Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Laughing John is here!

Aha! here we are breasted up alongside John. He arrived yesterday after the rain had slowed right down. David and I walked along to the first lock, expecting to go to the second one as arranged. But he hove into view behind nb Sokai which he'd locked up with the previous day as well. So only one lock to do - very heavy gates that needed rocking to get moving (a Julia trick) - and then back on John's boat to the mooring.

The kind people moored behind us moved their boat back a bit - the guy even got dressed to do so! - so that we could put John next to the bank as he'll be staying longer.

We went over to get water and empty the elsan and then reversed back to breast up. I was going to turn at the winding hole so that we could breast up, stern next to stern for ease of egress and ingress; but someone has moored across the winding hole. And I hadn't reversed far enough back to get in and around without touching their boat. So, even though the guy came out and offered to move, I decided just to continue with reversing. At least that way we won't have to turn to head for Debdale in a few days.

I had made ciabatta the day before in readiness for John's arrival, so the first order of the reunion once moored up was a cup of tea and ciabatta, olive oil and balsamic. Yum! Although I do prefer it with butter myself.
Not pretty but yummy!
John biked back to get his car from Smeeton Bends and then took me shopping in South Wigston. He said his cupboards were nearly empty, but he came out of Tesco's with two bags and I came out with a very heavily laden granny trolley and one bag ...

John came for dinner - I tempted him with his favourite of gammon, mashed potatoes and veges, and I had made a chocolate brownie for dessert. Nibbles were obligatory as there was still some ciabatta left ...
Had to send this photo to Mick and Julia - they said they were waiting for the taxi to arrive to bring them to us. Considering they are in Birmingham, all the cabs we phoned said no to such a long journey ...
A meal of great hilarity and I found that, in the absence of a good red, John likes chardonnay - a good thing that Julia brought me 9 more bottles to Willington then!

This morning I discovered that the remaining half of the chocolate brownie has been sundered. David has been warned that I have measured it now, and if any further microns of it are removed then a corresponding number of microns will be removed from a delicate part of his anatomy.

He tells me that I need to know that chocolate brownie has a natural shrinkage factor - so will said delicate nether regions if that chocolate brownie gets any smaller without permission of the ship's cook!

Kipping at Kilby Bridge

This post was written on Sunday evening and is finally being published on Tuesday. I am not sure how it occurs that life gets in the way of art ...

We are settled in at the Kilby Bridge 14 day moorings and will be here for a few days. It is quite full at the moment, given the upcoming extended closure of the section of the canal between Kilby Lock and Kings Lock. A lot of boats are waiting here and lots are coming up through the about to be closed area, just as we did.

CRT's website says the closure is because of lack of water from the reservoirs for Gee's and Whetstone Lane locks, but there is plenty of water above them. It looks to us like there is a problem of leakage in the pounds back to King's Lock. And if it's just winter rain that CRT are waiting for, why are there several large barges with cranes and diggers moored up waiting, and why has the mobile staffroom been delivered to the yard at Kilby Bridge? The plit thockens ...

We are staying on here as Laughing John is due either today (if the rain stops) or possibly tomorrow, and we are overdue a catch up with him. We have already planned that he can breast up with us and when we go, he can have our place. It'll be most convenient, as he can keep the spot while we go over to the services for water and possibly a pumpout.

While it is raining today, it was beautifully sunny and warm yesterday after a bit of a chilly autumnal start at 7am. Somehow I have lost 4 gloves onboard - I know they are here somewhere but I couldn't find them yesterday morning. I have six on board somewhere, two (not a pair but both black) were fetched from their rightful place on the wardrobe shelf, and did quite a good job keeping my fingers from numbing - at least until I had to hold a wet rope. Wet ropes are the kiss of death to gloves' warming capacity. Still and all, I have pockets, and if I steer with the tiller under my arm, I can stand with hands in pockets to at least thaw out a bit. And I kept warm with my silk scarf (standards have to be kept up, you know) and my hat.
I bought this hat at the market in Stratford upon Avon and this morning was my first opportunity to wear it - no wind, no rain. I have trouble finding hats that suit me, and I think the trilby is my style! So I am going to take a leaf out of our lovely daughter Kirsty's book and buy one in every colour ...

But the sunshine was lovely and it got warmer quite quickly. David, who walked the first couple of miles to and between locks, was quite warm. It's only me standing on the deck almost still, who gets a bit chilled. But I get to look around and see the beautiful countryside - some of it here is built up on the left of the canal, but to the right it seems to be mostly horse country with some cows.

