Sunday, 29 June 2014

Another lovely day


An early start today (6.45am) as we were planning on getting to Stoke on Trent for Wednesday so that David could catch a train up to Carlisle to pick up Olek, our 9 year old grandson, and bring him back to the boat for several days.

The sky is more visible in the reflection on the water - beautiful
It was beautiful this morning – sunny, calm, and very peaceful. We saw no other boats on the move until we got to Alrewas. However, we did see the Edna May all closed up tight (it was still very early) but I gave them 4 toots on the horn and looked back to see Lindsay leaning out the duck hatch waving – sorry, Lindsay and Steve, but I couldn’t resist waking you … I thought about reversing the catch up with them but decided it was probably kinder to let them go back to bed!

Wharf House is for sale at Barton Turn - I wonder how much?
Why does David look worried? Barton Turn Lock














See evidence of my 3rd cuppa, and Mel looking relaxed but vigilant


The lock at the beginning of the river section - see my stool for added height?
It looks like I am aiming for the weir, but relax ...
The arrows say it all, three times ...
We have to get through that narrow gap - slowly does it
The lock at the top of the Alrewas river section

The river section up to Alrewas was lovely – lower than when we did it a couple of weeks ago. We stopped to water up in Alrewas and I was going to have a shower while that was taking place, but Angie and Roy from Second Chance stopped to chat, so no shower. Hopefully they will come and stay with us when they are in NZ later this year. At the lock past the winding hole I chatted with another couple walking their aged lab – he was a millennium puppy. The man had sisters in NZ and the couple have been to visit them a few times in NZ. We see more and more people who have connections with or have travelled to NZ each time we are over here. Today’s 2 couples both had a connection with Waiheke Island – a beautiful place, but not one we expect to be familiar to people from the UK somehow!

We had a text from Sybil whose birthday party we are heading for at Stalybridge on 13 July, so hopefully she and Jon will be coming to visit one day shortly. On checking the map I see they are not far away by car – the fact it will take much longer on the boat gets in the way of my thinking about journey times in the real world!

We also spoke with Tim and he is going to bring Olek down to us on Saturday – that will be lovely. It does mean 2 fewer nights with Olek onboard, but it will save David either 2 days of train journeys or one extremely full day and means neither Tim nor Marta have to rearrange work commitments to bring him to Carlisle to rendezvous with David.

We are now moored up past the locks at Fradley Junction – a total of about 4.5 hours boating today (including 10 locks) and that felt like enough. David is doing chores – sorting out the rope I forgot to get Tony to splice (as a demonstration of course) yesterday, fixing the ‘stop tap’ (not sure what it is called) to the new hose reel and other bits I haven’t yet seen or been informed of. He did say he wants me to do a drill job, but I think when this post is loaded on the blog, I may have a nana nap …

The lock gates here are bent to avoid the bridge
At the Fradley Locks - David makes it look easy

Binoculars out - is anyone coming down?


 I'm sorry that the photos are not particularly well positioned - I cannot get some of them to move as I want. Fear not - I am sure you get the general idea. Off for my nana nap now, methinks, before David notices ...

Yesterday was wonderful



We left Mercia at about 7.35am, 5 minutes after our intended departure, but Mike C came to say goodbye and to make sure we actually left – such cheek!

On Friday arvo we had spoken with Tony and Helen of nb Holderness and arranged to see them at Shobnall, so, come rain come shine, we were moving – it was too good an opportunity to meet up with people whose blog I’ve been reading and enjoying, as well as being on the move at last with a boat that is functioning as it ought.

I am being tall, looking to see if anything is coming down the cut
I couldn’t stop smiling as we left Mercia, listening to the engine performing well with the alternator switched on, and the calm still weather – overcast, but clear and only slightly chilly. And what’s more, I got out of the marina entrance without touching the sides of the cut! Now that’s a first there for me! As we came down the narrow channel to the exit/entrance, the family of swans came out hoping for an early morning snack. No chance today – we’d not eaten breakfast so there were no leftovers on offer.

