Thursday, 23 May 2019

David got hungry -

so we went for a walk before dinner on our fasting night. He found a path on the OS maps over to the village of Flore (silent e) and off we went.

As we started across the field I saw that the poo had come from the bovine species, and then I spied them - they were teenaged boy bovines. They are not my favourite to walk among as they are curious and frisky and bigger than me; so we re-traced our steps back to the towpath and walked a bit further until we came to Flore Lane. Off to the village that way we went.

This was on a house called Three Corners, which had a curved wall around the bend in the road. I think the bolt is to hold the wall to another wall or wooden beam inside.
This one's thatch was looking a bit worse for wear. However at least one thatcher has been busy in Flore recently given all the new thatch about.

As we passed what looked to be about 3 or 4 houses on the main road through the village, we looked through the gate and I called out to the woman that her garden looked beautiful. She invited us in to have a look. It turns out they have lived there for 43 years and the garden is her passion. And what was 4 houses is now one enormous place!

This shows less than half of the house frontage on to the garden
The two spaniels, Ben and Leo, found me to be a willing ball thrower. This shows about half of the garden. Way over in the distance is a very faint line of trees that border the canal.

In the left hand corner is the vegetable garden.
An old-fashioned climbing rose by one of the many doors into the house from the back. There were about 4 front doors on the street-front ...

And Ben returns from the righthand side of the garden. Just lovely!!
And this house was on our way out of the village - and it had another whole wing to the rear at the right ...

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

We know our limits!

And yesterday we had a stark reminder of them.

While we waited for Tim to arrive on Sunday evening, we played our second bout of this game which we learned from Joy and Grahame back in Waikanae.
Can you see the scorecards clearly? I have won both games - am not sure, given I already have best of three, whether I should ever play again ...
David's birthday presents from Tim, Dana and the boys went up on the bulkheads in the dinette on Saturday, courtesy of Mick who modified a few of the stick on hooks we had.
Photos from their recent holiday in Snowdonia
Tim was on his way down to Devizes for work - we were a stopover - not sure how far off the direct route but it did save him from having to be up and on his way by 4.30am. It was lovely to see him and he managed to consume Vogel toast and peanut butter on arrival, have a good sleep and then consume poached eggs on Vogel toast before he left at about 7am.

So we were up bright and early yesterday, and after seeing Tim away, we decided to head away ourselves. Considering our first requirement was to turn around and head back through Braunston from our mooring next to Dale, we thought it best to do so early before the three-way intersection hotted up for the day!

So I steered over to the towpath side and dropped David so he could be my look-out from the Rugby direction, then I steered through the first bridge. Then stopped and reversed back through the second bridge, so I was facing the right way. A boat called Imagine was moored with its stern right by the sign that said No Mooring, i.e. right next to the bridge approach. If only the owners could use their boat name's instruction, and imagine how awkward their inconsiderate mooring makes things for others ...

Anyway, we made the turn successfully, and no boats or humans or ducks or ducklings were harmed. As we came back past Dale's workshop, we saw his steel delivery was just taking place, and we tooted as discreetly as you can with a Mack truck horn, and gave him a wave of thanks and goodbye.

He is a sterling chap, a great metal basher  (as he describes himself) and someone worth finding when you need metal work done on your boat - for big jobs or small jobs he is a star. He is thoughtful, kind, and a good worker. And if you need jobs done that require the boat to be accessible, he seems happy to have you tie up alongside him for the duration.

His details, in case you need him are:

Dale Willoughby
Direct Marine Components

He is next door but one to Midland Chandlers, and next door to the Boat pub.

It's probably best to text him, as if he's bashing metal he won't hear the phone.

So off we went hoping that we would pick up a locking up buddy on the way through Braunston, but it was surprisingly empty for a Monday morning, and the only person on the move was turning at the marina entrance.

Just after we left the bottom Braunston lock
Looking back - that pesky right hand gate won't stay closed!

So David was on his own doing four sets of paddles and two gates each time until we got to the last lock. So that I don't career all over the lock coming up, I now give David a rope as I come in and have it looped over the nearest bollard. I wish I didn't need to - as I feel so dim not being able to stay in one place, but it makes the ascent (I prefer ascension given I am such an angel ...) so much easier.

