Saturday, 26 July 2014

Land-based for a while

Travelling by train yesterday towards London I could see the canal off and on almost all the way – the juxtaposition of the development of the canal and railway systems is plain to see regarding the routes that they both took, one slightly before the other. Getting to London from Macclesfield yesterday took 1 hour 50 minutes on the Virgin Pendolino. I know the trains back in the 1800s would have been a lot slower, but how long would that journey take on a working boat, even if travelling 12 or 14 hours a day? No wonder the canal trade diminished so rapidly. In thinking of the pleasure we boaters get from being on the cut and that walkers get from being beside it I am very grateful to Tom Rolt and all the other campaigners and volunteers and workers that have restored the assets for us to enjoy.
David, if you are reading this in NZ (in the depths of winter …) be aware I am keen to start heading south-ish when you are back here. It just looked lovely yesterday in the sunshine. I think I recognised Great Linford where, back in 1990, I first got a narrowboat broadside across the canal trying to stop after we’d almost passed the park. I remember our being there with the kids – great memories that made me smile. That was a lovely trip, wasn’t it? Tim as the ace steerer, and Kirsty as the ace lockwheeler – it wasn’t until we were on our next narrowboat trip a few years later that we realised how strong she had been at nearly 13 working the GU locks singlehandedly. Do you remember Tim’s dishes roster where he’d assigned himself more turns than anyone else and wasn’t allowed to amend it? What mean parents …
Enough nostalgia!

Travelling by train was good – I booked a seat in the quiet coach from Macclesfield to Euston (to avoid the phone conversations that all seem to start ‘I’m on the train, we’re coming into …, I’ll be there at …’), and then the Tube one stop over to St Pancras. As I came out on to the main concourse at Euston, I was gobsmacked at the crush of people there. I had forgotten just how crowded it could be, even though I had been preparing myself for it. I was pleased I knew where to go as I couldn’t see any signs for the Underground for some reason. I was booked on the fast train from St Pancras to Faversham, no stops till it was well out of London. Lesley had told me to come out of the side gate at Gillingham, so there I was looking for a gate in the fence … Doh! Had to ask and was directed to a proper exit with ticket gobblers and flapping barriers.
Her new bathroom looks great and our first task today is to find a few more accoutrements (all women of a certain age need accoutrements) to finish it off – a hand-towel ring (square, stainless steel), a towel rail (square, stainless steel), a mirror and something for tonal lift to go on the wall. I am thinking an orange starfish perhaps … I suggested a cow or a chicken (those readers who know my house will understand) but Lesley just sniffed derisively, so a starfish it may have to be! Perhaps some flying ducks?
Our next tasks include a visit to the conservatory showroom. She had received some CAD pics from a guy (the one she dared to get around here without me recently) and the style he had drawn up is appropriately called ‘Lean to’ as that is exactly what it looks like! Yuk. She is keen to have something that looks like it is part of the house rather than tacked on, so the roofline and style need to match, and a lean to has neither in common with her house. So that’s out then…
We are also going to Wickes to fall in love again with the kitchen style she chose last year (it’s very lovely – plain, classic, classy) and to organise for them to come and measure up, plan it and get it installed. She had a plan done last year very quickly by another firm, and it looked great, so hopefully she will stick with that – it was an efficient layout and made good use of the small space. I am keen though to get her to consider opening up the end wall of the kitchen and having it open plan, but that may be a bridge too far …
Scrapers, yes, we have to buy scrapers so we can get the paint off her end wall in the hallway. The extreme weather rainstorms of the winter destroyed the pointing on the external wall (she’s end of terrace) and it leaked lifting some of the internal plaster exposing the trunking for the power cables. Scary stuff.
So a busy few days coming up, helping spend her money – always a pleasure!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Off to points south

Last night I went to a BBQ here on the marina. Lovely people and lots of laughs.
This morning I am getting the train down to Chatham in Kent to stay with Lesley for a while - if it isn't too hot, we'll do some preparation and painting inside. The journey is scheduled to take just over 3 hours - shorter than it took me to go from Marple to Macclesfield the other day!
I am preparing myself for the noise and bustle of London as I transit through there. It is so quiet on the canal, even when the train lines are close the noise isn't constant, and we always try to moor up away from the A roads.
I've got to pack, clear stuff out of the fridge that won't last till I get back here with David on Aug 7, do the dishes from last night, clean the boat, water the plants again, and walk down to the station in time to get my tickets from the machine. So no loitering in bed today!
When I went out to feed the ducks with the last of the bread, I saw this heron sitting calmly on the end of the pier.

Back up the Marple Locks in the rain - 19/7

The view out the window first thing in the morning. A heavy thundersrtorm overnight and it rained steadily till we were at about Lock 14. I was freezing on the tiller, the others were hot, and I couldn't read a paper! How cruel is that?

We reversed in to the Maccie and moored up alongside a boat that had been moored in the 48 hr moorings when we came past 4 days before. We went to lunch at the Navigation Inn on Stockport Rd near Lock 13, then back to the boat and across for water. Then back through the bridge, turned south again.

Barry and Pauline walked back to Marple for a few groceries (I forgot when we were heading for lunch ...). On their way back it started to rain again, but they took the time to get lovely shots of the heron flying in front of them.

The heron rises to flight again. Our mooring in the background. The huge amounts of dog poo cannot be seen though. There's a dog owner living beside the lock with 4 pooches that are allowed out the gate on to the towpath unaccompanied and without plastic bags  (no opposible thumbs, I guess they'd have trouble loading them)...