As we made our way to Shobnall it started to rain but we didn’t care. On with the coats and keep on boating – it was only water, after all. We arrived there at about 10am and found that Tony and Helen had phoned (hard to hear the phone when it’s inside the boat and you're steering outside!). So I called, we met Helen at the entrance to Shobnall Marina and it was wonderful - like seeing someone I’d known for ages as I have seen her in so many photos on their blog. Then I saw Tony – another familiar face. He is as tall as I’d thought and Helen is beautifully short – always such a good choice to be short, I think. BTW, she is probably a bit taller than me but I am hopeless at judging that – people who are about my height always seem shorter than me as I am so used to looking up to see people’s eyes, that when I look straight ahead it feels like I am looking down …

Tony, Helen, David, Marilyn
We had lovely lemon drizzle cake (made by Helen) and tea cake as well as some yummy chocolate biscuits she’d managed to put a lovely pattern on … Helen wasn’t aware that she was feeding us breakfast, as we still hadn’t eaten.  Their boat is very lovely and modern – quite different from ours, however just what we would have chosen if we’d been buying new, I think. And Macy the cat is a beaut. They gave us some rhubarb that Tony had brought back from his visit home. Then they came to see our boat – interesting to see it through others’ eyes. Our boat is very David and me, in terms of its style – anyone who has seen our house wouldn’t be surprised that we chose this boat. However, when we were looking at hundreds of them on the net, I was more interested in a modern style than the cottagey one we actually ended up with!

It was really lovely to meet them and I forgot to get Tony to teach me to splice a rope – it was only after we left them that I remembered – Doh!

After we said goodbye to H&T we walked down into Burton to the B&Q and bought a hose reel, a plastic shower curtain (as the cheap way to prevent water cascading on to the floor and down into the cabin bilge, rather than a piece of glass and framing), some electrical insulation tape, some gaffer tape and cable ties (3 things that are always useful to have on hand, I think), as well as a few other bits.

We moved on after that and decided, on looking at the maps (we have 3 paper ones – the GEO Projects map, two copies of the relevant Nicholson’s and the canal map app on the iPad – you can guess who uses which ones, but no prizes). We were agreed that we most certainly, decidedly and definitely did not want to moor up alongside the A38, so David identified that the area furthest away from it was in the environs of Tatenhill Lock, either before or after. Before was the water park – lovely moorings, Armco, waterfowl and paths. No, that was too crowded as other people had already moored up, says David; so on we go through the lock.  No Armco, only concrete bags, so stakes (pins) are required. We find a reasonably nice place (opposite a big industrial yard, but hey, it’s Saturday afternoon, so no work noise, the A38 is away in the distance, and we moor up. However, every time anyone goes past us, we scrape slightly on the bottom. 

OK, after a couple of hours the scraping is annoying and we decide to move, so we go for a walk looking ahead for a better place. There’s a short length of Armco but it’s on either side of a very tiny weir which hardly merits the name. Can we moor there? We decide to try. We pull the boat along by hand and crunch – it’s too shallow, probably to discourage nitwits like us … So we start up and move to another place that had looked OK when we were walking. I pull gingerly over towards the bank, and suddenly the boat tilts alarmingly – we are grounded on stones again. Oh b*gger. This time it takes some pushing and pulling and a lot of reversing. I am stressed and hot – off comes the sweatshirt, out come the grumpy words (mine) and we decide we have to keep going to find a decent mooring. Eventually we find a place – Armco, no other boats (by this time it is about 6pm) and we moor up – and we are right beside the A38 – in fact we are in the fifth lane of a four lane dual carriageway. We cannot help but laugh. And what’s more, after all our stressing about it, it wasn’t particularly noisy – it was Saturday evening so the traffic was light, and we did find a spot where we were sort of protected from the worst of the noise by a CRT building. Also we were distracted from traffic by the last 40 minutes of the Brazil v Chile football match, plus chardonnay, pear cider and nibbles. After that, nothing much mattered …

Friday, 27 June 2014

A working boat!!!

