Friday, 24 October 2014

Forecast - changeable


Well, it’s all change here in Wellington, NZ!

Firstly, the weather: on Wednesday it was shorts and T shirt weather – beautifully warm, calm and clear. Yesterday and today it is back to jeans, camisole and long sleeved top – cloudy, breezy (Not windy as Wellington can produce) and cool. This change in the weather is, of course, in time for Labour Weekend (a long weekend the Monday of which is a public holiday to celebrate the introduction of the 8 hour working day – now where did that go? Some history here: During the 19th century, workers in New Zealand tried to claim the right for an 8-hour working day. In 1840 carpenter Samuel Parnell fought for this right in Wellington, NZ, and won. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on October 28, 1890, when thousands of workers paraded in the main city centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day.
The first official Labour Day public holiday in New Zealand was celebrated on the second Wednesday in October in 1900. The holiday was moved to the fourth Monday of October in 1910 has remained on this date since then.)

Secondly, our residential status: As you will know if you’ve been blog-following, we had sold our lovely old house and put an option on the purchase of a licence to occupy an apartment at Whitby Lakes Retirement Village. We had bought ‘off plan’ with the small deposit being refundable and the facilty to change our minds right up to the day we’d be due to move in. A good thing, too!

On Monday evening we went to have a look at the apartment for the first time. It is lovely, very well built, well-specc’ed with lovely architraves and scotias. The lounge dining area was fine, the kitchen was lovely but there was a dearth of cupboards, but the killer was the bedrooms’ size. As you may know, I am a reader, I love to read lying down (I buy glasses that I can wear lying on my side), I am known for phoning David (our house is big) to request food or tea while reading in bed during a weekend. (Happily I have passed on this gene – our lovely daughter Kirsty has been known to spend the entire weekend in bed - apart from pee stops - with the toaster, loaf of bread, the butter and a jug of water on her bedside cabinet, and a number of books being or to be read … That apple didn’t fall far from the tree, now did it?)
So, back to the bedrooms – they were tiny, titchy, minute and therefore claustrophobic, walls squeezing inwards, oppressive. Get it? Got it? Good. The walk through wardrobe was enormous and the bathroom was large, and there is a second toilet/washbasin. The design is lovely but works on the theory that a bedroom is only for sleeping in. I recognise that not many people like to stay in bed reading all day, just as I am sure that as we age and our health slips, we spend more time resting. Therefore the bedroom should be a sanctuary, an inviting room with space for more than mere functionality – form is important.
David wasn’t happy with the bedroom size either, but what struck him more was his visceral response to the reality of not being able to step straight outside to our own space. I don’t think that impression was helped by the info provided (in the most sincere and well-meaning way) that we would all be issued with a swipe card and would have to use it to get in and out of the building and would need to come down to let in our visitors.
So the drive home was interesting (not in the English meaning of the word). I could tell that we neither of us wanted to be the one to rain on the parade, we had banked for some months on this being fabulous for us. So I said that my understanding was that if either of us didn’t want it, that person had the power of veto. Agreed. We talked about its pros and cons all the way home, all the way through Joe cooking dinner and participating in the discussion, decided we would do Edward de Bono’s 6 thinking hats on it, then I said ‘I could make it work, but I don’t want to.’ After a bit of talk to clarify that that was me exercising the power of veto (too gently by half, as it turned out), we pulled the pin on apartment living for the meantime.
An immediate start looking on TradeMe for alternatives – what could we get for our money (well, as much of it as we’re prepared to spend), where  would we like to live, what did we want in a dwelling, knowing now more clearly what we didn’t want. Three alternatives were found without too much trouble, calls were made and appointments set up for the next day. And off we went to Waikanae, about 40 miles up the coast from Wellington, to view a 3 bedroom villa (detached house)  in a retirement village, a detached house with 2 bedrooms and small office, and a 2 bedroom semi-detached townhouse separated from its partner by their garages.

Neither the house nor the townhouse lived up to the pictures and description of them on the website. Most of the rooms in the house were small apart from the kitchen and main bedroom, and the office was too small for even one of David’s desks. Its main problem tho is that it backs on to State Highway 1 and is not a peaceful place to be. The townhouse was quite lovely but the property was too open to the view of the neighbours in the cul de sac, and having seen the 3br villa any 2br place wasn’t going to cut it.

