Sunday, 23 July 2017

Pics of Penkridge and Coven and Great Haywood (out of sequence of course ...)

I haven't loaded photos in the last couple of posts - not sure why, but maybe I have been posting in a hurry or on my way to do something else. This post was started while waiting for the water tank to fill at Autherley Junction. See, parallel processing ... Habits die hard.

These teens were from London and were at at outdoor centre for a few days. We had seen them walking the towpath past us at Tixall the day before and they were out again on the day we aimed for water and I had a meltdown - not in front of them though as we hadn't discovered no water was avail;able anywhere by that stage.

A typical Penkridge home - not! But cute, eh? I think it's called 'the Old Cottage' or something extremely original.

It's the end of the school year and some of the leaving kids had tied their ties to the little footbridge over the horse tunnel at the lock.
Starters at Flames in Penkridge. Lovely restaurant. Go there. It is BYO wine and is very reasonably priced. I think we paid £23 for two courses each plus poppadoms

The mains - I had two more starters - samosas and onion bhajis. David had lamb biryani. (I must learn to make biryanis.) We wisely opted for no naan bread this time ... so are unable to report if they are as big as at Castle Balti in Warwick. Food was just as good though.
One of the young waiters is an engineering student - I gave him the benefit of my wisdom and told him to hold on to this experience of waitering - the ability to do several things in parallel is a skill he should look to make use of as an engineer, instead of only doing one thing at a time, serial thinking - even if it means they have to go back and re-do stuff later because they haven't taken all things into account as they go! (I am speaking from experience here of working with engineers - they can make the simplest job complicated and have it take three times as long as it needs to. But I am not bitter ... And they argue the toss, constantly! But I'm not bitter, truly.)
At the time we saw these old stocks (outside the Penkridge Gaol) David had drunk 3/4 of a bottle of wine and was being silly (Julia says he's much more fun drunk ...). I was fantasising about putting him in the stocks and leaving him there overnight.
I was quite keen to stay on in Penkridge and go to the market and back to Jaspers the Bakers. However we decided to fast again on Saturday so a trip to Jaspers was definitely a no no, unless it was a cream cake and crunchy bread roll fast. And I'm not sure that counts somehow. (Reason for additional fasting day is that we are probably having a visit from Tim and the boys one day this week - food required, and we have Mike and Helen coming to stay from Thursday to Saturday and that means food and alcohol for sure!)

So we moved on to Slade Heath, moored up and went for a walk into Coven (pronounced to rhyme with woven, rather than oven, unfortunately). It was a cross country walk, plus across an A road before getting into a very pleasant village. We found another pathway out of the village which was extremely cross country!
  • The farmer appeared to have obliterated the actual public walkway and left spaces of a sort around the fields' edges (two fields - don't worry, the apostrophe is in the right place). The crop had been rapeseed, I think, and the remaining stalks were sharp!
  • the exit from yet another field (uncultivated) was out through a high thicket of brambles (blackberry to NZers) and nettle. I was glad I was wearing jeans and a long sleeved top!
On the return leg of our cross country walk. The weeds were rather high in places! The exit on to the road is in the corner of the field (see, only one).
  This morning we moved on from Slade Heath and found the traveller encampment that John had warned about - it was at Coven Heath, a mile or so down the cut from Slade Heath. There were a couple of caravans left and much rubbish, plus a whimpering puppy. There was a big fence between the site and the towpath, so no opportunity to find out if it needed rescuing - shortly I will phone the RSPCA to let them know.

The weather was a bit pants this morning - light showers. The fishermen attending a competition all had their umbrellas up. They didn't look terribly happy but it was just after 8am on Sunday, so maybe they were missing a sleep in and brekkie in bed ... However they all spoke to me when I greeted them - and they were polite too!
This is about a third of the fishermen.

 Catching up on last week's photos from Great Haywood
The following photos are from David's camera and phone - he downloaded them so I thought it behoved (is that a word?) me to include them. I am very slack and don't ask him to download them when I am blogging - as is usual, I don't have the patience to wait. My bad!

I think this was taken on the walk back to Tixall Wide a few days ago after the decidedly below average meal in Great Haywood. I am wearing one of my new T-shirts from the Edinburgh Wool shop. I bought several back in Tewkesbury ...

