Sunday, 31 August 2014

Lovely Stone, passing a blogger and stardom (Wednesday to Friday last week)

There was very poor wifi over the last few days in Great Haywood and above Shadehouse Lock, hence no posting since the middle of last week.

On Wednesday we walked into Stone with one granny trolley as we’d made a conscious decision not to empty their stores into our boat. We knew we didn’t need much, but as Joe can attest, put a shopping trolley in front of me and it is amazing what I find that we absolutely must have. (That is why, when Joe and I shop together in Johnsonville, he is in charge of the trolley and he keeps moving, dammit!)
It was a mission in Morrison’s trying and not succeeding in finding such basics as salt, and squeegee mops – a refill sponge for a squeegee but no actual squeegee mops … And trying to find wine (well, chardonnay) was difficult. The wine section is divided into wines above £8 and wines below £5, and a small section of wines between £5 and £8. I prefer the placement where the expensive stuff is up on the top shelf (out of my reach, both physically and financially), and the cheap crap is on the bottom – that way I can focus at eye level and just below and know that I will find what I am looking for.
I am finding as we travel around that my strategy in a familiar supermarket of aiming only for the aisles I need (or have the items that will throw themselves into the trolley almost unaided) does not work in an unfamiliar store. And some product placement is frankly weird and the aisle identification systems are occasionally minimalist, to say the least (as you would for something minimalist, I guess). So I end up traversing the place several times. And they have these double aisles, i.e. the shop is two sets of aisles deep, if you get my drift. Makes for some interesting intersections and trolley jams … What should have been a quick scoot through became a bit of a mission.
So after Morrison’s, with David wheeling the granny trolley, we decided to walk the high street. It is still a lovely street, but clearly business is not hugely booming in Stone. There were at least 6 charity shops. There were also a number of long standing businesses though, one of which was the kind of shops we love – the kind that sells everything! We found squeegee mops, got extra refills, and bought a sturdy bucket (we have two collapsible buckets but they do tend to collapse at the most awkward times if not on a stable base). If we were in the market for saloon furniture, I would have bought one of their armchairs too – it was perfectly suited to me, as I could reach the floor and it supported my back and had sides at the head height so I could fall asleep in it … But the much cheaper option was that I found a present for David: a pack of little envelope things called poachies, for (obviously) poaching eggs in. We tried them when back in the boat and they do work (egg into the envelope, envelope into the simmering water, leave for 6 minutes, take out with tongs, tip egg on to toast, biff poachie in the bin), but I think salt in the water is more economic.
The next morning, David headed back into Stone to sort out some admin, and I decided that I would reverse back to the waterpoint to fill the tank. David arrived back as I was starting off and I had hoped to be at the waterpoint by the time he got back. I am NOT saying it was his fault I got flustered. Anyway, I gave up after 2 attempts as I could not get the bow to come round (in forward, mind) so I could go backwards in the centre of the cut. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I felt like an idiot. David tells me it was breezy and the water was shallow, but I am sure it was my fault really.
So on we came and passed by nb Tentatrice. I called out to them that they have a blog, and instead of saying the obvious ‘Yes we know, cos we write it’, they were much more polite! So hello, Jennie and Chris on Tentatrice from David and Marilyn on Waka Huia.
These women had a novel way of taking the dogs for a walk. The prince and princess (note the tiara) in rear carriage seemed reasonably content. They turned back at Aston Lock as the towpath then gets a bit rough and narrow.