The retirement village villa was lovely, and the rooms were all a good size and nicely shaped. The only hassle is that there is a mix of decking and paving outside and no lawn, so the ground cannot breathe, and there’s nowhere to stand with the grass between your toes. NZers will understand this fetish for being barefoot on grass.
The outside is pale brick with pale green roofing tiles (and a gutter guard system that prevents build up of crud in them), and the paintwork inside is all one colour – a sort of creamy beige with more yellow in it and no blue tones as beige can have and provides a blank canvas. The kitchen lino needs to be changed as it isn’t particularly attractive in our view.
You can see the TradeMe listing with photos here: http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=794693184

The upshot is we have been through the offer process and have had an offer accepted verbally, confirmed by email from the real estate agent as being accepted by the executors. We have met with the centre’s manager and been approved (I am too young at not quite 64). And we’ve been into the house again today to sort out with him what needs to be remedied before we move in, what can wait, and, most importantly, who pays for what.

Exciting!!! I have looked at the pictures of the house a lot over the last 24 hours and have pretty much worked out where the furniture will go – dining and lounge suites are not a problem, it’s the things: the bali twist stand, the wine table, the oval drinks cabinet and tray (holding multiple cups and saucers), the dresser, the 3 china cabinets, the chinese cabinet … David’s new TV (to be purchased shortly) has its possie sorted, additional telephone points in the bedrooms have been agreed.

Today we also have met the former owners’ son in law who was doing some clearing up, and called in again on Ruth, our new neighbour (well, technically speaking, we are her new neighbours, and we had met her when we first came to view the place on Tuesday). We had a celebratory glass of wine with her (this bodes well, I think) and over the drink we summarised backgrounds. And in that amazing way where in NZ there is at most 2 degrees of separation, we discovered that David and Ruth knew each other through a work connection where David had to can the radio programme, Grandpa’s Place, for kids that Ruth wrote and produced back in the 80s. It was even more of a shock to discover that Ruth’s daughter is married to my former brother in law’s brother … OK, get a piece of paper and work it out. Maybe if I say it like this: Ruth’s son in law is a brother of my sister’s ex-husband/first husband. Or: Ruth’s son in law is my niece’s uncle. That’s the shortest version, I think. However I say it, it’s 2 degrees of separation, as I know the son in law.

We are now staying at Bruce and Gary’s place down at Waikanae Beach – about 3 kms from our new address. David has made the discovery that he has come away with no spare clothes – he carefully put them out on the bed at home but neglected to put them in the bag … So as well as a new TV in the Labour Weekend sales, he needs a few clothes too. Sounds like a set up to me!

Of course, now that we have decided on a house with outside space, it seems we were precipitate in having a garage sale and selling off our garden tools and hard broom and outdoor table and chairs set ... OK, so while David is looking at TVs and shirts, I'll find some new outdoor furniture, methinks.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Warning


So, when we got home ten days ago, the house and gardens were immaculate – we knew that Joe, who lives with us, had kept the house beautifully, and Rob, our lovely gardener, had done a great job during the winter, while we were away to aid the selling process. Joe is a very interesting man – a PhD student, 44 years old and a traditional Samoan tattooist (uses a light wooden hammer and fine toothed bone chisel to create the patterns of the pe’a from above the waist to below the knees). When we arrived back, Joe was away tattooing in Australia – there is a significant Samoan population there.

As I said, the house was immaculate. There was, however, a note sellotaped to the oven, welcoming us home and stating that he’d had a meltdown in the oven, but don’t worry as it was fixable and he’d arranged for an appliance repair firm to come but in the meantime don’t use the top oven and here’s $50 for pizza or fish and chips.

Said oven was looking a bit sad – it was clean inside, but the door was a bit wonky and, when opened, the door went further down than the normal 90 degrees (it looked like the boat’s oven door that David had stood on, but this was too high for Joe to have done that …), it didn’t close properly and its stainless steel face was dented. More mysterious though was the jazz hands pattern behind the glass of the control panel – it looked like something had been sprayed up into there.

Naturally enough, David and I, Gary who had delivered us home from the airport, and the two repairmen who came to assess the damage a couple of days later, Rob the gardener who had been through and opened up the house to air it the day before we got home, had all constructed stories about what must have happened and what Joe must have done. Have you noticed how good we all are at making up stories? As they say in Landmark Education what you think happened is only a likely story. Read on ...

The week went by, I used the bottom oven for cooking, the repairmen phoned with the price of parts and repairs ($760-ish) and came back with said parts on Thursday and fitted them – two new side frames that the doors’ hinges slot into (the originals had been bent) and a new door for the top oven. All good.

So, Joe arrived home from Melbourne last Friday evening, and naturally enough after hugs, hellos and catching up on how we all are (it’s 5 months since we’ve seen Joe apart from David’s visit home back in July), the question is asked ‘So wtf happened to the stove?’