At Bush Lock moorings near South Wigston, we passed Mole, the boat that Mark and Will were on. I did toot the horn (more of a series of blasts given its noise) in a cheery greeting, but there was no response - I think they may have been sleeping off the after effects of the beer tray contents Will had arrived with the previous day ...

Then at Ervin's Lock David did not notice the fisherman's zipped up tent at the offside base of the lock. Nor did he see the three fishing poles with lines out into the cut ... And up he raises the paddles on each gate and out rushes the water in a huge (I say HUGE) torrent. And somehow, over the water he hears a persistent beeping - he may not be able to see well, but at times (when not indulging in domestic deafness) his hearing is acute ...

The fisherman heard the beeping too and lurched sleepily out of his tent to attempt rescue of the rods.  Quite an effort as the lines had snagged on something in the water and were trying to race off down the cut. He did get them out and was quite fine about the whole drama - David had apologised for not seeing him/tent/poles and he was perfectly friendly about it all.

Then at Double Rail Lock we had the loveliest experience yet in all our years of locking - we are renaming the lock as Three Horses Lock.
This one arrived first and was munching away on the reeds and weed that boaters had removed from the lock
Then the other two arrived, started munching too as David wound paddles

and checked if the gate was ready to open

then they waited for him to come back across - I should have given him carrots or biscuits to feed them but was too busy off the boat with the camera, dammit.


Then this one was scratching herself on the beam. She did let David across to close the paddles. (I noticed that she needed a good hoof trimming.)
Lovely, eh?

After Kilby Lock, it was mooring time and we were a bit anxious about whether there would be a space, and decided we would take the first one we came to. And there it was, just one boat in - a gap about 75 feet long. But wait, there was a fisherman setting up towards the rear of the space. I asked if he'd mind if I pulled up as far forward as possible to make sure I got Waka Huia in and he had room to fish. No problem, he said. He said he couldn't walk any further so was pleased to be able to stop here. Turns out he (John) has had CIPD for 15 years (I discovered this after a few conversations and cups of tea with gingernuts throughout the day) and a variety of his leg muscles don't work and he loses his balance. So he has leg braces and uses crutches. He works out in the gym to keep his legs functioning and to keep his upper body strength up. He still works fulltime as a decorator, doing wallpapering and painting and says that at 61 he cannot retire as he is too much in demand! An amazing man, with a great attitude. He said he will eventually end up in a wheelchair but is working hard on his physical fitness and keeping moving to ward that day off.

Anyway, fast forward to about 3pm. And the boat behind us had moved off. I was lying down - attempting a nana nap but not succeeding as Mick had phoned and he and David had had a bit of a raucous chat (well, David's side of it was raucous, so I assume Mick's side was too - no doubt Julia had added to the hilarity, as is her way...)  Anyway, back to the story: So then around the corner from Kilby Lock come the sound of boats. And then the sound of a woman saying "I really do apologise" - you know that apology: the one that means I am nothing like sorry but I'll say I am so you can't accuse me of being arrogant. And then her voice saying "Well, boaters do have the right of way on the canal." (See what I mean about an apology that's not an apology?) John's voice quietly saying something, and her voice again, then John's. She seemed to be getting heated and John was sounding resigned, so I thought it was time I put in a calming appearance - yes, folks, I can and do have that effect at particular times. I think part of what motivated me was her wrong assertion that as boaters we have right of way/access - we don't really. We do pay hefty licence fees to pay for the upkeep of the canals, but they are a public resource and fishermen pay for fishing licences.

So I went up to ask John what was happening. He said he was going to have to pack up as these people (two boats ready to breast up) wanted the space and couldn't stay back from him as one of their number wanted to be able to step off straight on to level ground. I said I'd make him a cup of tea while he packed noting to the boaters that it would be a while as John cannot walk. The guy holding the rope did ask if he could help pack up. John said no as he knew where everything went and it would take him a fair old while. I suggested that the boaters tie up temporarily a bit further back to give John room to move. I disappeared inside to put the kettle on and next thing the two boats departed - someone of their crew had found a space further along... So John continued fishing, we had an extensive chat as he packed up later, and I was filled with admiration - an inspirational person.