Our engine has been fixed - we now can get up to 2500 revs, 2000 when alternator switched on and toaster going!!! Absolute YAY!!! Good on Ian at Aqua Narrowboats for his perseverance and persistence, and his skill in fitting the new fuel pump.

So tomorrow morning we are off by about 7.30 and heading up past Alrewas. We are hoping to catch up with Tony and Helen from nb Holderness who've been moored in Shobnall Marina for the last few days.

Our aim is to get to Stalybridge for 13 July for Sybil's 70th birthday party, but if necessary, we will public transport there if we cannot make it in time.

We are so excited!

Had a beef kofta curry (Jamie O's 15 minute meals that take me a lot longer) for dinner and we had Mike C over - he is very entertaining. Kindly took me to Aldi and Tesco this arvo and the garden centre today. He is just as loud about drivers who don't move off give way intersections at the speed of light. He too is quiet and shy!

And the hassles continue ...


On arriving back on Sunday afternoon we decided to clean out the water tank – we’d noticed that when the water got low, it came out brown and smelly – not good. So we bought some purifier stuff from the chandlers, and stuck it in, filled the tank to the brim, left it for a few hours and then ran taps (sink, basin, bath) to empty the tank and refilled it, left it overnight, and then emptied it again on Monday. The shower bilge pump didn’t like that and decided to throw a hissy fit and sulk. We then saw that the cabin bilge at the back of the boat had about 4cm of water in it. GGGRRR!!! A neighbouring boater who helped us move in the wind (a roaring gale of course – worse than any wind in Wellington …) over to an Aqua Narrowboats jetty ready for Tuesday’s work, looked at the pump and identified the float switch had given up. We could also see that the pump looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in several decades. Some of the gunge may have been from the tank clean out, but the stuff that was stuck to the bottom of the pump box had been there for more than 5 minutes …

On Tuesday, Ian from Aqua Narrowboats did an engine service, lagged the exhaust which would not have passed BSSC (not mentioned in the survey), replaced our shower bilge pump with a Whale Gulper – no filter, just takes everything and pushes it out. I’m not sure why a filter is attached to shower bilge pumps for narrowboats discharging into the cut – most of what was in the filter this time was hair (long therefore not from either David or me), soap scum and sand/grit, the latter came from beside the cut anyway and we all shed hair all day like there is an infinite supply (for some of us there is, and for others not).

The seat waiting for cushions on and behind
He also cut away a redundant piece of metal in the stern area that prevented the seat being used. We have to paint it, fit a piece of wood in the end of the square ‘tube’ and get a long cushion or several cushions to make the back comfortable. We will have to refit the slot for the tonneau cover and extend one of the frames for it, but that can be done later. The seat will be good for guests, and will make an ideal place for Karol to stand when he is on board – from there he will be able to see everything and be safely contained.

On Wednesday we were expecting just to have the fuel filters fitted and then a pump out, water fill and then be off on our way. But it was not to be!

The primed and painted exposed steel
Ian had rung the previous owner who told him that there had always been an issue with the alternator causing the engine to sigh and go into a slough of despond. Ian and Lyndon were not convinced it should act in that way, so after fitting the fuel filters, they checked the fuel pumps (one on each cylinder) and discovered that one of the pumps was not doing its job. So if the alternator has always had that effect, then that fuel pump probably hasn’t been working for ages, and the engine has been operating on 3 cylinders. No wonder the alternator has such a drastic effect!

Today the fuel pump is due to be delivered and hopefully fitted, so we will see what effect that has. Fingers, toes, eyes crossed.