At the Tixall Wide mooring - it is so lovely and peaceful there. There is a road off in the distance but traffic can barely be heard.

When we were moored at Great Haywood, we heard the sound of a hot air balloon being pumped up - what is that process called? filling perhaps?

Anyway, we watched over the hedge. The third photo shows what to me is a bit spooky - there is a flap of the balloon which comes down almost to the basket and the flames shoot up past it into the belly of the balloon. I wouldn't go up in a balloon anyway, but if I did get that brave and then saw that flap, I'd be out of the basket like a shot. A balloon on fire does not fly well.

So here we are today - quite boring boating down from Slade Heath to Autherley Junction and then up to the aqueduct over the A5 - and that's me up to date.

The mooring is a bit noisy, but it is quintessential English countryside: fields and trees and livestock. Lots of nostalgia for books read as a child, movies seen, and other narrowboat holidays.

The weather is changeable (see, even that fits the nostalgia) - the washing is hanging up outside and enjoying a couple of extra rinses. However when the sun comes out it is very warm, so I think it'll dry. It's all David's stuff so no worries ...

Ooh, forgot - the rest of the convoy is now at Hawkesbury Junction. I did ask them to have a bowl of chips for us but they have refused - what kind of friends are they!?

OK, I will have to get out the nibbles to make up for that affront.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Penkridge is lovely!

Yesterday I didn't want to moor in a town, but here we are in Penkridge now, and it is beaut.

We have been for a walk around, and found double sided tape in one of those neat English hardware shops - sort of like Arkwright's but for hardware not groceries. We need double sided tape for sticking window catches back on. For some reason a few of them have decided to let go of their windows. That is fine if one end is still hanging on, but when both ends have freefallen, the window cannot be closed - and there is more rain coming.

We also found Jaspers bakery as recommended by a boater. Well, what a find! Queue was out the door, but service was very quick. I got 2 ham and salad cobs (I assume these are the round rolls, not long ones?). The cobs were crusty and just fabulous! I also bought 2 apple turnovers and a loaf of crusty bread. Total cost £5.90. Bargain!!

We then asked for help to find the Indian restaurant and were directed to Flames on Bellbottom Row or somesuch street name. We have made a booking for tonight, and yes, you can take your own wine! I do like a BYO restaurant!

The call of comfort food.

Yesterday was determined as a fasting day - it's not a 'no eating' day, but it is a limited calorie (600) day with only two meals - we skip lunch and we don't have any nibbly things at any time. The purpose is to keep our weight down, our hearts healthy, blood pressure in the normal range, plus make sure the glucose levels are in the safe range. High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes we don't want!

So a yummy brekkie of fruit salad (strawberries, a few grapes and half an orange) with 2 rounded dessertspoons of greek yoghurt (home made using the EsiYo yoghurt maker) plus a third of a cup of my homemade meusli (toasted seeds, almonds, coconut, a few sultanas and a few cornflakes), a couple of cups of tea, and away we went in the showery rain. I was very rugged up as I find the cold gets in when I get wet and am standing still, so I was sporting camisole, long sleeved T-shirt, cardigan, rain jacket, silk scarf for the draughts down the back of the neck - I am truly my mother's daughter in that respect now.

Of course, as we cruised along the weather improved and our mission to fill up with water at Milford Bridge was nicely on track. Until, FUBAR, the water tap is no longer there. It was shown in the 2012 Nicholson's Guide, but not on Memory Map - and which one had I consulted, I ask? Three guesses and the first two don't count.

So after a mild groaning, on we went although I had wanted to moor up after getting water and have another blobby day - I am getting used to them and they seem like SUCH a good idea, as practice for being retired.

The next water point was marked on Nicholson's and Memory Map at the boatyard by the lock at Bridge 90, next to Midland Chandlers where we had things to buy and a new freezer to pay for (yes, we have one ordered ... I am not sure there was an effective business case presented, but I am weak! An aside: I notice that my desire to buy a new mattress is being rebuffed - how come things with electric and technology are OK but things with memory foam are not?)

However before that we had advice from a moored boater that there was water available at a Boat Club - it did have a service point, but we couldn't see a water tap. Anyway, I could not, in the wind, get the boat over to the bank - there was a boat was approaching me and I lost my confidence to just take it slowly and get myself over there. So on we went. But I told myself not to worry - there'd be water at the boatyard about an hour further on.

