Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Olek's blog day

Grammy said that I have to do the blog today.

This morning my Dad came and woke us up at quarter past six but I only got up for ten minutes then went back to bed and slept; but I got up half an hour before anyone else and when I did get up I went and grabbed my phone to watch Top Gear until everyone else was up and walking.

For breakfast I had a bowl of corn flakes, an eighth of an apple and a piece of toast, Grammy and Grandad had a bowl of muesli with yoghurt, and Karol had a bowl of corn flakes, an eighth of an apple and a piece of toast.

When we started moving we were right in front of a lock and the gate was open with the water all the way up on our side!
Once we did that lock we went around the sharpest corner in the northern hemisphere, but I was inside for that which annoyed me slightly.

Karol and Grandad working together opening the paddles at the first lock of the day.

A selfie of Grammy and Me going down the lock.

I am steering the boat!!!!!!!!!!!!

Later in the day I spotted a kingfisher! Well. I thought it was a Hummingbird until I realised that it was far too big for a hummingbird and it was blue on the top and orange on the bottom, then as I was going down to tell Grammy until I figured out it was a kingfisher. At the time, we were filling up with water even though we had over half a tank.

Just before we were about to leave two nice people called John and Vicky arrived on the towpath and they were thinking about buying a narrow boat so we gave them a tour of our hire boat which was fun. And apparently John had a Ducati Motor-Bike

After another half an hour of boating we moored up near the town of Woking and it had a mini football pitch so Grandad, Karol and I played a game with me on my own against Grandad and Karol; and near the end Karol left when the score was 4-2 to me but when me and Grandad finished completely it was 4-4 but I was happy with that.

We played the football at a really neat park with lots of things to climb on and over.

I'm climbing on the rock wall.

Karol is swinging in a basket while I have no idea of what I'm doing.
I'm climbing the spider web that links up the two rock walls while Karol squeezes through the hole in the middle.
Grammy thinks we look like tarantulas.

This is the view of the boat from the bridge.
After that Grandad and I went to the shop to buy some more food (milk, gravy mix), a couple of DVDs and a book for Karol at the Charity shop.

Dad came for dinner and we had toad in the hole with mashed potatoes and gravy. (And veges, don't forget the veges!)   

Two nights ago Grandad and I also figured out that the number for the Grammy police is 0800 472 669 and I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves!
(Note from Grammy: Olek started off this morning saying he couldn't think what he'd write about ...)

Monday, 24 October 2016

Holiday snaps from the Yorkshire Dales

On this holiday we haven't taken as many photos as we usually do; and that is surprising as David got a new camera (video and still) for his birthday. I am surprised that it hasn't been in use all day, every day!

But some have been taken - the new camera came out for its first airing when we were in the Yorkshire Dales for a couple of days (10 and 11 October) on our way to Scotland. Seems ages ago but is only 2 weeks ago!

As we approached Austwick, the end of this rainbow was right beside us on the road.
We stayed in the lovely Traddock Hotel in Austwick. It was a beautiful peaceful place to stay in a lovely village - a wonderful old house that could have been overwhelmingly posh and therefore uncomfortable. But the staff were warm and friendly, and the food was great.
The room with bath and basin. There was a separate shower room with toilet and basin and  also a wee cloakroom/kitchenette.

Bruce is the Scotty dog who acted as a doorstop. He and David became firm friends. Not sure what the constant alliance with inanimate animal-types is about with David ...

David with his new friend

The weather was a bit cooler and misty, and that made the walk we did a bit more atmospheric ... Don't be alarmed though, as we didn't venture terribly far and we had instructions for the 2 hour walk.
We were amazed by the stone fences - such a huge amount of work to construct them. Clearly shows the amount of labour that must have been available back in past centuries.

Seemed quite late for calves, and I am pleased the pathway didn't go through the field with them - mothers and babies should not be disturbed!

There are the remnants f an old barn beside the path and a little stone bridge crossing the brook.

David asked me to stand there so I would obscure the car behind me. I think I am offended. I know I have regained some of the weight I lost, but I am sure I couldn't obscure it totally.

Misty day

The hawk is called Titch - he is almost fully grown but is quite small and still young. We saw him on his way back from a demo with some tourists who had booked a flying session with him. He was stripping a rabbit leg as his reward. The young man told us that he had been quick to train. Next time, we will arrange to do that.
Not much left of the rabbit leg ...

The source of stones for the walls and buildings - and they fall down by themselves

Down the hill and on the way back to Austwick.
Another stone bridge - very old and still very stable.
And David crosses the bridge. It is good to see photos of David - otherwise it looks like I am the only one on this trip!

