Monday, 24 August 2015

The kindness of family, friends and strangers

I have always thought that people want to be helpful whenever they can or are given the opportunity. Our experiences both here on the boat and at home are testament to that, we think.

In the recent months/weeks/days, on the boat we have had some lovely experiences with people's kindness.

Starting first with a couple of strangers:

On the day Emma and the children were to meet up with us, she and they walked from Crick over the top of the tunnel aiming to meet us just before the entrance. The path is not distinct, I gather, or at least not well signposted. Emma had to consult me (no local knowledge but I had the relevant Nicholson's book, and MemoryMap app on the phone) and Richard who has both local knowledge and access to good maps while sitting at home (in spite of being poorly, he still was very helpful). The saving instructions though came from a man walking his dog along the towpath. As he had passed us half an hour before going the opposite way, I was fairly sure he was a local. So, with Emma on the phone to me, I asked him how a walker would get from the road over the top of the tunnel down to the towpath. He gave me instructions and I relayed them to Emma. He stayed with me while she found his white van, the gate and the path, then he waited for her at the bridge on the towpath to make sure she arrived. Such a lovely kind person he was.

On Saturday this week, we called in at Debdale Marina to buy a new gas bottle, and while there asked some advice of the man serving us. Our questions related to changing over to the orange gas bottles and the possible effect on our gas cooker and hobs, dealing with the bolt that secures the stop/start mechanism (see, I don't even know what it's called) the thread of which has been stripped so it keeps loosening, air filters, oil filters, gear box oil, oil changing equipment (I gather I can buy a pump that fits down the dipstick hole and saves me leaning over a hot engine ...) winter mooring, ... He was so helpful that we are seriously considering putting Waka Huia there for the winter. The threads I have read on Canalworld Forum about Debdale increase our sense of it being a good place to be. But it was that man's kindness and patience that generated that thought.

David and I have some lovely friends over here, and two couples stand out for us in the boating world. Barry and Pauline have stayed with us on board several times and they are always very helpful. David and I are not the world's most able DIYers, as you will have guessed. And over the times they have come to stay, Pauline seems to do all the dishes, assists with any food prep, and sweeps up; and Barry always sorts out little jobs for us - jobs we look at and think 'too hard' or 'not now' or 'how on earth ...?' Among many other things, he's fitted hooks to latch shut our pigeon box, re-fitted the bolt holding one window of the cratch so it actually shuts, weatherproofed the duck hatch - these are all things that David and I could do with application of thinking and effort, but they do seem to stump us.

At the end of our last season's boating, Barry spent a few days with us as we prepared the boat for its winter sojourn. He cleaned, he scrubbed, he polished, he touched up paint, he sanded and polyurethaned doors. He and David problem-solved the issue of the non-functioning support pole for the tonneau cover. Barry is methodical and competent - a good combination. David and I have the methodical bit, but the competency evades us at times ...

Mick and Julia are friends from a way back (first met in 1994 at Norton Junction where we were recorded in Julia's log as Australians - bless her, she knows better now ...) We lost touch with them for a number of years and saw them passing us last year on our last day of boating. David ran for about a kilometre to catch them up and we are now friends reunited. We spent a number of days boating together recently, and one day while Julia and I went walking, Mick did some DIY jobs on our boat. He sorted out the dining table so G-clamps are no longer required to hold it up, he hung the multibox properly so it doesn't just dangle untidily from a random screw in the bulkhead, he put in the hooks to hold up the cable for the internet/mobile phone booster, so they don't languish over the heaters which were the only things holding them off the floor (a bit like when I wear eye makeup and it's only my eyelashes that stop my swollen eyelids drooping down over my eyes ...), he fitted two bigger hooks to hold the box that makes the thing work, and he drilled three 30mm holes in the bulkhead behind the fridge to allow it to cool more effectively. They assisted us down the Hatton Flight recently - taught us lots of about efficient locking, as well as making sure David's poorly foot wasn't stressed.

They came to visit the other day and Mick sorted out a cord for holding the lock gate shut - he took us to the shop, found the right cord, found the hook, and asked Sam from Foxton trip boat to splice it for us - a stranger's helpfulness again. Mick also tightened the tap fittings under the bathroom sink - the taps were floating freely and starting to leak below. As they were leaving, he handed me the tool and said 'you have this. All our taps are tight and I can get a new one if I need it' - and wouldn't take no for an answer. How kind is that?

Our son Tim sorted out our new hose for us - the lovely crinkly ones we brought over from NZ do not cope with being trodden on or cycled over, so a new 50 metre good quality hose had been purchased before we returned the rental car at Daventry and then it sat waiting ... So as we cruised from Kilworth to Foxton, David and Tim sat in the cratch and Tim did the magic. The reel has been totally modified to minimise crimping and crushing, the fittings have been adapted and attached to assist with filling and storage.

Tim is a whizz with anything mechanical - it's a gene that skipped a generation from my dad to him, and certainly, as David's dad said to me once, Tim didn't get it from his side of the family! He gave us some sage advice re the engine, the gear box and the propshaft, and explained the electrics in a way we both understood (he is a sparky by trade).

Then he put David's new bike together, took him to the bike shop in Market Harborough, bought a fitting so the front wheel can be clipped on and off, adjusted all the bits and pieces, tested it.

Over the last few days both Mick and Barry have helped David with the bike - all things David could have worked out but the time taken would have been frustrating and not enjoyable.

It is wonderful how kind and helpful these people have been and continue to be to us. We are lucky.

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