Then it was back through the tunnel and a discussion when we stopped for a cuppa about whether we should stay again near Norton Junction, or whether we should carry on down the Buckby flight.

I think we saw this family as we approached Norton Junction. There was no food forthcoming from Waka Huia, I'm afraid.

We determined we would keep going, even though we had been moving for about 3 hours. In part that was because we thought we'd like to be on fresh territory, given we've done the Braunston - Debdale a few times over the last couple of years, and it felt like we hadn't really started on our cruise. Not true, we know, but that was the thinking ...

So on we went. At the first lock on the Buckby flight there were 3 volunteer lockies, one of whom told me of his favourite place of his trip to NZ. The Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo. (I blogged about it when we were in the South Island, I think.)

His reasoning for it being his favourite place was that when you go in the church (it's very tiny) the window behind the altar is clear and 'you can see god's creation - Lake Tekapo'. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I said 'Glacial activity actually.'

Don't get me wrong, the lake is beautiful, but give me strength!

That sort of set me on edge, and much as I may (or may not) respect his faith, I do wish he wouldn't assume that it is shared. Although, to be fair, I am not backward about declaring my atheism in such situations - didn't get the chance as I was heading out the lock by the time he delivered that statement.

 There were no more volunteer lockies (although one had gone down the flight a bit further but was coming back for his lunch); and there were several boats we crossed over with, which was pleasant, although most of them were coming around bends as we were already out - I called to David and he re-opened the gates he'd just closed. He is such a kind hero.

However, for that whole flight, the canal is bounded by the M1, the A5 (dual carriageway) and the railway - it is NOISY. So  NOISY that it severely impacts my sense of well-being and equilibrium. To the extent that I get really grumpy*. Not what you'd expect of me, I know.

We hauled to a stop after Whilton Marina where there was a mis-communication (2 people) and grumpiness (1 person*), so David could go back to the chandlery and purchase a second middle rope. Good sense prevailed while he was away and I heated some soup and buttered some bread and restored my obviously severely depleted blood sugar. On his return, David very sensibly did not speak, just came and one-armed hugged me as I sat at the dinette. He's not stupid. 😏😙

He served himself some soup and buttered his own bread (see? not stupid) and we set off again, looking for somewhere to moor that was away from the BLOODY NOISE.

We found a sunny, pretty quiet spot just past Bridge 22, where we were opposite a little wharf with three permanent moorers. And that was us for the day. 
View from the stern. Very peaceful, after the cacophony of the previous 3 miles (5kms).

View forward. Away from the bend, away from the bridge, not visible in this photo, but sunny.
We realised we had exceeded our boating limit, and agreed no more days of longer than 4 hours - I think we would be fine if the NOISE didn't assail us (mainly me, it drives me nuts).

While David was napping (see below), I had a very healthy dinner ...
David put up the washing line and hung out Tim's now clean sheet, and then slept for a couple of hours.

I read and blobbed and What's Apped with Lesley who was experiencing the joys of A&E where there were more people than chairs and the staff were severely over-worked. The waits were apparently so long that people had started talking to each other (in England, for heaven sake). She was too scared to leave her seat to forage for food, in case her seat was snapped up! I did suggest that she order a pizza delivery for the assembled multitudes but she reckoned a tenner wouldn't go far. A call for contributions, I thought ... But she was saved that kind of NZ-type display, by a good friend who brought in some dinner for her.

It was a good thing I had Lesley's trials to distract me as I was going through the locks - I was losing the will to live on the journey. What she was going through put my grumping to shame.

So a good night's sleep, a lie in and a late start today. And we only came as far as Weedon. We had a couple of goes at mooring up but abandoned them - one was a CRT mooring on the offside and looked nice but it had
  • sloped concrete, 
  •  concrete bollards that the rope doesn't slide on, and 
  • the wrong feeling being on the offside.
The other attempt was near Stowe Hill Bridge - right next to a sewage pond which I only saw and smelled when I was adjusting the fender my end. So that was a no, and on we came.