Isn't that beautiful?

The 16 Marple Locks - Down in the sunshine on Friday 18/7 - Part three

Moored up, one ring, two pins

Barry took photos from the road behind the trees across the cut while Pauline, David and I get the table, chairs, drinks and nibbles sorted

TV aerial up, pram cover up, plastic bags on the pins, Pauline and Barry off for a walk after dinner

The 16 Marple Locks - down in the sunshine on Friday 18/7 - Part two

Beautifully peaceful with lovely views off to the right - not far to go now

Leaky gates behind me. I'm keeping well forward and reading the paper while I wait

The last lock emptying while I'm inside it

The garden of the house next to the pound at the bottom.

Out of the last lock - yay!

The 16 Marple Locks - down in sunshine on Friday 18/7: Part one

In the distance Melanie and Peter emptying the lock under David's tutelage. Under Stockport Rd, the tunnel for the horse - original cobbles.

Next to the horse tunnel is the boatman's tiny tunnel that gets him back to the horse close to the lock exit

Into the pound below Stockport Rd

Not sure which lock. First time I have seen the stone bridges across the locks.

Am I going in straight? Will I hit the side?

Barry was still smiling at this point and still smiling after the 16 locks!

Project update for Wednesday 23 July

As I am writing this (on Thursday 24 July) I realise it is one day short of 2 months since we left NZ. A lot has happened in that time, even if we haven’t cruised as far acanal (the boating equivalent of afield) as we had expected to.

Milestones for 23 July: Have passed lots of them, esp on the Macclesfield Canal which has them in abundance – they all look like headstones with chiselled lettering. Oh, that’s not the reporting milestones you were expecting? OK, here goes.
·      Milestone 1 – David arrived back in NZ to a Wellington mid winter southerly with a 5 deg wind chill factor. Went to bed not long after arriving home (courtesy of Gary who collected him from Wellington Airport). Two hot water bottles, loads of blankets, and he can’t find his warm pyjamas! The other thing was that his bag did not arrive with him back into Christchurch – he was the first one out to baggage claim and the last to leave.
·      Milestone 2 – He successfully found Gregor’s carriage clock and champagne opener that we’d put in a safe place, (almost) never to be found again. Usual story – we decide on a place, are convinced we’ll remember it, and then promptly forget. One of our favourite hiding places for precious things was in the piano, so we both had palpitations thinking that we may have put them there – and we sold the piano a few weeks before we left … But no, we don’t have to replace Gregor’s treasures.
·      Milestone 3 - My first day as a single hander – from Marple to Macclesfield: 100% complete, a successful water fill before leaving, then 11 miles, no locks or lift bridges. Lots of boats coming the opposite way though, so in most instances I let others go first through bridgeholes, esp if the side I was on had plenty of room. A couple of women kayaking flat out came towards me and then overtook me when they turned around. I could see them when they were beside me, but not when they were in front for some distance so I went into neutral – seeing 2 sets of flashing paddles was a help until they pulled well ahead.
·      Milestone 4 – The warmest day of the year here so far – eat your heart out, David! I have improved my tan, but for the sake of my neck I repaired my cap – sewed the hankie back in more securely.
·      Milestone 5 – Lunch at Lyme View Café – my reward for successful first half of the solo journey. Lovely food and excellent service. My lunch was a lovely goat’s cheese salad starter made into a main by adding a side salad and fries.
o   When I’d moored up and was heading for the café along the towpath, a couple of kayakers asked me if they could leave their kayaks and gear beside the boat while they went for a drink at a nearby pub. They had been on the cut since 7am and were trialling their gear for a Firemen’s Charity event in which they are circumnavigating the Cheshire Ring in early August (portaging through the locks). They had a cool thing for heating food – a metal tray they put a pack of some chemical that they added water to and it heated up the food in a container that slotted into the metal tray. Very cool! Well, actually, very hot. The guys did make me laugh though – they made sure not to let their forks touch the towpath but they were happy to place them on the bottom of the kayaks …
·      Milestone 6 – lost the first piece of laundry overboard. Coming through Bollington the wind picked up and I looked alongside to see a familiar Tshirt sinking. I hope it sank like a stone and stays on the bottom so it doesn’t wind around someone’s prop. I had no way of getting it out of the water. I did however stop in the next bridgehole and raced through the boat to get all the rest of the washing out of the cratch and tossed it on to the sofa in the saloon.
·      Milestone 7 – Mooring up at the marina visitor mooring in a strong wind: 100% complete, with a bit of swearing and much hauling on the middle rope to stop the boat from blowing away down the cut – the 60 foot by 3 foot 6 inch side of the boat acts as a very effective sail. Once the middle rope was finally tied on, I got the back tied, then the front, then the middle again to tighten, then adjusted the back and front again. Breathe out.
·      Milestone 8 – Put up pram cover in the wind: 100% complete. I wasn’t sure if it was better to leave it down with the wind or to put it up, but decided that at least if it was up all the canvas would be supported by the framing, whereas down it could flap about and may tear.
·      Milestone 9 – A good night’s sleep: 100% complete. When I got into bed I could hear the boat squeaking against the rubber fenders on the jetty. It was only at the stern, so I eventually went out and loosened the rope. Then I could hear the middle rope creaking as the boat moved a bit in the wind. Too bad. I decided that 3 ropes would hold the boat and that I had knotted them correctly, so decided that sleep was the best remedy for noisy ropes.