What struck me was that the boaters didn't consider saying they'd tie up temporarily until he'd gone. Yes, the person wanted to step off on to solid ground, but a walk down the gunwale would have achieved that. And yes, space was at a premium, but I see that they managed a space each on the 48 hour mooring further down with bollards and paving stones ...

Inconsiderate boaters drive me nuts! Actually inconsiderate behaviour and selfishness of all kinds drive me nuts, OK?


Sunday, 24 September 2017

Photo post from the mammoth day, and the couple of days before it



We are at Kilby Bridge after 2 hours of boating today. A beautiful morning to be up and out - one of those misty mornings with bright sunshine on the water, autumn leaves turning and no one else about. Even the dog walkers were still abed.

Wednesday and Thursday nights:

We were moored at Kegworth Shallow Lock for two nights as it persisted down with rain one day and we weren't in the frame of mind to get soaked.

The lock is left open except during flood conditions. In the dark of the evening I noticed white mounds on the water and thought it was swans. But it is foam. I had to ask Mick what it was - my imagination went to effluent from a factory ... Apparently the foam is created as the water goes over the many weirs. It looks quite white on the water but is a bit beige when it dries on the boat - ooky.



Bubble bath in the lock ;-)
Lovely sunny day, still water - what could be better?

Autumn colours starting to appear.

The boffin is checking something out.

Had to have the sunglasses on

Some beautiful properties in this area

See? And the front is around to the left, so lovely views both ways of the river and fields on the other side.
Lovely, eh?

This boat was moored on the lock landing where there was also this -
- burnt out wreck. Getting in to let David off to prepare the lock was tricky, as was exiting to go into the lock. There are few moorings on the River Soar, so I understand people mooring on lock landings overnight. But not as a long-term thing**, and certainly not when doing so means only ONE boat of no more than 62 foot can get in. It may look like there is space in front of Waka Huia, but actually there was a submerged chrome frame just in front of my bow. ** It was clearly a long term mooring (at least longer than overnight) as the boat was locked up, no one was on board and it was the middle of the day.
 Yesterday on the mammoth run:
This is Mick and Julia's old boat Mecca, the one they had when we first met them back in 1994 at Norton Junction where they thought we were Australian!!! There is documentary evidence of this as Julia wrote in her log that she met some Australians at the rubbish point. Not sure how a friendship flourished after that devastating mistake, but it did and it has. And a damn fine thing too! By the way, nb Mecca doesn't look as spiffing now as it did then!

This weed is ubiquitous along the Soar - looks like giant watercress. The stalks don't seem to go down to the bottom, so I am thinking it spreads outwards from the bank. Any ideas, anyone? I don't remember it from our last trip on this stretch. Is it spreading like Himalayan Balsam? Does it need to be eradicated?

This is the beginning of the crap around the prop at the bridge before Limekiln Lock in Leicester. An extension cord, half a sari, rags, plastic bags, wire, twigs. Thankfully we have a pair of loppers on board which I used to cut through the electric cable so I could pull it out. Thanks, Tim and Marta, for that most useful xmas pressie from a few years ago!



I am not sure what these people were doing but it looked like the adults and the kids were having fun. as part of the watersport expo.

These kids were part of the watersport expo thingie. See the guy at the back? As we passed them, he started rocking the raft/board violently side to side. I did think, in my risk averse way, that it was not the most sensible thing to do when a boat is coming past with a prop that pulls water and anything in the water to its orbit. However no kids were harmed in the filming of this incident...
Not sure what you call a conglomeration of kayaks and canoes. However, these kids and the adults with them were having a blast. Wonderful to see them out doing physical stuff, learning new skills. Full credit to the adults instructing/supervising/assisting/guiding   


What is this building? It looks like the Michelin Man's play house!

This is Toby and his Mum Emma with David. Toby was a star lock wheeler. I mentioned him in yesterday's post. He is cool!

The water was well down above Gee's Lock.  I calculated (with the eye of a person who assesses the amount of gib board needed for any particular patch) that it was at least 600mm (2 foot) lower than the high water mark. I stayed in the centre all the way through to the lock, and I travelled at all of 1mph. I was in tickover, but the water was SO shallow that the boat was extremely slow. I wasn't really worried as we were still moving, but it was the slowest I have had to cruise for a long time.           