We are now moored between Stowe Hill Bridge and Flore Lane Bridge across from a lovely big house and in the sunshine.

Now, isn't that a nice view from the galley?

Washing is hung out, I've made the marinade for the thai beef salad (but no fish sauce on board, but no worries) and the beef is sliced and soaking. David has spent a couple of hours re-installing Memory Map on my phone (I ditched it when I needed more space last year, along with Bus Checker and a couple of other apps).

So now it's only a couple of hours to dinner, which on a fasting day is usually about 6pm. I am sure I can entertain myself without too much hassle until then. More What'sApping with Lesley and reading my kindle will meet that need. 

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Working, boss, say three (sensible) men ...

We arrived in Braunston on Thursday.
There was shopping to do, so it was off across the little field to the shops.
This lovely tree is part of the way up the path
This is what it looks like in full. I DO love UK trees as so many of them are huge and magnificent.

On the High Street is this house which has made a feature of a former part of its structure. We must have walked past this several times before and never noticed it. It was a lesson in keeping our eyes open for the amazing things around us.

It's now Saturday night and we are in Braunston moored up next to Dale's boat outside his Direct Marine Components workshop. Dale was busy from Thursday morning to early Saturday making and fitting the new aluminium covers for the engine and the weedhatch. We got the idea from Jaq Biggs who had the same fitted on nb Val after Les died and she struggled with the heavy covers.

Our engine's original cover was not too heavy as it was made of wood, but it was looking decidedly tatty. However the weedhatch cover was very heavy and very hard to lift up (for me) as it used to have a canvas cloth ribbon liftie thing, but as that was too easy to leave below the cover, I used the only thing I could find at the time which was a key ring. And boy, did that hurt the finger when the weight of the cover was below it! As I am getting a bit of arthritis in my fingers, I hated having to lift it.

So last year, back in late July when Dale and his trusty sidekick Dave scraped and ground the black stuff off the roof, we mooted the idea of getting a better covering over the weedhatch and engine.
One down, one to go. You can see by Dale's pose that he is happy with what the first one looks like!

And this morning, the second one is done and fitted - matching deck lifts, easier to lift and move around.

So here we are with the lovely Dale, we are moored up beside his boat, so no requirement to move on in 48 hours.  We have power and water and peace. He has constructed and fitted both of the covers and they do look spiffing. I love the liftie circles - known in professional realms, I gather, as deck lifts. And what is more, to make sure that the aged owners of Waka Huia don't encounter a trip hazard, he has ground down the raised bits and counter sunk the deck lifts. Now, how good is that?!

Yesterday, our other lovely marine Mr Fixit, the fabulous Ed Shiers, came to sort out the large solar panel. For some reason it hadn't worked since it had been reinstalled on our arrival back in the UK. I am unsure who was responsible for it failing. Was it David who put it all back together and had a fuse left over, or was it Ed when he pulled apart a switch that collapsed at that juncture. My hunch is is that the responsibility could be assigned sequentially thus:
  • A: if David hadn't had a fuse left over, the system may have worked as designed
  • if not A, then Ed wouldn't have pulled apart the switch (B), 
  • so the question is was the cause A or B, or a combination of both?
Either way, there were blueberry and pear muffins to be consumed, and A and B had sweet FA to do with their production ...

Earlier in the day though, I had made cheese scones for morning tea with Dale - however I omitted the baking powder! Idiot!!! They tasted fine but were extremely heavy - the forklift and crane were required to get them to mouth level. We all struggled valiantly and did manage to consume them, but this morning I was suffering from over indulgence in gluten! Note to self: do not have gluten at three meals during the day!

One of the benefits of being in Braunston is being able to shop at the local butcher shop. So today was my second venture there. More fillet steaks, a pork fillet, chicken thighs (all in to the freezer), lamb steaks for today's lamb madras, and the madras sauce ... 