So yesterday to fill in the time we pumped out, I undercoated the metal I primed on Wednesday, and made one of the two curtains on my new sewing machine (it’s a Brother from Argos, and so light! My Bernina at home which I have had since I was about 19 weighs a ton – still works wonderfully but could double as a set of weights). And because we’ve had a noticeable list to starboard, such that no unprotected egg could be left on the bench and any water split always ran across the floor rather than pooling, I’ve also put some concrete blocks along the port side of the boat as ballast – in the kitchen cupboard, the bathroom cupboard, on the bottom shelf in our bedroom and in the port forward locker. Justin from Aqua Narrowboats kindly donated them to us as they

The finished curtain and my new sewing machine
do not use them as bilge ballast because concrete absorbs the water. As we’ve put them on the floor their water retention property is not a problem. It is strange now not to walk the length of the boat with a lean ;-)


David was re-crowned King of Procrastination (a very bad KOP) yesterday (it is a recurring title, and one he wins every year). He had planned to do my tax return, and he was very clear it was the only thing he was going to do. So after the pumpout (an agreed priority task) he had a pee, sorted out the ropes on the roof,  fiddled with the TV aerial, put some more ballast blocks behind the sofa, filled the water tank, rearranged the hoses on the roof, made lunch, ate lunch, peed again, cleaned his teeth, offered to do the dishes, checked things on the internet, checked the email, and finally finally finally got on to the tax return. Even then, he made several forays into distraction activity – how should we remedy the leaking shower curtain? when shall we sort out which station friends should travel to to meet up with us?, how long will it take us to get to Stalybridge? can I have hot chocolate? In order to keep him focused on completing the returns and lodging them online with NZ IRD I have employed Lysistrata’s tactics – look it up, as I am too shy to say what it entails.

David making brekkie this morning
Today it is a month since we arrived on the boat, and we have cruised a total of about 40 miles – not what we expected at all! However we have become a lot more sanguine about the boat hassles and, mostly, we are taking it in our stride. Part of that, I think, is knowing that we are in good hands here with Aqua.

The lovely fruit salad
Onwards and upwards today – it has rained overnight so I may not be able to get the topcoat on the metal, but I will probably sew the second curtain. I need to find a way to hang them, so they can be taken off easily when no guests are on board. There doesn’t appear to be much solid wood to fix fittings to, so I’m thinking about drilling a hole (using my new battery drill – yay!) in a block of wood that I will glue and screw to the wall. One end of the curtain rod can go into that and I need to find a bracket that the other end of the rod can rest in and be lifted out of easily. The chandlers here don’t have them unfortunately. It may require a bus trip into Derby or Burton. 

Please excuse the weird spacing  on the post today - I seemed to have had a bit of trouble positioning photos in amongst the text and keeping the text together. My apologies - I would spend time sorting it (not!) but David is waiting to complete the tax returns. He is in a hurry for some reason ...

Thursday, 26 June 2014

900 times bitten, and still very shy


We have been back on the boat since Sunday afternoon, after an early-ish start from Scotland. Our leave taking was marred by my being viciously attacked by a HUGE ravenous swarming horde of midges. There were so many of them it was almost impossible to see the car which they had ambushed in the sure and certain knowledge that I, dressed in T-shirt and shorts, would be coming out to complete the packing. I am not clear how they knew that David isn’t the one with 3D puzzle knowledge for fitting in far more than we arrived with, or how they knew he would be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. After being soundly, roundly and profoundly bitten, I covered myself in most of what remained of Marta’s tube of Anthisan and off we went with the car full of the little b*stard biters. Tim had told us that they do not attack if the wind is going more than 4mph, so we drove off with the windows open to suck them out of our space. Those that clung to the cloth on the window frames were viciously crushed where they crouched. And did I mourn their passing? Not on your life!

Since then I look like I’ve got chicken pox – bites up and down my legs and arms, on my neck and face. On Monday I had to resort to getting antihistamine tablets so I’d get some relief and be able to sleep. Things are improving, dear reader, and now all I have are slightly itchy, but very red HUGE mountains on the aforesaid legs, arms, neck and face.