Saturday, 23 September 2017

A mammoth day

The first time in absolute ages that we have boated for 10.75 hours - it was a bit necessity and a bit anxiety: Adam and Adrian from Briar Rose notified us a couple of days ago that there was due to be a closure starting on 27 Sept from Lock 38 to Lock 30, inclusive, on the GU Leicester Arm. Total buggeration, as we had intended a slow meandering pace back to Debdale at about 1.5 hours per day. But it was not to be.

So we have been moving at the speed of light, canal-wise over the last two days. But today we have swapped places with Mick and Julia as the Prince and Princess of Pace!

Double locks = 16; distance = 14.5 miles; hold-ups = one serious detritus removal from the weed hatch (a full extension cord, half of a sari, several rags, several plastic bags, some wire) just before Limekiln Lock plus a kids' watersport/canoeing expo with canoes, kayaks, rafts, paddle boards all over the cut, plus a serious water shortage between King's Lock and Dunn's Lock where it was imperative to stay in the middle of the channel; plus icecreams at one lock (no time lost as I got them while David was working the lock) -and icecreams are required sustenance and morale enhancer, don't you know...

And here we are now, illegally tied up**(see below for our escape plan) on the lock mooring above Dunn's Lock. We have eaten dinner (prepared while we were in a lock waiting for our locking companions Mark who is 6 days into the ownership of his fibreglass narrowboat and Will his beer-toting helper), we have had a couple of glasses of wine each and David has been woken from his sleep on the sofa to go to bed.

It has been a great day actually, apart from the anxiety about getting through the area due for closure. We have shown ourselves that we can still put in the hard yards when required. In fact Julia texted to say that we are now in the Leicester Arm Hall of Fame - praise indeed!

Before we had locking companions in Mark and Will on Mole, we met 8 year old Toby and his Mum Emma. Toby was dead keen to assist David, and loved learning about how the locks worked. It was lovely to see David's old teaching stuff come out: 'So, what do you think we need to do next?' And lovely to see Toby responding with excitement that he'd got the next step right. I had a chat with Emma about hiring a boat with friends to share the cost and having the fun that goes with it. Black Prince at Napton, stand by. I reckon she'll be hiring next season!

We also had a couple of helpers at another lock - two boys, I'd guess they were about 11 or 12. Happy to give a hand opening and closing the gates. And at one lock, a bunch of drinking guys let the off-side paddle down when David had forgotten it ...

I had the easy jobs really, steering, cooking, putting the rope over the hook David held down from the lockside, holding the rope in the lock. The most important job of the last hour and a half has been providing nourishment and anaesethetising (I cannot spell now, OK?) alcohol ...

Photos tomorrow - I am bushed and it is time I went to bed too - after all, it's 7.45pm and ** we need to get off this lock mooring by about 7am. That is less than 12 hours away.

By the way, we are heading for Kilby Bridge tomorrow. David says he is going back to bed after we get there. I will wake him up for lunch, and that might be at the pub ...

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Nostalgia in the Cotswolds

The following was written yesterday with photos added today - it's raining so we are not moving. I've had texts from Adam and Adrian while finishing this off and they are on the move. They have seen Mick and Julia who are not. Julia tells me they have adopted the NZ pace of boating. Well done, them!

On Saturday we left the boat moored in Sawley Marina - we'd got there the day before and had a hell of a job finding the correct mooring spot. The numbering system is visible from standing on the jetty but not from the water, and any numbering on the electricity/water stands does not coincide with the number of the jetty/mooring position. Dumb or what!?

I should have known it was going to be a struggle as the young guy in the office had shown me on the site map that 'it is around about here' with a hovering pencil ... At least I got to keep the pencil!

I'd collected the rental car on Friday arvo and then we had a slightly raucous drinks and dinner session on board. One of Pauline's colleagues/friends had passed her exams that day, so we had to have a drink, and then we had to take photos of us celebrating and then, and then, and then ... (See previous post titled ' Boys on the booze, ...' for the evidence.)

We were dropping Pauline and Barry off at Hatton Cross on Saturday so they could make their way back to Hammersmith via Teddington where their grandchildren live - their son and daughter in law live there too, but the key residents are the grandkids. Naturally - any grandparent feels the same, eh?

Our trip south was to get the motorhome (Vangelic is its name) to Southampton to be loaded on to a ship bound for NZ. So dropping B&P off on the way seemed sensible as Vangelic had taken up residence at my cousin Gordon's place in Abinger Hammer near Dorking. Lovely place, Gordon's house. He is such a clever clogs as a designer and builder., and not just the house but the whole setting. I can give him this praise without him getting bigheaded as he doesn't read the blog ...