As Joe tells it, the night before he was due to head to Australia, he was feeling a bit hungry and thought he would make himself a corned beef sandwich. (Aside: Pacific Islanders, like the English, eat canned corned beef – understandable in the Pacific Islands as there’s not a lot of room to grow cattle, not so understandable in England. And ‘fresh’ corned beef – a silverside joint corned, then simmered with an onion, golden syrup and vinegar for a couple of hours is yummy. Why Joe thought it was acceptable to bring canned corned beef into my house is a question I haven’t yet asked …) Anyway, back to the hunger pangs. As you know, canned corned beef is very fatty. So, probably in a bid to be a bit more healthy, Joe decided to warm the beef for about ten minutes so he could pour off the fat. Into the oven the can goes at 70 degrees. Joe goes back into the family room to watch a recorded episode of The Good Wife (45 minutes), decides he wants to see what happens next so watches the next 2 recorded episodes (1.5 hours), decides he’s tired so heads for bed. Off to sleep, but is woken about an hour and a half later by an enormous bang. And then another. It sounds like someone is breaking into the house through the back door. He leaps out of bed in his elavalava (like a sarong but tied around the waist), grabs the nearest thing to hand in his room – a bottle of Deep Heat, races to the kitchen with said bottle thinking ‘What am I going to do with this? Rub them to death?’ Throws open the kitchen door, switches on the light, expecting to be confronted by big butch burglars. Does a double take:

The kitchen is covered, literally covered - walls, floor, ceiling, bench, cupboard doors, ornaments – in liquefied/atomised corned beef. The oven door is wide open – wider than designed – the can is innocently sitting in the oven still, with its lid popped.

OK, turn off oven, close the kitchen door, go back to bed.

The clean up took several hours the next day, and the only evidence remaining was the fubarred oven door and the jazz hands in the control panel …

So you have been warned – canned corned beef is dangerous.


Joe holding a pre-loaded corned beef bomb - all that is required is to apply heat for 4.5 hours or so ...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Things move apace


The weather has packed up a bit and it has been breezy and a bit cool over the last couple of days – my lovely sister Dee is here with us helping get sorted for the garage sale we are having tomorrow morning, so of course it is chilly: non-Wellingtonians only ever visit at the times when Welly’s reputation for being cold and windy can be maintained. Frankly, in many ways, this is good as it means the city doesn’t get overcrowded with people wanting to up sticks and come to live here. If you don’t believe me, look at how HUGE Auckland is – see, too much warmth and sunshine and the place is bigger in size than Greater London and it’s full up. Well, in comparison to Greater London, it is practically empty of course, but in NZ terms it’s teeming!

I digress - was it ever thus? Preparations for the garage sale are in full swing. The lounge is now filled with little discrete islands of items for sale – jugs, candlestick holders, serving dishes, china, kitchenware, electrical goods, … There is a bin of items for sale at $1, a stack of framed prints, a bin of children’s toys about to be augmented by a large bag of Kirsty’s stuffed toys that she has said she can do without now she’s 37 (whether her parents can let ALL of them go is another story …) There is a bin of towels, a stack of sheets and duvet cover sets.

David has pulled down everything from the mezzanine shelf in the garage and Dee and I are sorting through that. A couple of the boxes are Dad’s stuff, and I need to look through them and see what I can bear to let go now. It is 11 years since Dad died so maybe it won’t be so hard. He is as firmly in my memory as ever and I only look at his stuff when we are having an annual or bi-annual garage clear out. But I digress again.

Last things to sort and price today are clothes (lots), books (hundreds) and tools (not so many – after all we are decidedly not DIYers anymore). Then it’s the practical stuff to do: pick up trestle tables, go to bank for change float, sweep and clear garage, set up and set out. So my question is – why are we still all in bed?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Phase Two begins


We are now home in NZ (arrived on Thursday) after a wonderful 4.5 months on the boat, followed by a lovely weekend with the grandsons up in Scotland.
Karol on the hills behind Dalry in Scotland

In one of Olek's dens in the forest above Dalry
The woods in the UK are SO different from in NZ - no undergrowth for a start!
 
Olek has beaten David at Monopoly and Karol looks on in a bemused fashion

Home made waffles for breakfast - that's our lovely daughter in law Marta at the bench

It has been slightly strange coming back to the house. For one thing, it is huge – it’s quite a big place anyway, but after being on the boat with its approximately 270 sq ft living space, we rattle. And we are not in the same room all the time now – the boat is not open plan but has no doors between spaces, apart from the bathroom. This house is definitely not open plan and David spends a lot of time in his office/studio. It feels strange not to be close by and within hearing of each other.