So away with feminism, I say – let the man pack the car! And make sure he is dressed appropriately in shorts and T-shirt…


PS Forget to say that when we were driving the boys to the dinosaur park on Saturday I saw a red squirrel running across the road near Corsock! Lovely, and so much smaller than the grey squirrels that are everywhere in London’s parks.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Will I do as a DIYer? Is my shopping part of the qualification?


Our last full day with the grandsons today, and as it’s the weekend, we get the day with Olek too – yay!!
There is a place near Dumfries that we are taking them this morning – a garden centre that has a dinosaur display. We will also equip ourselves with towels and beach stuff and plenty of cash to make the most of our last opportunity to provide them with the thing all grandparents have an obligation to do – junk food! Well, not really, but we will buy lunch and ice-creams, I am sure.
Yesterday while Karol was at nursery I went off to the hardware shop in Castle Douglas and bought all sorts of stuff for the boat:
·      marine varnish, associated clean up stuff and sandpaper; all for use in re-coating some of the wooden doorframes that are a bit weather-beaten,
·      a tube of no more nails to glue the wooden lining of the Houdini hatch back on to the metal,
·      a tube of silicone, initially to seal a screwhole in the superstructure that we saw a large number of ants exiting in the warmth of the sunshine one afternoon down by Bridge 25 (it is important to keep busy and observant while quaffing chardonnay in the sunshine – must keep the mind alert!) Note to self: find ant killer – jabbing them with a forefinger one at a time as you see them crossing the kitchen bench is not an effective solution. The silicone will also be used to seal the frame of a piece of safety glass (not yet purchased but planned for) that we are going to attach to the wall at the business end of the bath to prevent water escaping around the shower curtain on to the floor then out the door and down into the cabin bilge …
·      draught sealer for around the pigeon box flaps
·      3 offcuts of wood
o   one thin strip to be attached to the end of the engine cover – the current one detached recently. This one will be glued and screwed. Not sure of its longevity as it is so thin and the screws will be going into the end of the board with the grain of the wood, which is the weakest way for holding, hence the glue as well,
o   one piece to have two pieces cut from it to act as props to hold open the pigeon box flaps (I was going to buy dowel which is more attractive but I would have had to buy a whole length and only use about 12 inches. That seemed a waste, so I found an offcut of 2x1 that was significantly cheaper …
o   one piece of 3x3 roughsawn which I will probably see if our son can plane to be a bit smoother and then I will varnish it. It will live on the roof and act as a buffer to stop the Houdini hatch landing on the adjacent mushroom vent when opened.
·      a chisel and a small wood saw
Then it was off to Argos at Dumfries to get a camping table to fit in the cratch and to use on the towpath, a battery drill (I have always wanted one of these!) and a set of drill and screw driver bits. I bought a small sewing machine too for making sound-proofing curtains. They may be adorned with egg cartons if the material, the bump (that’s what the women in the drapers called it – the additional thick cotton lining to keep out cold) and the lining aren’t effective enough – back in the 80s when David was a video producer they soundproofed a studio using egg cartons as supplementary material. So I am going to start saving them!
OK, time to breakfast the boys and let their mum and dad have a bit of a lie in. Need to get it done before the rugby starts – I don’t want England to win against the All Blacks, but maybe another very close game or even (I can’t believe I am saying this) a draw would help compensate for them being already on their way home from the Football World Cup. David tells me the have another game to play before getting on the plane, so I am not technically correct, but you know what I mean …

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Today the beach at Kirkcudbright

No it is not said like it looks! It has the shortest way of saying it possible! Additional information supplied to me by a local: pronunciation  is Kircudbree – emphasis on the cud, all syllables said in a clipped sort of way.


