who had journeyed long and arduously from Hopwas to get to us. Jaq was imbibing before they arrived and happily consumed bubbles on the towpath and then more cab shiraz over dinner.

Big big glass of cab shiraz plus a glass of bubbles ... Adrian seated, Adam standing, David MIA.

Mmm, two glasses for Jaq. David is back, but in his usual very considerate way, was not comfortable almost blocking the towpath.

So he took my chair. L-R: David, Jaq, Adrian, Adam. I tried to do a selfie with me in it too, but couldn't sort it ...

So David took one of us. Oops, this shot shows me with 3 glasses - water in the big glass, chardonnay (well, it's empty really) in the glass in the little table and bubbles in hand. Oh well - I still blame Jaq though!
 The next morning (Sunday, ie yesterday) David and I headed up to the junction to get water and meet up with our son Tim for brekkie (he was on his way from Manchester to Banbury for the day).
Sunrise yesterday morning

Slightly misty looking back from Waka Huia along the Wide

But pretty clear ahead as David unties for our early start - about 6.45am, I think. We had skyped with Kirsty for her birthday before heading off.

Adam and Adrian came past while we were moored up across from the Canal Farmshop (a brilliant place that I have been to every day since we got here ...) and said Jaq had come out to say goodbye and declared she had a hangover. Quelle surprise!

I on the other hand, didn't have a hangover, but was extremely tired, so when we had said goodbye to Tim, shopped in the farmshop, and cruised back to our mooring in front of Jaq, I promptly went back to bed for the day.

Jaq came over for a chat in the early evening, but neither of us imbibed. Livers needed a good rest. No more wine for me until Saturday in Willington when Barry and Pauline arrive and we meet up with Mick and Julia!

It has been very lovely being with Jaq for the last few days, but she is an extremely bad influence on me! But do you know, I have a feeling she is going to write a post which puts all the blame on me ...

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A very significant day today

 This is Kirsty back in 1978 when she was about 1.
5 years old

6 years old

Nearly 13 - on our first ever narrowboat holiday in 1990 - impersonating a rhinoceros ...
14 years old

With her loving and proud parents in April this year - 39 and so beautiful. Only flaw is that she is a bit tall ...

Keeping her dad awake while making sure she is thoroughly hydrated for the night's sleep...

She turned 40 today. We have spoken with her and this time we spared her the description of the day she was born... We do hope she realises the sacrifice that is!

And to improve the day, we had our lovely son Tim come for brekkie on his way down to Banbury. Feeling very happy!!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Noises off

Yesterday evening, we were just about to head out for dinner (at Flames Indian restaurant - lovely place) when there was an explosive breaking noise from the galley. My first thought was that something had fallen; but even without looking, I couldn't think what was in a position to do so. David's first thought was that someone had smashed a bottle on the roof (there was a hapless, yet innocent couple passing the boat at the time). But when we looked - nothing on the floor and no mess outside.
So I opened a cupboard door: Our biggest Pyrex mixing bowl had spontaneously exploded/shattered into big chunks and little chunks, like a broken windscreen!
Very weird, man! I've heard of spontaneous combustion, but exploding bowls are something else!

It could have been disastrous if it had occurred while I was using it, or while the yeast mixture was bubbling away on the bench for the bread, rather than in the cupboard where at least  the dispersal effect was contained.

I had read recently that the making of pyrex has been moved to China (I think) and that the spontaneous explosive shatterings have been occurring regularly since then. So I was not surprised but am now planning to get rid of our pyrex and replacing it with stainless steel.

A great deal of sweeping up, cleaning up and the jandals were put beside the bed so that there could be no inadvertent wandering into the galley to make tea in a barefoot state.

Speaking of barefoot, on Monday we (well, I - David didn't notice ...) saw a woman sunbathing completely naked in the cratch of her boat. That is my first experience of outdoor public nakedness in the UK - not terribly English, methinks!

Today we have moved on from Penkridge to just past Acton Trussell, but not before a walk down to:
  • the Wednesday market (excellent and very popular/busy), 
  • the hardware shop to buy a large plastic bowl, 
  • the butchers for shin of beef for braised steak and onions for tomorrow probably, and
  • Jaspers (£9 for 2 filled cob rolls, 2 apple turnovers, a peppered steak square, a sausage roll and a batch loaf)
    • At this point, only the batch loaf remains ... 
If you look carefully, you can see me at the counter paying.

Outside Jasper's is clearly a haven for the paparazzi trying to establish who can be blackmailed about eating too much yummy stuff ... Not us - we are proud of supporting such a great place - it's enough to have us come back on the Staff and Worcs canal!

Renewing old acquaintances and friendships

Yesterday was lovely (sorry, that word again, but it does aptly describe how I feel).