Another aspect that feels strange is that, for the time we were on the boat, David and I did pretty much everything together – this Sunday though I went off to do the supermarketting on my own. It felt weird – and a bit lonely. One bonus was that I could fill the trolley to the top knowing I’d be loading the stuff into the boot and driving it home instead of having to pack it carefully into the granny trolleys for us to wheel it back to the boat on foot. And having a BIG fridge and a BIG freezer to put things in was a pleasure. And not having to kneel down to do so …

The strangest of all though is that we have sold the house – we have had it on the market since January, and had pretty much given up on it selling. When we were moored up in Stone back in late August, we were lying in bed one morning and discussing what we would do as it seemed no one wanted to buy it. We had decided that we would get our holding deposit back from the retirement village we’d found a lovely sunny apartment in, possibly take the house off the market, or leave it on TradeMe (NZ’s version of eBay). Those decisions made, I got up to make a cup of tea and opened up the email and found an offer – well, cat among the pigeons time, and a huge amount of ambivalence.

We bought this house when we were 29 and 31 respectively and are now 63 and 65, we have brought up our kids in this house (they were 3 and nearly 5 when we moved in), and have changed it from an absolute tip to a lovely home – when we had finished the renovations, my dad said he’d thought when we bought it that it was a concrete chook house he wouldn’t put chickens in … not far off, to be fair. We left it rented out for 4 years while we lived in the UK doing our OE (overseas experience or silver gap) in our 50s (2004 – 2007), then came home and set up as a B&B which we loved, as did our guests.

However, given David’s experience of having to get his Dad into residential and then hospital care when Alzheimer’s took over, and seeing the grief that John suffered leaving his home and how David’s mum is now unable to contemplate leaving the house, we decided that we would forestall that happening to us later. We thought it was best to make the decision while we are young enough and healthy enough to have the choice.

Also, we bought the boat late last year and realised that when our boating adventures come to an end through loss of health, fitness or strength, we will also not be in good shape to manage a 2 storey, 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 3 reception room (lounges to us NZers) house with garden all round it and, as David crucially notes, gutters to clean! So it seemed sensible to find a place to live that we can lock and leave for 5 months of the year, enjoy being in when we are home from the boat, and that has the safety net for when we are infirm in body or mind. When looking for a villa in a retirement village, we found an apartment (off plan – it is due to be completed this month) and paid a fully refundable deposit, put the house on the market and waited, and waited, and lost heart, doubted the beauty of our home and the work we had put into it. I had decided (on the basis that pessimists are never disappointed) it wouldn’t sell and was actually pleased – I didn’t really want to leave, even though I had participated in the decision to do so.

So getting the offer raised all sorts of feelings in us both - lots of tears and a measure of excitement about yet another adventure! And some trepidation about reducing our belongings, packing and moving.

BTW, house buying/selling here in NZ is a much more civilised affair than in the UK – once the offer has been accepted and the conditions of it are met (finance, survey etc),  a non-refundable deposit is paid and, in local parlance, the offer goes unconditional, ie it is binding and it is the contract. The settlement date is usually a few weeks after the offer goes unconditional and is when the remainder of the money is handed over and the house is vacated. See, much more civilised and stress-free, eh? So we have known since early September that the sale was unconditional and have had a bit of time to get used to it. I did a fair amount of looking at the rooms in my mind’s eye while on the boat and thinking about what we needed to take, needed to ditch.

But now we are home I am doing it in reality: eyeing up the furniture, the paintings, the ornaments. I collect chickens [in one bathroom], cups and saucers [in the lounges], cows [in the kitchen]. 
 
The kitchen cow parade, from right

to centre

to left. There are more cows but you get the idea ...
















Georges and the brood from Bruges, in the upstairs bathroom

The two Flossies from Foxton, NZ

This one watches as men pee - I love the expression of surprise ...














The china cabinet in the TV lounge

Two of them in the conservatory - there are more cups and saucers in the other lounge ...















And I have loads of books - there must be about a thousand in the house - 27 shelves with between 30 & 40 books per shelf. And B&B linen – we don’t need as many sets of sheets and duvets and towels as we have currently! We don’t need gardening equipment (apart from a trowel for the pot plants that’ll be growing on the apartment terrace) or a lawnmower. We will have no shed to store stuff in, so what we keep will have to be in the apartment. What do we really need in the apartment (840 sq ft as opposed to 2400 sq ft)? What can I get sell? What will I put aside to take/send to the kids? What can go to Women’s Refuge? I’d have to say, living on the boat has certainly helped fit us for this move!

So first thing is a garage sale is and soon – the settlement date for the house sale is 14 November – a month away.