On we go and up through the lock, and all is well. Until David came to tell me there was no water - he had checked at Midland Chandlers and was told that the boatyard has closed up. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

There were still boats moored there (private moorings) and water and electric were at each mooring point, but there was no one around to ask and I had lost my confidence about asking for help without bursting into tears through stress.

By this stage I am beside myself with stress and worry and tantrums (mostly internal - I metaphorically lay down on the back of the boat and drummed my heels. Well I wanted to, but somehow it's unseemly in a 66 year old woman.)

 The next waterpoint (if it existed and I was doubting that) was deemed to be in Penkridge. And I did NOT want to moor in a town. So David fed me 6 almonds (allowable snack on a fasting day in times of stress) and we carried on. Shortly afterwards, he declared
  • he was certain we had enough water to last till this morning, 
  • I was tired, stressed, needed to stop
  • so we were going to moor up in the sun and just take the rest of the day off.
The fact that we moored pretty much right next to the M6 didn't matter - it is not a mooring I would ordinarily choose, but the wind was blowing from us to the M6 so it wasn't too terribly noisy (quieter than the M40 next to the Stratford Canal), and once inside the boat I couldn't hear it much.

The thing I realised this morning, hence the title of the post, was that at each point when I got stressed yesterday, I wanted to eat. Didn't need it really, just wanted food. I have always known I eat in times of stress or tiredness, but I think yesterday showed me just how much food has been my 'go to' comfort.

For dinner, by the way, I made a Thai Beef Salad - lots of leaves and herbs from the RTA (roof top allotment), with a thai dressing, (fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, grated ginger, chopped chilli) half of which was used to marinate the steak. It was very yummy and very low calorie! So today I am skinny ...

By the way, we had intended to cruise to Gailey today, but when we stopped to get water, I looked at a noticeboard which extolled the delights of Penkridge. So we have pulled across to moor at the defunct waterpoint (fear not, there was one at the service point) - we are getting some strange looks as people clearly think that it is now part of the lock mooring - but no - that is well behind us.

So here we are, waiting for the washing machine to finish, and then we are off out to explore and find an Indian restaurant and the local bakery which has been given double thumbs up by our friend Julia and a boater we crossed over with at the service point.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A day of contrasts

Relaxed and restful for us (as the breakaway party) with a bit of useful activity:
  • blog post 
  • oil change
  • walk to and from Great Haywood.
We had lunch at the Clifford Arms - not a very good experience, but pleasant  patrons. The food was decidedly very average and the wine was decidedly below - no chardonnay, and wine by the glass from a barrel. GGGRRR!!! Probably a good place if you want beer though as it has won a CAMRA award this year - for something but I couldn't tell you what. I only know that because there was a large sign outside saying so, but was I interested? Nah.

We are now back on board, kettle is coming to the boil for a cup of tea, and the chardonnay is chilling in the fridge. David is changing his clothes and about to do his third useful thing of the day (first and second were pumping out the oil, and loosening the oil filter for me). He is going to clean the swim and the engine bay. I expect he will be finished about bed time. So once again, I will be serving my own wine ...

However the remainder of the convoy, made up of those stalwart individuals who did not peel off for the dodgy purposes of a BSSC** inspection, has had a sh*t of a day today. They have been attacked, prop and rudder, by blanket weed. It is dastardly stuff - gets on the prop so easily and comes off only with great hard work. We experienced it on the GU back in 2015 when Barry had to pull us for a fair distance while I heaved stuff off the prop. See

I reported earlier today that they were probably heading for Wiggin Hill, and that one team member was plumping for Perry Barr. We have just had a brief conversation with John who tells us they are giving up shortly before Perry Barr as the day has been diabolical.

** David has informed me that he misinformed me - BSSC actually stands for Boat Safety Scheme Certificate.

OK, tea is made, I am going to post this and then I am retiring to the cratch whence David's calls for assistance can be safely ignored!

A good decision

Way back in the mists of time (before the turn of the century, I think), David and I hired a Black Prince boat from Stoke on Trent with Mick and Julia, and we did the Four Counties Ring - in a week. It was a very busy week, but still had time for lunchtime pub stops. Although to hear Mick tell it, I thwarted those by dragging them out of pubs after one pint - the biggest sin being that the beer was cheap (£1 a pint, if I remember correctly what I've been told ... £1 was probably cheap, but it was some years ago, mind).