He's little but he can kick it hard and straight!
Today there was no nursery so we went off to the beach – an adventure trying to find it even though we are pretty close to the coast here in Kirkcudbrightshire! The countryside around here is lovely, very green and lush, with stone walls and beautiful trees. We eventually found the beach and the park; the tide was right out, really right out: we must have got there at dead low and the water was about 800 metres away … However, a picnic, kicking the ball, much playing in the sand, exploring a shipwreck (well, boat wreck) about 500m away from the high tide mark, digging a hole that kept filling with water – very exciting when you’re 4. The tide was coming in rapidly as we left, and Karol was asleep in minutes once the car was moving, slept until about half a mile from home. I have hung out a load of washing that will be dry in about an hour given the heat, and that Marta’s machine has a 1600 spin – I can almost forgive it for being a slow front-loader (NZers will know what I mean!)
Very busy for about 45 minutes just moving sand from one container to another















Grammy and Grandad had turns digging to NZ but the water kept filling the hole!


























The boat wreck with the incoming tide behind - it is covered in seaweed, rather than the mussels I was expecting to see
So nothing exciting over these days, but lovely family time. Those moments that become treasured memories, e.g. Karol coming down to our bedroom on Monday morning with the book to be read leading the way around the door – a book I bought him last year from Ashton Scholastic called I Really Want to Eat a Child, about a baby crocodile who won’t eat the bananas his parents are trying to feed him because ‘Today I really want to eat a child’… He can and does tell the story himself, which is lovely to watch and listen to: an important step on the way to reading. With Olek, it’s playing on the trampoline – well, more like I lie on the trampoline and get bounced by him jumping around me – and conversations which are remarkably adult with wonderfully expressive vocabulary and wit. And planning his stay with us on the boat for the first part of his summer holiday. And his delight at growing taller and rapidly catching me up, brat!

The river at Dalry


Olek swimming, Marta trying in vain to stay reasonably dry
Yesterday when Marta got home from work we all went down to the river – about a 5 minute walk away. The boys were into the water, Olek swimming independently and Karol outfitted like a shark with a flotation fin on his back. Looks very cute. Tim arrived and jumped into the river from the bridge – very reminiscent of bridge jumping at Tongaporutu. To the Clachan Inn for dinner – very yummy.


Reminds me of that very old joke: what's yellow and dangerous?  Shark infested custard, of course!















Our son, Tim, jumping from the bridge - landed with a giant splash!






The shark increased in size using daddy power

























Tonight they have all gone down to the river again. David and I have stayed back at the house. We are now quaffing a Magnus Pear Cider (D) and chardonnay (M). We are also doing important things like setting the table and watching the roast vege salad roasting - as I said, very important!





Grand grandsons


We’ve been in Scotland since Sunday afternoon, after a long drive up from Mercia Marina with rain and temperatures of 14 degrees at Scotch Corner – where of course we had stopped to use the loos and froze getting to them, esp as we were wearing shorts and T shirts. However the weather brightened and warmed as we headed into Scotland and we were sitting in the late afternoon sun in Tim and Marta’s backyard which has undergone a transformation since we first saw it back in January just before the kids took ownership – it has been terraced in the last week, a number of bedsteads and derelict wheelbarrows removed from the garden, the trampoline is now in situ, a culvert pipe has been installed at the bottom of the section to help with drainage of a swampy area, trees have been felled that were creating intense shade, and the garden is now awaiting retaining walls and topsoil, although the soil currently there is very rich and fertile.

Karol on his way to nursery - a lovely walk through the village
Monday morning we had our first experience delivering Karol to nursery. He recognises his own name from the set of name labels that he has to transfer to the attendance board, and puts his hat in his tray, and then says goodbye; and that’s us, out of there until it’s time to collect him at 11.45. 








In the afternoon it was off to Castle Douglas to have fish and chips for lunch (best fish and chips ever, even in NZ!) at the park, playing and then feeding the swans, which had to be attracted by feeding other birds which look like small seagulls with the same ability to catch food on the wing. Then the swans arrived and bullied the others out of the way.

How did David get to have a lie down?
How far can I throw it?














 














Yesterday morning I went off to Castle Douglas to do some shopping for the boat – looking for soundproof curtaining, actually, as well as a few bits and bobs. I found some lovely curtain material and some interlining used up here in Scotland to keep the cold out. I am going to see if it has noise reduction properties when a certain friend who snores for England (a new competition at the Commonwealth Games) comes to stay. Otherwise, I am going to look for a small boat with a poptop tent that can be tied behind the boat. Any ideas, anyone?