My lovely sister is coming to stay on Wednesday and will help me get things sorted for the garage sale scheduled for Saturday. I am sure we won’t have everything ready but it will be a good start.

When I got home from a shopping expedition (bed settee for the apartment's 2nd bedroom/office) ...
 
I like this one - looks good and is comfortable as a sofa and as a bed
... I started looking through the kitchen cupboards at the stuff they contain. Strangely enough, I have been able to cull the contents by about 30% without even stressing. After all, exactly how many wine glasses do we need, and how many platters, trays, jugs, tumblers, ramekins, vases, stockpots, teapots … (Just investigated another cupboard and found we have 6 - yes 6 - coffee plungers! One into a case to come to the boat next year, 2 to go to the apartment, the rest to sell.)

The lounge floor is filling up nicely with stuff that is definitely surplus to requirements. Frankly, the stuff has been STR for ages, but I've just gathered stuff as I've seen it and this is the first time I've culled.

I need to prime David that he needs to do a cull of the cords he has for techie stuff – I am clear that the way he stores them, like snakes coiled around each other in a pit, means they procreate and multiply. At $2 for each one there’s a fortune already. However our son Tim suggested that he strips them down for the copper and gets them to a scrap metal merchant. I think there's a better chance of him giving me some for the garage sale, myself.

David is over visiting his mum for a couple of nights before he gets stuck in to the 10 or 11 Weaving Memories jobs he has scheduled, Dee arrives Wednesday and Joe is back on Thursday or Friday – a nice full house again will be lovely.

Tomorrow I must call the dentist – I still haven’t sorted the tooth that I broke at The Swan in Fradley. I must call about getting some work sorted – have to earn to keep the life style going. I also need to arrange a haircut – I am very shaggy looking!

By email, I have arranged with Ed that he will go and change the coolant in the boat engine in early November. We don’t want to take the risk of waiting till May to change it, as Ed had noted that there isn’t much anti-freeze in it at the moment.  Tony on nb Holderness mentioned in one of his recent posts that when there are lots of berries in the autumn, the winter is likely to be a hard one. There were heaps of berries everywhere this season – I picked 3lb of blackberries in the space of about 600 yards near Yardley Gobion, and that was after Jaq and Les had got the same amount in the same stretch a day or so before me. And the rose hips and hawthorns have been prolific and crab apples trees have been fully laden. I sense oncoming snow and ice, ladies and germs!

The sun is out here at home (well, not at this moment as it’s dark) but the days have been warm, sunny, and today was also a bit breezy. The moving air reminds us we are home in Wellington which almost always has at least a slight breeze - that is, if it doesn’t have what anywhere else would be seen as a gale force wind.

Time for sleep – I am still coping with the lag of the jet, so another early night for me. I still wake up though wondering where I am …

PS If you haven’t read it yet, go to Firefly NZ’s blog and read a recent post called Splish Splash. I defy you to keep a straight face.

Friday, 10 October 2014

End of Phase Report



Well, after 4.5 months, we completed our first season’s boating on nb Waka Huia. Hence it is time for an end of phase report.