It was an excellent week for all that: speedy, full of activity and laughter. We have spoken of it on the convoy's trip this last month and a half, and noted how much more slowly we are moving these days (boat-wise, I mean, but probably body-wise as well, I guess).

We even, very naughtily, did the Audlem Flight in the dark. Well, we'd started it and decided in the evening that we shouldn't really moor up in lock pounds (did we see there were moorings in between Lock 2 and 3? Probably, but we ignored that), so onwards and downwards we went. I steered, David was setting the locks ahead, and Mick and Julia were working the lock I was in. It got darker and darker, I was steering using the headlight, and we were doing well. Then all of a sudden, Julia said in quite an anxious way 'I do hope the Boff** is OK. We haven't seen him and he could have fallen in and drowned and we wouldn't know!' That set us all worrying, but we reassured ourselves that we would find out if we got to a lock that wasn't ready for us. Heartless, weren't we? Anyway, we (all of four of us) got to The Shroppie Fly pub; in my memory of that escapade it was already shut for the night, but that's probably an inaccurate embellishment. Maybe it was just that it was a cool night and no one was drinking outside. We slid as quietly as possible into a mooring spot and snuck off to bed, hoping no one would report us to Black Prince or to BWB for boating after dusk ...

(** Julia calls David the Boffin, for reasons obvious to those of you you know him.)

This train of thought about our days as Speedy Gonzales has come into my head often over the last few days given I'd spent most of Sunday and Monday and most of yesterday afternoon generally doing blobby things.
Getting ready to leave Bridge 69 next to the Freeman's property on Monday. Can you tell we have passed our BSSC examination?

In the reeds there is the Freeman's lovely dog who came down to the canal for a drink. I did hope it was coming over to be our boat dog, but no such luck!

The only active thing on Monday was cruising a couple of miles from Bridge 69 to Great Haywood. However I also did assist a canoeist getting out of his canoe and on to the bank while waiting for the Colwich lock and I watered the roof allotment - multi-tasking and parallele processing - David take note! Oh, and we did watch a hot air balloon taking off in the fields near the canal over between Shugburgh Hall and the folly. The photos are on David's camera though so may remain unseen for some time ...

From our mooring at Great Haywood. Very peaceful. However in the distance you can barely see a boat going around the corner - it was emitting the blackest smoke and lots of it! Not sure the engine is in good shape somehow.

And yesterday, I steered to Anglowelsh's yard, reversed in for a pumpout, rubbish and elsan emptying, and water. Then I did have to make my way alone to Tixall Wide and moor up while David biked back to the mooring before Gt Haywood where he'd managed to leave a mooring chain still attached to the armco - doh! Found it - yay!

But the afternoon, apart from finishing off the painting that was started back at Ellingham Lock on the Avon (after John's and my mammoth days of angle grinding, rust prevention coating [day one] and undercoating [day two]) was taken up in having a nana nap and reading in the cratch.
I did stir myself to take this photo though - Tixall Wide is a very pleasant place to be!
Dinner in the cratch - nibbles only. You'll note the glass is almost empty. A call had been made to the first mate, but it took a while for the refilling exercise to be undertaken. Standards are slipping, indeed. I think the problem is that we live in a long tube, and the first mate has to pass everything we possess in the tube to get to the site of task completion. And given he's a boffin, and by definition, easily distracted, he undertakes other missions (unrequested, unnecessary, not on the critical path) on his way there and back. I despair of having him adhere to the critical path and have told him on numerous occasions (when thirsty for tea/water/chardonnay)  that I would never employ him on a project - he'd single-handedly cause delays through tangential tasks, as well as not being able to parallel process. As Julia would say 'Bless' and as I would say 'FFS'

During Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we have been in text communication with Mick, Julia and John, as they laboured their way from Hawne Basin to Netherton (?) and Walsall, then yesterday from Walsall to Brownhills. Today there is a debate as to whether they go to Wiggins Hill (24 locks, 13 miles) or Perry Barr (9 locks, 8 miles). They are already underway and we are still lounging in bed. And when we move it'll only be halfway to Penkridge.

We have read of their adventures and misadventures and said to each other that, while we much missed being part of that particular convoy, we did not miss the 'mis' part of the adventures.