We will be going back to the Traddock - it is a good stopover point on our way to or from Scotland, and it's a lovely bit of luxury. Nick and Clare, who we stayed with in Stroud, suggested it, and it was a great recommendation. We too would recommend it highly.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Being a tourist is tiring!

On Friday I said to Gary and Carolyn (nb Inca) and Meg (owner of nb Jessie which is an airbnb venue at Little Venice) that I hadn't blogged since before we left Scotland. David reminded me that it was less than a week ago. Now it is Sunday - 8 days since we left there, and we have:
  • driven to London:
    • the journey south to Roehampton was quite quick and the kids are brilliant passengers, but the drive from there into St Pancras was fiendishly slow. Well over an hour in rush hour, traffic on a rainy Friday evening down the A40;
  • searched fruitlessly for a curry by following a recommdation to a place with a one hour queue outside it, instead of turning left out of our hotel and walking 200 yards to a whole array of restaurants of the cheap and cheerful variety
  • travelled by Eurostar to Paris on the Saturday
  • made our way through a huge demonstration (to do with education cuts, I think) at Trocadero, with huge numbers of fully armed police in attendance - automatic weapons, pistols, tasers. We were stunned by the number of police they have
  • queued for an hour to go up the Eiffel Tower (well, not me of course)
  • queued for another hour on the second level to go to the very top of the Eiffel Tower (also not me - I sat on a bench at the bottom in the increasing chill, until David phoned and said they were still queuing for the trip to the top, then it was back to the hotel for me, through the diminished crowds but still lots of police around)
  • travelled by metro and train to Disneyland
  • queued interminably for 3 minute rides over 2 days - well, not really but it felt like that
    • the best bit was when I beat everyone (Tim, David, Olek, Karol) in the Buzz Lightyear ride - my score: 129,800 - none of them got within about 50,000 of my score. However, Karol and I did it again the next day and he thrashed me ... Success was shortlived indeed!
  • done a few loads of washing (me) at the hotel while David took Karol to the Aquarium at Val d'Europe and Tim took Olek to the Science Museum
  • travelled by train and metro back to Paris
  • had lunch and dinner in a lovely friendly cafe just down the street from our hotel
  • watched in disbelief as four soldiers with automatic weapons at the ready walked down the empty pavement as we ordered takeaway pizza for the kids
    • needless to say, I did not take photos ...
  • travelled into the centre of Paris by metro to find and board the Big Bus Tour
    • which we had to abandon half way through because of lack of time
  • struggled with all our bags to Gare du Nord 
  • struggled to find the Eurostar
    • which was poorly signposted and only visible by the navy on navy self-embossed logo - quel stupidite (with an acute accent over the final e) 
    • queued interminably and increasingly panic-stricken for security checks, passport control for France and then for Britain (will that change once Brexit takes place - that the two border controls are about 5 metres apart?)
    • struggled on board hoping that we were on the right platform
  • travelled by Tube from St Pancras to Paddington with two kids and 8 bags
  • trundled said 8 bags (4 on backs and 4 on wheels) to Little Venice to nb Jessie
    •  Oh, the peace when we went on board. So lovely to be in familiar territory on a narrowboat for a couple of days!
    • saw Gary and Carolyn and had a chat
  • waved goodbye to David as he set off for a supermarket on Edgeware Road (fish sauce, green ginger, radishes)
    • took a call from him when he got lost
    • sent him directions by text to his phone which had almost no charge left ...
    • welcomed him back thankfully - otherwise it would have been a disaster trying to manage all the bags today ...
  •  had Barry and Pauline over for dinner last night on their return from Santorini
    • Thai Chicken Noodle Salad and Jack's spicy carrot salad
    • 3 bottles of wine among the four of us
    • 2 packs of Sainsbury's baby profiteroles with chocolate sauce, raspberries, and blueberries
  • met Tim at 7.30am today when he returned David's and my two large bags (left at his place a week ago)
  • repacked the bags to fit all the food in
  • trundled the now-10 bags along the towpath to Paddington Station, 
  • collected the pre-purchased tickets,
  • trundled the bags down to the Bakerloo Line (steps, no lift visible)
  • caught the Tube to Waterloo - fortunately using ramps and escalators, or bags would have been abandoned, I reckon!
  • caught the train to Guildford
    • took the slow one which was relaxing
    • grandparents read to Karol
      • Yertle the Turtle (David)
      • the story about Gertrude McFuzz, The Biggest Brag, and Too Many Daves (me)
  • taxi-ed with the most helpful driver I've ever come across to the Premier Inn hotel 
    • he gave us lots of info about the locations of things and was thoroughly charming
  • cup of tea in the hotel
  • I have tried to dump the gideon bible - it keeps being rescued but I will manage it somehow ...
  • a trip by David and the boys to buy a soccer ball (a football to the Northern Hemisphere readers) and then a walk to the park to play with said ball
    • they haven't returned yet so the shopping trip must have been successful
  • since they left I have:
    • done a load of handwashing, wrapped it in a towel and stamped on it, hung it up, draped it around the place
    • written this post.
Now I am going to have a five minute lie down. I think I need it - just writing this and re-living the busyness of the last 8 days has done my head in.