Where we have been
We arrived at the boat on 27 May in Sawley Marina. We started boating from there on 1 June, and headed along the Trent River to the Trent & Mersey.
From the T&M, we headed (after much to-ing and fro-ing) to the Macclesfield Canal (to and fro again – notice a pattern?) then on to the Peak Forest (bottom of the Marple Locks to Bugsworth Basin).
Then back down the Maccie once more, back on to the T&M to the Coventry/Birmingham and Fazeley/Coventry.
On to the Grand Union and then on to the North Oxford.
We entered the Grand Union again at Braunston, headed to Soulbury, back up to Braunston, back on to the North Oxford, up and down the Napton flight, past the junction at Braunston and on to Barby. 
We left the boat breasted up for the winter in Penny McMaster's care on Friday 3 October.
What went well
Friends and family on board
·       Dave and Jan
o   kindly helped us for a couple of days at the start
o   and, in early September, joined us for lunch at Rugby and a quick trip back to their car at Clifton Cruisers
·       Lesley and her dad came to visit twice and the first time witnessed my marathon of reversing from Stenson Lock back to the mouth of the Stenson Marina to turn
·       Barry and Pauline x 3
o   Joined us at Marple for 5 days to and fro on the Peak Forest, did the Marple locks down and up – the latter in pouring rain
o   Joined us again at Stoke on Trent for a long weekend trip up and down the Caldon
o   Met us at Great Linford for the weekend after their quick trip back to NZ,
·       Mel and Pete on holiday from NZ, joined us at Marple for the weekend with Pauline and Barry
·       Neil and Neill joined us at Napton for our last couple of days
·       Michelle and Taffy came for lunch and to give me a haircut when on holiday – they fitted in the trip to us on their way from Glasgow to Taffy’s mum’s place in Wales – dedication in the extreme!
·       Olek came to stay for the first week of his school holidays and joined us at Hall Green (delivered by his dad, our son Tim) and we drove him back to Scotland from Macclesfield
 Meeting other boaters has been wonderful, both those whose blogs I’ve read and the many others. The friendliness of boaters is legendary and the reputation is well deserved.
·       Tony and Helen on nb Holderness – we met these two at Shobnall Marina in Burton on Trent in late June. Having read their blog and corresponded, it was like seeing old friends; so when we saw them again in September and did a couple of days locking and having dinner on each other’s boats it was like coming home.
·       Jaq and Les on nb Valerie – I’ve read Jaq and Les’s blog from the start (I only started on it last year so my kindle had a rest for a few weeks in the evenings). I first commented on the post where Jaq had come back from the hospital, distraught and stressed and identified the music she had listened to. From her response to me, I knew we would make sure to meet up with the two of them, and we did – stalking territory actually … As with Tony and Helen, it is just lovely when on meeting for the first time, you start with a hug. We had dinner with Jaq and Les a few times – on their boat and on ours, and each time it was funny, (dinner was ALWAYS good) with hilarious conversation. I think Jaq and I are a bad influence on each other somehow, but see this face? Is it bothered?
·       Jimmy and Jeanie at Macclesfield who were very helpful in repairing the broken hinge on one door of the duck hatch and who provided us with an electric cable that is slightly longer than the boat – much more useful. J&J are a lovely couple – very welcoming and kind. We will be searching them out again – more wine has to be consumed I think …
·       Lindsay and Steve on nb Edna May – we met these two at Alrewas and they too were very helpful and kind – Lindsay provided us with cherry cake when the boat wouldn’t start (loose nut near the solenoid for the starter motor). Consuming cake didn’t fix the engine, but it did fulfil the need for comfort food … We have passed them again a few times, usually early in the morning, so have woken them with a toot or two. We last saw them as we were about to descend the Buckby flight just a few weeks ago. Lindsay promised cake (lots of it) for our next meeting before the end of this season but then she and Steve departed for points different and I am still in mourning!
·       Alison and Mick on nb 3 No Trumps who we saw often on the Maccie and then moored in front of one Monday evening, sat together in the pub for dinner and then shared gingernuts with the following morning at Hall Green Lock. I do try not to mention shopping at Tescos as Mick hates them with a passion …
·       Cheryl and Jerry whose boat name I cannot remember, but we met them at Whittington on the Coventry or B&F (I am unsure where the border is). Much wine was drunk over a couple of nights and David fell in love with their pup Ted.
·       Paul and Sally – a very brief encounter on Monday 29 Sept as I had just caught up with David who had caught up with Mick and Julia (see below) and Paul and Sally were speaking with some other boaters at the time. Good to see in person the people I read about so often.
·       Friendliness: We have swapped contact details with a number of folk, and when we are home, I will be getting in touch with them all. If even half of them come to NZ it will be lovely to have them to stay. If they all come, that will be even better. And of course we will be looking for them on the cut next season.
Finding Mick and Julia: We first met these two at Norton Junction back in 1994 I think. Julia recorded us in her log as Australians (!!) We then lost touch with them about 10 years ago and since arriving back here in May we had been trying to track them down, to no avail. Then lo and behold, within 30 minutes of putting the boat into winter moorings, we saw them on their boat – didn’t know the boat, but recognised Mick’s profile and mop of hair, even tho the latter had changed colour … So had Julia’s but hers had got redder while Mick’s is the same colour as mine. Finding them was such a wonderful way to end our season – the icing on the cake. Big smiles and hugs all round.
Service from engineers
·       Aqua Narrowboats were amazingly wonderful – reassuring, helpful, accommodating, skilled. Justin as owner/manager was a pleasure to deal with, and Ian the engineer, was just great – laconic, funny, and very knowledgeable and persistent in tracking down root causes
·       Ed who owns Four Counties Marine – well, what can we say? He is a brilliant find. He was recommended to us by Justin when we were on the Maccie and out of range of Aqua Narrowboats and the alternator once too often did its draining the propulsion thing. He came to us after work hours in the evening, gave us good advice, only wanted to charge for an hour when he’d been with us for two, and arranged to come back and replace the alternator. Since then, he has done a number of jobs on the engine and systems and has become our oracle. When in doubt we phone Ed. He has a lovely way of being reassuring, telling us exactly what is happening, the effects and how to sort it; he tells us the severity and what can wait and what can’t. He is a treasure.
Getting the boat into shape for us
·       Ian at Aqua Narrowboats:
o   Replacing the blown main switch and re-wiring so the leisure batteries were acting as a bank
o   Replacement of fuel filter to make the Lister Petter back into a 4 cylinder motor again – it had been operating on three for a number of years we gather …
o   Replacement of cr*p-filled shower pump with whale gulper
o   Removal of piece of metal in trad stern to allow seat to be used
·       Ed of Four Counties Marine has done a large amount of work for us, including but not limited to:
o   Confirmed the issue with the over-large alternator, replaced it with a smaller, lighter, very efficient version, and did the required re-wiring
o   Replaced the thrust bearing
o   Unhooked the radiators from the Bubble diesel stove and attached them to the Webasto which was formerly only heating the water in the calorifier and one radiator in the bathroom. Heat throughout the boat at the flick of a switch - excellent result!
o   Replaced the Webasto heat exchanger with one of his spares for free
·       Kev at Macclesfield removed the poo pump and fitted a straight hose so we can get pumpouts hassle free instead of worrying about paper blocking the pump.
·       Steve fixed the airhorn – I have applied to the Truckers Union for my call sign as the extremely loud horn surely qualifies me as a Mack truck driver …
·       Sorting out the shower – I commissioned by phone a piece of safety glass and channel and their fitting by Profile Glass of Stoke on Trent. The guys arrived in Atherstone on a Friday afternoon and did a sterling job gluing and siliconing the channel and shower glass into place. With the bailing sponge artfully located in the corner, the glass and curtain now prevent any water spilling on the floor and down into the bilge.
·       Removal of microwave, electric kettle, electric steamer, ironing board – we put these on the free table at Mercia in our first week on the boat, and we haven’t missed them at all. We did keep the toaster and use it occasionally when we have guests on board.
·       Purchase of mattress topper pad for dinette – after sleeping uncomfortably on the dinette when we had Dave and Jan to stay, we decided it needed to be augmented with more hip and elbow protection. We bought the topper pad at Argos in Tunstall near Stoke on Trent and immediately walked to the nearest charity shop and gave them the four pillows that came with it – we didn’t need them and hadn’t got the space to store them either!
Preparing the boat for winter:
·       When we arrived and had moored at Barby, we had to hurry as we were due to collect Barry from Rugby Railway Station. He came to help us with maintenance that was required to get the boat in good shape for being left over winter. So the work we did:
o   Marilyn:
§  Supervised David's and Barry's lists
§ Finished the topcoating of some spots where I'd removed rust
§ Shampooed boat on outside
§  Cleaned windows inside (vinegar and hot water) and outside (boat shampoo)
§  Cleaned oven
§  Cleaned kitchen cupboards
§  Divided food into 3 groups
·       Keep on board for next year
·       Send home with Barry – all the gluten free stuff for Pauline plus other bits
·       Take to Scotland for Marta, Tim and the grandsons
§  Vacuum packed all the bed linen, fibre duvets, towels, clothing – had to squeeze the air out rather than use the vacuum method as the sucky pump for the blow up mattress wasn’t powerful enough
§  Varnished bow and stern external doors (after Barry’s sanding)
 