I had wanted to fill with water so we could confidently do a load of washing (guest laundry from the weekend). We decided to put it on anyway and hoped/trusted there would be enough in the tank to cope. It was a close run thing …, and we eventually filled the tank at one of the slowest taps on the cut at Great Haywood. Had a lovely chat there with a couple who’ve been boating for 25 years. Their boat is Anne Louise I think. Then down the lock we came after being momentarily confused by two boats almost on the lock mooring (but not quite) – one moored and the other about to. I moored within view of Shugborough Hall very close to where we moored up on our way up back in June. I say that I moored, because as David cleared the lock, he got captured by a guy who told him about the training ground for the Anzacs in WWI about a mile away. He’d been going to go ahead of me and scout out a suitable place, but that plan evaporated and I pulled in and when David arrived I had the middle rope tied and holding while I was getting the back rope done.
Yesterday David did some film editing as part of his Weaving Memories business – a film off a reel he’d copied on to the Mac Book Pro (MY laptop) before leaving NZ. Using Final Cut Pro he got started on the job. It did mean that I had to remove all barriers and then time how long it took him to get started on it, as he is the world’s best procrastinator and will look for all the small or big tasks that absolutely must be done before the main event can be undertaken – putting away socks, washing dishes, reading emails, charging the phone – you get the picture. So I set him a challenge of being ready to start in 20 minutes and, with a reminder of the countdown, and his brekkie made for him, he made it with about 10 seconds to spare.
Once he was underway, I went back to bed (I’m not stupid …) and watched a movie on the iPad (David’s iPad) – A Dry White Season, released in 1989, with Donald Sutherland, Susan Saradon, Marlon Brando. Harrowing movie (based on the book by Andre Brink – haven’t read it, but will check if it’s on kindle) about deaths in police/Special Branch custody in South Africa before apartheid was abolished and how one white man’s attitude changed when it happened to people he knew.
After a quick lunch we headed for Shugborough Hall – it was open this time. This was when we took advantage of the opportunity for stardom! The woman at the gate told us that the Beeb was there preparing to film a segment for a gardening programme, we think, of a number of people holding hands and encircling the largest yew tree in Europe. Once everyone was in place, a camerawoman moved around the tree filming, but everyone was really waiting to see the drone camera take off and do its thing. By the way, holding hands with arms outstretched hurts after a few minutes – not the hands, but the shoulders! 
Waiting to play with the drone

It was too far away for David to run off with it, but I know he (and almost every other guy there) wanted to ...

By the time it was all done it took about an hour, and David reckons it’ll be cut down to about 6 or 7 minutes actually makes it into the programme. So watch out for us – the series (not sure what it’s called) is going to be starting on 6 Oct at 3.15pm on BBC1. As it’s the day before we leave for NZ, we will watch that episode and then I think we’ll be putting the iPlayer into service to see if we can watch ourselves if it’s not in the first one. The grey-haired woman who was trotting around in trackpants, boots with secaturs at her waist, was clearly well known, as afterwards people kept having their photograph taken with her. Any clues who she is?

The walk around the servants quarters and working area of the Hall (coach house, stables, kitchen, laundry, dunnies  etc) was excellent. We had a chat with one of the guides in the servants' hall and he was most disparaging about the honesty of the servants, whom, he said, knew they were on to a good thing. He did mention that, back in the 19th century, their life expectancy was many years higher than other people who lived in slum conditions, earned very little and therefore ate little and poorly. 
My mum was a parlourmaid when she first went to work at age 14 back in 1937/38 - when we came over to the UK in 1988 she wasn't at all keen to show me the manor house where she'd worked. So I guess there's two sides to every story, in terms of how well off servants thought they were and how well they were treated.
The toilets were a hole in a wooden bench with a large bucket underneath, and outside - no wonder they used 'gerzunders' at night! The sign on the door says 'Do not disturb' and when I lifted the latch there was a voice complaining that there was no blooming peace even on the toilet, then a loud farting noise, followed by a complaint that no one had left any paper ...

In the coach-house, which was filled with carriages from a collection from Shrewsbury, I think, I was delighted to see a phaeton for the first time - I have read about them lots in Georgette Heyer’s novels. I read her when I need a break from the more serious fiction and non-fiction I seem to get engrossed in. I do enjoy finding myself in places here in England that she wrote about, and seeing the differences now from how she described them. She mostly wrote about the era before the canals and railways, but some of the towns and cities are familiar from wending our way along the cut. Also she raises my consciousness about how greater London was previously a series of villages – with farms and countryside between them that have now disappeared, but that explain a lot of the names of places. History and geographical information come in all guises …

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