On my way back from the shops this morning, I was deep in a What'sApp conversation with our lovely grandson Olek. I sent him this photo, saying 'She says hello' His response was GET. IN. MA. BELLY. He can be excused as he lives in Scotland - however it did remind me of when he lived in Opunake (Taranaki, NZ) and had a pet lamb for lamb and calf day at school. He wasn't that interested in the lamb, so his mum fed it mostly. I asked him what would happen to the lamb after pet day. Aged 5, he said "Christmas Dinner." It did make me laugh, so this response today was not a surprise ...
I also sent Olek this photo telling him the sheep around here are in severe need of dagging. He had to ask what that was, so I explained about shearing the bum area so poos don't hang about for flies to lay eggs in and the resulting maggots to eat into the flesh of the sheep. Nasty boy said it sounded tasty - however, he is a teenager, so that lapse of tastefulness is probably understandable ...
We had Mick and Julia coming for lunch because Mick had a few bits of work to complete for us. 

So I made ginger chicken and vegetables (the BBC Good Food Saturday night curry to which I add lots of veg - and made from scratch), lamb madras using a pottle from the butcher (got good reviews from the onboard curry assessment team).

No photos of the curries, but here are the Alison Holst Ginger Cakes with the addition of crystallised ginger chunks. Honest opinion: the mix needs at least 3 tsp of ground ginger, not just two. And the crystallised ginger added in is lovely. It tasted pretty good with strawberries and yoghurt for dessert.
After dinner, Julia and I sat in the cratch and cleaned the front glass as well as the door glass. Just so you'd know we had done it, we took this photo towards the iconic Braunston bridges ...
We will stay here again tomorrow and then move off on Monday - we have decided we will turn around and go down the GU towards London. If we time it right, we will be within coo-ee of the city when the dumpster president from the US arrives and we can join in the protest marches to let him know what a plonker we think he is.

In the meantime, the sun has come out, the water is still, we have not had to compete for a mooring, and it has been a pretty good day.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Making our way to Braunston

There was not a huge amount of slothing about on our way from the top of the Foxton Locks to Braunston. We did discover though, that by doing four hours or so a day, starting early in the day (7 or 7.30) leaves a whole afternoon for other pursuits - actually, things that are more like non-pursuits when it comes down to it ...

Although I did give David a haircut one day, and hung out washing on about 3 days (1 of which was at the top of the Foxton Locks, and already posted about). But apart from that it was reading that took up my time, as well as making lunches and dinners.

The trip from the top of Foxton to Crick is a bit boring as it is a very long pound and it wanders hither and yon following the contours rather than indulging in any locks. However, it is very beautiful countryside, and looks just wonderful in the sunshine.

On the first morning out of Foxton we only moved a couple of miles up the cut until we heard from our son Tim who was joining us for breakfast on his way down from Manchester to Devizes for work.

Before breakfast though, Tim had to retrieve the gas bottle spanner that David had dropped in the locker - the gas ran out as I was pre-cooking breakfast bits.

A 43 year old can contort himself upside down into a locker far more ably than a 70 year old can. And the 68 year old didn't even bother volunteering!
Breakfast was served in the cratch at our new table, with us sitting on our new side lockers (thanks, Mick 👌👍😙). We did determine that we need the little stool for a third person because sharing the seat with a certain person who spreads his wings when eating is not conducive to comfortable meals. That meant the same certain person has had to retrieve the stool from within the gas locker where it was put when deemed to be on the critical tasks list for long-term stowage just a few days ago.

We stopped for diesel, a new gas bottle (requiring emptying of the gas locker that had been stacked with other things prior to leaving Debdale ...)  and water. We always find the people at North Kilworth Wharf are very helpful and friendly, even though it is not a fancy shmancy place. John, the owner, was very excited to see that the mother duck still had four ducklings and that the nearby mink had not got them. He keeps a large jar of cornflakes on the wharf so he can feed them as soon as he sees them - that did make me smile!

We decided to find a place to moor in the sunshine just past the Welford Junction near Bridge 41 - so lovely and peaceful!

The next morning, wearing three layers, plus silk scarf, gloves (ineffective really)  and hat (me) and three layers with no hat and no scarf and no gloves (David), we set off in brilliant sunshine - at 7am-ish it was still parky! I don't think I got all the way down to the T-shirt that day even though it did warm up considerably.
I think it's a may tree. There are a few dusky pink ones around too.