And most nights I have got up in the wee small hours and done between 2 and 4 hours of work. Not this weekend though as it's Labour Weekend at home - celebrating the advent of the 40 hour week way back when.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

To Bude and back to see how far it is

Do you know how far it is down to Bude in Cornwall from the Midlands?

Do you know how far it is from Bude in Cornwall to Austwick on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales - well, I don't know far the former distance is, but the latter is about twice as far!

We are used to travelling into what seems like the back of beyond in NZ, but the trip to and from Bude had a whole different feel. I think that's because we are not used to such long uninhabited distances here in the UK. In NZ, yes - as anyone who has visited there from the UK will tell you, you can drive for miles and not see another car, let alone any houses. And what is marked with a place name on a map often is a crossroads with perhaps one lone house...

Are you getting the picture that it took ages to get to and from Bude? Well, it did. On the way there, the trip was not enhanced by mutual tantrums from driver and passenger. Nor was it enhanced by the GPS directing us down to Exeter, I kid you not, which is on the south coast, for #@*&%# sake, on the A30 (who cares what the damn number is!) and then back up to the northerly side of the ithsmus.

On the way back, because I couldn't see the whole section of the map on the GPS, while I could see the direction of travel (south and south east - GGGRRR!!!) and road signs indicating that Exeter was getting ever closer (AAARRRGGGHHH!!!) as we approached the junction for us to join the M5, my blood pressure was starting to rise yet again.

But wait, David found the function for the very zoomed out screen on the GPS that showed we were heading only slightly southfor just a little while really; and then magically, the GPS started to show a more northerly direction of travel. All was well within the car again**. Breathe, relax. **We had promised not to throw tantrums and we succeeded. Well done, us.

Our time in Bude, well Woodford to be more exact, with Neil and Neill was just lovely. And Enzo is a hoot - a seasoned scavenger with such winning ways he gets away with begging for food.

We (little Neill, David, me and Enzo), while big Neil looked after the bike hire shop) had a long walk from their house across fields, down through the woods, through a village called Duckpool - how lovely is that? Then along a road lined with blackberries which were ripe and juicy, but we only had dog poo bags with us and they are perfumed, so no point in collecting blackberries. Ah well, we just had to eat them and have pudding on the move. As Garfield says "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first."

On we went down to a beach, and a long walk back up a steep hill (avoiding the cliff path of course - for my scaredy-cat sake) and along the road to their village past GCHQ's listening station - easily accessible from the side by the cliff and pathways with only low fences, but by the roadway it was double high fenced with barbed wire and cameras and warning signs about not entering or taking photos or breathing or looking or dawdling or ... Then back across fields to home.

A lovely house by the ford at Duckpool

The stream across the ford

But for those of us who didn't want to get our feet wet, there was a pedestrian bridge.


See? How's that for a village name?
Rocky at mid-tide
Rocky access too, but people were certainly making use of the beach.

Sorry about the shadow, but check out the hillside and road. Neill tells us that in summer, that road is heaving and the carpark is overflowing. And there wasn't much sand on the beach either - mostly rather craggy rocks. Still plenty of people there tho, quite late in the afternoon.

The walk was great and we could readily see why Neil and Neill loved the place when they were looking to leave Oxfordshire. Enzo was suitably tired out and even allowed me to put him to bed in his basket in the lounge and not stir for the next few hours! I felt a bit the same myself, to be honest!

More later - since Cornwall, we have had time in Austwick (the clue was in the first couple of sentences of this post) and are now in Scotland with the grandsons - Yay!! This post has been written after almost a full day's work for me - started about 5am, so now it's time for a lie down!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Desborough devilment with the crew of Unknown No 3

We drove down from Hull to Desborough following a scenic route rather than using the motorways - they are fast but nerve-wracking and not particularly interesting. The nerve-wracking aspect comes from the three or four lanes of traffic and the requirement to have eyes in the back and sides of your head at all times: trucks to the left of me, trucks to the right of me and here I am stuck in the middle ... And drivers of cars who change lanes without signalling and without much room. Spooky!
The GPS is a marvellous invention and we have two in the car - the one the car was born with and our own. Having two is fun, esp in the UK where there are a myriad of ways you can get between two places.