We stayed overnight at their house, having dropped the car off in Dorking and getting a cab out to Abinger; and while Vince (Gordon's brother who lives on site too) offered to take us to any restaurant/pub/takeaway in the vicinity, we were both too knackered to bother. So we had toasted home made bread and marmalade for dinner - that was all the food I had taken. Doh!! Breakfast was the same ...

We had the house to ourselves apart from Gordon and Sharon's lovely dogs - they were NOT lovely at 10pm and 10.10pm and 10.20pm when they saw rabbits or foxes or leaves moving outside the lounge and barked madly! David took them into the laundry where their official beds are, closed that door and the 8 foot long 8 foot high glass door between the kitchen and the hall … They may have continued barking but I didn’t hear them, and it’s not likely they did as they had limited vision through just one door.

I had cleaned out Vangelic and wiped the floor throughout on Saturday arvo, and then David decided to tromp on through after the rain and with wet dirty shoes. GGGRRR!!! So on Sunday I decided to not bother doing another clean inside until we were parked up in Southampton on Sunday night, ready for delivery to the dock on Monday.

We drove down to Southampton on Sunday and even using the GPS managed to get lost! We were staying in a hotel at the motorway services area - I should have known something was wrong when the GPS directed us off the motorway … but who am I to argue with technology? Anyway, we finally found it and checked in. David then found the only muddy patch in the entire carpark, splodged around in it, got both shoes covered and then climbed in Vangelic. A bit of a mutual tantrum ensued, but I'm sure mine was justified.

Anything that had to travel in Vangelic was boxed and the contents inventoried in case of theft in transit or on the wharf at Auckland. Ray and Leonie Eddington shipped their motorhome back to NZ and the radio/GPS was removed before they picked it up. And we had been advised by the shipping agent not to send any personal items home in it. So the only stuff inside is movable bits that came with it - powercord, spare cassette, squabs for the spare bed ...

David put the wheel clamp on a rear wheel - Gordon, Barry, Mick and John had freaked us out about theft of motorhomes and caravans by travellers (gypsies, to NZ readers). And then at midnight David woke me to ask me what was happening in the carpark - he’d heard noises so got up to investigate. There was a tow truck out there between us and the motorhome, and the driver and his companion were loading a car on to it - flashing lights and all. I looked around and David was nowhere to be seen - he’d raced off, in his pyjamas, to reception to ask if they knew what was happening! Madness. So that was the end of sleep for me for the next 4 hours, dammit! Toss, turn, read, toss turn, sudoku, toss turn, read, finally drop off.

On Monday we went to a hand carwash place and the guys did a stunning job - we told them we couldn’t have any insects, spiders, seeds, UK dirt on or in it, for it to be allowed in by NZ Customs. The guys were Albanian and all of them took turns coming inside to look it over - then the head guy told me it was beautiful and better than the house they lived in.

Then it was follow the GPS directions down to the docks, where we safely delivered Vangelic after a bit of a struggle to find the right place - there was a cruise liner (HUGE) at the dock we should have gone into so we couldn’t get to Berth 40 at the sign. When we left Vangelic, David was concerned that it was precious and worried about whether it would get to NZ safely and intact. I’m not worried - it’s fully insured and replaceable. It’s only a thing, not a person, or Mel.
Vangelic in august company.

I don't think David was aiming to get on board that ship - luggage wasn't posh enough!


On the way back by rental car, we stayed overnight in a lovely Cotswold village Coln St Aldwyn. We have been there before but David didn’t remember it until we looked at the walks pamphlet - we had done a long walk here one weekend and stayed at the hotel - in fact in the same room - when we lived in Church Enstone.  It is the only time I have felt nostalgic for living over here. The village was beautiful. We know because we did the pamphletted walk around it - just the short one, mind, as we hadn't brought walking boots.
The river on the way out of the village - an old bridge

Up a long drive that is a public footpath ...

to the turning for the path past Mill Cottage and the Mill Stream
The Alms cottages in the village - quite generously sized by the looks


The gate to the churchyard. The sign over it means Death, the door to life. The sign I would put there under it is What a load of tosh!
However the church is rather beautiful, and obviously a hub for the community. I am not sure of its provenance but it does look to me like a mix of styles. Any architectural info would be gratefully published, please and thanks in advance.