That was borne out in a text from Mick last night which read: We've had an ordeal today travelling from Walsall to Brownhills. Stuck in bridgeholes (5 shopping trolleys in one alone), down weed hatch numerous times, and slow going all day! At one stage we managed 1/4 mile in one hour from Birchills top lock to Birchills Junction. Moored up at 1.30pm and we're having a barbie later, so happy days now - I'd say wish you were here but you wouldn't thank me for the cruising today. I think you have made a wise decision with your route. Enjoy your evening in glorious setting and we'll see you soon.

We had felt a bit naff deserting them, merely for a BSSC and the obtaining thereof, but the Admiral has forgiven us. That feels better!

And could we do the Four Counties Ring in a week now? - well, Mick and Julia could, but we certainly couldn't! After all, so far, in one day we've done 1.5 miles, and today is going to be about 4 miles. Our target is to get to Coxbank below Audlem to pick up NZ friends for Thursday next week. Is that a cracking pace or what?

Monday, 17 July 2017

A mammoth post - getting to today: The Birmingham experience, a rush trip to Rugeley and the BSSC

Have you made a cuppa/poured a beer or got the wine bottle close by? If not then do so before you start to read. Perhaps even go for a pee as well ...

When you leave the Tardebigge flight, it is a lock-free pound all the way into Birmingham - it's quite a distance. On the way, we had an overnight stop at Alvechurch - Mick and Julia stopped for 2 nights as Mick was poorly.
A shared chain - David was honoured that Mick trusted him enough to do so.

The convoy that is around the bend ...

In the morning, John was very brave (or foolhardy) as he suggested that I lead the way into Birmingham - he did give me instructions though, so I couldn't go too far wrong. When we arrived at the Mailbox to get water, he cycled around the corner/s to find a space for us both to moor, where Mick and Julia could join us the next day. The chosen spot was at the beginning of Oozell's Loop by the cycle boat, Seaworld and Bannatyne's gym. Pretty quiet for Birmingham, I gather, and we mostly had it to ourselves.

That night, as Mick and Julia were in-absentia, we took advantage and went out for dinner to a place that served food they aren't keen on but the rest of us are: Thai!! Yummy food at Siamais, a five minute walk from the mooring. I could easily have repeated our practice at Bideford of going to the same place 3 times in a row, but only just managed to resist!
Cocktails - two for one, so two each ... Plus NZ sauv blanc. Oh dear!

Starters. I'm not sure what John had, but David and I had Tom Kah Gai - my absolute favourite soup.

Mussamam beef curry for David, chicken with cashews for me and John had crispy duck salad. See why I would have gone back every day?

Mick and Julia arrived the following day and we went round to meet them at the water point at the Mailbox, hugged them hello, told them we had missed them (true), told Mick I wouldn't have recognised him apart from his nose given he was unshaven and imitating David (not true - I would have known him anywhere) and then we headed off to the market and for an explore while they finished off and proceeded to the mooring.

Birmingham market is just great - I could visit there everyday for the fruit and veges as well as for the meat - although that wasn't quite so attractive with all the skinned and unskinned goats' and sheep's heads on display - YUKsville!
Different and interesting veges. The kumara (sweet potato here, don't they know anything?) were one of the few things that were familiar to me on this stall.

Just a few chillies - almost enough to flavour one curry, I would estimate ... They sell each bowlful for £1. Easy way to regulate amounts and serve quickly, I thought.

There is an indoor section too, where I managed to buy fresh tumeric, daikan and lemongrass (none of any of them available outside) plus a nice piece of sirloin steak (for Thai beef salad - yet to be made) and a half leg of Welsh lamb - yummy. the latter was cooked (with garlic inserted) on arrival at Curdworth Bottom Lock and consumed with great gusto, accompanied by roast potatoes, peas and carrots and Alison Holst's fabulous onion and lemon gravy (meant to have mushrooms but there were none on board).
Not sure where this is or what the building is, but interesting shape. Jennie from Tentatrice tells me it's Selfridges - thanks, Jennie!

I'm not sure where this is either, but it wasn't far from the previous photo's location, just facing the other way.

This MAY have been in the Bull Ring but possibly not ... This was the set up for people to buy Pimms or wine and watch Wimbledon. At the time the news was on and no-one was watching Theresa May for some reason.