We started off by crossing the Humber Bridge - a very impressive structure

On the southern side the aspect was lovely

I don't remember the village this was in (Sleaford perhaps) but the traffic was at a standstill so I took this from the car. Not a bad place to be in a line of traffic, I thought.

The two days in Desborough were great. We stayed in a hotel (the R Inn - known as the Ritz but not advertised as such or I am sure there would be a storm of protest and threats of litigation - as there were in NZ when the Blackball Hilton had to change its name some years ago - renamed itself Formerly The Blackball Hilton ...)

Dinner each night was at Mick and Julia's. Recipes imported from NZ ... (ooh, sorry, Jack - and from Australia) And brekkie was at Lucy's Cafe in Desborough, juyst around the corner from the hotel. She has a lovely poster which says: A heavy person is hard to kidnap - eat cake and stay safe.
In the kitchen at Mick and Julia's - I think a fair amount of cider had been consumed by this stage. David is sitting on Mick's poorly knee; but not to worry, as Mick is going in to hospital on Monday to have it replaced.

Concentration is writ large on his face - salad prep requires it, you know.
We had a day out on Unknown No 3 - back and forth between Saddington Turn and the bottom of Foxton Locks with the obligatory stop at the Bridge 61 pub.
The galley - time for tea

Doesn't that look peaceful?

I don't think Mick looks terribly anxious that I have the tiller, do you?

Mick and me - selfies are not my strong point but the aim was to get a pic of Mick!

The immaculate engine. Makes a lovely sound. Wouldn't do for us though as it requires more knowledge than we have and far more cleaning rags...

Not sure if he was pretending to be Bluebeard or what at this point. But you see what I mean about cleaning rags? Ours are always oily - that one looks pristine!
In Lucy's Cafe for brekkie before we headed off on our way to Bude. Mick looks charming in a floral headband. Of course, he has the hair for it!

Driving for more socialising with family and friends

I wrote this a few days ago and time has slipped past - I noticed it going but was too slow to grab hold of it and get this finished.

So here I am down in Cornwall, sitting in bed while David and big Neil have taken Enzo for a walk and little Neill has gone to work at their Bude Bike Hire shop. And I should be doing some work, but if I don't get this published now, it'll never get done! So bear with me about it being behind hand.

I am currently sitting up in bed at Tony and Helen's house in Hedon, near Hull. David is beside me, naturally - he's listening to the news. I gather the UKIP president has resigned after 18 days in the job. That must be some kind of record, yes?

Tony and Helen are boating friends whom we met back in 2014 at Burton on Trent after reading each other's blogs. So yesterday we made our way over here for the afternoon, evening, night and morning. Tony took us on a historic walk around Hedon yesterday afternoon. Who knew that Hedon used to have a harbour? And that the town was a rotten borough and that it had about 200 years of extreme prosperity, and that there is a cross that was stored in a barn for a number of years and then erected in a garden. It's looking a bit worse for wear but who wouldn't after 400 years or so?

Tony and Helen have volunteered for work for the Year of Culture in Hull next year, and Tony already does guided walks around Hedon when they aren't on the boat. He's very knowledgeable and extremely interesting. He was disconcerted though when David confessed later that he had stopped listening to his informative discourse when Tony mentioned that the cries we could hear were from an old person in the nursing home in the garden of which the cross was now located. David started to count the cries ...

On the green. If I remember correctly Tony was discoursing on the buildings across the way, and the number of pubs there had been locally. He's very interested in beer, is our Tony. He took us to a boutique bar and was disappointed that David had a lager shandy and I had a lemonade ...

He looks like he's listening, but he's actually counting on his fingers

We were about to leave - no wonder Tony looks so happy! This photo is a dual selfie - David held the phone and I clicked the button. Team work!
Tony and Helen are planning a trip to NZ in a couple of years, so it will be lovely to be able to repay their hospitality.

We came to T&H from Huddersfield where we stayed a night with Mick and Alison whom we also met in 2014 when we were all on the Maccesfield Canal. They are getting a fair bit of approval from people over boating from the US. Their boat is called 3 No Trumps.

A lot of talk and laughter at their place too, and a lovely walk around bits of Huddersfield and the neighbouring/adjoining village of Linley. Some beautiful homes and buildings and green spaces. The building styles are very different from NZ (old or new they are mostly stone) but the topography is similar in that it is very hilly in parts of the north.
Mick, Alison and David - in the shade so not a good photo, sorry. We were out walking and I took the photo to allow myself time to regain my breath after a big uphill walk.
Mick and Alison are also planning a trip to NZ in a couple of years, so it will be lovely to be able to repay their hospitality too.