I was feeling a bit blah the afternoon before because the noise level from the pub (have blanked its name - ah yes, Cross Keys) increased dramatically over the course of the afternoon and evening with live bands playing. As I was getting in to bed that night, earplugs firmly inserted, I said to David that I could not believe myself having stayed put, instead of moving! I thought it was probably that we had put up the pram cover, fixed the clothesline to the tiller, and moving (on a Bank Holiday Monday) was all too much.

However the earplugs did their job and I slept well, and no problems were encountered from the drinking/music loving public.

I got up quite early to walk down to check out the next set of 48 hour moorings here in Penkridge, and on the way encountered Pauline on nb Bradwell. She reminded me that we had met a couple of years ago at Napton and on the way to Fenny Compton - I had seen her over the last couple of days and thought she looked familiar. So it was lovely to reconnect. She is an amazing woman who boats solo, and who travels the world in the northern winter. Patagonia and Antarctic earlier this year and Japan this coming February. I hope we catch up with her in the next few days so we can have a sitting down over a glass of wine conversation. She obviously has a lot of knowledge to impart, and I'd like to hear it!

The moorings were free so I rang David and asked him to get the boat ready and back I came. Off we went, he walked, I steered - and while waiting for someone to exit the lock and Pauline to go into it (there had been a queue even that early, and there has been a steady stream of boats all day) - I managed to get grounded on the far right hand side of the cut. B*gger! Reversing did nothing, so it was out with the pole. Couldn't reach the bank, so put the pole into the rocks on the bottom. No movement. Tried rocking - no lifting. I was getting a bit anxious as David clearly hadn't picked up that I was stuck as he was signalling me to stop. 😡😖💣 My anxiety was not that he hadn't seen I was grounded (see emojis for my state of mind ...) but that he would let water out of the pound I was in and reduce the amount under the hull...

A Dutch guy in a hireboat moored across from me asked if there was anything he could do. 'Yes' I said, 'Take a deep breath in and suck my boat off the bottom.' Laughter and then renewed efforts with the pole. (If I hadn't been able to get clear, I would have asked him to come over with his boat and tow me off sideways - Plan B)

I had another go with the pole, and decided to check to work out where the hull was caught. Jabbing down with the pole I realised that there was a concrete paver (I could feel the straight sides ...) under the rudder, so I used the stern button as a lever with the pole and edged the boat away. I had to do it gently though as I could hear the pole creaking (ie cracking). A new pole is required and it's a good thing we are going past a chandlers on Thursday morning, is all I can say ...

To make sure I stayed clear I had to go fairly fast, but there wasn't much canal left between the bow and the lock, so hard in forward to get clear of the obstruction, then hard in reverse to slow down, then more throttle to get into the towpath side and avoid the overflow ledge ... No crashes and the TV stayed in place.

And that was all before 8am!

Once we had moored up, I made brekkie - no kitchen rage this time as the eggs that we got from nb Suzy Q the previous night were beautifully fresh and therefore had whites that sat roundly in the poaching pan instead of spreading out like a map of Australia.

The day stretched out, so what to do? Aha! The oil needed changing, so that was my top choice. For some reason polishing the mushroom vents, sanding and painting did not make the cut.

A change of clothes, all equipment gathered and at hand, and down into the engine bay I went. David disappeared off to see if he could find a home handyman who was advertised locally.

So there I was, down in the engine bay, and I hear the loud revving of an engine and much shouting from the canal. I think to myself that I am going to need to hold on as someone is about to hit me. Then I hear intelligible shouting 'David, David' then 'Marilyn, Marilyn, where are you?' So I cease pumping oil (unlike any Texan) and claw my way up out of the hole to find - YAY! It's Ian and Irene on Free Spirit. They stayed with us in February in Waikanae and we had been keeping tabs on each other, but clearly I hadn't been keeping a close enough watch. I certainly didn't know they were so close!

So cake from their boat, a batch of cheese scones in the oven (all ingredients included this time), coffee, and two haircuts. Lots of chat and laughter. It was so lovely to see them again. (It's that word again!)

I was in my working clothes so why not do a haircut ...

or two?

Off they went into the sunset. Well, the afternoon, really. Into the queue for Filance Lock. Glad we did it this morning, grounding or not... I gather from Irene who sensibly went to check, as no boats had come down but heaps were lining up, that a single-hander was struggling. Why no assistance given or taken, I ask? With at least 5 boats waiting, surely someone would go and offer help and be accepted. I've never done a lock on my own, but I know if I was, I would be more than happy to accept help. I rather like the idea of life being made easier for me ...

As Ian and Irene left I got back down into the engine bay to finish the oil change - easily accomplished, but I did get a bit mucky.
Working, boss! The engine was still a bit warm when the two Is left, so I could continue pumping. Good thing, as we couldn't start it up with two litres already taken out ...

I am not forgiving Irene for this one - I wasn't grumpy, honest!

I stole the photos from Irene's blog - David has shown me this nifty way to take snapshots of screens or parts thereof and I have used it here. And I didn't ask Irene's permission, so there!