Lovely mooring spots abound on this section.
We had thought we would aim for Crick which was 10 miles away (probably only about 6 as the crow flies) but found a lovely spot before Yelvertoft - sunny, bucolic, peaceful. It seemed to warm up in the afternoon, and I spent a few hours, after David's haircut and hanging out washing (I am sure we are not THAT grubby!), sitting in the sun reading and listening to podcasts while David was inside trying to work out the technology of a secure system for making an appointment with an ophthalmologist near Birmingham. That necessitated changing all settings on the laptop so the colours were reversed out, the text bigger, the brightness lifted or lowered, and several other critical changes, before the identification of which I lost the will to live and closed my ears ... And the emails that took weeks (I swear - well, that's what it felt like while I was waiting ...) to construct.

The next morning we started off quite early again in lovely sunshine but it was still chilly - raincoat was at hand this time as we were going to be going through Crick Tunnel which is notorious for being wet and drippy. David had made me a cup of tea, but I hadn't finished it before we got into the tunnel and I wasn't game to drink it in there, in case roof seepages had made their unerring way into the mug. I added the remaining tea to the canal water level ...

Even though we were at Watford Top Lock by about 9.30 (after a stop to fill with water at the fastest tap on the network in my view - Skew Bridge. The tap was fast, but we were slow esp as the tap was so fast that the tank overflowed and David had to dry out the lockers and the cratch...) we didn't start down the flight until 10.30. There was a boat in front of us waiting, and four boats coming up. By the time we were first in the queue there were 6 boats behind us. While we waited I started the previous blog post, made cups of tea, said hello to a variety of dogs and people that came past. David on the other hand, emptied the elsan, chatted with the lock-keepers, and kept coming back to give me updates on progress.

The locks of which there are 7, are an amazing engineering feat - four of them are in a staircase, so you go from one straight into another, using the same water all the way down the staircase. The flight is very close to Watford Gap Services on the M1. If you want to see how the other half travel, then park there, climb the fence by the railbridge (watching out for barbed wire in the nether regions) and walk along the the towpath to the top of the locks - or you can, more safely, get off at Watford Gap junction and head south on the A5 for a wee way, and find a side road.

One of the side pounds near the bottom of the flight - by one of the non-staircase locks.

David winding the paddles, and behind him you can see a van on the A5. The M1 is not far away at the top of the locks on the other side of the boat.

We had wanted to moor at Norton Junction, before the turn back on to the mainline of the Grand Union. However there was no suitably-sized space, so we turned on to the mainline where there have been repairs to the towpath and lovely new armco and sunny places to moor. Out with the washing line again, a late lunch and then the decision that we would walk to the top of the hill under which Braunston Tunnel resides. I have driven through the tunnel lots, but never seen it from above.

What a lovely walk - such a beautiful space up above! And Daventry is not far away at all, but you wouldn't know it from the canal.

We took this from our mooring spot - just after that bridge is Norton Junction and the Leicester line is in front of the line of trees.

Up on the top of the tunnel - a farm.

One of the tunnel's airshafts. Much bigger than I thought.
And from the top of the hill, there in the distance, is the spire of Braunston church - never seen it from there before!

On the way back though, we both got caught short, so I do hope the path stayed clear of people for a few minutes for drainage purposes after we moved on - David could safely descend deeper into the undergrowth, but although I moved off the path,  I wasn't exposing my bum to nettles ...

These flowers were all growing on the towpath.
I did have to massage my feet with the hard tennis ball when we got back - I'd done almost 13,000 steps and my feet felt them all ... David had done over 19,000 steps that day, but he'd done lots of walking up and down and across the locks whereas I was pretty stationary on the stern (and I don't have my phone in my jeans pocket when I am steering - too easy to knock it out and into the cut ...)

A lovely sunny evening - wine almost finished.

My view from the cratch, back down the cut.
 I rewarded myself for the long long long walk with a glass of wine and we ate dinner in the cratch - lovely stuff, and our thanks to Mick and John who have made it possible.