The first 4 of the 10 commandments. Christopher Hitchens described these ones as throat clearing, and making sure that whatever else they did the most important thing was that people should only attend to god.

Then these ones are about expectations of acceptable behaviour.  Mmmm, four to tell people to admire and worship only one god - isn't that a bit excessive? If you want a further exigesis, get Christopher Hitchen's book 'god is not great - how religion poisons everything'. It is very enlightening. ** Correction based on happily received feedback from Kath and Neil of Herbie fame. I clearly need to meet them to have a good rant!
I thought these organ pipes were lovely. No idea what it sounds like though.

This is Woody's car (see below). The front passenger seat is obviously Woody's as it has a large duvet on it plus a cover for the seat back ... A well loved dog.
At the rear are the former stables and carriage house for

this house. I think it was the manor house.

And this is much much bigger. Didn't see any signage about what it is
The gates to the place above

A bit hard to see, but this sign says NO! - I am going to see if I can find a couple of them to place on the towpath at each end of the boat when we moor up - I wonder if it would work?


And on our walk around it this time, we met three interesting people:
  • the first was a lady whose place we mistakenly went into as we followed the pamphlet directions but didn't allow enough distance between them - she set us on the right path, and then we saw her again when we went into look at the church
  • the second was a woman called Claire who was walking a couple of dogs, one of whom I declared was lovely. 'No' she said, 'he's not. He's rolled around in something very smelly and is disgusting.' When she found out we were staying at the New Inn, she flourished the menu and said 'That's me - I'm the Claire in the name of the apple crumble.' She'd delivered apples to the pub and was immortalised in print
  • the third was a man mowing lawns at the church - his beautiful elderly boxer named Woody was very friendly. We had quite a chat with the man and David gave Woody an extensive amount of tummy scratching, as you do. The guy said he didn't know what he would do when Woody died as they spend all day every day together.

The hotel was lovely.

As soon as I saw this I knew we had been there before. The front was covered in virginia creeper and looked lovely.

The bedroom with David on the computer - what else?

The view from the window


And the BUT is that the fire alarm went off at midnight. It was not connected to the nearest fire brigade. And no staff live on site. If David hadn't gone downstairs to the bar area looking for lights etc and unknowingly triggered the intruder alert, no one from the staff would have turned up to turn both alarms off.  And the guy didn't check that there was no actual fire, just turned the alarms off, offered a very perfunctory apology and then buggered off again, leaving us all to climb up the rickety unlit fire exit back to our rooms. So another night to toss turn, read, toss turn, read ...

We had thought about staying on another night or at least coming back to do another walk between Bibury and Coln St Aldwyn, but the fire alarm incident put us off. The seal on not coming back was the brekkie - not up to our former B&B standard, and certainly not up to Jan's Cafe in Paraparaumu standard, by a long shot.
Nowhere near the best eggs benedict we've had. We chose this option as the full english that was delivered to the table next to us looked awful ...
So back to the boat we came, after taking the rental back to Ilkeston and being driven back. I did have to ask the young driver to slow down when she was doing 40mph in a 30mph area. There were unlikely to be kids crossing the road at that time, but what about us oldies when we are out shopping!?

Today we have left the marina and come down to Kegworth. I have done some sanding and painting, so am feeling just a little bit virtuous - not too virtuous as there is still more to do. I am probably about a third of the way through it. And on leaving the jetty today, I managed to scrape against the mooring stand and took a fair amount of paint off, bugger it. So more to be sanded and touched up. It's meant to rain tomorrow, so it could be a rest day - but the painting task will keep, I am sure.  Painting update: the rain overnight did not harm my new paint - I am very pleased about that, as I had visions of having to do a Tom formerly of nb Waiouru and re-do it ... 

OK, time to cook the marinated salmon for dinner. It's been a fasting day today after a week and a half of over-indulging. I blame Barry and Pauline! However, out of fairness, I also blame Mike and Julia and Mick and Julia - they are all extremely bad influences and make me provide lots of nibbles and yummy food!
Update re blaming: Mick of Mick and Julia fame, tells me by phone that I am the common denominator (oops! I typed demoninator ... Freudian slip or what?) I say that guests are the common demoninator and this is not a Freudian slip ... They make me provide lots of food - well, if they don't make me, I do it cos I love them and loving means feeding ...