We drove to Huddersfield on Monday from Debdale Wharf Marina where Waka Huia is up on the hard. We went to visit the boat - it is looking happy enough among the others residing there. We didn't go inside it as it was going to be too much of as faff to take off the tonneau cover to undo the padlock. We have arranged some more work to be done on the boat but the boat yard is so busy it will have to wait until we finish boating next year. We have booked a slot to have the bottom grit sprayed, zinc coated and two pot epoxy blacked. They are going to do above the rubbing strakes up to the gunnels as well. Yay!! And hopefully before we come back in May next year, we will have two half hatch portholes fitted in the saloon replacing the non-opening ones. A bit of airflow would be useful, we thought, especially if the summer is as warm as last year's.

We took the opportunity while at Debdale to go and visit Mick and Julia who we met boating back in 1994 at Norton Junction. Julia wrote us up in her log as Australians - bloody cheek! We soon disabused her, I tell you. After our first meeting there we joined up at the pub and then went back to their boat to sample their home made fruit wine. Peach and rhubarb were the varieties on offer, I seem to remember. Yummy and strong ... A stumble back to our boat and then we boated together for a couple of days.

We lost touch with M&J and then found them again on our last day of boating in 2014 (read about it here http://nbwakahuia.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-last-bit-of-boating-for-this-season.html)

So on Monday we headed, getting lost on the first attempt, to where Mick and Julia moor their boat. They were there in the lovely sunshine to do a bit of work on Unknown No 3 (named after something to do with the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and registered in Eastwood ...) Cups of tea, much laughter and arrangements to meet up again today. Julia is making dinner - salmon steaks marinated in sweet thai chilli sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice and coriander - our fave!
David made the salad, I made the marinade for the salmon, Julia did the potatoes and Mick was in charge of music.

But let's go back further - on Saturday, our son Tim brought his boys down to Leatherhead in Surrey to see us and Molly. Tim hasn't seen Molly for a number of years - I think the last time was on his birthday one year when they still lived in Beckham, and they left there in 2008.

It was wonderful to see the lovely grandsons - we took them up to Boxhill and even though it was raining on our way, it cleared up while we picnicked in the two vehicles with an umbrella perched between them so food could be passed back and forth. A bit of a food fight ensued with mandarin peel being aimed between vehicles - I swear that Tim started it, but Olek and I were happy to carry on...

We then repaired to Gordon and Sharon's for the rest of the afternoon, and Gordon took/led us all to Michael Jordan's which sells motorhomes and caravans. Karol excitedly checked out the ones I should see ('OK, Grammy, you want an automatic and a bed that is always made up, yes? And a good sized stove?) I am sure we still looked at pretty much all of them, but it was lovely to be infected by his enthusiasm.

Saying goodbye to the grandsons wasn't as heart-wrenching as it usually is because we'll be seeing them again on 12 Oct. I won't be able to be quite so upbeat on 30 October though, as then it'll be a wait until May next year to see them again.

We spent the night at Gordon and Sharon's - too much wine but a lovely evening. It is so lovely having cousins.
Gordon and Sharon's dogs keeping watch - you never know, there might be a cat, a mouse, a squirrel who needs seeing off the property ...
On Sunday we drove to Banbury and had lunch on-board nb Oakfield with the lovely Ann and Keith - we met them on the Thames last year. I had read Ann's blog, so of course when they were struggling to moor up in a shallow bit above Day's Lock, I felt like I already knew them and invited them to breast up alongside. An evening of drinking and eating on the bank ensued ... You can read about it here: http://nbwakahuia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/late-yesterday-arvo-i-saw-boat-trying.html
Ann and Keith walked us back to the boat in the Morrison's carpark in Banbury.

From Banbury (without investigating the Canal Fair) it was on to overnight in Market Harborough. I was shattered so had a little lie down that resulted in my sleeping from 5pm to 7,30pm then getting in to bed a sleeping almost through the night - is it age or what? Maybe it was a left over from the previous night's over-indulgence - or a combination of both!

OK, all caught up now. And today (well, it was today when I first wrote it) we are heading back to Desborough to spend a couple of nights catching up with Mick and Julia. The Enterprise Hire car is lovely - a Vauxhall Insignia, diesel, lovely to drive. Good thing as there are still a few hundred miles to be traversed over the next 10 days: Stroud, Bude, St John's Town of Dalry (Scotland), London ...