John led us around up and down streets (New St, and others I couldn't name) and told me that 'now you can find your way back to the boat, and out and about' - wrong!! I was totally befuddled and didn't find the city centre easy to navigate at all!

I could find my way to the wine bar the following day though, but no one else wanted to go there, dammit; so we ended up drinking and nibbling beside the boats - well, it was more casual and certainly cheaper! And the nibbles were quite nice, but not as plentiful as I usually provide - I must have been flagging a bit after days of travelling and walking about the city! Well, that's my excuse for the poor standard of hospitality!

David and I had arranged our BSSC (Boat Services Safety Certificate) inspection for Sunday (we weren't sure how we'd do, so left plenty of time before it was due in case there was remedial action required) so we left the convoy and set off the following morning to make our way to where Dave Freeman hangs out between Rugeley and Great Haywood. That's a good 21 hours' boating away, so we had some water to get through over the next three days!

Julia, John and David did the Farmer's Bridge and Aston (?) locks (24 of them) first thing in the morning - it was peaceful as we headed downhill. The only issue really was that cyclists come up/down the towpath at speed and we all feared for David's survival if one of them didn't stop in time to take account of his lack of familiarity with the terrain (narrow in parts, underground, in tunnels, under bridges ...)
John relaxing - a rare shot!

David working hard

Underground - John heading for the next lock.
There are apartments above this - don't like the look of the underwater garages though!

Nifty the way that the canals are still present and accommodated around and under new builds.

I forgot to mention that I managed to miss the opening of a few of the locks at times. I am better at getting in without touching the sides when the approach is awkward - well, generally that is the case, but on one lock I had to score myself with minus 5. 

When Julia and John headed back uphill they also helped people we had passed, and we continued on to Curdworth. We were both rather weary by the time we arrived there, but the lovely lamb dinner made up for that. I am fairly sure there was a bit of chardonnay as well as some cider consumed. But not much as we were both too tired!

David at the last lock of the day - about Nunber 38, I think. Curdworth Bottom Lock

Washing out, roast lamb cooking, sitting on the back deck, chardonnay to hand, probably texting with the convoy, but who knows? I have just realised on re-looking at this photo, that it was taken at Fradley Junction - I recognise the boat (Atlas Shrugged) whose skipper I asked to move back so we could fit in before the water point.
No worries that it's the wrong photo - I looked the same at Curdworth but tireder! Chardonnay was in the same place though!

The result of crashing in to things ...
The following day as we came through Fazeley Junction (see previous post about Eric Woods) then proceeded on to Fradley to stop for the second night, the remaining convoy members headed out to a brewery near Hawne Basin (where they had made their way to the day before through a long narrow, low-roofed tunnel - part of the reason was to get diesel at 50p per litre). I gather the brewery was a good place to visit for a tasting and free nibbles. If it had been a vineyard, I would agree, but not for beer! Sorry, team!
Significant, why?

I recognise those two sitting on the barrels - that's the Admiral and the First Mate!

Anyway, we were moored at Fradley, just back from the water point. We were too tired to go to the Sawn even though we understand it has changed hands, is more salubrious and even has wine in bottles now!

In the morning we woke quite late, and we headed off. As I was not standing on the stool to increase my field of vision, I managed to hit both sides of the open swing bridge. Talk about embarrassed! and embarrassing! AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I hope they thought I was Australian ...

The trip to Rugeley wasn't really that long, but I had physically and mentally hit the wall (not lock gates, not bridgeholes, although I think I managed one of them). Too many long days at the tiller for this old lady, too much walking in Birmingham, and probably too much high living (by that I mean too much wine and food ...)

When we arrived, I had to have a lie down, preceded by magnesium capsules to restore my equilibrium. So the supermarket shopping took place later in the afternoon when I'd had a nana nap and was restored to some sort of balance! It was lovely to shop - we filled two granny trolleys and still David had a bag to carry back!

I had been worried about whether it was wise to stop overnight in Rugeley - I remember staying with Bill and Carole one weekend back in early 2004 and they picked me up there. They neither of them slept that night as they were worried about yoof rampaging along the towpath and the parallel roadway. that night, I slept like a top and heard nothing. Same this time - David tells me all was quiet all night.