Not the most flattering shot but proof I did assist with the maintenance - apart from project managing it
o   David:
§  Cleared the roof, emptied the plant pots, cleaned them and saved the rocks for next year
§ Scraped the rust from the gas locker and cleaned it out
§  Painted it with bilge paint
§  Rolled it over with Waxoyl (kindly donated by Ernie from nb George, moored beside us at Barby)
§  Scrubbed clean the bow well deck
§  Cleared and tidied the bow lockers
§  Sorted and tidied the lockers under the sofa
§  Cleaned the fridge and freezer
§ Modified the too short strut for the tonneau cover by hacksawing it in half and inserting a piece of broom handle

I've not seen the roof this empty before ... The mushroom looks shinier than it really is.
Check out the knees of David's jeans - he's been down in the gas locker kneeling in wet rust
The rust David scraped off the gas locker floor



Going, going ...
Gone
The rust neutraliser has done its job and turned black ready for the bilge paint
David takes a break from the black hole and watches the resident alpacas


  •  Barry:
§  Sanded bow and stern external doors
§  Fitted hook and eye catches to the pigeon box flaps
§  Finished the topcoating of some spots where I'd removed rust
§  Cleaned and waterproofed the pram cover, the cratch cover and the tonneau cover
§  Filled all screw holes in the superstructure (why were they there? what had they been securing? why hadn’t they been filled prior to sale or when no longer required?) with silicone
§  Filled gaps in window seals with silicone
§  Fitted draft excluder on duck hatch doors and roof to eliminate water ingress
§  Scraped out broken down fibreglass filler on hatch roof and filled gaps with silicone
§  Polished both sides of the boat and half the roof (I did the other half)
§  Put protective wax on the roof channels
§  Changed the engine oil

Barry on the job siliconing holes

Barry is a photography buff and loves reflections
Making use of the resources available to get more purchase - something I could not stretch to!