One thing I found which David wanted was egg poaching rings. I cannot understand why he needs them, as he has had coaching from me and from Joe (rock star chef at Cherswud B&B) in how to cook poached eggs and he does them well. Somehow though a piece of technology is always feels like an improvement for David …  

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Now this is what it's meant to be like!


Yesterday was lovely. We started off reasonably early for us at about 9am, and headed from our mooring outside Mercia Marina to Swarkestone. Mel was up on the cabin roof and elicited several comments, as is his role as a conversation starter.
I sewed a hankie to the cap to protect my neck from the sun

We shared the Stenson Lock with another boat but as only one paddle worked for emptying it, it took ages to empty – not helped by the leakiness of the top gates which seemed to be letting water in almost as fast as the bottom paddle was letting it out! The two labs, one black one brown, were happily on the stern. They ignored Mel which was a bit rude …

The way down to Swarkestone is quite rural but does have the railway beside it for most of the way. Not terribly noticeable when cruising as our engine noise sort of diminishes the noise of trains. The same cannot be said for the noise of trucks and cars tho; but the road hasn’t been that audible today.

We saw the Edna May moored just outside Swarkestone and we stopped to chat with Lindsay. No cherry cake this time, but that was probably because we weren’t having problems and were not so obviously in need of comfort food … (she doesn’t know, bless her, that we ALWAYS need comfort food!)


I remember Mum and Dad talking about the sea of rippling wheat
This photo is for David's favourite ...
We tied up on the first of the 48 hour mooring rings at Swarkestone, had a chat with the CRT guy we’d spoken to at Wychnor on Tuesday. Told him about the broken lock gear at Stenson.
Off we walked across the field of wheat (public pathway) to the village. Had to cross the mainline rail tracks (which has trains screaming past at about 70mph) with a sign that said Look and Listen for Trains. Lovely! Had lunch at the pub – nice place, food only average – then walked a bit further to see the 5 arched bridge we’d walked over. 

Back to the boat along the road, and didn’t turn up the lane, so the traffic noise was pretty horrific – I think we have already got out of the ‘habit’ of traffic and roads, so the noise seems noisier than we remember!

Came across our first inconsiderate boating crew at Stenson Lock on our way back to the marina. Their crew definitely heard our tooting and saw us coming past the dredge, ignored us and closed the gates when we were about 100 metres away. David did comment to the steerer when they also closed the gates as another boat was coming towards the lock after they left it …

 
We moored up at the same place as the previous night, but facing the other way – only a short hop to the marina entrance. Fed the swan family, the dad of which tapped on the window to remind us of our call to duty. Listened to The News Quiz with Sandi Toksvig – if you haven’t listened to it, try it. I know we used to get it as a podcast at home in NZ. It’s on at 6.30pm (UK time) on Fridays on Radio 4. When we were living here, I used to listen to it driving back to Church Enstone from Birmingham airport after flying in from Amsterdam. I’m not sure it’s dignified to be laughing out loud in a car on my own on the M40, but I used to. An example from last night, (news item re doctors changing their minds about the efficacy of statins, I think) Sandi was talking about what a number of drugs are useful for: ‘…aspirin is good reducing risk of strokes, ibuprofen is good for pain relief and Viagra is very useful if you’ve got washing to hang up.’

We walked along the towpath to the Nadee Indian restaurant – very lovely food and a bottle of Australian cherdonnay. On the way we spoke to Bill and Carol whom we first met on the Kennet and Avon around the same time as we met the Carringtons. We have made arrangements for them to come and join us for a couple of days on the boat when we are back from Scotland. They are now land-based but lived fulltime on their boat for a number of years. It will be great to see them.
An early night and I didn't need much rocking.

We're on the road again, back on the road again ...