And as we left Rugeley yesterday morning (see how I slipped in the reference to let you know I am all caught up!) I was amazed at how lovely the moorings were all the way through and out to the north of the town. We'll certainly stop there again next time - I thought the Brindley Aqueduct was impressive and had good moorings either end too.

We met up with Dave Freeman at Bridge 69, and he speedily got through our BSSC inspection and gave us a pass - we are very pleased with that result.

It had started to mizzle while he was doing the inspection and we decided we would stay put for the day as it didn't look like lifting. Wrong again! Shortly thereafter the sun came out but we stuck with the decision - I spent most of the day blobbing - in a prone position, reading and sleeping. I did get up to make dinner - leftover roast lamb and the gravy (which I augmented with more onion, some sauteed mushrooms and peas), plus some baby new potatoes boiled with mint. Followed by Gu puddings - the cake ones with the liquid chocolate in the middle - so yummy that today is a fasting day ...

And another early night - I was in bed by 7ish. I do hope I am not sickening for something, she says in a hypochondriacal way... Nah!! Just a fair amount of slowing down to catch up on.

This morning we moved all of a couple of miles and did one lock. We are now moored before Great Haywood, in sight of the Shugburgh Hall folly. David has worked wonders to sort out the internet access - it is pretty crap here - and I have cut lettuces and herbs for dinner and sat in the cratch and read. It is a lovely life we lead, and we are very grateful to be able to do it.

Especially when we hear from John, Mick and Julia that they struggled with the trip to Walsall today - crap on the prop stalled M&J's boat, one pound was so empty they had to let water through for an hour! Much as we miss being part of the convoy and all the high jinx, we don't envy them that experience! We are wusses, we know!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Mid summer Kiwi Christmas and a new fridge

I had threatened the Famous Five with Mid Summer Kiwi Xmas some time ago and we had decided we would do it when the grandsons were on board. After all, Xmas is usually focused around kids, n'est-ce pas?

However Karol had gone back with Tim, so that left Olek holding the fort kid-wise. But he was up for it and did a sterling job with Julia of decorating both sides of the towpath - that included the tarps on the side of Unknown No 3 as well as the hedge...

Decorations plus The Shroud of Tardebigge. David is asking for people to provide him with what this shroud represents. The only clue for you is that it came into being in Tardebigge.
He also identified the salads he likes so it was a quick text to his mum to check out what goes in her potato salad. I know how he likes his lettuce salad - undressed, naked in other words!

In true Kiwi style (well, Tongaporutu at Booth's bach, 20 Hills Rd) Xmas dinner was a smorgasbord picnic. As the chief cook it would be big headed of me to say the food was good, but I can say it was YUMMY!!

Baked ham (a piece of gammon [here in the UK] first boiled with bay leaves and then baked with pineapple, cherries and cloves), roast beef, yorkshires, roast potatoes, and gravy plus salads: kumara/almond and orange; lettuce with lemon and honey dressing, potato with egg and mint and mayo. Dessert was rhubarb cake with cream and custard.

Most of us eating - as per NZ Xmas, dining al fresco is de rigeur. I think Julia sat a long way away from the rest of us so no one could steal food off her plate ... You will also note that I am wearing my silver shoes - esp as it was Xmas!
Julia says it was the best Xmas she's ever had - praise indeed! Not that she's hard to please, you understand! And I'm not saying she's easy either, OK?

There were not many left overs, and the remaining rhubarb cake (not much of it) was divvied up among the three boats.

Mid summer Kiwi Xmas has been entered in Mick's boat log, and he has declared it needs to be a regular event. That's fine by us - next year, I think I will do an Alison Holst recipe that is a family favourite - Tangy Leg of Lamb - lots of garlic in the meat, and a gravy made with onions, muchrooms, lemon and chicken stock. The rhubarb cake needs to be a regular menu item though ...

Just so you know, while lunch was cooking (and after I'd done the salads), Mick and John were re-modelling part of the kitchen to fit our new fridge. They did a fabulous job of creating more ventilation holes in the end of the kitchen cabinet and in the upstand, plus the floor. The new fridge is wonderful and is hardly using any powert, plus staying cool. It is such a success that David is now talking about replacing the freezer - it has done a sterling job too but is hogging amps.

the old fridge has been taken away by Tim and given to the scrap dealer who happened to be on his street when he returned to Manchester with the fridge and Olek on 'Boxing Day'. The scrap dealer only got the fridge fortunately!