The silicone goes in replacing the broken down fibre glass before the fat draught excluder foam strip is attached
Cleaning the tonneau cover - note the pink gloves ...
Fitting the tonneau cover and wondering why the semi-circular gaps exist when the fittings for the pram cover are so easily removed

·       Things we forgot to do:
o    Put the temperature gauge filament back in place in the stove – I knocked it off when cleaning
o   Making sure the bilge pump was switched to automatic – resolved with email to Penny at Barby
State of marital relationship
·       Green with occasional flashes of red
·       It’s the first time in 40 years that we have spent 4 months together 24/7, and it has been lovely fun.
What could be improved
·       Who’s queen? And when the queen says take the rope and jump she means Please do it NOW, not when you’ve done another extremely critical task (putting the cup in the sink perhaps …) as you consider if it’s the right decision
o   It is probably easier for David to accept my being queen than my being skipper or captain, so next year I am going for the Miranda Richardson effect, complete with whip – maybe that will speed up the reaction time between being asked to disembark and the request getting to the brain, being considered and then acted upon, by which time we have missed the mooring spot or I’ve had to go into reverse to keep it available … AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
·       Coordinating our actions when coming in to moor up (see above) plus
o   agreeing that stepping off either the stern or the centre with the middle rope then holding fast is the most effective way to bring the boat to a halt if I am going slowly enough by the time David steps off. If there is a bollard handy, then wrapping the rope around twice and standing on the end is pretty effective as a braking mechanism too.
o   What is not effective is stepping off the front and pulling the front rope in hard – that way the tiller is totally ineffective at bringing the stern to the shore. However it is VERY effective at raising my blood pressure …
·       Sharing the boat bitch tasks before we set off so David isn’t down in the cabin tidying and cleaning and missing the great scenery while I am steering
o   This will require me to slow down to a mad gallop re getting underway – ten minutes sharing the tasks will pay off well
·       David steering into more locks (40 x increase would be good)
·       Achieving the right balance between battery charging and boating in relaxed fashion – as opposed to mentality when hiring of having a short time to complete the area of the canal you want to cover before having to return the boat
·       The tonneau cover has useless side gaps and non-stretchy toggles - it either needs to be replaced or modified

Overall ranking
8 or 9 out of 10 taken as a whole, according to David. Deducted 1 or 2 points for
·       needing to modify our plans for unlimited cruising to get the issues with the boat sorted
·       managing the electricity issues meant we couldn’t easily moor up for a couple of days to explore local villages and walking tracks unless we ran the engine 3 or 4 hours a day
Lessons learned
·       Drying jeans on the boat roof works a treat! Thanks, Jan C
·       It’s a whole different feeling owning your boat from hiring one, the sense of responsibility is huge
·       We can live for a long period of time more simply and operate in a very small space using less electricity, less water, and still eat well, be comfortable and happy in each other’s company – all of this is useful now we have sold the house and are moving into a much smaller apartment, still it is almost 3 times larger than the boat though (840 sq ft against 270 sq ft)
·       I cannot cope with the noise of the engine for long while stationary and in the cabin when charging the batteries
·       We can cope almost all of the time without a printer (except when we had to print, sign, scan and resend documents re sale of house)
·       We have lost our capacity for DIY – when we first bought this house 34 years ago we did a huge amount of DIY, learning as we went with good instruction from my dad and various builders who also took on the big jobs. We never touched electrics and neither of us know anything about motors apart from how they work in theory. When I read other blogs I am amazed at the confidence with which people take on doing tasks that even thinking about doing scares the tripe out of us
·       Ed and Barry are our heroes!!
Plans for next year
Boat improvements:
·       Battery charging – solar panels, and investigate a small silent generator - our neighbour here in Wellington tells us they do exist
·       Composting loo
Where we want to go:
·       By boat to London for niece’s wedding – and the Grand Circle so we give the Thames a go
·       Birmingham
·       Wherever we know the people we want to catch up with are going to be
 
Sunset as we prepared to leave the boat for the next seven months