The bridge at Swarkestone mentioned in yesterday's post.
Some photos wouldn't load for me for the previous post so I have added them here - only one photo from today. 











This mooring at Swarkestone is clearly mine!















This morning we moved into the marina and managed to get on to the mooring quite efficiently. The trick is to take it slowly, but I do have to remind myself of that as I am doing it! We certainly had far less hassle than we had at Barton Marina last week, that’s for sure. (After I’d recounted that adventure, Dave C told us they’d once been delayed a day leaving Bartons as the wind was so strong they couldn’t get out. – I didn’t feel quite so incompetent after that!)

We hooked up to shore power and it took about 30 minutes on bulk load to bring the batteries up. Scary stuff. We are going to talk with Tim about getting us a couple of solar panels this week so that re-charging them is not such a problem. We think that they and possibly a change of alternator may get rid of the loss of acceleration problem when the current alternator kicks in. We will see week after next when the work is done here at Aqua Narrowboats.

After brekkie (gluten free pikelets - which are improved by a couple of tbsp. of greek yoghurt in the mix by the way - baked beans and bacon), and a discussion with Mel re whether he was intending to come to Scotland with us (answer: Yes!) we set off on foot to Willington to catch the train to Derby. 






Three errors of research:
·      we didn’t consult each other about getting there on the towpath and David wasn’t aware there is access to the footbridge over the cut from the marina,
·      we didn’t check out where buses go from just outside the marina – having seen the Derby bus when it left Willington and the direction it went, we have a feeling it came right past the marina on its way … and
·      we didn’t look together at the google maps info on how to get to the car rental place from the Derby station on foot, avoiding roads. I had seen the footpath map but had not written down its details (no printer on board), David was using the GPS which isn’t big on footpaths.
However, we got there, picked up the car without hassle, but with another realisation that we are out of the habit of traffic noise.

We decided to go to Asda near Swarkestone (Lindsay had told us Steve had gone there, so we knew it was pretty close). I missed being in the right hand lane for the most direct way there, so we went through the suburbs of Derby – saw a number of shops selling eastern European supplies in one area. If there had been any parking available I would have stopped and phoned Tusi and asked if there was anything she needed. I am not sure where the nearest Polish shop is to Dalry!

I don’t really like shopping at Asda – apart from their stores generally being enormous, they are a Walmart company and the tactics that big supermarkets employ in gouging profit from their suppliers do not endear them to me at all. (Countdown, a Woolworths company in NZ, started doing it not long before we came over this time, and there was a bit of a boycott – noticeable near us in Johnsonville as the carparks were far less full and the New World supermarkets were decidedly busier. Hope it lasts!)

We managed to buy several things we needed but not others. We now have a first aid kit, a small cushion, a hoodie for David, a very tinny BBQ and 2 bags of charcoal (we’ll need the latter two when Olek is with us as he enjoys barbecuing, and we’ll also put Barry in charge of it when he and Pauline are with us, weather permitting). We did not find a battery driven clock, and shock horror, I forgot to get chardonnay!
However, I bravely decided not to worry about that, and we came back to the boat at the marina. Washing had finished but had pretty much drained the tank – the taps spluttered when I turned them on. So we now know the extent of the tank – two showers, sundry toilet flushes, one load of washing and several cups of tea and dishwashing episodes – good info to have!

Engine is on to heat water and it is quite soporific in a noisy sort of way – I wonder if it is similar to what a baby hears in utero and I am channelling my unborn self? Lovely and warm afternoon, but cloudy and that is not a problem.

Tomorrow we are off to Dalry to see the lovely grandsons. We are excited as we haven’t seen them since just after New Year. I am a wee bit anxious as I am aware that Olek has grown (his mum does keep feeding him!) and in our last phone discussion he told me he is 133cm. Considering I am 155cm, I think it is just wrong that, at 9, he is approaching my height! It was bad enough that my 2 kids were taller than me at 12 years old, but if my grandson becomes taller than me by the time he is 10, I will not be happy. He has been warned …